Veritas Prep Blog » Medical School http://www.veritasprep.com/blog GMAT Prep | SAT Prep | Admissions Consulting Fri, 20 Feb 2015 23:26:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 More Universities Embrace Online Learning http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/07/more-universities-embrace-online-learning/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/07/more-universities-embrace-online-learning/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:11:41 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=7211 The online education movement gathered more steam this week, as Caltech, Duke, Rice, Johns Hopkins, and other global universities announced that they will join Stanford and Princeton in offering free online courses through Coursera. Upping the ante even further, Caltech and the University of Pennsylvania will invest a combined $3.7 million in the online learning provider, which only launched last year and has already partnered with 16 universities.

While these moves aren’t strictly in the graduate education space (which we mostly cover), it’s important to note how quickly schools are adopting online learning as a legitimate alternative (or, in many cases, a complement) to traditional classroom-based teaching. Between Coursera and other initiatives such as MIT’s and Harvard’s EdX joint venture, it seems that there will be no shortage of innovation in this space in the coming decade.

Coursera and its partner universities plan to have more than 100 online class running this fall. All will be free, and none will offer the ability to get credit or earn a degree, although that may change down the road. Currently, students can earn a certificate, although the certificate does nothing more than confirm that the student completed the course.

In the grand scheme of things, this is still just a tow in the water for these schools, but that could change quickly. Look around and you’ll see some well regarded universities that offer entire programs online, such as Kenan-Flagler’s MBA@UNC. In some respects, UNC’s push represents the opposite approach: It’s the all-in, “yes this is a real degree-granting program that happens to be online” way to go about it. Will this model win out, or the “free taste with the occasional certificate” model prove to be more popular?

The reality is that they education sector may settle somewhere in the middle, although we fully expect many more universities to offer full online degree-granting programs in the next few years. Once something like this tips and momentum starts to build, trustees and top administrators at universities quickly start to ask, “What are we doing in that space? Why aren’t we doing more?” It’s only a matter of time.

To stay on top of all event news in MBA admissions, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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The Five Most Common Mistakes Grad School Applicants Make http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/05/the-five-most-common-mistakes-grad-school-applicants-make/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/05/the-five-most-common-mistakes-grad-school-applicants-make/#comments Wed, 02 May 2012 14:11:31 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=6844 As different as applicants are from one another, it’s amazing how often we see them make the same mistakes over and over. We recently asked our team of admissions consultants, “What mistakes do you see applicants make most often?” and we frequently heard the same themes: not highlighting extracurricular activities in the right way, using the same applications for multiple schools, and not answering honestly when asked for a personal weakness.

Admissions officers want to get to know applicants and gain an insight into their goals, motivations, values and other personal attributes — what makes them tick and how they might fit into the program. Unfortunately, many applicants lack the self-awareness to give admissions officers what they want.

The five most common mistakes our admissions consultants see are:

  • Brushing over a lack of extracurricular involvement
  • Using the same application for multiple schools
  • Passing off a positive trait when asked for a weakness
  • Coming across as boastful
  • Lack of self-awareness, including post-degree goals, reason for wanting to pursue an advanced degree, personal values, etc.

Every Veritas Prep consultant agreed that downplaying a lack of extracurricular activities is an obvious omission to admissions committees. Traditional graduate school applicants have been focused on career development and may have not spent enough time developing their community involvement, the consultants said. They suggest explaining a lack of volunteer history or even highlighting any activity enjoyed outside of work can fill in that gap and make for a more well-rounded application.

Of course, most applicants will apply to more than one school. But, many consultants said they have noticed an application that was clearly copied and pasted. Neglecting to address the unique requirements of each program is a missed opportunity and an easy way for admissions directors to pass up your application, many said.

Another common theme that emerged was that many applicants tend to incorrectly answer the “What is your greatest weakness?” question. Many consultants said that a real answer needs to be given, not a strength worded in a negative way.

A related mistake applicants often make is they come across as boastful. While there is nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments and conveying what you bring to the table, arrogance is unattractive. Consultants instead advise applicants to let their letters of recommendation speak on their behalf — let someone else gush about you. It’ll be more authentic.

