MBA Admissions Interviews – What to Expect

At this time of year we tend to get a lot of questions about the MBA admissions interview process. If you have been invited to interview with one of your target business schools (congratulations!), then here are the main types of questions you can expect to hear:

  • High-level questions about you
  • Just like in a typical job interview, your interviewer will often start things off with “Walk me through your resume” or “Tell me about yourself.” This is your chance to take control of the admissions interview and explicitly state the two or three core messages that you want to get across. Practice is critical here — you will want to develop and rehearse an two-three minute “elevator pitch” that describes your background, highlights your strengths, and provides a story beyond the plain facts stated on your resume.

  • Questions about why you want to go to business school and your career goals
  • A good elevator pitch will likely cover these questions some, but expect the interviewer to probe more deeply here. These questions also give you the chance to answer why you want to specifically go to the school in question, and the research that you do on the school will pay off here. You don’t want to go overboard, but citing a few specifics about the program will show the interviewer that you’ve done your research and are sincerely interested in the school. The interviewer may also ask, “Where else are you applying?” Our advice is to be honest here — just make sure you have a good reason for applying to each of your target schools.

  • Questions about specific experiences in your background
  • Some schools will spend a majority of the interview in this area in order to better understand your background. These are the questions that famously start with, “Tell me about a time when…” These questions can cover all of the four applicant dimensions that we discuss in Your MBA Game Plan — maturity, leadership, innovation, and teamwork. Your job here is to call on specific examples from your past, not to talk in hypothetical generalities. Use the “SAR” method: Situation (what the challenge or opportunity was), Action (what YOU specifically did), and Result (what you achieved through your action).

Good luck in your interview! If you want more hands-on help, take a look at Veritas Prep’s MBA interview preparation services. Also, Your MBA Game Plan contains dozens of sample MBA interview questions to help you get ready.

Our First Annual MBA Admissions Officer Survey Results

Last week we released the results of Veritas Prep’s first annual survey of MBA admissions officers, to uncover what’s happening in the field today and to help business school applicants anticipate future trends.

We enlisted the help of an independent third party to survey admissions officers at the top 30 business schools in the U.S. (as defined by BusinessWeek’s ranking system). The survey ran in October and November, and covered more than half of the admissions officers at these MBA programs.

Some findings were surprising, while others confirmed what we have been telling our clients for years. Among the most interesting results:

  • The biggest challenges institutions face are attracting more, better-qualified candidates, and supporting cultural diversity in their student bodies. Among desired changes that admissions officers would like to see in their applicant pool, diversity ranks first (87%), while 57 percent of respondents would like to see a larger applicant pool at their institutions.
  • The number of international applicants to leading U.S. business schools has increased over the past five years. Ninety-four percent of responding admissions officers report a moderate to significant increase in international applicants during the last five admissions cycles.
  • The number of admits straight out of undergraduate studies is on the rise. Despite the fact that 63 percent of respondents say professional experience is the most important factor in student selection, almost half (47%) report that the number of admits straight out of college has significantly or moderately increased compared to five years ago.
  • Careless errors ranked as the top faux pas committed by students during the application process. Inconsistency between institutional choice and students’ educational objectives and ambitions ranked second, and the inclusion of unrequested items and inappropriate interview conduct tie for the third most commonly witnessed application blunder.
  • Admissions officers view students that enlist the assistance of admissions consultants neutrally. While seven percent of respondents said that they view applicants who use admissions consultants positively, 80 percent view such students neutrally. In general, most admissions officers feel that admissions consultants help students identify the programs with which they fit best and clarify their career goals.
  • Admissions officers anticipate changes in the student application process in coming years. Most respondents believe the student application process will include more face-to-face or telephone interviews in the next five years (60%). While over half of admissions officers foresee the application process becoming less complex (53%), another forty percent predict the application process will become increasingly intricate in the coming years.

We especially found the learnings around diversity and the trend toward younger applicants to be most interesting. And while we were glad to see that nearly all MBA admissions officers view applicants who use admissions consultants neutrally or positively, we will continue to work to ensure that our clients get a great deal of value from their relationship with us — but only in a 100% ethical way. As always, we will never write our applicants’ essays or tell them what to say.

Visit Veritas Prep to learn more about how we can help you in the MBA admissions process.

Free Law School Admissions Webinar – Dec. 15

This Monday, Dec. 15, Adam Hoff will host an online law school admissions seminar for those who are considering applying to law school this year.

Adam, who is Veritas Prep’s Director of Law School Admissions Consulting, is a law school admissions expert, former admissions officer, and University of Chicago Law School graduate. He will discuss:

  • Admissions trends for the 2008-2009 application season
  • What law school admissions officers look for in an application
  • The increasingly popular JD/MBA dual degree program
  • Strategies for dealing with rising applicant numbers
  • What to do if you’re waitlisted by your dream school
  • Q&A and general discussion

This free online event will run this coming Monday, Dec. 15., from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM PST. All you need to need to access it is a PC or Mac with an Internet connection and sound capabilities.

Register for our online law school admissions seminar here!

Top Ten Common MBA Application Mistakes from Stanford GSB

Last week LaNeika Ward, Acting Assistant Director of MBA Admissions at Stanford GSB, posted the top ten most common mistakes that the admissions committee finds in applications.

Some of them are pretty amazing (e.g., “Enter your name correctly”), but smart people do indeed make mistakes! Other mistakes are very important things that can be easily forgotten while cramming to complete your applications, such as failing to provide a good reason for leaving any of your previous jobs.

