Monthly Archives: August 2009

Harvard Business School on Letters of Recommendation

Earlier this week Harvard Business School Dean of Admissions Dee Leopold wrote a blog post dispensing some good advice to HBS applicants regarding their MBA letters of recommendation. While what she wrote is all consistent with what we have written in this space many times before, much of it bears repeating.

Dee hits on several key themes that we tell our clients, and that are covered in detail in Your MBA Game Plan, our MBA admissions guide. These include:

  • Your recommendation writers MUST know you well. Every year we have clients approach us and say something along the lines of, “Good news. I think I can get my CEO to write a letter of recommendation for me.” If your CEO hasn’t worked with you extensively, and can’t discuss your strengths and potential in great detail, then this isn’t very good news. Admissions officers are impressed by what YOU have done, not by what your recommendation writer has done.
  • Details and specifics are a must. As Dee says, “What we are hoping for are brief recounts of specific situations and how you performed.” Any recommendation written in general terms — “He’s a true leader… He exhibits teamwork all the time…” — will fail to leave a lasting impression on admissions officers.
  • While your recommendations don’t all have to come from your jobs, the best ones are usually written by someone who has evaluated your performance. Dee writes, “Note that we are not looking for a peer recommendation — we find it most helpful if there is some developmental distance between you and the recommender.” That kind of person is typically best suited to comment on your strengths and development areas.
  • Simply knowing an HBS student or grad doesn’t give you any kind of advantage in the admissions process. See has this to say: “Please don’t ask current HBS students to write to us on your behalf outside of the formal recommendation process.” Of course, dozens (if not hundreds) will surely ignore her advice this year, but you heard it straight from Dee!
  • This last one is Dee’s most interesting point. To answer the question of whether or not someone with a tenuous job situation should go to his or her boss for a letter of recommendation, Dee says, “Especially in these unusual times, please don’t jeopardize your employment in order to secure a recommendation from a current employer.” While we have also shared this advice before, we glad that Dee wrote this. Having it come from the head of admissions at HBS should put some jittery applicants at ease as they grapple with this question.

For more information and advice on applying to Harvard, visit the Veritas Prep HBS information page. Also, call Veritas Prep at 800-925-7737 and find out how they can help you with your recommendations!

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Business Schools That Accept the GRE or GMAT

After the recent news that NYU Stern will start accepting the GRE as well as the GMAT for MBA admissions, it’s clear that ETS has made impressive strides this past year in promoting the GRE General Test as an alternative to the GMAT.

We have created a list of the top business schools that accept the GRE General Test. This list is not meant to be exhaustive (ETS’s exhaustive list is here). Rather, these are the top business schools that have taken the plunge and started accepting the GRE.

Top MBA Programs That Accept the GRE:

  • Harvard Business School
  • MIT Sloan School of Management
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • University of Virginia (Darden)
  • Yale School of Management

Also, Wharton will accept the GRE starting in Fall 2010.

For more information about the GMAT, take a look at Veritas Prep. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

New Free Trial GMAT Classes

Earlier this summer Veritas Prep introduced free trial GMAT classes, and they have since added more to the schedule between now and early October. These trial classes give you a terrific opportunity to meet your Veritas Prep GMAT instructor and get a taste of what makes Veritas Prep’s curriculum so effective for scoring 700+ on the GMAT.

This is the real first class of the company’s flagship 14-session Full Course, taught by the same rigorously trained instructor who will teach your entire course.

Free Trial GMAT Classes from Veritas Prep

Hurry, registration is limited!

Advice for Reapplicants from Chicago Booth

Last week Chicago Booth’s Associate Dean for Student Recruitment and Admissions, Rose Martinelli, wrote a followup to her first blog post about how reapplicants can approach the MBA admissions process. While the first post mostly gave very general information that our readers have seen multiple times, Rose’s second post contains some more concrete info that provides a good insight into how Chicago Booth reads reapplicants’ applications.

About your data forms, Rose writes, “Do not rely on last year’s application to provide us with that information since the forms change a little bit each year. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself -– why is this information important for the admissions committee to know about me?” While each school has its own approach for how much of your old application will make it into your new file, Chicago Booth includes your entire old application with your new submission. However, Rose stresses that your new application must present your candidacy fully.

