31 Jan 2006
Study Suggests Top MBAs Not Worth Their Higher Salaries
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported today the details of a study of MBA starting salaries published in the
Academy of Management Journal. While the study did conclude graduates from top MBA programs have higher starting salaries, the shocking conclusion was that the employers do not generally believe the quality of the education or the graduate is worth the additional compensation. The hiring managers, the study concludes, offer more to graduates of top programs because they view those hires as less risky.
24 Jan 2006
GMAT Volume Is Up! Should You Care?
MBA web sites are buzzing with news that the number of people taking the GMAT rose in 2005. The GMAC reports that a worldwide total of 211,010 people took the
GMAT in 2005, compared to 203,603 in 2004.
That 3.6 per cent increase in test volume is certainly good news for the GMAC and its affiliates. But is it bad news for you? Is it news
The conventional wisdom is that a bump in GMAT volume will be followed by an increase in the number of people applying to b-school, which will mean more competition
for seats in top MBA programs. The first part of that prediction is sensible enough
(not many people take the GMAT just for the fun of it), but the second part should be taken with a grain of salt.
Look at the data. Almost all of the growth in GMAT volume took place outside the U.S. (The U.S. figure rose by less than one per cent.) The growth in GMAT volume
overseas may have nothing to do with interest in attending U.S. MBA programs. A significant factor may
be simply that the GMAT is now being offered in places where it was never available before. There's no reason to think that a surge of applicants is going to trample you
underfoot in their rush for the HBS doors.
In any event, you should not make a decision about whether to apply to b-school based on GMAT volume or any other measure of what other people are doing. You should decide to seek admission to
business school for your own reasons, and in your own time. The truth is that there are always a lot of applicants for the limited number of class seats available at the
top b-schools. Having a good sense of what schools are a good fit for you, and understanding how to present yourself effectively in your application, are far more
important factors in admissions outcomes than changes in application volume are. If you think this is the right time for you to apply to business school, go ahead and do it,
regardless of what does or doesn't happen with GMAT volume.
20 Jan 2006
When Message Board Personas Bite Back
The Washington Post reports that a growing number of DC-area private schools are warning students about the risks of making too-personal postings to blogs, message boards, and Facebook.
What caught our eye was a statement that those risks include the possibility of a college admissions officer coming across risqué or offensive content and using it to ding a particular applicant.
We're a bit skeptical. Admissions officers have more than enough to keep themselves busy without taking on the task of Googling every
student who applies to their school. There are good reasons to stop and think about what you put in a blog or a Facebook profile, but fear that college admissions officers
are lurking in the shadows shouldn't be one of them.
Something you SHOULD worry about, however, is what you post to admissions discussion boards, especially those devoted to particular programs or schools. Admissions
officers do read these. They're looking for information about general concerns, not impressions of individual applicants. However, it's just human nature that they will notice and remember someone who has an
unpleasantly distinctive (read that to mean: arrogant, abusive, obscene, mocking, etc.) writing style – and accurately connect those posts with a particular applicant. Mind your
manners on admissions boards the same way you would in any other public setting.
That advice goes quintuple (or more) for business school applicants. Business schools assign admissions staff to monitor the major b-school discussion boards. It's an
assignment that most admissions officers loathe, so you should assume that whoever is doing the monitoring for your target schools is not inclined to be charitable in
making judgments about the people behind the posts.
Go ahead and be honest in your questions and opinions, but be civil and sensible, too. Save your rants for a
less high-profile forum. You'll be even better off if you limit your venting to gripe sessions with real, live friends. You're likely to get more sympathy in
that setting – and maybe even a free drink.
18 Jan 2006
Decision Day for HBS & Stanford R1 Applicants
Harvard Business School officially released its Round 1 decisions today. Stanford's official notification date isn't until tomorrow (January 19),
but some happy applicants have already gotten their phone
Congratulations to our clients who won acceptance! They have every reason to be happy and every
right to be proud. A Harvard or Stanford MBA education really is a golden opportunity for anyone pursuing a business
career – and gaining admittance to either school really is a credit to the applicant.
