March 1, 2013
Although many business school candidates who are competing for places at the top U.S. business schools are well aware of the strengths of the MBA programs at INSEAD and the London Business School, even more options are available beyond these two, including IESE, ESADE, Oxford (Said) and Cambridge (Judge). These four schools in particular have been aggressively playing “catch up” with their better-known brethren by raising funds and dedicating them to scholarships and to enhancing their global brands. Those who know their business schools also know that IMD offers a boutique MBA program with remarkable international diversity, very highly regarded academics and a stellar reputation with international employers.
So, numerous options are available, and each can be explored on its own academic merit, but is earning your MBA in Europe, in itself, a good choice for you? For many, the key issue in determining this centers on where they would like to be after completing their education. If you are seeking to work in Europe, then clearly, these schools offer an advantage over all but the top five or six schools in the United States. (Harvard Business School, for example, can probably open as many doors in Europe as INSEAD can.) However, if you are seeking to work in the States, then the European schools will not provide the pipeline of opportunities that a top-15 American school will provide, particularly for those who hope to work in niche industries or with companies that are not well-known international brands.
Still, beyond the employment picture, studying abroad offers intrinsic value. Two years in London, Fountainbleu or Lausanne can certainly be its own reward…
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February 22, 2013
Just read an article titled ‘Is the MBA Relevant for Entrepreneurs?’ This is an interesting topic for me for a couple of reasons. First, I completed my MBA with dual concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Finance. The latter was a result of happenstance more than an actual interest in finance. I inadvertently satisfied the requirements for the concentration and find it almost comedic that I ended up with one. The former, however, was a target from the start.
Pursuing entrepreneurship as an academic discipline is an interesting undertaking and there are many out there who believe the mettle entrepreneurship requires cannot be learned, or, at the very least, it cannot be taught. It is this notion that strikes another chord with me. Coming from an undergraduate background in fine arts, I’ve run across the you-are-either-born-with-it-or-you-aren’t idea many times before.
I am among the group that holds entrepreneurship (and artistic endeavor for that matter) can be both taught and learned. I have been on both sides of this coin—i.e., the learning and the teaching—although I must admit that my hands-on foray into the world of entrepreneurship did result in, well, figuring out a way not to do it. Nonetheless, I maintain that success as an entrepreneur is much more a product of skills than personality traits. I will accept that certain folks have characteristics that lend themselves well to pursuing entrepreneurial ventures, but anyone with the desire to push forward a viable idea can do so. Entrepreneurial education just helps to make sure the execution is more likely to result in a sustainable business that is as strong as it can be.
Interestingly, entrepreneurship as an MBA concentration has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several decades. Many MBA aspirants have targeted business school as an opportunity to shore up knowledge, skill, and a network in order to pursue the dream of starting, sustaining, and perhaps even ultimately exiting one or more businesses. Academia has responded in kind. Not only will you find e-ship as a concentration at countless b-schools, but you will also find professors at universities who have dedicated their research lives to the activity, entrepreneurship centers housed within the walls of these universities that aim to support and nurture entrepreneurs and their ventures, and several annual b-school rankings, both graduate and undergraduate, centered around e’neurship that are highly competitive.
Whether an MBA is relevant for you and your entrepreneurial goals is something each individual must answer for themselves. In fact, honest introspection is precisely what admissions committees want most from applicants (read this recent Forbes article on that very idea). However, it is going to be very difficult to construct an argument about anything inherently irrelevant about utilizing an MBA education in order to help advance your career goals, whatever they may be.
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance of drawback, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans: The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When I was a college English teacher, I regularly warned my students about the dangers of plagiarizing their assignments. In addition to pointing out that plagiarism is simply unethical, I made it clear that plagiarists would be punished, through a failing grade on an assignment, expulsion from class, or even academic probation. Nevertheless, every semester I would catch at least a few students who either missed my warnings or chose to ignore them.
Today, some business school applicants take the same risks, ignoring schools’ warnings about plagiarism and submitting plagiarized essays, despite the steep penalties should they be caught. A recent article in U.S. News and World Report reports that both Penn State’s Smeal College of Business and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management recently rejected over 60 applicants due to plagiarized material. Additionally, Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business has identified 50 cases of potential plagiarism, which are currently being investigated.
