Today’s post comes from a Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant and Tuck alumna. She shares a recent conversation with a client about Tuck and what students can expect if they spend two years in Hanover.
Earlier this spring, I received the following inquiry:
“I think I would like to seriously consider Tuck as an option. Obviously the academics are wonderful, it is well known in general management, it is extremely well established, and it is not so far from my home. I visited Dartmouth when I was applying to undergrad, and Hanover seemed small, without much to offer. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience there?”
This was my reply:
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Today’s post comes from a Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant and Tuck alumna. She shares a recent conversation with a client about Tuck and what students can expect if they spend two years in Hanover.
If you can swing it, we highly recommend visiting the schools you are applying to before you submit your applications. Websites and school brochures are great for basic research purposes, but there’s no comparison to experiencing an MBA program in person. Your day on campus will inform your essays and help you craft authentic responses to interview questions. Therefore, when you’re on campus, make the most of your visit!
When you arrive, or at some point before you leave the school, visit the admissions office. Typically, the admissions department will ask you to sign in when you arrive. However, if you’re on a more informal visit, one that you didn’t schedule through the admissions office, make sure you remember to do this. Admissions officers like to see who has visited. While they don’t penalize students for not coming to the school, it never hurts to show your interest and dedication by visiting, so make sure you get credit for your visit! Additionally, the school may offer special activities or events for prospective students. You may only be able to learn about these opportunities through the admissions office. Make sure your visit includes a stop here for this reason.
Now that top-ranked business schools have started to send interview invitations to Round 1 applicants, the conversation has turned to exactly how applicants can prepare themselves for this rite of passage. While business schools rarely try to make the interview a stressful process, applicants can’t help but worry about the pressure they will face in the 30 to 60 minutes they spend face-to-face with tan interviewer.
If you’re one of these folks, or if you simply want to prepare now for an interview invite that will hopefully be coming soon, we bring you the top three ways you can best prep for the business school interview:
Today we feature a guest post from Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant Nita Losoponkul. Nita is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant who attended UCLA Anderson. 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, and today Nita shares what went into her decision to earn an MBA from UCLA Anderson.
Do as I say (well, write), not as I do. That’s the truth. I’m proud to be an alumna of UCLA Anderson’s Fully Employed MBA (FEMBA) program, but I took the unlikeliest path to get there, one I don’t recommend anyone else pursuing. I still joke to this day that the Admissions Committee must have had a few too many drinks when they reviewed my application, but knowing the team now, I know they saw something in me that even I didn’t see in myself at the time, and I am truly grateful they did.
When we work with MBA admissions consulting clients, they often start off the first conversation with “What are my chances?” and we often start with “Well, what do you want to do in your career?” This seemingly simple first step makes all the difference in ensuring that you’re on the right path when planning out your MBA application strategy.
What you will get out of a program depends completely on your situation. If you’re a career-changer, then you need to acquire new skills and demonstrate to potential employers that you have what it takes to thrive in their industry. If you want to move up in your current career, then you may only need to acquire a few very specific skills to complement your existing experience. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, then business school may be less about academics and more about networking and meeting future potential business partners. Knowing which of these categories you fall into will help you find the right program and go in with a solid plan for making the most of your time in school.
Putting forward excellent letters of recommendation in your MBA application is a challenge: You’re asking someone who probably knows very little about the business school admission game to argue persuasively that an MBA admissions officer should take a chance on you instead of another ultra-impressive candidate. We’ve written before about how you can boost your chances significantly by choosing someone who knows you well and by arming that person with specific examples of your past deeds to illustrate just how terrific you are. Doing these things can dramatically improve your ability to stand out vs. other applicants.
We preach these ideas all the time, but the questions we frequently get from business school applicants tell us that many are still hurting their chances by inadvertently sabotaging their recommenders. How can you manage to sabotage your own recommendation writers? Here are three ways:
It is shocking how often applicants present essays (either to professors, consultants, or even to the admissions committee) that are nothing more than glorified drafts. Crafting an essay is a time intensive process that requires a great deal of revision in order to write with economy, power, and persuasion. You will almost certainly go through multiple revisions with your consultant, but the client who takes the time to execute multiple drafts on their own will be leaps and bounds ahead when it comes time to take the next step.
