Go to a better blog!

You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

December 29, 2009

Pushing the submit button

Yes, it is that time of year.  Try, if possible, to push the submit button only after reviewing everything closely and making sure your application is as good as it can reasonably be.  If you know your application is real weak, but think playing the lottery is a good idea, think again.  A wise person knows when something has to give.  If it is a choice between MBA application suicide in round two and submitting something effective in round three, think about not pressing that button yet.

December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Now get back to graduate school application preparation!

December 21, 2009

Undergraduate Institutions of HBS MBA Students

Comparatively speaking, HBS provides a more transparent approach to admissions data than any other MBA program.  In addition to essentially breaking down the age distribution by revealing the year of undergraduate graduation and providing extensive statistical profiles,  HBS has recently  uploaded the list of all undergraduate institutions that members of the classes of  2009-2011.  This is certainly one of the most interesting lists that HBS has released.  The diversity of institutions represented is great.  Just because your school is not on this list is not a cause for despair, but you should certainly factor that in to how your academic experience is going to be evaluated and you should consider to what extent you will need or want to educate HBS about the value of your undergraduate experience.

Here is the list:
  • Academia de Studii Economice
  • Adam Mickiewicz Univeersity
  • Albert-Ludwigs-Universität
  • Albright College
  • Altay State Technical University
  • American University of Beirut
  • American University, Cairo
  • Amherst College
  • Anahuac University
  • Anna University
  • Aoyama Gakuin University
  • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
  • Arizona State University
  • Ateneo De Manila University
  • Australian National University
  • Azerbaijan State Economic University
  • Babson College
  • Ball State University
  • Bar Ilan University
  • Barnard College
  • Bates College
  • Baylor University
  • Bentley College
  • Bernard Baruch College
  • Berry College
  • Bilkent University
  • Birla Institute of Technology and Science
  • BMS College of Engineering
  • Bocconi University
  • Bogazici University
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Bowdoin College
  • Brandeis University
  • Brigham Young University
  • Brown University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Bucknell University
  • Buenos Aires Technical Institute
  • California Institute of Technology
  • California Polytechnic State University
  • California State University
  • Carleton College
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Catholic University
  • Catholic University, Cordoba
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
  • Ching Hua University
  • Christ College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Clarkson University
  • Classe Préparatoire Saint Pierre
  • Clemson University
  • Colby College
  • Colgate University
  • College of Charleston
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Colorado School of Mines
  • Columbia University
  • Complutense University of Madrid
  • Concordia University
  • Connecticut College
  • Cooper Union
  • Copenhagen Business School
  • Cornell University
  • Creighton University
  • Czech Technical University
  • Dalian University of Technology
  • Dartmouth College
  • Davidson College
  • De Paul University
  • Delaware State University
  • Denison University
  • Dillard University
  • Drexel University
  • Duke University
  • Durham University
  • Eastern Kentucky University
  • Ecole Centrale
  • Ecole de Technologie Superieure
  • Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commeriales
  • Ecole des Mines de Paris
  • Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications
  • Ecole Nationale Supérieure EEHT
  • Ecole Polytechnique
  • Ecole Sainte Genevieve
  • Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris
  • Emory University
  • Erasmus University
  • Escuela Superior de Administracion y Direccion de Empresas
  • Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios
  • Escuela Superior de Ingenieros, Universidad de Sevilla
  • ESSEC Graduate School of Management
  • European Business School
  • European University Viadrina
  • Fachhochschule Munich
  • Faculdade Ibmec Sao Paulo
  • Faculty of Economics and Business, Zagreb
  • Faculty of Economics, University of BL
  • Florida A&M University
  • Florida State University
  • FOM University of Applied Science
  • Fr C Rodrigues Institute of Technology, Mumbai University
  • Franklin & Marshall College
  • Franklin W. Olin College
  • Fudan University
  • Fundacao Armando Alvares Penteado
  • Fundacao Getulio Vargas
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences & Technology
  • Gonville & Caius College
  • Gothenburg School of Business
  • Government Engineering College
  • Grinnell College
  • H.R. College of Commerce & Economics
  • Hampton University
  • Handelshochschule Leipzig
  • Hansraj College
  • Harvard University
  • Hautes Etudes d'Ingénieur
  • Haverford College
  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • HEC Paris
  • Helsinki University of Technology
  • Heriot Watt University
  • Hitotsubashi University
  • Hofstra University
  • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Howard University
  • Hunter College
  • IBMEC School of Economics and Finance
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Imperial College of Science and Technology
  • Indian Institute of Technology
  • Indian School of Mines
  • Indiana University
  • Institut d'Etudes Politiques
  • Instituto Superior Tecnico
  • Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM)
  • Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica
  • Instituto Tecnologico de Buenos Aires
  • Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey (ITESM)
  • Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya
  • Iowa State University
  • ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa
  • Jacobs University
  • Jadavpur University
  • Jiao Tong University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kansas State University
  • Keio University
  • Kettering University
  • Kiev State University
  • King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
  • King's College
  • Koblenz School of Corporate Management
  • Koc University
  • Kochanowski Secondary School
  • Korea University
  • Krivoy Rog Economic Institute
  • Kyiv National University of Economics
  • Kyoto University
  • La Sapienza
  • Lahore University of Management Sciences
  • Laval University
  • Lehigh University
  • Lipetsk State Technical University
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Ludwig-Maximilians University
  • Lycee Carnot
  • Lycee Henri IV – classes préparatoires
  • Lycée Thiers, Sciences Preparatory Classes to Grandes Ecoles
  • Maastricht University
  • Macalester College
  • Macquarie University
  • Marian College of Fond Du Lac
  • Marquette University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • McGill University
  • McMaster University
  • Mercy College
  • Miami University
  • Michigan State University
  • Michigan Technological University
  • Middle East Technical University
  • Middlebury College
  • Milan Polytechnic
  • Military Engineering Institute
  • Missouri State University
  • Monash University
  • Morehouse College
  • Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
  • Moscow State Institute of International Relations
  • Moscow State University
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Muskingum College
  • Nankai University
