Discussing: Scholarship Renewals, College Essays, and the New Common App Prompts

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Beth Heaton returned as host for this episode of Getting In: A College Coach Conversation, incorporating a wide range of timely topics. Covering information about scholarship renewal, the new Common Application essay prompts, and how to begin the essay writing process, this episode is packed full of great information!

Renewing College Scholarships

Did you know that not every scholarship is necessarily good for all four years of college? Cheryl Hunt joined Beth for her inaugural Getting In: A College Coach Conversation show to discuss this tricky subject. Cheryl is a 27-year college finance veteran, including work at both Azusa Pacific and Chapman University in California. In this segment, Cheryl walked listeners through the questions they need to ask now, at the time of the award offer, in order to make great decisions. Spoiler alert: there are many scholarships that might last for just one year, or need to be renewed each year—tune in to learn how to handle these!

Common Application Essay Prompts for 2017-2018

Lauren Randle joined Beth in the show’s second segment to discuss the recently released and updated Common Application essay prompts. Going prompt by prompt, Lauren and Beth highlighted the updates and analyzed the new prompts. Students applying in the 2017-18 application cycle will reap the benefits of these updated (and additional!) prompts, but only if they’re prepared to scrutinize the questions and attack them in the way they were meant to be written. Tune in to hear Beth and Lauren share their expectations for how students might address the old, updated, and new prompts—and to decide which prompt might be best for you!

Starting the College Essay

Finally, in the third segment, Mary Sue Youn joined Beth to discuss getting started on your college essays. With such a daunting task, where do you even begin? Beth and Mary Sue shared their “go-to” methods for helping students pick a topic and choose their writing angle. They also shared valuable insights for students who are feeling really stuck—make sure to listen to the full segment to hear all of their tips and tricks.

10 Biggest Changes to the 2017-18 Common Application | Part 2

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What the 2017-2018 Common App Changes Mean for You – Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of our blog that highlights ten of the biggest changes to this year’s Common Application. In Part 1, we revealed tips on who exactly needs to complete the new Courses and Grades section of the application, and the dangers of using Google Drive when transferring your essays from Google Docs into the Common App. But now, let’s turn our attention to six additional Common App changes.
5. Sex/Gender Clarifications

To be more sensitive to those students who do not comfortably fall into the male-female binary, the Common App no longer asks students to indicate their “sex assigned at birth” during the account creation process. Rather, on the Profile page of the application, students will be asked to bubble in either a male or female sex and then immediately be given the opportunity to clarify their gender identity in the space below.

Common App Changes

Insider’s Tip: Students have 100 characters (including spaces) to provide details about their gender identity on this optional question.

6. Two New Activity Headings

There are now 30 different activity types available on the Activities page of the application, thanks to the addition of internship and social justice options on the dropdown menu.

Common App Changes to Activity Headings

Insider’s Tip: Think critically about whether your volunteer efforts would best be categorized as community service or social justice on the dropdown menu. Picking up trash in your local park or spending time with seniors in a nursing home are prime examples of community service. Raising money for new immigrants in your community or serving meals to the homeless illustrate a commitment to human rights and equality.

7. Easier Activity Removal

Staying right here on the Activities page, students will notice a little trash can icon in the bottom right-hand corner of each activities listing. If you need to delete an entire activity, simply click on the trash can. (You might be wondering how this is an improvement on last year’s application because it seems so basic, right? Trying to explain the old method would take far too long, so let’s all just be glad that this process has been streamlined!)

Common App Changes Activity Removal

Insider’s Tip: Once you delete an activity, you cannot get it back. None of the information you previously entered will be saved, so think twice before you remove it.

8. Two New Personal Essay Prompts (and Three Revisions)

We love the two new essay choices available to students on the Common App, especially number six, which reads: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? To learn more about the changes to this year’s essay options, and to determine which one might be the best choice for you, be sure to read our blog and take this quiz.

9. Advisor Account

Students who would like a trusted adult (such as a mentor, college counselor, or teacher) to review a copy of their application now have two options. As in previous years, students can opt to share their Common App username and password with the advisor, or—thanks to a new feature of the Common App this year—students can invite the adult to create an advisor account via the Recommenders and FERPA page of the application. There are pros and cons to both of these options. While some advisors prefer to proofread applications by directly logging into their students accounts, be aware that by giving an advisor your login credentials, you’re essentially granting them full and unrestricted access to the application itself. If they make any changes to your application or mistakenly delete an entry, you’ll need to review and potentially correct those errors yourself. On the other hand, by allowing an advisor to see a read-only version of your application, they won’t be able to conduct a line-by-line review of each Common App page and catch potential omissions.

Common App Changes Advisor Account

Insider’s Tip: Students can invite up to three advisors at a time to review a read-only version of their application, and this invitation can be revoked at any time by clicking on the trash can icon.

