Karen Marks

Make a Great Impression At MBA Admissions Receptions

As a prospective business school student, you may be curious about the admissions receptions that many schools hold, both domestically and abroad. Here are some tips about how to make a great impression at MBA admissions receptions.

Don’t feel obligated to ask questions.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with listening to the presentation. Please don’t feel like you have to raise your hand just for the sake of speaking.

If you do ask questions, be thoughtful.

The best questions cover information that you can’t just find on the website. Inquiries about the culture, favorite aspects of the school, new programs and how to connect with students and alums can all be appropriate.

Don’t ask for a profile evaluation.

It is rarely (if ever) appropriate to ask an admissions officer to assess your chances of admission. Receptions are an especially poor place to ask for feedback about your individual candidacy, so please refrain.

Don’t ask the admissions officer to sell you on their school.

While hosting receptions around the globe, I was often asked to explain why Tuck was the best MBA program, or why this applicant should choose Tuck over other schools. This is not a good tactic – there is no one “best” MBA program, and while most representatives are very positive about the schools they represent they are not going to denigrate other programs.

Be polite.

Admissions officers notice people, and they remember behavior. It does not look good to arrive late, talking on your cell phone, or to sit in the front row texting and watching you tube videos. The admissions officer hosting the reception may well interview you at a later date, or lead an on campus information session, and you want them to have a positive association with you.

Keep [...]

What College Applicants Should Do This Summer

July is well underway, and it’s time to get serious about your college applications. Here are four things that college applicants should do this summer:

Finalize Your Test Strategy.

At this point, you have likely taken your SAT and/or ACT, as well as your SAT subject tests and any AP exams. If you aren’t happy with your scores, or need to take more subject tests, you still have time to register for the October 11th SAT’s and the September and October ACT’s. If you want to apply early action or early decision, which I highly recommend, plan to study and finish your testing by October.

Visit Schools And Choose Your Early Application Targets.

Before school and fall activities constrict your schedule, take some time to visit schools that are high on your list. There really is no substitute for setting foot on campus, and this is especially important if you are considering committing early to a certain school.

Write Your Common Application Essay.

The prompts are out, and you will need to answer one of five questions, using a maximum of 650 words. I help my clients brainstorm 2 possible responses to each prompt, and then we identify core themes and pick the strongest illustrations in order to answer one of the prompts. It takes time to do this well, and I suggest that you plan to have your essay polished and ready to go by the time you go back to school.

Fill Out The Common Application Itself.

The common application goes live in early August. Take the time now to fill out the application, including demographic information and details about your extracurricular activities and leadership roles. Even if you need to update some of this before you apply, it’s a [...]

Advice About GMAT’s Score Cancellation Option

GMAC recently announced that candidates can now preview their scores and then choose to cancel them before leaving the exam. This is very big news in the MBA application world, and can absolutely help people who are concerned about posting weak scores. However, canceling your score is not always the right decision, and invoking GMAT’s score cancellation option too often or under the wrong circumstances will do damage. Here is advice to help you shape your strategy.

Continue to Prepare Before Taking the Test.

Even though schools won’t see your cancelled scores, they will see that you took the exam. It has never been a good idea to sit for the GMAT just to see how you do, and this is still true. A string of cancelled scores will raise doubts about your aptitude, even though it is not quite as alarming as posting very low numbers.

Go in With a Clear Plan.

Decide before the test what your target scores are, and know what criteria you will use when considering whether or not to keep your score. Are you looking for a certain aggregate score? A particular quant or verbal percentage? You have two minutes to make up your mind in the exam room, so it’s important to think this through beforehand.

Use This New Development to Your Advantage.

Do you suffer from test anxiety? Do you have one pretty high score, some lower ones, and want to try again but are afraid of going down and making the high score seem like an outlier? The ability to take the GMAT without some of the inevitable pressure may well prove advantageous under these circumstances.

One final note: The GMAT is a business, and GMAC is making this change in [...]

Researching Business Schools – How To Find The Right Fit.

Researching business schools sounds straightforward, but it can be hard to know where to start. Just visiting websites and reviewing rankings isn’t enough – how do you know what to look for? Which factors really matter? Here are some suggestions to help you frame your search and find target schools that are a great fit.

First, pick points of comparison.

Create a list of factors that you would like to compare, and compile this information for 10 schools that you want to explore. For instance, I suggest that my clients start by looking at size, location, average GMAT and GPA, curriculum, placement and alumni giving rates.

