Thursday, October 30, 2008

HBS on Late Letters of Recommendation

Earlier this week Dee Leopold wrote a post on the HBS admissions blog describing how the admissions committee handles late letters of recommendation. Here is an excerpt:

If an application has two submitted recommendations, we send it out for review by the Admissions Board in the round in which the application arrived. If the third recommendation comes in, we make every attempt to add it to the file. Since the file can be in any number of places and we can't stop the reading flow, we can't promise that the recommendation will be added before review is complete.

Applications with only one submitted recommendation are held up for the next round.

We know that letters of recommendation can be the most frustrating part of the MBA application process, since you have less control over them than any other part of the application. Even with careful planning and preparation, you may find that your recommendation writers simply don't (or can't) make enough time to write personal, passionate letters that support your candidacy.

The best thing to do, of course, is to start the process early enough that your recommendation writers have plenty of lead time, and to build in some buffer time in case anything goes wrong. But, if you're stressed because your recommendation writers are running late, just know that HBS and other schools will not use it as a reason to ding you immediately. They know that coordinating recommendation writers can be like herding cats. The best prepared applicants will have their ducks in a row (I'm running out of expressions that use animals), but the world will not end if one of your recommendation writers is running late. Timing is critical, but quality always trumps everything else.

Like everything else in the application processm, preparation is key. If you're looking for more guidance, our MBA admissions consultants can help you properly prepare the people who will writer your letters of recommendation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In the Media: The GMAT vs. GRE Question

Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik just wrote a story about the Educational Testing Service's push to replace the GMAT with its own GRE exam as the standardized test for business school admissions, and he turned to our own Chad Troutwine for his take on this budding competition:

Chad Troutwine, CEO and co-founder of Veritas Prep, a high-end test-prep service for the GMAT, said that the the news from ETS could be significant. Troutwine said that ETS has faced "two big liabilities" in trying to promote the GRE. One has been a fear that minority test takers do not perform as well as white students — something that is expected to change with next year’s addition of the non-cognitive tests. The second problem was the lack of "hard data that the GRE was as predictive as the GMAT," Troutwine said.

If the ETS data stand up, he said, many business schools are likely to be "agnostic" on the two tests, seeing the flexibility as a "costless way" to attract more applicants. "The tests are very similar," he said. "This could be very big news."

At the same time, Troutwine said that the key question is whether business schools accept the ETS comparisons as valid: "Will the business schools accept that calibration? It’s one thing for ETS to say that a score on the GRE equates to a score on the GMAT, but will the business schools accept that in the same way ETS does?"

Click here to read the whole story. While the number of business schools that accept the GRE is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of schools that require the GMAT today, ETS is sure to keep pushing to sign up more schools. Even if the GRE never catches up to the GMAT, this push could ultimately force the Graduate Management Admission Council to respond in some way.

Speaking of the GMAT, if you're preparing for the test now, try our free practice GMAT test.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This Year's Job Prospects for MBAs

A recent article in Time described the worsening job prospects for business school students in light of the economic downturn. At schools that just a year ago were begging their students to honor their job interview commitments, some second-year students are now worried if they'll receive any job offers by the time they graduate next spring.

Heads of career services offices at many top schools all describe the same attitude among employers: "Wait and see." Many companies have instituted headcount freezes, and even at ones that haven't, hiring managers are being given fewer offers to make. Today they're much more afraid of hiring too many MBA grads than hiring too few -- they know that they'll always be able to go back to campus in early 2009 and pick up a few more new hires if they need to.

What can business school students do? Proactive job seekers are looking beyond the on-campus recruiting process to find opportunities on their own. And they're also widening their job search to consider careers outside of banking ans consulting. Joining a smaller firm may come back into fashion as some companies that normally couldn't make much impact at a top school find that many grads now eagerly attend their information sessions.

The worst time to be in school is right when the economy takes a turn for the worse -- there's nothing like having a job offer rescinded. For people who apply to business school this year, though, the question is: What will the economy look like in two or three years? That's anyone's guess, but here's hoping that the worst of the unpleasant surprises are behind us.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yale Dean Joel Podolny to Step Down

Big news at Yale... Yesterday the Yale School of Management announced that Joel Podolny will leave his post as dean of the school to join Apple as vice president and dean of the company's coming Apple University. Effective November 1, Professor Sharon Oster will take the reins as interim dean while the school conducts a search for Podolny's permanent replacement.

It's an understatement to say that Podolny has made a big impact on Yale in his three and a half years there. The number of applications to Yale has increased by 50% over the past five years and the school's full-time faculty has grown by 20% (even as the school has deliberately reduced its class size). And while a school is so much more than its building, Yale SOM's new campus (scheduled for completion in 2011) will stand as a testament to Podolny's last impact on the school.

In an email to the Yale SOM community, Podolny expressed his bittersweet feelings about leaving behind Yale for Apple:

So even as I am excited about this new chapter in my life, I am very sad to be leaving SOM. However, I can state unequivocally that I would not consider leaving if I did not feel that the school was on a strong footing. As a school, we know who we are. We have embraced our distinct mission, and are singularly and fundamentally focused on cultivating a distinct model of leadership, a model that can and should be applied across industry and sector. We know we will soon have a spectacular new campus that will support and sustain our educational model. As a community of faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends, we know what we must do to execute on the unique and necessary MBA curriculum that we have pioneered.

Podolny won't actually join Apple until early 2009, and will stay on the Yale faculty and will continue to teach until then. He and the school are doing the right thing by getting the transition started now.

While we at Veritas Prep were mainly asking "What does this mean for Yale?" when we first heard the news, it also makes us wonder about Apple and its education initiatives. The company has in some ways returned to its education roots by embracing how colleges use its iPod and iTunes system to allow students to access a library of course lectures. While many in the press have speculated that the company's Apple University will be a training program for employees, we wonder if it's actually a much broader digital education play that Apple may make in the next couple of years.

For more advice about applying to Yale, visit the Veritas Prep Yale School of Management information page.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

HBS Interviews: Dee Leopold on Round One

The other day Dee Leopold posted a message on the HBS admissions blog regarding the school's upcoming wave of Round One interview invitations. HBS will start contacting applicants to set up interviews on November 12, with many of the interview requests going out the following week.

As HBS and other top schools often do, Leopold reminds applicants that the timing of the interview invite is strictly a function of when the application is reviewed in the process -- it's not a reflection on the strength of one's candidacy. There's also no rhyme or reason in terms of alphabetical order, geography, or the date when the application was received. In other words, don't bother trying to divine your chances based when you receive (or don't receive) an interview invitation!

Leopold finished the post with a plug for the updated entrepreneurship info on the HBS web site. A few times lately we have heard HBS representatives emphasize the program's entrepreneurship-related content... Something to keep in mind if you are an HBS applicant with a sincere interest in this area.

For more advice on applying to HBS, visit our Harvard Business School information page. For more advice on how to nail your HBS interview, take a look at our MBA admissions interview preparation service.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Announcing Our Law School Admissions Contest!

To introduce our new law school admissions consulting services, Veritas Prep has announced a contest for law school applicants. The contest winner will receive a complimentary Veritas Prep Admission Brief consulting package that includes comprehensive assistance with the application process for three law schools. The Admissions Brief is a $3,100 value, and includes:

  • An admissions consultant from the school of your choice to personally work with you throughout the entire law school application process

  • The Veritas Prep Law School Game Plan™ - a proven approach to help you gain perspective and shape every component of your application

  • An admissions consultant who has been through this exact process and can suggest proven techniques

  • Insider opinion from recent graduates of the nation's top law schools to make sure you are applying to the right schools

  • Winning suggestions identifying and maximizing those community service and work experience elements that will appeal to the admissions committee

  • Guidance to help you construct powerful and persuasive essays

  • Editorial critiques that focus on grammar, content, and style

  • Customized feedback to help you craft the best possible resume

  • Proven strategies to solicit effective letters of recommendation

Don’t miss your opportunity to win free admissions consulting services to help maximize your candidacy for admission to the nation’s top law schools!

To Enter:

In one page, using any media of your choice, explain why you want to become a lawyer. Submissions must be received by 4pm PDT on November 15, 2008. Please email your entry to our law school admissions consulting team at

As you prepare your application, visit our site to learn more about our law school admissions consulting services.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Announcing New GMAT Prep Course Offerings

As you may have read earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal article linked to this space, business school applications are expected to peak this year by a larger margin than at any other point in history. With the impending competition for slots in top schools compounded by uncertain job security throughout the global economy, MBA admissions consultants and GMAT instructors like me are in the unfamiliar position experienced most by rock stars and Broadway performers - "extended by popular demand".

To assist the multitude of potential MBA applicants who need to put together applications in short order before the January deadlines, Veritas Prep has just announced the addition of new end-of-2008 course schedules from coast to coast:

  • Beginning on Monday, November 3 in Beverly Hills, California, Veritas Prep will run an additional 42-hour Full Course schedule (Monday/Wednesday, 7 to 10 p.m.)

