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Category Archives: GMAT

To me, the jury is still out on MBA admissions consultants.  The trend has been the industry’s friend however.

  • I know that several members of top 25 admissions committees have reached out to MBA admissions consulting companies over the last few seasons.
  • These admissions committees have shown that they are willing to collaborate with these consulting firms in order to help steer more students their way, with respect to the application process.

Here is a link to UCLA Anderson’s take on the industry I found while searching around on the intertubes.

UCLA Anderson seems to be a bit cautious on their blog.


So you’ve had the axe swung on you during your initial attempt at business school applications.  While it’s tough, you need to get back on your MBA application horse and solicit feedback from the admissions committee.  This is the first step in successfully getting in the subsequent year.

Assess your feedback efforts through this questioning framework:

  1. What programs did you apply to and for what rounds?  How well did you fit the median profile?
  2. What schools were you accepted?  Rejected by all?  Admitted by some?
  3. Were you waitlisted and the rejected?  How did you follow up after you were rejected?  Did you try and appeal any of the decisions?  Had you applied to the program in years prior?
  4. Do you seek out advice from each of the schools that rejected you?  What did they say?  How long was the feedback session?  In phone, email or in person?  Did you know the person giving you the feedback?  What questions did you ask?  Did you have the questions handy and essays reread?  Was the person generally positive or negative sounding?  Did they neglect to give you any feedback?
  5. In what month did you solicit the feedback?  After May and before September? Timing is everything as adcoms will be swamped.
  6. Did you implement their specific advice into this year’s application?  What was the specific advice?  What does each website
  7. Was there a consistent theme among the schools?  What was the theme?
  8. Did you work with an admissions consultant?  For all schools?  What company?
  9. Gut check: What do you think are the reasons for your rejection are?

Now integrate this feedback into the subsequent applications:

  1. How are you a stronger candidate? What has substantially changed year over year?  Professionally and personally?  Tough for R3 and then next year’s R1.
  2. Why did you reapply and why to this school?  What have you learned from the rejection experience?  How did it make you more determined to succeed?
  3. How much overlap is there between essays?  Have they substantially changed? In what ways?
  4. Did the school offer you the chance to only re-write on essay?  You should rewrite them all.
  5. Did you use new recommenders or recommendations that can address to your recent strengths?
  6. Did you emphasize the new project work on the resume?
  7. Did you take additional classes if you have academic deficiencies?  Re-take GMAT?
  8. What is your story during the interviews as to what has improved year over year?  What specific reasons do you have to tell about being a stronger candidate?

Good luck.

Pay paticular attention to the question that every b-school application asks:

  • What Other Programs Are You Applying To?

The reason is this:

  • B-schools are keen to know who they are competing against.  They want to know how applicants view the correlation between programs but also if you are using the school as a backup or safe school.
  • For instance, on the UCLA Anderson application, if you list that you are applying to Stanford and Haas, in addition to Anderson, the admissions committee will pretty much know you are using them as a backup.

Why is this an issue?

  • If you do not make compelling reasons for “Why Anderson?”, then the effect is magnified.  It becomes even more apparent that you are using UCLA Anderson as a backup.
  • A good test is this; if you can unplug the UCLA Anderson name from the essays and plug back in any other business school, the adcom knows and can see right through it.
  • Programs with “pull through” issues or low acceptance rates of extended offers know that they are going to get dinged in the rankings.  They are keen to see that you are serious.

What should you do?

  • You have to have clear reasons why you need an MBA, your short and longer term goals and why you need to get that MBA now as opposed to a year from now.
  • If you do not have clear reasons, the adcom will see through it.  They review thousands of applications, they have a BS detector.  You will sound as if you have not clearly thought through your future career.  It’s certain death to your application.

I tell my clients up front that they have to waive their right and that it is not really an option to not do so.

Not waiving your right could tell the adcom that you don’t trust your recommenders.  It  could tell them that you are paranoid or overly anxious.

It could tell them that this applicant is a liability.  What happens if he doesn’t get in?  Is he going to go after his recommenders for throwing him under the bus?  Is he going to create more headaches for all involved?  Is the applicant going to create reputational risk for the school?

The adcom would rather just not deal with it.

Specifically, when an applicant waives their right to see the rec in legal terms it bascially means that you voluntarily and intentionally relinquish their known right, claim or privilege to view the rec at any time.  Also, with this and when an applicant is admitted, they will still not be able to see this rec if they waived their rec.
I have never heard of a student actually viewing their rec once they got it (waived or not waived).  They got in and most are satisfied with that.
Keep in mind, I do not consider not waiving to be a deal breaker.  It looks bad to the adcom but it only part of the whole applicantion package.  An applicant can have compensating factors that made up for your “non-waive”.
At a high level it is important to remember that an applicant is competing against a subset of applicants when they apply to b-school.  If you do anything to differentiate yourself in a negative way from these demographics (like not waiving), the adcom will notice the red flag.

