Steps to a Stronger MBA Profile in 6 Months

RecommenderOnce you have finally decided to pursue an MBA, you will naturally start assessing your chances of actually being admitted. Undergraduate academics and GMAT score aside, most business school applicants will fret as to whether their extracurricular activities and overall profile are impressive enough for their dream schools, especially as these aspects of an applicant’s profile are not as straightforward to quantify and compare.

How then can you improve your profile in the last six months?
Should you rush to get registered in additional community organizations? Should you learn a new language or a musical instrument? Should you go on a trip to the wilderness or join a religious mission?

As a rule, the Admissions Committee will consider the length of time and level of involvement with the activities you participate in when they weigh these as part of your profile (just as any potential employer would during a job interview). On your end, you should consider the limited time remaining towards the deadline, and the demands of polishing up your whole application package while focusing on fulfilling your current work and personal responsibilities.

Below are some practical tips to strengthen your profile:

1) Do More with Current Involvements
You may feel that your current activities are not as impressive as they really are and, thus, do not make you stand out as an applicant. One way to address this is to look for the chance to introduce something new to your profile that would make your potential future contributions to the school unique.

For instance, you may be the leader of your undergraduate alumni branch – from this, you can find an innovative way to link up across other chapters, and strengthen alumni engagement and knowledge transfers across your entire network.  Or, you may be involved with donation drives for the less fortunate; try to find new ways to boost your funds or at least organize activities that can better showcase your leadership and teamwork skills.

Initiatives such as these give more credence and value to your current activities, without having to start from scratch.

2) Do the Same Thing for a Different Audience
This should be relatively easy to do – look for some opportunities to leverage your long-running interest or hobby to demonstrate more involvement and impact on the community. As an example, you may be singer who performs regularly at a club. You may use this talent and volunteer to sing for several worthwhile causes. In this way, you can enrich your stories about your singing talent (or at the very least, the audacity to perform in front of an audience!) and make them more interesting for the Admissions Committee. 

Taking this point further, let’s say your lack of international exposure is perceived to be a weakness – look for ways to at least show how open-minded and internationally aware you are by getting involved with the expatriate community, nearby refugee camps, or by performing with multi-cultural groups.

Use these tips to help strengthen your business school applications and set your current activities apart from those of other MBA candidates, and to further your own personal development, as well.

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.

The Challenges of Obtaining an International Work Visa Post-MBA

MBA Admissions ConsultantFor many international students, the joy of graduating from a top MBA program in the United States can quickly turn into the pain of figuring out how to stay in the country. Like many other nations, the U.S. has a stringent and cumbersome work visa process for graduating MBAs that makes it difficult for international students to take full advantage of their new degrees.

After completing an MBA in the United States under the F-1 student visa, international students must leave the country within 60 days. At this point, students interested in remaining in the country must secure sponsorship from an employer via the H-1B visa – this visa will allow the recipient to work in the U.S. for up to three years, with the option for potential renewal of an additional three years.

Despite the rise of international students in U.S. MBA programs, however, the amount of distributed work visas has remained unchanged, even in the face of this growth.

In recent years, this process has become even more difficult, with less companies willing to offer international MBAs the highly coveted work visa, and an increasingly stringent lottery system. This past year, the aforementioned lottery allotted just 85,000 H-1B work visas for an estimated 230,000 applicants. This frustrating end to a business school student’s time in the states can be a major contrast to the optimistic beginning of their MBA journey.

Given these challenges, it is critical for international students to understand the likelihood of being able to secure employer sponsorship following business school. This is particularly important, given that these students may be returning to home economies that are not as robust as that of the U.S., resulting in lower salaries and a reduced return on investment on their MBA degrees.

The discussion on this issue has elevated to the political sphere, with conversations surrounding whether or not the work visa system should be overhauled. This will likely be a hot button topic for many years to come, and hopefully, the resolution balances the needs of international students with the U.S. economy.

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

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

How to Discuss Individual Work Experience in Your MBA Applications in 4 Steps

Successful ApplicantAccomplished individual contributors in highly specialized fields – whether from finance, science, or technology fields – often face the challenge of sharing the scale of their responsibilities and the impact of their accomplishments. In this entry, I’ll share four tips on how MBA candidates in these situations can maximize their backgrounds while writing their application essays:

Pause…
Out of habit, your first essay draft will likely be littered with jargons (industry terms that only few would actually understand). Often, the examples you choose to showcase – whether it’s leveraging a sophisticated financial instrument or introducing an advanced manufacturing process – are even more advanced and complicated than you realize, so that even those with a basic level of knowledge regarding your work will probably not comprehend the scope of your activities. Thus, remind yourself that you are not writing a paper for peer review or for your immediate superior, but instead, you are communicating to people without your level of expertise.

Share What Got You There
How can you communicate your expert abilities if the limited space you are given for your essays does not allow you to take non-industry readers through the minute details of your work experience? One way to do this is to show how rare it is for someone to get to your role. Highlighting selectivity and how qualified you are is a good way to show your career progress and accomplishments.

In this way, your story can flow naturally from academic performance, to previous successes at work, and, finally, to why you were entrusted with such a challenging role – saving on word space while still tying in the personal and professional components of your application profile at the same time.

Use Analogies
Often, I find that applicants attempt to answer essay prompts that ask for examples of accomplishments and failures with stories involving the most complex, technical issues they have dealt with. This is understandable, as these examples are probably the most memorable and impressive in the applicants’ professional lives. However, the limited essay space also poses a problem, as as one’s essay must then be divided into setting up the situation, the action the applicant took, the results achieved, and the lessons learned.

One quick and effective way to handle this issue is to use analogies (quotations from leaders in your field could also be used) to describe the situation and demonstrate its complexity, probability of success, or scale of impact. This will make it easier for the Admissions Committee to understand the challenges you faced and complement your general description – think of this the same way you would make friends and family members at a dinner party understand what you have been up to.

Highlight the Impact
Lastly, validate the importance of your work by relating it to impact, both at the qualitative level, and in terms of quantifiable numbers (if possible). Use examples of personal stories and paint vivid pictures to touch the emotions of your audience (the Admissions Committee) and help them appreciate the impact of your work. Numbers such as profitability, processing time saved, or potential customers impacted are also helpful to substantiate the context of your role.

Following these tips can help you show yourself not only as just a brilliant individual contributor, but as someone with the ability to communicate like a future senior leader, making your unique profile stand out and be appreciated.

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.

How to Choose the Right Hobbies for Your Business School Application

Extracurricular-ActivitiesHow relevant are your hobbies and interests to your MBA applications? You may wonder how outside activities in sports, arts, or other areas can impact your application, and think these are nothing more than trivial bits of additional information that are totally separate from your professional experiences. However, choosing the right ones to highlight and using them appropriately can help present you in a multi-dimensional way that strengthens your overall profile.

First, choose activities that would complement your current work profile. For example, someone working in Finance, whose roles and accomplishments are in an individual capacity, would be better off choosing to highlight their contributions to a club soccer team, rather than their exploits playing the piano.  This is to display the applicant’s ability to get along with peers and show teamwork and leadership skills.

Contrary to some misconceptions, you don’t have to be the star player of every activity you are involved in – showing humility and the ability to work well with others in different roles is just as important as being a leader, especially if you are targeting schools that are known to encourage a collaborative environment.

You may also want to consider choosing to participate in an activity that would be unexpected from the stereotype of people in your field. For instance, a compliance officer could share that he or she is also a part-time stand-up comedian. Aside from making such an applicant’s profile more interesting, this hobby also shows them in a different dimension, and expands the qualities that would be typically associated with a compliance officer – in this case, portraying this applicant as not only an executive who is methodical, diligent, and responsible, but also as an entertainer who is funny, dynamic and engaging.

