MBA Admissions

Present a Polished and Compelling Social Media Presence. Business School Admissions Officers will be Looking.

Last month, Kaplan released results from its 2018 Business School Admissions Officers Survey. The survey found that 40 percent of admissions officers review applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them, up from 35 percent in 2017. Further, 71 percent of the admissions officers said it’s “fair game” to review applicants’ social media and that they do not see it as an “invasion of privacy...” Admissions officers are typically reviewing applicants’ pages to look for red-flags, or a lack thereof, but some say that a poorly constructed social media presence can hurt an applicant’s chances. Conversely, a strong social media offering can benefit an applicant. Forty-six percent of admissions officers reported that they found something on social media that helped an applicant while 36 percent reported finding something that hurt.

Social media can be an excellent tool for demonstrating your personality and articulating your interests. Just remember that producing well-written content should not be taken lightly because of the casual nature of the platform. We believe you should consider social media an extension of your application. Thus, we have provided some important guidelines for social media writing below.

1.       Know your audience.

Review your social media pages to ensure your security settings accurately reflect your intent. Some sites, such as LinkedIn, should be more publicly accessible, while others, with more private content, should be limited to peers.

After updating your security settings so that you are clear on who your audience is, ensure that your content and tone is appropriate. Review old posts and keep your audience in mind as you post in the future, never forgetting that admissions officers may be following you. LinkedIn requires a more professional tone and industry-related content, while Instagram is a good place for sharing your extracurricular interests and hobbies.

In addition to formality and word-choice, consider how you can curate the information you write and share to your audience’s interests. Add color-commentary and your opinion where appropriate to differentiate the articles you share from other sources.

2.       Ensure that your writing is technically correct and your voice is consistent.

While your tone can, and probably should, vary across social media platforms according to your audience, your will want your voice to remain consistent. Whether writing casually or more professionally, you should always put forth the best version of yourself. It is critical that your writing is technically correct for every post. Thus, it may be beneficial to investigate tools such as Grammarly, which provides grammar and spell checks on social media content. Always read your writing aloud prior to posting, and for longer posts, give yourself an opportunity to step away, re-read, and revise prior to going live.  

Additionally, your posts should be respectful of others and opposing viewpoints. Always keep in mind that schools are looking for red flags.

3.       Stay on-brand, but don’t forget to showcase your unique attributes.

 Do not miss the opportunity to display your personality and any unique skills. For writers, consider adding more long-form blog posts. Photographers should let their pictures take center-stage and only add shorter captions or explanations. Consider also taking advantage of alternative media formats such as graphic design or video to showcase your community involvement or hobbies.

 4.       Stay current by reading widely.

One of the best ways to elevate your writing skills, while also ensuring that you have something interesting to say, is to read a variety of well-written content. Read as much as possible, and as broadly as possible, across news outlets, books, and articles. Additionally, following people that you respect on social media, including the graduate institutions to which you are applying, in order to stay abreast of their content and discussion topics may inspire you as you create and curate your own content.

Want to Achieve Your Goals? First, Define Your Personal Brand.

In a Forbes article, writer Greg Llopis said that people often confuse the notion of a personal brand with having a curated social media page. In truth, however, social media is just one portion of a much larger idea. Your personal brand is how you express the compilation of experiences you’ve had, what you have to offer, and your intentions going forward. While social media accounts should align with your brand, they do not define it.

Llopis says, “Every time you are in a meeting, at a conference, networking reception or other event, you should be mindful of what others are experiencing about you and what you want others to experience about you.” This awareness of others’ experience allows you the freedom to put forward your most authentic self, rather than letting nerves or other outside influences change how you respond in a situation.

Spending time defining your personal brand will pay dividends as you move forward in your career, whether that means creating an exceptional grad school application, building a compelling resume, prepping for an interview or career-fair, or working towards the next promotion. It will not only allow you to be a proactive planner and decision maker, it will also act as a filter when you evaluate various career options.

To begin defining your personal brand, consider the following:  

1.       Your past experiences

Have you ever been so engaged in a pursuit that time seemingly disappeared? What have you found most difficult?  Which experiences stand out as those which prompted an evolution in your perspective? What are you most proud of? When have you felt most fulfilled?

2.       How you engage with others and the world

What strengths have you developed over time? What are your greatest weaknesses? How have you dealt with adversity? What feedback do you consistently receive when working with others? How do think others experience you? What five adjectives would you use to describe yourself? Do you think others would use the same five adjectives? If not, which would they use?

3.       Your future goals.

What type of work do you enjoy? What type of work do you aspire to do? What would you like your professional relationships to look like? What sort of environment do you think you would thrive in? What is your ideal work-life balance? What aspects of a position are most important to you and where are you willing to compromise? What are your short- and long-term goals?

Once you’ve refined your brand, you can start to put it into action to determine which opportunities will (and will not) be a good fit for you. Just remember to express a consistent message everywhere, including on social media. Recruiters or admissions officers should never be surprised by what they see online, rather the content should provide further depth on the person they know.

QS Global MBA 2019 Rankings Place Four US Schools in the Top Five

The QS Global MBA 2019 Rankings were released this week and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business ranked first. This is the second year that QS has released global rankings, which include over 250 MBA programs internationally. The ranking’s algorithm incorporates scores for Entrepreneurship & Alumni Outcomes, Return on Investment, Thought Leadership, Employability, and Diversity.

In both 2018 and 2019, 13 of the top 25 programs were based in the US. Also in 2019, four of the top five were based in the US, up from two in 2018. Schools in the US scored particularly well in the areas of Employability and Thought Leadership, while international programs fared better in Diversity and Return on Investment.

There was one new entrant to the top 25, CEIBS, which is based in Shanghai China.

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Rankings Indicators

As with all rankings, a closer look at the underlying components, which make up the Overall Score, can provide beneficial information for prospective MBA students. Below are charts showing the top ten ranked schools and their scores for each indicator.

The Entrepreneurship & Alumni Outcomes indicator makes up 15 percent of the overall score. Stanford not only received a perfect score within this indicator but was also about eight percentage points higher than any other program. Harvard, Penn (Wharton), and Michigan (Ross) were also included among the top ten. This indicator should be of particular interest to those keen on pursuing entrepreneurial options post-MBA.

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The Return on Investment indicator accounts for 20 percent of the overall score. Programs in the US did not fare as well in this category, though Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) and Michigan (Ross) are included within the top ten. International programs with shorter durations saw the highest scores, as shorter programs save students money, both in terms of tuition, as well as lost wages.

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The Thought Leadership indicator makes up 15 percent of the overall score.  US schools scored well in this category with MIT (Sloan) receiving a perfect score, followed closely by Penn (Wharton).

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The Employability indicator was given the heaviest weight, and accounts for 40 percent of the overall score. The top five programs, four of which are US schools, all received scores of 99 or higher.