Other than these standout mistakes, several interesting things emerge from this list:

  • When discussing experiences, Stanford wants you to only focus on the past three years. In other words, it’s great if you were president of your fraternity in college, but the Stanford admissions committee puts much more emphasis on what you’ve done more recently.
  • The admissions committee asks that you explain any period of four months or more when you were not in school or working. I actually find it interesting that they’re not interested in ALL such periods. Perhaps they understand that some fresh college graduates may take some time to land on their feet and get their first job.
  • Ward makes a point of making sure that your letter of recommendation from a peer truly comes from a peer, not a supervisor whom you consider to be a friend.
  • Note the reference to the “application verification process over the summer,” which should serve as a clear warning against pulling any shenanigans in your application. Stick to the truth!

All in all, some good advice that applies to any MBA application. But the above points are interesting because they especially shed light on what Stanford GSB looks for in its business school applicants.

For more advice on applying to business school, read about the MBA application process at Veritas Prep.

Veritas Prep Featured in BusinessWeek

The folks at BusinessWeek are working on an interesting and valuable series: If someone could start planning their business school application five years in advance, what should they plan and do each year leading up to submitting their application? For the first story in this series, called Five Years to B-School: The First Year, she turned to Veritas Prep’s own Scott Shrum for advice for future MBA applicants.

While there’s no one-size-fits all plan for a future applicant, and not many people necessarily know five years out that they’ll one day apply to business school, Francesca Di Meglio nicely sums up what a future business school applicant should have done by the end of year one. According to the article, by this time you should have:

  • Begun developing your skill set
  • Found a few mentors who have given you a better idea about the jobs you might like to do in the future
  • Found a way to translate your passions into a couple of activities in which you’d really liked to get involved
  • Decided how you can make an impact at the office and in those extracurricular activities and start implementing a plan of action to do just that
  • Kept your mind on business by reading relevant books and articles
  • Made a decision about when you’d like to take the GMAT
  • Started building a satisfying, well-rounded life and career

You can read the entire article at BusinessWeek. If you would like more advice on the MBA application process and you live in the New York area, there’s just one week left to register for MBA Admissions Blueprint and meet one-on-one with a Veritas Prep admissions expert on Dec. 6 and 7!

Veritas Prep Featured in The Wall Street Journal

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal (“Escape Route: Seeking Refuge in an M.B.A. Program”) looked more deeply into the trend of people turning to graduate school as the economy slows. Veritas Prep was mentioned as one of the GMAT prep and admissions consulting firms that has recently seen tremendous growth because of the softening economy and Wall Street turmoil.

While this trend has been covered a great deal lately, this piece raises an interesting question: If more people pursue their MBAs now but the Wall Street landscape looks dramatically different in three years, where will those grads go? According to the article:

But the severity of the financial crisis and the demise and consolidation of financial powerhouses that in previous years have nabbed top talent at schools across the country make this year’s flight to business school different. When this year’s M.B.A. applicants graduate, they will enter a dramatically different Wall Street and potentially smaller job market that has been altered by the ripple effects of the credit crunch.

“The demand for managing money and the demand for banking skills, that’s going to be here,” says Stacey Kole, deputy dean for the full-time M.B.A. program at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. But “it may migrate to different firms.” Ms. Kole says the school is seeing more boutique firms recruit on campus, as well as employers in other sectors recruiting for finance jobs. “People who may have gone to Wall Street will go to Main Street in a finance role,” she says.

Business schools aren’t the only ones that may see an increase in application because of the economy. According to the Law School Admission Council, this past June there were 28,939 LSATs administered in June, representing a 15.3% increase from a year ago.

Perhaps most concerning is the effect that the current market may have on student loans. Some lenders (such as Citi) have already suspended loan programs, while others are tightening their lending standards. It remains to be seen how much of an impact this trend will have on the overall graduate school admissions landscape.

If you’re just now thinking about applying to business school or law school this year, take a look at Veritas Prep’s industry-leading admissions consulting team.

MBA Admissions Tips from Haas

The Haas admissions team just released a great new podcast detailing what they look for when evaluating MBA applicants. Peter Johnson (Director of Admissions) and Stephanie Fujii (Associate Director of Admissions) shared a few important insights into how Haas evaluates every Haas applicant.

According to Johnson and Fujii, the three key areas that Haas looks at when evaluating applicants are: academic aptitude, professional accomplishments and leadership, and personal qualities.

Academic Aptitude
When assessing your academic aptitude, the admissions committee especially looks at your undergraduate transcript and your GMAT score. Haas will also will take into consideration your coursework in other graduate programs, if applicable. According to Fujii, “Basically, we’re trying to evaluate your ability to succeed academically in our program.” Johnson made note that they pay attention to the caliber of your undergraduate institution, the rigor in your undergraduate classes, and the overall trend in your GPA from your freshman year to your senior year. The school does not have a hard GMAT score cutoff, but Johnson urges applicants to aim to at least be in the school’s middle-80% GMAT range (currently 650-750).

Professional Accomplishments and Leadership
Work experience is very important to Haas. Most incoming students at Haas have between three and seven years of work experience after college. The school rarely admits applicants with less than two years of work experience. But it’s about more than just quantity of experience. According to Johnson, “We really need to understand your career progression. Why have you transitioned from one job to another? How has your role progressed within each organization? Have your responsibilities increased? Have you had the opportunity to develop leadership skills?” Johnson went on to add that it’s impressive to see that a candidate has earned a series of promotions and increases in responsibility, rather than someone who “started out at the top.” Finally, the Haas admissions team looks closely for signs of how you’ve impacted your organization, which is a key yardstick of your leadership ability, regardless of your job title.

