What is a “Good” Weakness to Put in Your MBA Application?

SAT/ACT“What are your weaknesses?”

Most MBA applicants find this to be the most difficult question to answer.

As professionals and entrepreneurs, we are trained to put our best foot forward in order to sell our businesses and ourselves. We think and rehearse how to best present our strengths, while hardly spending any time considering our weaknesses. Understandably, addressing this question during one’s MBA application essay or interview usually proves to be quite a challenge.

Asked to identify his weaknesses, a typical MBA applicant will ask him or herself two questions:

1) What should I avoid mentioning?
Everyone worries about giving an answer that will reveal a fatal flaw to the admissions committee and hurt one’s chances at being admitted to an MBA program. Thus, a frequent mistake is to answer this question using a fake weakness – saying something like, “I am too smart,” or, “I work too effectively,” does not really answer the question and will just irritate your audience. Presenting yourself as unrealistically perfect will also diminish the genuine strengths you have, and create doubt in the accomplishments you have discussed throughout the essays or the interview, as it makes you appear incapable of an honest self-assessment.

Another similar no-no is to blame somebody else for your weakness. Do not attribute a weakness solely to your work environment, personal circumstances, or ethnicity – this comes across as a reckless generalization and will not add any value to your case. It will also only shift the conversation into a negative tone and counter the strong, optimistic vibe that you want to be associated with.

2) What exactly are they looking for?
Admissions committees are looking for applicants who will greatly benefit from attending their school’s MBA program, and who can contribute to the experience of other MBA participants. Using this as a guide, the weakness question should be used to demonstrate character traits of self-awareness, ability to learn from failures, and open-mindedness to effectively use feedback and criticism.

An applicant should identify specific skills and knowledge gaps that he or she will need to work on in order to reach her post MBA goals – ideally, specifics of the target MBA program in terms of courses, culture, or community should be matched to these potential growth areas.

Executing this answer properly will put forth an honest reflection that shows genuine interest in a school’s MBA program and convinces the admissions committee that the applicant has really researched the school’s offering. Effectively demonstrating your potential to gain from, and contribute to, an MBA program through your personal story will help convince the admission committee of your fit with their school. Filling in details of how you have addressed your identified weakness or how you are in the process of doing so will also help show how proactive you are, and how you will greatly benefit from this particular MBA program.

A final tip: whenever you are asked about strengths and weaknesses in one question, whether in an essay or an interview, you must allocate time and space as evenly as possible between talking about the two. Most applicants spend 2/3 or more of the space they are given for strengths leaving little room to develop the weakness portion of the answer. This type of answer will look like it was just glossed over, and that the question was not answered adequately – it will also not allow you to make a proper case as to why you will benefit from the program.

A good answer to the “weakness” question strengthens your case to be admitted to your target MBA program even as you identify a real weakness. Skillfully weaving stories of your personal experiences, self-reflection, and vision through discussion of this weakness will make your profile unique and compelling to the admissions committee.

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.

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

Are You Too Young to Apply to Business School?

Make Studying FunBusiness school is one of the few power graduate degree programs where age and work experience play a key role in the admissions process as well as quality of the overall student community. Graduate programs in law and medicine often admit students right out of undergraduate university with no expectation of work experience, but with business school, age, maturity, and work experience often play a critical role in the assessment process.

As a younger candidate applying to business school, it is important that you think critically about how age factors into your chances and whether you are old enough – from both an age and maturity perspective – to compete for a spot at the top schools in the world. Let’s explore some of the aspects that should factor into this determination:

Career Clarity:
Is your rationale for applying to business school at this moment sound? Why is this year the ideal year for you? Could next year make more sense? Oftentimes, candidates will have set in their mind that they need to go to business school on a set time-table, as soon as possible – make sure your rationale is focused instead on an authentic reasoning for applying. Younger candidates are put under additional scrutiny to ensure they have really thought through why business school is the ideal next step in their career, so make sure you have a good answer for the Admissions Committee when thinking through this key question.

Work Experience:
Have you cultivated the requisite amount of quality professional work experience to contribute to an MBA classroom? It is not enough to just have the right GPA, GMAT score, and pedigree to apply – your ability to add value to the student community for your classmates is another critical element that the Admissions Committee will evaluate you on. With the increase in team-based assignments in business schools around the world, your ability to contribute to group and classroom educational dynamics is critical to the experience of others. If you have no work experiences to share during classroom discussions, it will be difficult for admissions to see you as a viable candidate.

Class Profile:
Historically, certain schools such as Harvard and Stanford have been unafraid to lean a bit younger in targeting potential MBA students. Understanding the reputation of your target program and investigating how its class profile may factor into admissions decisions can help you better curate your list of potential programs. The question of whether you are qualified or not still remains the most important, but by evaluating trends in class composition at your target program, you can save yourself a lot of precious time in the application process.

Use the criteria above to evaluate whether right now is truly the best time for you to apply to business school, and use this evaluation to stress in your applications why your young age will not hinder you in pursuing an MBA at this 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.

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

How to Seek Scholarships as an International MBA Candidate

moneyEvery year, the world’s top business schools become more and more expensive. There are various ways to pay for one’s MBA education, and for domestic students, the process is pretty straightforward. Many students will utilize loans as one of their primary forms of payments, others will pay out of pocket or enjoy the benefits of an employee sponsorship.

One of the most coveted forms of paying for an MBA is the scholarship, because it usually comes with no attached financial commitment to repay the money one is given. Now, these lucrative scholarships do not come easy, especially for international students. Free money is difficult to come by as is, but for international students, there are a few complicating factors.

The biggest challenge international students face with this process is the origin of the scholarship money – most scholarships that are applicable to MBAs at business schools in the United States usually come from domestic donors, and for this reason, the money is largely earmarked for domestic students. This leaves very little available money for international students. If you are an international student, make sure you use this information to research scholarships that are open to, or specifically target, international students.

Keep in mind, if you are applying from an over-represented group, this process may be even more competitive for you. With so many students applying for so little available money, attempting to secure a scholarship can be daunting, which makes it even more important to put your best foot forward in the application process (of course for admission purposes, but also for the limited available money). Candidates with top-notch profiles will obviously stand out in this phase of the process, as many scholarships are administered based on career potential and available scores and grades.

Do not limit your scholarship search simply to those provided by your school. Publicly available scholarships are certainly out there, and if your profile or career trajectory align with the requirements of the organization offering the scholarship, you may be “in the money.” Conducting a basic online search is a good way to find out what scholarships are available, and applicable, to you.

The best advice I can give to international students here is to try and get into the best and most reputed school possible – this will afford you the best career options and highest potential future income level, scholarship or not. Know the realities of the scholarship search and the unique challenges for international students, and set yourself up for success in securing financial support for your education.

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 of his articles here.

What to Do if You Are Waitlisted

Letter of RecommendationYou’ve made it through the admissions process, completed your interview, and think you have a good shot at being admitted. Instead, you get that discouraging letter that you aren’t in – at least, not yet. There is good news and bad news when it comes to being put on the waitlist for the business school of your dreams. The bad news is that you’ll have to wait a bit longer to get in. The good news is that the waitlist is not the death of your MBA admissions campaign.

Think of it as a new beginning, another chance to prove to the admissions committee why you are deserving of admittance to their school. Remember, business schools only put people on the waitlist who they think are good candidates and have the chance to be admitted. Very often it simply becomes a numbers game, and schools have to wait and see how students from your demographic are accepting or not accepting their admission offers. If you do end up on the waitlist, here are some tips for how you can help improve your situation:

Read the Waitlist Letter and Follow Its Instructions
Some schools will want you to follow up your waitlist letter with additional information, such as a new recommender, update on your job, or a progress report on classes you might be taking. However, some schools make it clear that they will reach out to you when the time comes, and do not want any further materials sent to them. Whatever they say, do it. Don’t think you’ll be able to get on the good side of the committee by reaching out to the admissions director with a “question” about your status. Follow the instructions that are given to you.

Asked for Additional Information?
If the waitlist letter does give you the chance to provide additional information, consider the following:

  • Providing an update on recent projects at work or sharing a recent promotion or achievement award.
  • Making clear how passionate you are about the school.
  • Showing how you have, or are addressing, shortfalls in your application. For example, do you know you have a low Quant score on the GMAT? Make sure you are taking some stats classes at your local community college to supplement this aspect of your application.

Have a Backup Plan
Now is the time to build a backup plan and put it into action. Whether that is applying to more schools, retaking the GMAT, or staying at your job for another year, you never want to leave yourself with no options.

Be Patient
No one likes being told “no,” and our first instinct is to make that person change his or her mind. However, Admissions Committees have been reviewing thousands of candidates for a long time – they know what they are looking for. Now is not the time to panic and risk embarrassing yourself with constant calls to the admissions office. Instead, focus on other applications you might be working on, maintain a high work output, and try to remain positive. Worst case scenario, you will be able to reapply next year.

Good luck, and if it’s meant to be, don’t hold the fact that you were put on the waitlist against the school. Just remember, your future MBA diploma won’t say anything about your previous waitlist status.

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.

How to Show Fit During the Interview Process at Kellogg

Kellogg School of ManagementIf you have received an interview invite to the prestigious Kellogg School of Management, then congratulations! Kellogg has historically been known as a program that really focuses on admitting “real people,” and thus, is one of the few top MBA programs that strives to interview every candidate. The program has long been known for its strong student community and this thorough interview process goes a long way in determining if potential candidates can make the cut in this area.

Hopefully, you have already conducted tons of research to prepare yourself for the big day. You know the ins and outs of the school’s academic programs, have a good handle of the recruiting advantages, and even have a comprehensive list of the top extra-curricular activities you’d like to lead. In addition to these factors, understanding the importance of fit at Kellogg is critical in identifying what the program looks for in potential candidates and how you can best position yourself for interview success. Let’s examine some key ways you can showcase fit to your Kellogg interviewer:

Intellectual Ability
This is business school, after all. Kellogg is looking for the best and the brightest, so it is important to project that you can hang academically, as well as bring a diverse point of view to the classroom. Utilizing professional anecdotes here can certainly do the trick, but the structure and style of your communication can also go a long way here.

Problem Solving Skills
Kellogg is looking for problem solvers! Whether in your personal or professional past, the school is looking for the type of people who can not only take on a challenge but also solve one. As a Kellogg MBA, you will be expected to solve some of the most challenging global problems in business, so showcase your track record here. For extra points, highlight instances where you solved problems in a group setting.

Leadership Experience
Although Kellogg has long been known as a top business school that emphasizes teamwork, leadership at the school is equally important. Focus specifically on your individual contributions as you regale the interviewer with your leadership experiences. Keep in mind, particularly for younger candidates, these experiences do not need to be limited to the professional side. Share your most impactful leadership experiences whether they are social, academic, or professional.

Values and Motivations
Kellogg is looking to admit people, so don’t be afraid to share personal aspects of who you are and what you value. A large part of your evaluation will be whether your personality and vibe can fit in at Kellogg, so don’t try to be anything other than yourself.

Extra-Curricular Activities
The Kellogg MBA is built on engagement, and as such, the school is seeking candidates who have shown a track record of engagement in the past as this signals a likelihood of being similarly engaged at Kellogg, and later on as an alum. Clearly articulate how you have engaged yourself in the past, as well as how you plan to engage yourself in the future as a Kellogg MBA. Be specific here, and make sure you have more than one example of your engagement goals at the school itself.

Interpersonal Skills
The ability to work with and lead others is core to all aspects of thriving in the student community at Kellogg. Although this may be the last criteria shared, it may actually be the most important. Don’t be afraid to include examples of how you have engaged with others in all aspects of your life, but remember, Kellogg will have a discerning eye for those inauthentic in this aspect of the evaluation. Also, how you carry yourself in person will be another key indicator if you have what it takes to join the Kellogg community, so keep this in mind.

Follow these tips so come interview day, you will be able to breeze through Kellogg’s interview process and put yourself one step closer to that MBA.

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 of his articles here.

The Rise of the Specialized Business Master’s Degree: What This Means for You

Admissions 101Many business schools around the world are suffering right now – the unprecedented hyper-growth of students obtaining MBA degrees has stalled. What was once the most popular graduate degree in the United States is slipping out of the spotlight, and many schools are doing what they can to try to cover their losses.

In recent years, many business schools have been introducing new specialized master’s degree programs to fill their deficits and cater to an ever-expanding market. While these programs are typically more rigorous than traditional MBA degrees, they also provide a host of benefits.

Times have been tough for many business schools lately. For example, Rochester University’s Simon School of Business recently slashed the cost of their two-year MBA program by 14%. Conversely, over half of the top 25 business schools have added specialized master’s programs within the last three years. This shift toward non-traditional graduate degrees is forecasted to gain even more momentum within the next few years.

Specialized master’s degrees are popping up in a variety of niches: finance, marketing, business analytics, big data, and supply chain management are examples of the most popular subjects of study. Approximately one fifth of business students worldwide will pursue these new types of degrees, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.

When compared to the traditional MBA, most of these programs appeal to recent undergrads as a way to “jumpstart” their career and stand out from the crowd, especially if they majored in a non-business degree program such as Liberal Arts or Engineering. Specialized master’s degrees typically cost much less than a traditional MBA and only take a year or less to complete. The GMAT or GRE is still required in most of these programs, but many do not require previous significant work experience.

This is an opportunistic path for students faced with circumstances that force them to begin their careers prematurely. Businesses favor those with specialized master’s degrees, as the student will typically be able to begin work quickly and with little training. The door to obtaining a formal MBA later in a student’s career remains open.

Mid-tier universities have suffered the most from the decline of MBA applicants, and have also seen the greatest increase in new master’s degree programs. Unfortunately, some of these programs have been poorly designed due to financial and external pressures. Even though specialized programs cost less than MBAs, they are still a significant investment that require a bit of research beforehand.

The business schools with the most successful specialized master’s degree programs have taken adequate time to prepare and develop their courses before offering them to the public. Look for schools that have demonstrated consideration for the long-term success of their students. Schools that offer career placement will typically be the best ones to choose, as they have formed a plan to ensure that your overall educational goals are met.

While this trend is predicted to continue to grow, specialized master’s degrees are not anticipated to eliminate the need for MBA graduates. As long as business students steer clear of poorly-designed courses, specialized degrees offer many benefits for some.

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.

The Risks of Cheating on Your MBA Application Essay

student reseachFor as long as schools have been requiring students to write essays, students have been trying to find ways to get out of doing them. We all know why: writing is tough! It requires skill, research, a lot of patience. and plenty of time.

Finding time in particular is always the most difficult part, especially because business school applicants have so many things going on at once. Between juggling their current jobs, creating multiple applications, studying for the GMAT and attending to personal obligations, it comes as no surprise that some students look for a shortcut when it comes time to writing their business school application essays.

Because of this, schools are on the lookout for students who are trying to cut corners, and there are many technological solutions that help them hunt down potential cheaters. For example, Penn State’s Smeal College of Business uses a software program called iParadigms that will test applications for cheating- about 8% of applicants are found to have cheated on their essays each year, according to Carrie Marcinkevage, the MBA managing director at Penn State. According to The Economist, almost 40 business schools are using such software.

What does this mean for MBA applicants? Despite the urge to cheat or the desperation to get into a top business school, plagiarism just is not worth it. Why? Well for starters, you will have no chance at being admitted to your school of choice if you are caught cheating. Even the most lackluster application has a greater than 0% at just about every school, but cheating is the one thing that will for sure keep your application out.

Secondly, if you do get in to a business school and are caught cheating later on, not only will you be kicked out of that school and lose a significant amount of money, but if you try to go to a different school in the future, your record of being kicked out of your previous school will follow you, and most likely be taken into consideration with your new application.

While not plagiarism, a different form of cheating has also become very prevalent in business school essays, but is possibly harder to detect: many applicants will now pay to have their essay written for them. Admission consultants are regularly asked if they will write an applicants essays for them, and the answer is always a resounding no.

Why is this just as bad an idea as traditional plagiarism? Well, if you aren’t capable of getting into a school on your own, it is probably not likely that you will succeed if you are admitted – a stranger writing your application essay for you will not change this.  Secondly, if you are admitted with the help of a stellar essay you did not write yourself, you could be taking away a spot from a far more deserving candidate who actually did the work on their own.

So while you might feel that your only way into business school is by taking shortcuts, rethink your decision to cheat. The best way to avoid the pressure that might cause you to take this path is to allow yourself plenty of time when it comes to your applications. Even if this means going to school one year later than you planned, it will give you the time to complete a compelling application and one done entirely on your own.

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 of his articles here.

How to Stay Under Your Essay Word Limit

SAT WorryOne of the hardest things for many MBA applicants to deal with when it comes to writing their business school essays is to stay under the word limit. You would think crafting a clear, well-written, and compelling essay that fully addressed the prompt is hard enough, but MBA programs make things a bit more difficult with often dauntingly tight word limits.

There are a few things that make staying under essay word limits so tough. First, most candidates are not used to explaining themselves in a limited amount of words. The MBA application is an exercise in saying a lot in a few words, meaning every word has to matter – extra pronouns, articles, and prepositions must be reduced to stay under the given word count. Focusing on being as concise and as direct as possible in your language is a major key to making the most of your word count. A good rule of thumb here is if the word doesn’t drive the essay forward and is not integral to the ultimate message you are trying to convey, then you should strongly consider removing it.

Second, many candidates will ignore one of the golden rules of MBA essay writing: answer the question! With so few words to write your essay, there is little room to answer extraneous questions or include content not directly referenced in the essay prompt. Providing extra, unnecessary information can also be seen by the admissions committee as the sign of a candidate who is repurposing essays from other schools, which is definitely a bad idea. Answering unasked questions will waste your words and reduce the focus of your narrative, so stick with what the prompt gives you.

Third, candidates often make the mistake of spending too much time trying to fit their essays into traditional writing templates with an introduction and conclusion. With so few words, it is often best to skip formalities and dive right into the content. In many instances, if the writing is strong enough, this approach eliminates the need for clunky introductions and conclusions that will most likely end up sounding forced and unnatural anyways.

Finally, don’t forget the outline! Creating an outline before writing really brings a focused edge to the essay writing process. Ensure that your outline fully addresses the essay prompt while still allowing enough real estate to communicate your narrative in a compelling way.

Don’t let tight essay word limits sap all of the life out of your essays; follow the tips above to ensure you are making the most out of this part of the application process.

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 of his articles here.

4 Steps to Finish Your MBA Application Essay the Right Way

writing essayCongratulations! If you are reading this, then you are probably almost ready to submit your business school application essays for evaluation. You have spent a ton of time in the recent months conceptualizing, outlining, and writing responses to these notoriously challenging essay prompts. With so much time spent on these by most candidates, you would assume that these essays are typically free of error by the time they reach the admissions officers. However, with so many different touch points in the typical MBA application and with multiple applications in the mix, this process is ripe for typos and mistakes.

Admission to business school remains a very competitive process and although minor typos here and there will not greatly affect your candidacy, when multiple are aggregated they may give off the impression of a lack of attention to detail, which can ultimately tank your chances during tough evaluation periods.

Let’s walk through a few tips you should leverage as you put the finishing touches on your business school application essays:

Read Aloud

This is my favorite tip, so let’s start here. Often many candidates will tell me that they are shocked to notice typos after going through multiple in-depth reviews. Sometimes when you are so close to a document, you will overlook glaring typos. The simple act of verbalizing your essay can really help reduce the likelihood that a typo or clunky sentence will survive the final review process. This approach will ensure better flow and clarity to your writing style, and will improve the overall submission.

Taking A Break

Taking a break between reviews is also another great trick. For the most part, typos and mistakes are more a function of an oversight than incompetence – no one knowingly overlooks a mistake. Separating yourself from the essay for a few hours or days can really sharpen your eye and make you more discerning in the review process.

Leverage Personal Reviewers

Having a team of reviewers who are familiar with the application process is highly recommended, but it is also helpful to utilize a few who do not. These personal reviewers should be experts on “you” and able to ensure your essays actually sound like, and read like, the person actually writing them. Friends and family are the natural targets here – leverage these people to make sure your essays are coming across as authentic and true to your life as possible.

Proofread

This one sounds very obvious but you would be surprised how many business school applicants do not run the simplest of proofing software or conduct their own thorough review of their essays before submitting them. Remember, your MBA application will be one of the most important packages you submit in your life, so give it the attention it deserves by allocating ample time to review it in detail.

Follow these tips so come decision day, you can let the content of your essays stand for themselves!

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 of his articles here.

How to Apply to Business School with a Bad GPA

08fba0fYour GPA is one of the most important evaluation criteria used by MBA admissions committees. Unlike the GMAT or your essays, improving this aspect of your application profile is not as simple as a test retake or an additional essay revision. The “in the past” nature of GPA scores means it is more important to confront a poor performance in this area than just simply ignoring the data point.

There are a few common threads that plague applicants who suffer from a low undergrad GPA. Let’s explore a few of these common reasons for a low GPA and some ways to explain away these red flags:

Maturity:

Did your GPA suffer due to a lack of maturity? Many applicants suffered through a low GPA during undergrad because they did not take the academic rigors of school seriously enough. Sometimes it is an issue with partying, other times it can be a lack of focus or prioritization on academia, but maturity is the root cause of many low GPAs coming into the application process. Addressing any maturity issues head on while providing clear examples that chronicle your growth into a mature candidate can help diffuse obvious concerns about your academic profile.

Outside Obligations:

Was academics not your biggest priority during undergrad? Many students have serious outside obligations that can negatively affect academic performance. From family commitments to work study, students in undergrad are confronted with many distractions than can result in low GPAs. Many of these reasons will immediately resonate with admissions given how relatable these obligations tend to be. The key here is to personalize these challenges and provide context for admissions so it is clear how these obligations affected your performance and whether they will affect your performance in the future.

Extracurriculars:

Did you have a major extracurricular commitment that affected your academic performance? Utilize these experiences to outline the time commitments of these obligations while highlighting the interpersonal skills developed and results achieved. This is a nice opportunity touch on the value of these extracurricular activities in spite of the negative affect they had on your GPA.

Academic Major:

Were you in an intense major? Did you change majors? Did you take on a particularly heavy course load? Not all majors and course loads are created equally – no excuses here! It is important to own up to your mistakes or issues, but if there are outside factors out of your control that are related to academics, don’t shy away from discussing them in your optional essays. Focus here on your major aspects that are atypical and would clearly have an affect on your academic performance.

Health

Did you experience any health concerns during undergrad? Health issues often do not easily show up via your academic record. Even with a withdrawal on your transcript, you will need to explain this via the optional essay. Honestly and vividly express the impact this had on your academic performance to really illuminate the challenges you experienced.

A low GPA is not a death sentence to your MBA dreams – follow the tips above to explain away your past GPA missteps.

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 of his articles here.

4 Ways Admissions Committees Will Examine Your Work Experience

MBA JobsMany students enter business school with plans to develop their business skills and improve their overall career options. However, when it comes time to prepare to submit an application, much of the effort tends to fall on other areas of the package, such as GMAT scores or essays. Considering that “career improvement” is commonly seen as the lead reason for pursuing an MBA, more focus should instead fall on the work experience that you have compiled prior to submitting your application.

Your work experience is a key evaluation point in the admissions process and should be treated as such. Let’s discuss a few of the reasons why work experience matters so much:

1) Hireability

One of the key reasons many are even pursuing an MBA in the first place is to land the job of their dreams. so it should come as no surprise that a major evaluation aspect for admissions is whether the program can actually help you achieve your career goals. Your work experience, both from an industry and role perspective, can factor into how admissions views your profile. Even if you are one of the many applicants looking to make a career switch, some transferable skills from your current career to your future career will better showcase the viability of your plan.

2) Impact

The concept of impact is one of the most important aspects of evaluating your work experience. What results have you driven in the various roles you have held throughout your career? Programs are looking to learn about how you have made a qualitative or quantitative impact in your career. Make sure these accomplishments are clear in your resume, essays, and short answers to ensure your contributions are not being overlooked.

3) Career Progression

Your work experience gives a clear indication of the decisions you have made in your career. The various stops can tell a story about where you have been and where you plan to go. The better aligned this story is, and will be, with your future career goals, the more positive message you send to the admissions committee about your maturity and potential.

4) Classroom Value

Business school is school after all, so your ability to add value inside the classroom is a critical element of the evaluation criteria by the admissions committee. The better you can project confidence and business savvy while highlighting where in your background you generated these learnings, the better chances you have at securing an admit.

Don’t make the mistake of downplaying your work experience! Utilize these tips to create a breakthrough application.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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 of his articles here.

4 Predictions for 2016: Trends to Look for in the Coming Year

Can you believe another year has already gone by? It seems like just yesterday that we were taking down 2014’s holiday decorations and trying to remember to write “2015” when writing down the date. Well, 2015 is now in the books, which means it’s time for us to stick our necks out and make a few predictions for what 2016 will bring in the world of college and graduate school testing and admissions. We don’t always nail all of our predictions, and sometimes we’re way off, but that’s what makes this predictions business kind of fun, right?

Let’s see how we do this year… Here are four things that we expect to see unfold at some point in 2016:

The College Board will announce at least one significant change to the New SAT after it is introduced in March.
Yes, we know that an all-new SAT is coming. And we also know that College Board CEO David Coleman is determined to make his mark and launch a new test that is much more closely aligned with the Common Core standards that Coleman himself helped develop before stepping into the CEO role at the College Board. (The changes also happen to make the New SAT much more similar to the ACT, but we digress.) The College Board’s excitement to introduce a radically redesigned test, though, may very well lead to some changes that need some tweaking after the first several times the new test is administered. We don’t know exactly what the changes will be, but the new test’s use of “Founding Documents” as a source of reading passages is one spot where we won’t be shocked to see tweaks later in 2016.

At least one major business school rankings publication will start to collect GRE scores from MBA programs.
While the GRE is still a long way from catching up to the GMAT as the most commonly submitted test score by MBA applicants, it is gaining ground. In fact, 29 of Bloomberg Businessweek‘s top 30 U.S. business schools now let applicants submit a score from either exam. Right now, no publication includes GRE score data in its ranking criteria, which creates a small but meaningful implication: if you’re not a strong standardized test taker, then submitting a GRE score may mean that an admissions committee will be more willing to take a chance and admit you (assuming the rest of your application is strong), since it won’t have to report your test score and risk lowering its average GMAT score.

Of course, when a school admits hundreds of applicants, the impact of your one single score is very small, but no admissions director wants to have to explain to his or her boss why the school admitted someone with a 640 GMAT score while all other schools’ average scores keep going up. Knowing this incentive is in place, it’s only a matter of time before Businessweek, U.S. News, or someone else starts collecting GRE scores from business schools for their rankings data.

An expansion of student loan forgiveness is coming.
It’s an election year, and not many issues have a bigger financial impact on young voters than student loan debt. The average Class of 2015 college grad was left school owing more than $35,000 in student loans, meaning that these young grads may have to work until the age of 75 until they can reasonably expect to retire. Already this year the government announced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan, which lets borrowers cap their monthly loan payments at 10% of their monthly discretionary income. One possible way the program could expand is by loosening the standards of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Right now a borrower needs to make on-time monthly payments for 10 straight years to be eligible; don’t be surprised if someone proposes shortening it to five or eight years.

The number of business schools using video responses in their applications will triple.
Several prominent business schools such as Kellogg, Yale SOM, and U. of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management (which pioneered the practice) have started using video “essays” in their application process. While the rollout hasn’t been perfectly smooth, and many applicants have told us that video responses make the process even more stressful, we think video is’t going away anytime soon. In fact, we think that closer to 10 schools will use video as part of the application process by this time next year.

If a super-elite MBA program such as Stanford GSB or Harvard Business School starts video responses, then you will probably see a full-blown stampede towards video. But, even without one of those names adopting it, we think the medium’s popularity will climb significantly in the coming year. It’s just such a time saver for admissions officers – one can glean a lot about someone with just a few minutes of video – that this trend will only accelerate in 2016.

Let’s check back in 12 months and see how we did. In the meantime, we wish you a happy, healthy, and successful 2016!

By Scott Shrum

Fit vs. Ranking: Choosing the Right Business School for You

Round 1 vs. Round 2One of the hardest aspects of selecting which MBA programs to apply to is reconciling how well you fit with a program with how highly ranked that same program is. Many students will initially gravitate towards rankings as their default target school list. Many applicant school lists will be left littered with the historic elite of graduate business education, with programs like Harvard, Stanford, and Kellogg consistently making appearances for unqualified applicants.

These schools top the rankings year in and year out and they do so for a reason: they are very difficult to gain admission to, with some acceptance rates in the single digits, making admission to these programs a rarity for the greater majority.

For those applicants who create their list based off of “fit”, they tend to have a bit more success in the application process. Now “fit” is not always as straightforward a concept as one might imagine when framed in the context of business school admissions. “Fit” should account for geographic, academic, professional, social, and school specific admissions criteria.

By utilizing fit, applicants can make sure that if admitted, the program properly addresses their development goals. However, adhering to the “fit” criteria above can be more difficult than it seems. Often candidates are not always completely honest when it comes to assessing where their profile may stand in comparison to the competition, so make sure to be as honest as possible with your own personal assessment.

The best approach is really to take both “fit” and the rankings into consideration to create your target school list. Identify the programs that fit your criteria both quantitatively and qualitatively as an initial step, and then leverage various external rankings to tier your potential programs. Overall, creating your target school list is an inexact science that requires a bit more of a personal touch than simply following an arbitrary list created by media publications.

Utilize the guidance above to more effectively shape your target school list to ensure you optimize your chances of admissions success.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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 of his articles here.

All About Business School Case Competitions

moneyDo you like getting the chance to win some money? How about impressing recruiters? Or, do you like getting to work on interesting business challenges with your fellow classmates and friends? One of the best parts of business school is the opportunity to take part in case competitions, so let’s talk about what they are and how to be successful in them.

A business school case competition is an event that gives students the chance for real money or prizes by tackling a business challenge and then presenting their results to a group of judges.

First of all, not all case competitions are created equal. They come in many different formats and flavors. Most completions are done with a group, however some will require you to compete solo. Some competitions are sponsored by employers, while others are conducted by the school.

In some case competitions, you’ll have a few days to a week to digest the given problem and work as a team to come up with a solution. Others, however, will force you to be more impromptu and you’ll be given only a few hours to work on the case.

The topics of these competitions will be very unique. Some competitions will ask you to digest a company’s problem and come up with a strategy to fix it. Other, more entrepreneurial case competitions (or pitch competitions), will ask you to create a new product or service. Many times those competitions will end up in a pitch to local venture capital investors and they might even fund your idea to turn it into reality!

So, how exactly can you be successful in these competitions? First of all, find a great team. Ideally, you will want to work with people you know well and have experience with in other group projects. Because the time period for completing the case is so short, you will not have a lot of time to sort out team dynamics. Keep this in mind – not having a cohesive team that can hit the ground running will be very costly. However, you’ll still want to make sure you have a diverse mix of people on your team.

Finally, this is one of the few times when “thinking outside the box” is not a cliché. Case competition judges will see ten to twenty teams present their solution, so this is not a good time to play it safe. Try and stand out from the crowd. Be different. Be interesting. There is very little risk involved for you so when it comes time to present your solution to the judges, don’t be afraid to have some fun with it! Being different is one of the few ways to consistently be successful in business case competitions.

Oh and those prizes? Well they can be pretty fantastic. In some cases they can be guaranteed interviews or coveted internships, while in others you could be wining cold hard cash, sometimes reaching upwards of $10,000 for winning teams. So make sure to be on the lookout for these events and sign up. Good luck and have fun competing!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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.

What to Expect Your First Week of Business School

ProfessorSo you have finished the GMAT, written your essays, sent in your recommendations, and passed the business school admissions interview with flying colors. You’ve decided where you want to go to school and have just moved into your new home for the next two years. Well the hard work is just getting started, but first, how about some fun, also known as Orientation Week! Every school does it a little differently, but there are a few things to look for, and some tips to help you survive the week:

Before all of the fun activities begin, you’ll obviously want to quickly take care of some various logistics – things like getting a local bank account and cable and internet set up in your housing. Make sure you also take a tour of campus and get to know the lay of the land (if you have not done so already) before you get swamped with school functions.

Typically, Orientation Week contains many different activities. Some highlights may include service activities – getting the chance to get into the local community and do some volunteer work can be a great way to meet new classmates while doing good for others. You’ll also hear from many different speakers welcoming you to campus and talking about the journey ahead.

In addition, student clubs will often be there to introduce you to the various campus activities you can participate in. Be careful here, you’ll want to sign up for everything, and they typically have a membership fee. Sign up for one or two clubs you know you will be interested in, and save the rest for once you get a little bit better acclimated to campus and get a better idea of how you will want to spend your time.

You might also participate in some kind of team exercise, often broken up by section. Remember, you will be surrounded by “Type A” personalities and it can be a little difficult trying to work with new people so quickly. What you should look for here is to not necessarily declare yourself as the leader. Instead, make it known that you are a great teammate and will do anything needed to help the group be successful.

You might even start meeting some recruiters early on. They will often come to campus to sponsor various events such as the “MBA Olympics.” Remember, you can’t get a job in the first week but you can certainly lose one, so don’t try to overdo it with these recruiters.

There will be lots of time for socializing with your new classmates – our only advice here is that business school is a marathon, not a sprint! Don’t try to keep up with all of the undergrads on campus. Reputations can be easily made in one night and people will be paying attention paying attention, so keep this in mind.

Finally, remember that you have plenty of time to meet people and enjoy yourself. Don’t try to force everything to happen in the first week. Despite the fact that your time will soon be filled with classes, group projects, and recruiting, there will still be plenty of time for some fun.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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.

Are Business Schools Improving Gender Equality?

Women MBAWhat has long been an issue for business schools is finally starting to improve. Female representation is now just around 40% of MBA students at Harvard Business School, Wharton, Yale School of Management, Northwestern’s Kellogg, Tuck School of Business, MIT’s Sloan, University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, as well as other schools, according to a new study by the Forte Foundation, whose goal is to promote business education or woman via training and scholarships. The group has signed up over 70,000 members and has given out nearly $85 million in fellowships to over 3,900 students.

On average in business schools, 36 %of students are female, which is up from 32% of students in 2011. “This should go a long way in building the senior leadership pipeline at companies and on boards,” said Elissa Sangster, Executive Director of the Forté Foundation.

Even more impressive, 12 Forté Foundation U.S. member schools reported 40% or more women enrolled compared to last year’s high of only five schools reaching this milestone. In addition, 16 U.S. schools have 35% or more female students, along with London Business School outside of the U.S., compared with just three schools hitting this mark a decade ago in 2005.

Increasing female representation at business school has been a big focus this year. A few months ago the White House kicked off an initiative with leading business schools to create programs that would be more welcoming to female participants.

How did Forte do it? It has introduced a number of programs since its founding in 2001. For example, it holds an annual leadership conference that brings together business school students and recruiting companies. Additionally, it has rolled out a program to reach undergraduate woman while they are freshman and sophomores with the Forte College to Business Leadership Conference. At this conference, they educate young woman about careers in business and help the attendees connect with recruiters looking for summer interns or entry level opportunities.

Forte also increased their investment in scholarships. When the program first started they were giving out scholarships to about three dozen woman. This year they handed out over 800. Other interesting programs include their MBALaunch series which is a hands-on 10-month program that provides guidance, resources, and ongoing feedback on the business school application process, including monthly webinars, peer group meetings, and feedback from experienced advisors.

Why is Forte investing so heavily in helping woman get into and succeed at top business school programs? “There is some evidence that earning an MBA is a ticket to the top as 41% of Fortune 100 CEOs have an MBA, according to our research. While we’re asking women to lean in, we need to also consider the education gender gap at business schools,” said Sangster.

If you are a female applicant considering business school, there has never been a better time to go. It is clear that now there is a strong support system to make sure female applicants are treated fairly in both the admissions process and during school.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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.

The Biggest Mistake MBA Applicants Make with Recommenders

MBA AdmissionsIt’s easy to overlook your recommendations for your MBA application, especially when you are so focused on scoring well on the GMAT, figuring out which schools to apply to, and writing your essays. After all, it’s one of the few things that is out of your hands when it comes to your application package. Or is it? Let’s take a look at one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to business school recommenders:

One of the more frequent discussion topics on business school message boards has to do with who should be your recommender. Who would be a good person? Is it ok if isn’t your direct manager? What if your recommender just left the company? Can person x be a recommender? While these are all important questions to think through, the biggest mistake applicants make when it comes to recommenders is not preparing them correctly! A well-prepared recommender will represent your application much better than one who is unprepared, but who might seem like the “right” person to use.

So, what is the best way to prepare your recommender? When asking someone to recommend you, you should always provide them with a package that lists the things you want them to talk about and instructions to make it simple. A sample package might include:

  • Introduction letter
  • Resume
  • Why you want to get an MBA
  • List of perceived strengths
  • List of accomplishments
  • Short and long term goals
  • School breakout: deadline, site for submission, login/password required, specific questions from each school

How about an example introduction letter? Try something like this:

First, thank you so much for taking the time to serve as a recommender for my business school applications. I know this represents a significant time commitment for you (and one with firm deadlines!) and it means so much to me that you’ve agreed to do this.

The recommendation is a very important part of my application package. The school will use your recommendation to see if you agree with my personal assessment, to understand my character, and to find out how I work. Your view of my potential will get special attention from the admissions committee. Please remember that business school recommendations are very different from recommendations for normal jobs. Many, many candidates are applying for a few hundred places at the school. Few applicants are granted an interview, which is usually very short. It’s also very rare that the admissions committee calls a recommender. Therefore, a well-written, well-organized recommendation, usually about 2 pages long, is a necessary component of a strong application package.

I am applying to 4-6 schools, and each school will have a slightly different set of criteria for your recommendation. You might want to write a general letter and then making any slight adjustments as necessary for each school.

Thanks again and please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions.

So with this as a start to your recommender’s packet, you will be well on your way to have a well prepared recommender who will be ready to help you put your best self forward.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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.

3 Easy Ways to Stay Sharp During the Holidays

sleepAs the holidays ramp up and the focus of many students shifts from tests to turkey (or a delicious vegetarian alternative), it is easy to put any sort of educational pursuits away for a long winter’s nap. It is true that taking a little bit of time to not think about your new college workload is beneficial, but that does not mean that the next two months should be devoid of any work.

With any workout plan, the two most important things are consistency and attitude. This is true for being a college student as well, and as a student, you can continue to flex your brain muscles while still leaving lots of time to hang out with your great aunt as she tells you how much you are the spitting image of some uncle you’ve never met.

1) Do A Little Everyday (or at least every other day)

Generally over the holidays, there are no specific assignments to focus on as it usually marks the semester break (a much needed and much deserved break), but this does not mean there are not things that can be done. If you are taking a two-part class, such as Organic Chemistry or Physics,  the holidays offer an opportunity to get ahead – simply going over a few days of notes for ten minutes from the previous semester can keep you sharp for the upcoming semester.

Do a practice problem or two so you stay in the mindset of the class. If you are really feeling ambitious, go ahead and get the book you’ll need for next semester and read a few pages a day or skim for 15 minutes. Just doing a little bit each day can ensure you stay sharp from the semester before, and also give you a leg up for the semester to come.

2) Pick a book to read for FUN!

As insane as this may sound, pleasure can actually be derived from reading. It may seem to be a task invented by educators to bore and stupefy students, but there are a lot of books out there that you (yes YOU) may find interesting. The whole point of this exercise is to pick something that you may like. It may not be Faulkner or Joyce – though if it is, kudos to you – it could just as easily be Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code, anything that you will enjoy. Reading something you like is a way to build the habit of pursuing knowledge for pleasure. Bodies like routines, and building a routine that includes reading will prove to be useful in college and for the future ahead.

3) Learn Some Vocabulary!

Developing a system for vocabulary with regular learning and reviewing is not only helpful for understanding dense college-level reading, but it also makes you sound smart! This kind of concerted vocabulary training does not need to take more than five minutes but can still produce fantastic results. In just the six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years, students can add 120 vocab words to their repertoire and have thoroughly reviewed the words they already know.

Repeat each word seven times and then test your memory for the definition. Remember to eliminate words you already know to maximize your efforts (though it’s a good idea to review all of the words, just in case). This method will actually prove extremely effective in creating long term memory because gradual repetition is one of the best methods for retaining information. Challenge yourself to use all the words you learn in a conversation the day you learn them – show your great aunt you are brainy as well as tall.

The Holiday Season should certainly be a time of rest and relaxation, and I firmly believe that it is good for the brain to have periods where it is not asked to complete arduous tasks. With that said, the slightly lower work load from school provides an opportunity to utilize your time for other efforts. Remember, consistency and attitude are the two keys to success, so carve out twenty minutes, turn off all distractions, and use the Holidays to bolster your studying so you come out of them rested and ready to attack the new semester! In all honesty, we are extremely thankful all of you have chosen to trust us to help you in your academic pursuits and we believe that you will achieve at the highest level. Have a very happy holidays!

Are you applying to college? We can help! Sign up to attend one of our FREE online College Workshops for advice on applying to your dream schools. And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

Should You Retake the GMAT or Focus on Your MBA Application?

scottbloomdecisionsEvery application season, there is a point at which many applicants reach a very anxiety-driven and critical dilemma: whether it is worth re-taking the GMAT or not. Now this question is not the same as the also very common, “Is my GMAT score high enough?” question. The former question, unlike the latter, truly exists in a vacuum due to outside constraints primarily based on the time constraints and confidence of the applicant.

What makes this question even more challenging is that the answer is truly specific to the individual, which can require a bit more nuanced thought process to eventually make the “right” decision. Keep in mind, there really is no obvious right decision in most of these scenarios – the goal here should be to optimize your chances at gaining admission to your target programs given some of the following factors:

Time

How much time do you have before your application is due? An extended timeline before submission can make re-taking the GMAT a more obvious option. The decision to retake the GMAT or focus on your application is very much intertwined. Committing to re-taking the GMAT generally comes at the expense of time that could be dedicated towards focusing on the various other application components.

Effort

How much effort would be required for additional prep to reach your target GMAT score? Even if time is not a major issue, the effort necessary may still not be worth it in the grand scheme for many applicants. Given the wide differences in how test takers may embrace the GMAT prep process, a candidate’s appetite for taking on additional prep is a major factor.

Confidence

How confident are you that you can materially improve your score? It should not just be about getting incremental points on the GMAT. When most re-take the GMAT, the expectation is a major jump from the previous score. Re-taking the GMAT with limited time available, an expected heavy amount of effort required, and a lack of confidence in securing substantial gains can make this decision a very difficult one for many candidates. Confidence here can be gleaned through performance on practice tests, and how closely one’s scores align with the score received during the initial prep process.

Overall Value

The final decision here really should focus on deciding whether the expected upside of the subsequent GMAT retake is more valuable to your candidacy than additional hours of focus and attention to the other MBA application components, and is something that applicants must decide on their own.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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 of his articles here.

The Importance of Tutoring for the Ivy League

tutoringHigh school students who aspire to attend an Ivy League school must work hard to achieve their goal. For example, they need to earn excellent scores on either the ACT or SAT, in addition to garner glowing letters of recommendation, write a compelling admissions essay, and maintain a sterling academic record throughout high school. Let’s take a closer look at what a student needs to do to get into an Ivy League school, and learn how Veritas Prep can help:

Preparing for the SAT

It stands to reason that a student who prepares for the SAT with a qualified tutor is likely to have great success on the test. At Veritas Prep, our professional instructors know how to thoroughly prep students to tackle the new SAT. Getting an excellent SAT score can be a student’s first step toward getting into the Ivy League.

Tutors at Veritas Prep understand that students need to achieve extremely high test scores to be considered by these exclusive schools. Interestingly, many of our tutors are actually graduates of Ivy League schools themselves, so students who dream of earning a degree from an Ivy League school can study for the SAT with a tutor who knows what it takes to be accepted! In addition to giving students tips regarding the SAT, our tutors are also experts at offering much-needed support and encouragement – we give our students the tools they need to showcase their skills and abilities on test day.

Preparing for the ACT

For students choosing to take the ACT rather than the SAT, an impressive ACT score is another requirement for students applying to schools belonging to the Ivy League. The ACT has several sections, including English, Math, Reading, and Science, in addition to an optional Writing section. Students who take our online or in-person courses learn strategies that can simplify questions on the ACT. Each of our ACT tutors achieved a 99th percentile score on the official ACT test, so students who study with Veritas Prep are learning from individuals who aced the ACT!

AP Tutoring

Many students sign up for AP courses to help them toward acceptance into the Ivy League. Veritas Prep AP tutors have mastered the subject they are teaching, which is especially important for students who want to get into the Ivy League. Taking AP courses and properly studying for them will help students prepare for college-level work, and they are a notable addition to any high school transcript.

Admissions Consulting

What better way to learn what Ivy League schools are looking for in applicants than to speak to experts on the schools? Veritas Prep admissions consultants have experience working in the admissions offices of Ivy League schools, and thus have inside knowledge of what admissions officials are looking for. Our admissions consultants provide a wide range of services, including organizing applications, evaluating transcripts, offering guidance on admissions essays, and giving students advice regarding their extracurricular activities, helping students every step of the way as they pursue their goal of studying at an Ivy League college.

Whether students want an Ivy League tutor to help them prepare for the SAT or they need a professional to guide them through the admissions process, we can provide valuable assistance. We are proud to help ambitious students turn the dream of attending an Ivy League college into a reality. Contact Veritas Prep today and let us know how we can help.

Are you planning to apply to an Ivy League college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

For more college admissions tips, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Applying to Ivy League Schools: What All Students Need to Know

Princeton UniversityIf you’re a high school students planning on applying to Ivy League schools, you probably have a lot of questions. For instance, you may want to know what the academic requirements are to get into an Ivy League school and how you can increase your chances of acceptance. Check out several tips that can help high school students like you on their way toward a spot in the freshman class at an Ivy League college:

Take Challenging Courses Throughout High School

Admissions officers at Ivy League schools consider all of the courses a student takes in high school. They like to see students who challenge themselves with increasingly difficult courses as they progress toward graduation, as this demonstrates a student’s dedication to thoroughly learning a subject. Admissions officers at Ivy League schools look for students who are intellectually curious and who are excited to test their skills with difficult subjects.

Pay Close Attention to the Admissions Essay

Some students try to play it safe with their essay by writing what they think the admissions officers want to hear, however, this is the wrong approach to take. Admissions officers at Ivy League schools look instead for thoughtful, well-crafted essays. College admissions officials appreciate a sincere essay that allows them a more personal look at a student and their experiences.

Dedicated Participation in a Few Extracurricular Activities

Students interested in going to an Ivy League school should also know that admissions officials pay close attention to an applicant’s extracurricular activities. They especially like it when a student makes a long-term commitment to a few activities – for example, a student may hold an office in student government as well as belong to the debate team all four years of school, and volunteer at the same senior citizen center every summer throughout high school. In short, college officials at Ivy League schools prefer to see long-term dedication to a handful of activities as opposed to short-term participation in dozens of them.

Excel on the SAT or ACT

When applying to Ivy League schools, students should know that their SAT and ACT scores carry a lot of weight with admissions officials. A high SAT or ACT score paired with excellent grades gives officials an idea of whether a student can succeed academically at an Ivy League school and handle the rigors of the school’s classwork.

Students who work with our SAT tutors at Veritas Prep are studying with individuals who excelled on the test. In fact, each of our tutors scored in the 99th percentile on the test. We go over practice test results with students to find the specific areas that need work. As a student’s practice test scores improve, they gain more confidence regarding the SAT. With our help, students are able to present their best SAT scores to the admissions officials at any Ivy League school.

Demonstrate Interest in Attending an Ivy League School

Students who want to apply to an Ivy League school must never underestimate the value of demonstrating their interest in an institution. The most effective way to show interest in a school is to apply early, especially for schools you absolutely know you want to attend.

Students should also try to visit their college of interest to tour its campus. Visiting the college allows the student to ask questions about the school that aren’t answered on the school’s website. In addition, a visit can offer the student an opportunity to discuss their visit during a future interview with admissions officials. Once a student submits an application, it’s a good idea for the person to stay in contact with school officials – this helps to emphasize their interest in attending the school. Naturally, officials at an Ivy League school want students who are passionate about learning and have specific reasons why they want to earn a degree at that school, and following these steps will help show them that you’re committed.

Our experienced instructors at Veritas Prep are proud to assist students who are applying to Ivy League schools. Whether they need SAT prep online, guidance regarding the admissions process, or a free application evaluation, we are here to help ambitious high school students achieve their goal. Contact our team at Veritas Prep today!

Are you planning to apply to an Ivy League college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

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4 Ways to Make the Most of Your Business School Campus Visit

YaleVisiting campus is one of the best ways you can learn about your target MBA programs and not only determine if a program is right for you, but also acquire some school-specific fodder for your applications.

This information can transform components of your application – such as the essay, interview, and short answers – into real, customized pieces of content for the admissions decision makers. Before you pack your bags to visit some of the world’s best academic communities, however, read the below tips to make sure you are making the most of your campus visit.

Let’s explore a 4 easy ways you can make the most of your business school campus visit:

1) Meet with Admissions

One of the best parts of visiting campus is the ability to connect with the MBA admissions officers who will eventually review your application. Creating a positive impression with admissions can really pay dividends. Forging a human connection is something that the majority of applicants will not do, so take advantage of the opportunity! Formal opportunities like the various information sessions hosted on campus are no-brainers during a campus visit, but make sure you don’t miss potential chances to also connect with representatives from admissions one-on-one, if possible.

2) Visit a Class

Sitting in on an MBA class really helps contextualize the entire business school experience while helping you determine if, academically, a program is right for you. Also, formal class visit programs are often tracked by admissions along with the information sessions, which can signal strong interest to the admissions office.

3) Connect with Students

Many programs will have formal programs that allow you to connect with students that share a similar profile as you, such as geographic, academic, interest or other demographic similarities. Informal chats with students can also be just as important, so spending some time on campus in public spaces can facilitate these type of interactions. Most current students will be more than happy to discuss their own personal experiences both on-campus and in the application process, so don’t be afraid to leverage these great sources of information.

4) Explore the Student Community

Classes and connections aside, choosing the right business school is an important decision. MBA students spend a lot of time both on-campus and in the immediate area around campus, so taking the time to explore the greater community is a critical aspect of any visit. Determining if big cities such as New York and Los Angeles are a fit for you, or if smaller towns like Hanover or Evanston more your style, is an integral part of the decision making process.

Utilize these four touchpoints to make the most of your business school campus visits.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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 of his articles here.

Does a Business School Visit Affect Your Chances of Admission?

campus tourVisiting a business school before officially applying is always recommended to MBA candidates, but for the most part, schools will not automatically assess an applicant negatively if they are unable to visit. There are so many factors involved when considering how a school visit will affect your candidacy, the best way to view them is as something that can potentially help you, but won’t directly hurt either. Let’s look at some of the overall benefits to visiting schools before applying to them:

Visiting a business school is a great opportunity to both do some primary research on the school itself, and to add some fodder to your application, which should improve the package you eventually submit. Not only will a visit actually improve the context of your application, it will also help you support your eventual decision-making process (if admitted) which is an added benefit.

A school visit is also an unprecedented opportunity to connect directly with decision makers – I know many students who have made strong impressions with admissions committee members leading directly to positive notations being added to their candidate folder. Again, positive interactions like this can certainly push fringe candidates across the line to the “admit pile” and further boost already strong candidates.

Business school campus visits can also add context to more troubled packages that require a bit more clarity and discussion of potential red flags. Without directly connecting with admissions reps via an in-person campus visit, this opportunity cannot exist for candidates with more complex situations. If this sounds like you, if it is possible for you to visit campuses, it is something I strongly suggest.

Now, every circumstance is certainly not the same. Distance is definitely a huge factor in determining an applicant’s ability to travel and visit. International candidates or those travelling from a far distance may be at a perceived disadvantage here, but again, keep in mind the positive impact this visit can have on your chances; look at the business school visit as a good decision if you can feasibly make it, but as having a neutral effect on your application if you cannot.

Make the decision that makes the most sense for you. Regardless of how many business schools you visit, if you have not created a compelling application package and/or are a great fit on paper, then a school visit will not save your candidacy. Focus on creating a breakthrough application and utilize the school visit as an additional opportunity to bring your candidacy alive for the admissions team.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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 of his articles here.

Admissions Tips and Ivy League College Consulting

AdmissionsHigh school students who plan to apply to Ivy League colleges already know the importance of having a high GPA and impressive SAT scores. But what other qualifications are Ivy League admissions officials looking for? Let’s look at some valuable admissions tips for gaining acceptance into one of these exclusive schools.

 

Garner Compelling Recommendation Letters

One of the most valuable Ivy League admissions tips a student can follow is to get compelling recommendation letters from teachers, employers, or organization leaders. The most persuasive letters are written by teachers and other adults who know the student very well. For example, a student who has volunteered for four years in an after-school reading program for elementary school children could ask the director of the program to write a recommendation letter – the director has known the student for years and would be able to write a glowing letter about the person’s character and dedication to the children in the program. A teacher or an employer a student has worked with for a long time would also be an excellent person to ask for a letter of recommendation.

Write a Memorable Admissions Essay

Admissions officials at Ivy League schools place a great deal of weight on an applicant’s essay. A well-written essay can give officials even more insight into a student’s character. A student should write a sincere essay in their own voice. Some students make the mistake of setting out to write an essay that they think will please admissions officials, however, experienced admissions officials can easily see through a contrived essay.

At Veritas Prep, we offer Ivy League consulting services to students who want to stand out to admissions officials, and one of our services is to offer guidance on admissions essays. We hire professional consultants who have worked in the admissions offices of Ivy League schools. In short, Veritas Prep students benefit from working with an Ivy League college counselor with inside knowledge of the process.

Participate in a Few Significant Extracurricular Activities

Some students think they need to participate in a dozen or more extracurricular activities in order to impress the officials at an Ivy League school. Unfortunately, if a student participates in this many activities, they will likely not be able to dedicate much time to any of those activities.

Instead, many admissions officials are looking for students who dedicate themselves to a few significant extracurricular activities. For example, one student may hold an office in student government all four years of high school while also working throughout middle school and high school as a volunteer at a summer camp for special-needs kids. Such involvement demonstrate the student’s dedication and desire to stick with something long-term – a trait that admissions officials look for.

Show Enthusiasm for a School and its Resources

Any experienced Ivy League college counselor knows the importance of expressing enthusiasm for a school. Not surprisingly, admissions officials want students who are excited about their school. One way a student can display this enthusiasm is to visit the school and tour its campus. This gives a student the chance to ask questions and sample the atmosphere of an Ivy League campus.

Staying in contact with admissions officers during the selection process is another way for a student to show their interest in the school. Admissions officials appreciate students who have specific reasons why they want to attend the school. For instance, a student who plans to major in biology may be enthusiastic about the high-tech equipment available to students in the school’s science labs. Show that this particular school will play an important part in your future plans.

The Benefits of Working With Ivy League College Consultants

At Veritas Prep, we offer many Ivy League consulting services, including advice on extracurricular activities, transcript evaluation, guidance regarding scholarships, and more. We help students to organize the process so they can apply to Ivy League colleges without missing a step. Our supportive consultants partner with students as they move toward their goal of attending a preferred school.

Along with our admissions consultants, we have a team of tutors who help students prepare for the SAT or the ACT. We use practice test results to individualize the test prep process. Then, students can take our courses and learn valuable test-taking strategies, either online or in person, to earn scores that will impress admissions officers. Contact Veritas Prep today to start on the path toward a degree from an Ivy League school!

Are you planning to apply to an Ivy League college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

For more college admissions tips, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

How to Ace Your Business School Group Interview

Group MBA Admissions InterviewWe all know that the last step in the business school admissions process is often the most stressful: the admissions interview. Well, some schools are adding a new, daunting wrinkle to this already difficult step, the group interview.

One of the first schools to really popularize the group interview is the University of Michigan Ross School Of Business. For anyone applying to Ross or a different business school that offers a group interview, let’s break it down and offer some advice for how to succeed in a group interview.

First of all, it’s important to note that Ross doesn’t define their interview as a “group interview.” They call it a “team based activity,” the goal of which is to “give the admissions committee insight into your teamwork, interpersonal and communication skills.” How does this group activity work? The process is well laid out by Ross’ Admissions Director Soojin Kwon:

“Applicants who are invited to interview will have the option to participate in a team exercise. Participants will be randomly assigned to a group of 4 – 6 people. They will engage in a 30 minute interactive exercise. The first ten minutes will be introductions and an ice breaker. During the next 20 minutes, participants will work together to develop a three minute “presentation” that incorporates a set of randomly distributed words. A member of the admissions committee will observe the team’s interaction and discussion. Their focus will be on how you work and communicate in a team setting. No advance preparation is necessary, and no business knowledge is expected.”

So, how can you succeed in your own MBA group interview? First of all, don’t panic! You can’t game the interview, or figure out how you can “crack” it or really even prepare much for it other than having a basic game plan of what you want to do when you go in.

What should you do? Be a team player! Communicate well. Listen! Don’t think you can dominate the discussion and the admissions committee will be blown away by your leadership skills. Support your team mates. Encourage them. Celebrate great ideas. Don’t be afraid to take a “follower” role and let someone else be the “leader” for a bit. One of the big focus areas at Ross right now is positivity, so keep that in mind throughout the process, whether you are applying to Ross or a different MBA program – you want to be a positive member of the team. You want to be a positive leader. You want to bring more to the team and you don’t want to take anything away or cause any negative interactions.

The good news, for some, is that the team activity/group interview is optional right now. So don’t worry if you can’t make it to campus or one of the international locations for the event. If you can make it work, however, you absolutely should – it’s important to have as many positive interactions with admissions committee members as you can. It will also give you a great chance to check out the campus and meet other potential students. And don’t forget to use the tips above to make it a successful team activity.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Is Your GMAT Score More Important Than Ever?

GMAT ReasoningThe dreaded GMAT has long been one of the most feared components of the MBA application process. For many years the importance of the GMAT has been a bit overvalued by applicants, with too much focus being placed on the score and not enough on other areas of the application process. Just as admissions committees’ consistent message of their reliance on holistic reviews of candidate profiles has begun to sink in, a shift has seemingly started back the other way.

Although there has been a consistent upward trends over the last few decades in GMAT scores across the board, over the last year or two in particular the average GMAT scores at top MBA programs like Northwestern’s Kellogg School, Chicago’s Booth School and Pennsylvania’s Wharton School have risen by record percentage points. These record averages should signal to prospective applicant’s the increased importance of the GMAT.

Now, GMAT scores have always been important aspects of the MBA admissions process, but should applicants be more concerned with the rising scores at these top MBA programs?  The quick answer is no!  But you do want to accept this answer with a bit of a caveat: with dramatically rising GMAT scores across the board, it is even more important for applicants to target programs that are a clear fit for their background and showcased aptitude (GPA/GMAT). More specifically, applying to programs where your GMAT score falls below the average score has become a riskier option.

The typical candidate should make sure they hit or are very close to the listed averages. Now for candidates coming from a more competitive applicant pool like the Indian male, White male, and Asian male, it is important to target a score above schools’ listed averages to ensure you stand out from the pack. For non-traditional applicants, a strong GMAT score can be a way to stand out in the face of rising scores and increased competition.

The main takeaway from this trend for all applicants should be to really focus up front on creating the right list of target schools. Mind you, this list should not simply be one of the top 10 programs. Instead, create a list where your academic aptitude, professional goals, and other data points all align with the programs you plan to apply to so that you are able to maximize your chances of gaining admission to your target schools.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to 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 of his articles here.

Trends in Executive MBAs

HandshakeWe don’t talk a lot about Executive MBA programs. Why is that? They seem to be an afterthought to most business school applicants, especially as the average applicant continues to skew younger and younger. Well what about those applicants who are in the middle of their career? Who have ten plus years of experience? If you fit into that description, you really should consider an executive program instead of just the default option of doing the full time program.

So just who is a good fit for Executive MBA programs and what results are they seeing after the program? All of that and more was discussed in the Executive MBA Council’s (EMBAC) 2015 research report. The EMBAC is an association of more than 200 business schools that offer part-time and executive MBA study programs.

The first big trend we see with the EMBAC’s research is that men continue to dominate the population of executive MBA programs, which is interesting because there has been increased investment to attract women to business schools. Apparently those efforts are largely focused on full time programs, rather than on executive ones. While men make up 72% of the total enrollment in executive programs, however, female enrollment is on the rise — from 25.4% last year to 27.6% this year, which represents a nearly 10% increase.

The second trend this research shows is that the average age of attendees is now nearly 38 and the average years of work experience is 14, making the applicants fairly senior. Why should this matter to you if you are thinking about applying to a full time program instead of an executive program? A lot of what you get out of business school is based on the students around you and the network you create. So if you are nearly 40, which network do you think will help you more? One that is built of students who have between two and six years of work experience or one that is made up of other mid-level professionals who have over a dozen years of work experience? I would pick the latter.

Finally, you might be worried that executive programs don’t receive the same level of respect from companies and recruiters. While it’s hard to prove that, one thing we can look at is salary improvement after graduation. According to the EMBAC’s research, the average executive MBA participant enters the program making around $160,000 and leaves the program earning $190,000 — a pay increase of over 20% in less than two years!

Are executive programs starting to sound more interesting now? Well what if you could get your current company to help cover some of the costs of the program? According to the EMBAC, a quarter of all students received full tuition reimbursement from their employer! Another 16% received reimbursement for at least half the cost of the program and a final 20% received at least some coverage from their employer. Not too bad.

In conclusion, if you fit into that mid-career range of the typical executive MBA participant, you should really consider applying to that program in addition to the full time program. Your career just might thank you!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

MBAs in Silicon Valley

Stanford GSBWhile the fundamental principles of business never change, it has an inherently fluid nature. The idea is simple: you must adapt to survive. Big players like Google, Intel and Facebook have been drawing MBAs into the Silicon Valley at a steadily-increasing rate for years, however, startup companies are now also garnering a unique attraction for MBAs with brand new degrees and strong desires for innovative and creative opportunities, as well.

Despite a considerably large risk of failure, numerous startups are formed in the Silicon Valley every year. It is estimated that 33% of all startups will not succeed. For most MBAs, going to work at a startup company is a rather significant gamble, as startups are characteristically designated by businesses models that are very scalable yet invalidated. While this may seem like an unsafe bet for many people, it is actually fairly obvious why new MBAs are drawn to startups in the Silicon Valley.

In recent years, millennials have made a number of huge impacts on the workplace. They initially had a reputation for being self-entitled, narcissistic and lazy, however that negative connotation is quickly fading to a distant memory as companies adapt to accommodate this fast-growing demographic. Millennials now make up one-third of today’s workplace – that is over 54 million employees. Having an MBA degree, however, does not exempt this younger generation from the same characteristics that define their peers.

Tech startups in Silicon Valley offer many of the perks that millennials value in the workplace. At almost any startup, the rules are fluid and employees have a large influence on their working environment and capacity for productivity. Startups are also notorious for open workspaces, group collaboration and unique perks like massage tables and game rooms. These benefits are a huge attraction for a generation of MBAs that is likely to financially struggle more than its predecessors.

MBAs that go to work at startups in the Silicon Valley also often gain much more ownership of their projects and results than they would from traditional companies. Millennials are typically very passionate about what they do for a living – companies are likely to see many applicants from this particular age group when they create innovative environments that foster this passion.

For a generation that was raised with seemingly unconditional praise, recognition is important in the workplace, and startups give inexperienced MBAs a chance to prove themselves. It is no easy task to take a small startup company and make it an impressive success – the allure of potential for achievement and praise is one large contributing factor in the huge amount of MBAs that are going to work at this type of company.

It has been shown that many first-year MBAs are strongly attracted to working in the lucrative field of technology. This field has tremendously grown in the last twenty years, and is predicted to continue growing exponentially. Despite the amount of new and unproven tech startups in the Silicon Valley, it is easy to see why this area is anticipated to continue to draw numerous millennials with MBA degrees for many years to come.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Breaking Down Kellogg Evaluation Criteria

Kellogg School of ManagementThe Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has always taken a holistic view of their application process and the criteria with which it assesses candidates. Before diving head-first into the application process, candidates should review the evaluation criteria that the school has publicly communicated.

This approach will allow interested applicants a chance to strategize how they will best craft their profiles for success in applying to the the prestigious midwestern university. Now keep in mind, creating a game plan based on the evaluation criteria below should not be confused with trying to “game” the process – it should be instead used to focus your approach to the Kellogg application.

Let’s explore the five aspects of Kellogg’s evaluation criteria that the Admissions Committee utilizes for interested applicants:

1) Work Experience

This is business school after all, so your pre-MBA work experience will matter. Kellogg, like many other top MBA programs, is pre-disposed to strong brands, not just because these names have more cache, but because often these strong brands afford great development opportunities for those early in their careers. However, not having a strong brand on your resume is not necessarily a negative. The AdComm is really looking for the rigor and nature of your work experience here more so than a flashy brand. The more logical and upward-trending your work experience appears, the better off you will be in this area.

2) Impact

The criterion of impact connects directly with your work experience but is not limited exclusively to this domain. This single category can communicate a lot to the AdComm about your past, present and potential future. Kellogg seeks applicants who have driven impact in their past organizations and will continue to do so in the future, so make sure, if possible, you highlight your impact on the various organizations you have been a part of.

3) Professional Goals

Are your professional goals clear and logical? Do they align with your background? These are some of the questions you need to make sure you have articulated responses to. Kellogg wants to know that you have thought through your career goals as well as how their particular school can help you reach them, and specifically, Kellogg is seeking to determine whether the program can help you reach your goals given your background and the offerings of the school.

4) Leadership

Leadership skills are one of the top skills the AdComm at Kellogg look for in prospective students. Whether you are a seasoned professional or an applicant early in your career, it is important to showcase at the very least pockets of leadership in your background.  Leadership can exist anywhere, so make sure to canvas all aspects of your background to ensure you are highlighting your most relevant leadership experiences. Remember, leadership skills do not have to be limited to your professional experience –extra-curricular leadership experiences can be just as important if framed appropriately.  Kellogg is looking for the future leaders of tomorrow, so try to get the program excited about your leadership potential.

5) Interpersonal Skills

Coming from Kellogg, it should come as no surprise that this is a key evaluation point, given the educational approach that the school has pioneered and championed over the last few decades. Kellogg has built an unparalleled student community and has created a comprehensive application process that filters out the right type of applicants. Utilize the various touchpoints Kellogg offers via their application process to highlight the unique aspects of your personal and professional character and experiences.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! 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 of his articles here

Standing Out as an International Applicant from India

indiaOne of the most competitive MBA applicant pools year-in and year-out is the vast crop of talented applicants originating from the subcontinent of India. Every year, top business schools are flooded with qualified Indian applicants that present a bevy of challenging decisions for admissions committees around the world. If you’re a member of the Indian applicant pool, it is important to understand how the admission committee will view you – having a good handle on this can help a smart applicant properly strategize on producing a “winning” application.

With so many candidates and so few spots available, it is more important than ever for Indian applicants to create an admissions package that stands out from the masses. But how is this done?

Let’s discuss some different ways the typical Indian candidate can create an application package that stands out from the competition.

Work Experience

The Indian applicant pool is known for being predominantly populated by one of the country’s biggest industries: the IT industry is by far the biggest pipeline of MBA talent coming out of India. This fact feeds into the reputation of the “homogeneous” Indian applicant, and “homogeneous” is rarely ever a good buzzword when it comes to gaining admission into business school.

For many application-ready candidates, this is a tough area to stand out in. But there are still some things to do for those candidates in the early stages of planning for their MBA, or those already in the midst of application season. For those in the early stages, this can involve pursuing industries that align with an area of interest, particularly if that is outside of the IT industry.

For those already within their target industry, taking on leadership opportunities in an existing role or exploring development in other areas or functions of your current job can present a strong growth trajectory. Whatever stage you are in as a candidate, the key here is to showcase yourself as a high-potential future leader with the flexibility to succeed in multiple work functions and industries.

GMAT Scores

This one is pretty simple – with so many applicants flooding the business school pipeline; it is critical for a competitive Indian applicant to achieve a strong score on the GMAT. What is a strong score, you may ask?

Many Indian applicants come in with above-average GMAT scores, which makes this aspect of the admissions process particularly competitive. With so many high-performing applicants coming from this region, admitted candidates often report GMAT scores that exceed school averages.

Generally, you will want to aim for around +20 points above the average score for your target program, with anything above that, of course, being increasingly more beneficial for your application.

Education

Education is another fairly competitive area that is pretty unique in comparison to the typical structure favored by U.S. educators. Coming from a nation with a unique ranking system and some high-profile colleges, this is an area where international Indian candidates can try and stand out. Another common item on the transcript of the Indian MBA applicant can actually be an MBA. It is not uncommon for candidates to pursue a second Western MBA after already completing one in-country, so if this is you, make sure to have a clear rationale on why a second MBA is necessary.

Application

A common knock against the Indian applicant is the non-data portion of the application process. A lot of focus tends to go into the GMAT, and not enough on other more nuanced elements of the application. This reputation feeds into the “homogeneous” reputation of the Indian applicant, as the opportunity to differentiate is often missed.

Extra-Curriculars

Undergraduate engagement is important, but continued engagement is also key. The focus in this area should be on leadership within these activities and not just participation. Don’t be afraid to leverage these experiences for other areas of your application as well – your ability to share highlights and impact from your engagements will go a long way in establishing these as meaningful experiences in your application.

Essays

Be interesting! Too many essays are bland responses focused on writing what the candidate feels the AdComm wants to hear. Breakthrough essays will be introspective and passionate responses that provide a unique insight into a candidate’s personal and professional background and goals. Avoid generic responses and use language that builds a narrative that cannot otherwise be gleaned from a resume or transcript.

Understanding the perception of your applicant pool is a key first step in creating a strategy to differentiate your profile from the masses. Use these tips as a starting point to creating a breakthrough application that showcases you as a unique candidate.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! 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 of his articles here

The Best Classes to Take To Prep for Your MBA

ProfessorWhether you’re the applicant who has never taken an analytical class in your life, trying to account for a low GPA in college or just trying to refresh your memory on some dated concepts from your academic past, taking pre-MBA coursework is a great way to prep for Day One in business school. There are many different options when it comes to which classes you should take – popular and valuable business school classes like marketing and strategy may not be the best use of your time during application season.

Given that Year 1 of most MBA programs tends to be highly analytical, it makes sense to lean towards classes that showcase your analytical skills to the AdComm, as well as prepare for the academic rigor of the business school classroom.

Let’s discuss some of the best classes to take to prepare for business school:

Accounting

One of the core classes of any business school education is accounting. Although business school itself is no longer one of the major feeders in this industry, the course remains core to many functions in the financial industry. Students who have never seen or heard of income statements or balance sheets would be wise to utilize their local community college for a test run before enrollment.

Finance

Another great class to take pre-MBA is finance. Unless you are a veteran of the finance industry or an undergraduate business major, this class can be useful to prepare for the often fast-paced curriculum that first-year students experience. Many students coming from non-business functions find coursework in finance particularly challenging, but prior exposure can do wonders in reducing the learning curve here.

Statistics

Statistics is one of the foundations of many classes in business school. Now very few business school students will eventually become statisticians, but classes like marketing, strategy, and entrepreneurship rely on this very important skill set. Understanding the core concepts and terminology can make the transition into this class, and others, much easier for the uninitiated.

Economics

Economics is another of the underlying core concepts fundamental to a rewarding academic experience in business school. Economics plays a role in classes like marketing, strategy, and operations. Along with statistics, economics tends to be one of the core classes that first years struggle with the most, so any coursework or training a future student can take in advance is helpful.

Although the focus here has been on academic readiness, many candidates utilize this coursework to address a low undergraduate GPA or a spotty analytical track record, as well as to impress MBA Admissions Committees. Whatever your reason for researching which courses to take, utilize the list above to make the best decision in your course selection process.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us onFacebookYouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter.

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

Business Schools Expanding Opportunities for Women

Women MBALeadership of the business world and business schools came together at the White House in August to address the need for policies and programs that work to create opportunities for women and work better for families as a whole. From this meeting, an outline of the best practices discussed emerged to guide business schools in better meeting both current and future needs of students.

 

 

Four key areas are addressed by the agreed-upon plan:

1) To ensure access to business schools and careers for females

2) To create an educational experience to prepare female students to enter the modern and future workplaces as leaders and achievers

3) To create and maintain career services which go beyond traditional student services and schooling

4) To create examples of how organizations should utilize educational opportunities for women

In response, several schools announced actions they will undertake to further these goals. For example, Columbia Business School announced they will demonstrate their commitment through specific actions such as:

  • Faculty Research and Leadership on the State of Diversity in Business – Conducting cutting-edge research on gender equality and its implications on business.
  • Community Support from the Ground Up – Support for various student groups focused on diversity
  • Being Part of A Culture-Changing Network – Partnering with equality group such as Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Initiative

Glenn Hubbard, Dean of Columbia Business School said, “Columbia Business School has long believed that empowering women to reach their full professional potential will create tremendous value for the global economy and society at large. Stemming from this belief, we are excited to work with the White House to expand opportunities for women in the 21st century executive workforce.”

This increased focus on women in business school is no surprise as more and more companies are looking to further diversify their workforce and expecting business schools to offer them a more diverse talent pool. What does this mean for applicants? Well, female applicants should definitely consider applying early and often to schools. You should also expect more scholarship dollars to be available.

Don’t forget to also search for scholarships from outside the schools – while non-profits typically are the best source, don’t be surprised to see more companies trying to fund students’ scholarships. Many companies want to get in early on recruiting diverse talent and will provide more than just dollars, but also mentoring, training and early access to interviews.

As a female student, when you are at business school, also expect to see even more demand from recruiters than usual. Companies have typically held special programs targeted to recruiting female candidates. For example, consulting firms often will have special lunches and case prep workshops for women. Imagine getting the chance to learn from the pros all the inside secrets to cracking those really tough case interview. Make sure to take advantage of these! They will definitely give you a leg up in the interview process.

The AACSB International announced the publishing of these best practices on their website. The AACSB is the accrediting body of over 700 institutions and has a membership of over 1,450 business schools worldwide.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us onFacebookYouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter.

Huffington Post Predicts “B-School Collapse,” but We Don’t See It

Yesterday on the Huffington Post, Pablo Triana wrote a piece titled “The Coming B-School Collapse,” in which he essentially predicted revolt by current and soon-to-be business school students who will no doubt be underwhelmed by their post-MBA job prospects in the next couple of years. While I was intrigued by the prospect of MBAs storming a modern-day Bastille to voice their displeasure with having to wait an extra year to become Masters of the Universe, Triana’s piece left me scratching my head a bit.

He first asserts that thousands more applicants than normal are vying for spots in top MBA programs as a result of the rough economy. Okay, so far, so good. I can’t fault him so far. He then describes the three types of students that one will find at a top school in this brave new (jobless) world, and while he oversimplifies some, he’s still on the right track. I can’t really find fault here, either.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Triana then goes on to paint a cramped classroom teeming with unemployable know-nothings: “B-schools are then going to be overpopulated and to present a student mix that is potentially explosive.” Um, how so? Just because application numbers surged last year, that automatically means the top business schools’ classes will be proportionally more packed than before? Yes, this year some school did admit a handful more students (with HBS being the most prominent example), but we’re talking about a handful. And every one of those students can read the Wall Street Journal or turn on CNBC… They know to expect a rocky job market, making a revolt a long shot at best.

Although he’s taught at a business school before, what really makes me wonder how well Triana is still connected to the business school space is his assertion that “B-schools are completely dominated by theory and theoreticians, bent on embracing failed and lethal dogmas.” While this was definitely true ten years ago, and some schools today are still too slow to evolve their programs towards a more pragmatic model (we call them out when we see such behavior), Triana must not know about any of these schools that have done far more than pay lip service to hands-on learning:

University of Michigan (Ross) — Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP)

UC Berkeley (Haas) — International Business Development (IBD) Program

NYU (Stern) — Industry Mentoring Initiative

Those are just several good examples; I’ve left out many other schools’ programs that are just as significant. Just to stoke the fires and get bloggers like me to take the bait, he goes on to say, “B-schools show no signs of abating their analytical practices, no real atonement, no true repentance.” Triana may have taught at a highly-ranked school for a few years, but he did not sit in a room with admissions officers from a half dozen top school this summer, hearing every one of them express concerns about the employability of their students (and the importance of this trait when looking at an applicant), wonder aloud about how application numbers will look next year, and express how seriously the administration at each school takes the challenge of giving their students truly valuable management training in today’s environment. They all spent a lot of time talking about these issues, and I know for a fact that not one of these schools is resting on its laurels.

But, all I do is study these programs for a living. Perhaps it’s much better to create a snarky piece with an attention-grabbing headline, incite some class warfare, and maybe sell some ads in the process.

You know what? Why not. Let’s see if it happens. The Internet hasn’t given me anything good since I first learned that combining cute cats pictures and misspelled words equals comedy gold. I can’t wait until I can pull up dozens of YouTube videos of McKinsey wannabes hurling Molotov cocktails across the quad, turning back a wave of armor-clad administrators who can’t lure a single bank to come to campus and hand out job offers.

Until then, I suppose I can keep myself busy with helping more and more applicants get into these collapsing business schools.

To learn more about Veritas Prep’s GMAT prep and MBA admissions services, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

Veritas Prep Quoted in the Contra Costa Times

Last week the Bay Area’s Contra Costa Times ran an article titled “Value of an MBA Put to the Test,” focusing on the evolving return-on-investment equation for prospective business school students. In the article, David Morrill turned to Veritas Prep for advice to give to prospective business school applicants.

The interview gave us the chance to reiterate some of what we always tell our applicants about how important fit is when selecting an MBA program. Taken from the article:

Scott Shrum, director of MBA admissions research at Veritas Prep, advises and prepares students for the process. He says that if a student goes into a graduate school without a plan and the right mindset, they could have a rude awakening.

“If you measure the value of an MBA as a ticket to a six-figure job, then a lot of those people might be disappointed when they graduate,” Shrum said. “It’s those that realize an MBA is a transformative experience and much more than the paycheck who is going to reap the benefits.”

The article also explored the importance of investing in one’s own education, especially when times are tough:

“In good times it matters less because there are more are more jobs to be had,” Shrum said. “But in a down economy you need to be much choosier, because now companies tend to retreat to the schools they are familiar with and give them good talent.”

However, the lesser-known schools shouldn’t be entirely thrown aside in consideration. Some offer more flexible hours, online options, and niche affiliations such as the hotel and recreation industry.

Also, if a person doesn’t really want to work for a big firm, and is a self-starter that just needs to learn how to read an income statement and pick up the business basics to be an entrepreneur, then there’s no reason to spend a bunch of money on a branded school, Shrum said.

The main takeaway is what we’ve always said: There’s no one-size-fits-all MBA program, and there’s rarely a single answer when someone asks, “What’s the perfect business school for me?” There are a lot of variables to consider, way beyond the rankings, and you owe it to yourself to consider all of them before you make one of the biggest decisions of your young professional career.

For more advice on MBA admissions, visit Veritas Prep. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

The WSJ on Law School and the Recession — A Deeper Look

Law School AdmissionsLast week, Nathan Koppel of the Wall Street Journal wrote a thoughtful piece about young professionals retreating to law school as a form of safe harbor in the current economic climate. The column explored both sides of the issue, offering both reasons for and against going back to law school. While I agreed with much of it, I also felt that a great deal of analysis –- and more importantly, critical advice -– was missing from the article.

Again, I want to stress that Koppel’s take on this issue was fundamentally solid and that he presented the issue without much by way of an obvious agenda. That said, the first aspect of the column with which I take issue was his use of statistics. To put it bluntly, I believe he cherry-picked his “application increase” stats around which to build the story, citing Washington and Lee (29% increase), Yale (8%) and Texas (8%) as proof of a massive migration. However, as we wrote a while back, the ABA reported only a 1% increase in applications across the board this year. So again, I don’t think there has been quite the “retreat!” mentality that Koppel makes it out to be. Of course, that may just make the underlying question — Is heading to law school right now a good move? — all the more relevant because that small increase for this year is a harbinger of a huge increase next year. (See that same blog article for an analysis of the 2001 recession that saw a very small spike that year followed by 17% increase in 2002 applications.)

As to whether or not going to law school at this time is a good idea, I am more on the “yes” side of the fence than I am down the middle. With that in mind, here are key considerations that were either missing from the column or were not explored in great enough depth:

Safe Harbor. For starters, law school lasts three years, so the “hide out” argument could be bolstered by the fact that it gives students longer to ride out the recession. I think Koppel missed an easy chance to compare MBA students (who only get two years) and to introduce the notion of a JD/MBA degree, which provides even more of a diversified skill set and, depending on the school, can allow a student to ride out a down economy for four years. Even the most skeptical among us likely believe that things will be better four years from now — especially in the legal markets, where transactional attorneys will be in great demand once lending starts up again. In fact, when that day comes, there simply won’t be nearly enough junior and mid-level attorneys to draft all the documents that will be needed to support those deals. I could see a major corporate associate hiring boom in the next two-to-four years when lending kicks back in throughout the financial markets (commercial real estate, not so much, but that is beside the point).

New Jobs. I also think Koppel missed an “emerging industries” angle with regard to financial regulation (which would have been a perfect transition from talking about JD/MBA degrees and their value) and corporate governance. Given the clear cause of the economic crisis and the reform being called for by the Obama administration, I believe there are going to be a plethora of new legal jobs in the regulatory sector — both within governmental agencies (existing bodies like the SEC and possibly those that have yet to be formed) and within companies and law firms as well.

Alternative Career Path. One additional angle that Koppel went for in the column was some advice on how a graduating law student can prop himself up in a down job market. Not to beat a dead horse, but he missed a few things here as well. Koppel got the “elite school” thing right when he discussed the impact that graduating from a top 14 law school has on one’s prospects with BigLaw, but when he wrote about pursuing a non-legal job, he made it sound way too easy.

In fact, this part of Koppel’s article would have been the ideal place to drop in some of the soundest advice a prospective law student could ever receive: start your alternative career path while in law school. Too many law students make the mistake of assuming they can just waltz out of an elite law school with a JD and get whatever job they want, in whatever industry they want. And while a JD does signal certain things (critical thinking, strong writing skills, work ethic, problem solving) that can make a law school grad immediately attractive in particular industries such as management consulting, it doesn’t help much at all in the wide majority of industries who naively see law school as “lawyer training.” Never mind that this isn’t really true; that’s the perception.

So a law student who wants to work for an NBA team, or in business development for Warner Brothers, or for a hedge fund (or name your industry/company) can’t simply go take summer jobs at big law firms, graduate, and then send out their resumes. Yes, those summer associate gigs pay a mint, but they put law students on a straight-line path with 20-foot walls towards working at a big law firm. If a law student really wants to work for Warner Brothers, that person has to spend her summers working there for free or for cheap, so that the big guns at Warner Brothers get to know her and value her and desperately want her to work there. Then, when she graduates with her prestigious law degree, they have to pay her and position her accordingly. That is how it works for “alternative” career paths.

And I just desperately wish people would tell prospective students this reality. Maybe the Wall Street Journal wasn’t interested in that type of social good or perhaps Koppel didn’t even think of this or know about this reality, but this article would have presented a perfect opportunity to broadcast an important message.

The Money Game. The only other thing I would have put in this article is that students should be more cognizant of the financial aspects of their law school choices. With an uncertain job market at the other end of the pipeline, it is no longer a cavalier thing to take out $150,000 in debt to obtain an elite law degree. In 2004, I would have been crazy to go to Duke for $70,000 rather than Chicago for $150,000. Now, in 2008? I’d probably be crazy to do the opposite. Schools are leveraging each other right now too, so it is a good time to pay attention to trends (this year Michigan appears to be the big spender) and also to barter with the schools.

All of this signifies a sea change in the selection/enrollment process. Until now, I would have told a student to pick among the top 14 law schools in this order:

1) fit
2) rank/prestige
3) cost.

Now, under these market conditions, I would change the order to:

1) cost
2) fit
3) rank/prestige.

In my humble opinion, it is far better to go to Cornell and have $50,000 in debt than go to NYU and carry $120,000 in student loans, when it might not matter much with regard to job prospects. Either the deals are going to start happening by the time you graduate (in which case you can get a great job from either school), or they’re not (in which case you might be trouble coming from either school). This is now a major consideration. Put another way: students have to consider law school a little more like undergrad with regard to their cost versus return on investment (ROI) analysis.

All in all, Koppel’s article got some key issues out on the table and will get people talking. That’s the most important thing. I simply wish the analysis had gone deeper and that some key and useful messages would have been delivered to the confused law students and prospective law students who need that information so badly.

To get more law school admissions news and analysis from Veritas Prep, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

New MBA Admissions Survey

We pride ourselves on making the Veritas Prep Blog a source of reliable information and valuable advice on the MBA admissions process. To that end, as a member of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), we are conducting a survey to help us better understand our readers’ goals and needs. We would like to invite all of our readers to share their school selection priorities and views on the MBA application process.

This online survey should take just 10 minutes to complete. We would love to receive as many responses as possible before the closing date of Friday, March 20th. That end, AIGAC will will give away an iPod Touch and two iPod Shuffles as a token of gratitude.

Thanks in advance for your help! Please click here to participate. The survey is now complete. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Announcing The Laid-Off Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions

In response to the ever-worsening economy, we have just released a guide to help recently laid-off business school applicants overcome their career setbacks and gain admissions to the world’s most competitive MBA programsThe Laid-Off Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions gives you specific, step-by-step instructions for how you can overcome the setback of a job loss and still shine in MBA admissions eyes.

The key themes that you will want to emphasize in your application include:

  1. Now is the right time. You should explain that the decision to apply is the result of a well-conceived plan, not the knee-reaction of someone who fears a period of unemployment underemployment. If admissions officers sense that you’re in the latter camp, they will likely pass over your application and move on to candidates with more compelling reasons for wanting to earn an MBA.
  2. You are a star, not a victim. Essays, letters of recommendation and admission interviews will allow you to highlight multiple professional success stories. Pointing to career achievements paints the picture of a perennial winner who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when jobs had to be cut.
  3. You made lemonade out of lemons. Did you use your new-found free time to volunteer or take a night class to hone skill areas? While reporting on these accomplishments may seem less attractive than boasting about a position on the corporate ladder, admissions officers appreciate it when applicants demonstrate productivity during any extended period of time off between jobs.

This white paper is the first installment of The Veritas Prep Recovery Series, a collection of white papers devoted to helping business school applicants who need to overcome certain weaknesses or blemished in their backgrounds.

The The Laid-Off Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions is available for free download here. If you have recently lost your job, or are afraid you will, don’t worry… We’re here to help!

Five Tips for Applying to Law School… Next Year

February is a fascinating month to work with law school admissions consulting clients, because half are scrambling to find their way off the waitlist and decide which program to attend, while the other half are already planning for next year. It is a great reminder that, for some people, the idea of law school isn’t a major practical decision staring them in the face, but rather an esoteric concept that seems an eternity away. It also a reminder that many of our clients still control most of the factors that will ultimately impact their law school opportunities.

Therefore, we are focusing on are the five things that people should be doing if they plan to apply to law school next year:

1. Plan around the LSAT. More than any other standardized test, the LSAT is a major influence on your admissions prospects. Part of the reason for this is that the LSAT actually does test a lot of the key critical thinking, reading, and reasoning skills that will have a huge impact on your level of success in the classroom, so law schools put a great deal of emphasis on the resulting test scores. Therefore, ensure that you make the proper investment in your preparation. You may or may not decide to pay for a course (or even just for help with logic games), but you should plan on doing as many practice tests as possible and spending the time necessary to become completely comfortable with the exam. This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often people procrastinate in their LSAT preparation … especially when there is “an entire year” to get it done.

2. Mitigate a weakness. The name of the admissions game is to try to read your own profile (GPA, LSAT, resume, etc.) the way an admissions officer would and then use your personal statement to answer their big questions. In short, you have to write away your weaknesses. In a perfect world, there aren’t weaknesses to write away, so you can focus simply on drafting an amazing personal statement. Therefore, one thing you should absolutely do in the next year is identify your biggest weaknesses (this is where consulting or some other form of advising is extremely helpful) and then go out and conquer them. If you have some issues with focus and discipline due to a spotty GPA, take a job that requires great maturity. Even better, take some challenges courses and knock them out of the park. If your motivation as a law school applicant seems questionable, seek out an internship somewhere within the legal space. Rather than merely chasing the “best” job or the most “unique” experience, see if there is something more valuable you can do with your time that will round you out as an applicant.

3. Secure your letters of recommendation. It seems like it would be easy to zip over to the office of your favorite college professors and ask them for a quick turnaround on a great letter of recommendation. It’s not. Instead of letting time lapse, go to them now and start the recommendation process. Ask them for their advice on whether you should apply to law school and perhaps which schools. Start outlining a timeline for the process, whereby you will supply them with updates, bullet points about your future application story, and other items that will help them write a great letter.

4. Read. Many people will tell you to avoid studying or anything resembling law school life, since you will be doing so much of it once you get to school. Nonsense! You don’t have to read books about Civil Procedure or Tort restatements, but you should always be reading. It will help you with the LSAT and it will certainly help you hit the ground running once you arrive on campus. Don’t let your mental muscles atrophy.

5. Visit Campus. A common misconception in the law school universe is that rankings are everything and there is no need to worry about “feel” at the various programs. This is false. That said, it can be difficult to tell schools apart based on their online descriptions. The classes, the clinics, the on campus recruitment, the journals … it definitely bleeds together. And few programs have a flagship designation like “Law and Econ” (University of Chicago). Therefore, the best way to tease out which schools are the best fit is to go visit them. You will get an idea for where they are located, how people interact, and even the “types” of students that attend. Not only that, but you may have the good fortune of meeting with admissions reps or professors on your visits and making a lasting impression.

In short, make use of the next year in ways that will aid both your candidacy and your level of preparation so that you can make the experience as meaningful as possible. If you are willing to spend countless hours applying, three years and six figures attending, and then a career practicing law, you should be willing to spend the next year preparing for those things.

If not … well, that’s another post entirely!

Law School Admissions: Tackling the Personal Statement (Part II)

Last week we initiated a two-part series on the law school personal statement. Part I focused on the art of positioning and answering the reader’s biggest question, Part II will describe the five law school themes as well as some thoughts on creating entertainment value in the personal statement.

The Law School Themes. In addition to your primary positioning, you also want to try to round out the key law school themes. They are:

1. Intellect (both intellectual curiosity and intellectual horsepower).
2. Motivation.
3. Discipline.
4. Collegiality.
5. Leadership.

For most applicants, two or three of these themes are readily apparent from the academic profile and resume. Most commonly, things like leadership, collegiality, and discipline jump off the page