Karen Marks

/Karen Marks

About Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Wellesley, and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than 6.9 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 90% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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A Behind The Scenes Look at Admissions Consulting

Hello North Star blog readers. I am in the midst of selecting candidates for the second Sirius group admissions consulting program, designed to help first generation college graduates get into business school. I wanted to share this blog about what it’s like to participate, from last year’s Sirius Fellow. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Karen through the first Sirius group consulting program for first-generation students. I remember how much the college application process seemed to be a ‘black box’, and the MBA admissions process is no exception (if not even more obscure!) Thankfully, Karen was able to shed light on how the process works behind closed doors. One of my biggest hesitations in the application process was what to put as my short and long-term goals. I have a very specific, niche interest that I would like to become an investor in, yet I was afraid to mark “Private Equity/Venture Capital” as my post-MBA industry. I had this fear because virtually every online MBA admissions blog warns how fiercely competitive PE/VC is, and that admissions members would doubt my ability to secure such a role (this is why Karen recommends staying OFF the online blogs!) She assured me that my passions and experiences lend credibility to my goals, and reiterated the value of honesty and self-awareness through the application process-this approach pays off during the interview portion of the process. Karen was incredibly helpful with helping me develop my application strategy and timeline. After securing a competitive GMAT score in June, I knew I was in a position where I could apply in the earlier rounds, yet I also saw value in the additional few months to craft [...]

By |February 4th, 2016|Business School Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|

What Ivy League Admissions Officers Want You To Know

What Ivy League Admissions Officers Want You to Know Have you ever listened to an Ivy League Admissions presentation, wondering what the presenters were really trying to tell you about how to get into college? As a former Dartmouth Admissions Officer, I can help translate. Standardized tests are still important. Yes, it is totally true that an increasing number of schools, including selective ones, are devaluing or eliminating standardized tests. However, the Ivies still require and use the SAT or ACT. The bottom line is that these tests, however controversial they may be, are seen as indicators of a student’s ability to compete academically against the brightest students in the world. You might be the strongest student in your high school, but they look to the test to better understand how you compare on a national and international level. You need good grades and challenging courses to be in the running. That being said, outstanding test scores (in isolation) won’t get you admitted to an Ivy. Admissions committees also want to see that you have challenged yourself and performed well over time. This doesn’t mean that you need a 4.0 – and the exact GPA actually matters less than you think, since there is such wide variation across high schools. Some weight honors courses, others don’t, some grade on a curve, etc. No matter what the metric, you do need to get strong grades across all subjects. Remember that you are going to college to learn. Please don’t underestimate the questions about what you actually want to learn! Ivy league schools want to admit students who are genuinely excited about academics, and who will contribute to the classroom and the intellectual community. The actual school [...]

By |February 3rd, 2016|College Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|
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2016-2017 MBA Admissions Trends

Happy New Year! Are you planning to apply to business school? Here are my predictions about 2016-2017 MBA admissions trends. Women For the last few years the top schools have been VERY aggressive about admitting qualified women. I expect this trend to continue, so if you are a woman and you are considering an MBA this is definitely a favorable time to apply. Also, as a reminder, please don’t be intimidated by a school’s published test scores – even if they are sky high, admissions committees know that certain demographics, including women, don’t always have GMAT’s or GRE’s that reflect their academic potential. Global Students As schools create increasingly global curriculums, they are also seeking to create a diverse, international student body. This means that they are looking for students, both domestic and international, with strong cross-cultural skills. Speaking another language will continue to be a plus, as will experience working, living or even traveling abroad. Focus on Interpersonal Skills Have you noticed that top programs are increasingly including video essays and multimedia prompts? And that even their traditional essay and interview prompts are behavioral and introspective? Expect this trend to continue and intensify, and definitely remember to be as genuine, reflective, personable and self-aware as possible in your applications. Early Action I predict that early action will continue to grow in popularity, and will also continue to be extremely advantageous for candidates. This year, as in years past, my early round clients had tremendous success – gaining admission to Harvard, Wharton, Booth, Sloan, Kellogg, Tuck, Duke, UNC, McCombs, Georgetown, Yale, Cornell, Stern, Columbia and more – with multiple full tuition fellowships and scholarships totaling more than 1.4 million. (North Star clients have received more [...]

