Articles from US News & World Report

Turn Failure Into a Great Business School Admissions Essay...

It’s the dreaded failure topic: “Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed.” MBA applicants often freak out when faced with this common admissions essay question because they fear that showing any weakness will torpedo their admissions chances. However, at one point or another, everyone faces adversity, failure or setbacks, whether at work or in life. Your response to these situations demonstrates your character, and business schools understand that failure represents a learning opportunity. This essay is your chance to demonstrate your maturity, flexibility and leadership qualities. Leaders aren’t always successful; rather, they are willing to admit to failure and find motivation in their misfortune. So how do you tell the business school admissions committee how failure has truly affected you? First, start with some real introspection. It’s important to use a failure that is emotionally important to you. Your failure should also be real and something that led you to gain some insight about yourself. The negative situation could have led to a transformative experience for your team, a positive opportunity for someone else or a chance for you to better understand another person through a team challenge. The admissions committee will easily see through an accomplishment that you frame as a failure; furthermore, that will not demonstrate your maturity or ability to grow. Think creatively about this aspect – do your best to describe how you have changed your approach as a result of the failure. When brainstorming for this essay, think first about what you learned from the situation you plan to detail; then work backward to describe the circumstances and the initial challenge or hurdle. That will help you more optimistically view the whole situation. What did you learn from...

What Employers Think of Your Online MBA Degree...

When Michael Urtiaga goes on job interviews, he regularly gets asked the question, “How were you able to balance an MBA education at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business with your previous full-time job near Cincinnati?” The answer: The 36-year-old, who’s now in between jobs, pursued his MBA online through the Kelley Direct program – not by traveling to the school on the weekends, as some interviewers initially assume given that he lives about a two-hour drive away from the campus. Urtiaga says interviewers generally seem accepting of his online degree given the strong reputation of the school. Still, he sometimes needs to answer questions about the pros and cons of online learning and the real-world benefits the online program offers. “Oftentimes, you can see their faces change as you go through the conversation,” says Urtiaga, who completed his MBA last year and is now pursuing an online master’s in strategic management as part of a dual degree program at Kelley. There’s still a bit of a stigma, he says, but people usually come around when they hear some of the format’s virtues. Recruiters say most employers accept job candidates’ online MBAs from respected schools, especially now that the quality of an online MBA education at many institutions is equivalent to one on a physical campus. But in some cases, experts say, there’s still the need to educate companies about the legitimacy of many online programs. A significant portion of employers won’t even ask about the format in which the degree was earned, says Adam J. Samples, regional president of Atrium Staffing in New Jersey. Others will only dig deeper if they have a specific reason to – as in Urtiaga’s case, where they see he worked while pursuing...

3 Ways International Students Can Strengthen U.S. MBA Applications...

The U.S. is a popular destination for those from around the globe who want to pursue higher education, and prospective business school students are helping lead the trend of studying in the U.S. Fifty-two percent of prospective students for graduate business programs attempted to study outside their country of citizenship, up from 40 percent in 2010, according to the most recent data from the Graduate Management Admission Council. This growth is seen mostly among Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern citizens, the report states, and the U.S. is the top region of choice. “Schools want diversity in their programs. You want people from all different places,” says Erin Town, director of MBA admissions at University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. With such a strong interest in U.S. MBA programs from overseas candidates, getting into school is often a competitive process for international applicants. Business school admissions experts offered these three tips to help prospective students improve their chances of getting accepted. 1. Connect with current students: Prospective MBA candidates interested in Foster, which typically has between 30 and 35 percent of full-time MBA students who are international, should try to speak with current students from a similar background, says Town. “If you can talk with someone who’s from your home country and get a feel for their experience here, what they like about the program, how they’re spending their time,” and then mention the conversation in an application, she says, “that really impresses us and shows us they’re very interested in Foster.” When 30-year-old Ting Tseng was applying to business school, speaking with students helped her decide which program to attend. “I talked to several Foster alumni, and they were all very helpful and willing to share,” says Tseng, a...

