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5 Questions with the Director of Admissions at Illinois Gies College of Business

Illinois Director

In our latest installment of the MetroMBA “5 Questions” series, we speak with Jennifer Larson, the University of Illinois Director of Recruiting and Admissions of Graduate Programs at the Gies College of Business. Larson talks about the future career of a Gies MBA grad, the hands-on nature of the MBA program, and the many financial aid opportunities for students.


1. What are Gies’ strongest industries and how does the school support students in those industries?

“Our recent graduates have worked for major corporations like Amazon, AT&T, Google, and Bank of America in a number of functional areas, including Consulting, Finance/Accounting, General Management, Information Technology, and Marketing.

Gies Business Career Services boasts a diverse employer base of Fortune 500 companies and other regional organizations across multiple industry sectors including, but not limited to, manufacturing, financial services, consumer products, and consulting. Almost 25 percent of the F500 and more than 40 percent of the F100 recruit from Gies College of Business.

Our students actively engage with global, national and regional employers on-campus and at major MBA consortium events. Illinois founded and participates with nine other Top 50 MBA programs in the Midwest MBA Career Fair, one of the largest regional MBA career fairs.

We offer alumni connections built through the Illinois Business Mentor Program and the Illinois MBA Alumni Association, bringing students and alumni together for an exchange of information on education, professionalism, aspirations, and ideas.

Our MBA students network and engage with alumni and employers for information sessions, workshops, networking events, career connections, and interview preparation. Illinois MBA alumni are counted among those who hold C-suite roles in manufacturing, consulting, financial services, and healthcare in both the public and private sectors.

We hear four predominant reasons why students pursue an MBA:

  1. to build and expand their professional network,
  2. to increase salary/earnings potential,
  3. to create greater future job optionality,
  4. to accelerate or change career paths.

Whatever the reason, Gies Business Career Services is an invaluable resource for our students from day one.

Career Services provides an integrated suite of career development, coaching, and alumni and employer resources that enable us to assist MBA students in achieving career success. This starts with pre-program groundwork.

Career Management Foundations is the eLearning portal to MBA Career Management in Gies College of Business. This launches your job search the summer before the MBA program commences. You will have the chance to engage in five distinctive career modules that expose you to career planning and active career management processes. These help our students define their goals and develop tools that will enable their professional advancement. Each module contains topic related information, videos, articles, assessments, and key deliverables.

We also provide customized career coaching and consultation for MBA students so they are fully prepared for the job search with a focus on building life-long job seeking skills that will help the student through each career transition. Combine that with being ranked #3 in ROI (BusinessWeek) and being a Top 25 U.S. Business School (Financial Times), there is no question that an MBA from Gies College of Business at Illinois delivers max value during and after your time in the MBA program.”

2. Can you identify the ideal Gies candidate? Characteristics you look for?

“At Illinois, we don’t look for students who want to sit in a classroom for two years. We admit students who are passionate about applying the concepts learned in the classroom, actively participate in and outside of the classroom, and are team oriented. We look beyond test scores. We value candidates who bring a strong sense of community, possess a good understanding of the importance of career outcomes, and can demonstrate excellent interpersonal and communication skills. We appreciate and welcome diverse personal and professional backgrounds beyond business.”

Image result for gies college of business campus

“, “At Illinois, we don’t look for students who want to sit in a classroom for two years. We admit students who are passionate about applying the concepts learned in the classroom, actively participate in and outside of the classroom, and are team oriented,” Larson says.

3. If there was one feature of the MBA program you could highlight, what would it be?

“The MBA program at Gies College of Business is one of the most hands-on MBA programs in the country.

Action Learning at Gies is more than a course or a program; it’s ingrained in our culture. Action Learning is integrated throughout our undergraduate and graduate programs. Because our students get hands-on experience during school, they graduate more prepared for the real-world, to add value from day one, and to succeed in their careers.

Action Learning projects are a critical part of the students’ education. We work with clients who invest in developing our students. When a client is engaged and committed, students reciprocate with enthusiasm and dedication to the project. Through our Action Learning programs, students have a better story to tell recruiters, improve their ability to work as a team, and enhance their ability to solve complex problems.”

4. What kinds of financial aid are available to MBA students?

“All candidates admitted to the MBA program in Gies College of Business at Illinois are automatically considered for our merit-based Dean’s Scholarships with no separate scholarship application necessary. 85 percent of students admitted to the MBA program receive a scholarship offer from our diverse portfolio of awards. We also want our students back! The Illinois x 2 Scholarship offers a 50 percent tuition reduction for full-time MBA students who are University of Illinois alumni and meet the eligibility requirements. Find all the scholarships here.

The MBA program at Gies is dedicated to training an inclusive cohort of future leaders in a diverse, global setting. In addition to our traditional merit-based scholarships, we allocate eight full-tuition scholarships annually, for graduates of historically black colleges and universities.  Along with submitting a standard MBA application, applicants for these eight scholarships must have a competitive GMAT score (or equivalent GRE), at least two years of work experience, and a minimum GPA of 3.5.

Gies College of Business is committed to educating and directing talented women toward leadership roles in business. Gies College of Business is a Forté sponsor school dedicated to having a diverse group of Forté MBA Fellows, which is an honor given to select female MBA students at participating business schools. Both domestic and international women may be nominated as Fellows; each receives a generous scholarship from the MBA program at Gies College of Business.”

5. What underrated area/activity in Champaign – Urbana should every student do?

“Champaign-Urbana has a robust arts, culture, and music scene. Here, urban engages rural for an unparalleled ‘college-town’ experience that offers access to several renowned museums, and a thriving arts and culture community. In large part because of the University of Illinois’ diverse population, C-U has a strong foodie scene with a wide variety of restaurants and cuisines from all over the world. According to readers of Midwest Living magazine, the metro area of Champaign-Urbana is the best midwest food town.


For those interested in learning more about the full-time MBA program at Illinois Gies College of Business, head over to the school’s official website.

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