So, how do you avoid these mistakes? First and foremost, be yourself. Every Veritas Prep admissions consultant agreed that there is one major way to get a graduate school application noticed: originality. A far cry from decades ago when a high test score and fancy title would get you in the door, today’s market is incredibly competitive. And more potential students not only have the common attributes for grad school success, but also other skills that make them desirable to the top schools in the nation. According to the experts, admissions committees are ready to see something different — and that could be a candidate’s ticket to their first choice school.

We’ve put all of our findings in a new report titled Behind the Curtain of Graduate School Admissions, available free for download on our site!

Plan on applying to business, law, or medical school soon? Call us at 800-925-7737 and speak with an admissions expert today. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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Admissions 101: The Less You Need Them, the More They Want You http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/04/admissions-101-the-less-you-need-them-the-more-they-want-you/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/04/admissions-101-the-less-you-need-them-the-more-they-want-you/#comments Thu, 05 Apr 2012 14:11:56 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=6692 When perusing the data and seeing the average starting salaries at the top-ranked MBA programs and law schools, it’s easy to get the impression that getting into a top graduate school can turn you from an 80-pound weakling into a money-making, world-beating dynamo. But don’t be fooled. Yes, these schools can significantly improve your earnings power, but to get in you have to demonstrate that you’re already a rockstar.

“Wait a minute,” you might be saying, “If I’m already a rockstar, then why do I need the school?” That’s a good question, but in your question already lies the answer.

Think about what nearly every business school asks in its application: Some form of the “Why do you want an MBA from this school?” question. If you can’t answer this… Well, that’s the first filter to keep out the applicants who aren’t serious. But, beyond that first-cut filter, they hope to see something like this:

I am already progressing quickly in my career, and know that a degree from your school will help me go even further.

And, they don’t only want to hear you say that, but they also want to hear it from your recommenders, and see it on your resume, and smell it on you… Wait, what? SMELL it on you? Well, that’s not far from the truth. People can smell winners and losers, and admissions officers at top business schools and law schools are especially trained in this skill. They’re not interested in finding the 28-year-old who’s stalled in his career and needs a glorious name on his resume to get things going again.

Think about what they would think if they saw this answer to the “Why an MBA from this school?” question:

My boss doesn’t get me. I haven’t yet had a chance to lead anyone. I’m just waiting for someone to discover how great I am. When they do… Watch out, world.

In this case, the applicant is saying, “I know I don’t smell like a winner, but I promise there’s a winner in here somewhere!” Why would admissions officers take a chance on that when they don’t need to? They don’t need to because they’re already inundated with applications from real rockstars, people who are already doing really well in their careers. Wouldn’t they rather admit one of them, and know that they’ll go on to great things?

So, it’s imperative that you show in your application that you’re already on the way up, and that the school can help add that extra 10% that will make you really successful. How? You need to point to evidence of what you’ve accomplished, how you’ve gone outside of your comfort zone and beyond your job description, and how you made a positive mark on the organization and community around you. That’s what a winner smells like, and that’s who an admissions officer wants to admit.

Plan on applying to grad school soon? Call us at (800) 925-7737 and speak with an admissions expert. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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Five Things to Think About as You Consider Financing Your Degree http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/03/five-things-to-think-about-as-you-consider-financing-your-degree/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/03/five-things-to-think-about-as-you-consider-financing-your-degree/#comments Thu, 29 Mar 2012 14:11:22 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=6664 When it comes to getting into the world’s most competitive graduate schools, many applicants have a “I’ll worry about it later” mentality. If they’re fortunate enough to get into a school like Harvard, the thinking goes, then they’ll gladly deal with the question of how to pay for it. While this is somewhat understandable (Why worry about how you’ll pay for a yacht if you won’t ever set foot on one to begin with?), applicants owe it to themselves to consider the true cost and the true reward of the educational opportunity before them.

Many will tell you that borrowing money to pay for school is an investment and not debt, but try telling that to the loan services when they send out the monthly bill. Not only that, but the analysis is rarely about going back to school or not going, but rather about making the best possible choice. It may very well be the case that attending your dream school without the aid of scholarships or grants is the best decision, but it might also be true that a secondary opportunity starts to look a lot better when the calculator comes out.