Personal Qualities
Like all other top business schools, Haas puts a lot of emphasis on who you are, not just what you’ve accomplished. As Johnson says, “We’re interested in understanding our applicants as individuals. In other words, what’s important to you? What are you passionate about?” They go on to emphasize that you really need to be your self in your MBA application. Says Johnson, “The number one mistake that applicants make in their essays is that they spend too much time trying to write what they think the admissions committee wants to read.” Finally, they give another important piece of advice that we often give our clients: Don’t underestimate how much time and effort it will take to create truly great, personal MBA essays. Finally, they explain Haas’s interview policy: The school typically invites 25%-30% of its applicants to interview (usually conducted by alumni or students), and Haas rarely admits an applicant without an interview.

These are just a few of the tips that Haas includes in their podcast. We definitely recommend that you give it a listen if you’re interested in Haas, but give it a listen even if you don’t plan on applying to Haas this year.

For more advice on applying to Haas, visit the Veritas Prep UC Berkeley (Haas) information page and let us help you develop your own MBA Game Plan for Haas.

More Advice from U Chicago Law – Letters of Recommendation

The University of Chicago blog, A Day in the Life, which was detailed here yesterday, has also posted a helpful missive on the elusive letter of recommendation.

The big takeways here are A) to find someone who knows you well enough to write substantively on your academic qualities and B) to “feather the nest” (so to speak) by providing a packet of information to the recommender in question, allowing that person to do a thorough job. Chicago also makes it clear that recommendations should be from academic sources whenever possible, so applicants would be well served to cozy up to a few professors during their junior year or (worst case) during the fall.

Furthemore, Veritas Prep is pleased to see our own tips and suggestions mirrored throughout the post. The client always wins when consultants and law schools see eye to eye.

The following is from Veritas Prep’s Application Tips page and features many of the sentiments included in the U Chicago blog post:

One of the most egregious misperceptions regarding letters of recommendations has to do with the credibility of the source. While you do want to ask credible people to pen these letters, that doesn

Law School Personal Statement Advice: U Chicago

The University of Chicago is considered by some to be the most “old fashioned” of the elite law schools – quick to ban Internet use in classrooms, slow to add cutting edge cirriculum additions (although it is clear that Justice Scalia would prefer they move even more slowly).

So it might come as a surprise to many in the law school community that Chicago actually features one of the most student-friendly and transparent admissions blogs out there.

A recent post was particularly helpful for law school applicants, as it provided some insight into the law school’s perspective on the increasingly tricky personal statement component of the application.

The advice contained within is not exactly groundbreaking, but still offers some nice commentary on the difficulty of the assignment (hopefully providing some peace of mind to applicants) and seems to invite worthwhile and honest feedback, which is a departure from a recent post on the Yale Law School blog.

Among other tips, the blog’s author – Sarah Arimoto-Mercer, Director of Financial Aid – stresses that applicants do not have to describe post-graduation legal practice goals, details some major “don’t” items (grammar errors, unconventional personal statements, naive statements, and “big words”), and hammers home the point that a personal statement is about the applicant.

The best news for client’s of Veritas Prep’s Law School Admissions Consulting services is that we see eye-to-eye with the University of Chicago. Consider the following phrases:

From Veritas Prep’s “Personal Statement” page:

One of the most difficult things facing an applicant during the law school admission process is the lack of control. Many application components are set in stone or out of a student’s hands entirely. This makes the personal statement of paramount importance. Students can control their own story in this critical writing sample.

And from the U Chicago blog post on the subject:

The personal statement is your chance to go above and beyond the numbers. Your LSAT and GPA are pretty concrete by the time you apply to law school. The personal statement is an element of the application where you can still make a difference. Since you cannot request an interview with the admissions committee, you can think of the personal statement as your chance to say what you would have wanted to highlight in an interview.

For students who would like to receive more insight into the personal statement component of the application, consider reading the following application tips on the subject.

The Yale Question

If you are a law school applicant, admissions officer, or preparation company, you are almost certainly aware of the “Yale Question.” But for those that are not, here is the basic idea:

Yale Law School has added two questions to its 2009 application, which ask candidates to disclose the use of A) LSAT test preparation, and B) admissions consulting.

The mere fact that Yale added these questions generated a response within the law school community, but it was a blog post on Yale Law’s “203” (“An Admissions Blog”) that really ruffled some feathers and put applicants in a quandary.

In the post, Asha Rangappa, Associate Dean, takes a pretty harsh stance toward both LSAT preparation and law school admissions consulting. The thrust of her argument is that admissions consulting creates an unfair advantage — basically, that it undermines any hope of a level playing field for applicants.

I’ve had a chance to engage in a dialogue with Asha about some of this and find her to be extremely intelligent and sincere, with a very idealistic viewpoint toward the world of admissions. It is that idealism that makes her stance both compelling, but also — in my opinion — incomplete.

In a vacuum, law school admissions consulting does indeed create an uneven playing field. Because all things being equal, an available resource would allow “consulting applicants” to gain an advantage over the rest of the applicant pool. And certainly, even in the real life version of admissions, some candidates do indeed gain a competitive advantage by paying for services that others can’t afford.

