McKinsey’s Chief Learning Officer Encourages You to Develop These 10 Critical Job Skills

If you’re getting ready to attend college or graduate school, then you’re probably very interested in building a career or accelerating your current one. A lot of the value that comes from earning a degree is in the prestige of the program and the network that you build, but of course much of the value comes from the actual hard job skills that an education helps you develop. The jobs landscape is changing quickly these days, probably more rapidly than ever. Some skills that virtually guaranteed you a job just two decades ago may now be close to irrelevant. What the heck are you supposed to do to ensure that you can survive — and maybe even thrive — in this environment?

In a recent talk at Darden, Nick van Dam, global chief learning officer at McKinsey & Co., listed out what he thinks are the 10 most critical job skills of the future. Without further ado, they are:

  • Complex problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • People management
  • Coordinating with others
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Service orientation
  • Negotiation
  • Cognitive flexibility

Notice that no specific skills such as “writing code” or “great writing skills” are on the list. Those are undoubtedly the kinds of abilities that will help keep you employed for a long time, but Van Dam’s focused on more general, descriptive skills here. Problem-solving, creativity, cognitive flexibility… If you have these abilities, then there probably isn’t a lot that you can’t do. And, if you can’t do something, then odds are that you’re probably able to learn it pretty quickly. If you can learn and adapt quickly like this, then lifelong learning — something that Van Dam stresses is important — should come relatively easily for you.

We sometimes use the phrase “mental agility” around here at Veritas Prep to describe the same sort of skills. Taking it back to test prep for a moment (we couldn’t help ourselves), that’s why we always urge our students to understand the bigger picture when we teach them how to solve a question. It’s one thing to “learn the trick,” but on test day, when the test presents you with a question that’s sort of similar, but not quite, will you freeze? Or will you have the mental agility to adapt in the moment, recognize the pattern, and solve the problem?

Also, note that there are many others on the list that one would call “soft skills,” such as people management, emotional intelligence, and negotiation. The more that repetitive, measurable tasks are replaced by automation, the more that these soft skills — the kind that a robot can’t do, at least not any time soon! — will matter as you try to move up in the workforce. Either you learn how to write the code, or you learn how to effectively manage the person doing the writing. And, when “write the code” gets replaced by another skill in 20 years, you’ll have the mental agility to learn that skill… or manage that new person with the new skill!

By Scott Shrum.

You Just Submitted Your MBA Applications… Now What?

SAT/ACTAfter all those months of hard work, you have finally submitted all of your business school applications! Congratulations!

With that burden off of your back, what else should you be doing after you submit your application. Let’s explore a few action items to tick off your to-do list post-submission:

Finish Other Applications
Most MBA applicants don’t apply to only one school, so don’t bask too long in your finished application – there are probably plenty more where that came from. Keep the momentum going, buckle down and get moving on the rest of your applications. Make sure you leverage what you have learned from your previously-submitted application to make each version even better than the last.

Thank Your Recommenders
Recommenders play a huge role in the success of your application. Make sure you acknowledge their hard work, especially if they are providing recommendations for multiple schools. Also, don’t be afraid to send your thanks after each submitted application, or take them out for lunch to show your appreciation of their contribution to your success.

Interview Prep
The best time to prepare for an interview is when all of the information relating your application is still relevant. Some schools can have upwards of 2-3 months in between the application deadline and when they eventually begin interviewing candidates, so try to begin your prep for a potential interview early. Business school application interviews can have a major impact on your candidacy, so getting an early start on your preparation is never a bad thing.

Apply for Scholarships
Business school is not cheap and with very few full scholarships available, it is important to consider all alternatives to paying for your education. External merit-based scholarships are a great way to pay for all or a portion of your MBA. Many of the deadlines for these scholarship opportunities are much earlier in the application cycle than you would expect, so don’t wait until you are admitted to figure out how you will pay for school. There is a lot of money out there, so use your post-submission time to give yourself the best chance at securing some funding.

Relax
Relax! Applying to business school is stressful so it is very important to find pockets of time to relax. For those who still have additional applications to churn out relaxing may be difficult, but if you have submitted all your applications, enjoy the brief break and rest up for the next phase of the process.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or sign up for a free admissions consultation. Let’s get started!

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.

How to Prepare for Your Business School Interview

For many applicants the notification of an interview invite from your dream school is an exciting next step after an arduous application process. All of your hard work has finally boiled down to some initial success. However, typically the excitement soon turns to anxiety as candidates begin to realize they have no idea how to prepare for an admissions interview for business school. “Is it just like a regular job interview?” “What type of questions do they ask?” are just some of the common initial questions that can arise once an interview invitation is received.

The business school interview should not be viewed as anything new to you. It is more similar to the traditional job interview than you might expect. Just like a regular interview you are aiming to impress and the majority of the interview will be focused on YOU! The key difference with this interview is really just the goal, which in this case is admission to the MBA program of your dreams.

I would recommend preparing for your MBA interview the same way you prepare for any job interview, it starts with knowing your own personal background inside and out along with your motivations for that target business school. Then it’s researching your target school and identifying the aspects that make the school uniquely attractive to you. A nice way to do this is to pair up school-specific offerings of interest with an adjoining explanation for why that offering is uniquely attractive to you. This includes academic offerings, extracurricular activities/professional clubs, career support/recruiting strengths, etc.

Next I would identify common MBA questions like…

  • What Are Your Career Goals?
  • Why an MBA?
  • Why School X?
  • Walk Me Through Your Resume

As well as other common situational business school questions that address interpersonal skills like leadership, teamwork, and maturity. For the most part, these interviews have very few surprises, and you will know what’s coming, which makes the prep all the more important. Preparing conversational responses in a script format to each of the common interview questions can be a method for those that prefer a more structured approach to their interview prep. But make sure to incorporate elements of your personality into your script to avoid coming off as too rehearsed.

Also, breakthrough candidates will make sure to incorporate the “I” of what they accomplished into their script. Make sure to connect the dots with regards to the steps you’ve taken in your career, and remain structured in your responses. Utilizing the S.T.A.R format (Situation-Task-Action-Result) and talking in buckets – “There are 3 Reasons Why I Want to Go to Fuqua” are other tactics one can sneak into their preparation for the interview.

Finally, take particular note of how the interview style of certain schools can affect your responses. Some schools like Kellogg have “blind” interviews so the interviewer will not have seen your application, so they will not have access to important information like GPA, GMAT, essays etc. Other styles can be influenced by the type of interviewer (Alum vs. Student vs. Admissions) or the location (On Campus vs. Off Campus) which can dictate the type of information you are prepared to share as well as list on your resume for the interview.

Don’t let the interview be the end of your business school journey, prepare accordingly and come decision day you will be all smiles!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or sign up for a free admissions consultation. Let’s get started!

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.

Take the 2017 MBA Applicant Survey and Win $500!

AIGACThe Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) has just launched its annual MBA applicant survey. By filling it out you’ll be entered for a chance to win $500!

Take the survey here.

Since 2009, AIGAC has regularly conducted a large survey to study trends among business school applicants. The results are shared with AIGAC member consultants and with MBA programs to help them better anticipate the needs of those who will soon apply to business school. Over the past few years, there have even been changes made to some business schools’ applications as a result of AIGAC survey findings, including more streamlined letters of recommendation at some MBA programs!

This online survey should take just a few minutes to complete. We would love to receive as many responses as possible before the survey closes in early April – and we would like to see one of our readers win the $500 cash prize!

Simply click here to begin the survey.

More about the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants: AIGAC promotes high ethical standards and professional development among graduate admissions consultants, increases public understanding of graduate admissions consulting, and enhances channels of communication with complementary organizations. The annual MBA Applicant Survey is just one way in which AIGAC serves the admissions and admissions consulting communities.

Thanks in advance for your participation, and good luck with the drawing!

4 Predictions for Test Prep and Admissions in 2017

There goes another year. Seemingly no sooner than it started, 2016 has packed up and stormed off, leaving many dizzy in its wake. Now that 2017 is underway, it’s time to dust off the old Veritas Prep crystal ball and see what may be in store for 2017 in the worlds of test preparation and admissions. Odds are that we won’t be right on all of these — and we may even manage to get all four wrong — but let’s dig in and predict a few things that we expect to see in 2017:

One-year MBA programs will reach a tipping point in the United States.
For decades, one-year programs have been more popular in Europe than in the United States, although some prominent American programs, such as Kellogg, have moved to expand their one-year programs in recent years. With more and more articles appearing in the media about students and their families questioning the costs of higher education, accelerated programs will keep looking more and more appealing to applicants who don’t want to spend six figures on an MBA. The globalization of management graduate education will continue, and more American business schools will start to embrace what’s traditionally been a more Euro-flavored program type.

Video prompts will become much more common in business school applications.
Yes, we predicted this last year, and it didn’t quite come to fruition. But, schools are becoming more and more comfortable with video as a medium for learning about applicants, and — probably more importantly — applicants themselves mostly seem to be comfortable with video. In AIGAC’s 2016 MBA Applicant Survey, only 16% of applicants surveyed said that video responses were the most challenging part of the application. That’s far smaller than the percentage of applicants who said that standardized tests (61%) and written essays (46%) were the most challenging! Rotman, Yale, Kellogg, and McCombs have helped blaze a video trail that we expect others will soon follow.

An Asia-scale cheating scandal will hit the SAT or ACT in the United States.
News articles about standardized test cheating scandals like this one and this one seem to come out nearly every month. Much of the blame lies with the pressure that students — and especially their families — put on themselves to do well on these exams.

It’s also greed. For every student that will do anything to do well on an exam, there’s a person or company who’s happy to take their money and do whatever it takes to give that student a leg up. Sometimes that means legally and ethically training that student to perform to the best of their ability, but many other times it means falsifying documents or providing students with live test questions for large sums of money. This kind of greed exists everywhere in the world, and it’s only a matter of time until a similar large-scale scandal happens in the U.S.

Community colleges will gain a lot more recognition.
Did you know that more than half of students who enroll in college first do so at a community college? Most Americans don’t know that, even though community colleges have been the engine that educates millions of Americans each year. We’ll see the federal government putting more emphasis on jobs and job training in the coming year, and community colleges are perfectly positioned to serve that role. While it remains to be seen whether community colleges get all of the funding they need to keep serving their mission, we expect that, at a minimum, they’ll start to get more recognition for the job they do to train and retrain America’s workforce.

Happy New Year, everyone. We can’t wait to check back in 2018 and see how this year turned out!

By Scott Shrum

Take the 2016 MBA Applicant Survey and Win $500!

AIGACSince 2009, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) has regularly conducted a large survey to study trends among business school applicants. The results are shared with AIGAC member consultants and with MBA programs to help them better anticipate the needs of those who will soon apply to business school. Over the past few years, there have even been changes made to some business schools’ applications as a result of AIGAC survey findings!

This online survey should take just a few minutes to complete. We would love to receive as many responses as possible before the survey closes in early April – and we would like to see one of our readers win the $500 cash prize!

Simply click here to begin the survey.

More about the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants: AIGAC promotes high ethical standards and professional development among graduate admissions consultants, increases public understanding of graduate admissions consulting, and enhances channels of communication with complementary organizations and entities.

Thanks in advance for your participation, and good luck with the drawing!

Haven’t applied to business school yet? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

GMAC to Test “Select Section Order” Option

GMAT Select Section Order PilotBig news in the standardized testing space! For a brief period of time starting next month, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) will let GMAT candidates choose the order in which they take the GMAT. The “Select Section Order Pilot” will run from February 23 through March 8, 2016. The pilot was first announced via an email to candidates who recently took the GMAT, and it appears to be limited to “invitation only” status for some people who recently took the exam.

What Exactly Is The Pilot?
Currently, the GMAT is given one way and one way only: Analytical Writing Assessment (30 minutes), Integrated Reasoning (30 minutes), Quantitative (75 minutes), and Verbal (75 minutes). With the pilot, students may choose to take the GMAT in one of these four ways:

1. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
2. Quantitative, Verbal, Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning
3. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
4. Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Verbal, Quantitative

You will need to select your preferred order when you register for a new test date on MBA.com. If you choose one of the experimental options above, then you will need to find an available test center in the February 23 – March 8 period; if choose the normal order in which the GMAT is given now (AWA, IR, Quant, Verbal), then you will not be considered part of the pilot program, and you can register for the test on any date.

On its website, GMAC makes a point of saying that the pilot will be very small, involving less than 1% of total testing volume. So, your odds of being invited to the pilot are very small. Also, if you participate, your score will be considered just as valid as if you had taken the “normal” GMAT, and schools will not know that you were part of the Select Section Order pilot.

Why Is GMAC Doing This?
No doubt GMAC wants to innovate and make the GMAT more applicant-friendly in the face of increasing competition from ETS in the form of the GRE. In its email to recent test takers, GMAC wrote:

A launch schedule for any further release of this feature beyond the pilot has not been determined at this time. The wider launch of the Select Section Order feature will depend greatly on the results of the pilot. GMAC may decide not to launch the feature for any number of reasons, including candidate dissatisfaction with the feature.

It’s safe to assume that GMAC will only expand the program if it finds that pilot students don’t perform significantly better or worse than their counterparts who take the GMAT in its normal order. Focusing the test on retake students — who give GMAC a terrific baseline for comparing results between the normal GMAT and the pilot program — is how they will determine whether or not playing with section order has a meaningful impact on scores.

Should You Participate?
If you’re one of the approximately 1% of GMAT candidates who are invited to take part in the pilot, it will be very tempting to take part and try customizing your test day experience. However, we normally recommend that students play the real game just the way they do in practice (and vice versa)… If you’re taking practice tests in the normal order, then we recommend taking the real GMAT the same way.

If stamina is a real problem for you — e.g., you find that you always run out of steam on the Verbal section and start making silly mistakes or simply run out of time — then it may be worth trying a format in which you get Quant and Verbal out of the way first. If you’re not sure, then stick with the normal order that you’re used to.

Were you invited to take part in the pilot? If so, let us know in the comments below!

By Scott Shrum

4 Predictions for 2016: Trends to Look for in the Coming Year

Can you believe another year has already gone by? It seems like just yesterday that we were taking down 2014’s holiday decorations and trying to remember to write “2015” when writing down the date. Well, 2015 is now in the books, which means it’s time for us to stick our necks out and make a few predictions for what 2016 will bring in the world of college and graduate school testing and admissions. We don’t always nail all of our predictions, and sometimes we’re way off, but that’s what makes this predictions business kind of fun, right?

