Monthly Archives: May 2009

Stanford MBA Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

Last week the Stanford Graduate School of Business released its admissions essay topics and deadlines for the 2009-2010 application season. Note that, just like HBS, this coming year Stanford will notify Round 1 applicants before the holidays at the end of the year.

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

Stanford GSB Application Deadlines

Round 1: October 7, 2009
Round 2: January 6, 2010
Round 3: April 7, 2010

(Last week Harvard matched Stanford by moving its Round 3 deadline back to April. Now, Stanford has matched HBS by moving its Round 1 deadline forward, to early October. For these schools, there’s now six months between the Round 1 and Round 3 deadlines! It will be interesting to see if other schools follow.)

Stanford GSB Application Essays

  1. What matters most to you, and why? (750 words recommended, out of 1,800 total)(This is Stanford’s tried-and-true essay question. Old timers will remember when this question had no word limit. Now, the essay’s 750-word limit forces applicants to be a little more economical with their words, which is a good thing. With this question, more than any other, applicants should heed Stanford’s words here: “Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us.” 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. Obviously, the essay should be relevant to your candidacy, but where many applicants often go wrong is by offering grand ideas and big words, rather than a real glimpse into who they are as a person.)
  2. What are your career aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them? (450 words recommended)(This is the more common “Why do you want an MBA, and why this school?” question that you will see on nearly every MBA programs’ application. In this essay you can feel more comfortable writing about the topics that business schools more often look for in their applications. Remember to keep it realistic and to demonstrate that you understand what the Stanford MBA experience will do for you as a growing professional.)
  3. Answer two of the four 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. (300 words recommended for each)Option A: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

    Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.

    Option C: Tell us about a time when you motivated others to support your vision or initiative.

    Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

    (There are some small but important differences vs. last year’s short essays. For Option A, they have added the “whose performance exceeded expectations” clause, indicating that last year’s applicants may not have put enough focus on results in their answers. Option B has changed from “Tell us about a time when you felt most effective as a leader.” The change to “the lasting impact” question also suggests that the school is looking for more results in its essay answers. Option C has evolved from a question about overcoming an obstacle or failure to a question that gets at one version of leadership — motivating others to support your ideas. Stanford considers this type of persuasiveness a key ingredient in the future leaders that it wants to produce. Option D remains the same; this is another results-oriented question that also gets at a core component of leadership)

If you would like to see what your chances of getting into Stanford might be, try the Business School Selector a fun tool that uses statistics to estimate your chances of success in MBA admissions.

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How to Navigate the MBA Admissions Waitlist

Earlier this month, Forbes reporter Tara Weiss wrote an article about how applicants can navigate the business school waitlist. For advice she turned to Veritas Prep executive and Your MBA Game Plan co-author Scott Shrum for advice on how applicants can maximize their chances of success.

As the article states, being on the waitlist is not a comfortable experience.
But your time on the waitlist also gives you an opportunity to address an weaknesses in your application. Writes Weiss:

There are several reasons candidates get relegated to the wait list. If you can find out which reason applies to you, you can try to address the problem. Among the most common: a low score on the Graduate Management Admission Test; insufficient community service or leadership experience; low grades in college math classes; unclear career goals. However, “They won’t wait list anybody unless they’re willing to admit them,” says Scott Shrum, director of M.B.A. admissions research at Veritas Prep, an M.B.A. application consulting firm in Los Angeles.

Shrum suggests that you show your application to someone who knows about the process and together figure out what your weaknesses are. At some schools, including Northwestern, they say it’s acceptable to reach out to the admissions office and ask if there’s anything about your candidacy they found wanting.

The article also makes an important point about demonstrating enthusiasm for the program in question: It helps your chances, but only so much. If the school that has waitlisted you is your #1 choice, then you’re missing an opportunity to improve your chances if you don’t let the school know. After all, what school wants to admit a waitlisted candidate who only might attend? However, a “pester early and often” policy will NOT get you in! Communicating with the school per its guidelines, and showing both enthusiasm and restraint, will help you the most.

Perhaps most importantly, remember that you have some control over how attractive you are appear to admissions officers as a waitlisted candidate. What you can’t control, unfortunately, if how many applicants the school will take from the waitlist. You might do everything right, but if the school doesn’t need anyone from the waitlist (or, doesn’t need your type), then you simply won’t get in this year. Being smart about how to approach the waitlist and maximize your candidacy is all you can do, which can be frustrating, but that one last shot is better than being rejected!

For more help on getting off of an MBA program’s waitlist, take a look at Veritas Prep’s Waitlist Assistance package. And, follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Harvard Business School (HBS) Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

The new admissions season has already begun! Yesterday Harvard Business School released its application deadlines and admissions essays for the 2008-2009 season. Here they are, taken from Harvard’s site. Our comments are in italics:

HBS Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2009
Round 2: January 19, 2010
Round 3: April 8, 2010

(Note that Harvard’s Round 1 deadline is two weeks earlier than it was last year. However, its Round 2 deadline is nearly two weeks later than last year’s, and its Round 3 deadline is nearly a month later. The Round 3 move is especially interesting since this past year Stanford GSB’s Round 3 deadline was also on April 8. This is almost certainly not a coincidence!)

HBS Admissions Essays

  • What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600 words)

    (This is the same question that HBS has asked for years now, and is a great opportunity for you to spell out three main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. This being HBS, at least one of your examples should highlight leadership, but don’t discount stories that also demonstrate other three dimensions that admissions officers look for: teamwork, innovation, and maturity. As we always tell our clients, the “why” is even more important than the “what,” so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. Also, ideally you can draw upon multiple types of experiences — not only on the job, but also from your community involvement, your hobbies, and even, if appropriate, your personal life.)

  • What have you learned from a mistake? (400 words)(This question is also a repeat from last year. The key here is to not only describe what happened and what you learned, but also to show how you put that lesson to work in a later situation. That last point allows you to evolve the essay answer from being purely hypothetical to being an opportunity to discuss another achievement.)
  • Please respond to two of the following (400 words each):
    1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?
    2. Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization.
    3. Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision.
    4. Write a cover letter to your application introducing yourself to the Admissions Board.
    5. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

    (Of the above questions, the “difficult decision” and “cover letter” questions are new since last year. They replace a question that asked, “What area of the world are you most curious about and why?” which only lasted for one year. For the new questions, we like how the “difficult decision” question gives you an opportunity to really show off their maturity. The “cover letter” question is similar to MIT Sloan’s, and provides another good opportunity to sketch out the main themes of your application. However, only answer this question if it won’t result in an essay that’s redundant with the others you will write for your HBS application.)

For more advice on applying to HBS, visit Veritas Prep’s Harvard Business School information page. And for more information on business school application deadlines, and be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Harvard Business School to Accept the GRE Starting This Fall

Earlier this week Harvard Business School joined the likes of Stanford GSB and MIT Sloan when it announced that its general two-year MBA program will starting accepting the GRE from applicants this fall. This move comes after the HBS 2+2 Program announced in March that it would accept both the GRE and the GMAT this year. The move will potentially attract a bigger and more diverse applicant pool to Harvard’s two-year MBA program.

In a press release, director of admissions Dee Leopold said, “We are pleased to widen our requirements to give all MBA candidates the option of submitting results from either the GRE or GMAT exams. Since many HBS applicants are also considering graduate programs besides the MBA, there is now no need for them to take the GMAT if they have already taken the GRE. We believe that both the GMAT and the GRE meet our expectations of what a standardized test can tell us about a candidate’s ability to thrive in our MBA Program.”

This is consistent with the school’s push (including the HBS 2+2 Program) to find more business leaders outside of the traditional feeders of business-oriented college programs, investment banks, and consulting firms. It also marks another win for ETS in its push to position the GRE as a credible competitor to the GMAT in assessing MBA applicants’ abilities. With a handful of top-ten schools already accepting the GRE, we expect more schools will soon follow suit.

Now that ETS has made some real progress in winning over the top business schools, it’s no wonder that the Graduate Management Admission Council started to work on a next-generation GMAT exam, due to reach the market by 2013. Hopefully, this competition will only be good for business school applicants.

Columbia Accelerated January Term Admissions Essays for 2010

Two weeks ago Columbia started accepting applications for the January 2010 intake of its accelerated MBA program. There is just one deadline — October 7, 2009 — and the school will accept applicants on a rolling basis. Below are the Columbia January Term’s admissions essays, with our comments in italics:

Columbia January Term Admissions Essays

  1. What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (750 words)
  2. (This is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? / Why this school?” question, although your answer will need to be a little more focused than the answer that an applicant would submit to a typical two-year program. The J-Term is especially designed for young professionals who plan to return to their current employers or otherwise don’t need the benefit of a summer internship to transition to a new career, and Columbia will closely look for evidence that you understand the pros and cons of an accelerated prorgam.)

  3. Master Classes are the epitome of bridging the gap between theory and practice at Columbia Business School. (View link.) Please provide an example from your own life in which practical experience taught you more than theory alone. (500 words)
  4. (Columbia prides itself on its Master Classes, so make sure you understand what they are and why they are important to the Columbia academic experience. Columbia, like many other top schools, has made a push to better connect the theory covered in its core classes with the practical challenges that its graduates will face, and Master Classes are the school’s way of doing that. While this question doesn’t specifically ask about a professional failure, such an example might provide you with rich material for a response. Just be sure to emphasize what you learned as a result, and, ideally, how you applied this lesson later on. Although the next essay question specifically asks for a failure, don’t be afraid to use another failure for this question if that would answer the question best.)

  5. Please provide an example of a team failure of which you’ve been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (500 words)
  6. (What Columbia’s admissions office really wants to know is what you learned from such a failure. Although the second part of this question asks a theoretical question — What would you do? — ideally you can describe a time when you applied what you learned to another real-life situation, thus preventing the same problem from happening again.)

  7. (Optional essay) Is there any further information that you wish to provide to the Admissions Committee? (Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.)
  8. (If there is a glaring weakness in your profile, and you have not already addressed in somewhere else in your application, then you can use this space to succinctly address it. However, do not dwell on your weaknesses, go on and on with excuses about something that happened ten years ago, or unduly draw attention to a minor weakness!)

For more advice on applying to Columbia, visit the Veritas Prep Columbia Business School information page. And for more information on MBA admissions, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

New GMAT iPhone App from Veritas Prep

We are proud to introduce the Veritas Prep GMAT Practice Quiz app for the iPhone and iPod Touch! It gives you extensive practice on all five question types you will encounter on the GMAT: Data Sufficiency, Problem Solving, Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension.

This application allows you to:

  • Practice with more than 180 realistic GMAT practice questions
  • Take timed practice exams or practice for a subject without worrying about time
  • Use the complete diagnostics provided to better understand your strengths and weaknesses
  • Customize the quiz to practice all five types of GMAT questions or focus on one question type.

The Veritas Prep iPhone GMAT app is 100% free… All you need is an iPhone or an iPod touch and an iTunes account. (Sorry Blackberry and Android users, this is an Apple-only app for the time being!)

Blame the Business Schools for This Mess?

The conversation about who’s to blame for the financial meltdown continues. Forbes recently ran a piece asking whether we should blame the business schools, the graduates themselves, or the companies that hire business school graduates.

Much of the article is the normal chatter about how the typical business school curriculum places too much emphasis on shareholder value and not enough on improving the community around the enterprise. While we agree with lots of these points, it’s hard to argue that this trend in management education alone contributed to the problems our economy now faces. It is one ingredient of the problem, for certain, but we’re wary of anyone who believes that the few hundred hours a young professional spends in some some finance courses in business are enough to steer that person towards financial self-destruction.

Michael Ervolini made the following point, which nicely sums up an argument that we’ve made previously:

B-schools serve a purpose to provide talented employees that have received some minimum training for their career. You can not expect too much from a two-year stint, however, even at the most prestigious of programs. This is particularly the case with an average of only 18 months actually on campus.

While business schools certainly need to take responsibility for the quality of the business leaders they’re putting out in the market, the hiring companies’ jobs have only just begun once they hire these grads. That’s why companies such as General Electric and Procter & Gamble are so successful so consistently — because of the value that they place on training and personal development in their future leaders. This won’t change no matter what new curriculum changes the world’s top business school implement. These companies have made training and managerial development a strategic asset, and it’s one that will continue to generate terrific returns for these companies for years to come.

If you’re just now thinking about getting an MBA, take a look at Veritas Prep’s MBA admissions consulting services. Also, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!