In today’s digital world, plagiarism is easier than ever–students can easily buy or copy essays from the comfort of their own bedrooms–but plagiarism is also more easily detected. Penn State, UCLA, and Northeastern are among the more than 100 colleges and universities that use Turnitin, software that checks for original work and flags potential plagiarism. Turnitin compares papers to other student papers within its database, public web pages, and commercial pages from books, newspapers, and journals, making the task of identifying plagiarized essays much simpler for admissions officials.
In short, plagiarism might be easy, but it’s not worth the risk. So, now that you’ve reaffirmed your aversion to plagiarism, what can you do to put together a solid MBA application essay? Here are few tips:
- Start thinking about your essays sooner rather than later. The earlier you start brainstorming and writing your essays, the more time you’ll have for revision and improvement.
- Be specific about who you are, why you want to go to business school, and what your goals are. The best way to stand out is to demonstrate your passion for your career interests and goals. Check out last week’s blog “Add Depth to MBA Application Essays by Owning Your Goals” for suggestions for making your essays more specific.
- Get feedback. Have a variety of people read your essays. Get feedback from friends, family members, AND co-workers so you can revise your essays from several different perspectives. You don’t need to go overboard–commentary from too many people can become overwhelming–but the insights of several different people will help you perfect your essay.
- Most importantly, be true to yourself. Business school is a big investment, and as much as you want schools to accept you, you also want to select a program that is right for you. Putting your true self forward in your essays will help to ensure that the programs you are accepted to will be good fits for you and your goals.
February 19, 2013
How many self-assessment tools for personal development are out there? Let me Google that for you … Well, I don’t know about you, but the ocean certainly seems red with more than 4.7 million search query results.
If you are looking for such a tool or wondering about any that are particularly relevant to meeting your academic and career goals, let me focus your search by directing you to GMAC’s ReflectTM. Developed by GMAC in partnership with Hogan Assessments, Reflect offers clients a unique report and subsequent action plan, including resources, that are presented from a business perspective using business language.
After purchasing the tool for $99.99, customers take approximately 45 minutes to answer more than 500 dichotomous questions (i.e., true/false, yes/no) and immediately receive quantified ranking across ten different competencies. From operational thinking to strategic vision, from resilience to interpersonal intuition, each of the competencies are presented alongside details, actions, and benchmarks. For the next three years, participants can work to complete prescribed actions, utilize embedded resources to do so, and track their personal developmental progress.
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Reflect is the action-oriented focus coupled with resources with which individuals can complete those actions. After all, there is little value in reading a descriptive assessment report without any prescriptive information that allows you to strive toward betterment. This notion is precisely what underpins Kaplan’s Smart ReportsTM technology.
Interestingly, the Reflect project was originally began under the auspices of creating a soft-skills assessment for admissions committees at business schools to use when making admissions decisions. It was thought that such an assessment would be a useful complement to the hard skills assessment of competencies the GMAT quantifies. As the product development team moved forward, it became apparent that “soft-skills are coachable and not appropriate for high-stakes testing,” said Andy Martelli, VP of GMAC product development, as paraphrased here. During a product preview event in held last year in Chicago, Mr. Martelli went onto explain that the target customers of Reflect were business school students interested in identifying strengths and weaknesses in order to zero-in on specific behaviors they can work to modify during the time spent pursuing and professionally implementing an advanced degree in management.
If you have used Reflect, please give us your feedback below!
February 14, 2013
Business school candidates are often asked to share examples of a variety of experiences with MBA admissions committees for their MBA applications. We always encourage applicants to truly reflect on their lives and consider all potential stories—academic, professional, community, extracurricular, athletic, international, personal and more. However, questions inevitably arise: “Can I use stories from high school and college?” “Can I use a story from four years ago?” ”How far in the past is too far in the past?” Although no definitive rule exists, with the exception of questions that specifically ask about personal history or family background, schools generally want to learn about the mature you—the individual you are today. So we ask, “How long have you been the you that you are today?”