10. Word Count Limits

Thank you, Common App, for developing this oh-so-simple tool for showing students the minimum and maximum word counts for all essays. Sometimes colleges neglect to inform applicants of a suggested word limit (leading to frantic questions of “how ‘short’ should a ‘short paragraph’ be?”), and at other times the text box actually provides more room than the essay instructions would imply. Now students can easily see both the high and low end ranges for all text box entries.

Common App Changes to Word Counts

Insider’s Tip: Just because a text box may allow you to exceed the recommended maximum word limit, don’t be tempted to go overboard. “Roughly 250 words” can comfortably mean up to 275 words, but submitting an essay of 300 words may be pushing it.

The Common App has done it again! Every year they continue to make practical and useful enhancements to their platform that all seek to enrich the user experience. And students can expect to see continued improvements year after year, especially now that there’s another major player competing in the college application market—the Coalition Application. But one million students can’t be wrong. Thanks to the dynamic versatility of the application, the wide range of colleges that accept it, and its easy-to-use interface, the Common Application continues to be our number one choice for students applying to college.

10 Biggest Changes to the 2017-18 Common Application | Part 1

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What the 2017-2018 Common App Changes Mean for You

The Common Application, which is accepted by nearly 730 colleges and universities across the country and around the world, underwent a bit of a makeover this summer. Students who created a Common App account prior to August 1 will notice several enhancements to the application as they navigate their way across the online platform over the next few months. Some of the changes are minor, perhaps better viewed as timesavers or user-experience upgrades than major developments. But some of the modifications are significant and provide students ever greater opportunities for self-expression and reflection. Below are our picks for the 10 biggest changes to the 2017-18 Common Application.

1. Courses & Grades

Chapman University ● New York School of Career and Applied Studies (a division of Touro College) ● Ohio State University ● Purdue University ● The George Washington University ● University of Southern California ● West Virginia University

Students applying to at least one of the seven colleges above will be required to complete a brand new section of the application titled Courses & Grades (C&G). Located just under the Writing section on the application menu, C&G is essentially a self-reported transcript. Students (a) who have access to their high school transcript, (b) whose transcripts provide final grades, and (c) whose school operates on a traditional semester, trimester, quarter, or block schedule will be prompted complete detailed course information for all classes taken in grades 9-11. The first time you enter the C&G module, you’ll be taken through a Course Assistant Wizard. Here you must indicate:

  • the grading scale used by your high school 100-1, A-F, etc.),
  • the frequency which your grades are reported on your transcript (semester, yearly, etc.),
  • the level of the class (standard, honors, AP, etc.),
  • the number of credits you earned in each class (usually 1.0),
  • and, finally, the course titles and grades themselves.

As long as you have a copy of your high school transcript close at hand, completing the C&G section is relatively straightforward. Of course, there are always special circumstances that slightly muddle the process, such as students who attended more than one high school during a single academic year, or students who earned high school credit while still in 8th grade. Not to worry, for the Common App’s Solutions Center has you covered! You can learn more about the nuances of completing the C&G section by watching these YouTube videos or searching for “courses and grades” on the Solution Center’s homepage.

Common App Support Courses and Grades

Insider’s Tip: If you are not applying to any of the seven colleges listed above, do not waste your time filling out the C&G section. Colleges that do not require C&G won’t even be able to see the completed form on your application, so you can’t submit this self-reported information even if you wanted to.

2. Google Drive Integration

Students who utilize Google Docs to write and edit their essays may be pleased to learn there is now a process to transfer the contents of their Google Docs directly into the Common Application. Anywhere you’re asked to respond to an essay question, expect to see the Google Drive icon in the header just above the text box itself. After granting the Common App permission to access your Google Drive account, you’ll be able to transpose the text of your Google Docs into text fields of the application.

Common App Support Google Drive

Insider’s Tip: Please note that any formatting features in your Google Docs that are not supported by a basic text field (such as colors, hyperlinks, charts, etc.) will be removed when the text is transcribed into the Common App. And sometimes, paragraph breaks or spacing issues appear during the transfer process. You will absolutely want to double-check your essay’s appearance in the preview screen of the Common App to ensure that the appropriate formatting has been preserved.

3. Preview Button for Supplements

Nothing helps a student spot application typos more readily than a careful review of the Common App’s preview screen. And up until this year, preview screens were only available on the six main pages of the Common App. Now, however, thanks to feedback from Common App users last year, the application’s developers have included preview buttons on all school-specific questions and writing supplement forms.

Common App Support Preview

Insider’s Tip: The preview screen will only work after students have answered at least one question on a college’s supplement.

4. More Convenient Resend Button for Recommenders

Let’s imagine that you virtually invite a teacher or coach to complete a letter of recommendation on your behalf via the Common App, but they insist they never received the email. Instead of having to search for the original request deep inside the Recommenders and FERPA page of the application, students can now easily access a simple request button right on the main screen of the Recommenders page.

