Blaire Moody Rideout’s background in student counseling and advising has come in handy in her job overseeing the undergraduate admissions office at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. This is the time of year when she and her office start doling out the final decisions on applications, and some of the news can be devastating to students, especially those who have been denied admission to the school twice, first as high school seniors applying through the Preferred Admission program and then again as University of Michigan freshmen.
About 22 percent of the 1,139 freshmen who applied to Ross last year fell into that category, said Moody Rideout, director of BBA admissions. She often has to advise parents and students on what the next steps should be if they don’t get one of the coveted 500 seats in the class, and explain how they can still have a Ross-like experience without getting a bachelor of business administration degree.
“I often feel that we’re the office of denial, not the office of admission,” said Moody Rideout, who held counseling roles at the University of South Carolina and Ohio Wesleyan University before coming to the University of Michigan in 2007. “ A student who is turned away for regular admissions feels that it is their last shot, so that is where the counseling approach comes in. It is crucial to our process.”
It is getting harder than ever for students to land a seat in Ross’ highly regarded three-year undergraduate business program, ranked #12 in Bloomberg Businessweek’s most recent undergraduate ranking. Last year, the school received about 3,000 applications from high school seniors, of whom only 340 were offered a spot in the 2014-15 class. That means only about one in ten of that pool of applicants had a chance of getting into the school, Moody Rideout said.
Moody Rideout spoke with Poets&Quants for Undergrads’ Alison Damast about the challenges her office faces as the business major becomes more popular at the University of Michigan, how applicants can demonstrate leadership in their applications, and why she thinks more students are trying to portray themselves as entrepreneurs.
High school seniors that want guaranteed admission to the Ross School apply to the school’s Preferred Admission program. How popular is that program, and just how competitive is it to get into?
It is extremely popular. We started it in 2006 when we actually went from a two-year business program to a three-year business program. Preferred admission was not unique to Ross at the time because there were many other preferred options at other schools at the University of Michigan. What is unique is that at Ross we have the most competitive Preferred Admission program on campus. We have a highly-ranked business school and now high school students have the option to apply to us through the Preferred Admissions program. Those students might not come to Michigan if not for the fact that they were guaranteed to be in business school right away.
Last year, we had a 50 percent increase in our Preferred Admission application pool. We went from 1,977 applications to 2,966. We didn’t admit any more students, we just had larger application numbers and more students enrolling who wanted to do business.
There are two ways that students can go about getting into the Ross School, applying as a high school senior or applying as a University of Michigan freshman. Do students stand a better chance at getting into Ross if they decide to apply to the school their freshman year versus through the Preferred Admission program?
The numbers are in their favor if they apply their freshman year. They need a GPA of 3.68, so their GPA needs to be high and college courses are really tough. It’s not that it is easier per say to get in, but the numbers are much more in their favor. We enroll a class of 500 sophomores every year and one-quarter are preferred admits and the other three-quarters are regular admits. We got 1,139 regular admit applications last year and admitted about 409 students. That’s a 36% acceptance rate, compared to the 10% or 11% acceptance rate in the Preferred Admit program.
What do students applying through the regular admissions process need to do to get an edge in the admissions process?
It is more than GPA. The first conversations I have every year are with the 4.0s that are not admitted. A GPA of 4.0 on the University of Michigan campus is exceptional, but if you’re not involved in anything on campus and your essays aren’t great, you aren’t going to be admitted. That is a hard conversation for me to have with students and their families.
At Ross, we are very focused on action-based learning, leadership and being really involved in extracurricular activities. The way we assess if a student will fit into that kind of mindset is through extracurricular activities and essays. We are looking for students who are intentional about their desire to go into business, and they also have to be a leader on campus.