  • Nanyang Technological University
  • National Institute of Technology
  • National Taiwan University
  • National Tsing Hua University
  • National University of Sciences and Technology – College of E&ME
  • National University of Singapore
  • New University of Lisbon
  • New York University
  • North Carolina A&T University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Northeastern University
  • Northwestern University
  • Northwood University
  • Novosibirsk State University
  • Oberlin College
  • Occidental College
  • Odessa National Academy of Law
  • Odessa National I.I. Mechnikov University
  • Ohio State University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Oregon State University
  • Osmania University
  • Peking University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Pepperdine University
  • Politecnico Di Torino
  • Pomona College
  • Pontificia Universidad Catolica Argentina
  • Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
  • Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru
  • Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro
  • Preparatory school – Lycée Kléber
  • Princeton University
  • Principia College
  • Private University of Witten/Herdecke
  • Punjab Engineering College
  • Purdue University
  • Qinghua University
  • Queen's University
  • Radford University
  • Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology
  • Renmin University of China
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Reutlingen University
  • Reykjavik University
  • Rice University
  • Richmond, the American International University in London
  • Rijksuniversiteit Gent
  • Rio De Janeiro Federal University
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Rutgers – The State University
  • Saint Lawrence University
  • Saint Louis University
  • Saint Olaf College
  • Salisbury State University
  • Scripps College
  • Seattle University
  • Seoul National University
  • Shanghai Chiao Tung
  • Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade
  • Shanghai International Studies University
  • Shanghai Maritime University
  • Shanghai University of Finance & Economics
  • Sichuan University
  • Simon Bolivar University
  • Simon Fraser University
  • Smith College
  • Sogang University
  • Solvay Business School
  • Sophia University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Southwest University of Finance and Economics, China
  • Spelman College
  • St Stephen's College, Delhi University
  • St. John's College
  • St. John's University
  • St. Mary's College
  • St. Petersburg State University
  • Stanford University
  • State University of New York
  • State University of West Georgia
  • Stockholm School of Economics
  • Stockholm University
  • Sung Kyung Kwan University
  • Supelec
  • Swarthmore College
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • Symbiosis Center for Distance Learning
  • Taylor University
  • Technical University of Berlin
  • Technical University of Delft
  • Technical University of Karlsruhe
  • Technical University of Munich
  • Tel Aviv University
  • Temple University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Texas Christian University
  • Texas Tech University
  • Thammasat University
  • Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology
  • The College of William and Mary
  • The George Washington University
  • Touro College, Lander College for Men
  • Trinity College
  • Tsinghua University
  • Tufts University
  • Tulane University
  • Unicamp-Brazil
  • Union College
  • United States Air Force Academy
  • United States Coast Guard Academy
  • United States Military Academy
  • United States Naval Academy
  • Universidad Adolfo Ibanez
  • Universidad de Lima
  • Universidad de Montevideo
  • Universidad de Navarra
  • Universidad Iberoamericana
  • Universidad Metropolitana
  • Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina
  • Universidad Panamericana
  • Universidad Politecnica de Madrid
  • Universidad Pontificia de Comillas
  • Universidad Torcuato Di Tella
  • Universidade Catolica Portuguesa
  • Universidade de Sao Paulo
  • Universidade do Porto
  • Università Carlo Cattaneo
  • Università del Piemonte Orientale
  • Universitat Politecnica Catalunya
  • Universitat Rovira i Virgili
  • Universite de Liege
  • Universite Libre de Bruxelles
  • Université Paris I – Panthéon Sorbonne
  • Université Paris X Nanterre
  • University College, Dublin
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Amsterdam
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Auckland
  • University of Bath
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Calgary
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Chile
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Colorado
  • University of Cooperative Education Stuttgart
  • University of Copenhagen
  • University of Costa Rica
  • University of Dayton
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Delhi
  • University of Deusto
  • University of Dublin, Trinity College
  • University of Economics, Prague
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Heidelberg
  • University of Houston
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Innsbruck
  • University of International Business and Economics, Beijing
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Johannesburg
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Karachi, Institute of Business Administration
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of London
  • University of London
  • University of Louisville
  • University of Madras
  • University of Maine
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Manitoba
  • University of Mannheim
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Massachusetts
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Montana
  • University of Mumbai
  • University of Navarra
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of New Brunswick
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of New South Wales
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Oslo
  • University of Oviedo
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Pavia
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Puget Sound
  • University of Queensland
  • University of Redlands
  • University of Richmond
  • University of Rome
  • University of San Andres
  • University of San Diego
  • University of Southern California
  • University of St. Andrews
  • University of St. Gallen
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Tennessee
  • University of Texas
  • University of Texas, El Paso
  • University of the Philippines
  • University of the West Indies
  • University of Tokyo
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Utah
  • University of Victoria
  • University of Vienna
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Warsaw
  • University of Warwick
  • University of Washington
  • University of Waterloo
  • University of Western Australia
  • University of Western Ontario
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of Zurich
  • Utrecht University
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Vassar College
  • Vienna School of Economics and Business Administration
  • Virginia Military Institute
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Wabash College
  • Wake Forest University
  • Warsaw School of Economics
  • Waseda University
  • Washington & Lee University
  • Washington University
  • Weber State University
  • Wellesley College
  • Wesleyan University
  • West Virginia University
  • Wheaton College
  • William Jewell College
  • Williams College
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Yale University
  • Yonsei University
  • York University
  • Zhongnan University of Economics and Law
-Adam Markus
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December 18, 2009