Let’s see how we do this year… Here are four things that we expect to see unfold at some point in 2016:

The College Board will announce at least one significant change to the New SAT after it is introduced in March.
Yes, we know that an all-new SAT is coming. And we also know that College Board CEO David Coleman is determined to make his mark and launch a new test that is much more closely aligned with the Common Core standards that Coleman himself helped develop before stepping into the CEO role at the College Board. (The changes also happen to make the New SAT much more similar to the ACT, but we digress.) The College Board’s excitement to introduce a radically redesigned test, though, may very well lead to some changes that need some tweaking after the first several times the new test is administered. We don’t know exactly what the changes will be, but the new test’s use of “Founding Documents” as a source of reading passages is one spot where we won’t be shocked to see tweaks later in 2016.

At least one major business school rankings publication will start to collect GRE scores from MBA programs.
While the GRE is still a long way from catching up to the GMAT as the most commonly submitted test score by MBA applicants, it is gaining ground. In fact, 29 of Bloomberg Businessweek‘s top 30 U.S. business schools now let applicants submit a score from either exam. Right now, no publication includes GRE score data in its ranking criteria, which creates a small but meaningful implication: if you’re not a strong standardized test taker, then submitting a GRE score may mean that an admissions committee will be more willing to take a chance and admit you (assuming the rest of your application is strong), since it won’t have to report your test score and risk lowering its average GMAT score.

Of course, when a school admits hundreds of applicants, the impact of your one single score is very small, but no admissions director wants to have to explain to his or her boss why the school admitted someone with a 640 GMAT score while all other schools’ average scores keep going up. Knowing this incentive is in place, it’s only a matter of time before Businessweek, U.S. News, or someone else starts collecting GRE scores from business schools for their rankings data.

An expansion of student loan forgiveness is coming.
It’s an election year, and not many issues have a bigger financial impact on young voters than student loan debt. The average Class of 2015 college grad was left school owing more than $35,000 in student loans, meaning that these young grads may have to work until the age of 75 until they can reasonably expect to retire. Already this year the government announced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan, which lets borrowers cap their monthly loan payments at 10% of their monthly discretionary income. One possible way the program could expand is by loosening the standards of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Right now a borrower needs to make on-time monthly payments for 10 straight years to be eligible; don’t be surprised if someone proposes shortening it to five or eight years.

The number of business schools using video responses in their applications will triple.
Several prominent business schools such as Kellogg, Yale SOM, and U. of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management (which pioneered the practice) have started using video “essays” in their application process. While the rollout hasn’t been perfectly smooth, and many applicants have told us that video responses make the process even more stressful, we think video is’t going away anytime soon. In fact, we think that closer to 10 schools will use video as part of the application process by this time next year.

If a super-elite MBA program such as Stanford GSB or Harvard Business School starts video responses, then you will probably see a full-blown stampede towards video. But, even without one of those names adopting it, we think the medium’s popularity will climb significantly in the coming year. It’s just such a time saver for admissions officers – one can glean a lot about someone with just a few minutes of video – that this trend will only accelerate in 2016.

Let’s check back in 12 months and see how we did. In the meantime, we wish you a happy, healthy, and successful 2016!

By Scott Shrum

Dr. Larry Rudner Endorses Veritas Prep’s GMAT Practice Tests

GMACThree years ago this month, the team here at Veritas Prep launched a new project to completely reinvent how we build and administer GMAT practice tests for our students. A home-built system that started with the GMAT Question Bank (launched in October, 2012) soon grew into a whole computer-adaptive testing system containing thousands of questions and employing Item Response Theory to produce some of the most authentic practice tests in the industry. We launched our new practice test in May, 2013, and five months later we made five tests available to everyone. We later added two more tests, bringing the total number to seven that anyone could get. (Veritas Prep students get five additional computer-adaptive tests, for a total of 12.)

The whole time, we kept evaluating the current bank questions (aka “items” in testing parlance), adding new ones, and measuring the ability levels of tens thousands of GMAT students. To date, we have gathered more than 12 million responses from students, and put all of that data to work to keep making our tests better and better. And we keep doing this every week.

Earlier this year, we embarked on a new chapter in the development of our computer-adaptive testing system: We began working with Dr. Larry Rudner, the former Chief Psychometrician at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), and the definitive authority on the GMAT examination. Dr. Rudner took a look at every aspect of our system, from how we manage our items, to how good each item is at helping our system measure ability levels, to how we employ Item Response Theory to produce an accurate ability level for each test taker. In the end, not only did Dr. Rudner provide us with a roadmap for how to make our tests even better, but he also gave us a great deal of praise for the system that we have now.

What exactly did he say about our GMAT practice tests? See for yourself:

After months spent evaluating every aspect of their GMAT practice exams, it’s clear that Veritas Prep has mastered the science of test simulation. They offer thousands of realistic questions that have been validated using Item Response Theory and a powerful computer adaptive testing algorithm that closely matches that of the real GMAT® exam. Simply stated, Veritas Prep gives students a remarkably accurate measure of how they will perform on the Official GMAT.”

– Lawrence M. Rudner, PhD, MBA. Former Chief Psychometrician at GMAC and the definitive authority on the GMAT exam

Our work on our practice tests will never stop — after all, every month we add new items to our GMAT Question Bank, and many of these questions eventually make it into our computer-adaptive tests — but Dr. Rudner’s endorsement is particularly satisfying given the thousands of hours that have gone into building a testing system as robust as ours. When you take this or any practice test (even the official ones from GMAC), keep in mind that it never can perfectly predict how you will perform on test day. But, with Veritas Prep’s own practice tests, you have the confidence of knowing that more than three years of hard work and over 12 million responses from other students have gone into giving you as authentic a practice experience as possible.

We plan on putting this system to use in even more places, and helping even more students prepare for a wide variety of exams… That’s how powerful Item Response Theory is. Stay tuned!

Finally, we love talking and writing about this stuff. If you’re relatively new to studying for the GMAT or understanding how these tests work, check out some of our previous articles on computer-adaptive testing:

By Scott Shrum

Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018. Tuck stuck with two required essays this year, and the questions are substantially the same, although both of them have been reworded a bit for this year’s application. These small changes suggest that the Tuck admissions team was mostly happy with the responses they saw from last year’s applicant pool.

Without further ado, here are Tuck’s deadlines and essays for the 2015-2016 application season, followed by our comments in italics:

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Deadlines
Early Action round: October 7, 2015
November round: November 4, 2015
January round: January 6, 2016
April round: April 4, 2016

Tuck’s deadlines are almost exactly the same as they were last year. Rather than joining other top MBA programs in pushing its first round deadline into September, Tuck decided to hold steady. Note that Tuck is one of the few top business schools to offer an Early Action admissions option. “Early Action” means that the decision is non-binding, although if you are admitted you will need to send in a $4,500 deposit by January 15 if you plan on enrolling. If Tuck is your top choice, or at least a very strong 2nd or 3rd choice, Early Action is a great way to demonstrate that you’re seriously interested in Tuck.

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays

  1. What are your short- and long-term goals? Why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically? (500 words)

    This question has been substantially reworded since last year, although at its core, it’s still the same fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that many business schools ask. One notable change is actually the addition of the second question in there (“Why do you need an MBA?”), and the fact that the Tuck admissions team added this part suggests that perhaps not enough applicants were addressing this fairly obvious question last year.

    The other subtle change is how the last part of the prompt changed from “Why are you the best fit for Tuck?” to “Why are you interested in Tuck specifically?” No matter how the question is asked, Tuck really is still trying to get at the concept of fit here — what about Tuck interests you enough that you would consider devoting two years of your life to the program? Tuck takes the concept of fit very seriously when evaluating candidates — which makes sense, given its small class size and remote location — so you need to take it seriously, too.

    Keep in mind that anyone can browse the school’s website and drop some professors’ and clubs’ names into this essay; a response that will really stand out is one that is believable, shows that you’ve done your research and reveals something unique about you. In this way, the wording in last year’s essay prompt can be a great guide to writing a great response to this year’s question.

  2. Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck? (500 words)

    This question has also been tweaked for this year’s application. The meaningful difference is in the second part: While last year’s question asked you what you learned about yourself, this year’s version squeezes in the part that was dropped from Essay #1. Why does this matter? Because the part that was dropped (“What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?”) is still actually pretty important, and it’s hard to imagine writing a great essay that doesn’t at least briefly cover that material this year.

    Since you only have 500 words for the whole essay, being succinct will be important! You need to describe what the situation was, what action you specifically took, and what the results were (Situation-Action-Result, “SAR”). And devoting at least several sentences to how you grew or changed makes a lot of sense… So you’re left with less than half of essay to tie this all back to Tuck and how you will contribute. No problem, right?

    Are you grasping for a story to use for this essay? Don’t lose site of that important word in the first part of the question: leadership. Keep in mind that leadership shows itself in many forms, not just from being the official manager of a team. Perhaps you took on a tough problem that no one else wanted to deal with. Maybe you faced a tough ethical decision that kept you up at night. Or maybe you spotted an opportunity for how something could be done in a better way, and you convinced your peers to come around to this new way of doing things… All of these could make for rich stories to use in this essay!

    Finally, remember to tie it back to Tuck. Our advice here is not to force it (e.g., “… and that is why I will be a natural to lead the Tuck Finance Club”). The key is to tell an story that demonstrates your growth as a young, developing leader, and then to demonstrate that you understand what Tuck’s respectful, collaborative culture is all about.

  3. (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application. (500 words)

    As we always tell applicants when it comes to the optional essay for any application, only answer this essay prompt if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!

Each year we work with dozens of MBA applicants who want to get into Tuck. If you’re ready to start working on your own candidacy, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Chicago Booth Admissions Essay and Deadlines for 2015-2016

The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago recently released its MBA application deadlines and essay for the Class of 2018. After years of whittling down its essay count to just one single essay last year, Booth returns with one essay this year, although it’s a new one. Booth has always been one of the pioneers in using unusual essay prompts, and it’s good to see that continue. The way they go about it this year is a little different (and perhaps not ideal), but we dig into that in much more detail below.

Here are Chicago Booth’s admissions deadlines and essays for the 2015-2016 season:

Chicago Booth Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 17, 2015
Round 2: January 5, 2016
Round 3: April 5, 2016

Once again Booth has moved its Round 1 deadline forward by a week, making Booth the latest top business school to have its first deadline come in mid-September. (Five years ago, Booth’s Round 1 deadline was October 13… Things have changed!) The good news is that applying to Booth in Round 1 means that you will get your decision back by December 10, which gives you almost a month before most business schools’ Round 2 deadlines come in early January. Booth’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines each moved only slightly compared to last season.

Chicago Booth Application Essay

  1. Chicago Booth values individuality because of what we can learn from the diverse experiences and perspectives of others. This mutual respect creates an open-minded community that supports curiosity, inspires us to think more broadly, take risks, and challenge assumptions. At Booth, community is about collaborative thinking and tapping into each other’s different viewpoints to cultivate new ideas and realize breakthrough moments every day. Using one of the photos provided, tell us how it resonates with your own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for you.

    This essay prompt is new this year, although at its core, it’s not that different from last year’s essay. The Booth admissions team wants to get to know you better, and this is their way of doing it. Why did they change the essay prompt? Our bet is that they actually liked what they saw from applicants last year, but they seemed determined to make their essays a moving target because of all of the coaching resources that applicants have access to (such as this blog!)… This is their way of trying to keep it fresh while not messing with the formula too much.

    We always tell applicants that they have to do two things to be successful: stand out from other applicants, but also show fit with their target MBA program. With this essay prompt Booth is going after the latter; they explicitly ask you to show why the Booth community “is the right fit for you” here! But, how you show fit is one way you can stand out vs. other applicants. Don’t be afraid to get creative here! (Here are all of the technical details of what you can and can’t submit.) Remember, the reason Booth kept this question is because it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to get a sense of your personality, so let that personality shine through here!

    Finally, the addition of the “react to one of these photos” idea is… interesting. We have a feeling that a lot of applicants will end up forcing the explanation of why a photo of Eugene Fama resonates with them… At a high level, our advice is not to get too hung up on your choice of photo. Don’t just randomly pick one and then use editorial duct tape to attach that your own story, but remember that the admissions committee really wants to learn about YOU here, not about what you think of one of these photos. Any one of Booth’s thousands of applicants can write about those photos, but only you can tell Booth about you.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Booth and other top MBA programs, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By MBA Admissions Deadlines, MBA Essays

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions EssaysThe Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley recently published its MBA admissions deadlines and essays for the coming application season. After chopping away at its essay count in the recent past, Haas has held steady this year, keeping the required essay count at three. But, interestingly, the school has made some changes that make this year’s application look more like the application that Haas used two years ago. We’ll dig in and tell you everything you need to know below.

Now let’s dig in! Here are Haas’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Berkeley (Haas) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2015
Round2: January 7, 2016
Round 3: March 31, 2016

Haas’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. The one bit of news here is that while the school used to wait until mid-January to notify Round 1 applicants, now applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by December 17, giving you at least a couple of weeks before most schools’ Round 2 deadlines, should you need to scramble and apply to some backup schools. Looking at Round 3, Haas pushed back this deadline by nearly three weeks vs. last year, matching similar moves at some other top schools to hopefully catch a few more great candidates who may have missed the earlier rounds.

Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays

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

    This question is new this year, although Haas actually used it before dropping it last year. Now it’s back, and it’s clear that the Haas admissions team wants to get past the normal jargon and stuffy language and get a real sense of your personality here. That means you shouldn’t be afraid to have a little fun or reveal the real you here. If an admissions officer reads this essay and then still has no sense of what it would be like to meet you in person, then you haven’t made good use of this essay. That doesn’t mean your choice of a song needs to be wacky or so deep that it will make the reader cry, but avoid the temptation to choose a song that merely echoes one of the more straightforward themes you will cover below. And, we’re willing to take bets on the number of applicants who say their favorite song is John Lennon’s “Imagine”… Save the high-minded “I want to save the world” stuff for another essay! This one is more for just helping admissions officers feel like they know you at least a little bit.

  • Please respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words)
    – Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.
    – Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud.
    – Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.

    All three of these essay prompts try to get at the same thing — identifying an experience in your life that led to growth and transformation. The first one is essentially carried over from last year’s application, and the second one is quite similar to a prompt from last year, although it’s a little broader this time around (it can be any accomplishment, not just a professional one). The third question is new this year. And, most notably, you’re picking just one, while the first two questions were actually two separate required prompts on last year’s application. We like that Haas gives applicants three different ways to go about this one; your best story may come from an accomplishment, or from overcoming a setback, or from making a tough choice in life. Why not let you choose which story to tell here?

