Deciding how many applications to submit is something everyone must do, but what are the criteria you are using to make this decision? Despite a decrease in applications in 2011 and 2012 due to the bad economy, early signs are pointing to a rebound in applications this year, which means the competition will be tough. Yes, even Harvard Business School saw a drop in applications in 2012 (about 4% fewer) but they do not expect this to be a lasting trend. With a couple of years of down applications comes pent-up demand for an MBA, so it is expected that applications will trend upwards for the next several years. The MBA is more valuable than ever, with recent statistics showing only 4.3 percent of people with graduate degrees being unemployed.
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Applying to business school can sometimes seem overwhelming. In addition to working your full time job at a high level, impressing your boss and seeking challenges, you also must be involved in your community and simultaneously prepare for the GMAT as well as write several application essays—not even to mention tracking down the obscure summer semester transcript from that class you took away from your primary institution and also meeting with potential recommenders. For this reason, it makes sense to get started on the process as soon as possible.
We frequently receive questions about recommendations, one of the most common of which is “should I use a professor as a recommender?” The answer to this is not straightforward, and can be best encapsulated with “it depends.”
Most schools require two recommendations, and the typical approach is to use a current and former supervisor to do them. But sometimes this is either not practical or not ideal, in which case it might make sense to approach a former professor. After all, you did well in college and made a good impression. In fact, you recall taking a couple of classes in your major from your favorite professor, who seemed to look favorably on you compared to your classmates. But what if it’s been several years and despite your best intentions, you have not maintained contact with the professor? This is not unusual, and don’t fret. For tenure track faculty, it is likely they are still there, doing their thing, so tracking them down is usually not difficult. Since professors see a lot of students come and go, despite your high performance in their class, it’s best to go visit in person. Make an appointment via phone or email and get back to campus.
Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Tuck has bucked the trend among top business schools and left its essay count and total word count unchanged compared to what they were last year. The Tuck admissions team has made some subtle tweaks to its essay prompts, though, and we’ll dig into those below.
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.
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
If you are a US citizen trying to decide where you want to get your MBA degree, it can be tempting to think about schools outside the USA. After all, the world knows no boundaries thanks to technology and a global marketplace. Spending a couple of years in Spain, England or Asia also sounds like a nice way to see new places and things, and meet new people while you sharpen your business acumen. And since most programs at reputable business schools are in English, you won’t face the language barrier that may have stopped you otherwise.
With the pending release of 2014 MBA applications, you may be considering trying again at a school where you were rejected last year. Schools are generally encouraging with re-applicants, but it’s a good idea to also come up with a plan B for this go-round. It’s fine to re-apply to your dream school, but you if you happen to get rejected again, you need to have a fallback this time—a program you’d be satisfied attending even if it’s not your top choice. Life is too short to spend three years trying to get into grad school, and if you haven’t been able to impress the committee for two years in a row, it may simply not be in the cards for you to go there. Often we see clients becoming enamored with a particular school, when in reality, they could receive the same or very similar education and tools (and networks and contacts and jobs) from another school. We are very much in favor of dogged determination, but at the end of the day, we want to see you get your MBA and not spend half your career applying to school.
This time of year is replete with many young candidates who want to apply to business school directly out of undergrad. Is this possible? In some cases, it is. But it depends on a few factors.
First, you must recognize that business schools are unique compared to other graduate schools mostly in that they generally require real world experience prior to matriculation. If you think about Law School, Medical school or just about any other occupational education, it is most common to simply take on the degree as a continuation of your current academic career. As a potential applicant to business school, however, you likely have noticed most schools have an average work experience figure approaching 5 years.
One thing we generally recommend to clients is to use a matrix to ensure you are communicating a balance of core essentials to the admissions committees. If you use this approach, you will be much more organized as you apply and will also be able to quickly ascertain where you may be coming up short. How does it work? We view the four core essentials of a perfect application as: Leadership, Innovation, Maturity, and Teamwork. These are the four critical areas that all business schools desire to see in their applicants.
Deciding when to apply to school can often get applicants twisted up, as they attempt to inject strategy into the process. We can speak more specifically to this strategy in another post, but it also makes sense to talk about early action. More and more schools it seems have an early action option which throws yet another wrench in the round one vs. round two vs. round three discussion.
In 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.
The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Ross is the latest top MBA program to shed an essay, going from four required essays last year to just three this year. The school has also trimmed word counts on a couple of its essays. However, the school’s most interesting question (its first one) remains unchanged.
This time of year, the biggest question from clients seems to be which MBA programs should they be targeting for application. We understand that with so many choices out there both domestically in the US and internationally, it can be a bit overwhelming. Time and time again, we find ourselves having to remind everyone of the one key word to focus on when choosing schools: FIT.
