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Recommenders should be individuals able to comment on your preparedness for business school, your past experiences, and your personal and professional attributes. A recommender need not be a big name at your company or elsewhere, but most importantly someone who knows you well.

Sometimes this aspect of the process is frustrating. Your recommender is pressed for time, forgets they promised you a recommendation. But you can make it easier on yourself and your recommender by making sure you:

· Provide them with a copy of your resume, even essay draft.

· Meet with them (whether by phone or in person).

· Give them a clear understanding of deadlines.

On the recommendations themselves, if you feel appropriate doing so request that your recommender address how they know you, your accomplishments, you vs. others in similar roles, your strengths, and your weaknesses. As a rule, the more specific a recommendation is, the better the recommendation is.


Your resume is also an important selling point to the admissions committee. It should be flawless and in a style the admissions committees find suitable. Some schools, for example, insist that the resume be one-page, so you should adapt, cut, and edit to their expectations. Some guiding principles to follow include the following.

· Do not include high school experiences in your business school resume.

· List your work experiences first, before your education.

· Do not state your objectives.



Do the best you can and give yourself adequate time to prepare. Take a review class or seek out private tutoring to ensure that your score is as good as it can be.

Undergraduate GPA

It can not be changed. For some it will be a strength, for others a weakness. Consider explaining in an optional essay, for example, a low GPA, but do not make excuses. Professional or academic successes post-college do say a great deal already.

Extracurricular Activities

Do not simply list these activities. Make sure that you also explain them and their importance to you as well as your particular accomplishments. If you do not have at least 4 extracurricular activities, consider explaining why: Were you working? Were you fulfilling other personal or professional roles? What in the future would you like to do outside the professional sphere? How will you ensure that you are able to do so?

Posted on November 17, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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Business schools often ask candidates several essay questions. Generally, schools ask about the applicant’s professional goals and experiences, achievements and/or leadership roles, impact, ethical dilemmas faced, specific events/role models that led you to where you are and where you want to be, and disappointment and how it was handled.

The goal of the essay is to fill in the picture that the admissions committee has of the applicant. The essays should be seen as your opportunity to show, explain, and support your candidacy. In the essay portion, the admissions committee wants to get to know you better and understand why you want an MBA, why now, and why at their particular school. Also, they want to know how an MBA is going to help you achieve your goal in both the short and the long term, as well as what you uniquely have to offer. For some applicants answers to these questions are clear; for others, they require greater introspection. Regardless of whether your answers to these questions come easily or with difficulty, you must be sure that your essays answer these questions. This is one of the foremost concerns of admissions committee and it may seem elementary—but you must ANSWER THE QUESTIONS. They ask the particular questions they ask for a reason, and they want answers to those questions, not to other ones. Your answers should be precise, clear, and straightforward, even if you employ creative styles in your answers. Do not leave them guessing.

Optional essays are an opportunity for you to provide additional information about yourself. You can explain pitfalls, gaps, hardships, or highlight items that have not been properly illuminated in other areas of the application.

Once you have decided on where to apply you are ready to begin attacking the essay portion.

· Create a list of different experiences you’d like to cover in the essay section. You may consider categorizing these according to leadership, team experiences, and growing/learning experiences.

· Read over all essays, required and optional, for a given school. Determine which experiences you’d like to cover in which essays or if any experiences are best left out as a result of being difficult to match with a particular school.

· Outline Essays. Your outlines should include a thesis, supporting points and specific examples.

· Write freely. Do not concern yourself yet with whether or not a particular point is helpful or harmful, just write.

· Edit. This will most likely be an ongoing process. Admissions committees want to see well-edited, clear, concise prose—this may require the help of a trusted friend or seeking out an admissions consultant. The committees read your essays several times so even minor mistakes are likely to be noticed.

Posted on November 10, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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Piecing together a full application may at first seem daunting, but applicants from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of personal and professional obligations continue to do so from year to year, in ever increasing numbers. So there is no need to feel discouraged from the outset by particular application components. Instead, begin by figuring out what you will both offer and get out of an MBA program.

Overall Advice:

There are a few guiding principles to follow in the application process.

· Match yourself to programs. Through research, going to campuses, and talking to students and/or alumni, you can begin the process of understanding what MBA programs can offer you and whether your background experiences are suited to a program. Consider the strengths of particular programs and whether these complement your interests.

· Remember also that schools want diversity. Do not assume that simply because your professional experiences are out of the ordinary for a school that it should be automatically eliminated. Your application gives you many opportunities to connect yourself to the school (and, uniqueness is a plus).