    No matter which essay prompt you choose, think about the “SAR” (Situation-Action-Result) essay framework here — describe what happened, what you did, and then what happened as a results. Sounds obvious, right? You would be surprised by how often applicants get lost in the details and end up using most of their words merely to describe to the situation… the result gets tacked on in two sentences at the very end! That’s too bad because the result — not just what happened in that situation, but also how you changed as a result — is what Haas really wants to know here! Even seemingly smaller accomplishments or life events, such as the first time you spoke in front of a large group, can make for a really impactful essay here.

  • Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey? (500 words)

    This is the more conventional “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that MBA programs often ask. Ask yourself these questions: Where do you see yourself in a few years (and beyond that), and why do you need an MBA to get there? Specifically, why do you need a Haas MBA to get there? Why not another top-ten MBA program? Really force yourself to answer that question, even if not all of your answer makes its way into your final essay response!

    By the way, the Haas admissions team gave you a big hint here: On the Haas website, check out the paragraph that introduces the essays. It describes the four key principles that define the Haas culture: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Your goal here is NOT to see how many of these you can cram into your essay (this is not merely an exercise to see if you bothered to read the website), but if none of that appeals to you, and you can’t even articulate why Haas is the right way for you to invest in yourself, then you need to take a step back before drafting this essay. You obviously are an unfinished product, which is why you’re considering business school… Help the admissions committee believe that Haas is the right place for you to grow for the next two years, invoking those four key principles where you can.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Haas and other top business schools, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Kellogg Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Kellogg School of ManagementThe Kellogg School of Management recently released its essay questions and deadlines for the 2015-2016 admissions season. After doing a lot of essay trimming over the past several years, Kellogg has decided to stay the course this year and stick with two required written essays. However, the essay prompts are new this year. And, the school’s “video essay” remains. Kellogg has a decent FAQ for its video essay on its website.

Let’s get down to it. Here are Kellogg’s application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Kellogg Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 22, 2015
Round 2: January 6, 2016
Round 3: April 6, 2016

After moving its Round 1 application way up (i.e., making it much earlier) last year, Kellogg has only made a minor adjustment this year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by December 16, which should give you enough time to complete your Round 2 applications for other programs if you don’t get into Kellogg. The school’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines have not changed much this year, with the only notable change being that the Kellogg Round 3 deadline comes five days later this year than it did last season.

Kellogg Application Essays

  • Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)
    This question is new this year, although it’s really quite similar to the second essay on last year’s Kellogg application, which started with, “Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others.” Note the emphasis on leadership and teamwork here… Both are key traits that the Kellogg admissions team looks for in all applicants. And, even though the second sentence above only mentions leadership, you’d better believe that the admissions committee also wants to see evidence of collaboration and cooperation… in other words, teamwork! Kellogg isn’t looking for sharp-elbowed people who lead by ordering others around. rather, the school wants to find applicants who inspire people to work harder and achieve great things through teamwork and empowerment.

    This essay is a classic candidate for the SAR (Situation – Action – Result) outline that we recommend our clients use. The situation will likely be an opportunity or challenge where you needed to rely on someone in order to get something done. The action will be how you managed to influence them in order to see things your way and to convince them to take up your cause. Perhaps it was an employee or teammate who wasn’t motivated, or didn’t agree with what you wanted to do. How did you win them over? Finally, the result will be the outcome — not just of that particular situation, but also the positive impact that it had on you as a young leader. Pay particular attention to the last few words of this essay prompt; what you learned may be what admissions committee pays attention to the most.

  • Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
    This question is also new this year. However, over the years Kellogg has asked similar questions that have all addressed the ideas of personal growth and change. Assuming you have a good leadership growth story covered in Essay #1, then look for stories that will complement that nicely. How have you matured as a young adult? What was a weakness that you’ve worked on and have overcome? What strong qualities in others have you been able to emulate? As yourself these questions as you consider what makes for an effective topic here. Your story absolutely can come from your personal life — indeed, those often make for the most moving stories in essays like this one — but the more recent, the better. You’re still young and you are still evolving, so a story from fifteen years ago will likely be less compelling for admissions officers than one that happened in the past few years. (Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule!)

    The second part of the question may require you to drastically shift gears halfway through this essay… Your reasons for wanting to attend Kellogg may have very little to do with the compelling growth story you identified for the first part of this prompt, which is why we don’t necessarily love this new question from Kellogg. Sticking these two questions together may leave many applicants tempted to invent a theme in which they dramatically shape the story in the first half to fit what comes in the second half. We actually think a more effective approach is to present a true, impactful story of personal growth in the first part, and then hit the “What do you want to do at Kellogg?” question (which is really a “Why an MBA? Why Kellogg?” question at its core) head on. Some writers will tie the two together better than others, but remember that this isn’t an essay writing contest. It’s far more important for you to help the admissions committee get to know you (and want to admit you!) than to come up with an artful essay theme that doesn’t reflect the true you or make a convincing case that Kellogg is right for you.

Want to know what your chances are of getting into Kellogg? Fill out a free profile evaluation and get an in-depth evaluation from an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

MIT Sloan Application Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

MIT Sloan recently released its admissions essay and deadlines for the Class of 2018. While hardly any top business schools have cut essays this year (after several years of doing so), Sloan actually did cut an essay, going down to just one required essay this year. But, here’s a twist: The Sloan admissions team has added a second essay just for those who are invited to interview. So, you’re still going to need to write two strong essays to get into Sloan, and we break down the essay prompts below.

Here are MIT Sloan’s essays and deadlines for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

MIT Sloan Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 17, 2015
Round 2: January 14, 2016
Round 3: April 11, 2016

Several noteworthy things here… First, Sloan’s Round 1 deadline has moved up by almost a week, pushing into mid-September for the first time ever. And, the school’s Round 2 deadline comes almost a week later than it did last year. If you apply to Sloan in Round 1, you will get your decision by December 16, which will give you plenty of time to get Round 2 applications ready for other MBA programs, if needed.

The other interesting thing here is that Sloan has added a Round 3! For a while, Sloan had been unique among top U.S. business schools in that it only had two admissions rounds. For instance, last year, if you hadn’t applied by January 8, then you weren’t going to apply to Sloan at all. Now stragglers actually have a chance of getting into MIT Sloan, although our advice about Round 3 is always the same — there are simply fewer seats available by Round 3, so only truly standout applicants have a real chance of getting in. Plan on applying in Round 1 or 2 to maximize your chances of success.

MIT Sloan Admissions Essays

  1. Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words)This question is new to MIT Sloan’s application this year. What we like about it is how it very explicitly spells out what Sloan’s admissions team wants to see. For these types of questions, we always advise applicants to use the “SAR” method — spell out the Situation, the Action that you took, and the Results of those actions. There is no hard and fast rule for how many words you should devote to each section, but the situation is where you want to use up the fewest words; you need to set the stage, but with only 500 words to work with, you want to make sure that you give the bare minimum of background and then move on to what actions you took. And, make sure you leave enough room to discuss the result (“What type of impact did this have?”) Your individual actions and the impact that you had are what the admissions committee really wants to see.One final thought here: Don’t only think about the impact that you had on your organization, but also spend some time thinking about the impact that the experience had on you. What did you learn? How did you grow as a result? And, how did you put this lesson to work in a later experience? That may be a challenge to fit into a 500-word essay, but this is the type of introspection and growth that any business school admissions committee loves to see.
  2. For those who are invited to interview: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words)The wording of this prompt has changed slightly since last year, but the biggest change (other than the fact that it’s become the essay only for those invited to interview) is that the word count has dropped from 500 to 250 words. At its core, this is a “Why MIT Sloan?” question. The admissions committee wants to see that you have done your homework on Sloan, that you understand what the school stands for, and that you really want to be there.When Sloan asks you to share something that “aligns with” its mission, it’s not just asking about what you will do while you’re in school for two years, but also about how you plan on taking what you’ve learned (and the connections you’ve built) and going farther than you could ever have without an MIT Sloan MBA. Note the very last part of the question: The key to a believable essay here will be to cite a specific example from your past when you got involved and make things better around you. Don’t be intimidated by the high-minded ideals in the first part of the essay prompt — making an impact (rather than just standing idly by and being a follower) is what they want to see here, even if it’s on a relatively small scale.

The MIT Sloan MBA admissions team just posted a brief video that has some good basic advice on how to tackle their essays. There are no huge “Ah ha!” moments in the video, but it’s always good to hear advice straight from the course. Here is another article with some advice for the essay.

Do you dream of getting into MIT Sloan? Give us a call at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Wharton Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Wharton Admissions GuideToday we break down Wharton’s admissions deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018. Although Wharton frequently plays with its application’s essay questions from one year to the next, this year the admissions team has decided to stay the course. Consequently, our advice mostly remains the same.

Let’s get down to it. Here are Wharton’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 29, 2015
Round 2: January 5, 2016
Round 3: March 30, 2016

Wharton’s admissions deadlines have changed just slightly vs. last year. Its Round 1 deadline crept up two days, pushing into September, but that’s not a huge change. Wharton’s Round 2 deadline is the same as it was last year, and its Round 3 deadline was moved back by four days. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will receive your decision by December 17, giving you several before most top school’s Round 2 deadlines, if you need to hurry up and apply to some “Plan B” schools.

Many top business schools make a point of emphasizing that there’s no ideal time to apply, but not Wharton. The admissions team gives pretty explicit advice about application timing: “We strongly encourage you to apply in Round 1 or 2. The first two rounds have no significant difference in the level of rigor; the third round is more competitive, as we will have already selected a good portion of the class. However, there will be sufficient room in Round 3 for the strongest applicants.” So, unless you walk on water (and even if you do walk on water), you should plan on applying no later than Round 2 if you want to have a good chance of landing at Wharton next fall.

Wharton Application Essays

  • What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

    As we mentioned above, this essay prompt carries over unchanged from last year. At its core, it’s really the same “Why an MBA? Why Wharton?” that the school has asked for years. Note the word “personally” in the question — Wharton isn’t just interested in what six-figure job you hope to land after earning your MBA, but also wants to know how you plan on growing as a person from the experience. You definitely still need to nail the professional part — you absolutely should clear, realistic career objectives here — but the admissions committee also wants to see maturity and introspection. How do you see yourself growing during your two years at Wharton? How do you hope your two years at Wharton will impact your 10 years from now? This sort of depth will make the difference between a great response and a merely good one.
  • (Optional) Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)

    You should only use the optional essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need to. However, as schools like Wharton have been cutting down on essays, the role of the optional essay has evolved a bit. No need to monopolize the admissions committee’s time, but since Wharton’s application now gives you far less space in which you can describe your interests and inject some more personality into your application, this essay provides the perfect place to do that. Have a passion or something else that goes “beyond the resume” and will help Wharton admissions officers get to know you better? This essay gives you room to discuss it and make your application that much more memorable.

    Our original advice still holds, too. If you have a blemish that you need address, then this is the place to do it. You don’t want to leave a glaring weakness unaddressed. However, if you don’t have too much explaining to do, don’t be afraid to reveal something personal and memorable about yourself here!

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Wharton and other top business schools, you can get a free profile evaluation from one of our MBA admissions experts. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Stanford GSB has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the 2015-2016 admissions season. After making some pretty significant changes to the essay prompts last year, the Stanford admissions team has only made one minor word count tweak (actually adding 50 words!) this year. As a result, our advice mostly remains the same. Keep reading to see Stanford’s relatively unique questions, and how we recommend that you go about answering them.

Here are the Stanford GSB application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Stanford MBA Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 22, 2015
Round 2: January 12, 2016
Round 3: April 5, 2016

The biggest change here is that Stanford Round 1 deadline is 10 days earlier than it was last year, pushing into September for the first time. Just as is the case with HBS, putting together a winning Stanford GSB application will require getting started no later than the beginning of August. Stanford’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines each actually moved back by a few days.

Note that, if you apply in Round 1, you will receive your decision by December 9. That’s critical if you plan on applying to some other programs in Round 2 if you don’t receive good news from Stanford in Round 1. It gives you close to a month to get your applications ready in time for most top schools’ Round 2 deadlines.

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays

  • What matters most to you, and why? (750 words suggested, out of 1,150 total)

    Despite all of the changes that have taken place in the MBA admissions essay landscape over the past few years, this question manages to hang on. Before you start to work on this essay, consider the advice that the Stanford MBA admissions team provides: “Reflect the self-examination process you used to write your response.”

    This question requires a great deal of introspection, after which you should create an essay that truly answers the question asked, whether or not you feel that it’s directly applicable to the job of getting into Stanford GSB. Naturally, telling a random story that has nothing to do with anything of relevance can hurt your chances, but mainly because you will have wasted this valuable space to reveal something about yourself. Where many Stanford applicants go wrong is by writing about their grand plans for the future, rather than providing a real glimpse into who they are as people. The latter is much more powerful and, ultimately, much more effective in helping you get in. With the other essays in this application, you have ample opportunity to cover the exact reasons why you want an MBA from Stanford.
  • Why Stanford? (400 words suggested)

    Wow! Stanford is giving applicants 50 more words than it did last year! Otherwise, this essay prompt carries over unchanged from last year. Stanford has the luxury of not having to spend too much time sleuthing how interested you are in the program. Most people who are admitted to Stanford end up going there. However, the guidance that the admissions team provides with this question (“Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.”) shows that they really are paying attention to see if you’ve done your homework, and if you have given any real thought to making the most of your time at Stanford (beyond “Get into private equity and get paid.”)

    Definitely resist the urge to do a few web searches and then simply drop the names of some programs or professors into this essay. An effective response will provide specific details that tie back to you (think about your past and your future) as much as they tie to Stanford. Many applicants will read that “distinctive opportunities” advice and think “The scavenger hunt is on! Let me find something no one else will write about!” but that misses the point. Stanford wants to know that you’re applying for reasons other than the fact that it’s such a platinum name in education, so spell out how You + Stanford = A More Effective Business Leader.

Note Stanford’s Take on “Feedback” Vs. “Coaching”
Stanford includes some noteworthy language re: what is an acceptable form of guidance to seek as you craft your application essays. As the admissions team writes:

Appropriate feedback occurs when others review your completed application — perhaps once or twice — and apprise you of omissions, errors, or inaccuracies that you later correct or address. After editing is complete, your thoughts, voice, and style remain intact. Inappropriate coaching occurs when you allow others to craft your application for you and, as a result, your application or self-presentation is not authentic

It is improper and a violation of the terms of this application process to have someone else write your essays. Such behavior will result in denial of your application or withdrawal of your offer of admission.

We appreciate that Stanford spells this out, and we couldn’t agree more with the school’s stance. If you can’t even write your own essays, then you already know that you’re not Stanford GSB material. For more than 10 years we have been helping people apply to the world’s most competitive MBA programs, and we have done it (pretty well, we might add) without writing essays or putting words in our clients’ mouths.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Stanford and other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Harvard Business School Application Essays & Deadlines for 2015-2016

MBA applicants, start your engines. A handful of the top U.S. business schools have already released their application essays and admissions deadlines, it’s that time of year when we start digging into them for you. Today, we’re going to start with the business school with the biggest name and the earliest Round 1 deadline: Harvard Business School.

After years of slimming its essays down to the point where it had only one essay and even made it optional, HBS has changed course this year. The school has an all-new essay prompt, and it’s no longer optional. The essay becoming mandatory again actually isn’t huge news; in a recent blog post, HBS Admissions Director explained that, not surprisingly, every applicant submitted a response. So, no point in making the essay optional and confusing the issue. There’s one essay in the application (not counting the Post-Interview Reflection), and you’re going to write it if you want to get into HBS.

Without further ado, here are Harvard’s deadlines and essays (including the “Post-Interview Reflection”), followed by our comments in italics:

Harvard Business School Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 9, 2015
Round 2: January 6, 2016
Round 3: April 4, 2016

Harvard still has the earliest Round 1 deadline in the business, although the school’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. To give you an idea of how much this deadline has crept up over the years, back in 2008 HBS’s Round 1 deadline came on October 15! Harvard’s Round 3 deadline moved up two days this season, but that’s the only change this season.

Harvard Business School Admissions Essays

  • It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting. Introduce yourself. Note: Should you enroll at HBS, there will be an opportunity for you to share this with them. We suggest you view this video before beginning to write. (No word limit)

    Harvard went with an entirely new essay prompt this year. Last year’s “What else would you like us to know?” question seemed effective, but this change tells us that the HBS admissions committee is still trying hard to break applicants out of the habit of writing overly formal essays that don’t tell them anything interesting. While Harvard is normally a trendsetter, this year the school follows in the footsteps of schools such as Stern and Fuqua, which have used similar questions in recent years.By trying to put you in the shoes of students who have already gotten in and are now introducing themselves to their classmates, HBS wants get you to write with as natural a voice as is possible. In fact, in the blog post that introduces this question, Dee Leopold urges you to imagine “saying it out loud.” Of course, you will (and should) put more thought into this essay than you would put into what few words you might say to break the ice in Aldrich Hall.

    Any essay you write here still needs to help you do at least one of the two things that all successful MBA applicants do — demonstrate fit with HBS and also stand out in a very competitive field of applicants. Resist the urge to go for a gimmick, but don’t be afraid to truly listen to Leopold and actually let your hair down a bit. What brought you to this point in your life? What do you want to do after HBS? (Remember, write in the voice of someone who’s already gotten in.) What do you like to do outside of school and work? What gets you up in the morning? What would you say in your verbal introduction to get a laugh out of your new friends?

    Of course, the challenge is that there’s a lot that you would normally emphasize in a more traditional essay (“Why an MBA? Why now? Why HBS?”) that you probably wouldn’t say as you’re speaking to your new classmates. While in a traditional essay you might want to go on and on about how your minimal community involvement is actually something you’re really passionate about, how much time would you really spend on that in a verbal introduction? So, those things need to come out in your resume, your recommendations, and — should you get that far — your admissions interview.

    Overall, we bet that applicants will still err on the side of being too formal (and to wordy!) with this essay. One way to combat this is to actually record yourself doing a verbal introduction of yourself, and then, once you have a complete draft of an essay, compare it to see how much it matches it in terms of tone and length (not necessarily in terms of exact content). If your written piece is much longer or much more formal than your verbal sample, you know you have a bit more work to do to get to what the Harvard Business School admissions committee wants to see. We expect that most great responses will take up less than 1,000 words (maybe even more like 500 words) here.

  • Post-Interview Reflection: Within 24 hours of the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection through our online application system. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process.

    The Post-Interview Reflection gives you a chance to include anything you wish you had been able to mention in the interview, and to reframe anything that you discussed but have since thought about a bit more. You will submit this piece within 24 hours of your interview.Especially since this letter has no word limit, the temptation will be for you to cram in half a dozen additional things that you wish you had covered in the interview. However, less is always more — keep the note limited to no more than two or three core ideas that you want to highlight. Ideally you covered all of the important things in the interview already, but of not, then this is a chance to hit on those here. Keep in mind, though, that sharing these ideas in the interview is always going to be more effective than cramming them into this note.

    Finally, be realistic about how much this letter will help you. Chances are that it won’t turn a dud of an interview into a terrific one in hindsight. Do NOT go into the interview with this note already drafted; let it truly be a reaction to the discussion, which was hopefully an interesting and provocative one. If your interviewer reads this note and it sounds like a replay of an entirely different discussion than what he or she remembers, that will only serve to hurt you come decision time.

Read more of our thoughts on the HBS essay here.

Every year we help dozens of applicants apply to Harvard Business School. Want to see if you have what it takes to get into HBS? You can get a free profile evaluation from a Veritas Prep MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Veritas Prep’s Top-Rated Instructor Comes to India on March 29!

Ravi SreeramaFor some time now, Veritas Prep team member Ravi Sreerama has been regarded as the best GMAT instructor in the industry (see for yourself!) Whether he’s leading GMAT courses in Los Angeles or training students worldwide in our Next-Generation Live Online GMAT Course, Ravi keeps growing his legion of loyal followers. They want to score in the 99th percentile on the GMAT, and Ravi knows how to help them do it.

No, for the first time ever, Ravi will take his show on the road: Starting March 29, Ravi will lead a seven-day Immersion Course in New Delhi! Our Immersion Course format is entirely unique — you cover all 36 hours of the traditional Veritas Prep Full Course GMAT curriculum, but do so over seven straight days. Six of those days feature six hours of GMAT instruction each, with a break in the middle of the week.

The schedule is as follows:

  • Sunday: Foundations of GMAT Logic & Arithmetic
  • Monday: Critical Reasoning, Algebra
  • Tuesday: Sentence Correction, Geometry
  • Wednesday: Review Session and Office Hours
  • Thursday: Reading Comprehension, Data Sufficiency
  • Friday: Advanced Verbal Strategy, Statistics and Combinatorics
  • Saturday: Word Problems, AWA & Integrated Reasoning

Pay special attention to that Wednesday schedule — that day is dedicated to review and to office hours in which you can get one-on-one GMAT coaching from Ravi. Need to catch up? Stuck on a particular area? Have specific questions that you’ve been saving to ask a GMAT expert? Wednesday is when you can take advantage of Ravi being in New Delhi to brush up on the skills that matter most to you.

And, of course, you get all of the other benefits of being in a Veritas Prep Immersion Course, including the camaraderie that comes from spending seven days with a group of like-minded, ambitious GMAT students. You also receive:

  • 36 hours of live, instructor-led class time
  • 12 GMAT lesson booklets
  • 12 computer adaptive practice tests
  • Online student account with study plan
  • 3,000 practice problems and solutions, including video
  • Live homework help 7 days a week for a year
  • Every lesson pre-recorded in HD for review

Hurry… March 29 is coming quickly! Learn more about Ravi Sreerama’s New Delhi GMAT course, and enroll as soon as you can so that you’re ready when class starts on the 29th!

By Scott Shrum

Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Rankings for 2014

Bloomberg Businessweek has just announced the 2014 edition of its influential biennial MBA rankings, and boy are there changes afoot! Business school rankings are normally only interesting when there are big changes, and the folks at Businessweek did not disappoint this year.

Here are Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2014 rankings of the top 25 business schools in the U.S., followed by our analysis of what’s changed:

1. Duke (Fuqua)
2. Pennsylvania (Wharton)
3. Chicago (Booth)
4. Stanford
5. Columbia
6. Yale
7. Northwestern (Kellogg)
8. Harvard
9. Michigan (Ross)
10. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
11. UCLA (Anderson)
12. North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)
13. Cornell (Johnson)
14. MIT (Sloan)
15. Dartmouth (Tuck)
16. Indiana (Kelley)
17. Maryland (Smith)
18. Emory (Goizueta)
19. UC Berkeley (Haas)
20. Virginia (Darden)
21. USC (Marshall)
22. NYU (Stern)
23. Texas at Austin (McCombs)
24. Georgetown (McDonough)
25. Rice (Jones)

Winners in This Year’s Rankings
There’s no doubt that they’re partying down in Durham today, as Duke’s Fuqua School of Business has taken over the #1 spot in Businessweek’s rankings for the first time, knocking previous champ Chicago Booth down to #3. Columbia also had a huge day, climbing eight spots from #13 to the fifth slot.

It’s hard to top Duke’s big day, but if anyone is even more excited than Team Fuqua, it may be the folks at Yale SOM, which climbed a whopping 15 spots, jumping from #21 all the way to #6. No doubt the student body in New Haven is feeling energized by the school’s new building and the leadership of new dean Ted Snyder.

UCLA Anderson also had a terrific day, climbing from #18 all the way to #11. UNC’s Kenan-Flagler was just a smidge less successful, jumping from #17 to #12 in the new rankings.

Losers in This Year’s Rankings
We already mentioned Booth, which lost the top spot this year, although there’s no real shame in being ranked the third best business school in America. Among business schools in the top ten, Harvard is smarting from a six-spot drop from #2 down to #8. And Kellogg fell out of the top five, drooping two spots to #7.

Looking a bit further down the list, Cornell’s Johnson School fell out of the top ten, dropping from 7th place down to 13th place. MIT Sloan had a similarly bad day, falling from ninth place to the 14th spot.

How Businessweek Ranks the Business Schools
Bloomberg Businessweek uses three data sources for its rankings: It relies on a survey of student satisfaction (which is given a 45% weighting), a survey of employers who hire those graduates (45%), and a measure of the faculty’s clout, judged by how much the faculty publishes in academic journals (10 percent). You can read about Businessweek’s ranking methodology in more detail here.

So, remember that these rankings are largely a measure of how happy MBA students are with their schools, and how happy employers are with the grads that the schools turn out. This is no better or worse of a methodology than any other, but keep that in the back of your mind as you consider whether any school really just got better or worse than 10 other top-ranked U.S. business schools.

You can read more about 14 of the the most competitive business schools in Veritas Prep’s Essential Guides, 14 in-depth guides to the most elite MBA programs, available on our site. If you’re ready to start building your own MBA candidacy, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum.

UCLA Anderson Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

UCLA AndersonToday we take a look at UCLA Anderson’s admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2017. Last year Anderson was on the vanguard of the effort across MBA programs to reduce essay count, dropping down to just one required essay, and for the 2014-2015 admissions season the school’s application returns with just one required essay once again. However, that one essay is all-new this year.

Here are UCLA Anderson’s admissions deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 22, 2014
Round 2: January 7, 2015
Round 3: April 15, 2015

Not too much to discuss here. UCLA Anderson’s admissions deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. Note that, unlike most top business schools, Anderson doesn’t release its Round 1 admissions decisions until late January. So, if UCLA is your first choice, you will need to already have your Round 2 applications done for your backup business schools before you now where you stand with Anderson.

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays

  • UCLA Anderson is distinguished by three defining principles: Share Success, Think Fearlessly, Drive Change. What principles have defined your life and pre-MBA career? How do you believe that UCLA Anderson’s principles, and the environment they create, will help you attain your post-MBA career goals? (750 words)

    This question is new this year, although it’s really a heavy revision of last year’s question more than an entirely new prompt. The difference this year is that this question highlights Anderson’s three principles, and the takeaway here is that the Anderson admissions team clearly is looking for a fit with the program here. You don’t need to echo those same themes — in fact, the question explicitly asks what your own principles are — but here the school sends a strong signal about what traits it values in applicants. Knowing that Anderson wants applicants who are generous with others (“Share Success”), aren’t afraid to take chances (“Think Fearlessly”), and make an impact on those around them (“Drive Change”), what traits and experiences do you want to highlight from your career up until now?

    Not that you really want to demonstrate a knowledge of and a passion for UCLA Anderson. One way any school protects its admissions yield is by eliminating applicants who don’t show enough enthusiasm for the program. Failing to answer the second part part of the question — how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? — is a quick and easy way to get weeded out by the admissions committee.

  • Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

    We always tell applicants the same thing regarding optional admissions essays: Only answer them if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it’s entirely okay to skip this essay. That advice especially holds now that Anderson’s application only includes on essay prompt… Don’t feel the need to submit extra essays simply to command a few extra minutes of the admissions committee’s attention!

Do you plan on applying to UCLA Anderson? Be sure to download our Essential Guide to UCLA Anderson, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. For even more personalized advice, sign up for a free profile evaluation by one of our MBA admissions experts. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

US News & World Report Announces 2015 Best Colleges

The always-anticipated, always-talked-about US News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings were released today, and…

Not a whole lot has changed!

Which makes a good deal of sense. If it were possible for centuries-old institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton or massive state-funded universities like the University of California system to experience wild shifts in quality, your college choices would be a whole lot more unpredictable. College is a long-term investment and these rankings tend to evolve slowly even as schools update their curricula and campuses to stay cutting-edge. Within the Top 25 for National Universities and the Top 25 for Liberal Arts Colleges, the biggest mover was:

(drumroll…)

Wellesley College, which jumped from #7 to #4 in the Liberal Arts Rankings, part of another huge showing for the Greater Boston Area and perhaps just that extra bump that famous alumna Hillary Clinton needs to finally announce that she’s running for President?

You can see the full lists for National Universities and for National Liberal Arts Colleges on US News & World Report’s site, but we’ve included the Top 25 rankings below, followed by some thoughts on what’s interesting for the 2015 rankings.

Top 25 National Universities

1. Princeton University
2. Harvard University
3. Yale University
4. Columbia University
4. Stanford University
4. University of Chicago
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
8. Duke University
8. University of Pennsylvania
10. California Institute of Technology
11. Dartmouth College
12. Johns Hopkins University
13. Northwestern University
14. Washington University in St. Louis
15. Cornell University
16. Brown University
16. University of Notre Dame
16. Vanderbilt University
19. Rice University
20. University of California-Berkeley
21. Emory University
21. Georgetown University
23. UCLA
23. University of Virginia
23. Carnegie Mellon University
23. University of Southern California

Top 25 National Liberal Arts Colleges

1. Williams College
2. Amherst College
3. Swarthmore College
4. Wellesley College
5. Bowdoin College
5. Pomona College
7. Middlebury College
8. Carleton College
8. Claremont McKenna College
8. Haverford College
11. Davidson College
11. Vassar College
13. United States Naval Academy
14. Washington and Lee University
15. Colby College
15. Hamilton College
15. Harvey Mudd College
15. Wesleyan University
19. Bates College
19. Grinnell College
19. Smith College
22. Colgate University
23. Oberlin College
24. Macalester College
24. Scripps College
24. United States Military Academy

What’s Noteworthy?

