Monthly Archives: November 2009

How to Get into Business School in Just Five Weeks

Okay, that title may be a bit strong, but many top business schools’ Round 2 admissions deadlines are just five or six weeks away. This time of year, many applicants find themselves way behind. If that sounds like you, don’t worry — there’s still plenty of time to maximize your chances of admissions success.

For applicants who still have lots of work remaining before their applications are done, following this template will ensure that they spend their time where it can help them the most:

  1. Get the GMAT out of the way. There’s a good chance that you’re already done with the GMAT, but if you still haven’t taken it, or you want to take it again to try to boost your score, we recommend getting the test out of the way as soon as possible. This allows you to put the test out of your mind and focus on all of the other important parts of your application. You don’t want to end up cramming for the GMAT, hounding your recommendation writers, and trying to finish your essays all at the same time. Since the GMAT is a single, concrete step in your application process, we recommend getting it out of the way and then focusing on the more fluid parts of of the process.
  2. Start working with your recommendation writers now. There’s probably no part of the MBA admissions process that applicants underestimate (in terms of time and involvement) than letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are inherently risky since you’re putting your fate in someone else’s hands. Even the best-intentioned recommendation writer will need lots of time and preparation to write a great recommendation for you. Start early, give your recommenders specific examples of your past achievements, and stay in close touch with them!
  3. Step away from your essays before editing them. One of the best things you can do with your admissions essays is to step away from them for at least a couple of days, before you get back to editing them. Why? Because when you edit a passage in the same moment that you wrote it, you will tend to read what you thought you wrote, not what you actually wrote. Step away from your essays and look at them with a fresh pair of eyes, and you will not only catch typos, but you will also spot inconsistencies, awkward transitions, or even the fact that you failed to answer the question asked! An MBA admissions expert can also provide you with a valuable second pair of eyes, but this first round of feedback on your own works best when your eyes (and your brain) get a break.
  4. Focus on a handful of schools.If you’re just getting started now, odds are that you wno’t be able to create half a dozen strong applications in time for most Round 2 deadlines. There is no hard limit to how many schools you should apply to, but the reality is that creating half a dozen applications from scratch in less than six weeks is normally not a recipe for success. Be smart about how thinly you spread your efforts — applying to four or five schools is possible, but beyond that you risk creating sub-par applications. Only apply to an ultra-competitive MBA program if you’re putting your best foot forward — doing anything less is just asking for a rejection letter.

In short, there’s a lot that you can do in the next five weeks, but you need to be smart about what you do, and when you do it. For up-to-the minute news and advice about the MBA admissions process, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

How to Get Into Harvard Business School

Whether you have already applied to HBS in Round 1 and are hoping for an interview invitation, or are getting ready to apply in Round 2, we thought this would be a good time to share some more in-depth advice about what HBS looks for in its applicants. Obviously, Harvard is highly selective and can afford to look for “perfect” candidates. In addition to the common metrics such as GPA and GMAT score, the school specifies a handful of qualities and traits that it seeks in an applicant.

There are three things that HBS looks for its its applicants. These may seem obvious, but they’re all extremely important in successfully applying to HBS:

  • A History of Leadership.As mentioned in the HBS Approach, the business school is highly focused on leadership. Professional leadership experience is the most common and transferable, but extracurricular, personal, and community leadership accomplishments and qualities are recognized as well.
  • High Potential for Intellectual Growth. This is the portion of the HBS admissions process that puts a candidate’s undergraduate performance (reputation of institution, major, course work, GPA, trends, and so on) and GMAT scores under a microscope, to ensure that the candidate can thrive in the demanding case method-based courses. While HBS does not state a preferred major or career path, it demands a comfort with and aptitude for quantitative, analytical, and communication skills.
  • A Record of Community Engagement. This element is as simple as it sounds: HBS is looking for people who have shown the ability to impact their communities and who will continue to do so both as a student and an alumnus. While this can be demonstrated in a host of settings and ways, paramount is a sincere commitment to helping others, viewed as an integral component of the responsibilities of leadership.

Showing all three of these attributes in your application won’t automatically earn you a spot at Harvard Business School, but NOT demonstrating these traits is a sure way not to gain admission. Think carefully about how persuasively you can demonstrate all of these attributes when you build your Harvard Business School candidacy.