· Schools do not frown upon candidates that come from less known or small companies or less represented professions. Make your function and the function of your organization or company clear, and it will likely be a strength in your application.

· Apply in the early application rounds. B-school applications are not something to rush through.

· Send in your applications once you’ve completed them. Sometimes server problems arise at the last minute as many applicants are trying to get applications in.

· After submitting applications, take a couple of days to rest and then start preparing for interviews.

Posted on November 3, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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The addition of a presentation component in the University of Chicago’s graduate application also acknowledges Microsoft’s PowerPoint as an essential tool for today’s tech-savvy, business world. “No one in business today could pretend to be facile in business communications without PowerPoint,” said a declarative Clarke L. Caywood, associate professor of integrated marketing at Northwestern University in an interview with The Chicago Tribune. “It’s like being able to read.”

First created in 1984 at Forethought, a small software company in the Silicon Valley, the visual aid program was originally titled Presenter. In 1987, Presenter was acquired by Microsoft, where it quickly became known as PowerPoint. Now PowerPoint is an internationally recognized program, with 500 million registered copies creating an estimated 30 million presentations a day, but despite PowerPoint’s obvious popularity in the corporate world at large, until Chicago’s recent addition PowerPoint hasn’t been utilized in MBA graduate applications.

Surveying other top B schools recently to see if they too are eagerly adding the presentation element to their own graduate applications, surprisingly, many are doggedly sticking to the essay question. Brent Chrite, associate dean and director of the MBA program at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, recently told The Arizona Daily Star, “[the PowerPoint presentation’s] an innovative and interesting idea. It’s just not clear to me how that format lets you capture the [applicant’s] depth of insight that’s important to us.” A recent email from the admissions committee at Dartmouth College’s Tuck [SCHOOL OF BUSINESS] shares a similar, albeit frank response to the PowerPoint-presentations-in-future-applications query, “We do not require and do not envision requiring a powerpoint.”

Countering this, Martinelli asserts that today’s business environment consistently demands brief yet informative communication. MBA applicants should then readily reflect their capacity to work under these constraints, and a PowerPoint presentation is the best means of judging that quality. “Whether it be e-mail, PowerPoint or a two-minute elevator speech, successful businesspeople need to learn how to express their full ideas in very restrictive formats. We feel the new application requirement represents this very common challenge,” said Martinelli in an interview with EditorsChoice.

Perhaps, as Martinelli told BusinessWeek, there is a “buzz in the market,” and more B schools in future MBA graduate applications will eventually adopt the PowerPoint presentation as a valid form of an applicant’s disposition and achievements. For now, though, many B schools are concerning themselves with enhancing their essay questions. Many top B schools now have more contemporary essay queries like Harvard’s, “How have you experienced culture shock?” and the University of California, Berkley’s Haas {SCHOOL OF BUSINESS}’s, “If you could have dinner with one individual in the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?” that provoke more personal responses.

After a successful pilot, the highly esteemed University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business has officially accepted the PowerPoint presentation as an integral component of their graduate application. In addition to the two traditional essay questions, a mandatory four-slide PowerPoint presentation will be included as a means to better know their prospective students and attract more innovative thinkers to the university. “We wanted to have a freeform space for students to be able to say what they think is important,” Rose Martinelli, associate dean for student recruitment and admissions at the University of Chicago and key admissions officer behind the decision recently expressed in an interview with The Washington Post. “To me this is just four pieces of blank paper. You do what you want. It can be a presentation. It can be poetry. It can be anything.” Although this ambiguity may seem a bit daunting to MBA applicants, Chicago has set the following ground rules:

 * The PowerPoint presentation must be no more than four slides.
* The presentation must consist of “static” slides, or slides that do not contain hyperlinks or video as each presentation will be printed and added to their application file for review by the admissions committee.
* A Word document containing notes may be attached to the presentation if an applicant feels a further explanation of his or her slides is necessary.

As to Martinelli’s expectations: “I really don’t know what we’re going to get,” she recently told The Washington Post. However, after reviewing thousands of pilot presentation submissions this past year, Martinelli does know that more conservative slideshows did not fair as well. With only four slides given, a nebulous question and the desire to stand out, it may seem instinctual for applicants to immerse themselves in constructing the visual aspects of the presentation first. However, an applicant’s first focus should be finding something distinctive about themselves that would be beneficial for the Chicago admissions committee to know and was not previously addressed in earlier essays. Only after securing a sound topic should applicants “get creative” with their presentations through the use of strong pictures, legible fonts, and colors. In addition, applicants should also bear in mind that their projects will be printed out before they are judged by the admissions committee. “You could tell when someone figured out how to work with the ambiguity and really embraced that,” Martinelli told BusinessWeek, favoring the applicants who weren’t “going to play it safe and regurgitate what is in my application already.”

