Create Breakthrough MBA Application Essays with Mini-Stories

writing essayIn many of the great business school application essays, candidates who are able to leverage creative writing tactics as the baseline for their essay responses create breakthrough essays. Now business school essays should remain polished and professional, but breakthrough essays tend to create a compelling and visual portrait of the situation and circumstances addressed with a response to an essay prompt.

Mini-stories are a great way to ensure you are capturing all of the most interesting and engaging aspects of your profile. The thought behind these mini-stories is that they should be designed to be independent of the essay questions asked by schools. Select stories that reflect the four dimensions of Leadership, Innovation, Teamwork and Maturity emphasized by many MBA programs that you can later apply to the specific essay questions asked from each school. The focus should be on highlighting your strongest and most in-depth personal, professional, and extra-curricular life experiences.

One of the most valuable aspects of creating mini-stories is that you don’t necessarily need any external information. The process is entirely about you and your background, so whether it is in the heart of application season or during a quieter period like the springtime, a candidate can create these valuable anecdotes.

When identifying these stories, don’t limit them to only one aspect of your profile. Include anecdotes from undergrad, extra-curricular activities, work experience, and personal life to develop a diverse array of talking points for potential essay responses. Aim for 5-8 mini-stories covering a diverse set of experiences.

With each story, include a short description and some supporting bullets describing some of the players involved and why the situation was transformative to you, focusing especially on its impact and what you learned from the experience. Remember, what is most important in these mini-stories is the “how” and not just the “what”. Think critically about your thought process in each scenario and the impact of your decisions.

The best essays combine multiple personal elements and touch on different characteristics and skills developed. For the sake of this exercise you want to briefly summarize how the main takeaways and characteristics are represented in the story. Once these mini-stories are completed and the essay topics are available, the next step is to match relevant stories to essay topics.

Utilize this structured and creative approach to most effectively tackle those daunting business school essays and create breakthrough essays that will stand out in the application process.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

 

 

Our Thoughts on NYU Stern’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

NYU Stern Admissions EssaysApplication season at the NYU Stern School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions.

Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations

Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life? What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience? What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation? (750 words)

This is a very multi-layered essay coming from Stern that provides the candidate a great opportunity to share their professional game plan and why Stern is a key element to this game plan. The two essays are naturally structured to give candidates a chance to touch on both the professional and the personal side of their application. The way this prompt is worded signals that applicants should touch on the past a bit to provide context to what has brought the applicant to this point in their professional journey.

Stern is looking for a few things in this essay. First, it must be apparent that you have a clear understanding of where you come from and where you are going professionally. Stern is looking for self-reflective applicants who are clear on their professional aspirations. Addressing the concept of “Why Now” is a critical element in drafting a successful essay. Second, it must not only be clear of the candidate’s interest in the Stern MBA, but also what steps the candidate has taken to identify and realize this fit. Stern is looking for specifics here, so don’t shy away from the details about your primary and secondary research.

The rationale and the likelihood of success in reaching these identified career goals, given matriculation to Stern, is also a key aspect of how the school will evaluate candidates. Connecting these uniquely personal development goals to the unique offerings of the Stern MBA is critical to showcasing fit with the program.

Essay 2: Personal Expression

Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

Similar to open-ended essay prompts at other elite programs, Stern wants to know who you are. Stern provides a bit of an alternative approach to this new trend by allowing applicants the chance to respond to the question across various multi-media options. If some of the alternative options work better for the narrative you are trying to communicate, then this could be a unique and creative approach to answering the question.

This essay feels like an obvious area to focus on more personal elements that would be relevant to someone whom you are about spend a lot of time with over the next two years. This essay is a natural area to show off your interpersonal skills and how you plan to utilize them while working closely with your classmates.

Think creatively about how you plan to share your response even if you are only using words. Creativity is not only limited to the medium – how you structure and organize your response could be another interesting way to stand out.

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Stern, hopefully this will help you get started.

If you are considering applying to NYU Stern, download our Essential Guide to NYU Stern, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Stern and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Crafting Your MBA Applications

Business SchoolApplying to business school is one of the most involved application processes in graduate education. Other programs focus on standardized tests, or your academic record and others your professional accomplishments but business schools evaluate all aspects of a candidate’s profile. With so much on the table for evaluation it can be easy for an applicant to come up short in one or more different areas.

However, often times what many candidates think their shortcomings are differs from the actual reality of how admissions teams view their applications. Applicants tend to obsess over GMAT scores and how senior their recommenders are but overlook a few simple application necessities.

Let’s focus on a few of these common MBA application mistakes that candidates make:

1) School Knowledge

You would think this would be an obvious area a candidate would focus on when committing so much time to an application, but this tends to be an area that is often neglected. The source of this typically comes from a few different places. The most common is time, when a candidate is applying to multiple schools, school research is one of the first areas that is neglected. When applying to business school a one size fits all approach is not the strategy a competitive applicant should take. MBA programs are looking for applicants who make a strong case for why their school is the ideal place to further their business education, so each application should be tailored appropriately from scratch.

2) Fit

A similar application mistake many candidates make is not showing enough fit with their target programs. Breakthrough candidates will not only select programs that make sense given their development goals but also curate an application that makes this fit obvious. If the school selection process is executed properly then the application creation should be much easier. Make sure to identify academic programs, coursework, clubs, and career opportunities that are unique to the target program.

3) Attention to Detail

This key area truly pervades every aspect of the application process and I would argue is one of the easiest ways to make a negative impression with the admissions committee. When creating an application, candidates should strive to make the best impression possible and anything that detracts from this diminishes the chance of admission. Issues like spelling mistakes, not following application directions, typos, and general carelessness create the wrong impression for a candidate in a very competitive process. Even candidates with great profiles can marginalize their chances by showing a lack of attention to detail which can turn an “admit” into a “waitlist” or “ding.”

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Our Thoughts on Kellogg’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

Kellogg School of ManagementApplication season at the Kellogg School of Management is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

With all of your essays for Kellogg, treat your responses holistically and try to paint a complete picture of your candidacy within the school specific suite of essay questions.

 

Essay 1:

Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

This is a hybrid “leadership” / “teamwork” essay that should come as no surprise coming from Kellogg. In fact this essay is similar to past incarnations at the notoriously teamwork driven program. One nuance to this reputation is that internally Kellogg views itself as a developer of leaders of teams not just team players, so this essay prompt strikes at the core of the mission of the program.

Historically, Kellogg has been as good as any other program at allowing students to tell their story with very specific and detailed essay prompts. Take the opportunity to share your perspective on a leadership story that has a little “bite” to it. Many candidates will share a leadership story and answer the individual questions as posed in the prompt. Breakthrough candidates will put the admissions committee right in the middle of the story via an introspective narrative that details the conflict inherent in any leadership challenge.

Also, a great essay will most definitely include references to people dynamics and how the candidate as a leader was able to evangelize the team. Just because there is not a direct individual question about teamwork in the prompt does not mean this should not be discussed – the first sentence of the prompt should be clue enough of your direction for this essay.

Essay 2:

Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)

This essay is Kellogg’s take on the common “Why MBA” / “Why School X” essay. But with Kellogg you should always expect to go a bit deeper. Kellogg is looking for you to share a bit about your past, present and future and what makes Kellogg such an integral part of your planned journey. Program specifics will be key here so make sure you do your research and identify professional, academic, and social aspects of the program that will be integral to you reaching your development goals.

Breakthrough candidates will be introspective throughout their response to this essay reflecting on how they have reached the point of applying to Kellogg and what the path forward looks like as a Kellogg MBA.

These are just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Kellogg, and hopefully they will help you get started. For more thoughts on the essays and deadlines for this year, click here for another post.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Thoughts on MIT Sloan’s Application Essay for 2015-2016

MITApplication season at MIT Sloan is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There is only one essay question for MIT Sloan so it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available here.

Essay 1:

Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words or fewer)

MIT Sloan’s only essay this year falls into the category of an “accomplishment” essay. However, this essay is a bit more multifaceted than the typical “accomplishment” essay so this is a prompt applicants should read through a few times before diving in.

First thing’s first, make sure you follow the rules of the prompt. Nothing turns the admissions committee off faster than a candidate who does not answer the question as prescribed. Sloan is looking for a RECENT success so avoid examples that are too far in the past no matter how impressive. The subsequent clarifying questions in the prompt should signal the method by which Sloan is looking to hear your response.

Don’t fall into the trap of just telling the admissions committee how the success happened. Breakthrough candidates will show not tell the process behind the identified success. Your goal should be to have the reader feel like a “fly on the wall” in the story of your success. Bring the reader into the moment and your thought process as you introspectively recount the relevant business challenges and situations encountered during this experience.

Also, as you move to wrap this essay up try to quantify your impact as much as possible. For some accomplishments it will be easier than others, but a school like Sloan is looking for real impact so don’t shy away from the numbers here if possible. Why a specific accomplishment is relevant to you may not be immediately clear to the reader so make sure to highlight the significance of your recent success.

Finally, your essay topic along with all other elements of your application package should be aligned with the core values of the Sloan MBA. Review these tenets before you finalize your topic and make sure you are crafting your response to this essay with these values in mind.

These are just a few thoughts on the essay from MIT. Hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Sloan’s deadlines and essays, check out another post here.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

A Breakdown of Columbia Business School Essay Questions for 2015-2016

columbia-mba-admissions-guideApplication season at Columbia Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There are three essay questions for Columbia, which is a high number in these days of essay consolidation at most other business schools. With so many essays it is critical that applicants present their candidacy in a clearly aligned fashion.

Essay 1:
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (Maximum 500 words)

Columbia’s first essay falls into the category of your typical “career goals” essay and is double the word count of the other essays so the school is expecting a fully fleshed out path forward. Avoid spending much time detailing your past as the prompt clearly has taken account of your past professional career. This is purely a future-oriented career essay.

With that said, clear articulation and alignment of your short-term and long-term career goals will be key to executing a successful essay here. Probably even more important, given the ubiquity of the career goals portion of the prompt, is the fit portion of the essay. Breakthrough candidates will cite specific references to Columbia’s professional, academic, and extra-curricular programs that will support the applicant’s development goals. With so much competition amongst similar institutions it is critical to make a bold case for a strong fit with the program.

Essay 2:
Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)

Again keeping in mind the totality of the three essays, it may make sense to reserve the NY specific advantages until essay two. Essay one presents a clear opportunity to do this but doubling down here would make more sense. With so few words to work with you want to get right to the point in this essay.

Columbia outlines a few of the potential advantages the school offers in the prompt, so you want to get specific on what the relationship between the school and the “Big Apple” can offer you. Breakthrough candidates will personalize this essay right from the start and structure the essay around specific aspects of the Columbia Business School experience relevant to the candidate’s personal and professional development.

Essay 3:
CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

This is a great opportunity to let your personality shine through. The first two essays cover career goals and fit and interest in Columbia, but this essay is a bit more open. These types of essays tend to be the greatest opportunities for candidates to differentiate themselves, so don’t miss out on this chance!  As you choose which topic to discuss keep in mind what would engage your classmates and it goes without saying but whatever you share should actually be something not immediately obvious to the Admissions Committee. Breakthrough candidates will leverage their research into the Columbia culture to frame a response that is not only unique but also compelling to the admissions team.

These are just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Columbia Business School. Hopefully these thoughts will help you get started.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

GMAT or GRE: How Will MBA Admissions Officers View My GRE Score?

