Early Thoughts on Duke Fuqua’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

duke-universityApplication season at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some thoughts on how best to approach these essay prompts, which have remained relatively consistent over the last few years. The two essays give applicants a great opportunity to showcase their fit with Fuqua, which is a program that really strives to create a cohesive student community built around its values.

Essay 1: 25 Random Things About Yourself
Share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of “25 Random Things” about YOU.
Year in and year out, Fuqua’s “25 Random Things” essay remains one of the most creative prompts among the top MBA programs. This Fuqua essay truly strikes at the core of what makes their program unique. Showcasing your thorough understanding of Fuqua’s value will help you determine what “random things” you choose to highlight.

Your list should reflect an honest portrayal of who you are. Remember, the goal of this essay is to uncover some of the elements that are stated in the prompt, so seriously brainstorm some of the unique aspects of your personal, professional and social identity. The most common mistake I see in this essay is when applicants take the exercise too seriously. Now this is a business school essay so it should, of course, be professionally drafted, but applicants should also feel comfortable having a little fun with this prompt and letting their personality shine through.

Consider what perception you want to leave behind for the Admissions Committee after reading your “25 Random Things” and make sure each one addresses some aspect of this positioning.

Essay 2:
Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, how do you see yourself engaging in and contributing to our community, outside of the classroom? (2 pages max)
Essay 2 is your opportunity to take the Fuqua research that informed your approach to Essay 1, and share some of the specifics that really resonate with how you plan to have an impact on the school’s unique student community.

Breakthrough candidates will personalize their narrative and avoid generalities, here. Not only should you be specific with your answer, but you should also make sure you identify your future role in each of the activities you plan to be involved in. The contribution aspect of this prompt is also very important, so be sure to identify what individual impact you will have on your chosen extracurricular activities and on the Fuqua community as a whole.

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

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

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

2016 Forté Forum: Let’s Aim Higher. Discover the Value of an MBA.

fbe258d9a01c9fd044a8c4772e99faab_400x400Forté Forums are designed for standout women considering an MBA, whether you’re a high-achiever looking to change careers, a college student planning for the future, or a professional ready to take your career to the next level.

 

August 15 – October 20, 2016
12 cities across North America and Europe
6:00pm-9:00pm

A free event unlike any other, Forté Forums are held in 12 cities to empower you with information about the value of an MBA. You’ll make critical connections with representatives, alumnae, and students of top business schools in North America and Europe—all while forming an unmatched peer support network. Successful businesswomen representing diverse industries and career stages will also share how their MBAs help them make a mark. And you’ll gain exclusive insights to the admissions process.

Reasons to Go:
1) Understand the MBA advantage, offering career advancement, expanded earning potential, and even opportunities to study abroad.

2) Connect with a business school that’s the best fit for you.

3) Hear from top MBA businesswomen in various industries and career stages, including the non-profit world.

4) Network with standout peers to build a lasting support network.

5) Discover how to finance your MBA.

Women can expect to connect with more than 30 of the top MBA programs from the United States, Canada and Europe. The cost to attend a Forté Forum is free. For a schedule of dates and locations, and to register, visit fortefoundation.org/forums.

Understanding the New GMAC MBA Rankings Tool

scottbloomdecisionsWith so many different MBA rankings, it can be difficult for the typical applicant to understand why one business school may be ranked higher in one publisher’s ranking than in another’s. This can create a culture of bias and distrust around the rankings, which limits the value of the information they present, especially considering few applicants will actually dive deep enough to uncover the DNA of each specific ranking.

The new GMAC rankings tool seeks to shed light on the differences between the various rankings. This tool provides a “one stop shop” for finding the right rankings system for your personal school selection process. Here’s a brief summary of the topics the GMAC rankings tool evaluates:

Distinctive Emphasis
A quick summary headline describing the most important criteria influencing the rankings of the publisher. This quick information will help orient your criteria for pursuing an MBA with the most relevant rankings publisher.

Rankings Methodology
A visual breakdown of how the publisher determines its rankings. This is a deeper dive into the “distinctive emphasis,” showing the full spectrum of the ranking criteria.

Rankings Fluctuation
An estimate of how much the average schools’ position changes from edition to edition. This can provide good insight into how stable and reliable the rankings of a particular publication are.

Schools Included
Information on what schools are included and the criteria each publication uses to determine inclusion. There are many MBA programs around the world and some publications are more U.S focused, international focused, full-time, or part-time focused so this category provides information on the publication’s coverage area.

Regional Popularity
A visual map of the most popular regions for a specific publisher’s ranking. The influence of a particular publication can vary from region to region, thus influencing its value to candidates in other areas.

Rankings Lists
The actual publication-specific rankings. This is the ranked list of schools that have resulted from each publisher’s unique methodology. Once you have identified the right publisher based on your target program criteria and future goals, then this list can help inform your school selection process.

This new offering from GMAC is a great tool to kick start your school research and selection processes. Leverage this resource to find the right rankings system for your MBA goals.

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

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

Preparing the Perfect Package for Your MBA Application in 4 Steps

MBA AdmissionsYou have done all the hard work and put in the hours to get to this point. Your GPA, GMAT, work experience, and extracurricular activities are what they are. You have researched schools extensively, even visiting campuses and making an effort to connect with alumni. Now, it is about putting this all together into one application package that will determine whether you get to attend your dream school or not… no pressure.

