Sunday, September 20, 2009

This Blog Has Moved!


This blog has permanently moved to All new posts from the MBA Game Plan team will appear there.

Please update your bookmarks accordingly!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Columbia Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

Here are Columbia Business School's application essays and deadlines for the September 2010 intake. Everything remains pretty the the same since last year, but we've put everything to make sure our readers have everything they need. Our comments follow in italics:

Columbia Business School Application Deadlines
Early Decision: October 7, 2009
Deadline for International Applicants: March 3, 2010
Deadline for U.S. Citizens & Permanent Residents: April 14, 2010

Columbia Business School Application Essays
  1. What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (750 words)

    (This is a fairly standard question that you no doubt have seen on other applications. Where applicants tend to go wrong most often, though, is by failing to explain why specifically Columbia is the best place for them to earn their MBA. The school's big name and proximity to Wall Street are obvious advantages, but what else does Columbia offer that you can't find anywhere else?

  2. Master Classes are the epitome of bridging the gap between theory and practice at Columbia Business School. View the link below. Please provide an example from your own life in which practical experience taught you more than theory alone. Watch the video. (500 words)

    (This question was new last year, but carries over unchanged this year. Columbia's emphasis on its Master Classes is clear -- the admissions committee seeks applicants who have rolled up their sleeves and made thing happen, rather than pure theorists. They'll also looking for introspection -- ideally you can illustrate what you learned, the impact it had on you, and how it made you a better business manager or leader.)

  3. Please provide an example of a team failure of which you've been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently?

    (This question also carries over unchanged after being new last year. Every year many clients who ask, "Are you sure I should discuss any failures in my application?" Yes, you definitely should, as long as you can show how you grew from the experience. In this way, your answer could end up overlapping with your answer to #2. So, it's best to not use a failure story for #2, and to save your failure story for this question.)

For more advice on applying to Columbia, visit Veritas Prep's Columbia Business School information page. And, to get the most up-to-date information on Columbia and all other top business schools, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Monday, September 14, 2009

GMAC Questions the GRE Comparison Tool

After ETS has made some significant inroads into GMAT market share with its own GRE over the past year, GMAC is now hitting back with an article on its site that debunks ETS's GRE Comparison Tool for Business Schools.

"This GRE comparison tool is not as precise at it may appear, and using it is not as straightforward as presented. The comparison tool is about averages. Admission decisions are about individuals," argues GMAC in the article on its site.

GMAC's argument against the tool was primarily a statistical one:

"As a specific example, for a GRE verbal score of 660 and quantitative score of 670, the tool would predict a GMAT Total score of 650. In this case, 1 in 4 people with this predicted score would actually earn 600 or below if they were to take the GMAT exam. In addition to prediction error, there is also measurement error in both the verbal and quantitative GRE scores, so the chance that this individual would actually score something close to 650 is extremely thin."

Going further, GMAC then raises the question of whether comparing students with actual GMAT scores to those with predicted scores is fair: "To use predicted GMAT scores along with actual ones unfairly penalizes both sets of test takers, because applicants with valid GMAT scores could be displaced by applicants with predicted scores that are much too high."

Interestingly, ETS launched the GRE Comparison Tool GRE® Comparison Tool at about a year ago, but now that web address redirects to a promotion encouraging business schools to start accepting the GRE. Maybe GMAC was able to apply enough pressure to get ETS to remove the tool? Maybe ETS decided it needs to go back to the drawing board?

While we expect that the GRE is here to stay in the graduate management education admissions business, we agree with GMAC that the GMAT is still the most proven measure of the skills an MBA applicant needs to succeed in the classroom. If you're thinking about grad degrees and general and are only somewhat interested in earning an MBA, then perhaps the GRE is the better place to start. If you're sure that a top-tier MBA is what you want, however, the GMAT is your best bet.

And, if you're ready to dig into the GMAT, start with the GMAT preparation tools and services available at Veritas Prep.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Univeristy of Michigan (Ross) MBA Admissions Essays for 2009-2010

Today we look at The University of Michigan's Ross School of Business' admissions essays. Ross's essays actually carry over completely unchanged vs. last year, and so our analysis remains pretty much the same.

Note that when a school keeps its essays the same, that suggests that its essays are working well for the admissions office, meaning that they do a good job of helping the admissions team separate out the great applicants from the merely good ones. So, make sure you're sufficiently answering the questions they ask! That's always important advice, but in this case it's even more important (if that's even possible!).

Here are the Ross MBA admissions essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Michigan (Ross) Application Essays
Long Answers:
  1. Briefly describe your short-term and long-term career goals. Why is an MBA the best choice at this point in your career? What and/or who influenced your decision to apply to Ross? (500 words)

  2. Describe your most significant professional accomplishment. Elaborate on the leadership skills you displayed, the actions you took and the impact you had on your organization. (500 words)

  3. (Note the emphasis on leadership in the second question. Ross not only wants to know what you accomplished, but also wants to understand exactly what you did to make it happen. Also, note that this question also focuses on the impact that your actions had on your organization. More than your role or job title, admissions officers care about what positive impact you truly have on those around you.)

Short answers:
  1. If you were not pursuing the career goals you described in Question 1, what profession would you pursue instead? (For example, teacher, musician, athlete, architect, etc.) How will this alternate interest contribute to your effectiveness in solving multidisciplinary problems? (300 words)

    (This question provides a good opportunity to show another side of you that may not otherwise come out in your application. As long as you can tie it back to one of the core dimensions in your application, don't be afraid to write about something that seems to be off the wall here.)

  2. Describe your experience during a challenging time in your life. Explain how you grew personally, either despite this challenge or because of it. (300 words)

    (As is the case with all "personal growth" questions, the most important part is the second one -- describing what you learned and how you changed as a result. While many schools ask more job-related failure/challenge questions, Michigan's focus here appears to be a little more on your personal life. If your most compelling story is a job-related one, that's not out of bounds, but make sure you can tie it back to what you learned and how you grew.)

Optional Question:
  1. Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy?

    (If you really do feel the need to explain something, then address it and move on. In other words, don't dwell on it or provide that weakness with more stage time than it deserves!)

To stay up to date on admissions trends at Ross, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Monday, September 7, 2009

HBS 2+2 Program Admits 115 Students

This past week Harvard Business School released its admissions decisions for the HBS 2+2 Program. HBS has admitted 115 students, nine more than last year, according to HBS Director of Admissions Dee Leopold in an interview with the Harvard Crimson.

This year 843 rising college seniors applied to the program, an increase of more than 33% since last year, when 630 students applied. The number of students admitted also increased (from 106 last year), although the overall acceptance rate has dipped to just 13.6% (from 16.8% in 2008) because of all those additional applicants.

The increased number of applicants is at least in part a reflection of how much work the HBS admissions office did to spread the word about the program. The HBS 2+2 staff visited nearly 60 undergraduate colleges and universities, according to the article. As word of mouth grows and HBS continues to market the program, we expect the number of 2+2 applicants to keep growing significantly over the next few years.

Our "older" readers likely won't be pleased to see that HBS has carved out yet another nine seats for 2+2 students. While this trend does not help you if you're already out in the working world, we still believe that HBS will have to add another section to its class by the time the first 2+2 students -- who graduated from college this past spring -- enter HBS in Fall 2010.

To learn more about the HBS 2+2 Program and what they look for in college undergrads, visit Veritas Prep. And, as always, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Friday, August 28, 2009

HBS Dean of Admissions on Letters of Recommendations

Earlier this week Harvard Business School Dean of Admissions Dee Leopold wrote a blog post dispensing some good advice to HBS applicants regarding their MBA letters of recommendation. She hits on several key themes that we tell our clients, and that are covered in detail in Your MBA Game Plan, our MBA admissions guide.