GRE vs. GMATOver the past five years or so, more business schools have been jumping on the GRE bandwagon by accepting either a GMAT or a GRE score. The percentage of candidates to top MBA programs who apply with only a GRE score is growing, but it’s still very small — less than 5% at most schools.

This leads many candidates to wonder how applying with a GRE score may be viewed by MBA admissions committees.

After speaking with dozens of admissions officers, I have a few insights that may be helpful:

  1. Feelings have changed over the past five years, so be careful that you don’t use outdated information. Countless blogs have been written over the years about whether to take the GRE. If they were not written in the past year, I would not put any stock in them. Attitudes have changed dramatically at many business schools over just the past year or two as they have greater experience in handling applicants with a GRE score in lieu of a GMAT score.
  1. Unless stated otherwise, almost all business schools genuinely do not have a preference between the GMAT and the GRE. While Veritas Prep believes that the GMAT exam offers a more accurate and nuanced assessment of the skills that business schools are looking for, according to feedback from admissions officers across the board and our independent analysis, the two exams are treated equally. Using data published by the business schools, trends clearly show that average GMAT scores and average GRE scores are nearly identical across the board. There is no inherent advantage or disadvantage to applying with a GRE score.
  1. Across the board, admissions officers use the official ETS score conversion tool to translate GRE scores into equivalent GMAT scores. Because so few candidates apply with a GRE score, the admissions committees don’t have a really strong grasp of the scoring scale. Every school we’ve spoken to uses ETS’ score conversion tool to convert GRE scores to GMAT scores so they may compare applicants fairly. You can use the same tool to see how your scores stack up.
  1. The GRE is not a differentiator. I get a lot of “traditional” MBA applicants with a management consulting or investment banking background who ask if they should take the GRE. They’re often nervous that their GMAT score won’t stack up against the stiff competition in their fields and hope that the GRE will differentiate them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. If anything, admissions officers may wonder why they chose to take the GRE even though all factors in their career path point toward applying to MBA programs and not any other graduate programs. There’s no need to raise any questions in the mind of the admissions reader when the GMAT is a clear option.
  1. The GRE isn’t easier, but it’s different. I also see a lot of applicants who struggle with standardized tests who seek to “hide” behind a GRE score because they believe that it’s easier than the GMAT. Even if the content may seem more basic to you, what matters is how you stack up against the competition. Remember that every Masters in Engineering and Mathematics PhD candidate will be taking the GRE, focused solely on the Quant sections. They’re going to knock these sections out of the park without even breaking a sweat. On the other side, English Lit majors and other candidates for humanities-related degrees will be focused exclusively on the Verbal sections, and their grammar abilities are likely to be much better than yours. This means that getting a strong balanced score (which is what MBA admissions officers are looking for) becomes extremely difficult on the GRE. Even if the content feels easier to you, remember that the competition will tough. That said, if you’re struggling with the way the GMAT asks questions, you might find the GRE to be a more straightforward way of assessing your abilities. This can be an advantage to some applicants based on their unique thought process and learning style, but it shouldn’t be seen as a panacea for all test-takers.
  1. Some schools are GMAT-preferred. For example, Columbia Business School now accepts the GRE, but its website and admissions officers clearly state that they prefer the GMAT. If you’re applying to any business schools that fall into this category, we highly recommend that you take the GMAT unless there’s a very compelling argument for the GRE. One compelling argument might be that you have already scored well on the GRE to attend a master’s program directly out of undergrad and you would prefer not to take another standardized test to now get your MBA. Or perhaps you’re applying to a dual-degree program where the other program requires the GRE. Without a compelling reason otherwise, you should definitely plan to take the GMAT.

Bottom line: We recommend that the GMAT remain your default test if you’re planning to apply to exclusively to business schools. If you really struggle with the style of questions on the GMAT, you might want to explore the GRE as a backup option. In the end, you should simply take the test on which you can get the best score and not worry about trying to game the system.

If you have questions about whether the GMAT or the GRE would be a better option for your individual circumstances, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 1-800-925-7737 or submit your profile information on our website for a free admissions evaluation. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011. 

7 Tips for your Application to the Chicago Booth MBA Program

So you’ve decided to try the presentation for the Booth MBA application.  Now what?

A simple question accompanied by a blank canvas to start with can be daunting.  It helps to have a structured process in place to put your ideas together, while still leaving plenty of room for creativity.  When I work with my clients, I take them through a very simple process to help them think about the content for the pages that will ultimately answer the question “Who are you?”

There are two parts to the process.  First, you need to determine what you want to say to the Admissions Committee?  And second, figure out how you want to say it?

There are no real right or wrong answers to these two questions.  Each individual will have his or her own story and style.  And that is what makes this application so fun.  It gives candidates the opportunity to truly be unique.

What to write:

Answering the question “Who are you?” is not easy for most people.  To make it simple, I have my clients write down a list of bullet points that will act like the Table of Contents in a book about your life.  If someone were to write a biography about your life, what would the main chapters be about?  What would those defining characteristics and moments be that make it into your story?  What are the things that are important to you and what are things that you like and enjoy?  Don’t be afraid to get personal.

Once you’ve created your list, ask yourself: do those chapters accurately capture the person that you are?  Few of the chapters by themselves will differentiate you, but when you add them all together, you get…you.

There are no rules about what can or cannot be included as part of your story.  This simply means that you should not be limited by time or age or by things that haven’t happened yet.  In other words, can your dreams be part of your story?  Absolutely.  Your dreams are part of who you are, right?

Who you are encompasses everything: your past, your present, and your future.

How to share your story:

While you’re coming up with your outline and your Table of Contents for your own personal story, you will need to think about ways you can present your story to the Admissions Committee.

I recommend that you try to use a ‘theme’ that is personal to you.  What could a theme be?  It can be anything, really.  I’ve seen candidates who have used a children’s book as the backdrop to their story, their favorite magazine or newspaper, baseball cards and sports, or technology.  The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination (and Booth’s minimal requirements: it can’t have animation, and it has to be under 16 MB in size).

I always recommend that my clients open this challenge up to their friends and family members.  What would be an interesting, creative, and personal way to share your story?  The more ideas you have from the people who know you, the greater the chances are that you’ll have a good idea that is unique to you.

Putting it together:

Once you’ve got your outline and have identified your theme, it’s time to start putting your presentation together.  A few guiding principles that I like to offer to my clients:

Be efficient with your words.
You don’t want to write a lot if you’re developing a presentation.  While there is no word limit, a good rule of thumb is that your presentation shouldn’t have more than 750 words in it on the high end. It’s definitely possible to have an effective presentation with more words, but it all depends on the format you end up going with (e.g., using a newspaper theme might require more text compared to a shopping catalog, for example).

Use images and visuals to enhance your story.
It’s always good to include images from your life in your presentation, but they are by no means necessary.  I’ve seen plenty of great presentations that don’t have personal images but instead use hand-drawn pictures or visuals created in tools like Photoshop.  Whatever you choose, try to use images that demonstrate the full spectrum of your personality, your interests, and the story you’re trying to tell.

Pay attention to the details.
The details can be a lot of fun.  If you’re using a theme that would be recognizable to others, put the effort into making it as authentic as possible, and use your creativity to incorporate your own personal style into the presentation.  For example, you may want to rename a newspaper to make it personal to you and Booth (for the record, I don’t recommend using a newspaper theme because you won’t be the only one doing it, but it’s an easy example to demonstrate with).

Review, review, review.
Ask your friends and family for feedback and input.  You’ll be surprised by how many good ideas they will have and how willing they will be to invest in your success.  The presentation is a way for you to stand out from the crowd, so make sure it is capturing the story that you want to tell to Booth.

Have fun with it.
The process of developing the presentation is often one of the most rewarding experiences for business school candidates.  I have had many tell me that the Booth application was their favorite because it challenged them to think outside the box and forced them to think about questions they don’t normally think about.  Many have surprised themselves by how creative their presentations ended up being, and everyone has had fun doing it.  And that’s the point.  This process of self-discovery and creativity is intellectually stimulating – and that’s one of the reasons you’re applying to Booth in the first place, right?

If you get stuck, we’re here to help.

Good luck!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Rich Williams is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His specialties include consulting, finance, and nonprofit applicants. 

Mapping Out Your Summer Before Applying to Business School

Business School CalendarAs with most things in life, preparation is key. The more time you have to prepare for something the better the result tends to be. Applying to business school is no different. The majority of candidates will wait to the last month before the deadlines to begin preparing to complete their applications.

Don’t make this mistake! Take advantage of the summer months preceding application season and set yourself up for success.

Leveraging the summer months to start planning your application is not only one of the best things to increase your chances of success but also one of the most difficult to do. For starters, who wants to spend the summer cooped inside thinking about school? Getting started on your application during one of the most social times of the year can be very challenging for the typical outgoing, enterprising, future MBA.

Now there is no one size fits all approach to making the most of these summer months but see below for some things to consider as you start mapping out your game plan:

June

June is the ideal month to kick off your application season. This month should be used to set the baseline for the underlying strategy behind your applications. Consider using June to conduct research on target MBA programs and eventually identify which schools will be on your application list. Conducting research now will save you time later in the process during those critical fall months during application season.

Another key area to begin if not already addressed is the GMAT. Many applicants prep for the GMAT while writing their essays, which can equate to a very stressful and intense period during the fall. Utilize this time to provide a buffer if subsequent tests are needed. The GMAT tends to be the number one hang-up for most students so take advantage of some additional time to secure the score you need!

July

July is a great month to start thinking about your essays. As an integral part of the application process, this is one of the areas that additional prep can make a major difference. Utilize personal mini-stories which are select stories that you choose to reflect the 4 dimensions of Leadership, Innovation, Teamwork and Maturity emphasized by many MBA programs that you can later apply to the specific essay questions asked from each school.

August

August is a critical month to make progress on your application and at this point most MBA programs will have released their essay topics and applications. Leverage your work in July with the mini-stories to create some truly compelling essays. Also, now that school is back in session, this is a good time to consider completing your school research. Class visits are integral to understanding the MBA experience at your target programs and can add some nuanced context to your application package.

Use this high-level timeline to make the most of your summer and set yourself up for a successful application season.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

7 Areas of Assessment for MBA Applicants

Assessment ChecklistSo you want to go to business school? Unlike many other graduate level degrees business schools scrutinize applicants across a wide array of criteria. Scoring high on an exam or even applying with a high GPA will not guarantee an applicant admission. The assessment process can be very complicated and involved and often leaves applicants confused when trying to determine how best to position their candidacy for target programs. Admissions teams will assess candidates across seven areas using data from within these categories to create a holistic perspective of an applicant. The seven key assessment areas are listed below:

1) Education

This area is multi-layered factoring in your GPA, quality of undergrad institution, and major area of study. This is an area where it may be wise for an applicant to gauge where they compare against historical data.

2) Work Experience

This is an application for business school so it should come as no surprise that work experience is an important assessment area. This area includes your resume with a focus on the rigor of the role, company, and track record of achievement and growth.

3) Recommendations

A corollary of work experience, this area is often overlooked but is a crucial part of the process as it largely serves as the only “independent” assessment of the applicant. A poor assessment here can raise doubts on an otherwise strong application.

4) Extra-Curricular

One of the more under-utilized components of the MBA application, admissions teams often use this area to best get to know what candidates do in their free time and really care about. For many applicants this is a great way to show off interpersonal skills like leadership and teamwork that may not be obvious in other areas like the resume. Keep in mind this area spans from undergrad through the resume and should be considered proper essay fodder.

