Tag Archives | Harvard MBA

You Really Want to Read this Article Now

Believe it or not, the admissions deadlines for 2016 entry is fast approaching. I’d rather think about relaxing during the summer and taking a break.  But MBA programs are releasing applications for the next cycle, and it makes sense to start your campaign for getting into your top choice business school.

To get you going, I’m offering just a few tips to get you going as you launch the application process.

1. Consider first round.

Whether it less competitive or not, the admissions committee has a blank slate for the class. Better they pick you because of you, rather than search for someone to fill a hole and it happens to be you. For portfolio managers out there, you know what I mean – if the portfolio is partly built, you tend to look for either non-correlated securities or to fill a certain area where you need exposure. MBA classes are built similarly.

2.  Make sure your GMAT scores are up to snuff.

The last thing you want is to have to deal with studying for a very annoying standardized test and project-managing the rest of the application. I am a strong believer in taking a course or hiring a tutor. Feel free to email me for specific suggestions.

3. Use your summer to talk with first-year and graduating MBA students.

You have a wonderful chance to ask the dumb questions and get a feel for your fit with each school.  If you are thinking of switching careers, find a between-years student or recent grad and ask how it has worked for them so far. The clearer your game plan for the next few years, and how it connects with the future, the better.

4.  Research by reading and watching everything published by the schools.

Let the school market to you. A college classmate of mine actually tells business schools how to market their services to prospective students. MBA programs pay good money to consultants and brand managers to make sure that what they are saying about themselves represents the school’s unique selling points.

5. Start thinking about your recommenders.

You want to make sure you have buy-in from the people who will help you the most. I’ve written about this a lot, including an article in Poets & Quants – and here’s the original blog post on wrangling recommenders, which culls the best advice from admissions officers and other experts.

If it makes you feel any better, applications for medical school are due in June.  Just think…you’ve got several months more!

And if you will be in Palo Alto, CA in July, I’m facilitating the Dartmouth & Harvard Clubs’ MBA Admissions Workshop.  Save the date of July 14 for a fun and interactive few hours that will help you clarify and organize your plans for the upcoming applications.

5 Reasons to Visit B-schools RIGHT NOW!

MBA campus visit Tuck springI created this list for Poets and Quants, the premier MBA website. It was put on the front page a few days ago, and want to share these tips with all prospective MBA students. Here’s why you must not wait, but do what you can to do your MBA campus visit in the spring!

It’s spring. Trees are blooming, the cold weather is behind us, the cycle begins again. Same goes for MBA admissions, when the next class of prospective students starts thinking about applications. The resounding advice I hear from students who have successfully navigated the process is: Do. Your. Research. And that means that you should visit schools. When?

Spring.

If you can schedule a visit before classes are over, while the sun is shining, and when students know what’s what, you’ll get a much better idea of the school’s DNA.

Here are five reasons to get yourself on a plane sooner, rather than waiting until summer or fall.

1. THE WEATHER

Admit it, life is more pleasant for visitors in the spring than in the dead of winter. OK, Stanford and Berkeley are lovely most of the year, but the rest of the country? Not so much fun. Says one Booth second-year student, “For Chicago, the spring weather is a huge plus. The winter just makes everyone miserable.”

And who can forget Boston’s record 96 inches of snow this past winter?

2. CLASS IS IN SESSION

One of the best ways to understand an MBA program is to go when class is in session. You’ll feel a completely different vibe when a campus is filled with purposeful students. You want to sit in on a class, see what it’s all about, and get a feel for what it would be like to be a student yourself. And if you’ve never seen the case-study method in action, you don’t know what you’re missing.

You’ve got about a month left of classes for most MBA programs – for example, the last day of classes for both HBS and MIT Sloan is May 14. Stanford GSB and Kellogg, which are on the quarter system, run a little longer; last day of classes for Stanford is May 29, for Kellogg is May 30.

Students visiting one-year programs like INSEAD or programs like Columbia Business School need not worry; prospective students can see the school in action year-round. “With classes taking place over the summer, the J-term also offers prospective students an opportunity to sit in for a class and really experience what it would be like to be a Columbia Business School student,” says Amanda Carlson, assistant dean of MBA admissions at Columbia.” It’s these types of experiences that seem to have the greatest impact on prospective students.”

3. CURRENT STUDENTS KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT

In addition to class visits, you want to talk with real students to discern the realities of campus life. First year students are usually in a state of shock during fall term – they’re overwhelmed with courses, activities, recruiting, and FOMO, or fear of missing out. Second year students have figured out the lay of the land, but can be stressed by recruiting, which swings into full gear during autumn.