If you want to learn more about Harvard, take a look at Veritas Prep’s HBS Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, as always, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Done With Your Business School Applications? Keep Working on Them!

Have you just finished and submitted your Round 1 applications? Time to finally sit back, relax, and wait for the interview invitations to come streaming in, right? Not exactly! Believe it or not, the months and weeks after you submit your applications can still be very critical in shaping your chances of admissions success.

Why? Because whether you are invited to interview (an almost mandatory first step before being admitted to most top MBA programs), get waitlisted, or are rejected, you always want to keep building your resume. That means seeking out new opportunities on the job or continuing your community involvement. If you get invited to interview, imagine how good it will feel to have significant new accomplishments — that you haven’t already covered in your essays or resume — to talk about. If you get waitlisted, such new experiences can provide a great reason to contact the admissions office and provide an update on your candidacy. And, if you’re rejected, then continuing to pile on accomplishments will make you that much more appealing as an applicant next year. Although you may feel like you’ve been working forever, the fact is that you’re probably still a young professional, and a few months can still have a big impact on your career when you only have a few years of work experience.

Another thing you should do is start preparing for your interviews. By the time you’re invited (if you’re invited), you should already know your application inside and out. Some schools conduct their interviews “blind,” with the interviewer only knowing your resume, while other schools’ interviewers will know your entire application. In either case, anything that you put on your resume or in your application is fair game, and you should expect to be questioned about any of it. Also, it’s your job to know what the school’s interviewers tend to ask — you have enough time to prepare that nothing should catch you off guard. As soon as you’re done working on your applications, direct your energy toward this important next step in the process.

Taking these steps will help to maximize your success this year, or — if you’re not successful now — they will give you a head start for next year.

If you’re still researching schools and deciding to apply, or are getting ready for your own admissions interviews, download Veritas Prep’s 15 free Veritas Prep Annual Reports. And, as always, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Don’t Make These Three MBA Recommendation Mistakes

In the MBA admissions process, letters of recommendation can be the toughest part. That’s because they’re the part of the application over which you have the least control. The GMAT is intimidating since it all comes down to how you perform in a few hours in one sitting, and your undergraduate transcripts are in the past, so there’s nothing you can do to change them, but all of these things are determined by you (and can be overcome or mitigated with some work). When it comes to letters of recommendation, however, you’re putting your future in someone else’s hands. Even if that person adores you and wants to see you get into a top business school, he may have no idea of what he’s doing when it comes to helping you get in!

While a lot of factors go into creating a terrific letter of recommendation for a business school application, here are three ways in which recommendations frequently go wrong:

  1. A lack of enthusiasm.While your recommendation writer shouldn’t sound like a raving lunatic, he should sound as if he really, really cares about whether or not you get into the target school. If this person is so invested in whether or not you get in, clearly he must care a great deal about you, and business schools want applicants who forge strong ties with those around them. If your recommendation writer seems “blah” about whether or not you get in, and doesn’t think you’ve earned the highest possible ratings (for recommendations that ask the person to rate the applicant on a scale), admissions officers will wonder if you’re the type of person who just leaves a trail of “blah” in your wake. No business school wants that. The more that your recommendation writer shows that he really cares about your success, the better that reflects on you as an applicant.
  2. Vague, general statements. Some question prompts will ask for specific examples of leadership, teamwork, problem-solving abilities, and so on. Many won’t ask for specifics, but that doesn’t mean your recommendation writer doesn’t need to provide them. Which do you think is more compelling? “This applicant is a great leader,” vs. “This applicant is a great leader, as demonstrated by the time last year when he stepped in for a departed manager and led a team of six analysts to complete a project on time and save a critical client relationship.” Just as they do in your own admissions essays, specific examples help to make these important traits more concrete and believable in admissions officers’ minds.
  3. Inconsistency with the rest of your application. While the above two failings catch many more amateurish applicants, this one is where even savvy applicants sometimes see their candidacies fall apart. If your essays stress how much you want to shift away from investment management and move into the non-profit sector, but your supervisor writes about how she knows how badly you want an MBA so that you can accelerate your career in finance, that will raise a red flag for admissions officers. Either you’re not being honest with the school, or you’re not telling your supervisor your true intentions. You can avoid these kinds of red flags by outlining your key application themes and walking your recommendation writers through them. While we firmly believe that your recommendation writers need to write their own letters, this advance preparation is smart and necessary.

