The Do’s and Don’ts of Being an Intern

Stop WorryingCongratulations! You’ve just gotten your first internship offer, and you’re ready to accept.

Now that you’ve completed the search, application, and interview processes, survived the tense waiting period, and written up a few new bullet points to add to your resume, it’s tempting to think that the hard part is over now. But far too many interns end up squandering their internships by forgetting that being an intern comes with responsibilities–and that being a good intern, or a bad intern, can impact you and your career beyond just your resume.

Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your internship:

Understand what you’re signing up for.
Are you sure you’ll be doing work, or at least contributing to work, that either interests you or teaches you something useful? Have you asked? Do you have the time in your schedule to commit to this internship? If you have met, or can meet, your potential coworkers before accepting the internship offer: do you think you’ll get along with them? Be sure that you’re a good fit for this position, and that this position is a good fit for you. If either of those things is not the case, your internship could turn out to be a worse experience than it’s worth.

Take your work seriously. 
Are you getting paid? Great. If not, that’s no excuse to not take your internship seriously. Often, the experience and connections you gain from internships are more valuable in the long term than your salary, especially since interns usually don’t have very high salaries anyway. You aren’t really working for free: remember that you applied for the position in the first place, and that you’re exchanging your work for the opportunity to learn about that business and what it contributes to. Besides, making a good impression on and genuinely aiding your supervisors and coworkers can pay off through connections and letters of recommendation later on.

Don’t snub menial jobs.
Accept that some of your work will probably be administrative or very low-level. Filing, stapling, and the occasional coffee run may be boring, but it’s necessary work, someone has to do it, and even your higher-ranking coworkers probably do some of this too (if not more.) Just be sure that you’re spending most (or, at the very least, a significant portion) of your internship time learning useful things.

Be aware of your work level. 
Ask for more work if you’re sure you can handle it. If you’ve got all of your internship responsibilities under control and have both the time and the competence to take on a bigger project, let your supervisor know. You may even consider taking the initiative to propose and assume responsibility for a new project that you think could support the work of your team. Only look for more responsibility if you’re sure you have what it takes to live up to higher expectations. Remember that, if you end up not being able to handle that responsibility, you impact not only yourself and your own work but your team’s as well.

Keep your ears and eyes open.
Much of the value of an internship comes from exposure to work beyond your internship duties. Get a feel for the conventions, politics, and priorities of your field and your organization by shadowing meetings, paying attention to conversations around you, asking (appropriate) questions, setting up informational interviews, and doing your own side research on interesting topics and issues that come up.

Follow these tips and your new internship is sure to be beneficial to both you and your company.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

Debunking 6 Popular Myths of the Part-Time MBA

FAQDo you think that you aren’t a good fit for a part-time MBA? Think again! Part-time MBA programs have rapidly evolved over the last five years, adapting to the changing needs of the workforce and to their students.

Here are some common myths about part-time MBAs and why you shouldn’t let them stop you from applying:

Myth #1 – “I don’t have enough work experience.”  
Sure, the average part-time MBA student has more years of work experience than the average full-time student. The reality is, on average, this is only a two year difference – an average of seven years of experience, compared to the average of five years that full-time students have. If you have a “below average” tenure of work experience, the scope of your responsibilities and quality of your experiences can outweigh the quantity. If you manage and evaluate a team of employees, handle large projects or budgets, or have P&L responsibilities, don’t rule out a part-time MBA.

Myth #2 – “I don’t live close enough to the school.”
Part-time MBAs have evolved from weeknight only programs to weekend programs, hybrid flex/commute programs, online programs, and opened alternate campuses in other cities. Just because you don’t live within a reasonable drive of a school doesn’t make it out of reach anymore.

For example, many UCLA FEMBA, Kellogg and Booth part-time students fly in and out for Saturday classes (typically up to 2 hour flights each way, including across borders), and many more fly across the country for flex programs. NYU Stern has opened an additional location in Westchester, UT Austin McCombs also has campuses in Dallas and Houston, and UNC Kenan-Flagler now has a fully online part-time program.

Myth #3 – “I travel too frequently for my job to do a part-time program.”
Similar to Myth #2, enrolling in Saturday classes, flexible programs or online programs can allow you to earn your MBA while still managing your career and travel schedule. Part-time programs are also understanding that there is a reason you are enrolled in a part-time program – your current career is important to you. Schools want you to be successful and will work with you to meet your schedule. This can mean switching from a weeknight program to a weekend program, or taking a semester or even a year off. Most part-time programs will allow up to five years for students to complete their graduation requirements, so depending on the school, you will have plenty of time to travel for work and attend your MBA classes.

Myth #4 – “It takes too long to do the program part-time.”
While a typical part-time MBA program is three years instead of two, there are many options for acceleration. If you have the flexibility to take additional classes, many programs will allow you to graduate early. For instance, McCombs in Dallas and Houston both have two-year part-time program options, and Kellogg has an accelerated part-time program that takes just over one year to complete.

Myth #5 – “I can’t make a career switch without doing an internship.”
This may still be the case for some industries, but certainly not the majority. Leveraging your transferable skills, the knowledge you’ve acquired at business school, the network you’ve developed, and career services your school offers are often enough to make your career change. Many part-time programs also have capstone projects that students complete for companies, allowing them to complete an “externship” while still working full-time to help facilitate their transitions.

Myth #6 – “I don’t have access to on-campus recruiting or career services as a part-time student.”
Generally, unless you are fully-sponsored by your employer (and even then, with their permission, this restriction can be waived), you’ll have the same access to career services and on-campus recruiters that full-time students do.

Keep these points in mind when considering applying to a part-time MBA program – these programs are a lot more accessible than you might think!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Nita Losoponkul, a Veritas Prep consultant for UCLA, received her undergraduate degree in Engineering from Caltech and went from engineering to operations to global marketing to education management/non-profit. Her non-traditional background allows her to advise students from many areas of study, and she has successfully helped low GPA students get admitted into UCLA. 

Early Thoughts on NYU Stern’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

NYU CampusApplication season at NYU Stern is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these essay prompts that have remained relatively consistent over the last few years. The two essays Stern requires are structured to give applicants a chance to showcase both the professional and personal sides of their applications.

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 prompt provides applicants with a great opportunity to share their professional game plan and why Stern specifically is a key part of this. This prompt differs from other more traditional “career goals” essays by including multiple questions that will tease out many details of your planned career trajectory.

Keep your approach simple here and consider addressing each aspect of the question in order. The wording of this prompt signals that you should touch on the past a little to provide context for the factors that have brought you to this point in your professional journey. Make it clear that you are self-reflective and have a deep understanding of where you have come from and where you are going professionally.

Don’t shy away from honestly assessing why now is the right time to pursue your MBA. Whether it is personal maturity, industry changes, desired promotion or something else that is motivating you, the impetus of your timing is important to have pinned down.

The second aspect of the prompt involves “fit.” Stern is really looking for specifics here, so don’t shy away from the detailing your research of schools and how Stern in particular has stood out for you from other MBA programs. The more you can personalize this aspect of your response, the better.

The rationale and  likelihood of reaching your identified career goals post-MBA is also a key aspect of how Stern will evaluate its applicants. Connecting your personal development goals to Stern’s unique offerings is critical to showcasing true fit with this 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.
Many programs have begun to move towards more open-ended and creative essay prompts such as this. The goal of this prompt for Stern is to get to know who you really are. Unique to most other MBA programs, Stern provides various multi-media options for candidates to use to convey their message. This allows you the opportunity to have a unique and creative approach in answering this prompt.

Keep in mind that the use of more non-traditional media can really stand out in a typically text-heavy process. 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.

This essay is an opportunity to balance out the heavy professional focus of Essay #1 with elements of your unique personality. Make sure you share details that would be relevant to someone who you are potentially about to spend a lot of time with over the next 2 years. This essay is a great place to showcase your interpersonal skills as well as how you plan to utilize them while working with your future classmates.

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Stern – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Stern and its application essays, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

Applying to NYU Stern or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and 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 articles by him here.

5 Great Jobs to Hold in College

moneyI, like many of my peers in college, held jobs throughout my undergraduate career in order to help make ends meet. Working while taking classes, especially at a demanding university like UC Berkeley, isn’t an easy thing to do, especially when hours worked begin to dig into study time. I knew many undergraduates who resented their jobs at cafés, restaurants, parking garages, and theaters in the neighborhood for putting extra pressure on their study schedules.

As far as college jobs go, I and a few of my friends were extremely fortunate to find positions that not only gave us the flexibility we needed to keep our studies on track, but also offered us opportunities to learn important job skills or to engage with our fields. I realized quickly that, even though undergraduate students often don’t have many options when it comes to jobs, college work hours don’t have to feel like a waste of time. Here are five of the best job options we found:

Tutoring
Just about every university (or university area) I know of offers paid tutoring opportunities, which are a great way to develop leadership, communication, organization, and public speaking skills. Tutoring hours are often flexible, and tutoring subjects that you yourself study can help you stay sharp in your own field. Many tutors I know also love their work because of the positive impact it can have on students.

Note-taking
I took notes for my university’s Disabled Students Program, which paid me a stipend in exchange for detailed lecture notes for disabled students’ use. Some universities also allow private note-taking companies to hire students to take high-quality lecture notes, which are then sold to other students. Taking notes on lectures, especially those in your field, allows you to combine learning time with work. If you’re enrolled in the course that you’re taking notes on, you can earn money in exchange for work you’d be doing anyway.

Research Assistantships
These aren’t always paid, but it’s worth looking into them either way. Gain experience in and exposure to your field, build relationships with experts, and contribute to interesting projects by working with researchers at your university. The hours are often very flexible; in many cases, research assistant projects can be completed from home.

Internships
Again, these aren’t always paid, but are definitely worth exploring anyway. Holding internships in your field will offer you work experience, exposure to your field, and sometimes even academic credit if your university accommodates it. If you need to work during college, it makes a lot of sense to do the same work you’re going to college to learn about in the first place.

Short-term Employment
Do you study computer science? Help a local business redesign its website. Do you study journalism? Hone your writing skills by looking for work as an editor, drafter or blogger for a nonprofit near you. Doing short-term work related to your field of study will help you better craft the skills you’ll need to succeed post-college and will look great on your resume, too.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Campus Visit

campus tourBusiness school visits are a lot of work, and they take time to set up before you actually step onto a campus. Below are 3 steps you can take to make sure you have a successful visit with your target schools.

(Before you dig into this article, be sure to check out 2 Ways to Prepare for Your Campus Visit.)

1) Sign Up for An Official Visit
Most campuses offer official visit programs that allow you to sign up to sit in on a class, learn more about the program, and sometimes have lunch with current students. These programs could be a half-day, full day, or even a weekend of events, such as Fuqua’s Weekend for Women. Each school will vary slightly, so take a look at their websites for more information. These visits will be great introductions to the campus life and the specific programs that you are interested in – you’ll get to see how the students interact in class and what the professors are like before you choose to spend two years there.

2) Use Your Network
Once you sign up for a visit, let your network know that you will be on campus! If you’ve met an admissions representative, or had any phone chats with current students or alumni, contact them and see if they’ll have time for a quick meet up to grab coffee or a bite to eat. Engaging with the school’s community shows your continued interest and also helps admissions representatives remember you once your application comes through.

If you haven’t had too much contact with students yet, this is a great time to email the leaders of campus clubs and ask if they can meet with you so you can learn more about their experiences. Remember that these students are sure to be very busy, so ask for a quick 15-minute chat where you can buy them a tea or a coffee. If they are available, chances are they will be more than happy to meet with you.

3) Make Your Official Visit Unofficial
This one might not be as easy for some to do (and it is probably best if it comes naturally) but it will really help you get a sense of the school community. Try to take advantage of any random run-ins with current students. During the Fall Friday for Women event at Yale, I met someone in the bathroom who I started chatting with. We quickly became friends and she invited me to a fellow student’s birthday party that evening. At that event, I was able to meet a dozen other MBA students and it was helpful to see the social side of business school life in an informal setting where no one was officially trying to sell me on a program.

If you can form genuine relationships with students, no matter what campus they are on, it will help you and your application. These relationships will allow you to craft more genuine essays, and regardless of whether or not you attend that particular program, that person can still be a great resource for you when you are later networking for jobs – networking is a huge aspect of business school, so it will only help you if you can start before you even apply to your target schools.

Without these school visits, I would have no idea how to go about choosing the right program for me. It was Michigan’s admitted student event, Go Blue Rendezvous, where I was really able to see myself on campus, and it was after that weekend that I knew it was the right place for me. If you’re lucky enough to have a decision to make after your applications are reviewed, these visits will definitely come in handy when you are choosing where to put down your deposit.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Colleen Hill is a Veritas Prep consultant for the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Corrections for The Official Guide for GMAT Review, 2017

Official GMAT Guide 2017

The below information about The Official Guide for GMAT® Review, 2017 is from the Graduate Management Admission Council – the makers of the GMAT exam. This content was originally posted on The Official GMAT Blog.

We recently released The Official Guide for GMAT® Review, 2017 and we have discovered that this version contains a number of typos that occurred during the publishing process.

We understand that these errors may make it difficult to understand certain content and could affect the study experience for the GMAT exam. Below, we’ve outlined options that provide updated materials. For complete details and a full list of Frequently Asked Questions, please visit: http://wileyactual.com/gmat.

I have the 2017 Official Guide. What should I do?
You have the following options:

  1. Use the errata document to replace chapter 4 and make corrections in the other chapters of the Official Guide. (An errata is a list of corrected errors for a book or other published work.)
  2. Request a free replacement copy of The Official Guide for GMAT® Review, 2017 which will be shipped when the new, corrected version comes out in mid-September at the latest. For more information, contact your regional Wiley customer support here.
  3. For a refund of your The Official Guide for GMAT® Review, 2017, please reference and follow the refund policy for the retailer from which you purchased the Guide.