Martinelli later conceded to BusinessWeek that the university may “put some further context or shape around it [the PowerPoint presentation],” but for now, the former guidelines and restrictions (and ambiguity) will apply.

Below is the actual PowerPoint question you can find the Chicago GSB application.

Chicago GSB PowerPoint Presentation

We have asked for a great deal of information throughout this application and now invite you tell us about yourself. Using four slides or less, please provide readers with content that captures who you are.

We have set forth the following guidelines for you to consider when creating your presentation.

The content is completely up to you. There is no right or wrong approach this essay. Feel free to use the software you are most comfortable with. Acceptable formats for upload in the online application system are PowerPoint or PDF.

There is a strict maximum of 4 slides, though you can provide fewer than 4 if you choose.

Slides will be printed and added to your file for review, therefore, flash, hyperlinks, embedded videos, music, etc. will not be viewed by the committee. You are limited to text and static images to convey your points. Color may be used.

Slides will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.

You are welcome to attach a document containing notes if you feel a deeper explanation of your slides is necessary. However the hope is the slide is able to stand alone and convey your ideas clearly. You will not be penalized for adding notes but you should not construct a slide with the intention of using the notes section as a consistent means of explanation.


Posted on October 18, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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October has arrived. If you are considering applying for an MBA program in the fall of 2009, now is a good time to begin the process. It’s certainly not too late. You’ll still be likely to be ready to apply in rounds 1 or 2, which offer a pretty good chance of acceptance.

Order of Attack


Preparation can last anywhere from 1-6 months, but 2 months usually is an adequate prep period. Though study can be done individually, taking a course or seeking out private tutoring provides disciplined structure and guidance for your study.


Take the GMAT as soon as you feel ready. If you take it by end of October, you should have the needed time to retake the GMAT (including an additional 1 month prep) if your score is not what you desired.


During preparation, look into different MBA programs. Look at them from as many angles as possible, including ranking, conversations with current students and alumni, correspondence with admissions officers and visits to campuses. Ultimately, select a range of schools you’d like to apply to. The most important criteria to use in determining where to apply is: What places are best suited to your personality, professional and academic history and goals? There are a variety of recommendations as to how many schools to apply to. Some say as few as 3, others as many as 8 or 10. Ultimately, you want to have some options, so lean toward more rather than less, and be sure to include safety schools. You may consider seeking advise from an admissions consultant to determine where it might be best to apply.


Ask for recommendations as early as possible, giving each recommender ample time to complete the forms on time.


The entire process and especially the application involve a great deal of self-evaluation. In this stage it will be most important that you recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and determine how you will express these in your applications. This will also be important in your interview. It is generally recommended that the application show your true self. There is no need to conceal mistakes; the incorporation of constructive explanations for faults, mistakes, or minuses will allow the admissions committee to develop a clear perception of who you really are. Admissions officers especially dislike fakeness and falsehood in applications.

Essays too require evaluation and most importantly they require time, time not only to write, but time to think as well. It is recommended that you spend between 50 and 100 hours on your essays, depending on the number of schools you apply to. Admissions advisors recommend that you devote your energy in particular to making sure each application explains why you want to attend particular programs.

6. INTERVIEW (Should occur as early as possible)

Interviews require preparation. Reviewing your application and practicing interviewing skills with a friend or co-worker is useful. Also, some individuals try to interview as early as possible at a local school and use this interview to test their skills, as well as to inform themselves of answers or approaches that seem to work, and those that do not. And, as your parents or friends have said to you time and again, be yourself and relax.

Posted on October 16, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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Though the United States remains the overall region most preferred by outsiders for business school study, one interesting trend has developed among applicants outside of the US – More and more of them are attending institutions within their region.

In 2007 the United States accounted for approximately 65% of GMAT test takers by residence. Only 1-2% of those test takers applied for schools outside of the US despite some small increases in application numbers. In other words, business schools outside of the US have not yet proven successful at attracting this large US-based applicant pool.

Globally business schools seem to be successfully attracting applicants from their own region. Europeans are attending European business schools. Asians are attending Asian business schools. As stated above, Americans are attending American business schools. Canadians are attending Canadian business schools, and the list goes on. In Europe, the United Kingdom, France and Spain have become increasingly attractive options for Europeans—leading some to stay in their region rather than apply, for example, to the United States.

