U.S. News MBA Rankings for 2015

U.S. News & World Report, which maintains arguably the most influential graduate school rankings in the world, has just released its new business school rankings for 2015. It’s far too easy for applicants to get caught up in the rankings, and to obsess over the fact that a school dropped three spots from one year to the next, but reality is that MBA rankings matter. They influence how recruiters look at schools, they serve as a signal to applicants and affect what caliber of applicants each school receives, and they give you an idea of where you stand relative to your target schools. You should never end your business school selection process with the rankings, but the reality is that you will probably start the process by seeing where schools sit in the MBA rankings.

Here are the top 25 American MBA programs according to U.S. News. Each program’s 2014 ranking (published in 2013) follows in brackets:

2015 U.S. News Business School Rankings

1. Harvard [1]
1. Stanford [1]
1. Penn (Wharton) [3]
4. U. of Chicago (Booth) [6]
5. MIT (Sloan) [4]
6. Northwestern (Kellogg) [4]
7. UC Berkeley (Haas) [7]
8. Columbia [8]
9. Dartmouth (Tuck) [9]
10. NYU (Stern) [10]
11. U. of Michigan (Ross) [14]
11. U. of Virginia (Darden) [12]
13. Yale [13]
14. Duke (Fuqua) [11]
15. U. of Texas (McCombs) [17]
16. UCLA (Anderson) [14]
17. Cornell (Johnson) [16]
18. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) [19]
19. U. of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) [20]
20. Emory (Goizueta) [18]
21. Indiana (Kelley) [22]
22. Washington U. in St. Louis (Olin) [21]
23. Georgetown (McDonough) [25]
23. Notre Dame (Mendoza) [27]
25. U. of Washington (Foster) [24]
25. Vanderbilt (Owen) [30]

(Yup, 26 schools actually made the “Top 25” in the U.S. News MBA rankings this year.)

What’s Changed Since Last Year?
Certainly, much of the chatter about this year’s MBA rankings will be about the fact that Wharton has edged into a three-way tie with Harvard and Stanford for the #1 spot. Also at the top, Chicago Booth managed to leapfrog MIT Sloan and Kellogg to take sole possession of the #4 spot. Despite some modest juggling, the same ten MBA programs that a year ago could say they were “top ten” schools are the same programs that can make this claim this year.

Outside of the top ten, Ross rose three spots to be just on the outside of the top ten, climbing from #14 to #11 (switching places with Duke’s Fuqua). Notre Dame’s Mendoza and Vanderbilt’s Owen climbed four spots and five spots, respectively, to break into the top 25. You can be sure that some champagne is popping in Indiana and in Tennessee this afternoon.

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.

New SAT Coming in 2016: What Will Change?

New SATToday the College Board, the organization behind the SAT, announced sweeping changes to the standardized exam that will launch in the spring of 2016. As College Board president David Coleman promised last year when he announced that a new SAT was coming, the changes are meant to make the SAT less “coachable” and to make it more relevant to what is taught in high school classrooms. The changes also make the SAT much more like the ACT (the SAT’s chief competitor), although you won’t see any mention of that in the College Board’s publicity announcements for the new SAT.

In the College Board’s own words, “The redesigned SAT will focus on the knowledge and skills that current research shows are most essential for college and career readiness and success. The exam will reflect the best of classroom work.”

The changes coming to the new SAT include:

  • The new SAT will still be offered as a paper-and-pencil test, but will also be made available as a computer-based test “at selected locations”
  • Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers
  • The new SAT will have three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Essay.
  • The now-mandatory essay will become optional. While the current essay rewards students for making blatantly false assertions, the new one will require them to read a written passage and analyze how it constructs arguments and use evidence to make a point.
  • The old 1600 scaling score will return, and will be the sum of scores on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. The essay will be scored separately.
  • The scope of the Math section will be narrowed to focus on three main areas: Problem Solving and Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. According to the College Board, “Current research shows that these areas most contribute to readiness for college and career training.”
  • “SAT words” will be a thing of the past, according to the College Board. The new SAT will still test students’ command of vocabulary, but “will engage students in close reading and honor the best work of the classroom.”
  • Reading prompts will come from “Founding Documents or a text from the ongoing Great Global Conversation about freedom, justice, and human dignity.” (This sounds like they’re making the test even more coachable, but we’ll cover this in another article.)

Another big announcement came today: The College Board and Khan Academy, the online learning platform, will also release a free online SAT prep course that ” will have access to an artificially intelligent learning experience that diagnoses weaknesses and charts in a step-by-step path to improvement,” according to TechCrunch. This new collaboration will launch in the spring of 2015, a year before the new SAT is scheduled to launch.

As more news emerges we will continue to post updates on the redesigned SAT. We’ve also added a new page to compare the old and new SAT… Check back often!

By Scott Shrum, who took the SAT back when it was originally on a 1,600-point scale.

Want the Best in ACT Prep? Now We Offer It!

ACT PrepIt was just 18 months ago when we shook up the college test prep space by announcing Veritas Prep SAT 2400. Since then, thousands of high school students and their parents have discovered what makes Veritas Prep special when it comes to tackling standardized tests: The best instructors rigorously applying a proven system for success that any student can learn.

Now, our march on the college prep space continues with the launch of Veritas Prep ACT 36. Nearly a year ago our work began, and it started with consulting with leading school districts and education leadership programs such as University of Michigan’s Graduate School of Education to design the perfect learning environment for high school students wishing to excel on the ACT. With multiple Master of Education degree holders on our development team, we identified the three things that every student needs to excel on the ACT: Skill, Strategy, and Performance.

To keep the energy level high in the classroom, our program is segmented into three sections. First, we cover the essential Skills necessary to navigate the content in every ACT question. Next, we introduce a Veritas Prep ACT 36 strategy to simplify the processing requirements on tougher test questions. Finally, students have a chance to synthesize the skills and strategies they’ve just learned on real ACT sections, which are subsequently reviewed in detail with an instructor who has scored in the 99th percentile on the real ACT.

Excelling on the ACT takes work, and you can’t work if you’re not getting enough face time with your instructor. While most leading ACT prep companies offer just 18 hours of classroom time, ACT 36 offers 36 hours of classroom time. This allows us to start at a more elementary level (ensuring that you will indeed master the basic content you need to know, but then also progress to a much more advanced level than what Kaplan, The Princeton Review, and others allow. If you really want an ACT score in the 30s, this is how you do it.

Veritas Prep ACT 36 is available as an in-person course, a live online course, and private one-on-one tutoring. Take a look at our ACT prep programs and see how our team can help you on the ACT starting today!

By Scott Shrum.

What Is the GMAT?

GMAT LogoAfter more than a decade of being in business, Veritas Prep has worked with tens of thousands of people who need to take the GMAT for one reason or another. But few actually take the time to truly understand what the GMAT is all about, or why they’re really taking it (aside from the fact that it’s required for admissions to their desired graduate school).

So, first of all, let’s define it. G.M.A.T. stands for the General Management Admissions Test, and was created by the General Management Admissions Council (GMAC) in 1954. The GMAT is the primary entrance exam for business school and a handful of other graduate schools such as masters programs in finance and accounting.

Before we delve into the format of the GMAT and the essential techniques and strategies we teach our students to master the test, let’s consider why this exam even exists in the first place. The answer is two-fold:

  1. The GMAT is the single best way for schools to predict your potential for success in the classroom…more so than your undergraduate GPA, your prior work experience or any other accomplishments and accolades. In other words, it tests your ability to handle the rigorous workload you should expect in business school (especially on the quantitative side).
  2. Professional recruiters use your GMAT score as a foundation to gauge your mental agility and critical reasoning skills. Especially for students targeting top schools, just getting in isn’t enough. When recruiters come on campus they rank students based on their GMAT scores, and those with the highest marks inevitably get the best jobs.

Now that we understand the higher level reasoning for why the GMAT exists, let’s think about what the GMAT tests. On paper, there are four sections of the GMAT:

  1. The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay
  2. Integrated Reasoning
  3. Quantitative Reasoning
  4. Verbal Reasoning

We will break each of these sections down in more detail shortly, but before we do, it’s important to make one thing clear: The GMAT is a reasoning test more than it is a content test (hence the word “reasoning” at the end of each section title).

Dr. Larry Rudner, Chief Psychomatrician at the GMAC, states it quite well (and we paraphrase); “We made the GMAT about math and grammar because it has to be about something. But we are not testing your ability to memorize rules or factor an equation. The GMAT is really concerned with higher-order thinking skills.”

So, what exactly are higher-order thinking skills? They are the top four tiers of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (think of it as the food pyramid for learning):

Most of your middle and high school days were spent building the foundation of your pyramid – memorizing vocabulary words, mathematical formulas, etc. So, business schools expect you to already know the basic content of the test. Thus the GMAT’s true focus is on the higher levels of the pyramid. While those levels rely on some base knowledge (remembering), that knowledge is only the basis for the questions, which will test your understanding, ability to apply, and in most cases, your ability to analyze and create. So while content knowledge is required in order to showcase those abilities, the GMAT is not a content-based exam. Simply memorizing (remembering) information does not guarantee you a high score. In order to succeed, you need to study the higher-order thought processes; you must understand and be able to apply. Simply put, the GMAT is a test of how you think, not what you know.

