Tag: admissions

This blog post was originally published on St. Louis Public Radio’s website. Listen to interview here.

St. Louis native Kielah Harbert remembers how nervous she felt when she hit submit and sent out her college applications.

“Everything was done and it was just a waiting game,” said Harbert, who will be the first in her family to graduate from college next year. “But when I sent it out I was confident that I would get in to a school that would be beneficial to my future. And so it wasn’t ‘OK I have to get into this school.’ It was ‘This is what I been waiting for. This is it.”

A graduate of St. Louis Public School’s Clyde C. Miller Career Academy, Harbert was enrolled in two programs designed to help low-income, first-generation students get into college. She now is a junior at Washington University working toward a degree in business and African-American studies.

Instead of being a barrier, Harbert discovered that coming from a family of modest means helped her pay for college — every school she applied to met her full financial need.

“My parents didn’t really know about the college application process or college in general, so it was harder for them to support me,” Harbert said. “They understood that it was something that I wanted to do. It was just more on me to make sure that it got done.”

To help other first generation students who may not have the help of college access programs like College Bound, last year Harbert co-wrote a how-to guide for getting into school, “#Admitted.”

While there are a lot of other college guides out there, Harbert said she and her co-author, Princeton student Wilglory Tanjong, wanted first-generation, low-income students to have a book written by people who had been where they are now.

“I think that because we offer this experience it’s easier for students to say, ‘Wow you know our situation may not be completely the same but it’s similar. And I can connect to you, and I see that you were able to accomplish this. I see myself in you. I think I can accomplish this as well.’ And we wanted students to know that they could do it,” Harbert said.

With college application deadlines approaching, Harbert had this advice for high school juniors and seniors:

Choose a college based on fit, not name

Harbert  said if she were applying for college over again she would spend more time researching schools.

“I had an idea that I wanted to go to this, you know, one school or these couple of schools, and I don’t think I really expanded my horizons,” Harbert said. “I don’t think I spent enough time saying ‘Well, how does this school benefit me as a student?’”

Paying for college often requires more than good grades

“Early on I thought that getting good grades would be all I would need to do to get to college and get the money that I need,”Harbert said. She didn’t understand how a family’s income factors into financial aid.

College is worth the cost

“That’s a myth that we try to debunk (in #Admitted),” Harbert said. “It’s definitely worth the investment. And there are scholarships available. It’s not zero sum, all of this money is going to be debt.”

As for finding their way through college, Harbert said she’s still trying to find her own place at Washington University.

“I’m actually still navigating the entire process of being a first-generation student of color at a predominately white affluent institution,” Harbert said, adding that she’s found people on campus who really want to see her succeed, but general support for first generation students has been mixed.

According to a spokesperson for Washington University, about 7 percent of its 2016 freshman class is first generation.

Saint Louis University Assistant Provost Steve Sanchez said about 12 percent of students who enrolled at SLU in the fall are the first in their family to go to college.

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville estimates that nearly 20 percent of its undergraduates are first generation, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ fall 2016 class, including transfer students, is about 42 percent first generation.

Image: Camille Phillips, St. Louis Public Radio

Olin’s application process is unique. As part of the admissions essay, we ask students to demonstrate how they will find their fit within the close-knit Olin community. We take pride in the fact that, at Olin, each student is a name, not a number. And one of our major key values is collaboration.

At Women’s Weekend, this sense of community was clear to see. As prospective students who had flown in from around the country eagerly sat in their seats, they witnessed current students, alumni and staff greet each other in what looked like a long overdue homecoming. Through exchanges of hugs and heartfelt conversation, the collaborative connections and sense of optimism was infectious. Prospective students felt engaged and excited to become part of the conversation, often craving more one-on-one time with the career center team, alumni members, and current students throughout the day.


Some of our beloved alumni joined us for an alumni panel where they discussed their Olin experience and how it poised them for their careers at such companies as IBM, AB InBev, and Accenture.

While our time together was brief, we were able to pack a wide variety of programming into the schedule. This included hearing from a number of accomplished women in the Olin family: Mary Jo Gorman, Lead Managing Partner of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Startup Accelerator, gave the keynote; Professor Hillary Anger Elfenbein spoke about women and negotiation; Cathy Dunkin, Lecturer in Business Management, led a case-based class. This gave the prospective students an inside glimpse into what life at Olin would be like.  Since many of the prospective students had never been to St. Louis, Olin graciously made it their mission to ensure Women’s Weekend would be synonymous with a relaxed, but informative, weekend of learning about Olin, Washington University, St. Louis, and life in the Midwest.

We are confident that our time getting to meet prospective students in person is beneficial to all parties. We are proud of our campus and our community and we enjoy sharing our school with talented people like those we met at Women’s Weekend.

Guest bloggers: Heather Reinhardt and Erin Ilic, both MBA ’17

Olin hosted its fall diversity weekend October 21-23. It was a unique opportunity to share the incredible opportunities offered by Olin’s full-time MBA program with students from across the nation. Prospective students received an introduction to the MBA program not only from an administrative level, but from the classroom, career search, and extracurricular levels.

Diversity weekend is a mini-immersion into the Olin community and experience.

The prospective students heard from Interim Dean Kurt Dirks and our Associate Dean and Director of Olin’s Graduate Programs, Joe Fox.  Joe and Kurt are the most important administrators for the MBA program, and offered unique insights into some of Olin’s key competitive and unique advantages over other top tier programs. One of their recurrent themes was the unique value delivered by our relatively small cohort size. Kurt and Joe explained the ways in which this lends itself to our students having direct and meaningful relationships with Olin’s prestigious administrators and faculty.


