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Admissions Director Q&A: Kara Tripi of Michigan State Broad College of Business

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Kara Tripi, Director of Admissions at the Michigan State Broad College Full-Time MBA, joins us for this installment of our Admissions Director Q&A series.

Tripi brings over a decade of experience in higher education. With a strong passion for working with students, she has dedicated her career to helping individuals navigate the world of academia. In her current role, Tripi assists with program development by overseeing the recruitment and admissions process. As a strong advocate for women in business and the LGBTQIA+ community, she is committed to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals and achieve success in their chosen field. 

She joined the Broad College in 2019 serving as the Associate Director of the Executive MBA program, her experience in a variety of educational settings has given her a well-rounded perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing students in today’s world. Tripi holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Oakland University.

See her Michigan State Broad Admissions Director Q&A below for what to expect during the application process, her favorite aspects of the MBA program, and more on Broad College.

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

Kara Tripi: While most known for our Supply Chain Management concentration, the Broad College offers a diverse and enriching MBA curriculum. We are one of the few programs to combine concentrations in Human Resources and Strategic Management, leveraging the expertise of the highly regarded School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. This unique pairing equips students to excel in leadership roles with a strong understanding of people and strategy.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, our Entrepreneurship concentration provides access to exceptional resources like the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and potential venture funding. Broad MBA graduates have launched successful ventures, demonstrating the program’s effectiveness in fostering entrepreneurial spirit.

Finally, as part of Michigan State University (MSU), students gain access to one of the world’s largest living alumni networks. With over 500,000 Spartans around the globe, current students benefit from invaluable mentorship, career opportunities, and a lifelong connection to a supportive community.

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?

KT: The Broad College MBA program takes pride in its meticulous application review process. Our dedicated team, though small, evaluates every submitted application by hand. Initially, we verify that all required application materials are submitted, such as resumes and recommendations. Once complete, applications are forwarded to the Director of Admissions for review. Based on this assessment, we determine if the candidate’s qualifications warrant an interview invitation. 

Following the interview, the application is presented to a diverse admissions committee composed of key stakeholders in the MBA experience. This committee engages in comprehensive discussions, analyzing each application holistically to arrive at an informed admissions decision.

CA: How does your Michigan State Broad admissions 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?

KT: One of the most common questions I receive from prospective students is about the admissions essays. At Broad College, we utilize a two-part approach: a written essay and a video essay.

The written essay allows a candidate to demonstrate their writing skills and delve deeper into their motivations for obtaining the MBA. We want candidates to tell a compelling story that focuses on two key areas: why the Broad College of Business and secondly, long-term career goals. Explaining what sets our program apart from other strong business schools is important. We want to make sure the candidate has done their research because selecting a school really comes down to fit. Additionally, we want to better understand how the Broad College MBA will equip a candidate with the knowledge and tools necessary to achieve their career objectives. Remember, proofreading carefully ensures the essay is polished and error-free, making a strong first impression on the admissions committee.

The video essay is a bit different than the written essay as candidates do not know what question they are going to be asked prior to recording. The video essay offers a unique chance to show critical thinking and communication skills in a dynamic format. We look for candidates who can think quickly on their feet and formulate a thorough response. I always say this is a perfect introduction to the admissions interview.

Overall, my biggest piece of advice when approaching the essays is to start with intention. 

CA: Could you tell us about the Michigan State Broad 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, application-based, behavioral)? Will your admissions interviews be in-person or virtual for the 2024-2025 admissions season?

KT: Every MBA program has its own interview approach, and MSU is no different. Here at MSU, interviews are required for all admitted graduate candidates. We consider the interview to be a crucial step in the application process, arguably the most important. An application that shines on paper can fall short if the candidate isn’t a good fit for our program during the interview.

The number of applicants we interview depends on the overall application pool’s quality. This year, we interviewed 39% of applications submitted. If a candidate is chosen for an interview, they will receive an email invitation. The Admissions team, including our Graduate Assistants, conduct our interviews either virtually or in-person. 

Our interview questions will draw from a candidate’s resume and assess behaviors. We regularly refine our questions yearly in collaboration with a faculty member specializing in skilled-based interviewing.

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

KT: While we encourage applicants to take a test, it is not mandatory as we do offer waivers. We understand that strong candidates come from various backgrounds, and we consider a variety of factors in the application review process. We accept a range of standardized tests including the GMAT, GRE, and Executive Assessment (EA). For applicants pursuing joint degrees with the College of Law or College of Human Medicine, the MCAT and LSAT are accepted.

A strong standardized test score can be an asset to an application, particularly if a candidate has a lower-than-average GPA or has limited work experience. Additionally, all our MBA scholarships and fellowships are merit-based, so having a strong test score can enhance scholarship opportunities. 

CA: In the application data form, many schools ask for information about work experience, activities, hobbies, and much more. What advice would you give to applicants as they approach this component of the application process? 

KT: It’s important for applicants to have a strong resume as this often is the first impression when reviewing an application. Candidates should focus on clarity regarding education and work experience – we need to grasp this information within 6 seconds. Luckily, there are many free resume templates available specifically for graduate programs. Using a template is a smart idea as it can help highlight MBA qualifications in a clear and impactful way.

While activities and hobbies offer valuable insights, for graduate programs, we prioritize post-undergraduate work experience that foster rich classroom discussions. However, involvement in boards, community initiatives, or employee resource groups demonstrates strong skills as well. However, candidates don’t need to worry if these experiences are not on their resume as they would still be admissible. 

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

KT: Something unique about the MBA curriculum is a course lovingly called Extreme Green. This is an exclusive 12-day experience taught in three-day blocks on four occasions over the 21-month MBA academic path. Students work in teams using design thinking tools to propose solutions to business problems, supported by available evidence. Students then pitch these ideas to corporate leaders. The course series has been a pivotal part of the program since 2013.

MSU is also renowned for our education abroad programs. MBA students can participate in a course called the Global Marketplace. This 3-credit course exposes students to the forces shaping international business across political, economic, cultural, and business contexts. Students consistently rank this course as one of the most impactful experiences during their MBA journey.

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

KT: As the Director of Admissions, I always say we can’t admit students who don’t apply. I believe there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Our program is designed to meet students where they are and help them achieve their leadership goals whatever that might be. 

If you’re interested in the MBA program, we encourage you to reach out to our team before submitting your application. A prospective candidate is never bugging us. We’re here to answer your questions and guide you through the application process to ensure the program is a good fit for your needs. 

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.