While wrapping up our cycle for the Fall 2016 intake, we were lucky to catch Lisa Rios, Director of MBA Admissions at NYU Stern for a Q&A session. According to Rios, this application season has been a strong one and they are looking forward for Fall term. It is hard to know for certain what the upcoming class will look like until the students arrive for summer orientation, since some might be coaxed by their employers to stay or have family situations that require their attention. As students receive their acceptance letters, it is normal to see some fluctuation in class composition. But as of now, class of 2018 is looking strong as ever. Hand-picked out of a good number of applications, our incoming class is rounding out nicely. It is still early, however, to put out any official information as of yet.


Are you working on the waitlist or still round three answers?

The way that our cycle works is that it tends to overlap a little from deadline to deadline. I know some schools have closed rounds and still have to review the respective applications, but we have an ongoing process so we actually start reviewing the waitlist in early spring and continue to review it throughout the summer. With our international candidates we are mindful of the fact that they need to get a student visa so we try not to delay that process too far into the summer because we don’t want to put them in a situation where they’ve been offered admission and they’ve quit their job and they’re not able to get here because they don’t have enough time for the visa


How do you differentiate the Stern students from students in other schools? Is there a Stern type? A Sternie? 

I think if you ask our students, they’ll say that what differentiates them are the people. For me, it’s one of the reasons that I love working at Stern. It’s the people that I get to work with every day and I’m always impressed by our students. They are incredibly intelligent and driven but they are also down to earth, excited to be here, and really supportive of one another. They will often talk about how they come out of job interviews and they’re classmates will be waiting to go in to recruit with the same person for the same position and they’ll share the interview questions with their peers. They joke that they are competitive externally but not internally. They understand that helping their peers succeed also helps them in the long run.


Could you share the behind the scenes scoop of the admissions committee?

We have a process where everyone submits their application first. We evaluate those applications, we read them from cover to cover. At that point, we decide if we will invite somebody into an interview because with our process we do not admit anyone without having completed an interview first. So after that evaluation of the application you might be invited in for an interview, you could receive an offer to be on the waiting list or you could receive denial of admission. With the interview we do the majority here on campus, but we do offer a couple of offsite locations. In London, India, and China. We do see a number of international candidates out there. But there are still quite a few that choose to come to New York and use that as an opportunity to see if Stern is the right fit for them.

All of our interviews are done by trained admissions staff.


How does it work in terms of waitlist? I know that there is a fair amount of people who are placed on the waitlist and that they need to maintain some sort of relationship to demonstrate sustained interest.

It’s helpful for us to receive updates from the folks who are still on the waitlist. We always encourage them to send us relevant updates. We do from time to time have students email us every day and tell us what the weather is wherever they’re living. We always joke that that’s not how you should approach it. We ask for relevant updates – so if there have been any changes to their application – whether it is related to their test scores or to their current work experience or employment, if they received a promotion, or accolades for a job well done, if you will – those would be helpful for us in assessing a candidate. If they came to Stern and visited campus and had a great experience, we’d love to hear about that as well. Just staying engaged with the committee helps us understand they are still involved in the process.


GMAT vs GRE – is there any preference for one over the other?

The admissions committee doesn’t have a preference. We don’t care. We think they are both equally indicative of how folks are going to do in the classroom. What I do say to candidates though is that some employers on the recruiting side still ask about GMAT. I know consulting is one space that still will ask folks for their GMAT scores. So we encourage the applicants to talk to current students and get a sense of the field that they’re interested. Once they are here at Stern, they might meet recruiters who will ask them about their GMAT. In the event that this should happen, we wouldn’t want them to be unprepared. But in terms of being admitted to Stern and the evaluation process for Stern, we don’t have a preference between the two tests.


So the fact that the GRE is a bit easier on the quantitative side and a bit tougher on the verbal side balances out in your eyes, or do you just look at the overall percentile?

We look at the entire score report, so we do take it all into consideration. But we’ve seen that the students who have taken the GRE are still performing well in the classroom and so we don’t take a preference of one test versus the other.


Can you share some exciting Stern updates this coming season? 

One of the cool classes that we launched this past year is called Tech in the City. We have a number of courses that immerse students into the real world. Not only New York City, but kind of around the world. When asked “what’s the greatest thing about Stern?”, I always tell the interviewees that one of the things I would do if I were an MBA student here is take one of the immersion classes because they give hands on experience with faculty who can put you in front of opportunities you would not have elsewhere. One of them is Tech in the City that gives you the opportunity to be immersed in one of the tech startups in NYC for an entire semester so you are working with this tech firm but also working with your faculty and linking what you’re learning in the classroom with what you’re learning in that firm, so you’re able to solve real world problems in real time, which is really cool.


Are you bringing in the startups or do students look for them independently?

No, we do it on our own. We partner with a venture capital firm called Union Square Ventures and so a lot of the startups are the ones that they are working with. We work with a couple of other VC firms in the city as well.

Another one of the cool opportunity is our Las Vegas course, which actually goes to Las Vegas and looks at the complex operations of a casino, which is really cool to see. There’s a couple of classes like that.

