M.S. in Commerce Application Advice and FAQs

Contributed by Emma Candelier, McIntire's Assistant Dean of Graduate Marketing and Pre-Experience Recruiting.

I joined the McIntire School of Commerce when they launched the M.S. in Commerce in 2008, and it has been incredibly rewarding to see the program grow, evolve, and become the premier master’s in management in the United States and one of the best in the world.

Since then, I’ve advised hundreds of applicants to the M.S. in Commerce and hosted countless information sessions and events like the “Application Tips” webinar featured here. Here are the answers to FAQs, which I hope will help you navigate the admissions process and submit the best application possible. If you have any questions, we encourage you to email mscommerce@virginia.edu or sign up for an advising call.

Updated Test Policy: Due to continued issues with access to testing caused by COVID, students applying to the M.S. in Commerce Program may choose to have their application for the 2021-2022 academic year reviewed without a GMAT or GRE score. See “Do I need to submit a test score?” for more information.

What does a holistic application process mean?
The admissions committee takes a holistic view when reviewing applicants and looks for 1) demonstrated academic ability, including quantitative ability; 2) personal and career motivation (“Is this a good fit for you?”); and 3) leadership skills (“Are you a good fit for the program?”). It is important that you are able to cover all three of these points in your application, whether in your academic transcript, test score, letters of recommendation, resume, or accompanying essays.

What’s the difference between the M.S. in Commerce and an MBA?
There are several key differentiators between the M.S. in Commerce and an MBA. First, the M.S. in Commerce is designed solely for non-business majors, graduates in liberal arts, science, or engineering. It’s also a pre-experience program, for those coming right out of undergrad. In fact, you can’t apply to the program if you earned your bachelor’s degree more than 18 months prior to matriculation.

The M.S. in Commerce is 10 months long and about frontloading your career well from the beginning. We build upon your existing strengths with tangible business skills and within an area of expertise (Business Analytics, Finance, or Marketing & Management). A typical MBA is two years and for those who have work experience. Most people who are looking at an MBA are looking to pivot in their careers or are in an industry where earning an MBA is still expected to reach middle management.

The career outcomes between the M.S. in Commerce and an MBA are different too. M.S. in Commerce graduates do not have professional work experience and start their careers at entry-level positions. MBA graduates already have years of work experience and so usually are hired into mid-level positions. It should be noted that of the 1,000+ alumni of the M.S. in Commerce, less than 5% have gone back for an MBA.

Is there an advantage to applying earlier?
There are multiple deadlines and admissions is rolling. That said, there is no real advantage to applying early. We do not have quotas to fill per round, and the admissions committee uses the same standards when evaluating candidates whether you apply in the first or final round. We encourage you to apply when you have the strongest application possible. If that means you need additional time to complete a prerequisite, finish out a semester, or study for the GMAT or GRE, then that’s fine.

The only exception to the above is if you are applying for departmental scholarship. Then we encourage you to apply by the Feb. 1 deadline in order to be considered in the first round of scholarship offers and when we have the most funds available. Scholarships will continue to be awarded in subsequent rounds, but only as funds are available.

Is there a minimum GPA or GMAT requirement?
No, we do not have a minimum GPA or GMAT cutoff. That said, the mid-80% GPA range for a typical class is 3.2-3.8. The mid-80% range for GMAT scores is 580-720 and for GRE 307-328. Those are pretty wide ranges, and that’s because we take a holistic approach to reviewing applicants.

Do I need to submit a test score?
Due to continued issues with access to testing caused by COVID, students applying to the M.S. in Commerce Program may choose to have their application for the 2021-2022 academic year reviewed without a GMAT or GRE score. Language tests, if applicable, will still be required.

McIntire reviews applications holistically, so GMAT/GRE scores are just one of many data points that we use to make decisions. Often, these tests can help you demonstrate strong quantitative, analytic and/or verbal reasoning skills. If you decide not to submit a test score, the admissions committee will rely on your undergraduate transcript along with any applicable academic reference for evidence of your academic strengths and weaknesses.

Of course, you are welcome to submit a GMAT; GRE; or even SAT, ACT, or MCAT score to support your application. For example, if you are applying for the Finance Track but have not taken many or any quantitative courses in college, you may wish to include a test score to demonstrate the strength of your quantitative abilities.

The admissions committee will make every effort to reach a final decision without a test score. In those cases in which the committee feels that a strong GMAT or GRE could make a difference in your application and you have not provided one, the committee may defer your application to a future round to give you a chance to provide the additional information.

If I do decide to submit the GMAT or GRE, which do you prefer?
We prefer the GMAT, but you won’t be penalized for submitting the GRE. If you have already taken the GRE or need to in order to apply to other graduate programs, then go ahead and submit the GRE. If you have the choice between the two, try and take the GMAT. We think it does a better job of evaluating business school candidates and has a section that the GRE does not. The Integrated Reasoning (IR) section evaluates a test taker’s analytical ability, which is helpful for us when reviewing candidates, especially if you are applying to the Business Analytics Track.

Do I have to select a track before I apply?
Yes, when you apply to the M.S. in Commerce, you are also applying to a specific track. If admitted to the program, your offer of admission would be to that specific track. In the application, you will be asked to select your first choice track and provide a second choice as well. We ask for your second choice in the event your first choice has reached its capacity (this usually applies only to the Business Analytics Track, for which we have a seat limit due to classroom lab space) or the admissions committee believes you are a better fit for a different track.

Is there an option for a track change?
Yes, there is an opportunity in the fall semester to request a track change. This typically occurs toward the end of September.

Do I need to send an official transcript?
To apply, we only need unofficial transcripts. If admitted to the program, you will need to provide an official transcript showing that your bachelor’s degree was conferred or completion of an outstanding prerequisite course.

Do I need to have completed all three prerequisites by the time I apply?
No, you don’t need to have completed all prerequisites at time of application. In fact, most applicants still have at least one or two left to take by the time they submit. If admitted to the program, your offer will be conditional that you complete your bachelor’s degree and any remaining prerequisites. You can take them at any accredited college or community college, as long as they are taken for grade and are finished prior to matriculation in August.

Can I submit more than two recommenders?
The application system allows for only two letters of recommendation. One must be from an academic reference, someone who has taught you in the classroom. The second recommender can be your choice. Not sure who to ask? Look for the weakness in your application—is it academics, motivation, or leadership? Use the second recommender to bolster that part of your application.

Is there an interview?
We do not require interviews. The admissions committee can request an interview, though it is usually reserved for those applicants whose first language is not English.

What’s the acceptance rate of the program?
We do not publish acceptance rates for the program.

Do you award scholarships?
We are one of the few master’s in management programs that award scholarships for merit and financial need. McIntire provides scholarships to incoming students who show exceptional academic promise, come from a unique background, offer a different perspective, have shown leadership or potential for leadership despite a disadvantage, or demonstrate financial need. Typically, one-fourth of the class receives a scholarship, and awards range from $5,000 to $25,000+.

If you’d like to be considered for a scholarship, we strongly encourage you to apply by the Feb. 1 deadline, when we make the first round of offers. Requests for scholarship received after the deadline will be considered as funding becomes available.

Do you grant application fee waivers?
The University of Virginia grants application fee waivers if you meet one of these qualifications or can show demonstrated financial need. To inquire whether you meet financial need, please reach out to the Graduate Marketing & Admissions Office at mscommerce@virginia.edu.

How quickly will I get a decision?
Decisions are typically turned around within a month.

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