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The Diversity indicator, which includes Class and Faculty diversity, accounts for ten percent of the overall score. For the second year in a row, no schools from the US were in the top ten in this category. And this is not expected to change significantly in the coming years as international applications to US programs continue to decrease.

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Application Volume Drops at Top MBA Programs in US

The Financial Times reported this week that four of the most prestigious business schools in the US saw a drop in MBA application volume for 2018 matriculation. Harvard, NYU Stern, Duke Fuqua, and Berkeley Haas each reported a decrease in applications from 2017 that ranged from 4 percent to 7.5 percent.

According to Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) data, in the US full-time two-year MBA programs’ application volumes have been in decline since 2014. However, this is not consistent across programs. In 2017, those with larger classes (201 or more students) accounted for 6 percent of MBA programs, but 55 percent of applications and 32 percent of enrollments. Larger schools were more likely to report application volume increases in 2017, while smaller were more likely to have experienced decreases. This decrease now appears to have expanded to the large, prestigious MBA programs.

While the decline in applications has not yet affected Harvard’s 11 percent acceptance rate or median GMAT score of 730, it was fairly significant at 4.5 percent. Similarly, NYU Stern reported a nearly 4 percent drop, while Duke Fuqua and Berkeley Haas were at about 6 percent and 7.5 percent respectively.

In contrast, MBA application numbers globally continue to increase. “When looked at internationally, graduate business education is a growth stock. Applications to Canadian, European, and Asian schools are increasing at an enormous rate,” said Bill Boulding, Dean of Duke Fuqua. Other admissions representatives who spoke with the Financial Times pointed out a multi-faceted cause for the lower application rates in the US:

  • Decreasing numbers of international applicants to US schools, due to a less welcoming political climate, as well as increasingly rigid immigration requirements.

  • Increasingly competitive European and Asian MBAs, offered in English, for those wanting a global experience. Some of these well-ranked programs also offer expedited timelines.

  • Increasing tuition and a robust economic climate in the US, which increases the cost of an MBA in both direct costs and wages-lost.

  • Increasing interest in part-time, online, and/or one-year MBA programs.

Take-aways for prospective MBA students

  • If you have dual-citizenship, don’t forget to note this on your application. It could be advantageous for you in the admissions process.

  • Be sure to highlight your international experiences and interests in your application. Admissions officers want to create a diverse student body and, with fewer international applicants, these experiences are likely to stand out more.

  • Consider that in strong economic climates, with low unemployment, schools are likely to receive fewer applicants. While this may not significantly change acceptance rates at all of the most prestigious programs, it can provide some benefit with regard to both admissions likelihood, as well as the possibility for substantial merit-based scholarships.

  • Choose your MBA program carefully, rather than automatically selecting a full-time, two-year program. Learn from these trends, by thinking carefully about the type of MBA that will benefit you most. International programs, one-year or expedited programs, and part-time cohort-based programs can all be worthwhile for you and your career.

What are Corporate Recruiters Really Looking for in the 2018 MBA Graduate?

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) recently released its 2018 Corporate Recruiters Survey results, providing insight into current employer hiring demand for MBA graduates.

In 2018, nearly three-fourths of corporate recruiters globally project to hire MBA graduates to fill business development roles. Functions also in high demand world-wide are data analytics (71 percent), marketing (70 percent), and finance (69 percent). The chart below shows the job function recruitment projections for recent MBA hires, globally and in the U.S.

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As one would expect, the job functions MBA hires are placed into vary by both region and industry. Below, are a few key industries with the job functions companies plan to fill with MBA hires in 2018.

-          Consulting: consulting, business development, data analytics

-          Finance: finance, investment banking, accounting

-          Health Care: marketing, business development, finance

-          Technology: marketing, business development, data analytics

-          Products: marketing, business development, finance

Globally, recruiters are more likely to hire MBAs into specialist, rather than generalist roles (52 percent and 48 percent, respectively) and into strategic over operational positions (also 52 percent and 48 percent, respectively). In the U.S., recruiters are equally likely to hire MBA students to fill specialist and generalist jobs and just slightly more likely to place an MBA into a strategic role over an operational one (51 percent and 49 percent, respectively).

Delving more deeply into the specific skill-sets recruiters are looking for when hiring MBAs, a Financial Times survey published in late 2017 asked 48 leading employers what skills they want in MBA graduates, and what skills they have a hard time finding.

The most important skills named by these employers included both soft-skills and strategy. Three of the most important skills, however, were also listed among the least difficult to recruit for: networking, solving complex problems, and working with a wide variety of people. The least important skills were function-specific. And the most difficult to recruit for skills were not listed among the most important, but included a cross-section of disciplines.

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Key Take-Aways

Both the GMAC and Financial Times surveys provide telling information on how recruiters classify and evaluate MBA candidates. Begin to think like a recruiter. It will be immensely helpful to you as you embark on your management studies.

1.       When considering your career prospects, you should first define your desired role in terms of:

a.       Specialist or Generalist;

b.       Strategic or Operational; and

c.       Job function

Having clear insight into your desired role will help you to find companies and jobs that offer the best fit for your goals. Additionally, knowing precisely what you want in your post-MBA role will help you to develop your elevator pitch and articulate your career vision clearly as you network and interview.  

2.       Staying abreast of recruiting trends by function, as well as highly coveted and/or difficult to recruit for skills can provide insight on areas where additional experience can help you to differentiate yourself. For example, data analytics is not only a function where hiring is very active for MBA recruiters, but also a skill that has been named as difficult to recruit for. Gaining some experience in this area may help to set you apart in interviews, even if this is not the primary function for which you want to be hired.

3.       Consider how you are highlighting not only the most important skills, but also those that are named as difficult to recruit for in your resume, elevator pitch, and interview responses. While your resume should list your specialized skills, this data suggests that highlighting soft and strategic thinking skills may better serve you in those precious networking and interview minutes with potential employers.

4.       Finally, think through your differentiating factors and experiences. Recognize that some skills are easier to recruit for than others, and make sure that you’re aware of and highlighting experiences, coursework, and skills that make you unique among the general MBA population.

The MBA Tour US: MBA & Business Master's Conferences

Meet Columbia, MIT Sloan, UCLA, Chicago Booth, Kellogg, Stanford, and more top business programs!

Join us in a city near you:

Seattle: Thursday, July 12
Los Angeles: Saturday, July 14
San Francisco: Sunday, July 15
Houston: Tuesday, July 17
Atlanta: Thursday, July 19
NYC: Saturday, July 21
Chicago: Monday, July 23
DC: Wednesday, July 25
Boston: Thursday, July 2


Why should I attend The MBA Tour?

The world's top business schools, all in one place.

Stand out from the competition and meet with Admissions Directors from top domestic and international business schools. Connect in-person to ask your MBA questions, learn about program offerings, and discover how a graduate business degree can help you boost your career.

  • Small group meetings
  • Admissions panels
  • GMAT strategy sessions
  • School presentations
  • Networking fair
  • & much more!

 

Who will I meet?

Connect with admissions decision makers.

