Monthly Archives: March 2010

New Dean at the Kellogg School of Management

According to a news release put out by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Sally Blount, the dean of the undergraduate college and vice dean of the Stern School of Business at New York University, has just been named dean of the school, effective this coming July.

Blount, who is currently the Abraham L. Gitlow Professor of Management and Organizations at NYU Stern, is an expert in the fields of negotiation and behavioral decision making and has extensive international experience in higher education. In 2007 she was appointed by NYU’s president and provost as their special advisor for global academic integration.

In this morning’s news release, Northwestern Provost Daniel I. Linzer said:

Dean Blount brings a remarkable combination of strong academic achievement and proven administrative experience at both the business school and university levels. She is someone who has a demonstrable record as both a scholar and as a leader in the field of global business education. We are very excited to welcome her back to Kellogg and Northwestern.

This is a return trip to Kellogg for Blount, who earned her PhD in management and organizations in 1992 after earning a joint bachelor’s degree from Princeton University’s engineering and Woodrow Wilson schools in 1983. After earning her PhD, Blount taught for nearly a decade at Chicago Booth (back when it was called Chicago GSB), where she she consistently earned high teaching marks from MBA and executive education students.

Today’s Financial Times led with this headline: “Kellogg Appoints Female Dean,” which unfortunately downplays all that she’s accomplished but nonetheless points out just how rare is its for a woman to lead a business school. (Judy Olia at UCLA Anderson and Sharon Oster at Yale are the two other examples of women leading top-ranked MBA programs. Former Chicago Booth dean Edward Snyder will take over for Oster next year.)

We’re glad that Kellogg now has its future leadership picture sorted out. Hopefully now the school can forge ahead with is plans for a new building and continued international expansion.

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Options When Your Supervisor Can’t Write Your MBA Letter of Recommendation

Every MBA application requires you to submit at least one letter of recommendation. These letters corroborate your admissions story, providing additional evidence of the leadership skills, analytical abilities, teamwork skills, and maturity that you have highlighted in the rest of your application. The best person to do this is normally your direct supervisor, but what if you can’t tell your current supervisor yet that you’re applying to business school?

Fortunately, admissions officers at top business schools know that many applicants face this situation, and they won’t penalize you for it. Particularly in a rough economy, when job security seems to matter even more than usual, they know that telling your boss that you want to leave can be the equivalent of professional suicide. So, they’re willing to accept recommendations from other sources, as long as they give admissions officers what they need.

What business schools really want to see is an assessment of your abilities by someone who knows you well and has been in a position to evaluate you. That’s why your direct supervisor is your most obvious choice; he or she should spend a lot of time thinking about your performance, making it easy to provide an assessment of you as a young professional. Assuming that person is out of the picture, then you need to find someone else who meets these criteria:

  1. How well does your recommender know you? This person must have worked closely with you for some period of time; otherwise, they don’t really know your professional abilities and potential. Typically, this will be in the workplace, although it doesn’t have to be. For instance, if you devote serious time to a non-profit organization, someone who has served as a coordinator there may know you very well and may be a good person to provide a letter of recommendation.
  2. Has this person worked with you recently? We frequently talk to MBA applicants who have a seemingly good candidate in mind, but they haven’t worked with that person for a few years. When you’re a young professional, a few years is an eternity in terms of your development. Ideally, your substitute recommender will have worked with you in just the last year or two, or still works with you now.
  3. Does he or she have experience evaluating others in a professional setting?If your recommendation writer has never delivered a performance review in any setting, how will he or she be able to speak about your candidacy with authority? This doesn’t mean that your recommendation writer needs to have managed an entire department for years; the point is to find someone who can deliver a fair, professional-sounding review of your business school candidacy.
  4. Is this person prepared well enough for the task? This question always applies, even if your recommendation comes from your current boss. Too often, the recommendation writer will underestimate the task, or will simply say, “I don’t have time. You just write it for me and I’ll sign it.” Make sure that your recommendation writer understands the task at hand, and devotes enough time to it. You can help a great deal by providing specific examples of your recent successes that he or she may not remember. Doing that makes the recommender’s job easier, and makes the final product significantly stronger.

