Monthly Archives: December 2011

Get to Know: Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School attracts more applications than nearly any other MBA program every year. It’s no surprise, given how many grads Columbia places into high-paying Wall Street jobs every year. What may surprise you, though, is how many applicants apply to Columbia without really knowing whether or not it’s a good fit for them. We always urge these applicants to go back and do their homework a bit more before they start crafting their Columbia applications.

Are you thinking about applying to Columbia? How do you know if Columbia really is a good fit for you? Today we present a few things you should know as you research the school. The more these things sound like you, the more you should consider Columbia Business School:

You want an accelerated program
As mentioned above, the Columbia J-Term is the only accelerated MBA program available in the U.S. It’s not the right option for everyone, but if you are committed to your existing career and just need more skills to advance, or if you’re an entrepreneur or will be returning to a family business, the J-Term can be an ideal choice, with lower opportunity cost than the traditional two-year track.

You have a bit more work experience
While Columbia will review any application that comes in, it’s tougher for younger candidates to be successful here, while those with more work experience might see a favorable outcome.

You want an EMBA from two great programs
Earning your degree through one of Columbia’s Executive MBA programs, in partnership with either London Business School, or UC Berkeley’s Haas School, means that you will be an alumni of both programs, offering a combined breadth of opportunities and resources unheard of for graduates of most elite programs.

You want to work on Wall Street
This hardly needs to be mentioned, but in case it’s not obvious: Columbia is a major feeder program to the bulge bracket i-banks, hedge funds, and the most elite financial institutions in the world. Goldman Sachs only recruits at a handful of schools: here, and at Wharton and LBS. If you want to play with the big boys, this could be the place for you.

Want more advice on getting into Columbia Business School? We cover Columbia in detail in our book, Your MBA Game Plan, which is now in its 3rd edition! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Get to Know: MIT Sloan

MIT’s Sloan School of Management is well known for producing grads with strong quantitative skills. But there’s a lot more to Sloan than spreadsheets and operations models. If you’re aiming for the top business schools, you will want to take a long, hard look at Sloan. But how do you know if Sloan is a good fit for you? Today we dig into six things that make MIT Sloan different than other top business schools. If you like the way these sound, then Sloan should probably be on your short list of MBA programs:

Open access to information
Not just Sloan, but all of MIT believes in sharing information, and the school is a pioneer in the way it’s made its educational content — nearly all of it — available for free on the web through the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative. This includes a vast array of Sloan courses, from undergraduate to graduate to PhD. These course materials are open to everyone, though the school does not grant degrees or certificates or provide any proof of completion, and it is no substitute for the actual MBA experience.

A challenging curriculum
The first semester at MIT is notoriously challenging — more so even than other top schools. All students take the same set of five required core courses in that first term, and it’s said to be grueling. Most schools have a fixed core that extends over two semesters and while challenging, typically isn’t quite as brutal as the one-semester core at Sloan.

A flexible curriculum
The reward for completing that difficult core curriculum is that students are given the freedom to design much of their own educational experience thereafter. Many students focus on fulfilling the requirements of one of the certificate programs, and others create an informal specialization of their own. However, past that initial semester, Sloan does not dictate which classes students must take, which means that the educational experience can be tailored at MIT more than it can at some of its peers.

Truncated admissions processes
Besides the differences in academics, MIT also is different in how it handles MBA admissions: Sloan has just two application rounds for its standard MBA program, with deadlines in October and in January. Each of the other Sloan degree programs, including the Leaders for Global Organizations and the new Master of Finance, has its own separate deadline as well, which is usually much earlier than those at other top schools.

Technology
Given the strength of MIT and engineering, it’s no surprise that Sloan has a superior offering in the area of tech ventures and IT. Innovation is a buzzword at many top business schools, but Sloan embodies it, particularly in the area of high tech. Support for an entrepreneur in launching a new venture at business school is stronger at MIT than almost anywhere else.

Sustainability
Sloan has a concerted focus on “green” business, and the relatively new Certificate in Sustainability is one of the few formal programs of its kind at any top school. Sloan also has a track record for putting its money where its mouth is: not only is the new E62 building going to be LEED certified for environmental friendliness, but MIT’s admissions team recently invested in Apple iPads in order to make their entire admissions process paper-free.

Looking for more advice on getting into MIT Sloan? We cover Sloan in detail in our book, Your MBA Game Plan, which is now in its 3rd edition! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Contrarian Advice of the Week: You Should Wait and Apply in Round 3!

This is inevitably the time of year when many applicants ask, “Should I hurry up and get my applications in by the Round 2 deadlines, or should I take some more time and apply in Round 3?” As stressful as Round 1 deadlines are, Round 2 deadlines give applicants the extra fear of “If I don’t make this deadline, I’m doomed!”

Before you read any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: Applying to business school in Round 3 is NOT automatically a bad idea. MBA programs always go to great lengths to let applicants know that they have three rounds for a reason, and that they do indeed accept people in Round 3. Yes, the numbers do support the argument that, all things being equal (which they never are), you’re better off applying earlier, but GREAT applicants always get in to every top business school every year. And if you’re not a GREAT applicant, then should you apply? Or keep working at it until you are one?

