Category Archives: Application Tips

UCLA Anderson on the Pros and Cons of Each Application Round

Deciding in which round you should submit your MBA application can cause a lot of stress, as each seems to have its own pros and cons. As numerous business schools have second-round deadlines eminently, you …

Deciding in which round you should submit your MBA application can cause a lot of stress, as each seems to have its own pros and cons. As numerous business schools have second-round deadlines eminently, you might like to take a look at how the admissions team at the UCLA Anderson School of Management—whose R2 deadline is January 5th— views the pluses and drawbacks of each application round.

timing your MBA

Here are just a few of the points made by the UCLA Anderson AdCom on the subject:

Applying in Round One

Pros: Applying early shows you’re serious about going to business school. In the case of UCLA Anderson, you have the best shot at merit-based fellowship funds in the first round. If you don’t get accepted in the first round you still have time to apply to other programs in Round 2.

Cons: Least amount of time to properly prepare for the GMAT/GRE. Also, the time factor may not allow enough time for you to pull together a high-quality application.

Applying in Round Two

Pros: Applying in this round allows you ample time to visit the school and make a convincing argument about fit based on those experiences on campus.

Cons: Competition is fierce as this is the most popular round. If you don’t get accepted, you may not have time to apply anywhere else this cycle.

Applying in Round Three

Pros: The final round offers the most time to continue enhancing your profile with promotions at work or deepen volunteer commitments that show off your well-rounded personality. You’ll also have time to re-take the GMAT or GRE multiple times if needed to get your score in a competitive range.

Cons: A capped class size makes this by far the most competitive round as there are fewer spots available in the class.  You will likely be compared against many other individuals on the waitlist from earlier rounds.

The truth is that the admissions committees know what they are looking for. They have become pretty good at estimating numbers, and evaluating and accepting applicants that fit their criteria. The best strategy is not to play the game of which round, but to submit your application as soon as, but not until, it is ready.


Make 2017 the year you achieve your most ambitious professional goals! Take the first step by signing up for a completely free consultation with one of our all-star advisors. We can answer questions, provide advice and help set you up to make your MBA dreams come true in 2017. Sign up today at:

Image by Flickr user Cam Evans (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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Stacy Blackman’s Year in Review

How is it possible that we’re already at the final days of 2016? Once again, the time is upon us to make new resolutions, push ourselves to learn and grow, and rededicate ourselves to our …

best of SBC in 2016

How is it possible that we’re already at the final days of 2016? Once again, the time is upon us to make new resolutions, push ourselves to learn and grow, and rededicate ourselves to our personal and professional goals.

With that in mind, we’d like to share some of our most popular blog posts from the past year, each selected to help you better prepare as you journey along the road to business school.

Considering a second MBA degree?—The idea of pursuing a second MBA degree may sound strange, but it happens with a small number of applicants during every admissions season and can make sense under the right, very specific, circumstances.

Avoid These 10 Pitfalls in MBA Application Essays—There are many ways to craft a stellar essay that will give the reader a better sense of who you are, but there are also several mistakes to avoid as you’re answering these required prompts. Make sure you sidestep the following pitfalls at all costs.

Weigh if an MBA Makes Financial Sense—An MBA is a long-term financial investment, so here are three questions to ask when trying to decide whether going to business school makes financial sense.

Choosing Among Multiple Offers of Admission—Despite the adage, “You can never have too much of a good thing,” in reality, multiple b-school acceptances can produce a lot of anxiety in candidates.

Push or Pull? The Decision to Leave the Military and Pursue an MBA—There comes a time in many military lives where those that wear the uniform wonder what it’s like on the other side – the civilian side to be exact.  One of the most common routes to find out is through the pursuit of an MBA at a top-ranked graduate school of business.

Turn Failure Into a Great B-School Essay—MBA applicants often freak out when faced with this common admissions essay question because they fear that showing any weakness will torpedo their admissions chances. However, at one point or another, everyone faces adversity, failure or setbacks, whether at work or in life.

3 Ways to Offset a Low GPA When Applying to Business School—Your GPA matters because it tracks your performance over four or more years and demonstrates your ability to execute in an academic environment. If you have your heart set on attending one of the best business schools in the world but worry your undergraduate GPA could harm your chances, know that you generally still have a chance.

5 Ways to Prepare for the 1st Year of Business School—Whether you’re just starting to complete applications or you are about to embark on your first days as an MBA student, here are five ways to successfully prepare for your first year of business school.

4 Bad Reasons to Skip Applying for B-School—If you really believe that going to business school is the key to unlocking a more fulfilling and lucrative professional life, then don’t sabotage that goal by letting yourself get swayed by these four bad reasons for not pursuing an MBA degree.

