5 Signs You’re Ready to Apply to an MBA Program

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News. Many prospective business school students confront whether now is the right time to get an MBA, particularly when they become bored or frustrated …

ready for an MBA

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.

Many prospective business school students confront whether now is the right time to get an MBA, particularly when they become bored or frustrated with their current professional trajectory. But how do you know whether you’re really ready to tackle the intense demands of a full-time MBA program?

There’s often a tendency to rush into it, but the decision to pursue an MBA requires serious thought. Before you start preparing to apply, take a critical look at your reasons for pursuing the degree and make sure it’s the right decision for you.

Motivations for earning an MBA vary by person, but prospective students who decide to embark on the journey should first make sure they’ve identified gaps in their professional development, have clear career goals and feel ready to contribute to the MBA experience.

Review these five signs to determine whether you’re ready to apply to business school.

1. You’ve maxed out professional development: Do you feel like your current position isn’t allowing you to maximize your skills or that your supervisors don’t value your contributions?

If you find yourself stagnating in your present role or that you’ve plateaued in your job and there’s no room for upward mobility, an MBA can help you navigate and leverage your next career step. The business school experience will show you how to integrate your skills, passions and goals against the backdrop of current global market conditions.

2. You want pursue a new professional goal: If you’re looking for the fast track to gain skills and build a network to launch your career in a new direction, an MBA will definitely expand your options.

Once you’re in business school, you have the opportunity to see how you fit in 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.

3. You need an MBA to move ahead in your current job: Unlike career switchers, career enhancers can use the MBA as a way to move up the proverbial ladder in their current company or industry.

Earning an MBA can reassure supervisors who seem reluctant about promoting you because of your age or limited years of work experience. It shows that you’re a go-getter who will do whatever it takes to continue growing and developing personally and professionally.

In some industries – such as finance, marketing, IT or international business – employers often require an MBA for an individual to advance to certain upper management positions.

4. You want to gain specific skills that are taught in business school: In an MBA program, you’ll learn how to think strategically, analyze problems and broaden your leadership skills.

Business school provides a safe space to experiment and hone those skills in a variety of situations. For applicants with strong technical expertise but who are light on general management skills or anyone looking to bridge the gap between the liberal arts and business, an MBA will catapult you to the next level.

5. You feel you have a lot to contribute to a diverse MBA class: If you’ve been in the job for a few years, tackled multiple real-world business problems and been tested and challenged professionally and personally, you’re already equipped to bring a unique and valuable perspective to an MBA class of equally driven and talented peers.

When students from diverse backgrounds and industries come together and share their experiences and skills, all participants learn valuable lessons they would have never otherwise encountered. Remember, the admissions team wants to see how much you’ll contribute to the class in addition to finding out what you’ll gain from the MBA.

As we’ve seen countless times, business school enables students to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities that can help organizations launch new products, improve the lives of consumers and help society as a whole. But only you can determine when the time is right to take that next step.

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7 Common Mistakes International MBA Applicants Make

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News. Creating a robust and dynamic classroom experience through diversity is a primary focus of the top business schools in the United States, offering …

advice for international applicant

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.

Creating a robust and dynamic classroom experience through diversity is a primary focus of the top business schools in the United States, offering students the chance to interact with peers from an array of countries and professional backgrounds.

In fact, international candidates made up a significant percentage of the 2016 incoming class: 32 percent at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, 35 percent at Harvard Business School and 40 percent at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

However, sometimes cultural differences or a simple lack of awareness regarding what a strong MBA application should include can unwittingly derail even the most stellar applicants. With that in mind, international students should avoid these seven common hurdles when targeting top-ranked U.S. business schools.

1. Choosing business schools solely with rankings: Many international students are unable to visit each prospective school in person due to financial or time constraints, so poring over published rankings is an obvious method to create a short list of schools.

But don’t let this be your only method. While brand and cache carry a lot of weight worldwide, you need to look beyond rankings to find the programs that best serve yourr individual needs.

2. Omitting unique personal experiences in essays: In many cultures, sharing personal stories with strangers is taboo. International applicants may be strongly tempted to keep the focus solely on previous education and professional experience.

But to stand out from the masses of similarly qualified applicants, you must focus your essays on aspects other than your quantitative or technical background.

The key to a successful MBA application is showing exactly what you – and nobody else but you – can bring to the program. Don’t be afraid to let your originality and true personality come through in your application materials.

