Monthly Archives: December 2010

Wharton Overhauls Its MBA Curriculum

Recently the faculty at the Wharton School voted overwhelmingly in favor of approving the first overhaul to the school’s curriculum in 17 years. As reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, the school will introduce parts of the new curriculum in the fall of 2011 before fully implementing it in 2012.

The new curriculum represents more than a shuffling of electives or tweaks to first-year requirements. Most significantly, Wharton announced that it will deliver executive education to its alumni free of charge. All MBA grads will be eligible to attend enrichment classes every seven years. The school provided few details about the new lifelong learning mode, but it will be interesting to see how other schools respond.

Many of the other changes announced, while still significant, sound more similar to those announced at other top business schools over the past several years. These include reducing the number of required courses for first-year students, placing more emphasis on ethics in coursework, opening more opportunities for global exposure, and requiring that every student participate in a leadership coaching program that spans the two-year curriculum. Wharton will also put more emphasis on oral and written communication, adding a required course in this area for first-year students.

Most noteworthy among the announced changes is the introduction of continued executive education for its graduates. Not only is it smart for Wharton (because it keeps alumni more closely tied to the school), but it also shows that the school puts its money where its mouth is in terms of developing business leaders well beyond those students’ two years at Wharton. We wonder if other top MBA programs will follow Wharton’s lead.

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Three Ways to Break Through Writer’s Block

If you stumbled across the article while procrastinating on your business school admissions essays, you’re in luck. Hopefully this article will be the best thing that could have happened to your essays. Today we present three ways to break through writer’s block and get your MBA admissions essays back on track.

When we say “writer’s block,” we mean any situation where you know what’s on paper (or on your computer screen) is far from being a finished product that you’ll be happy to submit as part of your finished application. Maybe you just can’t think about what to start writing about (this is what most people think of when they hear “writer’s block”), but an even tougher case can be when you’re staring at a nearly-finished essay and you just know that it’s not working. In either case, try these three things to clear your mind and start fresh

Talk to an Old Friend or Relative
Why would connecting with an old friend or relative help with your writer’s block? Doing so can help stimulate memories and ideas that may be buried deep in your brain. A conversation with an old friend may remind you of why you got so excited about your current career in the first place, giving new oomph to a “Career Progression”-oriented essay. The real thing — whether it’s talking to an old friend or looking through old pictures — is far more effective at jogging your memory and unleashing old (but good) ideas than is sitting at a computer.

Write Something You Know You’ll Never Submit
There’s something to be said for doing a “dry run” that you know will have no real consequences. Stumped on your Stanford GSB “What matters most and why” essay? Write an absurd piece that you know would immediately get you dinged if you ever submitted it. Or, write it as a character from a movie would — Gordon Gekko is always a good one to fall back on — and let your creative juices flow. Just be sure that you remember NOT to submit this version when you send in your application!

Get Some Rest!
At the end of the day, no mind is better able to create than a well rested one. One night of at least eight hours of sleep and another night of dedicated writing is always more effective than two nights of tired writing and less sleep than your body really needs. Science backs this up, too: While you’re asleep, your brain processes the day’s memories and makes new connections between neurons to store those in your long-term memory. This “flushing out” of your short-term memory helps your brain take in, process, and synthesize new information. Tell that to your professor when you get caught napping in class!

Got other ideas? Share them in the comments section below! For more MBA admissions advice, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Sally Blount’s 21st-Century Plans for Kellogg

In an in-depth interview published by the Financial Times recently, new Kellogg School of Management Dean Sally Blount shared some of her thinking regarding what’s next for the school. Now that she’s more than 100 days into her job (a period of learning and listening that she chronicled on her own blog), Dean Blount is ready to roll up her sleeves and make her mark on the school.

While it sounds like she’s treading somewhat carefully, it also is clear that Blount is not afraid to shake things up. When asked about Kellogg’s current way of expanding its footprint in new markets, which relies heavily on partnerships with institutions in those countries, Blount described the approach as “a great late 20th century strategy.” But, now things have changed, and she is considering all sorts of new options for how to expand Kellogg’s global footprint, including possibly building Kellogg-run schools in other parts of the world.

Perhaps Blount’s most interesting comment had to do with the school’s one-year MBA program, which is perhaps the best known one-year program among top U.S. business schools. Noting the importance for Kellogg to raise its global profile and the popularity of the one-year program among international students (56% of one-year students come from outside the U.S.), Blount suggests that the traditional two-year program will shrink over time while the school enrolls more students in its one-year program. And, as Kellogg enters or expands in new markets, it is likely that the one-year program, not the traditional two-year MBA, will lead the way.