  • Beginning on Saturday, December 13, Veritas Prep will run an additional 36-hour Weekend Course Schedule in New York City (Midtown Manhattan location)

For information on these and the dozens of other Veritas Prep GMAT prep courses that are scheduled to begin in the upcoming weeks -- including a worldwide round of Full Course offerings beginning the final week of October -- take a look at our GMAT course schedule options.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Last-Minute MBA Admissions Essay Tips

This week many of our clients are working hard to finish up their Round One business school admissions essays. If you’re in that boat, then we’d like to offer a few last-minute tips to help you perfect your essays:

  • Step Away from Your Essays – If you are your own primary editor, the best thing you can do is to give yourself some time between reviews of each essay. When you’ve written the prose yourself and are knee deep in it, it’s too easy to skim over a sentence and read what you know you meant to say, rather than what the words actually put down on paper. This unfortunately makes it very easy to miss basic mistakes . Step away from your essays for at least a few hours (ideally a couple of days) before reviewing them again.

  • Don’t Let Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen – When it comes to feedback on your essays, more is not always better. We all have friends and relatives who are decent writers and are willing to loan you their eyeballs, but don’t feel compelled to act on every piece of unsolicited advice that you receive. Where your friends can help you the most is in catching errors that you missed or in letting you know when a certain passage in confusing. Beyond that, you should probably ignore most of their suggestions on style. It’s too late for that now!

  • Recycle with Care – It’s very tempting to recycle your MBA admission essays, especially if you’re rushing to meet a deadline. And it’s okay to re-use a story in more than one application – after all, we all only have so many stories of a time when we demonstrated leadership, made a tough decision, faced an ethical challenge, etc. But, above all, make sure that the essay you’re using appropriate answers the question being asked. You’d be surprised at how often we see applicants fail to do this seemingly simple thing. And, for the love of God, don’t say, “I really want to attend Wharton” in your Stanford essay!!

  • Make Sure Your Essays Fit Your Overall Application Story – You may be so focused on making each essay great that you’ll miss the bigger picture: For each school, do your essays fit in with your overall application story? Don’t get so hung up on making your individual essays so dynamic that you forget to tie them together in one overarching application theme. Are you a techie who wants to build his general management chops? A finance person who needs to get better at marketing? Ideally all of your application components will be consistent with that theme.

If you're stuck, take a look at these sample MBA essays. If you would like some more help in polishing up your essays, take a look at Veritas Prep’s MBA essay editing services. Our essay evaluators won’t write your essay for you or put words in your mouth, but they will help you clearly and concisely articulate your application story in your essays. If you need one last pair of professional eyes to look over your essay, give Veritas Prep's essay services a look.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Veritas Prep Featured in The Wall Street Journal

An article in today's Wall Street Journal ("Escape Route: Seeking Refuge in an M.B.A. Program") looked more deeply into the trend of people turning to graduate school as the economy slows. Veritas Prep was mentioned as one of the GMAT prep and admissions consulting firms that has recently seen tremendous growth because of the softening economy and Wall Street turmoil.

While this trend has been covered a great deal lately, this piece raises an interesting question: If more people pursue their MBAs now but the Wall Street landscape looks dramatically different in three years, where will those grads go? According to the article:

But the severity of the financial crisis and the demise and consolidation of financial powerhouses that in previous years have nabbed top talent at schools across the country make this year's flight to business school different. When this year's M.B.A. applicants graduate, they will enter a dramatically different Wall Street and potentially smaller job market that has been altered by the ripple effects of the credit crunch.

"The demand for managing money and the demand for banking skills, that's going to be here," says Stacey Kole, deputy dean for the full-time M.B.A. program at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. But "it may migrate to different firms." Ms. Kole says the school is seeing more boutique firms recruit on campus, as well as employers in other sectors recruiting for finance jobs. "People who may have gone to Wall Street will go to Main Street in a finance role," she says.

Business schools aren't the only ones that may see an increase in application because of the economy. According to the Law School Admission Council, this past June there were 28,939 LSATs administered in June, representing a 15.3% increase from a year ago.

Perhaps most concerning is the effect that the current market may have on student loans. Some lenders (such as Citi) have already suspended loan programs, while others are tightening their lending standards. It remains to be seen how much of an impact this trend will have on the overall graduate school admissions landscape.

If you're just now thinking about applying to business school or law school this year, take a look at Veritas Prep's industry-leading admissions consulting team.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Harvard Business School Celebrates 100 Years

In a proud weekend tinged with a hint of sobriety because of the current economic crisis, Harvard Business School celebrated its centennial this past weekend. What was a yearlong celebration of the school's centennial ended with the three-day HBS Global Business Summit.

The summit was attended by a wide variety of business and government leaders, from Bill Gates to Jeff Immelt to Meg Whitman to India's finance minister. And while schools normally have to campaign to encourage their alumni to attend on-campus events, HBS' centennial boasted a waitlist of over 250 people. By all accounts, it was a terrific celebration of this important institution.