Of course, law school admissions does not exist in a vacuum, and that type of analysis ignores the enormous advantage held by a percentage of the applicant pool that is fortunate enough to enjoy built-in resources right at its fingertips. I’m referring, of course, to those candidates who have a brother that went to Yale Law, or an uncle from Sullivan & Cromwell, or a family friend who taught at Harvard. I’m referring to the candidates from Princeton and Cornell and Stanford, who have amazing pre-law advisers at their disposal. All of these advisory options are allowed and encouraged by Yale. But how many people have these types of resources?

The applicant from a state school, with limited pre-law advising (if any), no family members in the law, no close friends from Yale … how can that person possibly compete with the advantages described above? Based on the preexisting disparity between segments of the applicant pool, it is my opinion that admissions consulting actually levels the playing field.

Access

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not return to the idea that there are applicants who can’t afford such services. Knowing that there is an “access” problem (and when is there ever not an access problem when it comes to admissions?), should we just give up on the idea of consultation altogether? That hardly seems like the best solution. Doing so would just continue to create massive information advantages for the privileged upper crust and leave the masses behind. “Admissions Consulting for no one” doesn’t really solve anything. “Admissions consulting for everyone,” on the other hand, might just be the answer.

Imagine a situation in which each applicant had the same insight, guidance, and perspective on the process. It sure seems like such a scenario would allow the best stories, skills, and fits to emerge from the applicant pool. Which, of course, is the end goal of any admissions process. And yes, “admissions consulting for everyone” is a pipe dream at this point, but it is not unreasonable to think that pro bono options will emerge at companies like ours, or that schools like Yale will one day provide financial programs to allow for low income applicants to receive consulting services (which would be an advanced — and admittedly more expensive — form of application fee waivers). I’d much rather aim for this form of idealism than Yale’s. Because the provision of admissions consulting for every applicant is still possible, if not likely. On the other hand, eliminating the “legacy” portion of the applicant pool that I described above is absolutely, unequivocally impossible. That cat is already out of the bag.

Process versus Substance

In addition to the access argument, I’ve also heard it argued that admissions consulting is a particularly bad fit for law school applications, because the “application process” counts as much as the “application’s substance.” What this implies is that law schools are evaluating not just the merits of candidates, but also their analytical and presentation skills. The argument goes like this: law schools are trying to admit tomorrow’s leading lawyers and one of the lawyer’s tasks is to identify key components and then present them in an articulate way — therefore, any assistance in doing so eliminates the law school’s ability to evaluate those skills.

I find this argument to be unconvincing. For starters, one need look no further than law school itself to recognize that “developed legal skill” is not the primary goal of this process. Find me one elite law school that makes “process” its educational mission — my guess is you will be looking for a long time. Law schools strive to teach critical thinking skills and explore theoretical underpinnings for the way laws and legal systems work. You don’t spend three years writing motions and briefs — you’ll be lucky if you spend three classes honing those skills.

Furthermore, whenever the analysis in question is introspective, the challenge becomes unique and distinguishable from any other process of compiling and presenting data. One can’t draw inferences from the admissions process as to a candidate’s ability to draft memos, motions, or briefs, because the two tasks are apples and oranges. Ask a talented person to write an op-ed piece or a research paper and that person will more than likely handle the task with aplomb. Ask that same individual to write a bio and it is just as likely he or she will struggle mightily. It is much harder to analyze one’s own life than it is to analyze facts, cases, and statutes. It is much harder to write a personal statement than it is to write a legal brief. If not harder, then different. The skills are not the same. To attempt to evaluate such skills in this context is foolhardy. Not only that, but I suspect if law schools were really serious about analyzing lawyering skills, they would include a closed universe assignment. If you really care about it, make it apples to apples.

Burden Shifting

All told, there is not a compelling reason to dismiss admissions consulting (let alone LSAT prep) outright. Sure, if companies or consultants approach this process in a way that lacks integrity — if they broadcast secret tricks or write their clients’ essays for them — then crack down on them. By all means. And there is no doubt that admissions — and the services that support candidates — are complicated and difficult to structure and police. But to shift the burden and put the pressure on the applicant (do I pass up a resource? use it and lie? receive assistance and risk being denied for it?) is completely unfair. And to denigrate a helpful and needed service based on a limited and slightly archaic viewpoint seems irresponsible. Particularly when the author holds so much sway on such influential subjects. Because when Yale speaks, people tend to listen.

For the time being, clients of Veritas Prep’s law school admissions consulting services can expect to receive thorough, honest, and helpful service that will level the playing field and help them overcome those built-in advantages enjoyed by the most connected candidates in the applicant pool.

Just know t
hat if you use our services, you will be asked to disclose that fact to Yale Law school.

For more updates on Yale and other top schools, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

Justice Roberts at Florida Law School

In a shocking bit of news, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will serve as the guest judge of the Justice Campbell Thornal Moot Court competition at the University of Florida Law School.

The competition takes place this Friday and is sure to provide UF with at least a small bump in applications this fall.

If you were planning to apply to Florida this fall for other reasons, just know that the competition probably got a bit tougher thanks to their high profile guest judge.

“Safety” Business Schools Are Getting More Selective

Last week BusinessWeek added to the chatter about the slowing economy driving another big increase in business school applications. Nothing new there, although the article included one interesting point regarding lower-ranked MBA programs:

While applications are up across the board, the middle-tier business schools are reporting some of the sharpest increases, ranging from 25% to nearly 40% in the number of applications in some instances. At least some of the students are heading to business schools because they have lost their jobs or are worried about the future. Admissions officers said that they expect more of those students, including those who may have waited to see how the economy fares, to apply during the coming cycle.

