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!

5 Tips for Veterans Applying to Business School

So, you are looking to go back to school to earn your MBA and either plan for or facilitate your transition into a civilian role.   Here are a few tips on how to leverage your military experience into a successful business school application.

1)      Leadership, leadership, leadership

Whether you have been in an active combat situation or manage a satellite program, you have led many teams in your military career, and possibly at a military academy or at boot camp as well.  Make sure to highlight leadership examples in your application.  Especially for younger candidates, leadership and people management are key, as what you have likely exceeds a comparable civilian candidate.

2)      Budget Management

As a team or program leader, you probably have managed significant budgets.  Add these dollar amounts into your resume to highlight your fiscal responsibility.  Chances are, even if they aren’t big for the military, they are probably much bigger than someone your age has had in a civilian role.

3)      Critical Thinking Skills / Adaptability

The work you did, whether in combat or behind the scenes, had significant implications.  You have to quickly assess the situation and think on your feet.  You had to adjust your knowledge and training for the circumstances that you are in.  These are key skills that business schools look for, and many often teach a class for it!

4)      Handling Classified Information

You most likely had secret clearance and handled confidential information that had major implications on security.   You are a greatly trusted employee.  On the flip side, you probably aren’t able to discuss some of the work that you did in your essays or in an interview, nor will your supervisors be able to provide detailed examples in your recommendations.   Provide what information that you can, and focus on the demonstration of key skills versus the context.

5)      Academics

Many graduates of the Military Academies have lower GPAs than the range posted by Admissions committees as the target spread.   Admissions Committees are aware that grading and use of curves is different at the Military Academies, and the cadets must balance academics with extensive physical training and requirements as well.  Focus on your GMAT, and take an extension class or two if you want to provide additional proof that you have the academic background to complete your MBA.

We salute you for your service to our country!  And we are here to help you with your pursuit of higher education.  We have a great team of Admissions Consultants ready to work with you towards your goal.   Contact us for more information!

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. 

The 5 Minute Guide to Branding Yourself in MBA Applications

MBAIn business school we take classes called “marketing & brand management.”  In this class we learn how to create and sell a brand.  One of the most important things to do as we manage a brand is to create a unique selling proposition for the consumer which differentiates the brand from the competition by providing evidence of what makes the brand special and necessary.

Wikipedia defines the Unique Selling Proposition as follows:

“The unique selling proposition (USP), or unique selling point, is a marketing concept first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. The USP states that such campaigns made unique propositions to the customer that convinced them to switch brands. The term was developed by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company. Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, suggested that, “Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage.”[1] The term has been used to describe one’s “personal brand” in the marketplace.[2] Today, the term is used in other fields or just casually to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects.

I tend to view MBA admissions in terms of marketing and strategy.  Thus, to me, the job of the MBA applicant is to create a “Brand-You,” that incorporates the USP that differentiates you from other candidates.  Therefore, answering for the AdCom why they should admit you over the thousands of other qualified applicants.

I ask candidates to brainstorm the 10-15 most compelling points of your applicancy that you want to communicate in your essays, in your interview, your resume, and via recommendations.  Put them in order, and use this “Brand-Me Top 10” as your guiding document across all of your application components. By completing the below “Brand-Me” template first, you should be able to subsequently create your “Brand-Me Top 10.”

“Brand-Me” Template

 

Educational Background/Scores

Undergrad

Educational Institution:
Ranking of Institution:
Degree:
Date received:
GPA:
If your GPA is low, why?
Major/concentration:
Minor:
Honors:
Scholarships received:
Major papers/publications:
Relevant coursework:
How did you stand out in college?

  • UNDERGRADUATE STRENGHTS/WEAKNESSES
  • ASSESSMENT OF UNDERGRAD RECORD (top tier school, demanding course load, top grades, courses in econ/math/calc/stats/writing)

Graduate Information (if applicable)

Educational Institution:
Degree:
Date received:
GPA:
If your GPA is low, why?
Honors:
Scholarships received:
Major papers/publications:
Relevant coursework: e.g., Calculus, Statistics, Finance, etc.
How did you stand out in grad school?

  • UNDERGRADUATE STRENGHTS/WEAKNESSES
  • ASSESSMENT OF UNDERGRAD RECORD (top ties school, demanding course load, top grades, courses in econ/math/calc/stats/writing)

Other coursework/certificates (if applicable)

Courses taken:
Certificates earned:
Special Training:

GMAT History

Have you taken the GMAT? When?
What was your overall score (list the highest score)?
What was your verbal subscore and %?
What was your math subscore and %?
What best describes your GMAT preparation?
When will you begin preparation?
When did/will you finish your preparation?
Preparation type:

  • ASSESSMENT OF SCORE (STRENGHT/WEAKNESS):

Career/Work Experience

Employers:
Location:
Job Title:
Dates:
Promotions:
Supervisory Role:
Number of People Managed:
Responsibilities:

  • OVERALL DESCRIBE NATURE OF WORK EXPERIENCE(S) STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES
  • STRENGTHS IN CAREER LEADERSHIP
  • STRENGTHS IN CAREER INNOVATION
  • STRENGTHS IN CAREER ACHIEVEMENT

Extracurricular Activities

Activity(s):

Dates:
Responsibilities:
Offices Held:
Were you elected/Appointed?
Supervisory Role:
Number of People Managed:
Describe how you were a Leader in this role?
Describe how you were innovative in this role?
Describe teamwork involved?
How many hours a week do you spend on this activity?
Why did you get involved in this activity?

  • STRENGTHS IN EXTRACURRICULAR
  • DEPTH OF INVOLVEMENT IN EXTRACURRICULAR
  • LEADERSHIP IN EXTRACURRICULAR
  • WHAT IS UNUSUAL IN YOUR EXTRACURRICULARS
  • TWO MAJOR EXTRACURRICUALRS OF DEPTH
  • DESCRIBE BALANCE OF EXTRACURRICULARS POST-UNDERGRAD vs DURING UNDERGRAD

Philanthropic Activities

Activity(s):

Dates:
Responsibilities:
Offices Held:
Were you elected/Appointed?
Supervisory Role:
Number of People Managed:
Describe how you were a Leader in this role?
Describe how you were innovative in this role?
Describe teamwork involved?
How many hours a week do you spend on this activity?
Why did you get involved in this activity?

  • STRENGTHS IN PHILANTHROP
  • DEPTH OF INVOLVEMENT IN PHILANTHROPY
  • LEADERSHIP IN PHILANTHROPY

Other

International or diversity components of your background
Describe the strength of your recommendations
Describe a challenging leadership experience?
How have you demonstrated that you are innovative?
What is your best teamwork experience?
What is your most challenging teamwork experience?
If you are under 30, describe what makes you mature despite your young age?

Now, tell me, WHY YOU? WHAT DIFFERENTIATES YOU (in order)

1-

2-

3-

4-

5-

6-

7-

8-

9-

10-

If you have MBA admissions questions, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or email us a question for this blog to timeout@veritasprep.com. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Courtney Jane is a Veritas Prep Admissions Consultant for the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Before going to Dartmouth, Courtney graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Political Science.  After 20 years in business with positions at Young & Rubicam, Disney, Americorp Funding and Merrill Lynch, Courtney currently works as a business undergraduate Professor at the Los Angeles Film School and Argosy University.  

Kellogg Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the 2013-2104 admissions season. To no one’s surprise, Kellogg is the latest top-ranked MBA program to drop a required essay from its application this year — the school now requires just three essays of first-time applicants. Kellogg has also reduced how many word limits in some cases. What is most interesting is that the essay that Kellogg dropped was a mere 25-word question that appeared on last year’s application. We liked that one, but apparently the Kellogg admissions team didn’t.

Here are Kellogg’s application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2016:
Continue reading “Kellogg Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

The Winning Formula: MBA Applications

As an MBA Admissions Consultant, an Adjunct Instructor at UCLA teaching MBA Admissions, and a college Professor, I am surprised that more MBA candidates applying to the top 20 business schools have not figured out the simple formula I followed when applying to business school 20 years ago:

MBA ACCEPTANCE = STRATEGY & PLANNING.

I see it like this:  You are at Point A and you want to get to Point B, what is the strategy to do so?

My first recommendation is that you maximize your success by planning in advance!  Most candidates start strategizing the year they are applying to business school.  To me, the process of applying to a top business school is a 3-5 year plan.

I’ll tell you my story.  As a sophomore in College at a reputable University (top 25, but certainly not top 10), I analyzed “How can I get accepted to a top-5-10 business school?” I am a low-beta person, so my approach may be a bit neurotic, as I made sure to leave no stone unturned; everything I did was strategic.

I read about each school and created a dossier on each and I talked to current students at each and created notes on what it takes to get accepted.  What I learned via my due diligence is that my target schools (top-5-10) accept candidates who offer the following:

  • Great grades
  • Great GMAT
  • Depth of extracurriculars and volunteer activities
  • Interesting work experience
  • Superb recommendations
  • Leadership experiences; an innovator and initiator; a candidate that stands apart as unique.

From sophomore year in college until I applied to business school, every choice I made was focused on my goal, Point B, getting into a top-5-10 business school.  So, I embarked on a path that started at Point A, where I was a college sophomore, taking step, by strategic step, to reach Point B, Ivy League, top-5 MBA admission.

Grades:  My grades were easy, I had always worked hard to be an A student, but I chose to do an Honor’s thesis, which won the top thesis in my department.  I also chose to double-major, and double-minor, adding depth to the strength of my grades.

GMAT: Not so easy! I have never been a great standardized test taker.  My SAT was much lower than my grades.  So, I studied, and I studied, and I studied.  I took a course, I got a tutor, and I made darn sure that my GMAT score was solidly within the range of the average GMAT score at my target schools.

Extracurriculars and volunteering: I had played two years of college basketball and softball.  As a Junior in college I retired from my athletic career, and instead ran for student government and one a leadership position, I was on the Chancellor’s Leadership Committee, worked as a Teaching Assistant, to name only a few.  In each activity I took on leadership roles and worked to bring new ideas to the table.  I brought Desmond Tutu to campus to speak.  When I graduated, I moved to Washington DC, and promptly became the President of the alumni club in DC, and I created and hosted a 500 person Capitol Hill Day for Alumni (twice), and created and led a children’s group at the local soup kitchen.

Work Experience:  Post-undergrad I had offers at investment banks, but I instead took a unique position in the United States Government, one that had very few recent college grads.  My thought was that I could do something I loved while doing something unique from my peers, thereby differentiating me.

Recommendations:  All the while, I knew that I would need recommendations.  I cultivated real, and deep relationships with people who would be good candidates for writing my references.  I let them get to know me well.  Don’t get me wrong, I built genuine relationships, and am proud to say that today 20 years later these people are all still my friends and professional references.

Leadership, innovator, initiative:  In all of the above, I made sure that my roles set me apart, gave me leadership experience and added-value via innovation and initiative. I was conscious at all times that what I was doing showed that I am unique, that I would add-value to the classroom (and that was before I knew the term value-added).

In sum, my point is this, if you are reading this blog and you are a few years out of applying to business school, write out your strategy now.  Write down every single thing you need to do to ensure success and start ticking each item off the list with focus and determination.  Business school is a huge investment of time and money.  You want to maximize your chance of getting into the best school you can, so help yourself by preparing and writing your strategy.  It worked for me, with 3 top-5 acceptances; and 2 more in the top-10; one denial (darn you Stanford); and one deferral.

Are you planning to apply this year? Don’t worry – you still can do so successfully!  For best success, focus on controlling what you can right now, including:

  • Getting your highest possible GMAT score
  • Securing exemplary recommendations
  • Preparing for you potential interview with intention
  • Thinking critically across your application about that which differentiates you as a superb candidate in terms of leadership experiences, innovation and being an initiator- dig deep to find that which makes you unique.  I recently worked with a candidate applying to college who after applying told me she was a SAG actor with many credits, this would have been a great plus to a college application.  I recommend that you go through your life year by year and critically analyze what you have done that makes you stand out, and then apply your best of the best to the application and interview.

Best of luck!

