Finance Professionals: Don’t Make These Common MBA Application Mistakes

While other business school applicants have to work hard to demonstrate that they can handle classes such as finance, accounting and statistics, if you hail from finance, the admissions committee already knows you can excel …

application mistakes finance professionals makeWhile other business school applicants have to work hard to demonstrate that they can handle classes such as finance, accounting and statistics, if you hail from finance, the admissions committee already knows you can excel in the core classes, and that gives you one less thing to worry about as you craft your killer MBA application. But don’t rest on your laurels!

Because applicants from finance are overrepresented in the admissions pool, your goal is to stand out as much as possible from peers with similar backgrounds. As we pointed out in our previous posts (part 1 and part 2) highlighting the Top 10 list of common MBA application mistakes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to attract the admission committee’s attention. We’ll wrap up today with the final things to avoid to make yours a successful MBA application.

Mistake #8: Not thinking through the “Why an MBA?” question

Many firms expect analysts or other junior bankers to leave for an MBA at approximately the two-year mark. Other possible options for you are to join a PE firm or hedge fund, or find a job in industry. If you’re at this crossroads in your career and now is the expected time to apply to MBA programs, you will need to actively counteract any impression that your MBA is simply to “check a box” before the next level in your career.

It’s time to step back from your practical brain and access your creative side to come up with your ideal career vision statement. You have amazing skills –there is no doubt an MBA will add to your overall skill set. The hope is that you will arrive on your MBA campus with a burning desire to make the world a better place. Passion and vision are critical to MBA admissions committee evaluation because they are both essential elements of effective leadership.

Mistake #9: Thinking you’re too busy for extracurricular activities

The reality for finance professionals is that a demanding work schedule rarely allows time for meaningful extracurriculars. What can you do if your work really is your life? If your 80-hour work week didn’t allow time for community involvement, realize that not every extracurricular has to be literally outside of work. Take some time to look inside your office building for those leadership opportunities that may have nothing to do with your day-to-day responsibilities.

And remember, not all volunteering requires a time commitment every week. With your schedule you’ll need to be creative to find flexible opportunities to contribute. Look for activities that are not face-time based, but that focus on impact or a small amount of time on weekends. A track record of volunteering and community service—no matter how big or small—adds a lot of strength to your candidacy.

Mistake #10: Not letting your personality shine through

An MBA application is a hybrid between a business communication and a personal essay. While it’s important to keep the focus and precision of a business writing exercise, you don’t need to sacrifice the color of a personal essay. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, even if that means injecting humor, fear or humility. You are not expected to be a perfect robot; that is not an appealing quality for an MBA student. Using your emotions effectively will help your essays come alive and show that you are more than a list of your accomplishments.

You already knew that your work experience is impressive and a key selling point for your candidacy. But now you also know it’s very important to highlight those extra-curricular activities, hobbies, or interesting personal stories in your application, and demonstrate you’ve made a deep personal connection to the programs on your list. Avoid these 10 mistakes commonly made by finance applicants, and you’ll offer the admissions committee a truly holistic picture of your candidacy. Best of luck!

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Ask the AdCom: Resources for MBA Students with Startup Fever

Hey everybody! We’re back with another installment of “Ask the AdCom,” where we share a wide range of tips and advice from admissions team members from a dozen top business schools. Since AdCom members are human, too, we …

Hey everybody! We’re back with another installment of “Ask the AdCom,” where we share a wide range of tips and advice from admissions team members from a dozen top business schools. Since AdCom members are human, too, we know our readers will enjoy seeing  a different side of what makes these guys tick.

This fun space is not really about the application process but more about real-life topics, like what’s a good book to readbest place to study, where you can find a killer meal near campus, and all the fun stuff happening at b-school that creates those lifelong, cherished memories for MBA students.

We hope you become inspired, too!

entrepreneurship at bschool

Today’s question is: What resources are available for student entrepreneurs?

Isser Gallogly, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions at NYU Stern School of Business: The W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab includes an annual $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge.  This past year, 231 teams comprising more than 800 entrants from 16 schools at NYU competed in one of three challenges: New Venture, Social Venture and Technology Venture.

Melissa Fogerty, Director of Admissions at Yale School of Management: Students from across campus participate in the courses and programs run by our Program on Entrepreneurship, which hosts numerous entrepreneurship electives like Venture Capital & Private Equity Investments, Start-up Founder Practicum (a mechanism for SOM students to work on their start-up ventures for credit), Impact Investing, and New Ventures in Healthcare and the Life Sciences.

Our students also connect with their peers and faculty around Yale through the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, a campus-wide convening space for entrepreneurs, to start new ventures. This points to one of the huge reasons we put so much energy into engaging with the rest of Yale: it gives our students the opportunity to build diverse teams around meaningful projects, and by doing so, to forge relationships that will benefit them throughout their careers.