Here are three ways you can prepare the perfect package for your target programs:

Selecting Stories
As you start sorting through potential ideas for your essays, list the interesting anecdotes that would best present you in a nutshell – think of these as scenes in a movie that would best capture the essence of the lead character. These can help you stand out through your interesting experiences and serve as attention-grabbers that captivate your audience. These stories could come from your personal life, professional accomplishments, or passions.

Recommenders can also add to this aspect of your application by relating specific stories about you that will help substantiate the qualities that you are highlighting. Powerful examples of your leadership and teamwork skills or ability to benefit from constructive criticism will greatly help. Thus, reminding your recommenders of these episodes in your relationship could come in handy.

Presenting Perspectives
Your application essays are also avenues that allow the Admissions Committee to understand where you come from, what motivates you, and where you want to go post-MBA. Sharing your unique upbringing, family values and inspirations will help present a more personal profile. This is not limited to just the positive events or outstanding accomplishments in your life, either – the challenges you have overcome or even the weaknesses you are still addressing also humanize you, making you more relatable so that the Admissions Committee wants to root for your success.

Sharing your personal story and challenging circumstances will also emphasize that you will be able to contribute to the classroom experiences of your future peers. In addition, use your interesting passions or talents that showcase surprising skills to also help you stand out among the other applicants, similar to the way football players singing and dancing to Beyonce’s music make for a memorable bit.

Tweaking the Tone
Apart from the theme and the great stories you choose to showcase in your application, fine-tuning the overall tone of your presentation can go a long way in delivering a powerful message. Having the perfect mix of displaying your strengths, humbly admitting your weaknesses, and showing fit between your target program and career goals is critical. However, be sure to show personal accountability for, and general reflection on, your failures as you plan your next steps – make sure your choice to pursue an MBA at this time in your life is displayed with clear purpose for the Admissions Committee.

Delivering these details with a personal tone and a positive vibe shows your ability to collaborate and be in sync with a select group of star performers as you apply for a coveted slot in a top-tier program.

Fitting Finale
Take some care to end your application on a positive note, carefully considering the last impression you want to make, just as the last song of a musical has to be well thought-out and excellently executed to deliver a fitting finale.

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

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

How to Tackle Kellogg’s 2016-2017 Video Essays

Kellogg MBA Admissions GuideNorthwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has double downed on the recent trend of video essays, bringing back their video essay for another year. Kellogg has continued to tweak the questions and format over the years but the general premise and ways to succeed in this aspect of their application have remained consistent.

As far as the operational aspects go, you have a week to complete the video essays after submission of your application – the video essays themselves are pretty straightforward and should be approached as such. I believe that these video essays are genuinely used so that the admissions committee can “get to know” the candidate on a more personal level. Therefore, the applicant should try to be friendly and open about the questions (while still being appropriate, of course) rather than overly stiff and formal.

The video essays can also be used as another way for the Admissions Committee to get a little glimpse into the personality traits of applicants. This is not something that will be really tricky or challenging, such as a mini-case – it is much more personal.

Kellogg is looking to see how you come across in an unscripted, conversational moment. The important thing to remember here is to convey calm confidence and answer the question directly within the time allotted. The good thing about these video essays is that you have a bank of 10 practice questions to prep with, so utilize this to get a feel for the questions and the technology. I would also recommend practicing a few responses for timing purposes to see how long or short a minute really is.

This is the kind of thing where I think over-preparation could potentially backfire, since you don’t know what the questions will be (outside of video prompt #2, which the school has made publicly available to all). Remember, the objective of the exercise is to be yourself and have fun, so be ready to be flexible in your responses to what you are asked. Your personality should be consistent with who you have portrayed yourself to be in the application (which should be in line with who you really are) while factoring how the Admissions Committee perceives you (young candidate, international, brain, etc.).

Prep some responses to common questions under each of the prompt categories, but keep in mind that these questions are not meant to be brain teasers, just personal questions you should have sorted through about yourself and your interest in the school prior to completing your application. One question will be Kellogg-focused, another will be more personal and the last will exploring a challenge you have faced.

Finally, try and have a good structure in your responses to the questions – communication is obviously one of the major elements being tested here, so stay poised and show off that executive presence Kellogg values so much.

For more thoughts on Kellogg, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

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

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

How to Explain Work Gaps in Your MBA Applications

ChecklistIf you have a prolonged gap in activity – either at school or at work – on your resume, you probably already know that explaining it can be difficult. Being open and ready to address this “hole” in your profile with the Admissions Committee will greatly benefit your application. Let’s examine the two major ways you can tackle work and education gaps in your business school essays and interviews:

Be Open and Ready
Be prepared to answer questions from the Admissions Committee regarding your gap. Being ready to discuss your gap will allow you to be composed when asked about it during your interview. An honest demeanor will help keep the interview on the right track, while allowing you to explain the context of the gap. Addressing this openly in your essays also gives you the chance to take control of the message and show your character, personality, and purpose.  

Over the years, I have had successful clients who had gaps in their educational or professional history be admitted to top programs. Reasons for these gaps have ranged from choosing to take a break to explore other countries, to taking care of the family business, to recovering from illness. Being forthcoming about the reasons for these interruptions helped demonstrate their authenticity and made it easier for the Admissions Committee to appreciate their personal growth.

Add Another Dimension
Explaining the reason for your breaks will also allow the Admissions Committee to gain more insights about your personal life story and your priorities. For instance, an applicant who had to overcome personal issues to eventually complete his undergraduate degree reflected thoughtfully that his struggles at that key point allowed him to build resilience and empathy – the same qualities that have formed the foundation of his leadership principles. Communicated sincerely, a message like this will come across powerfully, especially when supported with the context of applicable leadership activities you may have taken on during, or after, your gap.