The upshot is that applicants who have assumed they can get into a top-30 school for sure — as a backup if they can’t get into a top-10 school — may need to rethink that assumption. If you expect that your credentials will make you far from a shoo-in at a top school, and you plan on casting a wide net and applying to some lower-ranked business schools, be ready to work hard to get into those “safety” schools.

Want to get a better feel for how high you should aim when applying to business school? Veritas Prep’s MBA admissions consultants will give you an objective look at your candidacy. And if you need to boost your GMAT score, Veritas Prep offers a variety of GMAT course options to help you break 700 on the exam.

Finally, a Public Interest Incentive That Means Something

If you have been following the law school admissions game, or even if you just read this blog post, then you know that public interest incentives are all the rage at top law schools. By advertising creative loan forgiveness programs, J.D. programs are able to appeal to those candidates with the best intentions … even if the majority of those students graduate and go on to work in corporate law firms. The gaudy numbers advertised by the loan forgiveness program don’t amount to much if students don’t actually work in the public interest sector.

The appropriate question here is why? Why do so many starry-eyed law students give up the dream of helping people and instead trudge off to help corporations and hedge funds and banks? There are a lot of answers to that question, but I would suggest that the biggest reason for this public interest melt is that quality summer jobs are harder to come by when one moves outside of the law firm arena.

The most attractive public interest summer positions often come with little or no compensation, putting students in a bind when it comes to, well, surviving. Already strapped with massive loans, law students often find themselves working at a law firm during their 2L summer just to reverse the ugly financial trends. These same students wind up getting wined and dined and convinced (some might use the word “tricked”) into staying at that same firm after graduation. It is easy to be seduced by the big paycheck, promises of ample pro bono work (“you can make a difference here!”), and the idea that one can easily escape it all and turn to public interest work after a few years. It rarely works out that way.

That’s why it is exciting to see that Michigan Law School has launched a new program called Public Interest Guarantee. Unlike so many other public interest subsidy devices, the UM program promises to pay all students $5,000 for their 2L summers, provided they intern with a qualified government or public interest group.

[Update: Harvard Law already offers a similar program. In fact, Harvard offers a guaranteed public interest scholarship of $5,000 to both 1L and 2L students. Impressive stuff and I would venture to guess that there are other schools doing this as well. Kudos to Harvard, Michigan, and anyone else helping students work in the public interest sector.]

Granted, students can earn $5,000 in less than two weeks of work at a big New York or L.A. firm, but it is still a step in the right direction. This might be just enough money to keep some promising and well-intentioned lawyers in the public interest fold.

Law School Rankings in Upheaval!

Big law school news today courtesy of The Wall Street Journal. According to a front page article about law school rankings, U.S. News is considering a methodology change to its ranking system.

The whole article is worth reading, but the main takeaway is that many law schools have made huge moves up the rankings in recent years by admitting a higher number of part-time students (thereby increasing revenues while preserving the GPA and LSAT numbers which are generated only by full time students), and that those same schools are primed to fall back down the list if and when the rankings take this trend into account.

The article doesn’t name a lot of names (aside from Toledo), but you can imagine that a number of schools have been taking advantage of this loophole to pad their stats. This seems particularly true in light of the fact that “part time” students can take nearly as many credit hours as full timers, and then just transfer over to the full time program for the 2L year. Maybe I was being too hard on the University of Chicago after all!

The flip side to all of this, of course, is that the practice of stockpiling part time students has created opportunities for candidates with lower GPA and LSAT profiles – many of whom are thriving in law school. If their scores start “counting,” then they may lose their spots, creating even more of a numbers game than ever before.

Veritas Prep Provides MBA Admissions Tips for Forbes

Earlier this week Tara Weiss at Forbes interviewed me for a piece she was doing called Tips For Getting Into A Top Business School. It was the third time Tara has interviewed me on the subject of MBA admissions, and I really enjoyed our talk once again.

In the interview I told her about how many of our admissions consulting clients are afraid to discuss past failures or weaknesses in their applications. If you don’t have any weaknesses or failures to discuss, then what makes you interesting?

I know one applicant who pursued a pro sports career, only to have to give it up and go on to a successful “normal” career and then apply to business school. Pretty interesting, but she was extremely reluctant to talk about her whole sports experience. “But I don’t want them to think I’m a loser who didn’t accomplish my goals,” she argued.

Do you think that everyone at Harvard or Wharton has achieved every one of his or her goals? Do you think that the admissions office at those schools believes that’s the case? Of course not! An applicant without any failures or faults or like a movie plot with no conflict — not very interesting or believable.

For more MBA application advice, see an interview that Tara did with me and Omari Bouknight earlier this year.

More on the Uptick in MBA Applications

In what has become a common theme in the media, The Economist recently wrote a piece showing further evidence of an upwsing in MBA applications in the face of a slowing economy. The piece takes a look at business school applications as a predictor of future economic performance, saying, “Worryingly for those betting on a swift economic recovery, business schools reckon that next year could yield an even bigger crop of applicants.”

According to a chart cited in the article, three-quarters of MBA programs are expected to reprt an increase in applications this year — approaching the record levels seen in 2001-2002, right after the dot-com bubble. Adding on to the effect of a slowing economy is the continuing surge in applicants from India and other developing markets.

As far as the GMAT is concerned, the Graduate Management Admission Council expects at least a couple more years of strong growth for the exam. Registrations are expected to rise to 249,000 this year, yet another record.

If you’re already planning on applying, don’t depair. Stay the course, do your best to ace the GMAT, and then focus all your energy on perfecting your mba application. Don’t worry about timing the market… Just focus on making your application as strong as it can be.