3. Focusing too much on MBA message boards: It’s unsettling to be so far away geographically, and the instinct is to seek out all news and information possible about your dream programs in the U.S.

But local MBA websites and message boards can be rife with rumors and inaccurate information that can steer you in the wrong direction as you consider application strategies.

Remember that no one except the admissions committee knows what’s going on with interview invites, acceptance rates, waitlists or anything else of importance for prospective students.

4. Failing to correctly translate or explain GPA and undergrad transcript: This is a common yet complicated issue, since there’s no universal standard to convert an international GPA to the American 4.0 system. Once you’ve translated your home country’s GPA using an online grade conversion calculator, assess whether it accurately reflects the rigor of your undergrad institution.

Variations in course difficulty can lead to confusion – for some transcripts, a 75 percent would be equivalent to an American A-plus, and at other, more difficult programs, a percentage as low as 60 would translate to an A grade.

If you feel there is some ambiguity in this metric of your transcript, briefly explain to the admissions committee any relevant information that would clarify its understanding of your academic performance.

5. Appearing uncomfortable with a new culture and language: Feeling comfortable working across cultures is crucial in today’s global business landscape. Make sure to highlight any previous study or work abroad experiences, and include examples within your application of times where you have worked with people from other cultural or language backgrounds.

The ability to communicate effectively and fluently in English is also nonnegotiable at top MBA programs. This is one reason some schools have introduced a video interview question in their applications to verify candidate’s comfort with the language. Enroll in conversation courses if needed and continue to read business publications in English to bolster your vocabulary and increase fluency.

6. Failing to manage recommenders, especially nonnative English speakers: You have to convey to your recommenders the criteria for a successful letter of recommendation to a top business school. Otherwise, you’re left with well-intentioned but generic platitudes that provide little insight into exactly what makes you a strong leader, team player or an asset to the program.

Determine exactly what your recommenders should highlight and guide them by providing anecdotes or themes you’d like them to mention.

If your recommenders are not native English speakers, you need to make sure the letter is well-written or, if needed, translated into English.

7. Applying in round three: Round three is difficult to pull off successfully for any applicant, but international candidates should avoid this application cycle for practical reasons. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, so applying in one of the earlier rounds reduces the stress of managing this process once you’re already received an offer of admission and can apply for a student visa.

Also, the earlier you apply, the more time you have to secure and provide proof of funding, whether through work, loans, family or other means. At some schools, scholarship offers go out at the same time as admissions offers, so more award funding is generally available the earlier you apply.

Planning, planning and more planning are key to a smooth application process no matter where you are applying, but the logistics are even more critical for international students.

You may also be interested in:

Guidance for International MBA Applicants
Advice for Business School Applicants from Asia

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Consider the 3 C’s of Fit When Choosing a Business School

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News. One piece of advice you’ll hear often as an MBA applicant is to consider fit when deciding which business schools to target. Many …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.

One piece of advice you’ll hear often as an MBA applicant is to consider fit when deciding which business schools to target. Many factors go into determining fit, and many candidates focus too heavily on rankings and brand over finding the business school where they will truly thrive.

But what exactly is this elusive fit? Basically, fit means feeling like you belong as soon as you set foot on campus, feeling comfortable in the learning environment when you sit in on a class, and knowing this is the program that is going to help you reach your career goals.

Whether you’re a prospective applicant starting to pull together a list of programs or you’re in the enviable position of choosing between two or more admissions offers, start determining the best fit for you by considering the three C’s – curriculum, communication and culture.

Curriculum: Business schools periodically revamp their course offerings to keep up with trends in management education, leadership research and innovations in the business world at large. Lately, common additions or changes include more required and elective experiential courses, as well as new opportunities for students to customize their learning experience.

All general management MBA programs will provide you with the fundamentals of core management skills. The next step to determining fit requires you to find out just how well the programs align with your post-MBA career goals.

Top business schools are often known for their strengths in specific fields – finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, health care, real estate development, etc. – so start by narrowing your list based on how well the program meets your needs and can prepare you for that industry.

If you have laser-focused career goals, you may want to consider business schools that offer a concentration in your area of interest. Also, you might prefer a school with a more versatile curriculum from the beginning that you can really tailor to your needs.

For example, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business offers a flexible curriculum that allows students to choose which courses to take and when based on their experience and career goals.

