In order to combat a decrease in applications to full-time M.B.A. programs felt by nearly 75 percent of business schools, the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration has introduced an innovative competition to generate interest in its programs.

The grand prize is a full scholarship to the Simon School, valued at over $70,000. Additionally, partial scholarships and personal digital assistants will be awarded to several high performers.

“We hope to get a little viral marketing going so that people spread the word that the Simon School is an innovative place worth taking a look at,” Dean of the Simon School Mark Zupan said in a Wall Street Journal profile of the new program published on Tuesday.

Last April, three Simon School students, Brian Moody, Cameron Oskvig and Michelle Schwartz, all members of the Class of 2005, presented this idea to members of the Simon School’s Executive Advisory Council as a plan to recruit new students.

“I came up with the idea for the simulation from my participation in the L’Oreal Stratx competition,” Moody said. “Their competition was targeted to M.B.A.s and undergraduates in business. They obtained thousands of participants all competing for a trip to anywhere in the world. It was also quite difficult and involved simulation, which lasted several rounds, provided feedback and captured your attention.”

The contest, which will begin on Sept. 26, is a marketplace business simulation run online through Innovative Learning Solutions, Inc. Each of the two rounds consists of a multistage business simulation centered on the creation of a new company and introducing it to new markets to sell products with the goal of becoming successful and profitable.

Top performers from the three-week first round will advance to the final simulation. This game is more advanced and involves more intricate details of running a business.

Following this four-week round, top performers will be invited to make presentations to an admissions committee at the Simon School. The contest will end on Nov. 29.

According to the contest rules, winners must meet admission criteria of the Simon School.

“I think this simulation is a good idea,” second-year Simon student Eli Hale said. “I firmly believe you have to do marketing to get people to come in. While some Simon students might not recognize a quantitative return on investment for this, marketing is not a wasted expense.”

Continuing, he said, “We don’t do enough marketing for Simon, and I think further marketing would also be beneficial. This type of game and contest is good because it will draw interested and competitive students. Those are obviously important skills for business students.”

In addition to the scholarship competition, a three-credit course entitled “Improving the Simon School,” will again be offered in hopes of continuing to generate new ideas to excite and engage prospective students.

“This class gives students an opportunity to improve [the school],” Zupan said.

As the rollout date approaches, Moody is hopeful that there will be substantial interest.

“The success of the simulation hinges on two things – number of participants and conversion of participants to applicants,” he said. “The number of participants will be driven by the high reward and free advertising driven from the newness of the idea.”

Additional reporting by Emily Paret.

Keesing can be reached at

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