Can Amazing Extracurriculars Outweigh Average Academics?

Extracurricular-ActivitiesYear after year, this is one of the questions we receive most from eager high school students gearing up for the college application process. We thought we’d take the time to break down how admissions decisions are made. Don’t want to read all the way to the end? Here’s our #spoileralert: amazing extracurriculars don’t outweigh average academics. Let us tell you why!

When admissions committees at top schools make admissions decisions, they’re evaluating you across a few elements:

Academic Preparedness

Here, admissions committees are looking to evaluate whether or not you are equipped to succeed in their college courses. This comes down to more than your GPA and test scores, though those are factors in this evaluation Other areas of your academic evaluation will include AP test scores, SAT Subject Test Scores, Letters of Recommendation and your academic involvement outside the classroom.

Habit of Leadership/Depth of Commitment

(This is where your amazing extracurriculars will be evaluated!)

It’s not enough to just participate in volunteer work or play a sport. Admissions committees at top universities are looking for students who have thoroughly enveloped themselves in activities that they are truly passionate about! Their job as an admissions committee is to admit a well-rounded, diverse freshman class. They’re looking for “pointy” students – students who have clearly demonstrated interests and passions and have taken the initiative to excel in those areas both inside and outside the classroom.

Fit for Institution

In the end, admissions committees will never admit a student that they don’t believe will actually enroll, so it’s important to clearly articulate your fit and sincere interest for each individual school on your list! This is typically done through school-specific supplemental essays, and will also be an imperative part of your application process.

Essentially, excelling in extracurriculars does not outweigh average or less-than-average performance in academics. Why? Because first, admissions committees need to determine if you will be able to keep up academically with your peers in college level courses. That’s the most important criteria. Unfortunately, your extracurricular activities do not necessarily demonstrate to admissions committees that you are prepared to excel academically on their campus. If you don’t have sufficient evidence on your application that you’ll be able to handle academic rigor, it is unlikely you will be admitted to selective college or university.

Do you have questions about how your unique extracurricular experiences will be evaluated by admissions committees? Take advantage of Veritas Prep’s free college consultation — you’ll receive personalized feedback from one of our college admission experts on your chances of admission to your dream schools, as well as tangible next steps for what you can do to ensure your applications are successful!

Applying to Business School: Tips for Older MBA Applicants

MBA EssaysWhile researching potential MBA programs, many applicants find themselves older than the typical student at their target school. Thus, they ask themselves whether they should still bother to apply, and how they should distinguish themselves from younger business school applicants

As with any MBA candidate, statistics such as GPA and GMAT score do matter, however the emphasis on these quantitative aspects of the application is somewhat shifted for older candidates to the factors discussed below. Although these are important factors for candidates of any age to keep in mind, they are more critical for older ones to use to their advantage:

Display Greater Focus
If you are an older MBA applicant, the Admissions Committee will expect you to be more mature. As such, you should show greater self-awareness and display more specific direction than younger applicants do. Clearly identify why you need an MBA, what you want to pursue post-MBA, and how the specific program you are applying to will help you achieve those goals. These goals could include personal development, knowledge gaps that you need to fill, and courses you are looking forward to take.

Discussing your future goals in a focused way is especially important if you are applying to one-year programs, as you will not have as much time during these programs to feel your way around or explore. You will want to present to the Admissions Committee that you know what you need, and that you know how you will use what their program offers.

Leverage Wealth of Interesting Experiences
As an older candidate, you will likely have gone through more experiences at work, in life, and in the community. Interesting experiences could range from exciting strategic shifts to crisis management. Using the knowledge you have gained from these episodes and their aftermath as fodder for your essays not only allows you to highlight your personal qualities and how you have developed, but also to show what you can contribute to classroom discussions.

MBA programs consider the diversity of experiences, perspectives, and networks their students bring to campus to be assets. With more professional and life experiences under your belt, use these to differentiate and strengthen yourself from other, less-experienced candidates.

Play Up Leadership Abilities & Expertise
At this point, it will also help to showcase how you have been able to lead teams, accomplish goals, or mentor others. Even if your official job responsibilities do not directly involved leadership over others, you can still highlight leadership experiences at work, and at your extracurricular activities, in other ways.

You may share the realizations you have gained through your leadership experiences and how they have impacted your leadership style, as well as the motivations behind them. Relate how an MBA will further develop these and help you make an impact on the world around you. You may also identify specific valuable expertise that you can contribute and that your peers can leverage in the classroom, especially if these are in a rare field.

Doing all of the above will present you as someone who will use his or her vast experiences to enrich the experiences of their peers, and of the school community, as a whole.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How MBA Applicants Can Demonstrate Leadership

In our ongoing quest to provide you with the best MBA admissions resources available anywhere, we present the second video in our MBA admissions series: How MBA Applicants Can Demonstrate Leadership.

So many applicants come to us every year with concerns about a lack of leadership experiences. When we dig a little deeper, we often find they they do in fact have great leadership experiences to talk about, although they may not come from traditional leadership roles, such as a big job title at work, military rank, team captain, etc. It’s an applicant’s ability to identify and clearly communicate these less obvious leadership stories that can make the difference between admissions to or rejection from a competitive MBA program.

(You can go to YouTube to watch the video in a larger size.)

As our own Samantha Johnston likes to say, leadership is a set of behaviors, not a job title or a rank. Leadership can come in many flavors, and shows up in many settings. As Paul Lanzillotti says, the richest leadership stories exhibit a blend of professional experiences and personal values — you not only achieved results, but you did so in a way that’s consistent with your core values.

Watch the video and think about what leadership experiences you might be able to draw upon in your own applications. You think of some outside of your job title and day-to-day responsibilities at work? How did you accomplish something that no one else could have done without you? Those stories often make for the richest leadership examples in your MBA admissions essays.