When considering experiences that occurred long ago, ask yourself, “Would this impress an MBA admissions committee today?” If you ran a few successful bake sales six years ago when you were in college, this clearly would not stand the test of time and impress strangers today. However, if, while you were still a student, you started a small business that grew and was ultimately sold to a local firm when you graduated, you would have a story to tell that would likely impress an admissions committee.
Inevitably, judgment is always involved in these decisions. Nonetheless, we offer this simple test as a starting point to help you decide which stories to share.
February 12, 2013
Many business school candidates struggle to define their long-term goals in their application essays. Although short-term goals should be relatively specific, long-term goals can be broad and ambitious. Regardless of what your short- and long-term goals actually are, what is most important is presenting a clear “cause and effect” relationship between them. The MBA admissions committee will be confused by a long-term goal that lacks grounding. Still, you should not interpret this to mean that you need to choose one industry and state that you will stay in it for your entire career. You can present any career path that excites you—again, as long as you also demonstrate a logical path to achieving your goals.
For example, many MBA candidates discuss having ambitions in management consulting. Could an individual with such aspirations justify any of the following long-term goals?
A) Climbing the ladder and becoming a partner in a consulting firm
B) Launching a boutique consulting firm
C) Leaving consulting to manage a nonprofit
D) Leaving consulting to buy a failing manufacturing firm and forge a “turnaround”
E) Entering the management ranks of a major corporation
The answer is yes! This candidate could justify any of these long-term goals (and many others), as long as he/she connects them to experiences gained via his/her career as a consultant. With regard to your goals, you need not feel constrained—you just need to emphasize and illustrate that your goals are logical, achievable and ambitious.
February 5, 2013
When MBA admissions officers read your application, they want feel inspired by your personal statement; they want to feel that you have a strong sense of purpose and that you will aggressively work toward your goals. So, you need to ensure that you are not presenting generic or shallow goals. Although this problem is not industry specific, it occurs most often with candidates who will to pursue careers in investment banking or consulting but do not have a true understanding of what these positions actually entail.
For example, a candidate cannot merely state,
“In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become an investment banking associate. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president, and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”
This hypothetical candidate does not express any passion for his/her proposed course, does not show any understanding of the demands of the positions and does not explain the value he could bring to the firm. We suggest that to avoid these kinds of shortcomings, you conduct this simple test when writing your personal statement: if you can easily substitute another job title into your career goals (“In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become a consultant. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”), you know you have a serious problem on your hands and need to put more work into your essay.
To effectively convey your goals, you need to own your goals. This means personalizing them, determining and presenting why you expect to be a success in the proposed position and explaining why an opportunity exists for you to contribute. For example, a former forestry engineer could make a strong argument for joining an environmental impact consulting firm (Note: This candidate would still need to explain why he/she would want to join one.); similarly, a financial analyst in the corporate finance department at Yahoo! could connect his/her goals to tech investment banking. Although the connection need not be so direct (especially for candidates seeking to change careers), relating your past experiences and/or your skills to your future path is still extremely important. This approach will add depth to your essay and ensure that the admissions committee takes you seriously.
February 1, 2013
We all know that the GMAT is a difficult test and a significant factor in establishing your academic competencies in the eyes of MBA admissions committees. However, the GMAT is not the only factor used to evaluate your candidacy, but is in fact just one of several. Although a high GMAT score can enhance your overall competitiveness at top-tier schools, it alone cannot secure your admission. Meanwhile, a low or average score on the GMAT by no means precludes your admission. Remember, the average scores listed on admissions Web sites, are, after all, averages! The nature of an average is such that some people are above and others are below— meaning that roughly half the class at your target school will be below the stated average and will, lo and behold, still get in!
Previously on the mbaMission blog, we wrote the post, Well, I Had My Chance on the GMAT, which stresses that there is no risk in retaking the GMAT if you are unhappy with your initial score. However, if you have already taken the test a few times and have scored similarly each time, you should consider whether continuing to retake the test is truly worth the effort. Rather than attempting to study for and take the test again (and again), you should probably focus your energies on bolstering the other components of your application: your essays, short answers, resume, recommendations, etc. A strong complete application is not a guarantee of success, but is your best shot at overcoming a low GMAT score.