These include:

  • Your recommendation writers MUST know you well. Every year we have clients approach us and say something along the lines of, "Good news. I think I can get my CEO to write a letter of recommendation for me." If your CEO hasn't worked with you extensively, and can't discuss your strengths and potential in great detail, then this isn't very good news. Admissions officers are impressed by what YOU have done, not by what your recommendation writer has done.

  • Details and specifics are a must. As Dee says, "What we are hoping for are brief recounts of specific situations and how you performed." Any recommendation written in general terms -- "He's a true leader... He exhibits teamwork all the time..." -- will fail to leave a lasting impression on admissions officers.

  • While your recommendations don't all have to come from your professional experiences, the best ones are usually written by someone who has evaluated your performance. Dee writes, "Note that we are not looking for a peer recommendation — we find it most helpful if there is some developmental distance between you and the recommender." That kind of person is typically best suited to comment on your strengths and development areas.

  • Simply knowing an HBS student or grad doesn't give you any kind of advantage in the admissions process. See has this to say: "Please don't ask current HBS students to write to us on your behalf outside of the formal recommendation process." Of course, dozens (if not hundreds) will surely ignore her advice this year, but you heard it straight from Dee!

  • Dee's last point is a critical one. To answer the question of whether or not someone with a tenuous job situation should go to his or her boss for a letter of recommendation, Dee says, "Especially in these unusual times, please don't jeopardize your employment in order to secure a recommendation from a current employer." While we have also shared this advice before, we glad that Dee wrote this. Having it come from the head of admissions at HBS should put some jittery applicants at ease as they grapple with this question.

For more information and advice on applying to Harvard, visit the Veritas Prep HBS information page. Also, call Veritas Prep at 800-925-7737 and find out how they can help you with your recommendations!

Monday, August 24, 2009

MBA Programs That Accept the GRE

Since more and more top business schools have started to accept the GRE in addition to the GMAT, we have compiled a list of the top business schools that accept the GRE General Test. This list is not meant to be exhaustive (ETS's exhaustive list is here). Rather, these are the top business schools that have taken the plunge and started accepting the GRE.

Top Business Schools That Accept the GRE:
  • Harvard Business School

  • MIT Sloan School of Management

  • NYU Stern School of Business

  • Stanford Graduate School of Business

  • University of Virginia (Darden)

  • Yale School of Management

Note that Wharton will accept the GRE starting in Fall 2010.

To stay on top of this and other trends in MBA admissions, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Free Trial GMAT Classes from Veritas Prep

After the amazing success or their first free trial GMAT classes earlier this summer, Veritas Prep has added more to the schedule between now and early October. These trial classes give you a terrific opportunity to meet your Veritas Prep GMAT instructor and get a taste of what makes Veritas Prep's GMAT prep curriculum so much more effective than the other leading companies' offerings.

This is the real first class of our flagship 14-session Full Course, taught by the same rigorously trained instructor who will teach your entire course. There are lot of them here, so we listed them alphabetically. Take a look and find your city!

Veritas Prep Free Trial GMAT Classes

Registration is limited, and last time Veritas Prep did have to close free trial registrations pretty early, so grab your spot now!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chicago Booth's Rose Martinelli Gives Reapplication Advice

Last week Chicago Booth's Associate Dean for Student Recruitment and Admissions, Rose Martinelli, wrote a followup to her first blog post about how reapplicants can approach the MBA admissions process. While the first post gave very general information that our readers have seen multiple times (e.g., think about what aspects of your application you need to bolster, consider if your goals are the same this year...), Rose's second post contains some more concrete info that provides a good insight into how Chicago Booth reads reapplicants' applications.

About your data forms, Rose writes, "Do not rely on last year's application to provide us with that information since the forms change a little bit each year. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself -– why is this information important for the admissions committee to know about me?" While each school has its own approach for how much of your old application will make it into your new file, Chicago Booth includes your entire old application with your new submission. However, Rose stresses that your new application must present your candidacy fully.

About your resume, Rose says, "Your resume should be one that you would use for any job search, highlighting your role and accomplishments. " While she doesn't say it here, we would add that, although your resume should be complete and assume that the reader has no prior knowledge of your candidacy, you should put extra care into emphasizing what's new in the last year.

About your letters of recommendation, she has this to say: " While we know you may choose to use the same recommenders as in your prior application, ask your recommenders to update the information with your progression. It might also be helpful for you to take the time to meet with them to review your progress during this period and to highlight areas they might use as examples within the recommendation." This is all great advice -- don't assume that your recommendation writers know how to write you a great recommendation, no matter how smart they are or how strongly they support you.

Regarding your essays, Rose says, "Avoid regurgitating information you used last year -– whether essays or elements of your presentation. Be bold and start from scratch." One question is specifically meant for reapplicants: Essay question 1B asks what has changed since you last applied. Rose says, "This could be anything from work experience, new goals or a greater self awareness. Here's your chance to help us understand your growth from last year."

This is consistent with what we always tell our clients: You are absolutely welcome to reapply to any top business school, but you really need to highlight what's new since last year. While we appreciate Rose's comment about greater self awareness, ideally you will have concrete achievements that you can point to as new and different since the last time you applied. Our reapplicant clients are most successful when they're able to do just that.

For more advice on applying to Chicago Booth, visit Veritas Prep's Chicago Booth information page. And, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Monday, August 10, 2009

UCLA Anderson Holds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans

This past weekend UCLA's Anderson School of Management ran its Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), a terrific program that offers training in entrepreneurship and small business management to U.S. military veterans who were disabled as a result of their service supporting operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The EBV was first introduced by Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management in 2007. In 2008, the EBV Consortium of Schools was launched, a national partnership with UCLA Anderson School of Management, Florida State University's College of Business, and Mays Business School at Texas A&M.

The program was created to provide focused, practical training in the tools and skills of new venture creation and growth, reflecting issues unique to disability and public benefits programs. Veterans who complete the course also benefit from a support structure that they can call upon as they enter the business world, giving them years of ongoing value.

According to UCLA Anderson's EBV web site:

"The EBV program represents a unique opportunity for men and women who have sacrificed for America's freedom to take an important step toward realizing their own freedom - economic freedom - through entrepreneurship. EBV is a selective, rigorous, and intense educational initiative that has been created to make a difference. Accordingly, the application process itself is rigorous and selective."

Most impressively, EBV is entirely free for military veterans. All costs -- including travel, lodging, and meals -- are covered for delegates accepted to the EBV thanks to the participating universities as well as generous donations from corporations and individuals.

We applaud the work the EBV schools have done to advance such a terrific program for those who have been injured while serving their country.

If you are interested in applying to the EBV program, click here. If you're interested in learning more about UCLA Anderson's MBA program, visit the Veritas Prep UCLA Anderson information page.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NYU Stern Names New Dean

The NYU Stern School of Business has just named Peter Blair Henry, currently the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Economics at Stanford University, its new dean effective January 15, 2010.

A Rhodes Scholar, Henry recently received some notoriety as the leader of the Obama Transition Team's review of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and other international lending agencies. He has also served as an economic advisor to governments from the Caribbean to Africa, Dean-designate Henry's scholarship focuses on the impact of economic reform on emerging economies.

NYU President John Sexton said, "After some time, one can read the 'body language' of a dean's search committee. Seldom –- if ever –- have I seen greater certainty or more enthusiasm for a candidate for a deanship. And when I met with him, it was immediately apparent why: a superb and highly productive economics scholar, a natural leader, a community-builder, and a manifestly good person, Peter Blair Henry has just the attributes to lead NYU's business school.

Henry is currently the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of International Economics, the John and Cynthia Fry Gunn Faculty Scholar, and Associate Director of the Center for Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where he was first appointed an assistant professor of economics in 1997.

He is also a Senior Fellow of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Stanford Center for International Development, a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Henry is President of the National Economic Association and received the Association's dissertation prize for his doctoral thesis.