Spring is a different story. Jodi Innerfield, an admissions ambassador at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, notes, “Visiting schools in the spring gave me the opportunity to speak with first years as they reflected on year 1, and MBA2’s as they ventured off to their full-time jobs. In the spring, we’re all reflecting on our experiences and enjoying the nice weather, so it’s a good time to get our perspective and see campus.”

Christine Sneva, senior director of enrollment and student services at Cornell Tech, agrees: “Spring is actually an ideal time because as someone who’s scoping out a program’s value proposition, prospective students should be talking to folks at the end of their program. You’ll get a raw, real-time perspective that will most likely stay with you throughout your search.”

4. LESS PRESSURE

Since most MBA admissions deadlines begin in September or October, things can get pretty rushed for applicants in the fall. Assuming the student has taken the GMAT or GRE, there’s the application to navigate, recommenders to organize, and goals to figure out, all while continuing to excel in a full-time job. Amy Mitson, senior associate director of admissions at the Tuck School of Business suggests that, “Spring is a great time to take an advanced look at a program with no pressure. You are still months away from the start of the fall application season. Relax and take it all in! This will also give you something to reflect on when writing your application in the fall.”

5. LONGER LEAD TIME

In addition to reducing pressure, early visits allow a prospective student a chance to reflect on their experiences as they figure out the whole question of fit. The visit will help you figure out where to apply and why. You’ll be able to go beyond rankings or brand reputation as you think about what the school offers you, and importantly, what you offer the school. A spring visit allows you to use the summer to really think through your argument for why the MBA and why a particular school.

Not everyone can visit every target school, but it helps prospective students understand the MBA program’s culture, and it never hurts to make the effort, if possible. Says Tuck’s Mitson, “Nothing beats the first-hand perspective and showing your sincere interest like a visit to campus.”

How to Navigate the Harvard Business School Application — Step-by-Step

Here’s a step-by-step “How to Navigate the Harvard Business School Application” video that was also posted on Poets & Quants. Believe it or not, the application’s short answers give you a really great way to present yourself as a true, and worthy member of the next class.  Take every advantage of this opportunity!

This year, the HBS application takes on a disproportional importance, as it has been made very clear by the head of admissions, Dee Leopold, that the application, plus the optional essay is simply there to determine who is going to go through their face-to-face interview process.

Of course the essay is important, but it is likely that the application that will weigh heavily, especially as they determine who will be interviewed.  Given the application’s importance, you’ll want to read through and think about it well in advance.  Note that they require you to log into the HBS site and click through about 10 times to even read it.  And then if you do, you would have to take about 20 more screenshots to even figure out what’s going on. That’s why I made this video; I went through every page and found the most important areas to differentiate yourself.

Don’t leave this all to the last minute.  But incorporate the application as part of your overall strategy to make the right impression before the admissions committee, by getting clear on what you want to say in the short answers, text boxes, and even in the additional information session.

For those of you who aren’t able to see the video, (or don’t have six minutes to spare), I’ve posted the main takeaways below:

1. Start by reading through the entire online application–without typing anything in those annoying little boxes.

2. Gather all your GMAT and employment data to fill in at the same time.

3. Don’t craft substantive answers in the text boxes. Use your Word program or pen and paper to assure your answers are as good as they can be.

4. Take advantage of these opportunities to tell the truth about yourself.

Have fun with the essay, but the application will probably weigh more up front, at least as admissions officers consider the first cut.

Talking About Round 3: Is it Worth Trying?

It’s that time of year for students to ask about MBA application chances for Round 3.  I’ve personally seen a number of students go through successful third-round quests, but it isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Fewer Spaces, Tired Application Readers

First the odds are more competitive, as admissions committee members from Tuck recently posted on their blog. But not impossible, as they say. A
work change could be a perfectly fine reason to make the third round plunge: Tuck bloggers tell the story of one student who “wasn’t completely satisfied with her professional life. She decided she was ready for a change, but, because she wanted to ensure that she presented the best possible application, she opted to let a few rounds pass..Providing a little explanation in your application as to why you’ve chosen to apply at this particular time helps the committee understand your motivations better.

And of course, Dee Leopold of Harvard Business School also chimes in with her straight talk about Round 3. Here’s what she said in a recent blog post:

Myth #1: There are no spots available.
Not true. We manage the selection process to ensure that there are always spots open for the candidates we want. Are there as many spots open as in Rounds 1 and 2? No. Are there as many applicants? No. Do I think a strong candidate has a fair shot? Yes.

