Our Thoughts on Ross’ MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

Michigan Ross MBA Admissions GuideApplication season at the University of Michigan’s Ross MBA program is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

Essay 1:

What are you most proud of and why? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)

This is a typical “accomplishment” essay, and with the limited word count it would be wise to focus on one accomplishment in the most direct fashion possible.

Dig deep as you identify what topic to discuss as these types of open-ended questions give applicants an opportunity to really differentiate themselves from the competition. Breakthrough applicants will align their personal, professional, or academic stories around some of the relevant values expressed by the Ross MBA.

Don’t be afraid to select a topic that extends outside of your professional career. Many candidates will opt to go the professional route, so consider “zigging” when the rest “zag.” Remember admissions committees will be reading a lot of essays so stand out by allowing them to explore a topic a bit more unique then the mundane. Also, keep in mind that you will have time to talk about your professional career and highlight some of your past accomplishments via the second essay.

Finally, don’t think if your accomplishment does not involve $100 million in savings or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro that your response will not be well received. What makes your response to this question relevant is the impact this accomplishment had to YOU.

Essay 2:

What is your desired career path and why? (400 words)

This is a traditional “career goals” essay. This type of question should come as no surprise to any candidate applying to business school. In fact, your response to this question should involve what initially drove your interest in business school to begin with, so Ross will be expecting a pretty polished essay here.

Many candidates will write generic essays outlining their career goals that could be relevant to any MBA program. What will separate breakthrough candidates from the masses is how personalized the essay reads.  Ross will be looking for you to combine your well thought out career goals with specifics on how you plan to utilize their program to reach these goals. Also, if relevant, connect your goals to an underlying passion you have for the role or industry. This will make your interest more tangible and highlight underlying elements of your personal story.

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Ross that should help you get started.

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

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

Create Breakthrough MBA Application Essays with Mini-Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations

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

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

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

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

Essay 2: Personal Expression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Crafting Your MBA Applications

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

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

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

1) School Knowledge

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

2) Fit

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

3) Attention to Detail

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Essay 1:

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

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

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

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

Essay 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essay 1:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Thoughts on the Harvard Business School Application Essay for 2015-2016

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

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

Essay 1:

It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting.

Introduce yourself. (No word limit)

The dreaded open-ended essay prompt has caused many sleepless nights for MBA applicants, couple that with the inherent pressure that results from applying to HBS and this essay may be viewed as one of the more nerve-wracking questions of the application season. Many students struggle with how to tackle this type of essay question and I’m here to tell you to relax and just stay structured.

With seemingly open-ended prompts like this one, the key is to stay structured. Typically, with more detailed essay prompts that have more individualized components within the question the outline of the essay almost writes itself. An open-ended essay like this one requires the applicant to more formally structure the response upfront to ensure the narrative is clear for the AdComm.

However, before diving into the structure, topic selection is critical. This will involve a good deal of introspection both in selecting the anecdotes as well as in the context of your actual writing. Aligning your narrative around a personal or professional passion is a powerful approach to telling your story. The more authentic this passion is the better it will be received by admissions.

Painting a vivid narrative of how the current incarnation of you has manifested will separate the mundane essay from the truly breakthrough essay. It’s about showing and not telling here so highlight the unique experiences that have brought you to this point. With HBS, the pressure to impress tends to be very high but focus less on the outlier stories from your competition (climbed a mountain, sold a start-up, ran a marathon) and focus on letting your own unique personality shine through amidst the anecdotes you share.

This essay honestly at its core is about getting to know you so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft the perfect answer for the admissions committee.

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

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

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

Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018. Tuck stuck with two required essays this year, and the questions are substantially the same, although both of them have been reworded a bit for this year’s application. These small changes suggest that the Tuck admissions team was mostly happy with the responses they saw from last year’s applicant pool.

Without further ado, here are Tuck’s deadlines and essays for the 2015-2016 application season, followed by our comments in italics:

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Deadlines
Early Action round: October 7, 2015
November round: November 4, 2015
January round: January 6, 2016
April round: April 4, 2016

Tuck’s deadlines are almost exactly the same as they were last year. Rather than joining other top MBA programs in pushing its first round deadline into September, Tuck decided to hold steady. Note that Tuck is one of the few top business schools to offer an Early Action admissions option. “Early Action” means that the decision is non-binding, although if you are admitted you will need to send in a $4,500 deposit by January 15 if you plan on enrolling. If Tuck is your top choice, or at least a very strong 2nd or 3rd choice, Early Action is a great way to demonstrate that you’re seriously interested in Tuck.

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays

  1. What are your short- and long-term goals? Why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically? (500 words)

    This question has been substantially reworded since last year, although at its core, it’s still the same fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that many business schools ask. One notable change is actually the addition of the second question in there (“Why do you need an MBA?”), and the fact that the Tuck admissions team added this part suggests that perhaps not enough applicants were addressing this fairly obvious question last year.

    The other subtle change is how the last part of the prompt changed from “Why are you the best fit for Tuck?” to “Why are you interested in Tuck specifically?” No matter how the question is asked, Tuck really is still trying to get at the concept of fit here — what about Tuck interests you enough that you would consider devoting two years of your life to the program? Tuck takes the concept of fit very seriously when evaluating candidates — which makes sense, given its small class size and remote location — so you need to take it seriously, too.

    Keep in mind that anyone can browse the school’s website and drop some professors’ and clubs’ names into this essay; a response that will really stand out is one that is believable, shows that you’ve done your research and reveals something unique about you. In this way, the wording in last year’s essay prompt can be a great guide to writing a great response to this year’s question.

  2. Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck? (500 words)

    This question has also been tweaked for this year’s application. The meaningful difference is in the second part: While last year’s question asked you what you learned about yourself, this year’s version squeezes in the part that was dropped from Essay #1. Why does this matter? Because the part that was dropped (“What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?”) is still actually pretty important, and it’s hard to imagine writing a great essay that doesn’t at least briefly cover that material this year.

    Since you only have 500 words for the whole essay, being succinct will be important! You need to describe what the situation was, what action you specifically took, and what the results were (Situation-Action-Result, “SAR”). And devoting at least several sentences to how you grew or changed makes a lot of sense… So you’re left with less than half of essay to tie this all back to Tuck and how you will contribute. No problem, right?

    Are you grasping for a story to use for this essay? Don’t lose site of that important word in the first part of the question: leadership. Keep in mind that leadership shows itself in many forms, not just from being the official manager of a team. Perhaps you took on a tough problem that no one else wanted to deal with. Maybe you faced a tough ethical decision that kept you up at night. Or maybe you spotted an opportunity for how something could be done in a better way, and you convinced your peers to come around to this new way of doing things… All of these could make for rich stories to use in this essay!

    Finally, remember to tie it back to Tuck. Our advice here is not to force it (e.g., “… and that is why I will be a natural to lead the Tuck Finance Club”). The key is to tell an story that demonstrates your growth as a young, developing leader, and then to demonstrate that you understand what Tuck’s respectful, collaborative culture is all about.

  3. (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application. (500 words)

    As we always tell applicants when it comes to the optional essay for any application, only answer this essay prompt 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!

Each year we work with dozens of MBA applicants who want to get into Tuck. If you’re ready to start working on your own candidacy, 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!

By Scott Shrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago Booth Admissions Essay and Deadlines for 2015-2016

The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago recently released its MBA application deadlines and essay for the Class of 2018. After years of whittling down its essay count to just one single essay last year, Booth returns with one essay this year, although it’s a new one. Booth has always been one of the pioneers in using unusual essay prompts, and it’s good to see that continue. The way they go about it this year is a little different (and perhaps not ideal), but we dig into that in much more detail below.

