Monthly Archives: October 2012

Choosing the Perfect MBA Program for You

What you will get out of an MBA program depends completely on your situation. If you’re a career-changer, then you need to acquire new skills and demonstrate to potential employers that you have what it takes to thrive in their industry. If you want to move up in your current career, then you may only need to acquire a few very specific skills to complement your existing experience. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, then business school may be less about academics and more about networking and meeting future potential business partners. Knowing which of these categories you fall into will help you find the right program and go in with a solid plan for making the most of your time in school.

Accelerated Programs Could Be an Option
If you plan to go back to school mainly to acquire hard skills and don’t care too much about how fancy your diploma is, then a specialized certificate could be a smart choice. However, we hear from many applicants who think such a path can be a shortcut (both in terms of time and money) to everything that a full MBA can offer. If they want to change careers or get their foot in the door at a highly competitive firm, they’re often disappointed to find that a certificate doesn’t carry anywhere near the cachet that an MBA does.

In Europe, the most MBA programs are actually a lot shorter than are their American counterparts. While the one-year MBA is still a relatively rare breed in the U.S., this format is definitely growing in prominence. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, for example, has offered a one-year MBA program for years, and recently announced that it will expand the program. We expect that more American programs will follow suit. If you already have some basic business training, or don’t need the benefit of a summer internship, then a one-year program could be a great choice. Just be sure you choose this route for the right reasons.

Keep Your Expectations in Check
Whenever a student is disappointed with his business school experience, it often is because he couldn’t land the type of job he expected when he came out of the program. No matter what your career goals are, I recommend that you always talk to a school’s career office and find out how many students get offers from certain firms, which of those companies come to campus to recruit, and what support the career office can give you as you hunt for those jobs. The degree will arm you with certain skills, but after that, it’s largely up to you to find the opportunities (hopefully with some help from the school) and to perform well once you land the job. Be realistic about how much the school can or can’t help you in this regard.

Think Long-Term When It Comes to ROI
It is definitely a big investment to go back to school for a graduate degree. At a minimum, you should critically consider what the degree will get you in your career and ask yourslf, “Can I achieve these things without the degree?” Often the answer is “Yes,” but it’s a question of likelihood. For example, someone who wants to get into management consulting doesn’t necessarily need to earn an MBA to get into that field, but their chances of becoming a management consultant — especially at a blue-chip firm — increase exponentially with an MBA from a top-ranked school. It’s a big investment, but it’s one that could put you over the top and get you onto a career path that might otherwise be a long shot.

There definitely is an opportunity cost to leaving the work force for a couple of years to earn a graduate degree. It can be easy to overestimate this cost, though. If you are 25 years old and cnosider being out of the workforce for two years, that may seem like a really long time. But, remember that you will probably be working for the next 40 years, and a two-year investment in your 20s may help make the next 40 years much more successful.

For more MBA admissions news and advice, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!


Veritas Prep Launches New GMAT Question Bank

The real GMAT constantly evolves, adds new questions, retires others, and even introduces entirely new question formats. So no company can sit back and let its practice tests collect dust — if the tests aren’t changing, then they’re not the best in the business.

As part of its ongoing commitment to build the best computer-adaptive GMAT practice tests available anywhere, earlier this month Veritas Prep launched its new GMAT Question Bank, containing hundreds of free practice GMA questions.

So why did Veritas Prep launch this free GMAT resource now? “We’ve created this tool and opened it up to everyone so that we can collect loads of data on our questions,” according to the Veritas Prep Blog. “We’ll use the data we collect to measure and refine our questions, which will then go into new generations of our GMAT practice tests.”

In effect, by answering these questions, students are helping the system learn about its own GMAT questions — which ones are easy, which ones are hard, which ones are confusing and need to be refined, etc. The system also learns about each user, and the result is an iterative process in which it measure users by seeing how they did on certain questions, and assesses those questions by seeing how well certain users performed on those questions.

