Monthly Archives: January 2009

MBA Essay Topics: How Racy Can You Get?

I recently heard from an applicant who was writing an MBA admissions essay that could be construed by some to be a little controversial. Basically, it contained a “dirty phrase” that was actually helped him describe a hobby that’s very important to him. He asked me if I thought it was a bad idea.

My advice is that you should always show the real you in your essays, but you also need to exercise some common sense. You simply don’t know who will give your essay a read in the admissions office. While in a perfect admissions office, everyone reads every application exactly the same way, free of their biases, opinions, political views, etc., that’s never going to be the case.

Don’t water it down and make your business school application essays bland, but don’t give an admissions officer, who may not have your same sense of humor, an easy reason to ding you.

For some great MBA essay samples, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan.

Haas MBA Admissions Interview Tips

Peter Johnson, the Director of Admissions at the Haas School of Business, recently posted a message on the Haas blog to answer some questions and soothe some nerves regarding Haas’s admissions interview policies.

On the blog, Peter writes:

Contrary to popular belief, there is no fixed percentage of applicants who are interviewed, and chances of admission for those who do interview are based on the strength of the entire application package and the interview. In the past few years, between 25% and 30% of all applicants have been selected to interview–but keep in mind that this percentage has varied each year. It’s simply a reflection of the strength of the candidates in a specific round.

Although it’s a positive sign to be invited to interview, it doesn’t mean you’ll get an offer–but it does mean that the Admissions Committee saw enough strengths in your application to be seriously considering your candidacy, so it’s always a good sign!

Note that those percentages are just historical norms. You can consider them rough guidelines in terms of trying to determine your chances this year, but the number will always bounce around. So, spare yourself the insanity and just focus on nailing your admissions interview, rather than trying to calculate your chances! To that end, be sure to listen to the school’s admissions interview tips podcast.

If you would like more assistance in preparing for your MBA admissions interview at Haas or at any other top business school, take a look at Veritas Prep’s MBA admissions interview assistance package.

Financial Times MBA Rankings for 2009

The Financial Times has just released its 2009 business school rankings, with Wharton and London Business School sharing the top spot.

(Note: The Financial Times MBA Rankings for 2010 are now out!)

There were a couple of notable milestones in this year’s FT rankings. LBS reached the #1 slot for the first time, breaking Wharton and Harvard Business School’s joint stranglehold on the #1 slot. Also notable was that for the first time an Asian business school cracked the top ten — Shanghai-based China European International Business School (CEIBS) came in at #8. Joining CEIBS in the top twenty were two other schools from Asia: The Indian School of Business ranked at #15, and the Hong Kong UST Business School was ranked #16.

You can see the full Financial Times rankings here. For more updates on business school rankings and MBA program news, subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Wharton Names New Director of MBA Admissions

The Wharton School, which had been operating without a full-time director of admissions since Thomas Caleel stepped down last summer, has just named Jonathan “J.J.” Cutler its new director of MBA admissions and financial aid.

Cutler, a Wharton alum (Class of 1997), doesn’t appear to have much of a background in the education space, but has strong ties to Penn and has an impressive background in marketing and general management. Most recently, he had served as President and COO of Lindi Skin, a start-up offering skin care products specifically designed for people with cancer. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President of Marketing for Aramark Healthcare’s North American group. Before that he spent seven years in a variety of roles at Johnson & Johnson, where he was heavily involved at MBA recruiting at Wharton.

Since it took more than six months for Wharton to find J.J. Cutler, we can only assume that they took their time to find just the right candidate to fill Thomas Caleel’s shoes. We are actually quite impressed that the administration clearly “thought outside the box” and went for someone outside of the traditional education and admissions spaces. We wish J.J. the best of luck in managing Wharton’s hectic admissions process.

For more information on Wharton, visit the Veritas Prep Wharton information page and take a look at the Wharton admissions essays and deadlines for the 2008-2009 application season.

Waitlist Advice for MBA Applicants

Being waitlisted by your target business school can feel a lot like flipping a coin and seeing it end up on its edge; this lack of a final answer after months of anticipation can almost feel more frustrating than receiving a firm “yes” or “no.” But take heart in the fact that you’re still in the MBA admissions game, and there may be more that you can do to ultimately get accepted.

