Every year, William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of Business admits 350 business majors and minors through several application rounds. The admissions process seeks a diverse array of students committed to academic excellence, extracurricular involvement and personal achievement.
There's no one type of ideal candidate for the Mason School, but current students know what it takes to be successful and happy in the business school. Here are their tips for how prospective business majors can strengthen their applications in hopes of attending classes in Miller Hall.
Hold leadership positions.
A business major's first semester in the school, the Integrated Foundation Semester, consists of challenging coursework in a wide range of disciplines. To succeed, students must collaborate and multitask. Holding leadership positions in extracurricular activities shows the Admissions Committee that a student is organized, responsible and passionate.
"Detailing the leadership positions I held in other organizations really helped my B-school application," Marketing major Jack Jenet '19 says. "It showed admissions I could multitask and handle a lot of responsibilities while still working with others."
Get involved early.
Even before acceptance, a student can become involved in the Mason School by joining school-sponsored clubs or attending events. Involvement in the Mason community demonstrates interest and commitment. Additionally, involvement in school clubs gives students an opportunity to network with professionals, gain insights from guest speakers and learn technical and practical skills.
Finance major Shafer Nelson '19 is a member of several clubs, including Smart Women Securities, Finance Academy and Women in Business. "Being a part of all these clubs has enhanced my experience in the Mason School and better prepared me for the workforce," she says.
Tell a story
The admissions application requires every student to submit a personal essay describing their studies and experiences that led to the decision to study business. Rather than reiterating a resume, crafting one's essay into a narrative that tells a story and contains personal anecdotes draws in readers.
"The story allows the reviewer to really get a sense of who you are," Finance major Reed Murphy '19 says. "I wrote about my travels abroad and how I developed a new understanding of communication through haggling in China and South Africa. It's all about crafting a story and showing, not telling, the Admissions Committee how you'll be successful in the program."
Emphasize soft skills
The Business School wants students who are flexible and good at working with others. So emphasize soft skills, such as communication or time-management, in your application.
"In my essay, I wrote about how I developed good conflict-resolution skills from growing up with siblings and how that would translate in a group project," says Business Analytics student Paige Darby '18. "I also talked about being an empathetic person and how valuable that trait is in a business environment."
The admissions application gives students plenty of room to share information about themselves, but it can be hard to decide what to include and what to leave out—especially because the subject is you. On-campus resources such as the Writing Resource Center and Peer Scholarship Advisors can provide students helpful drafting and proofreading assistance.
“The third time I was denied by the Accounting Majors program was definitely a wake-up call for my application,” says Accounting major Quinn Reilly ’18. “I had been going through the application processes entirely on my own and didn't ask for any help.”
The fourth time, however, was the charm - after Reilly sought help from his academic advisors and friends.
"It really came down to being willing to get the help I needed as opposed to trying to brute-force it by myself," he says.
With a highly competitive admissions pool and a low acceptance rate, it’s inevitable that not every student who applies to the undergraduate program will be accepted. But rejection from the Mason School should not deter a student from continuing to pursue studies in business.
“As W&M students, we tend to take it harshly when we are turned down from a new academic pursuit, such as a spot in the business school,” says Marketing major Madelin Bender ’18. “As someone who applied to Mason three times before being admitted, I can wholeheartedly relate to that disappointment. However, the business school takes notice of applicants who do not give up in their pursuit of admission.”
Bender sat on the Women in Business Executive Board, launched a startup, held two marketing internships and worked for the Mason School Marketing Department before being accepted.
“It's not always a linear path to becoming a business major,” she says. “But the trials and tribulations along the way build grit and persistence—two skills that will serve us well in the business world.”