Today we look at five things absolutely should consider before you choose which graduate school to attend:

Calculate how much you will pay over the life of your loans
A six-figure loan is a lot of money, for sure, but it is really a lot of money when the interest kicks in immediately and keeps accumulating for the life of a 10-year loan period. Students should make sure to work with the financial aid officers to figure out how much they will ultimately shell out by the time they finish making payments. Any differences in “free money” between school A and B will only become more exaggerated over time.

Don’t fall into the “drop in the bucket” mentality
Most grad students find the sticker price of graduate school so shockingly high that they sort of give up before they even get started. Not only does this lead to less-than-careful review of the award letter, lack of effort in contacting the financial aid officer, and a failure to appeal for reconsideration, it can also lead to careless spending. A bigger or nicer apartment, a car payment, and a brand new laptop are all very common expenditures for grad students, and while the extra five or ten thousand dollars doesn’t seem like much next to a $140,000 education, that extra spending will absolutely be paid for by the loans with the worst terms and highest interest rates. Those items will ultimately cost the student twice as much down the road.

Don’t give up on outside funding
More common among high school students with parents who see their life savings dwindling away, searching for outside scholarships is often something that slips past graduate school applicants. This is a mistake, as there are a variety of unique scholarships, fellowships, and writing competitions available for graduate students of all stripes. Most top grad programs feature a list of such resources on their websites and there are also both free and pay sites that collate these opportunities.

Research every financial aid opportunity at every school of interest
Believe it or not, most applicants do not perform a thorough search of each and every scholarship and fellowship offered at the schools to which they are applying. The reason this is so important is that students may actually qualify for something they aren’t even aware of. Whether it is something fairly well known like Teach For America arrangements or something more unique, students need to perform this simple step of due diligence.

Understand the true cost of the degree
Pay very close attention not only to current tuition, but also the inflation rate at that school. Some universities are seeing tuition go up more rapidly than others, so it makes sense to project the cost for the following year (or years) as well as simply looking at the tuition and cost for the first year.

Plan on applying to grad school soon? Call us at (800) 925-7737 and speak with an admissions expert. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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50 IAVA Member Veterans Receive Veritas Prep Scholarships! http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/02/50-iava-member-veterans-receive-veritas-prep-scholarships/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/02/50-iava-member-veterans-receive-veritas-prep-scholarships/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2012 15:11:14 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=6416 We are excited to announce today, along with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), that Veritas Prep has awarded American Heroes Scholarships to 50 IAVA Member Veterans. These test preparation and admissions consulting scholarships will allow U.S. Military Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to pursue a wide variety of interests including business, environmental science, history, law, medicine, museum studies, nutrition, psychology and public administration.

Of the 50 scholarships awarded, 31 IAVA Member Veterans will receive a free Veritas Prep GMAT prep course, either in-person or online, and Veritas Prep’s full suite of 15 GMAT course books and extensive resources; 19 will receive six hours of graduate school admissions consulting with a Veritas Prep admissions expert related to the graduate program of their choice. In addition to the scholarships announced today, Veritas Prep is extending discounts to all qualified IAVA Member Veterans; offering 50 percent off Veritas Prep GMAT courses and 25 percent off admissions consulting services.

We’ve been impressed by the wide range of career interests demonstrated by the scholarship winners. While we’ve written before about business schools actively recruiting U.S. Military veterans, but the applications we received demonstrated just how much one can do after serving in the armed forces. While there certainly were a lot of applicants targeting MBA programs and law schools, we also heard from young men and women who want to become teachers, scientists, doctors, and civil servants. We are so pleased to be able to help so many of them prepare comeptitive applications to the nation’s top graduate schools!

This morning, as part of the announcement we released the following quote from our own Chad Troutwine:

“Everyone at Veritas Prep feels honored to award the inaugural American Heroes Scholarships to 50 deserving IAVA Member Veterans. It is our privilege to help these exceptional men and women as they begin their journey to earn the professional degree they need to advance in the military or excel in a civilian career,” said Chad Troutwine, co-founder and CEO of Veritas Prep. “The recipients exemplify the diverse career interests of today’s U.S. Military Veterans. Their inspiring stories remind us that military service and graduate education are a potent combination that can lead to success in many fields. We look forward to furthering our partnership with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to create life-changing opportunities for service members and veterans.”