Now that you know why the GMAT exists and what it’s really testing, let’s take a look at how the test is structured:

It is important to note that every test taker receives three official scores from their GMAT. The overall score (ranging from 200-800) is tallied from the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections only. The Integrated Reasoning section has its own score on a scale of 1-8 and the Analytical Writing Assessment is graded on a scale of 0.0-6.0.

We commonly hear students proclaim that they need a 700 or higher to get into their dream schools; which is oftentimes true in that their target schools have a median GMAT score in the 700-range, but that is just a snapshot of the entire test. Do not overlook the AWA and Integrated Reasoning sections because they are still an important indicator of your ability to succeed in school. Especially as data behind the Integrated Reasoning section begins to pile up, your IR score will become increasingly more important.

So, whether you’re a fresh-faced Noob just starting your GMAT preparation or a seasoned veteran in search for a boost to an existing score, it’s important to take a step back and think about why the GMAT even exists and what it’s really testing. This doesn’t mean you have to stare at the stars and ponder the Galilean concepts. Just listen to what the people who write this test say about it. Then think logically about how you can best apply yourself during your studies to maximize your own score. For deeper insight into the science behind this test, read GMATology.

Are you studying for the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

The Symbiosis Between Education and Income

It’s no secret that earning a college degree or a graduate degree can lead to a higher-paying job. But do you realize just how big the difference can be? We’ve broken it down to show you what kinds of jobs — and how much pay — you can expect when you earn a degree. You should never choose a major or a line of work solely for the pay, but keep these stats in mind if you’re wondering whether or not you should go back to school.

Also, think about costs as you consider pursuing more education. While a higher degree can pay off significantly, it can also come with a high price tag… Your return on investment will not only depend on how much you earn, but how much you have to pay to get that degree.

(Click on the infographic below to enlarge it.)

The Symbiosis of Education and Income

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

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.

Take the 2014 MBA Applicant Survey and Win $500!

AIGACIt’s that time of year again! The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) has launched the 2014 edition of its business school applicant survey. If you are applying to business school now, or have recently been admitted and plan on starting an MBA program in 2014, you could win $500 just for spending 5 minutes completing this survey!

Why does AIGAC run this survey every year? AIGAC is an industry group representing admissions consultants all over the world, and the organization gathers this data every year to help its member consultants better serve their clients. Also, the data that AIGAC gathers is — 100% anonymously — shared with business school admissions officers, who are always eager to gain more insights into how business school applicants research and choose MBA programs. (You can see last year’s survey results here.)

One lucky survey participant will be randomly selected to win $500. But you only can win if you complete the survey, so do it now! You can access the survey here.

Thanks in advance for helping us serve our clients better, and good luck!

By Scott Shrum.

How to Select the Right MBA Program for You

How to Select the RIght MBA ProgramJust as the quality of a stage production or musical performance depends on all of the work that went into months and months of rehearsal before the performance, how successful you are in your business school applications depends a great deal on all of the work you do before you ever start drafting an essay. Remember that your application is a mere snapshot of who you are (and how well you can present yourself) at one point in time. How well that message will be received will partly depend on whether you’re targeting the right schools, and how well MBA admissions officers at those schools see a good fit between you and their institution. And this comes down to knowing how to select the right MBA program for you.

There are at least a dozen factors to consider when researching MBA programs and narrowing down your list of target schools. Some of very mundane, such as the size of a school, and others may be less obvious but no less important, such as whether a business school offers a particular program or specialty that interests you. All of these are valid criteria to consider, and two very reasonable applicants may give different weights to each of them.

Today we’ll break down three criteria that, while not surprising, are absolutely, 100% necessary for you to consider at some point in your business school selection process:

Culture
At full-time programs, you will spend most of two years with your classmates in an intensive learning environment. It therefore matters a great deal how well you fit into a business school’s culture, and how well it fits you. Imagine yourself working with teammates on a group project at 2 AM (it will happen at some point)… You want to make sure you’ll be in a group full of people you like personally and work well with, and you will want to be that same great learning ally for your classmates. And the importance of an MBA program’s culture doesn’t stop there! You will also be part of that school’s alumni network for the rest of your life. You may see your fellow alumni at local and national events, may network with one another for job opportunities, and so on. How well the school’s culture fits you will matter forever.

Without a doubt, the best way to judge a business school’s culture is to visit! Do the tour, sit in on classes, and take advantage of all of the official opportunities the MBA admissions office will provide. Don’t stop there, though. As much as possible, we recommend just wandering around a school, taking a seat in one of the common areas (it’s not hard to blend in as a student at most schools) and just generally “taking in the vibe” at the school. Do students seem glad to see one another? Do people keep to themselves? Do people seem stressed? (This will partly depend on what time of year you visit, naturally.) Take all of this in. And don’t ignore your gut… It’s one of the best measures of a school’s culture that you have at your disposal, and it’s free!

Location
While a great education is a universal language that can benefit you no matter where you are in the world, the fact of the matter is that most business schools will naturally attract far more recruiters from within a 100-mile radius than they will from other regions. At Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, for example, about 60% of 2013 grads ended up in the eastern or southern United States (see Fuqua’s employment statistics). Although the school does attract recruiters from all over the country, it attracts more than its fair share of recruiters from its home region.

This makes sense given that, as strong as Duke’s reputation is, it’s strongest on the East Coast and in the South. If you want to work in Silicon Valley, for example, this definitely does not rule out Fuqua, but pay attention to how many California-based companies recruit at the school. You may end up having to do more hustling on your own to land an interview at one of those companies.

Job Prospects
For most applicants, the number one reason for wanting to attend business school is to improve their job prospects. The job’s the thing, and the first job that grads land after earning their MBA of course has a huge impact on how successful their MBA experience was. I am always amazed by how often an applicant will say that he wants to get into a certain career and wants to go to a certain business school, and when I ask him, “Do you know how many grads the school places in that company/industry?” the applicant will have no idea. When I ask, “Do you know which companies recruited at the school last year?” I usually get a similar response.

Of course, that’s where we come in as MBA admissions experts, but you absolutely have a duty as an applicant to know what type of job search you’re in for, depending on the school you attend and the career you want to pursue. If your target company or industry is not well represented in on-campus interviews at a certain MBA program, that doesn’t mean that the school is a bad fit for you. But, if you arrive on campus and only then learn that your dream company doesn’t come to your campus for recruiting, then you have made a huge mistake in the business school selection process. Fortunately, most schools publish this information online (and LinkedIn is a tremendously valuable research tool if you want to quickly find Chicago Booth grads at Morgan Stanley, for example). You have many resources at your disposal… Be sure to use them!

Need some help in the business school selection process? Not sure how to select the right MBA program for you? We offer a free 30-minute profile evaluation, with absolutely no obligation to continue. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum.

Average GMAT Scores for the Top 30 MBA Programs

Top 30 MBA Programs by GMAT Score There are a number of criteria by which you can rank MBA programs: Average starting salary after graduation, average undergrad GPA of incoming students, acceptance rate, student satisfaction, and academic reputation among peer schools are all measures that publications use to try to sort the schools and create a definitive ranking.

Beyond those measures, a very telling one is the average GMAT score of each business school’s incoming class. If you’re a business school applicant (or are just starting to think about applying) and are wondering “What are my chances at the top MBA programs?” a good first check is to look at the top schools’ average GMAT scores and to see how close you are. MBA admissions officers will be quick to tell you that they have no hard cut-offs for GMAT scores and that they look at the whole application when looking at an applicant, and this is true. If, however, you’re not even close to a school’s average GMAT score, then that’s a signal that your odds of getting in may be lower than you would like.

Here are the 30 American business schools with the highest average GMAT scores. Each school’s 2014 U.S. News rankings (published in 2013) follows in brackets:

30 U.S. MBA Programs with the Highest Average GMAT Scores
1. Stanford – 730 [1]
2. Harvard – 724 [1]
3. Chicago (Booth) – 719 [6]
4. NYU (Stern) – 719 [10]
5. Yale – 719 [13]
6. Pennsylvania (Wharton) – 718 [3]
7. Dartmouth (Tuck) – 718 [9]
8. Columbia – 716 [8]
9. UC Berkeley (Haas) – 715 [7]
10. Northwestern (Kellogg) – 712 [4]
11. MIT (Sloan) – 710 [4]
12. UCLA (Anderson) – 704 [14]
13. Michigan (Ross) – 703 [14]
14. Virginia (Darden) – 701 [12]
15. Wash U. (Olin) – 696 [21]
16. Vanderbilt (Owen) – 695 [30]
17. U. of Texas – Austin (McCombs) – 692 [17]
18. Notre Dame (Mendoza) – 692 [27]
19. Cornell (Johnson) – 691 [16]
20. UC Davis – 690 [40]
21. Duke (Fuqua) – 689 [11]
22. UNC (Kenan-Flagler) – 689 [20]
23. USC (Marshall) – 687 [26]
24. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) – 686 [19]
25. Georgetown (McDonough) – 686 [25]
26. Minnesota (Carlson) – 686 [23]
27. Boston University – 684 [40]
28. Emory (Goizueta) – 681 [18]
29. U. of Wisconsin – Madison – 680 [34]
30. U. of Florida (Hough) – 678 [36]

On this blog we tend to spend a lot of time writing about the very top-ranked business schools (largely, of course, because those are the schools that our clients want to hear about), but some interesting schools show up when you rank programs by average GMAT score. MBA programs such as Vanderbilt, UC Davis, Boston University, and U. of Florida all draw a pretty impressive pool of GMAT test takers. Perhaps these schools don’t get enough love in the national rankings.

