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B-school admissions

“Standing Out” in a Business School Application

The desire to “stand out” (while inherent in all applicants), is not what the admissions committee wants you to be thinking about during your application process.  The most important aspect is to answer the questions clearly, making sure you are doing the best job you can to tell YOUR story; instead of constantly trying to put yourself in a context outside of where you think the other applicants are.

I have heard admissions committee members say numerous times that over-thinking and over-crafting your application can ultimately hurt your overall chances of acceptance.  Often times, students attempt to say exactly what they think the admission committee wants to hear, when what the admission committee REALLY wants to hear is the student’s story told truthfully and thoughtfully.

The Role the GMAT in your MBA application

The GMAT Exam is a chance for the student to prepare for an exam and take on a challenge.  Of course, no student walks into an exam without preparing first. Use your GMAT efforts and scores to highlight the areas that you think may be missing from you undergraduate and work experience. If you do not have much quantitative experience, focus on that area of the GMAT to portray to admissions committee that you can do great work in that area as well. Remember it is still just one piece of the mosaic that is your application.


Many students get very anxious about the essay portion of an MBA application because they believe that this is the section that they have the most control over (unlike the recommendations, undergraduate records, and your job).  However, it is important to remember that the essay is just another portion of the holistic presentation of your application.  It is not a writing contest, but more so, another tool to present YOU as a prospective business school student. So personalize it. Focus on the areas of your life that you are most proud and passionate about.  These items will ultimately be your strongest point in conveying your growth over time and your ability to succeed.


Try to pick a person to recommend you that you have known for a long time. Admissions Committees look for recommendations that are personalized and give somewhat of an inside look into how the student works and presents themselves.

Diversity on an Application

Diversity is an important factor to consider when applying to business school. However, it must be done so in the right way.  Many times, students think they must emphasize the diversity that they have been exposed to in the workplace or at school.  However, there are many different types of diversity to consider and a very important one is the way in which you lead.  From the student leader who wants to be president of the United States, to the entrepreneur who likes to work in small teams and getting a new business up and running, business schools look for Diversity of Character and want to find student who can lead in effective and creative ways.

Hope these tips help! For more tips, please visit our MBA Admissions Advice.

Posted on November 7, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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Rejection letters are common. Top business schools are competitive and as increasing numbers of applications roll in, increasing numbers of rejection letters also flow out. But if you are among those who are rejected, the opportunity to reapply remains.

It is not uncommon that following rejection from a top business school many candidates consider reapplying. Reapplication is not for everyone, nor does every school particularly encourage it, but if you have been rejected, especially on your first application, you should consider it. This consideration involves self-evaluation, contacting the school’s admission committee, inquiring into their general philosophy on reapplication and/or their particular recommendations or evaluation of your application. Reapplication should make you more knowledgeable about your experience in relation to your chosen school’s expectations and concretely improve your application.

Our Recommendations

Initial rejection may also give you the opportunity to reevaluate why and where you would like to be and what fits best for you. Once you have reached your decision to reapply, the following guidelines will assist you in improving your success rate:

· Make your application stronger. Whether this means improving your GMAT score, your international experience, professional experience, essays, recommendations or other application component, it is of little use to apply simply with the same previous application.

· Cater to the particular school. Find out what the particular admissions committee looks for out of reapplications and follow their recommendations. This should save you both time and money.

· Seek out an evaluation of your first application. You must gain a better understanding of what was missing in your application in order to improve your chances for admission. Some schools offer advice in the form of a letter and other schools by an in-person meeting. USC’s Marshall School offers deny counseling every September. The school emphasizes the need to look at their class profile in order to better understand what they are looking for in order to improve your chances.

· Pay attention to each school’s reapplication procedure. Know what each school wants when reapplying. For example, Kellogg requires an additional essay with the same application. They specifically want to know how you feel you have qualitatively improved your candidacy, and will refer to your first application (kept for two years) when judging the merits of your reapplication. Marshall, which does not discourage reapplication, requires a shorter updated version of the application, but is still looking for the same fit for incoming students.

· Reapplication should not be a makeover. Avoid completely changing your argument for admission. Rather, you should present yourself in light of the new knowledge and experience you have gained as a concrete reason for reconsideration. Also, by now you should have a good idea of what particular aspects of your application needed improvement and can make your case from that.

At most top MBA programs, interviews are a required and important part of the application. Even where they are not required, they are generally recommended by admissions staff.

The interview offers admissions committees the opportunity to access a candidate’s ability to verbally communicate who they are. They see a candidate’s charm, beyond their written expression and their ability to think on their feet. Overall, a candidate should aim to behave in a manner that encourages conversation and open discussion. However, this requires practice. A few guidelines are the following:

· Aim for consistency with the written application. Candidates should be sure to review essay questions prior to the interview and make responses align with their written responses.

· Research the school. You may even want to have knowledgeable questions in mind for the interviewer related to the school’s program.

· If you tend to be nervous in interview situations, find a way to relax yourself.

· Be honest!

· Be prepared especially to explain your weaknesses and make them strengths. Avoid using the old, “I’m a perfectionist line.”

· Support your answers with examples.

In practice sessions with friends or co-workers or individually (ideally still aloud), practice the following themes:

College and (Graduate education if applicable). Why did you attend the college you did? What was your experience like? How were your classes? Which ones in particular stand out? What were your college extracurricular activities?

Job. Why did you choose the job(s) you chose?

MBA. Why? Why now? Why at ___? Where else did you apply? What is your top choice? Where would you like to work in short and long term? What curriculum methods interest you?

