Nov 18, 2011

Inside Cornell Johnson's Admissions Office

This post is one in a series of posts trying to decipher what happens once you click that "submit" button in the application portal of the top business schools. As told by the admissions directors themselves! Follow us on twitter and facebook to keep yourself updated with the next set of schools.

What happens once applications are submitted?

* Please note that the answers are given by Randall Sawyer, the then director of admissions who has since taken a new position outside the Johnson school. Currently, the position is being held by Christine Sneva. Although this is an old interview, there are no indications that the process has changed at the Johnson, as confirmed with one of our consulant who previously served on Johnson Admissions Group *


We take the admissions process very, very seriously. We look at every application twice – regardless of GMAT, GPA, TOEFL, work experience. There is nothing in an application file that indicates that it won’t get read twice, except for incomplete files.

One an applicant hits that submit button, we take his/her $200 and it gets deposited. When my admissions team comes in the morning, it prints out the applications and put them on the shelf. We wait for your other required or supplimentary materials – we go online and get an official copy of the GMAT scores, put the recommendations letters in the files, etc.

When the applications are complete, they go to one of the two or three groups. The first review is done by either one of my readers, the two paid readers, or one of the professional team member at the associate level or higher, or one of the 50 JAG students. JAG, Johnson Admissions Group, is a select group of second year students assisting us in the evaluation  and recruiting of applicants. Many of them will do a first review.

As a part of admissions evaluation, we look for about twenty two different attributes associated with applications. One of our readers makes a recommendation – either “yes, interview” or “no” or “can’t decide.” After the initial read, the application goes on a separate shelf and one of our professional team member takes a second look at it. If they both who’ve reviewed the application say yes, we send out an invitation to interview. If they can’t agree we take it to the admissions committee or we deny.

The admissions committee meets twice a week, for anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours. It is a eight member group and we will come to a consensus, it is not a vote, as to whether or not to invite an applicant to interview or deny. Once a decision is made the file goes back to the admissions staff who will invite the applicant for the interview. The applicants gets to pick a slot that fits with their schedule and once they are interviewed, the interviewer makes a recommendation: don’t recommend, recommend with reservation, recommend, recommend with confidence, or highly recommend.

As a benchmark, highly recommend is maybe 1 in 50 or 60 applicants and it literally says to the committee, “This applicant is an absolute rock star and we have to have them.” Recommend with confidence is saying, “Yes, I want this applicant in class with me next year.” Recommend with reservation is “There’s something that doesn’t sound right to me or doesn't click.” And don’t recommend is “no way, not a chance.”

We usually get a three to four page dossier of the interview with a recommendation. The interviewer picks one of the five mentioned designations and then it goes to admissions committee where we talk about that applicant and decide whether or not to make that offer. There is no vote – this is not a voting system. We talk about the applicants and decide whether they are good fit for Johnson. I think it’s fairly callous to be voting on someone’s future.

BizSchoolPrep Comments:

  • Applications are read twice, at minimum. Hence, do not get worried thinking one person's perspective (who is in a bad mood) will break your application!
  • Your application might get read by a student member. They are usually extremely loyal to their school and hence, it is always to keep this fact in perspective while writing your essays. Weak essays, showing not much of homework on the school, may not really work.
  • The application reading process may be a little random so do not try too hard to find a coorelation between the submitted date to the interview invite date with that of your friend.
  • No voting. This could sometime mean long discussions for those who fall right in the middle.
  • Do not submit an incomplete application.

School Stats -

S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management

111 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Admissions: 607-255-4526 or 800-847-2082
Apply Online:

2011 -2012 Tuition & Fees: $51,480
School Recommended Two-Year Budget: $147,320

Median GMAT: 700
GMAT Range (mid-80%): 630-740
Average GPA: 3.30

Acceptance Rate: 27%
Full-Time Enrollment: 593
International: 34%
Female: 30%
African American: 10%
Asian American: 25%
Hispanic or Latino American: 4%
Mean Age: 27

Median Base Salary: $100,000
Median Signing Bonus: $20,000
Percentage of MBAs with Job Offers at Graduation: 79%
Percentage of MBAs with Job Offers Three Months Later: 89%
Estimate of Total Pay over a 20-Year Career*: $2,844,421
*Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported, 2010


Where Cornell’s Class of 2011 Went to Work:

Financial Services — 32%
Consulting — 25%
Manufacturing — 10%
Technology — 10%
Consumer Products — 9%
Health Care/Biotech — 4%
Media/Entertainment — 1%
Energy — 1%
Non-Profit — 1%
Real Estate — 1%
Government — 1%
Source: Collected from internet/clearadmit/Poets&Quants

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1 comment:

  1. Some good advice here. I know it seems obvious but don't underestimate how comprehensively other candidates will be preparing their admissions strategy. There is no room for complacency if you want to get into your b-school of choice! Great article by the way!