Again, don’t talk yourself out of applying to any of these business schools if you have a GMAT score that’s not close to these averages. And, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re Stanford material simply because you have a 760 GMAT score; everything in your application really does matter, and while a strong GMAT score can keep you out of a top business school, it’s never enough alone to get you into a great school. Use this list as a gut check to see where you stand, and to see if you need to take another shot at the GMAT before crafting your business school application strategy.

How do you compare to students at the top MBA programs? Find out by taking a free computer-adaptive GMAT practice test. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum.

What Is a Valid Form of Identification for the SAT?

Acceptable SAT IdentificationImagine arriving to take the SAT only to find that you didn’t bring a valid form of ID. As crazy as it sounds, it happens all the time. Yes, students do forget their identification, and YES, you will be denied entrance if you don’t have a valid form of identification on you. If you think you’ll be able to sweet talk the proctor into letting you sit for the SAT, just read up on some of the cheating scandals of the past few years. They need to know that you’re who you say you are, period.

Fortunately, it’s pretty cut and dry in terms of what is considered a valid form of SAT identification. Any of the following is an acceptable form of identification that will be accepted on test day:

  • Government-issued driver’s license or non-driver ID card
  • Official school-produced student-identification card from your current schooll
  • Government-issued passport
  • Government-issued military or national identification card
  • A College Board Student ID Form, which must be prepared by your school ahead of time (or notarized if you are homeschooled)
  • Talent Identification Program ID or Authorization to Test form (allowed for grades seven and eight only; no photo required)

The following are not acceptable forms of SAT identification on test day:

  • Any document that is photocopied or
  • Any document that does not bear a recent recognizable photograph that clearly matches the test-taker
  • Any document that does not bear your name in roman English characters exactly as it appears on the Admission Ticket
  • Any document that is worn, torn, scuffed, scarred or otherwise damaged in such a manner that it renders any part of the text on the ID card illegible or renders any part of the photograph unrecognizable
  • Any document that appears tampered with or altered
  • Credit or debit card (even one with a photograph)
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security card
  • Employee ID card
  • Hunting or fishing license
  • Missing Child (“ChildFind”) ID card
  • Any temporary ID card

Your best bet is to simply make sure that you show up with one of the items from that first list. If you need more guidance, keep in mind these additional rules laid out by The College Board:

  • The name on the ID and your current name must match exactly.
  • If the test administration staff questions the ID you present, you may be required to provide additional ID. If you don’t have any additional forms of identification, you may be asked to leave the test center.
  • If you leave the test center to obtain identification and get back too late, test center staff may be unable to admit you to take the SAT. Proctors are not required to hold your seat if you leave the center to obtain acceptable SAT identification.
  • getting into a test center once with a particular form of ID is no guarantee that the same form of identification will be accepted in the future. “But you guys said it was okay last time!” is not a winning argument.
  • Admission to the test center is no guarantee that the ID you provided is valid or that your scores will be reported. You could get into a test center and take the SAT, but then find out later that your score was thrown out because of suspicions about your identity.
  • The whole time you are at the test center, you need to be able to prove who you are. You may be required to show your ID and Admission Ticket and/or sign a test center log multiple times and at various points throughout the test administration.
  • No refunds! If you are dismissed from the test center before you finish the SAT because of invalid or unacceptable ID, or you fail to comply with these ID requirements and policies, your SAT registration fee will not be refunded.

Plan on taking the SAT soon?Try a free SAT practice test and see where you stand on the exam. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum. He says his driver’s license makes him look like a criminal.

5 Predictions for 2014 in the MBA and College Spaces

One thing that we love to do around Veritas Prep HQ is declare our opinions. Whether it’s about football, health food, traffic etiquette, dancing, or stand-up comedy, everyone here has an opinion. Even more fun is when we stick our necks out and make some predictions about where we see test preparation and admissions going in the coming year. We’re often right, and we’re always entertaining.

With that in mind, here are five trends that we predict will emerge in test prep and admissions in the coming year:

At least two more top MBA programs will introduce video as a component of their applications
In the past year we have seen business schools such as Kellogg and Yale introduce a video component to their applications. These video responses haven’t replaced essays or admissions interview outright, but have augmented them: “We are doing so because we feel that video questions will give us a more complete sense of you as an applicant,” wrote Yale SOM Director of Admissions Bruce DelMonico last year. We’re hearing mostly good things coming out of these programs about how well these changed have gone, so we expect that more MBA programs will adopt video in the coming admissions season.

2014 will go down as the year that many colleges slashed their “retail prices”
The Harvards and the Princetons of the world probably won’t have to touch their tuitions to boost their application volumes, but many smaller, more low-profile colleges have decided to stop discounting (i.e., handing out significant scholarships) and instead simply lower their tuitions. We’ve already started to see some examples of college cutting their list prices in the 2013-2014 admissions season (here and here), worrying that too many applicants were simply passing up their programs without realizing that they could get significant financial aid. Rather than hoping they dig deeper and learn what most students actually pay, these colleges have decided to just stop the “high/low” game and drop their prices by more than $10,000 per year in some cases. It took a while, but now that some colleges have started to play the pricing game, we expect many more will aggressively follow in 2014 (when they see their application numbers drop as students and parenst respond to those lower prices).

The SAT essay, in its current form, will face its demise
The SAT essay, which was introduced in 2005, has never been a favorite of college admissions officers. It’s widely known that one can do well on the essay portion of the exam without bothering to use facts correctly, a fact famously highlighted by an MIT professor back in 2007. Although the new SAT won’t launch until 2016 (one year later than The College Board originally announced), we expect to learn a lot about the new exam before the end of this year. The College Board has already hinted that the new SAT will align more closely with high school curricula, and will give less benefit to students (and SAT prep services) that focus on rote memorization of obscure words. Heck, the test could even evolve and become adaptive. But, to us, the most obvious change is that the essay section will change radically, and we expect to hear about it this year.

Integrated Reasoning will make “the leap”
In June, the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT will celebrate its 2nd anniversary as an official part of the GMAT – but if you count its experimental phase (when GMAC offered it as an optional section in order to gather data) it’s been around a few years. To date, MBA programs haven’t given too much credence to the IR score as part of their admissions decisions, but particularly with the experimental data having had time to prove their worth (at last summer’s AIGAC summit, GMAC showed that IR scores were the best predictor of first-year success for MBA students) employers — if not admissions officers — have taken notice of IR as a powerful assessment tool. So whether it’s MBA programs more officially incorporating IR scores into their 2014-15 admissions decisions or it’s top MBA employers finding a way to borrow Integrated Reasoning for their interview processes, 2014 should be the year that Integrated Reasoning makes the leap to prominence.

The groundwork will be laid for online education to make “the leap”
Even as online education has become more commonplace, the major ways in which students consume online education – voice over PowerPoint; video of an in-person classroom; loosely-adaptive quizzes and activities — have remained fairly constant over the years. 2014 may not be the year that the world graduates to e-Learning 2.0, but it will almost certainly be the year that the upgrade takes shape behind the scenes. With a surge in educational entrepreneurship, the increased willingness and preference of students to learn online, and an influx of investment in educational technology, we predict that the groundwork will be laid in 2014 for our prediction next January that 2015 will be the year that e-Learning takes the leap.

By Scott Shrum

Wanted: Superhero Customer Experience Intern!

Can you spend hours on the phone without being distracted by an ocean view outside your window? Good. Can you handle working in an energetic startup-like atmosphere? Great. Most importantly, do you absolutely love talking to customers and brightening their day? Perfect. We’re looking for a Customer Experience intern who matches this description!

What do we do at Veritas Prep? We provide elite SAT and GMAT preparation, and college and graduate school admissions consulting around the world. We train the brightest minds to get into the best schools in order to create and manage the world’s most successful businesses.

What will you be doing at Veritas Prep? You will be based in our Malibu, CA, headquarters, and you will reach out to current Veritas Prep students and see how their studies are going, inform them of upcoming events, and helping them with any questions they may have regarding their course and studies.

Think you have what it takes to work at Veritas Prep? Well, we are in the education industry, so you must have a bachelor’s degree, or be working toward one. You’ll be talking on the phone all day, so strong interpersonal and communication skills are required, too. You will also send and respond to tons of emails, so excellent writing skills are also necessary.

You don’t have to be a seasoned veteran, but at least a year or two of customer service/hospitality experience is preferred. You must also have a supreme work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit and professional demeanor. The compensation is $15/hour, and the time commitment is up to 10 hours per week.

Interested? Send your resume and cover letter to customersupport@veritasprep.com. Also, in your message, please include brief answers to the following questions:

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  • Describe an example of terrific customer service that you experienced (as a customer) recently.
  • Describe a time when you went out of your way to help someone. What did you do, and what was the result?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Our 2013 Predictions: How Did We Do?

And just like that, a whole year has flown by again! Last January, we posted four predictions for the world of test prep and admissions. As fun as it is to make predictions, and it’s even more rewarding to look back at some point and see how we did. (“Oh my… We predicted THAT would happen?”) If you predict enough things, some of them will eventually happen, right?