Boston leads the way
Long known as America’s biggest college town, Boston maintained its status as the capitol of higher education; seven schools ranked within the top 42 National Universities are reachable from the T: Harvard at #2, MIT at #7, Tufts at #27, Boston College at #31, Brandeis at #35 (well…it’s almost right on the T), and Boston University and Northeastern tied at #42. Northeastern’s ascension is also noteworthy in and of itself, as the school climbed deep into the top 50 from #69 four years ago.

It’s good to be Californian…

Never mind that several top private schools in California ranked in the top 10 of their lists (Stanford, Caltech, Pomona, and Claremont McKenna). California’s public schools are among the best value anywhere in the world, with six UC schools making the top 50: UC-Berkeley, UCLA, UC-San Diego, UC-Davis, UC-Santa Barbara, and UC-Irvine.

…and not bad to be Virginian, either
Virginia also has two of the top six public schools, with the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary each ranking among the top 33 National Universities.

The rankings are in large part a numbers game
Rankings like these are more evidence that people like assigning numerical values to education, and the rankings themselves are a huge part of that. For the first time in recent memory, Sarah Lawrence College in upstate New York jumped on to the list (at #59 among National Liberal Arts Colleges), largely because it recently began incorporating ACT and SAT scores into its admissions process. And on the other side of the ledger, Hampshire College was dropped from the rankings this year, having chosen to eliminate the ACT/SAT from its admissions decisions.

Do you need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Yale SOM Application Essay and Deadlines for 2014-2015

Yale School of ManagementToday we dig into the Yale School of Management’s admissions essays and application deadlines for the Class of 2017. Last year, Yale was one of the most aggressive movers in reducing its essay count, dropping from four required essays down to two. This year, the Yale admissions team has gone even further, announcing just one required essay for the 2014-2015 admissions season. Note that Yale has kept its video questions, which the school added last year.

Here are Yale SOM’s application deadlines and admissions essay for the coming year:

Yale SOM Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 18, 2014
Round 2: January 8, 2015
Round 3: April 23, 2015

Yale’s Round 1 deadline has crept forward by a week this year, although its Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines are virtually unchanged. Note that, if you apply to Yale in Round 1, you will receive your decision by December 8. This gives you plenty of time to get your Round 2 applications deadlines together for other MBA programs if you don’t get good news from Yale.

Yale SOM Admissions Essay

  1. The Yale School of Management educates individuals who will have deep and lasting impact on the organizations they lead. Describe how you have positively influenced an organization —- as an employee, a member, or an outside constituent. (500 words)

    Very interesting. Yale SOM has narrowed down its slate of essays to just one, and for that one essay the Yale has chosen a topic that focuses on one of the defining attributes of a leader — the ability to have a positive impact on those around you. When you hear the term “leader” it’s normal to envision an elected official or a CEO, but leaders exist at every level of an organization, even if they don’t have any people reporting directly to them. And, one of the best ways to spot a leader in a group is to find the person who is able to positively impact those around him or her.

    Note that the Yale admissions team not only wants to know what you accomplished, but also wants to understand exactly what you did to make it happen. Examples where you went above and beyond the call of duty, or went beyond your standard job description, will be the most powerful here. For this essay you can use the classic SAR (“Situation Action Result”) format: Describe the challenge or opportunity you identified, explain in detail what you did, and then be sure to spell out exactly how your actions positively influenced those around you.

    Finally, note that this question focuses on the impact that your actions had on your organization, not the role you were in. In other words, admissions officers care about what positive impact you truly have on those around you much more than they care about your job title.

Thoughts on Yale SOM’s Video Questions
As Yale SOM Admissions Director Bruce Delmonico wrote earlier this year, the work that goes into your application overall should prepare you well for the video questions. That means knowing how to deliver a short “headline”-type introduction of yourself, being able to succinctly explain why you want a Yale MBA, and being prepared for basic behavioral questions (the kind that start with “Describe a time when you…”). As Delmonico mentions in that article, the school isn’t looking for a perfect level of polish. In fact, the more off-the-cuff your remarks seem, the more likely you are to come across as authentic. You shouldn’t ramble for 90 seconds, but your answers should be just as they probably would be in an in-person interview — imperfect, yet succinct and convincing.

Want to earn a Yale MBA? Get yourself a copy of our Essential Guide to Yale SOM, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. For even more personalized advice, sign up for a free profile evaluation by one of our MBA admissions experts. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

UC Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions EssaysEarlier this summer UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business released its MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2017. Like other business schools, Haas has chopped an essay yet again, dropping down to three required essays (although we should note that the school’s word limit for each essay actually increased). The Haas MBA admissions team has also made significant changes to the questions that it asks in its essay prompts, so we have plenty of new advice for applicants this year.

Here are the UC Berkeley (Haas) application deadlines and essays for 2014-2015:

Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2014
Round 2: January 7, 2015
Round 3: March 11, 2015

Another top-ranked MBA program has significantly moved up its Round 1 deadline! Haas has pushed its Round 1 deadline earlier by more than two weeks, meaning that only several other top schools have earlier first-round deadlines. Note that, while most schools will give you your admissions decision in December if you apply in Round 1, Haas may not notify you until January 15, 2015, meaning that you will probably have to have your Round 2 applications completed for most business schools before you get your Haas decision. Looking at the other rounds, Haas barely changed its Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines this year.

Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays

  1. Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world. How did this transform you? (400-500 words)

    This question is entirely new this year, and it replaces a fun one that asked, “If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why?” This new question, while more conventional, is still a good one. Note the second part of the question, which tips you off to what the admissions committee really wants to see: How did you grow as a result of this experience? Think about the “SAR” (Situation-Action-Result) essay framework that we so often tell our clients to use — describe what happened, what you did, and then what happened as a results. Sounds obvious, right? You would be surprised by how often applicants get lost in the details and end up devoting 300 words or more to the situation, and not devoting enough space to their actions or the results! And, in this case, the “result” is not only what happened in that particular instance, but — again — how the applicant changed as a result. You could have experienced a terrible setback that made you more mature, or achieved something great that you never thought you would accomplish… It can be a “good” or a “bad” story, but the key is that it will only be interesting to Haas admissions officers if it shows how you changed (for the better) as a result!
  2. What is your most significant professional accomplishment? (200-300 words)

    This essay almost carries over unchanged from last year, but it contains one very important change. This year the Haas admissions team introduced the word “professional” to the question. That’s right… Previously, any story would do, whether it was from your professional life or your personal life, but now Haas wants you to devote this essay specifically to a professional experience. Often this kind of change means that the admissions team hadn’t been getting exactly what it wanted, and is trying to nudge applicants in a certain direction. However, in this case, we think the change has more to do with Haas’s new Question #1 (above). Applicants are likely to give stories from their personal lives, leaving this one wide open for a good professional story. Said another way, if you were thinking about using a professional story for the first question, think again, since this is where Haas wants you to tell that story. Again, use the “SAR” framework, and put special emphasis on the results and how you grew or changed as a result.
  3. What is your desired post-MBA role and at what company or organization? In your response, please specifically address sub-questions a., b., and c. (500-600 words combined)

    a. How is your background compelling to this company?
    b. What is something you would do better for this company than any other employee?
    c. Why is an MBA necessary and how will Haas specifically help you succeed at this company?

    This question is also new this year, and it replaces a fairly typical “Post-MBA career goals” that Haas used to ask. What makes this version less typical is how specific it is. In part (b), for example, Haas practically makes you prove your worth and talk your way into a new post-MBA job on the spot! Note that this question is very focused on the near future. While many such questions ask what you see yourself doing in 5-10 years, with this question it’s clear that the Haas admissions team wants to see that you have a clear and realistic goal for what you will do right after business school.

    Several thought here: First, Haas knows that you may not totally, completely know what you want to do after you get your MBA, and that your career goals are certainly subject to change. This is fine. The admissions committee just wants to know that you have realistic goals, and that you seem at least somewhat like someone who will hold up well in the grueling MBA job recruiting process. Second, you are obviously not yet a finished product, because if you were, you wouldn’t need an MBA. So, use part (c) to really highlight the two or three things that you expect to get out of the program. Finally, resist the temptation here to try to zig when everyone else is zagging — e.g., don’t fool yourself into thinking you need to write that you want to do non-profit work when your heart is really set on the financial sector. Be honest, and be specific.

Do you dram of getting into Haas? Be sure to download our Essential Guide to The Haas School of Business, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top MBA programs. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Haas and other top business schools, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

NYU Stern Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

NYU Stern has released its MBA application deadlines and essays for the 2014-2015 admissions season. Among top MBA programs, Stern has perhaps made the fewest changes of any school. But, Stern’s famous “Personal Expression” prompt — for which you can submit almost anything at all — remains, which we like. Overall, our advice has changed very little since last year. Read on….

Here are NYU Stern’s admissions deadlines and essays for the Class of 2017, followed by our comments in italics:

NYU Stern Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 15, 2014
Round 2: November 15, 2014
Round 3: January 15, 2015
Round 4: March 15, 2015

Well, nothing new here. Nothing at all. In fact, NYU Stern’s admissions deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year! After adding an additional round last year — making NYU Stern one of the few top American MBA programs to stray from the typical 3-round model — the Stern admissions team has apparently decided to stand pat this year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will be notified by December 15, giving you several weeks to prepare Round 2 applications to other schools if you’re not admitted to Stern.

NYU Stern Application Essays

Note that the first prompt is required. Then, choose one of the next two prompts.

  1. Professional Aspirations: (750 words)

    (a) Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
    (b) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
    (c) What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

    Once more, this question carries over unchanged from the previous year, and so our advice pretty much remains the same. Pay special attention to part (b) of this essay prompt — Stern clearly wants to see that you have done your homework and are applying to the school for reasons that go beyond the obvious. Besides looking at the rankings or seeing that Stern places a lot of graduates in investment banks every year, what have you done to be sure that Stern is a good fit for you, and vice versa? Like most top-ranked business schools, Stern places a good deal of emphasis on fit, and you need to demonstrate that you have done the same.

  2. Option A: Your Two Paths (500 words)

    The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact.

    – Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?
    – What factors will most determine which path you will take?
    – How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?

    This question also remains the same as it was last year. As far as MBA admissions essay prompts go, this is one of our favorites because it’s a great way for Stern to try to get past applicants’ super-polished answers and try to get a better sense of what makes them tick professionally. Yes, you should have at least a pretty good idea of what you want to do after earning your MBA, but the admissions committee knows that you probably don’t know for certain what you want to do. And, even if you do, circumstances change, new trends emerge, life events happen, etc. While there is no single “right” way to approach this essay, one thing we recommend trying is laying out a fairly standard path (the one that you have probably already been telling people) and one pretty creative one — perhaps one career path could be as an investment analyst and one could be as a manager of a charter school system. The more different the two paths are, the more interesting your story will be, and the more it will help admissions officers get a read in who you are.

    Resist the temptation to make your second path an altruistic-sounding one simply for the sake of sounding like a model citizen! But, if there is a career path you’ve been toying with but have been reluctant to share because it might make you sound aimless or unrealistic, don’t be afraid to describe it here.

  3. Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative. If you submit a non-written piece for this essay (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit this essay via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.

    Ahh, Stern’s famous “personal expression” prompt, which the school has used for years! This is significant because it means that the admissions committee must feel that it’s effective in helping the admissions committee get to know candidates. Stern truly wants to learn about what makes you unique. The school’s admissions officers are almost begging you to stand out here, which is a reminder about how you can make their job easier by helping them remember the real you.

    One other note: Just because this question allows you to use any medium, that doesn’t mean that you need to submit something other than the written word. If that’s your best medium, use it. “Being memorable” means more than just sending them something outrageous; the most effective submissions really are the ones that leave admissions officers feeling like they know you better. Finally, while this essay prompt truly is wide open in terms of what you can submit, note that there are a few parameters (e.g., nothing perishable!) that you need to observe.

  4. Additional Information (optional)
    Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE and/or TOEFL or any other relevant information. If you are unable to submit a recommendation from your current supervisor, you must explain your reason, even if you are a re-applicant. If you are a re-applicant from last year, please explain how your candidacy has improved since your last application.

    As we always advise our clients when it comes to optional essays, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you are simply making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!

If you want to get into NYU Stern, download our Essential Guide to NYU Stern, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Stern and other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Chicago Booth Application Essay and Deadlines for 2014-2015

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business recently released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2017. Once again we see a top-ranked MBA program cut back on its number of required essays this year; now Booth only has one essay, and it’s not a traditional essay at all. Booth has decided to keep its famous “PowerPoint” question and drop everything else! Of course, this puts even more importance than ever on how well you answer this prompt.

Here are Chicago Booth’s deadlines and essay, followed by our comments in italics:

Chicago Booth Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 25, 2014
Round 2: January 6, 2015
Round 3: April 7, 2015

Booth’s Round 1 deadline has crept up by about a week, making Booth the latest top MBA program to move its first deadline into September. Note that applying to Booth in Round 1 means that you will get your decision back by December 18, which gives you at least a couple of weeks before most business schools’ Round 2 deadlines come. Booth’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines each budged only slightly compared to last year.

Chicago Booth Admissions Essay

  1. Chicago Booth values adventurous inquiry, diverse perspectives, and a collaborative exchange of ideas. This is us. Who are you? (You can see all of the technical requirements and limitations here.)

    Chicago Booth’s “PowerPoint question” returns once again, although the wording of the question is new. Still, our advice mostly remians the same. As you think about how you want to approach this prompt, remember that the Chicago Booth admissions committee members already hold in their hands a great deal of information about you… What else do you want them to know? Don’t simply use this response to just show off professional achievements that you already cover elsewhere in your application. Be creative! The reason Booth kept this question is because, while it hasn’t worked perfectly for the school so far, it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to tease some personality out of your application. So don’t be afraid to give them some!

    Finally, note that an essay truly is okay here. Don’t feel that, because PowerPoint is an option, it’s expected or preferred. If you can best “broaden their perspective about who you are” using plain old words, then we recommend that you go that route.

Do you dream of getting into Chicago Booth? Download our Essential Guide to Booth, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Booth and other top business schools, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Kellogg Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has released its MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2017. While most top MBA programs have mostly been making nips and tucks to their admissions essays this year, Kellogg has made a lot of changes. And, like other business schools, Kellogg has dropped a required essay, going from three to two required essays for applicants to its traditional MBA program. The video response, which Kellogg introduced last year, remains.

