Monthly Archives: February 2010

Additional Things to Think About in Round 3

Last week we wrote about some important things to consider when deciding whether or not to apply to business school in Round Three, today we look at a couple of other factors to consider when planning your Round Three admissions strategy.

Another key consideration is that not all MBA programs are the same. Schools vary greatly in how they approach Round Three. While some are upfront about the fact that seats go fast and there aren’t many left in Round Three, others (such as UCLA Anderson) make a point of holding seats for the last round, knowing that there will still be many great applicants applying then.

Consider what the UCLA Anderson admissions committee recently wrote on their MBA Insider’s Blog:

Contrary to the belief that the 3rd round of the application process is so vast and competitive that your chances of being admitted are significantly reduced, you should know that each round is evaluated independently. You only compete with other people in your round. If your application is reasonably strong your chances of being admitted to the UCLA Anderson full-time MBA program are as good as any other previous round.

When many schools seem to get their fill in the first two admissions rounds, why would a school like Anderson make a point of keeping the door open longer? One key reason: Schools like Anderson compete with many top international schools to attract great candidates, and many of these schools have deadlines that run much later than American schools’ deadlines. LBS, for example, will accept applications as late as April 21 this year. Anderson doesn’t want this simple fact to be why a strong candidate chooses LBS over its own program. MBA admissions officers know that a great application can come in any time, and they want to be ready to accept such candidates when they come along.

In this case, why wait until next year? Ultimately, how successful you will be depends on you more than anything else. If you can’t pull together a very strong application between now and the Round Three deadline — and this includes everything, from your GMAT score to your essays to your letters of recommendation — then waiting will always be your best strategy. Additionally, if waiting will allow you to significantly improve part of your application — this most often applies to your GMAT score or your academic record, which can be bolstered through additional college coursework — then it also normally makes sense to wait.

What if you say “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” and apply, anyway? Will that dramatically hurt your chances if you don’t get in and want to re-apply in the fall? At most schools, no, it won’t, but keep in mind that you can’t submit the same application next year — something will need to be new, or better, or more interesting, compared to what you submit now. So, applying now is not a completely risk-free proposition, although, if you don’t apply now, then you definitely won’t get in, of course. So, weigh your upsides and downsides, but please keep in mind that pulling together a winning application is a long, arduous task. Do not underestimate it.

If you’re just starting to plan your MBA candidacy, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter for more advice on the business school application process!

Navigating Financial Aid for Business School

Maybe the only thing more challenging than getting into business school is figure out how you will pay for the experience. Many say that borrowing money to pay for school is an “investment,” and not debt, but try telling that to the loan services when they send out the monthly bill.

In order to help students make the best possible choice, adhere to the following tips:

  • Know the true cost of the education. Pay very close attention to not only the current tuition, but also the inflation rate at that school. Some universities are seeing tuition go up more rapidly than others, so it makes sense to project the cost for the following year (or years) as well as simply looking at the tuition and cost for the first year.
  • Carefully calculate the ultimate balance on unsubsidized and private loans. $100,000 in loans is a lot of money, but it is really a lot of money when the interest kicks in immediately and keeps accumulating for the life of a 10-year loan period. Make sure to work with financial aid officers to figure out how much you will ultimately shell out by the time you finish making payments. Any differences in “free money” between school A and B will only become more exaggerated over time
  • At least consider the enrollment decision in purely financial terms. It sounds overly rigid to advise this, but considering how romantically and emotionally most students make their decisions, it will help balance things out to take a short period of time to consider this the way an accountant would.
  • Don’t fall victim to the “drop in the bucket” mentality. Most grad students find the sticker price of graduate school so shockingly high that they sort of give up before they even get started. Not only does this lead to less-than-careful review of the award letter, lack of effort in contacting the financial aid officer, and a failure to appeal for reconsideration, but it can also lead to careless spending. Seemingly small items will ultimately cost the student twice as much down the road.
  • Never stop looking for outside funding. More common among high school students with parents who see their life savings dwindling away, searching for outside scholarships is often something that slips past graduate school applicants. This is a mistake, as there are a variety of unique scholarships, fellowships, and writing competitions available for graduate students of all stripes. Most top grad programs feature a list of such resources on their websites and there are also both free and pay sites that collate these opportunities.
  • Carefully review the financial aid opportunities at every MBA program you are considering. This may seem obvious, but most applicants do not perform a thorough search of each and every scholarship and fellowship offered at the schools to which they are applying. The reason this is so important is that students may actually qualify for something they aren’t even aware of. Whether it is something fairly well known like Teach For America arrangements or something more unique, students need to perform this simple step of due diligence.

