Category Archives: Application Tips
April 6, 2015
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com When the idea of pursuing an MBA degree first germinates, many prospective applicants begin picturing themselves roaming the hallowed halls of Harvard Business …
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com
When the idea of pursuing an MBA degree first germinates, many prospective applicants begin picturing themselves roaming the hallowed halls of Harvard Business School or Stanford Graduate School of Business.
But getting hung up on one or two dream schools isn’t a smart strategy. Most applicants need to submit four to six applications in order to maximize chances of success.
In the early stages of research, stay open-minded about business school options. Applicants may discover an interesting program that previously wasn’t even on their radar. Putting together a school list is a very personal process, but these are some of the question prospective students can ask to start thinking about to guide their selection strategy.
1. Where are you in the window for applying? The overwhelming majority of MBA applicants range in age from their mid-20s to early 30s. Younger applicants often decide to apply to one or two choices the first time, figuring that they can always reapply a few years down the line with more work and life experiences under their belt.
This is a fine strategy for that younger age group. However, older candidates should apply to a wide array of schools to make sure they have the option of going to business school next fall.
No matter which end of the age spectrum you fall, it’s important to still present yourself as a “work in progress,” and demonstrate how the program you’re applying to will transform you.
2. What industry do you want to work in? Many applicants have very specific career goals, and may even know which companies they aspire to work for post-MBA. If that’s the case, call up that company and ask what they think about business schools you may be targeting.
I once had a client with her heart set on attending Columbia Business School, and she also had a short list of companies she wanted to target for a summer internship. When she called one of her top companies, she learned they recruited at five schools, but Columbia was not one of them.
They also told her it was virtually impossible to secure an internship if she didn’t come from one of those schools. This five-minute phone call had a huge impact on her school list.
3. What kind of community feeling do you prefer? These characteristics are highly subjective, and figuring out what environment they would flourish in will help applicants determine whether a particular program is a good overall fit.
Big cities provide unparalleled access to business and recreation, but rural programs offer more of an immersive environment and are typically more close knit and family friendly?.
Cost savings can also be a huge factor for many applicants in this situation. The cost of living for a family at Duke Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina, will be lower than for an MBA candidate and family at a school like New York University Stern School of Business or the Anderson School of Management at the University of California—Los Angeles.
Geographic location also matters a great deal for certain industries, such as New York for finance, the Bay Area for entrepreneurship, Los Angeles for entertainment and Texas for energy.
The location of your school will also likely determine where your post-MBA job is. Even if you intend to target companies with offices around the globe, you’ll have the highest exposure to jobs in your immediate geographic area.
4. How do you learn best? Unfortunately, this question typically doesn’t receive as much consideration as it should. Not everyone excels in the same learning environment, and it’s important for students to find out where they’d be most comfortable.
Students may prefer the case method approach to learning, a highly experiential environment; a traditional, lecture-based style; or some mixture of these. Business schools are very specific about their teaching methods, and this information is easily gleaned on their websites.
Teaching method affects not only students’ enjoyment of the program, it also affects the quality of the knowledge they walk away with, so students should only consider MBA programs where they can thrive, not merely survive. Learn as well how rigorous the workload is, which varies by school. After all, the MBA is about much more than academics.
Even students who have a pretty good idea of the MBA programs they plan to target should= know that the most well-thought-out school list is still a work in progress, with new programs added in and others dropping off as they further clarify your goals. Students only have one chance to study an MBA, and weighing all of these different elements at the outset will help them find the right fit.
March 19, 2015
Whether or not Chicago Booth School of Business is on your short list, the recently revamped Booth Experience blog, written and managed by students, regularly offers guidance on subjects that are universally interesting for all …
Whether or not Chicago Booth School of Business is on your short list, the recently revamped Booth Experience blog, written and managed by students, regularly offers guidance on subjects that are universally interesting for all MBA applicants.
This week, second-year student and frequent blog contributor Alex Simon concludes a three-part series with a post on three things for early-career MBA candidates to keep in mind as they research business schools.