Without further ado, here are the Kellogg essays and deadlines for the 2014-2015 admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:

Kellogg Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 24, 2014
Round 2: January 7, 2015
Round 3: April 1, 2015

Kellogg has moved its Round 1 application WAY up, by more than three weeks. If you plan on applying to Kellogg in Round 1, this means you should get started no later than early August. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by mid-December, which should give you enough time to complete your Round 2 applications for other programs, if you don’t get good news from Kellogg. The school’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines are virtually unchanged since last year.

Kellogg Admissions Essays

Note that we don’t include Kellogg’s essays for dual-degree applicants or re-applicants here. You can find those essay prompts on the Kellogg admissions website.

  1. Resilience. Perseverance. Grit. Call it what you will… Challenges can build character. Describe a challenging experience you’ve had. How were you tested? What did you learn? (450 words)

    This question is new this year, although it actually replaces a fairly similar question that Kellogg used in last year’s application. This year’s version actually gives you 100 more words to work with, and puts a bit more emphasis on the “What did you learn?” aspect, although, at its heart, this question is still trying to get at the same thing: The admissions committee wants to see how you have grown in your relatively short professional career. The phrase “challenging experience” gives you the opportunity to talk about situations you faced that weren’t necessarily of your own doing. For example, getting laid off when your company goes out of business represents an obstacle, but not a mistake on your part.

    Your mission will be to show introspection (What did you learn?) and a motivation for self-improvement (How did you use what you learned to better yourself and avoid that mistake again?). Also, note that your story can be a personal or a professional one. Ideally you will have a terrific work-related story to at least consider using there, but remember to look for experiences in all aspects of your life. Your most powerful “obstacle” story may come from outside your job, and that’s perfectly fine.

  2. Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others. Describe a professional experience that required you to influence people. What did this experience teach you about working with others, and how will it make you a better leader? (450 words)

    This question is also new this year. Again, though, it mostly covers the same topic (leadership) that last year’s second question covered. In some ways, this new question represents at least a small move by Kellogg back towards the school’s roots in teamwork and collaboration. More than any other top MBA program, Kellogg has staked its reputation on its ability to produce great team players and collaborative leaders, and this question reflects that philosophy. Note both parts of that term (“collaborative leaders”)… Kellogg doesn’t want just friendly team players, bur instead wants people who can take charge and get things done. At the same time, the admissions committee isn’t looking for sharp-elbowed people who lead by edict; Kellogg wants to find applicants who inspire people to work harder and achieve great things through teamwork and empowerment.

    This particular essay prompt is a classic candidate for the SAR (Situation – Action – Result) outline that we recommend applicants use. The situation will likely be an opportunity or challenge where you needed to rely on someone in order to get something done. The action will be how you managed to influence them in order to see things your way and to convince them to take up your cause. Perhaps it was an employee or peer who wasn’t motivated, or didn’t agree with what you wanted to do. How did you win them over? Finally, the result will be the outcome — not just of that particular situation, but also the positive impact that it had on you as a young leader.

  3. If needed, use this section to briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.) (no word count)

    As we always tell applicants with these optional essays: Only answer this essay prompt if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay. Don’t let yourself get too tempted by that lack of a word limit… Less is more!

Finally, Kellogg’s video response returns for its second year. The recorded video answer was crafted to mimic an interview in that you will be given a question and will have to record your response right away (after a couple of minutes to gather your thoughts). Note that, while last year Kellogg would let you try again (with a new question) if you didn’t like your attempt, this year you will NOT be able to try again. (You will be able to warm up on some practice questions first.) And, you won’t know the questions ahead of time. For your official response, you will have just 20 seconds to think up your answer, and one minute to deliver it… No pressure! This is just one more example of how top MBA programs are trying to break away from the essay and get to know applicants better using other formats.

If you hope to get into Kellogg, download our Essential Guide to Kellogg, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Kellogg and other top-ranked MBA programs, fill out a free profile evaluation and get an in-depth evaluation from an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Duke (Fuqua) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University has released is MBA admissions deadlines and essays for the Class of 2017. Duke hasn’t added or cut the number of required essays this year, although it did add a new option for the second required essay. The “25 Random Things” prompt remains, which makes us happy!

Here are the Duke (Fuqua) application deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

Duke (Fuqua) Admissions Deadlines
Early Action: September 17, 2014
Round 1: October 20, 2014
Round 2: January 5, 2015
Round 3: March 19, 2015

Fuqua’a admissions deadlines are virtually unchanged vs. last year. On important note about the school’s Early Action deadline: Even though it’s called “Early Action,” which most schools interpret as “non-binding,” Fuqua considers it to be binding. So, we only recommend applying in this round if Fuqua is clearly your first choice. If it’s not, then save your application for Round 1, which still gets you your final decisions from the admissions committee before the holidays.

Duke (Fuqua) Admissions Essays

Required Short Answer Questions (Just 250 characters each)

  1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
  2. What are your long-term goals?
  3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?
  4. This trio of short questions (and really, really short answers!) has not changed since last year, so our advice mostly remains the same. The three above short answers should add up to only about 150 words, if it’s easier for you to think about them that way. With the three short questions, the Fuqua admissions team really is just looking for the high-levels facts about you. In other words, they’re looking for less hand-waving and “big picture”-speak and for a more succinct, “to the point” story to help them quickly get a read on why you’re even applying to Fuqua in the first place. Think of this as your chance to make the admissions team’s job a little easier… Rather than making the admissions team sort through your application essays to figure out why you’re applying to Fuqua, here you’re spelling it out in three bold, unmistakeable headlines.

    One more thought: It’s easy to look at the third question and think it’s meant to be a curve ball, but this sort of adaptability is important to show. No one knows how exactly their career will unfold, and with this question the Fuqua admissions team wants to see if you “get” that idea and have at least thought through some alternatives.

First Required Essay

  1. The “Team Fuqua” spirit and community is one of the things that sets The Duke MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. When a new person joins the Admissions team, we ask that person to share with everyone in the office a list of “25 Random Things About Yourself.” As an Admissions team, we already know the new hire’s professional and academic background, so learning these “25 Random Things” helps us get to know someone’s personality, background, special talents, and more.

    In this spirit, the Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you—beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. You can share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of “25 Random Things” about YOU.

    Please present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may be only a few words, while others may be longer. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.

    Fuqua has used this fun, unique question for several years now. This exercise makes many applicants uncomfortable since it’s so far removed from the “typical” MBA admissions essay, but it’s one of our favorite questions in the MBA admissions world. While you shouldn’t generate a completely frivolous list, you definitely don’t want to rehash what else is in your application. Seemingly random facts such as “I once came in dead last in a karaoke contest” are relevant and reveal something important about you (that you’re fun!), whether you realize it or not.

    Some admissions experts tell applicants that all 25 items must be “unique” and “aligned with their brand,” but it would be a mistake to apply that rule to all 25 items. If the favorite part of your week is playing pickup basketball with friends, then it would be crazy for that not to make it into this list, whether or not other applicants might possibly say the same thing. For us, a good rule of thumb is that approximately half of this list should reinforce your application themes (which you should have nailed down long before drafting this list), and the other half can be more “fun”… Don’t run the risk of putting the admissions committee to sleep with your list. Finally, take a look at these examples that Fuqua admissions officers and students have posted about themselves… You’ll see that they’re far from 100% serious!

Second Required Essay

Instructions: Choose only 1 of the following 2 essay questions to answer. Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length.

  1. When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.

    Your response to this essay question should be no more than 2 pages in length. Please respond fully and concisely using 1.5 line spacing.

    This question also carries over unchanged from last year, and that’s a strong hint that the Fuqua admissions team likes what it’s been getting from applicants. The purpose of this question is really to assess your fit with the school. The school used to simply ask, “Why Duke?” in an essay, but this question is still about fit: This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have really researched the program, understand its culture, and really want to spend the rest of your life as a member of the Fuqua community. The first eight words of this question are the Fuqua admissions committee’s way of saying, “Please don’t just tell us what you think we want to hear.”

    Some pragmatic components to your response are totally fine — it has strong ties to the health care industry, or has a specific research center that interests you, for instance. That’s a completely real, honest response. But the school wants you to go beyond rattling off lists of professor and course names from its website and convince them that you will be eager to attend Fuqua if you’re admitted.

  2. The Team Fuqua community is as unique as the individuals who comprise it. Underlying our individuality are a number of shared ideas and principles that we live out in our own ways. Our students have identified and defined 6 “Team Fuqua Principles” that we feel are the guiding philosophies that make our community special. At the end of your 2 years at Fuqua, if you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 Principles listed below, which one would it be and why? Your response should reflect the research you have done, your knowledge of Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student. (You can read the rest of the question here.)

    This question is new this year, and it’s another example of how much emphasis Fuqua places on fit and a desire to find applicants who truly want to attend the school. Fuqua is the classic example of a top business school that’s not quite in the uppermost echelon of MBA programs — it’s ranked highly enough that it attracts a lot of applicants, but there are enough schools ranked higher that Fuqua often loses out to other schools when an applicant has multiple offers to choose from. That’s not a knock on the school at all; rather, it underscores how tough it is for the Fuqua admissions team to try to determine just how enthusiastic an applicant is for the school.

    This question is your chance to show that you really, truly are enthusiastic about Fuqua, so much so that you see yourself embodying one or more of the traits that Fuqua’s own students have identified as the community’s core principles. Don’t just regurgitate what you read in Fuqua’s brochures and on its website: Bring out specific examples of your own past experiences that demonstrate how you embody one of these important traits. There are few more effective ways to show how much you want to be a part of the Fuqua community!

Optional Essay

  • If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware, please explain them in an optional essay (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, or any significant weakness in your application).

    As we always tell applicants, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. More generally, if you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it’s okay to skip this essay!

If Fuqua is on your list of dream MBA programs, download our Essential Guide to the Fuqua School of Business, one of our 14 guides to the world’s best MBA programs. If you’re ready to get started on applying, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently released its application essays and deadlines for the 2014-2015 admissions season. Like so many other top MBA programs these days, Tuck has eliminated an essay, going down to just two required essay prompts this year. The two essays that remain are taken directly from last year’s application (with just one subtle tweak to the second essay prompt).

Without further ado, here are Tuck’s MBA application deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Deadlines
Early Action round: October 8, 2014
November round: November 5, 2014
January round: January 6, 2015
April round: April 1, 2014

Tuck barely changed its application deadlines since last year. Note that Tuck is one of the few top business schools to offer an Early Action admissions option. “Early Action” means that the decision is non-binding, although if you are admitted you will need to send in a $4,500 deposit by mid-January, or else you will give up your seat. If Tuck is your top choice, or at least a very strong 2nd or 3rd choice, Early Action is a great way to signal your enthusiasm for the school. Also, if you want to know the fate of your Tuck application before most other schools’ Round 2 deadlines come, then aim for Early Action, which allows you to receive your decision by December 18. Applying in any other round means that you won’t receive your decision until mid-February.

Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays

  1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck? (500 words)

    This question carries over from last year with no changes, and so our advice mostly remains the same. Last year, Tuck dropped “what will you uniquely contribute to the community?” and replaced it with the more straightforward “why are you the best fit for Tuck?” This newer phrasing puts more explicit on one of our favorite subjects — fit with a school! — and we expect it will work better for all parties involved.

    Beyond that important change, this question is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most business schools ask. Tuck takes the concept of “fit” very seriously when evaluating candidates — maybe more so than any other top school, given its small class size and remote location — so you need to take it seriously, too. The Tuck admissions committee knows that you’re probably applying to multiple top schools, and knows that it is a bit unique among programs… What really excites you about Tuck, and what about you should get the Tuck admissions team excited about adding you to the Tuck community?

  2. Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience? (500 words)

    This question also carried over from last year, with just one small (but important) change: Last year this prompt asked for a collaborative leadership experience, and now the “collaborative” part is gone. (Interestingly, they added the word “collaborative” last year, and have now gone back to the wording they used two years ago.) It’s easy to overstate the importance of this change, but it likely indicates that the admissions team felt that last year’s prompt led applicants to bit too much emphasis on teamwork and not quite enough on actual leadership. Note that those things are definitely not mutually exclusive, but err on the side of discussing a time when you really made something happen, vs. a time when you were an active participant in something that was already happening.

    You only have 500 words in which you need to describe what the situation was, what action you took, and what the results were (“Situation-Action-Result,” or “SAR” as we call it). Don’t overlook the second part of the question, about what you learned about yourself. What exactly happened is very important, but evidence of how you grew and how you got to know yourself better is even more critical. A great essay tells about how you learned valuable about yourself, such as a shortcoming or lack of experience, and how you were able to act and improve upon it. That’s the type of response that has the potential to stick with the application reader.

  3. (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application. (500 words)

    As we always tell applicants when it comes to the optional essay for any business school, only answer this essay prompt if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!

If you want to get into Tuck, download our Essential Guide to the Tuck School of Business, one of our 14 guides to the world’s best MBA programs. If you’re ready to start building your own MBA application plan, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Should You Go In-State or Out-of-State for College?

Choosing which university to attend is one of the first big decisions you’ll make as you move into adulthood. Depending on the institution and location, substantial costs could be involved that impact you and your family’s future. Fortunately, you have literally thousands of options across the United States. One of the first choices to consider is whether an in-state or out-of-state university is for you. It’s not an easy decision, since there is so much more to it than simply cost and location… There are many factors to consider!

Take a look at our latest infographic below to get a head start on the research process. You can start with the pros and cons below to help yourself make an informed decision!

(Click on the infographic below to enlarge it.)

In State or Out of State University?

To embed this infographic on your own website or blog, simply copy the code below:

By: Scott Shrum

Michigan (Ross) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

Michigan Ross MBA Admissions GuideThe University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently announced its application essays and deadlines for the 2014-2015 admissions season. After dropping from four required essays to three last year, the Ross MBA admissions team decided to shed another one, going down to just two required essays this year. And, the two required essays that remain are entirely new this year. The changes just keep coming!

Here are Ross’s MBA application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2017, followed by our comments in italics:

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 6, 2014
Round 2: January 5, 2015
Round 3: March 23, 2015

Here Ross bucked the trend that we’ve seen at other top business school — Ross actually pushed back its deadlines a bit this year. The Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines really only moved back by a few days apiece, but it’s interesting to see given that admissions deadlines have been creeping earlier and earlier over the past few years. The biggest change is in Ross’s Round 3 deadline, which comes about three weeks later than it did last year (although we normally advise applicants to aim for Round 1 and 2 if they can hit those deadlines). Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will receive a decision from Ross before Christmas, giving you at least a couple of weeks before most other MBA programs’ Round 2 deadlines come in early January.

