Monthly Archives: April 2009

UCLA Anderson’s Audio Essay Question: First-Year Findings

Last year, UCLA Anderson became the first business school to ask students to submit an audio response to an optional essay question. Now that the 2008-2009 admissions season is over, Anderson told the Financial Times that 70% of its applicants elected to submit an audio answer, reflecting a willingness on the part of applicants to play along with admissions officers as they try think outside of the box in the MBA admissions process.

Mae Jennifer Shores, UCLA Anderson’s director of admissions, says that the the submissions were “ethnic, gender and country neutral,” with international applicants just as eager to submit audio clips as domestic applicants. Not surprisingly, Shores says that Anderson may choose to make the audio clips mandatory next year, and is also considering using video clips in next years’ application.

We disagree with article’s suggestion that Anderson’s use of an audio question is an attempt to thwart admissions consulting and essay editing services. Frankly, this is an uninformed opinion. As we wrote earlier this week, the reality is that the standard essay questions are simply not as useful for admissions officers as they used to be, in terms of helping them distinguish one applicant from the next. As a result, schools such as UCLA Anderson and Chicago Booth are inventing more creative questions that to give them another way to separate out the great candidates from the rest of the pack.

The savvy business school applicant won’t run from this opportunity, but instead will embrace it as one more way to make his application more memorable and to show how the applicant fits with the program. These application strategy principles apply to any MBA essay, whether it is a written, audio, or visual response.


MBA Admissions Officer Survey Featured in Hispanic Outlook Magazine

The April 6 issue of Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education included an in-depth look at Veritas Prep’s first annual admissions officer survey. In the article, reporter A. Francesca Jenkins dug into the results and interviewed Scott Shrum about the implications of the study.

As Jenkins notes in the piece, the biggest challenges facing business school admissions officers are the need to attract more, better-qualified students, and the need to support cultural diversity on campus. We expect both of these needs to remain top priorities for admissions officers in the coming years.

The article also focuses on the fact that, in the survey, MBA admissions officers were almost evenly split on whether the admissions process will become more or less complicated over time. This reflects the challenges that admissions officers face in managing an ever-growing pool of applicants, while also dealing with an increasingly competitive applicant pool. The former pushes the admissions process in the direction of more simplicity — the more streamlined the process is, the easier it theoretically is to sort through applications — while the latter pushes the process in the direction of more complication — as applicants become savvier and savvier, admissions officers need more creative ways to separate the great applicants from the merely good ones.

One result of this trend has been that some top MBA programs, such as Chicago Booth and UCLA Anderson, have begun to get more creative with their essay questions. Essay questions in the format of PowerPoint presentations (in Booth’s case) and audio answers (for Anderson) are likely to become more common over time.

If you are faced with answering a PowerPoint or audio question, the same rules still apply: Make sure that your real voice comes through, be sure to answer the question asked, and by all means, make sure that your answer is consistent with the overall themes you’ve built into your business school application.

You can read more about Veritas Prep’s first annual admissions officer study here. Also, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

U.S. News MBA Rankings for 2010 Leaked Early?

NOTE: The 2011 U.S. News MBA rankings are now out. Click here to see them and to read our analysis.

While the U.S. News 2010 Business School Rankings won’t come out until later this week, online communities have been buzzing with the possibility that U.S. News accidentally leaked its rankings in a short online video. U.S. News released a short video giving an overview of grad school trends, and in the video you can see the magazines business school rankings. While the image was small, it only took hours for eagle-eyed MBA applicants to analyze the image and spread the word about the soon-to-be-released 2010 rankings.

(UPDATE: U.S. news released the official rankings on April 23, and the rankings below do indeed appear to be correct. You can access the full rankings here.)

While this list isn’t official and have not yet been confirmed by U.S. News, here are what are believed to be the top 20 business school in the U.S. this year, according to U.S. News:

Current rank [Previous rank] School Name (Rating) [Previous Rating]
1 [1] Harvard (100) [100]
2 [1] Stanford (99) [100]
3 [4] Northwestern (93) [93]
3 [3] Penn (93) [95]
5 [4] MIT (92) [93]
6 [4] Chicago (91) [93]
7 [7] Berkeley (88) [89]
8 [7] Dartmouth (87) [89]
9 [9] Columbia (86) [88]
10 [13] Yale (85) [80]
11 [10] NYU (83) [84]
12 [14] Duke (82) [79]
13 [12] Michigan (81) [82]
14 [11] UCLA (80) [83]
15 [17] Carnegie Mellon (79) [77]
15 [14] UVA (79) [79]
17 [14] Cornell (76) [79]
18 [18] Texas-Austin (74) [74]
19 [22] Georgetown (73) [69]
20 [19] UNC (70) [72]
20 [21] USC (70) [70]

You can see the full video here. It will be interesting to see if these turn out to be the real rankings, but if so, then the online community deserves some kudos for some good detective work!

