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This admissions season, business school alumni are the ones facing rejection.
Graduate schools including University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School are bypassing alumni in admissions interviews to meet directly with M.B.A. candidates in person or via Skype videoconferencing, despite the potential higher costs, in an attempt to ensure interviews are being conducted in a uniform manner—and in English.
For years, many graduate schools relied on their vast alumni networks to screen M.B.A. candidates. Now, some schools want tighter control over interviews to better judge whether an applicant who looks great on paper really stacks up in person. They're also hoping that a smaller set of interviewers will allow for more consistent comparison among candidates.
Wharton, which has more than 88,000 alumni world-wide across all of its programs, is sending its six admissions officers to 12 "hub" cities, including San Francisco, São Paulo and Singapore, to interview applicants who hope to enroll this fall but can't make it to the main campus in Philadelphia.
On-campus interviews are conducted by 45 trained second-year students. Ankur Kumar, director of M.B.A. admissions and financial aid at Wharton, says the smaller group of student interviewers, compared with "several hundred" alumni in the past, allows for some consistency. Combined, Wharton conducts as many as 3,500 interviews each year, admitting about 1,000 and enrolling 800 to 850.
Most school officials say the shift isn't a matter of trust. But they do express concern over whether a foreign alum and candidate will conduct an interview in English. The candidate might be engaging and insightful in their native tongue, only to arrive on campus unable to read the orientation material, admissions officers say.
Some business schools are changing their approach to admissions interviews, pulling back from using alumni to screen applicants and opting instead for Skype or having staffers travel far and wide. Melissa...