Another applicant had to take over the family business due to his father’s illness while he was still studying. Doing so helped shape his sense of responsibility at a young age, and his maturity served him well in taking on early leadership roles. Experiences such as these are attractive, as business schools look for applicants with strong leadership potential.

Additionally, your travels can be used to show your international motivation, openness to new experiences, and ability to relate to diverse cultures. Sharing your involvement with worthy organizations while you are on break will also give a peek into the causes you hold dear. Highlight this whenever possible, as it will show your personal enrichment and act as a unique addition to your profile.

To conclude, don’t be too secretive about your education or work gaps. Instead, use your gap as an opening to connect with the Admissions Committee on an even deeper level.

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

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

Early Thoughts on MIT Sloan’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

MITApplication season at MIT Sloan is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

This year, Sloan has made some changes that echo prompts used in the past. Let’s explore how to best approach your responses:

Cover Letter:
Please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions. (250 words)
This year, Sloan brings back its “Cover Letter” essay, which it retired a few years back. Sloan was one of the schools that ushered in this recent trend of non-traditional essay prompts. Your response here is limited to only 250 words so it is important to be even more concise as you address the prompt.

Given the word count, it may make sense to leverage a story-like narrative to touch on a few relevant personal accomplishments that distill your goals, passion, values and interests. The key here is to orient your response around Sloan’s core values that have always been heavily influenced by the ability to problem solve and drive impact. So with these factors in mind, really think about what you can uniquely bring to the student community at Sloan.

Do not limit your impact just to the Sloan community – MIT alumni have impacted the world in many different forms so think about how the school can be the impetus for you to do the same. This is where research comes in handy, so do your due diligence. Keep in mind, with the tight word limit you don’t want to stray far away from the prompt, so stay focused on the type of support you choose to include in your response.

Similar essay prompts in the past have asked applicants to “describe accomplishments” and/or “address extenuating circumstances,” so keep these elements in mind as well as you structure your response.

Optional Essay:
The Admissions Committee invites you to share additional information about yourself, in any format. If you choose a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us with the URL. (500 words or 2:00 minutes)
Not all optional essays should be considered optional, and in this case I suggest candidates utilize this essay accordingly. This essay is a really an opportunity for Sloan to get to know you, and with so few other touchpoints in the application process, you should make the most of this space.

Sloan gives candidates a pretty good runway on this one with a lengthy word and multimedia count (as far as “optional” essays go), but you will still want to keep things focused. Use as much of the real estate as you need for your answer and none more. You should really use this space to get personal; it is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself so make sure it is not something you have previously covered elsewhere in your essays.

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

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

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

How Are College Applications Actually Evaluated?

GMATThe Common Application is live! Most (if not all) college applications are now available for you to access, meaning that application season is officially here! We here at Veritas Prep get very excited about this time of year – we connect with students all around the world who are ready to tackle applications to their dream schools. We are inspired to come to work every day because we get to work with the most ambitious students and help them reach their most ambitious goals.

We’re a team of college admissions nerds experts who have a unique insider’s perspective to how college applications are actually read and evaluated by admissions committees. As the 2016/17 application season officially begins, we wanted to provide you this insider look into our 4 Dimensions of a College Applicant. When admissions committees read their hundreds of applications a year, they are looking to evaluate candidates through these 4 dimensions:

Dimension 1: Academic Achievements
Your academic achievements demonstrate that you’ve mastered high school academics, but most importantly, they indicate to admissions committees how you’ll be able to handle the academic rigors at their school if you are admitted. To evaluate your academic achievements, admissions committees will review your:

  • GPA: This is a predictor of your academic performance in college; how well you did in high school may be directly related to how well you’ll do in college courses.
  • Class Rank (if your school provides rankings): Class rank gives admissions officers a bit more context for your grades in comparison to how your classmates performed.
  • AP/IB/Honors Coursework: Admissions committees will want to know which courses are offered at your high school and if you took advantage of all that your school had to offer.
  • High School Profile: Your high school profile allows admissions committees to see where your high school stands compared to other high schools in the nation/world.
  • Standardized test scores: The SAT & ACT provide colleges with a standard scale to compare you to all other applicants. While your GPA may have less room for change, your SAT or ACT score is more in your control. A higher standardized test score can help mitigate the effects of a low GPA.
  • Recommendations: You may not suspect that recommendations play into your academic achievements, but admissions committees read these letters and look for your teacher’s perspective on your abilities and achievements in the classroom.
  • Final grades: Although it may seem impossible to stave off senioritis, do your best to keep your grades up! Your final grades do count – in our years of experience, we unfortunately have seen students have their offers of admission revoked because their grades dropped second semester of senior year.

Dimension 2: Match & Fit Factors
The most selective schools in the nation often report that 75% of their applicants are qualified for admission. Since they, unfortunately, do not admit all of the students who may be academically qualified to attend, admissions committees look carefully for match and fit factors. Essentially, they’re looking for the right group of students who accurately and creatively represent themselves in their applications in a way that demonstrates their perfect fit for the campus culture, academics and community. When admissions evaluates your match and fit factors, they’ll be looking closely at your:

  • Personal Statement: This is where you can really let your personality and passions shine!
  • Vision for the Future: The personal statement should shed light on what you are thinking about pursuing in college and beyond. Don’t worry too much about completing the goals that you write about as we know that this might change over time, but demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have ambitions (and make them believe in these, too).
  • Potential for Success: Colleges love to brag about their alumni and celebrate their students’ accomplishments. When they read your personal statement and supplemental essays, they’re going to be looking for successful students who will bring that same level of success to their campus.
  • Interest In and Knowledge of the College: With students applying to an average of 10+ schools these days, colleges really want to know that students actually want to attend their school. There are several places in the application where you can show your interest in and passion for a school. Admissions committees want to know that if they offer you a place in their freshman class, you will likely attend.

