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3-2-WhichTest-GMATMost business schools now accept both the GMAT and the GRE, so which one should you take? I’ve written on the topic before but it’s been nearly a year and I’ve got some updates.

The conventional wisdom has been that the math is easier on the GRE. Though many schools do accept the GRE, rumors abound that students who take this test are at a bit of a disadvantage because they are expected to do better on the (easier) quant section. Anecdotally, we have heard a few admissions officers admit that they do think about this (strictly off the record, of course). Most admissions officers, though, have said this doesn’t matter to them at all, including several officers at the top 10 schools.

So we’ve come up with a series of decisions to help you make this choice. The first three questions are “deal-breakers”—that is, a certain answer will point you definitively to a specific test (the GMAT, as it happens). The fourth question is…murkier. We’ll address that in a little bit.

#1: Do all of “your” schools accept the GRE?

This one is obvious. All business schools (that ask for a standardized test score) accept the GMAT. Most—but not all—accept the GRE. If you want to apply to any schools that require the GMAT, such as London Business School MBA (at the time of this publication), then you’ll be taking the GMAT.

#2: Do any of “your” schools prefer the GMAT?

Most schools that accept both tests don’t express a preference between the two. Some schools, though, do say that the prefer the test. They publish this preference right on their web site, so go look up all of your schools and see what they say about the GMAT / GRE requirement for admissions.

As of the date of this article, Columbia, Haas (Berkeley) and Anderson (UCLA) all state that they prefer the GMAT, even though they do accept the GRE. If you want to apply to one of these schools, I recommend that you take the GMAT. (Note: these aren’t the only three schools that prefer the GMAT; I just picked out the three most well-known ones that do. You still need to research your schools!)

#3: Do you want to go into banking or management consulting after b-school?

The major banks and consulting firms ask for GMAT scores when you apply. (Some of them even ask for undergraduate GPA and SAT scores. I think that data is irrelevant after someone has a b-school GPA and GMAT scores but I’m not the one making the hiring decisions!)
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We’ve invited our friends at mbaMission to share their 2016 MBA Class Profile Infographic! Check out their findings below and visit mbamission.com to sign up for a free consultation.  

Choosing the right MBA program for your needs can be challenging. How do you identify the best one for your specific personal, educational, and professional goals?

An important element of your business school experience will be your fellow students—the other aspiring MBAs with whom you will be living and studying every day. Using Class of 2016 profile statistics from the top ten U.S. programs (according to U.S. News & World Report 2015), we at mbaMission have created this infographic to help show how the different programs compare. Enjoy!

 

mbaMission 2016 MBA Class Profile Infographic

 

Round 2The round two deadlines for business schools are right around the corner, which means that we start hearing from students who are planning to apply during round two but are worried because they haven’t quite hit their target GMAT score. Sound like you? Use the chart below to check the deadlines for the top 25 business schools, and evaluate whether you have enough time to prep and retake the official exam.

Looking for some guidance to maximize your study time? Our upcoming December GMAT Boot Camps are designed to prep you in just two weeks. Be prepared for intensive in-class work paired with hours of one-on-one coaching that will get you ready for the exam quickly, without sacrificing content knowledge. There are still a few spots open in our December Boot Camps (New York City and Live Online). Check out the full schedule and see all that’s included!

School Round 2 Deadline
Harvard University Monday, January 05, 2015
Stanford University Wednesday, January 07, 2015
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) Sunday, January 05, 2014
University of Chicago (Booth) Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) Thursday, January 08, 2015
Northwestern University (Kellogg) Wednesday, January 07, 2015
University of California–Berkeley (Haas) Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Columbia University Final Application Deadline: April 09, 2015
Dartmouth College (Tuck) Tuesday, January 06, 2015
New York University (Stern) Saturday, November 15, 2014
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor (Ross) Saturday, March 14, 2014
University of Virginia (Darden) Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Yale University Thursday, January 08, 2015
Duke University (Fuqua) Monday, January 05, 2015
University of Texas–Austin (McCombs) Tuesday, January 06, 2015
University of California–Los Angeles (Anderson) Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Cornell University (Johnson) Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper) Sunday, January 04, 2015
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flager) Friday, December 12, 2014
Emory University (Goizueta) Friday, November 14, 2014
Indiana University–Bloomington (Kelley) Sunday, March 01, 2015
Washington University in St. Louis (Olin) Saturday, November 15, 2014
Georgetown University (McDonough) Monday, January 05, 2015
University of Notre Dame (Mendoza) Monday, January 12, 2015
University of Washington (Foster) Saturday, November 15, 2014

We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Michigan (Ross). 