Here are Chicago Booth’s admissions deadlines and essays for the 2015-2016 season:

Chicago Booth Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 17, 2015
Round 2: January 5, 2016
Round 3: April 5, 2016

Once again Booth has moved its Round 1 deadline forward by a week, making Booth the latest top business school to have its first deadline come in mid-September. (Five years ago, Booth’s Round 1 deadline was October 13… Things have changed!) The good news is that applying to Booth in Round 1 means that you will get your decision back by December 10, which gives you almost a month before most business schools’ Round 2 deadlines come in early January. Booth’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines each moved only slightly compared to last season.

Chicago Booth Application Essay

  1. Chicago Booth values individuality because of what we can learn from the diverse experiences and perspectives of others. This mutual respect creates an open-minded community that supports curiosity, inspires us to think more broadly, take risks, and challenge assumptions. At Booth, community is about collaborative thinking and tapping into each other’s different viewpoints to cultivate new ideas and realize breakthrough moments every day. Using one of the photos provided, tell us how it resonates with your own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for you.

    This essay prompt is new this year, although at its core, it’s not that different from last year’s essay. The Booth admissions team wants to get to know you better, and this is their way of doing it. Why did they change the essay prompt? Our bet is that they actually liked what they saw from applicants last year, but they seemed determined to make their essays a moving target because of all of the coaching resources that applicants have access to (such as this blog!)… This is their way of trying to keep it fresh while not messing with the formula too much.

    We always tell applicants that they have to do two things to be successful: stand out from other applicants, but also show fit with their target MBA program. With this essay prompt Booth is going after the latter; they explicitly ask you to show why the Booth community “is the right fit for you” here! But, how you show fit is one way you can stand out vs. other applicants. Don’t be afraid to get creative here! (Here are all of the technical details of what you can and can’t submit.) Remember, the reason Booth kept this question is because it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to get a sense of your personality, so let that personality shine through here!

    Finally, the addition of the “react to one of these photos” idea is… interesting. We have a feeling that a lot of applicants will end up forcing the explanation of why a photo of Eugene Fama resonates with them… At a high level, our advice is not to get too hung up on your choice of photo. Don’t just randomly pick one and then use editorial duct tape to attach that your own story, but remember that the admissions committee really wants to learn about YOU here, not about what you think of one of these photos. Any one of Booth’s thousands of applicants can write about those photos, but only you can tell Booth about you.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Booth and other top MBA programs, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By MBA Admissions Deadlines, MBA Essays

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions EssaysThe Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley recently published its MBA admissions deadlines and essays for the coming application season. After chopping away at its essay count in the recent past, Haas has held steady this year, keeping the required essay count at three. But, interestingly, the school has made some changes that make this year’s application look more like the application that Haas used two years ago. We’ll dig in and tell you everything you need to know below.

Now let’s dig in! Here are Haas’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Berkeley (Haas) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2015
Round2: January 7, 2016
Round 3: March 31, 2016

Haas’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. The one bit of news here is that while the school used to wait until mid-January to notify Round 1 applicants, now applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by December 17, giving you at least a couple of weeks before most schools’ Round 2 deadlines, should you need to scramble and apply to some backup schools. Looking at Round 3, Haas pushed back this deadline by nearly three weeks vs. last year, matching similar moves at some other top schools to hopefully catch a few more great candidates who may have missed the earlier rounds.

Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays

  • If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words)

    This question is new this year, although Haas actually used it before dropping it last year. Now it’s back, and it’s clear that the Haas admissions team wants to get past the normal jargon and stuffy language and get a real sense of your personality here. That means you shouldn’t be afraid to have a little fun or reveal the real you here. If an admissions officer reads this essay and then still has no sense of what it would be like to meet you in person, then you haven’t made good use of this essay. That doesn’t mean your choice of a song needs to be wacky or so deep that it will make the reader cry, but avoid the temptation to choose a song that merely echoes one of the more straightforward themes you will cover below. And, we’re willing to take bets on the number of applicants who say their favorite song is John Lennon’s “Imagine”… Save the high-minded “I want to save the world” stuff for another essay! This one is more for just helping admissions officers feel like they know you at least a little bit.

  • Please respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words)
    – Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.
    – Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud.
    – Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.

    All three of these essay prompts try to get at the same thing — identifying an experience in your life that led to growth and transformation. The first one is essentially carried over from last year’s application, and the second one is quite similar to a prompt from last year, although it’s a little broader this time around (it can be any accomplishment, not just a professional one). The third question is new this year. And, most notably, you’re picking just one, while the first two questions were actually two separate required prompts on last year’s application. We like that Haas gives applicants three different ways to go about this one; your best story may come from an accomplishment, or from overcoming a setback, or from making a tough choice in life. Why not let you choose which story to tell here?

    No matter which essay prompt you choose, think about the “SAR” (Situation-Action-Result) essay framework here — describe what happened, what you did, and then what happened as a results. Sounds obvious, right? You would be surprised by how often applicants get lost in the details and end up using most of their words merely to describe to the situation… the result gets tacked on in two sentences at the very end! That’s too bad because the result — not just what happened in that situation, but also how you changed as a result — is what Haas really wants to know here! Even seemingly smaller accomplishments or life events, such as the first time you spoke in front of a large group, can make for a really impactful essay here.

  • Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey? (500 words)

    This is the more conventional “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that MBA programs often ask. Ask yourself these questions: Where do you see yourself in a few years (and beyond that), and why do you need an MBA to get there? Specifically, why do you need a Haas MBA to get there? Why not another top-ten MBA program? Really force yourself to answer that question, even if not all of your answer makes its way into your final essay response!

    By the way, the Haas admissions team gave you a big hint here: On the Haas website, check out the paragraph that introduces the essays. It describes the four key principles that define the Haas culture: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Your goal here is NOT to see how many of these you can cram into your essay (this is not merely an exercise to see if you bothered to read the website), but if none of that appeals to you, and you can’t even articulate why Haas is the right way for you to invest in yourself, then you need to take a step back before drafting this essay. You obviously are an unfinished product, which is why you’re considering business school… Help the admissions committee believe that Haas is the right place for you to grow for the next two years, invoking those four key principles where you can.

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

By Scott Shrum

3 Ways to Write the Perfect Business School Application Essay

writing essayEssays are one of the most important aspects of the MBA application process. They are also one of the most challenging for many applicants to excel at. The essays are a critical opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves from the hordes of similar applicants in the process. Admissions committees are looking for a surprisingly small list of things in these essays and executing on these elements is a step in the right direction for breakthrough candidates.

Now there is no such thing as a perfect business school essay but the three points below are necessary in executing a successful business school essay:

Relevance

Have you answered the question asked? Candidates would be surprised how often this very basic question goes unanswered at the end of an essay. Many applicants become so consumed with including every element of their past, present, and future into an essay that often times the most obvious aspect of the essay goes unnoticed. Not only is it important to ensure you have answered the question but also that the response selected is the most relevant to the question posed. It is important to step back and consider if there are any better anecdotes, stories, or examples that could be used for this essay.

Authenticity

Could anybody else have written this essay? Successful applicants present their authentic selves in a captivating and compelling fashion in each essay and the entire application as a whole. Don’t be afraid to explore uncomfortable themes and personal anecdotes that can amplify interpersonal elements of your candidacy. Remember it is easy to write the bland, impersonal essay that is commonplace with unsuccessful applicants. Dive deep and show the admissions committee what makes you unique and why you will be a valuable addition to their business school community.

Polish

There is no worse way to show you are not business school material than to submit an essay loaded with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. Mistakes like this show an obvious lack of attention to detail and carelessness that can be disastrous for an applicant during such a competitive process. Take the extra time to earmark additional reviews from friends and trusted advisors like Veritas Prep to ensure come decision day minor typos do not stand in the way of an admit.