The other two Dimensions of a College Applicant will be integral in the success of your applications. Want to know what they are and how to make sure you’re submitting the strongest applications? Attend one of our upcoming online free college workshops led by one of our college admissions experts. Sign up for free here!

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

3 Business School Essay Mistakes That are Easy to Make

EssayBefore even reading the essay questions and prompts for their MBA applications, most business school candidates have made a checklist (written or mental) of the accomplishments, highlights, and goals that they want to share in their essays. While this is very helpful in mapping out your stories to share and the overall profile you want to present, be very careful of these common mistakes in your essay responses:

Not answering the questions!
As an example, take a look at the prompt below from one of the top MBA programs:

“Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned.”

This prompt may seem simple at first – all applicants are able to identify the achievement they want to play up and can extensively set up the details regarding it (even going so far as to fill in unnecessary details). This results in a having a very limited space to discuss the failure aspect of the question. Surprisingly, even with the great care taken to reflect, review, and revise, more often than not, applicants forget to address the question about how these experiences impacted their relationship with others.

Applicants will often get fixated on one or two parts of a longer prompt and totally miss out on critical aspects of the question. This is a very basic mistake committed during the essay-writing process, and it can happen no matter how much time and effort you have invested. Thus, be mindful of the need to the match each aspect of the given prompts with your responses before clicking the submit button.

Not showing how!
You know that you need to share awards, distinctions and accomplishments to strengthen your application chances, however, just as importantly, you also need to identify how you were able to earn these. Relating the specific actions you took and your outstanding personal qualities to these accolades will help demonstrate your potential to do the same in the future.

So, take your essays as opportunities to showcase the key factors that led to your successes, and choose the ones that would also be applicable to your future endeavors. For example, you may have inherently physical gifts, such as extraordinary hand-eye coordination, that allowed you to excel in multiple sports, but it might be better to highlight qualities such as focus, drive and leadership skills, as these would be more applicable to the endeavors you’re sure to take on during your post-MBA career.

Not explaining why!
Another chance to connect with the Admissions Committee on a deeper level is to explain your motivations, both for what you have done in the past and for your future plans. Whether explicitly prompted to or not, sharing more of yourself by explaining your background, values and interests in a reflective and honest way will help you put forth an engaging application package, and will allow the Admissions Committee to get to know you better.

Sounds easy, right? Avoiding these three simple mistakes will surely raise your chances for a homerun application.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Berkeley Haas’ 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

UC BerkeleyApplication season at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach the essay prompts, which are essentially the same as the prompts from last year. There are three full essay questions for Haas, with Essay 2 providing the applicant multiple options to choose from.

Essay 1:
If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words)

The most important thing about what song you choose here is that the song you choose does not matter. The fact that the school does not care what language, culture, or even what the lyrics are should signal this to you. It is all about “why” this song is so important to you, so when selecting a song think long and hard about a song that provides some insight into who you are. The more authentic the better, so use this as an opportunity to really let the Admissions Committee in so you can stand out from other candidates.

Essay 2:
Choose one:

  • Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you
  • Describe a time when you were challenged by perspectives different from your own and how you responded
  • Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging

(250 words)
There is a common theme between these three potential essay prompts, so it can be difficult for applicants to decide on which one to pick. Overall, with all three of these prompts, Haas is looking to understand how you have handled uncomfortable situations in the past. Again, which prompt you choose does not really matter for this essay – what is most important is to dive deep and be vulnerable and reflective on the experience you choose to share.

Essay 3:
Tell us about your career plans. How have your past experiences prepared you to achieve these goals? How will Berkeley-Haas help you? (500 words)

Essay 3 is the longest of the three essays and is by far the most traditional. This is your opportunity to really connect the dots for the Admissions Committee and help them understand how a Haas MBA will uniquely position you for success in your future career path. Spare the generalities here and get specific – highlight how your past, present, and future all link together with the Haas MBA. Hint: Haas’ “Defining Principles” are a great place to start!

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

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

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

Debunking 6 Popular Myths of the Part-Time MBA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations
Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life? What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience? What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation? (750 words)
This is a very multi-layered prompt provides applicants with a great opportunity to share their professional game plan and why Stern specifically is a key part of this. This prompt differs from other more traditional “career goals” essays by including multiple questions that will tease out many details of your planned career trajectory.

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

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

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

The rationale and  likelihood of reaching your identified career goals post-MBA is also a key aspect of how Stern will evaluate its applicants. Connecting your personal development goals to Stern’s unique offerings is critical to showcasing true fit with this program.

Essay 2: Personal Expression
Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.
Many programs have begun to move towards more open-ended and creative essay prompts such as this. The goal of this prompt for Stern is to get to know who you really are. Unique to most other MBA programs, Stern provides various multi-media options for candidates to use to convey their message. This allows you the opportunity to have a unique and creative approach in answering this prompt.

