This time of year is stressful for many reasons. The holidays themselves are crushing. Family time can be just as taxing as it is soothing. Buying Christmas presents becomes a chore and like the song says, the traffic is terrific. Worst of all, MBA deadlines and all the accompanying details loom large.
Business School applicants typically have type-A personalities, so managing the application process with zest and precision comes with the territory. One area they can’t directly control, however, is the recommendation. Everything works great with someone who is responsive and excited for your b-school journey, but how do you handle someone who is not so eager to help?
As the 2017 academic year winds to a close, students all over the world are preparing themselves for final exams. With a similar amount of angst and tension, hopeful business school applicants are beginning to prepare as well, but instead of taking tests, they will be writing applications.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare for this, is to visit each of your target schools in person.
When it comes to recommendations, the first thing that any applicant needs to understand is how they work and, therefore, how they should handle them as part of the process. We sum up this analysis with something we call “The Rule of 10%”: they count for about 10% of a decision, they should be about 10% of your focus during application season, and you should contribute about 10% of the work that goes into their outcome.
Obviously, these are all gross estimates and generalizations, but it shakes out to about right and its easier to use 10% than “a percentage that is a LOT less than you think it is.” The bottom line is that most applicants assume a much higher level of importance, they spend far more time thinking and worrying about them, and they get far too involved in their production (the biggest issue of all). Let’s work through all three:
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.
A significant portion of my MBA admissions consulting applicants come to be with little to no extracurricular experience since their undergraduate days. While this is a problem that can be addressed, it can show a lack of proper planning over the long term. A lot of applicants don't think about the impact of their actions on their applicant competitiveness when the graduate from undergrad. To a certain extent, even I was the same way. What I like most about some of my clients is the the way some of them are way ahead of the game we call the MBA application process. Those that have been planning since day 1 to go back to b-school tend to be distinguishing yourself from your peers out of the gate and these habits show when constructing the business school application.
As an MBA admissions consultant, I have worked with a number of clients over the past 5 years. Invariably, the most common question I receive is "What are my chances of getting in?" Answering this question qualitatively requires years of admissions consulting experience with dozens and dozens of clients. Doing the question justice and providing the client with meaning insight requires several hours of examination. Even then, as the applicant matures and the application process begins, the applicant's "chances" can change remarkably.
However, there has to be some way of getting into the analytics of how MBA admissions committees view their applicant pool. I mean, Wharton is not going to take an applicant with a 480 GMAT, there is just no way. There has to be a range, cut-offs and some way to statistically examine applicant pools.
I searched high and low on the WWW for such a tool. I could find none in the GMAT/MBA space. What I found were mostly models that analyzed a few criteria from an applicant's POV. That is, these models looked at things like:
- In what type of setting should the school reside? Urban, Suburban, Rural?
- What time of female or international representation should be present?
- What climate should the school reside in?
While these factors are important in the decision-making process, they do not necessarily view things from the admissions committee perspective.
With this in mind, I when out and created a model that analyzes an applicant's prospects of entering the top 25 U.S. business school programs from an admissions committee view. I developed this tool for Veritas Prep as part of my MBA admissions consulting responsibilities.
The explanation from the Veritas Prep website does a great job of explaining what function the tool serves:
"This tool was created to generate an optimal range of business schools for you. By "optimal," we mean that these are the highest-ranked schools to which you have a reasonable chance of getting accepted. While no model is perfect, especially in beta, you can use the range of schools at the bottom of this page as a way to start narrowing your choice of MBA programs."
"Please don’t take the model too seriously. Since it only utilizes a subset of data, it cannot be considered a comprehensive tool for all situations and applicant profiles. The admissions process is highly subjective, and no one model can serve as an "oracle" or "magic eight ball.""
Click here to access the Veritas Prep Business School Selector.
As an MBA admissions consultant I often have to take a step back with my clients. Over the years I have learned a lot from my clients and have come to realize that the definitions of proper interview dress or attire varies by region, country and even culture.
This is the deal, and I dissuade anyone from thinking anything to the contrary:
- Wear a dark colored suit (Grey, Black, Charcoal) with a white or light blue shirt.
- Wear a tie that has as little design or pattern in it at possible. Solid colored ties are good.
- Wear shoes that are polished with dark socks. By shoes I mean dress shoes with dark laces, not “comfort” shoes, timberlands or Uggs. By dark I mean dark blue or black.
- Do not wear anything that is tight-fitting or shows body parts excessively. This is an interview not a club.
- Cut the tags off your clothing. Nothing says Men’s Wearhouse $199 special than tags still sewn onto the sleeve of a jacket. Don’t laugh too much, I have seen this as an MBA admissions interviewer. It tells me the applicant is clueless at worst or knows a good sale when he sees one at best.
- Get a shave and a haircut……shower.
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:
- GMAT Score
- Application Essays
- Work Experience
- Extracurricular Activities
- Applicant Submission Round