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

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

4 Reasons MBA Students Love Management Consulting

Business SchoolManagement consulting is one of the most revered, sought-after, and difficult to crack industries in the world. Prestigious firms like Bain & Co, McKinsey, and the Boston Consulting Group commonly rank at the top of many Vault employer lists of top companies to work for.

Candidates applying to business school and entering students alike have made management consulting one of the most popular post-MBA industries. At top schools like Kellogg, Wharton, and Booth, upwards of 40% of the graduating class have been known to join the ranks of the consulting elite in a given year. With numbers this high why do students still continually gravitate to this mysterious industry in droves? The answer is as multi-faceted as the industry itself.

Let’s look at a few aspects of the industry that make it particularly attractive to MBA students:

1. Prestige

Management consulting is a glamor industry, from the high profile clients to the high impact relationships and even the complicated frameworks; a career in the industry is a high point on any professional’s resume. Consultants often enjoy senior level positions in industry at top firms after their consulting days are over, making this a coveted career for MBAs.

2. Travel

Nobody loves to travel like MBAs, so a career in consulting is a natural alignment. Now, the travel is primarily business oriented and not for leisure, but this aspect of the industry still feeds into the natural wanderlust of many MBAs.

3. Salary

One of the more tangible perks of a career in consulting is the high salary. Management consulting is one of the highest paying post-MBA careers, which has long been part of the attraction of the industry. Additional financial perks like generous signing bonuses and tuition reimbursement make consulting a much-pursued industry.

4. Skill Development

It’s not all just about the perks as a consultant; the industry provides unparalleled opportunities to develop analytical, creative, and interpersonal skills. Consultants become experts in programs like Excel and PowerPoint making them hot commodities in the workforce. Many students see a short-term career in management consulting as a finishing school of sorts that can set them up for the rest of their professional career.

A career in consulting offers many perks that align well with what students are looking for post-MBA.

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

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

Kellogg Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Kellogg School of ManagementThe Kellogg School of Management recently released its essay questions and deadlines for the 2015-2016 admissions season. After doing a lot of essay trimming over the past several years, Kellogg has decided to stay the course this year and stick with two required written essays. However, the essay prompts are new this year. And, the school’s “video essay” remains. Kellogg has a decent FAQ for its video essay on its website.

Let’s get down to it. Here are Kellogg’s application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Kellogg Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 22, 2015
Round 2: January 6, 2016
Round 3: April 6, 2016

After moving its Round 1 application way up (i.e., making it much earlier) last year, Kellogg has only made a minor adjustment this year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by December 16, which should give you enough time to complete your Round 2 applications for other programs if you don’t get into Kellogg. The school’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines have not changed much this year, with the only notable change being that the Kellogg Round 3 deadline comes five days later this year than it did last season.

Kellogg Application Essays

  • Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)
    This question is new this year, although it’s really quite similar to the second essay on last year’s Kellogg application, which started with, “Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others.” Note the emphasis on leadership and teamwork here… Both are key traits that the Kellogg admissions team looks for in all applicants. And, even though the second sentence above only mentions leadership, you’d better believe that the admissions committee also wants to see evidence of collaboration and cooperation… in other words, teamwork! Kellogg isn’t looking for sharp-elbowed people who lead by ordering others around. rather, the school wants to find applicants who inspire people to work harder and achieve great things through teamwork and empowerment.

    This essay is a classic candidate for the SAR (Situation – Action – Result) outline that we recommend our clients use. The situation will likely be an opportunity or challenge where you needed to rely on someone in order to get something done. The action will be how you managed to influence them in order to see things your way and to convince them to take up your cause. Perhaps it was an employee or teammate who wasn’t motivated, or didn’t agree with what you wanted to do. How did you win them over? Finally, the result will be the outcome — not just of that particular situation, but also the positive impact that it had on you as a young leader. Pay particular attention to the last few words of this essay prompt; what you learned may be what admissions committee pays attention to the most.

  • Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
    This question is also new this year. However, over the years Kellogg has asked similar questions that have all addressed the ideas of personal growth and change. Assuming you have a good leadership growth story covered in Essay #1, then look for stories that will complement that nicely. How have you matured as a young adult? What was a weakness that you’ve worked on and have overcome? What strong qualities in others have you been able to emulate? As yourself these questions as you consider what makes for an effective topic here. Your story absolutely can come from your personal life — indeed, those often make for the most moving stories in essays like this one — but the more recent, the better. You’re still young and you are still evolving, so a story from fifteen years ago will likely be less compelling for admissions officers than one that happened in the past few years. (Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule!)

    The second part of the question may require you to drastically shift gears halfway through this essay… Your reasons for wanting to attend Kellogg may have very little to do with the compelling growth story you identified for the first part of this prompt, which is why we don’t necessarily love this new question from Kellogg. Sticking these two questions together may leave many applicants tempted to invent a theme in which they dramatically shape the story in the first half to fit what comes in the second half. We actually think a more effective approach is to present a true, impactful story of personal growth in the first part, and then hit the “What do you want to do at Kellogg?” question (which is really a “Why an MBA? Why Kellogg?” question at its core) head on. Some writers will tie the two together better than others, but remember that this isn’t an essay writing contest. It’s far more important for you to help the admissions committee get to know you (and want to admit you!) than to come up with an artful essay theme that doesn’t reflect the true you or make a convincing case that Kellogg is right for you.

Want to know what your chances are of getting into Kellogg? Fill out a free profile evaluation and get an in-depth evaluation from an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

5 Things to Do Once MBA Application Essay Topics are Released

writing essayOne of the most anxious days for many candidates is the release of applications for their target schools. Candidates nervously obsess over all aspects of what to expect from a school’s yearly changes in the application process. So when the new applications are released it is an exciting day and signals the official start of a school’s application season.

Even if applications aren’t quite released, you can still start thinking about how to get rolling once applications are live.

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

1. Develop Mini-Stories

One of the most helpful aspects to have prepared before essays are released is your mini-stories. The focus of these mini-stories is to highlight your strongest and most in-depth personal, professional, and extra-curricular life experiences. These anecdotes will feed right into the essays once topics are released allowing you to mix and match appropriately.

2. Confirm School List

Prior to the kickoff of application season, your school list should be basically set. Many candidates waste valuable time once applications are released wavering on school selection and starting applications for programs that they will eventually not apply to. Get ahead of this by starting your school research in advance of application season, so once applications are released you can hit the ground running.

3. Complete School Research

Now that your school list is set, it is time to dive deeper into your school research and really begin to identify the elements at each individual MBA program that are uniquely attractive to you.

4. Outline School Specific Essays

With the details set of your specific interest in your target program it’s time to align your mini-stories with school specific essays. Remember each individual essay should be created from scratch but use the details developed via your mini-stories as a launching point.

5. Write and Review Essays

All the hard work has been done so now it’s time to actually write the essay. If the other steps are completed properly then the actually process should be very easy. A key aspect of the writing process is the review process. Utilize a team of trusted eyes to help you review your hard work.

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

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

Should You Go to Business School?

Business SchoolPursuing an MBA can be one of the toughest decisions a young professional has to make, some rush the decision and realize they are not quite ready for showtime come application season or even worse during their time in b-school.

Self-assessment is the key when it comes to making this decision.

Consider the four aspects listed below as you decide whether you should pursue an MBA right now:

Maturity:

Are you personally and professionally ready to make the most of an MBA? This question is not the same as could you get into business school, but is right now the ideal time for you and your career. MBA programs are looking to admit mature candidates who know exactly what they want out of the experience. So make sure you take personal inventory of your situation before you make a decision. Keep in mind age is not the only indicator of maturity, however; the average age of admits ranges between 27-30 so programs are looking for experienced applicants.