For advice on applying to NYU Stern, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Monday, August 3, 2009

UCLA Anderson Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

UCLA's Anderson School of Management has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2009-2010 application season. Here they are, followed by our comments:

UCLA Anderson Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 14, 2009
Round 2: January 6, 2010
Round 3: March 17, 2010

(Note that, unlike most top business schools, Anderson actually moved its Round 1 deadline back vs. last year, although only by five days. Also, note that Anderson has moved its Round 3 deadline up by about two weeks.)

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays

For first-time applicants:
  1. Describe the ways in which your family and/or community have helped shape your development. (750 words)

    (This question has been reworded this year, but is substantially the same as last year's first question. What's interesting to us is that it's been reworded to include less in the way of specifics than last year's question. Actually, in some ways, it's a combination of the first two questions from last year's application. While we don't know the Anderson admissions committee's motivations for certain, it seems as though they wanted to "open up" the question to give applicants enough room to talk about whatever they want, instead of limiting them too much with specific requests for details. Consider answering this question on with your personal development in mind. Your tendency will be to tie it right back to your career and why you're pursuing an MBA, but a more powerful and insightful response will usually deal with your personal beliefs and development.)

  2. Describe the biggest risk you have ever taken, the outcome, and what you learned in the process. (500 words)

    (This question is new this year, and it's a classic opportunity to employee the "SAR" method: Situation, Action, Result. The admissions committee lays out exactly what they're looking for -- not just what happened, but what you learned as a result. Be sure to spend enough time discussing this last point. Your best story may come from your professional life or your personal life; use the one that gives you the best chance to demonstrate growth and introspection.)

  3. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)

    (This question remains the same since last year, and should be approached the same as most other "Career Goals" / "Why an MBA?" essays.)

  4. Select and respond to one of the two following questions. We would like you to respond to the question by recording an audio or video response, 1-2 minutes long (up to 5 MB maximum), for upload in the online application. If you are unable to submit your response via audio or video, then please prepare a written response instead. (250 words)

    a. Entrepreneurship is a mindset that embraces innovation and risk-taking within both established and new organizations. Describe an instance in which you exhibited this mindset.

    b. What is something people will find surprising about you?

    (Now you can do video, too! While Anderson made waves by introducing an audio response last year, it's possible that, in the age if YouTube, a video response may one day become the norm. We're not surprised that Anderson dropped one of the audio essay options from last year, which asked, "What global issue matters most to you and why," which probably prompted a lot of "hot air" answers from applicants who were more concerned about sounding impressive than they were about giving authentic answers that revealed more about themselves. We think the Anderson admissions committee is interested in seeing and hearing how you communicate as much as they want to hear your specific answer. As we recommended last year, we think you should prepare well and make sure you deliver your answer smoothly, but a more impromptu-sounding response will sound warmer and more authentic than an overly scripted response. Lastly, have fun with this! Your response doesn't need to be funny or wacky, but brightening the admissions committee's day always helps.)

  5. OPTIONAL: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

    (Our advice for this type of question is always the same: Only use this question as necessary. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you're making excuses when you don't need any.)

Reapplicants who applied for the entering Fall 2008 or 2009 class have a different set of requirements than first-time applicants. Instead of submitting two letters of recommendation and the four regular essays, reapplicants are required to submit precisely one new letter of recommendation and the two essays below:

  1. Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (750 words)

    (The admissions committee's goal here is clear: to be able to quickly judge how much stronger your candidacy is this year. Like all top schools, UCLA Anderson IS very receptive to receiving applications from reapplicants, but you need to show up with a a noticeably stronger application than what you submitted a year ago. What's changed? Have you been promoted at work? Achieved a higher score on the GMAT? Taken on a leadership role in your community? This is your chance to showcase it all in a single essay.)

  2. Describe the biggest risk you have ever taken, the outcome, and what you learned in the process. (500 words)

    (Since this essay didn't exist last year, it makes sense that the admissions committee also wants to see reapplicants' responses to this question.)

  3. OPTIONAL: Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

For more advice on applying to UCLA Anderson, visit the Veritas Prep UCLA Anderson information page. And, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Duke (Fuqua) Admissions Deadlines for 2009-2010

Duke University's Fuqua School of Business won't release its new application for another few weeks, but the school did recently release its application deadlines for 2009-2010.

Here are the deadlines, followed by our comments in italics:

Duke (Fuqua) Application Deadlines
Early Action Round: October 6, 2009
Round 1: November 12, 2009
Round 2: January 7, 2010
Round 3: March 9, 2010

(Note that, unlike most other schools' Early Action rounds, Fuqua's is binding; schools normally call it "Early Decision" when it is binding. We only recommend applying via Early Action if your heart is set on Duke. If you are admitted, you must submit a non-refundable $3,000 deposit by December 10, 2009.)

For more advice on applying to Fuqua, visit Veritas Prep's Duke (Fuqua) information page, and be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business won't release its full 2009-2010 application until mid-August, but the school has already announced its application deadlines for the coming year, and has also spread the word that its admissions essays remain the same since last year.

Our comments follow in italics:

Tuck Application Deadlines
Early Action Round: 10/14/09
November Round: 11/11/09
January Round: 1/6/10
April Round: 4/2/10

(Tuck is one of the few top business schools to offer an Early Action admissions option. "Early Action" means that the decision is non-binding, although if you are admitted you will need to send in a deposit by mid-January, or else you will give up your seat. If Tuck is your top choice, or at least a very close 2nd or 3rd choice, Early Action is a great way to signal your enthusiasm for the school.)

Tuck Application Essays

(There are no hard word limits for Tuck's essays, but Tuck does provide some guidance. According to the school's web site, "Although there is no restriction on the length of your response, most applicants use, on average, 500 words for each essay.")
  1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA program for you?

    (This is the fairly standard "Why an MBA? Why this school?" question that most schools ask. Tuck takes the concept of "fit" very seriously when evaluating candidates, so be sure that you can present a compelling argument for why Tuck in particular is the right place for you to earn your MBA.)

  2. Tuck defines leadership as "inspiring others to strive and enabling them to accomplish great things." We believe great things and great leadership can be accomplished in pursuit of business and societal goals. Describe a time when you exercised such leadership. Discuss the challenges you faced and the results you achieved. What characteristics helped you to be effective, and what areas do you feel you need to develop in order to be a better leader?

    (Here you will keep your response focused on one single situation, what action you took, and what the results were. The last part, about areas that you need to develop, could make for a whole separate essay by itself, but you will need to succinctly respond to this. Your response here may or may not tie into the situation you describe earlier in the essay, although ideally you won't introduce an entirely new theme with only 100 words to go in your essay.

  3. Discuss the most difficult constructive criticism or feedback you have received. How did you address it? What have you learned from it?

    (We tend to like this question better than "What is your biggest weakness," because it starts with an actual experience -- the feedback you received -- and asks you to reflect upon it. As with all "weakness" responses, you want to give an honest, real response, but you also don't want to give an answer that could ruin your entire candidacy. The best answer will address a true weakness, but will be backed up by progress you have made in overcoming it.)

  4. Tuck seeks candidates of various backgrounds who can bring new perspectives to our community. How will your unique personal history, values, and/or life experiences contribute to the culture at Tuck?

    (This is a good chance to highlight any strengths or themes that may need more emphasis in your application. Everything in your background is fair game here: your work experience, your personal life, and your hobbies all make you unique!)

For more advice on applying to Tuck, talk to the MBA admissions experts at Veritas Prep, and be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays for 2009-2010

Earlier this month we posted the Haas School of Business' application deadlines for 2009-2010. The Haas admissions team has since posted the school's admissions essays for the coming year. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

Haas Application Essays

(Note that we present these essays in a different order than what you will see on the Haas web site.)

Required Essays:
  1. Give us an example of a situation in which you displayed leadership. (500 words)

    (Right out of the gate, Haas wants you to show how you are a leader, which should give you a clear idea of how important this trait is to the Haas admissions office when evaluating applicants. You don't need to have a big job title or have a team of ten people reporting to you. Think about any time when you showed leadership -- maybe by overcoming an obstacle, or by helping a colleague or was struggling -- regardless of your role or the circumstances.)

