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

What to Expect with the Video MBA Essay Questions

Written essay questions have been the foundation of MBA applications for as long as we can remember but some leading graduate business schools have introduced a new wrinkle over the last few years. Recent technological advances have made video essays a reality within the admissions process at top b-schools around the world. However, there’s no need to worry, this new addition at schools like Kellogg, Yale and Rotman are not meant to stump you.

These video essays are genuinely so the admissions committee can “get to know” the candidate on a more personal level.  Therefore, the applicant should try to be friendly and open about the questions (while still being appropriate, of course) rather than overly stiff & formal. The video provides a little glimpse into the personality traits of all applicants. So don’t expect to see anything really tricky or challenging, such as a mini-case, these are designed to be much more personal.

Specifically, admissions is looking to see how you come across in an unscripted, conversational moment.  The important thing is to convey confidence and answer the question directly, within the time allotted, in an articulate manner.  As always highlighting the core elements of Leadership, Innovation, Teamwork and Maturity that business schools covet within your responses will go a long way in executing a successful response. If you’re an international candidate, take the video essay seriously. Because for admissions, this is also another way to assess the English ability of international applicants so additional prep may be required.

Speaking of preparation, do it! Prep some responses to common interview questions, again these questions are not meant to be brain teasers just personal questions you should have already sorted through, about yourself and your interest in the school, prior to completing your application.

This is the kind of thing where I do think over-preparation could potentially backfire since you don’t know what the question will be, and the objective of the exercise is to be yourself and have fun.  The important thing is to be flexible. Your personality during the video essay should be consistent with who you have portrayed yourself to be in the application (which should be consistent with who you are) while factoring how admission perceives you (young candidate, international, brain, etc). With this being said remain professional in your tone, language and dress to ensure admissions continues to view you as a serious candidate.

Finally, each video essay school has a slightly different process when it comes to this exercise. Help yourself out by reviewing each aspect of the process diligently so there are no surprises when it is time to complete.

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!

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.

Prospective Student Days for MBA-Bound Military Veterans

Each year military veterans typically make up around 5% of the incoming classes as top MBA programs in the U.S., making veterans an important demographic for business schools. Prospective military applicants have a secret weapon for business school applications not available to applicants from other industries:  armed forces clubs. These clubs are a great way to learn more about individual programs in addition to providing a wealth of insider information. Whether you are just beginning your b-school research or planning on submitting applications this season, one of the first things I recommend to all military applicants is to reach out to these clubs.

Some schools have a central contact point while others, like Fuqua, go as far as listing the names of all their current students who are veterans, along with their contact information. Regardless of how you connect with these clubs and their members, you’ll find they are more than willing to help you answer questions and chat about their experience as veterans. You will also get a sense of what programs may be the best fit for you as a result of interacting with members of the current class.

If your schedule allows, go one step further and take advantage of the military prospective student events being held around the country at business schools this fall.  Military visit days are typically daylong sessions complete with admissions FAQ sessions, campus tours, class visits and the opportunity to network with current students.

Of the top ten MBA programs in the U.S., seven hold a yearly military day event.  While the majority of these days happen between September and November, Tuck and MIT host their military day events in the spring.  Here’s a rundown of the military events at top programs this fall to put on your radar screen:

HBS Military Prospective Student Day, September 26

http://hbs.campusgroups.com/afaa/home/

Wharton Veteran Prospective Applicant Day, September 25

http://whartonveterans.org

NYU Stern Military Event, Saturday October 4

By invitation only, deadline has passed to apply.

http://www.stern.nyu.edu/programs-admissions/full-time-mba/students/military-veterans/military-event

Duke Veteran’s Symposium for Military Applicants, October 10-11

https://events.fuqua.duke.edu/veterans/

Kellogg Military Visit Day, October 17-18 http://kellogg.campusgroups.com/veterans/web_page?url_name=about&club_url2=veterans

Columbia, Veterans Matter@ Columbia Event, November 10

http://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/programs-admissions/why-a-columbia-mba/community/diversity-columbia/veterans

Cornell Military Preview Day, November 13, 2014

https://www.johnson.cornell.edu/About/Veterans-at-Johnson/Military-Preview-Day

Michigan Ross Military Preview Day, November 15

https://michiganross.umich.edu/events/military-preview-day

All of these events, with the exception of Stern, which is by invitation only, are open to anyone with a military background. Whether you are active duty and just beginning to research business school or a veteran already planning on R2 applications, attending these tailored events and reaching out to Armed Forces Clubs will give you a strategic advantage in the application process. For the events that have passed, keep these in mind if you plan to apply next year!

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.

Get to Know Your MBA Professors

Over the summer, one of my Veritas Prep clients from last year asked me if I had any advice for him before school started. Offering advice is what I do for a living, so it’s a safe bet that I did, but he probably knew that before he asked. This 3-part blog series grew out of that initial off-the-cuff email response and is designed for anyone in any stage of business school, whether you’re still researching schools, walking onto campus for the first time, or have graduation in the near future. Your two years will fly by, and you want to make sure you graduate without saying “If only I had ….”

Part Three – Tear Down that Glass Wall!

If you went to a large undergraduate school, the concept of getting to know a professor might sound pretty unrealistic. She might have been just a speck in the front of an enormous lecture hall, or graduate TAs might have been your primary instructors. If you attended a smaller school, the faculty might have seemed more approachable, but the age and experience gaps could still be a little intimidating. Either way, you might have felt as if an invisible glass wall stood between the class and The Mysterious Professor.

In business school you’ll find the interaction can be different. It’s not uncommon to have a professor whose age makes them closer to a peer, and because professors encourage students to bring real-world experiences into the classroom, sometimes the teacher/student roles are reversed. Although the faculty still garners well-deserved respect from their students, the barrier between “us” and “them” is much less rigid than it was in undergrad.

Don’t misunderstand – professors are still authority figures and based on that alone, they can seem inaccessible. They’ll issue your grade at the end of the course, and the mere prospect of a cold call from them can induce fear into even the most over-confident investment banker. Some are downright famous. And oh yeah, they can be scary smart. (Imagine my cohort’s surprise when, on the first day of our first semester operations class, our professor called on us by name! It turns out he had memorized all of our faces and names, using the pre-Facebook version of Facebook.)

But don’t be intimidated – breaking through the wall has many benefits. At the risk of stating the obvious, you could learn something. That course you’re taking represents a mere sliver of what she knows about the subject. You can also bridge the gap between academics and career development. Many professors maintain outside consulting relationships with companies and can actually be quite good sources of career advice and even job leads. (And speaking of job leads, sometimes they need second-year students as TA’s.) Some professors even act as angel investors, so if you’re entrepreneurially minded, you might land some good advice at minimum or an investor at most.

Some schools make it easy to do this. Wharton offers a popular Take A Professor To Lunch program. My team did this several times, and it was well worth it. We loved that our buttoned-up accounting professor, known for wearing suits, panty hose and heels on class days, showed up for lunch in jeans and flip flops. Professors! They’re just like us! Darden is famous for “First Coffees” – a dedicated time after the first class of the day when students, faculty, and visitors all gather.

If there’s no organized program at your school, you’ll have to put forth some effort, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard. Even the most famous professors still have office hours; professors at Darden even have an open door policy. If you’re in their class, go visit. Bring questions about something discussed in a lecture. If you aren’t in the professor’s class but have a shared career or research interest, reach out to request a brief meeting. Now, not every single professor will welcome this level of contact, and that’s fine. If you encounter indifference, don’t sweat it and don’t take it personally. Just move on.

Professors are busy folks – among teaching MBAs (and maybe undergrads and PhDs, too), outside consulting, and of course their research and writing, time is at a premium – so be respectful. Don’t hog the ENTIRE office hour. Do your research – at minimum, read their bio on the school’s website, look over a few of their publications, or leaf through their latest book. Bring some specific questions that prove you’re exactly the sort of curious, well-prepared student who’s worth their time. Be cautious, though, about connecting with your professors on social media – to maintain boundaries, some discourage Facebook or LinkedIn invites while you’re still a student.

If you’re still in the application process, listen up. These very professors will have a profound influence on you, so do your due diligence. When you visit campus, observe the interactions between faculty and students. Ask students how accessible their professors are outside of class. If your school visit offers an opportunity to meet the faculty, take advantage of it. Ask about the protocol for reaching out to professors during the admissions process. Schools sometimes discourage this, but if you have a specific area of interest, the admissions office might be willing to facilitate an introduction.

Making a relatively small effort to tear down the wall between the front of the room and the back of the room can pay big dividends. You’ll at least end up just that much smarter; you might end up with a mentor, an investor or even a lifelong friend!

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!

Rachel is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, and Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. Her specialties include consulting, older and part-time applicants, and international candidates.

How to Succeed as a Young MBA Applicant

GMAT ScoreAge is nothing but a number, is how the old saying goes, but when it comes to the world of business school admissions, this particular number can negatively signal much, much more. “Immature”, “not ready”, “lack of work experience”, “no leadership” are some of the thoughts admissions officers toss around when discussing the applications of young candidates.