Accomplishments:

MBA programs are looking for the best and the brightest young professionals from around the world, so competition is stiff! Do you have the accomplishments befitting a top flight MBA admit? This is the time when you must honestly assess your candidacy. This involves looking at your academic, professional, and civic accomplishments and ascertaining the interpersonal skills you have developed and impact you have made thus far in your career.

Financial:

Are you financially ready to take on the commitment of business school? With tuition from many programs well into the six figures, the cost of an MBA is rising year after year. Options like student loans, scholarships, and fellowships do exist so make sure to factor these into any potential projections. Also, make sure your decision to pursue admission is based on holistic reasons and not simply to make more money.

Time:

Do you have the time to put together a compelling application? The entire business school application process is very time intensive. From school research to GMAT prep to writing those pesky essays, applying to business school is a major commitment.

Utilize the tips above to help you decide if right now is the best time for you to apply to business school.

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

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

MIT Sloan Application Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

MIT Sloan recently released its admissions essay and deadlines for the Class of 2018. While hardly any top business schools have cut essays this year (after several years of doing so), Sloan actually did cut an essay, going down to just one required essay this year. But, here’s a twist: The Sloan admissions team has added a second essay just for those who are invited to interview. So, you’re still going to need to write two strong essays to get into Sloan, and we break down the essay prompts below.

Here are MIT Sloan’s essays and deadlines for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

MIT Sloan Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 17, 2015
Round 2: January 14, 2016
Round 3: April 11, 2016

Several noteworthy things here… First, Sloan’s Round 1 deadline has moved up by almost a week, pushing into mid-September for the first time ever. And, the school’s Round 2 deadline comes almost a week later than it did last year. If you apply to Sloan in Round 1, you will get your decision by December 16, which will give you plenty of time to get Round 2 applications ready for other MBA programs, if needed.

The other interesting thing here is that Sloan has added a Round 3! For a while, Sloan had been unique among top U.S. business schools in that it only had two admissions rounds. For instance, last year, if you hadn’t applied by January 8, then you weren’t going to apply to Sloan at all. Now stragglers actually have a chance of getting into MIT Sloan, although our advice about Round 3 is always the same — there are simply fewer seats available by Round 3, so only truly standout applicants have a real chance of getting in. Plan on applying in Round 1 or 2 to maximize your chances of success.

MIT Sloan Admissions Essays

  1. Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words)This question is new to MIT Sloan’s application this year. What we like about it is how it very explicitly spells out what Sloan’s admissions team wants to see. For these types of questions, we always advise applicants to use the “SAR” method — spell out the Situation, the Action that you took, and the Results of those actions. There is no hard and fast rule for how many words you should devote to each section, but the situation is where you want to use up the fewest words; you need to set the stage, but with only 500 words to work with, you want to make sure that you give the bare minimum of background and then move on to what actions you took. And, make sure you leave enough room to discuss the result (“What type of impact did this have?”) Your individual actions and the impact that you had are what the admissions committee really wants to see.One final thought here: Don’t only think about the impact that you had on your organization, but also spend some time thinking about the impact that the experience had on you. What did you learn? How did you grow as a result? And, how did you put this lesson to work in a later experience? That may be a challenge to fit into a 500-word essay, but this is the type of introspection and growth that any business school admissions committee loves to see.
  2. For those who are invited to interview: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words)The wording of this prompt has changed slightly since last year, but the biggest change (other than the fact that it’s become the essay only for those invited to interview) is that the word count has dropped from 500 to 250 words. At its core, this is a “Why MIT Sloan?” question. The admissions committee wants to see that you have done your homework on Sloan, that you understand what the school stands for, and that you really want to be there.When Sloan asks you to share something that “aligns with” its mission, it’s not just asking about what you will do while you’re in school for two years, but also about how you plan on taking what you’ve learned (and the connections you’ve built) and going farther than you could ever have without an MIT Sloan MBA. Note the very last part of the question: The key to a believable essay here will be to cite a specific example from your past when you got involved and make things better around you. Don’t be intimidated by the high-minded ideals in the first part of the essay prompt — making an impact (rather than just standing idly by and being a follower) is what they want to see here, even if it’s on a relatively small scale.

The MIT Sloan MBA admissions team just posted a brief video that has some good basic advice on how to tackle their essays. There are no huge “Ah ha!” moments in the video, but it’s always good to hear advice straight from the course. Here is another article with some advice for the essay.

Do you dream of getting into MIT Sloan? Give us a call 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!

By Scott Shrum

Why a Top 10 MBA Program Might Not Be Your Best Match

MBA“I want to go to HBS…” I want to go to Stanford…” “I want to go to Wharton…” These are the cries of MBA candidates around the world when contemplating what business schools they want to attend. But these venerable institutions and others like them can’t possibly accept all interested students for a variety of reasons that include space, qualifications, and fit. Every year many students are forced to reevaluate their target school list.

Applicants should approach the school selection process with an open mind and use this as the basis to conduct research on the programs that best align with their unique needs. For some students, profile limitations like GPA, GMAT, or work experience can restrict opportunities at higher ranked programs, so it makes sense to consider all alternatives.  Often lower-ranked schools are better aligned with the development needs of certain students. Some of the best programs for areas like entrepreneurship, operations, and supply chain management fall outside of the various rankings done every year. These programs can provide direct pipelines into career paths into these industries of interest.

Location should also be an area of note for aspiring MBAs. For some, targeting a specific location where the applicant wants to reside post-MBA is another smart strategy when identifying the ideal program. This is key because most schools have at the very least strong local recruiting within their geographic area. This strategy will increase the likelihood of landing at a target firm. These schools will often also have stronger alumni networks in their geographic region that trump higher ranked programs, so choose wisely.

A complimentary approach is identifying MBA programs close to target recruiters. For example if a career in Venture Capital is important then the west coast or Silicon Valley in particular should influence the school selection process. Interested in oil and gas? Then researching the local MBA programs in the state of Texas is a no brainer and would make more sense than pursuing admission at some higher rated programs outside the state.

Finally, some students just may not be academically equipped to perform or compete at certain MBA programs. Intense academic rigor, heavy workloads, and cumbersome pre-requisite coursework make some lower ranked programs a more comfortable academic environment.

Don’t be constrained by the various school rankings on the market. Create your own list that allows you to pick the program that makes the most sense for YOU!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Tips for your Application to the Chicago Booth MBA Program

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

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

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

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

What to write:

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

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

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

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

How to share your story:

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

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

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

Putting it together:

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you get stuck, we’re here to help.

Good luck!

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

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

4 Common Types of Teaching Methods in Business School

In ClassOne of the more commonly overlooked aspects by candidates during the school selection process is teaching methods at their target schools. Given that business school is in fact “school” and students spend a lot of time in the classroom, this area should warrant a lot more attention.

Teaching methods at certain schools like Harvard Business School and UVA’s Darden School, where the case method dominates, are core to the entire MBA experience for students, so it is important to know what you may be opting into. Most schools do not take as homogenous of an approach to teaching methods as these programs, so expect more of a mix from the majority of other schools.

The four types listed below are the most common teaching methods you will find in MBA programs.

Lecture:

Lectures are probably the most common teaching method found in business schools. With this format, students are typically greeted by slides via a PowerPoint presentation during the lecture and engage with content through this mechanism. Lectures tend to be more of a “lean back” or passive experience that is driven more by the professor. This teaching method will be the most natural to students as it is very similar to the way many undergraduate classes are structured.

