March 14, 2013
Last summer, the GMAT made the most major change to its format in 15 years by replacing one of the essays with the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section. Since then, GMAT test-takers have been wondering how IR impacts their b-school applications. As it turns out, business schools are wondering exactly the same thing.
In the IR section of the GMAT, test-takers evaluate data in graphs, spreadsheets, and charts, similar to the materials they will eventually see in business school. In theory, IR can better assess students’ ability to perform the tasks expected of them in business school and the work world. Nearly a year after the inclusion of IR, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), who administers the GMAT, and business schools nationwide are taking the first steps to determine what role IR should play in the admissions process.
Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that business schools across the country are actively assessing the significance of IR performance on students’ eventual success in business school. While IR isn’t currently being given much weight in the admissions process, largely because many applicants took the GMAT before the test change and therefore do not have IR scores, business schools are analyzing IR data to get a better understanding of the role it will eventually play in admissions. Dan Poston, of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, states, “We want to see how it [IR] plays out…We want to see how predictive it is of student’s success at school.”
GMAC has released some key data on the IR section, based upon results of the more than 123,000 test-takers who have taken the GMAT since IR was added to the test. GMAC reports that the distribution of scores is normal and without bias against any subgroup of test-takers. In short, these results suggest that IR has the potential to be a valid predictor of student success in b-school.
In addition to analyzing data from GMAC, some schools are directly studying the connection between IR and student performance. For instance, at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, a group of 60 second-year students will complete the IR portion of the GMAT. Their IR scores will then be compared to their success in core courses in order to determine whether IR performance positively correlates with b-school performance.
The obvious question for GMAT test-takers is how they should approach IR in order to put together the best application package possible. While IR may not play a major role in the admissions process for the next few years, a solid IR score can only help applicants. As Dawna Clarke of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business notes, “IR will help prospective students more than it will hurt them…If you are not ‘quant strong,’ but you have strong IR skills, then this test will help you shine.”
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 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 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.
December 13, 2012
Writing your own recommendation letters for your business school applications can seem like a blessing. Suddenly, you have the power to control an aspect of the application process that was previously beyond you. So, your downside risk in these letters is mitigated and your upside is infinite, right? Well, it does not quite work that way.
Admissions committees are not seeking blustery rave reviews, but are seeking recommendations that are detailed and personal, intimate and sincere. Can you really write about yourself with a dispassionate sincerity? And, even if you are a master of “dispassionate sincerity,” are you able to capture the subtleties that enable you to standout? For example, let’s say that among the many important things that you do, you also do something thoughtful, which you do not even perceive to be significant – you take new team members to lunch. While you regard “closing the big deal” as significant, others may appreciate and admire this small and impactful act, which forges team unity. Unfortunately, you may lack the objectivity necessary to ensure that this nice detail makes it into your letter.
This is but one simple example, but our point is that you probably will not know what is missing from your letter if you write it yourself. So, when you approach your supervisor for a recommendation, go in ready to push back a bit if they ask you to write your own letter. Some may be busy or lazy and others may think that they are doing you a favor by giving you control. Be prepared to impress upon your recommender that you can’t help yourself and that he/she can. After all, that is why you are approaching him or her in the first place!
August 2, 2012
Okay, so you know that our Road to Business School events are right around the corner, right? You also know that putting yourself in front of admissions officers during the business school application process is critical to gaining acceptance. And, we have spoken at length about perfecting your elevator pitch and the psychodynamics of first impressions. Basically, you’re ready to kill it at these events.
Schools will be lining up to court YOU and giving YOU money to attend their program. In fact, maybe YOU should have a table at the event and have schools wait in line for YOUR attention. That’s how ready you are. I like it…maybe with a generous dose of humility thrown in…but I like it.
Now we need to talk about how you will arrive – in style or just one of the masses. I’m not talking about how you dress or what kind of ride you pull up in. I’m talking about being a part of the Inner Circle at the event and getting introduced to your top schools instead of waiting in line to introduce yourself. Everyone can have a great experience at the event, but only 5 people at each event will be given this red carpet treatment. This is where the contest comes in:
What is the Inner Circle contest?
- A chance for 5 business school prospectives in each Road to Business School event city to join the Inner Circle.
What does being in the Inner Circle mean (what’s the prize)?
- mbaMission Insider’s Guides for each of your top 3 schools – mbaMission is the recognized expert on the MBA admissions process. With these Insider’s Guides, you will benefit from a well-researched and customized perspective as you speak to schools and write your applications.