If you have MBA admissions questions, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or email us a question for this blog to timeout@veritasprep.com. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Courtney Jane is a Veritas Prep Admissions Consultant for the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Before going to Dartmouth, Courtney graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Political Science.  After 20 years in business with positions at Young & Rubicam, Disney, Americorp Funding and Merrill Lynch, Courtney currently works as a business undergraduate Professor at the Los Angeles Film School and Argosy University.  

New Releases: Yale SOM, Duke Fuqua, & NYU Stern Admissions Preview 2013-2014

AdmissionsAs schools continue to release admissions deadlines and essays for the 2013-2014 application season, Veritas Prep will periodically bring you a preview of what’s to come. Already, Yale SOM, Duke Fuqua, and NYU Stern have released their new application deadlines for the upcoming season, with Stern also releasing its application essay questions. Look below for the new deadlines and check back for more commentary next week!

 

Yale SOM Admissions Deadlines:
Round 1: September 25, 2013
Round 2: January 9, 2014
Round 3:  April 24, 2014

Duke Fuqua Admissions Deadlines:
Early Action: September 18, 2013
Round 1: October 21, 2013
Round 2: January 6, 2014
Round 3: March 20, 2014

NYU Stern Admissions Deadlines:
Round 1: October 15, 2013
Round 2: November 15, 2013
Round 3: January 15, 2014
Round 4: March 15, 2013

NYU Stern Application Essays: 

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

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

Essay 2: Choose Option A or Option B (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

  • Option A: Your Two Paths — The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact.

    – Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?
    – How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?
    – What factors will most determine which path you will take?

  • Option B: Personal Expression — Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative. If you submit a non-written piece for this essay (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit this essay via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.

    Guidelines and Restrictions:
    – Your submission becomes the property of  NYU Stern and cannot be returned for any reason.
    – If you submit a written essay, it should be 500 words maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font. If you submit a video or audio file, it should be five minutes maximum.
    – If you prepare a multimedia submission, you may mail a CD, DVD or USB flash drive to the Admissions Office. These are the only acceptable methods of submission. Please do not submit an internet link to any websites or to a video hosting service such as YouTube.
    – The Admissions Committee reserves the right to request an alternate essay if we are unable to view your submission.
    – Do not submit anything perishable (e.g. food), or any item that has been worn (e.g. clothing).
    – Mailed materials must be postmarked by the application deadline date. Please follow our mail and labeling instructions.

Essay 3: Additional Information (optional)

  •  Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE and/or TOEFL or any other relevant information. If you are unable to submit a recommendation from your current supervisor, you must explain your reason. If you are a re-applicant from last year, please explain how your candidacy has improved since your last application.

Stay tuned for our comments coming out next week. For more advice on getting into Yale, Duke, NYU or another top choice school, be sure to download our Essential Guides, 14 different guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for these and other top business schools, 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!

 

I’m Waitlisted… Now What?

Click here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout[at]veritasprep[dot]com.

Dear Trav,
I was waitlisted to my top choice schools. What should I do, if anything, to follow up with these schools?
— 

First, may I offer my congratulations!  I know you may not feel like being congratulated for landing on a waitlist rather than being accepted to your dream school. But you weren’t denied, so the school is clearly interested.  In fact, every person on the waitlist is qualified to be a member of the class. An MBA Admissions Committee will never waitlist a candidate who they think is unqualified, so this certainly deserves congratulations.

Why do schools have a waitlist?

In knowing what you should do to get off the waitlist and onto the “Admitted” list, it’s important to understand why schools have a waitlist at all.  It’s not complicated, and you probably already understand.  Even the highest-ranked schools tell us that 75-80% of applicants are qualified to be a part of their class.  Their statistics fall within the typical range for admitted students, including GPA, GMAT score, years of work experience, and so forth.  However, they only admit 5-20% of applicants.  This means that they must select a small group of candidates from the large pool of applicants to admit, primarily based on subjective factors such as employ-ability,  clarity of the candidate’s vision, how they fit with the program offerings, and what they can uniquely contribute to the program compared to other admitted candidates.

A certain group of these qualified candidates are offered admission. However, every school knows that less than 100% of candidates offered admission will accept the offer.  This is the school’s admission yield.  The yield at Harvard Business School is about 90%.  At many other top programs, it’s somewhere around 60%.  Because this number changes a bit from year to year, the school also adds candidates to its waitlist.  Please note: these candidates are typically just as qualified to attend the school as those who were admitted. There simply isn’t enough room in the class to admit every qualified candidate.

For Round 1, schools will extend a certain number of offers and put several candidates on the waitlist.  At most MBA programs, the waitlisted candidates are considered along with the applicants from Round 2. Some members of the waitlist will be interviewed and accepted, some will be denied, and others will stay on the waitlist until consideration in Round 3.  This is a very frustrating process for the applicant.

Don’t transform into a crazy person!

There’s a careful balance that you need to achieve as a member of the waitlist between staying top-of-mind and becoming annoying.  With the confidence of knowing that the admissions committee has already designated you as someone who they would admit to the current class, don’t be overbearing! It’s a nerve-wracking experience, so some people start to do crazy things like calling the admissions office every day and sending multiple emails to as many email addresses as they can get their hands on.  Take a step back and try to see this from the admissions officer’s perspective. If you go to such lengths, you might only confirm in their minds that you are a certifiable nutcase.  Not ideal for gaining admission to one of the world’s highest respected educational institutions!

Schools with strict waitlist rules:

There are some schools, including Wharton, that specifically ask you NOT to reach out to the committee except to provide very specific updates.  For example, Wharton only will accept updates to your GMAT score, a new job, or additional coursework.  If a school has specifically told you NOT to provide other updates, you should follow their instructions.  There’s nothing more frustrating than giving someone some instructions and then having them disregard them because they think they know better. On the flip side, you certainly want to signal your continuing interest in the program and update the committee on the things you are doing to prepare to hit the ground running as an MBA.

If you really want to get into a school like this with very strict guidelines for the waitlist, then I would recommend that you do everything in your power to get in.  If that means studying three hours a day for the next four weeks to improve your GMAT score, then do it!  If that means enrolling in a Statistics, Micro/Macroeconomics, Calculus or Finance course to freshen up your quantitative skills and be able to hit the ground running on Day 1, then do it! (Although I would not go out and get a new job just to report it to the committee! If you get a promotion in your current job, be sure to let them know.) These programs are looking for driven individuals who are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.  Once you have something new to tell them, then be sure to communicate these updates to the admissions committee!

A few more tips for most schools’ waitlists:

Most programs are very willing to receive updates from waitlisted applicants and may even assign you to a Waitlist Advisor who will give you specific things that you can do to improve your chances.  For most programs, you may write an email reiterating your ongoing interest in the program.  If the program is truly your #1 dream school, you could mention that it remains your top choice and that you would be willing to accept an offer the same day it was extended and pay the tuition deposit immediately. If you’ve taken on additional responsibilities or projects at work, you could provide a quick update to your professional experience.  And if there is an area of your application that you know may need some additional support, you may often have an additional recommender write a letter of support to be included in your file.  For example, if you didn’t have an opportunity in your application to discuss extracurricular leadership opportunities outside of work, you could have a supervisor in one of these activities write a letter on your behalf.  Or if your work history jumps all over the place, you could have another professional reference write a letter explaining the strong contributions you’ve made and the clear vision you have for your post-MBA career.

The key is to clearly signal to the admissions committee that you’re still interested in gaining admission to the program, are willing to do what it takes to be admitted, and are willing to abide by the rules and guidelines that have been expressed.  Numerous emails with no substantive updates will not help your cause, and may even hurt it.

If you’re looking for specific guidance on how to craft your communications with the Admissions Committee or specific steps that would be best for your unique situation, please reach out to Veritas Prep!  Waitlist assistance is a key part of our admissions strategy and we would be happy to work with you on this aspect of your application.

Best of luck to you in the coming weeks!
Travis

If you have MBA admissions questions, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or email us a question for this blog to timeout@veritasprep.com. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

 

Getting Letters of Recommendation from Your Current Supervisor

Click here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout[at]veritasprep[dot]com.

Dear Trav,
I want to change careers so my employer can’t know I’m applying to b-school. How should I navigate letters of recommendation if I can’t ask my direct supervisor for help?

As you probably already know based on your question, pretty much every MBA program asks for a recommendation from your current supervisor.  In fact, if your current supervisor does not provide a recommendation, the school will usually ask you to explain the circumstances in your optional essay. Because of this very strong language on their website, most candidates believe that if they can’t provide a recommendation from their current supervisor, they are put at a huge disadvantage.  They think of it like a homework assignment that doesn’t fulfill all the requirements, so you’re automatically deducted a full letter grade.  Please don’t think like that!  The admissions process is much more holistic and flexible than you might think!

There are many circumstances when an applicant cannot get a recommendation from their current supervisor.  In many cases, they are not comfortable telling their current employer that they may be leaving the company to go to business school.  In others, they may have worked with their current supervisor for a very short time, and the person does not know them well.  In other cases, the applicant may be concerned that if they tell their current supervisor that they will be leaving the company, their projects or bonuses may be affected. Or let’s be honest, sometimes you can’t get a recommendation from your current supervisor because you absolutely HATE them, and the feeling is likely mutual, so you don’t think they will offer you a strong recommendation.

It’s okay!  Admissions officers know that there are many circumstances where obtaining a recommendation from your current supervisor is not possible. In most cases, you may simply explain the situation in a straightforward and candid way in your optional essay.  For example, I worked with an applicant in investment banking who simply said, “I have not informed my direct supervisor of my intentions to apply to business school because I am concerned that it may impact the projects to which I am assigned and my quarterly bonuses.”  He was admitted to his first-choice school.

The key is to select another recommender who can offer a similar perspective on your strengths and weaknesses.  Think about what your current supervisor knows about you: they know your day-to-day job responsibilities and working habits, they have firsthand knowledge of projects where you’ve shown initiative, they understand your interpersonal skills, they can compare your performance to peers, and so on. You need to find someone who can replicate this intimate level of understanding as closely as possible. A peer is usually NOT the best answer, as it’s pretty easy to just find our best friend at work and have them write a glowing review. Do you have a former supervisor from the fairly recent past (past 2-3 years)?  Do you work in a matrix-style organization where you’ve reported to other supervisors on different projects? Do you have a mentor within your organization with whom you feel comfortable discussing your future career goals—including business school? You need someone who has served in a supervisory role to you and who can speak very personally about your performance, strengths and weaknesses.

Once you have selected the proper replacement, be sure to mention why you selected them in your optional essay.  So after explaining why you have not asked your current supervisor for a recommendation, you need to add a sentence stating something like, “Therefore, I have asked Travis Morgan to write a recommendation on my behalf, as he is my most recent former supervisor and can speak directly to my professional experience, performance relative to my peers, and personal strengths and weaknesses.”

The MBA admissions committee places the greatest value on recommendations from your current supervisor, as they can speak to your current circumstances and achievements. Besides, if you show the courage to speak with them about your future plans, this shows the level of trust that you have with them. So obtaining a recommendation from your current supervisor is always the best option.  However, admissions officers will understand your circumstances and recognize that this is not always possible. You will not be automatically “demoted” in consideration for this one omission. Instead, just find your best alternative recommender and prepare them properly so that their recommendation is strong, personal and specific.

I hope that comes as a relief to you as you prepare to apply!

Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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! If you have any admissions questions for the blog, please send them to timeout[at]veritasprep[dot]com.

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.

 

3 Tips to Make Your Admissions Essay Stand Out

Click here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout[at]veritasprep[dot]com!

Dear Trav,
Do you have any tips for writing admissions essays about myself?

If I may take some liberties in translating this question, I suspect you’re probably asking one of two questions:

  1. “I’m uncomfortable bragging about myself, but I know that I need to stand out from the crowd of amazing applicants to be accepted. How I am supposed to do that?” or…
  2. “Let’s be honest: I’m pretty dang awesome and I love bragging about myself. However, I don’t want to seem like a complete a****le to the admissions committee, so how can I showcase my strengths without seeming like I’m completely full of myself.”

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter to me which question you’re really asking. Either question is completely legitimate. Whether it’s applying for a job, seeking for a promotion or a raise from your boss, or applying to b-school, praising yourself is always an awkward balance of presenting facts favorable to yourself and showcasing some true humility.

