The Inside Scoop on UCLA Anderson School of Management
There’s arguably no finer place in the world to earn your MBA than in sunny Los Angeles. As the leading academic institution in Southern California, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management drives innovation and entrepreneurship in the region. But don’t take our word for it. The school placed 19th overall in the latest US News & World Report ranking of the best business schools. And when it comes to specialties, US News ranks UCLA Anderson highly for real estate (No. 8), finance (No. 9), and marketing (No. 13).
Alex Lawrence, who’s been the assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at the Anderson School for over a decade, dropped by the B-Schooled podcast earlier this year to chat about the program. This blog post will spill all the deets on UCLA Anderson’s curriculum, culture, and admissions practices. Plus, as an Anderson MBA alum himself, there’s no one better to shed light on what it takes to get into the UCLA Anderson MBA program. Check out the highlights of Alex’s conversation with B-Schooled host Erika below (comments and questions condensed for brevity and clarity.)
Curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.
What makes the UCLA Anderson School special?
Alex: It’s going to sound cliche to say “the people,” so I’ll save that for a little bit later in the discussion. But let’s start with the location, which is a great hub for business activity in Silicon Beach. It’s also a great area for those who have entrepreneurial endeavors. Some people lose sight of the fact that we have a really strong finance and tech area. All of these roll up into our nine centers of excellence. So there’s a lot of great opportunities and we know that two years is not enough to explore everything.
Tell us about some of the newer aspects of the program worth highlighting.
The subject of ethics and its importance in the business world is a growing trend. So now, our students are required to take an ethics course as part of our graduation requirements. We’ve always been a program that tries to make sure our students have a global experience. That’s why we’re actively working on expanding some of the study abroad opportunities for students.
Individuals who are interested in the entrepreneurial segment can get involved with our venture accelerator, the Price Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Many times, people come to our program as career switchers. They may have a secondary interest beyond what they put in their application that they start exploring. Some of those entrepreneurial interests and activities may be part of their future—maybe not in the short term but in the long term. That’s why we built out that business creation program.
We’ve also launched immersion programs that start after the first week of classes, two months before corporate employers come on campus. They focus on technology and consulting, and we have a finance fast track. Based on our research and working with different business partners, we felt that it was imperative that we create these immersion programs in support of those career activities. That way, students are better prepared when employers come on campus in the fall. They can figure out whether that will be the right program for them.
Finally, we’re going to begin accepting the Executive Assessment as a test option for the class of 2026.
Do you want to clear up any misperceptions about the Anderson School?
Many times, people think because we’re in Los Angeles, it’s just an entertainment and media town. But applicants who are interested in a career in finance will also find a lot of support. We have 15 specializations, including real estate, healthcare, technology, leadership, and social impact. With over 115 elective courses in a STEM-certified MBA, people start saying, “Oh wow, I never knew about the way UCLA is positioned out in Los Angeles.”
People also wonder about job placement after graduation and whether they can go back to the East Coast or the Midwest. Do you have to stay on the West Coast? When you come here, know that mobility is very high for our students and alumni.
What do students do outside of class for fun?
We’re a school that really values community engagement. That’s what we look for in individuals who apply to our program. And me being an alumnus from the program way back, I’ve seen it getting stronger and stronger. Some of the best ideas come from our students, such as the conferences and different clubs that get initiated. Wherever you look, there are a number of ways to take on leadership positions.
We have professional clubs in tech, finance, consulting, et cetera. And then some of the clubs are fun. LA is a big foodie town, so there’s a club for that. The wine club went to an international wine competition. They were one of 10 business schools or US schools that were able to compete and move on to the international level.
There’s always something going on the UCLA campus. As for the broader campus, it’s more about what interests you: beach, snowboarding, foodie, wine tasting, going to arts, entertainment shows, you name it. There’s plenty to do.
Turning now to admissions…what is the admissions committee looking for in applicants overall?
We’re looking for success and accomplishments in many different areas. As I described earlier, we’re looking for engaged people with some level of community involvement because that will be important when they come to our campus.
Applicants should have some leadership and teamwork in their background. Academic performance matters, too. We’re looking to assemble a class of individuals with different backgrounds from different parts of the world and diverse career industries. We feel like that combination makes the classroom and campus activities so dynamic.
At the end of the day, I take a lot of pride when I hear some of our partners from the business community say, you know what? We really like those Anderson students. They’re smart, they are competitive, but in a nice way.
Please give us your insights into how best to answer this year’s new MBA essay:
UCLA Anderson seeks to develop transformative leaders who think fearlessly, drive change, and share success. We believe the ability to persevere is an essential component of effective leadership. Please share an example from your personal or professional life where you demonstrated perseverance to accomplish a significant goal or milestone. 250 words max.
Is there any preference between whether the applicant shares a personal or professional example?