This advice has been clipped from the Veritas Prep Guide to Graduate School Financial Aid. You can download the full report for free here. For more news and analysis about grad school admissions and the MBA job market, subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Round 3 Considerations in MBA Admissions

If you’re a business school applicant who’s wondering whether to apply now, in Round 3, or to wait until next year, there are several things you should consider. While we do think that applicants need to go into Round 3 with their eyes wide open about the challenges this admissions round presents, there are also some things that make Round 3 far from a “no man’s land” of MBA admissions.

First of all, is there any room left in Round 3? Business schools know that the proportions of applicants that come in each round are fairly consistent from year to the next, so they can plan ahead to some extent, leaving at least some room for Round 3 applicants. Still, the number of seats at top MBA programs does tend to get pretty low at this point, sometimes making admissions officers more reluctant to take a chance on an applicant with a glaring weakness or one who simply doesn’t have anything remarkable to point to in his application. So, borderline applicants probably will indeed find that it’s harder to get into a top MBA program in Round 3, but they will tend to find this to be true in any round. Round 3 may just magnify this a bit.

In other words, great applicants will still have a strong chance of being admitted to at least one of their target schools, although creating a great application is of course a challenge for most applicants. Stanford GSB’s Derrick Bolton has said in the past, “While it is true that the final round typically is smaller than the first two, we do admit excellent candidates in Round 3.” Note the emphasis on excellent… If your candidacy is anything less than excellent, then you probably won’t get into Stanford in Round 3, although the same can be said about the earlier rounds, too.

If you apply in Round 3, you also may need overcome the question of “Why are you applying now, and not five months ago?” This is especially crucial if you’re presenting a story of how earning an MBA has been a lifelong ambition, one that you’ve been planning for years. Of course, situations change and force applicants to apply a little earlier than originally planned (e.g., losing one’s job), and other things hold an applicant back from applying sooner (e.g., taking the GMAT again to try to earn a significantly better score), and admissions officers are open-minded about these reasons, but you do need to be mindful of the message you send if you apply in Round 3… Is yours a well planned application that just so happened to arrive in March, or is the result of a hasty whim? Those are two very different applicant profiles, and you want to be sure to present yourself as the former.

If you’re in the “Round 3 or wait?” conundrum right now, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter for more advice in the coming days!

New GMAC Survey Says Most 2009 MBA Grads Found Jobs by September

Building on our recent post about the MBA job market appearing to thaw, GMAC just released the results of a survey that shows that three-quarters of 2009 full-time MBA grads had jobs by September. Of part-time MBA graduates, 96 per cent of them had jobs by then.

While those statistics are pretty encouraging, the salary numbers present a slightly less rosy picture. Many MBA grads found that the starting salaries they were offered were lower than those offered to their counterparts from previous years. The median starting salary for all survey participants who finished school last year was $79,271, down slightly from the Class of 2008’s $80,000 median starting salary.

Back to some more good news: The survey reports that the Class of 2009 also reasonably satisfied with their jobs. Fifty-eight per cent of grads said they were in the kind of position they had hoped to find, 48 per cent indicated they were very or extremely satisfied with the direction their career was taking, and 47 per cent said they felt their employer placed particular value on their graduate management degree. Meanwhile, 78 per cent of respondents who graduated in 2009 reported that their degree was essential to landing their job.

If you’re starting to plan your business school candidacy, subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter for all of the latest updates in the world of MBA admissions.

