Monthly Archives: June 2009

Wharton MBA Admissions Essays for 2009-2010

Recently Wharton released its application deadlines for the coming admissions season. Now, the school has released its admissions essays for the 2009-2010 admissions season. If you plan on applying to Wharton, even if you don’t start working on your essays for a couple of months, this is a good chance to familiarize yourself with the subject matter you will need to cover in your Wharton application.

Wharton’s essays are below, and our comments follow in italics.

Wharton Application Essays

  1. As a leader in global business, Wharton is committed to sustaining “a truly global presence through its engagement in the world.” What goals are you committed to and why? How do you envision the Wharton MBA contributing to the attainment of those goals? (750 – 100 words)(This is a new essay question for Wharton this year, but don’t be fooled. At its core, it’s still looking for you to to describe why you want an MBA, and why a Wharton MBA specifically will help you in your career. In this way, it’s very similar to other schools’ “Why MBA? Why this school?” questions. However, note the emphasis that the school has placed on “global business” and “engagement in the world.” This isn’t a sign that you need to have international or multi-cultural experience in order to be a fit with Wharton, but the school is clearly looking for applicants that can frame their experiences and goals in a global context, and who will engage in the communities around them.)
  2. Tell us about a time when you had to adapt by accepting/understanding the perspective of people different from yourself. (750 – 100 words)(This is also a new question this year. It is another hint that the school seeks a great deal of diversity in its applicant pool, and wants students who will thrive in this environment. Don’t let this question intimidate you if you feel that your global experiences are minimal — any situation where you accomplished something by working with someone who has a different background or outlook than you is fair game. That can include someone’s personal beliefs, cultural background, professional experience, or academic background. An applicant’s tendency here will be to automatically go for the most obvious case of a cultural or language barrier, but it’s more important that you can make clear why the situation was challenging, what you did to overcome it, and — hopefully — how you were successful.)
  3. Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself? (500 words)(This question carries over from last year. As with all failure-related questions, the key is to put enough emphasis on what you learned. This sort of self-awareness is what admissions officers typically look for when they ask a “failure” question. Also, ideally you will be able to describe a later time when you applied what you learned to a new situation to avoid a similar failure.)
  4. Choose one of the following: (500 words)- Give us a specific example of a time when you solved a complex problem.

    – Tell us about something significant that you have done to improve yourself, in either your professional and/or personal endeavors.

    (Both of these essays are new this year. The first question gives you the opportunity to take the reader through how you broke down the problem at hand, whether it was an analytical problem or an organizational challenge. The word “complex” will often take people down the path of a story that shows off their analytical abilities, but think broadly about the definition of this word. A story about how you overcame multiple organizational or cultural challenges to achieve something is also fair game. The second question gives you another opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness and a commitment to self-improvement.)

  5. If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)(As we always tell applicants, it’s tempting to use this type of question as an opportunity to pour out a list of excuses for weaknesses in one’s background. Avoid this temptation, and only use it if you must address a glaring weakness in your application. Address it, explain what happened, and move on.)

For more advice on applying to Wharton, visit our Wharton information page. Also, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!


New MBA Admissions Research Report

Veritas Prep recently released a white paper examining the results of its first annual survey of admissions officers at the top 30 American MBA programs. The paper, titled “Trends in MBA Admissions: Perceptions of Admissions Officers at Top 30 Business Schools,” highlights notable findings from the Veritas Prep Survey of MBA admissions officers, an eight-week online survey conducted among the top 30 U.S. business schools, according to BusinessWeek’s rankings. Responses from MBA admissions officers on topics ranging from student selection criteria to the future of the MBA application revealed a series of interesting findings, including:

  • Nearly half of respondents report that the number of admits straight out of college has increased compared to five years ago, partly reflecting a push by many top MBA programs to attract younger applicants.
  • Among desired changes that admissions officers would like to see in their applicant pool, diversity ranks number one.
  • Among applicant traits and characteristics, analytical skills rank as the most important, far ahead of any other characteristic such as leadership and community service.

Despite the increased demand for graduate business education stemming from the current economic slowdown and other contributing factors, savvy business school applicants are in a unique position to secure coveted seats in leading MBA programs by understanding what admissions officers do and don’t look for in business school candidates.

You can access the white paper here. If you want to stay up to date on MBA admissions trends, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Kellogg Application Deadlines for 2009-2010

Earlier this month Kellogg announced its admissions essays for the coming year. Now, the admissions office has published its application deadlines for the 2009-2010 season.

