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Admissions Director Q&A: Shelly Heinrich of Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

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The associate dean of MBA admissions and director of marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Shelly Heinrich, joins us for this edition of our Admissions Director Q&A. Heinrich leads the MBA Admissions team in both its marketing and operational strategy to build awareness, recruit, yield, and retain the Full-time and Flex MBA programs. She also develops the integrated marketing strategy for the team and manages the internal marketing team and external marketing firm in its execution. Read on for her insights into the greatest feature of the McDonough MBA program, the depth of the Georgetown community, what to expect for your essays and interview, and more.

Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

Shelly Heinrich, M.Ed., MBA, Associate Dean, MBA Admissions and Director of Marketing, Georgetown McDonough

Shelly Heinrich: There are so many. But, I think the phenomenal Georgetown community is something that is hard to explain until you’ve experienced it. We tell students that we have an amazing community, but they cannot quantify what that really means until they’ve been a student. It’s difficult to envision how students will develop relationships with colleagues that will make them want to raise their expectations, who will coach them through life decisions both personal and professional, who will expose them to diversity of thought and diversity of culture. There are so many stories of alumni helping students and also helping each other. Even amidst this pandemic, we had alumni generously giving their efforts and connections to help others with jobs.

And, it’s not just the McDonough MBA community; it’s the entire Georgetown community and network. We have highly ranked graduate schools in Law, Medicine, Public Policy, Foreign Service, and a selective undergraduate program. As a student you’re a part of the Georgetown brand for life. I’ve worked at four business schools and I haven’t experienced one like the McDonough community.

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?

SH: This fall, we began our MBA program virtually with the intent to return to campus and, in fact, some of our international students have just started attending in-person classes on campus. While visitors are not yet permitted on campus, we have many opportunities to attend virtual information sessions, virtual campus tour programs, and virtual diversity events. You also may also chat with an admissions advisor or a student ambassador. To learn all the ways to get to know us, please visit our website.

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.)?

SH: Once an applicant hits submit, the operations team is busy behind the scenes making sure people have submitted all components of their application. Readers then begin reading. The order in which your application is read has no bearing on your candidacy or profile. Think of it as a virtual stack of applications; readers select randomly. There are multiple people who will ultimately read and review your application to reduce bias and also provide you with a thorough review process. Some readers may pick up on things others don’t. Through this multi-prong reading process you can be assured that you’re getting a holistic review. We even invite members of our MBA student services and career center teams to review applications. Once your file has an initial read, we start inviting for interviews. You can receive an invitation to interview all the way up until the decision notification date. We then do a thorough audit process prior to decisions being released.

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?

SH: One of the things that we do differently at Georgetown McDonough is that we provide an option of three essays, from which candidates can choose one. We want people to determine their value proposition and unique selling points and then choose an essay that allows them to truly shine. We don’t want people forced into an essay that isn’t reflective of what makes them unique. This is one way we aim to attract a diverse audience.

As we read the essays, we’re looking for specific examples, not just general words that any applicant could write. So, if you’re going to say you’re an empathetic leader, show an example of how you were one. If you’re going to say you have strong analytical skills, tell us about a project at work where you had to utilize those skills. Storytelling is key.

Common mistakes are certainly writing the wrong name of the school. This seems so silly, but I’ve seen applicants put the name of another university in their essays so many times. Other common mistakes are trying to write in a way that’s unnatural to you. I’ve read essays where it seems like people are trying to use very large, uncommon words, as if they wrote with a thesaurus and not in their own language. We’re not looking for literary works of art; we’re looking to learn about you in your own words as this is how you’ll ultimately contribute to the classroom.

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?

SH: We read admissions files first and then invite applicants to interview. So, the interview indicates you’ve made it to the next step in the application process. We try to interview as many people as we can to provide applicants a chance to showcase themselves outside of what is on the application. Between the Full-time and Flex MBA program, we interview close to 1,100 applicants. Students could be interviewed by a member of the admissions staff, second-year MBA students, or alumni interviewers. The interviews last 20-25 minutes followed by a few minutes for Q&A. Right now, all interviews are being conducted virtually. However, once we return to normal, we typically conduct interviews virtually, on campus, or in select cities around the world. All of our interviews are partially blind. The interviewer has seen your resume, but not the rest of your application. The purpose of this is to keep from being influenced by your standardized test scores or other parts of your application.

CA: Tell us briefly about two notable professors at your institution (ideally one student favorite, and one up-and-coming).

Ella Washington, is an organizational psychologist who finds inspiration through the intersection of business, diversity and leadership. Her research examines conditions of workplace cultures that best support inclusion, diversity and equity while also contributing to employee’s individual development. Learn more about Dr. Washington here.

Vishal Agrawal, Provost’s Distinguished Lapeyre Family Associate Professor, who also is academic director of our new MBA Certificate in Sustainable Business. The certificate equips students with knowledge and practical experience to lead and manage successful businesses with a deep understanding of the complex social, economic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Learn more here.

CA: Anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?

SH: For the incoming class this fall, we saw a 9% increase of our Full-time MBA applications and a 15% increase in our Flex MBA applications. We also increased the diversity in our classes, seeing the highest percentage of underrepresented students (19%) and diverse students (38%) in our Full-time MBA program in the last 7 years and the closest to gender parity in our Flex MBA program at 44% that we’ve seen.

With Round One for our incoming class this fall, we’ve seen an increase in applications to our Full-time program by 33% (43% including deferrals). We will confirm final round one numbers once our Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (CGSM) applications come through in a few weeks after the CGSM deadline. This is certainly more than anticipated, but we’re thrilled that it will allow us to admit a diverse and competitive class.

Updated 10/7/2020

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.