Tag Archives | Stanford Business School

Annual San Francisco MBA Admissions Workshop

MBA admissions workshopEvery year in July I organize a workshop for potential applicants. It’s an interactive event — not just me talking, but you helping each other figure out what are the stories and themes in your life that will help you stand out in the competitive MBA admissions process.

The workshop is hosted by the Harvard Club of San Francisco, and has produced successful candidates who have gone on to all of the top business schools: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Yale, Kellogg, MIT, Booth, Kellogg, Tuck…and more.  Plus, you don’t have to be a Harvard graduate to attend!

I’ll do bit of talking to de-mystify the admissions process, but you will do the work to kick-start your application — not just the essays — and make it shine.


At the workshop, you’ll go through exercises to help you identify unique personal and career successes. You will brainstorm ways to tell your own story in an inviting and compelling way. You will join small teams get to know each other, using both the left and the right side of your brain to identify what makes you stand out from just any old applicant.

We’ll have food on hand to keep you nourished, and by the end of the workshop, you will have at least one story that admissions committees can’t wait to read about.

Date: Tuesday, July 12
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Place: Sandbox Suites, 404 Bryant St (@2nd St), San Francisco
Cost: $25 members, $30 non-members. Includes food

For more information and registration, please click here.

RSVP requested by July 10

Stanford GSB Debunks MBA Application Myths


Students who are applying to business school are rightfully nervous about their chances for getting in. And there are some urban myths that certainly go around the blogosphere about interviews, campus visits and chances. Thankfully, the admissions office at Stanford Graduate School of business has taken on the job of myth-buster, at least according to the GSB.  This is from their admissions blog post of November 8, 2013:


— by the Stanford Graduate School  of Business Admissions Team

MYTH 1: The interview has a lot of weight so if I blow the interview, I have blown my chances of being admitted.
THE TRUTH: There is no specific weight assigned to the interview; the interview is one part of a comprehensive process. A positive interview does not guarantee admission, while a less than favorable interview does not, by itself, preclude admission. The written application, including the essays and letters of reference, is a critical part of the evaluation process. The interview is a key source of supplemental information.

MYTH 2: I received my interview invitation early in the round so it must mean I have a better chance of getting admitted.
THE TRUTH: The timing of your interview invitation reflects only the order in which your application was reviewed (and the order in which your application was reviewed doesn’t mean anything, honest!). Applications are not reviewed in any particular order, and applicants are not ranked.

MYTH 3: Visiting campus before or after I’ve submitted my application is an important way to demonstrate my interest in Stanford and increase my chances of being admitted.
THE TRUTH: Visiting campus does not affect your chances of admission whatsoever. Think of it this way – we wouldn’t want to bias the process towards only people with the proximity, time, or resources to visit. You may wish to visit if it’s helpful to your research and decision-making process about schools. Of course, we always welcome visitors! But we also understand that for some of you that may not be feasible. If you have only one chance to visit, save your time and money and come after you’ve been admitted for Admit Weekend, where you’ll meet students, alumni, faculty, and your future classmates.

Are you a Non-Traditional MBA Candidate? Then Read This.

Just about everyone, that is, other than McKinsey consultants and Goldman analysts, call themselves non-traditional candidates for business school. Why? Because they think that everyone who will populate the next MBA class comes

Defraying the cost of business school

from management consulting or finance.

We all of know a few consultants, investment banking types, and more than a few engineers at business school. And indeed, if you look at the profiles of many business schools (here’s a link to the Wharton MBA site, where you will see a combination of 42% for those in investment banking, private equity, or other finance). But thousands of others from backgrounds in the arts, social enterprise, hard science, start-ups, and the military will make their way to MBA program of their choice in the next intake class. Really.

It’s a Master of Business Administration

Here’s something that most people don’t understand: business school is about business. More and more students come from non-profits, and more and more will go into social enterprise (otherwise, why else would Stanford Graduate School of Business’s motto be “Change Lives. Change Organizations. Change the World?” Of course schools are looking for leadership. But they also want students to appreciate what makes a business enterprise work. Dee Leopold, the heralded director of admissions at Harvard Business School, calls this business acumen “bizability.”

The term bizability reminds students that they are (nearly always) applying to a school of business. The degree is called a Master of Business Administration. The Yale School of Management had tried for two decades to sell its Master of Public and Private Management (MPPM) degree, but the school officially changed the name to the MBA in 2000. Business is about commerce, about enterprise, and even in the case of non-profits, it’s about the bottom line. Dee Leopold described it as being “grounded in the language of business.”

Bizability means that students have to, at some level, grasp business. You can still be part of the 99%, that’s fine (many of us are). I once met a student who wanted a joint degree in education and business to fund a school, but she hated the concept of business. She didn’t see the value in finance; she just thought it was all evil. That is not a great admissions strategy. You have to like business well enough to have been exposed to what makes a company tick and want to learn more.