5) GMAT

The GMAT, everyone’s favorite part of the process, is an area that can be a major hurdle for many applicants. This area is one of the more analytical aspects of the application, thus making it easier for admissions to compare candidates to historical scores as well as those of other current applicants.

6) Essays

Each of the assessment areas is important, but essays are a really great way to stand out from the pack. Utilizing this area to write personal, unique and truly breakthrough essays can take an average application to the next level, so don’t miss this opportunity.

7) Interview

For most schools, getting to this point is a positive and a sign of a strong application. This is the closest assessment area to an actual decision and invokes many of the aforementioned other areas into it’s evaluation.

Business schools are honestly looking for well-rounded candidates that rank highly in all of the above categories. However, if a candidate is weak in one or two areas it is even more important that the candidate excels in the other areas.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

What to Wear During Your MBA Admissions Interview

Admissions InterviewSo you finally got those pesky business school applications out of the way and after a few weeks of waiting, you receive the great news that you’ve been invited to interview with your dream school. Now, on the prep side you have it all together, you are ready to ace your interview but with one not so minor question. What to wear!

This seemingly innocuous question tends to create as much anxiety as in any other aspect of the admissions process. This commonly stems from overthinking by the applicant but also a lack of overall comfort with this type of interview. For most candidates they have also not interviewed in some time, which can make the whole process daunting.

Now when it comes to dressing for success, treat the MBA interview as you would a traditional job interview, which for men involves a traditional suit. Keep it simple guys and wear basic colored suits and simple collared white or blue dress shirts. You can get a little more creative with your ties, but your choice of dress should not be something that even registers for your interviewer.

Now for women the same rules apply. Treat your MBA interview as if you were interviewing for a job. Interview day is not the time to take any risks; keep it simple and let the quality of your background and how you communicate it speak for itself.

Increasingly, MBA programs are evolving their interview practices. Programs like Kellogg and the Yale School of Management have incorporated virtual interviews and essays into their application process. You should treat dressing for these virtual sessions a bit different. For the remote virtual interviews, same rules apply; well at least for the upper half of your body. You want to dress business professional.

However for the video essays, that have become increasingly popular, business casual is more appropriate. Defer to the specific directions if provided but if not keep it neat and clean with your choice of clothing. For men, collared shirts or polo shirts with no jacket are acceptable. For women, aim for neat and clean with appropriate dresses, shirts and blouses. Same rules as the men, your wardrobe should not be a distraction, thus keeping the focus on the content of what you are communicating.

A common rule of thumb is over dressing is better than under dressing, but if you can follow some of the guidance above, you will be dressed for success and in the perfect position to make the most of your interview opportunity.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to Business School

Magnifying GlassHiring an admissions consultant is a great way to make sure you produce the best possible business school application possible, leveraging the inside knowledge and experience from someone who has been through the process successfully many, many times.  Yet, working with an expert does not mean that you can take a back seat and put things on cruise control.

You should still expect to do a lot of work writing, editing and rewriting essays, in addition to making sure you complete each step of the application process on time.  (We will certainly provide expert guidance to help you make the right decision at every step of the way).

Below is a list of some of the mistakes I have seen clients make over the years:

  • Missing deadlines by getting the time zone wrong.  Even if this mistake can be remedied with a very apologetic phone call the next day, it is not a situation you want to put yourself in.  Our advice is to always submit a day early to avoid missing any technical glitches from overloaded servers, or a computer that crashes.
  • Missing communications from schools: make sure those emails do not end up in your junk folder.  Reading and responding to requests from the admissions committees should be a priority. If you don’t respond in a timely fashion, they will wonder about your commitment and professionalism.
  • Recommendations being late: not too uncommon, but there is no excuse for this to happen.  Most online application systems allow for a reminder to be sent.  In addition, you should check in with recommenders to make sure they are on track. Also, be aware of their schedules, whether vacations or major high priority projects that could delay or postpone completing your letters of recommendation.
  • Insufficient school research: not everyone has the ability to visit each school they are applying to, but this is not an excuse to not have a firm grasp of what resources are relevant to your career goals.  We will certainly point you how and where to look, including relevant professors, courses, clubs and experiential learning programs, but you have to take the time to follow through.
  • Underestimating the amount of work needed to complete the applications on time.  It requires a significant amount of work to prepare successful applications.  This is especially true given the amount of introspection required to answer essay questions about who you are, what motivates you, etc.

Granted, much of the above can be avoided by following a logical and detailed process, so there is no reason the above should happen to you.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Marcus D.  Read more articles by him here, and find the expert who’s right for you here!  Visit our Team page today.

2 Steps to Take When Asking for Letters of Recommendation for Business School

RecommenderBusiness school recommendations are a black box for many applicants.  They go ahead and ask two people for whom they have worked and who they think have an overall positive perception of them to write their recommendation.  They might vaguely discuss their career goals and why they want an MBA.

For recommenders without a significant business background, that conversation will likely go in one ear and out the other.  Regardless of how highly the recommenders think of the applicant, the actual recommendation will be of little help. Many applicants will know this and are simply hoping for the best, or that the recommendation will at the least not cause any irreparable damage.

Given the highly competitive nature of admissions to top tier business schools, this is not the way you should approach your recommendations.  In order to turn your recommenders into true advocates you must take a much more proactive role.

The first step is selecting the right recommenders.  Create a list of possible recommenders for any job you have held since college – err on the side of being inclusive at this point.  This list can include customers, clients, partners, etc, but should generally exclude college professors.  Evaluate your recommenders based on your key accomplishments working with/for them, their ability to discuss your managerial potential, length and quality of interaction and also on how well you believe they can put forth their arguments on paper.  Title and seniority at the company matters less.  Typically one of the recommenders should be your current manager, but schools realize this is not always feasible (especially if you don’t want your employer to know that you are considering leaving); there is room to explain a different choice in the optional essay.  This should hopefully leave you with 2 strong options.

Next, you need to provide the recommender with what we refer to as a recommender packet.  This would include your resume (or list of key accomplishments at the company), short-term and long-term career goals, your reasoning for why you want an MBA, and what overall themes you are trying to develop for your candidacy.  Putting this on paper will force you to crystallize your own thoughts and be more effective.  More importantly, you need to have an open discussion on how best to answer the recommendation questions using specific examples of past accomplishments that support your key themes as an applicant. The point here is to provide the recommender with sufficient background to write convincingly about why you are amazing.  And just to be clear, we do not encourage you to write your own recommendations – it is unethical and much more likely to hurt you than help.

As schools offer fewer essay questions, having amazing recommendations is becoming increasingly important. Do not leave your recommendations to chance – give them the attention they deserve.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Marcus D.  Read more articles by him here, and find the expert who’s right for you here!  Visit our Team page today.

4 Factors to Consider when Determining if Your GMAT Score is High Enough for Business School

GMAT ScoreThis is a common question we get as head consultants.  At what point is your GMAT good enough that you can move to the next stage?  If you read my previous post on timelines and milestones, I recommend getting the GMAT out of the way first as it serves to guide your school selection, and, frankly, is pretty stressful – having to take the GMAT close to a school deadline will only add to that stress.

The short answer to the question is to always retake the GMAT if you think you have a decent shot at improving the score by ~20 points.  The top tier business school admissions process is so competitive that you really cannot afford to not improve every single part of the application when possible.

That said we cannot expect every single applicant to score 750 on the GMAT.  Not everyone is capable of that score, and there are additional constraints to consider, such as time to a deadline.  Given that, I think there are some basic rules of thumb that could help guide your decision to whether to retake the GMAT.

To help guide us, let’s assume a fictitious top tier b school with a mean or average GMAT of 730, overall range of 620-780 and middle 80% range of 710-750 (meaning 10% of students score above 750, and 10% below). Let’s consider a few factors:

GMAT Range

Generally speaking, you should always strive to beat the average of the school to which they are applying.  If you haven’t done that, it means the rest of your application needs to be that much stronger and differentiated.  If it’s less strong, or if there are likely to be many similarly looking applicants, then retake.

On the other hand, if you are scoring above 750, or above the middle 80%, it means you are among the top 10% of GMAT scores for this school – probably ok to move on to other parts of the application.

If you are scoring below the middle 80% percentile, you should probably retake assuming you have the time.

Low GPA

If your GPA is low, say more than 5-10% below a school’s average, your GMAT needs to be that much higher to remove any doubt that you can handle the academic coursework (GMAT is acts as a predictor of academic aptitude).  Best to try to beat that average score, or at least get into the middle 80% range.  This is especially true if you are coming from a less reputable school.

Applicant Pools

Applicants from b school feeder industries, such as finance and management consulting, or those with engineering backgrounds are expected to help raise the average.  Just getting within that middle 80% is not good enough, you should be scoring above the average. An i-banker with a 710 is not getting that interview invite.

Industry Pools

Applicants from the government, active duty military, NGOs, or those from other non-traditional backgrounds, will typically get a break.  This doesn’t mean that you should be happy with a 650.  If you have the time, sit down and assess what sections of the GMAT are more challenging for you and attack those (a competent GMAT tutor will help you with this).

Of course, there might be plenty of personal situations and specifics to your specific situation that need to be considered, but hopefully this serves to provide some initial guidance.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Marcus D.  Read more articles by him here, and find the expert who’s right for you here!  Visit our Team page today.

MBA Admissions Timeline: When You Should Take the GMAT, Ask for Recommendations, and More

ChecklistAs we are putting final touches on R3 applications, it is already time to start thinking about the next application cycle for many of you.  This is especially true if you want to apply in R1.  Deadlines that seem distant always have a way to sneak up on those who are unprepared.  To help you in the planning process, we thought it would be useful to outline what a well thought-out timeline for a successful business school application might look like.  This is written for the average applicant; some might be able to pull it off in a much shorter period (not recommended), others, such as non-traditional applicants, might need a lot more time.

For the purposes of this exercise it is useful to divide the complete application into the following streams of work:

  • Tests: GMAT or GRE, and TOEFL (for most international applicants);
  • School selection: school visits, desktop research, primary research or informational interviews with alums;
  • Online applications: essays, resume and general information;
  • Recommendations: selecting recommenders and preparing them to write amazing recommendations.

Roughly speaking, the above work streams are listed in the order they should be approached.  There is certainly some overlap between the different streams, and you should build in some flexibility in your timeline.  The best way to develop a timeline is to work backwards from admissions deadlines.  Starting with the online application, it generally takes about 3 months to complete the essays, resume (which might have to tweaked for each school) and gather all information you need to complete the online application.  For a September deadline, it means you should start brainstorming and drafting essays in early June.  It is generally a good idea to complete the resume first as it serves to create a summary of who you are and what you have achieved.

Regarding your recommenders, you should prepare them to write those amazing letters of recommendations.  Don’t just tell them which schools you applying to and send them the email with instructions.  Instead, provide them with an updated resume, relevant examples of leadership and an overview of what themes you are trying to convey in your application.  (Having started the essays and resume already you will be well prepared for this.)  This should happen about 6-8 weeks before the first deadline, or by early July for a September deadline.

School selection starts with desktop research, includes class visits (international applicants should try to attend local information sessions), as well informational interview with alumni and current students.  Be sure to check the visiting schedule well in advance, as most schools do not offer class visits around final examinations.  Try to complete these by April (after that things you run out of options).