Common App Support Recommendations

Insider’s Tip: Before you click resend, however, be sure to confirm that the email address you initially entered is correct. It’s possible that a mere misspelling (and not a hyperactive spam filter) is the reason for the missing email.a

What Should I Write About in my MBA Personal Statement?

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What should I write for my personal Statement?

One of the biggest questions that gets asked about MBA personal statements is what the author should include when it comes to main content points and what can be left out. A common misconception is that every piece of content in an essay of this sort has to focus on nothing but business accomplishments. That’s simply not true. An essay that is single-minded in that way will not flow well, nor will it make an impression on the reader; in fact, it could make a negative impression, making you come across as cocky or self-absorbed. You’re much better off telling some stories.
Many of the most effective and compelling MBA essays are created when the author builds the piece around anecdotes, stories about things that have happened to you in the past. MBA essay prompts are ideal in this regard, as they often specifically ask you to describe a situation from your past. As you respond to prompts of this sort, remember that it’s equally important to connect the story to you and explain why the story is important, telling, and applicable to your overall plans/goals. Don’t just tell a story for storytelling’s sake. Your story still needs to connect to your overall motivations and plans.

If you want some expert advice, focused and specified on your particular essay and story, make sure to visit TopAdmit today!

Tell a Compelling Story in your MBA Statement

In addition to telling a story, avoid getting bogged down by trying to mention every single thing you think is important from your past. You’ve certainly done a lot already, and there’s simply no way you can cram it all in to your set of essays. The sooner you accept that, the easier time you’ll have with the writing process. Rather than trying to fit everything in, spend some time listing what you consider the most important elements from your professional career to this point and ranking them as best you can.

Also consider whether any of those elements will be covered anywhere else in your application and whether they can be left out of the essays, or simply mentioned in passing. Once you’ve done this, you can build your essays around the most important items on your list.

As you brainstorm and ultimately write, keep the overall purpose of these essays in mind. And what is that purpose? Simple: to give the reader a better, more personal understanding of who you are as a person, businessperson, and applicant.

Be Personal and Honest

And lastly, remember to be personal and honest. You’re a unique individual with a unique set of experiences and plans; don’t try to fit in or somehow make yourself into a candidate that you think the admissions committee will approve of. Your individuality is your greatest strength as an applicant and if anything, you should be playing it up, not hiding it.

Along those same lines, don’t lie or stretch the truth. You’ll probably be caught, and there’s no faster way to torpedo your candidacy than to be discovered as a fraud. Besides, you’re interesting enough without embellishment!

An MBA: Will it earn you more money?

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MBA degrees enjoy great prestige in Asia, with the lure of bigger salaries and a passport to a new, high-flying career – but is a postgrad degree just the new normal?

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) brand is steeped in tradition and prestige. It’s a brand that has been built over 107 years, since eight people received the world’s first MBA degree from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in 1910.

Today the MBA is among the world’s most popular and respected postgraduate degrees and people are enrolling in ever-increasing numbers at the thousands of business schools across the globe.

Last year, Harvard’s MBA program enrolled 1859 new students from 9543 applicants. At a cost of more than US$200,000 over two years for tuition, room, fees, board and other associated costs at the Boston campus, Harvard is one of the most expensive places to get an MBA.

Add to that the lost income from taking a two-year hiatus from your job while you study full-time and, unless you can land a scholarship, that Harvard MBA could cost you in excess of US$300,000.

However, for many people, the significant time and financial investment is well worth it for the boost up the corporate ladder and higher earning power an MBA delivers.

At least, that’s the perception.

How much of that higher earning power can be attributed to having the three letters behind your name, and how much is due to the drive and dedication of the person willing to pursue an MBA is difficult to measure.

A growing market

What is known is that the MBA is a huge global business. It’s a market that is rapidly evolving and there’s no sign the growth is slowing.

In Australia, the MBA market is worth A$500 million, according to MBA News Australia, with 20,000 students currently studying at more than 30 Australian schools. The average MBA program in Australia costs about A$47,500.

In 1991, there were only nine MBA programs in China; now there are 236. The China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai is the top-ranked business school in Asia on the Financial Times (FT) ranking system.

Five Chinese schools are listed in the FT top 50, as well as two in Singapore, three in India and one, Sydney’s Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM), in Australia.

Two other Australian schools make the Top 100 – University of New South Wales Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM), ranked at 54, and Melbourne Business School, ranked at 76.

Globally, FT ranks INSEAD, which has campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, as the world’s best.

Salary surge for graduates

Like many of the ranking systems, the 2017 FT list is based on surveys of the business schools and their 2013 graduates. Career progression and salary growth are among the criteria, and the ranking system suggests the school you choose can bring significant advantages.