We’re so excited to be involved with IAVA and its outstanding Member Veterans. We can’t wait to see where these terrific young men and women go from here!

Applying to graduate school soon? As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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Six Predictions for 2012 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/01/six-predictions-for-2012/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/01/six-predictions-for-2012/#comments Thu, 05 Jan 2012 15:11:56 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=6190 What do you know… Another year has already gone by. We’re so full of opinion and points of view here at Veritas Prep that we thought we should commit ourselves to another round of prognosticating about what the coming year will bring in the worlds of standardized tests and grad school admissions. It will be fun to check in at the end of the year to see how we did.

Without further ado, here are six things that we predict will happen in 2012:

The iPad will become so commonplace as an admissions tool that it will cease to be a news story.
In the past year we have seen top programs such as MIT Sloan and UCLA Anderson adopt the iPad as the platform on which admissions officers review applications. We think that reviewing and sharing applications electronically (on the iPad or through some other means) is such a no-brainer that other schools will follow suit. School administrators tend to be a conservative lot, but now that a couple of dominoes have fallen (and assuming that MIT and UCLA don’t scream, “We made a mistake! These are terrible!”), we expect others will start to fall quickly.

2012 will be a weak year for international applicant volume at U.S. business schools.
We’re cheating here a bit since we have communicated directly with multiple top MBA programs that have told us that their international application numbers are down significantly compared to last year. Some have theorized that these applicants are waiting to apply in Round 2 (or even later) than in Round 1, but we consider this to be hope more than anything else. After years of rapid growth in international application volume, American business schools are likely going to see a double-digit year-over-year decline as these applicants increasingly consider more local, cheaper, and faster (often one year instead of two) programs. Even the top-ranked schools won’t be immune.

The percent change in year-over-year GMATs taken will spike in May this year as examinees attempt to avoid the Integrated Reasoning section.
Note that we’re not officially endorsing this philosophy, but we do expect that more students than usual will stake their claim to May test dates, fearing the fatigue factor that may come with taking the Integrated Reasoning section before the multiple choice quant/verbal sections of the GMAT.  Furthermore, marketing gurus at test preparation companies have a little bit of an incentive to push this thinking over the next 10 weeks or so: “Register for a class now and avoid the (insert terrifying adjective here) IR section!”  Our advice remains the same: take the GMAT when you’re ready for it and remember that the Integrated Reasoning skills and concepts are nearly identical with those on the quant/verbal sections, so it ought not be too much new information to study, and could actually help you warm up for that type of thinking on later sections.  But if you do feel ready in May, it’s never too soon to claim your GMAT score and get to work on the rest of your applications (as this week’s second-round-scramblers can attest!).

Non-traditional MBA programs will grow in number and in application volume.
Today there are far more options for people pursuing a graduate management degree than there were just ten years ago. More universities are collaborating with one another to build special programs, others are launching accelerated JD/MBA programs, and still others have recently announced degree options beyond the traditional MBA (such as Yale’s recently announced Master’s in Management degree). Other prominent business schools, such as UNC’s Kenan-Flagler, have put their weight behind making the online MBA a more legitimate option. We expect this proliferation will continue, and more applicants will pursue these less traditional degrees in the coming year.

Veritas Prep’s blog will feature some unique number properties take on the 2/29 date on Leap Day.
Let’s face it:  at least one of our bloggers likes gimmicky what’s-in-the-news posts, particularly as they pertain to GMAT-style math. The presence of a 29th (prime number!) on 2/29 (229 is also prime!) that happens only 1/4 of the time (the GMAT loves fractions and ratios) and adds a 366th day to the year (you should immediately recognize that 366 is divisible by both 3 and 6)… well, that’s too much to resist!  As, we suppose, you’ve already seen in this paragraph.

February will seem to drag on a lot longer than usual this year.
The Mayan calendar will prove to be correct… Something unusual will happen in 2012!

Are you getting ready to take the GMAT? We have GMAT courses starting around the world next week! In the meantime, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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Our 2011 Predictions: How'd We Do? http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/01/our-2011-predictions-howd-we-do/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2012/01/our-2011-predictions-howd-we-do/#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2012 15:11:12 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=6174 Happy New Year! Hard to believe a whole year has already gone by again. At this time last year we laid out six predictions for 2011. We exhibited restraint by avoiding predictions about flying cars and holographic teachers, but we did stick out our collective neck on a few matters. Now it’s time to see how we did.

