Karen Marks

/Karen Marks

About Karen Marks

Karen has more than 10 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, Dartmouth, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, Georgetown, Duke, UNC, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, Wellesley, Emory, the University of Pennsylvania and more. Her clients have gotten more than 3.5 million dollars in scholarships over the last two years.

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 [...]

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The truth about open MBA interviews

Tuck’s open interview registration is live, and I am getting lots of questions about open MBA interviews. Is it really necessary to initiate an on campus interview at schools that allow applicants to do so? The brief answer: Yes, especially if you are a domestic candidate. If you don’t take advantage of this opportunity, someone else will. People fly to interview at Tuck (and other schools) from around the globe – Australia, Asia, the Middle East. If you are a domestic applicant and don’t bother to come to campus you risk telegraphing disinterest. (There are obvious exceptions, like if you are active duty military or can’t travel for medical reasons. If this is the case, please say so in your optional essay, so that the school understands why you didn’t initiate an on campus interview.) Despite what they say, the schools DO hold it against you. Look, I know that the official answer is that you don’t need to initiate an on campus MBA interview in order to be competitive. In reality, if you live in Boston and don’t travel to Tuck they aren’t going to take you as seriously as a candidate. At the very least, you suffer in comparison to applicants who are doing absolutely everything that they can to shine. It’s much harder to sell your interest in a school if you haven’t been. Credible school specific essays are already hard to write, even more so if all of your content comes from the website. The applicant who can talk about their affinity for the community after having lunch with students and professors and sitting in on a class will be much more persuasive than the candidate who regurgitates published data about [...]

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Mentoring First Generation College Applicants

Hello North Star blog readers! Today I am happy to share Kyron’s blog about mentoring first generation college applicants, which is inspirational on many levels. In addition to being proud to know Kyron, I am also proud to support Walter by donating my help with his essays. Thanks again to Kyron for blogging throughout your MBA application process.   Thank you to everyone who took time out to read the first blog! I wanted to starting writing blogs on Karen’s site to share my story and my journey with other current and future hopefuls. There’s really no name for this particular blog series, but as a future Brand Manager/Brand Strategist, you can continue to follow my journey on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #Everyday2MBA. On Tuesday, July 14, I turned 24 years old. Ever since I could remember, birthdays were the only day when excessive attention was accepted and celebrated without any judgment. But my 24th Birthday was unlike any prior celebration. I was inspired to redirect the attention and celebration elsewhere, onto someone I believed my network and friends should know. Back in June, I met a rising High School Senior named Walter at an event. He wore a white collared shirt, a red tie, blazer and suit pants. We spoke briefly about his background and he effortlessly articulated his vision and the goals that he aggressively set out to accomplish. Walter made a great 1st impression and before we both realized it he sold me on his dream and I brought in. We wrapped up the conversation with him inquiring about shadowing someone in the Mayor’s office for a day and about possible talk with the Mayor. I happily agreed and gave [...]

By |July 29th, 2015|Uncategorized|
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A Business School Re-Applicant Shares His Story

I am happy to introduce you to SY, another North Star client who has generously offered to share his experience. As a business school re-applicant, and also as an international student and a first generation college graduate, SY has a tremendously valuable perspective. I know that you will benefit from his insights. Thank you, SY! My name is SY. I am an international re-applicant. I have been working at Citi since graduating from college, where I have been fortunate to experience job rotations across a broad spectrum of banking businesses and functions over the past four years. My parents are retired blue-collar workers. They started working early in life and never had the opportunity to attend college. Their experiences shaped them into fervent believers in the value of education, and making sure their children received a college education was always a priority. I can fondly recall how exhilarated Mum was when I graduated from college. I dream of working at the well of banking knowledge: Wall Street. At the same time, I know that I can benefit from enhancing my leadership skills, increasing my international exposure and building my network. Pursuing an MBA in the United States will allow me to achieve both development and career goals. In formulating my school strategy last season, I made the mistake of relying only on rankings and recruiting statistics to decide where to apply, discounting fit entirely. My applications also lacked focus and did not sufficiently showcase my strengths, skills or experience. In retrospect, it was no surprise that out of my five school applications, I was rejected without an interview at three, and waitlisted at two. Reeling from a string of disappointments, I decided to seek professional [...]

By |July 29th, 2015|Business School Admissions, General Admissions|
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Sample College or MBA Application Essays: A Really Bad Idea

I firmly believe that reading other people’s essays before writing your own is a huge, detrimental mistake. Here are three reasons why I never give my clients templates or sample college or MBA application essays: You need to find your own voice. The essays are literally your only guaranteed opportunity to present your case, in your own words, and to stand out in the pool. Modeling your narrative after someone else’s story is an enormous waste of this opportunity. It also leads to generic, homogeneous essays that are totally forgettable, which will not get you in. Furthermore, it’s way too easy to subliminally copy someone else’s cadence, structure or phraseology, which can lead schools to suspect plagiarism. You are reading the essays out of context. When you read one of the many books about “successful” application essays you are reading them completely out of context. You have no idea if that applicant was a professional athlete, had special interest connections, a terrible GPA or work history, was applying to schools where she was significantly above the average or if she was admitted DESPITE her essays, not because of them. The bottom line is that you need to choose your topics and anecdotes strategically, in light of your whole candidacy. Just because these other candidates chose a certain topic or style does not mean that it is the optimal decision for you. Formulas are dangerous. I understand that it is very tempting to think that there is a magic formula that will get you into college or business school, and that this formula extends to the essays. Nevertheless, mimicking other people’s essays leads to less than genuine responses, and is an extremely dangerous way to approach [...]

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What It’s Really Like To Apply To Business School

 Hello North Star blog readers. I am delighted to introduce you to Kyron Banks. Kyron is a current member of my Sirius program, which is a group consulting program designed to help first generation college graduates get into business school. Kyron has very graciously agreed to blog about his experience applying to school this year. I know that this will be incredibly useful and inspirational for many of you, and I greatly appreciate his candor and time as he tells us what it's really like to apply to business school. I am also excited for you to get to know Kyron – he is truly impressive and very personable, and I can’t wait to see where he goes! Hi, my name is Kyron Banks, 23 years old and more importantly, born and raised in New Jersey. My early childhood was spent with a lot of activities, family time and being told that I can do better than my young parents by graduating from college. My mother was 21 and my father was 17 when I was born and any dreams to pursue a college degree were placed on hold and passed onto me to become a first generation college student. My mother never let me forget that her dream was to see me graduate from high school and then college. She never had the chance to see her baby boy graduate from either high school or college – she passed away from lung cancer at the tender age of 31, when I was 11 years old. Even before the wonderful and awkward stages of puberty, mentally I was already an adult and ready to accomplish not only my dreams, but my mother’s as well. I [...]

Are you ready for the 2015 Common Application?

Although the common application doesn't open until August 1st, we already know that there will be changes, both logistically and in terms of content. Here is what rising seniors need to know about the 2015 common application: There are new essay prompts. (New language appears in italics.) Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it.If this sounds like you, then please share your story. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. By the way, it’s ideal if you can complete your common application essay before returning to school in the fall. Some schools will not require you to submit your main essay, and some schools won’t ask for recommendations. Apparently, some schools will not require you to submit the common application essay, which is a big change. In general, it’s still a good idea to submit the essay, even if one of your target schools doesn’t mandate it. In [...]

By |May 28th, 2015|College Admissions, General Admissions, Uncategorized|