Case Study:

The case study format involves a professor leading students through a historical analysis of a business situation. The “cases” are largely the product of Harvard Business School, which has pioneered the use of the case method. In case studies, students are expected to come up with a solution to some of history’s toughest business problems. Cases are commonly used as the driver for interactive classroom discussions and there is an expectation of strong class participation from all students.

Experiential Learning:

One of the more truly immersive teaching methods is experiential learning. This method allows students to operate within a specific topical area or industry of interest. Classes ending with the moniker “lab” fall into this bucket. Think your global lab, venture lab, asset management practicums, and many entrepreneurship classes. Also, many internship programs fall into this category. This method is all about learning while doing, a trend that continues to grow in many MBA programs.

Simulation:

Simulations are probably one of the least common, but still prevalent, teaching methods. This teaching method primarily uses technology recreations of common business scenarios. One of the most popular is the “MarkStrat” simulation used in marketing strategy courses.

The teaching methods at MBA programs are as diverse as the programs themselves, so do your research and make sure you are choosing the program that is right for you.

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

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

Wharton Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Wharton Admissions GuideToday we break down Wharton’s admissions deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018. Although Wharton frequently plays with its application’s essay questions from one year to the next, this year the admissions team has decided to stay the course. Consequently, our advice mostly remains the same.

Let’s get down to it. Here are Wharton’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 29, 2015
Round 2: January 5, 2016
Round 3: March 30, 2016

Wharton’s admissions deadlines have changed just slightly vs. last year. Its Round 1 deadline crept up two days, pushing into September, but that’s not a huge change. Wharton’s Round 2 deadline is the same as it was last year, and its Round 3 deadline was moved back by four days. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will receive your decision by December 17, giving you several before most top school’s Round 2 deadlines, if you need to hurry up and apply to some “Plan B” schools.

Many top business schools make a point of emphasizing that there’s no ideal time to apply, but not Wharton. The admissions team gives pretty explicit advice about application timing: “We strongly encourage you to apply in Round 1 or 2. The first two rounds have no significant difference in the level of rigor; the third round is more competitive, as we will have already selected a good portion of the class. However, there will be sufficient room in Round 3 for the strongest applicants.” So, unless you walk on water (and even if you do walk on water), you should plan on applying no later than Round 2 if you want to have a good chance of landing at Wharton next fall.

Wharton Application Essays

  • What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

    As we mentioned above, this essay prompt carries over unchanged from last year. At its core, it’s really the same “Why an MBA? Why Wharton?” that the school has asked for years. Note the word “personally” in the question — Wharton isn’t just interested in what six-figure job you hope to land after earning your MBA, but also wants to know how you plan on growing as a person from the experience. You definitely still need to nail the professional part — you absolutely should clear, realistic career objectives here — but the admissions committee also wants to see maturity and introspection. How do you see yourself growing during your two years at Wharton? How do you hope your two years at Wharton will impact your 10 years from now? This sort of depth will make the difference between a great response and a merely good one.
  • (Optional) Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)

    You should only use the optional essay 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 to. However, as schools like Wharton have been cutting down on essays, the role of the optional essay has evolved a bit. No need to monopolize the admissions committee’s time, but since Wharton’s application now gives you far less space in which you can describe your interests and inject some more personality into your application, this essay provides the perfect place to do that. Have a passion or something else that goes “beyond the resume” and will help Wharton admissions officers get to know you better? This essay gives you room to discuss it and make your application that much more memorable.

    Our original advice still holds, too. If you have a blemish that you need address, then this is the place to do it. You don’t want to leave a glaring weakness unaddressed. However, if you don’t have too much explaining to do, don’t be afraid to reveal something personal and memorable about yourself here!

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

By Scott Shrum

Mapping Out Your Summer Before Applying to Business School

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

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

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

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

June

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

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

July

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

August

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

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

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

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

How to Select the Best Business School for You

Harvard Business SchoolSelecting the right schools for you can appear to be a simple and straightforward task.  Pick among the top ranked schools and choose 4, 5 or 6.  Add some online research, maybe attend an information session and you think you might have enough material to convincingly explain why school X is a great fit for your career goals.

I am not saying this approach cannot be successful for a select few, but there are a number of reasons why you would want to be more thorough in your school selection approach.  After all, you will spend 2 years of your life on campus, invest a significant amount of money, forgo salary and be part of the school’s brand and alumni network for life.  More importantly, without more thorough research you will not gain the necessary understanding of how a particular MBA program will help your career.  Hence, your essays will suffer and that is something you cannot afford.

The ranking lists are indeed a good starting point. They do act as a proxy for brand and network, among other things.  Rankings should, however, not serve as the tiebreaker for any of your MBA admissions decisions, whether putting together the initial school list, or selecting between schools once you have been admitted.

Applying a geographical filter is helpful in the early stages.  Do you want to be on the west coast? East coast?  Somewhere in between?  International campus? Urban or rural campus?

At this initial stage, you should aim to produce a list of 8-10 schools.  The eventual goal is to get the list down to 4-6 schools.  Be careful not to exclude schools at this point based on preconceived notions, e.g. you don’t think you would like Chicago as a city, but have never visited and hence don’t see yourself applying to either Booth or Kellogg.

Next you need to determine a few key things. First, you need to understand how well each school’s resources fit your career gap, i.e. how well do the curriculum, individual classes, extracurriculars, practical learning resources and alumni network prepare you for your short-term and long-term career goals?  Keep in mind that your career goals could change over time so you want to understand the flexibility offered in switching paths as well as the support available after graduation.  Ultimately, the strength of the alumni network is extremely important.  If you see yourself working globally, or returning to your home country, you want to understand the strength of the alumni network in that part of the world.

Second, you need to understand the culture of the schools. What are the students like?  What is the spirit of the school like? Collaborative, cut-throat, proactive, supportive, other?  This is harder to pinpoint and will rely on your interactions with current students, alumni, campus visits and interactions with admissions office.  It is the kind of thing where you will get a sense for where you fit in the best.

Using a spreadsheet or other ranking system to track the career gap analysis and cultural fit is a good idea.

For both the career gap analysis and cultural fit you should attempt to have at least one meaningful interaction with the following: current student, alumnus/a, professor or administrator outside of admissions office, admissions committee member, and a club officer of a club you are considering.

First time applicants can afford to be more selective, and might not include any real safety schools (where chances of admissions are very high).  Reapplicants should typically include one safety school.  Obviously, we know from working with our clients that there are many other professional and personal factors that could be considered, but these initial thoughts should get you moving in the right direction.

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

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

Do Grades Really Matter in Business School?

studyingSo you’ve finally made it on-campus and after all of those strenuous and nerve-wracking months applying to the MBA program of your dreams it’s time for you to kick up your feet and enjoy the two-year vacation that is business school. Since grades don’t matter you have nothing to worry about, right?

Except there is one small problem, for almost all MBA students this is not true. There has been a long held position that business school grades don’t matter, but any MBA alum will tell you this topic is a bit more complicated than it seems.

The basis of this discussion most likely stems from grade disclosure. Grade disclosure is the school specific policy in which students are “allowed” to share grades with recruiters. At some schools this policy is even voted on by the student body, which may surprise some who would assume most students would want the freedom of grade non-disclosure. Reasons some programs cite for disclosure include: maintaining academic commitment from students, distinguishing students in recruiting, and the perceived weakening of academic standards. These policies are not permanent at most schools, so make sure to stay updated on where your target school stands on the topic.

Now the term “allowed” should be taken with a grain of salt as the official policy and what actually happens can be quite different, especially when it comes to recruiters in specific industries. Some recruiters don’t always care to abide by official grade disclosure policies. In the recruiting process some of the biggest MBA feeder industries like consulting and finance are the most apt to request grades. This tends to be a more common request during the internship recruiting process, so for most students the 1st semester grades are the ones to pay the most attention to. Performance during this time can influence getting on a “closed list,” which is an invite only interview list for a particular recruiter. There are other factors like GMAT, work experience, and fit that influence the composition of this list, but for these competitive career tracks, your GPA will certainly factor in.