While everyone’s essays will be different—and we specifically tell our clients NOT to force their essays into a specific cookie-cutter template—I can offer a few quick tips and principles that are generally applicable:

Show, Don’t Tell

This is a common piece of advice that certainly isn’t exclusive to Veritas Prep, but it’s still very powerful, nonetheless. Do not simply make claims about yourself in your essays, such as, “I have a strong work ethic.” Even the laziest of candidates can “tell” an admissions officer that they have a strong work ethic, so this does nothing to differentiate your candidacy.  Instead, if you think one of the key strengths of your candidacy is your strong work ethic, think of stories or examples to showcase this.  For example, “In 2011, I was awarded our companywide Employee of the Year award, and my supervisor specifically mentioned my unwavering work ethic as the primary reason she nominated me. I am relentless in pursuing my personal and team goals, and look forward to working with equally dedicated classmates on team projects at Wharton.” Tying the award to your personality trait enables you to “show” the admissions committee some evidence of that trait rather than just trying to “tell” them about it.

Use “Mini-stories”

Using “mini-stories” is a perfect way to “show” rather than “tell.”  As a former journalist, I highly encourage my consulting clients to tell stories from their past to make their points. However, when people think of telling a story, they often think about crafting a beginning, middle and end.  In fact, many of your essays will be structured this way (we call it the SAR method for Situation-Action-Result, but we’ll discuss that in another post).  However, crafting a multi-paragraph story that really only makes one point or showcases one of your strengths may not be the best use of your word count.  Instead, I encourage my clients to think of “mini stories” — quick, one or two line examples from their life that will make their point without the need for lots of context.

For example, a common type of admissions essay will ask you to write about your unique background, skills, experiences, etc. that you will bring to the MBA program. I have a very charismatic and enthusiastic personality, and I thought this would be something important to mention in my essay.  In my first draft, I started writing, “I bring enthusiasm to every organization.”  Then I realized that this was not particularly effective, since anyone can say they bring enthusiasm to an organization. I starting thinking about stories I could tell that would show this particular character trait. However, I wanted to include many other things in the essay, so I didn’t want to take up much space. I remembered a conversation that I had with a friend that worked perfectly.  I started my essay with the line: “I have a friend, Cheryl, who has posted a goal on her bathroom mirror that states, ‘Be the most enthusiastic person you know.’ Cheryl came to me and said, ‘Travis, I can’t accomplish my goal because you are the most enthusiastic person I know!’”

In just two and a half lines, I was able to show a completely unquantifiable trait like “enthusiasm” in a way that any admissions officer would understand and appreciate. After making this statement, I followed it up by saying that I bring a sense of optimism and enthusiasm to every project I undertake.  My personal philosophy is that pessimism harms team morale even more than failure. In a tiny “mini-story,” I was able to offer the admissions officer a little glimpse into how I think, my unique perspective and philosophy in life, and how I’m perceived by others in a genuine, honest and fairly humble way. Take a look at the stories you want to tell and determine whether they deserve a “full treatment” with a beginning, middle and end, or whether you can find a “mini-story” to say pretty much the same thing.

Don’t Try to Oversell Yourself

Since Job #1 in your application is to show the admissions officer that you’re a worthy candidate for their program, there’s always a temptation to write as if you’re some kind of unconquerable superhero without a single chink in your armor. To be perfectly honest, the most successful candidates I’ve seen at top-tier B-schools, especially at the highest ranked schools of Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School, have been those who were ridiculously down-to-earth, not afraid to talk about huge failures, and were 100% genuine in their applications. Admissions officers are not looking for over-wrought, over-crafted works of art in your application. They want to find out about the real you and what makes you tick.

The real key to writing about yourself is selecting the right stories. You need to find those stories that say a TON about who you are, how you think, how you react to less-than-ideal situations or solve problems in the fewest words possible. Don’t try to be a hero—just be your best self.

I hope those bits of advice are helpful in crafting your ideal applications. Of course, our Veritas Prep Admissions Consultants are the experts in helping you dive deep within yourself, see what’s there, and determine how to express the depths of your soul in just 300-500 words!

Trav 

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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! If you have any admissions questions for the blog, please send them to timeout[at]veritasprep[dot]com.

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.

Application Tips from Harvard, Stanford, and More!

Click here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout[at]veritasprep[dot]com!

Dear Trav,
I want to run my family’s business once I finish school. Is this a good story for my future goals?

I have a couple of thoughts here, so the first part of my response will be relevant to ALL B-school applicants and the second is directed specifically to those seeking to return to family-owned businesses.

“Good” Goals and “Bad” Goals

We are constantly asked by applicants, “Is xxx a good story for my future goals?”  What this ultimately is asking is, “What do admissions committees want to hear? That way I can be sure to tell it to them.” This is one of the worst approaches you can take to an MBA application. Admissions officers don’t want you to try to transform yourself into something that you’re not, mysteriously developing passions just months before you apply. They want you to be yourself!

There is not a “good” goal and a “bad” goal for your post-MBA ambitions. Rather, there are realistic, achievable and thoughtful goals, and then there are unrealistic goals that seem entirely disconnected from an applicant’s current experience, with no due diligence or planning on how to bridge the gap to achieve their goal other than the magic of an MBA degree on their resume.

Expressing Your Goals in an MBA Application

Although there are not “good” or “bad” goals, there are certainly better and worse ways to express your goals in your application. I will use direct quotes from MBA admissions officers and websites to outline how you should approach your MBA application, and by extension, your short-term and long-term goals:

  1. B-schools are not looking for just one type of candidate: “Genuine business talent cannot be narrowly defined. Instead of looking for an ‘ideal’ candidate, HBS invites applicants who bring a variety of skills, accomplishments, and aspirations to form a very special community.” (HBS Admissions Website)
  2. Admissions officers hate it when you try to write things you think they want to hear: “This is not an undertaking in which you look at an audience/customer (i.e., the Committee on Admissions) and then write what you believe we want to hear. It is quite the opposite. This is a process in which you look inside yourself and try to express most clearly what is there.” (Derrick Bolton, Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions, Stanford GSB)
  3. If you feel your genuine career path and goals are “too traditional,” DO NOT try to come up with novel or “more interesting” goals to differentiate yourself: “The point of the essays is to tell your story, not someone else’s. Your best bet for differentiating yourself is to do just that — tell your story.” (Soojin Kwon, Director of Admissions, Ross School of Business)
  4. Take some significant time to really reflect on yourself, your passions and your REAL goals: “You’ve heard us say it a million times — self-reflection is the absolute best investment for strong essays.  Take the next couple of weeks to do some deeper thinking before sitting down to your keyboard.” (Kurt Alhm, Assistant Dean of Student Recruitment & Admissions, Chicago Booth)
  5. If your goals seem bland, be sure to show how they connect to your passions and vision and how you plan on shaping the world around you: “One of the things we want to know from you in the application is, ‘Are you ready to make an impact? Do you have an idea of the world outside yourself and what you’d like to make an impact on?’” (Sara Neher, Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions, Darden School of Business)
  6. Draw a personal connection between your goals and the offerings of your target school: “The strongest essays will be those that reflect a deeper level of knowledge about a particular program beyond simple course titles or generalities. So when writing your application, think about those things that excite you about our Berkeley program and be sure to discuss them.” (Stephanie Fujii, Executive Director of Admissions, Berkeley-Haas)

In short, admissions officers are much more interested in getting to know you, your real passions, and how you plan to use your career to make an impact.  Your immediate goals may seem really boring, such as moving up the ranks in Management Consulting or Investment Banking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t differentiate yourself by showing how those paths uniquely fit with your broader passions and interests.

Okay, So What About My Family Business?

Alright, it’s time for me to get off my soap box and talk specifically about family businesses.  The reason I went into this long, seemingly tangential speech about goals is to show that going into your family business is a perfectly fine goal, assuming that’s REALLY what you want to do!  I had many MBA colleagues at Kellogg whose goals were to return to their family businesses.  In fact, several MBA programs such as Kellogg, Columbia, LBS and many others offer specific resources around family businesses.  As I mentioned above, you’ll certainly want to connect your goals to the academic and extracurricular offerings of the school.

How Can I Differentiate Myself From Other Candidates With Family Business Aspirations?

One of the key ways to differentiate yourself regarding your family business is to say what you plan to do with the business upon graduating from your target MBA program.  What is your vision for the business and your role in it?  If it’s not likely that you’ll immediately take over as CEO, how will you make an impact on the business in your first role out of school?  What, specifically, do you need to learn in your MBA program to be able to grow the family business and achieve your goals?  Do you plan to eventually run the business?  What kinds of market factors will impact the business between now and then?  What are your competitors doing?

As Kurt Alhm recommends above, make sure that you spend some significant time reflecting about your goals and do your homework about what will impact the success of your family’s business in the future.  This will show that you’re really serious about making an impact and you’ve spent the time to understand the factors for success.

At Veritas Prep, we’ve worked with a number of candidates who are coming from or going to family businesses and there’s certainly an art to demonstrating that you truly have the skills to succeed and have not been coddled by nepotism. Feel free to reach out if you’re interested in learning more about working with our experienced Admissions Consultants in our unique team-based approach to MBA admissions.

Good luck in your applications!
Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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.

Business School Applicants: Take the 2013 AIGAC Survey and Win $100!

Every other year, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) conducts a large survey to study trends among business school applicants. The results are shared with AIGAC member consultants and with MBA programs to help them better anticipate the needs of those who will soon apply to business school.

This online survey should take just a few minutes to complete. We would love to receive as many responses as possible before the closing date of Monday, May 20 — and we would like to see you win one of three $100 gift certificates!

Simply click here to begin the survey: http://j.mp/AIGAC.

More about the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants: AIGAC promotes high ethical standards and professional development amongst graduate admissions consultants, increases public understanding of graduate admissions consulting, and enhances channels of communication with complementary organizations and entities.

Thanks in advance for your participation, and good luck with the drawing!

Differentiating Finance Candidates

Click here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout[at]veritasprep.com!

Dear Trav,
I am a traditional finance guy. How can I best differentiate myself from everyone else who looks and sounds like me in an application?

As top-tier business schools seek to diversify themselves and avoid becoming simply a two-year vacation for hard charging Management Consultants and Investment Bankers, it means that applying with a “traditional” background can be more challenging than it was 5 or 10 years ago. Every year, candidates from bulge bracket banks with Ivy League educations are denied admission to top schools. I say it over and over in my blog, but the admissions committee’s task is not merely to evaluate applicants and offer admission to the qualified ones, it is to select who they think will best contribute to a diverse class from among the sea of qualified applicants. Ankur Kumar, Director of MBA Admissions at Wharton, estimates that 75 to 80 percent of Wharton applicants are qualified to attend. Based on admission rates, this means that Wharton denies more than two-thirds of qualified applicants.

The HBS Admissions website states, “To create a dynamic environment that mirrors the breadth and depth of our world economy, we seek diversity. Our promise to our faculty and to every student here is to create a class of 900 students who come from as many different backgrounds and perspectives as possible.” This sounds fantastic, unless of course you’re from a background that’s overrepresented! “Diversity” can be seen as a distinct disadvantage to those who don’t believe they offer it.

Don’t worry, there’s good news in admissions numbers for you as well: 27% of HBS’ admitted class of 2014 came from the finance sector, the highest of any industry. Consulting was the second highest at 20%. So nearly half the class is comprised of consultants and bankers. At some schools, the percentage is even higher. But as you rightly assert, you will need to stand out from the crowd of similar candidates.

Please don’t do this by trying to be someone else in your applications. Don’t dream up ridiculous career goals to try to “differentiate” yourself, when you really just want to ascend the ladder in investment banking or make a transition into Private Equity. The schools want to see that you have realistic career goals given your previous experience, so be honest!

Your credentials are going to need to be strong. Good undergraduate performance, strong GMAT score, solid professional performance. Those are givens. But your grades and your job are not the only things that define you. B-schools are looking for candidates who are introspective and interesting. They look for what we call the Four Dimensions of a Perfect Candidate: Leadership, Innovation, Teamwork and Maturity.