The first step to success here is to really understand how a young candidate is viewed by admissions. This is important because the only way to properly set your application strategy is to understand how decision makers will view your profile. Understanding this and creating a strategy that properly counteracts the general perception of young candidates and the specific perception of your profile will set you on your way to MBA application success.

Next, it is time to really do your homework. What is the subject you ask? You! Focus on your motivations for pursuing a graduate education in business and really determine if right now is the ideal time to pursue your MBA. If you don’t ask yourself these very simple questions, I promise you, the admissions officers will! Another important question to address is “What are your career goals?” This again has to be very thought out, clear, and make sense given your pre-MBA work experience and targeted coursework. Admissions will scrutinize these areas even more for younger candidates, since they pose red flags because of limited work experience in comparison to peers.

These areas are of particular importance because admissions officers use these questions to gauge maturity, self-awareness, and clarity of goals for candidates. They want to make sure you have done your research and truly are ready for business school. Being ready and prepared for business school is a great start but being qualified on paper is even more important for younger candidates when compared to “traditional” candidates. As a more recent college graduate, admissions will scrutinize GPA and GMAT scores more closely in comparison to a more seasoned applicant with many years of work experience and potentially more leadership and teamwork experiences.

You are ready and prepared for business school, qualified on paper, but what value would your presence in the classroom bring to others? Classroom discussion and group work are the hallmarks of graduate business education, if from your work experience it is not clear the contributions you would bring to the MBA community it will be difficult to breakthrough at top programs. Clearly articulating your value add to your target program via essay topics, in-person interviews, and resume construction will round out your profile and dismiss the majority of concerns as a younger candidate, and finally ensure that when it comes to your application, age is nothing but a number.

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.

3 Reasons That Extracurricular Activities Are Essential For Your Business School Applications

Do I need to re-take my GMAT? Is my GPA high enough? Do I have enough years of work experience? These are just a slew of the questions we receive from MBA applicants every year.

One question that is rarely asked and often overlooked is “Have I done enough outside of the office and classroom?” Business schools are looking in-depth at all aspects of the application process from the essays to the GMAT score to the resume. One area that candidates either forget or neglect to highlight in their application or cultivate throughout their academic and professional careers is extra-curricular activities. Admissions officers at MBA programs around the world take this aspect very seriously, and here are three reasons why you should do the same.

1) They Make You Well-Rounded

Extra-curricular activities can show you as a well-rounded candidate. The application process can be very much focused on your academic background and professional work experience, leaving many candidates forgetting that business schools are actually looking to admit real people and not just GMAT scores or GPAs.

Candidates that not only have substantial extra-curriculars but also choose to highlight them in their application via essays, interviews, etc can really stand out in the process. These activities that can range from fraternity membership to volunteer programs and even intense hobbies like marathon running and triathlons. The importance of these activities is the underlying soft-skills that are involved with participation. From leadership to teamwork, extra-curricular activities are often the best way for professionals to develop these skills. Also, extra-curriculars help highlight personal passions and interests of candidates, which again can humanize an otherwise austere profile or substantiate a candidate that is already compelling on paper.

2) They Show Commitment

Extra-curricular activities can show you as a candidate who can commit to people, groups, activities, and causes. Admissions see long-term commitment via extra-curriculars as a positive. A track record of past engagement by a candidate signals to admissions that the same candidate will be similarly involved on campus in their MBA program.

3) They Show Personal Contributions to the Community

Extra-curricular activities can show you as a candidate who will contribute something to your business school community. The focus of most business school applicants is on what they can get out of their target business school community; something of almost equal importance is to showcase what you will bring to that same community. What will your classmates learn from you? What clubs do you plan to lead on-campus? All of this can be traced back to your past performance and your track record of giving back to organizations and activities you have been a part of.

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 Ways to Make the Most of Your Business School Experience

Wharton AdmissionsOver the summer, one of my Veritas Prep clients from last year asked me if I had any advice for him before school started. Offering advice is what I do for a living, so it’s a safe bet that I did, but he probably knew that before he asked. This 3-part blog series grew out of that initial off-the-cuff email response and is designed for anyone in any stage of business school, whether you’re still researching schools, walking onto campus for the first time, or have graduation in the near future. Your two years will fly by, and you want to make sure you graduate without saying “If only I had ….”

Part One – Rapunzel is not a role model

For better or worse, b-schools can be Rapunzel-like in their isolation – self-contained in their own buildings or even on completely separate campuses. Even the way we refer to many of them emphasizes their separation from the rest of the University – it’s “Wharton,” “Ross,” or “Darden” – not “Penn,” “Michigan,” or “Virginia.” It’s easy to spend the entire two years of your MBA experience locked up in the seclusion of Wharton, Ross, or Darden, completely forgetting that you’re also a student at Penn, Michigan, or Virginia. Embracing the isolation, however, really limits your overall graduate school experience.

Confession: I’m guilty as charged. Although I received two separate pieces of paper at graduation – one in Latin from “Universitas Pennsylvaniensis” and, just in case my Latin was rusty, another in English from The Wharton School, many of my friends and I ventured into non-Wharton buildings pretty much only when we had to. With the exception of our favorite library, which was so beautiful we’d gladly trek across campus for it, we only ventured out for a random final held at the nursing school, a guest speaker at the education school, or some other mandatory event. When I graduated, I didn’t really feel as if I’d earned that Latin-inscribed piece of parchment.

In hindsight, it wouldn’t have been difficult to do things differently, and it won’t be hard for you, either. Here are a few fairly easy ways to connect with your entire university and graduate as a proud “UCLA” alum as well as a proud “Anderson” alum:

  • Show your university pride. Buy a sweatshirt or a cap or t-shirt that says “Michigan.”
  • Wear the above when you show your school spirit by taking your study group to cheer on a university team at a sporting event. If you’re at Michigan, you might choose football, but if that’s not your thing, you can see the lacrosse team, the gymnastics team, or the water polo team. They’ll be glad you came.
  • Explore the many cultural opportunities at your university, and try something out of your comfort zone. You might find a contemporary dance performance, a music recital, an art exhibit, experimental theater, or even a museum right on campus. As a current student, you’ll get a discount on the likes of which you’ll never see again, so now’s the time to explore.
  • Take a class outside the business school. Even if you’re not a dual degree student, most schools permit, and even encourage, you to take a certain number of credits elsewhere. Wharton, for example, allows up to four electives from other schools, and Stanford allows 15 credits outside the business school. Of course, the trade-off is that you’ll “lose” a class in the b-school, so you’ll have to weigh the cost vs. benefit. But the advantage could be tremendous – if you want to work in real estate development, that public policy class on urban planning could be just the ticket. Besides, you’ll expand your network and meet some cool people who think outside NPV, IRR and ROI.

I can hear what you’re thinking – “How will I have time for all that? I have classes! And job interviews! And social events!” Okay – visiting the museum might take a couple of hours, attending a sporting event a few more, depending on your tailgating plans. But after graduation, you can’t go back and have a do-over. So just do it, and just do it now. Bring a friend or two and turn your excursion into a social event.

If you’re still in the researching / applying phase of business school – this advice is for you, too. Don’t limit your research to the business school – make sure you look at the university as a whole and find out what opportunities it offers. When you visit, explore beyond the business school campus and take a tour of the university (yes, that same tour with the high school students and their parents). Because you really shouldn’t spend two years of your life locked up like Rapunzel. There’s an entire university out there just waiting for you to climb out of the tower and explore!

Check back next week for Part 2!

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!

Rachel is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, and Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. Her specialties include consulting, older and part-time applicants, and international candidates.

Veritas Prep Consultant Spotlight: Get to know Kenyata, Chicago Booth MBA

Applying to the world’s most elite business schools requires much more than a high GMAT score and strong resume.  Self refection, creating your personal brand, understanding school fit, addressing profile weaknesses and capitalizing on your unique strengths are essential in crafting a successful application.  Don’t go at this alone – we can help!  Veritas Prep has the most stellar MBA admissions consulting team in the industry and we can help you achieve your MBA goals!

At Veritas Prep, you have the opportunity to work with the ideal consultant for your needs.  We have the most diverse and experienced MBA admissions consulting team ever assembled.

Get to know one right now:


Kenyata: Head Consultant, Chicago (Booth) MBA

Specialties:

  • Engineer/Scientist
  • Entrepreneur
  • Low GPA/GMAT score
  • Marketing
  • Underrepresented minorities
  • Media/Entertainment/Sports
  • Part-time/EMBA applicants

What do you find most rewarding about helping others apply to business school?

“I love helping others start the journey of pursuing their dreams and reaching their full potential through the experience of business school.  The application process becomes a bit of a self-discovery journey. The people I help find they grow a little after they have done the introspective exercise of exposing their vulnerability and celebrating their achievements.”

