Monthly Archives: November 2010

2010 Businessweek MBA Rankings

Recently Bloomberg Businessweek released its new business school rankings for 2010. U.S. News and Businessweek vie for the title of most closely watched business schools rankings. While it’s debatable as to whether the Businessweek MBA ranking system or the U.S. News ranking system is more valid, the fact that BW’s rankings only come out every two years always makes this announcement a little extra exciting.

Here are the top 30 U.S. business schools, according to Bloomberg Businessweek:

1. Booth (Chicago)
2. Harvard
3. Wharton (Penn)
4. Kellogg (Northwestern)
5. Stanford
6. Fuqua (Duke)
7. Ross (Michigan)
8. Haas (UC Berkeley)
9. Columbia
10. Sloan (MIT)
11. Darden (UVA)
12. Cox (SMU)
13. Johnson (Cornell)
14. Tuck (Dartmouth)
15. Tepper (Carnegie Mellon)
16. Kenan-Flagler (UNC Chapel Hill)
17. Anderson (UCLA)
18. Stern (NYU)
19. Kelley (Indiana)
20. Broad (Michigan State)
21. Yale
22. Goizueta (Emory)
23. Georgia Tech
24. Mendoza (Notre Dame)
25. McCombs (UT Austin)
26. Marshall (USC)
27. Marriott (BYU)
28. Carlson (Minnesota)
29. Jones (Rice)
30. Mays (Texas A&M)

And here are Businessweek’s top 10 international MBA programs:

2. Queen’s
3. IE Business School
5. London Business School
6. Ivey (Western Ontario)
7. IMD
8. Rotman (Toronto)
9. Schulich (York)
10. Judge (Cambridge)

We could try to tell you that the rankings aren’t that important, but to do so would be to ignore human nature. Simply because they exist, these rankings influence other applicants, employers, faculty members, and other key people. However, trying to determine which is better of two programs when one program is ranked higher by Businessweek, and the other ranks higher in the U.S. News rankings, misses the point entirely. Use these rankings to help yourself get a feel for the MBA landscape to determine what level of program competitiveness you might have a shot at, and to spot programs with specific strengths you might not have originally considered.

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Try These Integrated Reasoning Questions from the New GMAT

Although the GMAT’s new Integrated Reasoning question type won’t debut until the middle of 2012, you can already get a taste of how the new questions will work. GMAC has released 10 sample Integrated Reasoning questions to get an initial read on test takers’ reactions to them.

Note that these are question formats under consideration, and everything about them is subject to change. Some require you to read short passages, others have you gather information from a small spreadsheet, and others still require you to interpret a scatter plot. One question type even requires that you listen to an audio clip, rather than read a short passage.

Why not make it all words and numbers on a screen, like the rest of the GMAT? True analytical ability means much more than crunching numbers; it means being able to sort through a variety of information (delivered in any kind of format), recognize what’s going on, and pull out the insights that matter most. The more ways the test delivers information, the better it can assess your ability to truly analyze a problem and draw a correct conclusion, rather than your ability to apply a math shortcut or spot the incorrect use of an idiom in a passage. Not all of these question formats may make it to the actual new test that will debut in June, 2012, but we love that GMAC is getting so creative in making use of the computer-delivered testing format.

We really like the new Integrated Reasoning question format. Why? Because it gets right at what the GMAT was designed to test: your ability to process and synthesize information. This is also a skill that MBA admissions officers — and, perhaps more importantly, potential employers — look for in their applicants.

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Is a JD/MBA Really What You Want?

We get a lot of questions from applicants who want to know if a JD/MBA is right for them. These are typically applicants who are early in the process of planning their candidacies, and at that moment the idea of two graduate degrees frequently sounds twice as good as just one. With potentials paths into almost countless professional opportunities, such a a joint degree sounds like a slam dunk, right?

Actually, the majority of these applicants end up choosing just one degree or the other. Why? Because they often have thought some some of the most basic things they should consider before applying.

Here are three things you need to make sure you know about before you pursue a JD/MBA:

What Do You Want to Do Right After You Graduate?
What you want to do right after you earn you graduate will have a big impact on whether or not you should add the second degree. At the highest level, you can break this down into legal careers and jobs outside of the legal field. Legal careers include general counsel work, public interest work, academia, and, of course, practicing at a big firm. Non-legal careers are basically anything else that does not require admission to the state bar.

Assuming you want to pursue a legal career, adding an MBA can soften the learning curve. Many corporate attorneys will tell you from firsthand experience that this advantage is short-lived as you quickly acquire the knowledge you need, but there is no denying that a new associate can come out of the gates with more confidence and can perform tasks more quickly if they have a solid understanding of the business principles in play. Merely possessing a comfort level with the vocabulary can make a world of difference. There is nothing that feels worse than having a senior associate explain mezzanine loans to you or map out an org chart on the back of some scratch paper. Again, it is really only relevant during the first 18 months or so of your practice, but that is increasingly becoming a good chunk of a corporate attorney’s shelf life.