Standardized test results serve as an important indicator of academic abilities in the Admissions Committee’s eyes.  If you are striving for admissions to a top tier b school, you should be aiming to get it around average for that school.  This means you might have to retake it more than once.  (Non-traditional applicants, including military, get a break typically.)   Your GMAT and GRE also serve to inject some realistic expectations into your short list of schools.  Hence, getting tests out of the way early is really ideal.  For a typical applicant the tests should be completed about 4 months prior to the first deadline.  For September deadlines, it means the official GMAT should be taken in April, allowing sufficient time to retake the test if necessary.

In summary, for a September deadline, here are some milestones you should try to hit in order put yourself in the best possible situation when applying to b school :

  • GMAT: complete by April for a September deadline (4 months prior);
  • School selection: finalize by June, after taking the GMAT, and extensive primary and secondary research (3-4 months before deadline);
  • Recommendations: provide recommenders with all necessary information to write amazing letters of recommendations in early July (2 months before deadline);
  • Online applications: begin essay drafts in early June (3 months before deadline), and iterate many, many times!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Marcus D.  Learn more about him here, or find the expert who’s right for you here!  Visit our Team page today.

How to Showcase Teamwork Skills in Your MBA Applications

teamTeamwork skills are a crucial element of conducting modern business today, and business schools are increasingly placing a major emphasis on identifying applicants with these skills. Although this skill can be an area of development for an applicant prior to starting business school, it is important to highlight past examples of teamwork in order to stand out from the masses.

Much of your work in business school and beyond will involve completing deliverables with others. The more clearly you can showcase a track record of skill development here the better your chances of admission into your target school. The focus here should be on what you uniquely contributed to the team as well as how your interaction within the team helped drive success for the group as a whole.

There are a few areas within your application where you can share your teamwork skills:

Academics

Think back on your undergraduate experience and identify examples from your academic career that show you as a team player. When thinking purely academically, group projects and case competitions are some of the more obvious places to pull anecdotes from. Academic examples can sometimes be a bit less interesting so make sure you are painting a complete picture of why this experience was impactful for you.

Extra-Curricular / Civic Obligations

Your extra-curricular activities outside of the classroom and the workplace are a great place to pull examples from. These experiences tend to be very interesting and also help to highlight a multitude of other interpersonal skills like leadership, creativity, and determination. Categories to parse anecdotes from include greek life, athletics, volunteer activities, and student clubs. Keep in mind all readers may not be familiar with the extra-curricular activities in your life, so provide enough background to inform the narrative. Information like size, participants, and money involved help to add context to these examples.

When identifying examples as a professional, the same approach should work. Sharing your reasoning for why you are involved in each activity may also open opportunities to show your passion for a particular topic like health, nature, or the environment.

Work Experience

You should not only pull examples from your undergraduate experience but also pull them from your professional career. Remember you are applying to business school to further your career so schools love to know how you have developed teamwork skills in your pre-MBA professional career. These examples should probably be the easiest to uncover for your application. Work to identify examples where you have excelled as a member of a team. Think of the context of the situation and the overall business impact and select the situations where you have delivered meaningful contributions that paint you in the best light as a candidate.

Showcasing a strong track record of engagement is one of the best ways to signal to admissions that you will be equally engaged once you return to campus as a grad student.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. Find more of his articles here

Applying for Your MBA as an Older Applicant

Business SchoolMBA programs are often seen as a place where the world’s top young business professionals go to finish their academic training in subjects like finance, marketing, and operations. However, business school is not only for the young; many more seasoned students can extract a tremendous amount of value from the experience. The approach for every applicant should be unique, but this is even more so the case for older applicants.

Before we delve into specific tips, let’s determine what an older applicant actually is. Now there is not a universal cutoff that determines what an older or younger applicant is, but rather there is more of a guideline. Generally you want to base this determination off of the average age of the student body. For most schools the average age ranges from 26 – 28 of course with any average there are people who fall above and below to create this average. Generally candidates above the age of 30 are considered older candidates, as mentioned earlier this is really a school-by-school determination. To complicate it further work experience is also considered a qualifier when reviewing this aspect of an applicant’s profile.

As an older applicant a major key is clearly articulating why “right now” is the ideal time for you to apply. This is your chance to communicate directly to admissions why now and not 3 or 5 years ago is the perfect time for you to apply. It is important to be clear and thoughtful and truly express what you can get out of the business school experience. A negative perception of older applicants is that there may not be much that they can gain from the business school experience. Attack this perception head on and be transparent with the impact an MBA can have on your professional career.

Other factors include your GPA and GMAT score. As an older applicant and being further removed from academia, schools are less reliant on these scores to make decisions than they would be for a younger candidate. Now of course in the very competitive world of MBA admissions every data point matters but the value older candidates will bring to the student community stems from their work experience.

Finally, program choice can be a factor. This is largely dependent on the amount of experience the older candidate has. The decision whether to apply to a part-time, full-time, or EMBA program tends to be correlated tightly with age. Think through which program makes the most sense for where you are at in your life and career and what you desire out of your MBA experience. Generally the part-time and EMBA programs attract an older applicant pool given the structure and set-up of the programs. With whatever program makes the most sense for you make a strong case for how the offerings best align with your development needs.

Business school is a wonderful experience for people of many ages. Understanding how age and relative experience factor into the process will ensure success come decision day.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. Find more of his articles here

4 Ways Your Career Goals Factor into Your MBA Admission

MBA AdmissionsWith all of the various components of an MBA application, the primary reason most candidates apply tends to get overlooked when it comes time to discuss the application process. Career goals are at their core the root of why most applicants apply to business school.

In some form or fashion the desire to improve the state of ones career is why business schools exist. Career goals factor into MBA admissions in a few key ways:

 

Hire-ability

As stated above a major part of pursuing an MBA is improving your career. As schools review your application they are putting your hopes and dreams through a vetting process. Schools need to determine that given your background and aptitude the academic training provided by the program will allow you to reach your short term and long term goals. If they feel they cannot address this very basic business school mandate then your chances of receiving admission at that specific program are low.

Career Trajectory

With your career trajectory, schools are tasked with determining how realistic your career goals are given your background. Does your desired career story make sense? How well connected are your short term and long term goals? These are just a sample of questions that admissions teams will use to scrutinize your career goals.

Maturity

The maturity of a candidate also plays a role in the process. The type of goals that are referenced in an application, particularly for younger applicants, can help determine the maturity level of a candidate. This measure is a major part of the decision process. In particular, candidates should make sure their goals are clear and consistent with current industry norms.

Program Alignment

Each MBA program has their own specialty, both academically and professionally, when it comes to campus recruiting. Top candidates will target MBA programs that offer the best opportunities to reach their own career goals. Situations where this alignment between the candidate and the program does not exist can represent a red flag for your chances at admissions. If the alignment is not clear, candidates should offer up specific courses, academic programs, and recruiting opportunities that highlight the tight fit between their goals and the target program.

Your career goals are a major factor in how admissions teams make admissions decisions. Make articulating clear and consistent goals a key aspect of your application package.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. Find more of his articles here

3 Ways to Highlight Your Analytical Skills in Your Business School Applications

books_stackedOf all the power grad degrees (law school, medical school, etc.) business school tends to put the biggest focus on analytical skills. These skills tend to be focused on numbers, and in particular the ability to manipulate and make numbers tell a story. The MBA has historically been known to place a high percentage of graduates in analytical careers like finance and consulting, operating as a feeder system for these industries.

As competition has increased for spots in elite business schools, candidates are expected to come to business school with analytical skills or some proof of competency. So how do you make sure your analytical skills shine bright in your application?  Focus on these three areas to stand out from the competition.

Transcript

If you scored a high GPA in undergrad well you’re in luck, as MBA programs look at GPAs as an indicator of future performance in business school. Not so fast though, what schools are really focusing in on is your grades in analytically based courses. These tend to be similar to what you can expect in your core classes during your first year in business school. Examples of analytical classes in undergrad include classes like Calculus, Finance, Accounting, Statistics, Economics, etc. If you have performed well in this area this will really help your candidacy. If you have not, take some additional coursework at your local university or Community College to show admissions you have what it takes.

GMAT

The GMAT is another great way to show off those fancy analytical skills. Schools will look at your overall score but tend to focus in on the Quant side of the GMAT report. Strong performance here can help you skyrocket to the top of the acceptance pile. Admission teams see the GMAT as a strong indicator of future academic performance in business school; so spend some additional time on the quant side during your GMAT prep.

Work Experience

Your work experience is another way to prove you have the requisite skills to compete at a top business schools. Some applicants have it easy where their career function or industry signals analytical competency to admissions. Pre-MBA experience in investment banking, consulting, accounting, or engineering give off the impression to admissions that the candidate is facile with numbers. Even if your pre-MBA experience does not fall into the obvious analytical bucket, highlight projects, work products or responsibilities that are analytical in nature. Do you manage the P&L for a major consumer brand? Did you raise capital to launch your start-up? Find the pockets of analytical experience you have had and make sure you highlight them on your resume and in your essays.

Don’t miss the chance to highlight your analytical skills in your application, follow these tips to avoid any red flags come decision day.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here for a Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. Find more of his articles here

4 Factors to Consider When Determining if a Part Time MBA Program is the Right Choice for You

Alternative MBA OptionsMost MBA programs offer multiple options for business students to pursue a graduate education in business. For many people, the full-time, all-encompassing two-year commitment does not fit into current personal and professional realities. If you are interested in pursuing an MBA, one of the most efficient ways to balance out your professional career goals with the realities of life can be to pursue admission at a part-time program.

A part-time MBA program allows students to take classes towards an MBA while still working. For some, this set-up is an ideal way to reach career goals. Let’s discuss a few reasons why a part-time MBA may be right for you.

Timing

On average, part-time programs tend to attract an older student body. For some older students, taking two years off from life and a career is not a realistic option. Factor in the greater likelihood of an older applicant having a family or children and a part-time MBA can become a much more attractive option.

Financial

For many applicants the burden of a full time MBA tuition with no incoming salary can be extremely challenging. As a part-time student you will have the option to generate income while simultaneously taking classes and moving closer to your career goals. In some instances, employers will pay tuition for these programs with the promise of the employee returning to the firm for a pre-determined timeframe. Both of these scenarios can lessen the financial burden of an MBA.

Career Impact

If leaving the workforce for two years in your career path would set you back, a part-time MBA may be a preferred option. Industries like technology where the rate of change moves extremely fast can make it difficult for budding business students to leave the workforce for two years. The ability to learn while doing and to implement classroom studies directly at a full time job is attractive for many candidates.

Career Change

If you are not trying to make an immediate career switch post-MBA then a part-time program may be the best fit. For applicants looking to make a major career switch a full-time MBA tends to be more appropriate given the summer internship. Many part-time students are also able to make career changes as well but this change is much easier to execute in a full-time program.

Pursuing a part-time program is a great way to get an MBA, just make sure the program is a good fit for your current personal and professional situation as well as what your are looking to get out of your MBA experience.

Which program is right for you? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. Find more of his articles here

4 Factors to Consider When Determining if Your GMAT Score is High Enough

Stand OutThe most common apprehension many candidates have during the application process concerns the GMAT. For many applicants the GMAT can be a serious roadblock to reaching their dreams of admission to their target programs. It can be downright confusing to determine if you can stop taking the GMAT and move on to other equally important aspects of the application process. Of course the highest score possible is what most candidates strive for but with considerations like time and resources, decisions have to be made. Now there is no real science behind determining if your GMAT is high enough but there are a few considerations when making the final decision.