Announcing Law School Admissions Consulting Services

We are pleased to announce the newest arrival to the Veritas Prep family of services: Law School Admissions Consulting.

Taking the strongest elements of our successful MBA admissions consulting services and combining them with approaches specifically tailored to law school applicants, Veritas Prep has added another customized feature to a series of offerings that stand alone as the most expansive and thorough in the industry.

Law school admissions consulting is available to any individual interested in obtaining a J.D., no matter where that person is on the timeline. Hourly consulting is available for college students seeking advice and perspective on the process and evaluation services exist for every aspect of a completed application. And for those candidates who are ready to start the application process, we offer our featured service, the start-to-finish, comprehensive Admissions Brief package.

The hallmarks of Veritas Prep are expertise and level of care. Each of these attributes are on full display here as clients are paired with an expert law school admissions consultant from the program or tier of their choosing. The level of specificity provided by our “school specific” pairing model enables the client and consultant to work with unrivaled focus, strategy, and thoroughness.

Our consulting team features graduates from each of the top 20 law schools and boasts an impressive collection of former law school admission officers, law school faculty members, and legal professionals. We proudly display each and every member of our team on our consultant profiles page. Clients can be assured that they will work with one of these incredibly talented people – and that their consultant will be hand-picked based on the program of their choice.

Feel free to explore our website to get a better idea of our law school admissions consulting services, purchase our law school admissions consulting packages, and even discover valuable law school application tips.

Applying to B-School in a Few Years? Maximize Your Candidacy Today.

A significant portion of my MBA admissions consulting applicants come to be with little to no extracurricular experience since their undergraduate days. While this is a problem that can be addressed, it can show a lack of proper planning over the long term. A lot of applicants don

Wharton Director of Admissions Steps Down

On Monday Wharton announced on its blog that Thomas Caleel has vacated his role as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, effective June 30. Anjani Jain, Wharton’s Vice Dean and Director of the school’s Graduate Division, will temporarily fill the role until a permanent placement is announced.

Reads the announcement: “In his role as Director, Thomas has been a passionate ambassador of the School and the MBA Program, and Wharton faculty, staff and students alike are enormously grateful to have had Thomas serve the School in this important role.”

Under Caleel’s leadership, the school opened up to the community even more through such initiatives as the student2student online forum (a longstanding Wharton initiative) and the Wharton Admissions Blog. Hopefully his successor will carry on with this philosophy.

From reading the announcement, Vice Dean Jain certainly seems to have enough on his plate already. With the 2008-2009 admissions season just around the corner, here’s hoping that Wharton finds a suitable replacement for Caleel as soon as possible!

Fore more information about applying to Wharton, visit our Wharton information page.

Harvard Business School Application Now Available

Last month Harvard Business School released its essays for the 2008-2009 application season. This past Thursday, the HBS released its full application for the coming year.

As Dee Leopold mentioned on the HBS blog, there is no advantage to applying before the Round One deadline. According to Leopold:

“Please keep in mind that… we only begin to review applications after the October 15 Round One deadline. The Admissions Board has no knowledge of whether you submitted your application today or in October. To put it another way, we consider applications in three distinct decision rounds; within rounds, it is not a ‘rolling’ admissions process.”

In other words, don’t needlessly scramble to get your application in early. By all means, resist the urge to prcrastinate and submit your application right at 5:00 PM on October 15, but there’s no reason to submit your application before it’s anything less than 100% perfect.

For more information about applying to HBS, visit our Harvard Business School information page.

There

An application tip for the graduate school candidate.

Think back to the process of applying to college and try to recall the most difficult thing about the applications. No doubt it was writing the myriad essays required by each school. What made those so difficult? After all, surely your high school English classes demanded more of you as a writer. The answer is actually pretty simple: you had to write from the

There

An application tip for the graduate school candidate.

Think back to the process of applying to college and try to recall the most difficult thing about the applications. No doubt it was writing the myriad essays required by each school. What made those so difficult? After all, surely your high school English classes demanded more of you as a writer. The answer is actually pretty simple: you had to write from the

Lowest Price on The Official Guide for GMAT Review

Today Veritas Prep introduces an offer that just might change the landscape of GMAT preparation — a brand new copy of The Official Guide for GMAT Review, 11 Edition, for just $10 plus shipping. This isn’t a used copy or an older edition. This is the real deal that some stores sell for over $30. (Since this is such a low price, we’re limiting this offer to one per person, while supplies last.)

We believe that success favors the prepared, especially when it comes to test preparation. We feels so strongly about this that we want The Official Guide to be affordable anyone who is preparing to take the exam. While you may decide to purchase other materials and services to prepare for the exam, this book can be a great starting point as you begin your GMAT preparation journey.

If you want additional preparation for the exam, Veritas Prep offers the most comprehensive GMAT prep courses in the industry. We urge you to buy a copy of The Official Guide, get familiar with the test and gauge how much help you may need, and then take a closer look at what Veritas Prep has to offer, including our full 42-hour course, private tutoring, and online training.

Best of luck. We hope you crush the GMAT!

HBS Releases Application Essays & Deadlines for Class of 2011

If anything marks the official beginning of the 2008-2009 application season, this is it: Harvard Business School just released its deadlines and application essays for the Class of 2011.