Next, look more closely at points of differentiation.

For instance, who actually teaches the courses – professors or teaching assistants? Are electives and international experiences readily available, or is it hard to actually take advantage of these opportunities? Does the career office work directly with students, or serve as more of a passive resource? Furthermore, pay attention to details that matter to you personally, like the placement rate and list of firms for students with career goals that are similar to yours.

Third, register for opportunities to visit and interact with the schools.

I firmly believe that visiting a school, meeting students, alumni and administrators, is extremely useful. If it isn’t feasible for you to go on campus, I still encourage you to attend information sessions and events in your area. Furthermore, it is helpful to join the mailing list and read what the school sends out to potential applicants. You will learn about how the school sees itself, as well as staying on top of useful logistical information.

Fourth, reach out to students and alumni.

Many programs facilitate this for you, and you can also [...]

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    How To Interact With Admissions Officers And Alumni At Your Target Schools

How To Interact With Admissions Officers And Alumni At Your Target Schools

Ever wondered what admissions officers are really thinking when you ask them for help learning more about their school? My friend and former colleague Amy Mitson, Senior Associate Director of Admissions at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, has graciously shared her advice about how to investigate the alumni network at your target schools. She also gives invaluable insight about how to interact with admissions officers.

Amy wrote this blog exclusively for North Star readers, and it is the first in a series of insider tips, written for North Star by admissions officers from top MBA programs.

Understanding Alumni Networks – by Amy Mitson, Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Tuck

It might be difficult to think this far into the future, as GMAT prep and essay writing are front and center, but I dare suggest that getting to know the alumni of your future MBA program should also top your MBA application process to-do list.

The alumni network is as unique as each MBA program you are applying to and alumni have paved the way for your future path in an MBA program. Devoting some time and energy to this dimension of your application process will help to inform your perceptions (and essays and future interviews!) about a program.

How do you do this?

First, do some real research on your desired MBA program and take time to reflect on your future choice. Approach these actions with the goal in mind of developing some thoughtful questions about your program of interest. These questions will not only show the admissions team that you are thoughtful; you will also learn something in the process.

You can start your research by looking at school websites or by reading an article written by MBA [...]

Don’t Tell The MBA Admissions Committee …

There is a lot of advice out there about crafting your story. Many experts – myself included – urge candidates to be transparent and to tell the committee what really matters to them. While I absolutely believe that this is the most ethical and advantageous strategy, it can be hard for applicants to understand how to apply this advice. Here are three things that you should never tell the MBA admissions committee.

I hate my boss. And my colleagues.

Let’s face it, you aren’t going to get along with everyone. Also, sometimes you really do have an evil boss and difficult colleagues. However, the admissions committee doesn’t know you, so they are not in a position to judge whether or not you are the source of the conflict. Furthermore, being able to function on a team is extremely important in business school and in the professional world, and admissions officers are trained to be cautious about candidates who may not function well in groups.

I have absolutely no idea what I want to do after I graduate.

Admissions committees are very averse to admitting candidates who lack career focus. Even if you wind up changing your mind and pursuing something completely different after you get to school, please articulate a plausible set of post-MBA goals. Schools need to know that your plans are realistic, that they can help you find a job, and that you will be able to hit the ground running when recruiting starts. When deciding between two comparable candidates, they will admit the person with tangible goals over the one who says that they will figure it out during school.

I am applying to your school because it is highly ranked.

In order to get in, especially [...]

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    Why Elite Schools Are Dropping Essays From Their MBA Applications

Why Elite Schools Are Dropping Essays From Their MBA Applications

Tuck and Stanford recently released their essay questions for the 2014-2015 application cycle. In what I believe is the wave of the future, both schools eliminated entire questions. Are you wondering why elite schools are dropping essays from their MBA applications, and trying to figure out what this means for you, as a business school applicant?

The answers may surprise you. As a longstanding former member of Tuck’s admission committee, I participated in annual conversations about how to revise the application. I also helped to write the essay questions. If I were applying to business school this year, here is what I would want to know about those conversations, and what schools are really looking for in the essays:

Business Schools are Very Concerned With Their Peers.

Schools spend a tremendous amount of time analyzing what their competitors are doing, particularly programs that are a few positions ahead in the rankings. Once Harvard dropped all of their required essays last year, leaving only one optional one, other top schools were very likely to minimize their writing requirements too.