First of all, know that a waitlist decision is much more similar to an acceptance than a rejection. The admissions office clearly saw something in your application that it liked, but for some reason — perhaps you have a weaker undergrad transcript than they’d like to see, or there are simply too many other applicants who look just like you — just couldn’t pull the trigger and offer you a seat. While this can be very frustrating, in many cases (depending on the school) you have at least one more chance to show that you have what your target school looks for in its candidates.

Before you do anything, you will need to determine your school’s policy for handling waitlisted candidates. Some schools readily welcome updates and additional correspondence, while others will allow only certain kinds of contact, such as messages sent to a specific email address. Some business schools, however, explicitly forbid you from contacting the admissions office under any circumstances. If this describes your target school, do yourself a favor and obey this policy — not doing so makes admissions officers’ jobs easy (i.e., it’s easy for them to remove you from further consideration). It’s frustrating, we know, but you won’t help your cause by ignoring the rules.

Assuming that your target MBA program does allow you to contact the admissions office, then think about what potential weaknesses in your candidacy you may be able to bolster. Ask yourself:

  • Did I clearly define my career goals?
  • Was it clear how earning an MBA will help me achieve these goals?
  • In what ways did I demonstrate fit with my target school?
  • How did I showcase my leadership, intellect, maturity, and teamwork abilities?
  • Did my GMAT score, undergraduate transcript, and professional experience prove my ability to succeed in the business school classroom?
  • What about my application made me stand out vs. applicants with a similar profile?
  • Did I do enough to demonstrate my enthusiasm for the school, including visiting the school and speaking with current students?

Once you have identified some potential weaknesses, draft a letter (paper is better, although email may be required) highlighting new information that offsets these weaknesses. Outside of these weaknesses, any big news in your life — such as a job promotion, a significant achievement at work, or a notable new contribution to your community — also makes for a good reason to contact the admissions office.

Once you do this, your job is not done. Assuming the MBA admissions office welcomes this contact, plan on making contact with a short and professional note every few weeks to remind them that you still exist and to reiterate your interest. If you can manage a trip to campus, great, but don’t expect an admissions officer to officially meet with you. Still, short and relevant notes like these can be the difference between getting lost in the waitlist and getting into your target business school.

Visit Veritas Prep for more information on navigating the waitlist and for help in crafting your own waitlist letter.

HBS 2+2 Program Application Essays and Deadlines Now Available

Harvard Business School has posted the admissions essays and deadlines for 2009. Here they are, taken from Harvard’s site. Our comments are in italics:

HBS 2+2 Program Application Deadline
There is just one application round for the HBS 2+2 Program. Applications must be received by July 1, 2009, at 5:00 PM Eastern time. Applicants will be notified of their admissions decisions by September 15, 2009.

HBS 2+2 Program Application Essays

  1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600 words)

    This is exactly the same question on the regular HBS application. While you are obviously younger than the typical applicant, still expects to see several separate, concrete examples of how you made a positive impact on the organization, community, or people around you.

  2. What would you like us to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400 words)

    This question is unique to the 2+2 Program application. Being that you probably don’t yet have any full-time work experience, the admissions office is willing to dig deeper into your undergraduate experience to learn more about you. Don’t simply recount your transcript here. Why did you choose your major in college? What motivated you to choose certain course? What were some things that you learned that you never expected to learn? Focus on just one or two themes here, ideally showing how you have grown academically over the past three years.

  3. What have you learned from a mistake? (400 words)

    This is also taken directly from the standard HBS application. Just like with all mistake essays, you want to show introspection (What did you learn?) and a motivation for self-improvement (How did you use what you learned to better yourself and avoid that mistake again?). While you won’t have the same experiences as a twenty-five-year-old applicant to draw upon here, look for experiences in all aspects of your life where you learned a valuable lesson.

  4. Optional Essays (choose one)

    – Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization. (400 words)

    – What area of the world are you most curious about and why? (400 words)

    – What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you? (400 words)

    All three of these are also taken from the standard HBS application. We always recommend that applicants err on the side of discussing themselves, the decisions they’ve made, and the impact they’ve made on those around them. These specific examples of your initiative and leadership are extremely valuable, especially if you are relatively inexperienced. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t answer one of the other questions, but be careful to avoid discussing big-picture generalities that don’t let the admissions committee get to know the real you.