In addition to this, candidates have access to comparable study materials that enable them to prepare with official GMAT practice questions, such as the The Official Guide for GMAT® Verbal Review, 2017 and The Official Guide for GMAT® Quantitative Review, 2017, Free GMATPrep® Software, and more.

Both the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and Wiley deeply apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused individuals studying for the GMAT exam. We are committed to high-quality publication standards, and moving forward we will make every effort to ensure that our study products are superior.

GMAC customer care representatives are available to answer any questions or concerns at customercare@mba.com.

To inquire about a replacement copy of The Official Guide for GMAT® Review, 2017, contact your regional Wiley customer support here.

The Importance of Challenging Your Worldview in College

GoalsCollege is a time for many important things, and one of those is re-imaging the way you view the world. For many college first-year students, life has (up until this point) been lived in one place with people of mostly similar backgrounds. Once in college, however, you will be exposed to a variety of viewpoints, opinions, cultures, and experiences that will be very different from your own.

Many colleges recruit students and faculty from all over the country and the world, so there’s a good chance many of the people you meet will be from places you know nothing about. While this may seem scary to some, it is actually a great opportunity for learning and growth.

By engaging with diversity in all its forms, you will be able to see things from different angles and expand your perspective to better understand the full complexity of the world. Recognizing socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and political diversity are important to seeing the world through fresher, clearer, more well-informed eyes. Our worldviews are often limited by what we have seen in our own lives, so when we make a sincere effort to understand how people from different backgrounds understand the world around them, we learn new modes of thinking and encounter challenging questions we may not have previously been aware of.

In seeking out new perspectives, your resulting opinions will be stronger, you will be a more worldly person, and you will recognize that there are always new things you can learn more about. Whatever opinions you hold now can continually be improved, updated, and amended.

Here are some things you can do on or off campus to make sure your time in college allows you to critically reassess your views and opinions:

Seek out people who disagree with you.
It’s easy to get caught in an echo chamber of people who already share your opinions, but this doesn’t force you to challenge the way you think. Making an active effort to be friends with people with different political or religious beliefs will ensure that you don’t get stuck in an opinion bubble. Plus, when you have good relationships with people who disagree with you, you are more likely to realize that their opinions come from good faith, not from a radical desire to “ruin” the world.

Advocate for unpopular opinions.
This can be a hard role to play in conversation, but it’s important to be a voice that won’t just kowtow to the dominant ideology. When someone makes a claim, it’s valuable to be the one to push back on it (respectfully), since this can cause all people involved to more deeply examine why they hold their beliefs. You don’t have to play the “devil’s advocate” and stick up for opinions that you truly find appalling, but you can ask probing questions, critique arguments, and voice the viewpoints that nobody else is sharing.

Explore unfamiliar topics.
On college assignments, students have a tendency to write about things they are familiar with. This may make for easier work, but it doesn’t have the kind of benefits that learning about unknown topics does. When you do a research paper on a culture you know little about, or write a philosophy essay on a moral dilemma you hadn’t considered before, you will be able to learn with an open mind and grow in areas you hadn’t previously imagined. Sure, it might be hard to dive into an unfamiliar topic, but in the long-term, learning how to challenge yourself like this is sure to come in handy.

Reflect on your own beliefs.
Being away from home, college is a good time to reflect on where your beliefs came from. Sometimes things that seem central to your identity are actually just a byproduct of your upbringing, and may not be what you really believe when you take the time to reflect. By really analyzing why you think what you think, you’ll often realize that a different way to think is just as or even more reasonable. Self-reflection is an important part of personal growth, and college – the hallowed place of learning – is the perfect place to perform that growth process.

If you are curious and bold in your thinking in college, your beliefs will change and grow throughout your time there. Although this thought may be disconcerting, the uncomfortable process of intellectual growth and development is exactly what college is designed for.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Divisibility by Powers of 2

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe know the divisibility rules of 2, 4 and 8:

For 2 – If the last digit of the number is divisible by 2 (is even), then the number is divisible by 2.

For 4 – If the number formed by last two digits of the number is divisible by 4, then the number is divisible by 4.

For 8 – If the number formed by last three digits of the number is divisible by 8, then the number is divisible by 8.

A similar rule applies to all powers of 2:

For 16 – If the number formed by last four digits of the number is divisible by 16, then the number is divisible by 16.

For 32 – If the number formed by last five digits of the number is divisible by 32, then the number is divisible by 32.

and so on…

Let’s figure out why:

The generic rule can be written like this: A number M is divisible by 2^n if the last n digits of M are divisible by 2^n.

Take, for example, a division by 8 (= 2^3), where M = 65748048 and n = 3.

Our digits of interest are the last three digits, 048.

48 is completely divisible by 8, so we conclude that 65748048 is also divisible by 8.

A valid question here is, “What about the remaining five digits? Why do we ignore them?”

Breaking down M, we can see that 65748048 = 65748000 + 048 (we’ve separated the last three digits).

Now note that 65748000 = 65748 * 1000. Since 1000 has three 0s, it is made up of three 2s and three 5s. Because 1000 it has three 2s as factor, it also has 8 as a factor. This means 65748000 has 8 as a factor by virtue of its three 0s.

All we need to worry about now is the last three digits, 048. If this is divisible by 8, 65748048 will also be divisible by 8. If it is not, 65748048 will not be divisible by 8.

In case the last three digits are not divisible by 8, you can still find the remainder of the number. Whatever remainder you get after dividing the last three digits by 8 will be the remainder when you divide the entire number by 8. This should not be a surprise to you now – 65748000 won’t have a remainder when divided by 8 since it is divisible by 8, so whatever the remainder is when the last 3 digits are divided by 8 will be the remainder when the entire number is divided by 8.

In the generic case, the number M will be split into a number with n zeroes and another number with n digits. The number with n zeroes will be divisible by 2^n because it has n 2s as factors. We just need to see the divisibility of the number with n digits.

We hope you have understood this concept. Let’s take look at a quick GMAT question to see this in action:

What is the remainder when 1990990900034 is divided by 32 ?

(A) 16
(B) 8
(C) 4
(D) 2
(E) 0

Breaking down our given number, 1990990900034 = 1990990900000 + 00034.

1990990900000 ends in five 0’s so it is divisible by 32. 34, when divided by 32, gives us a remainder of 2. Hence, when 1990990900034 is divided by 32, the remainder will be 2. Our answer is D.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

How to Land a Consulting Job Offer Abroad

PassportManagement consulting is one of the most competitive industries to break into, and it can become even more difficult to enter if you plan to work at offices outside your school’s immediate region.

Looking at this challenge primarily from the perspective of the MBA applicant, it is important to consider the ways you can best position yourself for success before you even step on-campus. This approach is important because once you are on-campus and committed to a program, your options may be limited with regards to maximizing your chances of landing an offer at an international office.

Let’s explore a few criteria that should factor into your school selection if you aspire to work as a consultant in an international office:

Location:
Where is the location of your target program? Is this location in close proximity to the offices you are interested in? These are two very important questions to answer as you refine your target school list. The closer your school is to the region in which you wish to work, the better off you will be.

As international as many management consulting companies claim to be, local hiring needs often still claim priority, with companies hiring the greatest number of employees from local business schools. Targeting MBA programs in close proximity to your desired office is a very savvy move if you are interested in working internationally in consulting.

Geographic Placement:
In what regions of the world does your target school place students? How local, national, and global is this placement? This is another important consideration, as this information can provide you with insights into your program and the track record it has with placing students in your desired region post-MBA. The number of alumni a school has in a specific region can better inform you as to your chances of securing employment in that same region come graduation day.

Hiring Offices:
How many students has your target office historically hired from the MBA program you are interested in? This is another great indicator of how challenging it may be for you to emerge from business school with an offer from your target employer. Generally, you can find this information either from your school’s employment report or from firm-specific recruiting websites.

Alumni Representation:
Is there a strong presence of alumni at your consulting office of interest? Generally, companies will leverage alumni from schools to conduct most of the leg work during their on-campus recruiting process, which signals a commitment by firms to the program and its students. A strong alumni base within an office (and overall) is another positive sign that your target school has a successful track record with a particular firm.

Landing an international consulting job offer does not have to be a mysterious process – do your diligence before you land on-campus to maximize your chances of reaching your global career goals.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and 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 articles by him here.

The 2016-2017 Common Application: How to Get Started

GMATThe Common Application is going to be offline from July 21 until August 1, 2016 while all of the dates and details are updated for this upcoming application season. For the first time in the Common App history, students who created an account before August 1st will be able to roll over all of their saved information to the application when it is officially released on August 1st.

So, for those of you who have gotten a head start, your information will be ready to access again on August 1st. For those of you who may not have had a chance to create an account just yet, don’t you worry! There are things you can work on now while the application is down to get you started on the right foot when it is officially open again on August 1st.

Strategize your essays:
The Common App announced in January that they are not changing their essay topics this year. Take a look at the prompts and brainstorm your strategy for your personal statement. Need a little guidance? Check out our tips for making your personal statement stand out!

Finalize your college list:
When the application opens again on August 1st, it will be time to hit the ground running. The best way to prepare yourself for filling out college applications is to know exactly where you plan to apply. Check out commonapp.org to learn about the 700 colleges who use the common app. You can also use collegeconfidential.com to identify best-fit schools for you.

Select your recommenders:
Most schools you apply to will request that you submit letters of recommendation from a teacher, coach, counselor, etc. Once the school year officially begins, all of the seniors will be asking their favorite mentors to write these letters, so start to think now about who you want to write yours! We generally like to suggest that you provide your recommender with a resume or list of accomplishments that they can reference when writing this letter of recommendation, so start putting together those resources, too.

Enjoy yourself:
Yes, that’s right, we’re telling you to take a break and enjoy the rest of your summer! The best way to kick-off application season is to be relaxed and have a clear mind. Make sure to take some time for yourself before you dive into these college applications so that you are able to give it your best effort from start to finish!

Are you interested in learning more about the Common App and how admissions committees at top universities actually evaluate college applications? Register for our free workshop here. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

Important Admissions Insights from the 2016 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey

AIGACAIGAC (the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants) presented insights from its survey of recent MBA applicants and graduates at their annual conference last month. On your own business school application journey, knowing the trends below may help you know what your peers are thinking and better inform your choices:

Let’s look at some of the most interesting findings this study presented:

School Selections Impacted by Cost-Consciousness
41% of MBA applicants in this study indicated that affordability affected their final school choices, while 21% factored program cost and access to financial aid into creating their lists of target schools.

Related to this, applicants this year showed more of an openness to business school options other than the traditional two-year MBA program than they had in the past. This could be because these options reduce opportunity costs of the time away from employment prospects. The study also showed applicants’ interest in shorter full-time MBA programs (less than 2 years) jumped significantly from 33% in 2015 to 40% in 2016.

Reputation (Ranking) Still Matters Most
Although affordability has become an increasingly considered factor in the application process – with 30% of survey respondents including net costs in their school evaluations – an MBA program’s ranking is still the most influential aspect in deciding where to apply, with 74% of respondents factoring this into their school choice.

Other major school factors applicants considered in the application process were impact on career (48%), city/geographic location of the program (46%), and school culture (38%).

Optimism on Post-MBA Career
MBA applicants remained optimistic with their post-MBA prospects this year, with 41% of respondents expecting salary increases of greater than 50% within 6 months after completing their business school education.

The most popular post-MBA target career paths for applicants remain Consulting, Finance/Accounting, and Technology. The AIGAC report also shared actual post-MBA career trends, which showed a declining number of graduates going into Finance (from 43% in 2007 to 29% in 2013), while those going into Technology more than doubled (from 8% in 2007 to 17% in 2013).

Engaging Help for the Competitive Application Process
Realizing how competitive the MBA application process is, many applicants are tapping multiple sources of support. Top support systems are friends (44%), professional admissions consultants (39%), and family (30%). Only 17% of applicants reported going through the entire process with help from “no one”.

These findings show that applicants are realizing the benefits of gaining additional business school insights and wider perspectives as they compete for the coveted spots at the top MBA programs. Although the decision of where to ultimately pursue your MBA should, of course, be your own, hopefully this information can better inform your application process and help you determine some factors to consider when choosing a business school.

For more details about the 2016 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey, please see AIGAC’s White Paper or slide presentation.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

Early Thoughts on Chicago Booth’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Question

Chicago BoothApplication season at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business has officially kicked off with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 application essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this essay prompt that remains relatively consistent from last year:

Essay 1:
View this collection of shared Booth moments. Choose the moment that best resonates with you and tell us why.

  • Choose the format that works for you
  • Determine your own length

I would think of your approach to this essay in three buckets. First, you want to identify the story you want to tell to the Admissions Committee. Second, you want to identify the image that best allows you to paint this picture in the most comprehensive and all-encompassing way. Finally, you want to select the medium that allows you to best bring your response to life in a vivid and clear fashion.

Let’s explore each bucket in greater detail:

Story Identification:
Who will you be to the Admissions Committee? This prompt really seeks to understand the candidate who is applying to Booth, and it is your job to identify the aspects of your background that best connect with the mission of the program. Theoretically there are many things a candidate could focus on as a theme – be authentic here, but make sure you are highlighting a narrative or anecdote that aligns your personal and professional strengths with qualities that will endear you to Booth’s admissions team.

Image Selection:
The school wants to know what aspects of the Booth student experience you most viscerally connect to and gets you the most excited. A big part of this is research, so conducting primary and secondary research into the program to really understand the symbolism of each image is a major key to success in your response here. Using your “story” to inform your choice is a really smart way to go – pick the image that best aligns with your tale and allows you to communicate the most robust narrative.

