How to Get Into Stanford GSB

Last month, one of our Stanford admissions experts, Kevin Richardson hosted a webinar about How to Get Into Stanford Business School’s MBA Program. If you haven’t watched it, we strongly encourage you to do so. If you prefer to read the recap, below are some key takeaways.

There are the essays and everything else

Things like your GMAT score and undergraduate GPA show you can do the work, keep up with the class and handle the academics, however they won’t get you in. Numbers do matter, but they only paint a small part of the picture. You might think that when it comes to the GMAT, the higher the better. However, that is not always true. A former admissions director shared with us that if a candidate can’t get in with a 710, chances are that same candidate won’t get in with a 740.
You may be asking, What about my resume and activities? Those will show what have you done in the past, but what makes or breaks an application are the essays. That’s what gets you in.

Stanford GSB has one of the most challenging essay questions: “What matters most to you, and why?”

One bit of advice: Don’t force what you write for this essay to fit with your career goals. The “Why Stanford?” essay can focus more on your professional side. That being said, this essay could be about business or your life outside of work. Three tips for the what matters most essay.

  1. Get personal. Tell, better yet show, the admissions committee who you are and what you have to offer. Give them insight on what drives you. It’s often discussed that to get in to Stanford you need to have an X factor. We believe that the X factor is where authenticity–your truest self–meets uniqueness–how you stand out from everyone else. You can’t control unique. You don’t know who else is applying. The thing you do have control over is your own authenticity.
  2. Dig deep. They’re looking for maturity, which is usually uncovered by truly being introspective. Kevin says, “If you’re not at least a little bit uncomfortable with the level of depth you’re sharing, you’re probably not doing it right.”
  3. “What” is minor. “Why” is everything for Stanford. Arguably, no other program focuses as much on the why as Stanford does. Related to point #2, Words like “I feel”, “I remember”, “I felt”, are critically important. Share specific occasions and experiences and talk about how they impacted you.

Some students get in despite a weak essay, but this is the essay that takes the average candidate above the mark.

The “Why Stanford?” essay

It’s important to have a deep understanding of Stanford. Some of you may think Stanford is all about high tech entrepreneurs. That’s a little bit misleading. Stanford is so much more than high tech and it’s not just about entrepreneurship. Stanford’s really about being an incubator for world leaders. It’s lofty, but true!

Your answer to the why Stanford essay should focus on business. It’s how the admissions committee determines if they can help you make an impact; if they can help you achieve what you want to achieve. The three things you’ll want to address in this essay are:

  1. What are your goals?
  2. What’s the gap?
  3. How is the GSB going to fit in with that?

Our advice here:

  1. Dream big. Have big goals. Stanford wants to steward top talent to maximize the GSB impact. Clearly describe how you are going to change the world and how you are going to change lives.
  2. Tell the reader what you have already done that will help them believe you can achieve those goals and what you are missing.
  3. Again, be authentic. As Kevin puts it, Stanford says: “You should do you, we’re going to do us.”

It’s impossible to write the perfect essay for Stanford because there’s no such thing. But is is possible to craft a set of essays that make the Stanford GSB admissions team feel like they know the real you. If you can do that — and paint a picture that makes it easy for them to imagine you as a GSB student and alum — then there’s a good chance they’ll want to get to know you even more.

Do you dream of getting into Stanford? We offer a free consultation with one of our MBA admissions experts! You can also give us a call at 1-800-925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions expert about your chances of getting into business school and what you can do to increase them!

How to Get Into Harvard Business School (Part 1)

We recently did a webinar on How to Get Into Harvard Business School. If you have time, we encourage you to watch it here before you continue to read this article:

Here’s what you need to know: 

Over 10,000 people applied to Harvard Business School last year. 11% of applicants, or approximately 1,100 people, were admitted. HBS admissions officers concede that as much as 80% of applicants are fully qualified to attend and successfully complete an MBA program, however, there are only so many seats in any given class.