In all seriousness, we enjoy this exercise because it helps to keep us sharp and on top of the trends in our world. So let’s get to it and see how we fared with our 2013 predictions:

At least one Top 20 MBA program will introduce an all-online MBA program.
Nailed it! Last fall, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business launched its FlexMBA program, enrolling 29 MBA students in its first cohort. So far, by all accounts the program has been a success, and Tepper has already announced that it plans to double the size of the program in 2014. Robert T. Monroe, director of Tepper’s online program, told Poets & Quants, “We believe steady state is between 60 and 100 incoming students a year and we expect to get to the lower end of that.” If you’re wondering if we met the “top 20” requirement, U.S. News currently ranks Tepper 19th among U.S. MBA programs (and Tepper is a terrific business school).

Repeated “irregularities” in how some schools have reported data will bring about some changes in college and grad school rankings.
Unfortunately, not much movement happened on this front. Although we continued to see some heads rolling from previous “irregularities,” no significant changes were made to college or grad school rankings to directly combat these types of issues. It is worth noting that U.S. News announced some of the biggest changes to its college rankings in years, these were not the type of changes that are likely to completely remove schools’ temptation to fudge the numbers.

The idea that “test takers should not worry much about Integrated Reasoning” will die out.
This is happening slowly but surely, but it’s hard for ourselves to give us a hit on this one. While Veritas Prep students understand the importance of Integrated Reasoning (not only for the GMAT, but also for success in business school and beyond), we still see many applicants who downplay the importance of the newest section of the GMAT. MBA admissions officers are still at least partly to blame — remember that GMAT scores are good for five years, and application readers are still seeing many official scores that don’t include IR scores — but they’re steadily coming around. Give it another year or two.

Testing year 2013 will show a drop in GMAT volume.
We nailed this one, for certain. Not long ago the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) shared its data for testing year 2013 (the one-year period ending June 30, 2013), and sure enough, that was a double-digit percentage drop in test-taking volume vs. the previous year. Testing year 2013 saw 48,000 fewer GMATs taken, a drop of 17% compared to 2012. That’s a huge drop! However, go back and read our post from last year, and you will immediately understand why: Because of the uncertainly around the new Integrated Reasoning section, thousands of potential GMAT takers hurried up and took the exam earlier than they otherwise would have. If it weren’t for that, we expect that GMAT volume would have been mostly flat compared to the previous year.

So there you have it: Two right and two wrong. If this were Major League Baseball, we’d be sporting a gaudy .500 batting average, and Jay-Z would probably want to be our agent. Not too shabby.

Tune in next week to hear our predictions for 2014!

By Scott Shrum

Test Prep and Admissions: The Best of 2013

There goes another year. Faster than you can say “99th-percentile instructors,” 2013 has come and gone, leaving in its wake a trail of excellent Veritas Prep blog articles. As we start to wrap up the year here at Veritas Prep HQ, wrap our Secret Santa gifts, and prepare to break in the new hires at our annual holiday party, we thought this would be a good time to share some of our biggest news and most popular articles from the past year.

We hope that this blog has provided you with some useful insights as you have prepared the GMAT or SAT, or as you have slaved over your applications. Sometimes we have a little fun, and sometimes we veer off topic to talk about what interests us, but everything written here comes from the same place: We want to help you get into the best possible universities and graduate schools you can get into!
Continue reading “Test Prep and Admissions: The Best of 2013”

Key Takeaways from the 2013 GMAT Summit

This past Friday, key people from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and representatives from various test prep companies came together in Los Angeles for the biannual GMAT Summit. The summit, which first ran in 2005, was created to improve transparency in the GMAT and to break down some of the most persistent myths around the exam. GMAC deserves a lot of credit for having a rather open-minded approach about test prep companies (We’re not steroids dealers, after all!), and the GMAT Summit is a great example of this approach.

We came away with a lot of great insights, not only about the GMAT, but also about GMAC’s overall work to grow the field of graduate management education. Below are a few key things that we learned at this year’s GMAT Summit:

GMAC wants to become a more student-friendly organization
By some GMAC representatives’ own admission, until now the organization has tended to put its member schools first. This wasn’t deliberately done at the expense of test takers, but GMAC has always thought about its member schools’ needs first when considering changes to the GMAT. The organization is changing, and is much more willing to ask, “How can we make the GMAT test-taking experience friendlier for applicants?” One example is how the organization now offers more official practcie tests for sale on mba.com, something it had long resisted doing. GMAC even asked us (all of the test prep companies in the room) what else it could do to help demystify the GMAT and make the experience less stressful for students. We kicked around a lot of ideas that GMAC may never implement, but it was great to see this open-minded attitude on the part of the orgnzanization.

Integrated Reasoning is going well, and it will probably evolve in the next year or two
With more than a year of data in the bank, GMAC reports that Integrated Reasoning (IR) is in fact more highly correlated with academic success in business school than any of the following: total GMAT score, Verbal score, Quant score, AWA score, and undergraduate GPA. When IR scores are added to all of those measures, the resulting combination proves to be an even better predictor than any of those are individually. Sounds like IR is a success, so what’s next? Nothing is set in stone yet (at least not enough that GMAC would share it with us), but it’s possible that more IR-like elements will find their way into Quant and Verbal in the future. Also, Integrated Reasoning itself is NOT adaptive today (partly because GMAC is still trying to build up enough data to satisfy its own requirements), but it’s not out of the question that IR will become adaptive in the near future.

GMAC takes test security very seriously
At every GMAT Summit, one of the highlights is a report on the latest happenings in test security and score validity. GMAC takes CIA-level precautions to ensure that cheating is never rewarded and almost always punished, and that your score is an accurate and valid measure. New developments in GMAT security include:

– Palm scans are now read and analyzed in real time. Whereas previously the security palm scans were collected before your test but analyzed for potential fraud later, now the scans are analyzed while you’re at the test center, so if two identical palm scans are attributed to two different test-takers, GMAC will be able to catch the perpetrator before they finish the first paragraph of their AWA.

– Tests are videotaped. If GMAC has reason to suspect that you cheated, it can review the videotape of your test to analyze further.

What does this mean for you? Hopefully nothing; if you’re an honest test-taker you shouldn’t worry at all about these procedures, which will only serve to make sure that you don’t lose out on admission because someone cheated their way to a score that you earned. But if you’re thinking about cheating, you may want to consider a different test or career path.

GMAC takes question validity very seriously, too
Another element of score validity and fairness pertains to the questions themselves, and GMAC reported on its efforts to remove cultural bias from its test questions. What began as a predominantly-American test is now administered around the world with more than 60% of all tests taken outside North America, so GMAC has stepped up its game even more so to ensure that questions aren’t biased across culture, region, or gender. Using a procedure called “Differential Item Functioning,” GMAC monitors performance on each item among different demographic groups and then compare that performance with items of similar difficulty and content area to ensure that questions are fair and consistent. Don’t be surprised, then, to see more questions citing meters (or metres) instead of feet and yen instead of dollars as the GMAT continues prioritize cultural neutrality.

The GMAT is transparent
While many view the authors and administrators of standardized tests to be secretive variations of Dr. Evil, GMAC’s primary goal is to provide an accurate test representative of the skills and abilities that business schools want. To that end, GMAC makes quite a bit of its data public so that students don’t have to view the test as cloaked in secrecy. Perhaps our favorite tool can be found here. If you’re interested in comparing your score against the scores of others -– based on nationality, split between Quant and Verbal, etc. –- you can access mountains of test-taker data to get a much more complete view of what your score means.

Quant and Verbal scoring scales could one day evolve
Technically, Quant and Verbal each have a scoring scale of 0 to 60, but you will never actually see a score lower than 6 or higher than 51. This unusual scale was a leftover from when the GMAT moved from a paper-based test to a computer-adaptive test in the 1990s. Now, as more and more students (especially those from China and India; see below) absolutely crush the Quant section, a 51 is now only a 97th-percentile score. While nothing is imminent, GMAC hinted at the conference that the test could one day soon start making better use of the whole range. Don’t expect such a change any time soon, but at this conference we noticed that GMAC’s stance has changed from “No way” to “We’re looking at it.”

Students in China and India prepare WAY more than their American and European counterparts
Think global competition will cool down any time soon? The median number of hours that students in India spend preparing for the GMAT is 100, and the median for test takers in China is even a bit greater. Compare that to European students, whose median is 60 hours, and U.S. students, whose median is just 40 hours! (These are all self-reported statistics from test takers.) Looked at another way, half of all test takers in China spend more than 100 hours preparing for the exam, while in the U.S. barely more than 10% of test takers spend this much time on GMAT prep. It’s no wonder that the mean GMAT score for test takers in China was 591 in Testing Year 2013 (the year ending on June 30, 2013), compared to 528 for U.S. students in the same period.

Demand for MBAs is strongest in industries you wouldn’t necessarily expect
By one measure, healthcare and energy are two industries where demand of MBA graduates is strongest. According to GMAC’s 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey, 89% of healthcare/pharmaceutical companies and 86% of energy/utilities businesses plan on hiring MBAs in the coming year. Demand for MBAs among consulting firms (79% plan to hire MBAs) and finance-related businesses (75%) is still strong, but the growth of healthcare and the energy sector doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

By Scott Shrum

Now Everyone Can Get Veritas Prep’s GMAT Practice Tests!

GMAT Practice TestsHere at Veritas Prep HQ, one of the questions we get most often is, “Can I just buy your GMAT practice tests?” For the first 11 years of our existence, the answer had been, “Sorry, no.” Well, guess what… You can now buy access to five of Veritas Prep’s GMAT practice tests for just $49!

