Admissions Director Q&A: Gail Saegert & Jessica Lunce of SMU Cox
Gail graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in International Business and worked in insurance and edtech before discovering her passion of working with business school students. She started her higher education career at London Business School, before moving on to Michigan Ross and SMU Cox. She has experience in program management, student services, and MBA admissions. Jessica has more than 15 years’ experience working in higher education including admissions and advising, program management, and marketing and communications. Prior to SMU Cox admissions, she served in a number of functional areas and roles at UT Arlington. A native Texan, Jessica earned her bachelor’s degree from UT Arlington; a master’s degree in dispute resolution and conflict management from SMU; and a doctoral degree in education with a focus on learning and organizational change from Baylor University.
The Cox School, located in the heart of Dallas, offers 100 years of experience in business education, internationally renowned faculty, ambitious peers and globally connected alumni. Gail & Jessica want you to know that SMU Cox offers nationally ranked STEM-designated MBA programs with a focus on three foundational pillars: Leadership, Analytics, and Experiential Learning. Their six MBA programs include full-time or part-time options, and classes on-campus or online. Read on for more about the school and admissions.
Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
SMU: Some applicants are not sure if the One-Year or the Two-Year Full-Time MBA program is a better fit for them. Many seem to think that they qualify for one or the other based on their years of full-time work experience, and that is not the case. In reality it will depend on the candidate’s background and career goals. Our One-Year MBA program is geared towards students who are looking to accelerate quickly in their existing field or make a career change that does not require a summer internship, while the Two-Year MBA program includes a summer internship students can utilize to make a larger career pivot. Another thing to make note of is our One-Year program starts in May and our Two-Year program starts in August. We are happy to chat through the different options with candidates on a 1:1 basis.
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?
SMU: The classic admissions answer here is “It depends.” The life of an application varies based on where we are in the application cycle. We have four application rounds and do our best to also review applications in between rounds. Once an application is submitted, a member of our team will start reviewing that application with the goal of issuing interview invitations within a few weeks of the deadline (invitations go out on a rolling basis). Candidates invited to interview will undergo the interview process, and our admissions committee meets regularly to discuss candidates. All candidates will receive an official decision and be notified of any merit-based scholarship within 6 weeks of the deadline. Decisions are released on a rolling basis and candidates may hear from us before the date listed on our website.
CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read an essay? 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?
SMU: Our team uses the essay portion of the application to get to know the applicant a little better and try to understand more about their journey. We are looking for a well-structured essay that answers the prompt and tells us something we can’t learn from the rest of your application. Don’t try to reuse material from other applications, we can usually tell!
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 (resume-based, behavioral)?
SMU: Interviews are conducted by invitation only, but all candidates admitted to the Full-Time MBA program (One-Year and Two-Year) will complete the interview process. Last year around 45% of candidates were invited to interview. Most candidates invited to interview will participate in two 30-minute interviews. One interview is with a member of our admissions team, and the second is with a member of our Career Management Center (CMC). The CMC is an important stakeholder in each candidate’s MBA journey, and we want them to start building relationships with our candidates as early as possible. Both interviews are a mixture of resume-based and behavior-based questions.
CA: What is your testing policy? Do you offer exam waivers? Why or why not?
SMU: SMU Cox is test optional. Applicants do not need to apply for an exam waiver; it is up to each candidate to decide whether to submit a test score with their application. Test scores can serve as one predictor of academic success; and although submitting a strong test score is always recommended, we understand this is not possible for all candidates. Candidates who submit an application without a test score should be aware that the admissions committee has one less data point to evaluate them on and that the other components of their application will carry more importance in the committee’s final decision. You can read more on our testing policy here.
CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at your institution.
- STRA/MKTG 6248 Competitive Intelligence, War Gaming & Scenario Planning: This course simulates the moves and counter moves of key companies and influencers in the marketplace to anticipate what they are likely to do when there are changes in market dynamics.
- STRA 6410 Venture Capital Practicum: Provides hands-on-venture capital experience applying the skills developed in finance, strategy, and entrepreneurship courses. Students partner with local venture capital firms and meet weekly outside of class to identify, qualify, analyze, and present recommendations regarding prospective investments for the Cox M.B.A. Venture Fund.
CA: As we learn to live with COVID-19, campuses have opened up and students are back. What about prospective students? Will they have the opportunity to visit campus? Will admissions interviews be conducted virtually?
SMU: We are happy to host prospective students on campus and encourage them to reach out to schedule a class visit or campus tour. Our team will be conducting interviews virtually and in-person for the upcoming application cycle.
CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or Cox admissions process?
SMU: At SMU Cox we attempt to remove as many barriers in the admissions process as possible. We do not have an application fee, only require unofficial test scores and unofficial transcripts at the time of application, do not require letters of recommendation (only professional references), and are test optional. We truly want to get to know candidates and encourage them to reach out to us throughout the admissions process.