Category Archives: General

Getting Accepted to Grad School (Again): Tips for Applicants Who Already Have a Degree (or Three)

Guest post by admissions expert Ryan Hickey For some students, college is just the first step on a lengthy higher education journey that includes multiple stops and sometimes-abrupt changes in direction. This may be part …

Guest post by admissions expert Ryan Hickey

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For some students, college is just the first step on a lengthy higher education journey that includes multiple stops and sometimes-abrupt changes in direction. This may be part of a planned education path that requires a terminal degree like a Ph.D. in addition to a bachelor’s and master’s. In other cases, however, returning to graduate school is necessary to completely change fields or open new job opportunities.

If you have been in school for most of your adult life, the term “career student” and its often-negative connotation can become a burden as you think about pursuing any degree after a bachelor’s. This can be baffling to applicants. Why would someone undertake the time, work and financial commitment required to earn a degree without good reason? Why should educating yourself further in a discipline or making the difficult choice to change careers be considered a negative thing?

While most know full well that setting out toward a second, third or fourth degree shouldn’t be a knock against an applicant, the myth of the aimless lifelong student persists in some corners of the higher-education world. If this isn’t your first time applying to graduate school, consider these four tips to avoid falling victim to that characterization.

1. Change Happens

Things don’t always go the way you originally or ideally plan. That’s life. What you considered your dream career in your twenties may no longer be fulfilling when you hit your thirties. Just because you start down a particular path does not mean that you must remain on it for the rest of your life.

In both essays and interviews, be honest if your interests and priorities have shifted. You were not wasting time in your previous degree program or career. It was simply the right focus for you at that time, even though it isn’t today. Don’t be ashamed of or try to hide those experiences. Instead, emphasize how you will apply the skills they helped you build to your next academic undertaking.

2. Dig Deep

With myriad education and career experiences, applicants who already have a graduate degree often make the mistake of trying to pack too much into their essays. By covering everything in brief to cram it all in, they never get to the deeper, more intimate content that resonates with admissions officers.

Instead of taking that shotgun approach, identify the experiences most relevant to your current target program and dive deep. You’ll be much better off if you can draw meaning out of several carefully selected stories rather than generally stating many more. By doing this, you can show the reader your applied passion and sense of purpose in applying to this particular program.

3. Non-traditional? No problem!

Non-traditional: this term doesn’t solely refer to applicants with distinctive demographic details. Instead, take it as meaning that you have the ability to bring a unique set of experiences or skills to a program.

For example, lack of maturity is often a major complaint voiced by both admissions officers and professors. They value applicants who will take the program seriously and behave professionally from the get-go, rather than those who require time to adjust or “find themselves.”

Demonstrate how your background, both academic and professional, has helped you build experience working as part of a team, moderating interpersonal disagreements diplomatically, effectively managing your time and balancing diverse aspects of your life. In other words, let admissions officers know that your prior academic endeavors have helped you learn how best to succeed from the start in a new university setting.

4. Career Focused

Why are you going back to school? Admissions officers always want to know, so be prepared with a clear and thorough answer.

Here’s a hint: there’s only one right response, particularly if this isn’t your first trip to graduate school. Given your current career aspirations, there are gaps in your knowledge and experience that can only be filled with further education. While details will vary from applicant to applicant, that basic theme should hold true for you if you’re seeking another graduate degree.

Make direct connections between what each specific program offers and your career goals. Ideally, show that you have short, mid and long-term career plans that can only be accomplished with the help of this particular degree from this particular program.

Knowledge, maturity and professionalism are essential when it comes to getting things done in the real world. As you complete your application, don’t apologize for prior education and work experiences, whether you’re now changing paths or diving even deeper into your chosen field. Previous success as a graduate student is a tangible demonstration of your ability to complete high-level academic work and should help, not hurt, your chance of admission.

***

Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.