This past May we unveiled our all-new GMAT practice test, built using the same Item Response Theory (IRT) that is behind the Official GMAT. In May we released one free practice test for everyone (replacing the one we had always offered), and announced that these new tests would be available to all Veritas Prep GMAT course students.

Now, we’re going one step further and making our computer-adaptive GMAT practice tests available to everyone! Anyone can still try one free and see how our GMAT practice tests have become some of the most realistic and accurate tests in the industry. After you have tried one, you can buy 5 more for $49, giving you access to six tests total!

Our GMAT prep course students still get 15 GMAT practice tests, including these six exams. For everyone, we’ve just rolled out an entirely new interface and detailed new diagnostic information and features, including:

  • Information on pacing, showing you how you stack up vs. everyone else and identifying tests where you ran out of time because of pacing issues.
  • The easiest questions that you got wrong, as well as the hardest questions that you got right.
  • Score balance: If you seem to be putting too much effort into Quant and not enough into Verbal (or vice versa), the system will let you know.
  • Question flagging: If you know you want to come back to a question later, you can flag it with one click to makeit easy to come back to!

Click here to get five of the most realistic GMAT practice tests in the industry for just $49. Or, go here and learn more about our GMAT practice tests first.

And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Should Women Skip Business School?

In a recent opinion piece in the New Yorker titled “Why Women Should Skip Business School”, author Laura Hemphill argues that, since women are far more likely to experience a career interruption (usually because of having kids) than men, they should work as much as possible while they’re young and aren’t get juggling family obligations. Make money and get far ahead now, she argues, and you’ll have more options later on than you will with an MBA.

This is the part where we — as a leader in GMAT prep and MBA admissions consulting — are supposed to volley back an impassioned defense of the MBA. How dare this person suggest that women, or anyone for that matter, forgo the magic that is a graduate management education? Blasphemy! Get off my Internet!

Well, that’s not what I’m here to deliver today. In fact, I actually agree with much of Hemphill’s argument. I will boil down my take to this: If you’re anything less than certain that an MBA is what you need to get to where you want to be, whether it’s in your current career or in something else entirely, then business school may not be right for you. That’s not to say that you definitely shouldn’t apply; an MBA really does open a lot of career options, if for no other reason than the fact that attending a top-ranked business school means dozens of blue-chip firms will come to you to and sell you on their companies. But if you’re doing just fine in your career and don’t have any plans to jump into something entirely different, then one can make a very plausible case that you don’t need an MBA.

Note that this doesn’t only apply to women… I give the same advice to male applicants all the time. If you’re not sure that you want an MBA, or you can’t cleanly articulate why such a degree will help you with your career goals, then you need to go back to square one and do some more research. And, if you can’t make this argument, remember that MBA admissions officers probably won’t have the time or patience to tease it out of you… They’re more likely to simply move on to the next application in the pile.

Again, business school can really open doors for you and give you career options that you never would have had otherwise. But it’s not a mandatory degree for any line of work, and it’s a huge commitment, both in terms of tuition and time away from the workforce. If you’re applying just because it seems like it’s what you should do in your mid 20’s, then you’re probably not ready to apply.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for business school, of even if you’re still in the “Is this right for me?” stage, request a free profile evaluation from 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

U.S. News College Rankings for 2014

US News College RankingsU.S. News has just released its ranking of top American colleges an universities for 2014. (It’s like model years on cars… Next year, in 2014, they will release the 2015 rankings.) There has been some movement, though not a lot of it, among the top 25 schools. Although this happens every year, we got a chuckle from each of these “top 25” lists, neither of which is actually 25 schools long. We guess it’s just hard to choose sometimes.

Without further ado, here are The U.S. News national university and liberal arts college rankings for 2014, published in September, 2013:

Top National University Rankings
1. Princeton University
2. Harvard University
3. Yale University
4. Columbia University
5. Stanford University
5. University of Chicago
7. Duke University
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
7. University of Pennsylvania
10. California Institute of Technology
10. Dartmouth College
12. Johns Hopkins University
12. Northwestern University
14. Brown University
14. Washington University in St, Louis
16. Cornell University
17. Vanderbilt University
18. Rice University
18. University of Notre Dame
20. Emory University
20. Georgetown University
20. University of California – Berkeley
23. Carnegie Mellon University
23. University of California – Los Angeles
23. University of Southern California
23. University of Virginia
23. Wake Forest University

Yes, if you’ve been counting along, you know that’s actually 27 universities in the “top 25,” if you were counting along. Next, let’s take a look at the top American liberal arts colleges per U.S. News:

Top National Liberal Arts College Rankings
1. Williams College
2. Amherst College
3. Swarthmore College
4. Bowdoin College
4. Middlebury College
4. Pomona College
7. Carleton College
7. Wellesley College
9. Claremont McKenna College
9. Davidson College
9. Haverford College
12. United States Naval Academy
13. Vassar College
14. Hamilton College
14. Washington and Lee University
16. Harvey Mudd College
17. Grinnell College
17. United States Miliary Academy
17. Wesleyan University
20. Colgate University
20. Smith College
22. Bates College
22. Colby College
24. Macalester College
25. College of the Holy Cross
25. Oberlin College
25. Scripps College
25. United States Air Force Academy
25. University of Richmond

Yup, that’s actually 29 college in the “top 25.” We’re sure the last few schools to sneak into the top 25 list are as grateful as can be about this.

Wondering if you can get into one of these top colleges? Take a look at Application Boot Camp on Demand, which gives you access to the same admissions advice that some families pay $14,000 to get each year. We also offer SAT prep courses available in many cities around the country, as well as online. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google Plus, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

INSEAD Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Rounding out our look at applications at the top business schools this year, today we break down INSEAD’s application deadlines and essays for the 2013-2014 admissions season. INSEAD has made only very subtle tweaks to its essays this year, and the school has decided buck the trend and not to go the route of significantly cutting down its number of required essays. When a business school only makes subtle changes to its essays, that usually means that the admissions office likes what it’s been getting from applicants.

Here are INSEAD’s admissions deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

INSEAD Application Deadlines for September 2014 Intake
Round 1: October 2, 2013
Round 2: November 27, 2013
Round 3: March 5, 2013

We only cover INSEAD’s September 2014 intake deadlines here since the school’s January intake deadlines have already passed for 2013. Note that applying to INSEAD in Round 1 means that you will receive your final decision by December 20, giving you a couple of weeks to get your Round 2 application in order for other schools if you need to do so.

INSEAD Application Essays
Job Description Essays

  1. Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products and results achieved. (250 words)

    This essay carries over unchanged from last year. In a nutshell, the INSEAD admissions team wants to understand exactly what you do on a day-to-day basis. As easy as it is to become consumed with your GMAT score and your extracurricular activities, at the end of the day, the most accurate predictor of your professional potential is what you have done in your career to date. Don’t worry about the fact that INSEAD asks for the number of employees under your supervision and the size of the budget you manage — if you haven’t managed a team or owned a budget yet, that’s okay. The admissions committee just wants to understand exactly what it is you do in your present job. Also, remember that this question is about your present job; your “career progression” story will come in the next essay.
  2. Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)

    This essay is also a repeat from last year. Here is where your career progression comes into the picture. Of course, doing this in 250 words is a tough job, do you will really need to stick to the highlights in terms of what you have achieved and the reasons for the moves you have made. You should plan on skipping most of the flowery prose in favor of clear, easy-to-follow facts. The second part of this question is interesting in that it pretty directly hits on something that INSEAD and any other top business school wants to know — that you’re interested in pursuing an MBA to turbocharge an already successful career, not to bail out of a stagnant one. Painting the picture of a successful young professional (in only 250 words, of course!) will be key here.
  3. (Optional) If you are currently not working, what are you doing and what do you plan to do until you start the MBA programme? (250 words)

    It’s a sign of the times that this essay remains on INSEAD’s application after several years. Really, here the INSEAD admissions committee is saying, “It’s okay if you’re unemployed. We know a lot of terrific young professionals are out of work for reasons beyond their control. But, you had better be doing something productive with all of that free time.” Presumably you’re looking for work, but that is hopefully not all that you’re doing. Are you bettering yourself professionally with some additional training or accreditation? Are you brushing up by taking a college course or two? Have you decided to use some of your spare time to help those around you, perhaps by doing some pro bono work? There’s no right answer here, but a wrong answer would be to say that you haven’t done much of anything besides browsing job listings while you have been unemployed.