Top Ten MBA Admissions Myths from Chicago Booth

A little while ago Chicago Booth’s MBA admissions office created a Top 10 Myths page, inspired by all of the myths that the school’s admissions officers frequently read in online communities and hear from prospective applicants at events. Their page covers it all pretty well, but we’ve reprinted it here with a few of our comments (in italics) to offer up one more viewpoint where we think it’s necessary:

Myth 1: The GMAT is the most important part of the application.
There is no one admissions requirement that is more important than the other. While the results of your GMAT exam are important to us, they are by no means the only tool we use to make an admissions decision. The GMAT score is not a “make or break” item. At Chicago Booth, our application process is a holistic one in which the Admissions Committee attempts to learn all about you in order to determine a fit between you and Chicago that goes above and beyond your GMAT score.

This is certainly true, and it’s what every admissions officer at a any top MBA program will tell you. However, while there’s no minimum score (see Myth 4) that you absolutely must earn to keep you out, keep in mind that, if your score is below a school’s middle-80% GMAT range (which you can find online and in Your MBA Game Plan), you will need to present a very compelling reason for admissions officers to believe that you have what it takes to succeed in the business school classroom and beyond. Other parts of your application — such as your undergrad GPA, analytically-oriented work on the job, and post-college coursework can help here, to a certain extent.

Myth 2: A campus visit is a must if you expect to be admitted.
While we’d love to get everyone who applies to see our campus in person, we realize it’s just not possible for everyone to make their way to Chicago. We do strongly encourage applicants to visit campus at some point, but not visiting won’t negatively affect your application. Visit our website for more information about planning a campus visit.

It’s good to hear them say this, since a policy of favoring applicants who visit campus would seem unfair, but if it’s just convenience that’s keeping you from visiting your target business school, remember that there are thousands of other applicants who do find the time to make the trip!

Myth 3: It’s impossible to be admitted during Round 3.
Booth does in fact accept students in Round 3. Round 2 sees the greatest number of applications and since we fill spots in the program as we progress through the Rounds, there will naturally be fewer spots left for Round 3 applicants. The best advice is to apply when you believe that you can turn in the application that you’re most proud of that best reflects your strengths and talents. However, we do encourage our international students to consider applying by Round 2 in an attempt to avoid potential hassles in obtaining a student visa prior to the start of classes.

Yes, “Round 3 is impossible” myth had grown to mythic proportions these days. Still, when an applicant approaches us late in the application season and asks if we can help them apply in a matter of a couple of weeks to meet a Round 3 deadline, we often encourage them to step back and assess whether they really MUST apply now, or if they can wait until next year, when they’ll have more time to properly pull together a strong application. What keeps many Round 3 applicants is not the fact that they applied in Round 3, but that they applied under rushed or otherwise imperfect circumstances.

Myth 4: You must have a minimum GPA or GMAT score and have 5 years of work experience to be considered for admission.
This is an easy one; there are no minimums for these factors! Anyone who has or will obtain a bachelor’s degree and can report a GMAT score is eligible to apply for admission to Chicago. You can view our class profile online to see some statistics for the class of 2009.

Funny that they comment on the myth of there being a minimum amount of required work experience, since these days it seems that many top MBA programs (not necessarily including Booth) are unofficially enforcing an UPPER limit on the years of work experience that they want to see in applicants.

Myth 5: An interview with a staff member will increase your chances of admission more than an interview with a student or alum.
Regardless of who your interviewer may be, the feedback is valuable and is weighed equally in each and every case. Each year, we rely heavily on our alumni all over the world to conduct interviews with applicants. The same holds true for students here at the Harper Center and those who may be studying abroad. These two groups, each member of which has been carefully trained, conduct the vast majority of interviews. At times, the Admissions staff will also conduct interviews in certain locations.

