Making a Compelling Application
When your application arrives at your favorite college, the officers are not deciding whether to accept or reject you, but rather your application. Therefore, you need to make your application reflect your abilities, personality, background, interests, and past performance.
Don’t Hesitate – Starting Early Pays Off
Don’t wait until senior year to download the applications you need. Ideally, you will begin familiarizing yourself with your college applications and their requirements during the spring of your junior year. You will need time to carefully gather the necessary information and compile lists of activities and honors. If you can begin writing your essays over the summer, you will save plenty of time; just make sure to ask the admissions offices whether or not they plan on changing the essays in the fall.
Submitting your application as early as possible is always beneficial. Close to the deadline date, admissions officers must read close to 100 applications a day, but early in the season, they read only a handful a day. If the admissions officer has more time to consider your application in a thoughtful way, your chances are greatly improved. Also, an early submission suggests that you are quite serious about your interest in the school, even when you do not select Early Action or another similar option.
Extracurricular Activities and Your Application
You cannot fool college admissions officers by presenting an extremely long list of extracurricular activities in your application. While it is true that colleges want to make sure that you are doing something worthwhile in your spare time, it is not necessary to be a member of 20 different clubs, sports, or organizations. However, if you spend 20 hours a week at one particular activity, and you have become the mainstay of that organization, that’s impressive.
Extracurricular activity lists should demonstrate:
- Dedication and Loyalty
- Social Awareness and Sophistication
- Leadership Capacity
First Jobs and Student Resumes
As a high school student, it is not expected that you will have a lengthy resume. However, having a job in high school can impress admissions officers. It is a good idea include the number of hours per week you normally work at your job, and any leadership positions that you’ve held. Your job doesn’t need to be unusual, but your dedication is what matters. Some schools permit additional recommendation letters from job supervisors, and a glowing report of your maturity, work ethic, and problem-solving skills can be a real boon.
Look after your applications! If you apply online, always save a copy of your essays on your hard drive, and also a backup copy on CD or other removable drive. Take your time, and do your best to present yourself in the best light possible.
Many schools do recruit and encourage younger applicants to apply. Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford Business School and Harvard Business School are among those with a reputation for accepting younger applicants, but many schools admit almost no young applicants (even though they claim to be interested in them). Even those schools that do accept large numbers of young applicants are quite selective in their choices. In both the application process and the experience of business school itself the younger applicant faces special hardships, which are important to be aware of.
Young applicants face several challenges in the MBA application process. They have to compensate for a lack of work experience with leadership roles, higher than average GMAT scores, higher than average GPA, even more focused career goals, recommendations showing maturity and preparedness, and uniqueness (in some manner).
Leadership experience is especially important. In essays as well as during the interview process, it is important that younger applicants show admissions officers or interviewers what leadership roles they have taken on, what they have learned in those roles, and explain with concrete examples. Younger applicants will especially want to highlight larger roles, which help to display their unique knack for leadership. Successful younger candidates can show that their uncommon leadership abilities exceed the average college student, through experiences such as being elected College President, internships in fields that recruit few undergraduates, or entrepreneurial experiences.
Business School Experience
At school, younger students sometimes experience difficulties relating to fellow students. Other business school students, who tend to be older and more experienced, come to school with different interests and home lives, as they sometimes have families and different backgrounds. These differences can cause mutual misunderstanding and ultimately limit the forming of lasting relationships and networks that many people go to business school to create.
In the classroom, younger applicants need to continue to show that they do have legitimate and interesting experiences to share and make this clear to professors. Overall, it is important that younger students keep their self-confidence in the face of older students. Younger students must respect older students for the greater breadth of experience that comes from spending time in the “real world,” but remember too that they were accepted because of exceptional ability (however young) and do indeed have things to offer the class and the professional world.
In the job application process, younger students may have difficulties with certain career paths. Venture capital firms, for example, often seek MBAs with greater professional experience. However, consulting firms and banks are happy to recruit younger, more energetic MBAs, though they may hesitate at first to put younger MBAs in management positions.
Overall Pros and Cons
Overall the MBA experience for younger students is not an easy one. Yet despite the difficulties experienced in the application process and in study, the young applicant does have the advantage of completing the degree early—especially important to women, who later, for personal reasons, may want to take time out from the professional world. Also, it is a good path for the over achiever who is used to being among older people. Young applicants who are not so used to it should carefully select the schools they apply to according to their percentages of younger admits. Younger applicants will find themselves jump starting their careers early and may possibly be spending more of their professional lives in unique, exciting roles where they can make a greater impact.
In a recent interview with BusinessWeek, Bettina Buchel, director of IMD’s Strategic Leadership for Women program, discusses the experience of women in the executive management work force. IMD (International Institute for Management and Development), a global business school based in Lausanne, Switzerland, was the first business school in Europe to establish an executive education program geared specifically towards women. The program is part of IMD’s Open Enrollment program. It typically lasts for 4 days. The same program runs twice a year.
Buchel began the Strategic Leadership for Women program six years ago in 2002 to create an opportunity for women to explore different styles of leadership. The program focuses on two main areas: leadership and strategy implementation. It offers a unique environment for women to exchange experiences on situations within the workplace and learn how to promote themselves, all within a setting where they are not self-conscious of being the minority. 300 women have gone through the program, ranging from women in senior positions to women in their first five to ten years out of university. Buchel emphasizes the importance of this emerging issue of women in management, stating that of the Fortune 1000 companies, less than 50% have women representation in their top management teams.
What kinds of changes do these women implement in the workplace? Women who come out of this program become much more conscious about networking, having been shown a visual representation of how they network. They make efforts and adjustments at improving their upward networking and are also encouraged to come up with new responses to difficult situations in the workplace, having shared accounts of such experiences with each other during the course of the program.
The demand for such programs is heightening in Europe, with new programs being established in different cities, including London. Buchel also directs a program called Orchestrating Winning Performance, which has included more women and has been creating more activities geared towards women. Although women make up about 10% of traditional programs such as this one, the growing number of participating women is an important indicator of a shift in the agenda of women in management.
During the recent two years, many business schools have revamped or retooled the curriculum of their MBA programs . This is designed to better prepare students to manage and thrive on new challenges in an ever-changing global business world through a more profound intellectual experience and more effective training on leadership development. These modifications allow students to customize their MBA programs with a greater selection of electives, an increased number of half-semester core courses, more exchange programs for studying aboard, smaller classes, a closer integration of in-person and online class participation, and more week-long intensive courses.
Deeper, Smaller, Broader
So what are those key improvements? In a nutshell, MBA curriculums have been remodeled in 4 major aspects:
1.) Content – More real-world relevant courses, more interdisciplinary courses (such as legal and international relations courses), and more collaborative effort – Harvard Business School, for example, offers the opportunity to cross-register for courses in other select graduate programs. So do many other top business schools. More extra-curricular lectures from business professionals and on-site projects with corporations or governments.
2.) Configuration – Broader spectrum of electives allow you to construct your own study program and make your B-school academic experience unique. The weight of core courses as requirements for the degree is lowering. Many core courses are also offered in half-semesters to let you take many different courses within a semester’s time. For example, about half of Columbia Business School’s core courses are half-semester.
3.) Delivery – More high-tech equipped classrooms with more frequent use of the Internet. Smaller class sizes. Classes are taught in seminars that maximize active participation and deeper intellectual involvement. More courses are taught by two or more faculty members as a team.More interaction with faculty advisors. For example, at Stanford Graduate School of Business, your faculty advisor partners with you to select the courses that fit with your personal background and interests.
4.) Format – New curriculum models. For example, Yale’s MBA program did away with the traditional self-contained subject courses such as marketing, finance, and organizational behavior. Instead it starts to offer an Integrated Leadership Perspective course focusing on managing internal and external parties such as all levels of employees, customers, competitors, and investors. The goal is to tie together all that students learned in the first year in a holistic manner.
What prompted these changes?
Many top-rated business schools had not developed new MBA programs in nearly 30 years. Why all the changes now?The major reason for the changes is one framework of business education simply won’t work anymore. Interdisciplinary studies and experience-based learning foster the kind of creativity, leadership, problem-solving skills, critical and independent thinking, business ethics, and cultural sensitivity necessary to succeed in real-world business.
The impact of the dot-com era and an increasingly dynamic, global economy are two main catalysts for curriculum changes. MBA programs now incorporate more courses specifically geared toward e-commerce, digital media, and information technology. Programs also look beyond textbooks to incorporate more interactive learning into the classroom. The growing significance of communication in a global context also translates into a stronger emphasis on foreign language study and traveling abroad within MBA curriculum.
Finally, many top business schools have changed due to new dean and program director appointments in the past few years. These new personnel bring years of experiences, fresh perspectives, and great initiatives to instill new energy into well-established institutions in a competitive and adaptive MBA education world.
What Is Required of the Schools?
To take the program to the next level, those schools need significant funding from their respective parent institutions to support new facility, new equipment, increase in faculty and more. Both Stanford and Columbia are in the midst of expanding their business school campuses.As we can see, a lot of more work is ahead for all the top institutions. To educate next century’s business leaders, all the business schools need to stay at the forefront of the changes.
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