Age

Age plays a factor in determining an appropriate score. Generally with younger candidates there is an expectation that given the close proximity to their college graduation date and a time when studying for a test was less foreign a higher GMAT score is more likely. Primarily this stems from how an application can be weighted. Younger candidates tend to have less experience and leadership skills to impress upon admissions while an older candidate could lean on these types of experiences but would be farther removed from regular studying and test prep.

Demographic

What demographic pool you fall into also factors in. Business schools strive to admit diverse classes of students. To avoid overrepresentation by certain applicant pools the GMAT can be used as a competitive filter. Applicant pools like the Southeast Asian engineer can be seen as overrepresented and in contrast the African-American woman can be seen as underrepresented. Understand how admissions views your profile and target a score that is competitive within that set.

Score Split

With your GMAT score it’s not all about your overall score. How your performance is split across verbal and quant is another measure of review. Of course a balanced split with a strong overall score is the target but the quant side of your score generally carries additional weight. The weight again is relative based on certain aspects of your applicant profile but regardless the score split should factor into your target score.

Target Career

An area where many applicants overlook is how your target career post-MBA affects the perception of your score. Competitive industries like investment banking and management consulting put major weight on the GMAT scores of prospective employees. Schools want to make sure that, if admitted, students will be able to reliably compete for jobs in their chosen function so during the admissions process consideration is given to this area. If you are targeting the above analytically focused industries, target scores should exceed 700.

These are just a few things that should factor into to determining if your GMAT score is high enough. Overall, each of these elements should be filtered through the specific range and average score provided by each school as a baseline. Once this is done then the aspects above can shift the applicant’s target up or done.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. Find more of his articles here

What to Do Before, During, and After Your MBA Interview

Business SchoolCongratulations! You have received an interview invitation at the school of your dreams. You’ve conducted tons of research to prepare yourself for the big day. You know the ins and outs of the school’s academic programs, have a good handle of the recruiting advantages, and even have a comprehensive list of the top extra-curricular activities you’d like to lead. Interview day comes and you’ve breezed through all of the questions…except one, “What questions do you have?” The complexity of this very simple question is a common source of anxiety for many applicants.

Here are a few tips for prior to the interview, during the interview and after the interview that can help you reduce your anxiety when this question is posed.

Before the Interview

One of the best ways to approach this question is with authenticity. What questions do you really want answers to? Many candidates spend a lot of time questioning certain things about the application process, school community, or even their own profile. Here’s your chance to ask these questions. Now use your judgment and consider preparing a few thoughtful questions that will make sense coming from someone with your background and that are not too invasive. The last thing you want to do here is offend. At the minimum have 2 questions prepared in advance. Easy questions to target are ones that are current or based on recent news as well as questions related to your career path or school specific interest.

During the Interview

The first few minutes of the interview tend to be some of the best fodder for question mining. Focus on listening to determine the interviewer’s association with the school (student, alum, admissions) and mine accordingly. Many interviewers, particularly non-admissions officers, will introduce themselves and their background right at the beginning so use this information to set-up your questions for later. This is an easy way to ensure your questions are authentic since many interviewees tend to ask canned and generic questions at the end of the interview. Also, remember interviews are not a one-way street, it is just as important for you to leave with a good impression of the school as it is for them, so ask questions that will help you make your eventual decision, if admitted. Make sure the questions are relevant to the party you are asking. For example, the questions you may ask an alum may be and probably should be different than what you would ask a current student or an admissions officer.

After the Interview

Was there a question you forgot to ask during the interview? It’s not too late; if you were smart enough ask for contact info after the interview, feel free to reach out in your thank you note with a question. Email tends to be a good medium to do this. I would caution you however if you are going to follow-up make sure the question is real and genuine. Most people associated with the admissions process are busy and you will not get any extra credit by taking up even more of their time with a generic question.

Make your post-interview questions an area of strength for you by following these easy steps above.

Looking for more interview tips? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. Find more of his articles here

3 Ways to Overcome a Low College GPA and Get Into Your Dream Business School

GMATSo you’ve narrowed down your list of target schools and now it’s time to get real.  You’ve made the decision to apply to the school of your dreams but you’re worried that your low GPA may prevent you from real consideration. Many candidates feel as though there is nothing they can do about their GPA since they have already graduated from college. They believe that their dream school will remain just that, a dream.

Before we dive into how to overcome a low GPA, let’s define what a low GPA really is. GPA averages and ranges are a good place to start when making your case here. The farther you skew left or right of the mean will indicate your relative competitiveness for a program on paper. Qualifiers like age, work experience type (analytical vs. not), undergraduate rigor will all factor into the relative importance of these stats, so keep this in mind as you decide whether you truly have a low GPA. With this being said a low GPA really is a school-by-school situation, so make sure you are assessing fit on a case-by-case basis.

Own It

Now if you do have a low GPA there are a few ways you can overcome it. The first recommendation is to own it. Do not ignore your low GPA or even worse do not make excuses for your low GPA. Address it head on within the application package when possible. An obvious opportunity is the optional essay. Again be cautious not to make any excuses or shift blame. Own it and explain directly and succinctly what happened. Was it a lack of maturity? Was it your budding piano career? Was it the huge time commitment that is life as a varsity athlete on campus? Whatever it was, explain the reason for the setback in a concise, direct fashion. Also, if there are some positives you can offer about your academic profile like an upward trajectory or a high major or analytical GPA this will serve to somewhat counteract your low overall GPA.

New Coursework

Another way to overcome your low GPA is to create an alternative transcript. By taking additional coursework, particularly at the grad level, you can make a case to admissions that you can handle graduate level classes. Now of course you should make sure you are achieving top scores in these classes to make the case clear. Obvious opportunities exist to showcase your analytical mettle so if you performed poorly in undergrad in these type of classes, target courses in Finance, Accounting, and Statistics as a way to show you are capable.

Strong GMAT

Finally, you should really aim to perform well on the GMAT. A strong performance on the GMAT can go a long way in counteracting a low GPA. Admission teams see the GMAT as a strong indicator of future academic performance in business school, so help them reduce their anxiety over your low GPA by scoring well here.

Applying to business school with a low GPA is not the end of the world; follow the tips above to minimize the impact of this negative on your application.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

What Round 3 Means to Business School Admissions Committees

Most MBA programs have three rounds for candidates to apply for a reason. Admissions teams take round 3 very seriously and admit candidates from this pool every year. Let’s start by understanding how admissions committees utilize round 3. Admissions teams primarily use this round to balance out their class to create the right mix for the entering crop of students. Candidates from underrepresented groups in particular can help fill holes within admitted class pools for schools. Keep in mind by this point admissions has a very solid wait list with a lot of top admits already locked in so the onus is on the candidate to make a compelling case for admission.

Schools are looking for applicants who can clearly demonstrate that this is the ideal time for them to apply to business school. So the burden lies on the applicant to show that applying round 3 is not some haphazard or last minute choice but instead a thoughtful decision that aligns clearly with the candidate’s career goals.

Outside of the applicant’s timing being aligned, admissions is also looking for candidates with complete profiles and strong qualifications. These strong qualifications include a strong GPA and GMAT score, which should fall at or above school averages given the limited spots available in round 3. A strong or unique set of work experiences is another way to get on the radar of the admissions team for round 3. MBA programs could admit a class full of investment bankers and consultants if they so chose with the vast crop of applicants coming from those fields but they don’t. Schools want a diverse class of students coming from a variety of different industries and job functions.

Round 3 applicants coming from unique backgrounds can pique the interest of admissions committees. Now just coming from a unique career background is not enough, candidates have to be high performers in this field, which should be supported in the essay section or via recommendations. Finally, a compelling personal or professional story can distinguish applicants with unique profiles as well so don’t be afraid to be transparent and dig deep into your personal history and motivations for the most revealing fodder.

Whether its round 3, round 2, or round 1, MBA programs are largely looking for the same thing. Candidates who can showcase and highlight the best aspects of their profiles while making a compelling case for why round 3 is the ideal time to apply will increase the likelihood of experiencing admissions success come decision day.

Let us help you create a strong application! Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

5 Reasons You Were Not Accepted to Your Target Business School

You’ve invested months of prep and countless hours of hard work into your business school applications. You’re optimistic, but when the decision comes in you are left wondering why you have you been denied from your dream school. So why were you dinged after all of your hard work? Here are five reasons that may shed some light on why you did not make the cut.

Qualifications

You weren’t qualified. When we talk about qualifications, applicant profiles that fall outside of the GMAT and GPA averages and ranges are more likely to get dinged. The farther you skew left or right of the mean has a huge influence on getting accepted or denied. If you are not qualified on paper it is difficult to make a strong case even with strong performance elsewhere in your application. Luckily, you have time to get your GMAT score up if you decide to re-apply in Round 1 or Round 2 next year.

Fit

You were not a good fit with the school. Schools are looking for students that fit in with their culture. Whether it be program focus, class size, or personality even when qualified. Some applicants will be denied strictly on the basis of fit, so make sure to do your research ahead of time and pick programs that will be a strong fit with you.

Career Goals

Your career goals did not align with program strengths. Programs are constantly evaluating whether they can help applicants reach their career goals. It’s not enough for your goals to be clear, but they have to also be realistic given your pre-MBA experience and the strengths of your target program. If there is a disconnect here then the likelihood of getting denied will increase.

Readiness

You were not ready for business school. If you were a young candidate who was unable to make a strong case for matriculating this year, it may have proved problematic for you. Also, not being clear on why this year or this school was the ideal next step in your career will be a certain red flag for admissions.

Presentation

You did not present your profile in the best way possible. You can be qualified and ready for business school but if your application is not written well, proofread or otherwise completed in a professional manner this may derail an otherwise strong profile.

It’s tough to ever know truly why you may be denied from your target school, make sure you avoid these pitfalls above and reduce the chances of disappointment on decision day.

Let us help you create a strong re-application for next year! Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

Why You Should Try the Presentation for the Booth MBA Application

Chicago BoothThe most challenging part of the Booth application for many is simply getting started.  Should you write an essay? Or should you build a PowerPoint presentation?  If you write an essay, what do you write about?  How long should it be?  If you build a presentation, where do you even begin?

It’s hard.  And it’s fun.  Trust me.

One general piece of advice that I give to all of my clients: try the presentation.  Since Booth has started giving candidates the choice between writing an essay and building a presentation, I’ve advised every single client to try the presentation.  And each one of them is glad they did.  Many clients have told me that they feel the presentation was the single most important factor in getting in, despite the fact that many struggled with ideas in the beginning.  That’s just part of the process.  Very rarely do candidates have the right idea on the first shot.

That’s not to say that there aren’t cases where an essay is more appropriate.  There probably are.  But I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have an equally compelling or creative story to tell with a presentation.

Why do I recommend the presentation over writing another essay?  There are two main reasons.

First, I believe that Booth is laying down a challenge to its applicants here and looking to see who is willing to step outside of his or her comfort zone.  And that’s exactly what the presentation does.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s not something everyone is used to working with, and it requires some creativity.

Which is my second point: the presentation allows candidates to showcase a very wide range of dimensions that are virtually impossible to share in an essay format.  Things like creativity, your personality, your passions, and more.  It can be incredibly fun, something that very few applications give you a chance to share with a business school, and something exponentially harder to pull off in an essay.