- Personal introduction to the admissions officer at your top school during the event – Kaplan GMAT has deep relationships, forged over many years, with the admissions officers at your favorite schools. Andrew Mitchell, Director of Pre-Business programs, will make a personal introduction to help you jump-start your first impression. Since only 5 of these will be made at each event, this introduction will help you stand out.
- Kaplan GMAT Premier Book – The GMAT has changed. The newest and most comprehensive book on the market will help you adapt and succeed.
- Kaplan GMAT Quiz Bank on Demand – Practice your GMAT skills on 1000+ context-realistic practice problems with the Quiz Bank on Demand.
- Entered to win the Grand Prize: 2 Hours of admissions consulting – Having a team of experts in your corner to give you feedback as you prepare your application is invaluable. mbaMission will provide 2 hours of their highly sought-after consulting. There will be one winner of this prize and only Inner Circle winners will be entered into this contest. Winner will also receive a free 30-minute consultation with an mbaMission Senior Consultant.
How does the contest work?
- Enter by tweeting a picture:
- Register for a Road to Business School event in your city (or the virtual fair).
- Tweet a pic that answers the question, “Why do you want to go to business school?” (hint: the best pics will be creative and tell a story)
- Include hashtag #RTBS and the city in which you will attend
- You will have until 6pm EST on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 to submit pictures and vote
- Have everyone you know vote for your picture on Instagram and Pinterest:
- We will curate all the pics on:
- You will have until 6pm PST on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 to submit pictures and vote
- Each Like counts as a vote
- You can vote on both platforms
- You can have your friends vote on both platforms
- The top 5 pics (based on total votes from both sites) from each location will win
That’s it…pretty simple. The reality is that any work you do now to answer the question “Why business school?” will only help you when it comes time to write your essays. However, if you handle this right, it could also provide a lot more mileage along the Road to Business School as you join the Inner Circle.
For more information on the Road to Business School events, the contest, or the MBA admissions process, be sure to follow on Twitter:
Kaplan GMAT: @kaplangmatprep
If you have any questions about the contest, feel free to ask them below. Have fun and good luck!
July 30, 2012
Imagine, if you will, that you are standing in the lobby of a large building right now and have just pushed the button to go up to the 30th floor for an appointment you have in a few minutes. As you are waiting for the elevator to arrive, you strike up a conversation with the person waiting with you. To your amazement, you find that your companion for the elevator ride will be none other than an MBA admissions officer from your top b-school – the very b-school that you are applying to this fall! First of all, this very scenario is not outside the realm of possibility if you attend our Road to Business School events in August. Second, what will you say in the 30-45 seconds you have to make a great impression and potentially secure your dream?
Before you meet the admissions officers that you will meet at the Road to Business School and before you send in that application to your programs of choice, it is essential that you refine and define your elevator pitch! This is the synopsis, in under one minute, of what qualifies you as a candidate and why they should be interested in admitting you. There are three vital questions to answer in your elevator pitch.
1) Why do you want to go to business school?
2) Why our business school rather than others?
3) Why is now the right time for you to go to business school?
These three questions are the heart of any good application, and if you can’t answer them, you need to spend some time refining your answers to them in order to present a compelling case in person and in your b-school application. You will want to answer these questions in long form in your personal statement, but you will also want a short form for your interview and for events in which you have the opportunity to meet these officers such as our Road to Business School fairs.
When you are answering these questions, you want to make sure that you are authentic. The rationale behind your answers needs to come from a place and a desire within you. Also, admissions officers want to know that you have taken the time to do your research about the differences between schools. Know the specifics of the program you’re interested in. Get specific about why you would choose their specific program over others. What classes interest you, what groups will you join, and how will you fit the culture of the school?
Finally, before you attend a Road to Business School event where you will meet these admissions officers, practice your elevator pitch. Present your pitch to friends, family, your dog, etc. until it feels natural and polished. Remember to get to the point and make every word count — just like tweeting. This process will also set you up nicely to write your personal statement and prepare for your interview. Get started now because you never know when you’ll get that short elevator ride that could change the trajectory of your future, and plan to join us for the Road to Business School in August to make that meeting definitely happen!
July 28, 2012
Victor Cheng is an interesting personality in business pop culture. He is a highly successful consultant-turned-entrepreneur and can often be found soapboxing somewhere on television or writing for and/or contributing to myriad publications. The guy works hard and is very good at what he does, but one thing Mr. Cheng knows is that hard, quality work is just not good enough. He knows that in order to be given the opportunity to show a company like McKinsey what you can do, you’re going to have to convince them that you can do it.
