It’s not uncommon for students to have an academic transgression in their undergraduate experience. Perhaps you failed your introductory computer programming course as I did, or just never got your mind around all those esoteric English courses or math courses. Even if you graduated with a decent GPA, unless you had a perfect record, you likely have something you can point to in college that you wish you could do over. While you can’t go back and literally do it over again, you do have the opportunity now to build what some refer to as an “alternative transcript,” which can help mitigate the poor performance of the past and reassure the admissions committee you now have what it takes to succeed in a rigorous curriculum.
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When deciding to go back to business school, the first thing applicants often do is make a self-assessment of their core qualifications. While things like work experience and career goals can be very subjective, there are two key numbers which like it or not, tend to size up candidates fairly easily, at least from a cursory overview. It’s no big secret that these metrics are the GMAT score and the grade point average.
Business schools receive applications from a wide variety of people from very diverse backgrounds. Because there are no strict requirements about what you have done (only that you have indeed done something), business schools entertain hopeful applications from just about every career field imaginable. Still, most applicants to business school come from what’s considered “traditional” industries and functions. In fact, from the chart below compiled at the Veritas Prep home office, you will see something you may not have noticed on your own. The overwhelming majority of the accepted applicants to top business schools in recent years (70%) have come from just four professional fields: Consulting, Finance, Sales/Marketing, and Management.
There are traditionally two types of business school students, which I grant you, fall into very broad, generalized buckets: Poets & Quants. It’s likely if you have begun digging into b-school research already that you have come across these categories and have therefore considered where you might be located. It’s often fairly obvious who fits in where, and certainly there are exceptions for folks who truly straddle both categories, but by and large, you will identify with either one or the other, and knowing where you come from can often help you in the application process. It can possibly also help you in other ways as well, such as when you are working on team projects in school, or afterwards, when the time comes to choose your post MBA job opportunity.
Having graduated from a top engineering school, I know the vernacular is different in the tech world. Often, engineers wake up one day after graduation and several years on the job realizing they have been speaking this tech language exclusively and now that they have the inkling to go back to business school, they fear failure in the admissions process for lack of “socialization” with the real world such as their fellow applicants from other industries may have.
Recently, a client and I were discussing their approach to the Harvard Business School application process. This client was very excited about HBS and like many other applicants, saw himself as the perfect fit for Harvard for a variety of very good reasons.
As we began diving into his backstory and working together to organize an approach, it also came out that this person wanted to work for one of the top five investment banks after business school. It seems part of his logic in applying to Harvard and assessing his fit for their program was that it would “look good” to these top investment banks who must of course think highly of HBS and enjoy hiring their freshly minted MBAs.
First Mover Advantage: Start Your MBA Applications Early & Improve Your Chances of Admission into Top Business Schools
At Veritas Prep headquarters, spring is definitely one of our favorite times of the year! Not just because of the warmer weather, but also because our admissions consulting clients are letting us know what top-tier MBA programs they’re hearing from and sharing their success stories with us.
There’s no arguing that the world is getting smaller. Technology has finally connected just about any remote part of the globe which until just a few years ago, still operated in many cases as if in the dark ages. Even in the remotest villages of Africa, we now find cell phones and smart phones. Where we once had to fly to client locations to meet “face to face,” we can now meet remotely via telepresence, which has become as easy as finding a mobile connection.
We get lots of questions from applicants about the best time to return to business school. While this is certainly an individual assessment, and one size does not fit all, from an admissions perspective, there are good seasons and bad seasons to maximize your odds of acceptance.
Six years ago, during a time none of us will soon forget, the air was let out of the economy. A similar rushing sound was also heard in the country’s top business schools, but it was the sound of people rushing in. Applications peaked the next year as everyone ran to hide from old man recession for two years in hopes the job market would come back while they were getting smarter and checking the graduate school box.
The Stanford MSx program, previously known as the Stanford Sloan Master’s Program, is the one-year, full time Masters of Science program for experienced professionals. Ok, so the program is not really new, but is experiencing a huge uptick in interest from business school applicants.