Share stories of the activities you were involved with growing up to demonstrate values that are consistent with the values you highlight for your work experiences, or that you use to define your character strengths. To illustrate, you may tell a story of how hours and hours of practice for gymnastics enabled you to develop and appreciate the value of hard work, or how the same resilience you displayed to fully recover from a serious knee injury that cut short your career as a tennis champion allowed you to succeed with your start-up, even after encountering major obstacles.

A surprising hobby or interest can help your profile pop and paint a vivid picture of you in the minds of the Admissions Committee, helping you become a memorable and relatable candidate they would want attending their school.

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.

Applying to Business School With a Non-Profit Background

NonprofitIf you’re applying to business school from a non-profit background, then congrats! The richness of the student community at many top business schools is due to the diversity of their student’s unique backgrounds and perspectives, so do not run from your non-profit experience – embrace it!

MBA programs have historically been filled with students from more traditional feeder industries, such as consulting and finance, but this does not mean these are the only industries Admissions Committees are looking for. There are a few factors to keep in mind, however, as you apply to top MBA programs from a non-profit background:

Academic Transcript
What type of coursework did you take as an undergraduate student? Was it primarily quantitative or more qualitative? These factors play a big role in how ready your candidacy appears for the predominantly analytical core curriculums found at most business schools. This issue is heightened even further if you also have a low GPA or poor performance in past quantitative classes, given that your non-profit work experience may not be perceived as analytically rigorous as other traditional MBA feeder industries. 

GMAT Score
Your GMAT score plays another important role in the viability of your candidacy. Your ability to achieve a competitive score, particularly on the Quantitative Section, could help dispel any doubt about your ability to perform in your first year at business school.

Interpersonal Skills
Although the non-profit sector still remains a relatively small industry for MBA applicants to come from, the transferable skills schools look for in candidates from this field are relatively similar those from other, more traditional industries. Showcasing your leadership and teamwork abilities will be critical to highlight your potential to make an impact on campus and as a future alum of the school.

Career Goals
Like many other applicants, non-profit candidates often pursue business school as an opportunity to switch careers – sometimes this career switch is a complete turnaround from their prior work experiences, and other times it’s just a subtle tweak to their career trajectories.

In both respects, it is important to identify the transferable skills that you have gained during your time working in the non-profit sector and how these skills will be able to be utilized in your future industry of choice. If there is a personal passion that drove your initial interest in your non-profit, try and connect that in some way to your future career goals, if relevant. Having a commitment to something that has a broader impact on the world around you has always been viewed positively by the Admissions Committee (when authentic).

Keep these strategies in mind as you plan out your approach for applying to MBA programs from your non-profit background.

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

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

From the Family Business to Business School (and Back)

Awkward Family Photo - Summer“You’re going back to the family business?” 

If you’re planning to attend business school with the ultimate intent of working for your family’s business, some of your friends will probably wonder why you would consider pursuing an MBA when they feel that a clear path has already been (very well) paved for you with the power, privilege, and prestige of your family’s business handed to you on a silver platter. Some will envy you, some will resent you, and even more will wonder if you really need an MBA, while you yourself doubt how stating this post-MBA goal will affect your odds of admission.

Interestingly, articulating your personal story towards convince your friends of this decision may also be the same formula towards strengthening your case to getting admitted to your target schools. Let’s examine three ways you can best explain to the Admissions Committee your plans to go from your family’s business to business school, and back:

1) Win Admiration from Peers
Displaying your competence through your strong academic and job accomplishments, demonstrating your character through your work ethic and values, or showcasing how you have gotten involved with interesting and worthwhile activities will help show you as someone who can make it on their own. In turn, this display of independence – that you don’t completely rely on your family to succeed – will work  towards winning admiration and respect from your peers, and even your subordinates.

Imagine, sometime in the near future (perhaps your late 20’s or early 30’s), being introduced as the new General Manager of your family’s business. Some whispers from your employees would surely be, “She’s the daughter of the boss, that’s why…” From your side, you would want them to also recognize how you have also excelled outside of the family business environment, whether it is at another company, or towards a specific social cause or interest. Similarly, explaining this desire to find your own success, independent of your family, will be a great way to explain your MBA aspirations to the Admissions Committee.

2) Acknowledge Your Good Fortune
In discussing your history in relation to your family’s business, you would do well to be grateful for the circumstances you have been blessed with. This gratitude will serve as a good point to highlight the knowledge, exposure and network you are equipped with – attractive qualities that can benefit your future business school community, as well.

Mentioning specifics about your family’s business to demonstrate its scale and potential impact not only shows your awareness and interest in the business, but also helps the Admissions Committee realize the impact you can make in the business world. Providing details on the products this company provides, or on its business model, will also help them visualize what you are involved with now, and how it can influence you as a future MBA.

3) Articulate Your Passion
Tell the Admissions Committee what you are excited to do after business school, such as leading the entry into a new market, launching a product line, building a distribution channel, or formulating new company plans. You can also share the challenges your family’s business is currently facing – perhaps it is the need to modernize its systems and processes, or its struggle with the more personal aspects of succession planning or even family politics. Showing your focus and drive to achieve these specific post-MBA objectives – and explaining how attending business school will help you attain these goals – will further demonstrate your substance and maturity.

Relate these future plans and current challenges to your need for an MBA at your specific school of interest by identifying exactly what you aim to gain at their program and how you plan to bring it back to your family’s business. Doing this will help convince the Admission Committee that you are the right fit for their program and deserving of a spot.

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.

How to Show Leadership Potential in Your MBA Applications (Even Without Holding a Formal Title)

InterviewBusiness schools are known to value the leadership potential of their candidates very highly. Consequently, applicants often worry that their work experiences are not strong enough to impress the Admissions Committee – especially when they do not hold a high-ranking title or do not have direct reports under their supervision.

Aside from formal leadership responsibilities within your organization, use the tips below to showcase your future leadership potential in your MBA applications:

1) Use Successes of Selling Ideas
MBA applicants who have roles as experts or individual contributors to a company often do not have any staff underneath them. If you are in this position, use examples of your success in selling ideas to showcase your leadership potential. This could include convincing senior management to approve a proposal, collaborating with diverse stakeholders for a project, and getting your plans implemented across the company.

Aside from displaying innovation and initiative, speaking about your success in selling ideas will also allow you to demonstrate your ability to negotiate, align and relate with people from diverse backgrounds and motivations, showcasing you as an applicant who can collaborate with peers at business school and be an effective leader post-MBA. This addresses both the leadership and teamwork skills that Admissions Committees look for, while giving you an avenue to show examples of your creativity and expertise.

2) Play up Personal Passions
To present yourself as an all-around great personality with multiple dimensions, you will need to share your personal interests – the activities you do to have fun, to relieve stress, and to grow outside of the work environment will definitely make you a more interesting candidate to the Admissions Committee. In determining which extracurriculars to elaborate on, choose those that involve leadership responsibilities or impressive projects that you took an active role in (these examples could also easily go in any essays that ask for examples of leadership, success, or failure).

Aside from making your profile stand out and offering you another way to display your leadership potential, sharing your passions in this way will give you the chance to show the Admissions Committee how easy it would be for you to relate with your future business school peers and contribute to their experiences.

3) Include Informal Mentoring and Influencing
Another way to demonstrate your interpersonal leadership skills is to relate stories of how you informally mentored and influenced someone to help you achieve an accomplishment or solve a particular problem. MBA programs increasingly value the importance of this ability. In addition to showing the values of leadership, empathy and teamwork, including information about this mentoring in your profile will also be a great chance to exhibit your drive, initiative and ability to adapt to working with different types of personalities.

By employing the tips above, you will be able to demonstrate strong leadership potential – even without holding an impressive title in your organization – while also sharing outstanding aspects of your personal profile.