The biggest downside to securing an MBA on the road to a legal career (beyond the financial and opportunity costs outlined in previous posts) is the perception it might create among potential employers. Simply put, a JD/MBA is often seen as a “red flag” at law firms, due to increased flight risk presented by the JD/MBA applicant. That said, this stigma is starting to go away and for good reason: there’s nowhere to fly off to. Many of those lucrative counterpart jobs have dried up in the wake of the financial markets’ meltdown. So while a JD/MBA is still looked upon with some measure of suspicion by many BigLaw firms, the fear that they are hiring a banker-in-training is starting to go away.

For non-legal careers, pairing a JD with an MBA can be a great way to entice a variety of potential employers. However, for the most part, there is only one traditional MBA career path that consistently rewards and appreciates the JD/MBA degree: management consulting. Many elite consulting firms prefer law students over their business school counterparts due to the critical thinking, logical reasoning, speaking, and writing skills that are often produced at top law schools. However, the downside with a JD is that he may or may not know the first thing about business. Therefore, adding an MBA – and the presumed quantitative skills that come with it – is an easy way to put those fears to rest and present a “best of both worlds” scenario to consulting firms.

What Do You Want to Do Five to Ten Years from Now?
Assuming you pursue a legal career right out of school, there are two ways in which earning an MBA, in addition to a JD, can help you. The first role in which a joint degree can help is as a partner at a law firm. There are a variety of “soft” skills necessary to performing the tasks of an elite law firm partner, including negotiation, human resource management, rainmaking (or simply “sales,” as nobody seems to want to call it), and expansion -– all key elements to growing a practice and a book of business. Being an associate is about acquiring the skills to be a great lawyer, but by the time the firm is looking to mint new partners, they assume technical legal skill and start looking for the other areas so they can bring in more business. The second area where versatility can help a great deal is in transitioning from a firm to a company — i.e., “going in house.” A general counsel position requires more understanding of business concepts, challenges, shortcomings, and everything else that is necessary in order to successfully operate within a large organization. Having an MBA and, more importantly, having worked with MBA students, is a huge asset when transitioning into that world.

Assuming you pursue a non-legal career right out of school, the advantages of a JD/MBA are similar: It can be a huge asset in reaching the upper echelon of a corporate hierarchy. Just as an MBA can help a lawyer transition into business, so too does a JD often put an executive over the top as a CEO candidate. It is not so much legal knowledge that a CEO needs but rather the skills and tools that lawyers often possess –- the ability to understand regulatory frameworks, a comprehension of deal timelines, recognizing transaction costs, and (this is the big one) knowing which questions to ask in a given situation. Lawyers often prove to be the best CEOs and a quick look at the Fortune 100 shows that companies are certainly aware of that fact.

How Much Will the Joint Degree Cost You?
A joint degree often makes more sense for a law student seeking to add the MBA than a business school student thinking about pursuing a JD. This is true for a simple reason: law school is a longer program. Since most JD/MBA programs are four years in length (the most notable exceptions are Northwestern, Duke, and Penn – all offer three-year programs), it is only one extra year for a law student, yet it is double the length for an MBA student.

For an MBA student, the financial advantages to a JD/MBA are sometimes hard to identify but it usually comes down to versatility. A JD/MBA may not increase immediate earning power, but it will provide some security in a recession economy. Lawyers are seeing bonuses minimized and salaries frozen, but for the most part they are keeping their jobs. “Legal” is often the last budget item to get cut. Therefore, it can be quite comforting to have a JD in a time when Wall Street banks are transforming into nationalized institutions, right down to the government jobs. For law school students, the benefits of adding an MBA are more immediate and more tangible. Most (not all) top law firms pay a JD/MBA bonus that is equitable to a low-level federal clerkship bonus ($15K-$30K), and many will start an incoming associate with a JD/MBA at a second-year salary.

On the other hand, there is the increased cost to consider. A four-year program requires staying in school for at least one more year (two if you are an MBA student), while three-year programs feature higher annual tuition rates due to the summer coursework. However, this is only part of the equation. You also need to account for the lost earnings during that additional year of school. Many people use the wrong calculus here, adding in housing and living expenses (you are going to have to pay for those things whether you are in school or working), but ignoring the wages they fail to garner.

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Three Ways to Ace Your MBA Admissions Interview

Now that we’re in interview season for Round 1 applicants at top MBA programs, we’ve been getting more and more questions about how to prepare for these interviews. The first thing we always tell applicants is, “You need to be an expert on YOU and everything that’s in your application!” Admissions officers are not looking for discrepancies so that they can say, “A ha! We caught you in a lie! Automatic ding!” But, you do need to ensure that the person in your application and the person in your interview are the same.