Alex Lawrence, Assistant Dean of  MBA Admissions at UCLA Anderson School of Management: The Price Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which includes the Anderson Venture Accelerator, 24 courses involving 20 faculty members, and Entrepreneur Association (student club) presents more than 150 events each year.

Kelly R. Wilson, Executive Director of Admissions at CMU Tepper School of Business: The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship unites the Tepper School with the world’s top-ranked Computer Science college, acclaimed Engineering and Fine Arts schools, and students, faculty and innovation from across a campus that is acclaimed for its startups, research and new big ideas.

Allison Jamison, Admissions Director at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business: Fuqua has a very active entrepreneurship community.  The Program 4 Entrepreneurs (P4E) is a great way for those interested in entrepreneurship to gain experience or grow an idea. If you have an idea for a start up, or want to be a part of a start up team, this is the place to start.  We also maintain a network of alumni entrepreneurs at DukeGEN that works with our staff, faculty, students, and alumni to advance entrepreneurial activities.

John Roeder, Assistant Dean Graduate Admissions at SMU Cox School of Business: Since its founding more than three decades ago, the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship has continuously developed innovative courses and programs to help students keep pace with the dynamic, rapidly changing field of entrepreneurship. They sponsor the Cox MBA Venture fund, the Southwest Venture Forum, and the Dallas 100 Awards, which is an annual event that identifies and honors the 100 fastest-growing privately held companies in the Dallas area.

Judi Byers, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, tapped Najeen Riazi (MBA ’17) for input: Multiple internal resources at Cornell include a university-wide incubator and resource office, support for numerous case competitions, and graduate-level programming. Br Ventures is a seed-stage venture capital fund focused on providing funding to early-stage, high-growth businesses.

BR Consulting offers commercial and strategic consulting to startup companies, helping them bridge the gap between business idea and company growth. BR Microenterprise offers business advising and lending services to needs-based local entrepreneurs. BR Microenterprise is based at Johnson’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise in partnership with a local credit union.

BR Advisory assists on getting young companies off on the right legal track. BR Tech Transfer is a continuous business collaboration between our Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute (EII) and the Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization to help commercialize more Cornell technology faster.

Shari Hubert, Associate Dean of  MBA Admissions at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business: The Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative has created a vibrant community for entrepreneurs both on campus and within the D.C. community. Students can take advantage of Venture Competitions, StartUpHoyas Summer Launch Program, Entrepreneurs Fellows Program, and the 1776 Partnership Incubator in downtown Washington DC, among other offerings.

Morgan Bernstein, Executive Director of Full-Time MBA Admissions at UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business: The Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP), is an umbrella program that supports startups & students interested in entrepreneurship, and also connects them with campus resources such as the SkyDeck accelerator—a joint program of Haas, Berkeley Engineering, and UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Research Office.

Also, our Dean’s Seed Fund provides funding to qualified startups that involve Haas students, and our start-up events such as LAUNCH and the Global Social Venture Competition give students a chance to pitch their business plans to prospective investors.

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It seems there’s no hotter topic at b-schools today than entrepreneurship, right?  Look out for the #AskAdCom in our social media channels, and we’ll see you again next week when we check in to Ask the AdCom about their favorite watering holes near campus!

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B-Schools Say GRE Option Attracts More Non-Traditional MBA Applicants

Kaplan Test Prep’s 2016 business school admissions officers survey finds that 92 percent accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, giving aspiring MBAs more flexibility than ever in deciding which exam to take …

Kaplan Test Prep’s 2016 business school admissions officers survey finds that 92 percent accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, giving aspiring MBAs more flexibility than ever in deciding which exam to take to get in.

This all-time high percentage in Kaplan’s annual survey represents a huge jump from its 2009 survey — the first year Kaplan asked the question — when only 24 percent of business schools said they accepted GRE scores.

But despite increased acceptance of the GRE among business schools, there’s a point of consideration for MBA applicants who are considering this option: The GMAT might still give applicants an edge at some schools. Twenty-six percent of admissions officer say those who submit a GMAT score have an admissions advantage over those who submit a GRE score.

Only 2 percent say GRE takers have the advantage; the remaining 73 percent say neither exam taker has the advantage, essentially unchanged from Kaplan’s 2015 survey.

Business schools have contended that accepting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT — long the only accepted admissions exam –widens the pool of applicants beyond students from ‘traditional’ MBA backgrounds like finance, banking or consulting.