But it was not all caviar and bubbly. On his Financial Times blog, Stefan Stern recounted how the crowd could not avoid discussing the current financial turmoil. HBS Dean Jay Light opened the proceedings with a serious address, pinning the blame for the current turmoil squarely on the same leaders that HBS produces. While the focus of the event was squarely on HBS and not on the markets, current events were very much on the top of everyone's mind.

It will be up to HBS and other top business schools to dig deeply and decide how they will evolve their philosophy for training business leaders in the future.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chicago GSB Announces Curriculum Changes

Yesterday the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business announced changes to the school's curriculum to increase the program's flexibility and to add a leadership development component to the evening program's requirements.

The school's graduation full-time MBA requirements remain unchanged: It still includes nine required courses, 11 electives and a leadership course. The important change is that more approved substitute classes have been added to satisfy the nine required courses. Chicago GSB continues to offer several hundred courses (across the GSB and the rest of the U. of Chicago) to satisfy the other 11 elective courses.

Dean Edward Snyder attributed the changes in part to the increasing quality of the students entering the class. "We have added a hybrid finance class containing five weeks of corporate finance and five weeks of investments that will allow all the standard corporate and investment classes to be taken up a notch in difficulty," said Dean Snyder in a release on the school's web site.

As for the evening students, the new leadership development course requirement means those students will take 21 courses, the same as the school's full-time students. The faculty cited the importance of giving all Chicago GSB students tools for self assessment and opportunities to improve their interpersonal skills -- no matter what Chicago GSB program they attend -- as the reason for the change.

If you are considering applying to Chicago, visit the Veritas Prep Chicago GSB information page.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Harvard Business School Students' Work Experience

Last week HBS posted the college graduation years of its incoming Class of 2010 on its blog. As expected, more than half graduated in 2004 or 2005 (i.e., they have between three and four years of work experience), and about three quarters graduated between 2003 and 2005 (three to five years of work experience):

Source: The Director's Blog at

There's nothing too eye-opening here, but it's good to see the data broken out so explicitly. One reason is that so many applicants only see the mean number of years of work experience for a school's incoming class, and wrongly assume that if they aren't right at that number, then their chances of success are very low. It's good to see that, while their numbers are clearly lower, there are significant numbers of older and younger HBS students.

We expect to see the number of years of work experience for admitted HBS students to continue to decrease slightly over time, given the school's push to attract younger applicants (especially through its HBS 2+2 Program). Although, it will be interesting to see if the economic slowdown affects number in the coming year: Will it cause the average age of applicants to drop even further as they accelerate their plans to go to business school, or could it actually end up attracting more older applicants who are out of career options? Only time will tell.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Veritas Prep Featured in Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed, one of the leading voices on matters related to the higher education space, recently turned to Veritas Prep for insights on the competition among business schools in trying to outshine one another in the rankings. Chad Troutwine and I recently were in Washington, D.C., and we had a chance to sit down with Inside Higher Ed's Jack Stripling to discuss trends affecting the world's top MBA programs.

Stripling's article ("A Farewell to Arms Races?") investigates what drives schools to roll out new academic programs, enhance their facilities, or make other significant changes. While there seemed to be a more blatant trend of schools "keeping up with the Joneses" in the 80's and 90's, many top schools seem to have taken a step back and are now making more deliberate changes that are in line with their core missions.

But the buzzwords of the day (be it ethics a few years ago or global business today) still seem to drive some of today's changes at top MBA programs, which is what Chad and I discussed with Jack.

Take a look... Inside Higher Ed is a great way to stay on top of these trends if you're considering applying to any graduate program.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

MBA Grads Face Wall Street Uncertainty

Even Harvard Business School grads are feeling the pain in Wall Street's current troubles. A recent article in the Boston Globe uncovered what HBS is doing to help its own students and recent graduates who are affected by the turmoil.

According to the article:

In the school's first intervention on behalf of newly minted graduates, seven Harvard career coaches flew to New York to huddle with 18 members of the Class of 2008 who had taken jobs at troubled firms like Lehman Brothers Holding Co. and Merrill Lynch. All were still working, but didn't know what the next day would bring. Harvard's delegation promised to set up interviews with other employers.

Much like with the ethics cases of recent years, many b-school professors see this as an opportunity to teach important lessons in the moment. And students are hungry for those lessons -- a Wharton panel discussion on Wall Street's troubles recently drew more than 1,000 students.

Even the firms that are on good footing, such as Goldman Sachs, have delayed making job offers this year. And students who thought they were headed to Wall Street are now considering alternative career paths, either in corporate finance roles, management consulting, or even in financial regulatory roles. With a new regulatory framework potentially emerging, the federal government could ironically end up being a big source of jobs for these displaced finance-minded MBAs.