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

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

Take Challenging Courses Throughout High School

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

Pay Close Attention to the Admissions Essay

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

Dedicated Participation in a Few Extracurricular Activities

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

Excel on the SAT or ACT

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

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

Demonstrate Interest in Attending an Ivy League School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Meet with Admissions

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

2) Visit a Class

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

3) Connect with Students

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

4) Explore the Student Community

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

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

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

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

Does a Business School Visit Affect Your Chances of Admission?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Admissions Tips and Ivy League College Consulting

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

 

Garner Compelling Recommendation Letters

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

Write a Memorable Admissions Essay

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

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

Participate in a Few Significant Extracurricular Activities

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

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

Show Enthusiasm for a School and its Resources

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

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

The Benefits of Working With Ivy League College Consultants

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

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

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

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

Is Your GMAT Score More Important Than Ever?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking Down Kellogg Evaluation Criteria

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

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

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

1) Work Experience

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

2) Impact

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

3) Professional Goals

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

4) Leadership

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

5) Interpersonal Skills

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

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

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

Standing Out as an International Applicant from India

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

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

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

Work Experience

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

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

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

GMAT Scores

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

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

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

Education

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

Application

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

Extra-Curriculars

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

Essays

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

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

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

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

The Best Classes to Take To Prep for Your MBA

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

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

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

Accounting

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

Finance

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

Statistics

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

Economics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYU (Stern) — Industry Mentoring Initiative

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

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

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

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

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

Veritas Prep Quoted in the Contra Costa Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New MBA Admissions Survey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Tips for Applying to Law School… Next Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MBA Admissions: Waitlist Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MBA Admissions Interviews – What to Expect

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

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

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

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

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

Our First Annual MBA Admissions Officer Survey Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Law School Admissions Webinar – Dec. 15

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

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

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

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

Register for our online law school admissions seminar here!

Top Ten Common MBA Application Mistakes from Stanford GSB

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veritas Prep Featured in BusinessWeek

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

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

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

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

Veritas Prep Featured in The Wall Street Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MBA Admissions Tips from Haas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Advice from U Chicago Law – Letters of Recommendation

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

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

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

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

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

Law School Personal Statement Advice: U Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Veritas Prep’s “Personal Statement” page:

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

And from the U Chicago blog post on the subject:

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

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

The Yale Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Access

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

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

Process versus Substance

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

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

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

Burden Shifting

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

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

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

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

Justice Roberts at Florida Law School

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

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

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

“Safety” Business Schools Are Getting More Selective

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

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

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

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

Finally, a Public Interest Incentive That Means Something

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

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

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

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

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

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

Law School Rankings in Upheaval!

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

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

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

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

Veritas Prep Provides MBA Admissions Tips for Forbes

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

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

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

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

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

More on the Uptick in MBA Applications

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

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

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

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

Announcing Law School Admissions Consulting Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wharton Director of Admissions Steps Down

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

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

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

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

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

Harvard Business School Application Now Available

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

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

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

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

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

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An application tip for the graduate school candidate.

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