  • You'll have the unique opportunity to meet with admissions decision makers to increase your chances of acceptance.
  • Learn in-depth program information and ask your MBA questions during MeetUp discussions (invite only, small group meetings).
  • Discover admissions tips from industry leaders.
  • Network with the people that matter when it comes to getting accepted to your dream school.

 

How should I prepare?

Complete your online profile to be matched with top schools.

  • Provide helpful information during registration to let schools learn about you and your goals and have them invite you to meet with them during MeetUps or School Presentations.
  • Use The MBA Tour's Research Schools platform to learn more about program offerings and options.
  • Log into The MBA Tour's online portal to easily confirm MeetUps and build your schedule to make the most of your event.

 

Great, sign me up!

Register free today to reserve your spot. Space is limited!


Business Schools Attending

*Schools vary by city; check event pages for individual listings. More schools to come.

Insights from Last Year’s Applicants: The 2018 AIGAC (Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants) MBA Applicant Survey

The 2018 AIGAC (Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants) MBA Applicant Survey emphasized the “great expectations” last year’s applicants had during the admissions process. The survey data includes 1,979 interviews with 1,377 respondents who applied to at least one school. Data was collected during the Spring of 2018.

Like the 2017 responses, this wave of applicants relied heavily on online and technology-based resources to learn about MBA programs, but mentioned the importance of combining these resources with a personalized experience with school representatives.

Students used both school supplied resources, as well as information from independent sources. Over 80 percent of last year’s applicants used school websites for gathering program information. And over 50 percent relied on online information sessions hosted by schools and interactions with current students. When asked about the most valuable school specific resource, the most common response was school website, followed by current student referrals, and on-campus information sessions.

While most applicants, 86 percent, used MBA rankings for school research, responses on the value of the rankings were mixed. Twenty-two percent of respondents selected MBA rankings as the most valuable independent resource, yet it was also the most commonly selected response for least valuable resource at 24 percent. Respondents named online communities/forums as the most valuable independent resource (24 percent), though only 59 percent of survey respondents used this resource in their research.

The majority reported an expectation schools would proactively get to know them through various initiatives, including formal visit programs, diversity and women’s events, and interviews. Respondents spoke to the importance of these face-to-face interactions, noting instances where a positive or negative encounter changed their personal ranking of the program.

The following schools were rated in the top and bottom quartiles for how well they got to know applicants:

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Furthermore, when it came to finalizing their school lists, over 60 percent of prospective students named reputation (66 percent) and ranking (61 percent) as top factors to consider, followed by school culture (53 percent).  Others, however, named geographic proximity to their desired work as the predominant concern as networking is critical, particularly in finding employment with small firms and start-ups.

Take-aways for current applicants

The survey emphasized the critical and personal nature of the school selection and application process. While school and independent online resources can provide comprehensive and useful information, nothing can replace interpersonal interactions. Ideally, applicants will be able to visit the schools they are most interested in, but if not, they should look for opportunities to attend school-hosted events in the city where they live.

MBAs Looking Away from Financial Services and Towards Companies that Offer Better Work-Life Balance

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article examining the “battle for MBA talent,” which looked at current trends in MBA graduate employer preferences. Authors, Laurence Fletcher and Pat Minczeski found that Wall Street is no longer as appealing to MBAs as consulting and technology firms, despite banks’ increasing starting salaries. “The share of full-time M.B.A. graduates from the top 10 business schools accepting jobs at financial-services firms dropped between 2012 and 2017 from 36 percent to 26 percent, based on a weighted average calculated by the Journal. The share accepting jobs in technology rose from 13 percent to 20 percent in the same period. Consulting edged out financial services as the top draw in 2017, as the choice of 29 percent of grads, up from 27 percent in 2012.”

The same article quotes Jean Ann Schulte, director of employer relations and recruiting services at MIT Sloan, who said “Over the last ten years we’ve had an almost complete flip between finance and technology.” In pointing to the working hours typical in the banking industry, she went on to say, “You can have a lucrative career without those lifestyle costs.”

An analysis published in Forbes by John Byrne earlier this year, which examined the average working hours for MBA graduates in various industries, supported the theory that MBAs are increasingly drawn to companies that offer better work-life balance. He found that, while overall, the median work week for MBA graduates is 54 hours per week, financial firms made up six of the top ten companies with the longest working hours. MBA graduates working at Goldman Sachs averaged 86 hours per week, followed by Barclays (73 hours), J.P. Morgan (72), Morgan Stanley (70), Credit Suisse (70), and Fidelity Investments (68).  Consulting firms round out the top ten, with average hours worked ranging from number three, McKinsey & Co. with an average of 72, to A.T. Kearney and Boston Consulting Group with averages of 63[1]. Bryne goes on to highlight that the MBA jobs with the lowest average working hours are at technology firms and large corporations. “MBAs who work for Microsoft average just 44 hours a week, while those who toil for Apple put in 52-hour weeks, a couple of hours below the median. Facebook MBAs average just an hour a week more at 53 hours, while Amazon MBAs hit the 54-hour a week median working for the e-commerce giant.” Those working for IBM, PepsiCo, and 3M company worked just under 45 hours per week.

Byrne then calculated hourly wages for various sub-industries and his analysis revealed that hedge fund and mutual fund employees earn the highest hourly rate at $129.46/hour. The average MBA makes about $75/hour. As an industry, high-tech placed third and fifth for e-commerce and software respectively, validating the supposition that technology companies may appeal to MBA graduates who value work-life balance, in addition to high pay and interesting work.

Some corporations need to do a better job addressing quality of life concerns if they want to recruit top MBA talent. And current MBAs considering various industries, corporations, or even offers should compare compensation alongside workload expectations in order to achieve both their career and lifestyle goals.  

[1] See full list here: https://poetsandquants.com/2016/06/17/mba-envy-not-know-hard-work/2/

MBA Employment Trends and Projections

Demand is high for recent MBA graduates. In 2017 in the U.S. and Canada, technology firms increased year-over-year MBA hiring by 22 percent and consulting and financial services firms increased hiring by 7 percent and 4 percent respectively. The same report (QS Top MBA Jobs & Salary Trends Report 2018)  projects that overall MBA recruiting in the U.S. and Canada will continue to demonstrate robust growth in 2018 (7 percent) and marginal growth in 2019 (2 percent).   

Technology: The growth in technology firms’ MBA hiring corresponds with reports that Amazon is hiring about 1,000 MBA graduates per year, almost double that of the next largest MBA employer, consulting firm McKinsey[i]. And the growth isn’t expected to slow in 2018. The QS Top MBA Salary Trends Report projects that recruiting in the U.S. and Canada by technology firms will continue growing in 2018 (15 percent) with more marginal growth predicted for 2019 (two percent).

In addition to Amazon, Microsoft and Google also recruit consistently within MBA programs, but with lower overall hiring. It is worthy of note that, among the Top 10 programs (US News and World Report), the largest percentage of 2017 graduates who accepted positions in the technology industry came from Berkeley Haas. 