Whether you are drafting admissions essays for college or for graduate school, proper revision requires at least these three crucial steps:
UCLA’s Anderson School of Management has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2012-2013 admissions season. While Anderson has made fewer dramatic changes than some other prominent business schools have this year, the school did change one of its two required essays, and trimmed the word count for each by 50 words. The essay word count diet continues…
Let’s dig into Anderson’s deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:
UCLA Anderson Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 24, 2012
Round 2: January 9, 2013
Round 3: April 17, 2013
If you plan on applying to top-ranked MBA programs in Round 1, then you should already be working on your applications. That doesn’t mean that you should already have drafts of all of your essays, but it does mean that you should already have your MBA Game Plan laid out. That includes knowing where you will apply, having your post-MBA career goals sketched out, and knowing who you will want to have write your letters of recommendation.
This last one is often the toughest for applicants since it’s something that’s largely out of their control. Even with all the planning in the world, business school applicants still need to put their fate in someone else’s hands, and hope that their recommenders come through for them. So how do you know who is the best candidate for writing your letters of recommendation?
Earlier this week Dee Leopold wrote a piece on the Harvard MBA admissions blog clarifying what the school expects when it comes to the three letters of recommendation in the HBS application. In its application directions, Harvard asks for three recommendations, and states that two should come from a professional source. Somewhat unintentionally, it seems, this has implied that the third should NOT come from a professional source, but Leopold wants applicants to know that this is not the case.
It turns out that the Harvard admissions team was surprised that this was the signal that applicants were getting from these instructions, and now it wants to make clear that the “two should come from professional sources” rule means that at least two should come from the workplace, not that only two should come from this part of your life.
After piloting the program this past year, Wharton has announced that it will officially roll out its team-based discussion as part of the Wharton MBA admissions process. The news came in an announcement on the Wharton MBA admissions blog.
We were pretty skeptical when Wharton announced last year that it would run a small test of the program with a “randomly selected” group of applicants. Just knowing how stressed that applicants get about anything that involved performing in front of admissions officers in real time, we expected the pilot not to go well. This was our take when the news broke last fall:
UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. As has been the case with nearly every other top-ranked MBA program this year, Haas has trimmed down its essays, going from six to five required essays in this year’s application, and shortening one from 1,000 to 750 words. Outside of that, there haven’t been too many dramatic changes this year, although the school’s new Essay #1 is an eye opener!
Here are Haas’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:
We love it when our admissions consulting clients and GMAT students are able to connect directly with admissions officers at their target MBA programs. There are very few ways that are better in terms of getting to know a school, not to mention possibly making a positive impression on the people who may one day decide your fate.
MBA fairs are a great way to meet with admissions officers, and The MBA Tour runs one of the best MBA fairs in the world, which is why we’re happy to partner with them every year to help connect applicants to admissions officers. At no cost, you can experience everything that The MBA Tour has to offer:
Darmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently published its application deadlines and admissions essay topics for the Class of 2015. Once again, as we predicted a couple of months ago, another top school has slimmed down its essay count this year. In this case, Tuck actually merged two questions into one, reducing the total number of essays you will need to write for your Tuck application.
Here are the school’s new deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:
Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Deadlines
Early Action round: October 10, 2012
November round: November 7, 2012
January round: January 3, 2013
April round: April 2, 2013
MIT Sloan has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Sloan has made some tweaks this year, including dropping an essay, which continues a trend that we have seen among top MBA programs so far this year. However, the school’s famous cover letter returns. This cover letter is still unique among other top MBA programs’ application essays; apparently it still works well enough that the Sloan admissions committee wants to keep it around.
Here are MIT Sloan’s application deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:
MIT Sloan Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 24, 2012
Round 2: December 27, 2012
NYU’s Stern School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2015. Just as we have seen with other top-ranked business schools so far, Stern has made some notable changes to its essays this year. In Stern’s case, we don’t see any trimming of essays or words, but we do see a new push to make sure you’ve researched the school as well as an entirely new career goals essay that we like for its creativity.
Here are NYU Stern’s deadlines and essays for the coming admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:
NYU Stern Application Deadlines
Round 1: November 15, 2012
Round 2: January 15, 2013
Round 3: March 15, 2013
The Yale School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Continuing the trend we’ve seen emerge among top business schools over the past month, Yale has changed a lot this year. However, in Yale’s case, once you dig down a bit deeper you realize that Yale is still mostly looking for the same attributes in its applicants this year.
Here are the school’s deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:
Yale SOM Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 4, 2012
Round 2: January 8, 2013
Round 3: April 18, 2013
Wharton has released its application deadlines and essays for the 2012-2013 admissions season. Last year Wharton didn’t make too many big changes after really mixing it up the year before. Let’s dig into this year’s application and see how much things have changed this year.