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New Georgetown MBA Course Focuses on Women Leaders

Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business has further expanded its efforts to groom young female leaders through a new MBA course titled Developing Women Leaders: Cultivating your Human and Social Capital, the school recently announced. Professor Catherine …

Georgetown MBA

Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business has further expanded its efforts to groom young female leaders through a new MBA course titled Developing Women Leaders: Cultivating your Human and Social Capital, the school recently announced.

Professor Catherine Tinsley, who has been instrumental in building the Georgetown University Women’s Leadership Initiative (GUWLI), created the six-week course. The GUWLI is a program that aims to cultivate young female leaders and connect them with already established female leaders out in the world.

A series of conferences, networking events, and panels inspired Tinsley to create a course based on the three activities that she has found helpful in advancing and empowering women: rigorous research documenting gender dynamics, active workshops targeting specific practical skills women need to build their human and social capital, and listening to other women.

Tinsley notes that with all the technical skills and experience students bring from their previous modules, “This course is designed not to help them get a job, but to help them advance once they have a job.”

The second-year MBA course, which began in March, will be structured around the six human and social capital skills that Tinsley believes everyone needs to advance in their careers.

The course title might seem to indicate it is intended solely for women, but Tinsley says the examined skill set is one from which women and men both would benefit. As Tinsley comments, “There’s no skill that women need to have that men don’t need to have, so this course is about advancement and building your own capital.”

Though there is a great deal of advice about career advancement readily available to women today, very little of it is based on organized research. Similar courses on female leadership that exist at other institutions are generally based on specific case studies and focus on where real women have succeed and where they have faltered.

Developing Women Leaders differs in that it is fundamentally research-based course, drawing on results from large sample sizes.  Guest speakers will offer students context for these results and insights gleaned from years of experience in the business world.

In the first class, 30 women have enrolled from the full female cohort of 81, but no male students have yet enrolled, the Financial Times notes in a profile piece on Tinsley.

The  professor hopes they will eventually choose to join the course, telling Financial Times that men need to be open to discuss gender issues and what those issues mean to them. “It would be interesting and challenging to include them – it is a dialogue that needs to take place,” she says.

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Kellogg School Takes 1st Place in Sustainable Investing Challenge

A team of students from the Kellogg School of Management has taken first place in the 2014 Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge with their proposed investment vehicle that would remediate contaminated land in the U.S. …

A team of students from the Kellogg School of Management has taken first place in the 2014 Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge with their proposed investment vehicle that would remediate contaminated land in the U.S. through reforestation.

This preeminent global competition is geared for students to develop investment vehicles aiming at delivering positive social and environmental impact and competitive financial returns.

Last week at Morgan Stanley’s New York City headquarters, Kellogg’s Nicole Chavas, Nathen Holub, Laura Kimes and April Mendez presented their winning idea for the Fresh Coast Forest Fund, which would lease 25,000 acres of contaminated municipal land to plant poplar tree farms on contaminated urban and industrial sites. Poplars naturally clean and restore soil by absorbing toxins, and could be harvested for use as biomass or wood product.

As a collaboration among the Kellogg School of Management, INSEAD, and the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, the competition seeks to identify the next generation of sustainable investing practitioners, connect emerging leaders with industry professionals, and foster even greater emphasis on sustainability at graduate schools around the world.

At last week’s event, ten finalist teams proposed investment vehicles addressing issues including agriculture, solar energy and sanitation. In February, more than 220 students from 39 schools in 10 different countries submitted prospectuses for the competition.

A team from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business won second place for their proposal, myCatch, a lending vehicle that would provide loans to organizations on behalf of small-scale sustainable fisheries.

“It is exciting to see today’s students—tomorrow’s financial professionals—pushing the frontiers of financial innovation to achieve positive social or environmental impact,” says Jamie Jones, Director of Social Entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School of Management. “The young leaders who participated in the competition will be a driving force for the conversation about sustainable investing at their academic institutions.”

