News, advice and resources for business school applicants

Planning Tips

Tips on how to structure your time and tackle the challenging process of applying to business school.


Admissions Tip: Using MBA Program Rankings to Your Advantage

Admissions Tip: Using MBA Program Rankings to Your Advantage

There are a number of authoritative sources that knowledgeably rank the “top” MBA programs each year.  Because the methodologies of these rankings can differ considerably, however, a given school may well be ranked quite differently across these various lists, making it difficult to decipher which are the “best” schools. For that reason, we’d like to talk today about how b-school applicants can use MBA program rankings to discover which schools truly are the best — for them.  Although the general merits of each school are important, we also believe that it is essential for MBA applicants to develop ranked preferences for schools based on their individual needs and interests.

Here are our tips for using official MBA school rankings:

1. Use rankings to create a consensus. Ranked lists of top schools are seldom identical, which makes it difficult to identify which schools are in the “top five” or “top ten.” Instead, it’s best to compile these different sources of rankings to form a consensus regarding the top schools. For example, if your target program is consistently listed in the top 15, regardless of its individual ranking among different sources, you should feel confident that it is regarded as a top school by industry professionals and future employers.  You may not be able to pinpoint the ultimate “number one” school, but you will be able to distinguish between the different tiers of schools. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Visiting the Campus

Admissions Tip: Visiting the Campus

As many applicants are finding out at this time of year, conducting thorough research on MBA programs is an essential step in formulating a list of target schools and crafting convincing essays.  Surfing the web and speaking with friends and mentors are great starting points in identifying programs of interest.  However, to really get a feel for a school and determine whether it’s a good fit for one’s goals and personality, applicants need to dig deeper and gain some firsthand experience with the program and the people.   Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Selecting Your Recommenders

Admissions Tip: Selecting Your Recommenders

Since many of our readers are just beginning the business school application process, we wanted to offer some basic tips on a critical variable in the MBA admissions equation: recommender selection.

When choosing your recommenders, remember that it can be seen as a test of judgment – selecting a recommender whose letter is ineffective or who appears dubious about your qualifications may raise doubts about your ability to judge your interactions with others or to select the right person for a job.  In order for your letters to be as effective as possible, you should look for several qualities in a recommender.   Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Round 3 Results

Admissions Tip: Round 3 Results

With the MBA programs releasing their Round 3 notifications in the upcoming weeks, the 2014-2015 admissions season is coming to a close for the vast majority of MBA aspirants.  We’d like to offer our congratulations to all those who have gained admission to one of more of their target schools and wish good luck to waitlisted applicants whose fate is presently a bit less certain.  For all those who submitted their applications in the final round and received an unfavorable decision, we’d like to share a few tips that we hope will make the process of facing rejection as productive as possible: Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Feedback Sessions for Denied Applicants

Interview 2As many of our readers know, a small number of leading MBA programs offer admissions feedback sessions to applicants who did not make the admissions cut in a given season.  Though we’ve touched upon this subject before, we’d like to use today’s blog entry to underline the importance of these feedback sessions for those of you who are considering reapplication. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Dealing with a Ding

Admissions Tip: Dealing with a Ding

With many MBA programs beginning to release their R2 decisions, the spring notification season will soon be coming to a close.  While we would like to hope that today’s topic isn’t apropos for too many of our readers, we wanted to offer some advice to applicants who’ve been rejected from their preferred programs and are planning on reapplying next season.  While it’s important to take some time to deal with the disappointment, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the next season, and there are a number of steps you can take to improve your candidacy and move toward a stronger application.

1) Reevaluate.  While it’s certainly difficult when things don’t go as planned, this is actually a great chance to take stock of your career and goals and to make sure that an MBA is still a logical and necessary step at this point.  It’s this sort of reflection that can lead to refined career goals and a clearer sense of the reasons you need a business education. Continue reading…

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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. Continue reading…

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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: 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. 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: Understanding Background Checks

background-checkWith a slew of schools releasing 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. Continue reading…

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