Knewton: GMAT or GRE?

While I have previously discussed the issue below and personally take a very neutral position on whether one should take the GMAT or GRE, Jose Ferreira, the Founder and CEO of Knewton takes a very anti-GRE position. One of the primary reasons I was initially attracted to having Knewton  both advertise and provide GMAT content for my blog was because of Jose, who is certainly one of the top test prep guys on the planet.  Given Jose's expertise with both the GMAT and GRE, his comments below are really worth considering. For the record, I have yet to have done admissions consulting with a single MBA applicant who took the GRE, so I have absolutely no personal sense of what kind of admissions outcomes taking the GRE leads to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

You may have heard that some business schools (Harvard, MIT, NYU, Stanford, Virginia, Yale, U Penn, and Berkeley) have started accepting GRE scores in place of GMAT scores. And you may be thinking: “Awesome! I hear the GRE is easier. I’m taking that!”
After all—there’s no Data Sufficiency on the GRE. Sounds great, right?
The problem is: There’s no Data Sufficiency on the GRE.

The GMAT has been designed and perfected for business school students. GMAT questions mirror the tasks you will perform every day in business school. Reading Comprehension—because you’ll be reading 50 -100 pages in case studies every day. And Data Sufficiency—because you’ll be skimming each case’s exhibits and financials to determine which numbers are key to cracking the case and which are irrelevant. What about Critical Reasoning? Well, every day in class you will comment on other students’ arguments. And they will comment on yours, sometimes in pretty snarky ways. So you need some facility in arguments, if only to protect yourself from that loudmouth ex-banker in the Skydeck.

In fact, the GMAT is a great test. By that I don’t mean that it will bring peace to the world, or spiritual enlightenment, or that a good time will be had by all. I mean it’s extremely well-constructed, with very high scoring consistency. In short, the GMAT does an excellent job of testing the skills you need to excel in business school.

In contrast, the GRE General Test is, well, general. It is designed to provide a sense of the fitness of a student for graduate-level work, whether one is interested in pursuing a PhD in English or a Masters in Psych. But the aptitudes needed to succeed in one discipline are very different from those of other disciplines, and no single test can measure them all well. Success in business, and success in business school, requires very specific skills that the GRE measures poorly, and the GMAT measures very well.
Furthermore, the GRE has been a rather troubled test. (ETS might claim that I’m the one who caused their troubles; in fact, I merely shed light on them.) In the 1990s, I developed a strategy for one question type called Pattern Identification that was so devastating that ETS had to discard hundreds of thousands of printed test booklets, admitting that I “broke the code, so we are removing the questions from the test.” Later on, I reverse-engineered the security protocols and scoring algorithm of the early GRE computerized test, forcing them to pull the exam for months to fix problems I uncovered. They sued us, and took to calling me the “antichrist.” (Umm, do I at least get Connie Nielsen with that?) Later still, they had serious scoring problems with the GRE analytical section, and consequently did away with that section entirely.