For those of you who are planning ahead, the application deadlines are mostly the same as last year, except for the Round 1 deadline, which is almost two weeks later than last year’s. The deadlines are as follows:

  • Round 1: Oct. 15, 2008
  • Round 2: Jan. 6, 2009
  • Round 3: Mar. 11, 2009

Remember that you want to aim for Round 1 or Round 2. Applying after Round 2 means competing for very few open seats, so you want to do everything you can to apply no later than Jan. 6, 2009. Since the Round 1 deadline is just five months away, it’s not too early to start preparing! That especially goes for the GMAT. Study until it hurts, take a GMAT prep course if you want some extra help, and then nail the GMAT and get it off of your plate. The last thing you want to do is have to cram for the GMAT while you’re also trying to perfect your essays and chase after the people writing your letters of recommendation!

Looking at the HBS application essays, there are now just four required this year, compared to five last year. Two are required, and two can be chosen from a list of four questions.

Required Essays

  1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)
  2. What have you learned from a mistake? (400-word limit)

Optional Essays (choose two)

  1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400-word limit)
  2. Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization. (400-word limit)
  3. What area of the world are you most curious about and why? (400-word limit)
  4. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you? (400-word limit)

Of the optional essays, many applicants will assume #1 is only meant as a “Let me explain why my undergrad GPA is low”-type essay, but also consider using this as a chance to discuss a time when you pushed yourself out of your intellectual comfort zone. Looking at #4, the “why is this choice meaningful to you” part is what is most interesting. HBS isn’t looking for you to just rattle off your five-step plan for world domination. Explore why you want to do it, and why you’re passionate about it. This kind of introspection is key to setting yourself apart in HBS admissions officers’ eyes.

If you would like more information about applying to HBS, visit our Harvard Business School profile page. And for more information on business school application deadlines, visit our MBA admissions deadlines page.

Surviving the Rankings Game

The U.S. News & World Report grad school rankings for 2009 came out a few weeks ago and revealed some interesting developments. (By the way, what is with the “2009” rankings coming out in April of 2008? Have academic rankings gone the way of automotive companies?).

For me, the most interesting development of all could be found in the Law School Rankings, where the 5-10 spots continue to undergo a major transformation.

First, a quick note to say that I am a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, which helps explain my attention to this sort of detail and my concern over some recent trends that pretty much boil down to two things:

1. Chicago does not care about rankings

2. Everyone else does.

These two trends have, obviously, led to significant changes at the top of most ranking systems, with U.S. News being no exception. While Chicago has continued to keep the ranking process at an arm’s length, other programs have embraced it, even staffing positions that deal exclusively with ranking services. Not only that, but many law schools have made strategic decisions to boost their profiles by pouring scholarship dollars into securing the best GPA/LSAT yields they can muster.

The combination is an effective one indeed. Schools are influencing public (and private) opinion in order to score higher in the subjective areas, while increasing their academic profile in order to score higher in the more quantitative ranking components.

Meanwhile Chicago is going the other direction. The administration has taken an “anti-rankings” stance that is both admirable (in that they refuse to game the system) and destructive (in that it is hurting the school). The problem with refusing to engage in the rankings world is that everyone else cares about this. Employers, investors, voters, and pretty much any other “er” is going to put some stock in rankings like U.S. News, which means that students will care about it. They have to, because it is their future on the line. Students can’t afford to rest on their laurels or sleep easy knowing how great the faculty is. They have to think about the rate of return on their educational investment. And if that return isn’t as promising at Chicago as it is at Columbia, then the student is going to Columbia. Period.

As recently as this decade, Chicago was ranked third in the country among all law schools by U.S. News. When I was admitted for the fall of 2004, the school was fourth (Stanford had moved up), just ahead of Columbia and NYU. By the time I reached my 3L year, the New York schools had moved ahead and dropped U of C to sixth. Last year, Penn moved into a tie for sixth.

Now, Berkeley has vaulted into the #6 spot, leaving Chicago in a tie for seventh with Penn.

No matter how you feel about academic rankings in general, or U.S. News specifically, going from third to tied for seventh in under 10 years is a pretty terrible.

Even worse, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the school slides in the rankings, it starts to lose out on the top students. Then, the quality of each class starts to drop. Before long, the school is sliding down the charts, not because of an aversion to “The Rankings Game,” but because they simply don’t have the same caliber of students.

And that’s what I fear for Chicago. It is a school with a lot of great qualities and a very pure approach to academia. But it is also a law school with a crappy old building, an increasingly archaic approach to education (one of the last schools to cling to the Socratic Method, one of the first to turn off wireless Internet in the classrooms), and a stodgy campus setting. If the University of Chicago starts to lose its level of prestige – which is derived largely from rankings – then what is left to keep the best and brightest from going elsewhere?

[- Read the rest here -]

Loan Forgiveness Programs: Should Applicants Consider Them?

Obviously, one of the primary factors that govern a graduate school applicant’s enrollment decision is The Almighty Dollar. As in: how much will this cost, what kind of aid can I get, and what sort of earning potential am I looking at once I finish? Analyzing educational cost is a complicated task because students must first identify actual numbers (sticker price – available scholarship and grant money) and then put those numbers in the proper context by understanding loan repayment and properly estimating future salary figures.

See, complicated.

One thing that is further complicating this financial aid stew is the addition of loan forgiveness programs. Popularized by elite law schools, the concept is a relatively simple one: eschew the big paychecks (and long hours) of a big law firm in favor of public interest work and, in exchange, you will get help paying back your enormous graduate student loans. Law schools have discovered that an attractive loan forgiveness program is a terrific marketing tool. This is primarily due to the fact that a huge number of law school applicants (especially those who are qualified to land admission spots in the elite programs) are highly optimistic people who view themselves as truth-seeking, freedom-fighting altruistic beings. In other words, everyone thinks they are going to do public interest work when they first apply to law school.