Another reason grades do matter is more personal in nature. Most MBA students are high achievers and tend to take personal stock in their own performance in the classroom. This nuance leads most students to realize that they will get out of the business school experience what they put into it.

For the few and far less altruistic, academic team assignments have become a big part of the MBA curriculum. In these situations, students work to collaborate on a class assignment, project, or deliverable and are often graded by their peers at the completion of the group work. This measure of accountability often keeps most students focused on not letting down their classmates and thus avoiding a negative reputation amongst their peers.

Attending business school is a transformative educational experience for most students. Whether your school has grade disclosure or not, or your recruiters demand it or not, make the most of your time in business school and take your academics seriously!

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

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

7 Areas of Assessment for MBA Applicants

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

1) Education

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

2) Work Experience

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

3) Recommendations

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

4) Extra-Curricular

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

5) GMAT

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

6) Essays

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

7) Interview

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

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

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

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

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Stanford GSB has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the 2015-2016 admissions season. After making some pretty significant changes to the essay prompts last year, the Stanford admissions team has only made one minor word count tweak (actually adding 50 words!) this year. As a result, our advice mostly remains the same. Keep reading to see Stanford’s relatively unique questions, and how we recommend that you go about answering them.

Here are the Stanford GSB application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Stanford MBA Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 22, 2015
Round 2: January 12, 2016
Round 3: April 5, 2016

The biggest change here is that Stanford Round 1 deadline is 10 days earlier than it was last year, pushing into September for the first time. Just as is the case with HBS, putting together a winning Stanford GSB application will require getting started no later than the beginning of August. Stanford’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines each actually moved back by a few days.

Note that, if you apply in Round 1, you will receive your decision by December 9. That’s critical if you plan on applying to some other programs in Round 2 if you don’t receive good news from Stanford in Round 1. It gives you close to a month to get your applications ready in time for most top schools’ Round 2 deadlines.

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays

  • What matters most to you, and why? (750 words suggested, out of 1,150 total)

    Despite all of the changes that have taken place in the MBA admissions essay landscape over the past few years, this question manages to hang on. Before you start to work on this essay, consider the advice that the Stanford MBA admissions team provides: “Reflect the self-examination process you used to write your response.”

    This question requires a great deal of introspection, after which you should create an essay that truly answers the question asked, whether or not you feel that it’s directly applicable to the job of getting into Stanford GSB. Naturally, telling a random story that has nothing to do with anything of relevance can hurt your chances, but mainly because you will have wasted this valuable space to reveal something about yourself. Where many Stanford applicants go wrong is by writing about their grand plans for the future, rather than providing a real glimpse into who they are as people. The latter is much more powerful and, ultimately, much more effective in helping you get in. With the other essays in this application, you have ample opportunity to cover the exact reasons why you want an MBA from Stanford.
  • Why Stanford? (400 words suggested)

    Wow! Stanford is giving applicants 50 more words than it did last year! Otherwise, this essay prompt carries over unchanged from last year. Stanford has the luxury of not having to spend too much time sleuthing how interested you are in the program. Most people who are admitted to Stanford end up going there. However, the guidance that the admissions team provides with this question (“Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.”) shows that they really are paying attention to see if you’ve done your homework, and if you have given any real thought to making the most of your time at Stanford (beyond “Get into private equity and get paid.”)

    Definitely resist the urge to do a few web searches and then simply drop the names of some programs or professors into this essay. An effective response will provide specific details that tie back to you (think about your past and your future) as much as they tie to Stanford. Many applicants will read that “distinctive opportunities” advice and think “The scavenger hunt is on! Let me find something no one else will write about!” but that misses the point. Stanford wants to know that you’re applying for reasons other than the fact that it’s such a platinum name in education, so spell out how You + Stanford = A More Effective Business Leader.

Note Stanford’s Take on “Feedback” Vs. “Coaching”
Stanford includes some noteworthy language re: what is an acceptable form of guidance to seek as you craft your application essays. As the admissions team writes:

Appropriate feedback occurs when others review your completed application — perhaps once or twice — and apprise you of omissions, errors, or inaccuracies that you later correct or address. After editing is complete, your thoughts, voice, and style remain intact. Inappropriate coaching occurs when you allow others to craft your application for you and, as a result, your application or self-presentation is not authentic

It is improper and a violation of the terms of this application process to have someone else write your essays. Such behavior will result in denial of your application or withdrawal of your offer of admission.

We appreciate that Stanford spells this out, and we couldn’t agree more with the school’s stance. If you can’t even write your own essays, then you already know that you’re not Stanford GSB material. For more than 10 years we have been helping people apply to the world’s most competitive MBA programs, and we have done it (pretty well, we might add) without writing essays or putting words in our clients’ mouths.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Stanford 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!

By Scott Shrum

What to Wear During Your MBA Admissions Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Ways 2nd Year MBA Students Can Help 1st Year Students

Student HelpThe first year on campus at business school can be a very challenging time for many students.  For some, this brings about a new city, new friends, and a return to the classroom after years away. There is very little that can prepare many students for all of this change. Who else could understand what a 1st year student is going through in this very specific circumstance? 2nd year students, that’s who! The proverbial upper classmen of the business school world are a 1st year student’s best bet on navigating life as an MBA.

Here are a few areas a 1st year MBA can utilize their more experienced classmates:

Life

Where should you go grocery shopping? Which hair salon is the best? What’s the closest vegan restaurant? These basic questions can often be a challenge for incoming students as they transition to a new community. 2nd year students are the best source to address all of these life related questions that are so integral to surviving the two years of business school. Of particular help are student clubs that cater to needs of students like the affinity, international, or lifestyle groups on-campus.

Academic

2nd years are also key when it comes to handling academics on-campus. Knowing the best classes to take and when can help 1st year students make better decisions when it comes to maximizing their academic experience. Timing is a major factor with academics because some classes can help prepare students for internships in certain industries like marketing or finance so might make more sense to take during the first year. Other classes require a lot of work so may not make sense to take during heavy recruiting periods. 2nd year students in similar career paths can provide a lot of context when selecting which and what time to take certain classes.

Recruiting

Recruiting advice is one of the best uses of 2nd year students on-campus. An easy way to tap into the right classmates is via campus groups. Each major recruiting track i.e. marketing, finance, consulting, etc. will have a campus group focused on providing support in the recruiting process. These career focused campus groups are led by 2nd years that have already gone through the process and should serve as a resource for 1st years. These groups will often match-up 1st year students with experienced 2nd years to encourage mentorship throughout recruiting season.

Make the most of your 2nd year classmates during your first year and avoid all of the mistakes of inexperience by utilizing the bevy of resources available on-campus.

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

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

Harvard Business School Application Essays & Deadlines for 2015-2016

MBA applicants, start your engines. A handful of the top U.S. business schools have already released their application essays and admissions deadlines, it’s that time of year when we start digging into them for you. Today, we’re going to start with the business school with the biggest name and the earliest Round 1 deadline: Harvard Business School.

After years of slimming its essays down to the point where it had only one essay and even made it optional, HBS has changed course this year. The school has an all-new essay prompt, and it’s no longer optional. The essay becoming mandatory again actually isn’t huge news; in a recent blog post, HBS Admissions Director explained that, not surprisingly, every applicant submitted a response. So, no point in making the essay optional and confusing the issue. There’s one essay in the application (not counting the Post-Interview Reflection), and you’re going to write it if you want to get into HBS.

