Thursday, September 25, 2008

MBA Admissions Tips from Haas

The Haas admissions team just released a great new podcast detailing what they look for when evaluating MBA applicants. Peter Johnson (Director of Admissions) and Stephanie Fujii (Associate Director of Admissions) shared a few important insights into how Haas evaluates every Haas applicant.

According to Johnson and Fujii, the three key areas that Haas looks at when evaluating applicants are: academic aptitude, professional accomplishments and leadership, and personal qualities.

Academic Aptitude
When assessing your academic aptitude, the admissions committee especially looks at your undergraduate transcript and your GMAT score. Haas will also will take into consideration your coursework in other graduate programs, if applicable. According to Fujii, "Basically, we're trying to evaluate your ability to succeed academically in our program." Johnson made note that they pay attention to the caliber of your undergraduate institution, the rigor in your undergraduate classes, and the overall trend in your GPA from your freshman year to your senior year. The school does not have a hard GMAT score cutoff, but Johnson urges applicants to aim to at least be in the school's middle-80% GMAT range (currently 650-750).

Professional Accomplishments and Leadership
Work experience is very important to Haas. Most incoming students at Haas have between three and seven years of work experience after college. The school rarely admits applicants with less than two years of work experience. But it's about more than just quantity of experience. According to Johnson, "We really need to understand your career progression. Why have you transitioned from one job to another? How has your role progressed within each organization? Have your responsibilities increased? Have you had the opportunity to develop leadership skills?" Johnson went on to add that it's impressive to see that a candidate has earned a series of promotions and increases in responsibility, rather than someone who "started out at the top." Finally, the Haas admissions team looks closely for signs of how you've impacted your organization, which is a key yardstick of your leadership ability, regardless of your job title.

Personal Qualities
Like all other top business schools, Haas puts a lot of emphasis on who you are, not just what you've accomplished. As Johnson says, "We're interested in understanding our applicants as individuals. In other words, what's important to you? What are you passionate about?" They go on to emphasize that you really need to be your self in your MBA application. Says Johnson, "The number one mistake that applicants make in their essays is that they spend too much time trying to write what they think the admissions committee wants to read." Finally, they give another important piece of advice that we often give our clients: Don't underestimate how much time and effort it will take to create truly great, personal MBA essays. Finally, they explain Haas's interview policy: The school typically invites 25%-30% of its applicants to interview (usually conducted by alumni or students), and Haas rarely admits an applicant without an interview.

These are just a few of the tips that Haas includes in their podcast. We definitely recommend that you give it a listen if you're interested in Haas, but give it a listen even if you don't plan on applying to Haas this year.

For more advice on applying to Haas, visit the Veritas Prep UC Berkeley (Haas) information page.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New GMAC Survey Explores Women's Interest in MBA Programs

According to a recently released survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the growth in applications from female applicants continues to be strong.

In this year's survey, 65% of full-time MBA programs said application volume from women grow vs. last year, compared to 57% of programs saying this in 2007. That growth was especially strong in several core disciplines, including part-time master's programs in accounting and master's programs in finance.

The gender gap in graduate management education still remains, however. Men outnumbers women by more than two to one in applications to executive MBA programs, and women only represented approximately approximately 30% applications to full-time, part-time programs, and accelerated MBA programs. And while the overall number of full-time MBA applications grew 10% in the past year, the number of applications from women only grew by 8.5%.

Interestingly, while the average number of applications to part-time MBA programs overall was flat vs. last year, the average number of applications to part-time programs from women grew by more than 13%. Now, more than 40% of applications to part-time MBA programs come from women. These self-paced programs are more flexible, which likely drives their appeal for women seeking to get back into the workforce or trying to manage their work/life balance.

Also, many of these programs have been making an increased effort to reach out to women over the past several years. It looks like it's starting to pay off, which we're glad to see!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Veritas Prep Quoted in Bloomberg Article

When Bloomberg's Oliver Staley recently wrote a story about Pepsico's ex-Chairman Steve Reinemund joining Wake Forest's Babcock Graduate School of Management as its new dean, he turned to Veritas Prep for a viewpoint on the MBA rankings game.

Among Reinemund's first tasks will be improving the school's job placement statistics and raising the school's profile in global business school rankings. On the latter point, Staley interviewed me for my take on the challenges Babcock will face in improving its ranking in U.S. News:

The school will have to displace others that are also seeking to improve, said Scott Shrum, the director of MBA admissions research for Veritas LLC, a test-preparation company in Malibu, California. U.S. News's rankings are hard to move because 40 percent of each rating is based on how well a program is viewed by other deans and by corporate recruiters, he said.

"It is extremely tough and, unfortunately for a school like Babcock, so much of it based on the reputation of a school," Shrum said in a phone interview on Sept. 9. "That can take decades to change."

