Applying for college is a crucial step in a person’s personal and professional developments. As an applicant, what do you hope to get out of your college years and what expectations do you want to send along with your applications? Be sure to think seriously about the environment that will be most likely to bring the best out of you:
- Know Yourself and Set Your Goals Clearly
If you haven’t decided on a college major, start taking inventory of your academic successes and interests – which were your best classes? Favorite classes? Also think about your favorite extra-curricular activities, sports, music, and even your favorite weather.
- Student Body Characteristics
Do you want to be surrounded with type-A go-getters, or coffee-shop philosophers? A highly competitive student body isn’t to everyone’s taste, and neither is a laid-back one.
- Class Size and Dynamics
What type of relationship do professors and students have with one another at your favorite schools? Large classes may mean little contact with your professors, which can be unappealing for students who want a personal relationship with their favorite academics. However, just because your favorite school is a large one, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to slip through anonymously!
- Advisory System
Will you have an advisor at your favorite school? How much do advisors guide the students’ choice of classes? Think about how much help you’ll really need – or want!
- Social Groups
How are social groups organized at your favorite school? Does Greek life dominate, or do athletics, clubs, classes, dorms, or local hangouts determine who your best college friends will be? If the social structure is different from your high school, do you think you’ll easily adjust?
- Feedback from Current Students.
What do current students really appreciate about this school? What is their biggest complaint? Are these issues you can handle?
The best way to answer all of these questions is to visit your favorite schools in advance, and keep a checklist of the most important issues for your education. If you can’t afford to visit, or the school is too far away, try to speak with as many people as you can by phone or email about the school.
A quick way of learning about university statistics is by checking out ranking websites, such as the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (www.nacacnet.org) or College Navigator (http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/). These sites can help you sort schools by tuition, scholarship/financial aid opportunities, available majors, student body demographics, sports, even the quality of campus security. Also check out books like the Fiske Guide to Colleges, which have even more information about schools, quizzes, and student testimonials.
Colleges want students that have excellent grades and SAT scores, but these criteria are frequently not the make-or-break factors that influence acceptance, particularly at highly selective schools. Colleges have to work hard to keep or make their good reputations, just like students, and therefore need to choose the right students. Unfortunately, sometimes that means that qualified students don’t get accepted to particular schools – but that does not mean that these students are any less qualified than before they got their thin envelope!
Colleges want specific and unique individuals to attend their schools, not walking transcripts! But since colleges probably won’t come looking for you (you’re probably not worried about being accepted to college if they are!), you need to find your special niche yourself.
Remember, even when you get accepted to the school of your dreams, no college acceptance letter guarantees a good education, a good job, or a happy life. Even if you make it to Harvard, there’s no guarantee that your life will be perfect.
Who Gets Accepted?
Today, more students than ever are applying for highly selective colleges; more students overall are planning on attending college after high school, and more successful students are seeking diplomas from big-name schools. This means that many highly-qualified candidates are rejected from the most selective schools. Can you believe…
- Students with perfect SAT scores
- Winners of famous, private scholarships
… all can get rejected from the most selective (and even less selective!) schools?
The Game Plan:
How can you increase your odds of acceptance into a school that is not only prestigious, but that will give you the best shot at an exemplary education? Research colleges thoroughly; sometimes colleges are just looking for someone very specific – an oboe player for the orchestra, a star quarterback for the football team, a speaker of Korean to help improve the language department, or a student council star to take over campus government.
Use your Interview to find out whether your specific skill set is particularly desired by a specific school. Your interview is not only a great way to make a good impression on the admissions officers, but also the easiest way to find out about the kind of students that each college needs. Come prepared, and don’t be afraid to ask very frank questions about the student body. It will not harm your chances; in fact, your serious interest in finding the best match for you can only reflect positively on your application.
A Truly International Student Body (North Americans Included!)
The more liberal approach that European business schools are taking with their curricula is not going unnoticed by the global applicant pool of aspiring managers and entrepreneurs. Many top-ranked European MBA programs have student bodies in which the nation hosting the institution contributes only a small minority of the student population.
For example, HEC in Paris is 82% international, with only 30% originating from all of Western Europe. David Bach, dean of the MBA program at IE reports that the profile of the MBA class matriculating in 2008 was 90% international. Significantly, IE, along with HEC, RSM at Erasmus University, and others are also seeing an increase in the number of North American applicants. This fact is significant since North America is home to some of the world’s most elite and prestigious business schools, which tend to give preference to qualified domestic applicants.
Of course, some level of diversity can be found in most competitive MBA programs, in North America and elsewhere; the difference is more philosophical in nature. For example, at HEC an American MBA candidate may find himself instructed to work in a team with citizens from China, Germany and Saudi Arabia to develop his abilities to work practically with a variety of peoples. As Valerie Gauthier, Associate Dean of HEC, said in an interview in earlier 2008, “The emphasis is not only on the leadership program, but human development.”
Global Collaboration Initiative
European business schools continue to diversify not only in terms of those they attract to their campuses, or the substantial and growing number of students who take part in exchange programs, but also in the ways they integrate with other educational concerns globally.
For instance, in a conference bringing the deans of 11 top business schools in London in July 2007, educational leaders discussed points of common interest, including joint loans and scholarships for students. They also discussed the merits and organization of their respective exchange programs.
The collaborative emphasis also exists between successful European schools and the developing world. IESE in Barcelona, which recently opened up a new office in New York City, has also opened three schools in Africa in Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya with the hope of bringing about the same sort of transformational change to countries in Africa that it helped entrepreneurs bring to Mexico, Brazil and China 20 years ago. Jordi Canals, dean of the program, has said that he wants the school to use its resources to work within the regional educational systems in Africa to train faculty and administration to become self-sufficient and take a commanding role in their own business education.
In an analysis of a b-school application, it is certain that some traits are going to be viewed positively by business schools across the board, for example, high GMAT scores or a high undergraduate GPA. However, certain schools such as MIT Sloan are looking for more particular characteristics in those they accept.
MIT Sloan seeks applicants with a background in Economics or Accounting. This may provide additional insight into the type of students that attend Sloan. In a similar vein, Sloan sees the Quantitative score on the GMAT as being particularly important in their evaluation. Certainly, if you do not see these parts of your application as being particularly strong and have your heart set on applying to Sloan, these facts alone should not deter you. Sloan also prefers a student body made up of people who have engaged in a range of professional sectors and have unique personal interests too.
Overall, it’s good to keep in mind that Sloan is about more than technology; it’s about creativity as well. So show in your application an ability to creatively reflect on who you are and if you are invited to interview, be prepared to respond spontaneously to an interviewer’s unconventional approach.
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