Admissions Spotlight: Timelines & Planning

‘Tis that time of year again. No, not the time when most of the well-intended New Years Resolutions begin the long limp to failure, but rather a new crop of b-school hopefuls gearing up to make a run at their choice programs. To help prospective b-school candidates get a jump on their preparation and make the most of their efforts, we thought we’d share some guidance on how best to plan for the upcoming application year.

Between the GMAT, the essays, the recommendations, and everything else, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to apply to b-school. Your best asset when starting this process is a timeline. Include events and deliverables including GMAT practice tests and courses, application essays, scholarship applications, recommendations, and school visits. Once you figure out what needs to be done first, your priorities begin to align themselves!

Below we’ve included a standard timeline that outlines the bigger picture events you should plan for:

The road to the promised land of GMAT and application glory is long and arduous. To help you retain your sanity, and make this the rare resolution that comes to fruition, keep in mind a few key tips:

  • Start Early – As the timeline indicates, prudent planning should provide six months to prep for the GMAT. If you knock the GMAT out early, great! If not, this allows you time to deal with unexpected interruptions to your prep (they almost always happen) or setbacks, or simply the need for more time to get the score you want. The plan also provides time to focus squarely on applications instead of having to split time two ways (and usually more if you consider most people have full-time employment to deal with, not to mention family and other obligations that come with having some semblance of a life). The bottom line: budget room to have more time, not less, to make your prep a less stressful endeavor.
  • Have a Plan…but be Flexible – As we mentioned above, unanticipated events always arise. Having a plan does wonders for streamlining prep and staying on task, but don’t become too beholden to any one path. Don’t limit yourself to a single approach, a single mode to prepare for the GMAT, or an arbitrary deadline for achieving scores you need on the GMAT. Have a plan and modify as needed. Just think about the “plans” you had for yourself in high school. Have those plan manifested themselves? For most people the plans change. This realm is no exception.
  • Be Tenacious - Your goals are imminently achievable. The path is winding, it is difficult, but it has an end, and it’s the end you want. But to reach that end, you have to stick to your goals. Don’t be dissuaded by setbacks or delays. Don’t let your expectations undermine your commitment or motivation. If you want it, it’s there for the taking. All that’s needed is dedication and prudent preparation.

Happy New Year and best of luck with your GMAT preparation and b-school applications!

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You’ve Taken the PSAT, Now What?

Thanksgiving marks not only the start of the Christmas season but also the beginning of the college process in earnest for many Juniors. Before December brings Santa down your chimney, it will bring PSAT results back to your high schools. The College Board will be sending your score reports back to your schools in the first couple weeks of December, which means you should have your scores in your hand just in time to put them under the Christmas tree. In this post, we’ll break down what the PSAT tells you about the SAT and if it impacts your future SAT score. (You should also check out “What Is The PSAT?” to learn more about what the test is and how it’s used. )

850+ Test Optional Colleges: A Closer Look at the Famous List

As a 20 year veteran of test preparation, I’ve been enamored with the FairTest list of SAT/ACT optional schools for what seems like a decade now. I am sure many of you as parents, educators and students have also been impressed with such a list; it’s seemingly a harbinger of a radical shift in admission policy that will minimize the impact of standardized tests which have historically put low income and minority students at a disadvantage. I’ve seen the good and bad of testing for years and find it commendable that a school would be brave enough to defy convention when it comes to standardized test scores, forgoing both the benefits and the drawbacks, to weigh students on their broader merits.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Changes in MBA Application Essays

Today’s guest post is from Nicole Lindsay, who holds a JD/MBA from University of Virginia and is a former MBA admissions officer at Yale School of Management. Nicole Lindsay is the Founder of DiversityMBAPrep.com, an online community that supports women and minorities in applying to MBA programs.

 


 

Earlier this summer, a few MBA programs sent admissions insiders into a tizzy when they decided to revamp their application essay questions. Who knew that a move from four required essays to two could be so disruptive!