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays

  1. What are you most proud of professionally and why? What did you learn from that experience? (400 words)

    As mentioned above, this essay prompt is new this year. This and the next essay question — and you really can’t think about one without considering the other — are asking you to be choosy and pick two things that you really want the MBA admissions committee to remember about you. Regarding this professional question, the best responses will demonstrate a time when you went outside your comfort zone or went beyond what was expected of you. Did you take a risk? Did you notice a problem that no one else was willing to tackle, and constructively solve it? While doing that, did you grow as a result?

    This essay is a great place to use the “SAR” method (Situation, Action, Result) that normally works so well in admissions essays. You only have 400 hundred words, so you need to strike the right balance between properly setting the stage (otherwise, admissions officers may not fully appreciate the significance of your accomplishment) and getting right into describing what you did and what results you achieved.

    Finally, don’t overlook the second part of the question, about what you learned about yourself. While what happened is obviously important, evidence of how you grew and how you got to know yourself better is even more critical. A great essay tells about how you learned valuable about yourself and how you were able to act and improve upon it. That’s the type of response that has the potential to stick with the application reader.

  2. What are you most proud of personally and why? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)

    Even though this is about the personal side of you, our advice here isn’t radically different from what we wrote above. Use the “SAR” to succinctly help the reader understand the challenge or opportunity you faced, describe what you did, and then move into how you grew as a result. Again, how you answer the second part of the question is really what can turn this from an okay essay into a memorable one that will help admissions officers really feel like they got to know you better.

    A final thought: Don’t feel that your personal achievement needs to be something that’s outwardly impressive, such as completing a marathon or climbing Mount Everest. Some of the best essays we’ve seen have dealt with intensely personal issues, such as overcoming a speech impediment or putting life ahead of work to care for a sick relative. Be real and honestly discuss how you’ve grown, and odds are that you will write a great essay as a result.

  3. Optional question: Is there anything not addressed elsewhere in the application that you would like The Admissions Committee to know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (300 words)

    As always, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. More generally, if you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it’s okay to skip this essay. Yes, the fact that there are only two required essays in which you can tell your story, but don’t feel compelled to command admissions officers’ attention for an extra 300 words if you don’t need to.
  4. Are you thinking about applying to Ross? Download our Essential Guide to Ross, one of our 14 guides to the world’s best MBA programs. If you’re ready to start building your own MBA application plan, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

    By Scott Shrum

GMAT Scores vs. Average Starting MBA Salaries

It’s not a stretch to say that the more prestigious the business school you attend, the higher your starting post-graduation salary will tend to be. The more prestigious your MBA program is, the more options you will tend to have in the job hunt, and the higher potential employers will be willing to go to hire you. The more options you have and the more marketable you are, the more you’re probably going to make when you come right out of business school.

But, believe it or not, the correlation is actually very strong when comparing average GMAT scores and average starting salaries at top business schools! So, strong, in fact, that the relationship can neatly be summed up by this formula:

325 x GMAT Score – $123,000 = Starting Salary

This is just an approximation, of course, but it works surprisingly well at giving you an idea of what starting salary you might have in store for you when you graduate with your MBA, given a certain GMAT score.

To see more about this strong correlation, take a look at the newest infographic that we put together.

(Click on the infographic below to enlarge it.)

Correlation of GMAT Scores and MBA Starting Salaries

 

To embed this infographic on your own website or blog, simply copy the code below:

Of course, this demonstrates a correlation, but that’s not the same as proving causation. Your future salary will be determined by your own choices, including which MBA program you attend and what job you take immediately after graduation. If you’re a good fit for your company, you should be able to negotiate a salary that both parties can be happy with.

By Scott Shrum

MIT Sloan Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

The MIT Sloan School of Management has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2014-2015 application season. Sloan has actually bucked the trend we’ve seen lately; the school still has two admissions essays, and actually increased the maximum allowed word count for its second essay (which is new this year)! The new question that Sloan added is a good one, but it will present you with some unique challenges, which we discuss more below.

Here are MIT Sloan’s admissions deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

MIT Sloan Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 23, 2014
Round 2: January 8, 2015

MIT Sloan’s deadlines are virtually unchanged since last year. Keep in mind that MIT Sloan is fairly unique in that it only has two main admissions rounds, so there is no “Round 3 or not Round 3?” dilemma here. Although Round 2 is Sloan’s final round, you should not assume that applying in Round 2 is as bad as applying in Round 3 anywhere else. If you need the extra several months to get your application in order, then take that time to improve your chances. Round 2 is a very valid round in which to apply when it comes to MIT Sloan.

MIT Sloan Application Essays

  1. The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and generate ideas that advance management practice. Discuss how you will contribute toward advancing the mission based on examples of past work and activities. (500 words)

    This question carries over unchanged from last year (when it was new). Consequently, our advice mostly remains the same. At its core, it is a “Why MIT Sloan?” question. Sloan admissions officers have stated before that they don’t love explicit “Why this school?”-type questions, but it’s clear that this type of insight is what they’re looking for here, at least in part. The admissions committee wants to see that you have done your homework on Sloan, that you understand what the school stands for, and that you really want to be there.

    When Sloan asks you how you will contribute, it’s not just asking about what you will do while you’re in school for two years, but also about how you plan on taking what you’ve learned (and the connections you’ve built) and going farther than you could ever have without an MIT Sloan MBA. Note the very last part of the question: The key to a believable essay here will be to cite specific examples from your past when you got involved and make things better around you. Don’t be intimidated by the high-minded ideals in the first part of the essay prompt — making an impact (rather than just standing idly by and being a follower) is what they want to see here, even if it’s on a relatively small scale.

  2. Write a professional letter of recommendation on behalf of yourself. Answer the following questions as if you were your most recent supervisor recommending yourself for admission to the MIT Sloan MBA Program: [see the rest of the question here] (750 words)

    This is a new question for Sloan this year. In some ways, it’s a descendent of Sloan’s old “Write a cover letter describing your accomplishments” prompt that MIT Sloan used to include in its application. This is a tricky one because most applicants actually tend to be too humble when describing themselves. After all, it’s easy to fear coming off as too confident or obnoxious, especially when the stakes are this high, so your natural tendency may be to not toot your own horn enough.

    The key to tooting that horn, and doing in a way that’s believable, is to provide specific examples. This is exactly what we tell applicants to tell their recommendation writers, and this advice also applies when you write your own letter of recommendation. The easy part is that the specific questions Sloan asks (e.g., “Please give an example of the applicant’s impact on a person, group, or organization.”) make it very clear what the admissions committee is looking for. Now it’s your job to find examples in your recent professional past to show them that you have what they want.

    Finally, the question that asks “Which of the applicant’s personal or professional characteristics would you change?” don’t be afraid to talk about a weakness here. Even though you’re writing your recommendation (as if your boss were writing it), some introspection is really what the admissions officers want to see here. Here is a weakness or undeveloped area for you… here is what you’re doing to improve on it… and here is a recent example of how you have made progress toward this goal.

Are you thinking about applying to MIT Sloan? Download our Essential Guide to MIT Sloan, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own MBA application plan, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Columbia Business School Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

Columbia Business SchoolColumbia Business School has released its application deadlines and essays for the 2014-2015 admissions season. Like other business schools, Columbia has done some more trimming to its essays, which we discuss in more detail below.

Columbia stands out among top U.S. MBA programs because of its January intake in addition to the more common August/September intake. Columbia’s “J-Term” program allows students to complete their degrees in less than a year and a half, and is ideally suited for applicants who don’t need a summer internship — especially those who plan on returning to the same job or industry, and those who plan on starting their own business.

Here are the Columbia Business School application essays and deadlines for the 2014-2015 admissions cycle, followed by our comments in italics:

Columbia Business School Admissions Deadlines

January 2015 Entry: October 8, 2014
August 2015 Entry (Early Decision): October 8, 2013
August 2015 Entry (Merit Fellowship Consideration): January 7, 2015
August 2015 Entry (Regular Decision): April 15, 2015

Columbia is fairly unique among top business schools since uses a rolling admissions cycle. One way to look at it is that the one truly hard deadline for entry in Fall ’15 is the April deadline. The advice that we normally give regarding admissions deadlines still holds, though: We recommend that you apply early rather than later. Applying as late as March or April means competing for one of the very few seats still open at that point.

Also, remember that “Early Decision” means that you’re committing to attend Columbia if you are admitted. If you go back on your word, the worst that can happen is that you lose your deposit, but don’t forget the ethics of the situation: You take away a seat from someone who wants to attend Columbia more than you do. So, only exercise this option if Columbia truly is your first choice.

Columbia Business School Admissions Essays

Short Answer Question:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (75 characters maximum)

Wow! Last year more than one admissions consultant said, “This response can’t get any shorter,” when Columbia asked this same question and gave applicants just 100 characters to work with (down from 200 characters the year before). Now, after the school has chopped 25 characters, we’ll take a risk and say it: It’s hard to imagine this response getting much shorter!

Almost regardless of how few characters you have to work with here, your main takeaway is this: Columbia’s MBA admissions team truly just wants a super brief headline about your post-MBA career goals to better understand where you think you want to go with your degree. That’s it. Think of the Short Answer Question as the positioning statement for your short-term career goals. Do you want to be known as the applicant who wants to start a non-profit organization, or perhaps the applicant who wants to sharpen his skills and return to the technology sector as a business leader? Columbia provides some examples on its site, and you’ll see that there’s nothing particularly creative or special about them (e.g., “Work for an investment firm that focuses on real estate.”). Avoid the temptation to get too gimmicky here, but remember that this is the one thing (about your short-term career goals) that you want the admissions committee to remember.

Essay Questions:

  • Given your individual background and goals, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (500 words)

    This question carries over unchanged from last year, and so our advice mostly remains the same. This essay prompt is the fairly typical “Why an MBA? Why this school?: question that most business schools ask in their applications. Many applicants fail to adequately to explain why Columbia is the best place for them to earn their MBA, given the school’s culture, academic strengths, ties to certain industries, etc. Yes, Columbia has a big name and proximity to Wall Street. Those strengths are obvious. What else does Columbia offer that you can’t find anywhere else? And why — given where you’re coming from and where you want to go — is Columbia the best place for you to grow as a business leader? This is what the school is looking for when it asks about “fit.”
  • Please view the video below:
    The Center
    How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business?” (250 words)

    This question is new this year, although it replaces a question that wasn’t radically different last year. Basically, Columbia swapped out two videos for this one, and changed the question’s wording a bit, but the meat the this question hasn’t changed dramatically. So, our take hasn’t changed much from what it was last year: We find it interesting that the Columbia MBA admissions team chose to put so much emphasis on its New York City roots — we don’t think that many applicants need to be alerted to the fact that Columbia is in Manhattan or need to be sold on the benefits of being in New York. If you want to go into finance, then your answer here will obviously touch upon this fact. (Columbia bills itself as “The Very Center of Business” in this video, but much of the message relies on New York City’s reputation as a global hub.)Don’t limit yourself just to this obvious New York City tie-in, however. What other benefits do you expect you will gain from living and learning in one of the biggest cities in the world? Also, We’ve noted before that Columbia doesn’t want to be viewed as a commuter school in the middle of a huge city… Keep this in mind as you spell out how you will fit in at Columbia. Especially if you already live in New York, be sure to emphasize that you’re excited about immersing yourself in the Columbia culture.

  • What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (250 words)

    This question was new last year, and Columbia must like what it saw since the question returns unchanged for this year. This essay doesn’t need to be whimsical (although it can be), but it should present something that is interesting about you as a person, rather than rehashing something that’s already in your application or your resume. Go back to our comments above about fit and about Columbia wanting to build a strong community. Have an unusual hobby or funny story that people enjoy hearing? Can you think of something in your personal life that makes you feel very proud? This is the place to use it!

Like may other MBA programs, Columbia also provides space for an optional fourth essay. Our advice here is always the same: If you really do feel the need to explain something, then address it in this essay and then move on. Whatever you do, don’t dwell on it or provide that weakness with more stage time than it deserves!

Think you have what it takes to get into Columbia? Download our Essential Guide to Columbia Business School, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Columbia and other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Get Your “ACT” Together: Understanding the ACT

The ACT is the most popular college admission test taken by students. Doing well on the ACT can get you into the college of your choice, expands your choice of colleges and may also land you more scholarships. Because your performance in the ACT is crucial to your future, you need to be fully prepared before taking the test.

Being prepared for test day means first getting to know every section of the ACT — how the questions work, what material is tested, and what the common mistakes tend to be. With that in mind, we have assembled the following infographic to help you fully understand the exam and get your ACT preparation started the right way!

(Click on the infographic below to enlarge it.)

Veritas Prep ACT Infographic

To embed this infographic on your own website or blog, simply copy the code below:

Make no mistake about it: Doing well on the ACT takes hours of preparation, and no one book or article will make you an ACT rock star over night. But first make sure that you fully understand the test before you embark on your ACT prep odyssey. We hope this infographic helps!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum.

Wharton Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

Wharton Admissions GuideThe Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania recently released its MBA admissions deadlines and essays for the 2014-2015 application season. The trend that picked up speed last year has continued: After dropping its number of required essays from three to two last year, Wharton has announced that this year’s application contains only one required essay. We keep asking, “How much lower can they go?” but admissions officers keep finding a way to shed essays and put more emphasis on other parts of the application.

Without further ado, here are Wharton’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2014
Round 2: January 5, 2015
Round 3: March 26, 2015

Wharton’s application deadlines are virtually unchanged since last year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will receive your decision by December 16, which will give you about three weeks before most top school’s Round 2 deadlines. If you get bad news from Wharton in Round 1, you should still have enough time to pull together at least a couple of Round 2 applications (but don’t wait until the last minute!).

While many schools maintain that it doesn’t matter when you apply, Wharton gives pretty explicit advice on its website: “We strongly encourage you to apply in Round 1 or 2. The first two rounds have no significant difference in the level of rigor; the third round is more competitive, as we will have already selected a good portion of the class.” The school does add that there is room “for the strongest applicants” in Round 3, but your mission is clear: Get your application in by January 5!

Wharton Admissions Essays

  • What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

    Yup, this is the only required essay in Wharton’s application this year. It has been reworded a bit, but this is really the same “Why an MBA? Why Wharton?” that the school has asked for years, so our advice mostly remains the same. Note the word “personally” in the question — Wharton isn’t only interested in what six-figure job you hope to land after earning your MBA, but also wants to know how you plan on growing as a person from the experience. You definitely still need to nail the professional part — you need to discuss clear, realistic career objectives here — but the admissions committee also wants to see maturity and introspection. How do you see yourself growing during your two years at Wharton? How do you hope the degree and the experience will impact your 10 years from now? This sort of depth will make the difference between a great response and a merely good one.
  • (Optional) Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)

    We normally tell applicants to only use the optional essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need to. However, as schools like Wharton have been cutting down on essays, the role of the optional essay has evolved a bit. No need to monopolize the admissions committee’s time, but since Wharton’s application now gives you far less space in which you can describe your interests and inject some more personality into your application, this essay provides the perfect place to do that. Have a passion or something else that goes “beyond the resume” and will help Wharton admissions officers get to know you better? This essay gives you room to discuss it and make your application that much more memorable.