Remember this above all else: Who your recommender is matters far less than what he says about you, and how enthusiastically he says it. MBA admissions officers keep an open mind about these things, but it is critical that your letters of recommendation provide all the clues that schools look for. Not only should your recommendations emphasize the four dimensions mentioned at the start of this post, but they should also clearly demonstrate the enthusiasm that your recommenders have about you and your business school candidacy. Find someone who can do that, and you will be fine, whether or not your letter of recommendation comes from your boss.

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Harvard Business School Wants More Undergrad Applicants

For a while we have been telling applicants that the earlier in the careers they apply to Harvard Business School, the better. While the mean number of years of work experience for students entering top business schools is still around five, Harvard has made a point of encouraging applicants to apply with fewer than three years of experience. In fact, nearly half of the Class of 2011‘s 937 students has no more than three years of full-time work experience.

As if being an “old” applicant (i.e., someone with five or more years of work experience) doesn’t seem tough enough these days, now comes word that HBS is encouraging college seniors to apply in Round 3. As Dee Leopold wrote on the HBS Admissions Blog last week:

If you are a college senior who wants to go to HBS – but not right away – then applying in Round 3 could be a smart choice.


  1. The positive outcome is going to be “deferred admission” — a guaranteed spot in the class of 2014 with the stipulation that you work for two years before matriculation.
  2. No target or cap on the number of deferred admit spots we will offer. Last year 43 college seniors were offered deferred admission.
  3. No downside: If you aren’t admitted, apply again in a couple of years — lots of denied college seniors are successful in the future.
  4. The application fee is only $100.
  5. GMAT/GRE scores are good for 5 years – why not take the test in college while you are still in test-taking mode?

Applying to HBS or any other top MBA program in Round 3 can be daunting enough on its own, but this doesn’t help. However, this is great news if you’re a college senior who missed the boat on the HBS 2+2 Program before your senior year.

If you are still in college or are a fresh-out-of-college applicant, this is one more reason to think about applying to Harvard Business School sooner rather than later, provided that you’re truly ready. This means that you have a competitive GMAT score, already have some recommendation writers lined up, and have some good experiences to draw upon to demonstrate your leadership abilities and your maturity. If you already have these things in your profile, or are at least close, then Harvard’s signal is clear: They would rather that you apply now, rather than a few years from now.

For more advice crafting a successful HBS application, take a look at Veritas Prep’s HBS Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools, available here. For more updates on HBS and other top business schools, subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

No More PowerPoint Presentation for Chicago Booth Applicants?

A new BusinessWeek article investigates how some schools are breaking with tradition and exploring new approaches to the MBA admissions process. Some business schools now accept the GRE in addition to the GMAT, while others are replacing traditional written essays with audio and video responses.

The whole article is interestig, but what we actually found most intriguing was the tidbit that Chicago Booth will drop its PowerPoint question this coming admission season (2010-2011). This questions had been a staple of Booth’s application for the past couple of years, but apparently it wasn’t doing what the school had intended, so they axed it.

Chicago Booth Associate Dean for Student Recruitment and Admissions Rose Martinelli addressed the story on her blog today:

The PowerPoint presentation was designed to elicit a sense of fit with Booth culture. Essentially, it presented applicants with a unique and somewhat ambiguous opportunity to convey information of their choice. It allowed applicants to tell us what was important and relevant in their candidacy and helped us learn much more about who they are than can be prompted through standard essay questions. It also has helped us evaluate how candidates navigate ambiguity through various frameworks and strategies. As applicants and consultants became more familiar with this exercise, however, we began to see more and more presentations that felt standard, rote and predictable.

As we approach the new application year, we have begun to think through each of the different application components. While this may be the last year of the presentation requirement in its current form, we have not yet made any final decisions as to what next year’s application will look like.