For more advice and information on Veritas Prep’s specialized admissions assistance for applicants who apply to the HBS 2+2 Program, visit our HBS 2+2 Program page.

New Facility Opens at Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Ross School of Business
The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business will welcome back its students from the winter break with its new 270,000-square-foot facility.

First announced in late 2004 after the school received a record-setting gift from real estate developer Stephen M. Ross, the building incorporates state-of-the art technology everywhere. Every classroom in the new building features three mounted video cameras and instant lecture-capture technology. Each study room has its own plasma screen Plasma screens hang in each group study room, and students can print, copy, and fax documents from anywhere in the building.

The new Ross building also features many leading-edge green technologies, including the use of recycled building materials, high-efficiency lighting and and heating/cooling systems, and water conservation technologies.

Despite its large size, the building has apparently held on to the close-knit, collaborative nature that the school’s students appreciate. Plenty of natural light and impromptu meeting spaces mean that Ross students will always be able to grab a seat for a quick huddle on a team assignment.

For more advice on applying to Ross, visit Veritas Prep’s University of Michigan Ross School of Business information page.

New Study Highlights the Growing Challenge of College Affordability

The Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability has released a new study that reveals how college students and their families are picking up more and more of the costs as schools reduce the percentage of their budgets devoted
to instruction.

The Delta Project — a nonprofit organization that aims to shed light on the challenge of affordability in higher education — created the study to “follow the money” in higher education and try to determine why college tuition costs keep rising dramatically while the quality of instruction seems to get no better (and in some cases, get worse). The study paints a rather bleak picture: The schools where the most students are — state institutions and community colleges — spend the least on instruction per student. Where they have made spending cuts or diverted money away from programs that directly improve student instruction, it’s the students themselves that frequently make up the gap with their own dollars.

In 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, students are public schools paid for about half the cost of their education, up from approximately 40% just four years earlier. Students actually pay even more of their share at private schools: Their share rose from about 58% in 2002 to more than 63% in 2006.

The report paints the picture of growing administrative overhead gobbling up schools’ budgets, with the percentage of budgets growing at all types of schools from the mid-1990s to 2006. Meanwhile, in all cases at all schools, students’ tuition fees rose faster than spending, with some of this difference going toward increasing overhead.

Compounding the problem for public universities and community colleges, these schools are also the ones that are most likely to feel the brunt of budget cuts at the state and federal level. Assuming government spending on education faces more cuts in the coming year, The Delta Project predicts that these trends may even accelerate. While the U.S. higher education system is still the class of the world, the growing affordability gap threatens to undo this strength in the near future unless something changes soon.

MBA Admissions Tips for Minority Applicants

Every year we receive countless inquiries from minority applicants who want to know if an MBA program is right for them, and what their minority background means for them in the MBA admissions process. The following are seven tips that we often share with our clients who come from these backgrounds:

