Inside the MBA@UNC Admissions Process

MBA@UNC takes a holistic approach when considering a candidate. Instead of evaluating each component separately, the admissions team looks at the whole picture and develops a comprehensive view of an applicant’s qualifications. As a top-ranked business school, UNC Kenan-Flagler seeks out highly motivated individuals with a passion for leadership and a strong academic record. So what else makes an ideal MBA@UNC applicant? We spoke with Beth Flye, director of admissions for MBA@UNC at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, to find out.

What’s unique about the MBA@UNC admissions process?

As one would expect, MBA@UNC admissions requirements include essay questions, an interview and test scores. However, Flye highlighted a unique aspect of the MBA@UNC application process that could prove helpful for prospective students—a high level of interaction with admissions counselors prior to submitting the application. While this will not directly affect an applicant’s chances, it can certainly make them feel more prepared.

"One of the things that we do really well at MBA@UNC is we are extremely accessible with respect to the admissions team. We’re here to help candidates. Yes, we’re here to make decisions ultimately, but please know that we have a team that you can reach out to."

What does the MBA@UNC admissions team look for in an applicant?

There are a number of factors that are taken into account—namely, a student’s academic track record, the progression of their professional work experience and additionally, their goals. Of course, GPA is an important element in the evaluation process, but that’s not the only indicator of academic readiness. In an interview with Beat the GMAT, Flye explained that the admissions department also looks at when and where a person graduated, what courses they took and trends in regard to their grades. Moreover, Flye explained that MBA@UNC admissions wants to know why an applicant has decided to go to business school and what they plan to do with that education. Once candidates explain their personal goals, they need to convey how this program is going to help them reach those objectives. Only then can the school determine whether it’s a good fit.

"A question we want to answer is, can we help them? Are we the program that can help them get there? Is this someone who is going to learn from us? We like to think each student we bring in is going to add to the whole learning experience for every other student."

What traits, skills and experiences really make an applicant stand out?

Flye emphasized that a high level of maturity and a proven inclination for leadership are core traits that MBA@UNC looks for, regardless of how many years of work experience an applicant has. Leadership is a top priority for MBA@UNC because of the unique framework it offers—a comprehensive leadership development program that is specifically designed to nurture management and problem-solving skills. In addition, Flye explained that the admissions team values an applicant who demonstrates a balance of both confidence and humility. In other words, the school is seeking someone who can challenge their peers but is also open to being challenged. She explained that MBA@UNC is a uniquely collaborative environment where participants—mainly driven working professionals—constantly learn from each other, and it’s imperative that students are able to motivate one another instead of becoming overly competitive. Everyone is encouraged to not only push each other to be their best but also to help each other out as needed.

What should applicants keep in mind when answering essay questions?

The essay is a valuable component of the application process. Its purpose is not merely to demonstrate the applicant’s writing skill level, it can also give admissions officers a better understanding of the prospective student’s aspirations, both in the MBA@UNC Program and beyond. The essay poses a great opportunity for prospective students to really express themselves, and Flye warned that the admissions department can tell when a candidate has rushed this part of the application. She noted that when students don’t seem sure of their career goals or why they’re interested in this program, it shows. Even grammatical errors can point to inadequate attention to detail. She advises taking time to reflect and drawing up multiple drafts before hitting the “submit” button. She also stressed that trying too hard to impress admissions officers makes a candidate seem less genuine.

"My advice is that each applicant should authentically share his or her story in the interview and essays. Often applicants make the mistake of writing or saying what they think the admissions officers want to read and hear. Bottom line: Be yourself and show us who YOU are. The ‘great’ and most compelling applicants are those who do exactly that."

How does admissions recognize a student’s potential?

The MBA@UNC admissions department recognizes potential in various ways, but Flye stressed that they look for individuals with the capability to have tremendous impact, not just on their communities and organizations, but also on their classmates. That way, other students in the program might see this person as a strong cohort—and even someone who they can see themselves hiring or partnering with in the future. Most important, she said that it all comes down to drive. An individual’s work ethic and personal motivations are what she calls “crucial intangibles” that are directly tied to the acceptance decision.