  2. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? How will an MBA from Berkeley help you achieve these specific career goals? (1000 words)

    (Pretty standard question here: Where do you see yourself in a few years (and beyond that), and why do you need an MBA to get there? Specifically, why do you need a Haas MBA to get there?)

Short answer:
  1. What are you most passionate about? Why? (250 words)

    (This is new this year. This question reminds us a little bit of Stanford's "What matters most to you, and why?" question. The key here is to write about something that you really, really care about. A good litmus test is this: How knowledgeable are you about the subject? Many applicants will be tempted to go bold and say something like "Fighting hunger is what I'm most passionate about," because they feel like that's just what one is supposed to say here, but then can't back it up with facts... and passion. Admissions officers will see right through this!)

  2. Tell us about your most significant accomplishment. (250 words)

    (This question carries over from last year. All things being equal, a story from your professional life will serve you best, but don't feel that your significant accomplishment MUST be from the workplace.)

  3. At Haas, we value innovation and creativity. Describe a time when you created positive change in a group or an organization. (250 words)

    (This one also carries over from last year, although it's worded a bit differently to take the emphasis off of an "innovative solution" you created and instead emphasize the impact you had on those around you. We consider this type of impact to be one of the real signs of leadership, so it's not surprising that Haas asks for it here. Be mindful of that when you answer this question... What tangible impact did your solution have?)

  4. What steps have you taken to learn about the Berkeley MBA program, and what factors have influenced your decision to apply? (250 words)

    (This one also carries over from last year. The Haas admissions team seeks evidence that you've really done your homework on the school.)

Supplemental questions:
  1. If you have not provided a letter of recommendation from your current supervisor, please explain; otherwise, enter N/A.

  2. List in order of importance all community & professional organizations and extracurricular activities in which you have been involved during or after university studies. Indicate the nature of the activity or organization, dates of involvement, offices held, & average number of hours spent per month.

  3. List full-time and part-time jobs held during undergraduate or graduate studies, indicating the employer, job title, employment dates, location, and the number of hours worked per week for each position held prior to the completion of your degree.

  4. Please explain all gaps in your employment since earning your university degree.

  5. Beyond the courses that appear on your academic transcripts, please discuss other ways in which you have demonstrated strong quantitative abilities.

  6. If you have ever been subject to academic discipline, placed on probation, suspended or required to withdraw from any college or university, please explain. If not, please enter N/A. (An affirmative response to this question does not automatically disqualify you from admission.)

    (Note the comment following that last supplemental question. If you have a blemish in your past, don't try to hide it. Better to address it directly, explain what you learned and how you've changed, and move on.)

For more advice on applying to UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, visit Veritas Prep's Haas information page, and be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chicago Booth Application Deadlines and Essays for 2009-2010

Chicago Booth recently released its admissions deadlines and application essays for the coming year. These will help you start planning your Chicago Booth application. Our comments follow in italics:

Chicago Booth Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 14, 2009
Round 2: January 6, 2010
Round 3: March 10, 2010

(These deadlines haven't changed much vs. last year's. Note that, like other top MBA programs, Booth is is pushing to get all of its Round 1 decisions out before the holiday season. If Booth is your top choice, this will give you a chance to know your status with the school before you decide whether or not you need to work on Round 2 applications at your backup schools.)

Chicago Booth Application Deadlines
  1. How did you choose your most recent job/internship and how did this experience influence your future goals? What about the Chicago Booth MBA makes you feel it is the next best step in your career at this time? (750-1000 words)

    (This is a new question for Booth his year, although, at its core, it's still the same "Why an MBA? Why now?" question that every business schools asks. What's interesting is how much emphasis this question places on your most recent job. This suggests that Booth wants to know more about your career choices to date, rather than just your future goals. If your experiences don't all line up into a perfectly neat, well-thought-out career trajectory, that's okay. But be prepared to communicate credible reasons why a Booth MBA is a logical next step.)

  2. For reapplicants only: Upon reflection, how has your thinking regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (250 words)

  3. (Again, Booth looks for true introspection. What makes this different than many other schools' reapplicant questions is that it asks what's changed about your thinking, not what new jobs you have taken on or achievements you have earned. A strong answer to this question will still highlight these things, but the school also again wants to see evidence that you're really digging deep to understand why a Booth MBA is right for you.)

  4. Please choose one of the following (500 - 750 words):

    Describe a time when you wish you could have retracted something you said or did. When did you realize your mistake and how did you handle the situation?


    Describe a time when you were surprised by feedback that you received. What was the feedback and why were you surprised?

    (Both of these options are new this year. Usually, when a school replaces or changes its essay questions, it's because the old ones weren't giving the school what it needed in terms of really getting to know applicants and distinguishing one from the next. Both of these questions are a little different than the norm, and we even consider the first one a bit risky. However, that's a good thing -- don't shy away from discussing a serious mistake you made and what you learned from it, because such an experience can make for a terrific essay. The key, as always, will be to not only discuss the mistake, but also write about what you learned from it.)

Slide Presentation

In four slides or less please answer the following question: What have you not already shared in your application that you would like your future classmates to know about you?

We have set forth the following guidelines for you to consider when creating your presentation.
  • The content is completely up to you. There is no right or wrong approach to this essay.

  • Feel free to use the software you are most comfortable with. Acceptable formats for upload in the online application system are PowerPoint or PDF.

  • There is a strict maximum of four slides, though you can provide fewer than four if you choose.

  • Slides will be printed and added to your file for review, therefore, flash, hyperlinks, embedded videos, music, etc. will not be viewed by the committee. You are limited to text and static images to convey your points. Color may be used.

  • Slides will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.

  • You are welcome to attach a document containing notes if you feel a deeper explanation of your slides is necessary. However the hope is the slide is able to stand alone and convey your ideas clearly. You will not be penalized for adding notes but you should not construct a slide with the intention of using the notes section as a consistent means of explanation.

(Here the school asks you to present yourself creatively and succinctly. Almost nothing is out of bounds, but you really must ensure that these slides add something new to your application -- don't use it to just show off professional achievements that you already cover elsewhere in your application. Be creative, and show some personality!!)

For more advice on applying to Booth, visit Veritas Prep's Chicago Booth information page. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Haas MBA Application Deadlines for 2009-2010

The Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley recently released its application deadlines for the 2009-2010 admissions season. Haas has not yet released its essays for the coming year, although you can review the Haas site to see last year's essays and get a feel for what the school looks for in its applicants. Our comments follow in italics:

Haas Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 20, 2009
Round 2: December 10, 2009
Round 3: February 2, 2010
Round 4: March 10, 2010

(Haas has always been a little different than other top schools in how it manages its deadlines, keeping four main application rounds. Like other top programs, Haas has moved up its Round 1 deadline this year by a couple of weeks, although its deadline falls in late October, rather than earlier in the month. However, note that Round 2 deadline on December 10 -- that gives you a nice opportunity to pace yourself if you want to apply to Haas along with a handful schools that have Round 1 deadlines in October. However, if Haas is your first choice, we still recommend applying in Round 1 if you have all of the pieces in place.)

To plan your application strategy for Haas, visit the Veritas Prep UC Berkeley (Haas) information page, or talk to one of Veritas Prep's MBA admissions consultants.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Yale SOM Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

The Yale School of Management has posted it application essays and deadlines for the coming season. It looks like Yale has significantly overhauled its essays for the coming year, going with shorter essays that will require brevity and focus.

Key information is below, followed by our comments, in italics:

Yale SOM Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 8, 2009
Round 2: January 7, 2010
Round 3: March 10, 2010

(Note that, like other top MBA programs, Yale will release its Round 1 admissions decisions in December, before the holidays. This is a tremendous help if Yale is your top choice, and you want to know your status with Yale before deciding to dive into a whole batch of Round 2 applications over the holidays. We expect this trend of earlier decision notifications will continue among the top programs.)