Keep in mind that the use of more non-traditional media can really stand out in a typically text-heavy process. Think creatively about how you plan to share your response, even if you are only using words. Creativity is not only limited to the medium – how you structure and organize your response could be another interesting way to stand out.

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

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

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

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

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Campus Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleen Hill is a Veritas Prep consultant for the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. You can read more articles by her here

Important Admissions Insights from the 2016 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s explore each bucket in greater detail:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Thoughts on Ross’ 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Address a Low GPA in Your MBA Applications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essay 1:
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (100-750 words)

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

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

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

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

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

Essay 3:
CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (100-250 words)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are just a few thoughts on the new essay from HBS – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Harvard and its application essay, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

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

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

4 Reasons to Consider a Part-Time MBA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Completing Your MBA Application Form

Applicant SurveyApplying to business school can be cause for major stress and anxiety for many applicants, and the majority of this anxiety tends revolve around the more time-consuming application elements required of them, such as their GMAT scores, essays and even recommendations. Most applicants spend hours upon hours in these areas in an effort to craft the perfect application.

Business school is a huge personal and financial investment, so to the well-informed, this time commitment should come as no surprise. What may come as more of a shock is that candidates often do not utilize this same level of diligence and focus when it comes to completing the application form itself.

By application form, I am referring to the actual online form in which candidates are required to input relevant details of their personal, academic, and professional profile for consideration for admission. (Application components like essays or recommendation submissions are aspects of this as well, but are typically submitted via attachment or external upload, and so are not the focus of this discussion.)

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you work through the often-overlooked MBA application form:

Do Proofread:
Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Did I mention it is really important to proofread? As I mentioned above, the application form tends to get overlooked, so don’t make the mistake of investing too little time in completing this. It is important to make sure you avoid making crucial little typos like wrong dates or misspelled words that could potentially send the wrong message to the reviewing Admissions Committee.

Don’t Wait:
Many applicants will leave filling out the application form until right before the deadline. Do not make this mistake! Typically, when you leave something until the last minute it is because you deem it less important – avoid this flawed way of thinking and put this component of the application process on the same footing as the others. It does not need to be the first area you tackle while completing your application package, but it certainly should not be your last. The application form is surprisingly time consuming, and thus, should not be rushed given its relative importance to your future business career.

Be Honest:
The application form often puts many candidates in difficult moral situations. Certain questions around past mistakes, arrests or honor code violations can be difficult to confront. Even more simple moral quandaries such as accurately reporting salary or awards tempt many an applicant to stretch the truth.

Keep this part of the application form simple by being honest. It is not worth risking a potential admission for something that is probably very minor in the grand scheme of your candidacy. Business schools take this aspect very seriously and seek to maintain the integrity of their honor codes at a very high level.

Remember, the application form is just as important as every other aspect of your MBA application package, so follow these tips and give this form the attention it deserves.

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

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

The Most Important Thing to Focus On When Applying to Business School With a Low GPA

08fba0fGoing into the MBA application season with a low GPA can be an unnerving situation. Your GPA was set long ago, you are years removed from your undergraduate days, and you know this statistic will appear in your applications no matter what. What can you do?

Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that your GPA is not evaluated in a vacuum – all GPAs are not created equally, so depending on the reputation of your undergraduate college, rigor of your major, and performance in your analytical courses (hopefully you have taken some), the perception of your GPA can rise or fall from the actual number on your transcript.

Assuming you actually have a low GPA – one that is “materially” below the listed average score at your target program – now is the time to take action. Now, these tips are really only potential options for those who have the time to follow them; if you are closing in on an application deadline, it will be difficult to make much of an impact here. For most, the two major options you have to address a low GPA are to take additional coursework and/or focus on your GMAT score.

As referenced earlier, your GPA is not an independent data point. It often is taken in concert with other factors, and the most impactful of these is one’s GMAT score. In the eyes of the Admissions Committee, the GMAT is similar to your GPA – both are seen as measures of your intellectual aptitude, and both are also considered to be indicators of your ability to perform in the heavily analytical first year of business school. So, if you are suffering from a low GPA, then the best action you can take to mitigate this red flag is to work on improving your existing GMAT score and aim to exceed the GMAT average of your target program.

For many, this may not be the best approach – a more obvious approach might be to take some additional coursework to counteract the low GPA. This is also something that could help, but when considering the more impactful approach (especially considering the time commitment each option requires) it can be difficult to do both for a working professional. This fact places even more importance on how a candidate prioritizes the limited time they are given during the application process.

Low GPA holders rejoice! All is not lost – prioritize your GMAT score to counteract that red flag and give your application a better chance at success.

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

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

How Your MBA Profile Can Be as Likable as Steph Curry

Steph CurrySteph Curry – point guard for the Golden State Warriors basketball team and recently-named unanimous Most Valuable Player of the NBA – is fast becoming one of the most popular figures in sports. In this entry, we will take a closer look at some factors for his unique mass appeal and what we can learn from him to better craft our own business school application profiles.

Consistent Underdog and Overachiever
As far as superstar athletes go, Steph Curry’s path to success has been an unusual one. Recruited out of high school, Curry played basketball at a small college that was not known for producing top-caliber NBA players. Even after excelling at the college level, critics still held doubts as to whether his slight physique and “average” athleticism would allow him to make it at the professional level. Curry’s ability to leverage his unique skills and smarts, however, has allowed him to succeed both on and off the court.

MBA applicants from little-known schools and companies should be able to relate to the doubts that sometimes creep in when competing for spots at the top business schools. Showcasing your history of achieving great results and how you have beat the odds of your more modest background can help show the Admissions Committee that you have the potential to be successful at their program and beyond. Presented properly, you’ll make it easy for them to root for your success.