You can literally do anything you want with only two restrictions: it can’t move (no animation, videos, etc), and it can’t be over 16 MB.  As long as you abide by those two restrictions, it’s possible.  This year, there are no page limits.  No rules.  You can do whatever you want.  Which is what makes it both challenging and fun.

So now that you are convinced that the presentation is the right choice, where do you start?  Well, let’s start with answering the question, “Who Are You, Anyway?”

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Rich Williams is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His specialties include consulting, finance, and nonprofit applicants. 

3 Reasons to Consider Applying to Business School in Round 3

Round 2 deadlines are closing in and you do not feel ready.  Your GMAT score may not be where you had hoped. Your essays feel rushed and not like an accurate representation of your story. But what do you do? Of course you want to apply by round 2 like the majority of MBA applicants, but you know doing so will put you at a disadvantage. The consensus is that the prime application periods are round 1 and round 2. You have had it in your head that you were applying this year though. So what do you do? Should you really consider applying in round 3?

Every year many applicants are faced with a similar dilemma. Round 3 has long been a cautiously avoided application round for most applicants. It is in fact the round where the least spots are typically available so the apprehension has merit. However, there are reasons why an applicant may still want to apply in round 3.

Age

For some candidates, age is a factor. The average age range for most schools is between 26 and 28. If a prospective applicant is well over the average age at a target school then delaying an entire year can raise even more questions for admissions. The older an applicant is, the more they have to prove to admissions that the program can add value to their career.

Timing

For other candidates, employment issues present round 3 as a realistic option. Turmoil at work, recently getting fired, or plain old discontentment in a current career path can warrant a last minute application from a candidate. The timeliness of the application round can make round 3 more attractive in atypical situations.

Qualifications

Finally, an impressive set of qualifications can make round 3 and frankly any round attractive to candidates with impressive profiles. Candidates with strong GPAs, GMAT scores, and blue chip resumes can often still be competitive even with the limited spots left in round 3. If the candidate’s application measurables align with or exceed target school class profile numbers then round 3 becomes a realistic option. In situations like this round 3 is not as far fetched as it seemed, and it may even make sense to apply in this round for the truly qualified.

Don’t automatically eliminate round 3 as a potential option as the situations above suggest round 3 may just be your best chance at admissions success.

We wanted to find a way to take out the risk in applying in Round 3 to top MBA programs, so whether you decide to apply in Round 3 or defer to Round 1 next fall, Veritas Prep’s Round 3 Guarantee  has you covered every step of the way!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

How to Tackle the Booth MBA Application

Chicago BoothI’m biased, but the Booth application is my favorite out of all of them.  I love the question – it’s simple, but not easy, and it forces applicants to do something that all of us should at some point in our lives: introspect.  The possibilities are endless.  The question not only challenges each applicant, but provides them with a great opportunity to stand out if answered well.

I have worked with clients on the Booth application since 2007, and while it has evolved over time – wherein applicants have had to write fewer and fewer words for Booth over the past decade – one constant remains: the presentation.

It is daunting.  At first.  Many of the clients I have worked with over the years approach the question initially with the “blank stare” strategy.  I’m sure many former and current Booth applicants who are reading this know the feeling.  Confusion.  Anxiety.  No idea where to start.  It happens all the time.  And that’s where we come in.

As we inch closer to Round 3, I’m going to share my own beliefs about the Booth application and how I recommend approaching it here on this blog.  We’ll incorporate some thoughts from other Booth experts as well.  Hopefully, after a few weeks, you’ll be in a much better position to answer the question, “Who are you?”

For now, let’s look at the advice Booth gives on how to think about the question. Booth gives the following five pieces of advice on the website.  I’ve added my own thoughts for each piece of advice below:

Be reflective.  This should go without saying, but often people don’t think deeply enough about what goes into their application.  Think about it this way – when the reviewer has finished reading your application, what are all of the things you want that person to know about you?  Have you shared those things in your answer in one way or another?  Introspection is a critical part of this process.

Interpret broadly.  Each applicant has a unique way of answering this question.  It should be personalized and customized based on you, not trying to force-fit what you think the admissions committee wants to know about you into some framework that doesn’t feel right or doesn’t fit.  The question allows for a lot of creativity in the response, and that is a tremendous advantage if done well.

Determine your own length.  They mean it when they say this.  I’ve already seen successful submissions that are in the 10-page range as well as half that or less.  There’s no right or wrong answer for length.  Each story will have its own natural length, and that must be determined by the format you use, the way in which you decide to tell your story, and other factors.  So when they ask you to determine your own length, they mean it.

Choose the format that works for you.  I’ll be writing about this in more detail in the next post, but I like to have people think outside the box here.  The initial instinct of many applicants is to write an essay.  But I challenge my clients to think differently in the way they tell their stories and use creativity to their advantage as a differentiator.

Think about you, not us.  The key message here is not to tell them what you think they want to hear.  Be original and sincere in your message.  But there are areas where it is perfectly fine to talk about Booth.  Your quest to get into Booth is part of who you are – sharing parts of that story is often essential (or necessary).

Hopefully, after you’re done with your Booth application – after you’ve looked at yourself objectively and pushed yourself out of your comfort zone creatively – you can look back and agree with me that it was your favorite application, too.

Good luck!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Rich Williams is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His specialties include consulting, finance, and nonprofit applicants. 

How to Identify Your Career Goals for MBA Applications

An MBA can open tons of doors for students who are looking to break into careers they never thought possible. The opportunities, the networking, and the access can offer unparalleled career choices to budding MBAs in some of the most exclusive industries in the world. Many applicants struggle to find the balance in deciding which careers they think they should list in their application as opposed to those they truly wish to pursue.

It does not have to be one versus the other. The value of a great MBA program is that you can get pretty close to having it all, but it starts with introspection, self-reflection and research. Before we dive into that aspect, it’s helpful to understand the formula with which MBA programs typically look at your career goals. So lets start with the first formula for your short-term goals. Admissions will determine whether your pre-MBA academic career + pre-MBA work experience + their MBA program will equal your short-term career goals. Now for the formula for your long-term goals which is pre-MBA academic career + pre-MBA work experience + their MBA program + short-term career goals = long-term goals. For both formulas admissions is looking to assess whether your goals are logical given your background and realistic given the expected growth you will encounter at their program. If they don’t feel their MBA program can help you reach your career goals than this is a red flag.

Now understanding that as an applicant you must connect the dots for admissions, how do you figure out what you really want to do? I propose starting very broad; think about what you would do if money or experience were not a factor. Would you work at the circus or in sports or travel for a living? Think about the things you enjoy doing in your free time or that hold a particular passion for you. Next, get a bit more reflective and think about where you excel professionally: is it as a communicator, leader or analytically? If possible, think even from a functional perspective to gain additional clarity. Now, identify the job that combines your personal and professional passions. If you are great at finance, but love sports, maybe a career as a General Manager of a Pro Sports team is the career for you. Take this approach to identify what a realistic MBA dream career would be.

But how do you get to a realistic short-term goal? Just work backwards, start by researching people in similar roles as your dream long-term career. Find out what steps they took to reach these goals and identify what relevant short-term goal would be realistic given your background. Focus on developing at least functional or industry skills through your short-term goal that will allow you to present your long-term goals as a realistic option. If focusing on industry vs. function, focus on whichever you have the least experience in pre-MBA so you are covering all of your bases.

Finding your dream job is never easy but utilizing your MBA to get closer to your long-term career should be the target of every MBA applicant.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

4 Things to Consider if You Are on the Waitlist for MBA Admission

You’ve taken the GMAT, polished up your essays, and secured that final recommendation and finally submitted what you thought was the perfect application. Unfortunately when decision day came around you did not receive that highly coveted “ADMITTED” message or even the dreaded “DENIED” message. So did the admissions team forget to give you a decision? No, you are in the b-school applicant’s version of purgatory, you’ve been WAITLISTED.

Now, being waitlisted is of course not the desired outcome when you submit an application but look on the brighter side, your application is still in play. Now what do you do next? Generally, a spot on the waitlist is a positive reflection of your candidacy by the admissions team but there was something in your application that made the committee reluctant to admit you outright. I’ve seen candidates with fantastic work experience, sterling recommendations, and top GMAT scores be placed on the waitlist. Schools are generally very tight-lipped when it comes to sharing details but issues can range from unclear career goals, to lack of impact at work to a weaker academic profile.

The first step is to decide whether you even want to remain on the waitlist. Each school has a different protocol when it comes to how they handle their waitlist so the first step is determining what rules apply. So if you have received admission elsewhere with a pending decision timeline or simply do not want to wait around for an answer, follow the relevant directions that apply to your situation. Now, assuming you want to remain on the waitlist, review the application you have submitted and take inventory of the strengths and weaknesses of your submission. Some schools will provide feedback but many will not so this review may fall upon you, the applicant.

Once you have determined potential weaknesses in your application it is time to see what you can change in the limited time you may have before a final decision is rendered. Let’s look at the different levers you can push to improve your profile.

GMAT:

Does your GMAT not fit comfortably in the school range? Is it below the average score? If so, it may be time to take the GMAT again. Set a timeline and determine whether you will have enough time to prep and take the exam.

Academic Performance:

Low GPAs and lack of analytical coursework (or within your work experience) can be seen as red flags on your profile. Identifying additional coursework at local universities, community colleges, or even online schools may help address concerns about your academic readiness.

Work Experience:

Have you received a promotion or new and increased responsibilities since submitting your application? If so, this is a great addition to your profile. Show the admissions committee that you have the requisite leadership and teamwork skills they are looking for and that you are making an impact at your organization.

Interest/Fit:

Does the school know how much you want to be there? Make sure your interest is clear. Engage with the school to highlight your desire to matriculate. Many schools will provide a point of contact in the department for waitlist candidates, use this person as your personal champion to help get you off the waitlist. Reach out to personal contacts who are students, alums, or professors who may be able to send letters of support in your favor.

However, make sure to follow the directions provided by the school. Certain schools want to limit contact with candidates and are only truly looking for substantive updates so please keep this in mind as you activate your waitlist strategy.

Leverage all of these additions to your profile to enhance your application and escape the waitlist.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

How to Show Fit at Kellogg School of Management

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is one of the top graduate business programs in the world. The school’s reputation for team-based learning and development of graduates with strong interpersonal skills has kept Kellogg at the top of various business school rankings over the last few decades. With a track-record of delivering a high volume of candidates to dream MBA careers in management consulting and marketing, Kellogg year in and year out is one of the most popular business schools for applicants.

Kellogg over the years has taken a unique approach to the application process with a focus on bringing in candidates that exhibit a strong fit with the school. Whether it is the new video essay or the fact that the school interviews every candidate, Kellogg is the one school where every candidate has a chance to showcase their fit. Here are some of the best ways to showcase fit at Kellogg:

Highlight Interpersonal Skills
Kellogg more than any other school seeks to build and develop a community based around strong interpersonal skills and a social mindset. There is a reason the school interviews every candidate and has now even incorporated a video essay into the application process. Kellogg is known for its unique student-led culture that emphasizes collaboration. What is even more unique about this collaborative mindset the school craves in candidates, is that Kellogg is not just seeking team players but instead applicants with a track record as leaders of teams. So utilize these various touchpoints to showcase your leadership and teamwork skills, which are points of emphasis in the Kellogg application. Self-reflection and maturity are also critical areas that the school clearly targets in applicants; the essay questions clearly prompt candidates to explore these areas, so take the bait!