The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has refashioned its essay questions, going “smaller” with its requirements, as have several other schools this application season. Ross’s broadly worded essay prompts give you ample breadth—if not an overabundance of words—in which to tell your story. As always, think carefully about what you want to say and the impression you want to make before you start writing, because more opportunity lurks here than you might realize at first.

Michigan RossEssay 1: What are you most proud of professionally and why? What did you learn from that experience? (400 words)
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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2014-2015 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Pennsylvania (Wharton).  

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has decreased its number of application essays to just two this year and is giving candidates a whopping 900 words with which to distinguish themselves. We surmise that the influx of application essays can be overwhelming for the school’s overworked admissions officers, who find them somewhat deadening over time. So, by cutting back the program’s application requirements, they are able to stay sharp and still get what they need from you as an applicant. While this change may be helpful on the school’s end, the limitations make your job much harder. Wharton gives you a mostly boilerplate personal statement and a rather Harvard Business School–esque “discuss what you want” style prompt—seemingly not a lot of latitude with which to make an impression, but the key word here is “seemingly.” The smart applicant will make use of Essay 2 in particular to stand out from the pack. Our analysis follows…

WhartonThis year we require one essay, with a second being optional.  For the second optional essay, we recommend that you to use your best judgment and focus your energy on highlighting new information that we are unable to ascertain from other sections of the application.
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round-1-mba-application-deadlines-gmat(This is a guest post from our friends at mbaMission)

Round 1 MBA application deadlines are not until late September or early October, and although that may seem far away, those submission dates actually come around a lot sooner than you think. How can that be? Well, many candidates start working on their applications in May (which, by the way, is only two months from now!), when the schools start releasing their essay questions. However, the well-prepared applicant starts taking steps now (or even started long ago) to make sure that he/she has the strongest application possible when those deadlines arrive. You may not realize it, but you can take advantage of a variety of short-term wins that could help you improve your candidacy for next year. Let’s take a look at just a few of the steps you can take…

1. Visit Schools: Visiting schools is a smart move for you as a potential consumer of a $100K+ education (not including living expenses and lost salary during your two years of study). It is also a smart move for you as an applicant, because traveling to a school serves as a strong indicator that you truly do want to attend that target program. Sure, some schools’ admissions offices state that the class visit is not overly important (notably, Harvard Business School), but most programs appreciate the gesture, because it demonstrates your level of interest and shows that you are not just selecting the school on the basis of rankings—you have “kicked the tires” and decided to proceed.

Many applicants will not think about making a class visit until too late. Class visit programs typically wrap up in April/May and do not open up until after Round 1 applications are due. So, if you have not yet visited your target school, your time is running out, and this might prevent you from learning more about the program and making an important positive impression. Schedule a visit now!

2. Take a Class: Was your GPA an afterthought when you were in college? Did you bomb some tough math classes or management classes? Did you do really well academically but take no classes that indicate your management aptitude? Did the Quant side of the GMAT not go as planned for you? The admissions committee needs to know that you can manage a rigorous analytical curriculum, so you must provide them with evidence that you are capable of doing so. If you do not yet have that evidence, consider taking one—or preferably two—of the following classes: calculus, statistics, economics, finance or accounting. You should do everything you can to earn an A in the class(es) to demonstrate that you have the intellectual horsepower to succeed in your first year. Remember that applications are due in October and that you will need to spend significant time after work perfecting them—and this process starts in May! So, your best move is to find a class that starts soon. Begin looking for options now!  (Note: You do not need to go to Harvard to take these classes. Any accredited university will do!)
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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for UC-Berkeley Haas. 

The Haas School of Business at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, offers you more opportunity to tell your story than most business schools do these days—its three short essays favor those whose candidacies include a variety of dimensions and accomplishments. Your job is to ensure that the reader is constantly learning about you as he/she reads on. Ask yourself, “Am I offering a new skill or a new experience in each essay?” If your answer is not “yes!” then you must go back to brainstorming to ensure you are providing a broad and compelling picture of yourself. If you want the admissions committee to stay interested, you must keep providing new information throughout your essays.

UC Berkeley Haas1. If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)

As absurd as this prompt may seem, you of course want to take it seriously. Rather than trying to identify what might be an impressive or interesting song in and of itself, stop, think about the various facets of your character and then back into your choice. Ask yourself what defines who you are and then work to find an appropriate song that reflects and reveals these elements—preferably one that you are sincerely connected to or that triggers a strong response in you. To add another level of creativity, consider different versions of the same song and the different singers who have performed or recorded it. (For example, the famed song “New York, New York” has been recorded by a number of artists over the years and in different languages—not that we are suggesting this song!) If the lyrics of a particular song seem to match well with your personality, you may also be able to identify a version of that song with a certain style, tempo or featured instrument, and these elements can further illustrate your personality. There is no “right” song in the eyes of the admissions committee. Your task is to find one that serves as an avenue for discussing your character and to clearly explain how and why it does so, using examples.

2. What is your most significant accomplishment? (250 word maximum)

Your most significant accomplishment can be from any sphere—professional, community, academic, personal. As mentioned in our introduction, be sure to represent different dimensions of your candidacy as you respond to these short-essay prompts. In other words, whichever aspect of your profile you choose to highlight here, it should be one that is not represented elsewhere in your application. (Note: you can tell two stories from the same “venue,” but they need to represent your skills/talents in different ways. Mentorship is a different skill than business development, for example, but both can occur in the workplace.) The key to this essay is choosing an experience that is simple but powerful—one that speaks for itself and draws the reader in, allowing him/her to draw a clear conclusion about your capabilities. Even with just 250 words, you can sufficiently recount a story that accomplishes this goal.
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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for Dartmouth College (Tuck). 

As MBA programs move toward PowerPoint presentations, creative essays and essays without word limits, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College sticks to its tried and true approach: three 500-word essays, one of which is a classic career statement, while the others ask candidates to reflect on individual experiences. Given the more straightforward nature of these prompts, Tuck applicants will likely take comfort in knowing for certain that they have provided what the school wants—they have not missed the point of the questions or veered too far afield. Tuck in some ways allows candidates to more easily showcase their stories in a direct manner, and this means the school will be better able to compare candidates one-to-one—though applicants are hardly “apples to apples” in nature.

Please respond fully but concisely to the following essay questions. There are no right or wrong answers. We encourage applicants to limit the length of their responses to 500 words for each essay. Please double-space your responses.

Dartmouth Tuck School of Business1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck?

Because personal statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge. Please feel free to download your copy today.

For a thorough exploration of Dartmouth Tuck’s academic program, merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out thembaMission Insider’s Guide to the Tuck School of Business.

2. Tell us about your most meaningful collaborative leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?

By specifying “collaborative” leadership, Tuck takes an interesting spin on a classic leadership question. The school does not want to hear about a time when you aggressively took control of a situation, nor about a time when you were just a cog in a wheel. The admissions committee wants to learn about a situation in which you shared power with someone else (or various people) and achieved an objective. Keep in mind that leadership is not a matter of title—you can be the associate to someone else’s vice president or vice versa and still be a collaborative leader if you are helping to drive something forward. In other words, think about your actions, not about the org chart.

As you write this essay, incorporate the dynamics of the experience into your narrative. Do not spend a lot of time explaining the leadership arrangement, and instead simply let the story of the situation unfold, then show your actions and the subsequent reactions (complementary or otherwise) from your co-leader(s).

To effectively reveal your “strengths and weaknesses,” you will need to demonstrate that you encountered challenges along the way and show how you overcame them. You cannot tell the story of your experience and then just tack on a mention of some unrelated—and thus “unproven”—lesson at the end. This is a common mistake, so be extra careful to avoid it. You must also reflect on the experience, because the question asks you to, but make sure the reflection you share is derived directly from the experience you describe in your essay. If you write 350–400 words of narrative and 100–150 words of related reflection, you should be on the right track.
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We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Virginia (Darden).

Darden has tweaked its single essay question ever so slightly, changing the second part of the prompt  from How did this experience change your perspective? to What did you learn about yourself? Although the phrasing is a little bit different, the spirit is largely the same. Because Darden offers you such little leeway in revealing the breadth of your experiences, we strongly advise you to make the most of your resume and short-answer responses within your application to ensure that the school learns as much as possible about you. In particular, you will need to rely on your resume to reveal important accomplishments, but you will have to be careful not to overstuff it. Do not mistake quantity for quality.

Our analysis of Darden’s sole question follows

DardenShare your thought process as you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. What did you learn about yourself?  (500 words maximum)

Choosing a situation to discuss that required clear and measured consideration on your part is imperative, given that Darden asks explicitly for you to detail your thought process. Simply describing the nature of the situation and how it played out is not enough for this essay”you must reveal the process of contemplation that ultimately led you to action in your efforts to resolve the issue. Interestingly, you do not necessarily need to show that you achieved your desired results, and the type of challenge you describe is not of primary importance. The key to a successful essay here is not only showing that you invested an appropriate amount of thought for the problem or situation at hand, but also the progression and development of your thinking. The other crucial element of this essay is demonstrating that you learned from the experience”and specifically, learned something about yourself. So, claiming that you gained a new skill, for example, would not constitute an appropriate response. You will need to delve more deeply into how your understanding of yourself differed after the situation and clearly explain what the experience brought out in you that you had not known about yourself before.

For a thorough exploration of Darden’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Darden School of Business Administration.

We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for University of Pennsylvania (Wharton).

Wharton’s essay prompts for this application season may seem a bit perplexing. At first glance, the two questions seem rather similar. However, the first is basically a question about what you hope to get from your MBA experience at the school, and the second is mostly about what you can give to the Wharton program. With only 500 words for Essay 2 to give the school a sense of your personality and experiences, you will need to think especially carefully about what you want to say. At other schools, an interview will give you the opportunity to share these parts of your profile, but Wharton’s group interview will not be the place for you to talk about yourself, so this essay is your opportunity instead. Proceed thoughtfully

Wharton

Essay 1: What do you aspire to achieve, personally and professionally, through the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

This essay prompt has the markings of the classic personal statement question, though it differs slightly in that it includes your personal aspirations in addition to your professional aspirations. With respect to your personal aspirations (note that the phrasing is through Wharton’s program), your goals can be anything from advancing your intellectual development while at the school to experiencing new cultures and personalities after graduating with your degree. The goal you claim is not as important as truly owning it and connecting it directly to what Wharton offers, revealing a very clear understanding of the school’s strengths and resources and of how you will use them. Avoid vague statements about how great the school is and focus on demonstrating a clear connection between your aspirations, what you need to achieve them and what Wharton in particular offers that will enable you to fulfill those needs.

Because Personal Statements are generally similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge. Please feel free to download your copy today.

For a thorough exploration of Wharton’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Essay 2: Academic engagement is an important element of the Wharton MBA experience. How do you see yourself contributing to our learning community? (500 words)

Here, Wharton gives you a chance to discuss how your past activities, professional experiences and, in some cases, even personal adventures could be harnessed for the benefit of others at the school. Consider identifying and exploring one or two specific instances in your life that were extraordinary or formative and allowed you to claim specific knowledge or expertise. Then connect them to specific elements of the school’s MBA program, revealing that you have a thorough understanding not only of the school itself but also of how your personal strengths could enhance the experience for your fellow students.

Your experiences need not be totally unique, but they must be conveyed in a way that paints them as specifically yours, and they need to be capable of being leveraged academically.  Note that the school’s question specifies a contribution to the learning community. However, this does not mean that you must have some sort of strictly academicknowledge. In fact, most essays written from that angle would end up being quite boring: I worked on discounted cash flows modeling, so I can help others with such models would be an almost sure loser. Unless you can claim a truly exceptional academic achievement that has direct application in class (My PhD in nanotechnology would advance discussions on the topic of emerging technologies), you would be better off delving into how you developed particular skills or traits and then explaining how they could be applied. For example, if you have experience managing flexible teams, you would be well equipped to facilitate discussions on your learning team and thereby add value in that capacity.

As you approach this essay, be sure to not simply tell the admissions committee how great you are at something. Instead, use a narrative to illustrate that you have certain applicable experiences, skills and/or qualities and fully understand their value to others.