Medium Choice & Length:
This aspect of approaching the Booth prompt tends to give applicants the most trouble. In the past, Booth limited responses to four slides; these limitations on both the length and medium of an applicant’s response made candidates’ approaches much more straightforward. Now, with the more open-ended prompt, applicants are left with a bit of anxiety when deciding on an approach. One thing to always keep in mind during the application process is when a school states they have no preference, take them at their word. Select the medium that you feel will best illustrate a clear, cogent, and passionate response to the prompt.

This is a great opportunity to leverage your writing or visual skills to help you stand out. On the length side, many schools have been moving towards shorter essay length requirements, so keep this in mind and try to communicate your response in a concise and direct fashion. This is really a judgement call, but think of every element used in your deliverable and evaluate whether it is actually building or diluting your argument.

Just a few thoughts here on approaching this year’s essay prompt from Booth – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Booth and its application essays, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

Applying to Booth or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and 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 articles by him here.

An Introvert’s Guide to College Job Fairs

HandshakeMy first college job fair was during my first semester of college. I signed up as soon as I saw the email. I’d heard a million times that networking was the most important thing to master in the work world, that universities like UC Berkeley could get me access to recruiters I’d never meet otherwise, and that one of the most important things I could learn at college was how to land a job.

I put on my nicest (only) suit, tossed a stack of freshly edited resumes into a folder, and marched into the fair, thinking I’d walk back out that evening with an empty folder and an internship.

Instead, I found myself completely overwhelmed by the thick crowds and by the storm of recruitment stands, students, flyers, and small talk. I left the fair exhausted and frustrated: I was completely drained of social energy, frustrated by the fact that expending my energy hadn’t resulted in an internship, and unable to match any names or faces to the dozens of business cards I’d collected. I had spent far too much time with recruiters for positions I didn’t care about, been overshadowed by more gregarious students, and fumbled through awkward, forgettable conversations with the few recruiters whose companies I was really interested in working with.

Over the next four years, I realized my mistakes and eventually developed strategies for reconciling my naturally quiet self with the chaos of job fairs. Here’s what I learned:

1) Dress the Part
For introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between: you may be a college student, but you shouldn’t dress like one! Generally speaking, people wearing Jansport backpacks are harder to take seriously than people not wearing Jansport backpacks. Invest in a couple of nice, professional outfits and a simple bag.

2) Do Your Research
Look up the list of recruiters in advance, and do some research into the participating organizations that catch your eye. Only visit the recruitment stands you’re interested in engaging with. It’s exhausting and inefficient to wait until your conversation with the recruiter to decide whether or not you’re interested in working with an organization, especially if you have limited social energy to expend. If you know what work you’re interested in, don’t waste time and energy on positions you don’t want to take.

3) Arrive Prepared
If you don’t know what work you’re interested in, you’ll need to cast your net more widely. Read websites and fair descriptions to acquaint yourself with the attending organizations, and then prepare a set of questions to ask. For instance: What internships/job positions do you have available? What might a day’s work in your company look like? How much exposure could I get to the workings of the rest of the organization?

4) Play to Your Strengths
Don’t feel obligated to stop at every recruitment stand. Actually, you’ll likely get better results if you engage more deeply with fewer recruiters. Introverts may not have as much social energy as extroverts do, but when introverts choose to expend social energy, they tend to be better at shifting interactions beyond small talk and towards in-depth, productive conversation. Understand your limits, stick to them, and play to your strengths.

On that note, take breaks and conserve energy. In order to stay focused and be at your best during conversations that matter, opt out of conversations that aren’t productive towards your goal. When you need to, grab a snack, find a quiet corner, or step out for a coffee. If your college offers the option, attend smaller recruitment events where the atmosphere is less stressful and you’re likely to feel less pressure while speaking with recruiters.

College job fairs may be overwhelming, but by following the aforementioned tips, you’ll be able to make the most of these important opportunities.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

How to Use Units Digits to Avoid Doing Painful Calculations on the GMAT

StudentDuring the first session of each new class I teach, we do a quick primer on the utility of units digits. Imagine I want to solve 130,467 * 367,569. Without a calculator, we are surely entering a world of hurt. But we can see almost instantaneously what the units digit of this product would be.

The units digit of 130,467 * 367,569 would be the same as the units digit of 7*9, as only the units digits of the larger numbers are relevant in such a calculation. 7*9 = 63, so the units digit of 130,467 * 367,569 is 3. This is one of those concepts that is so simple and elegant that it seems too good to be true.

And yet, this simple, elegant rule comes into play on the GMAT with surprising frequency.

Take this question for example:

If n is a positive integer, how many of the ten digits from 0 through 9 could be the units digit of n^3?

A) three
B) four
C) six
D) nine
E) ten

Surely, you think, the solution to this question can’t be as simple as cubing the easiest possible numbers to see how many different units digits result. And yet that’s exactly what we’d do here.

1^3 = 1

2^3 = 8

3^3 = 27 à units 7

4^3 = 64 à units 4

5^3 = ends in 5 (Fun fact: 5 raised to any positive integer will end in 5.)

6^3 = ends in 6 (Fun fact: 6 raised to any positive integer will end in 6.)

7^3 = ends in 3 (Well 7*7 = 49. 49*7 isn’t that hard to calculate, but only the units digit matters, and 9*7 is 63, so 7^3 will end in 3.)

8^3 = ends in 2 (Well, 8*8 = 64, and 4*8 = 32, so 8^3 will end in 2.)

9^3 = ends in 9 (9*9 = 81 and 1 * 9 = 9, so 9^3 will end in 9.)

10^3 = ends in 0

Amazingly, when I cube all the integers from 1 to 10 inclusive, I get 10 different units digits. Pretty neat. The answer is E.

Of course, this question specifically invoked the term “units digit.” What are the odds of that happening? Maybe not terribly high, but any time there’s a painful calculation, you’d want to consider thinking about the units digits.

Take this question, for example:

A certain stock exchange designates each stock with a one, two or three letter code, where each letter is selected from the 26 letters of the alphabet. If the letters may be replaced and if the same letters used in a different order constitute a different code, how many different stocks is it possible to uniquely designate with these codes? 

A) 2,951
B) 8,125
C) 15,600
D) 16,302
E) 18,278 

Conceptually, this one doesn’t seem that bad.

If I wanted to make a one-letter code, there’d be 26 ways I could do so.

If I wanted to make a two-letter code, there’d be 26*26 or 26^2 ways I could do so.

If I wanted to make a three-letter code, there’d be 26*26*26, or 26^3 ways I could so.

So the total number of codes I could make, given the conditions of the problem, would be 26 + 26^2 + 26^3. Hopefully, at this point, you notice two things. First, this arithmetic will be deeply unpleasant to do.  Second, all of the answer choices have different units digits!

Now remember that 6 raised to any positive integer will always end in 6. So the units digit of 26 is 6, and the units digit of 26^2 is 6 and the units digit of 26^3 is also 6. Therefore, the units digit of 26 + 26^2 + 26^3 will be the same as the units digit of 6 + 6 + 6. Because 6 + 6 + 6 = 18, our answer will end in an 8. The only possibility here is E. Pretty nifty.

Takeaway: Painful arithmetic can always be avoided on the GMAT. When calculating large numbers, note that we can quickly find the units digit with minimal effort. If all the answer choices have different units digits, the question writer is blatantly telegraphing how to approach this problem.

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

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles written by him here.

Quarter Wit Quarter Wisdom: What is Your Favorite Number?

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomFans of The Big Bang Theory will remember Sheldon Cooper’s quote from an old episode on his favorite number:

The best number is 73. Why? 73 is the 21st prime number. Its mirror, 37, is the 12th and its mirror, 21, is the product of multiplying 7 and 3… and in binary 73 is a palindrome, 1001001, which backwards is 1001001.”

Though Sheldon’s logic is infallible, my favorite number is 1001 because it has a special role in standardized tests.

1001 is 1 more than 1000 and hence, is sometimes split as (1000 + 1). It sometimes appears in the a^2 – b^2 format such as 1001^2 – 1, and its factors are 7, 11 and 13 (not the factors we usually work with).

Due to its unusual factors and its convenient location (right next to 1000), it could be a part of some tough-looking GMAT questions and should be remembered as a “special” number. Let’s look at a question to understand how to work with this  number.

Which of the following is a factor of 1001^(32) – 1 ?

(A) 768
(B) 819
(C) 826
(D) 858
(E) 924

Note that 1001 is raised to the power 32. This is not an exponent we can easily handle. If  we try to use a binomial here and split 1001 into (1000 + 1), all we will achieve is that upon expanding the given expression, 1 will be cancelled out by -1 and all other terms will have 1000 in common. None of the answer choices are factors of 1000, however, so we must look for some other factor of 1001^(32) – 1.

Without a calculator, it is not possible for us to find the factors of 1001^(32) – 1, but we do know the prime factors of 1001 and hence, the prime factors of 1001^32. We may not be able to say which numbers are factors of 1001^(32) – 1, but we will be able to say which numbers are certainly not factors of this!

Let me explain:

1001 = 7 * 11 * 13 (Try dividing 1001 by 7 and you’ll get 143. 143 is divisible by 11, giving you 13.)

1001^32 = 7^32 * 11^32 * 13^32

Now, what can we say about the prime factors of 1001^(32) – 1? Whatever they are, they are certainly not 7, 11 or 13 – two consecutive integers cannot have any common prime factor (discussed here and continued here).

Now look at the answer choices and try dividing each by 7:

(A) 768 – Not divisible by 7

(B) 819 – Divisible by 7

(C) 826 – Divisible by 7

(D) 858 – Not divisible by 7

(E) 924 – Divisible by 7

Options B, C and E are eliminated. They certainly cannot be factors of 1001^(32) – 1 since they have 7 as a prime factor, and we know 1001^(32) – 1 cannot have 7 as a prime factor.

Now try dividing the remaining options by 11:

(A) 768 – Not divisible by 11

(D) 858 – Divisible by 11

D can also be eliminated now because it has 11 as a factor. By process of elimination, the answer is A; it must be a factor of 1001^(32) – 1.

I hope you see how easily we used the factors of 1001 to help us solve this difficult-looking question. And yes, another attractive feature of 1001 – it is a palindrome in the decimal representation itself!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

GMAT Tip of the Week: How to Avoid GMAT (and Pokemon Go) Traps

GMAT Tip of the WeekIn seemingly the most important development in world history since humans learned to create fire, Pokemon Go has arrived and is taking the world by storm. Rivaling Twitter and Facebook for mobile phone attention and battling the omnipresent selfie as a means of death-by-mobile-phone, Pokemon Go is everywhere you want to be…and often in places you don’t.

And that is why Pokemon Go is responsible for an ever-important GMAT lesson.

Perhaps most newsworthy about Pokemon Go these days is the dangerous and improper places that it has led its avid users. On the improper side,  such solemn and dignified places as the national Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery have had to actively prohibit gamers from descending upon mourners/commemorators while playing the game. And as for danger, there have been several instances of thieves luring gamers into traps and therefore robbing them of valuable (if you’re playing the game, you definitely have a smartphone) items.

And the GMAT can and will do the same thing.

How?

If you’re reading this on our GMAT blog, you’ve undoubtedly already learned that, on Data Sufficiency problems, you cannot assume that a variable is positive, or that it is an integer. But think about what makes Pokemon Go users so vulnerable to being lured into a robbery or to losing track of basic human decency. They’re so invested in the game that they lose track of the situations they’re being lured into.

Similarly, the most dangerous GMAT traps are those for which you should absolutely know better, but the testmaker has gotten your mind so invested in another “game” that you lose track of something basic. Consider the example:

If y is an odd integer and the product of x and y equals 222, what is the value of x? 

(1) x is a prime number
(2) y is a 3 digit number

Statement 1 is clearly sufficient. Since y is odd, and an integer, and the product of integers x and y is an even integer, that means that x must be even. And since x also has to be prime (which is how you know it’s an integer, too), the only even prime is 2, making x = 2.

From there your mind is fixated on the game. You can quickly see that in that case y = 111 and x = 2. Which you then have to forget about as you attack Statement 2. But here’s the reason that less than 25% of users in the Veritas Prep Question Bank get this right, while nearly half incorrectly choose D. Statement 1 has gotten your mind fixated on the even/odd/prime game, meaning that you may only be thinking about integers (and positive integers at that) at this point.

That y is a 3-digit number DOES NOT mean that it has to be 111. It could be -111 (making x = -2) or 333 (making x = 2/3). So only Statement 1 alone is sufficient, but the larger lesson is more important. Just like Pokemon Go has the potential to pollute your mind and have you see the real world through its “enhanced reality” lens, so does a statement that satisfies your intellect (“Ah, 2 is the only even prime number!”) give you just enough tunnel vision that you make poor decisions and fall for traps.

The secret here is that almost no one scoring above a 500 carries over all of Statement 1 (“Oh, well I already know that x = 2!”) – a total rookie mistake. It’s that Statement 1 got you fixated on definitions of types of integers (prime, even, odd) and therefore got your mind looking through the “enhanced reality” of integers-only.

The lesson? Much like Pokemon Go, the GMAT has tools to get you so invested in a particular facet of a game that you lose your universal awareness of your surroundings. Know that going in – that you have to consciously step back from that enhanced reality you’ve gained after Statement 1 and look at the whole picture. So take a lesson from Pokemon Go and know when to stop and step back.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

The Most Overlooked Question You Should Be Asking During Your College Search Process

Swarthmore CollegeColleges, like all other organizations, love to market themselves positively. Their brochures are bright and shiny, filled with impressive statistics, pictures of happy students, and never-ending lists of reasons why they are great. Talk to students, too, and they’re likely to gush about how much they love their schools and how happy they are to be there.

For the most part, these things are true – many colleges have lots of great things about them, and many students are really happy where they are going to school. But for someone doing the college search process and trying to determine which school is the best fit for him or her, this uniform positivity can be a bit unhelpful.

As any rational person will say, no place is perfect, and hence no college is perfect. Every school has at least a few minor issues, and in my opinion, knowing what the negative aspects of a school are is almost as important as knowing what the positive aspects of a school are. This way, a student can make a decision on which school to attend based on a comprehensive understanding of the school, not just a one-sided view of it.

So, one really important question to ask students and staff when considering a school is, “What are some things you don’t like about this school?” Or, in other words, W”hat would you change about your school if you could?”

This might not be the question that you want to ask, or even one that you feel comfortable asking, but it is of utmost importance. You will spend 4 years at the college of your choice, and that time will be a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. The best way to make sure you’ll be prepared to handle those “downs” is if you have an idea beforehand of what kinds of “downs” they might be.

For example, a school might seem great to you on its website, yet still have a student body culture you don’t like or a greatly underfunded department you thought you wanted to major in. Maybe the walks between classes are really long, or the food options on campus are boring. Maybe the student body differs too greatly from you politically, or the professors care more about research than teaching.

Information like this is hard to find out on your own; finding it requires talking to people who actually live at the school and are willing to offer their honest perspective. Admitting that a school has flaws doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attend the school – it just means that you should choose a school with negative aspects that you are comfortable with and prepared to manage. Whether the issues are big or small, you’ll be a more informed college search-er if you take the time to figure out both the positive and negative parts of a school.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

How to Approach Difficult GMAT Problems

SAT/ACTMy students have a hard time understanding what makes a difficult GMAT question difficult. They assume that the tougher questions are either testing something they don’t know, or that these problems involve a dizzying level of complexity that requires an algebraic proficiency that’s simply beyond them.

One of my main goals in teaching a class is to persuade everyone that this is not, in fact, how hard questions work on this test. Hard questions don’t ask you do to something you don’t know how to do. Rather, they’re cleverly designed to provoke an anxiety response that makes it difficult to realize that you do know exactly how to solve the problem.

Take this official question, for example:

Let a, b, c and d be nonzero real numbers. If the quadratic equation ax(cx + d) = -b(cx +d) is solved for x, which of the following is a possible ratio of the 2 solutions?

A) –ab/cd
B) –ac/bd
C) –ad/bc
D) ab/cd
E) ad/bc

Most students see this and panic. Often, they’ll start by multiplying out the left side of the equation, see that the expression is horrible (acx^2 + adx), and take this as evidence that this question is beyond their skill level. And, of course, the question was designed to elicit precisely this response. So when I do this problem in class, I always start by telling my students, much to their surprise, that every one of them already knows how to do this. They’ve just succumbed to the question writer’s attempt to convince them otherwise.

So let’s start simple. I’ll write the following on the board: xy = 0. Then I’ll ask what we know about x or y. And my students shrug and say x or y (or both) is equal to 0. They’ll also wonder what on earth such a simple identity has to do with the algebraic mess of the question they’d been struggling with.

I’ll then write this: zx + zy = 0. Again, I’ll ask what we know about the variables. Most will quickly see that we can factor out a “z” and get z(x+y) = 0. And again, applying the same logic, we see that one of the two components of the product must equal zero – either z = 0 or x + y = 0.

Next, I’ll ask if they would approach the problem any differently if I’d given them zx = -zy – they wouldn’t.

Now it clicks. We can take our initial equation in the aforementioned problem: ax(cx +d) = -b(cx+d), and see that we have a ‘cx + d’ on both sides of the equation, just as we’d had a “z” on both sides of the previous example. If I’m able to get everything on one side of the equation, I can factor out the common term.

Now ax(cx +d) = -b(cx+d) becomes ax(cx +d) + b(cx+d) = 0.

Just as we factored out a “z” in the previous example, we can factor out “cx + d” in this one.

Now we have (cx + d)(ax + b) = 0.

Again, if we multiply two expressions to get a product of zero, we know that at least one of those expressions must equal 0. Either cx + d = 0 or ax + b = 0.

If cx + d = 0, then x = -d/c.

If ax + b = 0, then x = -b/a.

Therefore, our two possible solutions for x are –d/c and –b/a. So, the ratio of the two would simply be (-d/c)/(-b/a). Recall that dividing by a fraction is the equivalent of multiplying by the reciprocal, so we’re ultimately solving for (-d/c)(-a/b). Multiplying two negatives gives us a positive, and we end up with da/cb, which is equivalent to answer choice E.

Takeaway: Anytime you see something on the GMAT that you think you don’t know how to do, remind yourself that the question was designed to create this false impression. You know how to do it – don’t hesitate to dive in and search for how to apply this knowledge.

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

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles written by him here.

SAT Tip of the Week: Calculator Use on the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAt Veritas Prep, our instructors are asked a variety of questions about the new SAT. Some students want to know about the difficulty of the test, while others wonder about the types of questions that will be in each section. One of the most common questions we get is, “What calculators are allowed on the SAT?” Students know that they’ll encounter 58 questions on the Math Section of the new SAT and want be prepared for all of them.

Learn the answer to the above question and find out whether students really need to bring a calculator on test day:

Can You Use a Calculator on the SAT?
Yes, students can use one of the acceptable calculators for some SAT math questions. Students must, however, keep in mind that there are portions of the math section where they are allowed to use a calculator as well as portions where they are not allowed to use one. In addition, a student isn’t required to use a calculator on any part of the test – it’s up to the individual as to whether they need a calculator to answer the questions.

What Calculators Are Allowed on the SAT?
There are certain types of calculators allowed on SAT math questions. Students should be familiar with the guidelines for approved calculators if they plan to take one along on test day. Though calculators are allowed on some SAT math questions, they can sometimes be a hindrance when solving certain types of problems. For example, if a student uses a calculator to answer a question for reassurance rather than trusting their knowledge, they may lose valuable test time. Some questions can be answered more quickly without the help of a calculator. Part of the challenge of the math section on the new SAT is deciding whether or not to use a calculator on any given question.

Types of Calculators to Leave at Home
Some students get really excited when they hear that they will be able to use a calculator on some math problems of the new SAT. Unfortunately, in their excitement, they may forget that they can only bring SAT-approved calculators with them. For instance, it’s likely that a student has a basic calculator on their smartphone, but these devices aren’t allowed into the testing room, so students who show up on test day expecting to use the calculator on their smartphone for the exam will be disappointed.

There are also other devices that are not on the list of SAT-acceptable calculators. A student should not bring a calculator that needs to be plugged into a wall socket, a calculator with a paper tape in it, or one that makes noises when its buttons are pushed. All of these would interfere with the concentration of others in the testing room, so they will not be allowed in. In addition, students should never bring a new calculator that they’re unfamiliar with – students should be concentrating on submitting their best performance on the test, not trying to figure out how to perform functions on a new calculator.

Do Students Need a Calculator to Succeed on the SAT?
It’s up to each individual, though it is recommended that students taking the new SAT bring along an appropriate calculator just in case. But for some students – especially students who rarely use a calculator in their math courses, regardless of what type of math they’re working on – a calculator can get in the way of their thinking. If a student feels at ease answering questions without a calculator, then they should go with what is comfortable.

At Veritas Prep, our knowledgeable instructors teach tips and strategies that can guide students to success. We can advise students on when to incorporate a calculator into their work and when to put their calculator aside. Along with expert instruction, our professional instructors provide students with the encouragement and support they need to feel at ease on the Math Section as well as every other section of the new SAT. Contact Veritas Prep and give us the opportunity to study with you for the new SAT!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Early Thoughts on Ross’ 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

MichiganApplication season at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these essay prompts.

The essays this year are fairly similar to last year’s prompts, however with a few tweaks:

Essay 1:
What are you most proud of outside of your professional life? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)
This is a traditional “accomplishments” essay, and Ross has tweaked it this year to really have applicants focus on accomplishments outside of the professional arena. Coming from a very culture-focused campus, this nuance should come as no surprise. Ross has always had a very active student community, so highlighting an example that shows your prior engagement – preferably in a leadership capacity – will show your fit with the program.

Dig deep to identify the topic you are going to discuss; these types of open-ended questions really give applicants the chance to differentiate themselves from other candidates. Make sure, however, you are direct in your approach to answering this question, as Ross’ Admissions Committee has emphasized in the past the importance of answering their question as directly as possible.

Also, keep in mind that you will have time to talk about your professional career and even highlight some of your past accomplishments through the second essay, so keep this first essay tightly focused on your life outside of your professional career (unless your professional career was somehow shaped by this accomplishment).

Finally, don’t assume that if your accomplishment does not involve saving a beached whale or climbing Mt. Everest that your response will not be well-received. What makes your response to this question relevant is the impact this accomplishment had on YOU.

Essay 2:
What is your desired career path and why? (250 words)
This is a typical “career goals” essay and should come as no surprise to any candidate applying to business school. In fact, your answer to this question should be what initially drove your interest in pursuing an MBA in the first place, so Ross will be expecting a fairly polished essay here.

What will separate you from the competition as a breakthrough candidate will be how personalized your essay reads.  Like many other MBA programs, Ross wants students who are truly passionate about their school and who want to be there. With this in mind, they will be looking for you to combine your well-thought-out career goals with details on how you plan to utilize their unique program to reach these goals.

In addition, if relevant, try to connect your goals to an underlying passion you have for the role or industry you are interested in. This will highlight other underlying elements of your personal story and make your goals more tangible to the Admissions Committee.

Hopefully these thoughts on the new batch of essays from Ross will help you get started with your own essays.

Applying to Ross or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and 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 articles by him here.

2 Ways to Prepare for Your Campus Visit

Business School VisitWhile time consuming (and often expensive), visiting business schools is a key component of your application process. While you have the opportunity to learn about the campus environment, culture, and student body, the admissions committee has the opportunity to learn about you.

So, where do you begin?

1) Do Your Research
First, do your research. Your business school visit begins long before you actually step foot onto a campus. You will need to narrow down your MBA search so you know which schools you most want to visit. During your initial research, determine what factors are important to you in a business school community. Does the school foster a collaborative environment, or is it more competitive? Does it have a larger or a smaller class size? Do most students commute to campus or do they live within walking distance?

Some of these factors may be more important to you than others. If you’ve always lived in an urban environment, do you want to continue that lifestyle and look into NYU Stern or UCLA Anderson, or are you interested in living in a rural community like at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business? If you are going to business school with a partner, you might want to consider the percentage of partnered students in your target programs as well.

Determine which environment you will thrive in. The environment makes up the campus culture, which is an important thing to understand about your target programs before you visit.

2) Start Networking
Once you’ve determined a handful of schools that you want to visit, start networking (if you haven’t already)! Part of your initial research process might involve networking with alumni and admissions officers, but if it doesn’t, now is your chance to get to know some of the people involved with your target programs.

There are several MBA admissions events throughout the world all year long. You can meet with admissions representatives from top programs at events like The MBA Tour and the QS World MBA Tour. At these events, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know admissions representatives, alumni, or both! Talk about your goals and why you are interested in their program. They’ll be able to talk about program specifics that will help with your post-MBA goals, or put you in touch with people who know more.

You can also start to reach out to the leaders of the clubs you are interested in joining once you get to campus. These conversations will help guide your application essays and give you a stronger sense of the school before you hit submit. If you can showcase your understanding of and fit with the program, it makes your applications even stronger!

As you can see, campus visits take a lot of time, so start early. A great place to start your initial search is with the free Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Top Business Schools. With this tool, you’ll learn about schools’ class sizes, average GMAT scores, percentage of partnered students, and so much more. The networks that you start to build with this information will come in handy when you begin visiting campuses. Check out our next post to learn more!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Colleen Hill is a Veritas Prep consultant for the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Don’t Worry About Your Freshman Roommate!

roomateBefore my first year of college, one of the biggest things I worried about was the prospect of not liking my freshman roommate. After having my own room (and a decently sized one at that) for all 18 years of my life, the prospect of spending two full semesters in a small dorm with someone I had never met was a scary one.

What if I don’t like him? What if his side of the room is a mess? What if he goes to bed at 4AM and blasts music every night? How is this nondescript roommate questionnaire going to pair me with someone I’m actually compatible with? What if he doesn’t like me? In my mind, the negative possibilities were endless.

In one sense, these fears are reasonable. Since you don’t have many (or any) friends at your new school before the year starts, it makes sense to want to have a perfect relationship with your roommate. Couple that desire with the seemingly random roommate pairing process at many schools, and it’s easy to get anxious.

However, in my experience these fears are oftentimes unfounded. Here are a few reasons why:

You Don’t Have to Be BFFs 
While it may not seem so beforehand, making friends in college is not too hard. That said, it’s not imperative that you and your roommate are best friends for life. Being friends with your roommate certainly doesn’t hurt, but if you aren’t super close, you’ll still be able to easily develop a solid friend group. Plus, sometimes it’s good to look outside your dorm for friendship, since it forces you to expand your horizons and get out to meet people!

Closeness Breeds Compatibility 
Even if there are certain factors that may seem to hinder your compatibility with your roommate, the fact of the matter is that most people are perfectly capable of living with each other. Barring extreme circumstances, most people can get along when they have to.

Additionally, the more you spend time living with your roommate, the more you two can figure out how to room together effectively. As long as you’re nice about it, making small requests like turning the music down or cleaning up the room a bit are likely to help out your situation without harming the room dynamic. Good communication is key – when communication lines are healthy and open, little annoyances can easily be prevented from turning into bigger problems.

(Yes) New Friends 
One overlooked thing about having a roommate is that even if you two aren’t very close, you’ll still get introduced to his or her friends. For me – someone who was friendly with, but not best friends with, my roommate – it was fun getting to know my roommate’s friends and hang out with them in our room. It’s easy to get caught up just in your own friend group, so spending time with my roommate’s friends was a nice change of pace. The ironic thing is that even though I didn’t end up being great friends with my roommate (something I had worried about), I ended up making more friends because of him!