There are some other things that aren’t necessarily immersion focused that are new at Stern. A couple of years ago we launched the Center for Business and Human Rights – a program that is one of its kind.  You get to partner with faculty who are active in the human rights space and who do active research. This not only opens up an in depth experience but also research fellowship opportunities. There is a more formal application process for those who want to pursue this path; we have a number of students who are interested in this area and have gotten involved with the center. Another one along the lines of the social impact space is our center for sustainable business that launched this year. It’s being headed by Tensie Whelan, who is the former director of the Rainforest Alliance. We’re excited to see where she takes that center. It launched just a couple of months ago so we’re waiting to see how the students get involved with it. And then we also have an inclusive leadership class, which is helping our students to understand not only how to be aware of people coming from diverse backgrounds but also what to do with that information and how to properly foster diversity in a team setting, not only here at Stern but also once they are “released” into the real world. It’s another thing the students here are excited about.


When someone embarks on the application process, they usually assume Stern is a finance school. Besides finance, what are Stern’s other strengths and how are they being promoted?

Yeah, that’s something we speak to all the time. We get that question quite frequently. I think part of it is our location, so close to Wall Street. We do have a very strong finance program, that’s true. But, like you said, once students dig a little bit deeper, they also see that we are very strong in a lot of other areas. Some of that is related to the specializations. Some of that is related to where students end up going in their careers. We have a number of students that go into finance. It’s not just investment banking anymore, it’s all different types of fields within the “umbrella” of finance, but a lot of students are also going into consulting. We’re very strong in that area and we’ve been gaining quite a bit of ground in that space and have been recruiting with a lot of the top firms, which is exciting for us.


Being where we are in New York City, we also have our feet in a lot of different spaces. I always tell people, whatever it is you want to do, there is an experienced professional in New York City who can help you. Whether or not they are based here, almost everyone travels to NYC on business. So, it’s really easy to schedule informational interviews, a coffee chat, or a formal interview without having to book a flight, book a hotel. You can get in front of these folks.


Also, the office of career development here at Stern plans with the student clubs a number of treks around the country and around the world to get students in front of other companies if they are not interested in staying in New York. We have treks that go out into the west coast that focus on entertainment, media, and technology. We also have treks that go into London and Hong Kong that are focused on banking but also on consulting. So students have a lot of opportunity to get out there and meet companies from other areas outside of finance, but also outside of NYC.


In terms of the top specializations, we have quite a few. I won’t do the top three, but I’ll share the top 10 with you. These are in no particular order: accounting; business analytics (which is one of our newer specializations); corporate finance; entrepreneurship (I think everyone who comes to Stern wants to one day own their business and so a lot of students are interested in taking those courses and gain that skill set even if its not their first step out of the MBA); finance; financial instruments and markets; leadership and change management; luxury marketing (that’s another niche area for Stern because not a lot of schools have a program that focuses on the luxury and retail space, also being in NYC gives us a lot of access to that space which is pretty cool); general management; and then marketing and strategy. So the students are interested in a wide array of different fields. And the important thing to think about with our specializations is that students can specialize in three areas. They actually don’t have to specialize in anything, they can take a random assortment of electives if they wanted to. But they can specialize in up to three areas, so you can have students who are specializing in finance but also specializing in luxury marketing. It’s an interesting mix.


And if someone decides that the west coast is where they want to end up, is there a way Stern can support them in that?

Yeah! We have close ties with a number of companies that are out there. Like I mentioned, we have treks that go out to the west coast to do formal events with them. They do a number of company site visits. They also do alumni networking events. Actually, we have a really strong regional alumni base out in California. We have one base in LA and another base in San Francisco and so we can connect them with the alumni that are out there too. There’s always a number of students who are interested in experiencing the east coast and then want to go back out west once they graduate.


Without revealing specifics, what is your approach to the open-media question, do you have any favorite submission type, or can you share any anecdotes of interesting submissions you’ve received?

We get a wide range of things for this essay which is why it is fun for us to read because it gives us insight into the personality – the EQ side of our applicants, which is fun for us because it is a big side of, you know, their fit for the Stern community. We do get very compelling written essays, still. A number of students still decide to write an essay because that is what they are most comfortable doing. And I always say to folks, don’t be intimidated by the word, or the statement, feel free to be creative. Feel free to be creative by writing an essay because that’s just as compelling as something else. We always say, don’t use this as your opportunity to explore new hobbies because if you’re not a singer, this isn’t the time to practice your karaoke. But we do get folks that sing songs, we get folks that submit videos (we have a sampling of these on our website), we do get physical projects still but that is getting less and less as folks are more interested in the multimedia space. But yeah, we get a wide range of different things.


I know you haven’t published the questions yet – is there a big change for the upcoming round of applications? 

We haven’t published our deadlines or essay questions yet but I anticipate that we will in the coming weeks, if not sooner. I don’t anticipate any major changes, but we haven’t finalized that. I wouldn’t encourage people to start working on their essays just yet.

For more about applying to MBA programs, our Top MBA school pages contain all the application and admissions info you’ll need to apply.

Interested in getting in touch with one of our MBA consultants? Contact us to set up a free consultation.