This poses an interesting question: how much stock should a top-flight candidate put in a school’s loan forgiveness program?

A quick look at any reputable survey (I’m too lazy to find one at present) will tell you that the number of law school graduates who ultimately do public interest work is far, far less than the number of law school applicants who say they will one day do public interest work. There are many factors that play a role in this phenomenon. It is easier for a student at an elite law school to secure a summer associate position at a law firm than with a cutting edge public interest entity. Public interest firms and groups have fewer recruiting resources. The pressure to work in the big legal markets like New York or L.A. force students to search for an accessible path that will also pay the costs of relocating and then living in those cities. There are also simple (and often perverse) economic incentives, career-building considerations, and personal preference factors to consider. But the simple truth is that the number of actual public interest lawyers is so much lower than the number of hypothetical public interest lawyers because – pay attention now – people have no idea what they want to do when they are applying for law school! In fact, it is safe to say that the “actual” number for any subset of the legal profession is substantially lower than the suggested numbers generated by surveys of law school applicants.

It is human nature to change one’s mind, especially after being exposed to hundreds of hours of logical reasoning and critical analysis.

So this takes us back to our initial question, framed in a new way: if students think they might want to do public interest law, but know they probably won

Ace That Interview!

Part of your application to a graduate business program will be an interview. I think it goes without saying (though I’m going to say it anyways) that this interview is important. We already have a post on the proper dress for your interview, but I want to point you to another source.

MBA Podcaster did a podcast recently (as they have been known to do) called “Acing the MBA Interview”. It’s just under 18 minutes long, and well worth the listen. The post (link is below) also has a list of 34 topics to consider prior to your interview, and a transcript of the podcast, if you’d rather just read it.

Oh, and as a cool bonus? One of the guests on the podcast is none other than Veritas Prep’s own Chad Troutwine (one of our co-founders!). So give it a listen!

MBA Podcaster: “Acing the MBA Interview”

Proper Dress for a Business School Interview

MBA Admissions Interview AttireAs an MBA admissions consultant I often have to take a step back with my clients. Over the years I have learned a lot from my clients and have come to realize that the definitions of proper interview dress or attire varies by region, country and even culture.

This is the deal, and I dissuade anyone from thinking anything to the contrary:

  1. Wear a dark colored suit (Grey, Black, Charcoal) with a white or light blue shirt.
  2. Wear a tie that has as little design or pattern in it at possible. Solid colored ties are good.
  3. Wear shoes that are polished with dark socks. By shoes I mean dress shoes with dark laces, not “comfort” shoes, timberlands or Uggs. By dark I mean dark blue or black.
  4. Do not wear anything that is tight-fitting or shows body parts excessively. This is an interview not a club.
  5. Cut the tags off your clothing. Nothing says Men’s Wearhouse $199 special than tags still sewn onto the sleeve of a jacket. Don’t laugh too much, I have seen this as an MBA admissions interviewer. It tells me the applicant is clueless at worst or knows a good sale when he sees one at best.
  6. Get a shave and a haircut……shower.

Photo courtesy of Anynonymoose, under a Creative Commons License.

Your Interview Has Already Begun

Whether you’re interviewing for B-school or for a job afterwards, there are a few basic rules to follow for interview etiquette. Over the years I’ve had the chance to interview hundreds of potential employees and I’ve seen every interview misstep there is. Everyone knows there are plenty of ways to go wrong once you’re in the interview room, but few people pay attention to the ways your interview can go south before you even take a seat in that conference room or office. Here are three ways I’ve personally seen candidates hurt their chances before the interview even got started:

  1. Parking – Plan ahead for parking if you plan on driving to the interview. Call ahead and find out if the school or business has a parking lot or structure and whether there will be a spot available and whether it is free, validated, etc. It is unprofessional to run out midway through the interview to feed the meter. I recommend you bite the bullet and pay the $6 for parking in their structure instead of trying to save a few bucks at a meter with a 1 hour limit. NEVER park in a reserved spot unless they explicitly tell you that you can, and don’t park in a handicap space unless you have a placard.
  2. Bring a Pen – A nice fountain pen, preferably, but anything is better than nothing. If you’re applying for a job, you’ll likely have to fill out some paperwork; you’ll look more prepared if you don’t have to ask to borrow a pen.
  3. Be Polite to Everyone – Remember that everyone you meet on the way to the interview could influence the outcome. The guard at the security booth at the entrance may have to phone ahead to let the interviewer know you’ve arrived. Don’t give him the opportunity to say “the extremely rude gentleman with the 3 o’clock is here!” The same goes with receptionists and anyone you pass in the hallways. If you yell at the receptionist for not validating your parking, the interviewer is sure to hear about it.
  4. If You’re On Time, You’re Late – Plan on arriving early to allow for traffic, parking, and exchanging pleasantries with everyone you meet on the way to the interview room. You can also use this time to relax and mentally prepare before the interview. Calling ahead is fine if you’re going to be late because of traffic, car trouble, etc., but if you planned on arriving early, being late would mean you’re on time and you wouldn’t need to explain anything, if that makes sense!
  5. Dress the PartBespoke or not, a suit is better than jeans for interviews, even if the office environment is casual. A good rule of thumb is that it never hurts to be the best-dressed person you see that day. Use your judgment with respect to piercings and tattoos. I’ve interviewed candidates with tattoos and piercings and they don’t bother me, but your interviewer might not be as forgiving.