Monthly Archives: October 2010

Five Ways to Improve Your GMAT Prep

A lot of our readers prepare for the GMAT on their own. This approach certainly works for thousands of applicants every year, but it can also lead to a great deal of frustration if you do it without a plan or start off with some bad advice. We do believe that most people can do well on the GMAT by studying on their own, but many students sabotage themselves with bad study habits or a lack of understanding about the GMAT itself. To help you, today we present five tips for those of you who choose to prepare for the GMAT on your own:

Work on Both Your Strengths and Your Weaknesses
We often see students fall into two camps: They either tend to gravitate towards the problems that they like (“Oh good, a distance/rate problem. I can do these.”), or they develop an obsession with what they can’t do well (“I need to find 500 geometry questions NOW.”). The reality is that you will encounter both kinds of questions on test day, and you need to be able to get good at the hard stuff while staying nimble and error-free with the easier stuff. In any one sitting, make sure you cover some of both: Work on the stuff you like as well as the material you hate.

Faithfully Mimic the Real Test’s Conditions
If you encounter problem for which you don’t have an obvious plan of attack (such as knowing an algebraic formula or remembering a grammar rule), DON’T look it up in the moment? Students who are obsessed with pacing (more on that in a minute) especially fall prey to this, since they’re trying to get through problems as quickly as possible. The problem is that you won’t be able to do that on test day. What will you be able to do on the big day? Figure out the problem with what you DO know, even if you don’t know the easiest way to solve the problem. Even if it takes you five minutes during your GMAT practice, you will emerge better prepared in the long run. Afterward, definitely make a note and go back and learn (or re-learn) the thing you may have missed, but in the moment, solve the problem another way.

Quality Matters Most, Not Quantity
We often see students boasting in public forums about how many Official Guide problems they complete every week, or how they have run out of questions to do because they’re just on fire with their GMAT prep. Unfortunately, many of them focus on the wrong thing — while you’re studying, it’s not a question of how many problems you can do (or how quickly you can do them), but rather what you’re learning with each question. If you hit a sticking point with a problem, take a step back and ask yourself, “What are they testing here? What in my toolkit will help me answer this question?” and make a note of what your GMAT toolkit may be missing. That’s a far more effective approach to preparation than burning through problem after problem, possibly reinforcing bad habits along the way.

Pacing Matters
Yes, we’ve already made point here of not obsessing over pacing too much in your GMAT studies. However, you do need to make sure that you’re setting yourself up to finish each section of the exam, and the best way to do that is with regular “check ins” to see how you’re doing on pacing. While some students do 2,000+ practice problems and then take a couple of timed tests just before sitting for the real exam, we advise timing yourself earlier and more often. After you have mastered the basics, get in the habit of timing yourself once a week. It doesn’t need to be a full practice test every time — trying to do 30 problems in 60 minutes is more than enough — but it should be enough to get a feel for how you’re tracking. Don’t save this until right before the test, because if you find that you’re working too slowly, it may be too late to fix it. You don’t need to be obsessed with pacing at every turn, but time yourself from time to time.

Save Verbal for Last
Why does this matter? Because that’s how you will do it on the real exam. The GMAT will throw meaty Reading Comprehension questions and tricky Sentence Correction problems at you after you have already been working for three hours… Don’t let mental fatigue get in the way at that point. When you’re about ready to hang it up for the night after a couple hours of studying, force yourself to do a few more verbal questions, and practice the skill of staying focused on them when you’re starting to get tired.

Need a little more guidance but not sure if you need a seven-week prep course? Our friends at Veritas Prep have recently introduced a new GMAT course format, the Essentials Course. It’s the perfect way to start your GMAT preparation! Enrollment costs just $700 for in-person courses and only $550 for live online.

For more news and advice on getting into the world’s most competitive MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Public Service as a Way to Finance Your MBA

Earlier this year the federal government made an announcement that might be of interest to many MBA applicants. Under the government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, you may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on your eligible federal student loans after you have made 120 payments on certain loans while employed full time by certain public service employers. This is great news for anyone who has considered an MBA a JD as a path to a public service career, but who has been intimidated by the levels of student loans that it takes to finance graduates degrees these days.

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of fine print that you must read to make sure if you qualify. Only loans made under the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program are eligible for loan forgiveness, including:

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loans (Direct Subsidized Loans)
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans (Direct Unsubsidized Loans)
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loans (Direct PLUS Loans)- for parents and graduate or professional students
  • Federal Direct Consolidation Loans (Direct Consolidation Loans)

Only payments made on the Direct Consolidation Loan will count toward the required 120 monthly payments. And, you need to have been making your loan payments on time for the past 120 months — deadbeats need not apply. But, the savings can be significant, resulting in more than $100,000 in loans being forgiven, depending on the exact program for which you qualify.

There’s a lot of fine print to read, but this is a terrific option for anyone who’s thought about going into public service. You can learn more at the U.S. Department of Education’s web site.

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GMATCH Virtual MBA Admissions Fair Coming in November

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has announced that it will host an online admissions fair featuring admissions representatives from dozens of top MBA programs next month, on November 22 and 23. The GMATCH Virtual Fair, which will take place entirely online, is being billed as the “the first truly global virtual fair” for business school applicants and admissions officers.

GMAC has lined up a rather extensive list of MBA programs around the world for the event, including London Business School, INSEAD, UVA (Darden), Georgetown (McDonough), UCLA (Anderson), the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Nanyang Business School.

From an announcement on GMAC’s web site announcing the event:

The innovative GMATCH concept employs a rich graphical interface featuring virtual booths and a multimedia auditorium stocked with material about each participating school’s programs as well as management education in general. Participants will be able to use webcams to enable face-to-face interaction.

While we wonder how well the “virtual” concept will do, this event does provide a great way for you to interact with admissions officers from programs that you might never have considered, simply because they’re on the other side of the globe and your chances of being able to visit the school are remote. We recommend using the GMATCH Virtual Fair as a chance to go outside your comfort zone (after all, you’re in the comfort of your own home!) and explore some programs that you might not have otherwise considered.

You can register for the event here.

For more news and advice on getting into the world’s most competitive MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Columbia Business School Receives $100 Million Gift

Earlier this month Henry Kravis, a Columbia MBA (Class of 1969), made headlines recently when he announced a gift of $100 million to Columbia Business School. The donation will help fund the construction of Columbia Business School’s new facilities in Manhattanville, just north of the Columbia’s Morningside Campus. (We wonder if some of that money may also go toward soap and charm school for Columbia MBAs, given a recent piece in the Huffington Post!)

Of course, when a man gives $100 million (the largest gift in the school’s history), the school has to put his name on something. Accordingly, one of the school’s two new buildings will be named The Henry R. Kravis Building in recognition of his gift. The new building will open “in about six years,” according to Dean Glenn Hubbard.

Henry Kravis is one of the most successful men on Wall Street. He is the co-founder, co-chairman, and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), the noted private equity and buyout firm. Kravis and his partners, as much as anyone else, pioneered the use of leveraged buyouts in the 1980s to tap into companies’ unrealized potential. All of the MBAs who rushed into private equity over the past 15 years have Kravis and his friends to thank for blazing that trail before them.

This is a real win for Columbia. Also the business school had already been slated to move into a new building in Manhattanville, the entire project (a very ambitious one) has already taken a long time to get off the ground, and the financial crisis of the past two years hasn’t helped. Uris Hall has long been one of our least favorite buildings (maybe our absolute least favorite) among top MBA programs’ facilities, and while you should choose a school for more than just its facilities, it’s been hard to overlook Uris Hall and its cramped setup. Even Dean Hubbard himself has acknowledged that the building has been a constraint for the school.

Who’s left? We’re still waiting for Kellogg to announce more definitive plans for its new building. By then, we will have completed the new (or at least significantly improved) building renaissance at nearly every top MBA program in the United States.

For more news and advice on getting into the world’s most competitive MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Don’t Go to Business School Too Soon!

We’ve written in this space before about the trend at some top business schools toward accepting younger applicants. In some cases, these schools have even created specific programs to attract these candidates. But, a big question still looms: Does it make sense for someone to enter an MBA program with little or not full-time professional experience?”

A recent Wall Street Journal article, explored this issue in some depth. The article doesn’t really choose a side, but raises some interesting questions about how attractive a younger candidate is when he graduates at 24 with a fancy degree and very little work experience.

As we have said before, these schools’ reason for trying to attract younger candidates is that even Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB feel the need to hustle to get their hands on high-potential young professionals before other graduate schools (not just MBA programs) do. Stanford GSB’s Derrick Bolton said as much in the article: “When you see really talented people, you want to lock them in.”

But does it do a service to the student to lock them in so early? For us, it really comes down to whether those candidates enter business school with any significant professional experience under their belt. The HBS 2+2 Program gives new admits a chance to gain two years of experience before matriculating, although even these candidates still seem a bit young to us, thinking back to our time in business school and who seemed “with it” and who still seemed a little young to be taken seriously. But, at least those first-year students will have some professional experience, usually from blue-chip firms.

Other programs mentioned in the article, such as Stanford, will (on rare occasions) let someone matriculate straight out of college. While the rare student who does this is undoubtedly a remarkable young person who has already achieved a lot and demonstrated unheard of potential, they often still bring a level of naïveté that will induce the occasional groan from other classmates. I know, because I have see it firsthand.

And, as the WSJ article points out, the other audience to consider are professional recruiters. Here schools imply need to be pragmatic about what works and what doesn’t. If a school Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business (a fine MBA program) can’t easily place 24-year-old grads in great jobs from Harvard and Stanford still can, then it may simply mean that the “younger MBA” formula will only work for schools with strong enough brands.

At the end of the day, despite Harvard’s seeming push to get younger, we almost always advise an young applicant to wait an extra year or two before applying. That person’s application story will be stronger, his academic experience in business school will be richer, and his job candidacy will almost always be more appealing to future employers. Patience is a virtue, even in MBA admissions.

For more news and advice on getting into the world’s most competitive MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Three Reasons Why Round 2 Beats Round 1

It’s mid-October, and the MBA admissions season is in full swing. By now you’ve probably realized that the business school application process is a lot more involved than you originally thought. Maybe you’re even wondering if you’re going to get all of your applications done (and done well) in Round 1. Today we explore the question of whether you should apply to business school in Round 1 or Round 2, and whether this decision really matters at all.

Our advice here is often very consistent: As long as there are some things in your application that can be significantly improved between October and January (and we’ll explore ways to improve your application in a moment), then it’s almost a no-brainer to wait. Why? We’ll give you three reasons:

The “Numbers” Advantage Isn’t Much of an Advantage
“Wait,” you ask. “I read that more people apply in Round 2, and that applying in Round 1 means that you will have less competition in the early going, so it make sense to apply as early as possible.” While it’s true that more applicants tend to apply in Round 2 (in a traditional three-round admissions schedule), admissions officers know this as well, and they plan accordingly. Do you really think that, for Harvard’s class of about 910 students, the admissions committee will gorge on Round 1 applicants, leaving no room for Round 2 and 3 applicants? Of course they know that more people will apply in Round 2, and they have been doing this long enough that they can plan accordingly.

Further, as we wrote in a previous Admissions 101 installment, the number of applicants in a given time period really affects your chances less than you might intuitively expect. We’ll let you read that post for more details, but suffice it to say that what you submit matters FAR more whether 3,000 or 3,500 other applicants apply when you do.

You Still Have Time to Improve Your Candidacy
Yes, fall is upon us (although we wouldn’t know it here at Veritas Prep HQ, in this record Southern California heat this week), and the MBA admissions season is officially upon us, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still significantly improve your application in some way. As we’ve written before, if your GMAT score takes any sort of explaining, why not devote yourself to a few weeks of serious preparation and try again? (Schools really only care about your highest score, so you have nothing to lose, other than the $250 GMAC test fee.)

If your work stories are underwhelming, you still have three months (that’s a lot of time!) to take on a new project and make a significant impact on your organization. The same goes for your extracurricular activities — while you want to avoid the appearance of expediency, that’s still a lot of time to lead an event, raise some funds, or otherwise positively impact the community around you.

By this time of year it’s easy to think of all of these part of your profile as being set in stone, but the fact of the matter is that, for someone who’s only been working for several years, you still have a chance to make some significant moves that will shape the story of your career and your community involvement. If you can even think of some ways that you might be able to make something happen between now and January, it very well may be worth a shot.

Your Recommenders Could Probably Use the Additional Time
By now you’ve probably realized that you underestimated how long it takes to coax letters of recommendation out of people. Or, you may even be sorry that you chose a certain person to write one of your recommendations. Well, this is your chance to give them more time, or to get a second chance. There are many ways a business school letter of recommendation can go wrong, and they normally boil down to the recommendation writer not knowing what to do or not being invested enough in the process. Both of these can usually be fixed by giving them better preparation. If that doesn’t work, you can always pull the plug and move on to someone else.

While that may be an uncomfortable conversation to have, it’s better than the empty feeling in your stomach that comes with a ding email from Stanford. Of course, switching gears and asking someone else to do it means that new person may not have enough time, unless you delay to Round 2. We’ve seen many applicants’ chances torpedoed by lackluster letters of recommendation… It’s far better to submit terrific ones ones in Round 2 than so-so ones in Round 1.

For more news and advice on getting into the world’s most competitive MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

2010 Business School Rankings from The Economist

Recently The Economist released the 2010 edition of its global business school rankings. As the editors of The Economist noted in their introduction to this year’s rankings, “Usually, schools move up or down just a few places year on year. This time around, however, swings have been wilder.”

It looks like the rocky job market is to blame for that. Looking at The Economist’s rankings methodology, you’ll see that the “Open new career opportunities” and “Increase salary” categories together make up more than half of the overall score a school earns. Naturally, as the rough economy meant that some schools had an especially hard time placing grads in high-paying jobs (or, in some cases, in any jobs at all), those programs took a hit in the rankings.

Without further ado, here are the top 20 schools in the rankings:

The Economist MBA Rankings – 2010

  1. University of Chicago – Booth School of Business
  2. Dartmouth College – Tuck School of Business
  3. University of California at Berkeley – Haas School of Business
  4. Harvard Business School
  5. IESE Business School – University of Navarra
  6. IMD – International Institute for Management Development
  7. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  8. University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School
  9. HEC School of Management, Paris
  10. York University – Schulich School of Business
  11. University of Virginia – Darden Graduate School of Business
  12. Columbia Business School
  13. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT Sloan School of Management
  14. New York University – Leonard N Stern School of Business
  15. Cranfield School of Management
  16. Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management
  17. Henley Business School
  18. University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business
  19. London Business School
  20. ESADE Business School

How to Use Business School Rankings
When you start researching your target MBA programs, of course it make sense to pay to the rankings. Simply by existing, the rankings influence other applicants, employers, faculty members, and other key people. However, trying to discern which is better of two programs when one program is ranked higher by U.S. News, and the other ranks higher in The Economist’s rankings, is a fool’s errand. Use the rankings to help determine what level of program (in terms of admissions competitiveness) you might be able to get into, and to spot programs with specific strengths you might otherwise have missed. After that, do your own research and decide what programs fit you best.

For more news and advice on getting into the world’s most competitive MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!