Q&A with Kenan-Flagler’s Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions

Q&A with Kenan-Flagler’s Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions

Danielle Richie, M.S., Senior Associate Director MBA AdmissionS, Kenan-Flagler Business School

How has your admissions process allowed candidates to get to know the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the student community during the Covid-19 times?

At UNC Kenan-Flagler, we made a pivot this last year to offer a more robust virtual experience while continuing to offer a white-glove customer experience. Candidates interested in the full-time MBA program can schedule virtual office hours with a member from our admissions team, Carolina Women in Business or Consortium students as well as our MBA student ambassadors Monday – Thursday. Faculty members have been offering mock classes for candidates to experience before they start the MBA in addition to sessions with our Career & Leadership Team, Financial Aid Director, and student panels.

Our team has been able to expand on traditional events that were held previously only on the weekend. Now, we have built-in week-long events that are more a conference format that allows attendees to select which sessions to sign up for. In February, we are excited to welcome prospective and admitted MBA students to our Inclusive Blue Leadership Week of programming that is rooted in our six core values: Excellence, Leadership, Integrity, Inclusion, Community, Teamwork. We have an outstanding list of guest speakers who will be participating in the event that includes Stephanie Robertson (MBA ’03), Director of American Skin Care (North), Procter & Gamble and Ritch Allison, CEO of Domino’s Pizza Inc., and Justin Herman (MBA ’05), Super Cooper’s Little Red Wagon Foundation.

What was your deferral approach for your newly admitted students due to COVID in 2020?  Do you have plans for increasing enrollment for the classes of 2023 & 2024?

We do not have plans to increase the enrollment for future full-time MBA classes. UNC Kenan-Flagler is designed by choice to be a smaller MBA program of fewer than 300 students each year. The intimate class sizes allow our students to cultivate meaningful relationships with their peers, members of faculty, and staff.

In 2020, we worked closely with our incoming class to make sure they were not impacted as much by the pandemic and to allow them to start their MBA. An executive decision was made to offer instruction virtually which allowed our students the flexibility to either relocate to Chapel Hill or stay where they felt most comfortable learning. By carefully working with students on a case by case basis, we did not experience as many defer requests compared to other programs.

Walk us through the life of an application in your office. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)?

There are multiple touchpoints throughout the application review process. Essentially, each candidate will have at least 3 if not 4 committee members reviewing their application. Once an applicant hits submit, it will go through a first read. The evaluation is based upon their essays, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and resume. The test scores are purposely left out of the first assessment so we can get to know a candidate. On average, I see that our reviewers will take about 30 to 45 minutes for each file. Once the first evaluation is complete, it is then sent to a second member of the committee. During this time, the candidate potentially will receive an invite to interview. Not all candidates will be invited at the same time. Due to COVID, we are currently conducting all interviews virtually.

A second review is done with all applicant information, including test scores, interview notes, and the first read evaluation. This assessment can take about 30 minutes on average to review. At this point in the process, the reader will offer a decision recommendation that is then sent to the admissions committee for discussion. We have an experienced team part of the final review that includes the Director of the full-time MBA program, a member from the Career & Leadership team, the Managing Director as well as the Admissions Director. It is not a process that we take lightly and our goal is to make sure we admit candidates who have high IQ and EQ that are also the right fit for Kenan-Flagler.

How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?

Essays are a great way to get to know applicants on a more personal level. It is a gateway to starting a relationship with the applicant by learning their writing style, career interests, and why they are interested in receiving an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler. Applicants are the storyteller and can guide the reader down multiple paths depending on what they want to share. It is important for candidates to write what they want to tell us, not what they think we want to hear. If you are not interested in consulting, that is okay! An MBA program can prepare candidates for a multitude of different careers in various functional areas and industries.

When evaluating the essay, the admissions committee will first assess if the candidate is clear on their career goals. We need to make sure that we have the resources available for you to be successful not only during the time you are in the program but during your job search as well. Then, we will look at the candidate’s writing style. Are there any grammatical errors? Misuse of words? Wrong school name? That happens more often than not! I encourage applicants to take the time to follow the essay prompts and stick to the facts. It is okay to show a little vulnerability but make sure that you are using your own words and experiences.

Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview?  Do you have any Interview tips for a Zoom call?

We interviewed over 1,000 candidates per year using the video platform through Slate which makes for a great user experience. There are a few recommendations that candidates can take into consideration prior to the interview:

  • Dress professionally as if you were interviewing in person.
  • Research and practice before the interview.
  • Test your technology (audio and video) before the session starts.
    • Make sure you are comfortable being on camera.
    • Be aware of your surroundings and make sure your background is appropriate for an interview. Essentially you are inviting the interviewer into your home, workspace, etc.
  • Life happens. Do not panic if your dog barks, child interrupts, or doorbell rings.


Is your MBA program test-optional for 2020-2021 and/or beyond?  If yes, what other factors will you now emphasize more?

GMAT/GRE waivers are available for new applicants to the UNC Kenan-Flagler Full-Time MBA class of 2023. Our holistic application process is built to ensure that you’re prepared for our rigorous Full-Time MBA program. While scores from standardized tests such as the GMAT or GRE are a beneficial way for our Admissions Committee to evaluate the likelihood of academic success in our Full-Time MBA program, we recognize that some candidates can build a strong case for admission based on but not limited to the following criteria:

  • Applicants who graduated within the past 10 years (2011 – 2021) with a 3.2 GPA or above andcoursework in STEM, business, economics, or analytical fields from a U.S. institution
  • Earned an advanced or terminal degree from a U.S. institution in JD, MD or a Ph.D. or MS degree within a STEM, business, or economics academic field
  • 5+ years of professional experience in a quantitative or analytical field
  • Hold a U.S. CPA or CFA professional certificate
  • Strong test results from the Executive Assessment, LSAT, PCAT, or MCAT

Candidates can visit our FAQ page or email us at for more information about the GMAT/GRE waiver process.

What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

We are not a geographically based program. The city of Chapel Hill is a great place to learn and live while pursuing your MBA. Chapel Hill has a friendly, small-town feel with an eclectic vibe. It is routinely ranked as one of the best college towns and best places to live in the U.S. It is home to award-winning restaurants, outstanding public schools and healthcare systems, a thriving economy, and vibrant music and performing arts scene. The area is also quite affordable for living which is a huge plus for MBA students on a budget but who want a nice quality of life.

We are centrally located in North Carolina which allows candidates the flexibility to visit new places. Two hours to the east are the Outer Banks and three hours to the west are the mountains. Regardless of what someone might be interested in, there is something to do.

Anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?

There’s so much more to our MBA program than what students learn in the classroom – the friends they meet, the clubs they join, the extracurricular activities they enjoy, the leadership skills they develop, and the professional contacts they make. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, these “extras” aren’t extra; they’re part of what our community is in addition to our rigorous curriculum.

When we recruit students to Kenan-Flagler, we make sure they understand our culture, “The Carolina Way.” Students, faculty, and staff are the type of people who push others to succeed. We are collaborative by nature and understand the importance of diversity – different genders, ethnic backgrounds, and thought.

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