In this edition of our Admissions Director Q&A series, we take a look inside admissions for the Stern at NYU Abu Dhabi One-year Full-time MBA with Arnold “Arnie” Longboy. Arnie recently joined Stern at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) as Executive Director, Admissions. In this role, he provides strategic leadership in the engagement and selection of future alumni for the Stern at NYUAD One-year Full-time MBA. He currently serves on the higher education industry’s EMBA Council Board of Trustees and is a past Chair of the Board. Prior to joining NYU, he was Executive Director for Admissions at London Business School, where he led recruitment and admissions efforts for LBS’s 11 degree programs. In addition, he sat on the LBS Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) Advisory Board, which was responsible for shaping and implementing the School’s DIB strategy. Before London Business School, he was at Chicago Booth, where his work focused on executive development. Arnie was responsible for building corporate relationships through leadership and management programs of senior executives throughout the EMEA and Asia Pacific regions.
Read on for highlights of Stern at NYUAD’s MBA program and Arnie’s insights into essays, interviews, and what to expect in the admissions process.
Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
Arnold Longboy: It’s hard to name just one! But to start, NYU Stern is the only top U.S. business school offering a full-time MBA program in the Middle East with the Stern at NYU Abu Dhabi One-year Full-time MBA Program. Our MBA, a collaboration between NYU Stern and NYU Abu Dhabi, is designed to attract the highest quality applicants from all over the world who share an interest and a desire to build their initial careers in the MENA region, a dynamic region experiencing exponential growth. Enrolled students will not only have the opportunity to earn a top-notch MBA in just one year, but also the chance to study in two world-class cities – Abu Dhabi (in the spring and the fall) and New York City (in the summer).
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?
AL: I’ll start by emphasizing that we do take a holistic approach in evaluating our candidates – looking equally at academic readiness, professional profile/aspirations, and personal characteristics. Each required component of the application helps us to evaluate a candidate in one or more of these three areas. In terms of submission, a lot of work also goes on well before an applicant clicks “submit.” Typically they revolve around advising a candidate about each part of the application and the process. Paying attention to the admissions checklist we provide will avoid missing our initial deadlines – Round 1 is January 15, 2024, which is also the deadline for scholarship priority consideration, and Round 2 is March 11. The final two rounds take place later this summer. Once submitted, every application is read by at least two admissions team members. Then, at initial notification the admissions committee renders one of three possible decisions: invitation to interview, waitlist, or deny. A member of the admissions team conducts the 45-minute interview virtually and in some cases face-to-face. After the interview, the committee does another review and we then communicate one of three decisions: admit, waitlist, or deny. An admit decision will also be considered for a merit-based scholarship and, if successful, will be notified of their scholarship amount with their offer of admission. Initial submission to final decision should take no longer than about eight weeks.
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?
AL: For the Stern at NYUAD Full-time MBA program, our holistic approach includes an emphasis on both intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence, what we call IQ + EQ. The essays are one area where we can partly evaluate a candidate’s EQ, such as their self-awareness, empathy, motivation, resilience, growth mindset, etc. The first of two required essays is our “Change” essay, which allows the candidate to express their personal views on change. The second essay is very practical and asks the applicant why they’re considering the Stern at NYUAD MBA and how the program will support their short- and long-term goals. We want to know their general plans and career aspirations but also understand that many students may change direction from their original objectives. We like to see that the applicant has researched our program. So after thoroughly researching the program, they should be able to make the case for how they will personally and professionally leverage what differentiates our program from others.
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, application-based, behavioral)? Will the Stern at NYU Abu Dhabi admissions interviews be in-person or virtual for the 2023-2024 admissions season?
AL: An interview is required for admission and is by invitation only at the initial notification stage, which should be no longer than four weeks after submission. The inclusive nature of our admissions process focuses on finding reasons for why a candidate could be a fit for a program rather than looking for reasons to reject them. As such, we don’t have a pre-set number of candidates that go on to the interview stage.
I view the interview as one other opportunity for us to learn more about a candidate and to delve into aspects of their application that may not have come across as clearly. Every interview is conducted by a trained admissions team member which allows for consistency and minimizes any unconscious or conscious bias in the process. At the interview we also want to assure that we’ve answered all remaining questions a candidate may have about the program and process. But, most of all that the candidate has an overall positive experience with Stern.
CA: What is your testing policy? Do you offer exam waivers? Why or why not?
AL: A standardized test is required for admissions, but is just one component of our approach to evaluating a candidate’s academic readiness for the program. We accept the GMAT, GRE, EA, LSAT, MCAT, and DAT, and have no preference for one test over another. If a candidate is unable to prepare for or take a standardized test and is able to demonstrate academic readiness without a standardized test score, they may request a standardized test waiver. Those who provide strong examples of academic readiness (e.g., strong analytical or quantitative undergraduate or graduate majors or professional work experience) are best positioned to receive a standardized test waiver.
CA: Could you tell us about the waitlist? What can waitlisted applicants do to maximize their chances of being accepted to your program? Does your office allow for waitlisted applicants to submit additional materials (e.g. letters of support, job updates, new test scores, etc.)?
AL: A candidate will be added to a waitlist largely as a function of the quality and quantity of the applicant pool at the time of their submission. It typically means that we think the applicant has met most of what we believe they need to enter the program, but we are not yet ready to make a decision of offer or deny. If a candidate is notified of a waitlist decision, the admissions team will keep in close communication of next steps and any other information that may be needed.
CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at your institution.
AL: Our first cohort doesn’t start until January 2025, but based on conversations with numerous candidates, our Experiential Internship courses have garnered the most interest thus far. With guidance from a professor, the courses will involve groups of four to six students tackling a real business challenge that a locally based company in the region wants to address. Students will thus have the opportunity to implement their classroom learning in real time in the real world, acquire exposure to the company and industry, and gain experience to help with their post graduation aspirations.
The other course that candidates seem most excited about is our course on Sustainability. Part of the raised interest may have been driven by the recent COP28 conference held here in the UAE, and another factor is that it’s one of the three flex core courses that students will have on offer when they’re studying in New York over the summer.
CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about the NYU Stern Abu Dhabi MBA program or admissions process?
AL: Upon successful completion of the MBA program, students will graduate with a fully accredited New York University diploma, jointly conferred by NYU Stern School of Business and NYU Abu Dhabi. Graduates will therefore be considered alumni of both NYU Stern and NYUAD. Those joining us in January 2025 will be a part of the first cohort of this program. As such, the best fit will be those students that are not only academically qualified but also who get excited by the potential of creating traditions for future intakes, and in general have a growth mindset or are intent on developing one.