Category Archives: Application Tips

Challenges and Opportunities for Female MBA Applicants

Today is International Women’s Day—a perfect opportunity to discuss targeted strategies for female MBA applicants. As an MBA, entrepreneur and businessperson, I know that women can more than handle business school and the application process just …

Today is International Women’s Day—a perfect opportunity to discuss targeted strategies for female MBA applicants. As an MBA, 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.

Enrollment Outlook in 2017

Thankfully, the outlook has improved over the past decade. Women now make up 43% of Harvard Business School’s Class of 2018; they represent 44% of the incoming class at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School; and Stanford Graduate School of Business reported female enrollment at 41% for the Class of 2018.

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.

Self-Confidence is Key

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.

Don’t Let the Expense Scare You Off

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.

Image credit: WOCinTech Chat (CC BY 2.0)

You may also be interested in:

NYU Stern Launches New Scholarship Dedicated to Advancing Women in Business
MBA Debt Hurts Women More than Men, Bloomberg Study Finds
Flexibility is Key for Women Pursuing MBAs

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Etiquette Tips for MBA Thank You Notes

Our clients often ask us if they should write thank-you notes to their interviewers. While handwritten messages of appreciation will always be a classy move—and we certainly encourage applicants to write such notes if they’re …

thanking MBA interviewer

Our clients often ask us if they should write thank-you notes to their interviewers. While handwritten messages of appreciation will always be a classy move—and we certainly encourage applicants to write such notes if they’re so inclined—an email message is just as acceptable in this day and age.

The most important thing is to ensure you have your interviewer’s contact information. This is especially critical if your discussion is taking place on campus and you won’t know who your interviewer is going to be until you arrive. Don’t forget to ask for that person’s business card when you’re wrapping up!

If you’re interviewing with a local alum, then you’ll have already been supplied with their email address.

As for the content of the message, you shouldn’t feel the need to go on and on. There are only two must-includes: 1) thank the interviewer for their time and 2) reiterate your interest in the program. If you can throw in a sentence or two that references something you talked about, all the better. But a thank-you note is not the place to try and sell yourself any further. The point is to show that you’re excited about and thankful for the opportunity to be considered for a spot in Program X.

Some AdComs need to make accept and denial decisions very quickly, so you shouldn’t let more than 24 hours go by before you send your message. If you interviewed in the morning, send it before the business day is over. If your talk was in the late afternoon or evening, get your e-mail out first thing in the morning.

If you have to type out a quick message from your phone because you’ll be traveling back home after the interview, please don’t forget to read things over carefully to ensure spellcheck or autocorrect didn’t do you wrong. You don’t want the last impression you leave to be a negative one!

Have MBA hopefuls been accepted to their dream programs without writing any sort of thank-you note? Yes, of course. But showing that you have manners and are aware of the proper etiquette is never a bad move—it’s just the right thing to do.

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Dos and Don’ts for Choosing MBA Recommenders

So many people think choosing a well-known or prestigious individual will be the ticket to acceptance at the b-school of their dreams. The key when selecting recommenders is to think about about their placement in …

So many people think choosing a well-known or prestigious individual will be the ticket to acceptance at the b-school of their dreams. The key when selecting recommenders is to think about about their placement in your life. Can they write about you thoughtfully and with enough insight so that the admissions committee can get an authentic feel for you as a person, as well as your skills and capabilities? Truly, the prestige of the recommender is not important.

Professional recommendations are best

In most situations, current and recent supervisors are the best choices because they can speak to your current skills, values, and work ethic as well as future potential. Also you should choose professional references instead of professors. Schools can see your educational background from transcripts and test scores; for that reason a recommendation from a professor won’t add much to your profile. Supervisors who have worked with you recently can elaborate on the aspects of your character that aren’t seen in resumes, transcripts, and scores.

Take a look at this excerpt from a recent post on the MBA Voices blog at Harvard Business School written by second-year student Ali Hassan, in which he describes how he chose his HBS recommenders while at McKinsey:

“When it came to recommendations, I was seeking two types of people.  First, I wanted someone who had worked very closely with me, and had a micro-level view of my skillset in day-to-day work. That person would be able to provide great insight, and back it up by pointing to specific experiences they’d had with me.
Second, I wanted someone who had a macro-level view of my work performance over time, with different teams, and across various work settings. If the first recommender provided depth, this one provided breadth. He was able to give a more comprehensive, long-term view of consistent patterns of strengths and weaknesses that I had as I worked with different teams, on different projects, and in different industries.”

People who know you well are best

Choose recommenders who know you well and can provide specific examples that speak to your personality, character, and values. Many applicants are tempted to ask their CEO or a famous school alum to write a recommendation.  If the CEO of your company is your direct supervisor and knows you well, then he/she is the right choice.

However do not skip several levels of hierarchy just to have the CEO write your recommendation. In fact, most schools specifically request your current supervisor as a reference, recognizing that this person is the most familiar with you and your work style. If for some reason you cannot have your current supervisor write your recommendation, you can submit a quick note to schools explaining why — eg, you just switched roles and have a new supervisor, you are not comfortable informing your place of work that you are applying to school.