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.

What’s More Important to Business Schools: The Company You Work For or What You Actually Do?

Successful ApplicantFor most Admissions teams at top business schools, an applicant’s work experience is a major area of assessment, but there still remain a lot of questions around how programs evaluate the varying factors that make up one’s work experience. One of the key questions many candidates have when it comes to work experience is what do admissions teams value more: the reputation of the company you work for, or the quality of what you actually do?

Let’s explore why each aspect of this question is important, and ultimately, how admissions teams value or weight your work experience:

Big-Name Firm
Many of the top business schools are certainly “brand conscious” and tend to admit folks who have worked at large “blue chip” companies. However, I would say that this fact exists primarily due to the recruiting process of those firms.

The type of talent that can secure employment at these companies are often similar to the ones that can secure admission at top-tier MBA programs. From attending prestigious undergraduate programs to achieving high standardized test scores and maintaining high levels of ambition, there tend to be more similarities than differences between big-name firm employees and top MBA candidates.

Context of Work
One could argue that “impact” is the most important characteristic when evaluating work experience, however it can certainly be more difficult to get scope your accomplishments across when the Admissions Committee is unfamiliar with your firm.

Another challenge that often occurs here is when an applicant is unable to properly translate their great work experience and impact to the firm. With big-name firms, generally, no translation is needed as the reputation of the company precedes all, but when communicating the context of your work at a smaller firm, it is critical to clearly articulate all of your good deeds.

When considering the choice between firm reputation and impact of work, those without a blue chip pedigree should not be worried. The benefits of working at a larger company do not put you at a significant disadvantage – this just means you need to be proactive and aggressive in highlighting the higher value of your work and the nature of your firm. Your recommenders can also help you by explicitly and repeatedly emphasizing through their examples that you are not doing typical work. If you do these things, you will minimize the disadvantage of your firm’s lack of brand name.

Business schools would rather see you doing meaningful work at a small-name firm then doing nothing at a well-known brand. Now of course, the ideal situation would be to work at a blue chip company and still have great work experiences but it is perfectly fine if that’s not the case. The important thing is to make it very clear of the impact you made and how valued you are at your company.

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 read more articles by him here.

How to Answer the “Post-MBA Goal” Question in 3 Steps

GoalsOne daunting, yet common question every business school candidate must answer at some point during the MBA application process is, “What are your post-MBA goals?”

In many cases, applicants do not have a concrete answer to this question – they just know that they don’t like where they currently are, but do not have clear post-MBA goals in mind. This kind of applicant will usually answer this question with something like, “I’ll explore my options during the program and go from there.”

While this is understandable, answering the question in this way could make the applicant come across as being unfocused, and doubts would arise as to whether the applicant has thought about his or her MBA goals properly. In these cases, it would be better for applicants to research likely post-MBA career paths with respect to their experiences and interests. This will allow them to state realistic post-MBA options, while also explicitly showing fit with the business schools they are interested in.

All things equal (as Econ professors love to say), identifying specifics will be the best way to go when discussing your future plans. Let’s examine 3 ways you can better define your post-business school goals to the Admissions committee:

1) Identify Career Fit with Your Personal Background
You would want to identify a goal that an MBA can help you achieve – that investing in a particular business school will create real value for you. In line with this, the Admissions Committee will evaluate how worthwhile and realistic your goal is given your previous experiences, current skill set, and potential future path with the school. This could include your academic potential, international exposure, work experiences, network, and personal passions.

Highlighting your unique qualities, track record of accomplishments, and resources you can leverage to make your future goals a reality is part of convincing the Admissions Committee of the feasibility of your post-MBA goal.

2) Showcase Your Knowledge of the Job Market
Identifying potential roles and the target market for yourself post-MBA, in the same way you would if you were creating a business plan for a new entrepreneurial venture, would clearly show the feasibility of your MBA plans. Matching your selling points in terms of knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences with the job market will be part of this process.

If possible, identify specific roles, companies, industries, and locations that are an ideal match for you – reaching out to people who have gone down a similar career path to the one you are interested in would help you determine if that particular track and the day-to-day realities that they experience match with your vision.

3) Emphasize Your Interest in This MBA Program
Finally, demonstrating keen interest in a particular MBA program by identifying how its culture, courses and clubs would fit your goals communicates a well-thought out plan. This will show the Admissions Committee that you took time to genuinely reflect on your personal development and what their unique school has to offer. Your interest will also help convince Admissions that you will readily accept a slot into their MBA program, if offered one.

With these tips in mind, be sure to invest your time and effort in researching the specifics of your target MBA programs and demonstrate that you have done so. If you are not yet confident in your answer to the post-MBA goal question, now is a great time to reflect and research – not only will a great answer to this question it strengthen your MBA application chances, but it will also give you clarity on the next stage of your life.

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.

Free MBA Guide: Everything You Need to Research Business Schools and Create Compelling Applications

Columbia UniversityIt’s no secret that pursuing an MBA is a challenging and time consuming process. There are thousands of MBA programs around the world, and it’s your job to find the program best fit for you. It’s easy to identify programs where your GPA and GMAT score fall within the range of accepted candidates, but what about personal fit? Which school or schools will offer you the best environment for your unique personality and future goals?

The Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Top Business Schools is a must-have resource for every elite MBA applicant. Now available for free through the Veritas Prep website, this comprehensive, interactive guide cuts through the marketing jargon and basic statistics found on any school’s website to offer in-depth analysis and expert advice to gain admission to the world’s most selective graduate business programs.

Use this guide to help determine which business school is the best fit for you based on your unique needs. The Essential Guide to Top Business School includes detailed information about the world’s most competitive business schools, including class statistics, academic structure, campus culture, post-MBA employment trends, as well as actionable advice to create compelling applications.

What are you waiting for? Bring yourself one step closer to getting an MBA, and check out the Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Business School for free now!

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

Where Should You Live During Business School?

apartmentYou’ve snagged that letter of admission to the school of your dreams and are getting ready to matriculate. Your deposit is sent in and you’ve already notified your employer of your decision to attend business school next year. Everything seems to be falling in place, except where you are actually going to spend those two years in business school. Choosing where you will live during this time can be a bit challenging, especially for students who have limited knowledge of the local renting and housing markets.

Before you begin the housing hunt, prioritize what is most important to you. Is close proximity to campus something that you desire, or would you rather have more access to social areas like bars and restaurants? Do you want to buy or rent? Are you planning to live alone or with other people? Starting from this point will allow you to be more discerning and efficient during your housing search.

The process of finding a new living arrangement does not need to be so complicated – let’s explore a few groups within your business school community that can help ease this decision:

MBA Program
Most MBA programs provide tons of support for entering students when it comes to housing, so leverage your school’s resources to help inform you during this process. Most schools will have an apartment tour during their admitted students weekend, and if you are attending, this should be a can’t-miss activity.

During these tours you’ll have the chance to visit multiple apartment complexes and talk directly with the proprietors as they address any questions you may have about their accommodations. Many of the proprietors will also offer discounts during these weekends, so if you are looking for a good deal on housing, this is a great time to broker one.

Current Students
Another great source of housing intel is current business school students. They understand what’s most important about where to live in the student community, which can really help the decision-making process for matriculating students. It is usually pretty easy to get in touch with second-year students once admitted, so utilize multiple students to help support your housing search.

Alumni
Another great source of housing information is alumni of the school. Alumni are generally the most passionate about MBA programs, and so are overwhelmingly willing to help out new students however they can. Pick their brains over some of the pros and cons of housing options in the area and learn more about the best places to live. Also, don’t limit your alumni outreach to just MBA grads – if you can get in contact with any undergraduate alumni, they often know even more about the surrounding community as they spent four years in the area as opposed to just two years like the average MBA student.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the housing search – utilize the resources above to help you make the best decision and find the perfect new home.