Motivation Essays

  1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (600 words)

    This essay also carries over unchanged. While the Job Essays above required you to really stick to the facts and simply summarize your resume, here is where you can start to provide more narrative. Many applicants see the word “weaknesses” and tense up, thinking, “I can’t tell them anything bad about myself!” But the admissions committee knows that no one is perfect. INSEAD truly wants to understand what you’re good at and where you need some work. The school wants to see evidence of strong self-awareness and a desire to build on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. The most obvious place to go from here is to explain how INSEAD can help you with these areas, although note that this is not a pure “Why INSEAD?” essay prompt. Keep the focus mostly on you and what your current strengths and weaknesses are.
  2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date (if possible specify one personal and one professional), explaining why you view them as such. (400 words)

    This question has also not changed since last year, although a couple of years ago INSEAD added the “one personal and one professional” part a couple of years ago. This prompt gives you a great opportunity for you to spell out at least two main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. Remember, the “why” in your story is even more important than the accomplishments themselves, so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. We like that INSEAD asks for one personal and one professional accomplishment, since many applicants tend to be reluctant to write about personal achievements because they seem to be off topic. Nothing could be further from the truth… If a personal accomplishment helps to illustrate the dimensions that admissions officers want to see in your application, it’s very relevant!
  3. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. (400 words)

    Oh no! First INSEAD asked about your weaknesses, and now you have to answer a failure question! Don’t worry — as we wrote above, INSEAD knows that you’re not perfect. The question is how you are able to overcome your failures and grow as a result of them. We like how short and direct this essay prompt is; what the admissions office really wants to hear is what you learned and how you improved (both as a professional and as a person) as a result. And, ideally, you can even work in an example of how you put what you learned to use when faced with another challenge. Of course, the word count is tight, but being able to work in this example makes your story that much more palpable and believable.
  4. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:
    a. Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain? (250 words maximum)
    b. Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock. (250 words)

    Clearly INSEAD has culture shock on the brain! This question is a repeat from last year, and its existence helps illustrate how much emphasis INSEAD puts on an applicant’s ability to blend well with people from other walks of life. Both of these essay prompts try to help the admissions committee understand you a little bit better. Really, what the school is trying to gauge is your emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity. More than perhaps any other MBA program, INSEAD truly is a melting pot of management education. You may be in study teams with people from four other continents — how well will you work with them at 3:00 AM when you have a tough final project due in six hours? A little bit of humor a humility can go a long way in answering these questions. Help the admissions committee be able to envision you sitting in a study group on INSEAD’s campuses in Fountainebleu and Singapore.
  5. a. Discuss your short and long term career goals… (300 words)
    b. … and how studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words)

    Finally! Here are the “Why an MBA?” and “Why this school?” questions that most MBA programs ask. Don’t overlook the fact that INSEAD asks these as two separate questions, with a specific word count for each. As important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to spell out why specifically INSEAD can help you achieve your goals. This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the INSEAD admissions team that you’re applying for reasons that run deeper than the fact that ISNEAD is a top-ranked business school.
  6. Is there anything that you have not mentioned in your application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (350 words)

    INSEAD gives you so many chances to tell your study in the above essays that we wonder what you might have left to tell at this point! Our advice here is what it is for every other school’s optional prompt: Answer this question 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’re ready to start building your own application for INSEAD and other top business schools, get a free profile evaluation from 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

1,000,000 GMAT Questions Served!

Ten months ago we introduced the Veritas Prep GMAT Question Bank, giving every GMAT student around the world completely free access to hundreds of realistic GMAT questions of all types. Today, we celebrate an incredible milestone: more than one million GMAT questions served!

Over the past ten months we have tweaked the GMAT Question Bank, made countless performance improvements, built in more diagnostic feedback for students, and added even more GMAT questions. We remember being giddy when, over the first weekend, we crossed over the 1,000 mark in terms of questions served. Now that’s no big deal at all as the GMAT Question Bank continues to grow in popularity month over month.

Most importantly, all of the data that we have collected from those one million responses has gone into building our entirely new computer-adaptive GMAT practice tests, which were built using the same philosophy (Item Response Theory) that is behind the Official GMAT. Those are the same tests that our GMAT prep students use, and you can try one of them for free if you haven’t already.

This is how we explained it last October:

So what’s the deal? We’ve created this tool and opened it up to everyone so that we can collect loads of data on our questions. We’ll use the data we collect to measure and refine our questions, which will then go into new generations of our GMAT practice tests. In effect, by answering these questions, you’re helping our system learn about the questions — which ones are easy, which ones are hard, which ones are confusing and need to be refined, etc. The system is also learning about each user (this is one reason why the system asks you to create an account and log in)… It’s an iterative process that helps it measure users by seeing how they did on certain questions, and it assesses those questions by seeing how well certain users performed on those questions.

Where to from here? We’ll keep adding more sample GMAT questions and building in new enhancements. We’ll continue to use the data that we collect in the GMAT Question Bank will continue to make our computer-adaptive practice tests even more accurate. And, we will keep the GMAT Question Bank free for everyone to use. It’s too good not to share with the world!

Try the Veritas Prep GMAT Question Bank and our free GMAT practice test for yourself. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays for 2013-2014

UCLA AndersonWe can add UCLA Anderson to the long list of top business schools that have cut down their essay requirements for the coming admissions season. Anderson recently released its admissions essays and deadlines for the coming year, and the school dropped one essay prompt, going down to just one required essay for 2013-2014. We can’t wait until next year, when schools go from one essay down to zero. (Just kidding!)

Without further ado, here are UCLA Anderson’s application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2016, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 22, 2013
Round 2: January 7, 2014
Round 3: April 15, 2014

Anderson’s deadlines have barely changed since last year. Note that, unlike most other top schools, Anderson will not get back to you before January if you apply in Round 1. With other programs, one benefit of applying in Round 1 is that you will receive a decision before the holidays, giving you plenty of time to work on Round 2 applications (which usually have deadlines in early January). But, no such luck at Anderson. For some applicants, this is enough to push back their Anderson applications from Round 1 to Round 2.

Also, note that UCLA Anderson’s Round 3 deadline is pretty late compared to those of most other top MBA programs. The Anderson MBA admissions team has stated that it doesn’t want to miss out on strong applicants who may choose an MBA program outside the U.S. simply because that school still accepts applications as late as April. However, note this language on the Anderson website: “Round 3 becomes more competitive as seats in the class fill up, and we look for distinctive profiles to round out the student mix.” So, Round 3 is very much an option at Anderson, but be realistic about your chances, especially if you submit a mediocre application.

UCLA Anderson Application Essays

  1. What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals? (750 words)

    This question — the only required question on this year’s Anderson application — carries over unchanged from last year. Accordingly, our advice mostly remains the same. This question is pretty much your standard “Career Goals” / “Why an MBA?” essay. Note that, while the “Why an MBA?” component is very important, you absolutely MUST demonstrate in this essay 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.

    One other thought: We find this advice from the Anderson website to be interesting: “Essays are more compelling if they include specific courses, programs, groups, opportunities, activities, etc. from which you would benefit, if admitted to UCLA Anderson. These references are best found through website research, personal discussions and a campus visit (if possible).” Every year we see applicants who lazily browse a school’s site and drop one or two course or professor names into an essay to seem more interested in the program, and we wonder if Anderson’s guidance here will only make the problem worse.

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

    As we always tell applicants when it comes to optional admissions essays, answer this question 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. 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 more of the admissions committee’s attention!

For more advice on getting into Anderson, download our Essential Guide to UCLA Anderson, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Anderson and other top business schools, get a free profile evaluation from 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

Duke (Fuqua) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business recently released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Bucking the trend among most top MBA programs, Duke has actually made no changes this year! However, last year the school made some pretty radical changes, so one could argue that other schools are now coming around to some of these aggressive and creative changes. Further, the fact that Fuqua hasn’t made any changes this year suggests that the admissions committee likes what it saw last year, so following their advice and giving them what they want is key.

Here are the Fuqua School of Business’ admissions deadlines and essays for the coming year:

Duke (Fuqua) Application Deadlines
Early Action: September 18, 2013
Round 1: October 21, 2013
Round 2: January 6, 2014
Round 3: March 20, 2014

Fuqua’s admissions deadlines have barely changed since last year, which each deadline moving by no more than a few days. On important note about the school’s Early Action deadline: Even though it’s called “Early Action,” Fuqua considers it to be binding. So, we only recommend applying in this round if Fuqua is clearly your first choice. If that’s not the case, then save your application for Round 1, which still gets you your final decisions from the admissions committee before the holidays.

Duke (Fuqua) Application 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 short answers!) carries over unchanged from last year, and 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 admissions team really is just looking for the facts. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put any thought into these responses, but rather that they’re looking for less hand-waving and “big picture”-speak and for more headlines 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 having to sort through your application essays to figure out why you’re applying, you’re spelling it out in three bold “can’t miss” headlines. One more thought: Many applicants consider the third question 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 Fuqua wants to see if you “get” that idea and have at least thought through some alternatives.

Required Essays

  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.

    This question also carries over unchanged. This exercise makes many applicants uncomfortable since it’s so far removed from the “typical” MBA admissions essay, but we like it. While you shouldn’t generate a completely frivolous list, you also shouldn’t simply rehash what else is in your application. Seemingly random facts such as “I once narrowly lost a pizza-eating contest to the eventual state champion” are relevant and reveal something important about you (that you’re fun!), whether you realize it or not.

    We have seen some advice out there that tells applicants that all 25 items must be “unique” and “ownable,” but it would be a mistake to apply that rule to all 25 items. If the favorite part of your week is spending a couple of hours on Sunday morning reading the paper, 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 some examples that Fuqua admissions officers and students have posted about themselves… You’ll see that they’re far from 100% serious!

  2. 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.

    While the “25 things” question gets talked about more, we actually think this is the response the Duke admissions team may pay more attention to. 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, and last year the admissions committee tried this new approach, but it’s 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.

For more advice on getting into Fuqua, download our Essential Guide to Fuqua, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Fuqua and other top business schools, get a free profile evaluation from 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) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Tuck has bucked the trend among top business schools and left its essay count and total word count unchanged compared to what they were last year. The Tuck admissions team has made some subtle tweaks to its essay prompts, though, and we’ll dig into those below.

