Intense competition to get into the best business schools has meant that many applicants now resort to essay-writing agencies in order to hoodwink admissions directors into letting them in. It is a practice that most admissions folk abhor, but few have had any idea about how to get genuine submissions.
At the Anderson school at UCLA, applicants this year were asked to submit their essays in audio format. Although the scheme was voluntary, some 70 per cent of applicants for the class of 2011 chose to record their essays rather than submit them in a text format, says Mae Jennifer Shores, admissions director. Perhaps surprisingly, the submissions were “ethnic, gender and country neutral”, she says, with international applicants just as eager to submit audio clips as their US peers.
The audio clips have been useful on a number of fronts, says Ms Shores: they show how well the applicants can communicate, how well they have grasped the use of English and how they perform under pressure. Also they demonstrate how creative students can be: some added music – either commercially produced or self-generated.
It also enabled some students to demonstrate a sense of humour. “It was a joy for us,” says Ms Shores.
The questions the applicants addressed were the same for the written essay or the audio version. The most popular question for applicants related to what the term “entrepreneurial spirit” meant to them, followed by a question on the most troubling global issues.
Ms Shores says the Anderson school may choose to make the audio clips compulsory next year, or alternatively it may consider using video clips instead.