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Admissions Director Q&A: Melissa Rapp of Emory Goizueta

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In this edition of our Admissions Director Q&A, Melissa Rapp, Associate Dean of Graduate Admissions for Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, digs into MBA admissions, how to approach the application essays and much more. Melissa leads the teams responsible for the recruitment, evaluation, and matriculation of students across the portfolio of Graduate Business programs including MBA programs, MS in Business Analytics program, and Master of Analytical Finance program.

A longtime higher education professional with over 18 years of experience, Melissa has worked at both small and large institutions helping to form and implement successful admissions strategies. She collaborates cross-functionally with program offices, registrars, career centers, and alumni offices to develop and deliver an impactful, end-to-end student experiences. She has served on many focused task forces and committees to help schools improve student and staff experiences. Prior to working at Goizueta, she was Director of Admissions for Full Time MBA and MSMS programs at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Read on for Melissa Rapp’s insights into the MBA program, how to be successful in admissions and more.

Melissa Rapp, Associate Dean of Graduate Admissions, Emory Goizueta Business School

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

Melissa Rapp: I wish applicants were more familiar with the tremendous success of our Career Management Center. Coming off 99% placement rate 3 months out for the class of 2021, we hit it out of the park again this year with a 98% placement rate for the class of 2022 and increased the average salary of graduates. These stats tell a story beyond a great CMC. They are a testament to the academic experience, the leadership development, and the overall preparation our students have access to that allows them to approach their interviews with confidence and leave with job offers. 

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?

MR: Once a candidate hits submit, we conduct an evaluation to determine if they will be invited to an interview. At this point, there are parallel processes happening; the application is thoroughly read by an admissions team member and the candidate is interviewed by a different member of the admissions team or an alumnus. After the interview evaluation is submitted, the file is reviewed again, and a preliminary decision is recommended by the Senior Director of Admissions. All the preliminary decisions are reviewed by the admissions committee, which includes the Senior Director of Admissions, me, and other staff, and final decisions are made.

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?

MR: The essay questions are a great time for the candidate to tell their story. We are really looking for someone to clearly articulate their goals and tell us about a time they have been a leader. These stories vary greatly from person to person so there is no magic formula, but being transparent, owning your story, and being complete is important. Do not stop with telling us what you did; tell us why it mattered and what you learned. Make sure you are answering the question that is asked and be succinct.

CA: Could you tell us about the Emory Goizueta MBA admissions 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)?

MR: The interview is one of our favorite parts of the process because we get to sit down with the candidate one-on-one. Yes, we care about your academic abilities and your career history, but we also want to know who you are as a person and how you will contribute to the makeup of our community. The interview makes the application process three dimensional. As a reflection of the intimate environment found at Goizueta, all interviews are conducted by a member of the admissions team. We want every candidate to have an opportunity to interact with those who are making admission decisions. We are continuing to offer virtual and in-person interviews to provide candidates flexibility. Prior to the interview, the interviewer has access to the candidates resume, but not their application. The interview is a great opportunity to share beyond what you featured in the application, and it is also a great opportunity for candidates to ask questions about the program and community.

CA: What is your testing policy? Do you offer exam waivers? Why or why not?

MR: The COVID-19 pandemic taught us so many things, one of which included challenging us to rethink how we evaluated academic readiness. We came to understand the variety of reasons a candidate might request a test waiver. To best support our candidates, Goizueta has continued to offer a test waiver application. We ask candidates to complete the waiver application, submit a resume, and transcripts. The admissions team evaluates those materials and makes a decision whether a waiver is appropriate.

CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at your institution.

MR: Customer Lifetime Valuation, led by Dan McCarthy, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School
Using real-world applications from various industries, Customer Lifetime Valuation familiarizes students with industry-leading tools, frameworks, and actionable strategies that will help them accurately measure and effectively manage customer value at firms. By the end of the course, students will be able to estimate customer lifetime value across a customer base for businesses operating in a variety of business settings, and relate the goodness of customers to the characteristics of those customers. In doing so, students will be able to assess the unit economic health of businesses and create enduring value for them through customer-centric business strategies.

Innovation Strategy, led by RenéeDye, Associate Professor in the Practice of Organization & Management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School
The Innovation Strategy course provides a practical approach to the theory and practice of Innovation Management for business leaders. Designed to be most relevant for leaders in existing organizations, students build skills and knowledge related to:

  • Understanding of and agility in applying the different types and degrees of innovation
  • Systems, tools, and processes that are available to support leaders in achieving their innovation objectives
  • Innovation challenges industries face and the general approaches that they use
  • Specific company innovation use-cases from case studies
  • Practical experience in applying Design Thinking ideation to a real-world problem

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?

MR: Absolutely! We have been having the best time with candidates visiting campus for class visits and our signature fall recruitment events. We love showing off our community and for candidates to interact with current students and faculty. We recognize a trip to Atlanta may not be possible for everyone, so we are also continuing with a robust selection of virtual events as well.

Interviews will be available in person and virtually and there is no competitive advantage to either format.

CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or Emory MBA admissions process?

MR: I am always saying “the Goizueta Admissions team is your team” and I mean it! We are very accessible and responsive. In addition to the standard events like information session and class visits, we do regular coffee chats, Insight Nights introducing dynamic faculty and staff who work directly with students, and our Get It Done 101 series, which walks candidates through all the components of the application with detailed information on how to submit your best application. The high-touch admissions experience is the Goizueta way and reflects the high-touch experience our students have access to during their entire MBA program.

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.