For more information about applying to top business schools, take a look at Veritas Prep’s MBA admissions consultants, and follow us on Twitter.

Thinking of Starting a Business? Why Not Do It During a Recession?

Believe it or not, a recession may actually be the best time to start a business. According to a blog post on the City University of New York’s web site, a recession typically creates a set of circumstances in which it’s easier to get a small business off the ground.

Yes, credit may be tight and customers may be less willing to spend, but recessions do help entrepreneurs in some ways. First, a soft economy will often spur local and state officials to eliminate or reduce red tape in an effort to stimulate growth and get back some lost tax dollars. The result can mean getting a license just days or weeks after applying, rather than months.

Second, vendors and suppliers, who are often struggling to maintain their own businesses, often are much more willing to accommodate an entrepreneur with lower prices or better service. Need something delivered to your new storefront today? No problem… The supplier’s truck is empty and available whenever you need it. And anyone who has seen all of the “For Lease” signs posted all over the U.S. shouldn’t be surprised to hear that commercials rents are quickly dropping in most markets.

If you’re thinking about starting a business, should you dive right in, or perhaps earn an MBA first and then try your hand at entrepreneurship? That largely depends on your own personal situation and how much experience you have, but one thing is clear: Don’t worry too much about timing the market, since even a recession may be a great time to start a business.

Chicago Booth Announces New Loan Program for International Applicants

Last week the University of Chicago Booth School of Business announced a new loan program for international students. Launched in partnership with JPMorgan Chase, the new program will give these students access to private educational loans without requiring a co-signer. The new program will provide loans to international students who are not eligible for federal assistance in the U.S. and cannot qualify for standard private loans because they do not have a U.S.-based co-signer.

Under the terms of the new deal, JPMorgan Chase will provide financing to qualified international students for amounts up to the total cost of attendance, minus any financial aid received. Exact terms will be announced later this spring, when students will receive more information on the program.

“Almost 20 percent of our students are from abroad, and they add a great deal of intellectual vibrancy and cultural richness throughout the University and our community,” said Kimberly Goff-Crews, Vice-President for Campus Life and Dean of Students, in a release on U. of Chicago’s web site. “We have focused our attention on finding loan programs that will meet the needs of this important segment of our student body.”

For more information on applying to Chicago Booth, visit the Veritas Prep Chicago Booth information page, or follow us on Twitter!

Five Questions to Ask When Choosing an MBA Program

Last week the Contra Costa Times turned to Veritas Prep for advice on what is happening to the value of an MBA in the current economic climate. In the article, we provided some advice for applicants as they choose which business schools they want to attend. As always, we stressed that an applicant must look at so many things beyond just rankings when evaluating whether a certain business school is a good fit.

Adapted from that article, here are five questions you should ask when looking at any MBA program:

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

There are many more other important factors to consider, but these are all important questions you need to be able to answer for every school to which you plan to apply. Knowing these things will make you a stronger applicant, and will also prevent you from making a mistake when making an investment as big as a graduate business education.

For more advice on choosing a business school, talk to Veritas Prep’s MBA admissions experts, and follow us on Twitter!

Advice for Next Year’s Harvard Business School Round 1 Applicants

Late last week Harvard Business School’s director of admissions, Dee Leopold, posted a brief update on the HBS blog, providing some news for waitlisted applicants as well as some advice for those who may apply in 2009-2010. Whether you’re awaiting news on your current HBS candidacy or are starting to think about applying next year, this brief post was especially useful.

In her update, Dee wrote:

  • Our Round 1 deadline for the next application season will be earlier in October, BEFORE fall class visits are open. We encourage those of you who are thinking of applying in Round 1 to consider a class visit this spring — class visits are available until May 8. Visiting an HBS class has absolutely no impact on the application process – we just want everyone to know that you are welcome.
  • We will be making more offers from the waitlist this year, and we hope to make the majority of these decisions as soon as we can – definitely before the end of May.
  • International students will have access to loans without needing a U.S. co-signer. We will release details/terms on specific programs as they are finalized.

That first point is most useful of all. If you apply in Round 1 this coming fall, you won’t have a chance to sit in on an HBS class before you submit your application. Therefore, even if you’re not sure that you’ll apply to HBS, if you can get to Boston this spring, it’s a good idea to schedule your visit now. Doing so — and being able to write about it in your HBS admissions essays — may give you an important advantage in demonstrating your fit with Harvard Business School.