Here are Wharton’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2015, followed by our comments in italics:
Wharton Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2012
Round 2: January 3, 2013
Round 3: March, 2013 (exact date TBD)
Following Stanford GSB’s recent release of its admissions essays for the 2012-2013 admissions season, Stanford has just released its application deadlines for the coming year. Not too many changes, although the school’s Round 1 deadline keeps creeping a bit earlier. This can make your job seem tougher, but there is also a benefit in the grand scheme of things, which we discuss below.
Here are Stanford’s admission deadlines for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:
Stanford Graduate School of Business Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 3, 2012
Round 2: January 9, 2013
Round 3: April 3, 2013
We always tell applicants that the very best way to get to know an MBA program is to visit the school. The next best thing, however, is when the school visits you! The upcoming MBA Tour Conferences involve a variety of formats to help you gain a competitive edge in the admissions process.
If you’re researching business schools, events like this one are an excellent way to get to know schools better as you narrow down your list of target programs. Additionally, individual school presentations will allow you to easily compare programs and get your questions answered in a comfortable setting. The larger MBA Fair will give you a chance to meet one-on-one with admission directors and alumni representatives.
What happens at The MBA Tour Conferences?
Stanford GSB recently released its MBA admissions essays for the 2012-2013 application season. You may notice some changes to the essays since last year; we’ll dig into those changes below. Perhaps most significantly, just as we predicted last month, Stanford removed one of its required essays this year, although the total recommended word count remains the same.
As it has done for the past several years, Stanford’s admissions committee provides some high-level advice right on its own website. While we think this advice is generally good, we don’t see anything in Stanford’s advice that hasn’t been said many times before. Still, any advice that comes straight from the horse’s mouth deserves your attention!
Time flies… The last applicants of the 2011-2012 admissions season are still finding out their fates, and Harvard Business School has already released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2012-2013 application season. Big news here: Consistent with what we predicted earlier this month, this year’s HBS application includes fewer essays… Just two required ones this year! (Back pats all around here at Veritas Prep headquarters!)
Here are the new Harvard essays and deadlines, taken from Harvard’s site. As usual, our comments follow in italics:
Every January, we make predictions about the coming year in this space. Our 2012 edition includes predictions for weaker international application volume at U.S. business schools and growth in non-traditional graduate management programs. It’s still far too early to see how those predictions will pan out, but today we want to get a little more down in the weeds and make several predictions about what MBA admissions essays might look like in the coming year.
Every spring Harvard normally leads the charge by releasing its application essays first, firing the symbolic starter pistol for the new application season. In fact, last year HBS released its essays in the second week of May, so we may be just days away from the 2012-2013 admissions season getting underway. With that in mind, here are three predictions for what we’ll see in business school application essays in the coming year:
An article that appeared in yesterday’s edition of The Harvard Crimson described an interesting phenomenon that is happening in the first cohort of students who were admitted to the HBS 2+2 Program back in 2008. Rather than entering Harvard Business School as first-year students last fall, a surprising number decided to keep working and delay their matriculation for another year.
According to the article (which mentions some former Veritas Prep students!), of the 106 students who were accepted in the HBS 2+2 Program’s first year, 65 entered HBS this past fall, 40 postponed matriculation, and one dropped out. And the trend is growing: For the group that is supposed to start at HBS this coming fall, more than half have decided to postpone matriculation.
Two weeks ago we wrote about three things you should look for in your recommendation writers to ensure that your letters of recommendation include “Pound the Table!” levels of enthusiasm. Your business school recommendation writers need to know you well, they need to care about you, and they need to believe in you. These criteria may seem a bit obvious, but it’s hard for someone to shout, “This is someone you need to admit to your MBA program!” unless these are all true.
For sure, a necessary ingredient is a recommendation writer who’s very willing to write a glowing letter for you. But, even if someone has the best of intentions, how can you be sure he will write a great letter for you? How can you equip them with what they need to help you as much as possible? Today we’ll look at three things you can (no… should!) do to help your recommenders help you as much as possible:
Interview season is well underway for Round 2 business school applicants, which means this is the time of year when we give our MBA admissions consulting clients a great deal of interview coaching. No amount of preparation will guarantee that your interview will go well, but there is plenty that you can do to improve your chances of success.
For one, it helps to know who will conduct your interview. As we have written before, interview styles tend to vary by interviewer type, with admissions officers conducting the most formal, directed interviews and alumni tending to be the most casual. However, no matter who interviews you, a few basic rules of engagement always apply.
Last week we wrote about how great letters of recommendation contain “Pound the Table!” levels of enthusiasm. It’s nice for your recommenders to write, “He’s a strong employee who will do well in the future,” but that doesn’t grab an MBA admissions officer by the collar and shout, “This person has ‘it,’ and you would be a fool not to admit him!” And that difference easily makes the difference between an admit and a rejection, or an admit and eternal waitlist purgatory.