As we always say, when a school adds or changes or deletes an essay question, it’s a sign that the admissions office isn’t quite getting what it needs (and Martinelli’s post said exactly that). When reviewing every application, two main questions that goes through an admissions officer’s mind are, “How well does this applicant fit with the school?” and “What about this applicant makes me want to choose him over other, similar applicants?” If a question generates similar answers from hundreds of applicants, or doesn’t add anything new to most applicants’ stories, then it’s not getting the job done.

But, Booth’s admissions officers do deserve credit for trying something new. Also, we’re very intrigued by the “may be something that MBA applicants will have to do after they get through an initial screening process” comment… The natural move would be for Booth to follow schools such as UCLA Anderson and offer a video or audio component. But, maybe it will be something else entirely, and maybe it will be something used as the admissions interview is used — to get to know an applicant better after the school likes what it initially sees. We’ll find out this summer, when Chicago Booth releases its application for the 2010-2011 admissions season.

(By the way, while it’s not directly related to MBA admissions, take a look at some of the interesting videos that Tufts University applicants submitted last year. Pretty interesting stuff, and probably the future of admissions, at least in some small way!)

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HBS 2+2 Program Application Deadline is June 15, 2010

Earlier this week Harvard Business School has announced this year’s application deadline for the HBS 2+2 Program: June 15, 2010. Note that this is a couple of week’s earlier than last year’s deadline.

On the HBS Admissions blog, Dee Leopold wrote:

This is a special message to college students who have been waiting to see the essay questions for the upcoming 2+2 application season. Surprise: They are the same as last year’s!! Before we get to being creative and tinkering with them, we decided to have three years of the same questions so we can do a little bit of longitudinal analysis about the responses. Please visit the 2+2 Program website so you can learn more details about the program and the application dates.

Interesting comment about how the school wants another year’s worth of data before they start tinkering with the questions. Usually, when a school changes its essay questions, that’s a sign that it wasn’t happy with what the previous questions were accomplishing — in terms of getting to know each individual applicant or in terms of separating the great applicants from the rest of the pack. HBS probably doesn’t feel a pressing need to change things at this point, but we’re curious how this might change next year. Given that some schools now accept audio or video responses, and that HBS wants its 2+2 Program to be hip and appeal “to the kids,” we wonder if HBS will eventually offer an essay option that has a digital or social-media component.

The HBS 2+2 Program was designed to attract impressive undergraduate students coming from non-business disciplines such as engineering and humanities. Accordingly, they’re looking for students coming from those majors, rather than from undergraduate business programs. If you feel like you don’t have a very business-ish background, and if you’re current a college junior, then now is the time to start thinking about applying. To get a feel for what to expect in the coming months, take a look at the HBS 2+2 Program Timeline on Harvard’s web site. You’ll notice that the timeline suggests taking the GMAT or GRE this spring. If you haven’t yet gotten ready for the test, take a look at the GMAT prep classes from Veritas Prep.

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Business School Get More Aggressive in Helping Grads Find Jobs

Recently the Yale Daily News featured an article titled “SOM Alumni Network Matures,” which discusses how Yale SOM students today benefit from the wide variety of Yale alumni across industries. This is not insignificant, since the school has only been around since 1976.

What’s most impressive in the article is the fact that the school’s own administration — all the way up to Dean Sharon Oster — has make a point of making personal appeals to the school’s alumni and supporters, in the name of helping students find jobs in a tough economy.

According to the Yale Daily News:

In an e-mail to all SOM alumni, Oster called on the school’s graduates to step up and help current students, recent graduates and even other alumni seeking jobs and internships.

“Although the economy seems to be showing signs of improvement, most of my faculty colleagues agree that we’re not out of the woods yet,” Oster wrote in the e-mail. “The strength of the SOM community is most visible in times of adversity, and so I am writing to you now to tap into some of that strength.”

Within a few hours, Oster had received hundreds of responses.

This kind of commitment on the part of the school is fantastic. After all, as important as a student’s two years in the classroom are, at least as important are the professional opportunities that an MBA opens up for that student. Some schools were a little slow to take action as the economy started to sink in 2008, but it’s great to see that this is changing.

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