What is the most common application pitfall you help clients work through?

“Not having a clear story or a clear plan of action post MBA.  Many are afraid to commit to a direction because they view the experience as a life exploration.  I always remind them that it’s important to at least START with a plan (even if it evolves through their matriculation) and link that plan to their life’s journey to this point, creating a clear story of who they are as people.”

What did you find most challenging when you applied to business school and how did you overcome?

“My biggest challenge applying to business school was positioning my shortcomings in my application (i.e. low GMAT score, a couple bad semesters in undergrad, etc).  I think I was able to overcome these challenges by balancing these gaps with my achievements both academically and professionally.  I basically constructed the narrative that I only attend top tier academic institutions and work for top tier organizations, and although I’ve lost some battles, I’ve won the war.”

Where can I get the most delicious deep-dish pizza in Chicago?

Arenello’s in Glenwood… Chicken Sausage Deep Dish to DIE for.


Want to work with Kenyata?  Learn more about him here, or find the expert who’s right for you here!  Visit our Team page today.

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!

Veritas Prep Consultant Spotlight: Get to Know Heidy, Stanford MBA

Applying to the world’s most elite business schools requires much more than a high GMAT score and strong resume.  Self reflection, creating your personal brand, understanding school fit, addressing profile weaknesses and capitalizing on your unique strengths are all essential in crafting a successful application.  Don’t go at this alone – we can help!  Veritas Prep has the most stellar MBA admissions consulting team in the industry and we can help you achieve your MBA goals!

At Veritas Prep, you have the opportunity to work with the ideal consultant for your needs.  We have the most diverse and experienced MBA admissions consulting team ever assembled.

Get to know one right now:


Heidy: Head Consultant, Stanford MBA

Specialties Include:

  • Consulting, Entrepreneur
  • Low GPA/GMAT score
  • Marketing
  • Underrepresented minorities
  • International candidates

What is the most common application pitfall you help clients work through?

“GMAT (standardized test scores) and GPA (school grades) can be such limiting mental barriers for most clients and sometimes prevent them from putting together a great application.  I often hear clients beating themselves down over their lower than average scores or being overly confident (and thus, not putting much effort on the rest of the application) over their high scores. Both of those groups oversee the fact that a successful application goes beyond quantitative measurements. The application should be a well-rounded package that makes sense, is consistent and well put-together.”

What cuisine is best in the bay area?

“Being a Mexico-born Chinese living in California for over a decade, I enjoyed all types of cuisines from Asian to Latin to Mediterranean. What is common among all these cuisines is freshness and accessibility, thanks to the happy produce that grows in the local, sunny lands. From world-class wineries to organic artisan bakers and cheese makers to multi-cultural influences, California is a paradise for the most exquisite of palates.”

What fictional character (movie, book, TV, etc…) do you think best embodies the attitude of students at Stanford GSB?

“Probably Eliza Doolittle from the old classic movie My Fair Lady (Pygmalion), hehe! The GSB was such a major life-changing experience in my life, I now can think in much more well-rounded ways, aware of my unique abilities and able to use my new set of skills.”

What do you find most rewarding about helping others apply to business school?

“Doing an account of school, career and personal accomplishments, some people actually find the application some sort of a self-discovery process, which is essential to those interested in leadership positions in their careers. I enjoy working hard to get over that bump into those “a-ha” moments when my clients finally understand themselves and the process they are in. That’s when the creative juices kick in, and their stories and in turn, their application, become much more compelling and attractive.”

Want to work with Heidy?  Learn more about her here, or find the expert who’s right for you here!  Visit our Team page today.

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!

Veritas Prep Consultant Spotlight: Get to Know Marcus, Wharton MBA

Are you applying to the world’s top business schools?  Do you need help crafting the best application possible and standing out to admissions committees?  Veritas Prep has the most stellar MBA admissions consulting team in the industry – we’re talking the Jedi Knights of admissions consulting – and we can help you achieve your MBA goals!

At Veritas Prep, you have the opportunity to work with the ideal consultant for your needs.  We have the most diverse and experienced MBA admissions consulting team ever assembled.

Get to know one of our consultants right now:


Marcus: Head Consultant, Wharton MBA

Specialties Include:

  • Entrepreneur
  • Non-traditional career paths
  • Older applicants
  • International candidates
  • Technology

What do you find most rewarding about helping others apply to business school?

“What is most rewarding is helping applicants leverage the non-traditional aspects of their backgrounds. This could be an applicant who doesn’t have any business background to speak of at all, or someone who works in finance but has some unique non-business extracurricular activities.  Typically, the applicants are unaware of how powerful these non-traditional aspects of their backgrounds are.  For me, it’s very rewarding to help them with this realization and then subsequently tell their story effectively to the admissions committee.”

What is the most common application pitfall you help clients work through?

“Every applicant struggles with different aspects of their application.  But the most common challenge is undertaking the required introspection for admission to a top tier school.  Ultimately, this is what sets apart a good application from a great one.  In order to guide my clients through this process, my job becomes that of coach rather than purely providing feedback, i.e. I ask the appropriate questions that triggers their own thought process.”

If I attend Wharton, where can I get the best Philly Cheese Steak in Philadelphia?

“There is a long standing rivalry between Pat’s and Geno’s in South Philly.  Those are both excellent places, but my own personal favorite is Abner’s on 38th and Chestnut, which is a short walk from Huntsman Hall.”

Want to work with Marcus?  Learn more about him here, or find the expert who’s right for you here!  Visit our Team page today.

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!

First Mover Advantage: Start Your MBA Applications Early & Improve Your Chances of Admission into Top Business Schools

MBA AdmissionsAt Veritas Prep headquarters, spring is definitely one of our favorite times of the year!  Not just because of the warmer weather, but also because our admissions consulting clients are letting us know what top-tier MBA programs they’re hearing from and sharing their success stories with us.

Along with help from their consultants, we know our clients put a lot of effort into their applications.  And for many clients who are heading to the most elite business schools this fall, they also started the application process months ahead of deadlines.

Being admitted to a top-ranked MBA program requires much more than a high GMAT score and a set of grammar-perfect essays.  Allotting yourself plenty of time ahead of deadlines gives you an opportunity to show business schools that you mean, well, business.

Veritas Prep First Movers start the application process months in advance of their competition and capitalize on their head start in a number of ways.

Here are just a couple of great reasons to get started early:

  • School fit that’s genuine: Veritas Prep First Movers don’t have to simply rely on rankings and school websites. They actually have time to visit campuses, network with alum, attend information sessions, and really understand each target school’s unique culture.  This allows a First Mover to not only find a program that feels right, but also effectively showcase to the admissions committee why they’re a perfect fit and will thrive in the program.
  • Improve application weaknesses:  First Movers don’t have to simply explain profile weaknesses in their application, but they have time to actually improve weaknesses.  This can mean leading a new project at work or in a volunteer organization, taking classes at your local community college or strategically preparing and retaking the GMAT.  Veritas Prep First Movers are taking action now so that no explanations are necessary!

To learn even more about the advantages of being a Veritas Prep First Mover, visit our Veritas Prep First Mover Advantage page today!  Call us at 1-800-925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions expert. 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

3 Ways to Get Into the Stanford GSB MSx Program

The Stanford MSx program, previously known as the Stanford Sloan Master’s Program, is the one-year, full time Masters of Science program for experienced professionals.  Ok, so the program is not really new, but is experiencing a huge uptick in interest from business school applicants.

Stanford’s traditional MBA program is the only one in the world with an acceptance rate and average work experience both in the single digits; so experienced applicants have started flocking to this alternative option in droves.  Make no mistake, though, “alternative” does not mean “easy!”

The program consists of only 83 fellows, with an average GMAT of 700 and a minimum work experience requirement of 8 years.

How do you get in?  You must focus on 3 core things.

1.  Career Goals

First, your career goals must be clear and well-articulated.  This is not the place to “find yourself.”  What is your specific focus, and how will the MSx program help you get there?

2.  Leadership

Second, your entire application must send a message that you are an accomplished manager and leader, as opposed to merely a person who has put time in to his career.  It isn’t enough to merely say that you are experienced and successful manager, you have to show or prove it to them.  How?  Your resume! Your recommendation letters! Your extracurricular activities!  See the pattern?  Show them; don’t just tell them.

3.  Value

Finally, prove to them that you will add something wonderful to their program. They want to ensure that the Master Black Belt from GE enriches the experience of the M&A Tax Manager from Cisco. Remember, they only have 83 spots.  The more you can add to your classmates’ experience, the more they will have to admit you.  Make sense?

At the end of the day, you want something from the program, and they want something from you.  Tell them what you want, and what you will offer in return!  Good luck!

If you want to talk to us about how you can stand out, 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 Richard Vincent

How to Write the Best Essay for Your MBA Applications

Having graduated from a top MBA program as a non-native English speaker, I still remember being quite worried about the MBA application, fearing that my English was not sophisticated enough. So I focused on improving my writing skills by doing just that – writing.