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 read more articles by him here.

How to Avoid Negativity in Your MBA Application Essays

MBA EssaysAnyone who has gone through the MBA application process knows how stressful it is. Applicants have to wrestle with preparing for the GMAT, deciding which schools to apply to, evaluating probabilities of admission, and worrying about finances – all while juggling various pressures at work and home.

Handling all of these responsibilities simultaneously while targeting specific application periods makes it tempting to just rush through the essay writing process to meet school deadlines and move on to other duties. Exhausted and unfamiliar with this process, applicants often get side-tracked and spend their time fine-tuning their essays with the wrong starting points.

One of the most common mistakes I have seen candidates make during my past eight years working with Veritas Prep is allowing negativity to seep into their application essays. Being mindful of this tendency can take you several steps closer to crafting a great application.

Many MBA applicants express time and again how unhappy, insignificant or stuck they feel with their current roles or companies, and while we always encourage applicants to be honest in their essays, focusing on the negative aspects that are prompting you to apply for an MBA does not help your cause and just wastes precious space.

For example, saying something like “I am just a salesman,” or “It is a boring job with little intellectual challenges,” diminishes your own accomplishments and portrays your past experiences as weak and unremarkable. The admissions committee might also wonder if you would eventually feel negatively about your MBA experience at their program, and thus, be an ineffective ambassador for the program when you become part of their alumni community.

My advice is to remain truthful but to shift your perspective. It is true that you are very motivated to go from your current situation (point A) to your post-MBA goal (point B), however it is better to emphasize what you have gained or learned at point A and how this will help you get to point B, where you are excited to make a great impact, than to complain excessively about point A.

Filling in details on why you want to get to point B, adding in specifics about how your target MBA program will help get you there and why this is a worthwhile and realistic goal, would boost your chances of admission. Just as importantly, this positive outlook will also make you happier and help you plan the next stages of your life productively.

In conclusion, a positive mindset and tone will help you come across as forward-looking, optimistic, and grateful to the admissions committee. It will also help you focus on your goals and convince the school that you will be a valuable member of their community.

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.

The Right Way to Communicate with Business School Admissions Committees

Phone InterviewThe business school application process can be full of questions that can be difficult to obtain answers to. Although there is a lot of information publicly available about this general process, many applicants often seek answers that are more specific to their own candidacy and profile. However, with so many incoming applications, it is unrealistic for MBA admissions teams to be expected to service every single inquiry made by an applicant.

Now, this does not mean that admissions teams are not open to addressing questions or concerns an applicant may have, it just puts the onus on the candidate to make sure the inquiry is worthy of an admission officer’s time. Keep in mind, during the business school application process every interaction can be judged and evaluated, so you generally want to make sure if you are reaching out, the information you are looking for is of critical importance to your candidacy.

Here are a few ways it may be appropriate to communicate with the admissions committee during each stage of the admissions process:

Pre-Application Submission:
At this stage, you’ll generally want to leverage your communication with the admissions office in two areas. The first is to gain information about the program that will better inform your application – public settings such as school information sessions, affinity weekends and MBA tours are great places to begin to nurture relationships with representatives from admissions. Creating these relationships will allow you to personalize your future inquiries, if necessary, and will increase the opportunity for you to gain new insights into the school through your dialogue.

The second area surrounds more mission-critical questions. I see these questions as ones that will prevent you from properly completing an aspect of the application, such as transcript issues and other process-oriented problems.

Post-Application Submission:
This stage is largely seen as the “waiting game” phase of the admissions process, but important questions still sometimes arise for candidates. You’ll want to avoid communication during this stage unless it is absolutely critical – avoid questions regarding interview or decision timelines in particular, as these can make you appear too impatient to the admissions committee.

Even questions along the lines of receipt of application materials post-submission really should be discouraged; most of the back-end submission process is so automated that if you submit something you should be confident it was received. Unless a question arises that is crucial to your application, just sit back and relax as you wait to hear back from admissions regarding their decision.

Post Decision:
This is one of the tougher communication periods for applicants. Make sure to begin your communication with admissions after you have received a formal decision. If you’ve been admitted, use your communication to clarify the offer and to potentially inquire about additional funding (especially if you have received other favorable offers from competing programs). If you were denied admission, not much communication is necessary. If you had a strong relationship with someone in admissions, I would recommend you send out a thank you note, especially if you are considering reapplying in the future, and perhaps ask if admissions has any advice for future re-application.

If you were waitlisted, this phase is probably the most important for you. First and foremost, follow the communication guidelines laid out in your waitlist letter. Most programs will accept material updates to your application, so if you have any updates to report such as promotions, raises, GMAT improvements, new leadership opportunities, or other offers, make sure you share this information through the appropriate mechanisms.

In all of your interactions with admissions, you want to be professional and courteous. The better you communicate your respect for the great work the admissions committee does, the more they will be willing to help address your needs.

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 read more articles by him here.

Should You Look at Fit or Prestige When Deciding Which Business School to Attend?

scottbloomdecisionsFor the fortunate, one of the most challenging decisions MBA applicants make this time of year is which business school to attend. Receiving an offer of admission to only one school is always great news, but when an applicant is greeted with multiple offers, the joy of admission often quickly turns to the paradox of choice. Indecision often occurs when admits are confronted with choosing between more prestigious MBA programs and those that represent a better personal or professional fit for them.

For some, the choice may be an obvious one – “Of course you should matriculate to the more prestigious program!” Others, however, would immediately choose to attend the program that better aligns with their development goals. Let’s explore some of the reasons why an admit might lean one way or the other.

Choosing Fit?
Think about the core reasons that initially drove your interest in pursuing a graduate business education. Was it to improve your analytical or problem solving skills? Was it to break into a new industry or climb the corporate ladder in your current line of work? Go back to these core desires and remember the real reasons why you are seeking an MBA. If these factors are important to you,then the school with a better fit might be best for you.

Now, this focus on fit can sometimes be forgotten in the face of rankings, which are difficult to overlook. And complicating this decision even further, many admits tend to solicit the advice of under-informed friends and family when trying to decide which MBA program to attend, so well-known programs with great brands that may not be the best fit for a candidate’s development goals are often recommended over somewhat less prestigious programs.

Choosing Prestige?
The goal for many candidates is to go to the most well-known and highly-ranked MBA program possible, so when it comes time to make a decision, it is all about which school has the best brand. Generally, the more reputed programs do tend to offer a better lifetime value and return on investment (ROI). This is because these programs often offer broader alumni networks with better long-term career considerations, particularly for those interested in global career opportunities. However, in many instances, an overall highly-ranked program may be weaker in specific industry and functional areas than lower ranked programs.

The answer to this debate is a difficult one. Admits should take both factors into consideration but strive to pursue the most highly-reputed program – not in absolute terms, but instead in terms of which best address their development needs and post-MBA goals.

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

How International MBA Applicants Should Talk About Their Home Countries in Their Essays

Europeean MBA ProgramsInternational MBA candidates often struggle to find the right balance in discussing their home countries in their business school application essays.

Neglecting to discuss your home country completely could result in a lack of proper context for your achievements and challenges. Too often, applicants miss the opportunity to differentiate themselves from the pool of similarly accomplished applicants by not being personal enough in sharing stories regarding the family values that influenced their drive and motivation. Painting a vivid picture of your home country in your MBA application will allow the Admissions Committee to understand your personal qualities on a deeper level.

Executed perfectly, explaining where you have come from will turn you into the candidate that everyone in Admissions roots for.  For example, a candidate from a war-torn country would do well to describe striking images of the devastation they faced and complement this with the use of some numbers, appealing to both the Admissions Committee’s emotional and logical perspectives. Establishing this foundation would make his or her essay describing the motivation to pursue an MBA to go back and home and improve the lives of his or her countrymen feel more real.

On the other hand, using too much space and too many statistics could make your essay sound like an economic report or a college-level reaction paper – losing its focus and personal touch. Writing in this way will definitely not help you stand out from the typical applicant from your country. Just like in a blockbuster action movie, the country should serve as a colorful backdrop to the hero’s (applicant’s) story of struggles and triumphs, with most of the writing surrounding the hero’s compelling character development. Make sure you are the hero of your own story – the level of detail you mention about your home country should serve a clear purpose by linking directly back to your own experiences, goals and well-substantiated passion.

It is also essential to set up the proper economic or cultural context in cases where the past schools you attended or companies you joined are not as well-known to those outside of your home country. Mentioning selectivity figures, industry rank, market share, and highlighting complexity of roles becomes important here and will allow the Admissions Committee to appreciate the scale of your achievements. It will also allow them to use this information to evaluate how fast your career has progressed and how your leadership potential stacks up against other applicants.

Finally, it is important to be careful to avoid sounding too critical or too proud of your home country. Being too critical could be perceived as ungrateful, pessimistic, or even arrogant. On the other hand, you also do not want come across as being too sure that your ways are superior to those of other nations, as you want to display open-mindedness and a genuine interest to learn from others.

Keep these tips in mind as you write your business school application essays and you’ll be sure to strike the right balance with 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.

How Does Citizenship Factor Into Your MBA Candidacy?

Passport Number 2MBA programs around the world are currently experiencing a renaissance in terms of the geographic makeup of their student bodies. With the world seemingly shrinking in so many other aspects, it should come as no surprise that business schools are coming to represent a global melting pot of sorts. As MBA programs seek to construct classes of students that better represent this changing global paradigm, the weight of evaluating candidates in a global way has grown in importance.

Many business school applicants are beginning to understand how important this is as well, and are actively embracing dual citizenship and other displays of multicultural experiences. So, how exactly does citizenship factor into your MBA candidacy? Let’s explore a few considerations.

Overall, citizenship is much less important to Admissions Committees than the experiences that are native to your cultural upbringing. True diversity is represented through these experiences and less so through the designation on your passport.

Unfortunately, many applicants suffer from the misguided belief that their citizenship is the only title of importance when considering cultural diversity. Thus, members of over-represented groups often pursue dual citizenships under the belief that it will set them apart from their peers. I would caution against this approach – your life experiences and where the majority of them have occurred will play a bigger factor in your application than citizenship in a country you have not been as active in. (Now, if you have conducted material business or experienced personally impactful moments in other countries, this will certainly be valued within your application package. It will not, however, erase the fact that you are a member of an over-represented group.)

So if Admissions Committees do not factor citizenship into their decisions, how can having citizenship benefit you? Citizenship does, in fact, factor prominently into financial aid and funding plans for your graduate school education. In many countries, there are restrictions on access to scholarships and other funding measures based on one’s citizenship, so the ability to secure citizenship in the region in which you are planning to attend business school can be advantageous for financial reasons.

In addition, citizenship can also factor into your ability to secure employment post-graduation. Many countries will limit immediate and long-term employment opportunities for non-citizens. This means if you are considered an international student by the school that you intend to attend, it extremely important to understand the restrictions of that school’s nation. These work restrictions have become increasingly difficult for international students, so the power of multiple citizenships has certainly increased in recent years.

Keep these factors in mind as you plan out your strategy for applying to MBA programs around the world.

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 find more of his articles here.

How to Get Off a Business School’s Waitlist if You Already Have a Strong Application

SAT/ACTThe business school waitlist is, for most applicants, a confusing place to be. Many MBA candidates go into the application process aware of where their profile lands in relation to other candidates – especially when it comes to the publically available data points such as GPA and GMAT scores – so when these candidates land on the waitlist, although they are disappointed, they at least have a general idea on what they should do to address holes in their application in the future.

In a strange twist, the more complete a candidate’s profile appears on paper, the harder it is to develop a strategy to get off the waitlist. This oddity exists because without an obviously low GMAT score, shaky GPA, or unimpressive work experience, it can be challenging to put those waitlist updates to work.

Most programs will encourage waitlisted candidates to submit application updates to the Admissions Office or to a specific waitlist manager, so the more proactive a candidate is with sharing these updates, the better their chances of eventual admission. It may be sometimes difficult to identify these problem areas, but looking critically at every aspect of your submitted application is a good place to start.

Let’s explore a few issues that are common in the type of profiles referenced above:

Fit
Are you sure you effectively showcased your fit with the program? With admission into top programs becoming increasingly more difficult, it is critical to show a wild enthusiasm for the program you are applying to. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but if the Admissions Committee does not feel your eagerness to join their student community, it can make your application feel pretty ordinary. Sharing a minor update that clarify your fit can address concerns in this area for admissions.

Interest
Have you expressed a strong enough interest in your target program? I know this question may seem fairly obvious, considering you submitted an application, but Admissions Committees are looking for candidates that really showcase a strong attention to their particular program both on paper and in person. Connecting with current students and even alumni of relevant clubs on campus while on the waitlist can be a strong sign of interest, especially if you are able to secure a letter of support from one of those students or alumni.

Career Goals
Were the career goals you communicated clear and achievable? Maybe even more importantly, were you effectively able to share how this particular program would be able to help you reach these goals? A major element of how Admissions Committees will review your career goals is based on the belief that their program will be able to help you succeed in the future. If your goals are not clearly articulated or feel unrealistic, then this could be the source of your waitlist placement. Providing the Admissions Office with updates that showcase your progression towards your career goals, along with a re-clarification of these goals if necessary, is a good approach to proactively getting off of the waitlist.

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 find more of his articles here.

Use These 2 Kobe Bryant Strategies to Address Failures in Your MBA Essays

kobeBasketball superstar Kobe Bryant ended his 20-year NBA career last Wednesday, and many fans of the sport are using this time to reflect on, and learn from, his past highlights. Kobe’s career can be used for more than advice pertaining to basketball – we’ve imagined how he might have used his past accomplishments and failures to answer some common MBA application essay questions.

In this entry, we will discuss the ideal way Kobe could use the Failure Essay if he were to apply to business school. A staple of many MBA essay requirements and interviews, this prompt asks the applicant to relate a story of personal or professional failure that impacted his or her life. In answering this question, an applicant needs to demonstrate genuine reflection and self-awareness, while also showcasing leadership potential. Let’s examine how Kobe might answer a question like this:

Address the “Elephant in the Room”
In Kobe’s case, instead of mentioning missed shots, bad plays, or lost games as failures, it would be best to instead identify the failure to maintain a longer-term partnership with fellow superstar Shaquille O’Neal as his major failure. Aside from being an interesting topic – with rich layers and dimensions – this “failure” would help Kobe address concerns about his ability to collaborate with peers. As with all MBA essays, we want the Failure Essay to be interesting, relatable and vivid. Sharing specific details such as an argument that escalated, or personal thoughts from both superstars’ perspectives, will make for a powerful read for the Admissions Committee.

For example, Kobe could identify the double-edged sword of his incredible competitiveness and obsessive work ethic at that stage in his career, and contrast this compassionately with Shaq’s fun-loving personality and the physical challenges he faced due to his unique size, mobility, and the focus of opponents to wear him out. Displaying a high-level perspective and understanding will show the maturity and honesty that can serve him well post-MBA.

Lesson: Using an interesting situation, or identifying an “elephant in the room” in your profile, will serve the dual purpose of both addressing a red flag in your application, and displaying your self-awareness and personal development, all of which the Admissions Committee will want to see.