Without further ado, here are Harvard’s deadlines and essays (including the “Post-Interview Reflection”), followed by our comments in italics:

Harvard Business School Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 9, 2015
Round 2: January 6, 2016
Round 3: April 4, 2016

Harvard still has the earliest Round 1 deadline in the business, although the school’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. To give you an idea of how much this deadline has crept up over the years, back in 2008 HBS’s Round 1 deadline came on October 15! Harvard’s Round 3 deadline moved up two days this season, but that’s the only change this season.

Harvard Business School Admissions Essays

  • It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting. Introduce yourself. Note: Should you enroll at HBS, there will be an opportunity for you to share this with them. We suggest you view this video before beginning to write. (No word limit)

    Harvard went with an entirely new essay prompt this year. Last year’s “What else would you like us to know?” question seemed effective, but this change tells us that the HBS admissions committee is still trying hard to break applicants out of the habit of writing overly formal essays that don’t tell them anything interesting. While Harvard is normally a trendsetter, this year the school follows in the footsteps of schools such as Stern and Fuqua, which have used similar questions in recent years.By trying to put you in the shoes of students who have already gotten in and are now introducing themselves to their classmates, HBS wants get you to write with as natural a voice as is possible. In fact, in the blog post that introduces this question, Dee Leopold urges you to imagine “saying it out loud.” Of course, you will (and should) put more thought into this essay than you would put into what few words you might say to break the ice in Aldrich Hall.

    Any essay you write here still needs to help you do at least one of the two things that all successful MBA applicants do — demonstrate fit with HBS and also stand out in a very competitive field of applicants. Resist the urge to go for a gimmick, but don’t be afraid to truly listen to Leopold and actually let your hair down a bit. What brought you to this point in your life? What do you want to do after HBS? (Remember, write in the voice of someone who’s already gotten in.) What do you like to do outside of school and work? What gets you up in the morning? What would you say in your verbal introduction to get a laugh out of your new friends?

    Of course, the challenge is that there’s a lot that you would normally emphasize in a more traditional essay (“Why an MBA? Why now? Why HBS?”) that you probably wouldn’t say as you’re speaking to your new classmates. While in a traditional essay you might want to go on and on about how your minimal community involvement is actually something you’re really passionate about, how much time would you really spend on that in a verbal introduction? So, those things need to come out in your resume, your recommendations, and — should you get that far — your admissions interview.

    Overall, we bet that applicants will still err on the side of being too formal (and to wordy!) with this essay. One way to combat this is to actually record yourself doing a verbal introduction of yourself, and then, once you have a complete draft of an essay, compare it to see how much it matches it in terms of tone and length (not necessarily in terms of exact content). If your written piece is much longer or much more formal than your verbal sample, you know you have a bit more work to do to get to what the Harvard Business School admissions committee wants to see. We expect that most great responses will take up less than 1,000 words (maybe even more like 500 words) here.

  • Post-Interview Reflection: Within 24 hours of the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection through our online application system. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process.

    The Post-Interview Reflection gives you a chance to include anything you wish you had been able to mention in the interview, and to reframe anything that you discussed but have since thought about a bit more. You will submit this piece within 24 hours of your interview.Especially since this letter has no word limit, the temptation will be for you to cram in half a dozen additional things that you wish you had covered in the interview. However, less is always more — keep the note limited to no more than two or three core ideas that you want to highlight. Ideally you covered all of the important things in the interview already, but of not, then this is a chance to hit on those here. Keep in mind, though, that sharing these ideas in the interview is always going to be more effective than cramming them into this note.

    Finally, be realistic about how much this letter will help you. Chances are that it won’t turn a dud of an interview into a terrific one in hindsight. Do NOT go into the interview with this note already drafted; let it truly be a reaction to the discussion, which was hopefully an interesting and provocative one. If your interviewer reads this note and it sounds like a replay of an entirely different discussion than what he or she remembers, that will only serve to hurt you come decision time.

Read more of our thoughts on the HBS essay here.

Every year we help dozens of applicants apply to Harvard Business School. Want to see if you have what it takes to get into HBS? You can get a free profile evaluation from a Veritas Prep MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

4 Reasons to Attend the NBMBAA Conference This Year

HandshakeThe National Black MBA Conference (NBMBAA), or as it’s better known “National Black,” is a yearly conference and expo, held every September in a different city, that targets past, current, and future black MBAs. This September, the conference will take place in Orlando, FL. It is the preeminent national event for black MBAs, but in recent years the attendance at the event has become even more diverse with students from all backgrounds attending the event to take advantage of all the offerings.

National Black presents an array of learning and development opportunities for attendees, but the most popular aspects fall in the below four categories:

1) Recruiting

The primary reason why National Black has become a more diverse event is because of the fantastic recruiting opportunities. The conference boasts a massive job fair where many of the world’s top companies like General Mills, Microsoft, and Deloitte connect with MBA students. This job fair represents an excellent opportunity for students to meet influential recruiters and target companies. Each company utilizes the conference a little bit differently but relationships forged at National Black can lead to placement on the interview “closed list” back on campus. But why wait to get back to campus? Some companies will actually even interview candidates right on-site at the conference. The event has allocated space for companies to interview attendees they have vetted in advance or those met during the job fair. Opportunities to interview exist for both 1st year and 2nd year students so it is possible for any MBA student to walk away with a job.

2) Enrichment

The conference boasts tons of speakers and events geared towards developing the future business leaders of tomorrow, which provides a great learning experience for attendees. Scholarship events, workshop seminars and case competitions round out the enrichment opportunities at National Black. With a full schedule of events, National Black represents the perfect opportunity for an attendee to immerse themselves in the business conversations of the day.

3) Networking

With so many MBAs in one location the networking opportunities are unparalleled. The event has begun to represent a yearly gathering of the nation’s best and brightest minority business professionals. Schools and companies typically host events for current students to connect with alums to foster continued generational relationships. The networking opportunities for attendees with recruiters were covered above and represent an overwhelming draw to the conference.

4) Social

National Black would not be a true business school event if there was not a social component right? National Black is littered with a bevy of parties, mixers, and dinners thrown by companies. Some are recruiting focused but most are oriented around pure and unadulterated fun! Companies like Diageo and Target throw yearly parties, which have become some of the hardest tickets to secure at National Black, including major headlining musical acts.

Check out the event here!

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

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

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to Business School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Ways to Build Your Network during Business School

NetworkingOne of the primary reasons applicants flood the world’s best business schools every year is to gain access to a network of career changing professionals. This is often the primary reason applicants cite for pursuing an MBA.

Now once you are on-campus how do you make sure you are taking advantage of this network? There are a few obvious areas but also some other areas that get commonly get overlooked. Let’s discuss a few areas where students can network on campus:

 

1. Classmates

Your classmates will be your primary network while in business school, as well as afterwards. These are the people you will spend time with every day in the classroom, recruiting, in extra-curricular activities and even working in the office. Your classmates are the best people to forge your network with, because of the daily interactions and mutual connections that exist from your shared experiences together. Contrary to popular belief these relationships are best formed outside of the classroom via extra-curricular activities and social functions, so don’t be afraid to get to know who your classmates really are!

2. Alums

Another great networking opportunity is with alums. Now, you may be saying “but alums aren’t on-campus?” Well, in fact they are! Alums are all over business school campuses across the globe. Many come back for sponsored events from their firms that recruit on-campus, others engage with students via speaking engagements in the classroom, and even attend business school conferences. The point is alums are around; take advantage of their visits to campus and leverage their experience to make the most of your alumni network.

3. Professors

Here is something most would never guess. Professors probably have the most expansive network of anybody on campus. They have relationships with current students, alums, and even corporations. It is very common for professors to connect students with alums and companies for potential employment opportunities, particularly in niche industries. Building a strong relationship with professors is not only good for your grades, but also for your long-term professional career.