Yale SOM Admissions Essays
Please answer each of the four questions below with a short paragraph of no more than 150 words. This is an opportunity to distill your core ideas, values, goals and motivations into a set of snapshots that help tell us who you are, where you are headed, and why. (600 words total)
  1. What are your professional goals immediately after you receive your MBA?

  2. What are your long-term career aspirations?

  3. Why are you choosing to pursue an MBA and why now? (If you plan to use your MBA experience to make a significant change in the field or nature of your career, please tell us what you have done to prepare for this transition.)

  4. What attracts you specifically to the Yale School of Management’s MBA program?

(These "micro-essays" will really challenge you to be succinct and get right to the point in answering the school's questions. But, don't despair. We think this is a good thing. Each of these questions covers a topic that you should be well prepared to answer by now. Career switchers should take special note of the additional instruction in Question #3. In this economic climate, Yale, like all schools, is especially interested to know how well you will do in the post-MBA job market. Career switching is fine, and is even a great reason for pursuing an MBA, but you need to show that you've done your homework and are realistic about your intended career.)

Personal Statement 1

Describe an accomplishment that exhibits your leadership style. The description should include evidence of your leadership skills, the actions you took, and the impact you had on your organization. (500 words)
(This is almost exactly the same as last year's question, with one notable omission: Last year's question asked for a professional accomplishment, but this question asks for any achievement that demonstrates your leadership style. Think broadly about a time when your being there made something happen -- something that wouldn't have happened if it weren't for you. Yale especially wants to learn how you did it, and what impact you ultimately had on the group.)

Personal Statement 2

Choose one of the following topics and answer it in essay form. Please indicate the topic number at the beginning of your essay. (500 words)
  1. A central premise of our teaching about leadership at the Yale School of Management is that true leadership—leadership that helps to address a significant problem in a new way—is necessarily personal. It is only when personal passion aligns with meaningful aspirations that individuals are able to inspire others to act in support of an important goal or cause. What are you most passionate about, and how have you demonstrated a commitment to this passion?

  2. What achievement are you most proud of and why?

  3. What is the most difficult feedback you have received from another person or the most significant weakness you have perceived in yourself? What steps have you taken to address it and how will business school contribute to this process?

  4. Describe a situation in which you devised and implemented a creative or unique solution to a difficult problem. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

  5. Required for reapplicants: What steps have you taken to improve your candidacy since your last application?

(Along the lines of the removal of "professional" from Personal Statement 1, in Question #2 here the school has changed it from "what personal achievement" to "what achievement are you most proud of." This is another example of the school wanting you to think broadly about your answers here. Of all of the questions, we still really like Question #1: "What are you passionate about?" Giving a standout answer to this -- including concrete examples of your passion -- is a great way for you to stand out vs. other applicants.)

Additional Information (Optional)

If any aspect of your candidacy needs further explanation, please provide any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to consider. (250 words)

(As always, only use this essay if absolutely necessary. If there's a weakness that you feel you must address, then do so succinctly and then move on. Do not make this a catch-all bucket for excuses about holes in your candidacy!)

For more information and advice on applying to Yale, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stanford GSB Application Now Live

In a brief note on the school's web site, the Stanford Graduate School of Business announced yesterday that its application is now online for the 2009-2010 admissions season. You can access the application here.

As we previously noted, Stanford has moved up its Round 1 application deadline to October 7th. In yesterday's announcement, Stanford said that it may also extend interviews earlier this year. This is part of the school's push to get out its Round 1 decisions before the end-of-year holiday season.

For more advice on applying to Stanford, take a look at our Stanford essay analysis for 2009-2010. Note the subtle changes in this year's essays vs. last year's... These should provide some clues as to what Stanford GSB looks for in its MBA applicants.

Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on all Stanford-related admissions news!

Monday, July 6, 2009

NYU Stern MBA Essays for 2009-2010

Recently NYU's Stern School of Business released its application essays for the the 2009-2010 admissions season. Here are NYU Stern's essays, followed by our comments in italics:

NYU Stern Application Essays
  1. Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Describe the following (750 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 is the same as last year's Question #1, although the word count grew from 500 to 750 words. 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 write about what you've done up until now, but also explain why you did those things and made those choices.)

  2. We take great care to shape the Stern community with individuals who possess both intellectual and interpersonal strengths. We seek individuals who are highly intelligent, collaborative, and committed to flourishing as Stern leaders. Please answer the following questions (500 words):

    (a) What is your personal experience with the Stern community? Tell us what actions you have taken to learn about us.
    (b) Describe what most excites you about Stern from both an academic and extracurricular perspective.
    (c) How do you anticipate making your mark on the Stern community? Be specific about the roles you will take on and the impact you hope to achieve.

    (This question is a modification from last year's Essay #2. The Stern admissions team has removed the part of last year's question that asked about the toughest piece of feedback you've ever received, and as a result this question has evolved to hit the question of "Convince us that you're passionate about Stern" more directly. Note the emphasis on specifics -- make your answer as specific and as real as possible. What do you know about NYU Stern that convinces you that it's right right school for you, and that you're the ideal Stern student?)

  3. 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.

    (This question carries over from last year. Like Booth and Anderson, Stern seeks new ways to learn about what makes you unique. As trite as it sounds, the school really does want to get to know the real you. Stern's admissions officers are almost begging you to stand out here, so don't let them down! One other note: Just because this question allows you to use any medium, that doesn't mean that you need to submit something other than the written word. 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.)

To keep updated on all of the latest news at NYU Stern, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays for 2009-2010

The University of Michigan's Ross School of Business has released its application deadlines for the coming year. The school's deadlines look the same as last year's deadlines.

Michigan (Ross) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 10, 2009
Round 2: January 2, 2010
Round 3: March 1, 2010

Like many other top MBA program's Round 1 deadlines, Michigan's first deadline is in early October. However, unlike some of those programs, Ross will still notify Round 1 applicants of their decision after the holidays (and after nearly every schools' Round 2 deadline). So, you should assume that your other schools' Round 2 deadlines will pass before you know your final application status with Ross.

For more advice on applying to Ross, talk to one of Veritas Prep's expert MBA admissions consultants.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wharton Application Essays for 2009-2010

Recently Wharton released its application deadlines for the coming admissions season. Now, the school has released its admissions essays for the coming year.

Wharton's essays are below, and our comments follow in italics.

Wharton Application Essays
  1. As a leader in global business, Wharton is committed to sustaining "a truly global presence through its engagement in the world." What goals are you committed to and why? How do you envision the Wharton MBA contributing to the attainment of those goals? (750 - 100 words)

    (This is a new question for Wharton this year, although, at its core, it's still looking for you to to describe why you want an MBA, and why a Wharton MBA specifically will help you in your career. In this way, it's very similar to other schools' "Why MBA? Why this school?" questions. However, note the emphasis that the school has placed on "global business" and "engagement in the world." This isn't a sign that you need to have international or multi-cultural experience in order to be a fit with Wharton, but the school is clearly looking for applicants that can frame their experiences and goals in a global context, and who plan on engaging in the communities around them.)

  2. Tell us about a time when you had to adapt by accepting/understanding the perspective of people different from yourself. (750 - 100 words)

    (This is also a new question this year. It is another hint that the school seeks a great deal of diversity in its applicant pool, and wants students who will thrive in this environment. Don't let this question intimidate you if you feel that your global experiences are minimal -- any situation where you accomplished something by working with someone who has a different background or outlook than you is fair game. That can include someone's personal beliefs, cultural background, professional experience, or academic background. An applicant's tendency here will be to automatically go for the most obvious case of a cultural or language barrier, but it's more important that you can make clear why the situation was challenging, what you did to overcome it, and -- hopefully -- how you were successful.)