Stanford’s traditional MBA program is the only one in the world with an acceptance rate and average work experience both in the single digits; so experienced applicants have started flocking to this alternative option in droves. Make no mistake, though, “alternative” does not mean “easy!”
Often clients are confused when trying to determine if they have gathered enough work experience to return to business school. Certainly it takes a few laps around the proverbial block to gather enough real world knowledge to be valuable in a classroom discussion—this is why B-schools require you to come with work experience.
Yes you can.
But it becomes statistically less and less likely every year. One thing is certain: there are a lot of folks out there who have cracked the code on the formidable GMAT exam and scores continue to rise to stratospheric levels, pushing the average up of course. Most schools publish the percentages of each level of the GMAT who gain admission every year, but these three schools, often considered the “holy grail” of b-schools, are exceptions.
Having graduated from a top MBA program as a non-native English speaker, I still remember being quite worried about the MBA application, fearing that my English was not sophisticated enough. So I focused on improving my writing skills by doing just that – writing.
Now as a Veritas Prep School Specialist, I have found working with my clients that there are a few common essay-writing pitfalls.
Earlier this week, we talked about what it means to be on the waitlist. Today, we’ll go into more detail on what you can do if you’re on the waitlist. Despite the name “waitlist,” there are several things you can do besides simply wait for your dream school to call. From a strategic standpoint, sitting in a state of limbo gives you the opportunity to improve your profile or status as a candidate, and such improvements can and should be communicated to the admissions committees.
This time of year, many applicants find themselves stuck in the waitlist process at one or more schools, which can be a very slow and painful waiting period. Not only are you competing for fewer and fewer seats, you are doing so against everyone on the waitlist all the way back from round one as well as any fresh, new applicants from the final rounds.
Round three is commonly thought of as the most competitive round, where applicants vie for the few remaining seats in coveted programs along with some of the most highly qualified candidates of the season. Because these well qualified candidates know they will be desirable to the adcoms, they often wait until the last possible minute, since there appears to be a correlation between highly successful business achievers and the lack of free time on their schedules to complete applications.
Most of the top U.S. business schools accept students in two or three rounds. Applicants are not always sure in which round to apply, and when they make a decision, they usually underestimate the time it takes to put together a solid application.
Applying for an MBA is not like applying for a job. A well-rounded application not only needs quantitative data such as undergraduate grades and test scores, but also needs an accurate depiction of your qualitative traits, which are usually shown through your essays, letters of recommendation, CV and extracurricular activities.
If you have decided you will take the plunge and apply to school in Round three, there are a few things you need to know. First and foremost, you must realize the odds of admission go dramatically down in round three because of the relatively few number of slots that remain. This is simple mathematics—the lower the seat count, the more competitive it is to get one of them—think of it as musical chairs with way more people than chairs.
It’s that time of year again! The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) has launched the 2014 edition of its business school applicant survey. If you are applying to business school now, or have recently been admitted and plan on starting an MBA program in 2014, you could win $500 just for spending 5 minutes completing this survey!
We find that many applicants consider applying for top MBA programs in the 3rd or final round, but hesitate because they feel there is absolutely no chance for them to be admitted. It’s true that 90% or more of the spots in an MBA class are already taken, but Veritas Prep has a proven track record of success for successful Round 3 applications.
Just as the quality of a stage production or musical performance depends on all of the work that went into months and months of rehearsal before the performance, how successful you are in your business school applications depends a great deal on all of the work you do before you ever start drafting an essay. Remember that your application is a mere snapshot of who you are (and how well you can present yourself) at one point in time. How well that message will be received will partly depend on whether you’re targeting the right schools, and how well MBA admissions officers at those schools see a good fit between you and their institution. And this comes down to knowing how to select the right MBA program for you.
The final round of the business school application process is often referred to as “no-man’s land,” with scarce slots still left for b-school hopefuls and time literally running out. Still, there are many who end up applying in round three, some who simply put off the process because they were busy in the fall, or perhaps others who were rejected in round one and are trying one last time. But is it a good idea?