What are some ways that you’ve shown leadership—in or outside of work? Do peers tend to see you as a leader, whether or not you have a fancy title? Other than huge quarterly bonuses, what intrigues you about the finance industry? How can you show an intellectual curiosity and innovative problem-solving mindset? Candidates from the financial sector may be stereotyped as only looking out for themselves—the global economy be damned. What experiences from your life show that you’re a true team player and that you care about things beyond yourself and your paycheck? How have you contributed to the community around you, whether at work, in community organizations or at school?

Many finance candidates spend a couple of years as an Analyst and then apply to B-school to ascend the ladder, and this is perfectly fine. However, there may be few opportunities to showcase your Personal and Professional Maturity, such as making difficult decisions, navigating ethical dilemmas, dealing with complex issues, managing challenging employees, advocating your position while understanding and incorporating opposing viewpoints, etc. Most analysts simply do their jobs and do them well. Think of specific experiences that you’ve had in your professional life, in undergrad, and in other organizations that can show that you are a mature candidate who will bring a unique set of experiences and perspectives to your MBA class.

When MBA programs say they are looking for a “diverse” class, this can certainly include traditional measures of diversity such as gender, race, ethnicity and so forth, but perhaps more importantly it means diversity of thought. (Of course, the traditional dimensions of diversity are valuable to organizations precisely because people of different backgrounds and experiences provide diversity of thought and perspective!) Imagine an HBS classroom where every student had exactly the same perspective and opinion about the case that you had. Would that provide any value to you whatsoever? Of course not. Think about your background and experiences compared to your peers in the financial industry. What experiences do you have that have affected the way you view the world? What has provided you a different perspective than some of your peers?

What are you passionate about (or what were you passionate about before you started working 100-hour weeks)? What really makes you tick? All of these introspective questions will enable you to differentiate yourself far more than so-called “international experience” that consisted of a 2-week trip to Europe and a vacation to Shanghai. It will also be far more genuine than a “newfound passion” for microfinance and a short-term career goal of working for Grameen Bank, if none of your past endeavors would lead the admissions committee to see a pattern of interest in such pursuits.

Successful MBA applicants with traditional backgrounds tend to be very introspective about their experiences and tell them in admissions essays with a very personal touch. At Veritas Prep, every GMAT student and Admissions Consulting client can receive our Personalized MBA Game Plan™ Powered by the Myers-Briggs Assessment. It helps you see your unique strengths based on the Four Dimensions of a Perfect Applicant and write stories in your essays with a more personal perspective. Instead of simply writing about a $500 million deal that you worked on, you’ll be able to analyze how your unique strengths enabled the team to succeed and how your innovative mindset helped solve a seemingly insurmountable problem. This kind of perspective will differentiate you from the hundreds of other applicants who are simply hoping to get in based on the size of the transactions they worked on and the prestige of their bulge bracket bank.

I hope this answers some of your questions, spawns ideas from your own life and will help you differentiate yourself from all those other finance candidates!

Very Best,
Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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.

The Reputation of Berkeley Haas

UC BerkeleyClick here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com!

Dear Trav,
What is the reputation of Berkeley Haas?
— 

Haas is likely the top-10 MBA program that most often flies beneath many candidates’ radars. Ranked #7 by U.S. News, #12 by Financial Times, and #13 by Bloomberg Businessweek, it is a powerful program with a number of strengths. Its admission rate hovers around 12% per year, usually putting it in the top 2 or 3 most selective MBA programs, along with Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School.  I must admit that I smile when I hear people say, “I’m applying to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton, with Haas as my safety school.”  Haas’ admission rate is a little more than half that of Wharton—it shouldn’t be anyone’s “safety school”!

One of the reasons that Haas has maintained such a selective standard in admissions is its small class size of less than 250 people. In the U.S., only Yale has a smaller class among top-tier MBA programs, and Yale has announced that it will be expanding its program as it moves into a new facility. Small size can have both advantages and disadvantages. Every student in the class will know one another through their two years, which creates a very tight-knit bond. In larger MBA programs, you may certainly feel like a cog in a giant machine and potentially get lost in all the commotion. Haas is also known for its incredibly friendly atmosphere.  In fact, one of its four Defining Principles is “Confidence Without Attitude,” an accurate description of nearly all of its students.  On the downside, a small class also means a smaller network of alums to help you get your dream job upon graduation. A huge percentage of Haas graduates remain in California and the West Coast of the U.S.

With such a small class and low admissions rate, the Berkeley-Haas admissions committee has the luxury of selecting only candidates who it feels confident will be a perfect fit with the school’s unique culture. The program is known for asking interesting and unusual questions in its application.  This past year, the first essay question was not about a candidates goals or why they want an MBA, but asked, “If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why?” This is a great example of what the admissions committee looks for in candidates—a little panache to go along with the standard B-school qualifications.

Utilizing its location in the San Francisco Bay Area, Haas maintains strong connections with Silicon Valley. It places a large number of graduates into the Tech industry every year, although it’s trying hard to avoid being stereotyped as just a “tech school.” Leveraging the strengths of its parent institution, UC Berkeley (often referred to as “Cal”), Haas offers opportunities in Cleantech, Nanotechnology and Biotech that are unmatched at any other MBA program. It also has a strong emphasis in ethical leadership and social responsibility, especially social entrepreneurship. Digital media is also a strong suit.

If you’re looking to break into Venture Capital or Private Equity in Silicon Valley, you won’t have quite as many recruiters busting down your door as you would at Haas’ cross-town rival, Stanford.  However, as one of our Veritas Prep Haas Specialists put it, “if you get off of campus and knock on a few doors, you can definitely pick up some offers in Silicon Valley VC firms.” Haas graduates are proud of the fact that Berkeley is a public school that may require a little more elbow grease to accomplish your goals.

It’s easy to dismiss Haas as the “other Bay Area MBA program” living in Stanford’s shadow, but don’t do it!  It stands as one of the preeminent MBA programs worldwide. I would highly recommend you visit the campus to see for yourself if this small MBA program with a strong reputation is the right fit for you.

Kind Regards,
Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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.

The Game of MBA Admissions

That’s right.  I just called the MBA admissions process a Game.  And like all games, there are winners and there are losers.   Baseball Hall of Famers with the highest batting averages still strike out sometimes, and MVP Quarterbacks do fumble the ball and throw pick sixes now and again.   But they are experienced, they are trusted, and they are generally really darn good at what they do.

Then there are the coaches with amazing win/loss percentages and tons of experience, but again none of these coaches have 100% success.  They provide valuable coaching to the star players and sometimes critical and honest feedback (yes MVPs still have room for improvement).

The Veritas Prep Admissions Consulting team members are here to be your coaches.   Continue reading “The Game of MBA Admissions”

Timeout with Trav: Bombed HBS Interview

Click here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com!

Dear Trav,
What happens if I bombed my HBS interview?
— 

A little word to the wise—everyone thinks they bombed their HBS interview.  HBS interviewers are notorious for giving little or no verbal or nonverbal feedback during interviews.  They’ll sit stone-faced while you try to expound on the passions that drive your life, the incredible achievements in your professional career and the countless extracurricular activities you’ve been involved in.

One of the Best Interviews of the Season

When I visited the HBS campus and sat in on an info session, the 2nd Year student was telling us about her interview experience. She said that she barely made it through the interview, sat down on the steps outside the building, and just cried. This was a tough woman from the financial sector who had put up with all sorts of stresses in her 80+ hour work weeks.  And yet she thought she had absolutely doomed her chances of attending her dream school. Much to her surprise, she received notification that she had been admitted to Harvard Business School!  Once on campus, she bumped into the member of the admissions committee who had interviewed her.  The woman remembered her interview and specifically commented that it was one of the best interviews she had conducted in the entire application cycle! Please remember that particularly at HBS, but with other schools as well, you cannot judge your interview performance by the visual or verbal cues offered by your interviewer.

A Holistic Approach

Secondly, remember that the interview is simply one element of your entire application. When applying for a job, your resume and job application are often just tools to get you through the initial screening process. It’s the interview that really counts. This is NOT how the MBA admissions process works. The interview is just one element among many data points that the admissions committee considers. While inappropriate interview conduct or a blatant lack of knowledge about the program may weigh heavily against your acceptance, the interview is rarely a make-or-break event. Most schools will use the interview to evaluate fit with the program. Since they have far more qualified applicants than available spots in the class, an admissions officer’s task is to select a diverse group of applicants from a large pool of qualified candidates.  It is not to simply evaluate candidates using a checklist of qualifications and select the ones who receive the most points. The interview allows the admissions officer to get a quick sense of what the candidate may offer to the class, but it is taken into consideration with numerous other factors.

The Post-Interview Reflection

At HBS, you have a chance to redeem yourself after your interview with the post-interview reflection. If you honestly bombed your interview and left a terrible impression with the interviewer—whether it was through complete ignorance of the school or the world around you, inappropriate behavior or dress, complete lack of focus in your career goals, or you just slept in and missed it—I don’t think you’re going to be able to completely turn the admissions officer’s opinion of you around by 180 degrees no matter how eloquent your Post-Interview Reflection may be. However, for most of us, there are always a few things that we wish we could have articulated a bit better in our interviews or topics we wish we had covered in greater depth.  At HBS (and perhaps other schools will begin to adopt this model), you have the opportunity to supplement your interview within 24 hours.  I would not recommend that you stock your Post-Interview Reflection full of excuses for this answer or that answer in your interview.  Instead, simply supplement your answers with greater clarity and detail. Use propriety in its length. It should be about as long as a memo you’d receive at work—long enough to provide necessary information but not so long that people stop reading. Showing true introspection and recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of your interview will show a personal and professional maturity that HBS and other B-schools are looking for.

Diversification Decreases Risk

From my personal experience, I am generally a great interviewer, but for some reason I bombed two of my MBA admissions interviews.  Perhaps it was overconfidence on my part that resulted in insufficient preparation, or perhaps I was simply not intended to go to those schools and the universe conspired against me. I was denied admission to one school and waitlisted at another. Luckily, I was interviewed by three other programs and ended up deciding to go to Kellogg—one of the best decisions of my life. This is a telling example of why you should apply to multiple programs. There’s no silver bullet that will guarantee admission any top-tier business school, and there are many factors that are simply out of your control. If you bomb an interview at one school and combined with other factors it ultimately results in being denied, you should ensure that you have other options!  Diversify your portfolio of target schools and make sure you’re applying to many programs that will enable you to achieve your goals.

Let’s hope that you’re one of the many HBS candidates who thinks they bombed their interview when in reality is was one of the best of the season!

Very Best,
Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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.

Timeout with Trav: Selecting the Right Program

Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com!

Dear Trav,
How can you best determine which school or program is right for you?

While we provide services on everything from resume reviews to essay feedback to mock interviews, perhaps the most important thing you can do to improve your chances of being admitted to your target MBA program is to select the right schools. This is probably the most valuable advice we can provide, and yet most candidates completely ignore it and simply apply to the top 5 schools of their rating publication of choice. This is a huge mistake!

There are a number of factors that applicants take into consideration, and these may have vastly different weights based on your own priorities. Applicants often consider:

• Class Size (HBS has 900 people per class, while IMD’s class is just 90)
• City Environment (Urban, Suburban or Rural locations)
• Geography (East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, Europe, Asia, etc.)
• Academic Methods (case study, lecture, experiential learning in “labs,” externships, etc.)
• Academic Offerings (a major in Technology Management, Media Management, Real Estate, etc.)
• Name Recognition (for example, Yale’s and Georgetown’s name recognition—particularly in international regions—may outshine that of other schools with higher rankings)
• On-campus Recruiters & Employment Stats (how many graduates does the school send into your target industry each year?)
• Campus Culture & Personality Fit (do you feel like you’ll thrive in this environment?)

Based on your goals, you may have very different priorities among these considerations (or perhaps you have some different considerations altogether).

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Employment Opportunities
Business Schools know that your top goal in attending their program is to get a job when you graduate. (Yes, I believe that education has incredible intrinsic value, but let’s be real… you need to pay off those loans!) In my opinion, the #1 criterion most candidates should consider is the Employment Statistics of the school. If you want to go into the media industry, for example, there are only a handful of schools that attract a strong cadre of media companies to campus or send a significant number of graduates into this niche industry. Perhaps no surprise, they are primarily in Los Angeles and New York. If you want to break into a highly selective industry such as Private Equity or Venture Capital, school choice will be vital to achieving your goals. This is not to say that you should only apply to schools that are well known for your target industry. For example, many Kellogg graduates go into Finance and Wharton grads go into Marketing. Just be sure you’re not applying to a program that offers little or no support for your desired career path.