Business schools experiment with their applications every year and receive little notice from national media.  This year is different because the changes came from the “Big Three” (Harvard, Wharton, Stanford). Application shifts also came from Kellogg, UVA Darden, Columbia, MIT Sloan, and Iowa (which seems to experiment every year.  Last year the school got national publicity when one essay question sought a 140-word tweet response). Ultimately, all MBA programs are looking for better ways to get the most pertinent information with as few hurdles to applicants as possible.  Business schools want to receive more applications so a lot of thought goes into their application process. Many pundits speculated that this year’s application changes were an attempt to outsmart admissions consultants.  I disagree – the formula for gaining admission to business school is no different than in years past.

MBA applications are trending toward reduced essay requirements, either by requiring fewer essays or lowering maximum word count. These changes signal to me that schools are adapting their application components to more closely align with the real weight that each is given in the admissions decision. Transcripts and GMAT directly tie to a candidate’s academic readiness so they are given significant weight. In the same manner, the resume (work experience) and recommendations link to career and leadership potential, which are critical admissions elements. Over the years, essays have become a catch-all without a specific connection to the factors that drive the admissions decision. Going forward, expect that schools will use essays to (a) learn about your career goals (some will ask this in the application form as a short-answer question) and (b) assess your school fit (examples: questions around teamwork, ethics or exploring a statement or video).

Here’s how I suggest that you approach your MBA applications:

  1. Schools want you to submit strong applications so understand what each question is really asking you. On school and other websites, look for tips and suggestions from the Admissions Committee on the application components, particularly the essays. Feel free to get the opinions of others, but remember, they are simply speculating, while Admissions Committee members actually know.
  2. Take a holistic approach to the application –most of this year’s application changes have come in the essay component. Most schools are opting for shorter essays – this just means you need to get to the point faster. Essays are just one of several parts of an application; you must use every inch of the application to communicate your story. If you are afforded fewer words in a career goal essay to discuss your background, use your resume to highlight accomplishments that relate to your future aspirations.
  3. Don’t sweat new application changes – all applicants are required to complete the same application for admission, so don’t worry about what previous applicants had to do. Nothing has really changed in the admissions process – business schools admit candidates that are academically prepared, with tremendous career and leadership potential and are a fit for their MBA programs.

Good luck with your applications!

The Differences Between Not-for-Profit and For-Profit Colleges

Today’s guest post is from Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD Candidate at Emory University, an expert in for profit education and a former admissions and financial aid counselor in two for-profit schools. Ms McMillian Cottom took some time to share with our readers some insight into her research and insights on the growing for-profit college industry.


There are a lot of factors to consider your sophomore and junior year of high school when you embark upon your college application planning. Do you want to move as far away from home as possible or be close enough for Sunday dinners? Do you want the intimate environment of small, liberal arts colleges or the rush of a large, urban campus? What fields of study should your dream college offer? What kind of social life can you build once you get there? The list goes on and on.

One thing rarely considered but, perhaps, equally important to those other considerations is the institutional type of your dream school. Institutional type refers to the mission of the college. By college mission I don’t mean “to live and serve” but “to profit or  not to profit.”  If you don’t know the difference between a for-profit college and a not-for-profit college don’t feel badly. You’re not alone. A new research report found that among adults enrolled in online college degree programs, 17 percent had no idea if their school was for-profit or not-for-profit. More importantly, the question you might be asking is why you should care about the institutional type of your college.

Good question.

Integrated Reasoning: 2-month Anniversary Update

On June 5th the new Integrated Reasoning (IR) section debuted on the GMAT, to much consternation and hang-wringing among prospective business school applicants. A couple months on there are a couple points to mention as we look back at the IR.

Initial Integrated Reasoning Percentiles

The scores for the Integrated Reasoning have been known since April, but in order for percentiles to be generated GMAC needed to wait for actual test results. After a few weeks they had given enough to compile and release the first data. From the 6,229 test-takers, GMAC found that the averages score was a 4 on the 1 to 8 scale, corresponding to the 46th percentile.

A top score of 8 would be the 94%, meaning that 6% of all test-takers score an 8. For a complete view of the percentiles, see the graphic (from GMAC), below.