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Consulting: Consulting firms recruit a large percentage of MBA graduates (approximately a quarter to a third of each class at Top 10 MBA Programs) and this is expected to continue. The QS Top MBA Salary Trends Report projects that recruiting in the U.S. and Canada by consulting firms will increase by 15 percent in 2018 with a slight dip to 7 percent in 2019.

McKinsey, the second largest employer of MBAs, is the top employer of MBA graduates at Northwestern Kellogg, Chicago Booth, and Columbia Business School. Following McKinsey in MBA recruiting are Bain and Company, The Boston Consulting Group, and Deloitte.

At Stanford, the percentage of graduates securing roles in consulting is lower but trending upwards.

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Finance: Developments in technology, political uncertainty, and greater competition from technology and other firms, has negatively impacted MBA recruiting by financial services firms. Wharton, as well as Chicago Booth, and Columbia Business School have experienced recent employment dips in the sector. According to a 2017 MBA Employment Survey by Training the Street, students reported lower interest in working for Wall Street and expressed wanting to explore options with companies, such as boutique banks, that may offer a higher quality of life.[ii]

The Salary Trends Report projects another year of modest growth for the industry in 2018 (4 percent) with a slight decline predicted for 2019 (-1 percent). 

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[i] https://poetsandquants.com/2017/10/04/amazon-now-hiring-1000-mbas-a-year/

[ii] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-09/record-percentage-of-mbas-don-t-want-to-work-on-wall-street

MBA Application Resource Roundup

For prospective business school students, we’ve created a short list of resources, including Apply Point blogs and information from external organizations, that will help guide you through the application process.

Apply Point Blog Posts

·       Deciding where to apply

o   MBA School Selection: Important Considerations When Building Your School List

o   MBA School Selection: What are the Alumni Saying?

o   Want a Career Abroad? Consider a European MBA.

·       Application

o   MBA Application Submission: Is There an Optimal Deadline?

o   The GMAT V. The GRE: Which Test is Best for You?

o   MBA Application Essays: Prompts Designed to Get Beyond Applicants’ Professional Experiences to Gauge Creativity and Assess Values

o   IQ is Important, but Don’t Forget About EQ

o    Using Recommendations to Strategically Enhance Your MBA Application

·       Interview preparation and tips

o   Top Ten Tips for the MBA Behavioral Interview

o   The Wharton Interview: Excel in the Team Based Discussion

o   MBA Interviews: When the Interview Requires More than an Interview

·       Use Social Media to Enhance Your Graduate School Application  

·       Unemployed and Considering Graduate School? Ensure This Time is Meaningful and Productive

·       Unconventional Applicants to MBA Programs Must Consider Abilities in Innovation, Leadership, and Teamwork

Online resources and social networks for prospective and current MBA students

·       Poets and Quants

·       Beat the GMAT

Organizations and Resources

·       The MBA Tour is an independent and high-quality information source regarding MBA admissions. Events emphasize personal interaction between prospective MBA students, business school admissions representatives, alumni, and other like-minded education enthusiasts.

·       The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management is a continually growing and evolving alliance of some of the world’s leading graduate business schools and business organizations, supported by the strength of an extended network of students and alumni.

·       The National Black MBA Association is the premier business organization serving black professionals.  

·       Prospanica, formerly the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA), emphasizes educational and professional development programs to improve the Hispanic community as a whole.

·       The Forte Foundation is a non-profit consortium of leading companies and top business schools working together to launch women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, opportunities, and a community of successful women.

Make the Most of The MBA Tour: Create a Targeted School List

The MBA Tour presents an incredible opportunity for you, as a prospective MBA student, to gather information, make contacts, and advance yourself in the admissions process. But to make the most of the event, you will need to consider it a targeted mission rather than merely time to explore. The MBA Tour will have many booths distributing information, including school tables with admissions representatives expounding on their latest and greatest offerings. It is an easy environment in which to get distracted. As such, prior to the event, you should carefully consider your preliminary school list, the programs that are most compelling to you, and information you’d like to collect at the tour to help you finalize a sound school selection strategy. This preparation will help you to stay focused on your own priorities, rather than ending up overwhelmed with extraneous information.

We recommend utilizing the following three criteria to compile a list of ten schools’ tables that you want to visit at the event, and to prioritize your top choice schools (3-5), which you will likely want to spend additional time researching and networking with while there.

1.       Rankings/Prestige: While we would discourage you from judging schools on rankings alone, US News & World Report’s list of Best Business Schools, for example, is still important to consider when gaining an in-depth understanding of how potential employers will view your investment. Many rankings are also based on algorithms that incorporate various factors of interest to students such as quality assessments, placement success, and student selectivity. As such, you might want to research various rankings and find the one that most closely suits your interests.

2.       Geography/Network. The second, and perhaps somewhat surprising aspect to consider when putting together a school list is geography. Place will play a crucial role in your ability to network. Thus, we often encourage students who know they want to end up in a certain location to consider the top MBA programs in that city, or within the geographic region. Similarly, if your goals are related to a certain industry, it can be invaluable to attend a school near one of the industry’s hubs.

3.       Career Placement. The last, but perhaps most critical component, is to develop a thorough understanding of which companies are recruiting and hiring employees from the MBA programs you are interested in. We suggest prospective students gain a thorough knowledge of the information contained in each school’s career placement report and engage with the school’s counselors in the career center to learn more. It can also be helpful to look for student clubs or associations within a business school relevant to your goals (e.g., Finance Club, Luxury Goods Club, Marketing Club), as they will often host events connecting potential employers with interested students, as well as providing other resources.

Enjoy The MBA Tour!  If you’ve thought through your goals and school selection priorities, it will likely be a memorable experience.

MBA Application Essays: Prompts Designed to Get Beyond Applicants’ Professional Experiences to Gauge Creativity and Assess Values

Throughout the MBA admissions process, schools’ admissions committees are looking to get to know applicants as fully as possible so they can put together a diverse but cohesive group of students. Thus, many schools will require you to respond to “out of the box” essay prompts designed to explore your creativity, communication skills, and values. We examine some such prompts below, as well as some strategies you could consider when responding to them.

Booth Moments Presentation/Essay

University of Chicago Booth

 Exercise:  Booth asks applicants to choose a photograph or “moment” from a small collection that resonates with them, then explain why in an essay or slideshow.

Strategy: While this essay is an invitation for you to showcase your personality and interests to the admissions committee, it is also the only essay requested, which means you must convey a lot of information. We recommend that you organize your essay content prior to selecting a photograph. You’ll want to consider your past experiences and future goals, how the Booth MBA will help you to achieve your goals, and what you will offer the Booth community. Then, look through the photographs and determine the one that will allow you to transition smoothly from the “moment” to the rest of your content. While you do not want the photograph to seem like an afterthought, you do want to make sure that it serves as a means to an end.