Here’s more from her blog a few years back:

…we always conclude that we like Round 3 enough to keep it as an option. Although we have admitted about 90% of the class by this time, we always – ALWAYS – see enough interesting Round 3 applicants to want to do it again. I know you wish I could define “interesting” with pinpoint accuracy but I can’t. Sometimes it’s work experience, sometimes it’s an undergraduate school we wish we had more students from, sometimes it’s a compelling recommendation …

Kurt Ahlm, admissions director for Chicago Booth, also gave this advice in a March 7, Booth Insider blog post (2013, but still fresh)

Make it your best effort, not a last-ditch effort to get accepted. Treat this round with the same drive you would for any round, for any of your target schools. We know when an application has been rushed, so make sure you’re putting together a product that you can be proud of and is an accurate representation of what you can do. Don’t use the opportunity to reapply a few months later as a back-up plan.

Do’s and Don’ts

Indeed, don’t take the process cavalierly, or you will be wasting your time and the political capital you had to spend to get people to write those nice recommendations. Last year I wrote up a list of Round 3 tips that still hold true

Do apply third round if

  • You realize that there are other schools after HBS and Stanford GBS
  • You improved your GMAT score by enough to put you within the target school’s range
  • Your work or life situation changed
  • You are considering part-time programs when you only applied to full-time programs

You should NOT apply third round if

  • You only want to go to a top 5 school and you didn’t get into the top 4
  • You are outside of the school’s class profile
  • You aren’t sure what you want to do
  • The thought of filling out another application gives you a rash
  • You hate your life and it just occurred to you to get an MBA last week

Yes, it is a little on the late side, and if you are just starting to think about taking your GMAT, you probably should delay until next year. But! If you are already in the process, and ready to go, take heart. Stranger things have happened.

MBA Third Round Chances

Every year I get the same question: is it worth applying in Round 3?.  And every year I see students get in and happily matriculate, so … why not?

Fewer Spaces, Tired Application Readers

Well, it is more competitive,  as admissions committee members from Tuck recently posted on their blog. But not impossible, as they say. A
work change could be a perfectly fine reason to make the third round plunge: Tuck bloggers tell the story of one student who “wasn’t completely satisfied with her professional life.  So although an MBA was something she had been considering, when her company began undergoing some changes, she decided she was ready for a change as well.  Because she wanted to ensure that she presented the best possible application, she opted to let a few rounds pass.  Additionally, providing a little explanation in your application as to why you’ve chosen to apply at this particular time helps the committee understand your motivations better.

Kurt Ahlm, admissions director for Chicago Booth, also gave  this advice in a March 7, Booth Insider blog post

Make it your best effort, not a last-ditch effort to get accepted. Treat this round with the same drive you would for any round, for any of your target schools.  We know when an application has been rushed, so make sure you’re putting together a product that you can be proud of and is an accurate representation of what you can do. Don’t use the opportunity to reapply a few months later as a back-up plan.

Do’s and Don’ts

Indeed, don’t take the process cavalierly, or you will be wasting your time and the political capital you had to spend to get people to write those nice recommendations. Last year I wrote up a list of Round 3 tips  that still hold true

Do apply third round if

  • You realize that there are other schools after HBS and Stanford GSB
  • You improved your GMAT score by enough to put you within the target school’s range
  • Your work or life situation changed
  • You are considering part-time programs when you only applied to full-time programs

You should NOT apply third round if

  • You only want to go to a top 5 school and you didn’t get into the top 4
  • You are outside of the school’s class profile
  • You aren’t sure what you want to do
  • The thought of filling out another application gives you a rash
  • You hate your life and it just occurred to you to get an MBA last week

And of course, Dee Leopold of Harvard Business School said this in her blog a few years back:

Round Three – Should You or Shouldn’t You?
…You may be asking yourself whether it’s worth your time and money to submit an application. Is it too much of a long shot?

…we always conclude that we like Round 3 enough to keep it as an option. Although we have admitted about 90% of the class by this time, we always – ALWAYS – see enough interesting Round 3 applicants to want to do it again. I know you wish I could define “interesting” with pinpoint accuracy but I can’t. Sometimes it’s work experience, sometimes it’s an undergraduate school we wish we had more students from, sometimes it’s a compelling recommendation …

Yes, it is a little on the late side, and if you are just starting to think about it, you probably should delay until next year. But! If you are already in the process, and ready to go, take heart. You are not as crazy as you think.