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Admissions Director Q&A: Melissa Rapp of Emory Goizueta

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For this edition of our Admissions Director Q&A, we revisit Atlanta, Georgia, and welcome back Melissa Rapp, Associate Dean of Graduate Admissions for the Goizueta Business School at Emory University.

Melissa she leads the teams responsible for recruiting, evaluating, and yielding students across the portfolio of Graduate Business programs, including the MBA and Specialized Master’s programs. A longtime higher education professional with 20 years of experience, Melissa has worked at a variety of institutions, helping to form and implement successful admissions strategies. She collaborates with program offices, registrars, career centers, and alumni offices to develop and deliver impactful, end-to-end student 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’s advice on how to craft your best essay, prepare for your interview, and more.

Melissa Rapp, Associate Dean of Graduate Admissions for Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

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

Melissa Rapp: Our faculty. Every member of the Goizueta faculty is deeply passionate about their area of research and, at the same time, is very student-centered. The relationships that are formed between faculty members and students are truly unique. In addition to teaching classes that are both engaging and relevant to current business issues, they act as coaches, mentors, investors, and cheerleaders for our students. The MBA experience can be intense, and our students benefit from exceptional access to our professors. Our faculty share their cell phone numbers, hold after-hours study sessions, and host students in their homes. For students, the personal relationships they have with our faculty, who have robust business networks, often lead to informational, internship, and job interviews. And it isn’t just a one-way street! One of the reasons faculty enjoy students so much is because they learn from the students. Through the students’ discourse in the classroom, they learn more about current business trends, which they can incorporate into their teaching. In addition to receiving dozens of awards of excellence for teaching each year, our faculty also regularly serve as experts in major news outlets including Bloomberg, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Fortune, the Economist and Financial Times.  

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: I picture it like a factory in my head, and the applications move in many directions but with purpose and efficiency. By the end of the round, before decisions are released, all applicants have received a fair and unbiased review. The order in which things happen can vary a little from application to application. Evaluation starts with an initial review and invitations for interviews start going out just a few days after the application deadline. Initial reviews continue, interviews happen, and second reads are conducted. Those three things are happening simultaneously for most of the evaluation period. Every application also receives a final review and receives a recommended decision. All decisions are carefully reviewed at the end of the cycle. We have a lot of checks and balances to make sure every candidate receives the fair and unbiased review we promise. 

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: We are looking for genuine responses that reflect who you are in both our written and video essays. Our strong preference is to learn more about you through stories, about your professional and lived experiences. We are providing the space for you to speak to the committee, to get beyond your resume, and to learn more about you as a person. Common mistakes include not making the essays personal enough. Keep in mind that we also have your resume, so you don’t need to repeat accomplishments found there. Another one is writing what you think we want to hear versus what was asked for or honestly sharing your story. Our team isn’t just evaluating your academic and professional accomplishments, we are also looking for what kind of person you are and if you will be a good community member for Goizueta. 

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 your admissions interviews be in-person or virtual for the 2024-2025 admissions season?

MR: Our interviews are by invitation, and the majority of them are conducted virtually. We offer a limited number of in-person interviews during our Fall Preview Events. The interviews themselves are conversations with a member of the admissions team. The interviewers will have your resume but will not see your application. We encourage applicants to be prepared but not overly prepared and to relax. In addition to answering a few questions, we will leave time for you to ask questions too. 

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

MR: We require a standardized test and accept the GMAT, GRE, MCAT, & LSAT. For candidates with a high level of quantitative skills as demonstrated by undergraduate or master level coursework, professional certification such as CPA or CFA can apply for a test waiver. The Test Waiver Application is found on the same webpage as our application for admission. 

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

MR: Currently, two of our most popular courses are Content Marketing and Managing Innovation. The Content Marketing course led by Professor Marina Cooley is focused on the science behind creating sticky ideas. Students learn to create memorable slides in a pitch deck, apply screenwriting techniques to brand storytelling, develop and manage a cult brand, and conduct content audits on platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok.

The Managing Innovation course led by Professor Renée Dye teaches leading concepts and practical approaches to innovation management within established companies. Students learn and apply design thinking and other idea generation approaches like lead user and futuring. They also get insight into how to build a culture of innovation, as well as tap into innovation external to the company.  

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?

MR: Be concise and provide the information you have been asked for. If you have a lot of hobbies or activities, include them in the order of importance to you. This is another opportunity for you to share more about yourself with the admissions committee. 

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

MR: Goizueta’s admissions team is friendly and passionate about helping candidates achieve their goal of attending business school. We offer an application workshop series called Get It Done 101 prior to every application deadline. The workshops are held live online, and recordings are available to registered participants. The workshop series will walk you through every component of the application and provide helpful information on how to prepare your best application. Anyone who completes the sessions receives an application fee waiver. The material covered is designed for the Goizueta application but includes helpful information for any application. The admission process is designed to reflect the attention and support you will receive as a student and we can’t wait to get to know you!

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.