Knowledge of Kellogg Programs
Want to know what Kellogg loves more than anything? Candidates who actually have done research on the program! Too often applicants submit generic wants and needs from target programs that could embody hundreds of other programs. Get specific on which academic, extra-curricular, and social programs drive your interest in the school while connecting the dots to your short and long-term career and personal development goals. Students at Kellogg are incredibly engaged throughout their time at the school and as alums, so showcase your track record of engagement in the past as well as plans for how you plan to add value to the greater Kellogg community in the future.

Get Personal
Kellogg really wants to get to know you. You know how I know this; they use every application component to assess fit. Whether it is through the deeply personal essays, the universal interviews of every applicant or the fit focused video essays, Kellogg is trying to piece together who you are. Show the school that you are open and honest and can dive deep into your motivations for not only pursuing an MBA but one at the Kellogg School of Management. Use the different application components to provide insights into how you handle people and problems in your personal and professional arenas. Don’t forget this is a professional application for grad school so make sure to link your personal anecdotes to real world skills and lessons and you will be standing out from the competition at Kellogg in no time.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

How to Build Strong Relationships with Your Recommenders

RecommenderAn often overlooked area of the application package is the recommendation letter. Many applicants take this very important component for granted when allocating time spent on their application. The recommendation process in its most optimal scenario should start months if not years in advance of an eventual submission. This is true because the quality of your recommendation like your resume is not earned during the time it takes to type it up but instead in the months and years you spend cultivating the experiences within the document.

Most candidates will simply blindly ask a superior at their company for a recommendation with little to no connection or background on the candidates life plans and career goals. The best recommenders can speak confidently about your unique contributions in the workplace and how these experiences position you as a strong candidate.

The best way to begin starts with the selection process. Identify people in your life that can speak to how you operate in professional settings; this can include people from the workplace, civic or volunteer organizations, and even school. You want to select the people who know you best and can speak to your strengths in a positive and comprehensive way.

Once you identify these 3 or 4 potential recommenders start to build these relationships. I feel the best way to do this is through consistent personal interactions. In person is ideal via lunches and coffee chats but email updates and phone calls are an adequate virtual substitute if the potential recommender is not local.  This should not feel like work, it is simply you connecting and cultivating a pre-existing relationship. As you build this relationship pick the recommender’s brain for advice on career related things to make them feel more invested in your future. With the relationship flourishing your request for them to write your recommendation will come as no surprise so utilize this improved relationship to better align on recommendation expectations. Writing recommendations is a huge undertaking for an already busy senior professional so the more vested they are in your success the better you can expect your recommendation to be.

Another key aspect of developing these relationships is continuing to excel in the capacity in which they know you. Whether it’s professionally, academically or civically this is not the time to slack. Use your performance as the real catalyst to build your relationship and get the recommendation you deserve.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

How to Write Breakthrough Application Essays for Kellogg

The Kellogg School of Management has always been known to be as innovative in the design of their unique academic community as they have been in the construction of their application. This year is no different as the school returns for the 2014-2015 application season with a stark departure from last year’s set of essays. Kellogg’s change has resulted in the school having some of the most introspective essay topics amongst top business schools. A school like Kellogg that has such a clear sense of the type of candidates they are looking for is looking for candidates to really open up in these essays.

Let’s take a look at each individual essay:

Essay 1 – Resilience. Perseverance. Grit. Call it what you will…. Challenges can build character. Describe a challenging experience you’ve had. How were you tested? What did you learn?

The three adjectives signal right away what Kellogg wants from you in this essay. It’s all about self-reflection and maturity. So open up! It is not enough to simply offer up a challenging experience for this essay. Admissions is also looking for your thought process during this situation. Where was the strife? What made the situation so challenging? How did you overcome this challenging experience? How did this experience impact you moving forward? Be introspective and dive deep into the specific of the situation. Breakthrough essays will put the reader right in the middle of the conflict early on and show NOT tell the specific steps the applicant took to overcome the challenge while including the corresponding thought process during this experience. Also, since essay 2 is focused on a professional experience, this essay may be an obvious opportunity to get a little personal with your choice of topic.

Essay 2 – Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others. Describe a professional experience that required you to influence people. What did this experience teach you about working with others, and how will it make you a better leader?

The core of the Kellogg MBA is development of interpersonal skills through collaborative learning. The school has always had the reputation as the premier teamwork school in the world. One rarely discussed nuance of the Kellogg MBA is that the school is not simply interested in developing team players but instead they want to develop leaders of teams. As you identify which experience makes sense here, select one that you can really tell a full and comprehensive story for. Too many candidates select anecdotes with limited scope, which really restricts the depth with which candidates can write.

A key trap many applicants fall into here is to not fully answer the question. The essay is about two things: leadership and influence; not addressing both will be a major missed opportunity to show off those fancy interpersonal skills Kellogg loves so much. The “influence” component of this essay is the more common area where candidate underwhelm. Breakthrough candidates will showcase how they have changed mindsets as leaders and the mechanisms by which they have successfully done so.

As with all Kellogg application components it is important to remain self-reflective while integrating the personal elements of your professional decision making into responses to these essays. Remain focused on these key tips and come decision day you will be seen as a breakthrough candidate by admissions.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

How to Prepare for Your Business School Interview

For many applicants the notification of an interview invite from your dream school is an exciting next step after an arduous application process. All of your hard work has finally boiled down to some initial success. However, typically the excitement soon turns to anxiety as candidates begin to realize they have no idea how to prepare for an admissions interview for business school. “Is it just like a regular job interview?” “What type of questions do they ask?” are just some of the common initial questions that can arise once an interview invitation is received.

The business school interview should not be viewed as anything new to you. It is more similar to the traditional job interview than you might expect. Just like a regular interview you are aiming to impress and the majority of the interview will be focused on YOU! The key difference with this interview is really just the goal, which in this case is admission to the MBA program of your dreams.

I would recommend preparing for your MBA interview the same way you prepare for any job interview, it starts with knowing your own personal background inside and out along with your motivations for that target business school. Then it’s researching your target school and identifying the aspects that make the school uniquely attractive to you. A nice way to do this is to pair up school-specific offerings of interest with an adjoining explanation for why that offering is uniquely attractive to you. This includes academic offerings, extracurricular activities/professional clubs, career support/recruiting strengths, etc.

Next I would identify common MBA questions like…

  • What Are Your Career Goals?
  • Why an MBA?
  • Why School X?
  • Walk Me Through Your Resume

As well as other common situational business school questions that address interpersonal skills like leadership, teamwork, and maturity. For the most part, these interviews have very few surprises, and you will know what’s coming, which makes the prep all the more important. Preparing conversational responses in a script format to each of the common interview questions can be a method for those that prefer a more structured approach to their interview prep. But make sure to incorporate elements of your personality into your script to avoid coming off as too rehearsed.

Also, breakthrough candidates will make sure to incorporate the “I” of what they accomplished into their script. Make sure to connect the dots with regards to the steps you’ve taken in your career, and remain structured in your responses. Utilizing the S.T.A.R format (Situation-Task-Action-Result) and talking in buckets – “There are 3 Reasons Why I Want to Go to Fuqua” are other tactics one can sneak into their preparation for the interview.

Finally, take particular note of how the interview style of certain schools can affect your responses. Some schools like Kellogg have “blind” interviews so the interviewer will not have seen your application, so they will not have access to important information like GPA, GMAT, essays etc. Other styles can be influenced by the type of interviewer (Alum vs. Student vs. Admissions) or the location (On Campus vs. Off Campus) which can dictate the type of information you are prepared to share as well as list on your resume for the interview.

Don’t let the interview be the end of your business school journey, prepare accordingly and come decision day you will be all smiles!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

7 Must-Have Items for Your Business School Recommenders

RecommenderA lot of time and effort for candidates is spent on areas like the GMAT, essays, and the resume. However, an equally important component of the MBA application is consistently overlooked. Business school recommendations are an integral part of any successful candidate’s application because they give the only external evaluation of an applicant’s work experience and career progression. This component of the application tends not to get as much focus from prospective MBAs, which can be a grave mistake come decision day. As applications become more detailed and specific, so do recommendation forms so the days of blanket recommendations are long gone.

Typically recommenders are senior people in organizations so with all of their own personal obligations writing recommendations can be a tedious act amid their busy schedules. So make the process easier for them by creating a recommendation package. The recommendation package should arm your recommenders with all the tools they need to write you a breakthrough recommendation.

The following elements should be included in your package:

1. Resume
Give your recommender the full picture of your professional background especially if your current job/role is not your only career stop. The resume is also helpful because it includes academic experience and some personal interests in your “Activities” or “Extra-Curricular” section that your recommender may otherwise be unaware of.

2. Reminder of Accomplishments
Highlight the great things you have done while working with your recommender, this reminder will make it easy for them to get specific in the evaluation form.

3. Sample Essays
I would limit this to a Why MBA/Career Goals essay just so you both are on the same page on your motivations for pursuing a graduate education in business.

4. Application Positioning
Help your recommender understand your interest in each specific school and provide some insight on how you will position yourself.

5. Recommendation Questions
Some schools will have the questions available for candidates for others it will be sent directly to the recommender. Either way a quick internet search should pull these up for most schools.

6. Recommendation Question Deconstruction
Just like essay questions, the recommendation questions are not always as straightforward as one might imagine. Help your recommender connect the dots on what the admissions committee is looking for here.

7. Timeline
This might be one of the most important aspects of your package. Remember YOU are applying to business school, not them. It is in your best interest to make sure they are clear on all dates and deadlines. A missed deadline can equate to you missing a target admissions round. I even like to give recommenders a hard deadline that is in advance of the real one, so even if they miss your self-imposed deadline, which most will, you are still in good shape.

Take advantage of these tips and help your recommenders help you!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

How to Identify Leadership in Your MBA Applications

Leadership is the most valued of MBA interpersonal skills. Sure teamwork, maturity and the million other skills admissions committees are looking for you to showcase are all important, but nothing signals MBA like those vaunted leadership skills. Everybody wants to highlight those pesky leadership skills, but does everybody have the ammunition to pull this off? The quick answer is, YES! Whether you know it or not every candidate from the most qualified to the least qualified usually has some leadership examples that can be crafted into a compelling essay.

So how do we start to identify and uncover these leadership experiences? Let’s look into some of the bigger experiential categories to find our leadership stories.

Academia

These are your formative years and tend to provide some nice coming of age leadership stories. You generally do not want to pull too many leadership stories prior to college because it may signal that you have not accomplished much recently, so try and keep things relatively current. Academia is a great place to uncover leadership stories because it is a very similar setting to what b-school will be like in the sense that you are surrounded by peers. Look into the big and small of when you interacted with others and parse situations when you led. Teamwork and leadership go hand in hand so if the outright leadership examples don’t jump out to you then start with teamwork examples and leadership should follow.

Extra-Curricular

Another big area for leadership examples is with extra-curriculars. Have you had leadership responsibilities in a fraternity/sorority, athletics, or in a student club? Leadership stories from this category tend to really highlight interpersonal skills well particularly where challenging situations occur. This is a great area to mine essay responses for these types of questions. Also, these situations tend to be a bit more interesting because of how social in nature they are so don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through here.

Civic Obligations/ Volunteer

What organizations have you lead or influenced in or out of the workplace? This category is generally for post-undergraduate life and tends to illuminate personal passions for applicants. Do not be concerned if you weren’t the Executive Director of the non-profit or raised the most money for the Red Cross initiative it’s all about what role did you play and how your leadership skills factored in.