Kaplan survey data supports this notion and finds that schools have been successful in this effort, with 61 percent saying offering the GRE option has resulted in the enrollment of more students from nontraditional backgrounds. The GRE has not, however, significantly contributed to business schools enrolling more female students (25 percent), students of color (24 percent), or low income students (16 percent).

It’s important to note, unrelated to the GRE, that the percentage of female students at top business schools has increased over the past several years and there are other efforts underway to increase the number of students of color; and the GRE alone isn’t the only reason business schools have enrolled more students from non-traditional MBA backgrounds.

“One reason acceptance of the GRE continues to grow seems to be because it generally broadens the application pool to include prospective students who might bring a different set of experiences and skills to business school and the business world, which is important as the economy continues to diversify. It’s also possible that business schools that don’t offer the GRE option may lose excellent prospective students to schools that do,” said Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduate programs, Kaplan Test Prep.

“We continue to stress to students to understand that some schools are still reluctant to give both tests equal cachet, even though they accept both exams. Our advice is to gather intel and ask admissions officers if their program has preference for one exam over the other.”

*The survey was conducted between August 2016 and October 2016 of admissions officers at 224 business schools in the United States. Among the 224 business schools are 18 of the top 50, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

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Using an MBA to Change Careers

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who stays with one company or even one industry throughout his or her entire professional life. If you’re looking for the fast track to gain the …

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who stays with one company or even one industry throughout his or her entire professional life. If you’re looking for the fast track to gain the skills and network to launch your career in a new direction, a popular way to do so is through an MBA program. In fact, by some estimates, two-thirds or more of graduating MBAs use the degree as a means of switching careers.

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While students often set their sights on a job in finance or consulting, the skills typically strengthened during business school—leadership, intellectual creativity, analysis and critical thinking, cross-cultural awareness, communication, even greater IT mastery—will serve you well as you find your way toward your ultimate career goal.

So-called career switchers look upon the degree as a way to expand international job opportunities, develop the right connections for future employment, and establish the potential for long-term income and financial stability. I personally went to business school because I wanted to transition from finance to marketing.  While I did achieve this, I also found that the MBA experience in and of itself opened up my mind to an array of new possibilities. I ended up in a career with a marketing focus, but it unfolded in a way I never would have considered pre-MBA.

Since application season is in full swing, I have a few words of advice for those applying to an MBA program now or in the near future. Business school demands a huge investment of your time, energy and finances, so make an airtight case to the admissions committee for why you want to go into this new field. Show that you know what the industry requires, the challenges you expect to face, and convey all previous experiences that demonstrate you have the transferable skills to make this switch.

One former SBC client, Sheila, worked as a real estate attorney focused on commercial transactions when she decided that she found working with the financial details more interesting than the legal intricacies. She passed the first level of the Certified Financial Analyst exam, but had a very limited understanding of other areas of business management. Though the CFA program is a tremendous resource, she had enough experience to know that she needed to develop the skills best provided by earning an MBA. Going to business school became the next logical step toward Sheila’s objective of working in real estate banking at a Wall Street firm.

If your undergraduate degree or work experience falls into the non-traditional category, make sure you clearly convey your long-term career goals within your application and essays, and explain in detail how you arrived at the conclusion that an MBA would help you further your professional aspirations. Know that the elite business schools welcome applicants from the humanities, but, unlike their business major peers, these candidates will need to prove to the admissions committee that their relatively minimal academic experience in quantitative subjects won’t be a hindrance once they hit those core courses.

Your GMAT or GRE score is the first and most obvious piece of the puzzle that indicates your ability to handle MBA-level course work, so allow yourself plenty of time to study for the exam. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT, the average amount of study needed to achieve a score between 600 and 690 is 92 hours, and getting above that brass ring score of 700 is 102 hours. If you find your score has settled at the lower end of the spectrum, find other ways to demonstrate your quantitative competence, such as taking a college-level calculus class with a score of a B-plus or better.

Once you’re in b-school, opportunities abound to try out that new industry through coursework, student groups, internships, or networking with alumni. Self-reflection and exploration are key components of the MBA experience, giving students a chance to sample various fields and functions without making any firm commitments.

Embarking on a new career path with a freshly-minted MBA tucked under your arm isn’t just about new knowledge acquired in the classroom. It’s about leveraging your existing experience with enhanced skills, and even more so, it’s about making the most of personal relationships. All of the people, classes, activities, etc. in an MBA program catapult you into a whole new sphere, and you may come out with completely new ideas which help facilitate career change in ways you would not have thought of before. For me, this is the best part and the real opportunity business school provides.