Resolve and Self-Awareness
Just four years ago, NBA teams wondered whether Curry would actually be healthy enough to have a long and productive career due to his frequent ankle injuries. And, although seemingly born with a gift for shooting the ball, Curry also dealt with many weaknesses in other facets of the game. Nike didn’t even consider him to be one of its priority shoe endorsers, and put dozens of other stars ahead of him as a result.

Publicly acknowledging his struggles with his ankle and with turnovers during his games, Curry humbly sought advice and training methods to strengthen his body and identify his most common errors in handling the basketball in an effort to improve these weaknesses.

Today, Curry is a 2-time NBA MVP – setting record-breaking performances and capturing the imagination of the public at historic levels. Witnessing his authenticity, humility, and rapid progress has won over the public, as crowds of spectators like never before show up early before Curry’s games just to see him go through his pregame warm-ups.

The takeaway here for MBA applicants is that you should feel safe in showing vulnerability and in acknowledging your application’s weak spots (as well as how you are working to improve them). Providing vivid details of how you have grown despite your flaws will allow you to connect with the Admissions Committee on a deeper level, and dispel any doubts they may have about potential red flags in your profile.

Charm
Undeniably, Curry’s “normal” size and boyish appeal, coupled with his adorable family, also play a part in boosting his public profile. In addition, appearing with U.S. President Barack Obama in playful ads to support worthwhile causes shows his community involvement and personal advocacies aside from his profession.

As an MBA applicant, be aware that all aspects of yourself are part of your overall package – not just the parts that are related to your employment. Sharing your personal passions and involvement in causes other than your professional work experiences will help present you in a well-rounded manner, and convince the Admissions Committee that you will make a great and unique addition to their school.

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

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

3 Basic Last-Minute Checks for Your MBA Essays

EssayHave you ever noticed that there are always more last-minute details than there are minutes to fix them in? You have put in months (or even years) of work to fit all your experiences at school, work, and life in general into the perfect MBA application essays, and now it is time to finally upload them into the application form. However, no matter how much time and effort you have put in, some additional details always come up.

Use the following last minute checks to address some of the most common business school essay mistakes before you hit “submit”:

1) Make sure you really answered the questions.
At this stage, your essays have probably already gone through several revisions. Most likely, you started by answering each of the essay questions directly, and then filled in your highlights as much as you could. Finding out that you went past the word count limit, you stopped or cut down on your writing and, in the process, some key parts of the essay’s prompt may have been left unaddressed. For instance, an applicant might write about his or her lofty post-MBA goals in detail, but not show how the program they are applying to will help them achieve those.

Thus, make sure you match each part of the essay question or prompt to your essay and ensure that you have addressed each one adequately. If not, edit accordingly. This does not mean you need to completely re-write your essay – changing two to three sentences could be all you need.

2) Be careful with spell checking and transferring content.
As tempting as it is to click “Change All” when you complete spelling and grammar checks on your computer, this can be very risky, especially for the use of proper nouns (for instance, “INSEAD” is often autocorrected to “instead”). Therefore, it is necessary to take the time to actually review spell checker suggestions one by one.

At this stage, if you have to choose between accepting all of the spell checker’s changes blindly or skipping spelling and grammar checks altogether, you would be better off skipping them. This is because the mistakes that remain in your essay will most likely be minor or understandable typographical errors, which is better than having the name of the school you are applying to accidentally autocorrected to something else.

In addition, doing a simple “copy/paste” from your word document to the online application form sounds very basic and routine, but errors can (and do) happen here. Make sure you are pasting your answers to their corresponding questions, and at the very least, check that the word count matches and that no paragraphs are accidentally truncated by looking at their last words (although a more thorough final check of your essays before you officially submit them is always recommended).

3) “Control F” or “Command F” can save you from embarrassing slip-ups.
Imagine you are applying for a job, created a fantastic cover letter, and accidentally wrote in the name of one of the company’s competitors that you are also applying to work for. That is probably the equivalent of writing up your MBA application essay, praising your target program and declaring why you are a great fit for them, only to use the name of another school. This is a common mistake for recycled essays – where you use an essay that you have already submitted to another school and merely edit a few details or sentences.

A quick way to eliminate this risk is to use the “Control F” or “Command F” find functions. For example, say you are working on your application for Wharton and you have also already applied to Columbia and Stern – search for the two latter schools in your Wharton essays as you are proofreading them! This is an easy way to double-check that there will be no embarrassing name slip-ups (although hopefully, you have customized your essays in terms of content and not simply changed the school names!).

Any other tips? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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

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

Build Your MBA Profile Like Angelina Jolie

writing essayAngelina Jolie is known worldwide as both a glamorous movie star and an advocate of several worthwhile humanitarian causes. Even more impressive than this amazing image is how she has managed to accomplish so much while simultaneously battling with substance addictions, social controversies, and failed relationships. By building your MBA profile like Angelina has built her career, you can also overcome any potentially negative components of your application.

From “Wild Child” to “World’s Most Admired Woman”
Growing up an unpopular schoolgirl and then becoming an unsuccessful model struggling with an eating disorder, drug addiction, depression, and flops after flops, Angelina’s rise to success was not as easy as one might assume. Early in life, she made the news more often for the wrong reasons than she did for any positive accomplishments.