First, think about the real estate you have throughout the entire application. I know 250 words for an essay is not a lot, but you can also showcase your abilities in your resume and in the interview if invited. Also, the letters of recommendation on your behalf can talk about your strengths. So you don’t want to waste that real estate by repeating things.
Don’t miss our UCLA MBA Application Essay Tips for 2023-2024
When it comes to the essay itself, we understand that setbacks are great learning opportunities. We want to see that when the applicant had these setbacks, not only did they learn about that experience, but how did they react? Business school is hard. We’re looking for people who have that resilience in them.
People can share a story from the workplace or something that’s more personal. At the end of the day, all business schools are looking to build leaders. But we’re looking at the Anderson School to help individuals become transformative leaders in many different ways.
Nothing in the application explicitly asks, Why Anderson? Is that something that the admissions committee isn’t concerned with at this stage?
If it naturally flows in your storyline, by all means, feel free to share that in the essay. Some of the best letters of recommendation I’ve read have been when the recommender writes that Anderson is the next best phase for this candidate.
For applicants who get to the interview stage, this is an opportunity to showcase their knowledge about the Anderson School and why Anderson is going to help them in their short- and long-term goals. All our interviewers are trained to ask applicants to explain why Anderson is the best fit for them at this stage in their careers.
How does Anderson handle MBA interviews?
Applicants interview with a current MBA student. It’s a blind interview, meaning the interviewer will only have the candidate’s resume. The interview should be a casual conversation between the MBA student and the applicant. They’re going to ask the individual to walk them through their resume. And then also, what is their interest in UCLA Anderson? What do they think their impact would be on campus?
So it should just be a really nice casual conversation at that point. You’ve been invited to the interview for a reason. The admissions committee has seen something they want to explore more. But we don’t want to make it a high-stress environment or experience for the individual. One of the key items that helps is that the individual showcases their knowledge about UCLA Anderson School.
I would expect them to highlight a class, a center, or maybe a student experience based on their own research of what they feel is going to be influential for them if they were admitted to Anderson. It’s about showcasing that specific program knowledge—something unique to Anderson you won’t find anywhere else.
Again, we train all of our student interviewers. They’ve also gone through the experience themselves, and at the end of the day, they want to give back. The interviewers want to see people succeed, especially the interviewees.
How do you ultimately pull together a class?
A typical application will have multiple sets of eyeballs on it. There are at least four different individual readers who are going to look at an overall application file, plus the interviewer. There’s also a committee that looks at the entire potential class to see where there are opportunities to make some shifts.
I don’t mean that we have any quotas. We’re not necessarily looking for a certain percentage of domestic versus international or those interested in tech or whatnot. But based on feedback from our stakeholders, the business community that wants to recruit our talent, and the faculty teaching these students, we might make a few tweaks on the margins if there’s an opportunity to do so.
A key ingredient of the secret sauce is finding the people that we want in the Anderson family for life. We rely on alumni to help us talk about their experiences and how the Anderson MBA has helped them in their careers. Just showcasing that giving-back mentality.
Any advice for people applying to the UCLA Anderson School in the future?
Our website is just chockfull of information, videos, blogs, et cetera. Also, take advantage when you see opportunities to come to visit for our campus experience, where you can have coffee chats with students and meet the admissions team.
Or look for us on the road in all the major cities—even internationally. There are plenty of opportunities to meet us in either the virtual space, in person, or with our third-party vendors that put on these tour events. These are great ways to engage with the admissions team, student ambassadors, and alumni who join us at these events. And then you’ll get a good sense of who we are.
Ultimately, if you’re making this huge investment in time and money to advance your personal development, you want to be in a community where you’re going to have fun. You’re going to learn a lot, and you’re going to be making friends and partners for the rest of your life.
We so appreciate Alex Lawrence taking the time to chat with SBC’s audience about all things Anderson. Check out the B-Schooled podcast if you’d like to listen to their entire conversation.
Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help reviewing your MBA resume. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.
Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.