About your resume, Rose says, “Your resume should be one that you would use for any job search, highlighting your role and accomplishments. ” While she doesn’t say it here, we would add that, although your resume should be complete and assume that the reader has no prior knowledge of your candidacy, you should put extra care into emphasizing what’s new in the last year — job promotions, a big achievement on a project, etc.

About your letters of recommendation, Rose has this to say: “While we know you may choose to use the same recommenders as in your prior application, ask your recommenders to update the information with your progression. It might also be helpful for you to take the time to meet with them to review your progress during this period and to highlight areas they might use as examples within the recommendation.” This is important advice — don’t assume that your recommendation writers know how to write you a great recommendation, no matter how smart they are or how strongly they support you.

Regarding your MBA admissions essays, Rose says, “Avoid regurgitating information you used last year -– whether essays or elements of your presentation. Be bold and start from scratch.” One question is specifically meant for reapplicants: Essay question 1B asks what has changed since you last applied. Rose says, “This could be anything from work experience, new goals or a greater self awareness. Here’s your chance to help us understand your growth from last year.”

This is consistent with what we always tell our clients: You are absolutely welcome to reapply to any top business school, but you really need to highlight what’s new since last year. While we appreciate Rose’s comment about greater self awareness, ideally you will have concrete achievements that you can point to as new and different since the last time you applied. Our reapplicant clients are most successful when they’re able to do just that.

For more advice on applying to Chicago Booth, visit Veritas Prep’s Chicago Booth information page. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

UCLA Anderson Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities

This weekend UCLA’s Anderson School of Management wrapped up its Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), a terrific program that offers training in entrepreneurship and small business management to U.S. military veterans who were disabled as a result of their service supporting operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The EBV was first introduced by Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management in 2007. In 2008, the EBV Consortium of Schools was launched, a national partnership with UCLA Anderson School of Management, Florida State University’s College of Business, and Mays Business School at Texas A&M.

According to UCLA Anderson’s EBV web site:

“The EBV program represents a unique opportunity for men and women who have sacrificed for America’s freedom to take an important step toward realizing their own freedom – economic freedom – through entrepreneurship. EBV is a selective, rigorous, and intense educational initiative that has been created to make a difference. Accordingly, the application process itself is rigorous and selective.

“Successful candidates for admission will demonstrate a strong interest in entrepreneurship, high motivation for owning and managing a business, and a high likelihood of successful completion of this intense training program.”

Most impressively, EBV is entirely free for military veterans. All costs — including travel, lodging, and meals — are covered for delegates accepted to the EBV thanks to the participating universities as well as generous donations from corporations and individuals.

Every year we work with many military veterans who are returning from duty and getting ready to apply to business school, but not all veterans necessarily want to pursue an MBA. EBV occupies a valuable space, serving those who have been injured in service to their country and now want to go to work for themselves in the private sector, but who don’t want to (or can’t afford to) make the full investment in a two-year graduate business program.

To learn more about the EBV program, click here. If you’re interested in learning more about UCLA Anderson’s MBA program, visit the Veritas Prep UCLA Anderson information page. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

NYU Stern Appoints Peter Blair Henry as New Dean

NYU’s Stern School of Business has just named Peter Blair Henry, currently a professor at Stanford, its new dean effective. He will assume the role on January 15, 2010.

A Rhodes Scholar, Henry recently led the Obama Transition Team’s review of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and other international lending agencies. He has also served as an economic advisor to governments from the Caribbean to Africa, Dean-designate Henry’s scholarship focuses on the impact of economic reform on emerging economies.

NYU President John Sexton had this to say about Henry:

“He thinks long-range and strategically, and he has committed his research to grappling with profoundly important questions about our world: how do we reduce poverty in emerging economies? What’s the positive role of global business? How can we best harness globalization to allow poor countries to prosper? No surprise, then, that he immediately comprehended the unique moment in which higher education finds itself now, and the unique position the Stern School occupies – enjoying NYU’s unequalled global network of academic facilities, and intimately connected to the world’s business capital – and understood that NYU and he were a perfect fit for one another.”

Peter Blair Henry currently serves as the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of International Economics, the John and Cynthia Fry Gunn Faculty Scholar, and Associate Director of the Center for Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where he was first appointed an assistant professor of economics in 1997. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Stanford Center for International Development, a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Henry is also President of the National Economic Association and received the Association’s dissertation prize for his doctoral thesis.

For advice on applying to NYU Stern, visit Veritas Prep’s NYU Stern information page. And, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

UCLA Anderson Application Deadlines and Essays for 2009-2010

The UCLA Anderson School of Management has released its admissions essays and deadlines for this fall’s application season. Here they are, followed by our comments:

UCLA Anderson Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 14, 2009
Round 2: January 6, 2010
Round 3: March 17, 2010

(Unlike most top business schools, Anderson actually moved its Round 1 deadline back vs. last year, although only by five days. Note that Anderson has moved its Round 3 deadline up by about two weeks. Otherwise, these deadlines are pretty similar to last year’s.)

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays

For first-time applicants:

  1. Describe the ways in which your family and/or community have helped shape your development. (750 words)
    (This question has been reworded this year, but is substantially the same as last year’s first question. What’s interesting to us is that it’s been reworded to include less in the way of specifics than last year’s question. Actually, in some ways, it’s a combination of the first two questions from last year’s application. While we don’t know the Anderson admissions committee’s motivations for certain, it seems as though they wanted to “open up” the question to give applicants enough room to talk about whatever they want, instead of limiting them too much with specific requests for details. Consider answering this question on with your personal development in mind. The Anderson admissions office has this to say about your essay responses: “Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.”)
  2. Describe the biggest risk you have ever taken, the outcome, and what you learned in the process. (500 words)
    (This question is new this year, and it’s a classic opportunity to employee the “SAR” method: Situation, Action, Result. The admissions committee lays out exactly what they’re looking for — not just what happened, but what you learned as a result. Be sure to spend enough time discussing this last point. Your best story may come from your professional life or your personal life; use the one that gives you the best chance to demonstrate growth and introspection.)
  3. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)
    (This question carries over unchanged from last year, and should be approached the same as most other “Career Goals” / “Why an MBA?” essays.)
  4. Select and respond to one of the two following questions. We would like you to respond to the question by recording an audio or video response, 1-2 minutes long (up to 5 MB maximum), for upload in the online application. If you are unable to submit your response via audio or video, then please prepare a written response instead. (250 words)
    a. Entrepreneurship is a mindset that embraces innovation and risk-taking within both established and new organizations. Describe an instance in which you exhibited this mindset.
    b. What is something people will find surprising about you?
    (While last year Anderson made waves by introducing an audio response, it’s interesting to note that, in the age of YouTube, you may also now submit a video response. We’re not surprised that Anderson dropped one of the audio essay options from last year, which asked, “What global issue matters most to you and why,” which probably prompted a lot of uninteresting answers from applicants who were more concerned about sounding impressive than they were about giving authentic answers that revealed more about themselves. We think the Anderson admissions committee is interested in seeing and hearing how you communicate as much as they want to hear your specific answer. As we recommended last year, we think you should prepare well and make sure you deliver your answer smoothly, but a more impromptu-sounding response will sound warmer and more authentic than an overly scripted response. Lastly, have fun with this! Your response doesn’t need to be funny or wacky, but brightening the admissions committee’s day always helps.)
  5. OPTIONAL: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)
    (Our advice for this type of question is always the same: Only use this question as necessary. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any.)

Reapplicants who applied for the entering Fall 2008 or 2009 class have a different set of requirements than first-time applicants. Instead of submitting two letters of recommendation and the four regular essays, reapplicants are required to submit precisely one new letter of recommendation and the two essays below:

  1. Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (750 words)
    (The admissions committee’s goal here is clear: to be able to quickly judge how much stronger your candidacy is this year. Like all top schools, UCLA Anderson IS very receptive to receiving applications from reapplicants, but you need to show up with a a noticeably stronger application than what you submitted a year ago. What’s changed? Have you been promoted at work? Achieved a higher score on the GMAT? Gotten more involved in your community? This is your chance to showcase it all in a single essay.)
  2. Describe the biggest risk you have ever taken, the outcome, and what you learned in the process. (500 words)
    (Since this essay is new since last year, it makes sense that the admissions committee also wants to see reapplicants’ responses to this question.)
  3. OPTIONAL: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

For more advice on applying to UCLA Anderson, visit the Veritas Prep UCLA Anderson information page. And, be sure to follow us on Twitter!