Simon was 24 when he started at Booth, and with just two years of work experience, he worried he would be at a serious disadvantage with classmates five to 10 years older than he. That’s why he says younger applicants should give serious thought to answering the question of why an MBA and why now; figure out how to demonstrate their competency among more experienced classmates without giving attitude; and gird themselves for dealing with the inevitable setbacks that will occur.
If you’re an early career candidate who is motivated and can show strong leadership and managerial potential, make sure you invest plenty of time into researching which MBA program is the right one for you. Follow the link above for Simon’s take on these issues, and be sure to check out his previous articles in the series as well.
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March 18, 2015
As a female MBA and entrepreneur and businessperson, I know that women can more than handle business school and the application process just as well or better than anyone. Stereotypes do persist, however, and the …
As a female MBA and entrepreneur and businessperson, I know that women can more than handle business school and the application process just as well or better than anyone. Stereotypes do persist, however, and the reality is that women pursuing graduate management education are still an underrepresented demographic on campus.
Thankfully, the outlook has improved over the past decade. Women now make up 41% of Harvard Business School’s Class of 2016; they represent 40% of the incoming class at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School; and Stanford Graduate School of Business reported a record female enrollment of 42% for the Class of 2016.
Business schools have really ramped up their efforts to recruit and groom future women leaders, so if you’re a woman planning on pursuing an MBA, make sure to take advantage of every available opportunity. During the school research phase, a great place to start is at a workshop event for women hosted by the program you’re considering.
While you’ll also want to attend general information sessions, these diversity events allow you to meet and network with other prospective students, current students, alumni, and faculty, as well as provide a chance to listen and ask questions about the specific opportunities for woman in the MBA program.
When putting their application together, female candidates have to make sure that they exude confidence. The admissions committee shouldn’t have any doubt about whether the applicant will raise her hand and contribute to the classroom discussions that form a crucial part of the MBA learning experience. Essays, interviews and recommendation letters should indicate a high comfort level with speaking out, defending points of view, and collaborating with all types of people.
Another area of potential weakness, particularly for women who majored in the liberal arts for undergrad, is demonstrating strong quantitative skills. The admissions committee wants to make sure you can handle the MBA course load, so a solid GMAT score, supplemented by additional finance, calculus, or statistics classes taken at the local community college, will go a long way toward proving you have the bona fides to succeed.
Try not to become intimidated by all of the amazing things your fellow applicants have accomplished and second-guess the value of your own strengths and experiences. Focus instead on what makes you unique, and how you plan on contributing to the MBA community once admitted.
During the MBA interview, female candidates frequently begin their answers with a disclaimer that reveals their insecurities and detracts from any positive information that follows. Don’t downplay achievements for fear of coming across as bragging. There’s a difference between boasting and conveying your skills and accomplishments with pride. Confidence without attitude is what you’re aiming for.
Finally, women shouldn’t let the financial expense of business school be a barrier to pursuing an MBA degree. Look into all of the resources—loans, scholarships, employee sponsorships, fellowships, work-study options—that can offset the high cost of an MBA, and take a long view of the return on investment your target schools provide.Many candidates find they can pay off their student debt within five years of graduating, so with the right financial aid package, it’s possible to attend almost any business school.
Despite some barriers, real or perceived, women considering business school should know the MBA degree truly is the one of the best ways to transform their career by giving them the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful.
March 4, 2015
Round three is far and away the most difficult round for MBA applicants. You’re competing against stellar candidates from the previous two rounds, and there are relatively few spots available at the end of the …
Round three is far and away the most difficult round for MBA applicants. You’re competing against stellar candidates from the previous two rounds, and there are relatively few spots available at the end of the application cycle.
I recently covered the challenges of round three business school applications in my U.S. News MBA blog, and those comments were picked up in a Poets & Quants article on the same subject. If you’re considering submitting an application in the coming weeks, take a look at these two posts for my thoughts on when Round 3 makes sense…and when it doesn’t.
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