The overall trend may be due, especially for Asian schools, to

  1. the increased difficulty to attain student visas to countries such as the United States,
  2. the cost, a leading consideration for MBA applicants,
  3. the desire to stay closer to home,
  4. more relevance between program content and local business environment and networks, and
  5. the likely factor that institutions in all regions of the world are gaining prestige and international recognition as well as increasing in numbers.

One notable exception to this trend is Latin America, where applicants continue to prefer non-regionally located business schools for study.

Posted on May 19, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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Women are in demand in graduate management educational programs of all kinds.

Let us take a look at the 2007 statistics released by the GMAC in reference to gender representation. In part-time MBA programs, women represent 37% of the total. In full-time MBA programs, just 27% of MBA students are women. In EMBA programs, a meager 22% of students are women. Though women represent a larger percentage of the student body in non-MBA management education including undergraduate and master’s programs, it is still the case that in all categories women represent a minority of applicants.

Though overall far fewer women than men pursue Graduate Management Education, numbers of women applicants are on the rise. In 2007, applications from women increased overall. These increases are in large part due to greater recruitment efforts. 56% of full-time MBA and 78% of EMBA programs are actively recruiting among women. Such recruitment seems to have a direct correlation to increases in the volume of women applicants.

Posted on April 16, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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Some applicants receive a letter stating that they have been put on the waitlist. You too may have received such a letter. This letter means that you have the qualifications that the school is looking for, but due to other factors you have not been admitted. These factors might include you being too young, or being too experienced, or being less unique than desired, or having inconsistent track record, or not demonstrating compelling reasons for a great fit with the school. All in all, the admissions committee is not entirely convinced about your candidacy, but is willing to give you a chance.

If you have been put on waitlist by more than one school, then you should consider re-examining/strengthening your application. You should also consider applying for other schools who might take a different view on certain unchangeable elements of your application, such as you not being in the work force long enough. There are schools which may take prudent risks with young yet ambitious individuals who have a less proven track record.

To be put on the waitlist does NOT mean that you have been rejected. All programs have a limited number of applicants that they can accept each term. With the number of MBA applicants growing, the competition for admission is very intense. There are steps that you can take to improve your chances for admission.

Different Schools, Different Years, Different Policies

Some schools place an applicant on the waitlist early on in the admission process. The reason for this is that the school wishes to wait and see how the class composition is developing before making a final decision. Many times an individual who makes it to the second round of the process is competing not only against new applicants, but also against those on the waitlist. So being on the waitlist early on is not a bad thing at all. It is more like a deferment of admission. Other schools, especially those who are highly selective, rarely move people from the waitlist. This makes sense because very few people who are admitted to the top tier schools decline the offer to attend. Still other schools admit students from the waitlist who have shown improvement in their application. So each school has its own policy and procedure for the waitlist. Depending on each year’s application numbers and quality, each school may also adjust its waitlist policy a bit to better serve its admissions objective. Simply put, the “wait” for being taken off a waitlist might carry a different probability, depending on the school and the year.

Don’t Give Up!

The process is not over. You have not been rejected. There are many steps you can take to improve your chances of getting off the waitlist and being admitted. You have put so much effort into your business school application – from getting recommendation letters, to taking the GMAT and maybe the TOEFL, to writing great essays. Why would you want to give up now?

First Step – Follow instructions!

What should you do first? Follow instructions. Some schools have a strict policy against unsolicited materials from waitlist applicants. If the school specifically says that they don’t want to receive supplemental materials, then do not send them. The schools look unfavorably upon waitlist applicants who do not follow directions. What can you do if you are waitlisted at a school like this? Just wait.

If you have applied to a school that does not have such a strict policy, there are quite a few things you can do to improve your chances.

If you have applied to a school that does not have such a strict policy, there are quite a few things you can do to improve your chances:

Determine Weaknesses

The school you applied to may suggest a weakness in your application. If they have done so then take every step you can to improve your candidacy. The school may not specifically say what area you need improvement on. If you have good test scores and a strong essay, then maybe your recommendation letters were weak. Whatever your weakness may be, show the school that you have taken actions to improve.

Take Action

A school may suggest that you retake the GMAT, or maybe the TOEFL. If so then you should retake the test. Applicants who do not make effort to improve their application as instructed, show the school that they are not completely dedicated to being admitted – not a good thing. If your recommendation letters were just OK, then send in a stronger recommendation letter or a letter of support from a friend or coworker who can speak on why you would be a good fit for the school. Another thing you can do is visit the school if you have not done so already.