Students at Harvard Business School meanwhile spend the entire first year in core classes and have the second year to customize their learning focus. Choose a program with a curriculum that suits you and your learning style best.

Communication: MBA hopefuls spend a lot of time creating an application that allows the admissions committee to get a feel for who they are beyond test scores, a resume and transcripts.

You may also want to consider whether the admissions team seems genuinely interested in getting to know applicants, too. A great way to gauge this – in addition to evaluating your own communications with the school – is by seeing how often and how much engagement the admissions committee offers you.

Take, for example, the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor’s Ross School of Business, where the director of MBA admissions and financial aid Soojin Kwon updates her blog every few weeks, offering application tips, deadline and interview news, school events and other thoughts. She or someone in her department also answer each post’s comments. It may just be that famous Midwestern hospitality, but Ross candidates seem to feel a genuine connection that starts during their admissions experience.

Another excellent source of communication comes from the school-sponsored student blogs. You can read first- or second-year students’ blogs that cover everything from their social environment and career musings to travel highlights and student life for international MBA students. These blogs a great way to connect with current students and learn more about the daily experience at your target schools.

Culture: Getting a feel for the prevailing culture at a school is an important part of deciding whether the program is a good fit for your personality. You can begin your assessment by determining whether the culture is predominantly competitive or collaborative.

Size and location often play an important role in this regard – larger programs in urban centers, such as Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Chicago Booth typically feel much more competitive and intense.

Smaller business schools and those located in rural settings usually foster a close-knit community feeling, with many students living on campus and socializing with fellow students and faculty on a regular basis. MBA programs with smaller cohorts, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, Stanford Graduate School of Business and Yale School of Management take pride in their down-to-earth, collaborative cultures.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to a school’s culture – it’s simply a matter of choosing the environment where you think you’ll thrive.

Choosing where to pursue an MBA is a huge decision, so do your homework and understand the strengths and potential drawbacks of each option. Knowing yourself and how a particular school suits your professional goals and needs is the essence of making the right choice about fit.

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Alumni Gift Creates Advance Access Program for the Wharton MBA

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has announced that alumni Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis have made a $10 million gift to establish the Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis Advance Access Program, …

wharton deferred enrollment

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has announced that alumni Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis have made a $10 million gift to establish the Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis Advance Access Program, a deferred admission opportunity that will provide a pathway to a Wharton MBA for highly-qualified Penn undergraduates whose academic and career interests expand traditional notions of business education.

The program adds to the school’s existing Submatriculation Program with a deferred-enrollment plan for the most competitive candidates, enabling them to apply and gain guaranteed admission as undergraduates, work for several years, and return to Wharton for their MBA.

The program is similar to Harvard Business School’s (2+2) program, though the Moelis’s gift may attract graduates from the humanities who have never considered an elite MBA program because of financial constraints.

It opens access to all Penn undergraduate students who aspire to set the stage early for their advanced education and highly successful careers. Ultimately, the program will expand to allow applications from the best undergraduate institutions across the U.S. and around the world.

The Moelis Advance Access Program helps Penn retain exceptional students from across the University – the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Nursing, the Wharton School, and coordinated dual-degree programs – to continue their graduate degree at Penn through the MBA program.

The idea is to broaden the mix of students beyond typical MBA-seekers, who tend to apply after working in finance or consulting roles, Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett told the Wall Street Journal. “We don’t want students to have to choose between following their intellectual passion or social values and getting a good job,” he added.

“Increasing access to a Penn education is a pillar of the Penn Compact 2020, and I am so grateful to Ken and Julie for creating innovative ways to expand educational opportunity through their amazing commitment,” said President Amy Gutmann. “Ken and Julie are encouraging students to think early about their graduate degree, venture into diverse fields after graduation, and bring these robust, interdisciplinary experiences to their Wharton MBA journey.”

In the Moelis Advance Access Program, undergraduates may apply to the MBA Program during their senior year and, for those admitted, enter the workforce for two to four years before returning to Wharton for graduate school.

During this time, students will be empowered to pursue job opportunities in a range of fields, including those that capture their greatest interest and extend beyond the conventional definitions of business. They will also engage in the program and their fellow future classmates through professional development, mentoring opportunities, and social events.

Mr. and Mrs. Moelis’ gift will also provide financial assistance for selected students in this premiere program. Students in the program will be considered for a $10,000 fellowship each year during the two-year full-time MBA program in additional to other financial aid awards.

The results lie in the future generations of Moelis Fellows, the proud graduates who promise to shape a range of important and emerging industries – from analytics, to health care, and beyond. Students who participate in the new deferred-enrollment plan as well as those who complete their BS/MBA in five years as part of the existing Submatriculation Program will share the title, support, and distinction of being Moelis Fellows.

“In my personal experience as a submatric student, and now as CEO of a firm that recruits top MBAs from across the country, it is clear that ambitious students with unique aspirations do not always benefit from the one-size-fits-all track for MBAs,” said Mr. Moelis. “Julie and I are excited to unlock the potential of these students – to help them consider an expanded view of the fields that need their leadership and gain valuable, practical experience after completing their undergraduate degree and before starting their MBA.”

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Tuck School Does Some Myth-Busting for Military Applicants

Current and former members of the armed forces possess numerous skills that admissions boards value in an MBA candidate. Real-world leadership experience, the ability to strategize and think on their feet, and being able to …

Tuck school welcomes military veteransCurrent and former members of the armed forces possess numerous skills that admissions boards value in an MBA candidate. Real-world leadership experience, the ability to strategize and think on their feet, and being able to work well under high-pressure situations are just a few of the advantages a veteran brings to the table when applying for business school.

Coming from the armed forces rather than a civilian career path prior to business school can give rise to certain challenges when drafting an application, but it’s important to keep those concerns in perspective.  The Tuck 360 MBA Blog at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business has recently published a post dispelling some common myths for military applicants just in time for its upcoming Military Visit Day on May 1, 2017.

“The thought of applying to an MBA program and separating from the military can be intimidating, says Jarett Berke, a second-year Tuck student and a former USMC pilot.

“For years, we have had a steady paycheck backed by the U.S. Government, where layoffs were improbable and pay raises and promotions happened on a schedule,” he explains. “We’ve established ourselves within our respective communities, and our families have developed close relationships with others in our commands, squadrons, or platoons.”

With that in mind, Berke addresses eight common myths on the minds of prospective veteran students. Here’s an overview of his advice, but definitely check out Berke’s article through the link above for more details.

Myth: Being older puts you at a disadvantage. The maturity, experience, and poise that often comes with age are a major benefit to your classmates and the school. If anything, I would say that being older is actually an advantage.   

Myth: My partner won’t be able to find a job. Unemployment in the area last year got down to 1.9%, and there is no shortage of really interesting companies. Many partners end up working for Tuck, Dartmouth, or the hospital, and there are scores of very successful small businesses always in need to high quality people. 

Myth: My GMAT score is the most important part of my application. Wrong. The GMAT is just one piece of the puzzle, and you should think of it as a hurdle. Ultimately, the Admissions department looks at the whole person, including: experience, essays, interview, GPA, GMAT (or GRE), and career goals. Make sure you focus on all aspects of your candidacy, not just the GMAT.

Myth: A part-time MBA is equally valuable. Part-time or “executive” MBAs are great for people who want to take the next step in a career they ARE ALREADY IN. If you are pivoting (like all veterans), a top-tier full-time MBA puts you in a different population. You become an MBA with a military background, not a military person with an MBA. This may sound trivial, but it makes a big difference to employers. Plus, taking two years to focus on yourself is an opportunity you may never have again.

Myth: Vets don’t add much value to study groups. Military officers spend their careers making important decisions with limited information. We figure stuff out. We are quick learners, and we can get things done. The courses in business school go deep on a range of topics, and while there may be a few topics that someone in your group has experience in, the majority of the curriculum is new to everyone. Your ability to learn quickly, figure things out, and communicate effectively make you VERY valuable to the teams you are a part of.

An MBA is a great next step for transitioning veterans no matter what branch of service they come from. Applicants from the military should know that business school admissions teams highly value their experience, so if that’s your background, make sure your  applications highlight those powerful and unique qualities.


Hosted by the Armed Forces Alumni Association (AFAA), Tuck Military Visit Day, themed “Setting You Up for Success,” will be Monday, May 1, 2017. During the event, you’ll get a chance to see what distinguishes Tuck among top-tier business schools and what you need to know to transition from the military into the right MBA program. Register here.

You may also be interested in:

Overcome 3 MBA Application Challenges Facing Military Veterans

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