The turning point, she says, was adopting her son, Maddox – his entry into her life made her commit to ending her self-destructive ways. Around this same time, the filming of her blockbuster hit “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” in Cambodia opened her eyes to the worldwide humanitarian crisis, leading to her involvement as a United Nations ambassador.

From her image as a wild child, to being named the World’s Most Admired Woman in 2015 by YouGov, Angelina Jolie has ably managed her public image to benefit her career and make an impact on worthwhile causes.

Lesson for MBA applicants:
Just as early missteps did not define Angelina – and have even proved to make her story interesting – MBA applicants can build their profiles even with previous failures or mistakes. Identifying turning points and key events that allowed you to mature and fulfill your  potential will allow the Admissions Committee to better understand and relate to your early vulnerability, redemption, and success.

Images of Refugee Camp Visits
Striking images of Angelina’s well-documented visits to refugee camps in Kenya, Lebanon, and all over the world, are also helpful in presenting her awareness of, and commitment to, her cause in a way that is both credible and powerful, such that her reputation as a humanitarian is able to drown out accusations that she is may be a “home-wrecker.” (Apologies to Jennifer Aniston’s fans, if any are still reading up to this point!)

Lesson for MBA applicants:
Sharing stories complete with vivid images that will favorably surprise the Admissions Committee or counteract negative perceptions or stereotypes about your background will be very useful for your MBA essays and your overall profile.

For instance, private equity analysts could be seen as mainly doing desktop research and not getting exposed to the outside world. Thus, an applicant of this background would do well to richly relate the experience of inspecting the mines or interacting with people in the factories. In contrast, an applicant from a very poor country would do well to highlight global leadership experiences and personal exposure across different nations to help assure the Admissions Committee that he or she will do well in a diverse top-tier MBA program.

Building a well-rounded profile like Angelina Jolie will be essential to gaining admission to a top-tier business school; showing that you are someone who can “hit the ground running” wherever you go is the type of candidate MBA programs are truly looking for.

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

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

A Snapshot of the U.S. Academic Visa Process

ChecklistFor many international students, the hardest part of pursuing a graduate education in business in the United States is not just gaining admission to an MBA program, but also ensuring, from a legal perspective, they have the right to study in the U.S.  Keep in mind, the following information is focused primarily on the U.S. academic visa process – if you are pursuing your MBA in a different country, such as France or the United Kingdom, please review those country-specific rules and regulations.

Now that we have those particulars out of the way, following your admission to business school, you should immediately begin the visa process to ensure a smooth transition once it is time to begin your MBA studies.

The United States student visa is called the F-1. Once you have secured, and formally accepted, an admissions offer from the business school you will be matriculating to, your MBA program should send you an I-20 form that is required for your academic visa (F-1) submission. After completing this form, you will need to submit it along with the necessary supplementary documents (including a valid passport and photograph), pay a monetary fee, and complete an in-person interview at a U.S. Embassy.

If you have a spouse, your student visa will provide clearance for them to stay in the U.S. while you are a student as well, however, they will still need to go through the F-2 visa process, which establishes kinship of the spouse to the matriculating student. Keep in mind, the accompanying spouse will not be allowed to work or become a full-time student with this visa, but can still pursue part-time coursework (as long as it does not exceed 12 hours per week).

One of the more challenging aspects of the F-1 are its work restrictions – the student visa does allow students to work up to 20 hours per week and up to 40 hours per week during vacations (like during summer internships) but approvals or sponsorships from an employer will be needed in order to work outside of that.

This knowledge is especially relevant for an applicant’s post-MBA work goals – after completing an MBA under the student visa, students must leave the country within 60 days. At this point, a recently-graduated student who is interested in remaining in the United States must secure sponsorship from an employer via the H-1B Visa.

Don’t misstep as you transition to attending business school in the U.S. – get your student visa process started early and make the most of your time before matriculation.

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

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

How to Prepare For Your MBA as an Undergraduate Student

Make Studying FunAre you already considering pursuing an MBA as an undergraduate student? There is no better time to start thinking about a graduate education in business than while you are wrapping up your undergraduate education. This time in your life will afford you the most flexibility with regards to making the decisions that may successfully set you up for the rest of your business career.

The most important thing to keep in mind as you think through your business school strategy is to be flexible. Do not plan so rigidly that you are incapable of adapting to the natural shifts, changes and ad hoc opportunities that life offers. Be focused throughout your career journey, but make sure you are also affording yourself some flexibility.

Career Trajectory
Thinking through how best to achieve your future career goals, and if business school makes sense as a part of this, are natural first steps for most undergrads. Really think through whether or not pursuing an MBA is something you would eventually like to do, and if it will have the desired impact on your career.

I would caution, however, against pursuing career paths that you generally have little interest in simply to maximize your positioning for a top-tier MBA. College is an exploratory time where you should start to filter through industries and functions that excite you – the better you can narrow your career focus early on, the less wasted time you will ultimately have in your post-undergrad career.

GPA
Your GPA is one of few aspects of your profile that you really cannot alter or improve after graduation. So, while you’re still in undergrad, it is important to bank some equity in your future application with a high GPA. Don’t fall for the myth that your grades do not matter after undergrad once you enter the workforce – your GPA can follow you (positively or negatively) throughout your career.

GMAT
Take the GMAT! Take the GMAT! Take the GMAT while you are still in undergrad! Commonly held wisdom suggest that if you are already in study mode as a student, it will be much easier for you to excel on this exam, so find some time to focus on your prepare early. Once you enter the working world, it is often difficult to find time to dedicate yourself to comprehensive GMAT prep.