Babcock is a good school. The challenge will be for Reinemund to raise the school's profile among other MBA programs. It sounds like Wake Forest has completely handed him the keys to the program. We recommend that he take some risks, overhaul the curriculum, and otherwise shake things up. Chicago GSB and Michigan (Ross) are two examples of other schools that have taken on new leaders in recent years and let them shake things up, which caused other programs to take note, which ultimately helped their overall reputations and strengthened their rankings.

We think that Reinemund has the opportunity to create a similar effect at Babcock. It won't be an overnight success, but by innovating and listening to Babcock's own community year after year, we think Reinemund will be able to do it.

You can read the entire Bloomberg article here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

UNC (Kenan-Flagler) Essay Topics for 2008-2009

While we've previously blogged about UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business, below is a closer look at the school's admissions essays for 2008-2009. Our comments are in italics:

Kenan-Flagler Application Essays

  1. What are the 2 or 3 strengths or characteristics that have driven your career success thus far? Do you have other strengths that you would like to leverage in the future? (500 words maximum)

    (Interestingly, UNC replaced last year's more traditional "describe your career progression to date" question with this one, which more directly addresses HOW you have achieved the things you have in the past. This is in line with the advice we always give our clients: Don't just focus on WHAT you've done, but also on HOW and WHY you've done it.)

  2. Briefly describe the career path you intend to pursue immediately after b-school. Explain why this career option appeals to you and why an MBA is appropriate at this time. (500 words maximum)

    (This is the more typical "Why an MBA?" question. Keep in mind all of the components of Your MBA Game Plan as you approach this question.)

  3. What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to Kenan-Flagler? (500 words maximum)

    (Last year Kenan-Flagler had an optional question asking about international experience. The school has now rolled that into a more general -- and required -- essay question that asks you to explicitly spell out what makes you unique.)

  4. What do you expect from your MBA program? How and when will you measure the return on your investment in the MBA? (500 words maximum)

    (This question is also new, and is not one that we've seen very often before. We suspect that the admissions committee will prefer to see that you judge "ROI" not just by numbers, but also by the lifelong friendships that you'll make, the new ways you'll learn to think about tough questions, and exposure to new viewpoints. Don't expect that they only want to see an actual ROI calculation showing how your increased post-MBA earnings will more than make up for the cost of your degree.)

  5. (Optional) If your GMAT quantitative score is low, or if you have not had coursework in calculus, microeconomics, statistics and financial accounting, please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative MBA curriculum. (300 words maximum)

    (UNC had a very similar optional question last year. If this question sounds like it was meant for you, be sure to address this issue head-on.)

  6. (Optional) Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you in order to evaluate your candidacy? (300 words maximum)

    (As usual, only use this essay if you really feel the need to tell the admissions committee something that you couldn't communicate in any of the above essays. Avoid the temptation to overly highlight a weakness or recycle an essay from another school's application.)

While some schools have actually cut back their essay requirements this year -- perhaps because of the surging number of applications coming in -- Kenan-Flagler has actually added two required essays this year. This realistically has no material impact on your UNC application strategy, but it's a sign that the school will continue to put heavy emphasis on application essays in evaluation each applicant's candidacy.

To get a feel for your chances of gaining admission to Kenan-Flagler and other top business schools, try Veritas Prep's Business School Selector.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wharton Announces New JD/MBA Program with Penn Law

Last week the University of Pennsylvania announced a new three-year JD/MBA program between the Wharton School and Penn Law School.

JD/MBA students will spend their first year taking law courses, followed by a summer of four more law and and businesses courses designed specifically for the JD/MBA program. In their second and third years students will take a combination of law and business courses, including capstone courses in the third year. While they won't work during their first summer, JD/MBA students will take a law- or business-related job between their second and third years.

According to the Penn release:

"We expect that all sorts of people with business experience will apply," Edward Rock, co-director of Penn's Institute for Law and Economics, a professor of law and an architect of the three-year program. "All of them will be able to navigate and lead in the worlds of business and of law because this is the best way to prepare tomorrow's business lawyers."

Penn joins other top schools such as Northwestern in the trend to provide accelerated JD/MBA options to students who are considering graduate training in both law and business.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

HBS 2+2 Program Admissions Decisions

This just in! HBS has started to send acceptance notices to applicants who have been admitted to the first entering class of the HBS 2+2 Program. Word from our clients is that HBS first sent admissions acceptance notices by email, followed up by a congratualtory call from Dee Leopold herself.

Congrats to all members of the Veritas Prep community (and everyone else) who have made it into the HBS 2+2 Program!

The HBS 2+2 Program invites undergraduate students who have completed their junior year of college to apply for deferred admission to Harvard Business School. Admitted applicants are guaranteed a future spot at HBS after successfully graduating from college and completing two years of work experience at a participating employer. If you are a college junior and are considering applying to the program next year, read more about the HBS 2+2 Program on our blog.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

NYU (Stern) Application Essays for 2008-2009

Earlier we posted NYU Stern's 2008-2009 application deadlines. The school has since posted its full online application. Here are Stern's application essays for 2008-2009, with our comments in italics:

NYU (Stern) Application Essays

  1. Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Describe the following (500 words):

    (a) What choices have you made that led you to your current position?
    (b) Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life?
    (c) What is your career goal upon graduation from the NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal?