So then why do any business schools accept the GRE? Ok, well for one thing the GRE is slowly but surely getting better, and it’s about to be significantly revised so it will probably improve still further. But mostly, it’s about access, especially internationally. The GMAT isn’t available in as many locations, especially overseas. So business schools figure, “Hey, if we accept the GRE, we’ll find some great candidates who might not have been able to apply to business school, or who might add an MBA application or two along with their Masters applications.”

Bottom line: if you can take the GMAT, you should. The GMAT tests skills specific to business school. While admissions officers at schools accepting the GRE will accept a GRE score in lieu of a GMAT score, they doesn’t mean that they’ll will trust GRE scores.  And if you give them a GRE score when it’s clear you could just as easily have taken the GMAT, it could hurt your application.

Besides, Data Sufficiency is fun! Well, here at Knewton we think it’s fun. (Though we also think puns about transfinite cardinality are hilarious.) More importantly for you, Data Sufficiency is equally hard for everybody. It is also highly coachable, and Knewton’s Test Experts have developed the most powerful Data Sufficiency strategies there are. Stay tuned and maybe I’ll blog about them…
 If you have any comments on this post, please leave comments, do not email Adam. 
Disclosure: See my earlier post regarding my Linkshare advertising agreement with Knewton.

MBA留学 GMAT オンライン コース テスト情報 試験対策準備


Wailisted in Round 1?

If you were waitlisted for B-School in Round 1, I suggest taking a look at a post I wrote earlier this year, "Waitlisted, Now what?" In addition, to what I have written there, I would just add that a waitlist is an indication that you are basically doing many things right, but might be doing something wrong.   What that means for someone waitlisted in R1 is that it is that they should try and determine what specifically was weak and try to mitigate for subsequent applications. For example, if you were waitlisted after an invitation only interview, assume that the interview might have been part of the reason. Just like a R1 ding (see my prior post), an R1 waitlist should be looked at as an opportunity to reconsider your overall MBA admissions strategy and readjust.

Questions? Write comments, but do not send me emails asking me to advise you on your application strategy unless you are interested in my consulting services. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

For information about my admissions consulting services, please see http://adammarkus.com/

Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see my post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant."
-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

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December 16, 2009

MBA First Round Blues: Top Ten Things To Consider Now

Well, we are in the midst of first round results for top MBA programs, so I thought it would be a good time to discuss what to do if your R1 efforts don't seem to be working. Of course, sometimes, the issue might simply be that you are applying to reach schools in R1 and that you will have much better results in R2.  Still I think it is worth carefully evaluating what if anything you can do to get a better outcome in R2 (and maybe R3 and R4!).  I have written about this subject previously ("MBA First Round Blues: Learn from Failure"), but I thought it would be good to look at the issue again.  While I am also considering the whole issue of "failure," my remarks below are not limited to that.

Top Ten List of Things to Consider if R1 is Not Working For You

Whatever you have done so far is not working. It might be your essays, it might be your school selection, it might be your interview skills, it might be your test scores, it might be the way you fill out applications,  and/or the people you are getting admissions advice from,  but whatever you are doing now, it is not achieving the desired outcome.   If you are working with an admissions consultant, ask them for their perspective on this. 

Last year, one of my clients applied with a particular set of goals that I had initial concerns about, but the client was passionate about them.  While he/she was invited for an interview at a top school, he/she was ultimately dinged from the two places he/she applied in R1. I wrote a long memo suggesting a  different approach to my client's career goals that I had initially thought was more tenable.  The client changed his/her goals and subsequently received multiple offers of admission in R2.  The client also took interview practice more seriously in R2. Those changes were critical to achieving a better outcome.

I am not suggesting changing everything, but chances are pretty good that something needs to change if you are to generate better results with future applications.
Depending on the difficulty of admission and number of institutions you have applied to, look again at your school selection. Obviously if you were dinged from HBS, Haas, and Stanford in R1, you can certain of one thing: Anywhere else you apply is easier to get into.  The difference between schools with a 7%-12% chance of admission and those with a 15%-20% chance is really huge. Think about seriously about the admissions numbers (acceptance rate, yield, test scores averages and 80% ranges, average age of admitted applicants, number of years of work experience, and GPA)  for the schools you have applied to and consider deeply how you measure up.  Many people are naturally resistant to looking at these things objectively, but if your numbers and the numbers from  the schools that rejected you are consistently incompatible, you need to really consider applying to places where your numbers will not hurt you and/or help you. You might also consider sitting for the GMAT or TOEFL again if those numbers are not working for you.  I don't recommend applying to places where you will not be happy because of low RO1, but I mean finding additional schools where you are likely to have a better shot than the ones that rejected you.