Now as a Veritas Prep School Specialist, I have found working with my clients that there are a few common essay-writing pitfalls.

Here are some examples:

a)  Essays written in a generic way, which focus too much on current work experience. This is not a job application, so try to avoid producing what looks like a resume or CV in essay form.

b)  Essays that sound like a request for proposal (RFP), with an obvious Power Point sentence writing style with percentages, jargon and keywords such as “innovative” to impress Admission Committees. These committees have seen it all, so be innovative, don’t just say it.

c)  Essays that don’t talk about you. If an essay question asks what matters to you most and why, the essay will be an opportunity to demonstrate that you are inspired and motivated thanks to XYZ. This shows determination and focus.

Personal essays provide precious opportunities to reflect who you have been, where you want to go and your current plan to achieve this. It’s about showing a balance between early leadership aptitude and self-awareness. Use simple sentences but entice your reader by showcasing your talents, creativity and maturity, and this will help them to envision you enrolled in their MBA program.

These are 3 simple but powerful tips by advertising guru David Ogilvy from the book “How To Write”:

1)      Write the way you talk. Naturally.

2)      Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

3)      Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

Given that the business world does not usually demand essay writing or personal reflection, I would personally suggest keeping a personal journal or diary to practice writing about yourself, as well as to read both business and non-business oriented articles, such as those published in magazines like Harvard Business Review and The Atlantic.

Even if English is not your native language, the goal is to find your own unique voice and use writing as your instrument. Simply. Elegantly. You.

These are just some suggestions about how you can begin to approach the task of essay writing. Talk to an experienced Veritas Prep Consultant to see how we can help you write effectively to increase your chances for admission to the MBA program of your choice!

If you want to talk to us about how you can stand out, 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!

This Veritas Prep Head Consultant received a BA in International Economics from UCLA, and went on to the Stanford Graduate School of Business to receive her MBA. Her specialties for helping students include low GMAT score, low GPA, multicultural marketing, and entrepreneurship. 

3 Reasons to Wait Until Round 1 to Apply for Your MBA

Most of the top U.S. business schools accept students in two or three rounds. Applicants are not always sure in which round to apply, and when they make a decision, they usually underestimate the time it takes to put together a solid application.

Applying for an MBA is not like applying for a job. A well-rounded application not only needs quantitative data such as undergraduate grades and test scores, but also needs an accurate depiction of your qualitative traits, which are usually shown through your essays, letters of recommendation, CV and extracurricular activities.

A thorough application can be seen as a presentation package to Admissions that should tell a consistent story. When I work with applicants, I tell them to spend time researching but also reflecting, as opposed to solely applying. Ideally, I would start in the January of the year of submitting an application, so to allow roughly 18 months prior to enrollment. Will you be too old to be considered? Not at all! Although some schools do accept younger applicants, Admissions still want to compose a class of individuals who are mature and capable of self-reflection. Having slightly more years of experience is always a plus, as many schools use the case study method of instruction, so having worked in the real world is a pre-requisite for success in the MBA program.

Wait until Round 1 and use these 6-9 months before the application deadline to:

  1. Allocate enough time to study for and take the GMAT. Many applicants may want to take the test more than once, and you can only take the test once every 30 days.
  2. Start improving your reading and writing skills by reading publications such as The Atlantic or Harvard Business Review. You can read The Economist later once you enroll to stay up to date with world business news. Read this article for more tips to score high on the GMAT.
  3. Try to take on a leadership role by volunteering or participating in extracurricular activities, as sometimes this is easier than earning a promotion at work.

Overall, try to reflect upon yourself as a leader, no matter your job title. Remember, it is not only what you have accomplished or your job title that will make you prime MBA material, but also how well you have handled and made the most out of the situation that you were in. Make sure this comes through coherently before you click that ‘Submit’ button.

If you are still thinking about applying in round 3, take a look at our round 3 guarantee, or 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!

This Veritas Prep Head Consultant received a BA in International Economics from UCLA, and went on to the Stanford Graduate School of Business to receive her MBA. Her specialties for helping students include low GMAT score, low GPA, multicultural marketing, and entrepreneurship. 

Take the 2014 MBA Applicant Survey and Win $500!

AIGACIt’s that time of year again! The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) has launched the 2014 edition of its business school applicant survey. If you are applying to business school now, or have recently been admitted and plan on starting an MBA program in 2014, you could win $500 just for spending 5 minutes completing this survey!

Why does AIGAC run this survey every year? AIGAC is an industry group representing admissions consultants all over the world, and the organization gathers this data every year to help its member consultants better serve their clients. Also, the data that AIGAC gathers is — 100% anonymously — shared with business school admissions officers, who are always eager to gain more insights into how business school applicants research and choose MBA programs. (You can see last year’s survey results here.)

One lucky survey participant will be randomly selected to win $500. But you only can win if you complete the survey, so do it now! You can access the survey here.

Thanks in advance for helping us serve our clients better, and good luck!

By Scott Shrum.

Applying for Your MBA in the 3rd Round? Check out Our Round 3 Application Guarantee!

We find that many applicants consider applying for top MBA programs in the 3rd or final round, but hesitate because they feel there is absolutely no chance for them to be admitted. It’s true that 90% or more of the spots in an MBA class are already taken, but Veritas Prep has a proven track record of success for successful Round 3 applications.

You might think, “If my chances are so slim in Round 3, shouldn’t I just wait and use an admissions consultant for Round 1 of next year?”  We have developed the Veritas Prep Round 3 Guarantee  to help take the risk out of this decision.

Round 3 Guarantee

Here’s how it works: if you purchase any Comprehensive School Package, you’re eligible for our Round 3 Guarantee.  You will begin working immediately with your Head Consultant™ who has formal admissions experience at a top-tier MBA program. They’ll bring their insider’s perspective to offer insights around your profile strengths and weaknesses, school selection, recommenders, resume, application strategy, essays—the works! After considering their advice, if you aren’t 100% confident in your Round 3 application, we’ll continue working with you for Round 1 applications of next year for no additional charge!

If I’m not admitted, then what?

If you decide to submit your Round 3 applications and aren’t admitted, our guarantee still has you covered. First, we’ll conduct a rejection analysis to provide suggestions on ways that you could improve your profile in the few months ahead of Round 1 applications for the following year. Re-applicants to top programs such as Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Wharton and others are typically admitted at higher rates than first-time applicants, but you’ll need to show some kind of improvement. Are there some extracurricular activities that you could get more involved with? Coursework that you could complete? Professional responsibilities that you could volunteer to take on? Ways to tell your story in a slightly different way? New areas of your profile to emphasize?

If you choose to re-apply in Round 1, the admissions officer will almost always review your previous application and new application together, so it’s important to offer additional insights the second time around. This doesn’t mean your first application was bad—you simply need to offer something new for the admissions committee to evaluate!  Not to worry, Veritas Prep will provide a free application review for your re-applications and offer additional suggestions for improvement.

Finally, if you seek to improve your GMAT score between your Round 3 app and your Round 1 re-application, we’ll offer our Veritas Prep On Demand course for free (a $550 value)!  Not only will you have access to all 12 GMAT prep lessons, but all of our online resources, industry-leading practice exams and thousands of GMAT practice problems at your fingertips. Admissions officers say that a low GMAT score is the #1 reason candidates are rejected, and improving your score can be a key part in a successful re-application (if necessary).

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 has you covered every step of the way!  Call us at 1-800-925-7737 or email info@veritasprep.com if you have additional questions about your Round 3 applications. Best of luck no matter what you decide!

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.

How to Select the Right MBA Program for You

How to Select the RIght MBA ProgramJust as the quality of a stage production or musical performance depends on all of the work that went into months and months of rehearsal before the performance, how successful you are in your business school applications depends a great deal on all of the work you do before you ever start drafting an essay. Remember that your application is a mere snapshot of who you are (and how well you can present yourself) at one point in time. How well that message will be received will partly depend on whether you’re targeting the right schools, and how well MBA admissions officers at those schools see a good fit between you and their institution. And this comes down to knowing how to select the right MBA program for you.

There are at least a dozen factors to consider when researching MBA programs and narrowing down your list of target schools. Some of very mundane, such as the size of a school, and others may be less obvious but no less important, such as whether a business school offers a particular program or specialty that interests you. All of these are valid criteria to consider, and two very reasonable applicants may give different weights to each of them.

Today we’ll break down three criteria that, while not surprising, are absolutely, 100% necessary for you to consider at some point in your business school selection process:

Culture
At full-time programs, you will spend most of two years with your classmates in an intensive learning environment. It therefore matters a great deal how well you fit into a business school’s culture, and how well it fits you. Imagine yourself working with teammates on a group project at 2 AM (it will happen at some point)… You want to make sure you’ll be in a group full of people you like personally and work well with, and you will want to be that same great learning ally for your classmates. And the importance of an MBA program’s culture doesn’t stop there! You will also be part of that school’s alumni network for the rest of your life. You may see your fellow alumni at local and national events, may network with one another for job opportunities, and so on. How well the school’s culture fits you will matter forever.