Impress recommenders

Ideally you have already impressed your recommenders over the past few years with your performance. However, you want to be especially aware this spring and summer to demonstrate your leadership, initiative, maturity, and self-awareness. Your recommenders should see that you are ready to take the next step in your career by going to business school.

Build your relationships

Though the deadlines are still many months away, it is important to start thinking now about who your recommenders will be in order to build your relationships with them. Your recommenders should be invested in your future and enthusiastic about helping you reach your goal of getting into business school.

Though you don’t need to tell your recommenders right now that you want them to write a reference, you can take time this spring to make them mentors. Find opportunities to discuss their career path and ask their advice in order to involve them in furthering your career. Then it will seem natural for them to write your recommendations this fall.

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Evaluate MBA Career Services When Selecting Possible B-Schools

Guest post provided by our friends at Prep Adviser MBA career services have not generally been considered pivotal to your choice of the right business school for your management studies. However, some career centers cater …

MBA career services

Guest post provided by our friends at Prep Adviser

MBA career services have not generally been considered pivotal to your choice of the right business school for your management studies. However, some career centers cater so well to MBA students’ future vocations that they have become an indispensable asset to MBA programs.

Why business schools care about post-MBA careers

There are two major reasons for the growth of MBA career services. The first is that business schools now realize that the career success of their alumni is a major selling point in MBA programs. Ultimately, the return on investment (ROI) and the return in happiness (RIH) determine the value of the overall MBA experience in the short and long-term.

Along these lines, the recession of 2008 – 2009 also encouraged business schools to improve their career services. MBA recruitment was hit by difficult times in the corporate world. So business schools compensated by helping their students land attractive jobs despite the crisis.

The second factor boosting the growth of MBA career services is the MBA’s increased cachet beyond the corporate world. Traditionally, the MBA was a highly valued qualification to climb the corporate career ladder in the Western world. Nowadays, it is valued worldwide in almost any sector and industry. Entrepreneurship and the start-up industry additionally turned out to be fertile soil for the growth of MBA talent. This diversity of career paths and industries has led to MBA career services expanding beyond traditional corporate recruitment.

How to evaluate MBA career services

The MBA is always about change. Contemplating an MBA means that you want to make a career change – move to a new company, take a managerial role, work at an international level, make a career in new country or region, apply your skills in a new industry, or start your own company. You should approach your MBA application with a specific career goal or at least up to three scenarios for your post-MBA path. Your career goal is essential in selecting the right MBA programs.

When selecting business schools always inquire about the scope of MBA career services and evaluate them against your needs. It’s vital to consider the sectors and industries in which the career centre specialises. Some centers have dedicated consultants per industry. SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy) aims to help students fully understand the industry sectors they are most interested in and evaluate their options based on their profile and aspirations.

MBA participants at Oxford Said Business School (UK) benefit from insights and pragmatic advice of a select group of sector consultants who have experience of working for leading firms across a broad range of sectors across a range of industries including management consulting, finance, high-tech, new ventures, media and communications, and diversified industry in general.

The scope of the services varies greatly. The MBA Career Development Programme at INSEAD (France) spans the whole process – “Know Yourself. Know the Market. Strategise and Execute”. The programs takes MBA students through 5 stages of developing a career plan – self-assessment, career vision, career design, job search, job application, and salary negotiations. B-schools often provide personal and leadership coaching as part of their MBA career development programs.

From job placement to career strategy

Career services have also shifted strategy greatly. Immediate post-MBA jobs are still an important selling point for MBA programs, but they now look to long-term career success. This is also because current and future professionals are likely to change jobs much more frequently than they did 20 years ago. New professions crop up every day, requiring lifelong learning and acquiring transferable skills, as well as a vision of how to navigate your career.

ESADE Business School (Spain) is among the leading business schools aiming to help MBA participants “develop the lifelong skills for successfully managing their careers.

IMD Business School (Switzerland) has developed an MBA career methodology focused on “Building Your Future” that takes MBA participants through two stages: During the first part of the program, a unique career audit methodology provides a clear-cut view on individual skill profiles and gaps and the potential for capturing value from transferable skills. The second half of the program allows you to individualize your curriculum in view of personal post-MBA ambitions.

Significantly, IMD involves its career experts in the MBA admissions process. This helps the admissions committee evaluate the relevance of applicants’ career goals against the resources of the business school to ensure post-MBA career growth.

Who is the driver of career success?

Business schools have developed comprehensive career services but it is essentially MBA participants themselves who should propel their own success. To achieve in the long-run, you should take time and effort to set clear career goals before applying for an MBA. Based on these you should select the most appropriate business schools considering all that they can offer – curriculum, network, learning environment, business exposure, and career services, among others. Finally, start working with the MBA career center as soon as you begin your studies and always be proactive. Business schools care more and more about your success, but ultimately your career and lifestyle are your own responsibility.

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