A Look Inside Minnesota Carlson Admissions

University of Minnesota courtesy photo.

P&Q: If I’m in high school and considering University of Minnesota/Carlson, what should my plans and timeline look like? What should I be doing to increase my chances of getting in?

As we talked about a holistic review earlier, the primary review factors are the academic ones. If they’re thinking about business, as early as their ninth grade and tenth grade year, figuring out what courses they need to take in order to be competitive for admission. We certainly want them on a calculus-based math track right away in ninth grade. We require three years of science one year of biology, chemistry, and physics. Also, get started on that second language.

So I’d say not just looking at their high school requirements for graduation, but also requirements for admission into a competitive program. They can work with their parents and high school counselor as early as possible. Also, visit campus, walk around, talk to people, get a feel for if there is an institution where you could see yourself thriving and will help springboard you to that next stage of life.

My other advice is that even though we have a November 1 application deadline for early action, getting the application in as early as possible puts a lot less stress on your life.

P&Q: What makes a student stand out?

Meyer: I think students who have a truly authentic voice when completing their application. We don’t have a required essay for admission here, but we do have multiple open-ended questions that allow students to provide us with information. They’re optional, but students who take time to provide insights into who they are as people and why they can be successful at Carlson and what they expect from Carlson gives us an insight into who they are and how they will be a fit here.

P&Q: If an applicant opts to skip the optional, open-ended questions, are they viewed differently?

Meyer: They’re not looked at differently, but I think it’s a missed opportunity. A student who provides more information gives us an additional glimpse into who they are, what they’re all about, and what they believe in. For a student who doesn’t provide it, it’s very possible they might be admitted anyway, but I think without the information, we can’t connect them with resources they might be interested in such as clubs and on-campus activities. I think it gives students a more helpful transition.

P&Q: What’s the one thing students think will get them in, but will not?

Meyer: I think that is the myth: that there is one thing. There’s never just one thing that keeps a student out or one thing that puts them in. We review all facets of a student’s application so everything’s connected.

P&Q: What’s the most common question you get from students wanting to get into Carlson?

Meyer: I think a question we get a lot is what kind of opportunities are available for me as a student at the Carlson School? Certainly then we want to share the info that Minneapolis-Saint Paul is a really great place. The area is home to 18 Fortune 500 companies, the state government, and home to law firms. There are a lot of opportunities that students can participate in while they’re taking classes. That’s unique about Carlson and what sets us apart.

P&Q: What’s the biggest mistake students make when applying?

Meyer: I think the biggest mistake is they don’t pay attention to admission requirements. So, courses required for admission or application deadlines. Those are also the easiest things a student can fix. If they miss a deadline, that deadline is probably posted in a variety of different places.

The recommendation is always to take a look at the websites for the top institutions you want to apply to, make a spreadsheet, and post the deadlines on your calendar so you know you’re not missing out for that reason.

P&Q: Describe something you wish students wouldn’t do when applying.

Meyer: I think when we review applications we can very much tell a student’s authentic voice. I think they need to be who they are. I know that it might be tempting to have mom and dad help a little more on the application process, but it’s really important that students do this themselves, be in the driver’s seat, and set the pace. They know what they want to say even if it’s not said as elegantly as a 40-year-old might be able to say it. It’s helpful for us as admissions to know who the students are.

P&Q: Speaking of parents, any advice for them?

Meyer: You can probably guess my advice is to let students take the lead in the application process and the admission process. Parents should be available as helpful supporters, as cheerleaders though the process. They should be there to ask the questions students might not think about like, ‘How do I pay for college or what is the career service program like?’ Parents can help supplement the questions students have, but parents need to allow their students to be the focal point.

I think if you’d asked what’s the biggest trend in parental involvement from the time I started in admissions 20-plus years ago, it’s just that parental involvement has continued to increase. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s great that they’re engaged in the process and care where their student is going to school. I think they need to understand that they’re not going to school, but helping their student in making a decision about the next step in their life.

P&Q: How have admissions and prospective students changed over the years? What are some of the changes that most stand out to you?

Meyer: Parental involvement has really, really changed. I think we certainly send more communications addressed ‘To the parents of.’ We do have to educate more parents in more of a phone conversation kind of way that students need to lead the conversation. We’re having those conversations more frequently with the parents than when I first started. Like I said, I think it’s great they’re engaged. I think it has both positives and challenges.

On the student side, I think they are much more savvy and have the ability to be much more savvy. When I first started, the internet was in its infancy. Students have a lot more means to a lot more information.

It’s great because it opens the world of college to a much wider audience. I think you see both ends of the spectrum: students who are highly educated about the college and university and have taken a lot of time to look at information. There are also students who don’t have that information so there’s an even greater disparity between those who come in with no information versus those who do.

P&Q: What are some trends you’re seeing among B-school applicants?

Meyer: I think in terms of trends we’ve just consistently been seeing a very well-prepared group of students which does make admissions decisions more challenging, but also a really great problem to have. We’ve also seen students come in with a really broad array of interests; maybe not focused on one major, but a variety of majors. This is across the board, not just business school students. But for the business school, I think Carlson — with its international experience requirement and different minors they’ve created — helps students align with that broad background and broad interests.

P&Q: How large is your admissions staff that reviews B-school applicants?

Meyer: We have a staff of about 70 members all told and then, in addition, some seasonal and part-time staff. We have a group of seasonal readers who come in. There are about 25-30 readers and they read for all colleges. We don’t have staff members who specifically read for Carlson or engineering. They read for all programs.

P&Q: What’s your favorite part and least favorite part about this job?

Meyer: There are a lot of things. I really like that the world of admissions is really diverse and multidimensional so there are a lot of different things I could say at any given moment. But I really like working with the team that we have. It’s really rewarding working with smart people who care about students.

On the other hand, nobody gets into this line of work to say no. That is probably the most challenging part of the job; that we don’t always have space for students who would really like to come here. Sometimes they don’t want to hear about transfer planning and that’s understandable.

P&Q: Any closing thoughts?

Meyer: I think we are really proud of the business education that Carlson provides. As I mentioned earlier, we want students to start exploring early. As students are going into ninth and tenth grade, it’s never really too early to start exploring on the web and to visit campuses. We do visits in ninth and tenth grade year. It gives them more time to narrow down their choices. 


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