General. Tell us about yourself, according to your resume. Where do you see yourself in five years? Why do you leave the house each day? What is your opinion on random business issues (ethics, current markets)? How would people describe you, including friends, co-workers, and supervisors? Describe your style of leadership, your approach to ethical questions. Describe your strengths and weaknesses. Rate yourself in terms of motivation, teamwork, organization, loyalty, work ethic. If money was not a worry, what would you do?

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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Columbia University is among many students’, MBA or otherwise, “dream” schools and can seem like an intimidating place. Its admissions percentage in the past few years has dropped 1%, from 17 to 16. Today we will see how Columbia’s admissions system works, what they expect from their applicants, and what make Columbia Business School special.

Admissions and Letters of Recommendation

Columbia is unique in that it has rolling admissions rather than rounds. Rolling admission is a system where there is either no set date by which applications must be in, or the deadline is at the end of a very long stretch of time. Sometimes a school accepts applications until the class has been filled. Each applicant is considered individually. According to Columbia GSB’s website, the application review for September 08 admission began on January 9, 2008 and the deadline is April 16th 2008 for US students. The decision period for the Columbia admissions team is 12 weeks.

This system has the benefit of giving the student leeway as to when they get their applications done. However it can also be seen as equivalent to having a system of rounds: Many admissions experts will still tell you to get your application in as early as possible. The school also offers an early decision (ED) option (deadline typically by mid-August for the following Fall) but you have to withdraw your applications to other schools if you want to do this. The school takes ED quite seriously calling it an “honor pledge.” In addition to withdrawing all other applications, you must pay a deposit. You are “ethically” bound due to this pledge, says Columbia. If you are not absolutely sure about Columbia, do not apply for Early Decision.

As far as recommendations go, Columbia would like you get one from the person that knows you best and can speak to your accomplishments and strong character points. The recommendation, similar to at other schools, should focus on how you will contribute to the business community and be a leader. Columbia asks the recommender to respond to 10 specific questions. The form is on Columbia GSB’s website.

Key admissions points at Columbia:

- You have the option of applying Early Decision or Regular Decision (January or September intake)
- All of these options are Rolling Admissions
- If you are completely 100% sure about Columbia, applying for ED may increase your chances
- If you are not 100%, be very, very wary of applying for ED
- If you are not admitted during the ED process, you will be rolled into the Regular Decision pool

Columbia’s Advantages

There are many benefits to getting your MBA from Columbia. One of which is its location in New York City. Because of the presence of industry and the sheer number of powerful business leaders, Columbia offers their students exposure to the best and brightest of the business community in New York.

- There are many industry professionals teaching courses at Columbia who often bring in guest speakers
- Because of the different industries, Columbia is able to offer specialized programs, e.g. for students interested in venture capital, real estate and entrepreneurship

Some key points to realize in applying to Columbia are that they have a number of admissions options including early decision and regular decision January and September intake. Remember that the processes for these can be subtly different, so prove that you are indeed detail oriented and get the process down. Columbia is extremely selective so make your application as best as it can be. Don’t worry if you don’t get in on your first try. Columbia GBS, similar to other Columbia graduate schools, has a specific system for re-applying which may be a testament to their education authority. If you are interested, the school offers a link to the re-apply page from their admissions website. When you are looking for a recommender, try to focus on people who know you well and know that you can be a leader in and out of the classroom. Columbia needs to know how you will contribute to global business after you graduate.

Posted on February 29, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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Today let’s look at what Vanderbilt expects from its applicants.

According to Business Week Online’s interview with John Roeder, director of admissions at the Owen School of Management, applications are up for the fourth year in a row. This past year, applications were up 10%.

Indicate your Interest

As a common phenomenon, more students are applying for first round admissions. Due to the number and quality of these applicants, many of them receive admission, making 2nd and 3rd round admissions more competitive. Thus, there are benefits to applying early:

- Less competition due to fewer spots being filled at that point
- According to the school, it is easier, relatively speaking, to get merit-based scholarships. Most of the “best” scholarships are only given to candidates in the 1st round and possibly second round

The Process

The interviews are only offered to select candidates – the ones who have more work experience. This interview not only gives Owen and its admissions team to get to know you, your goals and your story, but gives you a chance to visit Owen and decide if you like the campus culture. The interview tips are quite the same as others we have heard before:

- Be prepared and have detailed questions
- Again, have questions! The admissions team wants to see how much research you have done on the program – don’t ask a question you could have easily figured out on your own before hand.

Speaking of work experience, the “average number of years” figure is quite similar to UCLA Anderson: 4.8 years. However Owen is more concerned with the quality of the time spent in the work force. They want a “strong” work background.

- How have you impacted your organization?
- What progress have you made?

Additionally, you should indicate that you are able to work in a team and that you have been involved in some kind of community outside of work experience. Through your interview, application and essays, let them know that you really plan to “dig in” at Owen and get involved.

Target Markets

Owen has large demographic spread, with most (77%) of its students coming from outside the southeastern United States. Owen also boasts representation from 20 different other countries mostly from Latin America, Asia and Europe. The school credits this variety to its successful employment rate at top organizations like Google and Nike. However Owen is reaching out to two very unique groups:

- The Military. All four branches of the armed forces are represented at Owen. The school feels that students who are exiting about the military have unique leadership qualities to offer the Owen and the business community.
- Students interested in working in health care and human resources

Owen is looking to increase global representation in its student body, as well as adopting new programs that cater to women who are interested in Business education.

Posted on February 27, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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