More Schools Will Adopt Video and Other Less Traditional “Essay” Questions
We were at least partly correct here. While at least one school actually backed away from utilizing video response (UCLA Anderson, we’re looking in your direction), other programs embraced Twitter and experimented with ultra-short essay responses. In other cases, schools made iPads an official part of the application review process, paving the way to allowing them to view multimedia responses in coming years. We expect this trend will only continue in the coming year.

Business Schools Will Place Even More Emphasis on Compelling, Plausible Career Visions
While there are few tangible signs of this (e.g., press releases from schools and so on), this has been true. Particularly given continued softness in the economy, schools have been less forgiving of murky career goals. Asking admissions officers to take a chance on you when you’re a career switcher with fuzzy short-term and long-term goals is tough, and this will likely continue to be the case.

At Least One Other Top-Ranked MBA Program Will Follow Wharton’s Lead in Ongoing Alumni Education
It was only a matter of weeks after we wrote this that Haas announced an ongoing education program for its alumni. While Haas’s move was less aggressive than Wharton’s, it will still a notable step in the direction of top MBA programs support their alumni well beyond graduation.

The GMAT Will Continue Its Evolution into a Predominantly Problem-Solving/Critical-Thinking Test
When we wrote this prediction, GMAC has already announced the new Integrated Reasoning section, so the cat was already out of the bag. However, now that we have had a chance to dig into some sample Integrated Reasoning problems, we’re more convinced than ever that the GMAT is a test of your higher-order thinking skills, and will continue to evolve in this direction in the coming years. Although this is only tangentially related to our prediction, GMAC inadvertently caused a minor stir last fall when Dr. Larry Rudner casually mentioned at the New York GMAT Summit that idioms aren’t really tested on the GMAT anymore. Click through that link to get the whole story, but rest assured knowing that GMAC will continue to move away from seeing how well you can memorize content, and will move toward making sure you have the higher-order thinking skills that employers look for in MBA grads.

The GMAT Will Continue to Be the Dominant Test Among Business School Applicants
Anecdotally, we learned from half a dozen schools this past year that the percentage of applicants who submit GRE scores is still in the single digits. We do expect that this percentage will keep growing, but we’re talking about growing to be maybe 15% – 20% of all applications submitted to top business schools. It will be interesting to see if ETS can prove us wrong with its new GRE, launched a few months ago.

Graduate School Rankings Transparency Will Improve
This is probably the prediction that we missed the most. We simply didn’t see as much movement in this area as we had hoped. By the end of 2010 there was a good deal of chatter that publications such as U.S. News would have to change the way they managed their rankings, but that conversation has mostly died down. Hopefully we haven’t heard the end of this yet, since college and grad school rankings are simply too influential to let them easily be gamed by some schools.

Stay tuned for our predictions for 2012, coming soon. In the meantime, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

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Three Things to Consider Before Applying to Medical School http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2011/06/three-things-to-consider-before-applying-to-medical-school/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2011/06/three-things-to-consider-before-applying-to-medical-school/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2011 14:11:54 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=4923 You probably already know that the application process can be lengthy, time-consuming, and expensive, with no ironclad guarantee of admission — even with a stellar GPA and MCAT score. And, no matter how much work you put into the process, there are no guarantees about the outcome.

So, before you start, what should you be thinking about before you apply?

Before applying, savvy applicants should consider three key things that affect all applicants — not to mention medical students, residents, fellows, and even doctors currently practicing in the field:

1. The Landscape of Healthcare is Changing
While the future of healthcare reform as it stands is currently unclear, it has the potential to have a significant impact on not only medical education, but also residency training and practice. The next decade could likely usher in a new era of medicine in the United States; for those in medical school or training, dealing with long working hours, this could mean having a surge in the volume of patients with a potentially dwindling number of options with which to treat them (due to proposed cost containment).

On the upside, this could also mean that with an increase on the emphasis on preventative care in this legislation, patients may be in better health in the long-term. Because patients would have increased access to care, pursuing medicine could be potentially even more rewarding for aspiring physicians if they know their patients can access the resources they need.