“That’s all well and good,” you’re saying, “but how do I actually get my recommenders to convey this kind of enthusiasm in what they write?” There are a couple of things to ask yourself, and a couple of key steps to take to make sure that your recommenders understand the game, and do their utmost to help you get admitted. Today we’ll look at who in your life will be most likely to produce the kind of enthusiastic letters you need to get into a top-ten MBA program.
When working with admissions consulting clients, we coach them on how to select the best people to write their letters of recommendation. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, hopefully by now you know that they need to know you well, more than just as a friend, and must be able to provide specific stories that support the main themes that you want to highlight in your application. That’s “Page One” as we say around Veritas Prep headquarters — those are all of the basic requirements that you need to cover with your recommendation writers, no matter what. If someone doesn’t even meet those criteria, then he or she definitely should not be on your short list of potential recommenders.
But there’s one other rule that you should apply to all of your recommenders, no matter where you know them from or what your relationship is with each of them. This is one thing that MBA admissions officers rarely mention, but not because they want to trick you or hide their intentions. Rather, it’s so blindingly obvious that they normally don’t even bother mentioning it.
It must be that time of year again… Ahh, yes, early February. The phone is ringing right now, and there’s a decent chance it’s an applicant calling to ask if he should apply to business school in Round 3, or if he should wait until next year. (Okay, I was wrong… That client called for help in resetting his password for our website. But it will ring again shortly!)
At this time of year, we have the “Round 3 or wait?” discussion with applicants multiple times per day. As usual, the answer we give them is, “It depends,” although we do have some very strong opinions on the matter. Applying in Round 3 is not automatically a bad idea (if it were, then why would schools have a Round 3 deadline at all?), but there is definitely a “buyer beware” aspect that you should consider. In this case, what you’re buying is a few minutes of an admissions officer’s time, and the price you pay is the application fee plus all of the blood, sweat, and tears that will go into your application.
Are you planning to attend an MBA Admissions event? If you are planning to attend one of The MBA Tour’s upcoming conferences in Washington DC (Feb 2), New York City (Feb 4), San Francisco (Feb 6) or another admissions event in the near future, here’s some advice from The MBA Tour’s CEO, Peter von Loesecke on how to prepare for meeting with Admissions Directors in person:
“The best thing applicants can do is research the schools that are participating in the event and their admissions statistics. I would also recommend coming with a resume to share with admissions representative during the event. Ask pertinent information about the school as it relates to your post MBA goals, be sure to articulate your goals clearly and, finally, I suggest attending in business attire to help make a great first impression.”
It’s already been almost a year since we wrote about MIT Sloan’s announcement that the admissions office would move to an entirely paper-free, all-iPad system for reviewing applications. Now, more is being written about this as the company that makes the iPad app makes a publicity push and announces that the UCLA Anderson admissions team has also signed on to use the app.
The key takeaway that we wrote in January still holds: While the fact that admissions officers will read your application on an iPad is interesting, the real fuss should be about what this could mean for the future. It’s not hard to imagine video and audio responses becoming a much more common part of business school applications, as admissions officers can move from your written app to a video to something else all with the click of an icon. We think this is inevitable.
Admissions interviews are underway for Round 1 applicants at the top American business schools. If you were lucky enough to receive an invitation to interview with a top-ranked MBA program, this thought has almost certainly gone through your head recently:
“Great! I made the first cut! Now, I wonder what my chances are?”
This thinking is correct. You did make the first cut. And by “cut,” we mean that admissions officers looked at the whole applicant pool and, seeing that some applications were just too weak for those people to stand any chance of getting in, let those people that they were no longer being considered. No reason to interview those applicants if they’re clearly not getting in, right? So, yes, you did make the first cut. The admissions committee at least thinks there’s a decent chance that you’ll be admitted. Congratulations!
Here at Veritas Prep we’re approaching that time of year when MBA applicants start to ask us, “Should I apply in Round 2 with what I’ve got, or should I work on [fill in the blank] and apply later?” Or, the other way the conversation happens is that an applicant comes to us with grand plans for applying in Round 2, but with a profile that contains at least one thing that really concerns us. In these cases, we often bring up the idea that the applicant should take a step back and work on improving his profile before charging ahead with his applications.
Before you read any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: Applying to business school in Round 3 is NOT automatically a bad idea. MBA programs always go to great lengths to let applicants know that they have three rounds for a reason, and that they do indeed accept people in Round 3. Yes, the numbers do support the argument that, all things being equal (which they never are), you’re better off applying earlier, but GREAT applicants always get in to every top business school every year. And if you’re not a GREAT applicant, then should you apply? Or keep working at it until you are one?