Show What You Learned
After setting up the context of the failure, Kobe can then highlight how he put the lessons he learned from this failure to good use. He can cite how this failure taught him to better manage relationships with teammates who shared some of Shaq’s qualities, such as the immensely talented Pau Gasol, the fun-loving Lamar Odom, and the physically dominant but oft-injured Andrew Bynum. Kobe can also share how learning from his previous experience with Shaq helped him build better relationships with his teammates overall and leverage their unique personalities to lead the Lakers to two more NBA championships.

Providing specific details as to how he built these bonds through sharing interests and communicating better with his team (whether through bonding over family activities, or by brushing up on his Spanish) would provide real insight into his world and allow the Admissions Committee to relate to him and appreciate his growth. Displaying his ability to lead and collaborate with talented peers would also prove that there is more to Kobe than just his basketball skills, and that he is ready to succeed in his future business ventures and social causes.

Lesson: Choose to discuss qualities or realizations that relate to your failure and would be transferable to future endeavors, rather than limited to a single situation. You can identify how your failure taught you to channel your inherent traits and use specific tools and techniques to proactively address potential problems. Show how you learned to leverage your personal qualities and background to collaborate towards common goals so that the Admissions Committee can conclude that the failure you experienced has helped put you in a better position for future success.

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.

Will Involvement in a Failed Company Hurt Your Chances of Being Accepted to Business School?

Letter of RecommendationIdeally, business school applicants would all be able to fill their admissions essays with great work stories showcasing contributions to their company’s success. Creating breakthrough products, transforming the company through original innovations, leading entry into a new market, generating record profits, and other similar accomplishments would all look great on an MBA application.

In reality, however, work circumstances and probabilities do not always play out perfectly – products can miss, campaigns can fail, companies can collapse, civil wars can break out, and global economic crises can ensue no matter how brilliant and dedicated an employee or entrepreneur is.

How, then, does an MBA applicant who went through these failures present himself or herself to be qualified for an MBA? Or how can a seemingly “ordinary” applicant elevate himself or herself from the pool of other applicants who may have more impressive success stories to tell? If this sounds like your predicament, showcase these three attributes to really make your application stand out:

Big-Picture Lessons
Recessions, industry down-cycles, and political crises can all contribute greatly to the failure of a company. However, there is a silver lining – not only do these circumstances provide the environmental context that removes blame from the applicant, but they also offer an interesting backdrop to highlight learning experiences that would make for rich classroom discussions.

If you experienced a business failure due to reasons like this, identifying the major lessons you learned will help display a high-level awareness of world events and their business impact, a quality that can be used to strengthen future leadership potential. At the company level, witnessing the impact of lost profits and jobs can provide you with firsthand experience of its effect on employee morale, corporate culture, and the real human concerns affected by difficult business decisions.

Personal Skills Gained
When struggling companies are forced to cut costs, this often results in the remaining employees handling more tasks, putting in more hours, and taking on bigger responsibilities, and all amidst a tense work environment. As such, employees lower on the corporate ladder may be able to have more involvement in reevaluating the whole business model, product lines, or distribution channels, and become part of the decision as to whether their firm should pull-out or stay in the market.

This accelerated exposure – usually reserved for very senior levels – can be a very difficult experience, however it can also be a good source of learning and growth in terms of skills, knowledge, and maturity. Explaining your business’ failure by showcasing the skills you gained from it can show the admissions committee that you know how to make the most of a difficult position and learn from your work environment.

Character Displayed
A family business may fail at an heir’s turn or a start-up may fall victim to a recession, but these “failures” may also be an opportunity to highlight character traits such as resilience and resourcefulness. Creating new opportunities or adjusting to a totally new environment will show adaptability and determination, which are strong qualities for a future global leader that admissions committees will pick up on. Even if the failed enterprise is directly attributable to you, displaying the honest self-awareness and accountability to identify areas for personal development – including how a particular MBA program will help correct these flaws – can create a compelling and authentic application that will help you stand out as a candidate.

So, will your involvement in a failed business completely ruin your chances of admission to business school? No! Explain the failure of the venture through the aforementioned traits, and the admissions committee will be able to see how a bad situation led to the development of a great MBA candidate.

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.

3 Things to Avoid During Your MBA Admissions Interview

MBA AdmissionsWould people like working with you? Can you communicate like an organization’s leader? When you interview for that coveted slot in your dream MBA program, these are some of the many areas you will be evaluated on. Chances are, at this stage you already know that you need to exemplify your ability to be on time, personable, and familiar with the details of your application.

Effectively communicating your personal highlights and your fit with the school will help you stand out favorably from the pool of other well-qualified applicants, but as you focus on presenting how exceptional you are, it can also be easy to fall for one of the popular pitfalls of the business school interview. Being cognizant of the details below will help you present yourself to your interviewer as a potential future leader who would be perfect for their school:

1) Steer Clear From an “Us vs. Them” Mentality
In day-to-day conversations with your coworkers, it can be easy to get used to generalizing negatively about other units in the organization. For example, referring to upper management as “out of touch” may feel true to you and your division. However, during your MBA interviews, you need to be more politically correct and sensitive – the way a CEO with the goal of uniting and inspiring the whole organization would carefully choose his or her words and delivery.

During practice interviews, applicants often fall into this trap when they explain examples of failures or challenging situations, as the language and tone used can give off the impression of a deeply-fostered “solo” mentality. Practicing with a sensitive listener will help call this out, allowing you to avoid this very common pitfall.

2) Hold Off On Generalizations
Related to the above, you must avoid tagging groups of people with a generalized label, whether it is by job functions, race, gender or nationality. While it may be funny for Dilbert to declare, “Marketing is only legal because it doesn’t work most of the time,” this sort of language should obviously be a no-no for you.

Likewise, highlighting an accomplishment educating the “backwards” people in one of your international offices by teaching them the “American Way” does not help in showing open-mindedness, and may actually concern your interviewer on your readiness to work with classmates from all over the world, or your potential to be a future global leader.

How then do you relate an accomplishment leading low-skilled blue-collar workers to align processes at the factory level with new technologies? You can still communicate the scale and context of this challenge without offending sensibilities – imagine describing one of them like you would describe a favorite uncle, doing so in an objective manner that would show both your appreciation and fondness at the same time.

3) End on a Positive Note
At the end of the interview, you are given the opportunity to ask questions. This is a great time to personally connect with your interviewer. Avoid showing doubts about your intention to push through with accepting an eventual offer to join the program (no matter how reasonable it is), or asking administrative details – these can always be addressed outside of the interview with better research and by connecting with the admissions office. Instead, engage the interviewer to talk about his fond memories with the school, evoking positive feelings that he would also have a good chance of associating with your particular interview.

By avoiding these three pitfalls, you’ll be sure to leave a great impression with your interviewer and bring yourself one step closer to gaining acceptance at your dream school.

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.

Don’t Obsess Over GMAT and GPA Numbers on Your MBA Application!

08fba0fEach year, the majority of anxiety for business school applicants tends to revolve around their GMAT and GPA numbers. Without fail, candidates drive themselves crazy wondering whether their GMAT score or GPA is high enough to gain admission to their target MBA program.

These MBA data points are, of course, just as important an aspect of the decision making process as any of the others, but many candidates obsess over the raw numbers in a disproportionate manner. No matter how many times an admissions officer speaks out publicly about the importance of the non-data elements of the application process the message often falls on deaf ears.

Admissions Committees generally want to know who you are as a person. If numbers were truly the only factor taken into consideration with MBA applications, then most top schools would have classes filled with students who have +700 GMAT scores and +3.5 GPAs, but this is not the case – just a quick look at the class profile of any top business school will confirm this.

What is far less common is the rare candidate who can connect their own personal story with the values and culture of their target program. Candidates oven undervalue how truly unique they are because the time spent undergoing the business school self-assessment process is often limited.