Tactics: As a rule of thumb, your essay should be approximately 750 to 1,000 words in length. We recommend the slideshow option only for applicants who are exceptionally well versed in creating this type of visual.

From the Admissions Committee: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/blog/ftadmissions/2017/201718-essay

Video Questions

Kellogg School of Management and Yale School of Management

 Exercise: Kellogg and Yale ask applicants to respond to several short video essay questions, in order to exhibit their personality, grasp of the English language, and what they could bring to the MBA community.

Rationale: Kellogg states that the video essay questions are “designed to bring to life the person we have learned about on paper.” Student culture is a key focus in Kellogg’s admissions efforts, and they want to get to know applicants as fully as possible to ensure they construct a close-knit and collaborative class. Similarly, Yale is looking to gauge your communication skills and your ability to think on your feet. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your values, interests, creative thinking ability, and goals rather than worrying too much about the “correct” or expected response. 

Your Strategy: While the video essay may feel uncomfortable at first, it is an excellent opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you better. Prior to participating in the video essay, review your submitted application and think through your personal goals and interests and how those align with the MBA program. While you do not want to look scripted in your responses, you do want to be prepared, which will help you to relax and show your personality and communication skills.

Tactics: Both Kellogg and Yale provide practice questions that will help you to get comfortable with the format and technology, and we recommend taking advantage of this. You can also practice with a friend using Skype to get a feel for the interview format.

From the Admissions Committees:

http://som.yale.edu/apptips-video-questions

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140823/ISSUE02/308239995/how-to-ace-the-new-trend-in-mba-admissions-online-video-essays

Video Statement

MIT Sloan

Exercise: Sloan requests applicants to provide a 60 second video statement introducing themselves to their future classmates. It is important to note that the video will only be used during the admissions process and will not be shown more widely.

Strategy: Familiarize yourself with the Sloan values and culture and then take time to clearly link your own values, passions and goals with those of the greater Sloan community. The Admissions Committee should gain a clear understanding of why you want to attend the school and what you will bring to your class.

Tactics: Create an outline of ideas that you want to express in your video and practice saying the content aloud. While we do not recommend memorizing a script, as you will want to sound natural in the video, we do want you to feel confident with your talking points prior to making the recording. Finally, take advantage of the fact that you can record the video as many times as you want.

From the Admissions Committee: https://mitsloanadmissions.com/2017/09/06/advice-for-mba-applicants-how-to-master-the-video-statement/

25 Facts

Duke Fuqua

Exercise: Fuqua asks applicants to create a list of 25 (numbered) facts about themselves, not to exceed two pages.

Rationale: Duke believes that their program is served by putting together a diverse community from each applicant class and that “different types of people, points of view, and experiences bring out the best in everyone”. To get to know you better, beyond your professional and academic background, they are looking for 25 facts that will provide them insight into your likes/dislikes, passions, and hobbies.

Strategy: You will want to use this space to differentiate yourself from other applicants and to provide the admissions committee insight into how you can bring a unique perspective, skill set, or passion to the incoming class. Spend some time thinking through potential facts and talk to your friends, family, and others to brainstorm ideas. While your facts may involve inspirational figures in your life, be sure to keep the focus on yourself. And, while it is perfectly acceptable to use facts spanning your entire life, it is important to note that most should be inspired by experiences you’ve had as an adult (18+).

Tactics: While this is an atypical essay type, remain conscientious about your use of grammar in the facts. They may take on a more conversational writing style, but each one should be technically correct.

From the Admissions Committee: https://blogs.fuqua.duke.edu/duke-mba/2012/07/19/megan-lynam-overbay/application-essays-change-to-gain-greater-insights?category=admissions#.WjKlE7pFyuU

Pick Six

NYU Stern  

Exercise: Stern asks applicants to describe themselves to the admissions committee and future classmates using six images, a brief introduction, and image captions.

Rationale: This format is reflective of current social media trends, and is becoming a more common form of expression for individuals and brands; the admissions committee is looking for your competency in putting together such a deliverable.  

Strategy: Think of your response to this prompt as you would an advertising campaign or curated art exhibition. Individual pieces should be able to stand on their own, but they must also meaningfully connect and contribute to a larger story. Prior to looking through images, consider first what you could convey overall. Keep in mind the themes of the business school application: innovation, leadership, and teamwork. But also explore other possibilities: a unique passion, a personal mantra, your life’s unique path to this point, future aspirations, and/or how you will contribute to the Stern Community. Additionally, consider a cohesive theme that could bind your images together. To choose your theme, consider your interests and passions, and how you could incorporate them into your image selections. If you are an artist, you may want to select images of your own work, while a movie buff may choose to incorporate screenshots of famous scenes, to represent their strengths and future goals. If you’re an analytical type, don’t let this exercise overwhelm you. Your images don’t have to be pictures, but can also be graphs, maps, or word clouds. Try to find a mix that feels true to you, while ensuring that each image gives the admissions committee insight into your personality.

Tactics:  Do not let the captions become an afterthought. While it is easy to get attached to an image, remember that the words and images must work together to tell your story.

From the Admissions Committee: https://poetsandquants.com/2017/06/12/nyu-stern-unveils-big-changes-mba-app/2/

MBA Interviews: When the Interview Requires More than an Interview

To get to know applicants better, some MBA programs will ask interview participants to submit additional materials or participate in supplementary activities. We have profiled a few of these exercises below to provide you with additional insight. 

1.       Harvard Business School, Post-Interview Reflections

Description: Within 24 hours of the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection through Harvard Business School’s online application system. The submission is not a formal essay. Rather, it should be written similarly to a post-meeting summary one would write to a colleague or supervisor at work.  

Rationale:  Shortly after instituting the Post-Interview Reflection, Harvard’s Admission Blog described the exercise as a chance to both get students’ opinions regarding their interviews, as well as a real-world practicum. Professionals routinely need to send emails summarizing meetings and offering assessments and their ability to do this well is critical for workplace success.

Your Strategy: Be genuine and think critically about the interview. What were the highlights? What could have gone better? Were there remaining “gaps” after your interview, and if so, how do you wish you could have addressed these? The post-interview reflection is an opportunity for you to demonstrate real-world critical thinking and writing skills, as well as offer any information that you feel you did not adequately explain in the interview. In other words, Harvard is not expecting your most polished product, but rather a thoughtful assessment of your interview coupled with a compelling communication. As such, this piece should not be crafted prior to the interview, adapted from another essay, or used as additional resume space. However, you may want to take some time immediately after your interview to make notes on areas that you’ll want to include in your submission. Then give yourself a bit of reflection time prior to producing your final product. You’ll want to make the most of this final opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are and how you think.

2.       MIT Sloan, Pre-Interview Essay Submission

Description: Those invited to interview at Sloan will be asked to answer the following question: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. We believe that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and well-being is a key component of both principled leadership and sound management practice. In 250 words or less, please describe how you, as a member of the MIT Sloan community, would work to create a campus that is welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse. 

Rationale: The interview process is about getting to know applicants more thoroughly. This is a chance to not only demonstrate that your values match those of MIT Sloan, but that you are willing to proactively work to put those values into action during your business school tenure.

Your Strategy: Your response to this question should go beyond what clubs and extracurricular activities you will participate in at Sloan. Rather, it should examine how you will demonstrate leadership in creating a diverse environment and promoting wellbeing among your peers. Using examples from your past leadership experiences, demonstrate your ability to cultivate a positive culture. And be sure to clearly link the perspective you gained from these experiences to what you hope to accomplish at Sloan. 

3.       Northwestern Kellogg, Video Essay

Description: In responding to several short video essay questions, Kellogg’s video essay allows you to further demonstrate what you will bring to the community in an interactive way.

Rationale: Kellogg states that the video essay questions are “designed to bring to life the person we have learned about on paper.” Student culture is a key focus in Kellogg’s admissions efforts, and they want to get to know applicants as fully as possible to ensure they construct a close-knit and collaborative class. As such, this is an opportunity to showcase your personality, values, interests, and goals rather than worrying too much about the “correct” or expected response. 

Your Strategy: While the video essay may feel uncomfortable at first, it is an excellent opportunity to allow the admissions committee to know you better. Kellogg provides practice questions that will help you to get comfortable with the format and the technology, and we recommend taking advantage of this. Prior to the video essay, review your submitted application and think through your personal goals and interests and how those align with Kellogg. While you do not want to look scripted in your responses, you do want to be prepared, which will help you to relax and show your personality.

4.       University of Michigan Ross, Team Experience 2.0

Description: Those invited to interview at Ross will also be invited to participate in the Team Experience 2.0. In this exercise, teams are tasked with developing a business challenge and solution using random words. Then, they are required to present the case to an evaluator, who will ask each group a follow-up question based on the solution they present.

Rationale: The Ross Admissions Committee says that the goal of the exercise is to assess how an applicant can contribute to and problem-solve as a team-member in real-time. This exercise will mimic the format of most business school group work and will demonstrate to the admissions committee your ability to lead, collaborate, and contribute to a group’s shared goal.  

Your Strategy: As you take part in the Team Experience 2.0, you will want to consistently show your leadership and collaboration abilities. This includes ensuring that all members of the team are participating, celebrating and enhancing good ideas, kindly but productively questioning your teammates, and ultimately encouraging the group towards a decision. Similar to the Wharton Team Based Discussion, you will succeed to the extent that your team succeeds. As such, do not become overly competitive or domineering in the discourse. Instead, look for the ways in which you can help your team to determine the best solution.

Top Ten Tips for the MBA Behavioral Interview

If you have been invited to interview at any or all of the schools on your list, congratulations!  Now you must begin preparing for a memorable and acceptance-worthy performance.

1.       Upon receiving the invitation, schedule the interview as soon as possible. This will enable you to avoid scheduling conflicts and select the time of day when you have the most energy.

2.       Read all you can about the school. If possible, schedule a full visit prior to the interview, which often will include a tour, class observation, and conversations with current students. Additionally, talk to current or former students already in your network to gain insight on the interview process and other aspects of their MBA experience.

3.       Review your application and think through how you will coherently explain your path to this point, as well as your decision-making and most meaningful experiences at each step. You will likely have some introductory question(s), which will require a three-minute elevator-pitch response, as well as several other questions that will require you to illustrate your points regarding such things as your ability to thrive in a team-based environment, etc., with specific examples from your work experience. 

4.       Be able to thoroughly explain why the school is the perfect intersection of where you’ve been and where you want to go. Elaborate on specifics, such as courses, professors, and extracurricular activities that make sense given your past experiences, interests, and achievements, as well as future plans. Remember, though, depth is better than breadth.  We would rather you explain at length one or two specifics that really set that school apart for you, than briefly mention of 7-10 attributes.

5.       Be prepared to weave into your responses what you will be able to offer the school. Make it clear how your experiences and interests, personal and professional, will benefit the school and create a stronger, more diverse MBA class and alumni base.

6.       Think through your career successes and failures and consider what you learned from both. Especially when answering a question regarding a failure, it is vital to spend only 20 percent of the response covering the situation. The rest should be devoted to action you took to prevent similar failures going forward and what you’ve learned as a result.

7.       Determine if there are any red flags in your application materials, and, if so, craft a response that addresses the issue without making excuses.  For example, if asked about the ‘C’ you received in calculus sophomore year, make mention of those specific areas in your transcript and post-baccalaureate experience that are more indicative of your ability to compete in a rigorous academic environment.  

8.       Stay current on domestic and international news. The Economist is a good, wide-reaching source for this. You will also want to be aware of any news related to your current company, industry and desired career path as these are great topics for an interviewer to draw from.  Setting up google alerts for key phrases related to your company and industry will help.

9.       Prepare three questions for the end of the interview, which will show your knowledge of and enthusiasm for the school.

10.   Compose a hand-written thank you note on high quality stock, and snail mail it to your interviewer. In the note, thank them for their time, reiterate your interest in the school, mentioning a specific or two, and if you can, make note of something memorable you spoke about during the interview.

The Wharton Interview: Excel in the Team Based Discussion

An invitation to Wharton’s Team Based Discussion can be as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. But with preparation and the proper mind-set, it can be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your ability to think on your feet and respond under pressure. To ace the interview, consider the following tips:

1. Prepare thoroughly. After you receive the scenario, create a proposal and know it inside and out. Practice your presentation, out loud. Present in front of a mirror, or a live-audience of friends. Be sure that you feel confident about your ability to present your idea in a relaxed way, showcasing how you thought through the exercise. While, you don’t want to memorize your presentation word-for-word or sound overly rehearsed, you do want to be able to describe your idea in an articulate and conversational way. Your interview day may include other activities, such as attending a lecture and/or interacting with current and prospective students. You will want to be confident prior to arriving on campus with no need for last minute prepping.

2. Be prepared to explain and answer questions on your proposed idea. You can do this by considering what questions may arise from your proposal and writing out your responses to them. The more people you can share your idea with and collect questions from, the better. After working with an idea for a long period, it becomes harder and harder to poke holes in it. Let your friends, co-workers, or parents help you with this process.

  • To help you start, make sure that you are comfortable responding to the following.
  1. What are the beneficial outcomes of your proposal for students? For Wharton?
  2. What are the risks of your proposal?
  3. What assumptions are you making?
  4. What are the drawbacks or limitations of your idea? Why are these acceptable?
  • Be able to articulate the “why?” behind all the components of your proposal, as well as the “why not?” for other potential possibilities. This is important because (most likely) your proposal will not be selected. However, if you can find other students who have a similar “why?” as the foundation of their ideas, it will help you to collaborate with them and contribute to the discussion.

3. Prepare yourself to provide meaningful input to the discussion by continuing to be well informed of international business news. The Economist is a good, wide-reaching source for this. While there is no expectation that you will be an expert on everything, you should be conversant in current events and be able to make high-level social, political and economic observations about others’ proposals.

4. Be a team player. This cannot be stressed enough. While there is an aspect of competition to the interview, the team-based discussion is an opportunity to show your collaborative nature. Don’t try to “win” by pressuring the group to select your proposal. Instead, demonstrate how you will fit into the MBA community by being inclusive and showing leadership, humility, and adaptability. Articulate your thought process clearly, be positive about others’ ideas, continue to move the group forward by summarizing ideas, and question respectfully. Remember that the point of the exercise is to drive towards a strong team outcome; the better the team interacts together, the better all of you look individually.

5. Day-of tips:

  • Wear a business suit.
  • Feel free to bring notes, but do not read them directly or rely on them for more than a memory trigger.
  • Introduce yourself to other prospective students and work to build a friendly rapport prior to the interview.
  • Prepare three to five questions for the evaluators during the wrap-up portion of the interview.
  • As much as possible, relax and try to enjoy the experience. This could be representative of the dynamic you’ll live in for the next two years. Ensure it feels right to you.

Use Social Media to Enhance Your Graduate School Application

Last week, Kaplan Test Prep released data from their survey of over 150 business schools across the U.S. on the role of social media in the admissions process. Of the admissions officers surveyed:

  • 35 percent say they have visited applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them, up 13 percentage points from 2011
  • 33 percent of those admissions officers who’ve visited applicants’ social media profiles say that they do so “often”
  • Social media has helped and harmed applicants’ admission prospects in almost equal proportions (48 percent and 50 percent respectively)
See the full press release, including a video summary of the findings here: http://press.kaptest.com/press-releases/kaplan-test-prep-survey-growing-number-business-schools-turn-social-media-help-make-admissions-decisions 

Admissions officers who are reviewing students’ social media pages are looking to get to know the student and their background more fully. Prospective students can take advantage of this by ensuring that their social media profiles are up to date and supportive of the personal brand they’ve put forth in their applications. As such, we recommend that anyone applying to a graduate program, or an internship or residency, take at the least a cursory social media scan. Below, we have provided guidelines for doing so.

The Basics: If nothing else, confirm the following.

  • Ensure that your social media privacy settings reflect your preferences, but keep in mind that even private information can leak or be distributed more widely.
  • Review your pictures. Are there any that present you in a manner that would be embarrassing for an admissions officer to see? Be sure to go back and review even your oldest pictures. Remove those that you deem inappropriate, borderline, or simply not reflective of you.
  • Ensure that your LinkedIn resume is up to date, grammatically correct, and in line with what you’ve submitted to the admissions committees. Similarly, confirm that your posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are grammatically correct.
  • Confirm that none of your content could even potentially be considered racist, sexist, or containing prejudicial language. You should consistently represent yourself as someone who will add to a diverse intellectual environment. Make it clear to your friends that you should not be tagged or otherwise included in groups that don’t share this spirit.
  • Review your profiles often. Ensure that others are aware that you don’t want to be tagged in inappropriate pictures, videos, or comments.

The Upgrade: Use social media to enhance your application.

  • Consider if your pictures are showcasing your hobbies and interests beyond, but including, time spent with friends. If not, add pictures that show a broader array of “you”. This might include shots from travel, volunteer work, cultural activities, time with pets, or engaging in other hobbies that show off aspects of your personality that will bring your essays and interviews to life.
  • Ask co-workers from various points in your career to post recommendations on your LinkedIn account.
  • Ensure that your goals are consistent between your application and social media posts. Don’t post different career goals than those that appear in your application, or actively discuss pursuing full-time careers that don’t require the graduate program to which you are applying.
  • Keep your accounts up to date. Post about your current activities and events including conferences, speeches, or panels and include your reactions to the events. Share news or research articles on areas that you’re interested in. Take this opportunity to show off your writing and critical thinking skills or link to a blog containing your writing.
  • Don’t hide those things which make you different. Admissions officers want a diverse graduate population, and social media is the perfect way to show off qualities and interests that set you apart from the crowd, as well as demonstrate how you currently contribute to the diversity of your community.

While, social media should continue to be a personalized and fun outlet for you, don’t forget to consider that it may also inform admissions committees or future employers about who you are, and ultimately impact their final decision. 

Unemployed and Considering Graduate School? Ensure This Time is Meaningful and Productive

If you are currently unemployed, graduate school can appear both tempting and daunting. Tempting, in that it will offer a new path forward complete with a career center. Daunting in that it may be necessary to directly address the unemployment period within the application. While unemployment should never deter you from attending graduate school, we encourage our clients to consider carefully if graduate school is the right path for them. The money and time invested must lead to an optimal path forward to be worthwhile. Though graduate school can be tempting to alleviate the pains of unemployment, if you have never considered it prior to unemployment, it might not be the right move now.

If you’ve known awhile that eventually you would pursue a graduate program, a period of unemployment may provide a beneficial time to study for entrance exams and create compelling application materials. However, admissions committees will want to see that you are using your time wisely and productively, extending yourself beyond the work on your application materials. In order to present the employment gap as a critical time of development, consider the following:

On the application itself, you should not dwell on or make excuses for the employment gap.  Rather, you will want to address it briefly, explain that it is not indicative of weakness in ability or character, has not hindered your pursuit of your goals, and you did indeed spend the time productively, gaining valuable insight. You ultimately want to show the admissions committee that you will work hard throughout the graduate program, be able to secure professional placement and that, instead of slowing you down, this obstacle has given you an opportunity to adjust course, work harder, and become better.

IQ is Important, but Don’t Forget About EQ

This summer, NYU Stern updated its MBA application to include an EQ Endorsement. Separate from the professional recommendations, Stern is asking applicants to have a friend or colleague submit a clear and compelling example of the applicant’s emotional intelligence. While NYU is at the forefront of formalizing the request for a demonstration of emotional intelligence, admissions committees have long been interested in self-awareness, maturity, leadership, and other skills highly correlated with EQ.  Demonstrating that you have the academic prowess to succeed in an MBA program is no longer enough; it is also critical to display emotional intelligence throughout your application.

There are several current models and definitions of Emotional Intelligence. One commonly used definition is from Mayer, Salovey and Caruso’s 2008 article in American Psychologist. “Emotional Intelligence includes the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior. That is, individuals high in emotional intelligence pay attention to, use, understand, and manage emotions, and these skills serve adaptive functions that potentially benefit themselves and others.”

Essentially, those with a high EQ can work successfully with others by understanding how emotions play a role in the workplace through employees’ thinking, decision-making, and conduct. This understanding helps those with EQ to have positive interactions with others, but it is much more than just building camaraderie with coworkers. Emotional intelligence is also the driving force behind persuasion and leadership, and those who are adept can facilitate difficult situations and conversations effectively and improve the motivation and performance of colleagues using these skills.

Mayer and Salovey created a developmental model of emotional intelligence, with four key components (each with four sub-components):

-        The ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately.