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How NOT to Approach GMAT IR

Guest post by our friends at Magoosh As of June 2012, the GMAT lost an essay and gained a new section. The GMAT Integrated Reasoning (IR) was born. This section appears at the beginning of …

Guest post by our friends at Magoosh

As of June 2012, the GMAT lost an essay and gained a new section. The GMAT Integrated Reasoning (IR) was born. This section appears at the beginning of the test and asks students to deal with complex and disperse forms of data to solve problems. The test makers explicitly state that this section is meant to mimic skills that students will need in business school, and more importantly, in business.

These skills, as stated by the GMAT, are “synthesizing information presented in graphics, text, and numbers; evaluating relevant information from different sources; organizing information to see relationships and to solve multiple, interrelated problems; combining and manipulating information from multiple sources to solve complex problems.”

If all this is true, and I think it is, the IR section is an important measure of your potential success in school and in business. As such, practicing for the IR section will benefit you long after you take the GMAT, and the GMAC has evidence from actual test takers to prove it.

But what exactly are these skills and how do you prepare for this new section? I’d like to walk you through what not to do and end with what you should do to prepare for the IR section.

Not Just About Math

You will need to exercise your math brain and use your logical, numerical reasoning powers for this section, but you are greatly mistaken if you think that your preparation for Quantitative Reasoning is sufficient preparation for the IR section.

Students may find that being strong in algebra or data analysis will help them through some of the IR section, but most of what they will see there is in the form of text, tables, or graphs. The closest things to IR, in the Quantitative Section, are the word problems that require both reading comprehension and math sense. But even these questions don’t touch the level of complexity that you will see in IR.

You will need to do more.

Not Just About Reading

The IR contains a lot to read—messages and emails, announcements and descriptions, explanations of graphs and prompts to answer, statements to evaluate and column headings to understand. Having strong reading skills is a must, as with the entire test, but again, it is not sufficient for success.

The ability to quickly read for meaning will help. The ability to organize information from multiple sources will help. The ability to locate details will help. But none of it is sufficient.

You will need to do more.

Not Just About Graphs and Tables

Students sometimes misunderstand the IR section. It’s not just graphs, charts, and tables. Yes, they are there. Yes, you’ll be dealing with scatter plots, radar charts, and graphs like this one. Having experience in statistics will help, but that won’t be all that you need to be ready.

Understanding U.S. Today charts is a start, but you’ll probably want to move on to The Wall Street Journal and The Economist tables and charts to be ready. But even comfort with graphs at that level is only part of what you need.

Here’s What You Need to Do

First thing you’ll need to do is take the time to learn all the question types. There are four of them—Two-Part Analysis, Multi-Source Reasoning, Table Analysis, and Graphical Interpretation. Learn the difference among these questions and also learn how much variety exists within each question type.

Although the general format will be the same, the types of information and presentation of data can vary greatly. For example, a Two-Part Analysis question can involve algebraic expressions or valid statements based on a passage.

Next you’ll need to deal with timing. Integrated Reasoning is deceptively long. The test makers tell us that we have twelve questions to answer in 30 minutes, but in reality, we have twelve pages that have anywhere from two to five questions to answer.

We must answer all questions correctly on a page to receive credit. As such, we all need to practice these questions in a timed environment. We all need an impeccable pacing strategy to avoid guessing on questions as time is running out.

Finally, you’ll need to work on your executive function. No, not that type of executive. I am talking about neuroscience. Executive function refers to the management and control of certain cognitive processes. These processes are skills needed for success on the test and later in life.

They include deciding priorities, weighing benefits and liabilities, designing strategies, resolving conflicting values, planning, and execution. The key to honing these skills, as with most skills, is practice. And not only practice of IR questions, but also general practice of these skills in your life, while reading the newspaper or managing your finances.

Takeaway

Preparing for the IR section is not the same as preparing for the Verbal section or the Quantitative section. But the preparation can greatly benefit you. Not only will it help you in understanding a GMAT score report or help you in applying to Wharton, but it also will make you a more competitive student and a more competent employee.

More than anything else you will practice for the test, besides good reading skills perhaps, is IR prep. You are practicing life skills—not abstract math concepts or contrived arguments. Practice them well.