To better demonstrate Olin’s commitment to excellent instruction, our prospective students had the pleasure of working through a classic business school case study with our very own Professor Sergio Chayet. Sergio, who teaches our core operations course (along with a handful of elective courses), is one of our most-loved faculty members. He exemplifies Olin’s reputation for both brilliant and student-focused instructors.

Rounding out our exploration of the services provided by Olin itself, the Weston Career Center’s (WCC) Associate Director of Employee Relations, Annetta Culver, spoke with the Diversity Weekend attendees about the WCC’s broad base of job search support. Not only does the WCC bring some of the world’s most prestigious companies to campus, like Goldman Sachs, Accenture, and Amazon for recruiting events, but the WCC also helps prepare students for successful networking, application, and interview processes.

Outside of the classroom, Olin MBA students are able to get real-world business experience through our Center for Experiential Learning (CEL), which facilitates five different courses. These courses allow Olin students to get their hands dirty, solving real business problems in organizations spanning domestic and international Fortune 500s, small and growth-stage startups, along with nonprofits and community-focused organizations. The CEL hosted a reception and information session for our prospective students, and also served some of St. Louis’ world famous BBQ courtesy of Pappy’s Smokehouse.


As Olin is not just a part of the Washington University community, but also an integral part of the larger St. Louis community, the diversity weekend attendees heard from Leah Merrifield. Leah, who is WashU’s Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement, explained the myriad ways that Washington University contributes to and engages with St. Louis’ diverse communities. St. Louis, a healthcare and startup powerhouse that also struggles with deep-seated socioeconomic and racial segregation, is a unique place to attend business school. Leah spoke about the ways in which Olin’s students are able to work with, and learn from, both St. Louis’ incredible businesses and also its social challenges.

Continuing this theme, Natalie Clay, a St. Louis diversity and inclusion professional gave a rousing speech titled “What Harvard Business Review Knows-and-Missed About the Future of Diversity & Inclusion.” This thought-provoking speech encouraged students to explore the implications, and need for, diversity and inclusion efforts both in corporations and in business schools.

diversity-wkend4Throughout the weekend’s programming, Diversity Weekends attendees were able to connect and ask questions to both current Olin MBAs, and some of our storied alumni. These interactions were a great way for the prospective students to learn about the Olin MBA experience directly from those who are currently living with it, and those who can speak to how Olin shaped their personal and professional lives with the benefit of retrospect.

Overall, Diversity Weekend was a condensed version of the Olin experience. We sincerely hope that all attendees enjoyed our programming, and if you would like to attend one of our future informational events, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our admissions office.

Guest Blogger: Alex Novelli, MBA’17; Diversity Weekend Co-Chair

It gives us great pleasure to announce that Ruthie Pyles has agreed to join Olin as our next assistant dean and director of graduate programs admissions and financial aid. Ruthie joins us from Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe where she has served as director of MBA and graduate admissions and recruitment for the past five years.

Previously, Ruthie had worked in admissions, student services, and career services at the University of Southern California (USC). She holds a BFA in theatre as well as a master’s degree in communication management – both from USC. The degree in theatre will become self-evident when you have the chance to meet Ruthie in person.  In addition to her exemplary academic record and work history – the search committee felt that Ruthie’s energy, style, personality and character were a perfect fit for Olin and for this position.

Ruthie Pyles

Ruthie Pyles

This announcement is the culmination of a six-month intensive, international search process, with dozens of applicants and eight initial semi-finalist candidates who were eventually winnowed down to three finalists.  This search process was spearheaded by an exceptional search committee who worked hard, worked well together, and worked towards a common goal. Our thanks to the search committee:

Co-chairs: John Horn and Joe Fox

Staff: Sarah Miller and Brad McLeod

MBA students: Delisle Warden and DeAngela Hayes

Faculty: Radha Gopalan and Jackson Nickerson

And our very, very, very valuable internal search consultant: Mark Prosperi  (from the University HR department)

Terry Wirtel also deserves our immense gratitude for supporting the committee in every way, especially with juggling multiple schedules to keep everything on track.

More thanks go out to the dozens of folks who participated in the finalist interview process over the past several weeks. You provided us with very valuable feedback and made a very favorable impression on the candidates.

Ruthie will join Olin on July 11 ready to swing directly into high gear. I believe that is the only gear that Ruthie uses. But there will be one minor swerve in the road – Ruthie will need to take a few days off at the end of July in order to get married to her St. Louis-based fiancé, who also happens to work in higher education at another university. After much deliberation, she has been granted those few days off by her very benevolent supervisor.

Once again – thanks to all and welcome to the Olin Nation Ruthie.

U.S. News & World Report asked Megan Waite, Olin’s associate director of admissions for graduate programs, for her top recommendation for international students applying to U.S. graduate business programs.

Strengthen English skills: Many applicants from abroad may not speak English as a first language, making it critical that they sharpen their English reading, writing and speaking skills to succeed as an applicant and an MBA student.

“We recommend that people use every opportunity they can to improve on those English skills,” says Megan Waite, associate director of admissions for graduate programs at Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School, which had an enrollment of about 35 percent for international students in its last cohort for full-time MBA students.

The other top tips include “connect with current students,” and “show passion.” Link to the article here.