Physical Location
Geography matters much more than people think. Schools don’t have to be considered “regional” to attract primarily local and regional recruiters. Even top internationally recognized programs such as Harvard and Stanford send a high percentage of their graduates to companies in their own region. If your goal is to work in California after B-school, you could certainly go to Columbia, Wharton, Duke, Kellogg or other distant programs and still achieve your goals. However, the California schools such as Stanford, Berkeley-Haas, UCLA Anderson and USC Marshall will have far more California-based companies recruiting at their schools that may offer you more opportunities and choices. Personally, I was working in Seattle prior to B-school and was not planning to return upon graduation, so geography mattered far less to me than other candidates.

School Culture
As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, when I was researching schools I visited their websites, checked class descriptions in their course catalogs, reviewed the rankings and thought I had really done my homework! However, I decided to take an entire week off work and travel from Seattle to visit various schools on the East Coast and the Midwest. Not knowing anything about these schools more than some online research, I was amazed to discover just how different they were! I eventually attended Kellogg, whose warm, friendly, fun and inclusive environment was the perfect fit for me. In hindsight, I realize that I thrived academically, socially and professionally because of the great fit I had with the program. Even though I felt intimidated in applying to B-schools since I had no business background in my professional or undergraduate life, I ended up graduating with distinction and helped shape the school for years to come. Had I attended another highly ranked program with a different approach to academics and student body, I’m sure I would have received a stellar education, but I definitely would not have thrived in the same way.

For this reason, we offer several resources at Veritas Prep that are simply unavailable through any other MBA admissions consultancy. For example, we have School Specialists for every top-20 program and many others. Only at Veritas Prep will you have a dedicated School Specialist for every top-tier school in your Comprehensive School Package. They will help you understand the unique culture of that school based on their firsthand experience at the program.

In addition, we offer the Personalized MBA Game Plan™ Powered by the Myers-Briggs Assessment®. We collaborated with the publishers of the Myers-Briggs personality tests to develop an assessment specific to applying to MBA programs. You’ll better understand your unique strengths and weaknesses to emphasize on your applications and will learn about environments where you will thrive. This is critical to selecting the proper MBA programs for you! Every Veritas Prep GMAT student and Admissions Consulting client may take the Personalized MBA Game Plan™ assessment for free.

I hope these thoughts help you assess your own priorities and find the right schools for you. Of course, we’re always happy to offer our expertise around all the top programs to help you make the right selection!

Very Best,
Trav

For more advice on schools and programs, download our Essential Guides, 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for top business schools, 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!

Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and he 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.

Take a Close Look at Your Round 3 MBA Applications

So you are late in the game, and you want to apply for Round 3 deadlines….   What have you got to lose other than a couple hundred dollars and some hours of your time, right?  WRONG.   Think carefully before applying and this doesn’t just apply to the last round, but all rounds of application deadlines.

If you think you can just wing it and then re-apply next year if you don’t get in, think again.  Most Admissions Committees will see your previous application (so if you have done a poor job on it, it’ll still be visible the next time around), and some schools (such as UCLA) don’t allow the entire application to be resubmitted – only a supplemental essay and recommendation – so you won’t have an opportunity to redo all the other essays. Spend time on creating your applications, and put thought into your essays no matter what round you’re applying. You may not be able to go back and re-visit parts of your application if you apply again next year.

Additionally, if you don’t get in during the last round, and you get on top of things and apply in the first round of the following admissions cycle, not a lot of time has gone by.  You’ll need to consider how much you can really improve your application in this short period of time to give yourself an improved chance of applying, as almost all schools require re-applicants to provide an update on their candidacy.  If you’re expecting to take on new responsibilities, or you foresee a big change at work that will affect your application, take that into consideration. If you’re in a rush to get applications in during Round 3, and not a lot is going to change in the next few months, consider putting more time and effort into Round 1 of the next cycle.

Still not sure what to do?  Contact Veritas Prep Admissions Consulting and we will be happy to help provide guidance.  And if you decide not to apply in the last round, we’ll keep working with you through the summer and into the next recruiting season to ensure you are in tip-top shape!

If you’re ready to start building your own application for top business schools, 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. 

Now, Every Veritas Prep Student Gets a Free Myers-Briggs Assessment!

Here at Veritas Prep we never stop investing in making our GMAT prep courses and MBA admissions consulting services better. And, there’s nothing more rewarding than helping someone achieve a high score on the GMAT, and then also helping them perfect their applications and get into an MBA program they thought was only a dream. Today, we make all of our services even better. We’re excited to announce a new resource available to everyone in the Veritas Prep family.

We spent an entire year collaborating with the publishers of the Myers-Briggs® personality tests and developed something revolutionary in MBA admissions. It’s called the Personalized MBA Game Plan™, and it’s available to every Veritas Prep GMAT student and MBA admissions consulting client!
Continue reading “Now, Every Veritas Prep Student Gets a Free Myers-Briggs Assessment!”

Timeout with Trav: No Time for Extracurricular Activities

Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com!

Dear Trav,

My job requires me to work 80 hours a week so I have no time for extracurricular activities. How will that affect my candidacy?
— 

With so many candidates coming from Investment Banking and other industries that are notorious for long working hours, you’re certainly not alone. It’s important to understand why top-tier MBA admissions committees (Adcoms) look for extracurricular activities to know how to address a lack of them in your application.

Get Past “Checking the Box”
Many MBA candidates approach their applications as a series of check-boxes that must be filled in to secure a spot in a top-tier program. However, Adcoms are not ruled by robotic algorithms with weights given to certain criteria such as GMAT score, undergraduate performance, years of work experience and extracurricular activities. The process is much more holistic than that!  Beyond looking for strong statistics, they’re looking for strong character traits.

Why Do They Care About Extracurriculars At All?
Extracurricular activities can show the Adcom a number of things about you:

  1. It shows that you care about something beyond yourself or getting ahead at any cost—you care about a community around you, whether that’s through mentoring inner city kids, building homes for the underprivileged, raising money for cancer, volunteering for your local church group, or what have you.
  2. More specifically, extracurricular involvement is a good indicator that you’ll get actively involved in the school community, both as a student and as an alum.
  3. An MBA is a broad degree whose goal is to develop future leaders. The Adcoms are looking for well-rounded individuals and not one-dimensional candidates. Your extracurriculars can help you show passion and interests outside of work. If you don’t have significant leadership experiences in your professional life, extracurricular positions can also show your leadership potential.
  4. Lastly, MBA programs have taken quite a bit of heat for churning out graduates who become embroiled in scandals, trigger global financial crises and otherwise prove to be more concerned about their own well-being than that of others. To show their benefit to society and to avoid damaging their brands, MBA programs have a distinct incentive to admit candidates—like yourself—who will be good citizens after graduating.

What If I Don’t Have Them?
So we understand why the Adcom is looking for extracurriculars, but what if you don’t have them? Are you completely SOL? Not to worry, if you’re in a demanding professional role where you’re chained to a desk for 80+ hours a week, the Adcom understands this!  Application readers are real human beings, and many of them may have been in a similar role to yours in the past. They get it. However, you’ll still need to find ways to show that you’re a three-dimensional candidate who cares about something more than just your next quarterly bonus.  How can you do it?

If you haven’t had the opportunity to get involved in extracurriculars during your career, are there activities that you can point to in your undergraduate life? Did you hold any leadership positions? What did you get involved with? Even if they weren’t official “extracurriculars,” did you get together with friends for sports, adventures, activities, etc. Do any of these activities show you more as a three-dimensional human being, rather than just a bucket of statistics?

Even though you haven’t had official “activities” during your professional life, what are some of your passions, hobbies, interests, pursuits, etc.?  For example, when I was at Kellogg, I went to school with a guy who was a former banker and a semi-professional photographer.  While this wasn’t necessarily an “extracurricular activity” like volunteering at a food bank or mentoring through the Boys & Girls Club, it showed a passion beyond work. Do you like to play any sports or have other interests?  Have you learned any interesting life lessons from these activities, such as teamwork, dedication, etc.?  These are all elements of your personality that you can weave into your MBA application in one way or another.

We have admissions consultants who are expert in helping bankers and other “traditional” candidates stand out from the crowd, even if their careers are demanding and their profile may seem a bit “cookie-cutter.”  Give us a call—we’d love to chat about your chances at the top-tier schools!

Talk soon!

Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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.

Timeout with Trav: Starting a Business in College

Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com!

Dear Trav,

I started my own business in college, but it didn’t pan out.  Should I mention this  in my application?

Sincerely,

College Company Collapse

Dear Collapse,

In their quest to be seen as the “ideal MBA candidate,” many B-school applicants are loath to reveal any kind of weakness whatsoever. To the contrary, MBA admissions officers are looking for real people who have learned from real experiences, not people who have somehow succeeded by virtue of their charmed lives. For example, I’ve met a number of Stanford GSB grads who wrote about something that went completely down in flames and then spoke to the takeaways and learning experiences they gained from it. We call this “Professional Maturity,” and it’s one of our Four Dimensions of a Perfect Applicant. Don’t be afraid to speak frankly about events that have not gone as planned in your life, how you reacted at the time, how you should have reacted, and what you have gained from the experience.

If starting your own business in college—even though it failed—pointed you on a path that has affected the way you have charted your professional career, or had a significant impact on your post-MBA goals, then it’s certainly worth mentioning. In fact, it might be the linchpin in connecting the dots of your professional career today and your more entrepreneurial goals of the future.

That said, it’s not vital that you include every failure you’ve ever had in life. Overall, your application needs to show how you’ve excelled in your chosen path, particularly compared to your peers in similar roles. Everyone makes mistakes, and the best of candidates learn from their mistakes and show how they improved. The key is to honestly and genuinely “own up” to your past mistakes and show how they’ve made you into the (better) person you are today.

Not all companies are created equal. When I was a paperboy for the Seattle Times, I was technically an independent contractor. This means that I owned my own Sole Proprietorship at age 11 (leadership potential!). However, I didn’t mention it in my B-school applications, despite the great success I showed in expanding my route from 22 to 46 homes (quantifiable results!). If your business in college was legitimate, fits into your overall story as a candidate, and provided interesting lessons about business and life, then it may be worthwhile to include. If it was a sidewalk carwash you started with your roommate, then you can probably feel at ease leaving it out.

One of the key responsibilities of our team of professional Admissions Consultants is to work with you on your profile strengths and weaknesses, hone your post-MBA career goals, and advise you on the elements of your profile to emphasize in your applications. Cases like this are the perfect question to bring to your consultant in a Comprehensive School Package or Hourly Package through Veritas Prep! We’ll be happy to brainstorm ideas of how to weave this experience into your application narrative—or leave it out completely!

Very Best,

Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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.

Timeout with Trav: Getting Laid Off

Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com!

Dear Trav, 

I was laid off during the recession and out of work for about a year. How will that affect my candidacy?

Clearly, this would have been a huge challenge for you and I applaud your diligence in working to overcome it!  The global financial crisis affected millions of people—both well qualified and poorly qualified. Some industries were affected more than others, and if you were in an industry such as Finance or Real Estate, this may be fairly common. However, you will need to explain any gap in employment in the optional essay in your MBA application, and a yearlong gap will need a particularly thoughtful explanation.

Even though we’ve been through the worst economic climate in 80 years, a gap of employment for more than a couple of months will certainly raise questions with the admissions committee. Nearly every candidate has some kind of weakness in his or her application, and they need to take steps to address potential concerns. This isn’t to say that concerns cannot be overcome, but you certainly have something to prove!  In your case, you want to prove to the admissions committee that you’re a stellar performer in your professional career and will be an attractive candidate to MBA recruiters.

