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!