Now, letting admissions know who you are does not mean just talking about your job. Dive deeper and share aspects and anecdotes of your unique story that have defined your life up until this point. Tying such a narrative to your personal and professional hopes and dreams can be particularly powerful, and can truly help an applicant stand out against the competition way more than a +700 GMAT score can.

An applicant’s story – and being able to connect that personal narrative with a particular school’s values – is even more important for candidates whose GMAT and GPA are less competitive when considering school-specific averages. This personal approach is effective for all candidates, but is a necessity for candidates who may have obvious data-related red flags in their profile. By being authentic and creating a holistic application package, an applicant can convince the Admissions Committee that their low GMAT or GPA will not affect their academic experience (or the experiences of their peers) on campus or in career options in the future.

Avoid the mistake that many candidates fall victim to every year of obsessing over scores and understand that your numbers do not define you – the greater focus you put in sharing the “real” you in your application process, the better your chances of admission will be.

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 find more of his articles here.

Utilize Kobe Bryant’s Strategies to Write the Perfect Accomplishment Essay

kobeKobe Bryant, superstar guard of the L.A. Lakers, chose to announce his retirement from the NBA this year by writing a poem addressed to the game of basketball. Inspired by Kobe’s interest in writing, and his last NBA All-Star game appearance, this entry uses Kobe’s well-documented life and career as a case study for MBA candidates who are trying to decide what points to highlight in their application essays.

If Kobe were to apply to business school and write an Accomplishments Essay on his career, these would be my suggestions (which are, of course, applicable to your own application essays):

Highlight a Team Accomplishment
With a myriad of individual accomplishments to choose from – such as being 3rd on the NBA all-time scoring list, being an MVP, or multiple All-NBA and All-Star selection including an incredible 81-point game – it would be best for Kobe to choose a team accomplishment to highlight. This would help mitigate the Admissions Committee’s concerns about him being too individualistic (and and views that he is an egotistical maniac).

Lesson: For candidates involved with very technical or individual work, highlighting interpersonal skills or group accomplishments will help address stereotypical biases and display a multi-dimensional personality. It will assure the program you are applying to that you will be able to contribute positively to group experiences both in and out of the classroom.

Provide Essential Details
To dive into his essay further, Kobe could choose to write about his first championship where he had to take on a major role in a critical game (for the NBA fans, this is Game 4 of the 2000 finals) as a highlight. Playing on a sprained ankle, Kobe had to step up to the challenge when the Lakers’ main star, Shaquille O’Neal, had to leave the game due to six fouls.

He could then weave into his story how hours of practice finally paid off and how he happy he was to deliver for his team, after remembering how he disappointed he felt after he had let the team down in 1997, as an 18 year-old, when he missed four airballs in a similar scenario.

Lesson: This example would encompass several key aspects of an MBA candidate’s profile, including ability to perform under pressure, handle large-scale responsibility at a young age, and work through personal difficulties, and including the story about the 1997 disappointment would show humility, perseverance, and resilience. These are admirable and relatable characteristics, which are important to remember when writing these essays. It will be helpful to come across as somebody that can be identified with, somebody that people would want to root for, rather than only being an otherworldly talent or incredibly fortunate heir.

Recognize Help and Mentorship
Acknowledging superstar teammate Shaq as the lead player and mentioning the guidance provided by legendary coach Phil Jackson during his essay would help Kobe come across as genuine, humble, and a good team player.

Lesson: When writing these essays, some applicants are tempted to grab all the credit. In team-based accomplishments, one wants to communicate not only his or her contributions, but also the ability to work with and learn from others.

Finally, for that slam-dunk essay, while accolades and statistics are important, Kobe’s (and your) profile has to resonate with very human qualities and a personal story explaining the journey to truly impress MBA Admissions Committees.

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.

What is the TOEFL Exam?

GoalsThere are many acronyms involved with applying for the most important graduate business education acronym of them all: the MBA. From GPAs to GMATs, all of these acronyms can get pretty confusing. One such important acronym that often flies under the radar is the TOEFL.

Now why is the TOEFL so important? Well, it is a required component of any international application. From a foundational perspective, the TOEFL is a standardized exam used to assess the English language proficiency of non-native speakers.

The overall TOEFL score is used to ensure that international students will be able to handle a predominantly English-speaking educational environment. As such, the TOEFL scores international applicants on their communicative English skills, such as their listening, reading, writing, and speaking ability. The test also evaluates international applicants on the basis of their enabling skills, like grammar, pronunciation, oral fluency, spelling, vocabulary and written discourse abilities.

Like the GMAT, there is no “passing” or “failing” score for the TOEFL – an acceptable score is one that is above the minimum threshold for your target program. Some programs do not have a minimum score required, so be sure to research what the requirements are for your schools of interest before preparing for this test. For those programs that do require a minimum TOEFL score, the magic number is a score of 100 at most schools, with higher requirements at outlier programs like Booth, Harvard Business School, and INSEAD.

Some programs will also waive the TOEFL requirements for some applicants, but this is usually due to having ample past work experience where English is the official working language or having been educated at the primary, secondary or undergraduate level from an English speaking institution. Waivers for the TOEFL will be evaluated on a case by case and school by school basis, so make sure to do your due diligence here if you are considering a waiver.

The TOEFL is a necessary part of the business school application process, so if you are an international applicant, make sure you know the requirements at your target programs and proceed accordingly.

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 find more of his articles here.

How to Get Your Boss to Write You a Great Letter of Recommendation

RecommenderOne of the only external sources of information within an MBA application package is the voice of one’s recommendations. For such an important component, it is critical to arm your recommender with enough information to allow them to successfully draft their evaluation of the time you have worked together.

Now, let us consider the recommendation process from the side of the recommender – they are typically more senior working professionals who manage multiple people, and they are often very busy and a bit ignorant of the MBA application process, which is obviously no fault of their own. So the more you can inform and shepherd them through the process the better your ultimate evaluation will be.

Let’s discuss a few ways you can better support the evaluation process for your recommenders:

Timelines
This might be one of the most important reasons to help your recommenders. Remember, YOU are applying to school, not them. It is in your best interest to make sure they are clear on all dates and deadlines – a missed deadline can equate to you missing a target admissions round. I even like to give recommenders a hard deadline in advance of the real one, so even if they miss your self-imposed deadline, which many unfortunately will, you will still be in good shape. All recommendations are due the same time as the applications, so schedule accordingly.

Personal Information
Although we like to assume our supervisors know everything about us, sometimes they need a bit of a reminder. As such, it is wise to create a package for them highlighting your accomplishments during your time in the organization, and working with them in particular. Included in this package, you should also state your motivation for pursuing an MBA and any other relevant information about your career trajectory. The more connected your recommenders are to your future success, the better your recommendation will be.

School Information
In your recommender package, you should also provide some information on each of the schools you are applying to. Every school has a unique culture and approach to graduate business education, so try to communicate this to your recommender. Such information could potentially help them shape the content of your evaluation to fit that particular school. Also, make sure your recommenders are clear on the specific questions and recommendation protocols at each school – remember, many are uninformed when it comes to the process, so make their work as easy and straightforward as possible.

Take ownership of your MBA application process by supporting your recommender in the areas above. By following these tips, you will ensure your recommendation remains an area of strength for your candidacy.

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 find more of his articles here

3 Points International Candidates Need to Highlight in Their MBA Applications

PassportInternational MBA applicants to top programs frequently ask how much they should focus on their home countries in their applications, versus demonstrating their similarities to the typically-admitted domestic student. This is a good question, as balancing between fitting in with one’s target MBA program and standing out by bringing something unique to one’s application is a line that all candidates tread carefully.