Our answer is almost always, “Keep working at it,” which brings us back to the topic at hand, which is whether you should apply by the Round 2 deadline or make some moves to strengthen your candidacy and take a stronger shot in Round 3. If you have a significant weakness in your profile that 1) you believe will give admissions officer pause and 2) can be improved upon or compensated for within the next several months, then there is a very good argument to be made for waiting and applying in Round 3. Obvious examples include a low GMAT score, a weak undergraduate transcript, or a lack of certain experiences on the job. In those last two cases, you may be able to make up some ground within two or three months (by taking a college course and seeking out a new opportunity at work, respectively), although it often takes some luck for things to fall into place and for the timing to work out.

There are many other types weaknesses that are just as critical, but which may be harder to fix, at least in a short amount of time. The most common examples here are a lack of meaningful community service, a big hole in your work experience that you will have to deal with no matter what, or a serious lack of any good candidates who will write your letters of recommendation. These all take much more work (and time) to overcome, and in these cases we often advise that an applicant wait until next year before applying. When they don’t want to hear that, or have a good reason for wanting to take a shot now, we’ll advise that they aim lower in terms of the programs to which they’re applying.

Some still march ahead with what we call the “lottery ticket approach” — they know their odds of getting in to a top-ranked school are low, but they apply, anyway. We don’t recommend this approach, but we are willing to welcome them back as reapplicants when they (almost always) apply again next year!

To sum up: If your candidacy has a significant weakness that can’t be overcome in two to three months, you need to assess how big of a weakness it is. The bigger it is, the more we recommend waiting until next year. If it’s something that will hurt your chances, but can be fixed in two or three months, then we often recommend waiting until Round 3. These are all shades of grey — the answer is “it depends” more than anyone would like — but that’s essentially the decision tree we go through every day with our admissions consulting clients at this time of year. Just remember that, as impatient as you may be to get into a top-ranked business school, this is something that can set you up for success for the next half a century, so take the time to do it right now!

Looking for more business school admissions advice? Take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Get to Know: Chicago Booth

Chicago Booth is one of the “hottest” MBA programs in the world, considering the rankings. More and more top-tier candidates now consider applying to Booth than ever before, making getting in to Booth tougher. Over the past several years, we have probably seen inquires about Booth increase more than those for any other school. Booth is hot, and people want to go there. If you’re reading this, then odds are that you’re considering Booth, too.

But how do you know Chicago Booth is a good fit for you? Today we look at four things that might make Booth an especially good fit for you. Not all of these need to apply to you, but the more these things sound like you, the more likely you are to fit in at Booth and excel in its rigorous learning environment:

You appreciate the Midwest
Obviously the majority of top American schools are on the coasts. Chicago Booth is one of two excellent schools in the middle of the country. If you don’t mind the cold — and the wind — Chicago is a dynamic city with plenty of urban attractions and diversions to occupy you when you’re not in class. Most recruiters who come to Chicago Booth also go to the other top schools on the coasts, however if you plan to stay in the Midwest after business school, then Chicago is an obvious choice.

You are an impressive early-career candidate
Chicago Booth has been known to be somewhat more open to younger applicants, though not generally those coming straight from university. Chicago Booth Admissions states that usually 1½ or 2 years in the workforce is recommended before you’ll be ready for the MBA experience.

You are changing careers
The freedom of curriculum design at Chicago Booth means that career changers can target their first-year experience to gain not just the standard MBA skills of economics, statistics, and finance, but also begin to develop the specialized training they will need for their post-MBA career — before their internship. At Chicago Booth, a well-planned first-year program can potentially result in a more meaningful summer internship experience and dramatically accelerate your progress in your new field, making you more attractive when you compete against candidates from other programs.

You like a smaller classroom
While its graduating class is at the upper end of the range of business school programs, at 550 full-time students, the actual class size at Chicago Booth tends to be a little smaller than at other schools, particularly in the core classes. This is because of that flexible curriculum again: instead of being assigned to a cluster that might be up to 90 students, and is almost definitely at least 65 (the average at Columbia and Wharton), Chicago Booth first-years choose how to satisfy their core requirements from a variety of options. The incoming class naturally scatters out to pursue the core subjects at their appropriate level of difficulty — and resulting in less than 60 students per class. Electives at Chicago Booth generally have fewer than 50 students. You might still get “lost in the crowd” given how large Chicago Booth is overall, but the classroom experience might be marginally less intimidating with fewer people people in the room.

To stay on top on all of the latest news and analysis of Booth admissions, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Yale’s 3-Year JD/MBA Program to Become Official

For the past two years Yale University has offered a three-year joint JD/MBA degree, offered between Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management. Last month, after a nearly year-long review, the Yale Law School faculty has voted to make the joint degree a permanent offering. While the business school’s faculty has yet to vote, it is expected that it will also vote in favor of making the program permanent.

The Yale JD/MBA program is only six semesters long, with no summer component, making it one of the shortest such programs in the country. Students spend two academic years in the Law School and one year in the School of Management. While this is not the first such program in the nation — Northwestern, Duke, and Penn also offer similar programs — the fact that Yale Law School has finally embraced this model means that it’s probably not going away, and it could mean that more top universities will soon follow.

Note that for a while now Yale has offered a more traditional JD/MBA that spans four years. Nine students are currently enrolled in the three-year program, and many of them have stated that the accelerated program’s lack of a summer term attracted them to the program. While Yale has not yet created new, specific courses that merge the two disciplines (as Columbia has done), it may start developing such courses now that the program will be permanent.

Visit the Yale website for more information about Yale’s three-year JD/MBA program.

To stay on top on all of the latest news and analysis of Wharton admissions, be sure to find MBA Game Plan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!