For company-sponsored applicants or anyone else who must obtain admission for Fall 2010 or Winter 2011, I strongly recommend making sure that you have sufficient safety built into your school selection.  

Every year I start working with clients after they have received R1 (and also R2 and R3 and R4!) dings.  Sometimes the problem is that the applicant just has not been receiving the right kind of advice. Getting a second opinion from another admissions consultant, a trusted mentor, or someone else whose views you have not yet obtained, can really result in significant changes in outcome.   In my case, I offer both reapplication and second opinion counseling services for this purpose.   For more about obtaining advice form other people, please see this earlier post.

GMAC allows applicants to take the GMAT five times in any 12-month period.  Unless you have maxed yourself out, consider whether you need to take it again.  In general, if your score is 700 or over I don't generally advise it, but if your GPA is real low, you might want to.

I know some people think there is a problem taking the GMAT five times, but I am not one of those people.  I have had a number of clients admitted to HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, INSEAD, LBS, Haas, Kellogg, etc. who had to take the test five times (or more if over more than 12 months).  Given that schools often tell both those who are waitlisted and reapplicants to take these tests again,  I can see no problem with it.  Clearly it is pain to sit for a test again, but if you know that your scores are not getting you results, it is time to revisit this issue.  My blog's sole advertiser, Knewton, guarantees a 50 point GMAT score increase or a refund, so you might want to consider taking their course. 

With TOEFL, taking it multiple times is not a problem.  If you are having significant problems with a particular section and the test prep methods you have been using so far have not worked, consider changing them.   For those experiencing difficulty with the Speaking Section, my suggestion is to find a teacher who really knows how to teach speaking. From what I have been able to observe, test prep instructors without formal English teaching experience expertise are significantly less likely to be able to help you with the Speaking Section.  The best TOEFL Speaking teacher I know in Tokyo (A friend of mine who prefers that I not mention him here by name because he can't handle more students than he gets from word-of-mouth.) has graduate level training in phonology.

Whether you need to take another  GMAT  or TOEFL test prep course or just study intensively on your own, if whatever test prep. methods you have been so far are not generating the results you need, consider making a change.  After working with hundreds of applicants over the years, the only thing I am certain of is that people learn in different ways.  See a much earlier post on this issue.
Frankly, my worst experiences as a admissions consultant all involve clients trying to apply with hastily written weak content.  While performing emergency room surgery is one part of my job, I know that there is a real difference between what is acceptable at the last minute and what is acceptable a week (or a month)  before the deadline.  If you are constantly submitting at the last possible minute and are continuously in crisis mode, your application content may display a high level of energy, but also possibly lots of errors and lack of clear thinking.  Part of an effective writing process is taking the time to reflect on what you have.  Such moments of careful deliberation can really result in significant improvements in overall application content.  More practically, rush jobs are inherently error prone.  If you think you are setting yourself up for more of the same in R2, consider applying to a small number of schools.  R3 is often viable, so don't rule it out if it will give you breathing room to focus more on the schools you really want to go to.

If R1 is not working out,  clearly you need to focus on making sure that your essays and resume are doing what they need to do. In addition to #3 above,  see my earlier post on reapplication.

Application forms are important.  Take them seriously.  The schools don't ask all these questions so that you can write some hastily composed answer.  For more about the application form, see my only post on the subject.  I know filling out forms is boring, but it is necessary.  This is is one of the easiest things to improve upon.  There is such a huge variation in the amount of information that applications ask for, that you really need to be aware of the differences.  Some applications, like HBS, don't give very much space to write anything (That is why a two-page resume at HBS is often a very good idea.), so making best possible use of the space you do have is critical.  Other applications, like Wharton's, give a significant of space to provide detailed answers. Take advantage of that space.  

Dinged after an invitation-only interview?  Chances are pretty good that you need to be focusing on improving your interview skills.  For more about how to proceed, see here. Practice with significant feedback can make a significant difference in the ultimate outcome. 

Recommendations really are a critical part of the application process. If you are not getting good R1 results, you might want to closely revisit this issue.   If you have not done so, try to review the content of your recommendations. If possible, show the recommendations to your admissions consultant or whoever else can give you a second opinion. Consider changing one or more of your recommenders. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
-Do my recommenders really know me well enough to tell convincing stories about me?
-Are my recommenders providing detailed examples or just mere generalities in their recommendations?  You want the former.
- Is there total content overlap between what my recommenders are writing about because they both have had similiar experiences with me?
-If you had to write your own recommendations, ask yourself whether admissions could easily see that was the case.  If so, you have a problem that needs to be addressed.  If you have to forge a recommendation, be a good forger. I am not suggesting that one forge recommendations, but I also know that such situations are far too common.
-Did you select the kind of recommenders that a particular school is looking for.  There are some differences to be aware of. While all schools want a supervisor, the requirements for additional recommenders really varies from school to school. For instance, Stanford wants a peer recomendation, while HBS does not.   Make sure you are selecting recommenders that fit each school you apply to.
-If you could not get an immediate supervisor, did you provide an explanation in the application?  All applications have an optional essay or additional information section for explaining this, so do so.