The number of questions in the system will vary over time as the system validates questions. Once the system deems a question good enough to be in one of Veritas Prep’s 15 GMAT practice tests, it may disappear from the Question Bank and only be available to Veritas Prep GMAT students. But, students can always come back and view their past results at any time.

Right now you will see the five question types that are in the computer-adaptive parts of the GMAT: Critical Reasoning, Sentence Correction, Reading Comprehension, Data Sufficiency, and Problem Solving. There is no Integrated Reaosning in there yet, but according to Veritas Prep, that will change soon.

For more MBA admissions news and advice, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

3 Ways to Take an Admissions Essay from Good to Great

We are surprised by how often applicants present essays (either to professors, consultants, or even to the admissions committee) that are nothing more than glorified drafts. Crafting an essay is a time intensive process that requires a great deal of revision in order to write with economy, power, and persuasion. You will almost certainly go through multiple revisions with your consultant, but the client who takes the time to execute multiple drafts on their own will be leaps and bounds ahead when it comes time to take the next step.

Whether you are drafting admissions essays for business school, proper revision requires at least these three crucial steps:

  1. On Screen. Review your work on your computer screen and make changes as you go. Doing so will clean up the bulk of your original errors and the most obvious misuses of style and structure.
  2. On Paper. Walk away from your work and give it some time before sitting down and reviewing the document carefully in printed form. Doing so not only allows you to read from a fresh perspective, but also to lavish more attention on the finer points, such as transition words, passive voice and indexing.
  3. Read Aloud. While most people take the time to review their own work, few actually read it out loud. Reading aloud forces you to read each word and ensure proper inflection, and it also represents an ideal way to spot excess words, misplaced modifiers and other issues that will trip up a reader.

Finally, remember this: Time is often one of the most overlooked key ingredients of great admissions essays and personal statements. If you are reading this for the first time and your admissions deadline is just days away, then there’s obviously only so much you can do. But, nothing helps you more than the ability to let your essays “rest” for a few days, after which you can read them with a fresh pair of eyes and read what the essays actually say, rather than what they should say. This is a powerful technique for catching typos, and it can also help you identify where your essays might miss the mark in a bigger, strategic sense.

For more MBA admissions news and advice, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays for 2012-2013

UCLA’s Anderson School of Management has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2012-2013 admissions season. While Anderson has made fewer dramatic changes than some other prominent business schools have this year, the school did change one of its two required essays, and trimmed the word count for each by 50 words. The essay word count diet continues…

Let’s dig into Anderson’s essays, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Application Essays

  1. What is your proudest achievement outside the workplace, and how has it impacted you? (700 words)

    This question is new this year, and it replaces a question that asked, “What events or people have had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why?” One thing hasn’t changed thought: this question’s emphasis on you, and the admissions committee’s desire for you to write about something other than what it can plainly read on your resume. Many applicants may read this question and immediately think, “Okay, they want something about my extracurricular activities and community involvement,” but that’s not necessarily the case. The real key is to tell a story about personal growth (note the “how has it impacted you?” part of the question). If you have a story that does that and also happens to demonstrate your ability to make a positive impact on those around you, then great, but here Anderson really means it when its asks about the impact the achievement had on you. How did you grow as a result? Did it change your outlook? Did it boost your confidecne in tackling later challenges? This is what Anderson wants to erad about here!
  2. What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals? (700 words)

    This question carries over unchanged from last year, and so our advice mostly remains the same. You should approach this question the same as you would most other “Career Goals” / “Why an MBA?” essays. Note that the “Why an MBA?” component is very important, but you absolutely MUST demonstrate in this essay a knowledge of and a passion for UCLA Anderson. One way any school protects its admissions yield is by ferreting out those who don’t show enough enthusiasm for the program. Failing to answer the second part part of the question — how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? — is a sure way to get ferreted out by the admissions committee.
  3. (Optional Essay) Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

    As we always advise our clients when it comes to optional essays, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!

To stay on top on all of the latest news from UCLA Anderson and other top-ranked business schools, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!