In particular, I would look to get very strong and enthusiastic letters of recommendation from your current and former employer.  If the former employer can say that you were a fantastic employee and a leader among peers but that you were laid off due to external economic factors alone, this could allay potential fears of your past performance. If your current employer corroborates with a similarly enthusiastic recommendation, this will serve to assuage any concerns about your employ-ability   In your resume and essays, you’ll also want to emphasize professional achievements to show how you shine amongst your peers.

With such a large gap in employment, the admissions committee will want to see how you used your time. They are looking for candidates who are ambitious and willing to turn obstacles into opportunities. I had a South American applicant who moved with her fiancé to the United States, but was unable to work for a period of several months due to visa issues. She spent this time serving as a volunteer consultant to a nonprofit in her hometown, developed a proposal for an innovative fundraising strategy, and had to use persuasion to show the older, conservative members of the board how it would be valuable.  These are skills and experiences that MBA programs are looking for, and therefore she turned a potentially damaging situation into one that was beneficial to her application.

Another client was laid off from Wall Street and spent a couple of months as a ski bum in Colorado. He spoke very candidly about this in his optional essay and said that as a passionate skier, this was something he had always wanted to do his entire life. He considered this break as a reward after a very demanding position in banking.  Both candidates were admitted to top-tier MBA programs. However, schools want to know that you weren’t just sitting around on your couch all day long, watching soap operas and enjoying your unemployment checks. Show your personality, passions and ambition!

I would highly recommend speaking to an expert Admissions Consultant about your situation and how to best position it. You don’t want the Admissions Committee to see this as a sign that you have performed poorly in your professional career and had a difficult time finding a new job because you do not recruit well, lack interpersonal skills or have other weaknesses that would make you a poor MBA candidate. With the right perspective, you can show the committee what perspectives and skills you gained through this challenge in your life.

Very best of luck to you!

Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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. 

Timeout with Trav: Retaking the GMAT

Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com!

Dear Trav,

My GMAT score was 700 (with a 99th percentile in quant, and a 60th percentile in verbal). Should I retake the exam?
— 

Congratulations on your 700 GMAT score!  I think people tend to think that getting a 700 is a piece of cake, but remember that only 1 in 10 test takers gets a 700+, and the population of GMAT takers is primarily college-educated, ambitious, smart people.  Top 10% is a tough crowd!

If you’re shooting for top-10 schools, you really want to avoid having a significant weakness anywhere in your application, and a 60th percentile on either section of the GMAT is not ideal.  However, there’s quite a bit of nuance to your question, and I’ll try to address several possibilities.

Generally speaking, MBA programs are much more concerned about a low score on the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GMAT than on the Verbal section. They want to ensure that every admit is going to be able to succeed academically in their program, and a solid MBA curriculum requires significant quantitative skill. A major justification for B-school’s existence is to take a nebulous topic like “business management” and apply quantitative analysis to produce better results.  Therefore, quantitative skills are highly valued.  So in most cases, the fact that your overall score is weighed down by the Verbal section rather than the Quant is better than the opposite.

One of the things you want to avoid in your application is reinforcing doubts or common stereotypes.  For example, if you are an IT Engineer, then the admissions committee will already expect that you’re strong in quant but may be lacking in verbal skills. You don’t want to give them more evidence to reinforce this stereotype. MBA programs are looking for well-rounded leaders, and this requires both quantitative and verbal skills. (In fact, did you know that your overall score on the GMAT is increased if your quant and verbal scores are balanced, rather than having a strong strength in one side and a weakness in the other?) If you’re concerned that your verbal score will reinforce doubts that the admissions committee may already have about you, then it may be a good idea to retake.

On the flip side, I was a Broadcast Journalism major in undergrad and worked in television for four years before attending business school. My essays were very strong and my verbal skills unquestioned. If, for some reason, I stumbled on the Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT but excelled in the quant, it would not be terribly difficult to show the admissions committee that I would bring both quant and verbal skills to their program through other elements of my application.  (However, it may raise a few eyebrows that I didn’t score well in a section that SHOULD have been my strong suit!)

At this point in the admissions season when you still have plenty of time before your target deadline, my advice is almost always to retake the GMAT if you feel you under-performed your abilities.  A higher GMAT score is always better than a lower one!  However, if you feel that this is the absolute best you can possibly perform on the exam, a low verbal score is not the end of the world. Perhaps your time and energy would be better spent bolstering other elements of your profile to assure the admissions committee of your strong candidacy.

Of course, if you’re interested in raising that verbal score, I can think of a fantastic company to help you do it!

Very Best,
Trav

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting around the world next week. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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

Timeout with Trav: Letters of Rec for MBA Applications

Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com!

Dear Trav,
I run my own business and don’t have any managers. Who should I go to for letters of rec?
— 

We often hear that b-schools want a letter of recommendation from your current supervisor, period.  There are a number of circumstances where this is not possible, and running your own business is certainly one of them.  Fear not!  Admissions officers completely understand that you don’t have a direct supervisor, and they will not hold this against you.  Instead, you should be congratulated on starting and running your own business!  This shows a great deal of leadership ability, calculated risk taking and professional maturity, all of which are highly valued by MBA programs!

So… who can you get to write letters of rec? This may depend on the type of business you run.  Remember, the real key is to ask someone who knows your working style, habits, strengths and weaknesses well enough to answer the school’s questions thoroughly and with specific examples from their relationship with you.  If you run a B2B business with some major clients who know your strengths and weaknesses well, you could ask a longtime client to write your letter.  Do you have mentors with whom you confer about business decisions and who know you well?  These mentors could write letters on your behalf.  Entrepreneurs often have a lot of “question marks” on their MBA applications, where it is difficult for an admissions officer to determine whether they’ve really been successful or are just good at spinning stories about a poorly run business. Whether it’s a major client or a professional mentor, you need a recommender who can speak to the success of your venture and your personal leadership traits.

If you’ve only run your business for 2-3 years, perhaps you have stayed in contact with a supervisor from a previous job who can speak to your abilities to work with others.  One of the other “question marks” on an entrepreneur’s application is their ability to work in teams. Much of your work as an MBA student will be performed in teams, and schools want to ensure you can “play nice” with others. If you do not have experience working in a corporate setting, perhaps you could reach out to partners or vendors with whom you have worked closely who could speak to your skills in working with those over whom you do not have direct management responsibility.

Lastly, I wanted to offer a few suggestions of who NOT to ask to write a recommendation.  If you’re part of a family business, do not ask a family member to write your reco. These will be seen as biased by the admissions committee. Also, do not ask a subordinate in your business to write it, as they have a clear incentive to write in an overly positive way to keep their job!  Business owners have to get a little creative with their letters of rec, but the Admissions Committee recognizes this fact and will provide you flexibility accordingly.

Our Veritas Prep Admissions Consultants can help you select the best recommenders for your situation and even help you prepare them so that they write the best, most enthusiastic letters on your behalf!

Best of luck!

Travis

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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. 

Timeout with Trav: An Older Candidate

Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com.

Dear Trav,

I want to apply for a full time MBA program, but I am 32 years old. Am I too old for this type of program?

Deciding whether your age will be a damaging factor to your b-school application is an important question!

With a quick internet search, you’ll discover that the average age for most MBA programs is typically about 27 or 28 years old, so at 32 (and likely matriculating at age 33), you’ll be above average. But as we learned from our GMAT prep, averages don’t tell us a lot. Even looking at the middle 80% age range of full-time MBA programs, most students are between 25 and 31 years old. So yes, you’re going to be out of the typical range for a full-time program (and I’m sure this comes as no surprise to you).

For example, take a look at the age distribution of MIT Sloan’s class of 2014:

 

 

 

 

 


 

Understanding the Admissions Officer’s Perspective

The real question is why MBA programs admit most candidates with such a narrow age range of just five to six years, with a tight bell curve around the average age for each class.

First, one of the primary benefits of a modern MBA program is access to top-level recruiters. Within weeks of starting your top-tier MBA program, you’ll be bombarded by recruiters jockeying for talent. However, almost all of these recruiters will be hiring for positions that require about 3 to 6 years of work experience.  Candidates with significantly less or more experience than this will find the recruiting process more challenging. Since MBA programs want their students to find internships and post-MBA full-time jobs — and their rankings depend on it — they must admit candidates who will recruit well.  Since people who already have 10 years of work experience aren’t likely to want to go back and be an associate brand manager at this point in their career, age can become an issue.

Second, business schools have a very strong sense of culture, and they admit students who they feel will contribute to that culture.  Cultures at each school are quite different.  However, if a person is significantly older than the class average, they may not connect well with the rest of the student body and add to the culture of the program. Less than half of your “MBA experience” will be what you learn in the classroom, so connecting with your fellow students, participating in clubs, organizations, silly theme parties and other extracurricular activities will be a huge part of your MBA life.  Many business schools offer other programs such as EMBA, part-time and executive education tracks that may be better suited to candidates who will not likely take advantage of the immersive experience of a full-time MBA.

Make Your Case: Why MBA, Why Now, and How I’ll Fit

OK, now that we understand why full-time programs tend to have a high percentage of students that fall within a narrow age range, that doesn’t mean that every admitted student falls within this narrow range. Many programs have full-time MBA students in their upper 30s or even early 40s. However, these people are outliers. Just as a candidate with a GMAT score that falls outside of the middle 80% of a school’s range must justify how they will succeed academically, an applicant that falls outside the middle 80% in age range must specifically justify why they want an MBA, why now, and how they’ll fit with the program both culturally and professionally.

Admissions officers are going to see your age, your college graduation date and the years of work experience you bring, so there’s no sense in trying to hide or downplay this aspect of your profile.  Instead, make sure you have a clear and coherent response for why you want to get your MBA now, how it fits into your professional path, and how receiving a full-time MBA is the best possible path to achieve your goals.  Know that the admissions committee will be looking at this portion of your application with extra scrutiny.  I guarantee that every 42 year old who was admitted to a top-tier, full-time program had a very clear and compelling argument for why they should be there. Nobody stumbles into a top-tier program with 10 years of work experience who simply said, “I’m looking to expand my career opportunities and improve my management skills” without providing significantly more detail.

Also, don’t forget to do thorough research on each program to which you are applying.  For example, last year, the age range for the Kellogg School of Management was 25 to 31.  That’s it.  Kellogg is a program with a very strong culture and they know they aren’t looking for 23 year olds or 43 year olds. They offer a wide range of programs for candidates outside the narrow range for their full-time MBA class.  However, UCLA Anderson’s age range is 23 to 39, Tuck’s range is 24 to 36 and nearly one in every seven admits to INSEAD was over 31.  Talk with current students and recent alums who were a little older in their class and pick their brains on school culture, the ways they got involved, and their overall experience. Get on your target schools’ websites to find out what clubs interest you most and include these in your application essays to show the admissions committee that you’re serious about getting involved!  At Veritas Prep, we have expert consultants for older candidates and can help you refine your professional goals, why you need an MBA now, and how you will contribute to your class.

Consider All Your Options

I’m a huge believer that MBA admissions committees do a fantastic job of selecting candidates who will thrive in their program. Looking back in retrospect, I fully recognize that I was admitted to the schools where I would have fit best and was denied to programs where I was not a good fit. If you have 8+ years of work experience, be sure you are considering all of your options, such as EMBA programs, part-time MBA programs, the Sloan Scholars program at MIT, Stanford and LBS, and the variety of executive education options. Leaving your full-time job for two years is not always the wisest option for people later in their careers and will not provide the same ROI as for younger candidates.

I hope this advice helps you research the best programs that will enable you to achieve your goals.  Please feel free to reach out anytime for more individualized advice!

Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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. 

Timeout with Trav: Exploring a low GPA

Click here to read the intro to this new blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com.

Dear Trav,

I had a 2.9 GPA in undergrad, although I had some extenuating circumstances. Do you think I have any chance of getting into a top-10 school?

Thanks,
Top-10 Hopeful

Dear Hopeful,

Intellectual ability is certainly one of the key traits that admissions officers will be looking for, and your undergraduate GPA is an important data point that admissions committees will use to help them determine this trait.  However, don’t forget that the MBA admissions process is very holistic.  One data point will not categorically preclude you from achieving your dreams of getting into a top-10 school!

Let’s first recognize that you’ll be up against some of the best and brightest candidates from around the world, and the 2.9 GPA will be a blazing “red flag” for admissions officers.  You have something to prove!  Your task is to convince admissions officers that you’re not just qualified to attend, but that they should select you over other qualified applicants.  How can you do this with a low undergraduate GPA hanging over you?