So, what can you do to earn one of those coveted offers of acceptance at HBS? Continue reading to find out!

What is HBS looking for?

Let’s start by breaking down what Harvard Business School is looking for.

There’s no big secret about what HBS seeks in candidates. HBS posts its criteria right on its website, and you should take their word for it. Without clearly demonstrating all three criteria — a habit of leadership, analytical aptitude and appetite, and engaged community citizenship — you’ll be climbing up a very steep hill to be admitted.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, I’ve got this!” One thing to consider is your perception of how well you demonstrate the qualities HBS seeks may differ from the admissions board’s perception. The admissions board is reviewing thousands of applications, and if you know someone who got into Harvard Business School or you’ve read essays written by those admitted, you know that they’re pretty impressive individuals and the bar is set very high. You will be facing some stiff competition.

How do you know if your accomplishments in these areas are good enough to be admitted to HBS? We can actually give you some idea through a free MBA consultation. If you aren’t quite up to par in one or more of the areas, don’t lose heart. There are definitely things you can do to improve or strengthen the weaker aspects of your candidacy.

It’s also worth noting that there are some applicants who think they’re really impressive in these areas, but in the eyes of the admissions board are just okay. There’s another group of applicants who don’t think they have anything or struggle to come up with good examples or stories, but they’re actually quite impressive. For some, the challenge is discovering and pulling out the aspects of your background that would make you a strong candidate.

For example, Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant Taniel Chan says, “Don’t view ‘leadership’ with the narrow frame of formal roles. There is much that can be said, if not more, about informal leadership opportunities. Don’t boast about just the things you’ve done with a proper title. It’s appropriate and can sometimes be viewed favorably when you share an anecdote of you acting even when nothing was expected of you.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article  — we’ll talk about how to demonstrate what HBS is looking for in the limited space provided in the application!

Dinged By All Of Your Schools?  Here Is What To Do.

AdmissionsIt is hard not to feel the sting of rejection coming from MBA programs you failed to get into, especially when you just devoted a portion of your life going through such an arduous application process. But we are here to let you know that it is key to your long term success not to let fear of future rejection keep you from reapplying yourself. There are steps you can take to improve your chances of admission and earn the acceptance letter you deserve!

What should you do?  


Be honest with yourself.  

This is probably the most important and most difficult step an applicant can take to kick-start the post-ding process. You will need to look back at your application and honestly assess the strengths and weaknesses of your profile. Look at where you stand on paper (GMAT, GPA, etc.) as well as how you fare in some of the softer areas like the essay – scrutinize your whole profile. The data side is easy; you can compare average and median scores to determine your competitiveness in these areas. The “softer” areas are a bit more complicated, but assessing whether or not you answered all questions as they were posed, and to the best of your abilities, is a good place to start. The information gleaned from this self-assessment should fuel your next steps as a potential re-applicant. Evaluating yourself is quite a challenge, and sometimes it helps to have an outside perspective to address your “blind-spots.”

Ask for feedback.  

Anyone who gets rejected will inevitably ask, “What did I do wrong? What’s the one thing that kept me out?”  There are some programs that give rejected applicants specific feedback on why they didn’t get in. This can be helpful because if it’s something you can improve, then you know exactly what you need to do, if you decide to re-apply.  The old advice applies, “It doesn’t hurt to ask.”

If the programs you applied to are unable to provide you with feedback on your application, you can get a “ding analysis” from an admissions consultant.  They’ll review your application and give you their opinion on what held you back. Considering many admissions consultants are former admissions committee members this can be invaluable.  

Prepare for the Future.

Here is where you will decide whether or not you would like to apply to business school again. Creating a winning application is not easy, so making the necessary changes to a rejected application may not be seen as worth the effort for some. In the event you do decide to apply again, it is important to create an action plan. Having a plan to address the aspects of your profile that held you back this year is key.  You may need to expand the universe of schools you apply to. You may need to improve your essays. You may need to raise your GMAT score.