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

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Deadlines
Early Action round: October 9, 2013
November round: November 6, 2013
January round: January 3, 2014
April round: April 2, 2014
Continue reading “Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

Common Application Essay Advice for 2013-2014

Common Application EssaysWhen the new Common Application essay questions were released back in February, we gave students some high-level advice on how to tackle the essays. Now that we have had even more time to think about the essay prompts, we’re back with some more advice on what you can do to ace the essays and maximize your chances of college admissions success.

Before going any further, be sure to read our initial article to familiarize yourself with the Common App essay questions and start to get a feel for which one your should tackle. Once you have done that, keep reading for three ways that you can take your college admissions essay from good to great…

Be Honest
When we say “be honest,” we don’t mean “you shouldn’t lie.” We absolutely don’t want you to lie, but here, when we discuss honesty, we’re referring to the idea of showing the real you. Don’t write what you think college admissions officers want to hear. The result will likely be stodgy, stiff, and uninteresting. Rather, tell them something about you that will actually help them get to know you better by the time they finish your essay.

Keep in mind how many applications a competitive college receives… The University of Chicago alone received more than 30,000 applications last year! If your Common App essay does nothing more than rehash something already in your application, or if it offers up bland, play-it-safe drivel, then what’s to stop an admissions officer from simply moving on to another, more memorable application?

This doesn’t mean you should resort to stunts or other funny business in a desperate attempt to stand out. But do reveal some of the real you, even if that means putting a vulnerability or shortcoming on display. That can be a risky proposition for a writer — especially with admission to a top university on the line — but this is a matter of high risk, high reward.

A Little Humor Can Go A Long Way
When you look at this year’s essay prompts, it’s easy to think that there’s not much room for a humorous essay. The Common App questions ask about failure, challenging a belief, and transitioning from childhood to adulthood… Those all sound like pretty serious topics. There is absolutely room in these essays for humor, however.

Think about anyone in your life who knows how to tell a great story. Even when telling a serious or sad story, they’re able to share great little asides and personal details that make you laugh and make the story that much more real and memorable. You don’t have to, but you absolutely are allowed to, employ this same technique to your college admissions essays. A warm, funny opening such as this can make an admissions officer smile and make her want to keep reading: “I always thought the phrase ‘His face turned red’ was just an expression… until the day I damaged $10,000 worth of inventory at my summer job.” Think about how you might tackle one of the Common Application’s essay prompts with a story like this.

Try Tackling More Than One Question
You will only submit one essay (650 words maximum), but that doesn’t mean that you have to pick one right out of the gate and then make it work no matter what. It’s entirely possible that you’ll start two or three essays, write and rewrite multiple drafts, delete everything and then then start over, and then start over yet again before settling on the idea that works best.

Don’t be afraid to try out multiple questions and topics before settling on what’s right for you. Chances are that you will end up tackling an essay prompt and submitting an essay that are entirely different from what you first planned. The beauty of this process is that you only have to submit the final product, not all of the messy drafts you’ll generate between now and the day you submit your college applications!

Plan on applying to college soon? Veritas Prep’s college admissions counselors will work with you to find the schools that best fit you, coach you on your Common Application, and help you earn every possible dollar of financial aid available to you. We also offer SAT prep courses available in many cities around the country, as well as online. Also, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google Plus, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays for 2013-2014

Michigan Ross MBA Admissions GuideThe University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Ross is the latest top MBA program to shed an essay, going from four required essays last year to just three this year. The school has also trimmed word counts on a couple of its essays. However, the school’s most interesting question (its first one) remains unchanged.

Without further ado, here are Ross’s admissions deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:
Continue reading “Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays for 2013-2014”

Kellogg Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the 2013-2104 admissions season. To no one’s surprise, Kellogg is the latest top-ranked MBA program to drop a required essay from its application this year — the school now requires just three essays of first-time applicants. Kellogg has also reduced how many word limits in some cases. What is most interesting is that the essay that Kellogg dropped was a mere 25-word question that appeared on last year’s application. We liked that one, but apparently the Kellogg admissions team didn’t.

Here are Kellogg’s application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2016:
Continue reading “Kellogg Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions EssaysUC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Haas has not only dropped an essay this year (as many other top-ranked MBA programs have done), but it has also dropped a whole admissions round! Beyond that, the content of Haas’s application has actually changed very little this year, at least compared to the more radical changes we have seen in other business schools’ applications.

Without further ado, here are Haas’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:
Continue reading “UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

Chicago Booth Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Chicago Booth has released its application essays and deadlines for the 2013-2014 admissions season. The Great Essay Reduction continues… Consistent with what we have seen many other top-ranked business schools, Booth has dropped an essay this year. The school has, however, kept its more unique “PowerPoint” question, suggesting that the admissions committee likes what it sees with the responses it gets from this prompt.

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

Chicago Booth Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 3, 2013
Round 2: January 8, 2014
Round 3: April 3, 2014

Booth’s application deadlines are virtually unchanged since last year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will hear back from Booth by December 19, giving you a couple of weeks to pull together Round 2 applications for other schools, if needed. Also, note the school’s relatively late Round 3 deadline. As always, we recommend against applying in Round 3 if you can pull together a strong application earlier, but moves like this show that Booth really does give Round 3 serious consideration.
Continue reading “Chicago Booth Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

MIT Sloan Application Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

MIT’s Sloan School of Management has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. There are a few big changes this year, including Sloan’s removal of the cover letter that had famously accompanied its more traditional MBA admissions essays over the years. Sloan’s application is now down to just two essays, and they’re both new this year, continuing the trend that we have seen at most of the top-ranked MBA programs.

Here are MIT Sloan’s deadlines and essays for the 2013-2014 application season, followed by our comments in italics:
Continue reading “MIT Sloan Application Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

Yale SOM Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Yale School of ManagementThe Yale School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the 2013-2014 admissions season. Building on the trend that we have seen at other prominent MBA programs so far this year, Yale has reduced its essay count, going from four last year to just two this year. Yale did beef up the word limits on the individual essays, though, so your total recommended word count wasn’t cut in half — it drops from 1,050 to 750.

Without further ado, here are Yale SOM’s admissions deadlines and essays for the Class of 2016, followed by our comments in italics:

Yale SOM Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 25, 2013
Round 2: January 9, 2014
Round 3: April 24, 2014

The big change here vs. last year is that Yale’s Round 1 deadline has moved up from early October to the last week of September, making Yale the latest MBA program to inch its Round 1 deadline forward yet again. Note that applying to Yale in Round 1 means that you will receive a decision by December 9, giving you plenty of time to put alternate Round 2 plans into action if you don’t receive good news from Yale. The school’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines have barely changed, although Yale actually pushed its Round 3 deadline even later for this coming application season, giving Yale one of the latest final admissions deadlines among top business schools.

Yale SOM Application Essays

  1. What motivates your decision to pursue an MBA? (300 words)

    This question replaces a similar “Why MBA?”-type question that Yale used last year. That one actually was more specific and gave applicants more guidance, but had a word limit of only 150 words. Now, it’s more wide-open and gives you much more room to work with, although 300 words is still pretty tight.

    Note that there is no “Why Yale?” component to this essay; that comes in the second essay. Here you want to show that you have specific, credible reasons for wanting to pursue an MBA, and that you have realistic expectations for what the degree will help you achieve. You don’t need to spell out exactly where you think you will be in ten years — that’s not the point of this essay — but you do need to show that this is not something you’re doing on a whim. Also, keep the focus on what you want to move toward (e.g., “I want to grow as a general manager”) and not what you want to get away from (e.g., “My boss doesn’t understand my brilliance and I’m bored”). Finally, keep it succinct… The Yale admissions committee wants to know why they’re reading your application, and doesn’t want too much fluff and drama here.
  2. The Yale School of Management provides leadership education for broad-minded, rigorous, and intellectually curious students with diverse backgrounds; a distinctive integrated curriculum; connections to one of the great research universities in the world; and the broad reach of an innovative and expanding global network of top business schools.

    What motivates you to apply to the Yale School of Management for your MBA? What will you contribute to Yale and Yale SOM? (450 words)

    Yale used a very similar essay last year, but has tweaked it and added words for this application season. At its core, it’s a “Why Yale?” question that asks you to demonstrate that you have done your homework on Yale and are passionate about the program. They have a particular vision for Yale SOM and its student body… Help them see that you share that vision and will fit in at Yale. Also, note that the school gave you 300 words for the “Why an MBA?” question and 450 words for this one… We’ll leave it to you to determine which one is more important in the admissions officers’ eyes.

For more advice on getting into Yale, 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

Wharton Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Wharton Admissions GuideWharton has released its admissions essays and application deadlines for the 2013-2014 admissions season. Following the trend that we have seen at other top MBA programs this year, Wharton has cut its required essay count from three to two, although you will actually have more words to work with for the first essay this year.

Without further ado, here are Wharton’s deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:
Continue reading “Wharton Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

NYU Stern Application Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

NYU’s Stern School of Business recently released its admissions essays and deadlines for the full-time MBA Class of 2016. NYU’s application essays haven’t changed at all since last year, so our advice mostly remains the same. However, the admissions committee now lets you choose between two prompts (including Stern’s famous “Creative Expression” submission) that both used to be required, reducing the total amount of “stuff” that you will submit to the school.