Business School Admissions is a Business.

Business schools, even elite ones, are always concerned about applicant volume. They do not want to forfeit the substantial revenue generated by admissions, and selectivity is an important factor in many influential rankings. Therefore, no one wants to lose candidates by making it harder to apply to their school than to a peer school. 

Schools Still Want to Know What You are Like as a Person.

Despite how it may seem, admissions officers still want to know more about you, beyond what they can deduce from your grades, test scores, resume and recommendations. In fact, all of these components, along with the remaining essays and the [...]

The Perfect Time To Start Your MBA Applications

Applying to business school this year? This is the perfect time to start your MBA applications. Here are four things that my clients are doing now, so that they are ready to submit outstanding applications in the early rounds:

Revising their resumes.

It’s really important to revise your resume so that it effectively portrays your professional accomplishments in a way that business schools will understand. They want to see progression, how you drive results, quantified impact, diversified skills, collaboration and evidence of transferrable skills that will allow you to get the job you want after business school. It’s worth taking the time to do this now – your professional narrative is integral to your candidacy.

Refining their school lists.

Although you might think you know where you want to apply, people often change their minds about target schools once they start visiting. At the very least, you need to do enough research to determine your first choice, so that you can consider applying early decision, which is often advantageous. You can also use all of your school specific research when you are writing your essays about why you want to attend.

Finishing their tests.

Speaking of school lists, it is tough to finalize your target programs without knowing your GMAT or GRE score. Furthermore, in case you wind up retaking the exam you want to leave enough time to complete your testing before the application deadline.

Writing their goal essays.

Articulating your goals, and pinpointing exactly what you want to do, is the first step towards crafting a compelling application. Although perhaps seemingly straightforward, this can be surprisingly difficult. Working through this process now will allow you to find the right school, and to convince them that you are the perfect fit for [...]

Should You Retake The GMAT?

As an admissions consultant, this is one of the most common questions that I am asked. The answer really depends on your individual profile, but here are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not to retake the GMAT.

Is your GMAT below the average for your target schools?

Let’s say you want to go to Stanford. The average GMAT for the class of 2015 was a 732. At Tuck it’s a 718. In order to yield a matriculating class with this average, the schools need to admit a cohort with an even higher average. (Some of the people they admit don’t enroll, and the people who say no are often at the higher end of the pool.) If your numbers are significantly below the average for your target schools you should think seriously about retaking the exam.

Is your GPA below the average for your target schools?

If so, you are at a definite disadvantage if your GMAT is also at or below the average. It is absolutely true that a strong GMAT can compensate for a lower GPA in this regard; schools can more easily justify absorbing a lower GPA if they are also getting a high GMAT to fold into their numbers.

Have you taken the GMAT more than once?

If not, unless your first score was astronomically high, you should probably take it again. Schools may even wait list you and ask you to retake the exam if your first score was good but not great. They want to see the effort, and this is a competitive process, with schools having numeric targets that they want to meet in order to do well in the rankings. Even if they love you, they may not admit [...]

By |May 12th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Leveraging Your Business School Feedback Call

Are you wait-listed or planning to reapply to business school?  If so, you may be offered feedback. These sessions can be incredibly useful, but also nerve-wracking. How should you prepare? Do you have to do what they say? Also, what is the admissions committee really trying to tell you? Here are suggestions to help you leverage your business school feedback call.

Review your application.  There is a natural tendency to want to move on from your previous application.  However, the admissions committee has just spent a great deal of time reviewing your file, and will expect you to discuss it in detail.  Tuck, for instance, starts their feedback calls by asking candidates to list their strengths and weaknesses.  It is important that you demonstrate self-awareness and perspective on your relative strength within their pool.
Don’t be defensive. Sometimes, the committee has a different take on your candidacy than you had hoped.  For instance, they might tell you to clarify your goals, or that your essays lacked depth. This can be tough to hear, especially if you totally disagree with their assessment, but it’s crucial to listen to their impressions without arguing. The person conducting the call will most likely include their overall summation of your candidacy in your file.  You really don’t want them to conclude that you are argumentative and unable to take criticism.
Be prepared to follow their advice. If your dream school tells you to retake your GMAT, to enroll in accounting or to rewrite your essays, please be prepared to do so if you want to strengthen your candidacy.  Ignoring tangible advice actually diminishes your chances the following year – the committee will see that they took the time to make [...]