I love how MIT Sloan describes the innovative mindset of their successful applicants: “We seek thought-leaders with exceptional intellectual abilities and the drive and determination to put their stamp on the world. We welcome people who are independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers. We want people who can redefine solutions to conventional problems, and strive to preempt unconventional dilemmas with cutting-edge ideas.”  You need to show the admissions committee that you have exceptional intellectual abilities—plus a problem-solver’s creativity—with other elements of your application:

GMAT score: the key element still in your control 

You can’t go back and relive those (perhaps hazy) years between 18 and 22, but what’s your GMAT score? A very strong GMAT score (ideally above the school’s average) can show that you under-performed your true ability in undergrad.  If both your GPA & GMAT are significantly below the school’s averages, it will be very challenging to show that you’re academically qualified for their program.  However, unlike your GPA, your GMAT score is one element of your application that is still in your control!  Do everything you can to increase the score.  I once had a GMAT student who studied for 6 months straight—3 to 4 hours a day—and raised his GMAT score by 200 points! He continued to work until his score was an asset to his application, not a detriment!

Post-undergrad academics

Have you completed additional coursework after undergrad that better shows your abilities?  Strong performance in post-undergrad academics can show that you’ve matured and have the capability to perform in their program.  However, this is unlikely to overcome BOTH a poor GPA and a poor GMAT score.

“Innovation” is more than just academics

Have you shown an innovative mindset (like that described by MIT above) in very strong professional or extracurricular accomplishments?  Since you know your intellectual abilities will be particularly scrutinized by the admissions committee, you will want to emphasize these strengths in your essays, on your resume, and even encourage your recommenders to highlight them. Use every arrow in your application quiver to show the admissions committee that you’re up to the task!

Candidates who have a clear deficiency in one area of their application are huge beneficiaries of Admissions Consulting services, as our admissions experts can assist them in bringing out hidden strengths in other areas of their applications. Getting into the right business school will have a huge impact on your whole life, and I would highly encourage you reach out and see how we can help!

Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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. 

Harvard, Wharton, Yale: What an Interview Can Show

My Harvard Business School interview was one of the most challenging obstacles I’ve ever faced in my life.  Perhaps more challenging than attending HBS itself.  It was by phone (very unusual) because I was based in Mexico and was frequently traveling to rural parts of the country.  It was timed – exactly the 30 minutes that was allotted to me.  My interviewer must have cut me off 4 or 5 times – she’d ask me a question and if she felt that she had either gotten the sufficient information or I was going in the wrong direction, she’d just stop me.  But by the end of it, I felt I’d made a good impression.  Not too good, but hopefully good enough.  There’s no way to know for sure, but it must not have gone too badly, as I was accepted first round to HBS.

My Wharton interview was completely different.  I’ve been told that I must have been subjected to a “behavioral” interview, which Wharton is moving away from, but what was most different was the interviewer.  He was a Wharton alum living in Mexico City.  He was a successful entrepreneur and had started a software consulting company.  He spent the first 20 minutes or so grilling me – on my application, on my work in Mexico, on the kinds of business I hoped to start.  He never cut me off like the HBS interviewer had, he just insisted on arguing with every statement I made!  But after those first 20 minutes, it suddenly switched to a more standard interview, with questions such as, “What’s your highest achievement.”  And then, after a full hour had passed and I was expecting to be finished, he said, “Well, that’s the interview.  Do you have any questions for me?”  Overall we talked around an hour and a half and I learned a ton about Wharton’s program.

My Yale interview was my last and final interview and was conducted by a current student.  He never cut me off, barely asked me about my achievements or failures, but focused instead on my personality, motivations, and values.

As you can see, interviewers come in all kinds of styles, but I do believe it says a lot about the schools.  HBS, as the leader of the case method, is most interested in students’ abilities to express themselves succinctly in class.  Wharton (or at least my interviewer) was looking for my ability to calmly defend my positions through rigorous debate.  Yale clearly put values as a priority, and tested this element (at least in my case) first.  I can’t attest as well to Wharton or Yale, but I think HBS’s interviewer was great glimpse into HBS’s culture and priorities, so be sure to pay attention to your interview and find something in the interview that is telling about the school program for which you are interviewing. Ask your interviewer questions and you’ll be sure to learn a lot about not only the program, but also what the school is looking for.

For advice on getting into business school, download our Essential Guides, 15 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for top business schools, 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!

Julia Kastner is a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in New York. She runs her own socially responsible, fair trade denim company called Eva & Paul and before starting her business she was working on nonprofit outreach projects of all kinds.

An Entrepreneur at HBS

Harvard Business School“What do you mean you didn’t even apply to Stanford?” folks would ask me when I told them I was going to business school to learn about technology, start-ups  and entrepreneurship.  It’s a fair question – in 2012, Stanford graduated 13% entrepreneurs versus HBS’s 7%. And this doesn’t even take into account the Stanford MBA’s who drop out to start business.  So why didn’t I apply to Stanford?  Wasn’t that the clear choice for tech entrepreneurship?  What was I thinking, going to HBS to start a company?

I graduated from Harvard Business School in 2012 and I have to say, I’m so glad I chose HBS.  The HBS network has already proved extremely useful as I start my own women’s jeans company, and it was awesome being one of the only weird start-up kids running around HBS – I received a ton more resources than I would have at Stanford.  I’m not saying everyone should go to HBS over Stanford to start a company, I’m just really glad that I did!

Remember, HBS is not a poor institution.  And what’s the number one reason start-ups fail?  Money!  HBS is focusing more and more on entrepreneurship, especially under Dean Nitlin Noria, and is freeing up a bunch of resources for budding entrepreneurs. My second year at HBS, they opened the Innovation Lab, an incubator space on campus where folks like me could meet one-another.  I learned a ton from my peers, but I was also given access to some really great mentors.  I also entered the business plan competition both years.  My first year I even thought about entering two different plans.  HBS gave me $1,000 for each plan I considered entering, whether or not I actually submitted a plan by the deadline!  I also applied for the $5,000 minimum viable product competition.  Although I never won, a few of my friends did, and some of them used these resources to test out a business they were thinking of starting.  Some of them are still working on those businesses.  Some failed quickly and are now working on other projects.  $5,000 doesn’t seem like a lot compared to a business degree, but if you’re going to get a degree either way, might as well get some of your money back to work on your business.  Similarly, I was granted special fellowships as an entrepreneur.  And I was allowed to put my business towards class credit –saving me three months of burn rate while I was working on the business faster than I would have if I’d had a full course load.  Net-net, I’m in a much better financial position because of HBS’s support than if I’d gone to another school.

And I’m not the only one!  There are tons of HBS entrepreneurs out there.  True, we only graduated 5% entrepreneurs, but we’re a much bigger class.  Everywhere I go in the start-up scene in New York, especially in the fashion-tech world, I meet HBS startups, a lot of whom are some of the best, smartest, most prepared entrepreneurs I’ve met.  I also met HBS alumni along the way who have served as advisers and may turn into investors one day.

I’m sure I could have started my business at Stanford.  But as a New Yorker in fashion, I’m really glad I went to HBS instead.

For some advice on getting into HBS, download our HBS Essential Guide, one of our 15 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for top business schools, 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!

Julia Kastner is a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in New York. She runs her own socially responsible, fair trade denim company called Eva & Paul and before starting her business she was working on nonprofit outreach projects of all kinds.

Timeout with Trav: Applying Round 1

Click here to read last week’s intro to this new MBA admissions series! Send your admissions questions to timeout@veritasprep.com.

Dear Trav,

I’m thinking about applying to B-schools in the fall of 2013, but most deadlines are 9 or 10 months away. What should I be doing between now and then?

Sincerely,
Round 1 Go-Getter

Dear Ms. Getter,

In addition to consulting students on business school applications, I also teach GMAT courses. This question tends to come up in every January class as people set their New Year’s Resolutions to apply to B-school.  (In fact, we’re running a New Year’s Resolution Exclusive right now, where go-getters like yourself can save up to $1000 on our consulting services! But I digress….)

You’re giving yourself a BIG advantage by starting early with your b-school prep!  Admissions Committees (Adcoms) can see right through an application that’s been rushed at the last possible moment. Here are my recommendations for getting a jump start on Round 1 applications:

  1. Take (or retake) the GMAT: While admissions officers will review your business school application holistically, if I had to pick one element that was most important, by itself, it would be your GMAT score. Why? While a strong GMAT score will not automatically assure you admission to top schools, a poor one can certainly keep you out. Did you know that’s Stanford GSB’s average GMAT score is now a 730?  This means that for every person they admit with a 690, they must admit two people with 750s to maintain their average—and a 750 is an incredibly tough score to come by! Competition is fierce and your GMAT score is one of the few elements of your application profile that you still have the ability to improve.
  2. Hone your career goals: Almost every MBA program is going to ask you about your short- and long-term career goals. But if most people are going to b-school to figure out what they want to do in life, or their goals change once they get into the program, why would Adcoms even ask this? When you add up the costs of tuition, living expenses and lost income, going to a full-time MBA program could be upwards of a half-million dollar decision for some professionals! This is a huge life decision, and Admissions Committees want to see that you’ve done an appropriate level of due diligence. At the very least, you should have some idea of the post-MBA opportunities most interesting to you and how you would pursue them.
  3. Research your target schools (I mean, really research them!): I can’t tell you how many people I speak to who say, “I only want to apply to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton.”  When asked why, they respond incredulously that those are the top-3 schools, so OF COURSE they want to apply to them. However, your experience at HBS will be vastly different than at Stanford. While rankings are a good place to start, simply scanning down the rankings and applying to the top 5 is not a good strategy.  In my opinion, your #1 criteria for selecting target schools should be whether they offer the recruiting and employment opportunities that fit with your career goals. For example, if you want to go into a niche role like Real Estate development or financing, does the school send any grads into this field? Even if you plan to pursue a more traditional track, you should ensure that your path is reasonable. Conducting this level of research now will help you avoid a lot of disappointment and struggle after you get in!
  4. Talk to real people: Ms. Getter, if you can find a B-school website that doesn’t use the words Leadership, Teamwork, Innovation, Experiential Learning, Global Focus and Ethics within 2-3 clicks from their home page, I’ll personally pay you 10 bucks. If your research consists of the U.S. News rankings and the schools’ websites, it will be incredibly difficult to tell the difference among programs. I highly recommend visiting campus, sitting in on classes, speaking to current students and recent alums, and attending admissions informational sessions as a key part of your research. Many schools also publish contact information for leaders of student clubs on their websites. Find some clubs that you’re interested in and reach out!
  5. Take on additional responsibilities: About this time of year, many aspiring MBAs realize that B-schools look for extracurricular and community involvement, so they decide to go out and volunteer for a bunch of random organizations, thinking they just need to check off the “volunteer” box in their applications. Admissions officers will clearly see that you started these supposedly altruistic endeavors just a few months ahead of your application to b-school. There’s no sense in cynically volunteering for all sorts of organizations just a few months ahead of applying, but if you have a passion for certain cause or organization, you can certainly take on some additional leadership responsibilities or get more active. Schools don’t just check off a box if you have volunteer experience; they see your involvement as evidence that you’re interested in contributing to the community around you and will continue to do so as an alum of their program. Schools want to get in the headlines for the great things their graduates are doing in their communities, not for the latest ethics scandal of a prominent alum!  Beyond extracurriculars, you can also volunteer for additional responsibilities at work. Is there a project that you can lead? A special committee you can serve on? Or even an intramural team that needs a captain? Show that you’re willing to take initiative and that your superiors are willing to rely on you for positions of leadership. You can mention these experiences on your resume or in essays, and your supervisors may include them in their recommendations.

As you prepare for your business school applications, I hope you find these tips to be helpful!  Our Veritas Prep Admissions Consultants have admissions experience at the top-ranked business schools and will be able to offer more specific suggestions for you to prepare. Take advantage of our New Year’s Resolution Exclusive to save up to $1000. Since we don’t count hours, you’ll work with an admissions expert for several months on your application strategies for no additional charge!

