MBA Interviews: How to Answer the “Where Else Are You Applying?” Question

MBA AdmissionsUndertaking the interview process for business school applications can be a nerve-wracking experience for many MBA candidates. Along with the excitement of having the opportunity to make your case to the representative of a school in person, comes the anxiety of potentially saying the wrong thing.

For the most part, as an interviewee, you will know what is coming during the interview – most interviewers will ask you about your career progression, life experiences, career goals, and interest in pursuing an MBA at their school – but one specific oddball question often sneaks in for many programs every year. What other schools are you applying to?

This questions presents a confusing challenge to interviewees, and figuring out how to approach this seemingly benign question tends to cause more anxiety than comfort. Let’s explore a few tips on how to best address the question of where else you are applying:

1) Answer the Question
This is not the time to be philosophical about your opposition to sharing this information with the Admissions Committee or the moral conundrum this question may put you in. The more of an issue you seem to have with this question, the more trouble you will be in with your interviewer. Answer the question directly and prepare to move on to the next one.

2) Answer Strategically
Do not feel like you have to list out every school you plan to apply to when this question is posed. Be strategic here, and only share the schools that align with the applicant narrative you are pushing. Out of the schools you are applying to, I would say pick the schools that relate most to the one you are interviewing with, and avoid bringing up any unrelated schools you may also be applying to. The Admissions Committee will be assessing the consistency of the narrative you are spinning and your thought process. If you are telling them you want a small school experience at Tuck, then don’t tell them you plan to apply to HBS, otherwise everything else you have said will ring hollow. So just make sure you are being consistent and that your overall story makes sense.

3) Answer Concisely:
There is nothing worse than a candidate rambling through a long-winded response during an interview, and this gets even worse when a tough question is involved.  Avoid the potential for the perception of a disingenuous response by keeping it tight. Being concise is your friend here, and limits the opportunity for any potentially misplaced words.

Ultimately, this question is not a major source of information for the interviewer and only really trips up the anxious, nervous and unprepared. So make sure you are none of those three descriptors and use the above tips to knock this simple question out of the park!

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

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

Does Your College Pass the “Broken Leg Test”?

Run OnDon’t worry, college-bound high school students – this post is not about another test you have to take. I’m sure you’ve had just about enough of testing for a while! The “broken leg test” is a term that I learned from a family friend, and it has to do with the college search process.

For athletes that want to continue to play sports in college, there’s another aspect of looking at schools: finding a college sports team that you like and that will take you. But my family friend’s advice to athletes was to make sure that the search for a good athletic program didn’t overshadow the search for a good academic and social fit. He told athletes to consider whether they would still like the school they wanted to go to if they got injured and were no longer able to be on the sports team. Hence, the broken leg test.

This is, first-and-foremost, good advice for athletes. Sports are, of course, a big part of school for athletes, but college is too big an investment for athletics to be the only consideration. Applying the broken leg test is a good way to make sure that an athlete’s college choice is well-reasoned and positions the athlete well for the future, no matter what injuries may occur.

The idea of the broken leg test can be valuable for non-athletes, too. Making sure that your college choice isn’t disproportionately based on one factor is a smart thing to do. It forces you to think broadly about the aspects you want your college to have, and not get caught up in one little detail that catches your eye. There are so many things to love about college, and life is so unpredictable, that you’re more likely to be happy if your reasons for choosing a school are numerous.

Consider the following example: Imagine a student – let’s call her Caroline – really likes College X. She visited College X during a special concert performance on campus and loved the performers and the atmosphere. However, with a careful application of the broken leg test, Caroline should be wary of putting too much stock in this one experience. Possibly, the concert doesn’t usually draw as talented of artists, or the student body acts much differently on normal days of the week. Would Caroline still be happy at College X if concerts and other events like this weren’t nearly as good when she went to the school? Only if the answer is yes should Caroline still consider attending College X.

So, for athletes and non-athletes alike, the idea of the broken leg test is a good thing to keep in mind when choosing a college to attend. If, for some reason, you were unable to participate in one major college activity you had planned to participate in, would you still be happy at the school you chose? Keeping that question in mind is a good way to make sure that even if something drastic happens, your college choice is still a good one.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

The Fit Grid: How to Pick the Right School

One of the hardest and most critical tasks facing a grad school candidate is picking the right schools to apply to (and then attend). Fit is so important not just for improving admissions prospects, but for creating the best possible graduate school experience. Unfortunately, distinguishing top programs — especially among law schools and business schools — can be very difficult. Plus, there is a propensity to let the tail wag the dog. In other words, students decide the schools they like first and then make any sort of research (visits included) fit the existing paradigm, rather than coming to conclusions based off of authentic exploration.

So how should students go about determining “fit?” If you have the resources, we advise handing over your information — background, skills, goals, etc. — to a trusted expert and letting them give you an objective list of matching programs. Obviously, that requires a significant financial outlay and it starts to feel a little bit strange offshoring the whole operation.

