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.

The Importance of Tutoring for the Ivy League

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

Preparing for the SAT

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

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

Preparing for the ACT

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

AP Tutoring

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

Admissions Consulting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Challenging Courses Throughout High School

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

Pay Close Attention to the Admissions Essay

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

Dedicated Participation in a Few Extracurricular Activities

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

Excel on the SAT or ACT

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

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

Demonstrate Interest in Attending an Ivy League School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Meet with Admissions

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

2) Visit a Class

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

3) Connect with Students

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

4) Explore the Student Community

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

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

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

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

Does a Business School Visit Affect Your Chances of Admission?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Admissions Tips and Ivy League College Consulting

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

 

Garner Compelling Recommendation Letters

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

Write a Memorable Admissions Essay

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

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

Participate in a Few Significant Extracurricular Activities

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

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

Show Enthusiasm for a School and its Resources

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

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

The Benefits of Working With Ivy League College Consultants

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

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

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

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

Is Your GMAT Score More Important Than Ever?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking Down Kellogg Evaluation Criteria

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

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

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

1) Work Experience

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

2) Impact

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

3) Professional Goals

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

4) Leadership

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

5) Interpersonal Skills

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

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

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

Standing Out as an International Applicant from India

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

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

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

Work Experience

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

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

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

GMAT Scores

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

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

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

Education

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

Application

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

Extra-Curriculars

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

Essays

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

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

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

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

The Best Classes to Take To Prep for Your MBA

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

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

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

Accounting

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

Finance

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

Statistics

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

Economics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYU (Stern) — Industry Mentoring Initiative

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

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

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

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

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

Veritas Prep Quoted in the Contra Costa Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New MBA Admissions Survey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Tips for Applying to Law School… Next Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MBA Admissions: Waitlist Advice

Being waitlisted by your target business school can feel a lot like flipping a coin and seeing it end up on its edge; this lack of a final answer after months of anticipation can almost feel more frustrating than receiving a firm “yes” or “no.” But take heart in the fact that you’re still in the MBA admissions game, and there may be more that you can do to ultimately get accepted.

First of all, know that a waitlist decision is much more similar to an acceptance than a rejection. The admissions office clearly saw something in your application that it liked, but for some reason — perhaps you have a weaker undergrad transcript than they’d like to see, or there are simply too many other applicants who look just like you — just couldn’t pull the trigger and offer you a seat. While this can be very frustrating, in many cases (depending on the school) you have at least one more chance to show that you have what your target school looks for in its candidates.

Before you do anything, you will need to determine your school’s policy for handling waitlisted candidates. Some schools readily welcome updates and additional correspondence, while others will allow only certain kinds of contact, such as messages sent to a specific email address. Some business schools, however, explicitly forbid you from contacting the admissions office under any circumstances. If this describes your target school, do yourself a favor and obey this policy — not doing so makes admissions officers’ jobs easy (i.e., it’s easy for them to remove you from further consideration). It’s frustrating, we know, but you won’t help your cause by ignoring the rules.

Assuming that your target MBA program does allow you to contact the admissions office, then think about what potential weaknesses in your candidacy you may be able to bolster. Ask yourself:

  • Did I clearly define my career goals?
  • Was it clear how earning an MBA will help me achieve these goals?
  • In what ways did I demonstrate fit with my target school?
  • How did I showcase my leadership, intellect, maturity, and teamwork abilities?
  • Did my GMAT score, undergraduate transcript, and professional experience prove my ability to succeed in the business school classroom?
  • What about my application made me stand out vs. applicants with a similar profile?
  • Did I do enough to demonstrate my enthusiasm for the school, including visiting the school and speaking with current students?

Once you have identified some potential weaknesses, draft a letter (paper is better, although email may be required) highlighting new information that offsets these weaknesses. Outside of these weaknesses, any big news in your life — such as a job promotion, a significant achievement at work, or a notable new contribution to your community — also makes for a good reason to contact the admissions office.

Once you do this, your job is not done. Assuming the MBA admissions office welcomes this contact, plan on making contact with a short and professional note every few weeks to remind them that you still exist and to reiterate your interest. If you can manage a trip to campus, great, but don’t expect an admissions officer to officially meet with you. Still, short and relevant notes like these can be the difference between getting lost in the waitlist and getting into your target business school.

Visit Veritas Prep for more information on navigating the waitlist and for help in crafting your own waitlist letter.

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

For law school applicants, this time of year tends to be all about personal statements. It is often the last remaining piece holding up submission of an application. Candidates struggle with the blank canvas nature of the assignment as they try to figure out what to write about and how to fit it all into two pages.

Many of our clients seem to be making one of two common mistakes: 1) trying to cram everything into the personal statement, to the point it sounds like an annotated resume, or 2) writing at great length about their strengths. It is tempting to throw it all at the wall and see what sticks, or to lean on what you know works. Neither of these methods will get the job done.

Below are some suggestions for your personal statement that will help candidates avoid these problems and craft a meaningful, persuasive writing sample. The Veritas Prep approach to creating a great personal statement always centers on three elements: 1) positioning, 2) the law school themes, and 3) entertainment value.

Positioning. Positioning focuses on the major thrust of the personal statement. What is the strength you most want to advertise? The weakness you most need to mitigate? Is there a unique factor you can showcase? What is the one hole in your application that the admissions committee is dying for you to resolve in this space? This can be different for each applicant, but the one thing I know for sure is that the personal statement exists for you to tell the reader what he needs to know. Forget what you think you should write about or what makes for the best traditional essay

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