Work Experience

This is probably the most obvious and easiest area for candidates to highlight leadership. Remember just because you do not have formal leadership responsibilities does not mean leadership did not take place. Think of the project, products, and work streams you’ve led. These are the areas most candidates will thrive. Make sure to set the stakes in your examples so the reader knows how important this leadership example was for your career and the company as a whole.

Leadership can exist anywhere, canvas these categories in your personal narrative and find the examples that showcase you as the leader you will be on campus.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

6 Reasons You Need at Least 6 Weeks to Finish Your MBA Applications

It’s almost December, and in just a few weeks we will begin hearing from applicants with only a week or two ahead of their deadlines looking for last-minute consulting services.

Often, they’re too late to make significant improvements.  If you haven’t already started on your Round 2 applications, here are 6 reasons why it’s crucial to stop shaking it off to Taylor Swift’s new album and begin working on your applications today:

1. You can recycle surprisingly little among different schools’ essay questions.

Every year, we see clients who expect that they can write essays for one application and simply strip out the name of one school and insert the name of another.  This is especially tempting with the current trend in open ended questions.  Rachel, a member of our Ultimate Admissions Committee and Head Consultant from Wharton, says “it’s more important than ever to consider the culture and environment of the school.”  Admissions officers see thousands of essays every year, and they can spot a repurposed essay from a mile away. Applying to multiple schools takes time!

2. Significant school research is imperative to success.
Deciding on what business schools to apply to can be as emotionally charged as deciding if you’re Team Peeta or Team Gale, Team Swift or Team Spotify.  Except now you’re deciding between Team Harvard or Team Stanford and this will be a life changing decision with a significant financial component. The schools are looking for candidates who’ve approached business school with a mature and thorough decision making process.  In order to write impactful essays that also demonstrate fit, you will need to do more than check rankings and click through their website.  Effective research often includes conversations with current students and recent alums, visiting campus and attending info sessions, or at least diving into comprehensive resources like the  Veritas Prep Essential Guides. Lack of research leads to generic essays, which are not compelling to admissions officers.

3. Impactful letters of recommendation take time.
Your recommender is Team YOU and their  #1 job is to be your biggest cheerleader. Most recommenders, just like you, are busy people with their own professional and personal deadlines.  Many recommenders may even be tempted to have you write the recommendation.  However, recommendations written by you are never as strong as those written by the supervisor themselves.  To have an effective recommendation, you will need to spend time preparing a “cheat sheet” of accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses (all with examples) that will enable your recommender to write the recommendation themselves.  Nearly every school will ask your recommender to rate you on a number of attributes and so you want them to be well informed.  Every recommendation is different, so you must provide your recommenders plenty of time and support – they are helping you out!

4. Your essays require review from multiple people.
Applying to business school is not the time to lock yourself in a dark room, light some incense, and go at your essays alone.  Reaching out to a few friends who really understand the MBA admissions process or your Veritas Prep admissions consultants (or both!), and gaining multiple perspectives on your essays is incredibly valuable.  An informed outside reviewer can help you see that you’re not answering the question or they may have suggestions on how to tell your story more effectively.  But this process of seeking input and incorporating feedback takes time.  Be sure to reserve enough time to get at least a couple of different perspectives on each essay.

5. Introspection matters.

“The journey you take in applying to business school can almost feel like you’re baring your soul to a stranger, but taking the time to reflect on what makes you tick and being honest with your strengths and soft spots will always make a stronger and more compelling application.” – Kenyata, Head Consultant Chicago (Booth)
Perhaps the biggest mistake we see our clients make in their initial drafts of essays is that they are too generic. Admissions officers have your resume and see what you have done.  They are more interested in learning how you have made important decisions in your life, why you chose a certain path and what you have learned from your choices.  Dedicating time to the self discovery process is crucial to writing compelling and successful essays.

6. Short essays are more challenging than you think. 
Dozie, Head Consultant from Kellogg, tells his clients, “the shorter the essay the more each individual word will be scrutinized by the admissions committee, so make every word count!”  We’ve seen MBA admissions essays get much shorter over the years, but this isn’t necessarily something to celebrate because you think these essays will require less time.  Actually, the opposite is true. It becomes even more challenging to share interesting stories and differentiate yourself from other applicants in just 500-800 words.  Short essays require a lot of outlining and dedication to making every word significant.  Applicants first drafts end up being double the word count so be sure to leave enough time to decide what to cut.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Jennifer Nakao

How to Get Started on Your Business School Application Essays

You’ve made the decision to apply to business school and you begin sorting through a virtual pile of applications essay topics. You’ve written essays throughout high school and college, and for some candidates even other graduate programs like law school, but these business school essays are different. The schools seem to want something a bit different from you this time around.

Business school essays differ from other traditional essays because of what they require of the writer. Succeeding with this unique type of essay requires introspection, maturity, clarity, focus, preparation, and of course good writing skills don’t hurt either. Understanding that these are the necessary inputs is the first step in creating breakthrough essays.

The next step, and probably the most important, is creating what I like to call “mini-stories.”  The thought behind these mini-stories is that they are designed to be independent of the essay questions asked by schools and more-so select anecdotes that you choose to reflect the 4 dimensions of Leadership, Innovation, Teamwork and Maturity emphasized by many MBA programs. The focus is on highlighting your strongest and most in-depth personal, professional, and extra-curricular life experiences. You will later apply these mini-stories to specific essay questions asked from each school.

To get started I would aim for 5-8 mini-stories covering a diverse set of experiences. With each story include a short description and then some supporting bullets describing some of the players involved and why the situation was transformative. Make sure to especially highlight the impact and what you specifically learned from the experience. After you have created your set of mini-stories its time to utilize all of your hard work. Now don’t start writing any essays yet, you’re not quite ready.

I’m sure you’ve already done a bit of research but take another pass at exploring your target schools and their unique DNA. Review recent press clippings, news and information published by the school, and hold conversations with current students and recent alums to get an in-depth feel for the program. Now take a look at the essay questions of your target schools utilizing your recent review of the school to identify not only what the question is directly asking you but also what the school is seeking to learn about you.

Once you determine this for each school match up your mini-stories to the corresponding application essay. As you decide which mini-stories to select keep in mind that each school specific set of essays should showcase the diversity within your profile and paint a complete picture of your candidacy. So be judicious with your essay selections and make sure each one builds upon the other. The essay writing process does not have to be daunting, follow these steps and you will be writing breakthrough essays before you know it.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

How to Utilize the Re-Applicant Essay

A year ago you put together what you thought was the perfect application at your dream school and when the smoke cleared things did not quite work out as you expected. So you’re back at it again, a year has past since your last application, and you’re ready for another shot at admissions glory at your dream school. Of course you spent the year wisely improving your profile and now its time to tackle the re-applicant essay, but what should you include?

The optional essay should be all about showing admissions how you have changed (and hopefully improved) in the interim time between applications. The first step should be conducting a personal year in review. Take inventory of all the great things you accomplished over the year and frame them for admissions. Let’s look at the ideal areas candidates can mark improvement in their profiles in the re-applicant essay.

GPA/Courses:

Did you suffer from a low GPA or poor performance in analytical classes? Show the admissions team how you improved or counteracted past poor performance. If you took additional coursework or gained another degree in between applications this is a great place to showcase all of your hard work.

GMAT:

The GMAT tends to be one of the biggest reasons students believe they are denied admission. If you made a major improvement on your GMAT, share it in this essay. But don’t stop there. Share your hard work and how this score is a more accurate reflection of your aptitude and watch as potential red flags disappear in your profile.

Resume:

Were you really ready for business school? Some applicants suffer from lack of work-related accomplishments, impact, and management experience resulting in tough news come decision day. If you have received a promotion, more responsibility, led others, closed big deals or otherwise made a major impact at your company – the school wants to know. Don’t waste this opportunity to highlight the great work you did during the year. Additionally, changing jobs or careers warrants a mention as well. New roles can really show growth, round out a candidate’s profile, and eliminate skill gaps for the applicant.

Career Goals:

Have your career goals changed or even simply been refined? Lack of clarity with regards to career steps post-MBA can signal lack of research and immaturity when it comes to the process. Schools want to admit candidates they feel can be placed in their careers of interest. If in the past you have identified goals that don’t sync up well with your background or the specialties of that particular school, this may have been a reason for being denied. Re-evaluate your goals and make sure they are well aligned with your background and your target school. Don’t let this opportunity to explain any changes in your career trajectory pass you by.

If you’ve done your job in between your last application, writing the re-applicant essay should be the final piece in helping you claim a spot on decision day.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

5 Common Misperceptions About Military Applicants and How to Overcome Them

Military applicants to business school represent a non-traditional applicant pool but nonetheless a demographic that is consistently represented each year in the application process.  That said, it is no secret that many of the gatekeepers at top MBA programs most often have very little real world experience with the military.

While admissions committees tend to value the leadership experiences and professionalism military candidates bring to the MBA classroom, misperceptions can abound about other areas of strength and weakness among military applicants.  Accordingly, a critical part of your MBA application strategy should include understanding what these misperceptions and stereotypes are and how to overcome them in your application.

 Top 5 Most Common Misperceptions About Military Applicants (in no particular order):

1. You don’t have control of your military career. 

Use your applications to talk about the opportunities you have created for yourself and challenging roles you have taken on of your own volition.  Let the admissions committees know that you aren’t simply moving up the ranks because it is time, but rather seeking out challenging assignments and driving your own career.

2. You don’t have experience thinking outside of the box or coming up with creative solutions.

As a consultant I find this misperception most frustrating and damaging because, regardless of service, most of the military clients I’ve worked with are not only coming up with creative solutions, they are doing so in stressful scenarios with limited resources.  Don’t be afraid to highlight these experiences!

3. Your teamwork skills may not be as robust as your civilian peers.

Teamwork is an important quality the admissions teams seek from all applicants and the military applicant pool is no exception.  Admissions committees can be cautious about applicants who spend too much time talking about top-down leadership.  Make sure to emphasize your lateral, team-based leadership as well in order to help admissions committees understand you are great at working in a group setting as well as at giving orders.

4. You are a good leader but not necessarily a good follower.

This idea is based on the notion that as an officer you are trained to lead subordinates.  But as anyone who has served understands, you also follow a chain of command.  While your MBA applications should always emphasize your leadership experience it can be an effective strategy to include a well-placed mention of when you have let someone else take the reigns.

5. Your recommenders don’t really know you that well.

Recommendations can be an important point of distinction for military candidates in the application process.  It isn’t uncommon for military recommendations to come from supervisors who are accustomed to writing military performance reports.  The style of military performance reports is predicated on effusive language (my #1, best of, etc.) and military supervisors may make the mistake of using that same approach in academic recommendations.  Without the use of specific examples, this can come across as being distant or reflecting a supervisor who really doesn’t know you all that well.  Coach your recommenders to give specific examples of your successes, compare you directly with your peers and discuss your potential for success outside of the military.

As you develop your application with these considerations in mind you will differentiate yourself from your peers and assuage any perceived concerns the admissions teams may have about your ability to perform in their program and excel in the private sector.   Just as you would prepare a briefing with your target audience in mind, prepare your MBA applications with the same awareness.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Emily Sawyer Kegerreis is a Head Consultant at Veritas Prep and specializes in the career development needs of transitioning military veterans through her company, CareerWise Consulting. Take a look at her other post here