  • You Do Fit In! ­– Many underrepresented minority applicants have a vision of business school that includes a sea of similar-looking people, all with very similar professional and cultural backgrounds. This is definitely not the case, and admissions officers at top MBA programs constantly work to dispel this myth. Don’t fool yourself into thinking, “They’d never want me. I don’t fit the mold of a Harvard MBA.” The very things that make you different could be what get you into a top business school. Embrace these things, and resist the urge to bury them in your admissions essays.
  • But Don’t Expect “Diversity” Alone to Get You In – Every year business schools are challenged to fill their classes with a diverse mix of students, and that diversity applies to so much more than your sex or ethnicity. What about your professional background makes you unique? What about your upbringing gives you a different perspective that you will bring to the classroom? What career ambitions do you have that might catch the admissions committee’s attention? Make sure you know yourself and can articulate how you would enrich a business school classroom discussion.
  • Know What You’ll Do With an MBA – It’s okay if you still don’t know exactly what you want to do when you graduate from business school, much less what you want to do twenty years from now. But business school admissions officers will expect that you understand what an MBA will do for you and – maybe more importantly – what it won’t. Even if you’re not sure whether you want to do investment banking or private equity, you’ll need to show admissions officers that you have realistic career expectations and that you’ll be marketable to prospective employers when you graduate.
  • Reach Out to Students and Alumni Like You – Many top business schools have clubs that serve the needs of minority students and alumni. These people can help you really get to know an MBA program before you apply, as well as help you with the job search once you’re in school. It’s pretty easy to find these clubs on a school’s web site, and their members are usually very happy to help someone in your shoes. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for their advice.
  • And Mentor Those Who Come After You – In business school and in the business world in general, many minorities benefit from strong networks of experienced mentors looking out for more junior people. Hopefully you have been (or will soon be) on the receiving end of some of this mentorship. If so, “pay it forward” and help a young professional or soon-to-be graduate who might benefit from your experience. While you may still feel young and inexperienced, you have a great deal to teach someone in college who is still deciding what they want to do when they grow up.
  • Get Involved With MBA-Related Organizations Now – The National Society of Hispanic MBAs, The National Black MBA Association, and The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management are just three of the organizations that exist to help minorities discover the value of an MBA and thrive in top business schools. While many minority MBA students only discover and take advantage of them after they get to business school, these groups have plenty to offer even if you’re only casually considering an MBA. Sign up for their newsletters and attend their events to develop a deeper understanding of the value of a business education.
  • Take Enough Time to Ace the GMAT – While a strong GMAT score alone won’t get you into a top business school, a low score can keep you out. But how do you get a high score? None other than the Graduate Management Admission Council (the organization that runs the GMAT) conducted a study in 2005 that showed a clear correlation between time spent preparing for the GMAT and an applicant’s score – those who scored over 700 on the exam averaged well over 100 hours of preparation. So, get your hands on as many resources as you can digest, hire a tutor or enroll in a GMAT prep course if you need more help, and give yourself at least a couple of months to prepare for the exam properly.

If you are a minority applicant, keep these principles in mind as you begin to prepare your MBA applications. If you would like more help in the process, the MBA admissions experts at Veritas Prep can help you define your target business schools, clarify your career goals, and perfect your MBA admissions essays.

UC Irvine Law School to Offer Free Tuition

This story broke during the holidays, but is worth examining after the fact, because UC Irvine’s new law school is planning to offer free tuition to students entering in the Fall of 2009 — which will be its inaugural class.

This is a bold and smart move for a program with ambitious goals. The dean of the law school, Erwin Chemerinsky, has stated that the school’s goal is to be “a top-20 law school from the first time we are ranked.” This is part of a multi-pronged attack to hit the ground running and instantly be part of the country’s elite programs.

Part A was to bring in Chemerinsky, a noted constitutional law scholar famous for his BarBri lectures and advanced work done at the law schools of both USC and Duke. This step hit a few rough patches when Chemerinsky was fired and then re-hired. All of the gritty speculation over the original firing can be found here. Now that he is back in the fold, however, it seems that Irvine has tapped the right person to usher in the rest of their far-reaching strategy.

Part B focused on faculty, which is obviously a key in driving student interest, peer evaluations, and, ultimately, rankings (and, presumably, educational quality, although no one ever seems to mention this part). This blog has spent countless posts dissecting the faculty migration patterns and how they have affected schools like Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and Chicago. Suffice to say, luring top professors is paramount when piecing together an aggressive launch or expansion. Irvine has been able to snag a variety of well-respected academics such as Rachel Moran from Berkeley and Carrie Menkel-Meadow from Georgetown.

Finally, there is Part C. This is where the law school has to make a big splash to win the hearts and minds of top applicants and sure enough, that is what Irvine has done by offering free tuition (for all three years) for the approximately 60 members of its first class. This financial incentive — coupled with big name faculty members and talk of top-20 rankings — should be enough to convince at least that many top tier applicants to eschew the traditional powers and give the new guy a shot. And with the inevitable rankings win that would follow such a haul, Irvine is positioned to pull a rabbit out of its hat and actually meet the goal of being ranked in the top 20 from the very first time it is ranked.

At the very least, Irvine offers another interesting option for law school candidates, who are surely tired of hearing about increased applicant numbers and talk of waitlists and rejection letters.

For those interested in learning more about law school admissions trends, please visit our law school events page for information on upcoming events, and see what law school admissions resources Veritas Prep offers.