An international applicant will usually have more materials to consider adding to their application, given the experience of growing up, studying, and working in another country. Even for second-generation immigrants, the wealth of influences and heritage from another culture could be a rich source of essay topics and passing references to consider. Used correctly, they add character and breadth, enhancing the readability of an application, which can help a candidate stand out from a competitive pool of other accomplished applicants from the same industry and country.

If you are applying to business school as an international applicant, take a look at these three factors you should focus on in your application:

1) Uniqueness
MBA essays are best used to tell a unique personal story that allows readers to understand the candidate’s motivation and goals. As an international candidate, you can use your country’s economic, cultural, or even political situations as an interesting and complementary backdrop to further stand out.

Let’s look at some examples of how this can be done:

  • An applicant managing a business from a growing consumer market could be played up to show the candidate’s potential to be a bridge for companies seeking to enter the lucrative market. This would flow nicely into the applicant’s post-MBA goal of leading a global company’s international unit.
  • An applicant who navigated and hurdled a developing country’s political and regulatory challenges to successfully lead a large-scale project of a foreign entity could use this experience to demonstrate his or her maturity and leadership qualities.
  • Candidates from a country encountering great difficulties could position themselves as people who are in a unique position to give back to their country of origin post-MBA, while also helping open the eyes of the student community to global issues.

These experiences show the potential of candidates to serve as a resource for interesting classroom discussions, enriching the experiences of classmates, while also serving as a future bridge to alumni with interest in their respective countries.

Likewise, a sentence or two identifying strong core values and influences that defined a family’s history and how it inspires the applicant serve she dual purpose of showing a personal side to leave a vivid impression with the Admissions Committee, and demonstrating the candidate’s underlying motivation and personal traits. Executing this precisely will result in a profile that comes across genuinely and stands out from the pack.

Applying the right dose of details and balance between personal sentiments and professional rationality on these topics is key in ensuring your essays stay unique and on track.

2) International Exposure
For international candidates who spent most of their lives in their home countries, it is particularly helpful to mention experiences with exchange programs, international assignments, travels abroad, or at the minimum, working with cross-cultural teams. These do not necessarily have to take up major space – sprinkling in tidbits at appropriate instances will still make for an interesting and engaging read. It also helps demonstrate an international mindset, adaptability, and intellectual curiosity.

Instances of initiating projects and leading teams with international components are also valuable, as these will help show the ability to actively contribute to classroom discussions and group project dynamics. Showcasing your teamwork skills via an international setting in this way will assure the Admissions Committee that you will be able to adjust to life on campus, benefit from their program, and contribute to the experiences of your MBA peers.

3) Confidence!
The content and tone of your overall application should be confident that you are an excellent fit for the program, able to keep pace with the academics and classroom rigors the school requires, and maximize your overall experience. Coming from an environment, school, or firm that is different from the usual sources of MBA candidates, you must ensure that confidence in your intellectual horsepower and personal traits comes through, especially in your essays. Standardized measures, such as a great GMAT score, will also help address this.

Crafting such an application requires honest reflection and self-awareness – most applicants find themselves more focused and motivated after investing the time and effort to do so, thus making the whole exercise a valuable experience, so be sure you take ample time to reflect before beginning your writing process.

Creating a personal story while highlighting your successes handling complex projects or academic accomplishments, and combining this with a post-MBA goal that is both compelling and realistic are the usual ingredients for a strong application, and adding the right international flavor to this recipe will help your candidacy shine even more. Finding the right flow between answering the specific questions directly and adding international elements may be challenging, but successfully pulling it off  will result in a very personal and powerful application package.

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.

Financial Times Ranks INSEAD as the #1 MBA Program in the World

INSEADThe Financial Times recently released their Global MBA Rankings for 2016, and this year, INSEAD topped the list. This is the first time a “one-year MBA program” has ranked #1 in the Financial Times‘ rankings.

With this honor, INSEAD also becomes only the fifth school to ever assume the top spot in the Financial Times‘ 18-year history of publishing their rankings – the only schools to reach #1 thus far have been Harvard Business School, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, London Business School, and the Wharton School of Business, all of which occupy the rest of the top five slots for this year’s rankings.

INSEAD prides itself on being the “business school of the world,” and boasts of an international faculty and student body of over 80 different nationalities that enriches classroom discussions and creates life changing experiences for its students through its cultural diversity and views. INSEAD’s campuses in France and Singapore further add to the student experience with opportunities to travel across Europe and Asia with fellow MBA participants during the program.

In his letter to INSEAD alumni, Dean Ilian Mihov attributes the school’s #1 ranking to what INSEAD values: “diversity, academic excellence, entrepreneurial culture and extensive global alumni network.” The school’s international faculty also works together to continuously improve its curriculum and deliver exceptional educational experiences to all its students in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Mihov also shared that this marked a “triple first” for INSEAD, becoming the first and only school to have all three of its MBA programs ranked #1 by the FT in their respective categories: INSEAD MBA ranked #1 for MBA programs, the Tsinghua INSEAD EMBA ranked #1 for EMBA programs, and the INSEAD Global EMBA was honored as the highest ranked single school program.

In a separate letter, the INSEAD MBA Admissions team shared the profile of its latest intake of 514 students, with 75 nationalities represented – 30% of them women – including students from Indian, American, Chinese, French, British, and Canadian nationalities. The average age of INSEAD’s incoming class is 29 and its average GMAT score is 702.

INSEAD has also continued its “Conditional Acceptance Offer” of offering a place to candidates who have the potential and quality to be admitted, but need one more year of professional experience. Introduced in 2014, the school has found this offer to be a good way to retain young, bright candidates for future MBA classes. 15 students received such an offer for their latest intake.

Surely this remarkable achievement will be something to consider when determining whether INSEAD is the right business school for you.

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.

3 Things to Consider If You Are Applying to Business School as an Investment Banker

MBA AdmissionsInvestment banks are one of the biggest feeders of talent into business schools around the world. Investment bankers have consistently earned a reputation as quant jocks with powerful academic pedigrees and great senior leadership exposure. With backgrounds like this, it should come as no surprise that bankers flood campuses at elite MBA programs across the globe.

With such great numbers comes challenges as well. Many schools could easily fill a classroom with qualified bankers if they so chose, but with diversity of experience being such an important component of a quality MBA student community, schools seek instead to balance out the student body with people from various career backgrounds. As an overrepresented applicant pool, bankers must think strategically about how to position their candidacy.

Let’s explore some of the things to keep in mind as you construct your application as an investment banker:

Stand Out:
I know this is easier said than done, but with so much competition coming out of investment banks, it is important to find areas within your application that will distinguish you from the hordes of other applicants from your bank and others. This does not need to be limited to just the professional arena either, so explore the personal side of your credentials as well. Focus on highlighting areas where you have made an impact in your personal or professional careers to separate you from the masses.

Personalize Your Profile:
One of the biggest mistakes many bankers make when applying to business school is focusing exclusively on their professional career. This is a negative knock on professionals from this industry, so grab the admissions committee’s attention and go the opposite way by personalizing your application process. Business schools truly evaluate candidates in a holistic manner, so take advantage of the more personal touch points of your application, such as the essay, interview, and short answer questions to tell your story. Utilizing these aspects to humanize your profile is a great way to stand out from the competition.

Highlight Extracurriculars:
Another useful way to distinguish yourself from other MBA candidates is to highlight your history of engagement outside the work place. Schools see candidates who have this track record as likely to continue this trend as future students and alumni of their programs. Also, with the long hours bankers tend to work, many are unable to take on meaningful extracurricular opportunities – go against the norm here, and develop some experience in this capacity outside of the office to further differentiate your profile from other bankers.

Follow the tips above to stand out from your competition in the investment banking industry.

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 find more of his articles here

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.

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.

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.