Without a doubt, the best way to judge a business school’s culture is to visit! Do the tour, sit in on classes, and take advantage of all of the official opportunities the MBA admissions office will provide. Don’t stop there, though. As much as possible, we recommend just wandering around a school, taking a seat in one of the common areas (it’s not hard to blend in as a student at most schools) and just generally “taking in the vibe” at the school. Do students seem glad to see one another? Do people keep to themselves? Do people seem stressed? (This will partly depend on what time of year you visit, naturally.) Take all of this in. And don’t ignore your gut… It’s one of the best measures of a school’s culture that you have at your disposal, and it’s free!

Location
While a great education is a universal language that can benefit you no matter where you are in the world, the fact of the matter is that most business schools will naturally attract far more recruiters from within a 100-mile radius than they will from other regions. At Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, for example, about 60% of 2013 grads ended up in the eastern or southern United States (see Fuqua’s employment statistics). Although the school does attract recruiters from all over the country, it attracts more than its fair share of recruiters from its home region.

This makes sense given that, as strong as Duke’s reputation is, it’s strongest on the East Coast and in the South. If you want to work in Silicon Valley, for example, this definitely does not rule out Fuqua, but pay attention to how many California-based companies recruit at the school. You may end up having to do more hustling on your own to land an interview at one of those companies.

Job Prospects
For most applicants, the number one reason for wanting to attend business school is to improve their job prospects. The job’s the thing, and the first job that grads land after earning their MBA of course has a huge impact on how successful their MBA experience was. I am always amazed by how often an applicant will say that he wants to get into a certain career and wants to go to a certain business school, and when I ask him, “Do you know how many grads the school places in that company/industry?” the applicant will have no idea. When I ask, “Do you know which companies recruited at the school last year?” I usually get a similar response.

Of course, that’s where we come in as MBA admissions experts, but you absolutely have a duty as an applicant to know what type of job search you’re in for, depending on the school you attend and the career you want to pursue. If your target company or industry is not well represented in on-campus interviews at a certain MBA program, that doesn’t mean that the school is a bad fit for you. But, if you arrive on campus and only then learn that your dream company doesn’t come to your campus for recruiting, then you have made a huge mistake in the business school selection process. Fortunately, most schools publish this information online (and LinkedIn is a tremendously valuable research tool if you want to quickly find Chicago Booth grads at Morgan Stanley, for example). You have many resources at your disposal… Be sure to use them!

Need some help in the business school selection process? Not sure how to select the right MBA program for you? We offer a free 30-minute profile evaluation, with absolutely no obligation to continue. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum.

3 Ways to Improve Your Work Experience: Part III

Previously, we covered two strategies to improve the perceived quality of your work experience, wherever you are. The first and fastest was asking for budget. The second and slower was finding subordinates.

Now we will discuss the third and probably most long-term strategy of all:

Get Close to Those Not In Your Immediate Chain of Command

Ideally, you should have the autonomy to do whatever you want with your time at work, but as a junior, you usually sit around under the watchful eye of some middle-manager who requires you to do his or her bidding. That is a bad situation for you. Because this is not business-school-worthy work. Every day you spend running the Excel or PowerPoint for some immediate boss is a day you truly waste in your life, as far as your own business school prospects are concerned.

So how do you go about making better use of your work?

The ultimate secret to a winning career is to do impactful projects. Projects make the headlines and create the resume entries that get you to places both higher and greener…as well as into your dream business school. Very few people go places for dutifully churning out the grind.

To do impactful projects, you need to either generate them yourself or be staffed on them. Generating projects yourself is one way to go (remember to ask for budget and bring on informal subordinates). Getting staffed on impactful projects can be a better way, but getting staffed on projects requires you to have a high and wide network within your firm, beyond your firm, and within the business community of your firm’s clients, consultants, and suppliers (depending on the complexity of your firm).

In short, you need to get close to people not in your immediate chain of command so as to market yourself as a potential staffer on big important projects. In places like the military and some very specific situations, this is dangerous maneuvering. But for most people early in their careers, this is quite safe practice.

How you go about doing this is subject of some other debate, but in many firms, one target no matter how junior you are should be to have your ultimate boss – the CEO – know you in the first year. Then work your way down to your boss’s boss, fanning wide along the way. After that, keep your eyes and ears open for any big projects you can weasel yourself onto. And once you are on that big elephant of a project, immediately put it on your resume.

So there you have it. Three ways to improve your work experience before business school. Good luck!

If you have MBA admissions questions, 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!

This Veritas Prep GMAT instructor received a degree in Economics from Princeton, and is currently pursuing a PhD. He has worked as a business consultant, research analyst, and adjunct faculty member at various institutions.

3 Ways to Improve Your Work Experience: Part II

Previously, we discussed probably the easiest and fastest single factor that you can proactively do to gain impressiveness with your work experience. That was to ask for budget.

The next strategy you may try is a little more subtle:

Find Subordinates

There is an organizational theory that basically says that every team has a person who gets the worst tasks and the least respect. Such characteristics also occur in the animal kingdom. For example, a pack of wolves will have an alpha wolf, beta wolf, and so forth. But there is always what is called an omega wolf, the most picked-on member of the pack and the member who eats the scraps of the others. It is critically important that you are not the omega wolf. Ever. Not only is the life of the omega wolf very unhappy, the omega wolf will also not get admitted to his or her dream business school. Why? Because business school is not for omega wolves. Omega wolves do not get it. They are not going to be successful in business.

The ability to avoid being the omega wolf is a crucial business skill, and most junior people are not savvy or experienced enough to know how to get around it. Many mistakenly assume that they are themselves the omega wolves due to their low levels on the hierarchy, but this is not a priori true. Only you can make yourself an omega wolf. Those who know how to avoid being the omega wolf will make outstanding candidates for business school.

The easiest way to avoid being the forced labor omegas of an organization is to have a subordinate. Many who are considering business school are motivated because they hate being the subordinate. But that is precisely the point – you should demonstrate your ability to manage subordinates as early as possible in your career so that you yourself do not need to be one. The sooner you can demonstrate an ability to manage subordinates, the sooner you can no longer be one.

It is not always easy to get a formal subordinate early on in one’s career. But it is quite easy to arrange a subordinate relationship with somebody else if you are subtle. The first step is to identify a target subordinate. So who can you try to make a subordinate out of? Think carefully and appropriate candidates will surface.

For example, are there interns around? If not, can you bring one in? How about that new hire who is nominally your equal but otherwise clueless about the firm? Does your team have any support or administration staff? Do you have a much younger colleague who lacks experience?

If you think carefully, you should be able to pinpoint some people who can plausibly be your subordinate. After you have identified that person or persons, you must make your key move, which is to create a project.

So dream up of a project (with budget) that involves you, your boss, and your target subordinate(s). Because you raised this project, your boss will probably let you run it with your subordinate. Thereafter, you would be designated as having “lead a team” on a specific project that did such and such magical thing for your organization. Wow. What leadership! What ability to manage others! That’s the kind of outcome that business schools look for in you, but for the love of Michael Porter do not openly talk about the maneuvering that went into it.

If you have MBA admissions questions, 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!

This Veritas Prep GMAT instructor received a degree in Economics from Princeton, and is currently pursuing a PhD. He has worked as a business consultant, research analyst, and adjunct faculty member at various institutions.

3 Ways to Improve Your Work Experience

Business schools have a very difficult problem. For most intents and purposes, their applicant pools are junior business acolytes whose days usually consist of menial desk labor at the beck and call of a perhaps marginal superior. The issue is that it is very difficult to separate a good candidate from a bad one among a pool of people doing this type of work.

By far the most important part of an MBA admissions application is the work experience, yet very few people talk about improving it. Indeed, on first sight, it appears like you can do little about your work experience, especially if you are one of the aforementioned acolytes. But that should not be the attitude of a future captain of industry like yourself.

There are strategies and tactics that you can use to dramatically bolster the quality, impressiveness, and maybe even lucrativeness of your current work experience – maybe even in a very short period of time. As an added bonus, these strategies will also dramatically improve the quality of your work experience in the eyes of the admissions committee of your dream business schools.

The first, easiest, and fastest big strategy is:

Ask for a Budget

Business, at the end of the day, is about money. And business schools recognize that. In executive MBA programs, for example, a prime consideration for admission is the size of the candidate’s budget. More budget means more responsibility, more success, and more influence. Business schools like admitting people who have demonstrated ability to influence.

Thus, ask for a budget.

Whatever your current job or station in your company, you are rarely too junior to ask for budget. Start small. Ask for a budget to buy books. Ask for a budget to attend conferences. Eventually, ask for a budget to run a project. Over the course of a year or two, if you demonstrated good work with the money you have been given, ask for a large project with a large budget…and then emphasize this on your business school application.