Allow me to share the following review posted by a client we worked with.  I hope it will give you hope.

“I had applied on my own to a couple of top MBA programs last year and was rejected without interviews. Even through I sunk many hours into my applications, within just one session, Dave was able to highlight different areas in which I could strengthen my essays, resume, and letters of recommendation. I started with Dave in April for a four-school package, and every step of the way, he was an incredible mentor and guide. Dave took the time go get to know my life story, future goals, and general life; I never felt like just another client. Dave was great about really cutting to the core of my stories and the reasons I made decisions while still focusing on the impact of those experiences. The final results blew away my best expectations – 100K scholarship from Kellogg, 60K scholarship from Booth, and full rides from both Tuck and Darden. Thank you so much to both Veritas and Dave for a fantastic experience and amazing results, and I highly, highly recommend Dave. Can’t wait to start school in Fall 2018!”

A ding is not the end of the world! Take the steps above to bounce back and earn the letter of acceptance you deserve.

Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or sign up for a free consultation to discuss whether or not you should re-apply and how we can help you get accepted to the school of your dreams.  As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

MBA Application Advice for Older Applicants

SAT/ACTFirst of all, who is considered an older applicant?

Now there is not a universal cutoff that determines what an older or younger applicant is, but rather there is more of a guideline. Generally you want to base this determination off of the average age of the student body. The average age for most of the top full time MBA programs is typically about 27 or 28 years old, but as we learned from our GMAT prep, averages don’t tell us a lot. Even looking at the middle 80% age range of full-time MBA programs, most students are between 25 and 31 years old.  

So, if you have more than 7 years of work experience, at the time of application, you will be at the upper end of the range.  In other words, if you’ll be 30 or older at the start of the program, you’ll be above average. There is no cut off, though.

Every year, full time programs admit applicants in their mid 30s, however these people are outliers, Just as a candidate with a GMAT score that falls outside of the middle 80% of a school’s range must justify how they will succeed academically, an applicant that falls outside the middle 80% in age range must justify why they want an MBA, why now, and how they’ll fit with the program both culturally and professionally.

If you are an older applicant, what can you do to maximize your chances of admission?  


Make it clear why you want an MBA now.

Admissions officers are going to see your age, your college graduation date and the years of work experience you bring, so there’s no sense in trying to hide or downplay this aspect of your profile.  Instead, make sure you have a clear and coherent response for why you want to get your MBA now, how it fits into your professional path, and how receiving a full-time MBA is the best possible path to achieve your goals.  Know that the admissions committee will be looking at this portion of your application with extra scrutiny. I guarantee that every 32 year old who was admitted to a top-tier, full-time program had a very clear and compelling argument for why they should be there. Nobody stumbles into a top-tier program with 10 years of work experience who simply said, “I’m looking to expand my career opportunities and improve my management skills” without providing significantly more detail.  

Demonstrate fit.  

Also, don’t forget to do thorough research on each program to which you are applying.  Talk with current students and recent alums who were a little older in their class and pick their brains on school culture, the ways they got involved, and their overall experience. Get on your target schools’ websites to find out what clubs interest you most and include these in your application essays to show the admissions committee that you’re serious about getting involved!  At Veritas Prep, we have expert consultants for older candidates and can help you refine your professional goals, why you need an MBA now, and how you will contribute to your class.

Consider applying to a part time or EMBA program.  

Many business schools, including Stanford and Wharton, offer other programs such as EMBA, part-time and executive education tracks that may be better suited to candidates who will not likely take advantage of the immersive experience of a full-time MBA.  If you have 7 or 8 or more years of work experience, be sure you are considering all of your options. Leaving your full-time job for two years is not always the wisest option for people later in their careers and will not provide the same ROI as for younger candidates.  Think through which program makes the most sense for where you are at in your life and career and what you desire out of your MBA experience. Generally the part-time and EMBA programs attract an older applicant pool given the structure and set-up of the programs. With whatever program makes the most sense for you make a strong case for how the offerings best align with your development needs.