Overall, going into college can be a nerve-wracking time for a lot of people. However, worrying about your freshman roommate is an unnecessary expenditure of worry. Hey, you’ll both be mature, responsible, college-ready adults, and even if you seem different, I’m confident you’ll be able to make it work.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Attacking Gerunds on the GMAT!

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomA few weeks back, we talked about participles and how they are used on the GMAT. In that post, we had promised to discuss gerunds more in depth at another time. So today, as promised, we’ll be looking at gerunds. Before we do that, however, let’s examine Verbals.

A Verbal is a verb that acts as a different part of speech – not as a verb.

There are three types of verbals:

  • Infinitives – these take the form of “to + verb”
  • Gerunds – these are the “-ing” form of the verb
  • Participles – these can take the “-ing,” “-ed,” “-en” etc. forms

Gerunds end in “-ing” and act as nouns in the sentence. They can act as a subject, direct object, subject complement or object of a preposition. For example:

Running a marathon is very difficult. – Subject
I love swimming. – Direct object
The activity I enjoy the most is swimming. – Subject complement
She thanked me for helping her. – Object of a preposition

You don’t have to identify the part of speech the gerund represents in a sentence; you just need to identify whether a verb’s “-ing” form is being used as a gerund and evaluate whether it is being used correctly.

A sentence could also use a gerund phrase that begins with a gerund, such as, “Swimming in the morning is exhilarating.”

Let’s take a look at a couple of official questions now:

A recent study has found that within the past few years, many doctors had elected early retirement rather than face the threats of lawsuits and the rising costs of malpractice insurance.

(A) had elected early retirement rather than face
(B) had elected early retirement instead of facing
(C) have elected retiring early instead of facing
(D) have elected to retire early rather than facing
(E) have elected to retire early rather than face

Upon reading the original sentence, we see that there is a gerund phrase here – “rising costs of malpractice insurance” – which is parallel to the noun “threat of lawsuits.”

The two are logically parallel too, since there are two aspects that the doctors do not want to face: rising costs and the threat of lawsuits.

Note, however, that they are not logically parallel to “face.” Hence, the use of the form “facing” would not be correct, since it would put “facing” and “rising” in parallel. So answer choices B, C and D are incorrect.

Actually, “retire” and “face” are logically parallel so they should be grammatically parallel, too. Answer choice E has the two in parallel in infinitive form – to retire and (to is implied here) face are in parallel.

Obviously, there are other decision points to take note of here, mainly the question of “had elected” vs. “have elected.” The use of “had elected” will not be correct here, since we are not discussing two actions in the past occurring at different times. Therefore, the correct answer is E.

Take a look at one more:

In virtually all types of tissue in every animal species dioxin induces the production of enzymes that are the organism’s trying to metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical that is irritating it.

(A) trying to metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical that is irritating it
(B) trying that it metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical irritant
(C) attempt to try to metabolize, or render harmless, such a chemical irritant
(D) attempt to try and metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical irritating it
(E) attempt to metabolize, or render harmless, the chemical irritant

Notice the use of the gerund “trying” in answer choice A. “Organism’s” is in possessive form and acts as an adjective for the noun verbal “trying.” Usually, with possessives, a gerund does not work. We need to use a noun only. With this in mind, answer choices A and B will not work.

The other three options replace “trying” with “attempt” and hence correct this error, however options C and D use the redundant “attempt to try.” The use of “attempt” means “try,” so there is no need to use both. Option E corrects this problem, so it is our correct answer.

Unlike participles, which can be a bit confusing, gerunds are relatively easy to understand and use. Feeling more confident about them now?

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

Is Your Future Business School a Consulting Feeder Program?

waiting-in-lineIf you’re interested in consulting post-MBA, understanding how consulting firms view your MBA program is always a good place to start when setting up your recruiting strategy. Consulting companies primarily limit their feeder schools based on cost, as it would be very expensive to comprehensively recruit at every business school.

Another reason feeder schools are limited is experience – consulting firms form relationships with schools and become comfortable with the crop of MBA talent that certain programs provide, giving them no reason to focus on other schools for recruiting. If you are an MBA candidate at such a feeder program, life is good! If you are not, you will have to do a bit more legwork, but you still will have other opportunities for success. Let’s discuss how to distinguish consulting feeders from other MBA programs:

First, you will want to look at the employment report of your program. This report is a treasure trove of information for students when setting up their recruiting strategies. Within this report, you’ll want to review the overall numbers of students going into consulting – this is a good measure of how robust the consulting ecosystem at your school is. The higher the numbers, the more clearly the program is positioned as a feeder.

Next, look at which companies are recruiting at your school. When most candidates think of feeder programs, they think of programs that can get them jobs at MBB (otherwise known as “The Big Three” – the three largest consulting firms in the world). Management consulting is not just limited to McKinsey, Bain, and BCG however, so the depth and the diversity of firms recruiting at a particular school is important, especially for non-feeder programs. However, if you are expressly targeting MBB, it is important to identify whether or not these firms recruit at your program and in what numbers. This information will be useful as you seek to shape your recruiting strategy.

Finally, connect with your career center or consulting club to find out which consulting firms recruit on-campus. This is an important nuance of the consulting recruiting process, as firms that recruit on-campus tend to be more accessible and provide more of an egalitarian opportunity to interview slots for interested students. Firms that consider your program a feeder school will generally be a part of on-campus recruiting, however in some instances, top firms, such as McKinsey, will choose to recruit off-campus to better control the process (even if they consider your program a feeder school). Your program’s career center will have a better idea of where you can find these recruiting opportunities from such companies.

Consulting is one of the most competitive industries to break into, so understanding the relative position of your program in the industry and what this means for your ability to land a post-MBA job offer is key. Utilize this information to best set up an actionable strategy during recruiting season.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and 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 articles by him here.

How to Address a Low GPA in Your MBA Applications

report cardA low GPA’s is one of the foremost concerns among those applying to business school. Even having a GPA that seemed “okay” in undergrad now probably seems a little mediocre if you’re aiming for a top MBA program. And if your GPA is actually low, you’re sure to be even more concerned.

With no way to actually change this aspect of your profile, how can you address your GPA concerns?

1) Present a Strong GMAT Score & Additional Credentials
The best way to mitigate a low GPA is to get a great GMAT score – scoring above the average of your target program will alleviate any potential concerns the Admissions Committee may have about your academic potential to keep pace with the school’s rigorous curriculum. A higher score could boost your chances for admission, and even scholarships. Thus, investing the time, effort, and resources to maximize your potential to score as high as you can on the GMAT makes sense.

Obtaining credentials such as a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) title or taking on additional courses at your local community college are also helpful in showing that you will be able to handle the coursework of business school, as well as contribute to, and reap the benefits of, your future class discussions.

2) Provide Context
Sometimes life circumstances – including illnesses, family responsibilities, or competing priorities – can have a negative impact on one’s GPA. If this is the case, the optional essay can be a good space to discuss your situation. In doing this, it is better not to come off as making excuses. Instead, use this opportunity to play up other highlights of your profile or lessons you have learned from your experience.

For instance, running the family business during an emergency while also attending school is a life experience that instills responsibility and maturity at a young age. Likewise, juggling studies and team practices to represent your school in a particular sport can give context as to why your GPA does not reflect your full potential, while also playing up other dimensions of your profile and helping you stand out.

3) Showcase Your Unique Qualities
Another way to make your MBA application more compelling is to make sure that you present strong, unique qualities or experiences that you can bring to the school. This could be in the form of your diverse background, or through your involvement in an interesting cause. If your GPA is below the norm at the school you are applying to, it is very important to justify why they should accommodate you with a spot. Thus, you need to be able to convince the Admissions Committee that you will be able to truly enrich the experiences of your peers, and of the school community, as a whole.

Identify the specifics of the MBA program you are interested in and show them how you have done well in similar environments. Substantiating this with concrete accomplishments and demonstrated impact will help present how your goals at school, and post-MBA, are both worthwhile and achievable.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

Why Be an Intern? 4 Reasons You Should Consider Getting an Internship

MBA JobsInternships are time consuming, energy consuming, and frequently unpaid. Taking internships often means filling time that might otherwise be spent on classes or extracurricular activities – and spending that time completing low-level work from an organization you likely won’t be affiliated with for more than a few months. So why are they so useful, and why is competition for them often so fierce?

The answer is that the benefits of an internship goes far beyond an intern’s (often boring) day-to-day workload. Here are a few:

1) Insight Into a Career Track
There is no better way to learn whether a career track is right for you – or whether a particular field is right for you – than to observe and meet people who are in it, and to be in it yourself. Often, interns gain just as much, if not more, from shadowing and observing company staff as they do from completing their own assignments.

2) Connections
Being in a work environment in your desired field means being regularly exposed to professionals in that realm. Internships are great networking opportunities; the connections you make as an intern can potentially open doors to future internships, study and research opportunities, and even job positions after graduation.

3) Resume Boosters
Internships look great on resumes because they show that you haven’t just looked at a subject in theory through classes and textbooks – you’ve tried it out in practice and gained perspective on the practicalities, frustrations, and other everyday realities involved in that line of work. If you continue pursuing positions in that field, whether in the form of more internships or longer-term employment, having an internship on your resume tells potential employers that you understand the work you’re getting into and have useful skills and experience to apply to it.

4) Practice
In nearly every field, working life is very different from student life in terms of hours, expectations, environment, social surroundings, and more. As such, the transition from studying a field to working in it can be a difficult one. Interning helps you to transition more slowly into working life: having fewer responsibilities and less expected of you than other full-time staff will allow you space to learn time management, to adapt to a new rhythm of life and work, and to even make a few mistakes.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

Early Thoughts on Wharton’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

Wharton AdmissionsApplication season at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. This year Wharton has added an additional required essay question (as opposed to last year’s one required essay and one optional essay).

Essay 1:
What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

The Wharton School brings back this prompt again for another year, but this time with a bit of a change. Gone is the “personal” element of last year’s question, which will allow candidates the opportunity to focus directly on the impact a Wharton MBA will have on them professionally. The biggest trap in this prompt is to treat this question like the typical “career goals” essay – I caution against simply re-purposing responses to similar questions from other schools. This question implores candidates to really think through their planned professional development while at Wharton and the impact the Wharton MBA will have on them post-graduation.

This prompt is also asking you to think broadly, so don’t minimize your vision. Breakthrough candidates will utilize a very personal narrative that uniquely captures the essence of why Wharton is the ideal fit for the applicant’s development goals. Wharton is looking for specifics here about why their particular school is the best one for you, so avoid general statements that could be harbored by any candidate.

Think holistically about how the school will impact you – whether it is through skill development, specialized training, alumni access, or networking. Make sure the transformative effect that this program will have on your professional career is clear to the Admissions Committee.

Essay 2:
Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)
This prompt is all about “teamwork” and “impact,” and a successful essay will really align these two elements. Hone in on the unique aspects of your profile that relate to these to showcase how you will make a positive impact on the Wharton community – whether it is through academic, professional, social, or diverse means, think through what you will contribute and how this will positively affect others at Wharton.

Your ability to translate a past teamwork experience to your planned future contributions at Wharton is a good approach for this essay. Past performance will add additional validity to your claims if you can effectively connect the dots for the Admissions Committee. If you can specify which aspects of the Wharton community you will influence, that would be even better. The pillars of the Wharton MBA are clear, so align your narrative around impacting the school’s most important focus areas.

Just a few thoughts on this year’s essays prompts from Wharton – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Wharton and its application essays, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

Applying to Wharton or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and 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 articles by him here.

SAT Tip of the Week: Remember That the Test is Standardized

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe SAT, as all of you know, is a whole different animal compared to most tests you take. In terms of time, content, and structure, it’s definitely not your average high school exam. While this difference can serve to make the SAT seem particularly difficult, it can actually be a boon to test takers.

Whereas high school tests operate by their own rules and procedures that vary class-by-class and school-by-school, the SAT is by definition a standardized test. And although standardized tests are usually thought of as a drag, in this case standardization makes taking the SAT a lot easier.

Since the SAT is standardized, it has to operate the same way every time – it always plays by the same rules, always has similar types of questions, always has the same instructions, and so on. How is this information helpful to a test taker? Here are three ways to use this knowledge to your advantage:

1) There are no surprises.
Since the SAT has to operate by the same rules on each of its versions, you know what you’re going to get on each exam. There are limited and delineated areas of content, so there’s no chance a question on advanced calculus will show up on your test. Keeping this consistency in mind can help alleviate some stress about the SAT, since you know that if you’ve studied hard, you’ll be prepared for anything the College Board throws at you.

2) Answer choices have to be totally and completely defensible.
Since the test is strictly standardized, there can only be one right answer on each question. Let me say that again: there can only be one right answer per question! No other answer choice besides the right one can be at all correct. If there were answers that were debatable or questionable, then the standardization mechanism of the test would fall apart – there would be no way for the College Board to definitively say who scored better or worse if some questions had two answer possibilities.

So, when taking the test, know that if you find yourself stuck between two answer choices, then you’re thinking about the question wrong in some way. While it can be hard on the ego to admit this, it will help you re-frame these difficult questions in your head and be more confident in your ultimate answers. 

3) Practice really can make perfect (or at least better).  
Going along with the first point, since you know what general questions are going to be on the test, you can know that you are practicing the right things. Unlike some high school tests where you spend days studying only to realize the test isn’t what you thought it was going to be, on the SAT, the real tests will look exactly like the practice tests. So, the more you practice, the more you’ll be prepared for the real thing – it’s as simple as that!

Instead of thinking of the standardization and repetitiveness of the SAT as annoying, now you can know that it is this exact standardization that makes it easier to succeed on this challenging exam.

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

How to Reach a 99th Percentile GMAT Score Using No New Academic Strategies

Pump UpLast week I received an email from an old student who’d just retaken the GMAT. He was writing to let me know that he’d just received a 770. Of course, I was ecstatic for him, but I was even more excited once I considered what his journey could mean for other students.

His story is a fairly typical one: like the vast majority of GMAT test-takers, he enrolled in the class looking to hit a 700. His scores improved steadily throughout the course, and when he took the test the first time, he’d received a 720, which was in line with his last two practice exams. After he finished the official test, he called me – both because he was feeling pretty good about his score but also because a part of him was sure he could do better.

My feeling at the time was that there really wasn’t any pressing need for a retake: a 720 is a fantastic score, and once you hit that level of success, the incremental gains of an improvement begin to suffer from the law of diminishing returns. Still, when you’re talking about the most competitive MBA programs, you want any edge you can get. Moreover, he’d already made up his mind. He wanted to retake.

Part of his decision was rooted in principle. He was sure he could hit the 99th percentile, and he wanted to prove it to himself. The problem, he noted, was that he’d already mastered the test’s content. So if there was nothing left for him to learn, how did he jump to the 99th percentile?

The answer can be found in the vast body of literature enumerating the psychological variables that influence test scores. We like to think of tests as detached analytic tools that measure how well we’ve mastered a given topic. In reality, our mastery of the content is one small aspect of performance.

Many of us know this from experience – we’ve all had the experience of studying hard for a test, feeling as though we know everything cold, and then ending up with a score that didn’t seem to reflect how well we’d learned the material. After I looked at the research, it was clear that the two most important psychological variables were 1) confidence and 2) how well test-takers managed test anxiety. (And there’s every reason to believe that those two variables are interconnected.)

I’ve written in the past about how a mindfulness meditation practice can boost test day performance. I’ve also written about how perceiving anxiety as excitement, rather than as a nefarious force that needs to be conquered, has a similarly salutary effect. Recently I came across a pair of newer studies.

In one, researchers found that when students wrote in their journals for 10 minutes about their test-taking anxiety the morning of their exams, their scores went up substantially. In another, the social psychologist Amy Cuddy found that body language had a profound impact on performance in all sorts of domains. For example, her research has revealed that subjects who assumed “power poses” for two minutes before a job interview projected more confidence during the interview and were better able to solve problems than a control group that assumed more lethargic postures. (To see what these power poses look like, check out Cuddy’s fascinating Ted talk here.) Moreover, doing power poses actually created a physiological change, boosting testosterone and reducing the stress hormone Cortisol.

Though her research wasn’t targeted specifically at test-takers, there’s every reason to believe that there would be a beneficial effect for students who practiced power poses before an exam. Many teachers acquainted with Cuddy’s research now recommend that their students do this before tests.

So the missing piece of the puzzle for my student was simply confidence. His strategies hadn’t changed. His knowledge of the core concepts was the same. The only difference was his psychological approach. So now I’m recommending that all of my students do the following to cultivate an ideal mindset for producing their best possible test scores:

  1. Perform mindfulness meditation for the two weeks leading up to the exam.
  2. Reframe test-day anxiety as excitement.
  3. Spend 10 minutes the morning of the test writing in a journal.
  4. Practice two minutes of power poses in the waiting room before sitting for the exam and between the Quant and Verbal section.

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

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles written by him here.

Early Thoughts on Columbia Business School’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

Columbia UniversityApplication season at Columbia Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. There are three full essay questions and one shorter prompt for Columbia, which leaves this school with one of the lengthier application packages around.

With all these essays, it is crucial that applicants present their candidacy in a very clear yet non-redundant fashion. Let’s take a look at each of the essay questions Columbia is asking this year:

Goal:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
Given the tight character limit to this prompt, keep your response here short and sweet. Most of the context you would normally provide in such a response will find a home in your response to Essay 1.

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? (100-750 words)

This is basically the same prompt for Essay 1 as last year, but with greater flexibility on the word count, which now spans from 100-750 words as opposed to last year’s 500-word limit. Do not feel it is absolutely necessary to hit the upward bounds of the new word count just because you have the option – efficiency and impactful messaging always reigns supreme in business school essays.

Columbia’s first essay question falls into the typical “career goals” essay category – the key difference here will be a focus on the future and your post-MBA career, so avoid placing too much of an emphasis on your past professional career. Remember, the Admissions Committee will already have your resume and thus, some sense of your past, so avoid rehashing your background (outside of providing any necessary context).

With this in mind, presenting both your short-term and long-term career goals in a well-aligned and clearly articulated way will be key to executing this essay successfully. Probably even more important, (given the ubiquity of your career goals), is the “fit” aspect of the essay. Breakthrough candidates will cite specific references to Columbia’s professional, academic, and extra-curricular programs that will support their development goals. With so much competition between business schools, it is critical to make a strong case that you will fit well with Columbia’s particular MBA program.

Essay 2:
Columbia Business School’s students participate in industry focused New York immersion seminars, in project based Master Classes, and in school year internships. Most importantly, they are taught by a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (100-500 words)

Columbia comes back this year with a slight tweak to Essay 2 with the ultimate prompt effectively being the same. Columbia is uniquely positioned at the heart of business in NYC, which has lured many applicants to this top program for years. Use this essay as an opportunity to avoid generalities about NYC that other applicants may make, and get specific about how Columbia’s unique location in NYC will serve as a clear advantage in your personal and professional career, and specifically during your time on campus. This essay can also be used to build upon your response to Essay 1. 

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? (100-250 words)

This question is a great chance to let your personality shine through. This is the shortest of the three full essays so every word counts – take advantage of this more open essay prompt and really try and give the Admissions Committee some “behind the scenes” insight into the type of person your classmates will meet in the Fall of 2017.  Use this essay as the platform to differentiate yourself, and remember to keep your tone light and authentic to give the school a better understand of who you are and how you will fit as a member of their incoming MBA class.

Just a few thoughts on the (not so) new batch of essays from Columbia Business School – hopefully this will help you get started with your own application. For more thoughts on Columbia and its application essays, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

Applying to Columbia or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook,YouTubeGoogle+ and 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 articles by him here.

How to Go From a 48 to 51 in GMAT Quant – Part VII

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomBoth a test-taker at the 48 level and one at the 51 level in the GMAT Quant section, are conceptually strong – given an unlimited time frame, both will be able to solve most GMAT questions correctly. The difference lies in the two things a test-taker at the 51 level does skillfully:

  1. Uses holistic, big-picture methods to solve Quant questions.
  2. Handles questions he or she finds difficult in a timely manner.

We have been discussing holistic methods on this blog for a long time now and will continue discussing them. (Before you continue reading, be sure to check out parts I, II, III, IVV and VI of this series.)

Today we will focus on “handling the hard questions in a timely manner.” Note that we do not say “solving the hard questions in a timely manner.” Occasionally, one might be required to make a quick call and choose to guess and move on – but again, that is not the focus of this post. We are actually going to talk about the “lightbulb” moment that helps us save on time. There are many such moments for the 51 level test-taker – in fact, the 51 scorers often have time left over after attempting all these questions.

Test takers at the 48 level will also eventually reach the same conclusions but might need much more time. That will put pressure on them the next time they look at the ticking clock, and once their cool is lost, “silly errors” will start creeping in. So it isn’t about just that one question – one can end up botching many other questions too.

There are many steps that can be easily avoided by a lightbulb moment early on. This is especially true for Data Sufficiency questions.

Let’s take an official example:

Pam owns an inventory of unopened packages of corn and rice, which she has purchased for $17 and $13 per package, respectively. How many packages of corn does she have ?

Statement 1: She has $282 worth of packages.

Statement 2: She has twice as many packages of corn as of rice.

A high scorer will easily recognize that this question is based on the concept of “integral solutions to an equation in two variables.” Since, in such real world examples, x and y cannot be negative or fractional, these equations usually have a finite number of solutions.

After we find one solution, we will quickly know how many solutions the equation has, but getting the first set of values that satisfy the equation requires a little bit of brute force.

The good thing here is that this is a Data Sufficiency question – you don’t need to find the actual solution. The only thing we need is to establish that there is a single solution only. (Obviously, there has to be a solution since Pam does own $282 worth of packages.)

So, the test-taker will start working on finding the first solution (using the method discussed in this post). We are told:

Price of a packet of corn = $17
Price of a packet of rice = $13

Say Pam has “x” packets of corn and “y” packets of rice.

Statement 1: She has $282 worth of packages

Using Statement 1, we know that 17x + 13y = 282.

We are looking for the integer values of x and y.

If x = 0, y will be 21.something (not an integer)
If x = 1, y = 20.something
If x = 2, y = 19.something
If x = 3, y = 17.something

This is where the 51 level scorer stops because they never lose sight of the big picture. The “lightbulb” switches on, and now he or she knows that there will be only one set of values that can satisfy this equation. Why? Because y will be less than 17 in the first set of values that satisfies this equation. So if we want to get the next set that satisfies, we will need to subtract y by 17 (and add 13 to x), which will make y negative.

So in any case, there will be a unique solution to this equation. We don’t actually need to find the solution and hence, nothing will be gained by continuing these calculations. Statement 1 is sufficient.

Statement 2: She has twice as many packages of corn as of rice.

Statement 2 gives us no information on the total number of packages or the total amount spent. Hence, we cannot find the total number of packages of corn using this information alone. Therefore, our answer is A.

I hope you see how you can be alert to what you want to handle these Quant questions in a timely manner.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

GMAT Tip of the Week: The Overly Specific Question Stem

GMAT Tip of the WeekFor most of our lives, we ask and answer relatively generic questions: “How’s it going?” “What are you up to this weekend?” “What time do the Cubs play tonight?”

And think about it, what if those questions were more specific: “Are you in a melancholy mood today?” “Are you and Josh going to dinner at Don Antonio’s tonight and ordering table-side guacamole?” “Do the Cubs play at 7:05 tonight on WGN?” If someone is asking those questions instead, you’re probably a bit suspicious. Why so specific? What’s your angle?

The same is true on the GMAT. Most of the question stems you see are relatively generic: “What is the value of x?” “Which of the following would most weaken the author’s argument?” So when the question stem get a little too specific, you should become a bit suspicious. What’s the test going for there? Why so specific?

The overly-specific Critical Reasoning question stem is a great example. Consider the problem:

Raisins are made by drying grapes in the sun. Although some of the sugar in the grapes is caramelized in the process, nothing is added.
Moreover, the only thing removed from the grapes is the water that evaporates during the drying, and water contains no calories or nutrients.
The fact that raisins contain more iron per food calorie than grapes do is thus puzzling.

Which one of the following, if true, most helps to explain why raisins contain more iron per calorie than do grapes?

(A) Since grapes are bigger than raisins, it takes several bunches of grapes to provide the same amount of iron as a handful of raisins does.
(B) Caramelized sugar cannot be digested, so its calories do not count toward the food calorie content of raisins.
(C) The body can absorb iron and other nutrients more quickly from grapes than from raisins because of the relatively high water content of grapes.
(D) Raisins, but not grapes, are available year-round, so many people get a greater share of their yearly iron intake from raisins than from grapes.
(E) Raisins are often eaten in combination with other iron-containing foods, while grapes are usually eaten by themselves.

Look at that question stem: a quick scan naturally shows you that you need to explain/resolve a paradox, but the question goes into even more detail for you. It reaffirms the exact nature of the paradox – it’s not about “iron,” but instead that that raisins contain more iron per calorie than grapes do. By adding that extra description into the question stem, the testmaker is practically yelling at you, “Make sure you consider calories…don’t just focus on iron!” And therefore, you should be prepared for the correct answer B, the only one that addresses calories, and deftly avoid answers A, C, D, and E, which all focus only on iron (and do so tangentially to the paradox).

Strategically speaking, if a Critical Reasoning question stem gets overly specific, you should pay particular attention to the specificity there…it’s most likely directing you to the operative portion of the argument.

Overly specific questions are most helpful in Data Sufficiency questions (and that same logic will help on Problem Solving too, as you’ll see). The testmaker knows that you’ve trained your entire algebraic life to solve for individual variables. So how can a question author use that lifetime of repetition against you? By asking you to solve for a specific combination that doesn’t require you to find the individual values. Consider this example, which appears courtesy the Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review:

If x^2 + y^2 = 29, what is the value of (x – y)^2?

(1) xy = 10
(2) x = 5

Two major clues should stand out to you that you need to Leverage Assets on this problem. For one, using both statements together (answer choice C) is dead easy. If xy = 10 and x = 5 then y = 2 and you can solve for any combination of x and y that anyone could ever ask for. But secondly and more subtly, the question stem should jump out as a classic way-too-specific, Leverage Assets question stem. They asked for a really, really specific value: (x – y)^2.

Now, immediately upon seeing that specificity you should be thinking, “That’s too specific…there’s probably a way to solve for that exact value without getting x and y individually.” That thought process alone tells you where to spend your time – you want to really leverage Statement 1 to try to make it work alone.

And if you’re still unconvinced, consider what the specificity does: the “squared” portion removes the question of negative vs. positive from the debate, removing one of the most common reasons that a seemingly-sufficient statement just won’t work. And, furthermore, the common quadratic (x – y)^2 shares an awful lot in common with the x^2 and y^2 elsewhere in the question stem. If you expand the parentheses, you have “What is x^2 – 2xy + y^2?” meaning that you’re already 2/3 of the way there (so to speak), since they’ve spotted you the sum x^2 + y^2.