By |January 8th, 2016|Business School Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|

How to Shine in MBA Video Essays

Yale, Kellogg and other top business schools are now asking applicants to complete a brief video response. This can seem stressful, but is actually a great opportunity for you to personalize your candidacy. Here are tips to help you excel in MBA video essays: Control the Environment. Please make sure that your technology works well. Test the sound on your computer, angle the camera in a flattering way (so that they don’t just see your nose) and set up in a completely quiet, neutral location. You don’t want intrusions from barking dogs or ringing phones, and you also don’t want them to see your Justin Bieber poster in the background. Also, please wear a suit. These environmental tips apply to Skype interviews as well. Practice Your Core Interview Responses. Although you can’t predict everything that the school will ask (please see the next bullet) you can be pretty sure that they will ask you at least one fundamental question about your goals and/or your interest in the school. At the very least you should practice articulating your short and long term goals, your need for an MBA, and your reasons for wanting to attend their school. Do Your Research. As my clients know, I am generally VERY opposed to applicants reading the forums. This is one of the few exceptions – there are only a limited number of questions that the schools ask, and people do seem to post them online. I still encourage you to start with the school’s websites (Kellogg tells you what one of the questions is, and also asks a more esoteric one, which varies. Yale is more vague but still gives you good tips.) Nevertheless, as long as you can [...]

By |January 6th, 2016|Business School Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|
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A Successful MBA Reapplicant!

Hello North Star Blog readers! I am delighted to share an inspirational update from one of our guest contributors, a very successful MBA reapplicant who was recently admitted to Kellogg, Darden, Duke and Johnson - after being denied at multiple schools last year. It's always incredibly gratifying to help people achieve their dreams, and I  am very happy that he has such wonderful options! Please tell our North Star readers the good news, and remind us about your background. Since my last blog post, I re-applied to Tuck and Kellogg, and submitted fresh applications to Fuqua, Darden, Yale and Johnson. I have been fortunate to receive admit decisions at Kellogg, Fuqua, Darden and Johnson. I am male Singaporean, with a GMAT score of 710. I am also a first generation college graduate. I will have five years of working experience by matriculation, all with Citi. At Citi, I have been given the opportunity to experience job rotations across a broad spectrum of banking businesses and functions. Looking back at your journey as a re-applicant, what have you learnt about applying to business school? Applying to business school is extremely hard work! Comparing my essays from the previous year to the ones I had prepared this season, I realized that I had tried too hard to embellish my candidacy. As a result, my own voice had gotten lost in the midst of all the Admissions Committee pandering that I tried to do. Karen would not have any of it. She asked the toughest questions as she reviewed my initial drafts. Why do you want to do this? How do you know that this is the path you want to pursue? How do you know that you would [...]

By |December 26th, 2015|Business School Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|
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What it’s Really Like to be a Student at a Top MBA Program

Hello North Star blog readers! Many of you are in the midst of the business school application process, or thinking about applying. Are you curious about what it's like to be a student at a top MBA program? Here is some insight from a friend of mine who is a first year student at Cornell’s Johnson School of Business. He has graciously agreed to share his perspective on the experience so far, as he reflects on the past eighteen months. Dear Melvyn: It’s been a long road to get to here. The semester is over and you are back home in Orange County. Do you remember a little more than a year and a half ago when you decided to go back to school to earn your MBA? It has only been 5 months since you first stepped foot on the Cornell campus as a full-time residential MBA student. What have you learned since then? It will be hard juggling everything: From club meetings to study sessions to company briefings, your time is the most valuable resource. Developing an adeptness at managing your time is critical for success. Oh and that outlook calendar, put it to good use! FOMO is real: You’ve heard about this cool club that helps you nurture an appreciation for wine and their regular weekly meeting is Wednesday, but you also want to listen to that really established speaker who runs Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund. You really question whether you should be going to this camping trip in the woods or you should stay to attend this “jhorts” (jeans+shorts!) party in order to network with second years. You want to do everything yet feel as if you only have time for [...]

By |December 21st, 2015|Business School Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|

Social Media and MBA Applications

Have you checked out your social media profile? If not, you really should – your online footprint can impact your business school candidacy, both positively and negatively. Here is information about the relationship between social media and MBA applications. Understand Who is Searching, and Why You may have heard that admissions officers sometimes google candidates. This is definitely true. Some schools routinely review all applicants’ online presence, others may investigate if they are interested in learning more about a particular aspect of your individual profile. You might also get checked out by students who are hosting you for a conference, who are assigned to interview you, or by alumni who are program delegates. Your Facebook Page – And Your Friend’s Facebook Page. Please change your privacy settings, so that people can’t see pictures of you at your best friend’s bachelor party. Speaking of which, you should also look to see where you are tagged – and tell your friends not to post pictures of you that you wouldn’t want your boss to see. This is also a good time to refrain from public political commentary. LinkedIn Very few people like updating their LinkedIn profiles, and there is a lot of confusion about what a compelling profile looks like. When applying to business school I suggest updating your resume and then importing that content onto your LinkedIn page. It’s also strategic to expand your connections as much as possible, so go ahead and send out invitations to your old college friends, etc. Be Cautious About What You “Like.” Just in case, refrain from liking and following ANY business schools on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. It’s better not to telegraph your complete list to admissions officers or [...]

