Monthly Archives: May 2012

Should You be Worried About Integrated Reasoning?

So you’re not going to be able to take the GMAT before it changes next week. After all that you’ve read about how applicants who take the old GMAT will have a distinct advantage over those Next-Generation GMAT victims, do you really think you stand a chance of breaking a 700 on the exam now that you must face the new Integrated Reasoning section?

Contrary to what some might think, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) didn’t create Integrated Reasoning in a drive to find a more fiendish question type, and no one is out to make your life harder. Integrated Reasoning does represent a new way that GMAC tries to measure your decision-making abilities and analytical skills, but it’s not an entirely new exam.

Here are three reasons you don’t need to stress if you plan on taking the GMAT after June 5:

It will be a year or two before admissions officers put much stock in your Integrated Reasoning score.
Put yourself in admissions officers’ shoes… This fall, when they first see GMAT scores come in containing IR scores, they’re not going to be ready to admit or reject someone based on that single number. What’s a great score? What’s a mediocre score? They will be able to look at percentiles to help them gauge how much better a score of 7 is than a 6, but even those aren’t going to be a sure thing for a while. GMAC has announced that the scoring percentiles will be updated every month for the first six months, so even those normally trustworthy numbers may be in flux. The bottom line? Admissions officers have a lot of learning to do about what looks, smells, walks, and talks like a great IR score. Until they do develop that intuition, you can be sure it will only be a very minor factor in their admissions decision, if any at all.

Integrated Reasoning does not factor into your overall score.
Are you aiming for a 760+ score? Just trying to break 700? Whatever the case may be, how you do on Integrated Reasoning will have no impact on your overall score out of 800. Just like the Analytical Writing Assessment was (and will continued to be) scored, Integrated Reasoning will have its own scoring scale, in this on a 1 to 8 scale.

If you prepare for the GMAT the right way, you don’t need much additional preparation for Integrated Reasoning.
We’ve seen some specious arguments about how taking the Next Generation GMAT will require you to prepare much more for the exam than will the old section. First, this argument assumes that you were going to spend little to no time preparing for the soon-to-be-dropped Analysis of an Issue AWA essay, which is probably not true. Second, it misses a real important point that we have been making all along: If you study for the GMAT the right way, and go beyond memorizing content to actually train yourself in the higher-order thinking skills that business schools want to see, then you won’t find the new IR section to be all that challenging. Veritas Prep students are already realizing this on their own, and many of them have said that they’re in fact glad that they will take the new GMAT, because they “get” Integrated Reasoning and would rather do that section than another drab AWA essay.

So, before you contemplate fleeing the GMAT completely, know that Integrated Reasoning is not all that hard if you’re prepared properly, it doesn’t matter that much if you do in fact do badly on it, and you may even find it to be fun. And if you don’t find analysis to be somewhat enjoyable, then brace yourself for business school!

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The Art of Not Looking To Desperate When Applying to Business School

When perusing the data and seeing the average starting salaries at the top-ranked MBA programs and law schools, it’s easy to get the impression that getting into a top graduate school can turn you from an 80-pound weakling into a money-making, world-beating dynamo. But don’t be fooled. Yes, these schools can significantly improve your earnings power, but to get in you have to demonstrate that you’re already a star.

We know what you’re thinking… If you’re already a star, then why would you need an MBA?

Think about what nearly every business school asks in its application: Some form of the “Why do you want an MBA from this school?” question. If you can’t answer this… Well, that’s the first filter to keep out the applicants who aren’t serious. But, beyond that first-cut filter, they hope to see something along the lines of, “I am already progressing quickly in my career, and know that a degree from your school will help me go even further.”

And, they don’t only want to hear you say that, but they also want to hear it from your recommenders, and see it on your resume, and smell it on you… Yes! Smell it on you! People can smell winners and losers, and admissions officers at top business schools and law schools are especially trained in this skill. They’re not interested in finding the 28-year-old who’s stalled in his career and needs a glorious name on his resume to get things going again.

Compare that to this answer to the “Why an MBA?” question: “My boss doesn’t get me. I haven’t yet had a chance to lead anyone. I’m just waiting for someone to discover how great I am. When they do… Then my career will really start to take off.

Here, the applicant is saying, “I know I don’t smell like a winner, but I promise there’s a winner in here somewhere!” Why would admissions officers take a chance on that when they don’t need to? They don’t need to because they’re already inundated with applications from real stars, people who are already doing really well in their careers. Wouldn’t they rather admit one of those stars, and know that they’ll go on to great things?

So, you absolutely must make sure that you show in your application that you’re already on the way up, and that the school can help add that extra 10% that will make you really successful. How? You need to point to evidence of what you’ve accomplished, how you’ve gone outside of your comfort zone and beyond your job description, and how you made a positive mark on the organization and community around you. That’s what a winner smells like, and that’s who an admissions officer wants to admit.

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How to Finance Your MBA

When it comes to getting into the world’s most competitive graduate schools, many applicants can’t see past the challenge of getting into a top program. If they’re fortunate enough to get into a school like Harvard, the thinking goes, then they’ll gladly deal with the question of how to pay for it. While this is somewhat understandable (Why worry about how you’ll pay for a yacht if you won’t ever set foot on one to begin with?), applicants owe it to themselves to consider the true cost and the true reward of the educational opportunity before them.

Many will tell you that borrowing money to pay for school is an investment and not debt, but try telling that to the loan services when they send out the monthly bill. Not only that, but the analysis is rarely about going back to school or not going, but rather about making the best possible choice. It may very well be the case that attending your dream school without the aid of scholarships or grants is the best decision, but it might also be true that a secondary opportunity starts to look a lot better when the calculator comes out.

Today we look at five things absolutely should consider before you choose which graduate school to attend:

Calculate how much you will pay over the life of your loans
A six-figure loan is a lot of money, for sure, but it is really a lot of money when the interest kicks in immediately and keeps accumulating for the life of a 10-year loan period. Students should make sure to work with the financial aid officers to figure out how much they will ultimately shell out by the time they finish making payments. Any differences in “free money” between school A and B will only become more exaggerated over time.

Don’t fall into the “drop in the bucket” mentality
Most grad students find the sticker price of graduate school so shockingly high that they sort of give up before they even get started. Not only does this lead to less-than-careful review of the award letter, lack of effort in contacting the financial aid officer, and a failure to appeal for reconsideration, it can also lead to careless spending. A bigger or nicer apartment, a car payment, and a brand new laptop are all very common expenditures for grad students, and while the extra five or ten thousand dollars doesn’t seem like much next to a $140,000 education, that extra spending will absolutely be paid for by the loans with the worst terms and highest interest rates. Those items will ultimately cost the student twice as much down the road.

Don’t give up on outside funding
More common among high school students with parents who see their life savings dwindling away, searching for outside scholarships is often something that slips past graduate school applicants. This is a mistake, as there are a variety of unique scholarships, fellowships, and writing competitions available for graduate students of all stripes. Most top grad programs feature a list of such resources on their websites and there are also both free and pay sites that collate these opportunities.

Research every financial aid opportunity at every school of interest
Believe it or not, most applicants do not perform a thorough search of each and every scholarship and fellowship offered at the schools to which they are applying. The reason this is so important is that students may actually qualify for something they aren’t even aware of. Whether it is something fairly well known like Teach For America arrangements or something more unique, students need to perform this simple step of due diligence.

Understand the true cost of the degree
Pay very close attention not only to current tuition, but also the inflation rate at that school. Some universities are seeing tuition go up more rapidly than others, so it makes sense to project the cost for the following year (or years) as well as simply looking at the tuition and cost for the first year.

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