One of the key business skills in business and in life is asking others for money. If you can demonstrate it early, you have demonstrated the ability to succeed in business school and beyond. Also, size of budget will matter tremendously on your career trajectory up the food chain in any corporation. Without fail, he or she with the most budget has the most influence.

So don’t be an amateur at work. Ask for money from wherever and whomever you can. Ask for money for whatever and whichever purpose you can think of. It is often difficult to ask for a salary increase, but it is easy to ask for money as a budget for a specific project. If you are asked to do anything significant, ask for budget to help you do it. This is actually best practice (standard practice in fact), and most executives assume projects all come with budget. But most junior people do not know about this and never ask for money. If you are not asking for money, you are not in this activity we call business. Before you get schooled formally in business, educate yourself in asking for money.

Next time, we’ll take a look at a second way you can improve your work experience.

If you have MBA admissions questions, 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!

This Veritas Prep GMAT instructor received a degree in Economics from Princeton, and is currently pursuing a PhD. He has worked as a business consultant, research analyst, and adjunct faculty member at various institutions.

Show Leadership in Your MBA Applications

MBA AdmissionsLike beauty, leadership is often desired but hard to figure out for those who do not have it.

Even among experts, the exact definition of leadership is quite murky, like the exact expert definition of beauty. Entire careers have been dedicated to the study of leadership and it is probably a concept that changes depending on the context. Military leadership, for example, is probably quite a different matter from business leadership or intellectual leadership, despite areas of possible overlap.

Nonetheless, every business school will list leadership as the quality that is most important in their recruits. But what is the best way to get some if its definition is so elusive?

Unless you have some other distinctive area of leadership experience (such as military leadership), it is probably easiest to operationalize this leadership concept for business schools in the following way.

Leadership = the ability to convince others to give you large amounts of money.

Now let us see how you might demonstrate it. By this definition, starting a company is not a sign of leadership, but having a paying customer is. Similarly, starting a charity is not a sign of leadership, but having significant donations is. Thus, if you started a non-money-making company just developing products without sales or a charity that has no sizable donations in money, then you may be impressive in other ways, but your acts do not really show leadership according to our definition.

How about leadership at your job? By this definition, the bigger the budget you manage to claim, the more you have demonstrated leadership. What? You have no discretionary budget in your job to spend on things like subordinates or external consultants? Then, unfortunately, you have had little leadership. Similarly, if you increased sales a lot, you showed leadership. If you just processed sales orders, you did not really show leadership. And ultimately, at the end of the day, if you are paid a lot, you showed leadership. If you are paid little, you did not show as much leadership.

Obviously, leadership is not money — people we call leaders have convinced entire nations of their ideas and thinking in non-monetary domains. But for many practical purposes in commercial contexts, including demonstrating leadership qualities to business schools, leadership equates fairly well to convincing people to give you money. Money is, after all, one of the prime reasons for commerce.

So go out and show some leadership.

If you have MBA admissions questions, 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!

This Veritas Prep GMAT instructor received a degree in Economics from Princeton, and is currently pursuing a PhD. He has worked as a business consultant, research analyst, and adjunct faculty member at various institutions.

Should Women Skip Business School?

In a recent opinion piece in the New Yorker titled “Why Women Should Skip Business School”, author Laura Hemphill argues that, since women are far more likely to experience a career interruption (usually because of having kids) than men, they should work as much as possible while they’re young and aren’t get juggling family obligations. Make money and get far ahead now, she argues, and you’ll have more options later on than you will with an MBA.

This is the part where we — as a leader in GMAT prep and MBA admissions consulting — are supposed to volley back an impassioned defense of the MBA. How dare this person suggest that women, or anyone for that matter, forgo the magic that is a graduate management education? Blasphemy! Get off my Internet!

Well, that’s not what I’m here to deliver today. In fact, I actually agree with much of Hemphill’s argument. I will boil down my take to this: If you’re anything less than certain that an MBA is what you need to get to where you want to be, whether it’s in your current career or in something else entirely, then business school may not be right for you. That’s not to say that you definitely shouldn’t apply; an MBA really does open a lot of career options, if for no other reason than the fact that attending a top-ranked business school means dozens of blue-chip firms will come to you to and sell you on their companies. But if you’re doing just fine in your career and don’t have any plans to jump into something entirely different, then one can make a very plausible case that you don’t need an MBA.

Note that this doesn’t only apply to women… I give the same advice to male applicants all the time. If you’re not sure that you want an MBA, or you can’t cleanly articulate why such a degree will help you with your career goals, then you need to go back to square one and do some more research. And, if you can’t make this argument, remember that MBA admissions officers probably won’t have the time or patience to tease it out of you… They’re more likely to simply move on to the next application in the pile.

Again, business school can really open doors for you and give you career options that you never would have had otherwise. But it’s not a mandatory degree for any line of work, and it’s a huge commitment, both in terms of tuition and time away from the workforce. If you’re applying just because it seems like it’s what you should do in your mid 20’s, then you’re probably not ready to apply.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for business school, of even if you’re still in the “Is this right for me?” stage, request a free profile evaluation from an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

3 Factors to Consider in Choosing a Business School: Part III

Last week, we began a 3-part series exploring a few factors to consider when choosing a business school. The first two factors include location and career services.

Today we’ll explore the final factor, which is intake size of the institution.

Factor 3: Size of intake

Full-time MBA programs actually differ remarkably in the sizes of their cohorts. Wharton and Harvard have incoming classes of between 800-900 students each year. So at any given point in time, 1600-1800 MBA students are actively on campus. INSEAD has class cohorts of around 1000 annually, and they have a one year MBA program.

Stanford and the London Business School both have incoming classes around 400 each year. The Johnson School at Cornell has an incoming class each year of fewer than 300 students. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology takes about 100 into their full-time MBA program each year.

The size of your cohort will have a dramatic impact on your business school experience and subsequent alumni resources. There is no right or wrong answer on this matter, but you should consider it deeply in your choice of business school.

Bigger cohorts imply more resources, more elective classes, and generally more institutional attention given to the MBA program. This is very important. If your cohort is small, you may find yourself sharing resources such as classes and career services with other programs in the university – a distinctively unattractive situation for some. MBA students have very different backgrounds and needs than other graduate students in a university, and resources should be specific for MBAs to be most effective. Thus, there is a big benefit to joining a large cohort – you, collectively, have good resources that are specially tailored to MBAs. (Some schools, such as Harvard, even have specific fitness facilities just for the business school, which is probably going a bit too far in tailoring resources specifically for MBAs.)

On the other hand, large cohorts also often mean that you, as an individual, will get less customized attention and flexibility in your own pursuits. Career services staff and professors are less likely to pull personal favors for you if you are among 1000 than if you are among 100. In comparison to handlers of small cohorts, the herders of large business school cohorts are more interested in the overall cohort than in you specifically.

Every year, there will be some people who get placed into unsatisfying jobs and are otherwise dissatisfied with their business school experiences. For a large cohort, those people are merely unfortunate statistics. For a small cohort, efforts will be exerted to make those sad customers happy. The point to consider is – there is some possibility that you will be among those unhappy ones. If you are, a smaller cohort will treat you better.

After graduation, bigger cohorts will mean you have a larger pool of alumni to connect with. You tend to stay in touch more with your business school classmates than with your college classmates, so the bigger the cohort, the more the alumni connections. With such large class sizes, Wharton and Harvard have graduates in almost every major corporation. You will have former classmates spread across all corners of the globe and across all fields in the economic system. Somebody from Harvard Business School will be connected to the sewer treatment industry, should you ever need to reach out to such an expert. Somebody from Wharton will become involved in sea bass, again, should you ever need to reach out to such a person. This is a point for considering the bigger cohort.

The counterbalance to this, by analogy, is that although that sea bass expert is a fellow alumnus, he may not take your call when you need him. From a networking and even social perspective, you are more likely to personally know all your classmates if the total size stays below 300. Actually, you will probably have chance to mingle at least a bit with each of them over your program. With a larger cohort, you will have to sacrifice the acquaintance of most of your class and carve out your own circle of professional and social friends. The downside to this is that you are likely to only self-select those who share your interests, so you will never personally get to know that sea bass expert (unless, of course, you are the sea bass expert).

So although there is no doubt that cohort size will significantly impact your business school experience, the call on big versus small for yourself is tricky. To a large extent, your happiness will depend on the mix and dynamics of your cohort, which is somewhat out of your control. At any business school, some years will see an especially active, beautiful, or successful student body, while other years will see the opposite.

Everybody wants to be part of an incoming class of attractive, smart, and wholesome MBA students in a cohort that is sized to balance diversity with intimacy, but alas, business school is pretty far from heaven, even at Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton. So dig deep, pray for classmates that bring out the best in you, and consider what kind of cohort dynamics you prefer in your business school life.

If you have MBA admissions questions, 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!