For more help with your MBA letters of recommendation, call the admissions experts at Veritas Prep at 800-925-7737. And, as always, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Lifetime Earnings for an MBA? Ask Warren Buffett!

In today’s CNBC town hall event, Warren Buffet made an impressive offer to the hundreds of Columbia Business School students who gathered to hear him and Bill Gates speak:

Right now, I would pay a hundred-thousand dollars for 10 percent of the future earnings of any of you. So, if anyone wants to see me after this is over. If that’s true, you’re a million dollar asset right now, right? If ten percent of you is worth a hundred-thousand? You could improve on that, many of you, and I certainly could have when I got out, just in terms of learning communication skills.

It’s not something that’s taught, I actually went to a Dale Carnegie course later on in terms of public speaking. But if you improve your value 50 percent by having better communication skills, it’s another 500-thousand dollars in terms of capital value. See me after the class and I’ll pay you 150-thousand.

While we wonder what Buffett would actually do if those hundreds of students all lined up with their hands out, waiting to collect $100,000 each, Buffett’s comments highlight the impressive earnings potential of anyone who graduates from a top-ranked business school. These days, with the job market still soft and Wall Street still on shaky footing (at least jobs-wise), it’s good to remember than earning an MBA is still one of the surest paths to maximizing your lifetime earnings!

If you’re interesting in Columbia or other top MBA programs, download a free Veritas Prep Annual Report and get the inside scoop on what MBA admissions officers look for when selecting from a highly competitive applicant pool!

50 More Interview Invitations Coming from HBS

Late last week Harvard Business School’s Director of Admissions, Dee Leopold, posted a brief update on the HBS admissions blog regarding the admissions office’s plans for Round 1 interview invitations. The main takeaway is that Harvard is not yet done sending out invitations, but there aren’t too many left:

I know I promised an update about interviews. They are in full swing on campus and elsewhere. We are still sending out interview invitations — maybe 50 or so more may go out before December 15 — plus waitlist invitations to some of those who have not received an interview invitation. In terms of “where” these interviews might be held, we anticipate they would likely take place on campus in Boston during December or via telephone.

We also want to share with you the list we just compiled of the undergraduate schools represented in the last three classes at HBS.

Note that if you don’t receive an invitation by December 15, you still have some hope. On October 22 Leopold posted that around 100 Round 1 applicants may go straight to the waitlist without an interview. That’s not an ideal outcome, but it means that you may still have a shot!

For more help in planning your Harvard Business School application, take a look at Veritas Prep’s HBS Annual Report for free. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Recession Hits Some MBA Programs Harder Than Others

Last week BusinessWeek ran an article titled “MBAs Confront a Savage Job Market,” which painted a pretty rough picture for graduates at many top business schools. At some top schools, as many as 20% of grads were still unemployed three months after graduation, a statistic that economists haven’t seen for decades.

Fortunately, the world of top-30 business schools is not universally gloomy. Some business schools’ career offices have been able to direct their students into more stable industries, such as government, health care, energy, and the non-profit sector. While working for the government may not quite be as appealing as being a six-figure-making banker, many grads have opened their eyes and realized that these sectors are where the jobs are right now, and are taking these jobs when they can.

In other cases, hiring did happen, although it happened later than it normally does. The Kellogg School of Management, for instance, reported that 85% of of its grads received at least one offer, although many students received offers late in the spring — months later than they normally would. Other top MBA programs have also been able to weather the storm pretty well. BusinessWeek ranked the schools in terms of how well they’ve held up job-wise in the recession, with Yale, Washington University, HBS, Stanford, and MIT Sloan coming out on top. At Yale, for example, only 8% of grads were without any job offers three months after graduation, just two percentage points higher than a year ago. While not all of these placed grads landed the exact jobs they envisioned when they first applied to business school, you can be sure that they’re glad to have jobs at all.

If you’re just now starting to research business schools, download our 15 free Veritas Prep Annual Reports. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!