So what if you have worked in a government or non-profit organization. You don’t have to think too hard about where you have used “business skills” to succeed:

1. Have you run – or do you work with — the budget for your department?
2. Have you allocated resources (e.g., people, systems, programs?)
2. Have you raised money, either from investors or organizations giving grants?
4. Have you ever had your own business, like a lemonade stand, a neighborhood newspaper, or an Etsy store?
5. Do you follow business news, the financial press or the stock market? Do you know how your IRA works?
You don’t have to answer “yes” to all of these questions, but they probably shouldn’t scare you if you are thinking about an MBA.

So think about what business school is about and what having a career with a business degree means. Think about words like management, enterprise, company, operations, market, trade, and finance. Do you have an affinity for any of these ideas? If so, you are on your way, and are perhaps not so scarily non-traditional after all.

Business Schools that Accept the GRE or GMAT

More and more business schools are accepting the GRE in lieu of the GMAT these days. In response to a query I received from the academic adviser to students at one of the world’s top undergraduate schools, I thought I would put together a handy table for you to identify which schools accept either the GRE or GMAT. Below you can see that many do, but not all.




Columbia YES Columbia Business School
Darden YES UVA Darden
Fuqua YES Duke Fuqua
HBS YES Harvard Business School
Mich Ross YES University of Michigan Ross School
Tuck YES Dartmouth Tuck
Stanford YES Stanford GSB
Wharton YES Wharton MBA
Yale YES Yale School of Management
Chicago NO Chicago Booth
Cornell NO Cornell Johnson
Haas NO UC Berkeley Haas
Kellogg NO Kellogg

If you have any questions about updates to this information, please email me at betsy@masteradmissions.com

A few notes: Cornell does not indicate it accepts the GRE, but they haven’t said they *don’t* accept it, as Haas and Chicago Booth have. UCLA Anderson’s MBA program doesn’t accept it, but their Executive Program does.

Further, things do change! so please check the links and make sure the information you have is current.

Meanwhile, if you need any advice on studying for standardized tests, please see last week’s blog post on test anxiety and your brain.

GMAT, GRE, LSAT and Your Brain

Starting to think about taking the GMAT, GRE or LSAT?  This is actually the time to start looking into courses, figuring out whether you want to take a class or get a private tutor, or whether doing the online/whiteboard route works for you. You can find variations that suit your timeframe, learning style, and temperament.

Test Anxiety is Normal
Taking tests is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  I want you all to know that I was a TERRIBLE test taker. My SAT scores were so low that I was laughed out my top choice undergraduate schools. (I eventually had to transfer into Vassar from a state school).  So when I was thinking about applying to graduate school, the hold-it-all back side of my brain flipped out. Eventually, I ended up teaching that emotional bundle of neurons to shut up and let me be the test taker I thought I ought to be. And it worked: I scored in the 93rd percentile, with roughly equal math and verbal scores. Oh, and I got into HBS, Stanford Business School, Chicago, Wharton, and Darden.  Cool, huh?

I’ve been thinking about this experience because I’ve been reading an old classic of leadership training, Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman.  He describes a situation a lot of us know only too well: test anxiety. He describes, in scientific detail, an emotional hijacking.  This is where the limbic system, (the part of the brain that tells the body to breathe, pump blood, and run away from predators) disrupts the “working memory.”  So if you’ve ever been in a situation where you sit down at a computer screen in a noisy and unpleasant test center, here’s what’s probably going on.

The prefrontal cortex is the brain region responsible for working memory. But circuits from the limbic [most primitive brain part] brain to the prefrontal lobes [the rational/working memory part] mean that signals of strong emotion – anxiety, anger, and the like—can create neural static, sabotaging the ability of the prefrontal lobe to maintain working memory.

This limbic system is the hotbed of emotions. The limbic system, which includes the amygdala, if you’ve ever heard of it, is screaming to you as you look at the test questions, “Run away, it’s too scary! You will fail!”

Well, guess what. That amygdala is useful sometimes, but it tends to overreact. And that’s where the thinking, reasoning brain comes in. The prefrontal cortex tells the panic-stricken limbic system that all is not out of control.

The problem is that the cortex sometimes takes awhile to figure out that it needs calm your hysterical primitive, running from-the-burning-house brain. You are sitting in a noisy and fear-inducing test taking center. You know you should be spending no more than two minutes per question. And you are not even conscious of all this stuff going on inside your grey matter!

You Can Get Over It

The task is to teach yourself how to speed up the “thinking brain’s” work and quell those fears.  It takes lots and lots of practice, and it can be done.

I’ve got lots of suggestions, and most of them can be found in a previous article I wrote called Train Your Brain for Test Success: Mastering Test Anxiety.” But if you want to cut to the psychological chase, pick up a copy of Dr. Ben Bernstein’s Workbook for Test Success. He’s an experienced psychologist who knows how to put that amygdala back in line.

If I figured out how to do it, anyone can. I personally know a few standardized testing (GMAT and GRE) tutors whom I like, and rather than shout out here, I am happy to take your calls and make recommendations.   Take a breath and good luck!