Stanford Graduate School of Business alumni report an average salary of about US$195,000 three years after graduation compared to those from Incae Business School in Costa Rica, whose average salary is the lowest on the Top 100 table at about US$90,000.

However, it pays to look deeper into the statistics before making a decision on which school is right for you. Those at Incae may earn less on a dollar figure, but it represents a 142 per cent salary increase compared to what they were earning before their MBA. That ranks the Costa Rican school at number five in terms of value for money compared to Stanford’s 74th place with a 95 per cent salary increase. Stanford is the number one school for career progression but Incae still fares well in seventh place.

Asia setting MBA benchmarks

MBA News Australia founder and editor Ben Ready says Asia is driving a lot of the growth in MBAs through heavy investment in its business schools. That investment, he says, has lured excellent students and achieved great results.

“Asia is setting the benchmarks for what a great MBA should be,” says Ready. “Within a decade or so it could well be challenging some of the old global favourites and elites that have held the crown for so many years.”

Ready warns it can be easy to get bogged down by the status of a business school and suggests looking for the school that best fits in with your life and offers prime value for what you can afford.

The INSEAD campus at Fontainebleau in France offers the world’s highest ranked MBA.
The INSEAD campus at Fontainebleau in France offers the world’s highest ranked MBA.

“Ultimately, the prestige of the school you got your MBA at will only be one part of the decision to hire you,” says Ready. “Sometimes people put a little too much credence on the school; [more] than is warranted. An MBA shows you have the enthusiasm and desire to further yourself in your career and demonstrates you can commit to the work involved to achieve your MBA.

“It is a clear statement of your intent to your current or future employer that you are ready to take your career to the next level.”

The Australian Institute of Business (AIB) offers one of the cheapest accredited MBA degrees in Australia. Its Agile MBA is all provided online at a cost of about A$26,000, compared with the more than A$80,000 you would pay at any of the three FT-ranked Australian universities. It’s also the largest MBA school in Australia, with more than 4300 current students and in excess of 4500 global alumni.

AIB’s joint CEO Joel Abraham says while there are no guarantees, evidence does show an MBA increases your chances of success.

“It’s a table stake,” says Abraham. “It’s showing how seriously you are taking your profession and your career.” The MBA, he says, is a marathon that requires hard work over a substantial period of time and “only those with the true belief to achieve their desire will see it through”.

He says people will determine prestige on many different factors – is it the highest fees, or the one with most PhD holders on staff, or the one with the best research reputation? Abraham suggests outcomes are what matters most.

Attempting the triple jump

Some people choose to study their MBA because they believe it will help them in the global career market. Others hope to change industry or improve their salary through career progression. A smaller number want to make the triple jump – changing sector, salary and geography all in one bold move.

The MBA is considered a generalist business degree for those with a specialist trade – whether you’re an accountant, a lawyer or a hospital administrator.

“As you develop you get more skills and, as you become middle or senior management, you use less technical knowledge and the skill set required for those roles changes,” explains Ready.

“As a lawyer you might need to learn more about the finances, if you are in finance you may need to know more about the law, and if you are in human resources you may need more business strategy. An MBA takes you into all those areas.”

A survey of AIB’s alumni in 2017 found 40 per cent of alumni have changed job function since starting their MBA; 22 per cent have changed industries; 47 per cent received a pre-tax annual income increase within 12 months of graduation and an average annual income growth of 11 per cent after graduation.

In addition, statistics from the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2016 Year-End Poll of Employers Report found nearly eight in 10 employers plan to hire MBA graduates and 71 per cent of employers found recruiting graduates with a business masters program was a priority in their hiring plans.

Where MBAs don’t rate so highly

However, for Hudson’s accounting and finance recruitment specialist, Barry Hodson, the MBA is rarely part of his key selection criteria.

He says jobs in the finance sector are hotly contested and employers are looking for professionals with relevant industry experience as well as soft skills such as adaptability, critical thinking, the ability to influence, and communication skills.

Hodson says while there are many CFOs without an MBA, very few would be without a CPA designation or equivalent. An MBA, says Hodson, is for those who want to extend out of their area of expertise and move into broader roles in the business world.

“Ultimately, the prestige of the school you got your MBA at will only be one part of the decision to hire you.” Ben Ready, MBA News Australia

Higher education researcher and policy analyst at the University of Melbourne, Dr Gwilym Croucher, says almost 40 per cent of people aged 25 to 34 now have a bachelor degree, compared to 25 per cent of the total working population. In the 1970s that bachelor degree percentage was about 3 per cent.

Just as there has been phenomenal growth in the number of tertiary-qualified people in the workforce, the number of postgraduates has also ballooned.

“International evidence shows having a bachelor degree is extremely beneficial over the course of a working life,” says Croucher. “The 2011 [Australian] Census confirmed that having a degree increases your income by A$1 million to A$1.5 million, or more, over the course of your lifetime, compared to if you just completed Year 12. Postgraduates get more than that again, but not at the same rate.”

Croucher says the increasing proportion of workers with university qualifications means saturation point is approaching, but it will take many years before that filters through to the labour market.

The MBA’s golden age

If an MBA is no longer rare, does it still hold value? Has the exploding number of schools offering an MBA meant a decline in teaching standards?

According to an article in the Financial Times (FT) this year, salaries commanded by MBA graduates after three years back in the workplace increased by the largest amount in a decade.

It reported the highest paying sector for MBA graduates from schools on the FT Top 100 list was financial services, followed by e-commerce, and says the past three years have been “a golden age” for MBA jobs, as sectors not traditionally associated with hiring from business schools now seek out candidates with business qualifications.

However, an article in The Economist in June 2016 says the number of MBAs awarded by business schools in the US has increased seven-fold since 1970, and the employment market is struggling to keep up. It suggests other Masters-level degrees may serve some people better in their search for an executive-level job.

Taking the alternative route

Networking, global study opportunities and broadening of perspectives are among the sought-after MBA offerings. However, as technology brings the world closer together, these opportunities are readily available through non-MBA routes, including online networks and forums, as well as workshops and conferences.

While there is some evidence the brand of an MBA school can propel you further, it’s not the only consideration. An MBA can be valuable for developing skills such as negotiation, diplomacy and personal branding. Most MBA graduates surveyed by FT report a high level of satisfaction, regardless of the school they attended.

“There’s no golden ticket for going to a prestigious university,” says Croucher.

What’s important when selecting a school, he says, is ensuring it links to your area of specialty and that the course content draws on research, knowledge and understands contemporary practice.

Ready rates subject matter, teacher quality, sharp content and access to networks as among the features to look out for.

He says one of the real values of an MBA is the strong friendships forged under pressure.

“The strategy or finance theory might be outdated 10 years on, but you’ll always have those relationships,” he says.

Ready believes the MBA’s future remains strong. The last four years have indicated a trend towards the emergence of specialization, but Ready claims much of it is driven by marketing from business schools trying to differentiate themselves.

“There was a bit of a lull after the GFC [global financial crisis] because a lot of people get a company to fund their MBA, and a lot of companies had tightened their belts,” says Ready.

“So there was a little smell around the MBA at that time, but it has taken the mantle again as the postgraduate business degree to have.”

Does an MBA still help you climb the corporate ladder and give you higher earning power?

“Those three letters are so telling about the quality and the pedigree of the individual.”

The Best One-Year MBA Programs Outside The US

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An MBA is a hefty investment at a top business school with tuition and two years of foregone salary averaging more than $300,000 at Harvard, Stanford and Wharton before financial aid. But in Europe where one-year programs are more popular, the payback on these MBAs is much quicker thanks to only one year out of the workforce (tuition is lower also).

FORBES surveyed 17,500 MBA graduates around the world this year from the class of 2012 to gauge the return on investment they received by attending business school versus hypothetically not getting a graduate degree. The top 10 one-year international programs produced an average “5-year MBA gain” of $126,000. The leading two-year programs outside the U.S. had a gain of $74,300, while the best U.S. MBA programs had a five-year gain of $73,400 with Wharton School ranked first at $97,100.

The IMD campus in Lausanne

IMD ranks first this year among the one-year MBA programs, up one spot from 2015 in our biennial business school ranking. The school based in Lausanne, Switzerland had a five-year gain of $194,700. IMD caps its annual enrollment at 90 students, allowing for a very individual approach regarding career services. The school works with as many as 70 companies annually to recruit IMD grads.
Students arrive on campus with an average of seven years of work experience. The longer time in the workforce means higher forgone salaries ($81,000 for the Class of 2012). IMD also has the highest cost for a one-year program ($88,000 for the current class) thanks to mandatory fees outside tuition that cover two trips abroad, daily lunch on campus, teaching materials and more.

The payoff is worth it despite the high opportunity cost. The class of 2012 had a median salary of $215,000 five years of out of school, $26,000 more than any other non-U.S. school. IMD grads earned back their investment (forgone salary, tuition) in just 2.3 years on average.

Show Emotional IQ, Leadership in MBA Applications

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Topadmit

Show emotional intelligence by describing emotionally charged professional situations you successfully navigated, experts say

Stories of overcoming adversity and achieving success in difficult circumstances are excellent fodder for an MBA application.

MBA admissions experts and students say the reason these stories of challenge and resilience are so important is because they provide proof that a b-school applicant possesses two traits vital for business success: emotional intelligence and leadership potential.

Why MBA Programs Value Emotional IQ

Emotional intelligence is how you pick up on, evaluate and regulate emotions, which includes empathy and self-awareness. And experts say this is crucial for future executives, since it allows them to motivate and mobilize a team to work toward a common purpose.

While the majority of MBA admissions committees look for emotional intelligence and leadership traits in prospective students, a few schools – such as the Yale School of Management – have previously experimented with adding an emotional intelligence assessment as part of the admissions process.

[Highlight the qualities that MBA admissions officers look for during interviews.]

New York University’s Stern School of Business also recently added a required emotional intelligence recommendation to its application. Applicants must now submit an EQ endorsement from someone who knows them well and can describe a moment where they displayed emotional intelligence.

Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA admissions and program innovation at Stern, says the school added this admissions requirement because it believes emotional intelligence is what separates mediocre business executives from exceptional ones. Gallogly says a business venture cannot thrive unless the individual in charge not only has a good idea but also knows how to execute that idea.

“If that person does not have the emotional intelligence to sell that idea, to drive that idea, to move it through organizations to effect change, ultimately they’re not going to be successful in business,” he says.

Stern hopes to identify and recruit the aspiring executives with the most emotional intelligence. “So for us,” says Gallogly, “we look at IQ plus EQ as the equation of what we’re looking for in students, and this is something we’ve been looking for since time began at Stern.”

[Learn about MBA recommendations that made a positive impression.]

How to Show Emotional Intelligence

To highlight emotional intelligence, Sean Killeen, an MBA student at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, says he pulled from his experience assisting the New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery with rebuilding New York homes destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Throughout the MBA admissions process, Killeen emphasized the challenge of reassuring and supporting homeowners who were skeptical that the government would answer their requests for help.

Erin Skelly, a graduate admissions counselor at IvyWise, says applicants can show their emotional intelligence by giving “personal anecdotes or examples in an interview, demonstrating self-awareness via the personal statement or essay or indirectly by asking a reference to specifically discuss these skills in the letter of recommendation.”

She says they can’t just say they have these skills – “an applicant should always have specific examples showing these skills in action.”

[Learn why college majors rarely tip the scales in MBA admissions.]

How MBA Admissions Officers Define Leadership

Beyond emotional intelligence, leadership is another key trait prospective b-school applicants need to demonstrate. MBA admissions officers say the best measure of candidates’ leadership potential is whether they have consistently made a significant, positive impact on organizations where they worked.

Whitney Kestner, director of admissions at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, says one way she assesses applicants’ leadership potential is by looking at their resumes. She likes to see evidence that they have progressively increased their level of responsibility at work.

But Lara Lemley, a student at Pepperdine University’s George L. Graziadio School of Business and Management, notes that leadership examples can come from other life experiences. An active community service volunteer, Lemley highlighted service leadership in her MBA application.

“I think community service is definitely a critical component to the application process because it shows you believe in something, like you don’t only believe in yourself but you believe in something outside of yourself and you want to work towards making that better,” she says.

Many experts say they also see leadership potential in applicants who set ambitious goals, demonstrate follow-through on their promises and take responsibility for their mistakes. For the latter quality, experts advise applicants to describe the lessons they’ve learned from their failures rather than make excuses or cast blame on others for failures in their careers.

“We care a lot about your approach to commitments, your follow-through on commitments,” says Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean of admissions at the Yale School of Management.

“Actually, our essay is about your biggest commitment,” he says, “and we definitely want to get a sense of not just what you’re committed to but how you demonstrate that commitment and how you follow-through on those things you claim to be committed to.”

DelMonico notes that it’s also vital for MBA applicants to demonstrate that they have an “appetite for leadership,” meaning that they are willing to volunteer for challenging leadership positions. Ideally, he says, applicants not only raise their hands for leadership positions but are also repeatedly chosen for these positions, which indicates that they command respect.

 

Test Scores, GPAs Are Rising at Top MBA Programs

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If you’re applying to a selective MBA program, chances are good that the people you are competing against have higher grades and test scores than applicants in prior years.

Steady growth in MBA graduates’ salaries and job opportunities has encouraged many talented individuals to apply to top business schools, experts say. That means applicants to elite MBA programs face stiff competition.GMAT1

“Applicants should understand that as schools get more competitive, they have to keep developing their skills and show almost an unending passion for everything they’ve put their mind towards – business, community, and personal achievements,” Vishal Sandhu, a 2015 MBA graduate from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and founder of the LumoSquid startup company, said via email.

Over the past decade, the average GMAT score among incoming full-time students at the top 10 MBA programs in the U.S. News Best Business Schools rankings has risen dramatically. That’s according to data the schools submitted to U.S. News in an annual survey.

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Score increases at some elite MBA programs were particularly significant. For example, at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, the average GMAT score of admitted students jumped 26 points between 2006 and 2016, rising from 702 to 728.
“Rising test scores in highly rated MBA programs are a reflection of the increased demand for these programs and the resulting global competition for admission into these institutions,” Ashok Sarathy, vice president of product management at the Graduate Management Admission Council, the nonprofit organization that administers the GMAT exam, said via email.

However, U.S. News data show that GMAT scores at other business schools have not significantly changed over the past decade. The average GMAT score of incoming, full-time freshmen at ranked business schools outside the top 10 was 624.6 in 2016, only 2.5 points higher than it was 10 years earlier.

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Over the last decade, the average GPA among admitted MBA students increased at business schools both in and below the top 10, but that GPA increased 50 percent more at top 10 schools.
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Shaifali Aggarwal, founder and CEO of the Ivy Groupe, an admissions consulting firm, says grade inflation could be a partial explanation for the rise in GPAs among admitted MBA students. She attributes the rise in GMAT scores at top schools to recent changes to GMAT cancellation policies.

“Because candidates can cancel a score within 72 hours of taking the GMAT, (after knowing what the score is), and even reinstate a cancelled score, there is absolutely no downside for candidates to retake the GMAT multiple times to increase their score; and so this is exactly what applicants have been and are doing,” Aggarwal said via email.

[Learn why college majors rarely tip the scales in MBA admissions.]

Aggarwal says MBA applicants who are unsatisfied with their GMAT score should consider taking the GRE instead, since a high score on either exam can improve their admissions profile.

Because of the rising test scores at top b-schools, Aggarwal says MBA applicants who want to attend these schools should recognize that getting accepted is exceedingly difficult and that they may need to apply to a wider range of schools than they might have in the past.

Dennis Yim, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of academics, says applicants should not be fooled into thinking that the GMAT exam has gotten easier simply because the average score at top b-schools has increased. “Some people have speculated, I’ve heard this, that the exam has become easier, and we don’t believe that to be the case,” he says.

Yim says the rise in admitted students’ scores at top b-schools is a sign of two things: that these schools are becoming more selective and that applicants to these schools are becoming more diligent about test prep.

[Check out five key qualities of successful MBA applications.]

However, some admissions deans at top b-schools say they worry that – because of the uptick in average GMAT scores – some strong applicants might feel discouraged from submitting applications to these schools simply because their score is a little below the average.

That’s a concern for Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean of admissions at the Yale School of Management, where the average GMAT score rose from 701 to 725 between 2006 and 2016.

“People see that number and they think if I’m not at that number I don’t have a chance, and that’s not at all the case,” he says.

DelMonico says it’s important for applicants to remember that the average score is not a cutoff and that some people who score below the average get accepted.

“As an applicant, you do want to take the standardized test seriously, you want to do a good job. But I think the one thing that applicants tend to overlook is that these averages are just that,” he says. “They mean that there are people above and below. And especially when we report median scores, there’s the same number of people above and below.”

Credit: USNEWS

MBA Entrepreneurs: China’s MBAs Are Launching Disruptive Technology Startups

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MBA ENTREPRENEURS

Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business provides a platform for MBAs looking to take the leap into entrepreneurship

China is a huge market for tech-savvy entrepreneurs. But breaking into business in China is tough. Knowing the language, the culture, and having a close network of contacts is key.

Before business school, Felicia Guo found running her own art gallery a challenge. She was on her own, managing employees and travelling frequently between China and her native Indonesia.

She decided to pursue the 14-month, full-time MBA program at Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB). There, she met her two current business partners, launched a new contemporary Chinese art gallery in Beijing, and co-founded an online platform for art collectors and investors.

“CKGSB was crucial for me in expanding to Beijing,” she says. “Running an art gallery, you need to know about more than art itself. Now, when I go to meetings with people from other industries, I know what they’re talking about—the MBA broadened my knowledge and gave me a different perspective.”

CKGSB has a history of supporting successful tech entrepreneurs—the school lists Alibaba founder Jack Ma among its elite alumni.

In August this year, CKGSB’s most successful MBA entrepreneur today, Cindy Mi, raised $200 million at a $1.5 billion valuation for her disruptive educational technology—edtech—company VIPKID, which matches Chinese students with North American tutors.

VIPKID has attracted investment from Tencent Holdings, Kobe Bryant’s Bryant & Stibel, and Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital. Cindy has signed up more than 20,000 teachers and 200,000 students to her platform to date.

After completing her MBA, she developed her startup in CKGSB’s Chuang Community, an incubator founded by CKGSB associate dean Liu Jing and a group of CKGSB alumni in 2015.

It was the power of CKGSB’s 10,000-strong alumni network—the school’s CEO and chairman-level alumni collectively lead one fifth of China’s most valuable brands—which drew UK entrepreneur Rory Bate-Williams to an MBA in China.

A serial entrepreneur, Rory’s startup exploits include e-commerce platforms, messaging apps, and mobile payment solutions. His latest London-based tech venture is a money-saving, energy-focused platform which auto-switches its users to the best fixed electricity and gas tariffs in the market.

Although Rory returned to the UK after his MBA, his close links to China remain.

“CKGSB opens doors for you,” he says. “Whenever I need help in China, I reach out to the school and I’m connected to relevant alumni almost immediately.”

Serbian entrepreneur Boris Nikolic came up with the idea for his clean technology—cleantech—startup during his MBA at CKGSB. Through an international MBA exchange at Michigan Ross in the US, he got the opportunity to develop the business out of Harvard’s Innovation Lab.

His startup—RENW—provides software connecting energy providers and consumers, to help providers stay ahead of consumer needs, and help consumers keep costs low.

“I chose China for my MBA because, 20 years from now, when I look back, I know I will be in a better position to understand world affairs,” Boris explains.

“The CKGSB MBA helped me discover the dream that I wanted to pursue,” he continues. “If it was not for the program’s entrepreneurial edge, I would not have founded my startup as it is.”

Credit: Businessbecause

Prove You Are Ready to Go From College to MBA

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Younger MBA applicants can demonstrate leadership through initiatives or programs they’ve launched

Over the past decade, business schools have become increasingly open to admitting younger applicants, realizing that such candidates can make significant contributions to the classroom dynamic despite their lack of post-college professional experience.

It’s important to understand, though, that such candidates must demonstrate a high level of talent, academic strength and promise if they hope to persuade a top-tier MBA program to take a chance on them.

If you’re a college junior or senior wondering whether pursuing an MBA degree straight after college is the right move, you need to do some serious introspection. You must convince the MBA admissions committees that you don’t need those two-plus years in the workforce first. You’ll have to show that you come to the program armed with the knowledge, maturity and experience that most people take those extra years to acquire.

[Consider going directly from college to an MBA program.]

Also, know that some schools – such as Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of California—Berkeley Haas School of Business, among others – have fairly firm work experience preferences, so make sure to check with the schools that interest you before making your decision.

Here are three key qualities you will need to demonstrate to admissions committees as a young business school applicant.

Maturity: A key way to demonstrate maturity in your applications is to show that you have experience handling adult issues and problems and that you’re not intimidated by older, more senior professionals. Your letters of recommendation can speak to your level of maturity and focus, particularly how you compare to other people your age.

Choose recommenders such as a summer employer, internship supervisor or other individuals who can objectively assess your professional promise and comment on your managerial abilities. Some MBA programs, such as Columbia University’s Columbia Business School, will accept a second recommendation letter from a professor.

Remember, maturity isn’t a matter of growing older – it’s a matter of growing wiser. Since you can’t focus on how long you’ve been doing something, instead demonstrate how you’ve grown, from your values to your view of the world.

This should go without saying, but make sure your MBA application process doesn’t include active participation from your parents. At this critical career crossroads, the admissions committee wants to see applicants who have demonstrated leadership and wisdom, both of which are hard to convey with parents chiming in at every step.

[Submit a business school application with limited work experience.]

Leadership: This requirement is always daunting for younger applicants, but take comfort in the fact that leadership doesn’t necessarily have to happen in a workplace context.

Can you show that you launched initiatives, programs or ventures of some kind? Were you a teaching assistant? Perhaps you started a small business while in school, led a nonprofit, founded and led a club or spearheaded a major fundraiser.

To stand out in the eyes of the admissions committee, you need to provide hard proof that you made a difference. But it’s not about the scale of your achievements – rather, it’s the fact that you made your mark.

Also, don’t neglect to mention teamwork. Your leadership experience may arise from an extracurricular activity, and sensitivity to teamwork and collaboration in any leadership story demonstrates maturity and people skills.

Make sure the admissions committee can see that you have lots of interesting experiences and insights that would allow you to actively participate in class discussions with stories that will benefit fellow students.

[Showcase these five key qualities in your MBA application.]

Confidence: It’s fine to be ready for business school, but are you truly going to benefit from skipping those two years of work experience? Is b-school just a solution to the question of what to do after college, or is it truly a logical next step for your career?

Maybe you’re at a pivotal point in the company you started but desperately need to learn the general management tools to make it succeed. Or perhaps someone wants to recruit you sooner rather than later.

You’ll need to convince the admissions committee that you are ready for an MBA and that you have crystallized professional goals. Show how your background to date has given you a true taste of what you want to do with your career and that you’re confident that this is the best next step for you.

Your job as a younger MBA applicant is to search internally for what you have to offer. Think about what you want to gain from and what you can contribute to an MBA program.

If you can demonstrate maturity, highly focused career goals, leadership skills and enough life experience to contribute to an incoming class, your age or thin amount of work experience becomes far less important to admissions committees.