If R1 is not working for you, consider when you should make future applications.  For many, this will be second round, but for some, it might be better to wait for R3 or R4 or until R1 next year.  My suggestion is to do some scenario planning in order to closely consider your timing for entry into school.  I have worked with a number of clients who realized that they really needed another year to apply because they were not ready.  Negative R1 results can be an indicator that you are really rushing things.  If you control your application timing, apply when it is to your maximum advantage.

 I hope the above is helpful.  Best of luck with your future results!

Questions? Write comments, but do not send me emails asking me to advise you on your application strategy unless you are interested in my consulting services. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

For information about my admissions consulting services, please see http://adammarkus.com/

Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see my post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant."
-Adam Markus
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December 02, 2009

Q&A with Knewton's Director of Test Prep

As I mentioned in my last post of November, I will be having GMAT content from my Linkshare advertising partner,  Knewton, Inc., on my blog.   What made me decide to partner with them was the strength of their test development team and the price and quality of their approach to test preparation.  I was also impressed that they were willing to offer a 50 point or your money-back guarantee.  To learn more about what they do, I conducted a Q&A with Chris Rosenbaum, Director of Test Prep of Knewton, Inc.

Adam: Tell me about what makes Knewton different from other GMAT test preparation services.

Chris: Knewton is different for two reasons: the technology of our platform, and the quality of our teachers. By delivering our classes online, we can offer students a customized, flexible learning experience focused on their educational needs. Because we’re not operating physical tutoring centers, we don’t have the same constraints that some of the larger companies do. This allows us to drive down the price of test prep. We can also focus our resources on hiring a small, elite group of the best teachers in the business. The beauty of the internet is that people can get access to our teachers and curricula, regardless of where they live or what their schedule is—at the best price, $690.

Adam: Who are the people behind Knewton?
Chris: Knewton CEO Jose Ferreira was an executive at the nation's largest test prep firm, where he led a company-wide effort to re-engineer its courses. Now he has designed Knewton from the ground up to include every feature he was unable to include in traditional bricks and mortar courses. Jose has personally designed Knewton's test prep curriculum, and has cooked up all-new strategies students won't find anywhere else. Catch him in action; he still teaches classes for each test. Jose "broke the code" on the GRE exam by inventing a foolproof strategy for one question type. ETS took the extraordinary step of removing the question type from its exams, saying that Jose "broke the code and published it, so we are removing the questions from the test." It is the only time ETS has ever removed a section from one of its exams due to a test-taking strategy.
David Kuntz has been involved in every aspect of the large-scale educational assessment business over the span of a twenty-year career, holding senior positions at both LSAC and ETS. Among many other activities, he created the first automated test assembly algorithm and system for the current LSAT, the first web-based computer-adaptive test delivery system, the first online AP practice program using real AP graders, and the first large-scale web-based portfolio scoring and management system.

Adam: How good are your test questions? Do they really duplicate the test?

Chris: Our GMAT course gives students access to more than 3400 practice problems, all designed to mirror what they will see on test day. The course includes five practice GMATs built by the people who literally developed the actual test. We don’t think you’ll find a better simulation of the GMAT anywhere.

Adam: Tell me about your online live instructional component.

Chris: Our live video classes are delivered live online via video, with slides and examples appearing onscreen. The teachers have dozens of practice questions at their disposal that they can drag and drop into the lesson in real time. The teachers receive instantaneous data on how students are doing and the conceptual errors they’re making, and can adapt accordingly.
Students can interface via “chat” at any time during class and get immediate responses from the teaching assistants. If the question is relevant to the entire class, the assistant passes it along to the teacher. Students can also send in questions for immediate answers during daily office hours, or at any time if they don’t mind a slight time delay for the answer. All lessons are instantly archived with digital-video-recorder controls for students to replay, pause, fast-forward, or rewind. Students can return and review archived video lessons on demand.

Adam: What differentiates your teaching methods from those of your competitors?

Chris: Aside from the fact of the online platform, we use sophisticated technological tools to optimize our students’ learning experience. Our online curricula include hundreds of concept tags that help us track progress at a very granular level. We're able to tell students with certainty that they're in full command of the fact that all radii in the same circle are equal, but that they need more strategies for 3-4-5 right triangles.
We also offer the single best Money-Back Guarantee in the business. It's very simple. Attend class, complete your homework, take our practice tests. If your score still doesn't improve by at least 50 points, you get a full refund. No questions asked.

Adam: How good are your teachers?