Fortunately, there is a middle ground in the form of “The Fit Grid.”

The Fit Grid is simply a way to prioritize on the front end, based on factors, and then create results on the back end that help move you away from preconceived notions. It is pretty simple and not a perfect solution, but it definitely helps.

Basically, what you want to do is create a list of important factors that you think will play a major role in shaping your graduate school experience. Common factors include: location, prestige of program, career placement (specifically in your area of interest), international program opportunities, ability to take classes in areas of interest, student organizations, cost, scholarship opportunities, admissions chances, and culture.

Once you create your grid on the y axis, you can put all of your schools on the x axis and start filling in the boxes with scores for each program in each area. The goal is obviously to focus exclusively on that factor at each place, so that, again, the preconceived ideas you have about the entire school don’t weigh you down. You can also weight various categories based on what matters most to you.

One example might look like this, for Chicago’s Booth School of Business (to keep things simple, I’ll rate every category on a scale of 1-to-10):

Location — 10, because I’ve always wanted to live in Chicago and it

Success Story Part 4: "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the essays of our lives…"

(This is the fourth in a series of blog posts in which Julie DeLoyd, a Veritas Prep GMAT alumna-turned-instructor, will tell the story of her experience through the MBA admissions process. Julie will begin her MBA program at Chicago Booth this fall. You can also read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to learn Julie’s whole story.)

Since the time this business school idea first occurred to me on that Texas highway, the GMAT had been my main concern and the only real hurdle I had anticipated. Now with that hurdle behind me, I realized there was a whole new challenge ahead. Choosing schools, and writing essays upon essays upon essays

Five Questions You Need to Ask When Choosing an MBA Program

As we mentioned last week, the Bay Area’s Contra Costa Times turned to Veritas Prep for insights on what the value of an MBA is in the current economic climate. In the article, we provided some advice for applicants as they choose which business schools they want to attend. As we always do, we stressed that an applicant must look at so many things beyond just rankings when choosing an MBA program.

Adapted from that Contra Costa Times article, here are five questions you should ask when evaluating how well a certain business school meets your needs:

  • What employers recruit from the school? If you want to switch careers and get a job in banking, but no investment firms recruit at the school, then don’t expect your post-MBA job search to be easy.
  • How far do the school’s reputation and alumni network reach? Many schools provide an excellent education, but only have a regionally strong brand. If you want to get a new job in another part of the world after school, this may make it harder to do.
  • What type of programs does it offer? Most business schools offer a full-time, two-year program. If this may not fit your schedule or you don’t want to quit your job, see if they offer part-time programs that allow you to work and study at the same time.
  • What are its academic specialties? Is the school strongest in one specialty, such as finance or marketing? Or is it a more general management-oriented program? Make sure this strength matches what you want to focus on in school.
  • How much will the school cost you? Obviously, half of the return on investment equation is the size of investment itself. If a school offers you a significant grant or your employer will cover the cost of the program, that may tip the scales in that school’s favor.

This list only begins to scratch the surface, but these are all important questions you need to be able to answer for every school to which you plan to apply.

For more advice on choosing a business school, talk to our MBA admissions experts, and follow us on Twitter!

Specialized MBA Programs Keep Growing

A recent BusinessWeek article explored the growth of specialized MBA programs, especially at schools outside of the top ten MBA programs. These programs are one way for lesser-known schools to stand out from the pack, but are they always a good choice for business school students?

“Not necessarily,” writes Fancesca Levy for BusinessWeek. “While established programs have placement records on par with those of their general MBAs, many newer programs have not yet established the kind of recruiting relationships that guarantee students high-paying jobs at graduation. And graduates always run the risk of getting hamstrung by their specialties later in their careers, when an industry downturn forces them to look outside their specialties for opportunities.”

While specialized programs are often very valuable, their recent growth reminds us of the wave of e-commerce programs that appeared in business schools eight to ten years ago. Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, for example, made a big push with its e-commerce MBA, only to scale back its offering after the dot-com party was over. (A recent search for “e-commerce” on Owen’s site turns up just one Internet Marketing Strategy class.)

We’re not knocking Vanderbilt or any of these schools for rolling out these programs. The market for management education always changes, and it’s often these smaller schools that create real curriculum innovation. Just be careful that you don’t chase any fads or trends that may not suit your goals five years from now, once the next fad comes along (real estate fit that description a couple of years ago, and “green” MBA programs just might be next).

Also, consider what you really expect to get out of your business school education. For many, an MBA is a chance to learn how to think like a CEO, regardless of the industry or function. Other applicants, meanwhile, enroll in business school to learn specific skills that can help them flourish as soon as they graduate. If you’re in the former camp, you may want to skip these specialized programs in favor of a more general management-focused curriculum. If you’re in the latter camp, however, then a specialized program may be a good fit for you.

For more help in choosing a business school, try the Veritas Prep Business School Selector and take a look at our books on MBA admissions strategy, Your MBA Game Plan.