Calculate the Return on Investment for an MBA

A political campaigner in Washington, D.C., Kate Doehring, 31, decided to pack her bags and move to the Midwest to earn an MBA in a place with a cheaper cost of living. “I was looking at Georgetown and George Washington here,” says Doehring, who is about to finish her first year of business school at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. “To stay in D.C., just sheer cost would have been at least double or triple than Madison.” Like many prospective MBA students, Doehring looked at her MBA as an investment and weighed the cost of living, lost wages and potential debt along with a projected post-degree salary of $100,000. Average salary after graduation compared with debt, referred to as salary-to-debt ratio, is one tool for calculating the return on investment for prospective MBA students. “I used just over $100,000 annually, plus or minus $10,000,” says Doehring, who is on target to finish the program with less than $15,000 in debt. “I used $100,000 as a benchmark because those numbers were communicated when I did my campus visit.” According to data submitted to U.S. News by ranked business schools, UW—Madison had the highest annual salary-to-debt ratio for full-time MBA graduates who found jobs paying an average of more than $100,000 in salary and bonus within three months of earning their degree. Students at Wisconsin School of Business can expect a 7.4-to-1 salary and bonus-to-debt ratio. That translates into an average salary and bonus of $114,815 and $15,481, on average, in debt. Of the other ranked business schools with grads earning more than $100,000 in salary and bonuses, these schools had the highest salary and bonus-to-debt ratio for the Class of 2015: the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University at...

4 Stats to Measure Before Signing Up for an MBA...

As a young professional working at the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank, Bruno de Faria had a solid career but worried his business acumen was weak. “I was a political science major in college. I had a little bit of an international relations background, but my work was becoming more and more related to business – finance, accounting, marketing,” the 36-year-old says.​ “I wanted to develop, personally, those skills.” He decided an MBA would give him the knowledge he lacked, but a business school degree often comes at a cost. Many schools charge students $50,000 or more in tuition and fees per year, and full-time MBA programs usually require a two-year commitment. Business school experts recommend applicants weigh their return on investment before enrolling and how long it will take to recoup the money lost​. The investment includes the time in school, the salary a full-time student gives up while in school​ and the total cost of attendance.​ For de Faria, measuring his income before and after graduation was important. “I looked at my salary going away, our incremental expenses and then what would be the expected salary that I’d get after graduation. So, that would be the return,” says de Faria, whose wife worked while he was an MBA candidate at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “Then I looked at in how many years, more or less, what would be my payback period?” Graduates from two-year, full-time MBA programs usually recoup their investment in three and a half years, according to a February report from the Graduate Management Admission Council. Their median cumulative base salary three years after graduation is $348,000. Prospective business school students should consider four factors in determining...

6 Factors for Prospective International MBA Students to Weigh...

Currently there are more than 450 institutions offering MBA programs in the U.S., with dozens of different concentrations. An MBA degree from an accredited university is one of the most prestigious and recognizable business degrees at the master’s level. Since courses are very diverse and focus on various topics, it offers a wide range of career opportunities. The process of choosing an MBA program can be daunting, especially if you are an international student. Researching your options and getting a grip on what preparations to take is big task. Here are some factors to consider as you start this process to help you make the best decision. 1. Accreditation: It might not be first on your list but it is an important factor: Choose an institution that is accredited. This is a good way to make sure the institution you are researching offers a qualitatively sound program. The number of institutions offering MBA programs is rising, especially online options, but this doesn’t mean that every institution offers you the same value for your money. Since an MBA is a big investment, you want to make sure that you get the best value for your money. Accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International tends to be most prevalent among U.S. programs. 2. Requirements: While looking at various MBA programs you want to get a clear picture of the requirements. What tests do you have to take? Is an essay or an interview a requirement? Will references help your acceptance? Every program has different types of requirements or requires different test scores to be accepted. You want to make sure that you know what to expect and that you take the appropriate amount of time to prepare...