  3. Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself? (500 words)

    (This question carries over from last year. As with all failure-related questions, the key is to put enough emphasis on what you learned. This sort of self-awareness is what admissions officers typically look for when they ask a "failure" question. Also, ideally you will be able to describe a later time when you applied what you learned to a new situation to avoid a similar failure.)

  4. Choose one of the following: (500 words)

    - Give us a specific example of a time when you solved a complex problem.

    - Tell us about something significant that you have done to improve yourself, in either your professional and/or personal endeavors.

    (Both of these essay choices are new this year. The first question gives you the opportunity to take the reader through how you broke down the problem at hand, whether it was an analytical problem or an organizational challenge. The word "complex" will often take people down the path of a story that shows off their analytical abilities, but think broadly about the definition of this word. A story about how you overcame multiple organizational or cultural challenges to achieve something is also fair game. The second question gives you another opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness and a commitment to self-improvement. One example of a good essay here is a story of how you overcame tremendous odds to better yourself at a particular task or skill.)

  5. If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)
    (It ca be tempting to use this type of question as an opportunity to pour out a list of excuses for weaknesses in one's background. Avoid this temptation, and only use it if you must address a glaring weakness in your application. Address it, explain what happened, and move on.)

For more advice on applying to Wharton, visit the Veritas Prep Wharton information page. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Learn to Think Like MBA Admissions Officers

Veritas Prep has released a white paper examining the results of its first annual survey of admissions officers at the top 30 business schools in the United States.

The white paper, titled "Trends in MBA Admissions: Perceptions of Admissions Officers at Top 30 Business Schools," highlights notable findings from the Veritas Prep Survey of MBA admissions officers, an eight-week online survey conducted among the top 30 U.S. business schools, according to BusinessWeek's rankings. Responses from admissions officers on topics ranging from student selection criteria to the future of the MBA application revealed a series of considerations that any b-school applicant should heed, including:
  • Almost half of respondents report that the number of admits straight out of college has increased compared to five years ago, partly reflecting a push by many top MBA programs to attract younger applicants.

  • Among desired changes that admissions officers would like to see in their applicant pool, diversity ranks number one.

  • Among applicant traits and characteristics, analytical skills rank as the most important, far ahead of any other characteristic such as leadership and community service.

Despite the increased demand for graduate business education stemming from the current economic slowdown and other contributing factors, the savvy business school applicant is in a unique position to secure a coveted seat in a leading MBA program through some additional due diligence. Knowing what wows and irritates admissions officers at top MBA programs can propel one’s candidacy from unlikely to competitive.

You can access the white paper here. If you're ready to apply, contact Veritas Prep for MBA admissions help.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kellogg Admissions Deadlines for 2009-2010

Recently Kellogg released its admissions essays for the coming year. Now, the admissions office has published its application deadlines for the 2009-2010 season.

The Kellogg deadlines work a little differently than those of most other schools, and it can be a little confusing for an applicant. For each round, the first deadline is the date by which you should contact the admissions office to set up an interview. At Kellogg, the applicant initiates the interview process, rather than the school inviting candidates to interview.

For the coming year, the off-campus interview request deadline is October 2, while the on-campus interview request deadline is October 15. This is known as "Part 1" of Round 1, and it is critical that you meet this deadline in order to get things rolling for Round 1. Then, the next deadline to note is for "Part 2," which is your actual application, including your essays and recommendations.

Kellogg Application Deadlines for Part 1
Round 1: October 2, 2009 (Oct. 15 for on-campus interviews)
Round 2: December 18, 2009 (Jan. 14 for on-campus interviews)
Round 3: February 19, 2010 (Mar. 4 for on-campus interviews)

Kellogg Application Deadlines for Part 2
Round 1: October 15, 2009
Round 2: January 14, 2010
Round 3: March 4, 2010

Note that you get a couple of extra weeks for Part 1 of your application if you request an on-campus interview (no doubt because of the logistics the admissions office has to go through with off-campus interviews to match so many applicants with alumni interviewers around the world).

For more advice on applying to Kellogg, visit the Veritas Prep Kellogg School of Management information page, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Does the MBA Oath Accomplish?

Last week a recent Harvard Business School graduate spoke out about the Class of 2009's collective effort to create and endorse a new "MBA Oath" in response to the public beating that the Master of Business Administration degree has taken in the public eye. In an article posted on, Max Anderson explained he and his classmates' reasons for signing the oath.

"The oath began as a voluntary, opt-in grassroots initiative among our classmates to get 100 HBS students to sign by graduation," Anderson wrote. "We based our oath language largely on a draft of an oath completed by Professors Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana in the Harvard Business Review last October, with a few edits of our own. We thought 100, or more than 10% of the class, would have symbolic power. As of June 8, 2009, more than 50% of Harvard's graduating MBA class has signed the oath."

But what exactly is the oath supposed to accomplish? Anderson explains, "We hope the Oath will accomplish three things: a) make a difference in the lives of the students who take the oath, b) challenge other classmates to work with a higher professional standard, whether they sign the oath or not and c) create a public conversation in the press about professionalizing and improving management."

While many people in the press have expressed skepticism that such an oath will in any way impact these graduates' future behavior, Anderson cites some behavioral science research that suggests that such public commitments do in fact impact one's actions. So, even if the oath is somewhat hollow, is it possible that it still might steer some grads towards a more responsible path?

Others have referred to the wave of new ethics courses in business schools in the wake of the Enron and Worldcom scandals of a few years ago, and the impact that these courses have had (or haven't had) so far. However, these courses are still so new that, even if they are effective, it's too soon to see their impact.

The net takeaway is that none of these changes is likely to single-handedly solve any widespread cultural problems among MBAs (if you believe there are any) that could drive them towards reckless or irresponsible behavior. Taken together, though, over time they may start to positively impact MBA grads.

However, as much as we believe in the power of HBS or any other business school to transform someone into stronger business leader, we also believe that how likely someone is to be a responsible manager (and a responsible community member overall) depends more on who they are when they enter business school than on the lessons they learn -- and the oaths they take -- while in school. And that will never change.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

MBA Admissions Panel Discussion at Microsoft

This Thursday, Scott Shrum, Veritas Prep's Director of MBA Admissions Research and the co-author of Your MBA Game Plan, will appear in a panel discussion at Microsoft, as part of the Africans at Microsoft Club's second annual Business School Panel: "Standing Out Among the Outstanding: Recession, Competition, and Business School Admissions."

In addition to Scott, the panel will include Cassandra Pittman, Assistant Director of Marketing at INSEAD and responsible for MBA recruitment in North and South America; and Barbara Thomas, President and CEO National Black MBA Association, the world's leading organization for black professionals. Also in attendance will be two "experts in the audience" to add to the discussion: Bryan Tomlinson and Edward Gali, both representing the University of Washington's Michael G. Foster School of Business.

Our friends at MBA Podcaster will attend the event, and will and bring your questions to the panelists. If you have any questions that you would like to hear answered, send them to

For everyone in Redmond, we hope to see you at the event!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kellogg Releases Admissions Essays for 2009-2010

Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management has released its application essays for the coming year. While the school has not yet released its application deadlines, Kellogg applicants can start working on their essays now. As usual, our comments follow in italics.

Note that there are some changes to Kellogg's essays this year, although the application still features three required essays and two shorter "Choose your own question" short answers.

Kellogg Admissions Essays
  1. a) MBA Program applicants - Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at Kellogg. (600 words)

    b) MMM Program applicants - Briefly assess your career progress to date. How does the MMM Program meet your educational needs and career goals? (600 words)

  2. (These questions are the same as last year's, and are the standard "Why and MBA? Why now?" questions that you will see on many MBA applications. One challenge that applicants face is BRIEFLY describing their career progress until now, and then devoting enough space to why an MBA is right for them, why now is the right time, and why specifically Kellogg is the right MBA program for them.)

  3. Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experiences (600 words)

  4. (This question remains from last year. Be as specific as possible here, rather than discussing leadership in broad terms or with vague generalities. When discussing what areas you want to develop, be realistic about what you will learn in the classroom -- Kellogg knows that you won't emerge from a classroom lecture as a completely finished leader. Discuss what you want to learn at Kellogg, but also tie it back to the "real world" and your post-MBA career.)

  5. Assume you are evaluating your application from the perspective of a student member of the Kellogg Admissions Committee. Why would your peers select you to become a member of the Kellogg community? (600 words)

  6. (This question is new since last year, although it's similar to a question that Kellogg used to use, which encouraged applicants to evaluate their applications as if they were admissions officers. This is a terrific opportunity to highlight the two or three core themes that you want to make sure jump out from your application. And, while Kellogg looks for some humility in every one of its students, it's also a chance to brag about yourself a little!)

  7. Complete one of the following three questions or statements. Re-applicants have the option to answer a question from this grouping, but this is not required. (400 words)

    a) Describe a time when you had to make an unpopular decision.

    b) People may be surprised to learn that I...

    c) I wish the admissions committee had asked me...

  8. (Questions A and B are new since last year, although A is a slightly different take on a previous question that asked about motivating a reluctant individual or group. This gives you a chance to discuss an experience that shows off leadership abilities, ethics, and/or analytical abilities. Question B gives you a chance to have some fun and discuss some less obviously MBA-related interests or experiences. Don't underestimate how important these traits are to admissions officers. Question C can be used in much the same way.)

  9. Required essay for re-applicants only: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 words)

    (This last question says it all when it comes to describing what every top MBA program looks for in reapplicants. Ideally you will have at least one or two significant achievements or experiences that will bolster a weakness that may have kept you out of Kellogg last year. The most obvious example is a promotion at work or a vastly improved GMAT score, but any type of experience that demonstrates leadership, teamwork, maturity, or innovation -- if one of these was a weakness in admissions officers' eyes last year -- can help your candidacy.)

For advice on getting into Kellogg, please visit Veritas Prep's Kellogg information page.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

GMAC Partners With Historically Black Colleges

Late last week the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) announced a new partnership with the nation's Historically Black College and University (HBCU) business schools to attract more African Americans to MBA programs nationwide. The partnership will include more recruiting efforts by schools, more marketing of the value of an MBA to black students, and fee or significantly discounted GMAT preparation services for those students.

GMAC President David A. Wilson, in his keynote address at the annual HBCU Deans Roundtable Summit, noted significant increases in African American students taking the GMAT exam. According to GMAC, the number of African American test takers has doubled in the past decade, with a 26 percent increase in just the past four years.

As part of this partnership, GMAC will offer GMAT fee waivers (currently worth $250) for each of the HBCU business schools to use at its discretion to make sure that no student is denied access to the exam for financial reasons. In addition, GMAC will provide each school packages of test preparation materials, including copies of the new 12th edition Official GMAT Guide and GMAC's own GMAT Prep software on CD.

If you are just starting to prepare for the GMAT, see what GMAT prep options that Veritas Prep offers, and try a free practice GMAT exam.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

MIT Sloan Application Essays for 2009-2010

MIT Sloan has just posted its application deadlines and admissions essays for the coming year. Note that, aside from MIT Sloan's cover letter, all of the essays are new this year. Our comments follow in italics:

MIT Sloan Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 27, 2009
Round 2: January 13, 2010

(As is normally the case, MIT Sloan has just two application rounds this year. MIT Sloan has bucked the trend of top business schools moving their Round 1 deadline to the beginning of October. These deadlines are virtually identical to last year's.)

MIT Sloan Admissions Essays

  1. Prepare a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Describe your accomplishments and include an example of how you had an impact on a group or organization. Your letter should conform to standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Director of MBA Admissions. (500 words)

    (While this isn't traditional MBA essay, MIT Sloan's cover letter is a consistent part of its application. Last year the question changed to place more emphasis on your "impact on an organization." This year the question remains the same, so the Sloan admissions office must think that this phrasing helps them more effectively get at what they're looking for in MBA applicants.)

  2. Please describe a time when you went beyond what was defined, expected, established, or popular. (500 words)

    (This is a new question for Sloan this year, and the change suggests that Sloan is really looking closely for evidence of how you have gone beyond your regular job description to make a positive impact on those around you. We consider this as one of the key ingredients of leadership, and we expect that Sloan wants to see more of it in its applicants.)

  3. Please describe a time when you coached, trained, or mentored a person or group. (500 words)

    (This questions is new, and it also gets at another trait of leadership -- putting aside one's own problems and tasks to help someone else better themselves or overcome an obstacle. As is the case with similar questions, you should use the "Situation-Action-Result" format for your essay. Don't just say what happened, but rather put a good deal of emphasis on what YOU specifically did to help the person who needed your mentorship.)

  4. Please describe a time when you took responsibility for achieving an objective. (500 words)

    (Again, this is a question that gets at signs of leadership. In this case, it's a willingness to take on the burden of achieving a goal. Once again, the "SAR" technique will be critical to demonstrating not just what you accomplished, but also HOW you accomplished it, which is what the admissions committee really wants to see. While this is not a "failure" question, the right story here can show how you maybe stumbled a few times in achieving your goal.)

    LGO applicants only:

  5. Why do you wish to pursue the LGO program? What are the goals that you hope to accomplish both as a student and as a graduate of the program? Be sure to include a description of your post-LGO career plans. (250 words or less, limited to one page) You are welcome to copy and paste text directly from your cover letter.

  6. Why do you wish to pursue the engineering field and specialty area you have selected? (250 words or less, limited to one page) You are welcome to copy and paste text directly from your cover letter.

    (While MIT Sloan's LFM program has evolved into the new Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) program, the essays for the program remain pretty much the same. Here the admissions office is looking for signs that you really understand what the LGO program is about, and that you have what it takes to get more out of the LGO program than from the traditional two-year MBA program.)

For more information about application strategies for MIT Sloan, visit our MIT Sloan information page. To stay up to date on the admissions process, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wharton Admissions Deadlines for 2009-2010

While the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School has not yet released its admissions essays for the coming year, last week the school released its application deadlines for the coming year:

Wharton Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2009
Round 2: January 5, 2010
Round 3: March 9, 2010

It's interesting that, like HBS and Stanford, Wharton's Round 1 deadlines, Wharton's is now at the beginning of October (it's been moved up by one week vs. last year). We expect that more top schools will soon follow. However, Wharton did not move its Round 3 application deadline to April, leaving just Stanford and Harvard as the schools with April deadlines, so far.

For more advice on applying to Wharton, take a look at Veritas Prep's Wharton page. If you are ready to start working on your Wharton candidacy now, see how Veritas Prep's MBA admissions consultants can help you succeed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kellogg Dean Dipak Jain to Step Down

After serving as the Kellogg School of Management's dean for the past eight years, Dipak Jain will step down from his post on September 1, and will return to the Kellogg faculty following a year’s leave of absence. The school will soon appoint an interim dean, and Northwestern University will begin a national search for Jain's replacement.

"I have been both honored and fortunate to have been able to serve as dean of this wonderful school," Jain said in an announcement to the Kellogg community. "Over the past eight years as dean, it has been my pleasure to work alongside wonderful colleagues whose dedication to Kellogg has made my job a joy. I truly appreciate the support, guidance and assistance that I have received from Kellogg faculty, staff, students and alumni during my tenure as dean."

Jain, 51, first came to Kellogg in 1986 as an assistant professor. Since 1994 he has been the Sandy and Morton Goldman Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies and professor of marketing. This move will allow him to return to what he loves most -- conducting research and teaching Kellogg's students.

For more information on Kellogg and advice for getting in, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Garth Saloner Named New Dean of Stanford GSB

Last week, the Stanford Graduate School of Business announced that Garth Saloner will be its next dean, effective September 1st. He will succeed Robert Joss, who has served as dean for the past 10 years.

Saloner joined the Stanford faculty in 1990, and is currently the Jeffrey S. Skoll Professor of Electronic Commerce, Strategic Management and Economics. He also serves at director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Graduate School of Business. Saloner led the overhaul of Stanford's MBA curriculum, making this a natural transition as the school seeks to maintain leadership continuity.

"Over nearly two decades at Stanford, Garth Saloner has demonstrated that he is not only a top-notch scholar, but also a respected leader among his peers and distinguished teacher highly-praised by his students," President John Hennessy said in the school's official announcement.

Saloner discussed some of the challenges that he will face in his new role:

"The Stanford GSB has the opportunity to prepare future generations of principled critical analytical thinkers whose actions can change the world. Through our research, we will continue to develop the intellectual underpinnings of management and we will embody that knowledge in our teaching. From our sustainable new management center on the Stanford campus we will promote the free-flow of students, faculty, and ideas across disciplines and schools as we develop management knowledge and business leaders for the 21st century."

To learn more about Stanford, visit Veritas Prep's Stanford GSB information page. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stanford GSB Application Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

Last week the Stanford Graduate School of Business released its admissions essay topics and deadlines for the 2009-2010 application season. Just like the upcoming HBS Round 1 deadline, Stanford's Round 1 deadline is now in the first week of October, and the school will now notify Round 1 applicants before the holidays at the end of the year.

Here are Stanford's essays and deadlines, followed by our comments in italics:

Stanford GSB Application Deadlines

Round 1: October 7, 2009
Round 2: January 6, 2010
Round 3: April 7, 2010

(Interesting... Harvard matched Stanford by moving its Round 3 deadline back to April. Now, like HBS, Stanford has moved its Round 1 deadline forward, to early October. For these schools, there's now six months between the Round 1 and Round 3 deadlines! Perhaps one reason for this move is to make admissions officers' lives easier during the peak season, by spreading it out a bit.)

Stanford GSB Application Essays
  1. What matters most to you, and why? (750 words recommended, out of 1,800 total)

    (Ahh, Stanford's tried-and-true essay question. Old timers will remember when this question had no word limit. Now, the essay's 750-word limit forces applicants to be a little more economical with their words, which is a good thing. This question requires a great deal of introspection, after which you should create an essay that truly answers the question asked, whether or not you feel that it's directly applicable to your candidacy. Obviously, the more relevant to the topic at hand, the better, but where applicants often go wrong is by offering grand ideas and big words, rather than a real glimpse into who they are as a person.)

  2. What are your career aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them? (450 words recommended)

    (This is the "Why do you want an MBA, and why this school?" question that nearly every school asks. Here you can feel more comfortable writing about the topics that business schools more often look for in their applications. Remember to keep it realistic and to demonstrate that you understand what the Stanford MBA experience will -- and won't -- do for you as a growing professional.)

  3. Answer two of the four questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years. (300 words recommended for each)

    Option A: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

    Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.

    Option C: Tell us about a time when you motivated others to support your vision or initiative.

    Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

    (Some small but key differences here vs. last year. For Option A, they have added the "whose performance exceeded expectations" clause, indicating that last year's applicants may not have put enough focus on results in their answers. Option B has changed from "Tell us about a time when you felt most effective as a leader." The change to "the lasting impact" question also suggests that the school is looking for more results in its essay answers. Option C has evolved from a question about overcoming an obstacle or failure to a question that gets at one version of leadership -- motivating others to support your ideas. Stanford considers this type of persuasiveness a key ingredient in the future leaders that it wants to produce. Option D remains from last year; this is another results-oriented question that also gets at a core component of leadership)

For more guidance on your Stanford business school application, visit the Veritas Prep Stanford GSB information page. To get a feel for how strong your chances of getting into Stanford are, try Veritas Prep's Business School Selector.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Business School Waitlist Advice from Forbes

When Forbes reporter Tara Weiss wrote a piece about how applicants can navigate the business school waitlist, she turned to Your MBA Game Plan co-author Scott Shrum for advice on what applicants can do to maximize their chances of success.

As the article states, being on the waitlist is not a comfortable experience. The lack of knowing a firm outcome can be very unsettling, especially when you're waiting on making big decisions such as leaving your current job, moving to a new place, and selling your home. However, you can take solace in the fact that the school must want you if it's waitlisted you -- the admissions office just can't find room for you in the class, at least not yet.

Your time on the waitlist also gives you an opportunity to address an weaknesses in your application. Writes Weiss:

There are several reasons candidates get relegated to the wait list. If you can find out which reason applies to you, you can try to address the problem. Among the most common: a low score on the Graduate Management Admission Test; insufficient community service or leadership experience; low grades in college math classes; unclear career goals. However, "They won't wait list anybody unless they're willing to admit them," says Scott Shrum, director of M.B.A. admissions research at Veritas Prep, an M.B.A. application consulting firm in Los Angeles.

The article also makes an important point about demonstrating enthusiasm for the program in question: It helps your chances, but only so much. If the school that has waitlisted you is your #1 choice, then you're missing an opportunity to improve your chances if you don't let the school know. After all, what school wants to admit a waitlisted candidate who only might attend? However, that is only one piece of the puzzle:

"Some people believe that convincing us they're really, really interested will get them off the wait list. That's just not true," says Peter Johnson, executive director of admissions for the full-time M.B.A. program at the Haas School. "What gets them off the wait list is strengthening one of these weaknesses."

At the end of the day, to some extent you can control how attractive you are as a waitlisted candidate. What you can't control, however, if how many applicants the school will take from the waitlist. You might do everything right, but if the school doesn't need anyone from the waitlist (or, doesn't need anyone from your particular background), then unfortunately you won't get in. Being smart about how to approach the waitlist and maximize your candidacy is all you can do, but it's better than being rejected!

For more help on getting off of a business school's waitlist, take a look at Veritas Prep's Waitlist Assistance package. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Harvard Business School Application Essays and Deadline for 2009-2010

This week Harvard Business School released its application deadlines and admissions essays for the 2008-2009 season. Here they are, taken from Harvard's site. Our comments are in italics:

HBS Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2009
Round 2: January 19, 2010
Round 3: April 8, 2010

(Harvard's Round 1 deadline is two weeks earlier than it was last year. However, its Round 2 deadline is nearly two weeks later than last year's, and its Round 3 deadline is nearly a month later. The Round 3 move is especially interesting since this past year Stanford GSB's Round 3 deadline was also on April 8. This was almost certainly a move made to match Stanford in trying to grab any last-minute, high-potential applicants.)

HBS Application Essays
  • What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600 words)

    (This is the same question that HBS has asked for years now, and is a great opportunity for you to spell out three main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. This being HBS, at least one of your examples should highlight leadership, but don't discount stories that also demonstrate other three dimensions that admissions officers look for: teamwork, innovation, and maturity. As we always tell our clients, the "why" is even more important than the "what," so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. Also, ideally you can draw upon multiple types of experiences -- not only on the job, but also from your community involvement, your hobbies, and even, in some cases, your personal life.)

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

    (This question is also a repeat from last year. The key here is to not only describe what happened and what you learned, but also to show how you put that lesson to work in a later situation. That last point allows you to evolve the essay answer from being purely hypothetical to being an opportunity to discuss another achievement.)

  • Please respond to two of the following (400 words each):

    1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?

    2. Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization.

    3. Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision.

    4. Write a cover letter to your application introducing yourself to the Admissions Board.

    5. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

    (Of the above questions, the "difficult decision" and "cover letter" questions are new since last year. They replace a question that asked, "What area of the world are you most curious about and why?" which only lasted for one year, probably because it didn't help the HBS admissions committee learn much new valuable information about its applicants. For the new questions, we like how the "difficult decision" question gives you an opportunity to really show off their maturity. The "cover letter" question is similar to MIT Sloan's, and provides another good opportunity to sketch out the main themes of your application.)

If you would like more information about applying to HBS, visit the Harvard Business School information page. And for more information on business school application deadlines, and be sure to follow us on Twitter!