Both HBS and Stanford usually accept only about 1 out
of every 10 people who apply. Being accepted means standing out not just from any applicant pool, but from a pool
that includes many highly motivated and accomplished competitors.
17 Jan 2006
MBAs Can't Write, Employers Say
Today's WSJ College Journal has a disturbing article on employers' growing dissatisfaction with the writing skills of b-school grads. Recruiters complain that it is getting harder and harder to find MBAs who can communicate coherently – let alone professionally –
A financial services recruiter told the Journal that he routinely asks applicants to write a 500-word recommendation on whether or
not to invest in a hypothetical company. The results are surprisingly poor.
Even promising candidates return writing samples whose tone and language are inappropriate for communicating with sophisticated investors, the recruiter said. Worse, a surprising number of candidates return writing samples
that demonstrate "sub-seventh-grade-level" writing skills.
The recruiter suggested that candidates who cannot write competently have no future in his industry:
"No matter how strong one's financial model is, if one cannot write a logical, compelling story, then investors are going to look elsewhere. And in my business, that
Recruiters in other fields also expressed frustration with MBAs' writing abilities. Poor communication skills were the shortcoming recruiters cited most
frequently in a
Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive survey on MBA hiring.
It's too early to say whether complaints like these will lead to changes in the way b-schools select or train MBA students. However, we
can make the following points with complete confidence:
1) Good communication skills distinguish a top MBA applicant from the rest of the pool as much as they distinguish a business leader from the rest of
the pack. You'll be a stronger b-school candidate if your essays are well-written.
2) Writing is a skill you'll use throughout your business career – not just when you apply to MBA programs. Applicants who use ghostwritten essays
are cheating themselves of an opportunity to develop a vital career skill. You'll get better value for your money by working with a writer or editor who will help you understand
how your own writing can be improved. As the saying goes, "give someone a fish, and he'll eat for one day – but teach a man to fish and he'll eat for life."
12 Jan 2006
A Kinder, Gentler HLS?
Harvard Law School (HLS) has long had the reputation of being one of the most intimidating institutions anyone could apply to.
It was like the admissions
version of that metaphor about buying a yacht – you know, the one that goes, "If you have to stop and ask how much a yacht costs, you probably can't afford to buy one."
Similarly, the general perception was that if you had to stop and ask what qualifications it took to gain entry to Harvard Law, you probably couldn't get in.
But it seems that HLS is now trying to change that. We've got 3 reasons to say so:
1) An aspiring JD we know recently shared the following exchange of emails with us. The exchange began with his receiving
an email invitation to apply to Harvard. (We assume that Harvard got his name and email address from the LSAC.)
Aspiring JD: Thank you for your email....[I am
considering applying but am concerned that] there are elements of my
overall profile that are not exactly Harvard quality. Namely, my LSAT score of 161, which is a
twelve points below last year’s Harvard average. On top of
that, my undergraduate institution isn’t exactly in the Ivy League...
HLS reply: Several students have responded to our invitation to apply
in much the same manner that you did, clearly concerned that their scores are
too low for them to realistically apply to Harvard Law School. It is important that our
applicants know that we take a holistic approach to the application process
that goes well beyond GPA and LSAT score, and we consider a wide variety of
factors....the fact that you received our invitation email means that
you fit a general set of criteria – not just GPA or LSAT – in which we are
interested (possibly it was those "un-Harvard" things you mention that make
you appealing to Harvard). Likewise, your alma mater in no way disqualifies
you from entry to HLS. We happily take applicants from any accredited
school, Ivy League or not...
[Note: The fact that HLS has been encouraging applicants whose LSAT scores are so far below the median for its admitted students has raised some eyebrows in admissions
2) Not long ago, a former client who is now enrolled at HLS told us about a student focus group on admissions. The admissions
people wanted to know what they could do to encourage a more diverse group of applicants to consider Harvard.
3) The HLS admissions blog recently had a post casually reminding readers that Harvard Law has a need-based financial aid policy – meaning that financial status need not be a barrier to a Harvard J.D. (On the subject
of finances, let us point out that the average starting salary for HLS
grads is now $125,000. With an income like that, you can manage to pay off some school loans.)
The great news here is that even if you combine a passion for the law
with some rough edges on your academic record, you still stand a chance of winning entry to one of the country's most prestigious law schools – provided you can persuasively
convey the unique and valuable quality that you would bring to the study and practice of law.
And where is the place you should try to make that pitch?
In your law school personal statement.
10 Jan 2006
A Good Example of School 'Fit'
The word 'fit' comes up again and again in advice about applying to colleges and graduate and professional programs. But what exactly does it mean?
MIT's Ben Jones gives an excellent answer to the question in a January 9 posting to his blog, in which he fielded a question from an
applicant about why MIT requires SAT IIs in math and science, even from applicants who want to study social rather than hard sciences. Jones replied, in part,
Every MIT student, regardless of major, must complete the General Institute Requirements (GIR's) which include a significant amount of math, physics, bio, and chem. Students who haven't demonstrated a propensity for these subjects in high school generally run into trouble here. Why do we have the GIR's in the first place? We're a technology school whose culture is and always has been heavily influenced by science and math. It's just who we are...
In this case, 'fit' means understanding where the 'T' in 'MIT' comes from, and what it implies about the MIT educational experience – and accepting that,
for the true quantophobe, MIT is a bad fit. Even if you managed to get in, you'd be stressed and unhappy the whole time you were there. You'd be a much
stronger applicant to (and a much happier student at) a school with a different educational orientation.
That's one good example of how 'fit' influences admissions.
6 Jan 2006
Fingerprints Part of New GMAT Security Measures
If you're taking the GMAT in 2006, be ready to provide a fingerprint when you sign in at the test center. You should also be prepared to have your photograph taken—and be
aware that you will probably be monitored by camera throughout the test session. These are some of the new test security measures being introduced by Pearson VUE, the company
which took over administration of the GMAT as of January 1, 2006. Problems with test security have been cited as one of the reasons that the GMAC ended its long-standing
partnership with Educational Testing Services in favor of Pearson VUE.
5 Jan 2006
Chicago Undergrad Admissions Blog
Back in November we listed some noteworthy blogs related to college, graduate, and professional school admissions. Here's another one to
add to the list under 'college admissions':
Chicago's Uncommon Application – maintained by (who else?) the University of Chicago
4 Jan 2006
B-Schools Extend Deadlines - But Not by Much
Two top business schools recently notified applicants that they had extended their deadlines for Round 2 / January applications.
The Chicago Graduate School of Business announced on the evening of January 3 that it was pushing its Round 2 application deadline back by 6 hours, until
11:59 p.m. CST on January 4. (The deadline had been 5:00 p.m. on January 4.) The extension seems to be due to problems with the
online application server, which was reportedly slowing down under a massive assault of R2 applicants trying to get everything in before the deadline. This is a common
occurrence with Internet-based admissions sites. It's always a good idea to try to complete your applications a few days before the deadline, before the last-minute rush of
applications can start causing system problems.
The other changed deadline was announced by Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, which notified applicants by email that it was extending the deadline for January round
applicants to complete on-campus interviews until February 6 (it had been January 20). Tuck's deadline for submitting applications in its January round remains 5 p.m. EST on
3 Jan 2006
To Apply Now or Not to Apply Now?
Although we're writing this post
specifically with MBA applicants in mind, the advice we give here is equally applicable to anyone
applying to a competitive undergraduate, graduate, or professional program.
The second-round deadline for HBS is today. The Round II deadlines for Stanford, Chicago and Cornell are tomorrow. Of course, there are many more schools with application deadlines falling in the near future.
you submit an application in these rounds, you need to ask yourself if you are completely confident of the quality of writing in your essays. If you think you
have produced your best effort, go ahead and submit your applications with confidence. Otherwise, wait. You will have a much greater chance of success in Round III with a strong application than in Round II with a mediocre one.