Some Kellogg students alumni may raise their eyebrows at Blount’s comment that the school has cut down the size of its planned new building in Evanston in favor of investing more in its second U.S. campus, in Miami. One only hopes that the cutbacks for the new Evanston building are not so significant that it will wipe out most of the benefit of the new building to begin with. The school’s current quarters are somewhat dated and cramped (especially given Kellogg’s emphasis on team-based work, which necessitates a lot of open space and meeting rooms for those teams), and hopefully this will finally be addressed with the new building, which is still at least a few years away.

Finally, Dean Blount made some interest comments about being open to the idea of using online learning tools to cut down costs. “Basic courses will go electronic,” she says, again making some wonder if this is really what’s best for the students or if it’s a matter of cost savings coming before curriculum development. However, if Kellogg can strike the right balance and free up students to get more quality face time with professors in classes where such a lecture style makes the most impact, it could take the lead in an area that no school administrator has fully figure out yet.

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How to Think About Round 2 (When Round 1 Didn’t Go So Well)

If you applied to one or more business schools in Round 1, by now some of your results may already have come in. Maybe you got an interview invitation with at least one school (great!), or you haven’t heard anything yet (don’t worry!), or perhaps you’ve already gotten the dreaded “No thanks” message from one of your target schools (oh no!). In any scenario, you may already look at Round 2 differently than you did just a month ago.

If things are going well, then you probably don’t need much help, at least not in the application preparation part of things. If you’re starting to get bad news, though, you may have started thinking different about Round 2. That’s not a bad thing to do — any smart manager always incorporates new information as it comes in, after all — but don’t let one or two rejection letters completely throw you off of your game.

Diagnose the Situation
If you’re already getting bad news, then you probably were rejected without an invitation to interview. That means that you weren’t able to do at least one of the two things that every successful applicant must to when applying to the world’s most competitive MBA programs:

  • Demonstrate fit with your target school
  • Differentiate yourself from other applicants

The first one is normally easier to diagnose, since there is often (although not always) a “smoking gun” that stands out in your application. Perhaps your GMAT score or undergraduate GPA was simply too low for the admissions office to take a closer look at your application. Or, maybe your career goals didn’t seem to mesh well with the types of employers the school normally attracts. Or, perhaps your essays or letters of recommendation painted the picture of an aggressive overachiever, when a school really values teamwork and a softer touch. (Remember, each of these attributes is just one piece of the puzzle, but the more you ask admissions officers to look past a weakness, the more likely they are to turn to the the next application in the pile.)

The second challenge — differentiating yourself — is sometimes a tougher one to spot, particularly if you try to diagnose your own candidacy. The reason is that you’re not able to see the thousands of other applications that admissions officers see alongside yours, so it’s difficult to put yourself and their shoes and determine why they should dig deeper into your application than into an application from someone else who, at least at first glance, looks very similar to you. Your parents think you’re amazing, your boss loves you, and your co-workers call you a rock star… Why don’t admissions officers see the same things in you? This is where an MBA admissions expert can help, since he or she has worked with dozens — even hundreds — of applicants and has seen enough applicant profiles to be able to tell you what stands out vs. what looks and feels like “just another applicant.”

Round 2 Is a Whole New Ballgame
If one or more of these things seem to conspire to keep you out, then you can start to work on them before Round 2, but of course there will only be so much you can do. Your undergraduate GPA and your work history until now aren’t things that you can change. You do, however, still have a lot of time to do the following to improve your candidacy before you submit your applications: You can retake the GMAT, go back to the drawing board on your admissions essays and make sure they achieve the two strategic necessities described above, find recommendation writers who may be able to do a better job then the ones you chose before (and/or you can coach your recommendation writers better), and focus your energy on getting one more great experience in the workplace. These are all positive, constructive things that you can do to at least marginally improve your chances. (We’re always big on encouraging applicants to take additional college coursework, too, but time has probably run out for that option if you’re targeting Round 2.)

A negative, reactionary response to a rough Round 1 is firing off three a bunch of additional applications (beyond what you originally planned) in Round 2, or applying to some “safety” schools which you you have no true desire of attending, in the blind hope of getting in ANYWHERE. More times than we can count, we have seen applicants fail with a certain playbook, and then simply apply that playbook to many, many more schools, hoping that it works in just one case. Odds are that it won’t.

If Round 1 is turning out to be a rocky one, take a step back, think about what you can do differently (or whether you need to do anything differently at all), and then move forward with a deliberate plan. Remember that admissions rates are VERY low at the top graduate schools for a reason — because thousands of people are gunning for the same seats! The odds are very slim that you’ll be successful with every application. The solution is to create better applications, not more mediocre ones.

For more advice on making your MBA candidacy a great one, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Using Improv Comedy to Tighten Your Admissions Essays

Recently we came across this terrific piece on a hypothetical college course that the author would one day like to teach. The course would require students to ruthlessly edit their own writing with every assignment they submit. We immediately circulated here, because it hit so close to home for the Veritas Prep team. Every day we work with clients to help them sharpen their ideas, and this exercise helps crystallize it perfectly.

The author, Jason Fried, says:
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