Admissions Officer at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
MBA, Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
Asst Director MBA Admissions
at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
Director MBA Admissions
at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business
Admissions Officer at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
MBA, Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
MBA, Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB)
Minority Admissions, the GSB
Diversity Programs, the GSB
Assistant Director MBA Admissions
at Columbia Business School (CBS)
M.S.Ed, Higher Education, U of Pennsylvania
Ashley is a former MBA Admissions Board Member for Harvard Business School (HBS), where she interviewed and evaluated thousands of business school applicants for over a six year tenure. Ashley holds an MBA from HBS. During her HBS years, Ashley was the Sports Editor for the Harbus and a member of the B-School Blades Ice Hockey Team. After HBS, she worked in Marketing at the Gillette Company on Male and Female shaving ...×
Kerry is a former member of the Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS). During her 5+ year tenure at HBS, she read and evaluated hundreds of applications and interviewed MBA candidates from a wide range of backgrounds across the globe. She also led marketing and outreach efforts focused on increasing diversity and inclusion, ran the Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP), and launched the 2+2 Program during her time in Admissions. Kerry holds a B.A. from Bates College and ...×
A former associate director of admissions at Harvard Business School, Pauline served on the HBS MBA Admissions Board full-time for four years. She evaluated and interviewed HBS applicants, both on-campus and globally. Pauline's career has included sales and marketing management roles with Coca-Cola, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, and IBM. For over 10 years, Pauline has expertly guided MBA applicants, and her clients h ...×
Geri is a former member of the Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS). In her 7 year tenure in HBS Admissions, she read and evaluated hundreds of applications and interviewed MBA candidates from a diverse set of academic, geographic, and employment backgrounds. Geri also traveled globally representing the school at outreach events in order to raise awareness for women and international students. In additio ...×
Laura comes from the MBA Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS) and is an HBS MBA alumnus. In her HBS Admissions role, she evaluated and interviewed hundreds of business school candidates, including internationals, women, military and other applicant pools, for five years. Prior to her time as a student at HBS, Laura began her career in advertising and marketing in Chicago at Leo Burnett where she worked on th ...×
Andrea served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years. In this role, she provided strategic direction for student yield-management activities and also served as a full member of the admissions committee. In 2007, Andrea launched the new 2+2 Program at Harvard Business School – a program targeted at college junior applicants to Harvard Business School. Andrea has also served as a Career Coach for Harvard Business School for both cu ...×
Jennifer served as Admissions Officer at the Stanford (GSB) for five years. She holds an MBA from Stanford (GSB) and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Jennifer has over 15 years experience in guiding applicants through the increasingly competitive admissions process into top MBA programs. Having read thousands and thousands of essays and applications while at Stanford (GSB) Admiss ...×
Erin served in key roles in MBA Admissions--as Director at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and Assistant Director at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB). Erin served on the admissions committee at each school and has read thousands of applications in her career. At Haas, she served for seven years in roles that encompassed evaluation, outreach, and diversity and inclusion. During her tenure in Admissions at GSB, she was responsible for candidate evaluation, applicant outreach, ...×
Susie comes from the Admissions Office of the Stanford Graduate School of Business where she reviewed and evaluated hundreds of prospective students’ applications. She holds an MBA from Stanford’s GSB and a BA from Stanford in Economics. Prior to advising MBA applicants, Susie held a variety of roles over a 15-year period in capital markets, finance, and real estate, including as partner in one of the nation’s most innovative finance and real estate investment organizations. In that r ...×
Dione holds an MBA degree from Stanford Business School (GSB) and a BA degree from Stanford University, where she double majored in Economics and Communication with concentrations in journalism and sociology. Dione has served as an Admissions reader and member of the Minority Admissions Advisory Committee at Stanford. Dione is an accomplished and respected advocate and thought leader on education and diversity. She is ...×
Anthony served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise. During his time as a Wharton Admissions Officer, he read and reviewed thousands of applications and helped bring in a class of 800+ students a year. Anthony has traveled both domestically and internationally to recruit a ...×
Meghan served as the Associate Director of Admissions and Marketing at the Wharton MBA’s Lauder Institute, a joint degree program combining the Wharton MBA with an MA in International Studies. In her role on the Wharton MBA admissions committee, Meghan advised domestic and international applicants; conducted interviews and information sessions domestically and overseas in Asia, Central and South America, and Europe; and evaluated applicants for admission to the program. Meghan also managed ...×
Amy comes from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where she was Associate Director. Amy devoted 12 years at the Wharton School, working closely with MBA students and supporting the admissions team. During her tenure at Wharton, Amy served as a trusted adviser to prospective applicants as well as admitted and matriculated students. She conducted admissions chats with applicants early in the admissions ...×
Ally brings six years of admissions experience to the SBC team, most recently as an Assistant Director of Admission for the full-time MBA program at Columbia Business School (CBS). During her time at Columbia, Ally was responsible for reviewing applications, planning recruitment events, and interviewing candidates for both the full-time MBA program and the Executive MBA program. She traveled both internationally and dome ...×
Erin has over seven years of experience working across major institutions, including University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School, and NYU's Stern School of Business. At Columbia Business School, Erin was an Assistant Director of Admissions where she evaluated applications for both the full time and executive MBA programs, sat on the admissions and merit scholarship committees and advised applicants on which program might be the best fit for them based on their work experience and pro ...×
Emma comes from the MBA Admissions Office at Columbia Business School (CBS), where she was Associate Director. Emma conducted dozens of interviews each cycle for the MBA and EMBA programs, as well as coordinating the alumni ambassador interview program. She read and evaluated hundreds of applications each cycle, delivered information sessions to audiences across the globe, and advised countless waitlisted applicants. ×