Follow Up

Then write a letter describing your experience and explaining how the visit has increased your interest in their program. Make sure to stay on the school’s radar. You may want to write to the school to emphasize new relevant extracurricular activities. A school would want to see improvements such as a promotion at work, a conference, or an event you organized that was successful.

Focus of the Waitlist Letter

Let the admissions committee know that you are excited to be on the waitlist and you are very interested in the school. The focus of your correspondence should be on your improvements and qualifications. You should also address steps you have taken to ameliorate any weaknesses. Demonstrate to the school how your qualifications are a perfect fit for their school. If you know that you will attend if moved from the waitlist, then let the school know that.

If you don’t hear anything in 3-5 weeks, then write again. Follow up with the school on a regular basis, but do not overdo it. Schools do not want to be bothered by waitlist applicants. Write frequently enough to keep them informed of your interest and improvements, but not so frequently that they see you as a nuisance. What you want to do is demonstrate to the school that you are making improvements since you first applied.

If you have received acceptance into a rival school, then write and clearly outline why this school should move you into the acceptance pool, and if they do so why you will definitely consider them over the rival school. The reasons need to be compelling, not just a change of heart. If the improvement in your situation is substantial, consider making a call to the admissions committee to draw prompt attention to your newly submitted Waitlist Letter.

Again, if you have nothing to add or think that by speaking to an admissions person you will talk your way in, do not contact the school. Only provide important and relevant experiences or a new perspective from supporters. You are not guaranteed to move from the waitlist, but staying in regular contact with the school to inform them of improvements and simply being perseverant will, most likely, put you closer to the front of the line.

Summary of Special Follow-up Tips

  1. Thank the school for their consideration and show them that you are excited to be on the waitlist for admission. Express that the school’s philosophy and methods fit your own educational goals.
  2. Demonstrate any improvements to your candidacy. (i.e. updated GMAT scores, promotions, additional responsibilities)
  3. If you have not had an interview, then if you are available request an interview or campus visit.
  4. If this school is your first choice, then let the school know that they are your first choice and that you will attend if admitted.
  5. Let the school know of any acceptance to other rival schools. Let them know why they should move you off the list and why you would accept their school over the rival.
  6. If the improvement in your situation is substantial, consider making a call to the admissions committee to draw prompt attention to your newly submitted Waitlist Letter. Remember your point of contact and try to follow up with the same person so that his/her impression about you is reinforced each time you submit additional supporting evidence.

Posted on November 10, 2007 by Manhattan Review

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Let’s face it — writing about yourself is difficult.

Just like a marketing manager launching a product or an attorney preparing a case, you, as your own representative, need to build a coherent, compelling and unique profile which is substantiated by real-life examples and supported by your actual experiences.

Here is some of our advice on what you should do to avoid common mistakes:

1.) Do not make repeated broad statements about how qualified a candidate you are. Remember your inner qualities should shine through your past successes and/or the way you have dealt with challenges in your life. Take a hard look at your own resume and think through both professional and personal anecdotes you may have to add more color to your essays.

2.) Do not describe your experience without accentuating your strengths that could be of main interest to the school you are applying for. Your essays are to focus on your key strengths which make you stand out from the crowd applying to the very same school. If you are particularly good at dealing with people, demonstrate those soft skills through describing the situations in which you have successfully resolved conflicts and/or promoted cooperation. The level of a person’s analytical skills is usually self-evident in a person’s resume and GMAT scores. However, maybe you also pride yourself on your thoroughness and great judgment. Then build a case that a combination of your analytical skills, thoroughness and great judgment has made you a consistent out-performer. Examples of your maturity level, adaptability, intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness to constructive criticism and a strong sense of self-improvement should be emphasized throughout your write-up.

3.) Do not use direct quotes from famous people or school literature. Schools are interested in getting to know you as a person and your perspectives on leadership, teamwork, innovation and global issues, not what others think. So unless there is a direct relationship between the quotes and the points you would like to make in your essays, avoid using them. However, if the quote serves a good introduction or transition in your write-up and makes your essays more interesting, then keep it in.

4.) Do not make simple mistakes in grammar, formatting, and the cutting and pasting of school/program names. Proof read them at least 3 times over a period. Alert yourself of the consequences of those mindless mistakes – a waste of your application fee and all the preparation effort, a bad image, and a rejection.

Posted on November 1, 2007 by Manhattan Review

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