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Admissions Tips

Browse our weekly admissions tips, or choose the category most relevant to you: researching, planning, applying, deciding.


Admissions Tip: Extracurricular Activities

Admissions Tip: Extracurricular Activities

Because it’s the time of year when applicants aiming for Fall 2016 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 2017 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.

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Admissions Tip: Planning for the GMAT

Admissions Tip: Planning for the GMAT

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. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Late Round Considerations

Admissions Tip: Late Round Considerations

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:

Feb. 27th: LBS R3 (5:00pm GMT)

March 3rd: IESE R3 (11:59pm UTC)

March 4th: INSEAD R4 (11:59pm CET)

March 11th: Berkeley/Haas R3 (11:59pm PST)

March 11th: Cornell/Johnson R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 13th: Emory/Goizueta R4 (11:59pm EST)

March 13th: Oxford R4 (11:59pm GMT)

March 13th: UNC/Kenan-Flagler R4 (5:00pm EST)

March 15th: CMU/Tepper R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 15th: NYU/Stern R4 (11:59pm EST)

March 19th: Duke/Fuqua R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 23rd: Michigan/Ross R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 24th: UT McCombs R3 (11:59pm CST)

March 26th: Wharton R3 (5:00pm EST)

April 1st: Georgetown/McDonough R3 (11:59pm EST)

April 1st: Northwestern/Kellogg R3 (5:00pm CST)

April 1st: Stanford GSB R3 (5:00pm PST)

April 1st: Dartmouth/Tuck April Round (5:00pm EST)

April 1st: UVA/Darden (5:00pm EST)

April 6th: Harvard R3 (12:00pm EST)

April 15th: Columbia Regular Decision (11:59pm EST)

April 15th: UCLA Anderson R3 (11:59 PST)

April 15th: USC Marshall R3 (11:59 PST)

April 17th: LBS R4 (5:00pm GMT)

April 23rd: Yale SOM R3 (11:59pm EST)

April 24th: Oxford R5 (11:59pm GMT)

May 19th: IESE R4 (11:59pm UTC)

May 29th: 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.

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Admissions Tip: Thinking About Financing

Admissions Tip: Thinking About Financing

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.

International students are not eligible for federal loans but may consider private loans as a financing option.  InternationalStudentLoan.com, for instance, offers a credit-based loan to international students who are looking to finance their education in the U.S.  However, as with most private loans, this loan requires a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to co-sign.  International students can also visit International Education Financial Aid (IEFA) to search for funds, as can U.S. citizens planning on studying overseas.  Finally, most of the leading MBA programs offer private loans to their students in partnership with a particular financial institution—some of which do not require a co-signer—so this might become an option after one is admitted.

Typical timelines of loan repayment can extend up to 25 years, depending on the lender’s conditions of deferral and the amount of funds borrowed.  After graduation, students usually have a six-month grace period before monthly repayment begins.  While schools’ admittance packages usually include detailed information about financing the MBA, incoming students and applicants should not hesitate contact the school’s financial aid office for further information on available need- or credit-based loans.

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Admissions Tip: The Interview Final Touch

interview-questionsOver 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. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Waitlist Correspondence

waitlistedIn 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 correspondence-friendly 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. Continue reading…

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Find Out How You Compare to Other Applicants With MBA LiveWire

Are you curious about how your peers are doing as they navigate the MBA admissions process? If so, you’ll be pleased to learn about the launch of Clear Admit’s MBA LiveWire! The MBA LiveWire shows admissions results submitted by our site visitors in real time. You can use the LiveWire to check out the profiles of applicants who have been accepted, rejected, invited to interview, or waitlisted at top business schools! If you have received an invitation or decision notification, you can also share your results to help other nervous applicants.  MBA LiveWire entries are anonymous and take only a few seconds to submit.

Below is a snapshot of the LiveWire, but we recommend that you take a look for yourself to stay on top of the latest results.

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View the results or submit your own!

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Admissions Tip: The Waitlist

wait-listWhat 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). Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Choosing Between Business Schools

choosingWith 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 the choice between b-schools.

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. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Round Two Recap and Advice

deadlineAs we prepare to bid goodbye to 2014 and greet the deadline-packed first month of 2015, we would like to take the opportunity to recap the upcoming Round Two deadlines and offer some advice for hardworking applicants.

First, a summary of this month’s deadlines along with the exact time each application is due:

Sunday, January 4th:

CMU / Tepper, 11:59pm EST

Monday, January 5th:

Duke / Fuqua, 11:59pm EST

Georgetown / McDonough, 5:00pm EST

London Business School (LBS), 5:00pm UTC

Michigan / Ross, 11:59pm EST

UPenn / Wharton, 5:00pm EST Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Essay Polishing

finish essayWe 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 working hard to finish their essays in time for the upcoming round 2 deadlines, 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. Continue reading…

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