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Denitresse Burns

We thought that many of you battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Lauren Sickles, and before that we got insights from Gabe Perez, Rhomaro Powell and Radina Russell. This time, we’ve asked Denitresse Burns to provide her take on some interesting business school questions.

Denitresse is a 2009 graduate of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  Currently, she’s a part of John Deere’s Strategic Management Program (a leadership rotational program).  Her rotations have included:

1.       Economics: As a Project Manager, she supported the Chief Economist, looking at global economic and policy trends to understand their impact to their business and customers.

2.       Social Media:  As John Deere’s first Social Media Manager, she launched the social media program at John Deere from the ground up, growing the base to over 500k and designing and implementing the internal processes to support the channels.

3.       Strategic Planning:  As Strategic Ambition Coordinator, she manages the strategic planning efforts for one of the largest global platforms in John Deere’s agricultural division.

Why did you go to business school?
I decided to go to business school for a number of reasons. Some rational… some, well, not so much.  In undergrad, when I finally declared a major in International Finance, I knew I would also pursue my MBA (someday).  In my mind, the two simply went hand in hand.  When a mentor left my firm to attend Stern, I was reminded of item #8 on my “Deni Do List.”  Three years later I found myself doing well in my career but completely uninterested and as a result, uninspired.  At that point, I knew I was ready for a complete career change and that a MBA would give me the latitude to make that transition.

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumna Lauren Sickles

We thought that many of you battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Gabe Perez, and before that we got insights from Rhomaro Powell and Radina Russell. This time, we’ve tapped Lauren Sickles to provide her take on some interesting business school questions.

Lauren graduated from Columbia Business School and now doubles as a financial services professional and entrepreneur.

 

Why did you go to business school?

In college, I attended a mentoring event organized by the women’s group at Stanford GSB.  I was extremely impressed by the background and the quality of both the students and the alumnae.  It opened my eyes to the types of career opportunities available to business school students.  After attending that event, it wasn’t a matter of “if” I would go to business school, but “when”.

How has business school impacted your career?

GMAT News: Prospective Students Survey

The old adage goes, ‘Knowledge is power.’ Albert Einstein once said that “Information is not knowledge.” With the right contextualization, however, information can be knowledge, which can lead to power. The latest Prospective Students Survey Report from GMAC contains both a wealth of information and the context with which to empower it.

This report reveals valuable demographic trends in the world of GME (Graduate Management Education). Data indicates that while men comprise the majority of those interested in full-time 1- or 2-year MBA programs, women make up the majority of those interested in most non-MBA Master’s Programs, including Management and Accounting. Additionally, data shows that women interested in non-MBA Master’s degrees are applying at a younger age than their MBA counterparts, with 71% of female applicants to non-MBA Master’s programs aged younger than 25.

The Prospective Students Survey also confirms recent data from GMAC that speaks to the international dynamics in graduate management education. The number of GMAT tests taken outside the United States (which speaks directly to the number of prospective candidates originating outside the U.S.), continues to increase, and a significant portion of those increases are being affected by women. For example, Chinese women now account for a full 33% of tests submitted to non-MBA master’s programs by women.

On The Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Gabriel Perez

We thought that many people out there battling through the business school application process might benefit from the thoughts and insights of others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. We’ve heard from Radina Russell and Rhomaro Powell. Let’s get the low-down from Gabriel Perez.

Why did you go to business school?

A career change was the real impetus for me to apply to business school. I saw business school as an attractive proposition for several reasons. First, I knew I wanted a career change, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to change it to. I felt business school could act as a sort of looking glass, giving me unique insights into a number of different industries and career tracks. Secondly, I felt that by going to business school I could manage to make a career change that wouldn’t necessarily force me to take a step down, but allow me to make a lateral move in terms of responsibility and compensation. Perhaps most important though, I saw business school as the best way to develop many of the “hard skills” I would need for long term success in the business world, especially coming from a non-traditional background (i.e. not I-Banking or Consulting)

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