UCLA Anderson’s Audio Essay Question: First-Year Findings

Last year, UCLA Anderson became the first business school to ask students to submit an audio response to an optional essay question. Now that the 2008-2009 admissions season is over, Anderson told the Financial Times that 70% of its applicants elected to submit an audio answer, reflecting a willingness on the part of applicants to play along with admissions officers as they try think outside of the box in the MBA admissions process.

Mae Jennifer Shores, UCLA Anderson’s director of admissions, says that the the submissions were “ethnic, gender and country neutral,” with international applicants just as eager to submit audio clips as domestic applicants. Not surprisingly, Shores says that Anderson may choose to make the audio clips mandatory next year, and is also considering using video clips in next years’ application.

We disagree with article’s suggestion that Anderson’s use of an audio question is an attempt to thwart admissions consulting and essay editing services. Frankly, this is an uninformed opinion. As we wrote earlier this week, the reality is that the standard essay questions are simply not as useful for admissions officers as they used to be, in terms of helping them distinguish one applicant from the next. As a result, schools such as UCLA Anderson and Chicago Booth are inventing more creative questions that to give them another way to separate out the great candidates from the rest of the pack.

The savvy business school applicant won’t run from this opportunity, but instead will embrace it as one more way to make his application more memorable and to show how the applicant fits with the program. These application strategy principles apply to any MBA essay, whether it is a written, audio, or visual response.

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