    (This question is the same as last year's Question #1. It is pretty straightforward, and should be approached as you would approach any other "Why an MBA? / Why this school?" question. What stands out most about this question vs. other schools' similar questions is Stern's emphasis on the choices you've made up until now. Be sure to answer that part of the question -- don't simply discuss what you've done up until now, but also address why you did those things and made those choices.)

  2. The NYU Stern community is one of our strongest assets. Please answer the following questions about this community: (500 words)

    (a) What is your personal experience with the Stern community? What actions have you taken to learn more about us?
    (b) What is the most difficult piece of constructive feedback you have received, and what did you do as a result of it? How will this experience make you a better member of the Stern community?

    (Part A of this question remains the same since last year, although part B is new. For part A, Stern clearly wants you to demonstrate that you truly want to attend Stern, not just any good finance school in the Northeast. While campus visits are not really required for any program, being able to say you've visited Stern would obviously be a plus in answering this question. Part B's inclusion in this question seems odd at first glance, although this is your chance to emphasize the teamwork dimension in your application and your own self-awareness abilities. Be sure to close the loop and address how this growing experience will make you a better classmate at Stern.)

  3. Personal Expression (500 words, if written):

    Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

    (We love how interesting this question is, as well as the interesting responses that come from applicants answering this question. Like Chicago GSB's PowerPoint presentation or UCLA Anderson's audio response, this shows that the school is eager to see you as a real person, not another list of accomplishments or post-MBA career goals. In other words, they're almost begging you to stand out. By no means does that mean doing something outrageous. But it does remind us how hard of a job admissions officers have, and how you can make their job easier by helping them remember the real you. One other note: While this question allows you to use any medium, don't feel the need to offer up something other than written words -- if that's your best medium, use it. Just be creative with how you use those words, and let the Stern admissions committee get a glimpse of the real you.)

For more advice on applying to Stern, visit the Veritas Prep NYU Stern information page and see these sample MBA essays.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

UVA (Darden) Application Essays for 2008-2009

UVA's Darden School of Business has released its application essays for the 2008-2009 admissions season. Here they are, with our comments in italics:

UVA (Darden) Application Essays

  1. What pivotal choice(s) have you made in your life that have influenced your decision to pursue an MBA? (500 words)

    (This question is new this year, and that emphasis on the word "you" is Darden's. Last year's first Darden essay was very similar to Stanford's "what matters most to you, and why?" question, which probably was leading applicants to talk about everything BUT themselves. Now the admissions committee is explicitly putting the emphasis on YOU with this question. Of course, you should always keep the discussion in your essays and your admissions interviews focused on you -- what you accomplished, what you were feeling when you made a decision, etc. -- as much as possible. But this question goes directly after that, so make sure to answer the question.)

  2. From the following categories, describe the one that has taught you the most: a creative challenge, an ethical dilemma or an experience of failure. Why? (250 words)

    (This question is also new this year. This is a very short essay, so you'll obviously need to keep it focused. At least the school gives you a menu from which you can choose a topic. You may be tempted to recycle essays from another application, but the fact that this is so short will make that very difficult.)

  3. Describe how you are a fit with the case study method. (250 words)

    (We think this is a great question. Darden takes the case study method as seriously as HBS does, and anyone who applies to Darden must be able to explain why that learning style is a good fit for them. Having trouble answering this? Then think long and hard about why you're applying to Darden.)

For more advice on applying to Darden, visit the Veritas Prep UVA (Darden) information page.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Safety" Business Schools Are Getting More Selective

Last week BusinessWeek added to the chatter about the slowing economy driving another big increase in business school applications. Nothing new there, although the article included one interesting point regarding lower-ranked MBA programs:

While applications are up across the board, the middle-tier business schools are reporting some of the sharpest increases, ranging from 25% to nearly 40% in the number of applications in some instances. At least some of the students are heading to business schools because they have lost their jobs or are worried about the future. Admissions officers said that they expect more of those students, including those who may have waited to see how the economy fares, to apply during the coming cycle.

The upshot is that applicants who have assumed they can get into a top-30 school for sure -- as a backup if they can't get into a top-10 school -- may need to rethink that assumption. If you expect that your credentials will make you far from a shoo-in at a top school, and you plan on casting a wide net and applying to some lower-ranked business schools, be ready to work hard to get into those "safety" schools.

Want to get a better feel for how high you should aim when applying to business school? Veritas Prep's MBA admissions consultants will give you an objective look at your candidacy. And if you need to boost your GMAT score, Veritas Prep offers a variety of GMAT course options to help you break 700 on the exam.