Chris: Without bragging too much, we can safely say that our teachers are the best. They’ve graduated from the top schools, they’ve earned the top scores, they’ve got the most experience, and they demonstrate a heartfelt passion for learning.
Other prep companies give you one, often unproven, teacher. Knewton’s classes are taught by teams of test prep professionals. The lead instructor guides the class from in front of the camera, while a dynamic team of teaching assistants answers all your questions in real-time. This system is unique to Knewton, and it provides the best individual instruction an online course can offer.

Adam: What sort of outcome should a typical Knewton student expect from your service?

Chris: We guarantee a 50-point increase in our students' GMAT scores. If a student’s score does not go up 50 points, he or she will get a full refund. Several of our students have earned much bigger gains than that. One student wrote in to tell us he went from a 480 to a 700 on the GMAT. Another went from a 700 to a 770.  I don’t want to overstate the importance of what we do, but these are life-changing events in terms of future earning potential. We are able to make these guarantees because we believe what we offer students—world-class teachers, top-notch content, and adaptive learning technology—far surpasses what they will get from any other course.

Adam: For someone who has already taken a GMAT course with one of your competitors, but is not yet satisfied with his or her score, what can you offer?

Chris: Our approach is unconventional, and we think we have a substantial edge over our more traditional competitors. If you’re curious but uncertain, we recommend taking our free trial so you can experience our method for yourself.

I want to thank Chris for taking the time to answer my questions. Disclosure: See my earlier post regarding my Linkshare advertising agreement with Knewton.
-Adam Markus
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Your Target Audience: American Admissions Officers

Sorry for the long silence, but I have been a bit busy helping my clients.  I have been suffering from extreme blog withdrawal.  I would like to say that there will be a ton of posts in December, but that is probably not likely.  I am also hoping to update IMD as their questions changed for admission to the Class of 2011.

Since this blog is a form of relaxation for me (well sometimes), I thought I would put up something marginally useful and hopefully a little amusing.

Inspired by the sheer anthropological brilliance that is Stuff White People Like, I thought I would look at that rather interesting sub-species of  humanity that is of immediate concern to graduate admissions applicants: admissions officers. This post will particularly refer to American admissions officers.  I will focus on MBA admissions people, but much of this would apply to other admissions officers as well.  To applicants reading this,  I am not sure if what I write below will help you get in, but perhaps it will help you think more about your audience.

Overall Position of Admissions Officers Within American Universities

Institutional Position: The vast majority of admissions officers have two fundamental sources of power: (1) The ability to impact admissions outcomes and (2) Some degree of control over financial aid.   Their role as gatekeepers is, in particular, what differentiates them from most other administrative staff in universities.  They directly impact the present shape of the student body and the future alumni donor base.   They are in a position to grant favors ("Yes, professor, I will be happy to meet with your grandson's friend."), to make the development office happy or sad ("I know Ms. Smith's grandfather donated the student center, but sorry we can't admit her because she would fail even the summer pre-term."), and to serve as a public face of the university. Depending on the school, they often get to travel (This might actually be much better in theory than in actual practice) at a frequency that, with the exception of varsity teams and star faculty, is likely to beat anyone else at their university.  We can conclude that being an admissions officer is thus a position with some institutional prestige associated with it.

Job Mobility: They are unlikely to have even the possibility of rising in academic administration to positions beyond admissions director because they are part of an organizational structure which usually reserves such positions of overall organizational power for academics, lawyers, and professional managers. Given the relatively low staff turnover in admissions offices, especially as one moves up the academic food chain,  they may stay in the same position for many years or possibly even decades.   Based on this job mobility consideration, we can conclude that this is not typically a job for someone with a great deal of ambition or desire for novelty (The exception being the novelty of the applicants). Generally, they can engage in minor forms of tinkering from year-to-year (Changing the essay questions or deadlines, for example). The only time, the position would become dynamic is when the overall program that they are past of, tries to transform itself.  The most prominent examples of admissions directors who have significantly changed their admissions offices would be Rose Martinelli at Chicago Booth and Derrick Bolton at Stanford GSB. I am sure there are others, but the list of highly dynamic admissions officers is not huge. 

Core Concepts That Inform Admissions Officers

The following concepts are at the core of admissions officers thinking processes.  These ideas might even be considered to form a belief system.

Not getting sued:  This really is important and governs admissions officer's behavior.  First, it is critical that admissions offices follow laws to protect the privacy of student information.  Next, it is critical that schools don't appear to be engaging in discriminatory practices, such as race quotas or age discrimination.  If you think a particular school is not being forthcoming about the age issue, assume that their lawyers probably told them what to say.  Also, for most schools, beyond the administrative burden of giving feedback to those who are dinged, it is probably the case that at least some schools would conclude that giving feedback to those who are dinged is a potential liability issue as it only takes one admissions officer to say or write the wrong thing for a dinged applicant applicant to sue on the basis of discrimination.  Better to say nothing.