The important strategy here is that the overly-specific question stem should scream “LEVERAGE ASSETS” and “You don’t need to solve for x and y…there’s probably a way to solve directly for that exact combination.” Since you know that you’re solving for the expanded x^2 – 2xy + y^2, and you already know that x^2 + y^2 = 29, you’re really solving for 29 – 2xy. Since you know from Statement 1 that xy = 20, then 29 – 2xy will be 29 – 2(10), which is 9.

Statement 1 alone is sufficient, even though you don’t know what x and y are individually. And one of the major signals that you should recognize to help you get there is the presence of an overly specific question stem.

So remember, in a world of generic questions, the oddly specific question should arouse a bit of suspicion: the interrogator is up to something! On the GMAT, you can use that to your advantage – an overly specific Critical Reasoning question usually tells you exactly which keywords are the most important, and an overly specific Data Sufficiency question stem begs for you to leverage assets and find a way to get the most out of each statement.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Should You Wait One More Year to Apply to Business School?

stopwatch“Should I wait another year?” This is a common question among many MBA aspirants. On the one hand, you are raring to achieve the goals that have inspired you to consider business school in the first place; on the other, however, you are wondering how much another year of preparing and additional experiences might help your admissions chances. And of course, your other life priorities – such as personal and family relationships – are also major considerations.

You may find yourself feeling impatient with the desire to move forward, while battling your nerves to leave your current path and start anew. Managing your emotions to think clearly and objectively is important in making this critical decision. (Treat this also as good practice for more life-changing and career-defining decisions later on.)

So, what should you consider in deciding whether or not to wait one more year before applying to business school?

1) Reflection on Personal Goals
Many applicants, especially younger ones, are unsure of their current paths, and thus, they pursue business school as a chance to open up potential career opportunities. However, you would do well to learn more about the possibilities that will actually be available to you post-MBA before applying.

How realistic are your target goals given your background, interests, and skills? Is this really the job that you want to hold long-term? Taking the time to answer these questions by researching, networking, and reflecting on yourself could go a long way in making the most out of the time, money, and effort you will be investing in your MBA plans. Afterwards, if you still feel uncertain, it would be best not to rush into applying to business school.

2) Improving Your GMAT Score
Candidates whose GMAT scores are way below their target school’s average need to reconsider retaking the GMAT if they want to increase their odds of acceptance. Depending on your assessment of how much higher you can score, and the amount of time needed (and available) for studying, waiting one more year to try and score closer to the school’s average could be a good reason to defer your application.

3) Accelerating Personal Development
What does your next year look like if you don’t go to business school? Would there be great opportunities to take on large-scale responsibilities at work? Or unique experiences to gain? Or a potential promotion to earn?

If the answer to any of these is “Yes!” then it could be worth it to stay another year, as these possibilities can fast-track your career and development. They might also result in stronger recommendation letters from your superiors or cement your reputation as a high potential executive in your company or industry – all factors that the Admissions Committee will notice when reviewing your future application. And depending on where you work, this may even lead to your company offering sponsorship for your MBA when you decide to pursue it later.

Weigh all of these considerations carefully, as they could affect not only your chances at achieving your MBA, but also your future career prospects afterwards.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

Early Thoughts on Harvard Business School’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Question

Harvard Business SchoolApplication season at Harvard Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this year’s new essay prompt. HBS is mixing it up again this year with a slightly different essay prompt that maintains the same spirit of last year’s essay question. With only one question, it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available, here.

Essay 1:
As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program? (no word limit)
Open-ended prompts such as this are often the most stressful type of essay question MBA applicants receive – couple that with the inherent pressure that comes with applying to Harvard, and this essay may be viewed as one of the more nerve-wracking questions of the application season. The challenge here for many will be just the sheer simplicity of this question. This essay prompt is a good example of why it is important to really just pay attention to the advice the HBS Admissions Committee offers:

“Don’t overthink, over-craft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.”

HBS has really gone out of its way, particularly through Dee Leopold’s blog (soon to become Chad Losee’s blog), to emphasize a desire for authenticity and transparency in the essay-writing process. Candidates who are able to channel their approach in a compelling and natural way will stand out from the flock of impersonal, inauthentic and overly-curated essays the school is bound to see.

This approach tends to fly in the face of what the expectation is at other business schools, but in this case, candidates who are unable to adhere to the guidance provided by the school will struggle with securing admission to HBS. Breakthrough candidates will answer this specific question posed in the manner the school has outlined – your response should be brief, conversational, and really provide the Admissions Committee with insight into aspects of “you” that are not currently represented elsewhere in the application.

Harvard has set the tone of an almost casual “blog-style” approach to their essay, and last year, even focused their prompt around having candidates write from the perspective of communicating with their future classmates. Even though the prompt, itself, is a bit different this year, maintain the spirit of this communication style to really make your essay stand out. At its core, this question is honestly about getting to know you, so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft a seemingly “perfect” but dispassionate 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 and its application essay, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

Applying to Harvard or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and 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 articles by him here.

Don’t Swim Against the Arithmetic Currents on the GMAT Quant Section

MalibuWhen I was a child, I was terrified of riptides. Partially, this was a function of having been raised by unusually neurotic parents who painstakingly instilled this fear in me, and partially this was a function of having inherited a set of genes that seems to have predisposed me towards neuroticism. (The point, of course, is that my parents are to blame for everything. Perhaps there is a better venue for discussing these issues.)

If there’s a benefit to fears, it’s that they serve as potent motivators to find solutions to the troubling predicaments that prompt them. The solution to dealing with riptides is to avoid struggling against the current. The water is more powerful than you are, so a fight is a losing proposition – rather, you want to wait for an opportunity to swim with the current and allow the surf to bring you back to shore. There’s a profound wisdom here that translates to many domains, including the GMAT.

In class, whenever we review a strategy, my students are usually comfortable applying it almost immediately. Their deeper concern is about when to apply the strategy, as they’ll invariably find that different approaches work with different levels of efficacy on different problems. Moreover, even if one has a good strategy in mind, the way the strategy is best applied is often context-dependent. When we’re picking numbers, we can say that x = 2 or x = 100 or x = 10,000; the key is not to go in with a single approach in mind. Put another way, don’t swim against the arithmetic currents.

Let’s look at some questions to see this approach in action:

At a picnic there were 3 times as many adults as children and twice as many women as men. If there was a total of x men, women, and children at the picnic, how many men were there, in terms of x?

A) x/2
B) x/3
C) x/4
D) x/5
E) x/6

The moment we see “x,” we can consider picking numbers. The key here is contemplating how complicated the number should be. Swim with the current – let the question tell you. A quick look at the answer choices reveals that x could be something simple. Ultimately, we’re just dividing this value by 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.

Keeping this in mind, let’s think about the first line of the question. If there are 3 times as many adults as children, and we’re keeping things simple, we can say that there are 3 adults and 1 child, for a total of 4 people. So, x = 4.

Now, we know that among our 3 adults, there are twice as many women as men. So let’s say there are 2 women and 1 man. Easy enough. In sum, we have 2 women, 1 man, and 1 child at this picnic, and a total of 4 people. The question is how many men are there? There’s just 1! So now we plug x = 4 into the answers and keep going until we find x = 1. Clearly x/4 will work, so C is our answer. The key was to let the question dictate our approach rather than trying to impose an approach on the question.

Let’s try another one:

Last year, sales at Company X were 10% greater in February than in January, 15% less in March than in February, 20% greater in April than in March, 10% less in May than in April, and 5% greater in June than in May. On which month were sales closes to the sales in January?

A) February
B) March
C) April
D) May
E) June

Great, you say. It’s a percent question. So you know that picking 100 is often a good idea. So, let’s say sales in January were 100. If we want the month when sales were closest to January’s level, we want the month when sales were closest to 100, Sales in February were 10% greater, so February sales were 110. (Remember that if sales increase by 10%, we can multiply the original number by 1.1. If they decrease by 10% we could multiply by 0.9, and so forth.)

So far so good. Sales in March were 15% less than in February. Well, if sales in Feb were 110, then the sales in March must be 110*(0.85). Hmm… A little tougher, but not insurmountable. Now, sales in April were 20% greater than they were in March, meaning that April sales would be 110*(0.85)*1.2. Uh oh.  Once you see that sales are 10% less in May than they were in April, we know that sales will be 110*(0.85)*1.2*0.9.

Now you need to stop. Don’t swim against the current. The arithmetic is getting hard and is going to become time-consuming. The question asks which month is closest to 100, so we don’t have to calculate precise values. We can estimate a bit. Let’s double back and try to simplify month by month, keeping things as simple as possible.

Our February sales were simple: 110. March sales were 110*0.85 – an unpleasant number. So, let’s try thinking about this a little differently. 100*0.85 = 85.  10*0.85 = 8.5. Add them together and we get 85 + 8.5 = 93.5.  Let’s make life easier on ourselves – we’ll round up, and call this number 94.

April sales are 20% more than March sales. Well, 20% of 100 is clearly 20, so 20% of 94 will be a little less than that. Say it’s 18. Now sales are up to 94 + 18 = 112. Still not close to 100, so we’ll keep going.

May sales are 10% less than April sales. 10% of 112 is about 11. Subtract 11 from 112, and you get 101. We’re looking for the number closest to 100, so we’ve got our answer – it’s D, May.

Takeaway: Don’t try to impose your will on GMAT questions. Use the structural clues of the problems to dictate how you implement your strategy, and be prepared to adjust midstream. The goal is never to conquer the ocean, but rather, to ride the waves to calmer waters.

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

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles written by him here.

Help! My Practice Test Score Seems Wrong!

MBA Interview QuestionsSo you’ve taken your GMAT practice test, looked at your score, and investigated a little further. If you’re like many GMAT candidates, you’ve tried to determine how your score was calculated by:

  • Looking at the number you answered correctly vs. the number you answered incorrectly, and comparing that to other tests you’ve taken.
  • Analyzing your “response pattern” – how many correct answers did you have in a row? Did you have any strings of consecutive wrong answers?

And if you’ve taken at least a few practice tests, you’ve probably encountered at least one exam for which you looked at your score, looked at those dimensions above, and thought “I think my score is flawed” or “I think the test is broken.” If you’re taking a computer-adaptive exam powered by Item Response Theory (such as the official GMAT Prep tests or the Veritas Prep Practice Tests), here’s why your perception of your score may not match up with your actual, valid score:

The number of right/wrong answers is much less predictive than you think.
Your GMAT score is not a function of the number you answered correctly divided by the number you answered overall. Its adaptive nature is more sophisticated than that – essentially, its job is to serve you questions that help it narrow in on your true score. And to do so, it has to test your upper threshold by serving you questions that you’ll probably get wrong. For example, say your true score is an incredibly-high 790. Your test might look something like:

Are you better than average?  (You answer a 550-level question correctly.)

Ok, are you better than a standard deviation above average? (You answer a 650-level question correctly.)

Ok, you’re pretty good. But are you better than 700 good?  (you answer a 700-level question correctly)

Wow you’re really good.  But are you 760+ good? (You answer a 760 level question correctly.)

If you’re 760+ level are you better or worse than 780? (You answer a 780-level question correctly.)

Well, here goes…are you perfect? (You answer an 800-level question incorrectly.)

Ok, so maybe one or more of those earlier questions was a fluke. Are you better than 760? (You answer a 760 question correctly.)

Are you sure you’re not an 800-level student? (You answer 800 incorrectly.)

Ok, but you’re definitely better than 780, right? (You answer a 780 correctly.)

Are you sure you’re not 800-level? (You answer an 800-level question incorrectly.)

And this goes on, because it has to ask you 37 Quant and 41 Verbal questions, so as the test goes on and you answer you own ability level correctly, it then has to ask the next level up to see if it should increase its estimate of your ability.

The point being: because the system is designed to hone in on your ability level, just about everyone misses several questions along the way. The percentage of questions you answer correctly is not a good predictor of your score, because aspects like the difficulty level of each question carry substantial weight. So don’t simply count rights/wrongs on the test, because that practice omits the crucial IRT factor of difficulty level.

Now, savvier test-takers will then often take this next logical step: “I looked at my response pattern of rights/wrongs and based on that it looks like the system should give me a higher score than it did.” Here’s the problem with that:

Of the “ABCs” of Item Response Theory, Difficulty Level is Only One Element (B)…
…and even at that, it’s not exactly “difficulty level” that matters, per se. Each question in an Item Response Theory exam carries three metrics along with it, the A-parameter, B-parameter, and C-parameter. Essentially, those three parameters measure:

A-parameter: How heavily should the system value your performance on this one question?

Like most things with “big data,” computer adaptive testing deals in probabilities. Each question you answer gives the system a better sense of your ability, but each comes with a different degree of certainty.  Answering one item correctly might tell the system that there’s a 70% likelihood that you’re a 700+ scorer while answering another might only tell it that there’s a 55% likelihood. Over the course of the test, the system incorporates those A-parameters to help it properly weight each question.

For example, consider that you were able to ask three people for investment advice: “Should I buy this stock at $20/share?” Your friend who works at Morgan Stanley is probably a bit more trustworthy than your brother who occasionally watches CNBC, but you don’t want to totally throw away his opinion either. Then, if the third person is Warren Buffet, you probably don’t care at all what the other two had to say; if it’s your broke uncle, though, you’ll weight him at zero and rely more on the opinions of the other two. The A-parameter acts as a statistical filter on “which questions should the test listen to most closely?”

B-parameter: This is essentially the “difficulty” metric but technically what it measures is more “at which ability level is this problem most predictive?”

Again, Item Response Theory deals in probabilities, so the B-parameter is essentially measuring the range of ability levels at which the probability of a correct answer jumps most dramatically. So, for example, on a given question, 25% of all examinees at the 500-550 level get it right; 35% of all those at the 550-600 level get it right; but then 85% of users between 600 and 650 get it right. The B-parameter would tell the system to serve that to examinees that it thinks are around 600 but wants to know whether they’re more of a 580 or a 620, because there’s great predictive power right around that 600 line.