Extra-Curricular Activities
College is also a great time to explore activities that interest you on campus. Aligning your passions with leadership and teamwork opportunities – be that in athletics, volunteering, or professional or social clubs – can really distinguish you as a future candidate. These experiences also provide great essay fodder and strong interpersonal anecdotes that definitely help differentiate applicants as a whole.

Take advantage of the tips above to get ahead of the curve as an undergraduate student so that you can breeze through your MBA application process in the future.

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

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

3 Ways to Fit the Most Details Into Your MBA Essays

help - wordsDo you have too many “knick-knacks” and seemingly unrelated, but interesting, details about your MBA candidate profile? Are you unsure of where to use them in your essays, how to fit them into the limited word counts you are given, or if you should even include them in your application at all?

Frequently, I see business school applicants who have accomplishments that they are very proud of – such as winning a competition at their undergraduate university, excelling on a sports team, or holding a long-running passion for performing arts – but that do not seem to fit into the context of their answers to the essay prompts they are given.

Some schools have essays asking applicants to share outside activities or interesting personal facts, but most of the time, you will need to deliberate as to how these attributes will fit in your essays as you address the questions.

Below are three suggestions on how you can find space to share these details in a way that will help make your essays both more personal and powerful:

1) Draw Parallels
As is true in many aspects of life, in your business school essays, showing, instead of simply telling, is often the best way to get your point across.

For example, trying to convince your reader (the Admissions Committee) of your ability to persevere and work hard by mentioning the number of hours you spend at the office may not be all that effective. Instead, you could say how your work habits formed by years of training as a ballerina, and how this experience prepared you to understand the blood, sweat, and tears required to achieve great successes.

Drawing these parallels will put personality into your essay – creating an image for the Admissions Committee, while also reinforcing the character traits you want to highlight by showing how you demonstrate them in another context.

2) Use Your Interests as Examples
Another great way to mention seemingly unrelated, but still impressive, activities is by using them as examples in the context of addressing a question.

For instance, if you are discussing your initiative to improve your time management skills, you may mention that apart from being able to accomplish your responsibilities at work, you have also created time to enrich your life with engaging activities, such as mountain-climbing or performing with a band. This will help show your range of involvement across diverse interests and present you as a multi-faceted character, while still allowing the Admissions Committee to better relate to you.

3) Pivot From a Common Point
In writing your essays, you may also identify a common thread that ties all of your varied interests together. This could be in the form of emphasizing a strength, by giving examples of your involvement in different activities that leverage a particular trait.

For example, you could identify your ability to adapt as a major strength and give examples of your experiences as a student leader working with international students, a volunteer working in the community with refugees, and your current position handling global clients. Relating these activities to each other through a common point will allow you to mention many details without needing to describe them in great detail.

MBA programs want to see applicants who are adaptable, multi-dimensional and interesting. Using your wide array of experiences in the aforementioned ways can help you accomplish this, while also allowing you to express yourself and to submit an application that truly shares your personal stories.

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

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

How to Make Your Admissions Decision With Uneven Information

AdmissionReceiving multiple offers of admission to various business schools after a long application season is a great feeling for most candidates, but the hard part is not quite done yet – now it is time to make a final decision.

For some, this decision-making process will be fairly simple – many candidates prioritize their list of schools well in advance of submitting their applications, so it is easy for them to choose which one they want to attend when they finally hear back from the Admissions Committees. However, in many other situations, all offers are not created equal, so selecting one school from another can often become very complicated. So, where should candidates start with so much uneven information from programs?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you choose between multiple business school admissions offers:

Prestige:
Is there a distinction between the programs you are considering? Evaluating your decision between a program with a global reputation like Harvard Business School and a smaller regional program would be an uneven comparison. Generally, the more reputable programs will offer better long term career considerations due to their prestigious names and large alumni base.

Location:
Where do you want to live post-MBA? The location of your MBA program plays a huge role in determining the likelihood of where your future job offers will come from. It is always recommended to attend a program in close proximity to your target post-MBA location, whether that is regionally, nationally, or internationally. Reputation can also certainly can factor in here, as the more well-known programs often offer a broader reach of opportunities that can make location preference moot.

Career Opportunities:
Which program better equips you to reach your career goals? Really look at this question holistically – reviewing your target program’s employment report is a great place to start. Look at both the aggregate number of students that have pursued the particular industry you want to be involved in, as well as the percentage. You should also consider are the reputation of the program in this particular industry. For example, Kellogg has a great finance program, but generally does not have a major reputation in the finance industry and with finance practitioners; if finance is your focus and you are choosing between other programs that possess a better reputation in that unique sphere, this would be something to keep in mind.

Financial:
This is business school after all, so the financial aspect of this decision will probably be a major component for you, even if you are one of the lucky recipients of scholarships. Now, money tends to complicate what may be an otherwise clear decision for many candidates, so build out a few scenarios that will aid in this aspect of your decision-making process. The toughest choices occur between programs that better address the above criteria but provide more limited scholarship money with those that provide more scholarship money but less of the desired attributes. In these situations, it is important to balance out all of your options to make the most holistic decision for you and your family.

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

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

Steps to a Stronger MBA Profile in 6 Months

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

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

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

Below are some practical tips to strengthen your profile:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Challenges of Obtaining an International Work Visa Post-MBA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Choose the Right Hobbies for Your Business School Application

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Applying to Business School With a Non-Profit Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Family Business to Business School (and Back)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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