11 MBA Programs With the Highest GMAT Scores

Preparing for the GMAT can be a tiring process, but scoring high is critical to gaining admittance to a top-ranked MBA program. At the 11 schools with the highest GMAT scores, incoming full-time students in fall 2015 had an average score of 715 or higher on the admissions exam, which has a maximum score of 800. Stanford University had the highest average GMAT score – 733 – among the 129 business schools that submitted this data. While the average GMAT score at Stanford rose by one point from its 2014 class, the school dropped a spot in the U.S. News Best Business Schools rankings, tying for No. 2. Harvard University, which took over the No. 1 spot in the rankings this year, had an average GMAT score of 725 – one point lower than its fall 2014 average. Harvard Business School also had more full-time students enroll in fall 2015 than any other school that submitted this data, boasting a class of 937. Among all the MBA programs that provided data on GMAT scores, the average was 630, much lower than the 722 average among the top 11. Below are the 11 business schools with the highest average GMAT scores for incoming full-time students in fall 2015. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report. Business school (name) (state) Incoming full-time enrollment (fall 2015) Average GMAT score U.S. News b-school rank Stanford University (CA) 733 University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) 732 University of Chicago (Booth) 726 Harvard University (MA) 725 Northwestern University (Kellogg) (IL) 724 Yale University (CT) 721 New York University (Stern) 720 Dartmouth College (Tuck) (NH) 717 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) 716 Columbia...

Prepare for Short Answer MBA Application Essay Questions...

Ten years ago, lengthy MBA essays were a staple of business school applications. Flash forward to today, and admissions departments worldwide have reduced the word count and number of essays candidates must tackle. Whether the influence is social media, with its condensed communication style, or simply that the admissions committee has grown weary of reading thousand-word essays from thousands of applicants, it seems short and sweet is here to stay. Many applicants struggle with short-answer essay questions because they feel like they cannot adequately convey everything they want the admissions committee to know in so few words. The challenge of these brief prompts is to give the admissions committee what they ask for while still providing a compelling snapshot of yourself. I always advise applicants to do two things as they work on their MBA essays: make sure to answer the question asked and spend a lot of time brainstorming up front. You would be amazed at how many applicants start to answer an essay prompt and veer off-subject entirely. With such a limited word count, even answering a “why” question with a “how” response will be a turnoff to the admissions officer reviewing your application. The brainstorming phase is the same whether you have a word count of 750 or 200. First, find a theme, or a couple of main points, you want to convey. Consider the essay set for each MBA application as a whole, and make sure your answers do not overlap but rather build upon each other. Then whittle away anything non-essential, and always avoid the passive voice as it eats up valuable space in your allotted word count. Whenever possible, share details that show a glimpse of your personal interests or something amazing that...

4 Questions to Ask at MBA Admissions Events

When it comes to applying to business school, connecting with a school’s admissions team can be a key part of the process. For prospective students, this connection often happens at admissions events. School representatives travel to Chicago, Denver and dozens of other cities to attend business school fairs where they can meet applicants. Aspiring MBAs can learn about curriculum offerings, class sizes and experiential learning, often without having to visit the school. For those who are able to travel, admissions staffers also host on-campus open houses throughout the year. While applicants can learn about a school online or through a brochure, there’s an advantage to attending one of these meetups. “The dialogue that occurs is often much richer if you are present with somebody in person,” says Kelly R. Wilson, executive director of masters admissions at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. “I can get a better sense for who a candidate is in person, I believe, than I can over the phone or via email.” Prospective students can also use these occasions to learn key tips about how to boost their applications. Applicants often have five-minute, one-on-one chats with a member of a program’s admissions team during school fairs and can use the time to learn how to improve their personal statements or other application components. Below, admissions experts outline four questions applicants should ask to make sure they’re selling themselves to schools in the best way. 1. What’s an appropriate length for a resume? Many MBA programs prefer applicants work for a few years before applying and like to see resumes with a certain look. “I would say no more than two pages for their resume,” says Stephan Kolodiy, a senior admissions officer for the business...