We fully believe Booth’s admissions officers when they say this, but here’s another point of view: Imagine if you have an amazing interview with an alum who sends in a terrific report to be reviewed by the admissions team, and compare that to having that same amazing interview with an admissions officer. When the committee is carefully weighing your application and someone in the room has reservations about it, wouldn’t you want your interviewer to be there in the room, passionately arguing that you’ve got what the school looks for? Admissions officers will reply that this isn’t really how it works, but in admissions, just like in everything else in life and in business, personal relationships do matter, no matter how hard we try to completely level the playing field. We still believe that interviewing with an admissions officer increases your upside (assuming it goes well), since they’ll often be in the room when a decision is made on your candidacy.

Myth 6: The earlier you submit your application before the deadline, the earlier your interview invitation will come.
The interview invitation process lasts a few weeks for each round as our staff and graduate assistants read and review thousands of applications. The process of inviting applicants to interview is entirely random, and the point at which you hear from us is not a reflection on the strength of your application or the timeframe in which you submitted it – we promise! And we really do extend interview invitations all the way up until 9:00 am on the mid-decision date!

Yes, this is a myth for many applicants. Just believe admissions officers when they tell you that the application review process is not a linear one!

Myth 7: If you were not a Business major, you are at a great disadvantage in the admissions process.
Students who apply to and enroll at Chicago Booth come from a variety of backgrounds with respect to their undergraduate studies. In fact, 34% of the class of 2009 had a liberal arts background. We are always excited by the unique experiences that each student’s education brings to the community at Chicago.

This is another one where we think applicants need to look out for the inverse of this myth: Applicants who majored in business can be looked at a little more skeptically by business schools, which sometimes have a “Tell us again why you want another business degree?” attitude when reviewing these applications. We wouldn’t go so far as to say that these applicants are at a disadvantage, but their story of “Why an MBA?” can actually be a little more difficult to piece together than a non-business applicant’s story.

Myth 8: Chicago Booth prefers applicants from finance and consulting backgrounds.
We value diversity in all its forms, including career industry. Many of our applicants come from finance or consulting backgrounds; but many more have work experience in other industries, including military service, marketing, education, retail, and non-profit work, just to name a few. It’s not what you do that matters – it’s how you do it and the experience you’ll bring to the classroom and study groups.

See our last comment. Applicants coming from these very typical backgrounds can sometimes have a harder time getting in if they don’t have anything in their applications that helps them truly stand out in a very crowded field. One thing going for these applicants, however, is that they tend to already come with more business polish than other applicants, which can make them more appealing to potential employers (and, in turn, make them more appealing to MBA admissions officers).

Myth 9: The Admissions Committee members only read the first essay in the application – they disregard the rest.
Our staff, including our Admissions Fellows, reads each and every essay, recommendation letter and transcript that crosses our desks. This makes for a great deal of work but we’re committed to putting together the best possible class and to do so, we feel we need to get to know each applicant well. This process is a part of what makes Chicago Booth a unique place. You’ve worked hard to submit your application, and we appreciate that effort.

Wow, we don’t hear this myth much. Trust admissions officers here… They have no incentive to create more work for you unless they’re going to actually read the essays!

Myth 10: A letter of recommendation from the CEO of my company/a Booth alum I met once/the Governor/the President of the United States is better than getting one from a supervisor or colleague who knows me well.
Choose your recommenders carefully! Letters of recommendation are a crucial part of the admissions process and while you may be tempted to impress the admissions committee with the connections you’ve made, you’ll want to work with someone who knows you and your accomplishments, talents and skills well. Your current or former supervisor and a colleague or client who can speak at length about your value to your company or organization is a much better choice than someone who may have an impressive title, but little insight into you as a person or future Chicago Booth student.

Yes, what your recommendation writers say about YOU is much more important than who they are. And, the best way to ensure that they provide compelling, specific examples of your greatness is to pick recommenders who really know you. As we always tell applicants, you should assume that your recommendation writers won’t remember every little detail about how great you are, so you should prepare them with specific examples to make their jobs easier.

For more advice on applying to Chicago Booth or any other top business school, download Veritas Prep’s free Chicago Booth Annual Report, which gives you in-depth information on life at the school. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!