This Veritas Prep GMAT instructor received a degree in Economics from Princeton, and is currently pursuing a PhD. He has worked as a business consultant, research analyst, and adjunct faculty member at various institutions.

3 Factors to Consider in Choosing a Business School: Part II

Last week, we began a 3-part series exploring a few factors to consider when choosing a business school. The first factor to consider is location, and today we’ll take a look at the second factor, which is the career services provided by different institutions.

Factor 2: Career services

It is important to get priorities clear right from the start. Business school is about getting a good job afterwards. The MBA is not an academic degree, and business schools are not liberal arts institutions. The career services of your target school should be carefully examined before you choose to attend. Not only could they help place you into your dream job during the program, but many business schools continue to offer career services to alumni, so you could be using your school’s career services for a long time. Here are some points to note when casing the career center of your prospective school.

First, pay careful attention to the staff. Most business school career centers are staffed by professional career advisers who have not worked in the jobs you are seeking. Most of them give very standard advice that differ little from generic books on CV writing, networking, and other “how to get a job”-type resources. Be wary if you see a career service department in your school that looks like this.

A well-funded and dedicated career center will have staff members who have actually worked, however briefly, in the jobs you want. You do not need a senior industry veteran – if anything their perspectives tend to be far too high for your purposes – but the staff should have some experience in your shoes. Failing that, their backgrounds should at least match the level of jobs you are seeking. Usually, that means at least some of their staff members should have MBAs themselves. It is a very good sign if the career services team counts the school’s own alumni among its permanent staff.

Second, closely examine recent placement records. Oftentimes, career center can have non-stellar staff but produce stellar placements. Dig deep into the recent placement records. Look for recurring placements into the elite firms as well as unique placements into small but prestigious entities. Notice especially any recurring placements into good firms that do not openly recruit from business schools – these are signs of truly valuable career center professionals. You can discount any one-off attractive placements because the candidate might have been special in some other way. Look for consistency across cohorts.

Lastly, talk to the careers staff. It is surprising how many MBA candidates choose a school with barely a conversation involving potentially the most important department of a business school. Ask specific and detailed questions and listen for specific answers. Are the careers center people tuned in to recent trends in the job market? Do they know the salaries of the different firms? Do they know next year’s hiring possibilities? Do they know in detail what different firms do? In theory, they should know more about the firms you are interested in than you do, especially if your target firms are large. Do they?

The careers center can be the most influential aspect of your business school career. Indeed, if all goes well, it should be. Career centers should provide proprietary job leads, not reposts from public job boards. Career centers should know more about companies than a Google search can turn up. Career centers should know your goals and aspirations as an individual instead of having you complete a personality questionnaire. Most career services fall rather short of this ideal. But some fall shorter than others.

You want the perfect job after business school? You need to start with a good careers center. Spend the time. Do your research. Conduct your diligence. Finding the right careers center will pay off in years of happiness at your ideal job.

If you have MBA admissions questions, 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!

This Veritas Prep GMAT instructor received a degree in Economics from Princeton, and is currently pursuing a PhD. He has worked as a business consultant, research analyst, and adjunct faculty member at various institutions.

3 Factors to Consider in Choosing a Business School

There is little doubt that the most prestigious business schools command serious consideration. But alas, outside the top 3 programs (and even then), it makes little sense to select a business school based on rankings alone. Most MBA aspirants do not give enough consideration to some key factors that will have serious impact on their business school happiness and success. Here are some factors that deserve your serious consideration and could swing your decision one way or the other.

Factor 1: Location

The location of your business school should be among the top factors in your choice. Usually, unless you have well-defined post-MBA career plans, it makes sense to select a major city where you do not mind working afterwards. Let us examine the reasons why.

First, there is simply more professional business done in cities. In many ways, cities formed to be centers of commerce. Your experience in business school will be vastly enriched by the business community of a major metropolis. From guest speakers to outside seminars to recruitment opportunities, cities offer vastly more for the MBA student. The partner of an investment fund is much more willing to stop by the downtown campus of the local business school over lunch to give a talk. She is much less willing and able to fly in to your municipal airport to give that same talk. Similarly, you might find interesting short-term consulting jobs and term-time internships in cities — opportunities that will not be feasible if you are 3 hours away down the inter-state. You are in the study of business – it makes sense to get closer, not farther, from the centers of business.

Second, there is also more recreation in cities. Business school can offer a lot of free time (or very little, depending on your own style). Whatever the case, the MBA years are a great opportunity to enjoy yourself or develop some hobby. Whatever your peculiar passion or curiosity, chances are that you are more likely to find like-minded individuals in a big city to indulge that activity with. So if you ever wanted to speak Esperanto, dance tango, or cook risotto, now’s the time to give it a shot. For those who are single and looking, there is much more dating in cities than in suburbs (and more things to do on dates). For those who enjoy a night out, there are more places to go in cities. For those who like to shop, there are more stores in cities. In New York, London, or Hong Kong, you will find clubs, courses, and events that suit all your extra-curricular interests. In contrast, your recreational options on everything from restaurants to gyms will be much more limited in a rural school.

Third, cities are more convenient. For some odd reason, business school tends to turn otherwise quiet local boys and girls into well-dressed jet-setting, schmoozing corporate types well before they get the jobs to match. To live that lifestyle, convenience is key. You need to be able to get from a downtown interview back to campus and then back out to a dinner date every other day without being hampered by issues such as train schedules, barbershop opening hours, lack of convenient ATMS, or 10 mile commutes to the dry-cleaners. You will find yourself getting frustrated if food or coffee is ever more than a block away. You will curse when you wait more than a minute for a cab. You will find yourself dashing to the airport at the last-minute. You will, in short, start behaving like other businessmen who value convenience in their lives. To make life simple, it makes good sense to choose a large city.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, big cities can be better for your career. There are more jobs, more industries, and more opportunities to network in a major city. There is also a big chance that you will land a job close to your business school due to local connections, alumni relations, and recruiting convenience. Unless you get sucked into a handful of truly globally integrated conglomerates, recruitment always tends to be local, and it is easier for you to weasel your way into that perfect firm if you are just a cab-ride away. In the future, you will also be able to upgrade to other jobs more easily if you stay in a city – from sneaking out to interview for another job to meeting headhunters on the sly, your career stands to gain if you aim for a city right after your MBA.

Obviously, there are good reasons for being in a small city or even a town — the air is better, and there is more sense of community. Rural or deeply suburban business schools try very hard to convince applicants of the advantages of their locations, but in most cases, the benefits of a city vastly outweigh the drawbacks, at least as far as business school is concerned.

If you aren’t a city person though, there are other top MBA programs outside of big cities. Tuck, Duke, and Darden – to name a few – are all outside of the city, and offer their own unique advantages. For example, MBA students at these schools tend to live on or very close to campus, so you will be closer to, and maybe even living with, your classmates. Schools in big cities generally have a more spread out student population. A majority of students at Kellogg live within 5 blocks of the campus, which creates more of an immersion experience if that is something you’re interested in. Also, if you have a family, these suburban campuses can be more family-friendly and have a stronger sense of community.

Take time to visit the schools you are considering. By spending some time on campus, you can determine if the environment is a good fit for you! Stay tuned for part II next week.

If you have MBA admissions questions, 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!

This Veritas Prep GMAT instructor received a degree in Economics from Princeton, and is currently pursuing a PhD. He has worked as a business consultant, research analyst, and adjunct faculty member at various institutions.

INSEAD Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Rounding out our look at applications at the top business schools this year, today we break down INSEAD’s application deadlines and essays for the 2013-2014 admissions season. INSEAD has made only very subtle tweaks to its essays this year, and the school has decided buck the trend and not to go the route of significantly cutting down its number of required essays. When a business school only makes subtle changes to its essays, that usually means that the admissions office likes what it’s been getting from applicants.

Here are INSEAD’s admissions deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

INSEAD Application Deadlines for September 2014 Intake
Round 1: October 2, 2013
Round 2: November 27, 2013
Round 3: March 5, 2013

We only cover INSEAD’s September 2014 intake deadlines here since the school’s January intake deadlines have already passed for 2013. Note that applying to INSEAD in Round 1 means that you will receive your final decision by December 20, giving you a couple of weeks to get your Round 2 application in order for other schools if you need to do so.

