Looking Beyond Traditional Measures of Success in Admissions

Brandeis International Business School has a self-selecting applicant pool that submits high test scores, gleaming letters of recommendation, and polished resumes. To get a new perspective on the unique strengths of their applicant pool, the admissions team turned to Kira.

Brandeis International Business School, part of Brandeis University (MA), is a graduate business school with a worldwide reputation for academic excellence. The school’s intimate size creates a sense of heightened community among students and faculty and its focus on the global economy gives students the skills to thrive both domestically and abroad.

This global focus is complemented by an incredibly diverse study body. The majority of students at the International Business School are international students, hailing from more than 40 countries.

During the admissions process, applicants submit a wide range of materials including, but not limited to, their resume, letters of recommendation, and language proficiency scores.

Given the self-selecting nature of their applicant pool, a vast majority of applicants hit, and even exceed, minimum score requirements. This has posed a challenge for reviewers in the past.

They Test Well But Are They A Good Fit?

Mark Khan's headshot“Our students were performing well on the exams but it was hard to decipher whose experiences made them unique or a good fit for our programs,” explains Mark Khan, Associate Director of Admissions at the International Business School.

At times, the admissions team relied on connecting with applicants over Skype to capture missing insights and further gauge their communication skills.

“We erred on the side of caution, so we may have spent an hour coordinating and executing interviews for every master’s candidate who required additional follow up,” says Khan.

But even after a Skype call, the team often felt that something was missing, as not all committee members could be involved. “We didn’t always feel overly connected,” says Khan. “In some cases, we weren’t getting a full sense of who our applicants were.”

This shortfall led the team to experiment with their CRM’s video essay. However, they soon sought a more robust solution.

Using Kira To Get a Multidimensional Perspective

In the Fall of 2015, the International Business School’s MBA and specialized master’s programs began onboarding with Kira. Since that time, the admissions team has been able to uncover the unique personalities, experiences, and perspectives in their applicant pool.

“Every year, there are candidates who shine in Kira,” says Khan. “They exhibit a sense of humor or an exuberant personality that wouldn’t necessarily be conveyed in other parts of the application.”

Those insights have empowered Brandeis IBS to diversify their incoming classes, especially when it comes to test-taking ability. By understanding each applicant from a multidimensional perspective, Khan and his team no longer feel tied to admitting students based on numbers alone.

In addition to painting a more vibrant picture of who their applicants are, the International Business School has found value in using Kira to validate language proficiency.

3 students chatting in front of a Brandeis IBS buildingWhile test scores set a baseline expectation, Khan acknowledges they don’t always reflect applicants’ true aptitude for communication. Pairing those results with the ability to hear directly from students and see how they present themselves in Kira has proved to be a gamechanger.

For some applicants, their responses to the timed video questions relieve concerns raised by a lower test score and help them rise to the top of the applicant pool. For others, Kira reaffirms their language scores and gives them a platform to showcase their strengths, says Khan.

Not only are these insights more in-depth and useful for the admissions team, but they’re also gathered much faster. Kira assessments are available on-demand, meaning applicants can complete it on their own time and reviewers can do the same. This functionality has saved the school hours that were once spent trying to connect one-on-one over Skype. It also ensures that all members of the admissions committee can assess and weigh in collectively.

In terms of efficiency, Khan shares how Kira has also helped refine their admissions process. “We’ve used it quite effectively to identify students that stand out and who we suspect will interview well for various reasons, including their communication skills,” he says.

Admissions without Kira?

Having completed four admissions cycles with Kira in place, the timed written and video assessments have become a staple in the school’s process. When asked, “What would change if Kira was removed from your admissions process tomorrow?” Khan responded:

Everything would change. It would be a big step backwards. The advances we’ve made because of the insight we’ve gained from Kira have been beneficial across the board.

Even though you’re watching a very short video of a student responding to a question, you can gain so much insight into how genuine they are and what kind of community member they will be. And that’s what we would miss.

We would have to go back to hoping that a recommendation letter will be more insightful than ‘they did a great job’ or ‘they got an A’ and that’s far less valuable.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, Mark!


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