-        The ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking.

-        The ability to understand emotions, emotional language, and the signals conveyed by emotions.

-        The ability to manage emotions so as to attain specific goals. 

Read more about the model here: http://www.theeiinstitute.com/what-is-emotional-intelligence/4-mayer-and-salovey-model-of-emotional-intelligence.html

While some people have higher EQ levels innately, it is also a skill that can be enhanced through increasing self-awareness and practice. As such, in your business school applications, you can showcase your emotional intelligence strengths, but also show self-awareness by referencing those areas that you are actively working to develop.

Take the time to weave examples of your emotional intelligence throughout your essays as well as in your recommendations. EQ-related skills are often included on the recommenders’ skills assessments so make sure that your recommenders are aware of your abilities in this arena by providing them with stories and anecdotes that they can consider when filling out the skills assessment and completing the open-ended question(s).

Some prompts to help you start thinking through specific examples that will illustrate your emotional intelligence include: 

-        Describe difficult co-worker or team dynamics and how your emotional awareness allowed you to repair these relationships and/or environments.

-        Reference times where perceiving and responding to the emotions of others helped you to drive a conversation or project forward in a different, but ultimately more effective manner.

-        Think through examples of relating to others, particularly others who are different from you, to increase teamwork or buy-in to an idea or project.

-        Think further about those times you’ve disagreed with colleagues in a rational and beneficial way, which ultimately helped you determine the best path forward.

-        Consider a time when you assisted a coworkers’ development by giving them difficult feedback or having a tough conversation.

With many corporations and recruiters showing an interest in emotional intelligence, thinking through how you can continue to develop and showcase your EQ will be a beneficial investment of time, not just for the MBA application period, but for all of your professional endeavors going forward.

 

Using Recommendations to Strategically Enhance Your MBA Application

While MBA recommendation letters typically will not make or break your admissions decision, they can reinforce the personal brand you’ve presented throughout your application. We encourage you to use recommendations strategically so that they validate and expand upon key themes already introduced.

Selecting Your Recommenders

We advise selecting recommenders who can comment on your post-graduate, professional experiences and accomplishments. Recommenders should know you well and be able to provide detailed insight into working with you, which includes assessing your professional skills and personality traits. This intimate knowledge of your abilities is significantly more important than the job title of your recommender.  The one exception is if you have a senior colleague with significant influence at the school to which you are applying who would be willing to serve as a recommender.

Select recommenders that will provide a well-rounded view of working with you, though you should elect to have each provide a slightly more nuanced focus on a character trait that you exhibit and have spoken about in your application (i.e., leadership and teamwork).

Taking a Strategic Viewpoint

As mentioned, it is critical for recommendations to validate and enhance the existing application content. As such, read through your essays and make note of traits that you are highlighting for the admissions committee, then determine which recommender would best be able to write anecdotes about you exhibiting those traits. Additionally, if you see gaps in your application, you may choose to close those gaps using the recommendation letters.

Setting Your Recommenders Up for Success

Most importantly, provide each recommender with enough time to meet your request. We suggest that you allot two months between making the request and the submission date.

Provide a portfolio of information to each recommender that includes the following information:

  • School names, recommendation questions, and submission date(s)
  • Method for recommendation submission (e.g., online via link)
  • Background information and your future career goals
  • Sample recommendation letter (customized)
  • Illustrative anecdotes from your work together (customized)

The sample recommendation letter and illustrative stories that you provide should be unique for each recommender and should highlight the qualities you are wanting the recommender to expand upon. These inputs will allow you to subtly influence the recommenders’ output and will ensure that the recommendations include concrete and varied examples that reinforce your existing application content.

The timely provision of this portfolio of information will reinforce to your recommenders that you appreciate their time and are serious about your applications. It will also provide much needed direction that will allow them to allocate their time wisely in support of your efforts.  

After the recommender has submitted the recommendations, be sure to thank him/her for spending time in support of your application.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a great relationship with my college advisor, would it be appropriate to use her as a recommender?

For entry into business school, it is best to use professional references who can speak to your work experience and skills acquired.

What if I don’t feel comfortable telling my direct supervisor that I am submitting applications to business school?

While it is preferable to have a recommendation from a direct supervisor, it may not always be an option and schools are understanding of this fact. Do attempt to have a former boss, professional colleague who is superior to you on an org chart, or someone who knows you in a more professional context write a recommendation. In some cases, this could include someone from a volunteer activity where you demonstrate teamwork and leadership skills.

How many recommendations is it appropriate to ask a recommender to write?

While this depends on how strong your relationship is with the recommender, our general rule of thumb is to ask a recommender for no more than three recommendations per round. This prevents the recommender from having to meet a burdensome number of back-to-back deadlines.

Is it necessary to get specific recommendations written for each school?

While ideally you will get your recommenders to address each recommendation topic directly, it may be necessary for him/her to write a single recommendation that addresses all the questions from your prospective schools together. Many schools have similar or shared questions for recommenders making this feasible. 

MBA School Selection: Important Considerations When Building Your School List

According to the 2017 AIGAC MBA Applicants Survey, 39 percent of MBA Applicants reported that their admissions consultant advised them to apply to a school they would have otherwise never considered.

At Apply Point, we work closely with our clients to create a school list that is both compatible with their interests and goals and also sound in terms of acceptance likelihood. We know we’ve succeeded when an applicant has the luxury of choice between multiple programs at the end of the admissions cycle. While there are numerous factors to consider when finalizing school selection, we believe the following three criteria are the most important.

Rankings/Prestige

While we discourage clients from judging schools on rankings alone, US News & World Report’s list of Best Business Schools, for example, is still important to consider when gaining an in-depth understanding of how potential employers will view your investment. Many rankings are also based on algorithms that incorporate various factors of interest to students such as quality assessments, placement success, and student selectivity.

Geography/Network

The second, and perhaps somewhat surprising aspect to consider when putting together a school list is geography. Place will play a crucial role in your ability to network. Thus, we often encourage students who know they want to end up in a certain location to consider the top MBA programs in that city, or within the geographic region. Similarly, if your goals are related to a certain industry, it can be invaluable to attend a school near one of the industry’s hubs.

Career Placement

The last, but perhaps most critical component, is to develop a thorough understanding of which companies are recruiting and hiring employees from the MBA programs you are interested in. We suggest prospective students gain a thorough knowledge of the information contained in each school’s career placement report and also engage with the school’s counselors in the career center to learn more. It can also be helpful to look for student clubs or associations within a business school relevant to your goals (e.g., Finance Club, Luxury Goods Club, Marketing Club), as they will often host events connecting potential employers with interested students, as well as providing other resources.

During the school selection period of the application process, we encourage prospective students to keep an open mind and fully explore the many options that exist. Speaking with professors, career placement professionals, current students, alumni, and admissions directors at different programs is a wonderful way to start.  Your personal MBA rankings may not look exactly like those in US News and World Report or Financial Times. And that is just fine.