By |November 18th, 2015|Business School Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|

Networking Mistakes

If you are applying to business school you have probably heard that it’s important to network. Done properly, it can be very helpful to connect with current students, alums and administrators. However, I have also seen applicants make networking mistakes that have literally destroyed their candidacies. Here are five common errors: Being Too Casual This happens most often when you have been introduced through a mutual friend. Please don’t curse, start emails with the word “hey” or act overly familiar. This is still a business contact, no matter how friendly and accessible the person may be. Imposing Along the same lines, please be respectful of the person’s time. They are doing you a favor, so don’t ask them to meet you for an hour at your office, call repeatedly or bombard them with questions that you could have researched yourself. It’s also extremely important to be polite and appreciative. Taking Advantage Please don’t try to leverage your access in inappropriate ways. For instance, please don’t ask anyone to read your essays, or to give you insider tips about interviews or what the admissions committee is REALLY looking for. You don’t want to put anyone in a bad position, so err on the side of caution. Shy away from any request that potentially crosses a line. This is especially true if you are talking to an admissions officer! Being Disingenuous The business school world is pretty small. It’s important not to lie to your contacts – for instance, telling someone that their school is your absolute first choice if it isn’t. It’s a really bad idea to ask a connection to expend political capital endorsing you if you aren’t really interested in their program. On a related [...]

By |November 17th, 2015|Business School Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|
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Waiting For MBA Decisions

Are you waiting to hear back from business schools? Whether you are waiting for MBA decisions or interview invitations, it’s hard. Here are some glimpses into what’s going on behind the scenes, and tips to help you survive. Don’t read the forums. I know it’s tempting, but please stay away from the forums. There is a stunning amount of misinformation out there – and people also post things that are completely untrue. When I was at Tuck I once read a post on a big forum from someone who claimed that I had just called to admit them with a Consortium Fellowship. This was totally fabricated, I hadn’t called anyone yet, and it set off a completely unnecessary panic. Please try not to take anything that you read online too seriously, unless it comes directly from the school. Don’t assume that you are out of the running. Along the same lines, even if people you know have gotten interview invitations and you haven’t, it doesn’t mean that you are no longer being considered. Although a few schools (Harvard, Wharton, Stanford) synchronize the process and release interview invitations on specified days, most schools aren’t that organized. I have worked with people who were literally invited to interview the day before the decision release date, and who then got in. Don’t read too much into random emails. It’s human nature to look for clues after you have applied, including analyzing all email communication from the schools. However, the mass emails that you get from MBA programs are not really all that customized, even after you apply. Basically, the marketing departments (yes, MBA programs have marketing departments) create a series of outreach emails that go to all active [...]

By |October 23rd, 2015|Business School Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|

Wondering How to Get Into Top Colleges and MBA Programs?

North Star turns three next week, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has collaborated along the way. I truly appreciate your trust, guidance and support. I have also been reflecting on why my clients get into top colleges and MBA programs. (98% of my comprehensive clients have been admitted to at least one of their top choice schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Dartmouth and more, with over 5.3 million in scholarships.) In 2013, just a few months after launching North Star, I wrote this blog about the top characteristics of admitted applicants. I still believe that all of these qualities are crucial. Inherent in this original list is the premise that it’s important to display some fundamental traits that ALL schools are looking for, and that are correlated with future success. In other words, by approaching the application process thoughtfully, diligently and honestly, my clients demonstrate that they, personally, have qualities that will enable them to contribute and excel. It's not just about what you have done or accomplished, but who you are as a person. What are these qualities? Resilience Humility Perseverance Discipline Integrity Curiosity Empathy Kindness Perspective Humor  There is so much written about how competitive it is to get into elite schools, and while that is undeniably true I believe that the competition is about much more than grades, test scores or brand name academic and professional pedigrees. This should be extremely reassuring to those of you who are wondering whether or not you have what it takes to get into your dream schools. Many of my clients have low GPA’s, below average test scores and entirely non-traditional backgrounds. Others bring above average credentials, from a numeric perspective. In either case, they [...]