Note that you absolutely cannot predict the B-parameter of a question simply by looking at the percentage of people who got it right or wrong! What really matters is who got it right and who got it wrong, which you can’t tell by looking at a single number. If you could go under the hood of our testing system or another CAT, you could pretty easily find a question that has a “percent correct” statistic that doesn’t seem to intuitively match up with that item’s B-parameter. So, save yourself the heartache of trying to guess the B-parameter, and trust that the system knows!

C-parameter: How likely is it that a user will guess the correct answer? Naturally, with 5 choices this metric is generally close to 20%, but since people often don’t guess quite “randomly” this is a metric that varies slightly and helps the system, again, determine how to weight the results.

With that mini-lesson accomplished, what does that mean for you? Essentially, you can’t simply look at the progression of right/wrong answers on your test and predict how that would turn into a score. You simply don’t know the A value and can only start to predict the “difficulty levels” of each problem, so any qualitative prediction of “this list of answers should yield this type of score” doesn’t have a high probability of being accurate.  Furthermore, there’s:

Question delivery values “content balance” more than you think.
If you followed along with the A/B/C parameters, you may be taking the next logical step which is, “But then wouldn’t the system serve the high A-value (high predictive power) problems first?” which would then still allow you to play with the response patterns for at least a reasonable estimate. But that comes with a bit more error than you might think, largely because the test values a fair/even mix of content areas a bit more than people realize.

Suppose, for example, that you’re not really all that bright, but you had the world’s greatest geometry teacher in high school and have enough of a gambling addiction that you’re oddly good with probability. If your first several – high A-value – problems are Geometry, Probability, Geometry, Geometry, Geometry, Probability… you might get all three right and have the test considering you a genius with such predictive power that it never actually figures out that you’re a fraud.

To make sure that all subject areas are covered and that you’re evaluated fairly, the test is programmed to put a lot of emphasis on content balancing, even though it means you’re not always presented with the single question that would give the system the most information about you.

If you have already seem a lot of Geometry questions and no Probability questions, and the best (i.e., highest A-value) question at the moment is another Geometry question, then the system may very well choose a Probability question. The people who program the test don’t give the system a lot of leeway in this regard—all topics need to be covered at about the same rate from one test taker to the next.

So simply put: Some questions count more than others, and they may come later in the test as opposed to earlier, so you can’t quite predict which problems carry the most value.

Compounding that is:

Some questions don’t count at all.
On the official GMAT and on the Veritas Prep Practice Tests, some questions are delivered randomly for the express purpose of gathering information to determine the A, B, and C parameters for use in future tests. These problems don’t count at all toward your score, so your run of “5 straight right answers” may only be a run of 3 or 4 straight.

And then of course there is the fact that:

Every test has a margin of error.
The official GMAT suggests that your score is valid with a margin of error of +/- 30 points, meaning that if you score a 710 the test is extremely confident that your true ability is between 680 and 740, but also that it wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow you scored 690 or 720. That 710 represents the best estimate of your ability level for that single performance, but not an absolutely precise value.

Similarly, any practice test you take will give you a good prediction of your ability level but could vary by even 30-40 points on either side and still be considered an exceptionally good practice test.

So for the above reasons, a test administered using Item Response Theory is difficult to try to score qualitatively: IRT involves several metrics and nuances that you just can’t see. And, yes, some outlier exams will not seem to pass the “sniff test” – the curriculum & instruction team here at Veritas Prep headquarters has seen its fair share of those, to be sure.

But time and time again the data demonstrates that Item Response Theory tests provide very reliable estimates of scores; a student whose “response pattern” and score seem incompatible typically follows up that performance with a very similar score amidst a more “believable” response pattern a week later.

What does that mean for you?

  • As hard as it is to resist, don’t spend your energy and study time trying to disprove Item Response Theory. The only score that really matters is the score on your MBA application, so use your time/energy to diagnose how you can improve in preparation for that test.
  • Look at your practice tests holistically. If one test doesn’t seem to give you a lot to go on in terms of areas for improvement, hold it up against the other tests you’ve taken and see what patterns stand out across your aggregate performance.
  • View each of your practice test scores more as a range than as an exact number. If you score a 670, that’s a good indication that your ability is in the 650-690 range, but it doesn’t mean that somehow you’ve “gotten worse” than last week when you scored a 680.

A personal note from the Veritas Prep Academics team:
Having worked with Item Response Theory for a few years now, I’ve seen my fair share of tests that don’t look like they should have received the score that they did. And, believe me, the first dozen or more times I saw that my inclination was, “Oh no, the system must be flawed!” But time and time again, when we look under the hood with the psychometricians and programmers who consulted on and built the system, Item Response Theory wins.

If you’ve read this far and are still angry/frustrated that your score doesn’t seem to match what your intuition tells you, I completely understand and have been there, too. But that’s why we love Item Response Theory and our relationship with the psychometric community: we’re not using our own intuition and insight to try to predict your score, but rather using the scoring system that powers the actual GMAT itself and letting that system assess your performance.

With Item Response Theory, there are certainly cases where the score doesn’t seem to precisely match the test, but after dozens of my own frustrated/concerned deep dives into the system I’ve learned to trust the system.  Don’t try to know more than IRT; just try to know more than most of the other examinees and let IRT properly assign you the score you’ve earned.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin and Scott Shrum.

4 Reasons to Consider a Part-Time MBA

scottbloomdecisionsWith the decision to pursue one’s MBA comes the equally large decision as to whether or not one should attend business school part-time or full-time.

While the majority of MBA applicants each year pursue the more traditional full-time MBA programs, there are many reasons that why a part-time MBA might be a better fit for you:

1) You Have a Below-Average Undergraduate Record
While your college record will, of course, still considered by part-time MBA programs, these types of programs tend to be more forgiving of poor college grades – especially if you attended college many years ago and you have had a lot of professional successes since then.

2) You Are a Career Enhancer
Are you looking to move ahead in your current industry or even within your company? Consider continuing to gain that work experience (and the salary and benefits that come with it) while attending a part-time MBA program. Additionally, many companies will offer continuing education benefits, so check with your current company to see if this is something they will provide.

3) You Work in a Family Business or Own Your Own Business
Rather than having to choose between ditching your family obligations or selling your business and attending school, why not do both? A part-time MBA program is great for those who want to continue working while they learn.

4) You Have Many Years of Work Experience
While part-time MBA students, on average, have only two more years of work experience than their full-time MBA counterparts, the spread tends to be much greater – with applicants’ experience ranging from two to twenty years. If you have a lot of work experience, you may find yourself alongside peers with more similar responsibilities and tenure in a part-time program than you would in a full-time classroom.

If any of the above sound like you, then you may find more success in a part-time MBA program than you would attending business school full time.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Nita Losoponkul, a Veritas Prep consultant for UCLA, received her undergraduate degree in Engineering from Caltech and went from engineering to operations to global marketing to education management/non-profit. Her non-traditional background allows her to advise students from many areas of study, and she has successfully helped low GPA students get admitted into UCLA. 

How to Find an Internship in 5 Steps

InterviewCollege students have heard a million times how important internships are for career development, and how wise it is to start looking for internships in college rather than to wait until after graduation. This is repeated so often because it’s good advice – often, the best way to get acquainted with, and get a head start in, a career field is to see it first-hand.

Finding an internship opportunity, however, can be difficult, as they’re not often well advertised. Here are are a few tips you can use to help you find the internship of your dreams:

1) Decide what you want to learn.
Are you looking for exposure to a particular field? Are you looking to gain certain skills? Choose a priority and let that guide your search. This is important because you’ll probably encounter plenty of internship opportunities that you aren’t interested in. Don’t be tempted to take on uninteresting internships just for he sake of completing an internship; poorly chosen internships can turn out to simply be a waste of both your time and your host organization’s time.

2) Find out about internships in your field of interest.
Talk to university advisers, friends or classmates (or do research on your own) to get some information about whether organizations in your field of interest offer internships, what kinds of internships exist, and what qualifications you might need to be eligible for them.

3) Get help from your school.
Ask the career center at your university, which may have alumni networks, job placement programs, information about internship fairs, and other resources that can aid you in your search.

4) Check with local companies or organizations.
Are there any specific organizations you’ve considered pursuing a career with? Check their websites to see if they offer internship opportunities. Even if they don’t, it’s worth giving them a call or paying their office a visit to ask, as many internship opportunities aren’t posted online.

5) Utilize your personal network.
Do you know anyone in your field of interest? Ask them if they know of any open internship opportunities you might be eligible for. If so, see if you can get application information or an introduction to the internship coordinator. If not, see if your contact might know anyone else in the field who might know of potential open internship opportunities.

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t immediately obtain an internship position with a large or well-known organization. Internships in large or famous organizations are not necessarily more interesting, more enriching, or more respectable than other internships. Choose your internship based on whether you think you can learn or gain something worthwhile from it.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

Our Early Thoughts on Stanford GSB’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

Stanford UniversityApplication season at Stanford GSB is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Stanford comes back with the same slate of essays from last year. Let’s discuss, from a high level, some early thoughts on how best to approach the essay prompts:

Essay 1:
What matters most to you, and why? (750 words)
For years, Stanford’s infamous open-ended essay prompt has been one of the most dreaded aspects of its application process. Stanford is one of the MBA programs that has ushered in the movement of using more “open” essay prompts in evaluating applicants – a trend that has taken hold among many other top programs.

Stanford, as much as any other program, seeks out candidates who can be introspective, self-reflective, and authentic when responding to their essays. The school provides clear guidance on how best to approach these, and it’s not meant to trick you or confuse you, but instead to do the opposite.

As communicated by the school, the “why” of your essay is much more important than the “what.” Stanford truly wants to know who you are, so keep your narrative personal and focus on the experiences that have truly shaped your reasons for applying.

Avoid the temptation to resort to common business school stories around work accomplishments, and instead focus on the things that have had the most impact on your life. Breakthrough candidates will utilize structured storytelling to craft a compelling narrative that brings the Stanford Admissions Committee deep into their world.

Essay 2:
Why Stanford? (400 words)
Essay 2 is the more traditional essay of the bunch, but even so, with Stanford you will want to avoid the typical boilerplate response and dive a bit deeper.

You will want to think about this prompt as really answering two questions: “Why an MBA?” and more specifically, “Why a Stanford MBA?” Be specific here – connect both your personal and professional development goals to the unique programs Stanford has and explain why they are crucial to your success. Breakthrough candidates will not only showcase their clear, well-aligned goals, but will also connect these goals with their personal passions to make their candidacy feel bigger than just business.

Stanford has historically clung to candidates that hold a more mission-based approach to their careers, so if there is some underlying passion inherent in your goals, do not be afraid to leverage that within this essay. Now, this does mean you should stretch the truth – keep your response as authentic as possible, but also keep in mind that Stanford has traditionally held a track record of looking for something special in their candidates.

Just a few thoughts on the new essay from Stanford – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Stanford and its essays, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

Applying to Stanford or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and 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 articles by him here.

How You Should Spend Your First Summer After College

Study on the BeachOkay, so you’ve just finished up your first year of college. It was (hopefully) awesome and you (hopefully) learned a lot, but now it’s time for summer. Glorious summer! Throughout middle and high school, summer vacation was always the peak of the year – a time to relax and enjoy the company of old friends without the incessant demands of school.

Now that you’re a college student, though, things can seem a little different. All of a sudden, you might feel pressure from your family, friends, or classmates to use your summer in a certain way. This often manifests itself in the form of pressure to further your career prospects via an internship, fellowship, or job shadowing.

While doing this may be important, it is not the only worthwhile way you can spend your first summer out of college. It is important to remember that it is your summer – not anyone else’s – so what you choose to do with it should be a reflection of the values that are important to you.

When you don’t let any narrative or stereotype limit what you feel you are “supposed” to do with your first summer, you will be more free to make the best choice available to you. There are 3 main ways that you can use this first summer, each of which have merits and drawbacks that I’ll explore below:

1) Summer Job
One classic way to pass the long summer hours is with a summer job. This can take many forms, such as scooping ice cream, being a camp counselor, working as a cashier, and much more. Businesses are always looking for young people to fill positions, so it’s likely that you’ll be able to find some form of work.

These jobs may not pay high wages, but they can be a great source of income, both to chip away at outrageous college debts or to just have some fun money to spend during the summer. They will also add work experience to your resume, and give you real-world skills that can be valuable outside of just that specific job.

2) Internship
Even though the pressure to find elite internships is often excessive, internships can be a valuable use of your time in the summer. Internships can connect you with career opportunities, help you learn what jobs are of interest to you, and give you skills that might be valuable down the road. However, internships are often unpaid, meaning that doing one is likely a long-term, rather than a short-term, investment in yourself. There are some paid internships out there (Go get one if you can!), but these are a rarity.

If possible, combining an internship with a part-time summer job can be a good way to have the best of both worlds – gain career skills while also raising money – but this can sometimes take too much time out of your summer, a time when you should be able to decompress after the rigors of college rather than add to your stress level.

3) Travel and Relaxation
College students are in a unique position, in that even though they are close to the “real world,” they still can put off searching for careers, if only for a little while. One great way to use your youth is to travel with friends or family to see new places or revisit childhood destinations. You’ll meet friends from all over the world in college, and summer is a great time to really see where they come from.

If you don’t have the opportunity to travel, you can also use your summer to completely relax. Without homework or classes, you will have time to read books, go on adventures, and give your brain a well-deserved break. Although this won’t earn you money or directly prepare you for a career, it can help clear you head and put you in a good position to continue learning from, and enjoying, your college experience.

Each of these ways of spending your summer has different values and benefits, so there is no way to definitely rank which one is best. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer – anything you choose to do over your summer vacation can work out if you approach it with the right mindset.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.