If you need help with any of the advice above contact us, we’d be happy to help.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or sign up for a free consultation. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

When Should You Hire an MBA Admissions Consultant?

MBA AdmissionsApplying for a graduate degree in business, better known as an MBA, is arguably one of the more involved processes of any of the prestigious graduate tracks (law, medical, etc.). With such a complex undertaking and ever-increasing competition from all corners of the globe, admission into business school has become more challenging than ever. That is why so many applicants hire admissions consultants – to help them develop the most comprehensive, thoughtful, and strategic applications possible.

When hiring an admissions consultant, timing is everything! The earliest I would probably recommend hiring an admissions consultant would be April. The average applicant will probably hire a consultant between June and July.

If you’re really trying to make life tough on yourself (and your admissions consultant) you will hire one a month before your application deadline. The longer lead times above allow you to make the process less transactional, which is what can sometimes happen if you hire a consultant at the last minute. A longer lead time not only allows you to have more time to prepare your application, but it also helps you build a relationship with your consultant. When a consultant understands your background and the intricacies of your profile, it can increase the odds your partnership will be fruitful.

It is also important to get things done early because the more iterations you have, the higher the caliber of your application materials and the greater your chances of being accepted. As far as your specific application timeline, it should vary based on whether you are doing five long, complicated applications or just one application. These are instances where the recommendations outlined above are more fluid.

Another aspect of choosing a consultant that few factor in is the availability of the consultant’s time (and also your time). If you are a traveling management consultant or investment banker, who can barely squeeze an hour into the day to do anything, you’re going to want to start really early. This will allow you to slow-roll things based on your limited time to engage with your consultant, and make material progress on your application in any one week.

Overall, the key here is to really understand your needs when choosing a consultant. Thinking through the amount of applications you will be tackling, the support you’ll need, and your own availability will allow you to begin working with your consultant at the right time.

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

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

3 Things to Avoid When Applying to Business School as a Consultant

MBA AdmissionsOne of the biggest industry feeders to top MBA programs, year in and year out, is consulting. Consultants often come to business schools with an impressive list of client experiences, analytical skills, and business presence.

Now, given the surplus of candidates applying from this applicant pool, application season can be very competitive. This competitiveness makes it even more important for consultants to avoid the following issues when applying to MBA programs:

1) They Have No Clear Need for an MBA
A career in consulting presents many opportunities to develop a myriad of skills. Consultants are regularly poached to work with some of the top companies in the world, as well. The challenge sometimes for consultants applying to business school then is properly communicating why they actually need an MBA.

This may come across as a little odd, given that one would assume if you are applying to business school you should have this detail mapped out, but sometimes a candidate’s rationale can seem muddled in their application. In a weird way, business schools want to feel like they are needed by the applicant, and if there is not a clear opportunity to add value to a person’s life post-MBA, that can be problematic for a candidate applying from such a competitive applicant pool.

2) Using Too Much “We” and Not Enough “I”
One of the great advantages of working in consulting is the teamwork-oriented work culture the industry is known for. As MBA programs move increasingly towards a more collaborative approach to learning, the ability to work with others becomes more and more valued. However, given their predominantly team-based work, many consultants struggle to communicate their individual contributions to the greater good of a company. As such, resumes and essays often read as too much “we” and not enough “I,” thus making it difficult for the Admissions Committee to discern the true impact the individual applicant has had during their career.

3) Minimizing Accomplishments
Consultants can drive huge impact for clients and their firms on almost every project they work on. This exposure to top companies and major projects on a consistent basis can sometimes make it difficult for consultants to properly contextualize the impact of their work. Avoid minimizing your accomplishments by focusing on your own individual contributions, not just through quantitative numbers but also through qualitative experiences. Focus on highlighting your most impactful moments while contributing a holistic view of your work to best inform the Admissions Committee of your accomplishments.

Follow the tips above to avoid wasting all of the great experience you have developed as a consultant when applying to business school.

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

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

What Impact Will You Have on Your Dream School?

YaleThe business school application process is all about IMPACT – the impact you have made on the people and organizations you have worked with in the past, the impact you’ve made at the company you’re currently an employee of, and (most  often overlooked) the impact you will make on the student community at your target business school.

The Admissions Committee wants to know what you will take away from the MBA experience, and one thing that will help you stand out from the sea of other applicants is offering up your thoughts on what you will give to the student community. If you can vividly paint a picture of what campus life would be like with you as a student – in a positive and personalized fashion – it can add a very unique component to your application package. Let’s explore some ways to highlight the impact you will have on the MBA student community:

Personal Contributions
Business schools are looking to admit people – real people! So don’t be afraid to lean on how your unique qualities will manifest themselves on campus. Will you start a Basketball Club because you love the sport? Will you organize bake sales because it combines two of your passions: cooking and charity? Find your own personal secret sauce and figure out what value you can bring to the school. Keep in mind, your impact doesn’t have to be super lofty. If you are a natural motivator, there will be a place for you on campus when it comes to coursework, recruiting, and other aspects that will relate to improving the lives of others.

Cultural Contributions
Business schools embrace diversity in a big way. The changing makeup of campuses all over the world are a testament to this. As such, don’t hide from your culture or the diversity that you will bring to campus. Whether it is by helping others better understand your culture or bringing disparate groups of people together, think through what impact you will have on campus through culture. Involvement in global and affinity groups and other extra-curricular activities are another clear way to be engaged on campus.

Professional Contributions
Do you plan to bring your knowledge or network to support others on campus? Professional contributions are often the easiest to bring to bear, but also get consistently overlooked. Someone you might consider to be just a friend or coworker could be the integral piece to helping a classmate break into a difficult industry. Using your application package to show that you will offer access and opportunities to other students will showcase you as a selfless person and highlight the fact you truly get what a high-functioning MBA community is all about.

Control the narrative in your business school applications – don’t make the Admissions Committee guess what you would contribute as a student. Use the above tips and various application touch points to show how you will make a unique impact on campus at their school.

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

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

It’s Never Too Soon to Think About Your Business School Applications

Many MBA applicants ask us, “How soon should I start working on my business school applications?” When they ask that, they’re usually thinking about their essay and their letters or recommendation (and even their GMAT, if they haven’t yet taken it). We think this narrow definition gets a lot of applicants in trouble, however. Ideally you will start working on your application a couple of years before you ever submit it! The application itself is just a single snapshot of who you are, and you should start working on your candidacy log before you write your first essay.

We cover this idea in our newest MBA admissions video:

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

“Now hold on,” you’re saying. “Two years ago I didn’t even know that I’d apply to business school now, much less know what I’d need to pull together to build a great application.” Fair enough. That’s true for most applicants. But we urge you to change the definition of what it means to work on your applications — from just writing essays and gathering letters of recommendation, to seeking out new challenges on the job, finding ways to make an impact on your community, and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to ensure that you keep growing personally and professionally.

Note that these are all things that you should do, anyway, to advance your career and to mature as an individual. If this were a blog post about how to build a strong career path when you’re very early in your career, we would dispense the same advice. But these are also the things that admissions officers look for (leadership, a willingness to take on challenges, maturity, etc.), so pursuing these opportunities has the double advantage of helping you in your career and in the MBA admissions process.

Keep checking this space and the Veritas Prep Channel on YouTube for more insightful videos in the coming weeks. For personalized help in applying to business school, law school, or medical school, call us at 800-925-7737 and talk to one of our admissions experts!

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

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

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