Inevitably there are applicants each season who decide rather late in the game to apply to business school. While it’s hard to believe for those who spend months or even years preparing themselves specifically for a run at top schools, due to career focus or simple procrastination, some applicants find themselves with a short window before due dates pass.
Having just completed an extensive overview of MBA interviewing, it occurred to me I forgot to address an area which affects a large portion of applicants: the off-campus interview. While it’s always preferable to do the interview on campus, due to travel and scheduling complications, most schools will make alternatives available, the most common of which being the off-campus alumni interview or the dreaded phone or Skype interview (you can probably tell which is my least recommended option!).
As we wrap up our dissection of the business school interview, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of self reflection. Make sure you are spending time not only recalling your work history and personal experiences, but how they have shaped you and why you have made decisions in the past. Getting to the why is the most revealing part of the questions which may include:
We continue today with another post in our MBA interview series. When interviewing, applicants are generally prepared for the obvious questions, but what about the tougher questions? It would behoove you to ponder some of the following questions, which have been known to trip up even the most prepared applicants:
We always get asked what kinds of questions to expect from interviewers, so I have compiled an introductory list of eleven which you might hear as you sit in various b-school interview sessions as well as what they are “really” asking:
1. Walk me through your resume
Business School admissions interviewing can be nerve-wracking to say the least. Everything you have worked your entire career for is on the line as you sit and sweat, waiting in your target school’s office for the one shot you will have to make a case in person for a seat in business school.
But if you do find yourself in this situation, consider yourself one of the lucky ones, since only about 20% of applicants are invited to interview at top schools. The better news is, about 50% of the interviewees are admitted on average! While that still puts you in a precarious tie with a coin-flip, it’s still far better than the low double or even single digit percentage of general applicants who are admitted.
Business schools have a very difficult problem. For most intents and purposes, their applicant pools are junior business acolytes whose days usually consist of menial desk labor at the beck and call of a perhaps marginal superior. The issue is that it is very difficult to separate a good candidate from a bad one among a pool of people doing this type of work.
With application deadlines upon us, the question sometimes surfaces about whether or not there is any strategy around when to submit your application. To answer this, you must first determine if your school is accepting applications on a rolling admissions basis or a rounds/deadline basis. A rolling admissions calendar accepts and considers applications as they are submitted, and then they return a decision to the applicant as soon as that decision is made, most often within a few weeks of submission.
In 1966, a professor at Washington University, Sterling Schoen created The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management in order to give African American men the business skills they needed to secure positions in American corporations. Just two years after the Civil Rights Movement, this was a bold endeavor, and one whose impact is stronger than ever today.
It’s getting more and more difficult to stand out these days. It sometimes seems as if everyone meanders through life with the same or similar routine, all doing the same or similar thing, so when it comes time to differentiate yourself in your b-school application, how do you pull it off?
Many schools have become super restrictive on how many essays they allow you to submit. The crushing numbers of applicants has forced schools to streamline the evaluation process and they simply do not have the staff or time to read 1000 word essays from everyone.
Harvard, as an extreme example, actually has no required essays as part of this year’s application! They allow you to submit one essay if you like, but it’s not technically a requirement for consideration as an MBA applicant. While we don’t recommend you submit to HBS without leveraging the essay, this shift in the process highlights the fact that every word does indeed count.
I outlined in my previous post how to frame your stories around some key attributes that all business schools are looking for. But the natural question to ask is, “how can I stand out when everyone is demonstrating the same attributes?” This is where the personal story comes in.
Like beauty, leadership is often desired but hard to figure out for those who do not have it.
Even among experts, the exact definition of leadership is quite murky, like the exact expert definition of beauty. Entire careers have been dedicated to the study of leadership and it is probably a concept that changes depending on the context. Military leadership, for example, is probably quite a different matter from business leadership or intellectual leadership, despite areas of possible overlap.
In a recent opinion piece in the New Yorker titled “Why Women Should Skip Business School”, author Laura Hemphill argues that, since women are far more likely to experience a career interruption (usually because of having kids) than men, they should work as much as possible while they’re young and aren’t get juggling family obligations. Make money and get far ahead now, she argues, and you’ll have more options later on than you will with an MBA.