4. Other Grad Programs

One of the benefits of the university system is that it fosters an environment of community learning. Take advantage of the other graduate programs on campus – like law, medicine, and engineering – to network with other students. For students pursuing careers in industries like entrepreneurship, healthcare or technology, these relationships can be particularly impactful.

Make the most of your time on campus, by leveraging all of the opportunities above to leave campus with a powerful network!

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

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

How to Successfully Navigate the First Year Presentation in Business School

HandshakeAfter months of anticipation you’ve finally arrived on-campus to begin your 1st year of business school. As the anticipation starts to subside and you’re excitement levels return to normal, it’s time to turn your attention towards recruiting.  Many 1st year MBAs are anxious to get this part of the business school experience kicked off as soon as possible. For their benefit most schools have in place restrictions that delay contact with recruiters for 1st year MBAs.

However, once these restrictions abate the official kick-off of recruiting season begins with the 1st Year Presentation. 1st Year Presentations are a fixture in on-campus recruiting and this event is the firm’s opportunity to introduce the company and the yearly calendar to 1st year students. The way a typical 1st Year Presentation is structured, the first half of the event will be very much presentation style with the firm walking students through general information about the company, recruiting calendar, and an introduction of the participating firm employees in attendance.

The second half of the event is typically reserved for networking. During this time students have the opportunity to meet with firm employees and get a feel for the company and what makes it unique. Bigger feeder industries like consulting will sometimes have large amounts of employees from across the country and from various functional roles. Even with the potential for you to access employees at these events, remember that there will be many students in attendance just like you, so be sure to make the most of your time.

The key to successfully navigating a 1st Year Presentation begins with preparation. Most see this event as an opportunity to learn what the firm is about.  Taking this approach does not allow you to make the most of your time at this kind of event. By conducting research on basic information related to the hosting firm, it is much easier to focus on deeper, higher level information at the event. This manifests itself best during the second half of the event where the format is more open and students can connect directly with employees. Many will ask generic, boilerplate questions to the participating employees. Take a different approach and ask more introspective questions that will not only impress the employee but also provide you answers to your questions.

Also, be smart about which employees you network with. If you are seeking employment in a specific region or functional role make sure to connect with employees that are relevant to your career goals. The most senior person in the room is not necessarily the most influential in the recruiting process, so target employees like recruiters and staff most relevant to your needs.

Successfully navigating the first year presentation is a great start to the recruiting process, follow the tips above to set yourself up for success with your dream firm!

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

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

5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your MBA Coffee Chat

Coffee Chat - MBACoffee chats are one of the best ways to stand out during the on-campus recruiting process. Your ability to connect one on one with an employee at your dream company is a great way to earn kudos with your target employer. However, many other aspects of the recruiting process are covered in great detail elsewhere, but for some reason coffee chats don’t get the same level of attention.

One could even argue with the very personal nature of a one on one coffee chat that it is one of the most important touch points in the entire recruiting process.

Follow these 5 tips below to ensure you make the most of your coffee chats:

Sign-Up

This sounds really simple but slots for on-campus coffee chats go quickly. Each company is different so make sure you are on all the relevant club lists and in target company databases so you don’t miss your chance to participate. Popular career tracks like marketing or consulting are particularly competitive when it comes to time slots for coffee chats. Typically there are multiple opportunities to sign-up per company, so you should be able to secure at least one time slot, but don’t risk it, make sure you are taking note of any event held by your target firms.

Prepare

Once you have your coffee chat scheduled, it’s time to prep for it. Typically you will know who you will be chatting with so take the opportunity to conduct some career related research via LinkedIn or the company website. Time for these coffee chats is typically limited so it is important to have a game plan before your coffee chat. Identify some questions that will help you get a better picture of the firm, learn about the firm representative’s experience with the company, and ultimately position yourself for success during the interview process.

Engage

Now that you are prepared for the chat, it’s time to engage and execute your game plan. You want to treat this conversation professionally while letting your personality flourish within the semi-structured conversation. Remember this is about connecting with a potential decision maker or future employee, so it’s not enough to just ask a bunch of questions. You want to be engaging here.

Document

Completing the coffee chat does not end the process, it is important to document the conversation you just had. With many companies there will be multiple representatives from a firm you chat with throughout the recruiting process, so by documenting all of your interactions it makes it easy to reference past conversations and employee names.

Follow-Up

Finally, following-up and confirming interest should be another one of those immediate next steps candidates take post coffee chat. These employees typically talk to many students on-campus so follow-up soon after the conversation and remind them of that engaging conversation you had.

Utilize these tips to start relationship building with your target companies to ensure you stand out in the recruiting process!

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

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

What to Expect from an MBA Coffee Chat

Coffee Chat - MBAOne of the great aspects of the MBA recruiting experiences is the 360-degree approach many employers utilize to get to know candidates. Recruiting events like the 1st year presentation and interview tend to get more attention from interested candidates, but coffee chats are also an important way for recruits and recruiters to learn about each other.

So what is a coffee chat? Well it is not totally about coffee. A coffee chat in its simplest form is a planned conversation with an employee of a target firm. This conversation can be in person or remote via phone or video-conference. The firm representative of your target firm conducting the coffee chat tends to have some ties to your MBA program, in many instances, but not always. Firms that recruit at larger MBA programs with deeper alumni bases tend to utilize these alums in greater numbers for coffee chats, so there may be some familiarity with the participating representative.

From the student perspective, coffee chats provide the opportunity to learn more about what day-to-day life is like at a company. Students can use this time to ask specific questions they have about the firm, recruiting process, and the employee’s experience at the company. This knowledge can aid candidates during interview season as well as help make final decisions on whether to work at the firm or not.

From the firm side, a coffee chat is a strong sign of interest by a candidate and although these talks are informational, candidates are most certainly being judged.  Conversations held during these coffee chats are documented internally and feed directly into decisions regarding the interview list and sometimes even the ultimate interview decision. How a candidate comes across during these sessions is very important and can have a long lasting effect on securing an internship or full-time offer at the target company. So these coffee chats are not just about sipping cappuccinos!

In some instances this may be a candidate’s only opportunity to connect one on one with a representative of their dream company so it is important to make this limited time count. The chat typically last between 15 minutes and 30 minutes so the impetus will be on the candidate to make the most of the time allotted.

Don’t get blindsided by coffee chats on your campus. Know what you are getting into beforehand and take advantage of this opportunity to shine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Win a Free Veritas Prep GMAT Course!

NSHMBA Thumbnail 1Veritas Prep is excited to announce a scholarship opportunity to help you achieve your target GMAT score! We’ve partnered with the National Society of Hispanic MBAs to offer 100 GMAT preparation courses to qualifying applicants completely free of charge!

A good GMAT score is crucial when applying to business school, and we want to help you succeed. Our GMAT courses are available in over 90 cities worldwide, and also online using new Smartboard technology.

 

Every GMAT course comes with the following:

  • 36 hours of live instruction
  • An instructor who scored in the 99th percentile on the actual GMAT
  • 12 lesson booklets
  • 12 computer-adaptive practice tests
  • Live instructor help seven days a week
  • Veritas Prep GMAT on Demand pre-recorded lesson videos
  • 3,000 GMAT practice problems and solutions

To learn more about this scholarship and how to apply, visit the NSHMBA website. The deadline to apply is May 8th, so if you’re thinking about taking the GMAT, submit your application today!

We’re excited to get you moving on your next step towards graduate school!

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

By Colleen Hill

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

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

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

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

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

GMAT Range

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

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

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

Low GPA

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

Applicant Pools

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

Industry Pools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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