In an article about making a good impression during an interview with a top consulting firm, Victor lays out seven questions that every interviewer (including himself) is asking themselves for the duration of the meeting either explicitly or implicitly:
- The personality question: “Do I like this kid?”
- The professionalism question: “Can I put this guy in front of a client?” [dress, manners, language].
- The organization question: “Can she put forth a clear plan?”
- The analytical question: “Does he understand how to use numbers?”
- The insight question: “Does he get the main point?”
- The synthesis question: “Can she tie it all together?”
- The enjoyment question: “Will he burn out?”
While it is true that Victor Cheng lists these questions with something specific in mind (interviewing for a job at a major consulting firm), the list can be easily and safely generalized to any professional interview. In fact, the individual smiling and/or scowling at you across the table at your business school admissions interview will hold a list of questions in their mind closely derivative of the one above. Furthermore, many readers will be attending the Road to Business School events in the coming weeks. Admissions officers at these events will remember or forget you based on first impressions.
One thing human resource professionals know is that data beats intuition when it comes to making a hiring decision. However, they also know that a lot of the hiring process relies on intuition, data be damned. We all do it: we rely on heuristics to make sense of the onslaught of information coming at us so we can make quick decisions that allow us to navigate the chaos. We think a nice smile conveys a pleasant, trustworthy individual while a facial scar reveals something innately sinister. Of course, this makes no logical sense and the sooner we shelf such absurdly presumptive, stereotypical behavior the better off we’ll be. Yet doing so… Well, that’s an entirely different story.
First impressions matter. There is an identified decision-making bias known as selective recall, which is born from a known heuristic called the contrast effect. Anchoring, framing, and halo/horns are other major players in one’s perception of you. Since the case can be made that perception is reality, it will serve you well to understand how perceptions are formed in order to ensure it is the right one.
- Contrast Effect: Heuristic. Never follow an act with animals or kids in it. Why? Because animals and kids are easy to love and you’ll look like a lumbering oaf in comparison. When would you prefer to interview: after the guy that blows it or after the lady that nails it?
- Selective Recall: Decision-making bias. Surprising, confirmatory, or recent information will be more easily recalled. Thus, the last performance/behavior observed tends to carry the most weight, good or bad.
- Framing: Decision-making bias. “Now that you put it that way…” I had a professor in grad school that said those seven words were the most important in business. One no after the next will not be borne from a bad conclusion/recommendation, but rather a bad pitch. Frame the information you deliver in the right way.
- Halo/horns: Heuristic. We draw general impressions of others based on a single characteristic. So, make all your single characteristics as presentable as possible.
- Anchoring. Decision-making bias. This is perhaps what a “first impression” is in a nutshell. Anchoring is most often spoken about with regard to negotiations. In essence, the first number offered will influence all subsequent numbers. Therefore, as a general rule, the savvy negotiator will anchor first. Anchoring, however, is not relegated solely to the negotiating table. Anchoring happens in career tracks, starting salaries, and, of course, first impressions.
Your business school application is what gets you in the door. The qualitative (essays, letters of recommendation, type of work experience) and quantitative (GMAT score, undergraduate GPA, years of work experience) information contained therein will speak for you. But it is up to you to bring it home in the interview. Kaplan’s Road to Business School events will put our students in from of admissions officers from top universities. This is your chance to make a great first impression!
July 26, 2012
If you are applying to business school in the near future, you, no doubt, have questions about your candidacy, your application, and the differences amongst the various schools. There is a business school that fits you best, but with so many to choose from, how do you narrow it down? One of the best ways to get started is by talking to admissions officers from the schools you are considering. These officers are a great wealth of information on applications, school visits, specialized MBA programs, and much more.
These event not only give you the chance to learn about the schools but also afford admissions officers the opportunity to learn about you. These individuals may or may not remember your face as they sort through thousands of candidates, but referring to them by name on your application can jog their memory and is a clear way to demonstrate your sincere interest in a school.
At Road to Business School events, you’ll be able to meet and talk with admissions officers from over 30 schools in an open networking environment. In addition to the invaluable time with admissions officers, you will also be able to:
1) Hear from a panel of admissions officers as they answer some of the most common questions about bschool admissions.
2) Choose from a wide range of breakout sessions on every aspect of the admissions process.
4) Network with students from the schools that you are interested in.
Attending one of these events is an efficient way to do your bschool research. Join others on the same road and get the ball rolling on your application process. All of these events, including our first virtual b-school fair, are free to attend. However, space is limited, so you will want to register soon.
For more information or to register go to our Road to Business School page.
To get you started, check out a this advice from an admissions officer at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management at a 2011 Road to Business School event: