What NYU Stern Is Looking For
Two decades ago, upon receiving Leonard N. Stern’s transformative naming gift of $30 million, the Stern School implemented an initiative to attract the elite caliber of student that would support its ambitious goals. Since that time, the profile of the average Stern MBA student has strengthened significantly, and admissions criteria have become increasingly stringent. The Stern School’s admissions committee claims to evaluate each candidate “holistically,” paying careful attention to three clearly defined factors:
Academic profile. Students should be “confident in their ability to master the required material and excel in the classroom,” and are assessed based on past academic performance (as well as the institutions they attended) and general aptitude as measured by the GMAT and GPA. Successful candidates come from a wide range of academic backgrounds, and Stern has no minimum criteria for accepting an application. In reality, though, most applicants whose profiles are outside the middle-80% range of GMAT scores (currently, the bottom 10th percentile is a 680), or who have a low undergraduate GPA (10th percentile is a 3.18), will have a tough time gaining an offer at Stern. Specifically, Stern is looking for the following in terms of your GMAT and GPA:
- GMAT or GRE. Stern accepts scores from either test for applicants to the full-time or part-time MBA program. Like other schools, Stern encourages MBA candidates to re-test if they feel their score does not reflect their full potential. There is no minimum GMAT/GRE score for admission, though the average GMAT is an impressive 720. Note that no test score at all is required to apply to the Stern EMBA program.
- GPA. While Stern has no minimum GPA, it does seek students who have proven their ability to perform in an academic environment. For older applicants, the GPA is usually not weighted quite as much as it is for younger ones. However, anything less than a 3.0 (on the U.S. 4.0 scale) means that the candidate should provide additional evidence of academic ability.
Professional achievements and aspirations. Students who will “share their experiences with classmates and perform as future business leaders” are valued at Stern. Therefore, students who have interesting and significant work experiences and who have progressed in their jobs are attractive candidates. The Stern admissions committee also feels strongly that time spent at Stern should be used to pursue specific, defined short- and long-term goals, not to first identify them. Accordingly, it seeks candidates whose past experiences (and personal passions) have led them to future goals and who have a clear understanding of how an MBA will assist them in achieving those goals. Stern assesses candidates’ essay content, resumes, work histories, and professional recommendations. In the interview, the admissions team evaluates candidates’ ability to express themselves in a professional setting. Although work experience is not required to apply to Stern, most applicants have “material” work experience (between one and 10 years). No one type of professional experience is prized over others, and a diversity of backgrounds is sought for each incoming class.
Personal characteristics. Stern has long had a reputation with outsiders as a meritocratic institution, rich with “scrappy,” self-made individuals. Stern claims that it values “participants and leaders” who will “contribute to the supportive and diverse Stern community.” The admissions committee looks for candidates who demonstrate leadership ability, maturity, character, and strong communication skills, and who will develop into truly engaged and passionate “Sternies,” with enduring pride in and commitment to the school. They look to assess candidates against these criteria by reviewing essay content, professional recommendations, and past activities and achievements, and through the interview process.
Fit with Stern. In addition to the above three factors, the Stern admissions committee wants to be convinced that applicants have “done their homework” on Stern, NYU, and New York City. Candidates should demonstrate that the overall environment is one in which they will thrive and to which they can make significant contributions. To assess candidates in this area, the admissions committee focuses on how aware candidates seem to be of Stern’s culture, program offerings, facilities, faculty, placement record, and alumni network, and of how these aspects of the school appeal to them and meet their specific needs. Stern students tend to be energetic, driven, outgoing, sociable, entrepreneurial, and open-minded, and candidates possessing such characteristics are desirable for the admissions committee.
Commitment to Stern. Of course, this focus on “fit” is of critical importance to the admissions committee in filling out the MBA class; they want to feel relatively certain that a great number of admitted students consider Stern their “first choice” and will accept their offer of admission. Therefore, if there is any sign in your application that you’d actually prefer to go to that other school uptown—such as reusing an essay and forgetting to change the school name to Stern—this will likely result in an instant pass by the Stern admissions committee. Similarly, two of the most important points of emphasis in an interview with Stern are a genuine interest in the school and an ability to express how you would contribute to the culture and the community. These are best developed through significant firsthand research into the school via networking and attendance at the school’s outreach events.