With a fairly consistent test format for more than fifty years, the Graduate Management Admissions Council has revamped the test with a couple of assessment changes in the past few years. Most recently, the Integrated Reasoning Section, a 30-minute portion of the GMAT made up of 12 questions, was designed to measure one’s ability to discern patterns and combine verbal and quantitative reasoning so solve problems. While the admissions committees at top schools seem to continue focusing on the traditional verbal and quantitative score combination (out of a possible 800), we will likely see an emphasis shift towards these new sections in the future (which also include a 30-minute writing analysis of a topic), since the skills they measure are critical to today’s business leaders.
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.
With the recent release of the 2014 HBS application, it is clear that shortening the number of essays is a trend that is here to stay for now. With only one essay on the HBS application this year, it is becoming more important than ever to not only communicate effectively and concisely, but also to leverage the balance of the application (and of course the interview) to stand out from the crowd.
UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Haas has not only dropped an essay this year (as many other top-ranked MBA programs have done), but it has also dropped a whole admissions round! Beyond that, the content of Haas’s application has actually changed very little this year, at least compared to the more radical changes we have seen in other business schools’ applications.
Chicago Booth has released its application essays and deadlines for the 2013-2014 admissions season. The Great Essay Reduction continues… Consistent with what we have seen many other top-ranked business schools, Booth has dropped an essay this year. The school has, however, kept its more unique “PowerPoint” question, suggesting that the admissions committee likes what it sees with the responses it gets from this prompt.
MIT’s Sloan School of Management has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. There are a few big changes this year, including Sloan’s removal of the cover letter that had famously accompanied its more traditional MBA admissions essays over the years. Sloan’s application is now down to just two essays, and they’re both new this year, continuing the trend that we have seen at most of the top-ranked MBA programs.
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.
We often get asked by clients how many times they should take the GMAT before they move on to other components of the application. Of course this largely depends on your score, but if you find yourself disappointed with your initial test results, you will generally want to try again.
Broadly speaking, schools don’t really care how many times you take the test, and will only consider your highest score. Know that they won’t combine separate components into one score, but will consider your best overall score from one sitting as your “application score.” Having said that, it is also generally agreed upon that schools don’t want to see applicants taking the exam a dozen times. This can communicate negative qualities to the admission’s committee such as poor time management skills, slow learner syndrome, or good old fashioned poor judgment or misalignment of priorities.
One question we see from business school applicants every year is “My GMAT score was lower than I expected… What should I do now?” Candidates walk away from their GMAT test date wide-eyed and shocked that their score came in 50 points under all their practice exams.
You will surely hear over and over, that the GMAT is only a portion of your application, albeit a fairly important one. We have seen firsthand that top schools are not always lenient on incoming scores because the average GMAT has a big impact on the schools’ rankings and they can’t afford to slip from the coveted top 10 or 20 slots they so desperately try to hold. Even lower tiered schools are beginning to see their GMAT scores climb, and every school likes to see their average score go up each year. Last year, Stanford’s average topped 729!
The Yale School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the 2013-2014 admissions season. Building on the trend that we have seen at other prominent MBA programs so far this year, Yale has reduced its essay count, going from four last year to just two this year. Yale did beef up the word limits on the individual essays, though, so your total recommended word count wasn’t cut in half — it drops from 1,050 to 750.
Wharton has released its admissions essays and application deadlines for the 2013-2014 admissions season. Following the trend that we have seen at other top MBA programs this year, Wharton has cut its required essay count from three to two, although you will actually have more words to work with for the first essay this year.
NYU’s Stern School of Business recently released its admissions essays and deadlines for the full-time MBA Class of 2016. NYU’s application essays haven’t changed at all since last year, so our advice mostly remains the same. However, the admissions committee now lets you choose between two prompts (including Stern’s famous “Creative Expression” submission) that both used to be required, reducing the total amount of “stuff” that you will submit to the school.
As 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!
Last week Harvard Business School released the details of its application for the 2013-2014 admissions season. While there was some moderately interesting news around Harvard’s admissions deadlines, much of the chatter has been about Harvard’s drastically revised essays. Make no mistake — this is a very different application than what HBS has used in the past, but keep in mind that Harvard still wants to see the same qualities (across your entire application) that it has been looking for in applicants for years. Harvard still wants to find bright budding leaders who are ready to undergo a transformational experience. The admissions committee is just going about finding those applicants a little differently this year.
The Stanford Graduate School of Business has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2013-2014 application season. Stanford has actually made no changes to its admissions essays this year, which suggests that the admissions committee liked what it saw in the applications that it reviewed last year. Accordingly, our advice hasn’t changed much, although it has evolved subtly since last year. Let’s dig in.
Click here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout[at]veritasprep[dot]com.
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?
Click here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout[at]veritasprep[dot]com!
I want to run my family’s business once I finish school. Is this a good story for my future goals?
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.
Click here to read the intro to this blog series! Send your admissions questions to timeout[at]veritasprep.com!
I am a traditional finance guy. How can I best differentiate myself from everyone else who looks and sounds like me in an application?
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.
Can’t make it to campus? No time, no money, no problem! While it’s not an ideal situation to be in, some people have virtual interviews instead of meeting with their admissions committee face to face. Here are some tips on making the virtual (Skype) interview work for you.