2. Medical School Tuition is Rising
Everyone knows medical school is a substantial investment both in time and cost. Though the time commitment has remained steady — the time from entering medical school to finishing training can range from 7 to 15 years depending on specialty — costs are rising much faster than inflation. During your 4 years of medical school, you’ll be responsible for tuition costs that are reported to have risen by 165 percent for private schools and 312 percent for public schools since 1984.

Once you graduate from medical school, you’ll also most likely need to begin repaying any debt; as of 2003 the median debt was $100,000 for public medical schools and $135,000 for private medical schools – a 150 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1984. Approximately 5 percent of medical school graduates had debts totaling $200,000 or more in 2003.

Fortunately, there are multiple resources for financial aid through grants, and federal and private loans; given that aid is typically given in loans, it’s best to know and plan in advance.

3. Physician Compensation is Falling
It seems to defy logic; aspiring doctors must find a way to pay escalating medical school costs (in many cases upwards of $50,000/year) to pursue a career that’s widely expected to endure a decline in overall pay. A May 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal estimates that physicians can expect their incomes to fall 15-20% based on reduced insurance reimbursements. An earlier study reported in the New York Times states that components of this trend predate current reform proposals.

Unfortunately, it’s with these declining salaries- healthcare reform or not- with which you would need to repay loans. Though loan repayment burdens in proportion to income are rising – to about 9 percent of average physician income – loan consolidation after graduation can mitigate this burden, reducing repayments to an average of just over 3 percent of income. Some graduates of lower income specialties, such as pediatrics, can expect to pay an average of 16 percent or 6 percent of income in repayments, before or after consolidation, respectively. Regardless of your motivation in pursuing a medical education, repaying debts remains an important consideration for many.

Making a decision on applying to medical school can be difficult. Knowing the logistics, as well as the direction in which the field is heading, is the best way to make an informed decision.

Are you applying to medical school this year? Give us a call at (800) 925-7737 and speak with a Veritas Prep medical school admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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Admissions 101: It's Not You, It's Me http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2011/01/admissions-101-its-not-you-its-me/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2011/01/admissions-101-its-not-you-its-me/#comments Thu, 27 Jan 2011 16:11:13 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=3919 MBA AdmissionsGetting rejected is hard stuff. What makes it even more painful is that few MBA programs (or law schools or medical schools) give rejected applicants specific feedback on why they didn’t get in. Applicants just want to know what they “did wrong” to not get in, but, even when schools do provide feedback, the applicants normally end up confused and still guessing about what to do next.

What’s the deal? Are admissions officers trying to obfuscate the process, keeping you in the dark so that you can’t “game” the system? Are they just cold hearted, not caring about you, especially once they’ve decided they don’t want you? No and no. The truth is that, when someone gets rejected, it’s often because the school just couldn’t find any great reason to admit them over thousands of other applicants.

Rejection letters often contain lots of references to “an unusually strong year” and the fact that “the admissions office reviewed more great applications than it has spots to offer.” While this may sound like a lot of hot air that they blow to make you feel better, therein lies the real reason why many applicants get rejected.

Think about it: Next year’s incoming class at Stanford GSB will be a bit smaller than 400 students. Out of the 7,000+ applications the school receives, do you really think that only a few hundred are strong enough to be admitted? Of course not. The number is probably closer to 2,000 than it is to 500. (We’re speaking in pretty broad terms here, but the exact numbers aren’t what’s most important here.) Separating out the 2,000 great applicants from the rest is the easy part; it’s deciding which of those 2,000 to admit is where things get hard for the admissions office.

Invariably, they’ll see hundreds of applicants whom they really love, but who just aren’t presenting that one knockout thing that makes admissions officers choose them over the next (very similar) applicant. Two applicants with amazing international banking experience, identical GMAT scores, perfect letters of recommendation, and essays that could make the reader cry… There’s no law that says the school can only take one, but they have to start making hard choices at some point, and soon enough the admissions director will start leaning on his or her team to start reducing the number of bankers in the class, or to only take another consultant if he walks on water, etc.