How Important is a Campus Visit in MBA Admissions?—You might have experienced a moment of panic as you began to work on your MBA applications for Round 2. And it could have gone something like this: “Wait a second—I won’t have time to visit any schools before my materials are due! Does that put me at a disadvantage?” The answer is no.

Tips to Help You Ace Every B-School Interview Format—Whether you’ve already received an interview invitation or are hoping to get an invite over the next few weeks, you want to make sure you’re prepared to do your best when the big day arrives.

Making the Most of Each MBA Application Component—Certain aspects of your package, such as your GMAT/GRE score and your undergraduate GPA, are truly data points in the most literal sense of the word. But everything else should be viewed as complementary chapters of an interesting story—a story about you.


My goal with this blog has always been to bring b-school applicants the latest news from the schools, insightful application and essay tips, and to explore major trends affecting the future of management education.

Thank you so much for making us a top destination for your b-school research. I hope this resource continues to serve you well as you embark on what is definitely a life-changing, career-boosting journey.

Have a wonderful holiday, and I’ll see you back here in 2017!



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Will a Low GMAT Score Doom Your MBA Application?

The GMAT. It’s an acronym that strikes fear in the hearts of many a prospective MBA student. And for good reason: while your GMAT score is just one data point out of your entire package …


The GMAT. It’s an acronym that strikes fear in the hearts of many a prospective MBA student. And for good reason: while your GMAT score is just one data point out of your entire package for the AdCom to consider, it’s often viewed as proof of academic prowess. A strong performance on the GMAT is a key component of the MBA application to most top business schools. But what can you do if your score isn’t where you want or need it to be?

Whether your lower-than-desired score is a result of illness, test anxiety, or just plain insufficient prep time, don’t let it throw you off your game. Make peace with the fact that it’s totally normal to take the GMAT more than once. In fact, I typically advise clients to plan for two attempts at the GMAT, leaving a buffer for a retake if needed.

There’s really no harm in taking the test several times, and unless you score well right out of the gate, you often will do better the second time—you’ll have fewer nerves, more familiarity with the process, and no big surprises. There’s no such thing as a bad test, just opportunities to build on and learn from.

If you didn’t prepare enough, then ramp up your studying, take a class, or consider hiring a tutor who can help you streamline your efforts and teach you the best methods for answering the various question types.

Also, don’t worry about how the schools will perceive those multiple tests. Admissions committee members often interpret this dedication to improving your score as a sign that you’ll do whatever it takes to prove you’re ready for business school.

While it’s natural to become hung up on achieving the highest score possible, or fixate on the average GMAT score reported by the schools, I urge test-challenged clients to focus instead on aligning their scores within the 80 percent range. Many schools list this information directly within their class profiles.

Keep in mind that this high number is primarily for those targeting a top-tier MBA program. For example, the 80 percent range for the MBA class entering UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in fall 2016 is 680-750. Columbia Business School had a similar 80 percent range this year of 680-760, and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School listed the 80 percent range as 700-770 for the class of 2017.

If you scored a 680, think carefully about whether a retake would significantly improve your overall candidacy. You may decide your energies should instead go toward focusing on your essays, or coaching recommenders.

Targeting these numbers at the lower end, rather than at the out-of-reach average, may keep your application viable. However, if you’re 50 points away, it’s time to rethink your selected programs and consider adding options in the top 20 or 30.

You can still leave the highest-ranked options on the table, but these have officially become what we call “reach” schools. Applicants looking at programs in the top 20 or 50 should check the average scores of admitted students to determine their personal target GMAT score.

If your score hasn’t improved significantly despite two or more attempts, don’t beat yourself up over it. Turn your focus to taking a broader look at your entire application strategy. The GMAT score foretells how well one would do in the core academic courses of an MBA program, but isn’t a predictor of success throughout the entire b-school experience. This is why most schools have a holistic approach to considering each application.

It’s entirely possible to offset a low GMAT score with a proven track record in a quantitative job, a high GPA from a respected undergraduate school, and compelling leadership activities. Put your energies toward boosting your candidacy in the areas of your application you can control, namely the essays, extracurriculars, and to some extent, the recommendation letters, where your recommenders can highlight your quantitative skills.

Although you may feel tempted to use the optional essay to explain a low test score, try to resist, as this will likely come across as making excuses rather than providing additional information.

Business school hopefuls can be incredibly hard on themselves when they make mistakes on the GMAT, but should actually think of each error as a learning opportunity and a chance to improve. So don’t become discouraged if your first score isn’t where you’d hoped.

The admissions process is a complex one, so after you’ve done the best you can on the GMAT, it’s time to focus on developing your personal brand by packaging your goals, passions, work experience and “why business school, why now” into a compelling case for your admission. In the end, your exceptional accomplishments will likely shine through despite some academic challenges.

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