Last month we introduced a new service for our blog readers and Facebook fans: Live online profile evaluations of MBA applicants’ profiles, done in real time in front of an online audience. Over the course of an hour we did a deep dive into three applicants’ profiles, uncovering their strengths and weaknesses and giving them an honest assessment of their chances of gaining admission to a top MBA program. The event was such as success that we’re announcing our second one, which will run on Wednesday, November 16! This event will be accessible to everyone, no matter where you live.
If you’ve spent any time in online forums (including ours), you’ve seen discussion threads in which applicants post their “stats” and admissions experts comment on their chances of success. This is the same thing, but done live online in real time, with the applicant being able to ask followup questions, and the admissions officer digging far deeper than she normally can in a static online setting.
It’s one the the more frustrating conversations an MBA admissions consultant can have with his or her client, but it’s one that takes place regularly. It goes something like this:
“I plan on applying to Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton. And for my safety schools, I’ll add Columbia and MIT Sloan.”
“Okay, that’s an ambitious list for any applicant. Tell me where you are in the process. What do you do for work now?”
“For the past three years I’ve been part of an engineering team. I haven’t managed anyone, but I presented to our direct of product management once. He said I did a good job. In another year I may get promoted to team lead.”
“I see. Well, how about your undergraduate experience?”
With some popular outlets recently reporting that your odds of getting into a top-ranked MBA program have improved since last year, we want to revisit an idea that we wrote about more than a year ago. In a nutshell, whether application numbers are up or down barely affects your chances of admission.
Yes, most top-ranked business schools reported that their application numbers were down in the 2010-2011 admissions season when compared to the previous year. This certainly isn’t bad news if you hope to get into one of these MBA programs this year (assuming that the trend continues; this is a reasonable assumption, but not a trivial one), but the problem with all of this is that statistics are very useful in the aggregate, but using them to judge an individual case can lead to some off-base conclusions.
Who conducts your business school admissions interview depends on a few things. Where you’re applying obviously matters a lot: Some schools only have admissions personnel conduct interviews, while others rely on a mix of admissions officers, students, and alumni. Where you live also impacts how you’re interviewed — if you’re applying to a school on another continent, that school will normally be more willing do your interview by phone or by Skype.
Every school’s policy is different, and MBA programs’ policies can change over time. For instance, earlier this year Wharton announced that its alumni will no longer conduct interviews, and that all interviews will instead be conducted by admissions representatives or students (“Admissions Fellows,” in Wharton parlance). So, as you research your target business schools, make sure you’re preparing with the latest information.
In Veritas Prep’s GMAT prep courses, we teach students the difference between a piece of information being a necessary condition and it being a sufficient one, to support an argument. A fact may be necessary (e.g., X > 0), but it may not be sufficient (e.g., If the question is whether or not X is greater than 10, we don’t yet have sufficient information).
That lesson, as abstract as it may seem, can also be applied to the letters of recommendation you submit in your business school applications. While some things are necessary ingredients in your recommendations, they are not necessarily sufficient by themselves. Taken together, they can all help you get into a top-ranked business school, but each one by itself is not enough to get you in. Here’s an example:
Every business school application requires you to submit at least one letter of recommendation, and usually more than one. These letters corroborate your admissions story, providing additional evidence of the leadership skills, analytical abilities, teamwork skills, and maturity that you have highlighted in the rest of your application. The best person to do this is normally your direct supervisor, but what if you can’t (or don’t want to) tell your boss yet that you’re applying to business school?
Don’t despair. MBA admissions officers know that many applicants face this situation, and they won’t penalize you for it. Particularly in a rough economy, when job security seems to matter even more than usual, they know that you may take a serious risk by telling your boss, “If all goes according to plan, in a year I won’t be here anymore.” So, they’re willing to accept recommendations from other sources, as long as they give admissions officers what they need.
Last week the Chicago Booth MBA admissions team posted helpful advice for applicants who are rushing to meet the school’s Round 1 deadlines, on October 12. They present some very helpful tips, but — as is often the case — many of the the tips they share can be misconstrued or taken too far. It’s just like dieting: Make sure you don’t overdo it with the fats… but cutting fat out of your diet completely isn’t a good idea. Or investing: Stocks historically have represented your best chance for long-term gains that outpace inflation… But you don’t necessarily want a portfolio that only contains stocks.
With that in mind, we dig into a few of Booth’s tips and present the rest of the story where it’s appropriate. Again, we think the advice they provided is quite helpful, but here’s more for you to chew on before you click the “submit” button on your application: