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Essay Topic Analysis
Berkeley / Haas*
Cambridge / Judge*
CMU / Tepper*
Cornell / Johnson*
Dartmouth / Tuck*
Duke / Fuqua*
Georgetown / McDonough*
Indian School of Business*
London Business School*
MIT / Sloan*
Michigan / Ross*
Northwestern / Kellogg*
NYU / Stern*
Oxford / Said*
Penn / Wharton*
UCLA / Anderson*
UNC / Kenan-Flagler*
USC / Marshall*
UT Austin / McCombs*
UVA / Darden*
* denotes '13-'14 commentary
Harvard Working Knowledge
Knowledge @ Emory
Columbia Ideas @ Work
knowledge@ W. P. Carey
Ross Thought in Action
MBA Programs: North America
- Berkeley / Haas
- Boston College / Carroll
- Boston University*
- Carnegie Mellon / Tepper
- Chicago / Booth
- Cornell / Johnson*
- Dartmouth / Tuck
- Duke / Fuqua
- Emory / Goizueta*
- HEC Montreal*
- Indiana / Kelley
- MIT / Sloan
- Northwestern / Kellogg*
- New York / Stern
- North Carolina / Kenan Flagler
- Notre Dame / Mendoza*
- Pennsylvania / Wharton
- Smith / UMD
- Syracuse / Whitman
- Texas / McCombs
- Toronto / Rotman
- Tulane / Freeman
- USC / Marshall*
- UC Davis
- UCLA / Anderson
- Vanderbilt / Owen
- Virginia / Darden
- Washington University in St. Louis / Olin
- Western Ontario / Ivey*
MBA Programs: The Rest Of The World
- AGSM (Australia) 2
- Cambridge / Judge (UK) 1
- CIEBS (China) 2
- Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (China) 1
- Cranfield School of Mgmt (UK) 1
- ESADE (Spain) 1 or 2
- HEC (France) 2
- Hult (UK) 1
- IE (Span)
- IESE (Spain) 2
- IMD (Switzerland) 1
- INCAE (Costa Rica) 2
- INSEAD (France) 1
- IPADE (Mexico)
- ISB (India) 1
- London Business School (UK) 2
- Manchester Bus. School (UK) 2
- Melbourne (Australia) 2
- Oxford / Said (UK) 1
- Rotterdam (Netherlands) 1
- Tsinghua IMBA (China) 2
- University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) 1
Nearly every week of the calendar year we post an admissions tip that is relevant to the current state of the admissions cycle. Browse all of our tips in the Admissions Tip category or look at tips that relate specifically to where you are in the application process: researching, planning, applying, deciding.
Mar 10, 2014
Because it’s the time of year when applicants aiming for Fall 2015 intake are just beginning to think about the admissions process, we wanted to focus today on one element of the application that candidates often underestimate: extracurricular activities.
In order to understand why this category is important, candidates should keep in mind that the adcom is responsible for crafting a dynamic class each year. The aim is to admit individuals who will support a vibrant campus community and step into leadership positions. In other words, as admissions officers consider each applicant, they ask themselves “what’s in it for our school?” An applicant who has previously demonstrated a talent for writing, for example, by contributing to a nonprofit’s newsletter, will really catch the adcom’s attention if she also expresses her intent to contribute to a specific publication on campus.
Volunteering is of course a great way to expand one’s extracurricular involvement. However, many applicants participate in the occasional fundraising walk or an annual corporate outreach day; those who demonstrate ongoing involvement in one cause or organization will be of special interest to the admissions committee, especially if it is related to their current or future career. A candidate who has contributed over a longer period is likely to have developed his or her responsibilities beyond ladling soup or stuffing envelopes. What’s more, this can be a particularly important opportunity for applicants who are currently living and working outside of their home countries; for example, an Indian applicant who works and volunteers in Africa will stand out as being particularly engaged and well adapted to his or her foreign environment.
Candidates who are older or younger than the average applicant should recognize that their extracurricular involvement is particularly important. A younger applicant who lacks leadership responsibilities at work might demonstrate his talent for motivating others outside of the office. Meanwhile, older applicants can use their extracurricular involvement to reassure the adcom that, despite family responsibilities or distance in age from one’s classmates, the broader life of the community remains important to them.
Lastly, applicants will have a much easier time writing their application essays if they have a variety of experiences from which to draw. While applicants can certainly respond to most essay prompts by reflecting on their professional experiences, relying exclusively on one’s work is a mistake. With each essay, the applicant should aim to share a different side of him or herself—submitting five essays about electrical engineering or investment banking is not the most effective way to do this.
We hope that this sheds some light on the opportunities and value that activities outside of work provide with respect to one’s b-school candidacy and applications. Should you find that area of your application lacking upon reflection, the good news is that there’s still plenty of time to address this before the deadlines. Whether that means volunteering your professional services to a local nonprofit, joining a community mentoring organization or brushing up on your competitive square dancing, Class of 2016 aspirants should aim to make this an especially active and productive spring and summer!
Get in touch with our team for a free assessment of your candidacy as the admissions season begins.
- Admissions Tip: Applying to Business School as a Younger Applicant (clearadmit.com)
Mar 3, 2014
For all you “early birds” who are planning to apply to business school this fall, we wanted to offer a few tips on managing your time as it relates to the GMAT exam. Because this is an important element for many applicants in determining at which schools they will be competitive, it’s best to prep intensively and get this out of the way early in the process.
You should ideally be finished with the GMAT by mid-summer. The reason for this is that you will want to reserve the months of August, September and October for essay writing, school visits, managing your recommenders and other miscellaneous application-related tasks. The last thing you want to be doing in September is juggling the demands of GMAT prep alongside your MBA applications, your responsibilities at work, your extracurricular involvements, etc.
Of course, putting the GMAT to rest by mid-summer is much easier said than done. Given the strength of the test-taking pool and the importance of earning a high score when targeting a top program, in order to be successful, you should ideally budget time for a GMAT prep course or 8 to 12 weeks of solid self-study. You should then consider the fact that you may need to take the exam more than once.
Given these considerations, here is a rough schedule to follow:
April, May: Attend a GMAT prep class and spend as much as 2 hours each weekday doing problems; use the weekends to take full-length tests (under realistic, timed conditions).
June: Take the GMAT early in the month. If you are unsatisfied with your score, work towards taking the exam again. Ideally, you’ll take a short break of one to two weeks (to clear your mind) and then leave at least four weeks to prep for the second sitting of the exam. Consider hiring a tutor to address your specific needs.
July: Take the GMAT again, hopefully achieving a score that is within the range of the MBA programs on your list. If your score doesn’t improve, it may be time to reevaluate your target schools and expand your roster to ensure that your selection is realistic.
In some cases, it may make sense to mirror your work on the GMAT by simultaneously enrolling in a calculus or statistics class at your local university or community college. While this is especially true for applicants who have a weak track record in quantitative subjects and need to build an alternative transcript, in general these classes can often help applicants get the most out of their GMAT preparation.
Good luck! For more information about how the GMAT fits into the application process and on business schools in general, feel free to contact Clear Admit to learn about our early bird planning services or set up an initial consultation. You can also download Clear Admit’s independent guide to the leading test preparation companies. This FREE guide includes coupons for discounts on test prep services at 10 different firms!
Feb 24, 2014
After a relatively sleepy February, March will soon be upon us with its extensive list of application deadlines and decision notification dates. Let’s take a look at part of the long list of Round 3 (or 4 or 5) deadlines spread over the next two months:
March 3rd: Ross R3 (11:59pm EST)
March 5th: INSEAD R3 (11:59pm CET)
March 7th: Judge R3 (5:00pm UTC)
March 12th: Haas R3 (11:59pm PST)
March 14th: UNC R4 (5:00pm EST)
March 14th: Oxford R4 (11:59pm GMT)
March 15th: Tepper R3 (11:59pm EST)
March 15th: Stern R4 (11:59pm EST)
March 20th: Fuqua R3 (11:59pm EST)
March 27th: Darden R3 (5:00pm EST)
March 27th: Wharton R3 (5:00pm EST)
March 27th: McCombs R3 (11:59pm CST)
April 1st: Georgetown R3 (11:59pm EST)
April 2nd: Stanford R3 (5:00pm PST)
April 2nd: Tuck R4 (5:00pm EST)
April 2nd: Kellogg R3 (11:59pm CST)
April 4th: Booth R3 (5:00pm CST)
April 7th: HBS R3 (11:59pm PST)
April 9th: CBS Regular Decision (11:59pm EST)
April 15th: Anderson R3 (11:59pm PST)
April 24th: Yale SOM R3 (5:00pm EST)
April 25th: Judge R4 (5:00pm UTC)
April 25th: Oxford R5 (11:59pm GMT)
May 30th: Oxford R6 (11:59pm GMT)
While it’s always best to apply as early as possible, the difference between applying in Round 1 and applying in Round 2 is, for most applicants, a marginal one. However, the later rounds are a very different game. Because most of the seats in the incoming class will have been given away by the time Round 2 decisions are released, the acceptance rate in the third round is dramatically lower than that for the first two deadlines of the season.
To maximize your chances of a later round acceptance, demonstrating your interest in the school and submitting thoughtful and error-free written materials will be crucial. Applying in Round 1 is generally taken as a sign of interest in a given program, and by the same token, applicants submitting their materials in a later round need to work extra hard to convince the adcom that they are genuinely interested in the school and are not simply applying as an afterthought because interview invitations didn’t come through in Round 2. Demonstrating that you would make a valuable contribution to the community and providing evidence that you have taken steps to engage current students and alumni will work to your advantage.
As always, we’d like to recommend the in-depth Clear Admit School Guides to those applicants who are targeting the later deadlines and just beginning to investigate certain programs, and we encourage those who’ve visited the campus and interviewed to share their experiences in Clear Admit Interview Reports. Potential R3 or R4 applicants are also welcome to contact Clear Admit directly to discuss the strength of their later round candidacies and learn more about our one-on-one counseling services.
Feb 17, 2014
Though many business school applicants know exactly what they want to do—and how much they hope to make—after they graduate from an MBA program, a surprising number apply to school without thinking about how they’ll pay for this expensive degree. While some students do foot the entire bill themselves or receive scholarship support from the school or an outside institution, the vast majority of MBA students borrow funds to cover their tuition and living expenses. With this in mind, we wanted to cover some very basic information on loans for the benefit of both recent admits entering school this fall and early birds just beginning to think about their applications for Fall 2014.
The primary source of funding for U.S.-based applicants will be federal loans or alternative education loans. The main federal loans, available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, are the Direct Unsubsidized Loans, the Direct PLUS Loan and the Federal Perkins Loan. Full-time students, usually those enrolled in two or more courses per semester, can borrow as much as $20,500/year through the Direct Unsubsidized Loan program. The Direct PLUS Loan can be used to pay for the total cost of attendance less any aid you’ve already been awarded. Meanwhile, the Federal Perkins Loan program is school-based program for students with exceptional financial needs. Perkins Loans are low-interest, a rate of 5 percent, with a maximum annual loan amount of $8,000/year for graduate students or $60,000 in total. Those interested in applying for federal student aid should check out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). When federal loans are not enough, private loans can help bridge the gap in education costs. Students might contact their local bank or look into lender programs, such as SallieMae or Access Group, for details on borrowing eligibility.
Feb 10, 2014
In addition to actively evaluating the applications of Round Two applicants at this time of year, many top programs revisit their Round One waitlists and consider the strength of those individuals with respect to the new information about the pool. While schools vary in their receptivity to correspondence from applicants, those programs that do welcome additional materials offer a great chance for waitlisted candidates to reaffirm their interest in the school and keep themselves fresh in the mind of the adcom.
With the second-round notification dates for a number schools coming up in a matter of weeks, we wanted to offer some tips to students who have been waitlisted at such programs while there’s still some time to tip the balance in their favor.
It’s clear that you should take advantage of this chance to add to your file, so the first real step is determining what you want—and need—to communicate in your waitlist correspondence. We suggest that you begin by revisiting your application with a critical eye. Being waitlisted is ultimately a positive sign of the strength of your candidacy, so it’s likely you’ve put together a very solid set of materials; you do, however, want to consider what you might have done to make your application even better. For instance, if your comments in your essays focused primarily on your work experience, you might want to convey some information about your outside interests and activities in your waitlist letter.
Feb 3, 2014
Over the last months, we’ve focused on helping applicants prepare to answer the various questions they’ll be posed during their interviews, but there is one in particular to which we have not paid much attention. Today, we wanted to offer a few tips in navigating the nearly inevitable interview finisher: “Do you have any questions for me?”
This seems like a harmless inquiry, and indeed poses a great opportunity, but there’s actually a fine line to walk here. You certainly want to take advantage of this opportunity to show the interviewer that you appreciate his or her time, perspective and knowledge. In determining what to ask, however, you need to avoid those questions to which you could easily find an answer on the school’s website (remember that it’s imperative that you show you’ve done your homework), as well as those that are so specific or obscure that they will stump the interviewer. Another sort of question to avoid are those that seem to be critical of the program or too concerned with other applicants; now is not the time to ask about application volume or the strength of the pool this year.
What does that leave? More than you might initially expect. We’ve found that a great approach is to ask your interviewer about his or her own perspective and experience. Current students and alums, who involve themselves in the admissions process are generally those who are having or have had a positive experience in business school. If your interviewer falls into one of these categories, he or she will likely appreciate the chance to talk about a favorite class or professor, or comment on involvement in a certain club. Meanwhile, when engineering questions to pose to full-time admissions staff, remember that these individuals likely have less in-depth information but a longer-term perspective on the program than would someone who is currently attending or has attended.
Armed with these tips, you should be able to foster a positive and productive conversation, learn a bit more about the program in question, and make a positive impression on your interviewer.
If you have further inquiries about the best questions to pose in your interview (or any other aspect of the interview process), contact Clear Admit directly and sign up for our mock interview service. We offer school-by-school interview guides, strategy sessions and mock interviews to help you perform at your best on interview day. Also, do not forget to use the Clear Admit Interview Report Archive as a resource for interview preparations!
Jan 27, 2014
What should an applicant do when placed on the waitlist at his or her dream school? While most applicants regard the waitlist in a negative light (we’ve even heard it described as “a sort of purgatory prior to getting dinged”), the best approach is to view the glass as being half-full (especially for R1 waitlisters). In all cases, getting waitlisted is much better than getting denied.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate this often difficult and mysterious process:
1) Know your file. Before you can develop a waitlist strategy, you need to understand where you may have fallen short in the application process. Read over your file with a critical eye and try to identify any weaknesses. Talk to anyone you know who might be able to give you feedback (MBA students at the target school, former admissions officers, admissions consultants, etc).
2) Familiarize yourself with the school’s waitlist rules. Do you need to “opt in” in order to be on the list? Are you allowed to submit supplemental materials to bolster your case or inform the committee of changes to your candidacy? Does the school offer a chance for feedback via a phone session or interview with a “waitlist manager?”
3) Follow the waitlist rules.
CASE A: Schools that accept supplemental materials. If a school hints that you may want to provide a supplemental essay or recommendation letter, then by all means, take this offer seriously and get something together for the committee. Approach these materials in the same way that you would approach the application process (e.g., do not just send along something that you dash off in a matter of minutes). If you have several items you wish to send, it may make sense to spread them out over the course of a few weeks to demonstrate steady interest.
CASE B: Schools that do not accept supplemental materials. This may sound obvious, but if a school indicates that they do not want supplemental materials, then you should respect their guidelines. In other words, do not send along a new recommendation or an essay if the program has clearly indicated that you should not do so. There may be exceptions to this – for example, if a dramatic change has taken place in your candidacy – but in most cases, you should simply follow the rules. (Contact us to learn about other ways to improve your waitlist status with schools that frown on supplemental materials.)
4) Consider a school visit. It may make sense to visit the school, particularly if you have not been before. So many different things can happen on a visit:
a) You never know when you’ll have that chance meeting with an admissions officer who is willing to give you a little feedback (and who through the process of meeting you face to face might get a better sense of your candidacy).
b) A school may take note of your visit (if you sign in with the admissions office) and view it as a potential sign of your interest.
c) You may interact with students or professors who can better inform you of opportunities at the school and provide you with helpful “content” for any waitlist materials you go on to submit.
d) By visiting, you may find out that school X is really not for you, enabling you to move on and remove yourself from the waitlist.
Just as there are a number of waitlist to-do items, there are also countless things to avoid doing. We’ll devote another post to that at a later date. Please contact the Clear Admit offices for questions about waitlist strategy and our related services (email@example.com).
In addition, for valuable guidance about being on the waitlist, check out the Clear Admit Waitlist Guide. This guide will teach you to understand the ground rules of a program’s waitlist policy, formulate a plan to address weaknesses in your candidacy, craft effective communications to the admissions committee and explore every opportunity to boost your chances of acceptance. This 23-page PDF file, which includes school-specific waitlist policies and sample communication materials, is available for immediate download.
Jan 20, 2014
With the majority of schools having released their Round One decisions, many successful applicants will soon be facing the enviable – but often agonizing – decision of choosing between programs. Though we know that those of you in this position will already be juggling an overwhelming amount of information about the schools on your short lists, we wanted to offer a few pointers to consider as you identify and evaluate the most important facts and factors in making this decision.
1) Immerse yourself. If you have not yet visited campus, go to the school and see what you think of the environment. Be sure to attend classes, talk with students, tour the facilities, and so on. Even if you have already made the trip, it’s a good idea to attend the school’s events for admitted students to meet your potential classmates. After all, these are the folks whose thoughts you will be hearing in class for two years and who will making up your future network.
2) Consider your immediate priorities. Think about the location, size, teaching method, etc. Are you looking for a close-knit, “we’re all in this together” sort of experience, or would you prefer to attend classes and then disappear into a large city with a few classmates or old friends? Do you need the benefits of a large university to pursue coursework in a specific field? Do you crave lengthy discussions with faculty? Do you have family or a significant other who might need to consider your location? Are you strong in qualitative areas but looking to refine your skills in quantitative subjects? Is there a teaching method that might better address your weaknesses or best suit your learning style? Reflecting on the relative importance of each of these questions might help you to organize your thoughts about and the information on each program.
Jan 13, 2014
With a slew of schools releasing the last of their R1 notifications in the coming weeks, we know that many of our readers will be asking about the background checks conducted by leading programs. Here are some quick facts to help explain the process:
1) What are background checks? Background checks involve the verification of information that a candidate has provided in his or her MBA applications. Although the process varies from school to school, it usually includes checking that an applicant attended the undergraduate (or graduate) school(s) that he or she claims to have attended, received the grades indicated and earned the GMAT score reported. It also involves the verification of the candidate’s employment history, job titles, starting and ending dates and salary/bonus information. Finally, some background checks involve contacting recommenders to verify their support and confirming applicant involvement in community activities.
2) Do all schools conduct background checks? When do they do this? How do they have time? Many of the leading MBA programs like to verify the information that has been provided by applicants. This is typically done only for those applicants who are admitted, since there is no sense in expending resources to verify information for applicants who do not make the cut. Most background checks occur in the spring – after decisions for most rounds have been released and students begin sending in their deposits. In many cases, the schools outsource this function to a professional risk consulting firm like Kroll.
3) Why bother with background checks? Don’t the schools trust me? The purpose of background checking is to protect all stakeholders of the MBA program (students, faculty, staff, alumni) from those who would falsify their backgrounds to gain an unfair advantage in the admissions process. Some schools opt to investigate the backgrounds of a relatively small sample of randomly selected admits, hoping that the mere possibility of a check will give applicants incentive to be as honest as possible. In a way, this measure therefore serves to increase the adcom’s trust in its applicants.
Jan 6, 2014
We often stress that, to present oneself effectively in application essays, it’s critical to think carefully about what a given question is asking and what this might indicate about a specific school’s admissions priorities. Of course, it’s also imperative to communicate clearly and appropriately regardless of the target program or particular inquiry.
As many applicants are feverishly putting the finishing touches on their essays for programs with deadlines this week and next, we wanted to offer a few general guidelines to keep in mind during that final revision. Time is tight, we know, but a few small changes can make a considerable difference, so today we’re going back to basics and offering a few broadly applicable tips on tone and style to keep in mind when polishing the written elements of your applications.
1. Be Professional. While a number of schools ask fun questions and most urge applicants to be themselves rather than submitting “overly polished” materials, it’s important to remember that this is a graduate school application and you should approach your essays with a degree of formality. You do want your unique narrative voice to come through, but even professional writers know to vary their tone based on their audience. As such, you should avoid using slang and conversational speech patterns in your writing.
2. Emphasize Action. A common pitfall for many applicants is lapsing into the passive voice, constructing sentences about how some unseen force or agent acted upon something or someone else (e.g. “we were required to” or “the project was completed”) rather than putting their own thoughts and actions at the fore. By making a conscious effort to write “I/he/she did x” rather than “x was done to y” you can make your comments more informative, dynamic and, often, more concise.
3. Avoid Repetition. It’s often a good idea to give the reader a sense of an essay’s direction through an introduction and to sum up the key ideas through a conclusion, but ideally each sentence of an essay will add some new information to the document or build the reader’s understanding of what you’ve already written. Keeping this rule in mind as you revise can help trim a response down to the word limit and ensure that you are including as much relevant information about your candidacy as you can within the allotted length.
For those of you still struggling with your essays as the deadlines approach, feel free to reach out to Clear Admit for help with last-minute application reviews. Best of luck to everyone!
Dec 23, 2013
While the past few weeks have seen a number of admits and rejections handed down to round one MBA applicants, the fate of many remains uncertain. There is no reason for waitlisted candidates to lose hope, as the top programs admit a fair number of individuals from the waitlist in round two and thereafter, but we know that cautious optimism does not make the wait for an answer any easier. To help those in this situation make sure that they’re doing all they can, we wanted to share a few waitlist tips:
1. Know—and follow—the rules. Schools vary in their stances when it comes to interaction with those on the waitlist; some shun communication from applicants and even go so far as to discourage on-the-record campus visits, whereas others welcome correspondence and assign waitlisted candidates to an admissions office liaison. We know that the natural impulse is to reach out to the adcom and update them on that recent promotion or the final grade from that accounting class you took to bolster your academic profile. At first blush, it might seem that there’s no harm in sending a short letter or making a call, but no matter how exciting the information you wish to communicate, ignoring the adcom’s instructions is ultimately going to reflect badly on you. Though such a policy may seem frustrating or unfair, it’s important to respect and abide by the preferences of each school.
2. Communicate if you can. For those programs that do permit or encourage contact from waitlisters, it’s absolutely a good idea to send an update. In addition to the obvious news items mentioned above, it’s beneficial to read over your essays and reflect on whether there is some piece of your background or interests that you haven’t gotten across yet. Taking the time to write about your relevant recent experiences, positive developments in your candidacy and ways that you’ve enhanced your understanding of the program is a nice sign of your interest in the program, and is a good strategy for telegraphing your commitment to attending. It is, of course, also in your interest to make sure that the adcom has the most up to date information so that they can make an informed decision the next time your file comes up for evaluation.
3. Keep in touch. Don’t disappear after an initial note to the adcom or phone call to your waitlist manager (if applicable). If you have plans to be on or near campus, for instance, send a quick email to alert your waitlist manager (or whoever you may have interacted with on the adcom) to alert them to this fact. In many cases you’ll find that the adcom offers to have you stop by for a friendly chat about your candidacy—something that can go a long way towards helping your case. Beyond a visit, sending a brief update every few weeks or so is another way to reaffirm your interest in the school and keep you fresh in the minds of the adcom—something that could work to your advantage in a discussion of which candidates to admit from the waitlist. In all cases, it is important to remember that there is a fine line between persistence and pestering, so please use good judgment!
4. Have a contingency plan. While it’s important to do be consistent and enthusiastic when waitlisted and communicating with staff at your target program, it’s also wise to have a backup plan. With the Round Two deadlines for several top programs about 1-2 weeks away, there’s still time to put together a solid application to another school. Even if you’re waitlisted at the school of your dreams and intend to reapply if not admitted, it’s also never too early to start thinking about the coming year and what steps you might take to enhance your candidacy before next fall.
For valuable guidance about being on the waitlist, check out the Clear Admit Waitlist Guide. This guide will teach you to understand the ground rules of a program’s waitlist policy, formulate a plan to address weaknesses in your candidacy, craft effective communications to the admissions committee and explore every opportunity to boost your chances of acceptance. This 23-page PDF file, which includes school-specific waitlist policies and sample communication materials, is available for immediate download.
Best of luck to those of you playing the waiting game, and feel free to contact us to learn about our application feedback and waitlist counseling services. Hang in there!
- Columbia Business School Admissions Committee Shares Waitlist Advice (clearadmit.com)
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