The article originally appeared as a guest post for our partners at MBA Insight

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Ask the AdCom: Opportunities to Study Abroad

Hey everybody! We’re back with another installment of “Ask the AdCom,” where we share a wide range of tips and advice from admissions team members from a dozen top business schools. Since AdCom members are human, too, we …

Hey everybody! We’re back with another installment of “Ask the AdCom,” where we share a wide range of tips and advice from admissions team members from a dozen top business schools. Since AdCom members are human, too, we know our readers will enjoy seeing  a different side of what makes these guys tick.

This fun space is not really about the application process but more about real-life topics, like what’s a good book to readbest place to study, where you can find a killer meal near campus, and all the fun stuff happening at b-school that creates those lifelong, cherished memories for MBA students.

We hope you become inspired, too!

MBA study abroad options

Today’s Question is: What study abroad options can MBA program students explore?

Alex Lawrence, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions at UCLA Anderson School of Management, points to The Global Immersion Program includes classes at UCLA Anderson and one week immersion in-country for a blend of classroom lectures, guest speakers, panel discussions, company visits and cultural activities.

Morgan Bernstein, Executive Director of Full-Time MBA Admissions  at Berkeley-Haas School of Business, says: Berkeley MBA students may embark on an international exchange program in the fall semester of their second year. International exchange programs are offered at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, IESE Business School, Universidad de Navarra, Barcelona, L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC), Jouy-en-Josas, and London Business School.

Students can also do an exchange with Columbia Business School in New York. Students interested in international exposure without the semester exchange often participate in International Business Development (IBD), our global consulting course that sends student teams all over the world to complete a three-week consulting project.

Judi Byers, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid  at Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, asked students to share their experience with Johnson’s study abroad options:

  • Sydney Chernish, MBA ’16: We have programs where students can attend schools across the world. For shorter periods, there are opportunities to attend two week international treks to receive elective credit.
  • Najeen Riazi, MBA ’17: There is incredible diversity of study abroad programs.  I participated in programs in South Africa/Zanzibar and Israel and both were life-changing.
  • Daniel Greenhaw, MBA ’16: Yes – either semester abroad or week long excursions known as Johnson Treks.

Virginie Fougea, Associate Director of Admissions at INSEAD, says: In addition to our three campuses (Abu Dhabi, Fontainebleau & Singapore), we have alliances and partnerships with Kellogg, Wharton, SAIS John Hopkins and CEIBS in the US and China.

Shari Hubert, Associate Dean of MBA Admissions at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, says: We have semester exchange programs with ESADE, HEC, and BiMBA at Peking University. We also require all MBAs to complete the Global Business Experience course, which asks them to consult for a company abroad then travel to that company to present their recommendations to executives.

John Roeder, Assistant Dean Graduate Admissions  at SMU Cox School of Business, says: While we have traditional Study Abroad programs, all students will go abroad to either Asia, South America or Europe as a part of the Global Leadership Program at Cox at the end of their first year.

As one of the first leading business schools to mandate global immersion for our students, the Cox School has built deep and extensive relationships with the leaders of today’s greatest international companies. As a result, students don’t just tour countries and visit headquarter locations; you hear and learn from the C-level executives who lead their global organizations on a daily basis.

Allison Jamison, Admissions Director at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, says: In addition to our Global Academic Travel Experience (GATE) courses, where students study an area of the world for a term and then go to visit, we offer more than 30 international exchange partners from Denmark, to China, to South Africa, to Argentina, and more.

Isser Gallogly, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions at NYU Stern School of Business, says: Yes, including our popular 1-2 week in-country, intensive courses called Doing Business in… (DBis) to explore how business is conducted in other countries in Central America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia & Pacific.

Kelly R. Wilson, Executive Director of Admissions at CMU Tepper School of Business, says: Transitional Economies Study Abroad in EU is an option for those looking for a formal exchange program. Global Treks also play a role internationally.

Melissa Fogerty, Director of Admissions at Yale School of Management, says: Global engagement is a daily occurrence at Yale SOM…Our curriculum not only incorporates global perspectives into course work and cases but also requires significant global experience and includes a unique class on working in global virtual teams.

Yale SOM was the first major MBA program to require students to study abroad, with the introduction of our International Experience trips in 2006. Students now choose from a menu of Global Studies options, which include leveraging the Global Network for Advanced Management through Global Network Weeks and Courses, semester-long study abroad, International Experience trips, and real-world consulting experience with mission-driven entrepreneurs in the Global Social Entrepreneurship elective. Students also participate in an innovative Global Virtual Teams course, in which they partnered this year with Global Network peers at EGADE Business School in Mexico and HEC Paris in France on a virtual operations management project.

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Get your passport ready, because it seems international travel is all but guaranteed when you pursue an MBA degree at one of the top b-schools anywhere in the world!  Look out for the #AskAdCom in our social media channels, and we’ll see you again next week when we check in to Ask the AdCom about the entrepreneurship resources available at their programs.

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