Without further ado, here are NYU Stern’s MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:
Continue reading “NYU Stern Application Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

Harvard Business School Application Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Last week Harvard Business School released the details of its application for the 2013-2014 admissions season. While there was some moderately interesting news around Harvard’s admissions deadlines, much of the chatter has been about Harvard’s drastically revised essays. Make no mistake — this is a very different application than what HBS has used in the past, but keep in mind that Harvard still wants to see the same qualities (across your entire application) that it has been looking for in applicants for years. Harvard still wants to find bright budding leaders who are ready to undergo a transformational experience. The admissions committee is just going about finding those applicants a little differently this year.

Without further ado, here are Harvard’s admissions deadlines and essays for the Class of 2016, followed by our comments in italics:
Continue reading “Harvard Business School Application Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

The Stanford Graduate School of Business has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2013-2014 application season. Stanford has actually made no changes to its admissions essays this year, which suggests that the admissions committee liked what it saw in the applications that it reviewed last year. Accordingly, our advice hasn’t changed much, although it has evolved subtly since last year. Let’s dig in.

Here are Stanford GSB’s application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2016, entering in 2014. Our comments follow in italics:

Stanford GSB Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 2, 2013
Round 2: January 8, 2014
Round 3: April 2, 2014

No big changes here. All of Stanford’s admissions deadlines are within one day of their 2012-2013 counterparts. Note that, if you apply in Round 1, Stanford has promised a response by December 11, 2013. That’s important since, if you’re rejected or waitlisted, it will give you more than three weeks until most other top MBA programs’ Round 2 admissions deadlines come in early January.

Regarding Round 3, Stanford is one top school that has gone out of its way to invite applicants to apply in Round 3. While you shouldn’t believe that your chances are as good in Round 3 as they would be in Round 1 or 2, if you’re reading this in early 2014 and are wondering if you absolutely must wait till the fall to apply to Stanford, know that the admissions committee will still look at strong Round 3 applications with a very open mind.

Stanford GSB Application Essays

  • What matters most to you, and why? (750 words recommended, out of 1,600 total)

    This question is probably the longest-running admissions essay prompt used by any prominent business school. Our advice has evolved a bit over the years, but only subtly. Before you start to work on this essay, take Stanford’s advice to heart: “The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them.” 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 your candidacy. Naturally, telling a story that has nothing to do with your Stanford application can end up hurting you, but 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.
  • What do you want to do — REALLY — and why Stanford? (450 words recommended)

    This question also has not changed. With the part in ALL CAPS, the admissions committee is sending a clear message: “Cut the bull. We really want honest answers here.” Also, note that this question is deliberately pretty open-ended. Stanford invites you to dream big. The admissions committee is less interested in which exact blue-chip management consulting firm you want to work at after business school… They’re more interested in what you want to do with your life. Naturally, the job you take in the near term matters, but here is your chance to reveal some big dreams. If the first question is supposed to be a super-introspective look at your past, consider this the same exercise with your future. Finally, take note of the last part of the guidance they give for this question: “… and demonstrate your desire to take advantage of the opportunities that are distinctive to the Stanford MBA Program.” Obviously it’s a great school with a terrific brand name, but the admissions committee already knows that. Why is Stanford specifically the school that will help you achieve your dreams?
  • Answer one of the three questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years. (400 words recommended)

    Option A:
    Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

    Option B: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization.

    Option C: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.

    This question also carries over unchanged from last year. If one thing is clear, it’s that Stanford is interested in hearing stories that happened more than three years ago. (Just kidding.) We kid, but the fact that the admissions committee inserted this phrase four times suggests that applicants still look past this seemingly simple instruction! Why the emphasis on more recent stories? Because you’re young. You may feel old and wise compared to people just coming out of college, but the fact is that you’re still changing and growing a great deal. Something that you accomplished five years ago is far less useful in helping the admissions committee gauge your potential as a professional.

    For Option A, note the emphasis on “whose performance exceeded expectations”… Results matter, and you need to show them here. This is a classic Situation-Action-Result (“SAR”) question. Option B is all about learning what impact you have had on those around you. The essay prompt doesn’t specifically use the word “impact,” but it is pretty clear what Stanford wants to see here — the admissions committee wants to find young professionals who leave a trail of success and positive, meaningful impact everywhere they go. Of the three essay prompts here, we like Option B the best. If you have a good example to use, you should respond to this prompt.

    Option C is another results-oriented question that also gets at a core component of leadership: the ambition and ability to do more than what is listed in your job description. We think the way this question is phrased may actually lead some to misinterpret it and tell an unremarkable story, but a great response will show that you’re someone who readily goes beyond your job description to make things happen. In some respects, we consider Options B and C to be very similar… It’s clear that Stanford wants to find go-getters who go beyond what’s expected to make things happen. But, we still prefer B because it puts a bit more emphasis on results than Option C does.

We work with dozens of Stanford GSB applicants every year. For more advice on getting into Stanford, download our Essential Guide to Stanford GSB, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. 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

Columbia Business School Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Columbia Business SchoolThis year Columbia Business School leads the charge, releasing its MBA application essay prompts before any other top business school. The school has also released the admissions deadlines for its two intakes in 2014.

Remember that Columbia is unique among top U.S. business schools because each year it has a large 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 plan on switching careers or may want to start their own venture after school. The January intake deadlines are also covered below.
Continue reading “Columbia Business School Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014”

Common Application Essay Questions for 2013-2014

Common Application EssaysThe people behind The Common Application have just released the new essay prompts (PDF link) for college applicants who apply in the 2013-2014 admissions season. As noted in The Common Application Board of Directors’ announcement, these new prompts are the result of two years of discussion about where essays fit in the overall college admissions process. This is the first big change to the essays in years (including to the word counts!), and it’s clear that the Common Application Board didn’t take the task of reworking these essays lightly.

Without further ado, here are the all-new Common Application essay prompts:
Continue reading “Common Application Essay Questions for 2013-2014”

How to Connect with Your MBA Admissions Interviewer

Interview season is well underway for Round 2 business school applicants, which means this is the time of year when we give our MBA admissions consulting clients a great deal of interview coaching. No amount of preparation will guarantee that your interview will go well, but there is plenty that you can do to improve your chances of success.

For one, it helps to know who will conduct your interview. As we have written before, interview styles tend to vary by interviewer type, with admissions officers conducting the most formal, directed interviews and alumni tending to be the most casual. However, no matter who interviews you, a few basic rules of engagement always apply.
Continue reading “How to Connect with Your MBA Admissions Interviewer”

U.S. News MBA Rankings for 2013

U.S. NewsToday U.S. News & World Report unveiled its 2013 business school rankings. As we always say, it’s easy to get too caught up in the rankings and obsess over details such as a school “plunging” from 8th to 11th in the rankings or “shooting up” from 14th to 10th. Of course the rankings will have some impact on your school research, but using them as any more than a useful starting point can lead you to apply to schools which don’t fit you as well as they could.

Still, we all love rankings, whether we’re talking about education, fashion at the Oscars, or best bands of all time. And we can’t help but pay attention when U.S. News releases its influential rankings of grad schools.
Continue reading “U.S. News MBA Rankings for 2013”

Admissions 101: Getting Enthusiastic Letters of Recommendation (Part I)

Last week we wrote about how great letters of recommendation contain “Pound the Table!” levels of enthusiasm. It’s nice for your recommenders to write, “He’s a strong employee who will do well in the future,” but that doesn’t grab an MBA admissions officer by the collar and shout, “This person has ‘it,’ and you would be a fool not to admit him!” And that difference easily makes the difference between an admit and a rejection, or an admit and eternal waitlist purgatory.

“That’s all well and good,” you’re saying, “but how do I actually get my recommenders to convey this kind of enthusiasm in what they write?” There are a couple of things to ask yourself, and a couple of key steps to take to make sure that your recommenders understand the game, and do their utmost to help you get admitted. Today we’ll look at who in your life will be most likely to produce the kind of enthusiastic letters you need to get into a top-ten MBA program.
Continue reading “Admissions 101: Getting Enthusiastic Letters of Recommendation (Part I)”

Haas School of Business Announces $70 Million Expansion

UC Berkeley (Haas)Last week UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced plans for a new building and extensive renovations of its existing facilities. The entire plan, which will possibly allow for the growth of the school’s MBA program, is expected to cost a total of $70 million.

According to an article in UC Berkeley’s Daily Californian, the school’s new construction plans will total approximately $50 million, with renovations of existing facilities costing another $20 million. $25 million of the total has already been raised as part of a large fundraising effort the school kicked off early last year. Just as the school’s current three buildings were completed with 100% donor funding (i.e., no money came from Berkeley), the new construction program is expected to be fully supported with donations from alumni and other sponsors.
Continue reading “Haas School of Business Announces $70 Million Expansion”

Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Integrated Reasoning

There has been a lot of chatter about the new GMAT coming in June, especially the Integrated Reasoning section that will replace one of the Analytical Writing Assessment essays. Much has been made about the change, with some self-styled gurus reporting that you may see a difference of as much as 30 points between the old test and the Next Generation GMAT, given the same amount of studying. Take the test now, they say, or risk being in a world of hurt starting in June.

The arguments about how the new Integrated Reasoning section will negatively impact one’s 800-scale GMAT score cover a range of reasons, the most common one being that the new section will be much more taxing for test takers than Analysis of an Issue essay was. Even with a lot of preparation, the argument goes, someone will just be more fatigued on test day, such that by the time they get to their last dozen or so Verbal questions, their eyes will be bloodshot and they’ll be nodding off at their testing terminals. Workers at the test centers will have to hand out Red Bull and Visine to help test takers get home safely from the big test!
Continue reading “Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Integrated Reasoning”