A Q&A With Villanova’s Gatekeeper

A student takes advantage of a study lounge inside of the Villanova School of Business’s Bartley Hall. School courtesy photo

P&Q: Does the school offer early action or early decision?

Gaynor: For the first time ever in our university’s history, we offered early decision this past year because there seemed to be quite an interest in that based on what we were hearing from our various constituents.

Twenty-four percent of the incoming class of 2022 came through our early decision process. We came in a little under 700 that applied early decision. That was in the ballpark of what I expected and my sense is that it may certainly grow in two to three years.

P&Q: How many applications are you typically seeing for the business school?

Gaynor: This year, a little over 6,600 applied to VSB. Of our 1,670 total seats, 405 are dedicated to VSB. The last three years, this has steadily grown. Last year, that number was around 6,270 and the year before for class of 2020 was just over 4,600. So the interest in the business school has grown exponentially, but so has the interest in Villanova as well the last several years.

P&Q: Describe an instance where a candidate might appear to be a guaranteed admit, but still may not get in.

Gaynor: It could be a scenario with a perfect SAT or ACT score and the student has taken challenging classes, but maybe they’re not trending upward but downward. We receive their senior grades and there are some Cs. That would be someone unless there’s extenuating circumstances because obviously there’s a lot of gray in these areas.

But if someone is not working to their capability, we don’t want to reward that. We would rather have someone who’s excelling in the classroom and the standardized test may be the only duck out of line. We want to reward that hard work over the other scenario I mentioned.

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

Gaynor: Perhaps if they’re not strong students in mathematics and they’ve not opted for the most challenging or ambitious curriculum with their math courses. That may not bode well.

P&Q: How do you think potential students and their parents view Villanova’s business school?

Gaynor: It’s not lost on how fortunate we are here. It’s an exciting time to be at Villanova when you include two national championships (in men’s basketball) the last three years, we were a number one regional school for over 25 years then two years ago, for the first time, we went on the national stage as a top 50 institution then we went to 46. We know that it’s an exciting time to be here and how fortunate we are. With that, I think families are very sophisticated consumers. People are really doing their homework and they know the VSB reputation.

P&Q: How involved are parents these days? Do you often hear from parents of high school students?

Gaynor: Parents are certainly involved in the process, wanting the best for their children and we understand that. We value and appreciate the parental involvement, but we really try to direct our comments and questions from the students themselves. This year, we had over 56,000 visitors through admissions. That was a record and includes students, parents, and sometimes siblings. It’s a big investment for families so we appreciate the parents. We just want to be a great match where they’ll be respected and valued and bloom where they’re planted.

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

Gaynor: Certainly the number of students applying to Villanova in general. When I started in 1982, there were 6,942 applications, now it’s 22,732. We’ve seen that trend with the business school as well over past few years. That coincides with all the good things we talked about: becoming a national university, we are building on campus — but yet not trying to grow our enrollment — our student athletes equip themselves as such wonderful ambassadors, and the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking got some attention as well.

P&Q: As head of admissions, what keeps you awake at night in this role?

Gaynor: The only thing that concerns me is when we release our decisions; that it’s done accurately and that we’re never over-subscribed or over-enrolled. Those are the two things that keep me up at night.

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

Gaynor: Favorite part is working with families and building those relationships especially students who may be first generation in their family to go to college or students who have extenuating circumstances — whether chronic illnesses, physical challenges, or other invisible things that someone may not know, but they’re going through. That’s the most rewarding.

The other side of the coin is certainly when we release decisions. If there’s ever a lack of civility, that’s not something I look forward to. For instance, if someone does not receive favorable news. It doesn’t happen often, but when we rescind a decision based on behavior that’s not congruent with who we are. It’s not easy to do, but it’s the right thing to do.


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