Graduate School Admission Tips from DePaul

Deciding to go to graduate business school is the first step toward taking your career to the next level. But first you need to master the business school application process.

We sat down with Garry Cooke, director of recruitment and admissions of DePaul University's Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, to get his help in answering prospective students’ common questions about applying to business school.

What are some of the top considerations that prospective students should have before applying for graduate school?

The first thing that prospective students should do is know which university makes sense for them. There are many options out there, so applicants must really do their research prior to beginning their application and sitting down with a recruiter from that university. Another big tip is that once applicants are interested in a university, they should make a pro and con list. This will help direct the conversation when speaking with an advisor. Speaking with an advisor about their likes and concerns will quickly narrow down the search.

What are some of the things prospective students should look for in a graduate school before applying?

Prospective students should look for faculty that teach real-world experience. Courses should not be taught by graduate assistants, but by faculty who are academic experts in their field or those that work in the industry in which they are teaching. Another thing students should look for is a university that has a graduate business career center, like the Kellstadt Career Management Center. These unique career centers focus only on graduate business students. I also recommend that students should actually sit in on a class. Class visits give prospective students an unscripted view of the university’s students, faculty and culture.

How do prospective students determine if they should get an MS or MBA?

I think something applicants should do is a mini job search. This means searching for a job that they would like to get one day and look at the requirements. It might say MS or MBA or there might be some keywords in that job description that line up with one of Kellstadt’s degrees. Otherwise, the main difference between the two degrees is that an MS degree is going to be very specialized in one area whereas the MBA degree is going to make students well-rounded. The MBA will hone management skills, so if applicants will one day take on a managerial role, the MBA may be the way to go. I recommend stopping by one of Kellstadt’s many information sessions.  There they can speak to the admissions team individually and find out which is the best program.

What are some general tips for the application?

Do not try to hide anything. If applicants have a GPA or a test score that is not as strong as they would like, explain it in an essay and be honest. Perhaps the low GPA is because the applicant had a rough first year as an undergrad student. Explain that in an essay and do not let the admissions team fill in the blanks. Also, when applicants are seeking a letter of recommendation, make sure the recommender truly knows who you are otherwise it may feel like a generic form letter. We want someone who can really talk about personal and professional successes. Finally, in the personal statement, applicants should always write about why they are pursuing this degree, but also make it unique to the university and program where the applicant is applying.

How can prospective students stand out in their application?

If they have a lot of work experience, highlight that—we like to see people with real-world experience. Highlight what you have done in quantitative and managerial areas. Showing why you really want the degree speaks volumes about a candidate’s self-awareness. I also recommend meeting with a member of the admissions team. We keep all of our notes and we do review these when making admissions decisions.

What are the deadlines and dates for applying to the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business?

Kellstadt has several application deadlines, but they actually are more like priority dates than strict deadlines. Ideally, Kellstadt would like to ensure that we have enough time to process the applications and to notify students and allow them to register for classes as early as possible. The deadlines for international students are stricter, because these students need to apply for their VISA and I-20 (student visa application). We can admit after a deadline, but there is no guarantee that international students will receive their VISA in time.

What questions are you asked most often by applicants?

One of the most common questions we receive is about the GMAT waiver policy. At DePaul, applicants can petition admissions to waive the GMAT based on criteria such as work experience or having another advanced degree. I recommend speaking with our admissions team about the possibility of waiving the GMAT requirement.

Learn More About DePaul Graduate Business Programs.