So, admissions officers start to make tough choices, and really are forced to not choose some applicants simply because they only have so many spots left, and they can’t justify devoting a spot to those applicants because they just not quite great enough to justify it. (The old Seinfeld “sponge-worthy?” reference comes to mind here.) Thousands of applicants get the “It’s not you, it’s us” letter, and for at least a few hundred of them for a given school, the admissions committee really, really means it.

The way to avoid falling into this bucket (or, more accurately, to minimize your risk of falling into it) is to present something truly outstanding about yourself, something that really stands out and will stick in admissions officers’ minds when they start negotiating and whittling down the class. Make sure your essays help them feel like they know you personally. Submit recommendations in which the writers scream from the rooftops, “This kid is a rock star!!” Nail your interviews so that they have no questions about your maturity and your ability to worth with others. Display a knowledge of (and a passion for) the program that leaves no question in the admissions committee’s mind that you will matriculate if accepted. And, perhaps most importantly, don’t force them to overlook any weaknesses in your profile. Make their decision an easy one.

The above steps are obviously more easily said than done, but they really are the best way to avoid falling into the “We really like you, but just can’t quite find room for you” bucket. Do it right, and when the admissions office talks about the “unprecedented number of highly qualified applicants,” they’ll be talking about you.

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Admissions 101: What Admissions Essays and Wedding Speeches Have in Common http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2011/01/admissions-101-what-admissions-essays-and-wedding-speeches-have-in-common/ http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/2011/01/admissions-101-what-admissions-essays-and-wedding-speeches-have-in-common/#comments Thu, 13 Jan 2011 16:11:20 +0000 http://www.veritasprep.com/blog/?p=3810
Business School Admissions

Who's the lucky guy?

Next week yours truly will deliver a speech at a wedding. I have known the groom for nearly two decades, and I consider him to be one of my closest friends, even though distance unfortunately keeps us apart most of the time (I live in California and he lives in Beijing). While I don’t consider myself to be an expert toastmaster, I’m not too worried, since I know that what makes for a great admissions essay or personal statement also makes for a terrific wedding speech.

Think back for a minute and consider the last few weddings you’ve been to. If you’re lucky, you only have witnessed great wedding speeches and toasts, but odds are that you’ve sat through at least one or two bombs. What accounts for the difference?

While your first answer might understandably be, “It’s how comfortable the person is about delivering speeches in front of large groups,” I don’t really think that’s the case. Yes, no one wants to watch the poor guy stand up there and sweat bullets as he fumbles with a piece of paper covered in smeared ink, fumfering into the microphone for what seems like 20 minutes. Delivery absolutely matters.

But content outshines delivery almost every time. Here’s one common culprit that’s made more than a few wedding toasts bad: The speaker just focused on cracking jokes, and left you scratching your head as to who he is, what he has to do with all of this, and why he chose to tell that story of what he saw the groom do in New Orleans back in 2004. Although he probably thought it was funny, you were eyeballing the buffet the whole time, wondering when was going to finish. He didn’t connect with you, and you ended up caring about him or his relationship with the lucky couple no more than when he started.

Now think about the ones that you have enjoyed. Even the Nervous Nellies deliver good toasts when they’re willing to get a little personal. The good speakers reveal a little bit about themselves, and in doing so they help you get to know them a bit better. They share a vulnerability or concern that we’ve all felt at some point, and everyone shares a small appreciative chuckle. They present a side of the bride and groom that you’ve never seen before (and actually want to see). They make you care a little more. They connect with you.

A great speaker — just like a great admissions essay writer — doesn’t need to leave them rolling in the aisles. Humor helps, but only to the extent that it helps to present and accentuate personal stories that make you feel like you now know the person on more than a superficial level. I already have some idea of the speech I’ll deliver next week (I prefer to wing it a bit), and there will be a few dashes of humor. But, more than anything, it will be a tribute to the bride and groom that comes from the heart.

A great admissions essay works in the same way. It doesn’t focus on devices and gimmicks; it just delivers a message that the reader will leave the reader saying, “I really enjoyed that. He seems like someone I’d like to get to know more.” Whether you’re talking about what matters most to you (… and why), or discussing a time when you failed as part of a team, or discussing where you see yourself in your career ten years from now, this same yardstick applies. Putting a little bit of your self out there — even though it seems risky… no, especially when it seems risky! — is the difference between a bore of an essay and a terrific one.

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