3 Ways to Sell Yourself With an MBA Resume

The MBA resume is a whole other animal from the standard curriculum vitae designed to land you a job. The resume you tailor specifically for business schools should offer a quick snapshot of your significant work experiences and accomplishments in three areas that showcase your MBA-relevant skills. • Leadership: Business schools want to see applicants who already have strong leadership skills. You’ll further groom your management abilities during your MBA program, but the admissions committee wants to know that the foundation is already there. Give evidence of when you united people behind a common goal, made use of other’s talents and skills, instilled a vision, challenged the status quo, identified a new problem or prioritized the needs of the organization above personal needs. If you formally manage one or more people, don’t leave that information out. Even if you supervise and mentor someone informally, that should go on the resume as well. If you have played a role in training peers, subordinates or even those senior to you (perhaps on a new type of software), include that on your resume. Anything that shows how you identified an opportunity and took initiative is a great thing to include. My client, George, was concerned because he did not have a title change throughout his four years at a defense contracting company. Because he worked in an engineering function, increase in responsibility was marked by a raise instead of a new title. My colleagues and I took a look at what George did outside of work to see where he could highlight a leadership role. George had participated in an annual charity bike ride for the past five years, and we suggested that he volunteer to coordinate the next ride. The event...

Avoid These 10 Mistakes in MBA Application Essays...

The essay component of the MBA application is a chance to really wow the admissions committee and stand out from potentially thousands of other candidates with similar GMAT scores or GPAs. There are many ways to craft a stellar essay that will give the reader a better sense of who you are, but there are also several mistakes to avoid as you’re answering these required prompts. Make sure you sidestep the following pitfalls at all costs. 1. Neglecting to answer the question: Applicants often become so determined to drive home a particular point, or worse, drift off into a tangent, that they fail to succinctly answer the question. Don’t answer with “what” when the question asks “how?” or “why?” Business schools create their essays with the goal of finding out how you fit their program, and not answering the question immediately indicates poor fit. 2. Using industry jargon or pretentious language: Never assume the admissions committee member reviewing your application is intimately familiar with your particular industry. Write for a lay audience, and avoid flowery or stuffy language – use familiar words instead. With hundreds of applications on their desks, the admissions staff has only a few minutes to review each essay. It should be immediately digestible. 3. Basing essays on ​what you think the admissions committee is looking for: Even if you have a pretty good idea of what a particular business school looks for in MBA candidates,​ this isn’t the time to remake yourself into what you think their ideal student would be. This is a major pet peeve of the admissions committee, which is why they have gone to great lengths recently to come up with creative essay prompts. Stay true to yourself and your professional...

Avoid 4 Mistakes Wait-Listed MBA Applicants Make...

Applying for an MBA program requires patience. Once prospective students submit applications, it can be weeks or months before they know if they’ve been accepted. The waiting game can be extended even longer when applicants get the news that they’ve been wait-listed. “We try to kind of wrap up our waitlist decisions sometime in July,” says James Holmen, director of admissions and financial aid at Indiana University —Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business. New MBA students usually have orientation in August, he says. There are rules for what applicants should or should not do when wait-listed, and applicants who break these guidelines can push schools from saying “maybe” to “no.” Here are four common mistakes that experts say,​ wait-listed students have been known to make and how to avoid them. Refusing to listen to sound advice: Some applicants will call the schools that have wait-listed them to say they’ll do whatever it takes to be admitted – but they don’t really mean it, says Treavor Peterson, managing director of MBA programs at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management. Certain schools, such as Marriott, tell wait-listed applicants why they’ve been wait-listed and what they can do to increase their chances of admittance, says Peterson​. Applicants don’t always agree with the school’s feedback,​ though. “They don’t want to follow the direction we gave them,” he says. In other cases, applicants will take it upon themselves to update schools with information they think will improve their candidacy, regardless of if ​the school has asked for this type of information or not, says Leah Derus, founder of the admissions consulting company fxMBAConsulting. Applicants should first listen to any instructions or feedback a school has given, experts say, and use those as guidelines​ for...