INSEAD Application Essays
Job Description Essays

  1. Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products and results achieved. (250 words)

    This essay carries over unchanged from last year. In a nutshell, the INSEAD admissions team wants to understand exactly what you do on a day-to-day basis. As easy as it is to become consumed with your GMAT score and your extracurricular activities, at the end of the day, the most accurate predictor of your professional potential is what you have done in your career to date. Don’t worry about the fact that INSEAD asks for the number of employees under your supervision and the size of the budget you manage — if you haven’t managed a team or owned a budget yet, that’s okay. The admissions committee just wants to understand exactly what it is you do in your present job. Also, remember that this question is about your present job; your “career progression” story will come in the next essay.
  2. Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)

    This essay is also a repeat from last year. Here is where your career progression comes into the picture. Of course, doing this in 250 words is a tough job, do you will really need to stick to the highlights in terms of what you have achieved and the reasons for the moves you have made. You should plan on skipping most of the flowery prose in favor of clear, easy-to-follow facts. The second part of this question is interesting in that it pretty directly hits on something that INSEAD and any other top business school wants to know — that you’re interested in pursuing an MBA to turbocharge an already successful career, not to bail out of a stagnant one. Painting the picture of a successful young professional (in only 250 words, of course!) will be key here.
  3. (Optional) If you are currently not working, what are you doing and what do you plan to do until you start the MBA programme? (250 words)

    It’s a sign of the times that this essay remains on INSEAD’s application after several years. Really, here the INSEAD admissions committee is saying, “It’s okay if you’re unemployed. We know a lot of terrific young professionals are out of work for reasons beyond their control. But, you had better be doing something productive with all of that free time.” Presumably you’re looking for work, but that is hopefully not all that you’re doing. Are you bettering yourself professionally with some additional training or accreditation? Are you brushing up by taking a college course or two? Have you decided to use some of your spare time to help those around you, perhaps by doing some pro bono work? There’s no right answer here, but a wrong answer would be to say that you haven’t done much of anything besides browsing job listings while you have been unemployed.

Motivation Essays

  1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (600 words)

    This essay also carries over unchanged. While the Job Essays above required you to really stick to the facts and simply summarize your resume, here is where you can start to provide more narrative. Many applicants see the word “weaknesses” and tense up, thinking, “I can’t tell them anything bad about myself!” But the admissions committee knows that no one is perfect. INSEAD truly wants to understand what you’re good at and where you need some work. The school wants to see evidence of strong self-awareness and a desire to build on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. The most obvious place to go from here is to explain how INSEAD can help you with these areas, although note that this is not a pure “Why INSEAD?” essay prompt. Keep the focus mostly on you and what your current strengths and weaknesses are.
  2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date (if possible specify one personal and one professional), explaining why you view them as such. (400 words)

    This question has also not changed since last year, although a couple of years ago INSEAD added the “one personal and one professional” part a couple of years ago. This prompt gives you a great opportunity for you to spell out at least two main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. Remember, the “why” in your story is even more important than the accomplishments themselves, so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. We like that INSEAD asks for one personal and one professional accomplishment, since many applicants tend to be reluctant to write about personal achievements because they seem to be off topic. Nothing could be further from the truth… If a personal accomplishment helps to illustrate the dimensions that admissions officers want to see in your application, it’s very relevant!
  3. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. (400 words)

    Oh no! First INSEAD asked about your weaknesses, and now you have to answer a failure question! Don’t worry — as we wrote above, INSEAD knows that you’re not perfect. The question is how you are able to overcome your failures and grow as a result of them. We like how short and direct this essay prompt is; what the admissions office really wants to hear is what you learned and how you improved (both as a professional and as a person) as a result. And, ideally, you can even work in an example of how you put what you learned to use when faced with another challenge. Of course, the word count is tight, but being able to work in this example makes your story that much more palpable and believable.
  4. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:
    a. Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain? (250 words maximum)
    b. Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock. (250 words)

    Clearly INSEAD has culture shock on the brain! This question is a repeat from last year, and its existence helps illustrate how much emphasis INSEAD puts on an applicant’s ability to blend well with people from other walks of life. Both of these essay prompts try to help the admissions committee understand you a little bit better. Really, what the school is trying to gauge is your emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity. More than perhaps any other MBA program, INSEAD truly is a melting pot of management education. You may be in study teams with people from four other continents — how well will you work with them at 3:00 AM when you have a tough final project due in six hours? A little bit of humor a humility can go a long way in answering these questions. Help the admissions committee be able to envision you sitting in a study group on INSEAD’s campuses in Fountainebleu and Singapore.
  5. a. Discuss your short and long term career goals… (300 words)
    b. … and how studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words)

    Finally! Here are the “Why an MBA?” and “Why this school?” questions that most MBA programs ask. Don’t overlook the fact that INSEAD asks these as two separate questions, with a specific word count for each. As important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to spell out why specifically INSEAD can help you achieve your goals. This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the INSEAD admissions team that you’re applying for reasons that run deeper than the fact that ISNEAD is a top-ranked business school.
  6. Is there anything that you have not mentioned in your application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (350 words)

    INSEAD gives you so many chances to tell your study in the above essays that we wonder what you might have left to tell at this point! Our advice here is what it is for every other school’s optional prompt: Answer this question if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for INSEAD and other top business schools, get a free profile evaluation from an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

13 Dos and Don’ts for your MBA Application Essay

Got Writer’s Block?  We are here to help! It can be hard to tell your story in 500 words or less, but we are here to provide a few tips to help get you started in tackling your admissions essays.

Take a look at the Dos and the Don’ts of essay writing and let us know if you have any questions.

 


Do:

  • Do proofread your essays.  Again and again.  And ask a buddy to as well.  It is amazing the number of essays that are turned in with typographical and grammatical errors.
  • Tell your story – tell it as a story if it helps.   You want to be memorable and unique.  And while you may not think that you stand out from the crowd, we all do in our own way.  Find your voice.
  • Do ensure that you are answering the question. Don’t get so wrapped up telling your story that you miss the point of the essay.
  • Definitely do your research.   There are a lot of blogs with expert advice (including Veritas Prep’s!) that will give you great information and strategies on crafting your essays.
  • Research also includes information about the specific program that you are applying to.   Make sure to tie specifics about the program to your goals.
  • Do dig deep and be vulnerable.  Many Type-A’s are afraid to let people see their softer side.   Several top business schools challenge applicants now to let that side come through.
  • Do write your essay initially without too much thought to the word limit.  Get it all out and then worry about editing it afterwards.

Don’t:

  • The Admissions Essays are much more than the writing assignments you faced in grade school.  Don’t treat it as a Q&A session and regurgitate part of the question as the opening of your response.  “My long-term goal is….”
  • Don’t try to tell a sob story to get pity points unless it really answers the essay question (which is rare, but occasionally does), otherwise, your essay may end up as part of the body count.
  • Don’t disregard word or page limits entirely.   While there can be some flex in the limit, don’t turn in three pages if the limit is one.
  • Don’t blatantly change the font size, margins and spacing to get it to fit the page requirement (unless you do it for all the essays).  It is pretty obvious when one essay is in an entirely different font type and size than the others.
  • Don’t use a lot of acronyms or industry jargon.   If the reader can’t understand what you are saying, they may miss the point of your story (and this doesn’t showcase your communication skills very well).
  • Avoid the “find and replace” essay.  Find name of school and replace with name of another school.  While it is more work, you need to customize your essays to each school you apply to.

Happy Writing!

If you are interested in receiving more information on our Admissions Consulting services, please call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Nita Losoponkul, a Veritas Prep head consultant for UCLA, received her undergraduate degree in Engineering from Caltech and went from engineering to operations to global marketing to education management/non-profit. Her non-traditional background allows her to advise students from many areas of study. She has successfully helped low GPA students get admitted into UCLA. 

Smile! Another Business School Adds Video to the Application Process

In the cinematic achievement Legally Blonde, loved by all millennials with a pulse, ditsy main character Elle Woods submits a provocative yet clever video as part of her application to Harvard.  Elle creatively demonstrates her achievements, her lifestyle and provides the admissions officers with a sense of her personality and potential.  The video certainly sets her apart from the other more muted and “stuffy” applicants and earns her a spot in the world’s most coveted university.  Ten years ago the idea of submitting a video to admissions officers certainly seemed daring, unconventional and bold.  But now, top MBA programs are actually requiring their applicants to do just that as part of the application process, including Yale School of Management and Kellogg School of Management.

Applying to top MBA programs is stressful enough, now schools are adding video.  Why?  According to a recent interview with Kellogg’s dean of admissions in Bloomberg Businessweek last week, the two-minute video response to a short-answer personal question gives everyone on the admissions team the opportunity to meet applicants no matter where they reside in the world.  Talk about the importance of first impressions!  Veritas Prep Director of Admissions Consulting and Kellogg alum, Travis Morgan, says that the idea, and one that has been attempted unsuccessfully in the past by other MBA programs, is to give admissions committees “a quick glimpse into who you are as a person, what your personality is like…It’s like a mini-interview before the full-in-person version.”  And though there is an increasing reliance on video technology in global business communications, Travis wonders if the new video applicant response will become a “staple of the admissions process or another passing fad.”  Regardless, the ability to present your best self on this type of platform is absolutely essential in business.

Yes, this is yet another piece of the application process that will require preparation and likely additional grooming time, but the end result can actually serve as a unique opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants and really showcase how you will succeed in a particular b-school’s program.  And if all else fails, send in a scented pink resume.

If you have MBA admissions questions, 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!