    Our original advice still holds, too. If you have a blemish that you need address, then this is the place to do it. You don’t want to leave a glaring weakness unaddressed. However, if you don’t have too much explaining to do, don’t be afraid to reveal something personal and memorable about yourself here!

If you plan on applying to Wharton, download our Essential Guide to Wharton, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top MBA programs… for free! If you’re ready to start building your own application for Wharton and other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

AIGAC Applicant Survey Shows that Applicants Are Positive Overall on Video Responses

Last week, at its 7th annual global conference, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) revealed the results of the 2014 edition of its MBA applicant survey. Since 2009, AIGAC’s MBA Applicant Survey has gathered and summarized the perspective of MBA applicants on the admissions process, helping member admissions consultants and business schools gain insights into applicant perceptions of each stage of the admissions process, from tools they first use to research programs and the reasons that they select programs to career and salary expectations. Many consultants and admissions officers consider it an extremely reliable read on the pulse of the graduate business education space.

This year’s survey was no different. AIGAC’s research partner, Huron Consulting Group, gathered more than 800 responses from applicants based around the globe. Among the 2014 survey’s most notable findings:

  • When it comes to choosing where to apply and attend, contact with alumni or current students and visits to the school are among the top five most important sources of information, more important, on average, than off-campus school info sessions or fairs.
  • When selecting an MBA program, men and women value the reputation and career impact at the same levels, but diverge on the importance of location and rank. Men placed significantly more importance on rankings than women.
  • 20% of this year’s applicants expect to start their own business upon graduation. This result is far higher than the 7% of recent graduates from top 10 US programs (per US News) who are self-employed post-MBA.
  • Approximately 80% of foreign students want to work in the US (20% only want to work in the US while a further 60% are considering a range of options that include the US). By contrast, only 40% of US students consider working elsewhere.

Perhaps one of the most interesting revelations of this year’s survey was the first significant reporting on MBA applicants’ reactions to the relatively new video responses that some business schools now employ, either as pre-recorded “essay” responses or as live online interviews. Looking at the numbers globally, applicants are positive about the use of video in the application process. 38% of those in the US who completed one or more applications with a video component felt the video response did represent them well. However, 50% of international applicants did not feel that their video response represented them as well.

See more here:

MBA Video Interview Survey Results

(You can click to enlarge the image.)
Source: 2014 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey

Why the disparity? A lot of it may come down to language differences, and applicants’ comfort with the English language. Kellogg and Yale SOM — two of the most prominent MBA programs that employe video responses — give applicants no more than two minutes to gather their thoughts after seeing a prompt for the first time. If you’re quick on your feet, you will do well with this format, but it’s obviously harder to do that when English is your second language. We can’t help but feel that many international applicants were left feeling dissatisfied with their output for this reason.

Of course, while U.S. schools try to be very globally-minded, the language spoken in their classrooms is English, and one reason MBA admissions officers like this format is that is lets them easily gauge applicants’ grasp of the language. From working in learning teams to speaking up and contributing in class to getting involved with student activities, a student’s fluency in English can have a significant impact on well a student does while in business school.

To read all the results of the 2014 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey, go here to download a PDF report!

By Scott Shrum.

Stanford GSB Application Essays and Deadlines for 2014-2015

Stanford GSB has released its MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2017. Last year Stanford resisted the urge to cut an essay (while many other top MBA programs did reduce their number of required essays), but this year is another story: Stanford now only requires two essays, including its famous “What matters most to you, and why?” question. Plus, the Stanford GSB admissions team made a curious change to what we thought was one of last year’s most interesting application essays.

Here are the Stanford GSB application essays and deadlines for the 2014-2015 admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:

Stanford MBA Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2014
Round 2: January 7, 2015
Round 3: April 1, 2015

Not many changes here. Stanford’s application deadlines are virtually the same as they were last year. Note that, if you apply in Round 1, you will receive your decision by December 10. That’s critical if you plan on applying to some other programs in Round 2 if you don’t receive good news from Stanford in Round 1. It gives you close to a month to get your applications ready in time for most top schools’ Round 2 deadlines.

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays

  • What matters most to you, and why? (750 words suggested, out of 1,100 total)

    Despite all of the changes that have taken place in the MBA admissions essay landscape over the past few years, this question manages to hang on. Before you start to work on this essay, consider the advice that the Stanford MBA admissions team provides: “Reflect the self-examination process you used to write your response.”

    This question requires a great deal of introspection, after which you should create an essay that truly answers the question asked, whether or not you feel that it’s directly applicable to the job of getting into Stanford GSB. Naturally, telling a random story that has nothing to do with anything of relevance can hurt your chances, but mainly because you will have wasted this valuable space to reveal something about yourself. Where many Stanford applicants go wrong is by writing about their grand plans for the future, rather than providing a real glimpse into who they are as people. The latter is much more powerful and, ultimately, much more effective in helping you get in. With the other essays in this application, you have ample opportunity to cover the exact reasons why you want an MBA from Stanford.
  • Why Stanford? (350 words suggested)

    This essay prompt is new this year, and it’s sort of too bad that Stanford got rid of last year’s version, which asked, “What do you want to do — REALLY — and why Stanford?” We kind of liked that extra emphasis that they added last year, but for whatever reason, the Stanford admissions team has decided to tone it down a bit, and make it a bit more like the standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that many business schools ask.

    Just like HBS, Stanford has the luxury of not having to spend too much time sleuthing how interested you are in the program. Most people who are admitted to Stanford end up going there. However, the guidance that the admissions team provides with this question (“Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.”) shows that they really are paying attention to see if you’ve done your homework, and if you have given any real thought to making the most of your time at Stanford (beyond “Plan to be insanely rich one day.”)

    However, you should resist the urge to do a few web searches and then simply drop the names of some programs or professors into this essay. An effective response will provide specific details that tie back to you (think about your past and your future) as much as they tie to Stanford. Many applicants will read that “distinctive opportunities” advice and think “The scavenger hunt is on! Let me find something no one else will write about!” but that misses the point. Stanford wants to know that you’re applying for reasons other than the fact that it’s such a platinum name in education, so spell out how You + Stanford = A More Effective Business Leader.

Note Stanford’s Take on “Feedback” Vs. “Coaching”
Stanford includes some noteworthy language re: what is an acceptable form of guidance to seek as you craft your application essays. As the admissions team writes:

Appropriate feedback occurs when others review your completed application – perhaps once or twice – and apprise you of omissions, errors, or inaccuracies that you later correct or address. After editing is complete, your thoughts, voice, and style remain intact. Inappropriate coaching occurs when you allow others to craft your application for you and, as a result, your application or self-presentation is not authentic.

It is improper and a violation of the terms of this application process to have someone else write your essays. Such behavior will result in denial of your application or withdrawal of your offer of admission.

We couldn’t agree more. If you can’t even write your own essays, then you already know that you’re not Stanford GSB material. For more than 10 years we have been helping people apply to the world’s most competitive MBA programs, and we have done it (pretty well, we might add) without writing essays or putting words in our clients’ mouths.

To see how we do it, download our Essential Guide to Stanford GSB, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools… for free! If you’re ready to start building your own application for Stanford and other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Harvard Business School Admissions Essays & Deadlines for 2014-2015

And just like that, the new MBA admissions season is starting to happen. Harvard Business School has announced its application essay prompt and Round 1 deadline for 2014-2015. Last year we made much of the Great Essay Slimdown, in which many business schools cut their number of required essays or reduced word counts. Harvard went down to just one essay last year (and made it optional!) meaning that there wasn’t much more slimming down the school could do, short of eliminating the essay altogether.

Not only has HBS kept one essay this year, but it has also kept the exact same essay prompt. When a school carries over an essay from one year to the next, that means admissions officers like what they’re seeing in the essays they receive. Based on what we’ve learned from our clients over the past year (many of whom were admitted!), we feel very good about the advice we’ve been giving on this essay, so our advice mostly remians the same.

Harvard Business School Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 9, 2014
Round 2: January 6, 2015
Round 3: April 6, 2015

Is that Round 1 deadline seems awfully early to you, it’s because it is. It is one week earlier than last year, which was already the earliest the school had ever made its Round 1 deadline. To give you an idea of how much this deadline has crept up over the years, back in 2008 HBS’s Round 1 deadline came on October 15! Also, note that HBS moved its Round 2 deadline back by one day, from January 5 to January 6, to make things slightly easier for everyone coming back from the holidays.

Now, here’s that optional essay, followed by our comments in italics:

Harvard Business School Application Essays

  • You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy? (No word limit)

    HBS still calls this an “optional” essay, although the admissions office hasn’t given any concrete indication of what percentage of applicants (especially successful applicants) chose to skip this essay altogether. We bet that the number of brave souls who skipped this essay is very low. However, it is indeed conceivable that you could skip this essay. After all, this question is worded very similarly to how many MBA programs phrase their optional essays, and we always advise applicants to only use those ones if necessary.

    On the flip side, be careful about the signal you send by not submitting anything: This is a huge opportunity to embark on a transformational experience early in your career. You really don’t have anything else to say? Harvard is one of the few business schools that don’t need to be convinced that you really want to attend, but not having anything to say is consistent with being a casual applicant, one who is applying for the heck of it, just to see if you get in. Don’t paint yourself as one of those applicants.

    Assuming you do tackle this essay, what should you write about? Notice that they didn’t ask, “What ONE THING would you like us to know?” in the prompt. You should, however, resist the temptation to cover half a dozen things here. Many applicants’ essays have had a high word-to-value ratio, and Harvard Business School has been trying to correct this by reducing the number of essays and the expected word counts. (When we say “value” here, we mean information that helps admissions officers get to know applicants better.) Keep this trend in mind as you decide what to write about here… Hitting on more than one theme here is fine, but resist the temptation to go beyond 1,000 words. (In fact, we expect that the best essays will be closer to 500 words than to 1,000.)

    We always tell every applicant that they need to do two things to get into HBS or any other top MBA program: Stand out vs. other applicants (especially those who are most similar to the applicant) and show fit with the school. If you come from a very common background — think management consultant, or IT consultant from Asia — then you need to stand out more, and this essay is your chance to do it. If your background makes you unusual vs. the typical HBS class profile — perhaps you have more than the typical amount of work experience or have zero quantitative abilities to point to — then you need to use this essay to demonstrate that you will fit in and thrive at Harvard.

    Also, If you have a real sore spot in your application, such as a low undergraduate GPA, then you should expect to devote some words to that here. Don’t dwell on it, and don’t sound like Mr. Excuses, but do address it and move on.

  • Post-Interview Reflection: You just had your HBS interview. Tell us about it. Did we get to know you?

    Note that the HBS admissions team has said little about whether the post-interview reflection will change or be replaced this year, but our assumption is that it will stay. Here we analyze last year’s post-interview prompt.

    While the above essay is optional, this post-interview reflection is required. It gives you a chance to include anything you wish you had been able to mention in the interview, and to reframe anything that you discussed but have since thought about a bit more. You will submit this piece within 24 hours of your interview.

    Especially since this letter has no word limit, the temptation will be for you to cram in half a dozen additional things that you wish you had covered in the interview. However, less is always more — keep the note limited to no more than two or three core ideas that you want to highlight. Ideally you covered all of the important things in the interview already, but of not, then this is a chance to hit on those here. Keep in mind, though, that sharing these ideas in the interview is always going to be more effective than cramming them into this note.

    Finally, be realistic about how much this letter will help you. Chances are that it won’t turn a dud of an interview into a terrific one in hindsight. Do NOT go into the interview with this note already drafted; let it truly be a reaction to the discussion, which was hopefully an interesting and provocative one. If your interviewer reads this note and it sounds like a replay of an entirely different discussion than what he or she remembers, that will only serve to hurt you come decision time.

Every year we help dozens of applicants apply to Harvard Business School. If you’re just starting your HBS research, download our Essential Guide to Harvard Business School, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools (it’s free!). Getting ready to apply? You can get a free profile evaluation from a Veritas Prep MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Breaking Down the New SAT

In 2016 the SAT will undergo major changes for the first time in over a decade. Test takers can expect a less obscure vocabulary, more focused math sections, and a shorter test overall. Our own Shaan Patel was quoted in an article from U.S. News: “My opinion is this test will be easier than the current SAT and the College Board is betting on more students taking the SAT because of that.”

Experts and thought leaders in education are weighing the pros and cons of these upcoming changes but, right now your best strategy is to be prepared. Take a look at the infographic below for a comprehensive break down of the key changes coming with the new SAT. Key points include:

– No More Required Essay
– Presenting Evidence
– More Varied Text
– Less Obscure Vocabulary
– More Focused Math Sections

We’ve broken it all down for in this infographic that details key differences between the old and new SAT, as well as the history of the SAT since its launch more than a century ago:

(Click on the infographic below to enlarge it!)

SAT Test Changes

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Want more details about the SAT changes coming in 2016? We’ve put more info, including a detailed FAQ devoted to the new SAT, here!

By Scott Shrum.

The Science of Higher Education

Effective teachers at all levels know that students learn differently from one another: Some learn best by hearing information, others are hands-on (or “kinesthetic”) learners, and still others are visual learners. But did you know that one of those groups makes up nearly two-thirds of the population? And do you know which teaching approach is most effective for each preferred learning style? Do you know which is your own preferred learning style?

Students of certain learning styles tend to gravitate toward professions that match their learning styles well. For example, visual learners are more likely than others to become artists, and auditory learners a more apt to become lawyers. It all comes down to what students are most comfortable doing, and how they’re most comfortable doing it.

Check out our latest infographic to find out more about learning styles, and about how teachers can best approach each learning style!

(Click on the infographic below to enlarge it.)

The Science of Higher Education

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As noted above, some what teaching approach works best depends not only on a student’s learning style, but also on the subject being taught. For example, geography and and engineering courses best lend themselves to visually-oriented teaching, while teaching foreign language will inevitably rely on more audio-oriented teaching. The best teachers will often mix and match teaching styles to accommodate each student’s learning style as well as the course subject matter.

Finally, just as each student will gravitate toward one particular learning style, every instructor will tend to find that a certain teaching style works best. There’s no single right way to teach or learn a material — the science of higher education always involves a little bit of art, as well!

For more valuable information about getting into college and grad school, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum.