Admissions Director Q&A: Alex Lawrence of UCLA Anderson School of Management
The Anderson School of Management at UCLA boasts diverse career placement, but stands out for its strengths in marketing and technology. MBA students also enjoy a tight knit community—class size hovers around 360—amid the larger setting of Los Angeles. Here to discuss additional features of the leading MBA program is Alex Lawrence, the Assistant Dean and Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid since 2012. In the Admissions Director Q&A that follows, Lawrence highlights Anderson’s career support, campus features and the ins and outs of admissions.
Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
Alex Lawrence: The Parker Career Management Center is consistently ranked as a top career center in student satisfaction by The Economist, and places 100 percent of students seeking a professional internship. Parker’s dedicated career advisors have developed a proven set of career management tools and practices for students to define objectives, strategize opportunities and make critical networking connections.
CA: How might the applicant experience look different this year due to COVID-19? How would you advise candidates to get to know your MBA program and student community if they aren’t able to visit your campus?
AL: One important aspect of the applicant experience is visiting the campus. At this time in late June, visitors are not able to see all of the campus, especially the brand new Marion Anderson Hall and all of its fantastic features. However, as shown on our website, candidates can still connect in many ways. People can contact a current student and ask specific questions about his/her experience. There is a virtual tour that allows individuals to see the advanced classrooms, Venture Accelerator, beautiful meeting spaces, and more. Individuals can still join many of our scheduled virtual sessions hosted online by admissions staff and alumni. And of course, there is a great amount of fantastic content on the website including videos, blogs, and testimonials from students, faculty, and alumni.
CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)?
AL: Once an application is received, the complete file with letters of recommendation is provided to one of our admissions committee members for the first read. She/he reads the material that has been submitted and writes an evaluation of the pros and cons of the file. That person provides a recommendation that includes whether to invite him/her to an interview. Remember, all files go through this process and there are no minimum cut-offs for GMAT/GRE, GPA, work experience, etc. Next, the complete file goes to a second admissions committee reader for another full review. That individual performs the same actions and will make a recommendation to admit or deny.
And after two evaluations of the application, the file is sent to the Admissions Director. The Director reviews each reader’s comments and the entire file’s contents, ultimately making a final decision on the file.
There is a committee at the end of the process that does review all decisions. Final decisions are communicated to all applicants via their online admissions account by the decision release date.
CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?
AL: The essays are the primary way for applicants to share their perspectives and plans with the admissions committee. The best essays are introspective, genuine and succinct in directly answering our questions and responding to our topics. Common mistakes to avoid are plans that are not clear, not providing specific UCLA Anderson details in your write-up or not answering the question(s). One key thing to consider when writing is don’t forget to bring some passion to your writing. Admissions officers want to get to know who you are and what excites you. They want to know what type of enthusiasm you will bring to the class if admitted.
CA: Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Who conducts the interview (students, admissions officers, alumni) and what is the nature of the interview (blind, non-blind)?
AL: Interviews are by invitation only. Current MBA students conduct our interviews, which are blind. All interviewers are trained to evaluate communication skills, focus, reasoning, passion, and understanding of the opportunities that a UCLA Anderson MBA provides.
CA: Tell us briefly about two notable professors at your institution.
Ian Larkin is an Associate Professor of Strategy. Larkin’s research is focused on compensation, incentives, employee motivation and human resources. Many of his students have commented that they like how Larkin creates thoughtful and interactive discussions in class, and challenges students to think beyond the obvious. A student says, “Professor Larkin’s analysis of case studies would always blow my mind, as he broke down different strategy components in a way that not only helped me think about the specific problem at hand but apply learnings to other situations.”
Elisa Long is an Associate Professor of Decisions, Operations, and Technology Management. Her goal in the classroom is to distill information for students in the most relevant possible way, “whether it’s reading a newspaper article with a different perspective, or creating a model to help decide whether to buy or lease a new car.” Long uses the classic example of Let’s Make a Deal to demonstrate that probability is a field in which your intuition can often lead you astray.