This post was written by Kevin Rocci, resident GMAT expert at Magoosh, a leader in GMAT prep. For more advice on taking the GMAT, check out Magoosh’s GMAT blog.

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Columbia Business School Gives Back

Columbia Business School has announced its first large-scale, student-led volunteering initiative coming up on April 4th. The school’s inaugural Day of Impact includes ten service projects throughout New York City and will give students, faculty, …

Columbia Business School has announced its first large-scale, student-led volunteering initiative coming up on April 4th. The school’s inaugural Day of Impact includes ten service projects throughout New York City and will give students, faculty, and staff a chance to give back to the communities where they live and study.

Participants will partner with several different organizations, including the Citymeals-on-Wheels, Food Bank for New York City, The Humane Society of New York, and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Projects will include:

  • Beautifying various city parks — Morningside Park, St. Mary’s Park, and Hamilton Grange National Park;
  • Delivering meals to the home ridden through meal providers Jan Hus Church, Leonard Covello Senior Center, and Goddard-WEME Mainstream Nutrition Program;
  • Preparing dinner for the Food Bank of New York; and
  • Caring for animals in need at the Humane Society of New York City.

“Making an impact on society — however large or small — is a huge part of who we are at Columbia Business School,” says Sheila Lalani ’14, vice president of community service for the School’s Graduate Business Association. “The idea behind Day of Impact is to demonstrate our community’s commitment to not only bettering the business world once we graduate, but also working to improve the community in which we live.”

Lalani presented the idea in 2013 to the school’s administration. Since then, it has been embraced by the entire Columbia Business School community.  Lalani’s hope and expectation is that the Day of Impact will become an annual event that grows in scope and impact each year.

Volunteers will be communicating with each other throughout the day using social media.  The student organizers have set up the hashtag #CBSDayOfImpact and asked volunteers to post photos, videos, and updates about the progress of their efforts.

Associate Dean Michael Malone, who will be volunteering as part of the Morningside Park beautification efforts, commends the School’s community for giving back to society. “We are so proud of our students for bringing this opportunity to life.  They are constantly looking for new ways to demonstrate the impact Columbia can have outside of the classroom,” Malone says.

“This initiative really reflects what we believe in most strongly at Columbia: leadership through action, community-wide collaboration, and rolling our sleeves up to make a difference.”

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What Happens During an ‘Undercover’ Admissions Interview?

In the latest installment of Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Amy S. Choi‘s attempt to walk in the shoes of b-school applicants, the intrepid writer shares how being herself worked out during her recent MBA interview experience …

In the latest installment of Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Amy S. Choi‘s attempt to walk in the shoes of b-school applicants, the intrepid writer shares how being herself worked out during her recent MBA interview experience at NYU Stern School of Business.

From taking wardrobe risks to over-preparing to bungled answers, applicants can take away several useful tips from this story, particularly those with Stern on their shortlist.

“The interview process is typically to confirm a ‘yes,’” Alison Goggin, senior director of MBA admissions at Stern, tells Choi. “For the 30 percent of applicants that interview but don’t receive an invitation, it means that there were already questionable elements to their application, but we wanted to see if the interview might change our minds.”

After sketching out one “fumbled” Q and A, Choi acknowledges she might have been more succinct if she’d run through her answers at least once. I’m quoted in the piece advising Choi to practice out loud to avoid rambling and, even worse, becoming boring.

“Luckily, the next few questions are fairly typical: What are my greatest professional accomplishments? Challenges? Blackman recommends the STAR method for answering situational questions such as ‘Tell me about a professional hurdle.’ Discuss the situation, task, action, and result. This works like a charm,” Choi writes.

Ultimately, Choi learns that the key to acing an MBA interview is being professional, prepared, and most of all, true to yourself. As Goggin assures Choi, “We sincerely do want to have a conversation and learn about you. This isn’t a job interview. It’s an admissions interview.”

Follow the link above to learn more about Choi’s MBA interview experience at Stern, as well as what happened when she winged the GMAT with no preparation…all in the name of journalism.

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