Kellogg’s admissions deadlines work a little differently than most other schools’ deadlines. For each round, the first deadline is the date by which you should contact the admissions office to set up an interview. At Kellogg, the applicant initiates the interview process, rather than the school inviting candidates to interview.

This year, the off-campus interview request deadline is October 2, while the on-campus interview request deadline is October 15. This is known as “Part 1” of Round 1, and it is critical that you meet this deadline. Then, the next deadline to note is for “Part 2,” which is your actual application, including your essays and recommendations.

That said, this year’s deadlines are very similar to last year’s, with most deadlines creeping forward or back by just several days.

Kellogg Application Deadlines for Part 1
Round 1: October 2, 2009 (Oct. 15 for on-campus interviews)
Round 2: December 18, 2009 (Jan. 14 for on-campus interviews)
Round 3: February 19, 2010 (Mar. 4 for on-campus interviews)

Kellogg Application Deadlines for Part 2
Round 1: October 15, 2009
Round 2: January 14, 2010
Round 3: March 4, 2010

Note that you get a couple of extra weeks for Part 1 of your application if you request an on-campus interview (no doubt because of the logistics the admissions office has to go through with off-campus interviews to match so many applicants with alumni interviewers around the world).

For more advice on applying to Kellogg, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter.

The MBA Oath: Will It Have Any Impact?

Last week a recent Harvard MBA graduate spoke out about the Class of 2009’s collective effort to create and endorse a new “MBA Oath” in response to the public beating that the Master of Business Administration degree has taken in the public eye. In an article posted on, Max Anderson explained he and his classmates’ reasons for signing the oath.

“The oath began as a voluntary, opt-in grassroots initiative among our classmates to get 100 HBS students to sign by graduation,” Anderson wrote. “We based our oath language largely on a draft of an oath completed by Professors Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana in the Harvard Business Review last October, with a few edits of our own. We thought 100, or more than 10% of the class, would have symbolic power. As of June 8, 2009, more than 50% of Harvard’s graduating MBA class has signed the oath.”

According to Anderson, “Beyond Harvard, more than 200 students at other business schools, from Stanford to Wharton to Oxford, have also signed the Oath. Just this week, we received a request to translate the oath into Spanish for an MBA program in Colombia.”

What exactly is the oath supposed to accomplish? Anderson explains: “We hope the Oath will accomplish three things: a) make a difference in the lives of the students who take the oath, b) challenge other classmates to work with a higher professional standard, whether they sign the oath or not and c) create a public conversation in the press about professionalizing and improving management.”

Even if the oath is somewhat hollow, is it possible that it still might steer some grads towards a more responsible path? Anderson cites some research suggests that such public commitments do in fact impact one’s actions. Even if it’s just a bunch of words, the argument goes, stating those words publicly makes someone more inclined to follow them, even if only a little.

Unfortunately, even the most bullish oath taker will admit that no oath is likely to single-handedly solve any widespread cultural problems among MBAs (if you believe there are any) that could drive them towards reckless or irresponsible behavior. Taken together, though, over time they may start to positively impact MBA grads.

However, as much as we believe in the power of HBS or any other business school to transform someone into stronger business leader, we also believe that how likely someone is to be a responsible manager (and a responsible community member overall) depends more on who they are when they enter business school than on the lessons they learn — and the oaths they take — while in school. And that will never change.

MBA Admissions Panel Discussion Featuring Your MBA Game Plan Co-Author

This Thursday, Scott Shrum, Veritas Prep’s Director of MBA Admissions Research and the co-author of Your MBA Game Plan, will appear in a business schools admissions panel discussion at Microsoft, as part of the Africans at Microsoft Club’s second annual Business School Panel: “Standing Out Among the Outstanding: Recession, Competition, and Business School Admissions.”

In addition to Scott, the panel will include Cassandra Pittman, Assistant Director of Marketing at INSEAD and responsible for MBA recruitment in North and South America; and Barbara Thomas, President and CEO National Black MBA Association, the world’s leading organization for black professionals. Also in attendance will be two “experts in the audience” to add to the discussion: Bryan Tomlinson and Edward Gali, both representing the University of Washington’s Michael G. Foster School of Business.

Our friends at MBA Podcaster will attend the event, and will and bring your questions to the panelists. If you have any questions that you would like to hear answered, send them to We hope to answer as many of them as possible!

Kellogg Admissions Essays for 2009-2010

The Kellogg School of Management has just released its admissions essays for the coming year. While the school has not yet released its application deadlines, Kellogg applicants can begin working on the most involved part of the application — the admissions essays — now.

Note that there are some changes to Kellogg’s essays this year, although the application still features three required essays and two “Choose your own question” short answers. Our comments are in italics:

Kellogg Admissions Essays

  1. a) MBA Program applicants – Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at Kellogg. (600 words)

    b) MMM Program applicants – Briefly assess your career progress to date. How does the MMM Program meet your educational needs and career goals? (600 words)

  2. (These questions are the same as last year’s, and are the standard “Why and MBA? Why now?” questions that you will see on nearly every business school’s application. One challenge that applicants face is BRIEFLY describing their career progress until now, and then devoting enough space to why an MBA is right for them, why now is the right time, and why specifically Kellogg is the right MBA program for them.)

  3. Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experiences (600 words)
  4. (This question remains from last year. We recommend focusing on just two or three mini stories, at the most. Be as specific as possible here, rather than discussing leadership in broad terms or with vague generalities. When discussing what areas you want to develop, be realistic about what you will learn in the classroom. Discuss what you want to learn at Kellogg, but also tie it back to the “real world” and your post-MBA career.)

  5. Assume you are evaluating your application from the perspective of a student member of the Kellogg Admissions Committee. Why would your peers select you to become a member of the Kellogg community? (600 words)
  6. (This question is new since last year, although it’s similar to a question that Kellogg used to use, which encouraged applicants to evaluate their applications as if they were admissions officers. This is your chance to highlight the two or three core themes that you want to make sure jump out from your application. Although Kellogg looks for some humility in every one of its students, it’s also a chance to toot your own horn a bit!)

  7. Complete one of the following three questions or statements. Re-applicants have the option to answer a question from this grouping, but this is not required. (400 words)

    a) Describe a time when you had to make an unpopular decision.

    b) People may be surprised to learn that I…

    c) I wish the admissions committee had asked me…

  8. (Questions A and B are new since last year, although A is a slightly different take on a previous question that asked about motivating a reluctant individual or group. This gives you a chance to discuss an experience that shows off leadership abilities, ethics, and/or analytical abilities. Question B gives you a chance to have some fun and discuss some less obviously MBA-related traits, interests, or achievements. Don’t underestimate how important these “off topic” topics are to admissions officers. Question C can be used in much the same way.)

  9. Required essay for re-applicants only: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 words)

    (This last question says it all when it comes to describing what every top MBA program looks for in reapplicants. Ideally you will have at least one or two significant achievements or experiences that will bolster a weakness that may have kept you out of Kellogg last year. The most obvious example is a promotion or a big project you led at work, but any type of experience that demonstrates leadership, teamwork, maturity, or innovation — to offset a weakness from the previous year — can help your candidacy.)

For advice on getting into Kellogg, please visit Veritas Prep’s Kellogg information page, and talk to a Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant about building your own Kellogg candidacy.

GMAC Promotes the MBA Among Black Students

Late last week the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) announced a new partnership with the nation’s Historically Black College and University (HBCU) business schools to attract more African Americans to MBA programs nationwide. The partnership will include more recruiting efforts by schools, more marketing of the value of an MBA to black students, and fee or significantly discounted GMAT preparation services for those students.

According to GMAC, the number of African American test takers has doubled in the past decade, with a 26 percent increase in just the past four years. But the organization hopes to see that number improve even more.

As part of this partnership, GMAC will offer GMAT fee waivers for each of the HBCU business schools to use at its discretion to make sure that no student is denied access to the exam for financial reasons. GMAC will also provide each school packages of test preparation materials, including copies of the new 12th edition Official GMAT Guide and GMAC’s own GMAT Prep software on CD.

Building on this effort, Wilson also announced a cross-country tour of the GMAT Mobile Testing Center to HBCUs and Hispanic-Serving Institutions from October 2009 to May 2010. The 32-school bus tour will reach all U.S. based four-year HBCU and HSI members that are at least 40 miles from the nearest GMAT test center, thus further enhancing student accessibility to the exam.

If you are just starting to prepare for the GMAT, try a free practice GMAT exam from Veritas Prep.