As we like to say here at Veritas Prep, “Success favors the prepared.”

Trav

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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. 

Timeout with Trav: Exploring MBA Admissions

Hello aspiring MBA friends! Trav here. I’m the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and I’m excited to launch this new series on the Veritas Prep blog called “Timeout with Trav.”  Each week, I’ll take time out to answer your questions about MBA admissions, B-school life, and any other fun topics you may decide to throw my way! (Feel free to be creative!)  To ask me a question, simply email it to timeout@veritasprep.com.

My Story: A non-traditional MBA candidate

By way of introduction, I was a very “non-traditional” MBA candidate myself, with four years of experience in television news before attending Kellogg (Northwestern University). Going to Kellogg was one of the best experiences of my life, so I love coaching candidates applying to business school. My #1 goal is to help you avoid all the mistakes I made! I’ve found my own story in applying to business schools has really resonated with a number of candidates who face similar circumstances.

Working in a 24-hour television newsroom prior to B-school, I didn’t know a single person who had graduated from a top-tier MBA program when I was applying. As a result, I made just about every mistake you possibly could, and completely understand how daunting the process may be!

The Dilemma: Admitted to my backup school

When I received my admissions decisions, I faced a dilemma that many of you may face in the coming months. I had been denied to my top-choice schools but was accepted to my “backup” school with a scholarship. Ugh… what to do?! I emailed my interviewer for my top-choice school (an alum) and mentioned to her that I was denied and asked her advice for improvements moving forward.  I thought the interview had gone really well—in fact she even told me that she thought I was going to get in (which is completely against the rules, come to find out)! I was really fishing for hints on how I had somehow blown the interview and my therefore my admission.

She responded with one of the kindest emails I’ve ever received, saying the school was “all the worse” for missing out on me and recommended that I reapply the next year if it fit into my life plans.  Armed with this piece of advice, I had to make a decision: do I accept my scholarship to a much lower-ranked school and graduate debt-free, or do I start the process all over again next year?  I asked myself a simple question: “What’s more important to me—getting my MBA right now, or getting it from one of my top choice schools next year?”

My Decision: Try, try again…

I declined my scholarship and decided to try again the next year. (My grandmother nearly had a heart attack when I told her my decision.)  I decided I would try to “do it right this time” by expanding my list of target schools, conducting much more online research, traveling to visit each school, and taking a Business Development Certificate course through my local university extension. I also received a big promotion with a 50% raise during this time that enhanced my resume.

It worked!  I received multiple offers for admissions, including scholarships. After attending the admitted students weekends, I chose to attend the Kellogg School of Management with a partial scholarship, and it was one of the best decisions of my life!

Do What I Say, Not What I Do!

Friends, don’t fall into the same mistakes I made and then have to apply to business schools two years in a row! Be sure to follow my blog to avoid application pitfalls. Each Tuesday, I’ll offer answers to your questions about the MBA admissions process so submit your questions and I’ll jump on it. Remember to send your questions to timeout@veritasprep.com!

If you’re thinking about applying to business school, 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!

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. 

MBA Admissions Reality Check: There’s Only One Dilfer

Every January, two seemingly-different sets of lofty goals converge around the tale of one man; whether you’re applying to a top ten business school or trying to win the NFL’s Super Bowl, you need to remember that there’s only one Trent Dilfer.

Trent Dilfer, of course, is widely accepted as the (and we say this with admiration) worst (or maybe “least best”?) quarterback to win a modern Super Bowl, the most glaring exception to the commonly-held notion that a team needs an elite quarterback to win the NFL’s championship. Sure, teams with marginal quarterbacks say, most Super Bowls have been won by Montana, Brady, Elway, Aikman, Manning, Bradshaw, etc., but Trent Dilfer did win a Super Bowl, so we have a chance with our guy. But here’s the flaw in that reasoning — it’s easy to remember Dilfer’s name because he’s really the only one who fits that category. He’s surrounded in history by the all-time greats at the position, quarterbacks who won multiple Super Bowls and in other years nearly always had their teams in the hunt. Dilfer is the glaring exception, so we remember his name because he was so rare. There’s only one Trent Dilfer, so if he’s your guiding hope that your team can win with a lackluster quarterback, you’re grasping at incredibly thin odds.
Continue reading “MBA Admissions Reality Check: There’s Only One Dilfer”

Are You Thinking About Retaking the GMAT?

QuestioningMaybe some of you have been there: You didn’t quite break the score you were hoping to break; your quant or verbal is lower than you expected, or maybe your composite score falls below your target school’s range. Should you retake the GMAT?

For some, it may not be a tough decision. If your score is dramatically lower than you expected, and you’re very confident that you can do better, do not hesitate to take the test again. Schools commend applicants who boost their scores, and admissions officers do not penalize candidates who have taken the test more than once. They do, however, always prefer to see improvement. Think of your GMAT score as a data point. If there are two data points, and your second test score is higher than your first, admissions will conclude that you’re capable of that higher score. If they see two data points in descending order, then they may conclude that the first test score is a good indication of your best effort.

Sometimes, of course, a decision isn’t so black and white. If your score isn’t a homerun but it’s not a total disappointment either, you may be on the fence about retaking the GMAT. Here are a few important things to consider when making the decision.

Are your quant and verbal scores unbalanced? If so, take a holistic look at your application. If quant is low, do you have the undergraduate courses and/or a rigorous quant professional background to compensate? If verbal is low, can you say the same? If you can’t back up a low quant or verbal score with A+ experience or undergraduate work, you may want to consider retaking the exam to prove your fluency.

Ask yourself how confident you are that you can increase your score. If your composite score falls just outside a school’s GMAT range (10-30 points is a rough rule of thumb), this is a critical question. Only you can really gauge the answer. You should also take into consideration what else is going on in your life. If work or personal matters demand nearly all of your attention, and you won’t be able to put in as much study time as you’d like, retaking the test may jeopardize you if your score goes down. Take all variables into account when you determine whether or not you think you can increase your score.

If you’d like professional guidance, consider setting up time to chat with a Veritas Prep consultant. We’re not exaggerating when we say that we’ve seen it all here at Veritas Prep! Our consultants have worked one-on-one with many students and have a wealth of knowledge to share and experience to pull from. If you’re really struggling with a decision, give us a call at 1-800-925-7737. We’d love to help.

Today’s post comes from Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant Lauren Thaler. Lauren received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brown University and started working for The Advisory Board Company in Washington D.C. shortly after graduation. She worked in Business Development, Account Management and Marketing, and Business Intelligence Delivery. After a few years she decided to go to Wharton to pursue her MBA, and has since worked with dozens of business school applicants and founded her own business, Punchwell Press.

My Parent, the Boss

Today’s post comes from Nita Losoponkul, a Veritas Prep head consultant for UCLA. She 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. 

There are 27.5 million “small” businesses in the United States (<500 employees, 2009, US Small Business Administration), of which an estimated 5.5 million are “family owned” (2012, Family Enterprise USA).  You may find yourself in this position and for many good reasons are thinking about pursuing your MBA.  Congrats – the fact that you are reading this means that you are well on your way!   One dilemma that MBA applicants from family businesses face is the recommendation – can my [insert family member here – Mom, Dad, Grandmother, Grandfather, Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, etc.] write my recommendation?   The answer?  It depends. Continue reading “My Parent, the Boss”

How to Prep Your Recommenders

Every component of your business school application is important, however, the recommender portion is a unique opportunity for the admissions committee to see how others perceive and evaluate you.

First, let’s cover the basics. While there is no right or wrong way to choose recommenders, most schools request at least one current or recent direct manager. Additionally, we strongly recommend that you waive your rights to read your recommenders’ submissions. This act demonstrates that you are confident in your recommenders’ abilities to advocate for your candidacy.

While at first it may feel like a relief to hand off this portion of your application to someone else, many candidates feel anxiety about relinquishing control. What will your recommenders say? What if they both focus on the same qualities and forget to include other key strengths? How will you know? To reduce this uncertainty and to ensure that your recommenders hit home the right points and messages, we strongly recommend that you prep your recommenders.

To begin, before you prep them, make sure you’ve written your essays or that you’ve at least outlined what you intend to cover. This will help you determine what areas, experiences, qualities or anecdotes you’d like your recommenders to share in order to round out your application. For example, are your essays light on people management? If so, ask a recommender to commend your management skills if appropriate.

The best way to prep recommenders is to provide them with an easy-to-read one pager with key qualities, professional successes and examples. Even if you think they will likely remember that you closed a big deal several years ago, if you want them to have this important success fresh in their minds when they submit their recommendations, then write it down. Air on the side of being overly comprehensive; however, try to stick to one page so you don’t overwhelm them with information. Consider providing copies of your essays (or essay outlines) so they can reference them as well if they choose.

Most importantly, remember that prepping your recommenders not only helps ensure that this portion of your application is first-rate, but it also helps your recommenders tremendously. When recommenders are rushed or don’t have enough information to pull from, that’s when recommendations can fall flat or not stand out. Making their lives easier can make your recommendations that much stronger!

Today’s post comes from Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant Lauren Thaler. Lauren received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brown University and started working for The Advisory Board Company in Washington D.C. shortly after graduation. She worked in Business Development, Account Management and Marketing, and Business Intelligence Delivery. After a few years she decided to go to Wharton to pursue her MBA, and has since worked with dozens of business school applicants and founded her own business, Punchwell Press.

Distinguishing Yourself in Your MBA Applications

This Veritas Prep Head Consultant received a BA in Economics and Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and went on to The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. Eventually, she received her MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and is now a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for Tuck. She has experience in environmental consulting, urban education, and finance.

As you prepare your business school applications, one question that might arise is:

How can I distinguish my profile from that of other applicants who have a similar background?

Having worked with a number of people of South or East Asian origin with technical backgrounds (for example), I understand where you are coming from and your concerns.

Branding is critical to distinguishing your application, regardless of your background. Continue reading “Distinguishing Yourself in Your MBA Applications”

Dear Professor…

Today’s post comes from Nita Losoponkul, a Veritas Prep head consultant for UCLA. She 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. 

If you are considering requesting a recommendation from a professor from your college/university and it is NOT required by the business school that you are applying to…. STOP.   For 99% of you, this won’t be best thing to do.  Even if you are one of the few that has a great relationship with a professor, worked individually with them throughout your college years (versus just taking a class or two) and still keep in touch, while congratulations on this accomplishment, it STILL isn’t the right thing to do.

The average applicant to a full-time MBA program is between 27-30 years of age (29-32 for part-time MBA programs), meaning college is likely at least 5-7 years in the past, if not further away.  When most schools only allow two, maybe three recommendations, the statement that you can’t find two (or three) people from your workplace to provide a recommendation for you, and either need to (or opt to) choose an academic is a red flag to Admissions Committees.   If you are just graduating and haven’t had any work experience yet (hence considering the academic recommendation), you may want to consider whether schools will think you are “too green”.   Most professors are unable to answer many questions on the recommendation form (and a lot of “not applicable” or “I cannot comment” are not beneficial for you either) as most of their knowledge of you will be from a classroom setting versus a workplace setting.

If you are having trouble finding recommendation writers (or for internal office political reasons can’t ask your boss), consider some other potential writers like a client that you have worked extensively for, an indirect manager or team lead, a former supervisor/manager, your boss’s boss (as long as they still know your work well enough) or a manager at a non-profit organization you have volunteered for consistently for a few years (just some ideas).

Still not sure what to do?   Ask your Veritas Head Consultant or School Specialist for advice for your particular situation.  They will be happy to weigh in (you may be part of that 1% after all).  Good luck!

If you’re ready to start building your own application for top business schools, 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!

The Mistake Question

Many business schools ask variations on the theme of making mistakes. Describe a time that you failed; what did you learn from a mistake; tell us about a time when you should have done things differently, etc. These are all possible, if not likely, essay questions that you’ll confront during the application process, either during the interview or while writing your essays. Every applicant’s background is different and arguably you are really the only one who knows about your past mistakes. However, we’re here to share some guidelines about “the mistake question” that will help you select the right kind of mistake. For the purposes of this post, we’ll discuss the mistake essay question and how you can write about it in a way that actually sheds light on your strengths. Continue reading “The Mistake Question”