A significant number of my clients are from India (non-US citizen). In my consulting conversations with them, the one thing I bring up with them is their status as an over-represented applicant group.   That is, there are a lot of applicants applying from India, probably more so than any other group.  Applicants to business school are not necessarily going to be compared against the whole pool but rather a subset.  Additionally, a majority of my clients  are from the IT consulting and operations arena within India, further reducing their opportunities to distinguish themselves from the pack.  While you many never hear an adcom talking about this phenomena, any grade, GMAT, work or extracurricular activity not up to snuff is a dealbreaker.  The Indian undergraduate institution is of particular importance to the adcoms as well.

This is why I spend devote extra time to the school selection process with my Indian clients.  If a particular client is “running with the pack” a good way to separate themselves is to detail at length their school fit and deep knowledge of a particular MBA program (in the essays).

Some adcoms or other consultants may argue with this point.  Think about it this way though, adcoms are seeking a diverse student body.  Indian applicants bring a lot to the table and it usually includes a high GMAT and GPA.  Anything less and you don’t get in.

I used to be a Kaplan tutor and instructor. Now I occasionally tutor students individually.It’s been my experience that if your aptitude is “average+” and you want to score above a 700 you need about 30 hours of instruction and then about another 50-70 hours of studying on your own. This seems like a lot but to some of my students it has been a slam dunk way of scoring 700+.

I would definitely start studying 3 months out. This means taking a class course or tutoring if you have the money. After the class is done I would recommend taking one practice CD test a week (Sunday Afternoons).

During the week, stay after work for 75 additional mins and take a verbal section or a math section on CD.

he class course should teach you how to approach each problem. The tests and CDs should teach you timing.

Another good resource for the b-school applicant, is to utilize is the b-school forum. You have to pay for full access, but a big-timing prospective MBA (like yourself) should have no problems fronting the cash. I especially think its beneficial to read the Admissions Q&A with the Admissions Directors from the schools you are applying to. For instance, this is the one for Linda Baldwin,UCLA’s Adcom big cheese: Businessweek Interview.

For me, it’s important to understand what these people are saying so you can get a good idea of the environment they are trying to promote at their business school. If you understand your Adcom’s psychology, then you can tailor your message (during the interview or essays) to say (for lack of a better term) what they “want to hear”.

Also, some people will say “Josie, don’t write what you think the Adcom wants to hear, write from the heart,write something gutsy….” Anyone who says that should have their head examined. You want to write something that they want to hear, not something they don’t. If you don’t, you’re gonna be riding the short bus over to CUNY. Human nature says we like hearing stuff we agree with, not necessarily thought provoking.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt to Google the name of the Adcom head as well as the person who is going to be interviewing you. You might be able to find out what they like and then that becomes your new hobby….or at least a possible talking point.

I taught the GMAT for about 3 years. In that time, I had the pleasure of teaching over 250 students. Along the way, I also had the privilege of helping a select few craft their admissions packages.
Based on my experience and in order of importance, I present the following 8 factors I consider critical to getting into a top b-school:

  1. GMAT Score
  2. Application Essays
  3. Work Experience
  4. GPA
  5. Extracurricular Activities
  6. Recommendations
  7. Interviews
  8. Applicant Submission Round

Business school rankings are an attempt by different publications to apply a methodology to the various aspects of an MBA program. This methodology then allows for a fair (subjective) comparison between all the affected b-schools. Different publications place different weights on the varying aspects of each b-school program. Often these weights change from year to year within the same publication. With the same publication, this leads to the inability to accurately compare schools from year to year. Across numerous publications, this just leads to confusion. For instance, some publications will rank Harvard “number one”, while others won’t even have it in the “top ten”. Is it possible for a b-school to change so much in one year? Not likely. As stated above, it’s most likely the publication.

So who can you rely upon? The two most consistent b-school rankings have come from “US News and World Report” and from Business Week. Business Week issues their ranking every other year, while US News issues them every year. Every other year is probably a good policy as b-schools, containing a certain amount of institutional memory, really don’t change too much from year to year. The top ten schools have very little turnover in these two polls. You can argue with their methodology but at least you know what you are going to get. These two heavy-hitters are the ones that everyone refers to and the only ones that that the business world really seems to care about with respect to bragging rights.

Other publications offer their own shot at rankings the b-schools with mixed results. Forbes gives theirs, the WSJ, the Economist and the Financial Times all have their own. These should be considered the second tier of b-schools rankings. Although these publications’ rankings may be totally legitimate with respect to methodology, they are not paid as much attention to as US News and Business Week because they are not as consistent. When these publications drop a Harvard or University of Chicago from their “top ten”, the methodologies that produced these incredulous results tend to lose, well, credibility. Question any ranking publication that has a school in the top ten one year and then in the 20s the next year. No school changes that much.

All this being, why should you even pay attention to the rankings? Why should it affect your decision to go to b-school? Simply put, perception is reality. Think about it, when you go to get that big banking or consulting job out of b-school, the big banks or consulting firms want the prestige that is associated with the top schools. They want that prestige and they are willing to pay for it. This is why recruiters also love candidate from the top 15 schools in the world. These top schools produce, maybe not the best candidates, but the most prestigious candidates. Usually, the top school’s produce the best and the most prestigious candidates. These students get paid the top dollar and their employer now has bragging rights.

Thus, the bottom line is that, love them or hate them, rankings do matter.