To make sure that it all fits together, think about these three things as you prepare for your interview:

Make Sure Your Story Fits with This MBA Program
It’s easy to assume that getting an interview invitation means you’ve already done the two main things that every applicant must do to succeed: Demonstrate fit with your target school and stand out from the crowd. However, many times admissions officers will see a strong applicant and say, “Seems like a star, but we wonder how well he’ll fit in here,” or they may ask, “If we admit him, what are the chances that he’ll actually come?” The interview is an excellent way for the admissions committee to answer these questions. You can demonstrate strong fit by reinforcing the message that your career goals and what the school offers match up well, by showing a deep knowledge of the school (not by asking your interviewer “softball” questions that you can easily answer on your own), and by demonstrating a real enthusiasm for the program. Many of our clients have turned their applications into acceptances by demonstrating fit — which was the one big question mark that still hung over their candidacies — in their interviews.

Know What Themes Emerge as Someone Reads Your Application
It’s naturally somewhat difficult to look at your own application through the eyes of a stranger. Sometimes enlisting the help of someone else (either an admissions consultant or a friend of a friend, who is someone you can probably trust but who doesn’t know you very well) is a good way to get a view of your application through those eyes. However you do it, ask yourself what themes emerge. Are those the same ones you wanted to emerge? (You’d be surprised how, even just a few weeks after submitting your application, your view on how strong your application is can change!) If so, then how can you reinforce them in your interview? If not, and you’re lucky enough to still have an interview invite, how can you get those themes on the table in the interview? Remember that this information will be fed back into your overall application, so you still have a chance to work them into your overall application story.

Think About What Questions You Want Them to Ask
These seemingly simple question is one that we frequently present to our clients. For one, it forces them to actually consider about these questions and think through their answers, which prevents the likelihood of a disastrous flub on a simple, slam-dunk question. This exercise also helps your organize your thoughts in terms of what messages or themes you absolutely know you must get onto the table before the interview is over. Looking back at your application, perhaps you now wonder if your career goals seem unrealistic. Either they ask you about this and you can put this question to rest, or you hit the issue head on yourself, mitigating this risk on your own.

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Social Service-Minded Applicants Visit Wharton in November

Recently The Wharton School announced its 2010 Social Impact Visit Day will take place on November 11. This event is designed for young professionals who plan on pursuing a career in public service or social entrepreneurship, and are unsure of whether an MBA will help them achieve their goals.

Social Impact Visit Day gives prospective applicants a top-down view of what Wharton offers in the areas of Social Finance, Social Entrepreneurship, Education Reform, International Development and Corporate Social Responsibility. The next day Wharton hosts its annual Social Impact Conference, so if you have the time, we recommend sticking around for the extra day to really soak up as much as you can. After a day or two at the school, you should be well equipped to make your decision . And, if you do decide to apply, you’ll be far ahead of many other applicants who never get a chance to visit the school.

As strong and as well known as Wharton is, it’s not always the first business school that comes to mind when people think of non-profit or public sector careers. Yale SOM and Haas are probably the best known MBA programs in this space. However, Wharton offers an impressive array of courses, clubs, and study programs that make it a very viable option for someone considering such a career path. Judging from the school’s admissions essay topics, we have no doubt that Wharton is serious about finding and training young professionals who have a bent toward making a positive social impact. Even if you’re not sure that an MBA fits into your plans, Wharton is worth a look as a way to get a head start in a career in social entrepreneurship or the public sector.

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Stay Agile and Adaptable in the MBA Admissions Game

In life, nothing ever goes as planned. Maybe you don’t end up marrying your high school sweetheart. Or the dream job that you land turns out to be a nightmare. Or maybe the stock market takes a nose dive right before you’re getting ready to withdraw funds for a down payment on a new home. In every case, you make adjustments, and life goes on.

In business school admissions, the same kinds of things can happen. Your plans will almost certainly change between the very start of the process and when you click “Submit” on your last business school application. Maybe you didn’t leave yourself enough time for the GMAT, and on September 24 you got a 650, and the HBS Round 1 deadline was only a week away. Or, after five weeks of coaching one of your recommendation writers, it started to become apparent that you weren’t going to get a recommendation (or at least a good one) from him in time. Or, maybe you learned that you were just weeks away from receiving a large promotion, potentially making your candidacy stronger after the promotion, and maybe even giving you second thoughts about applying now and walking away from such a great opportunity.

In every case, you have to step back and plan again. Didn’t get the GMAT score that you wanted? Then you consider taking the GMAT again, knowing that you’re better off applying with a 700 in Round 2 than a 650 in Round 1. Or you hurry up and enlist the help of your “Plan B” recommendation writer, who ends up writing a better recommendation for you than anyone else does. Or you strategically wait a few weeks and let that promotion come through, so that you can show the big step up in job title (and salary) on your application data sheets.

In every case, things didn’t turn out the way you expected, and you smartly took a step back and asked, “What should I do differently to compensate for (or take advantage) of this new situation?” That ability to assimilate and act on new information not only makes for a great fantasy football manager, but it also happens to make for a great business manager, which is what MBA admissions officers are looking for to begin with.

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