Category Archives: Application Tips

Maximize the ROI of Your B-School Decision: Are You Thinking Deep Enough?

With the high cost of admission to a top-tier business school, prospective students should determine whether pursuing the MBA degree makes financial sense as a long-term investment. I advise applicants to ask themselves three questions: …

ROI of the MBA

With the high cost of admission to a top-tier business school, prospective students should determine whether pursuing the MBA degree makes financial sense as a long-term investment. I advise applicants to ask themselves three questions: Will the degree help me switch careers? Can I expect a significant salary increase? Will an MBA help me reach a leadership position sooner?

While it can be daunting to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to earn an MBA, most business school graduates experience a substantial salary increase. The degree is also a powerful differentiator in a crowded marketplace. The vast majority of graduates report having greater job satisfaction and the ability to advance quickly and, therefore, earn more in shorter time.

In fact, Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2016 Alumni Perspectives survey gets very specific about the dollar value such a degree can bring. Business school alumni earn a median of US$2.5 million in cumulative base salary over 20 years following graduation. Alumni — on average — recoup their b-school investment within four years after graduation, depending on the type of program attended.

Last fall, when Forbes released its 2015 ranking of the best b-schools based on the ROI of the MBA Class of 2010, Stanford Graduate School of Business nudged out Harvard Business School for the top spot for the second straight time, with a five-year gain of $89,100 for graduates. In fact, according to the report, the class of 2010 tripled their pre-MBA total compensation to $255,000 five years out of school.

Calculating the return on investment requires a simple formula. It’s the return acquired from an investment minus the cost of the investment, divided by the cost of the investment. Students of two-year MBA programs typically have the largest investment expense because they miss two years of employment. They need to recoup the cost of the MBA degree plus the opportunity cost in order to get a positive return on their investment.

To dive deeper into the numbers, TransparentMBA, a company started in 2015 by University of Chicago Booth School of Business students who were frustrated by the lack of relevant compensation and satisfaction data available to MBA students, provides both industry and company-specific on effective hourly wage across a multitude of post-MBA roles.

This can greatly help those considering business school figure out just what type of salary bump they can look forward to based on the industry or company they plan to target upon graduating.

Prospective students should consider payback time with projected cumulative growth, and average growth rate, when looking at return on investment as a motivating factor for pursuing an MBA. But keep in mind, the value of the MBA degree varies depending on your post-graduation plans, as well as the brand of the business school where you earn the degree.

In an earlier post on ROI, Paul Danos, former dean of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, noted that while the elite programs require a significant investment in time and money, it pays off in both career options and compensation. “The top programs are able to recruit the best qualified students, provide a truly excellent educational experience, and therefore attract top recruiters who recognize the value of that experience.”

Remember, every choice that you make when deciding whether an MBA makes sense for you– ranging from the cost of the city you decide to live in, the field you move into, to the school you choose – will impact your financial return on investment.  Nevertheless, I believe that no other degree can open doors as the MBA does.

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Show International Experience When Applying to Business School

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News. The ability to work well with people from other cultures has never been more critical. More companies than ever are conducting international business, …

study abroad

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

The ability to work well with people from other cultures has never been more critical. More companies than ever are conducting international business, and business schools everywhere have spent the past few years deepening their own focus on globalization through coursework and study abroad programs.

Business school admissions committees look for applicants who are open-minded, curious, adventurous and eager to learn about the world at large. Though not an explicit requirement for admission, having meaningful work, study or travel experience outside your home country makes you more desirable as an MBA applicant.

These global experiences are especially appreciated – after graduation, they translate into marketable job skills, such as adaptability, leadership, cultural awareness and communication and language abilities. Here are two key reasons why international experience matters when applying to business school.

Diverse perspective: If you look at the demographics of any elite MBA program, you will see a considerable percentage of non-citizens enrolled. Having students from a wide array of backgrounds, cultures and languages strengthens and enriches everyone’s experience.

Whether you are applying to a program in- or outside your home country, having a broader perspective of global business issues in your arsenal means you bring a unique viewpoint to class discussions and team projects. It also expands your network as you tap into professional associations with your contacts in other countries.

MBA applicants should highlight any experiences traveling, studying or working outside their home country. The admissions committee wants to ensure these candidates can actually thrive – not just survive – in the program and work well with a diverse group of classmates.

• Adaptability and vision: If you have already logged significant international work experience or education prior to business school, you are three steps ahead of the game. Think about it: When you immerse yourself in another language or culture, you likely encounter some form of culture shock that ultimately becomes a valuable learning experience.

You are demonstrating real leadership skills when you break through communication barriers, learn how business practices work in the new environment, adapt to new social and business norms, work with diverse teams, solve problems or go beyond your comfort zone. These skills are a crucial differentiator in a competitive MBA applicant pool.

International travel and work experience can also offer a wealth of material for your MBA essays. Often such experiences will spur new career goals and a broader vision for your life.

Perhaps your travels shaped your views about health care or education, inspired a passion for Spanish literature, introduced you to the thrill of mountaineering or helped you become more outgoing and confident in unfamiliar situations. Whatever the effect, you can explain what you learned about yourself and others and in turn convey your uniqueness to the admissions committee.

Even if you haven’t traveled extensively, you can still highlight any applicable experiences you have had working with individuals from other countries and cultures. If you have the time and resources to travel in the months before applying, research international volunteer opportunities or continuing education study abroad programs. If these options aren’t feasible, consider taking on a project at work that puts you in contact with international offices or teams.

Rest assured, your application likely won’t be rejected due to a lack of international exposure if every other component is compelling and strong. In your essays, reference your enthusiasm for the school’s diverse culture and your plans to take advantage of study abroad programs, as well as your desire to participate in any clubs or student groups that will increase your cross-cultural awareness. As long as you can show your intent to expand your mindset and increase your international exposure during business school, you should be fine.

Image credit: Flickr user Fedecomite (CC BY 2.0)

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Tuesday Tips: Stanford GSB Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips

Stanford Graduate School of Business continues to ask applicants to delve deep into their personality, values and motivations for this set of MBA essays. The classic “what matters most” essay should be your primary focus, …

Stanford GSB essay questions

Stanford Graduate School of Business continues to ask applicants to delve deep into their personality, values and motivations for this set of MBA essays. The classic “what matters most” essay should be your primary focus, and secondly you will answer why Stanford is the next step in your journey.

Total word count for the essays must not exceed 1,150 words, so be judicious in deciding how much or little to write for each prompt. As a general guideline, Stanford GSB suggests 750 words for essay one and 400 words for essay two. Check your deadlines before you get started to make sure you are maximizing the time on your essays.

Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? (suggested 750 word limit)
– Focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”
– Do some deep self-examination, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you came to be the person you are.
– Share the insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspectives, rather than focusing merely on what you’ve done or accomplished.
– Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you.

This classic Stanford GSB MBA essay is your opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what motivates you, and why. Topics can range from personal history to grand visions of the future. While this topic should not be explicitly career related (and the strongest essays are likely not career oriented at all) it is possible that some of your themes will continue in your career essay.

Your accomplishments and achievements are part of why you have developed into the person you are today, however it’s far more important to explain your influences, lessons learned and motivations. Introspection and honesty should persist through the entire set of essays.

To generate ideas, try brainstorming over a period of a few days. Ask friends and family what values they see you demonstrating in your life and choices. Keep a notebook by your bed so you can record your first thoughts upon waking up, and mine your personal history for ideas. What keeps you awake at night? When you look back at your life what will you admire and regret about your choices? These are the kind of questions to ask yourself as you approach topics for this essay.

Though the essay question may seem open-ended, answering the question with vivid and specific examples will provide solid evidence that you have demonstrated or experienced “what matters most” throughout your life. Keep in mind as you select examples that Stanford GSB specifically advises focusing on people and experiences that have influenced you, rather than accomplishments or achievements.

Essay B: Why Stanford?
Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions. (suggested 400 word limit, 450 for applicants to both the MBA and MBx programs)
– Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.
– Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.
-If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.

After you have explained what is most important to you in life you need to explain why your next step is a Stanford MBA. The sub questions for this essay cover both why you are interested in pursuing an MBA at all, and why you specifically want to attend Stanford GSB. Stanford GSB wants to know your aspirations will be uniquely satisfied by the program at Stanford GSB, and research will help you determine what aspects of the academic program, community and students are crucial to your aspirations.

Be as specific as possible in your response to provide evidence that you have done your research. You should know everything about the aspects of the program that most appeal to you. Have you met current students and alumni? Who are the professors you are excited about? What are the unique programs?

When you discuss how Stanford will help you achieve your ambitions consider that Stanford likes to see applicants who dream big, and have the credibility to achieve their goals. Be bold with your aspirations. Don’t focus on what your parents or partner want you to do. Don’t think about the next job on the corporate ladder. What do you, with your own unique background and values, want for your life?

If the question seems too vast, take a few minutes to close your eyes and reflect. Envision your life in twenty years. Where do you live? How do you spend your days? What is your favorite activity? How does this vision fit into your career aspirations? Don’t be shy about your ambitions. Once you have identified your dream career, you also need to make sure an MBA is an important part of achieving your plans and explain that part in your essay.

Though you should think big, don’t make the mistake of acting as if you are already perfect with no development needed. Remember that MBA programs want to help promising candidates reach their goals and be a step on an ambitious career trajectory.

Finding the Stanford essays challenging? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting for personalized guidance through the application process.

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Targeted Advice for MIT Sloan Applicants

Is MIT Sloan School of Management on your short list of target schools for this fall’s MBA application season? It’s a phenomenal, highly academic program that draws on the MIT culture at large to offer …

MIT Sloan application advice

Is MIT Sloan School of Management on your short list of target schools for this fall’s MBA application season? It’s a phenomenal, highly academic program that draws on the MIT culture at large to offer cutting-edge classes and services, recruit acclaimed faculty, and foster collaborative and educational efforts that involve students, alumni and business partners.

Even among world-class MBA programs, MIT Sloan is in an elite group, with extremely high GMAT scores and GPAs higher than many other top programs. So how can applicants stand out with such a competitive applicant pool?

I recently shared my take with Business Insider readers on the three qualities MIT Sloan looks for in MBA candidates—innovation, global awareness, and analytical abilities—and offer the inside scoop on how you can concretely demonstrate you possess those stellar qualities. Take a look at the original article for my tips.

If you can show that you’d thrive in a program that is international in perspective, highly quantitative, and grounded in innovative approaches, you’ll have a good chance of demonstrating to the admissions team that you’d be an ideal candidate for MIT Sloan’s rigorous — and rewarding — program.

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