Gatekeeping:  As mentioned above, this is the core source of the institutional power of admissions officers.   Deciding who gets in and does not means that admissions officers have every reason to see themselves playing a key role in maintaining the vitality and reputation of their schools because a school is ultimately only as good as its alumni.  Gatekeeping is a relative consideration:  The higher the reputation/difficulty of admission, the higher the level of gatekeeping engaged in.  Gatekeeping is about critical judgment, but also can take the form of snobbery.  It can also be connected to the admissions officer having a sense of school spirit, but it might as easily be connected to their desire for not getting blamed for admitting  a homicidal maniac, an idiot, or a criminal.

Bullshit Detection: Like gatekeeping above, bullshit detection, that is the detection of applicant dishonesty, is a relative consideration.  The quality of bullshit detection can be assumed to be lower at schools that have fewer incentives for rejecting applicants.  Bullshit detection, especially involving the use of post-acceptance, information verification, is likely to increase.  See here for more about that.

Diversity:  One of the single best ways I know of trashing an MBA or any other admissions application is to come across as racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise as someone who does not embrace diversity.  It is not necessary that you be actively political correct (though that can help), but it is important that you not be politically incorrect. A core part of the gatekeeping function is to guarantee that all the students have a good customer experience and an applicant who demonstrates the possibility of undermining that experience because of their attitudes about women, people from a particular country etc. is easily dinged.

Academic Standards: This is also a relative consideration, but all admissions officers have a sense of what kind of minimum academic potential a student is required to have in order to graduate.  GPA and GMAT (and TOEFL where applicable) are the primary ways for measuring whether any particular applicant is likely to sink or swim in a program.  MBA programs are not looking to fail people, so they really do try to screen out those who they think can't do the work.

Snobbery: The US education system is highly hierarchical and those at the top do tend to look down at those at the bottom of the hierarchy.  Snobbery is an ugly thing, one that few will admit to, but many engage in. 

The Principal Types of American MBA Admissions Officers:

The Lifer:  The Lifer has spent his or her life in academic administration.  Usually they have a masters or possibly a doctorate.  Whatever the case, they probably never used the degree for what it was intended.  The most common exception being those who attended Harvard's School of Education or Columbia Teacher's College as they may have actually obtained a degree specifically focused on high education administration (Confession: I once thought, back in 1990s, about going to Columbia's program for that purpose, but decided that I would be better off doing anything else).   The Lifer knows nothing outside of the academic world, or if they do, they did not like it, which is why they have stayed in the Ivy Tower.
The Lifer actually comes in a variety of forms, including:
The Ivy Lifer: Except for some brief foray into the world, they have spent their entire educational and professional careers in Ivy League Schools.
The Journeyman Lifer: If lucky, they have managed to work their way up the educational food chain to increasingly more prestigious institutions.
The Low Lifer: Imagine spending your life working for an institution of low prestige with the knowledge that, at a certain point, movement to better institutions was unlikely.
The Lifer, in whatever form they take, is likely to associate themselves very closely with the educational institution and campus community they are part of.

The MBA: Ever meet one of those admissions officers who has an MBA?  I am not talking about The Lifer who gets a part-time MBA from their school while working as an admissions officer, but rather someone who went to an MBA program for the purpose of... becoming an admissions officer?  I suppose having an MBA helps you read MBA applications, but plenty have done without it.  Maybe this will change, especially as the job market is not so good for more typical uses of the degree.  If the admissions officer is an MBA holder from the school that they actually work at, assume they will be a very effective gatekeeper because they actually know the reality of the program and also have a personal interest in finding the best and brightest to become a part of their own alumni community (If they care about such things).   ADAM'S BIG MARKETING QUESTION: Is it actually attractive to have alumni serving as admissions officers? I assume few MBA applicants are motivated to pursue a career in academic admissions from the outset.  Assuming that applicants are pursuing an MBA for purposes of career enhancement, what kind of message does meeting the admissions officer/alumni send to them?

The Career Switcher: Typically hired as an admissions director, the career switcher is someone with "real world experience." They are likely to have been an alumni from the program, but unlike "The MBA," they were able to find a job outside of the university after they graduated. The Career Switcher is an admissions officer now, but don't count on them doing it long-term.  Sure, some will become Lifers, but many of these people have either too much ambition or lack a talent for admissions.

The Spouse: She (maybe a he, but I have yet to meet one), became an admissions officer as a matter of convenience.  She wanted a job located on the same campus as her husband the professor, graduate student, researcher, etc.  The pragmatic nature of her employment choice, perhaps given limited options in a college town, means that admissions is decidedly not at the center of  her life.  If she is good at admissions, she might stick with it.

The Entrepreneur:  Jealous of the fabulous lives and income of admissions consultants,  The Entrepreneur became an admissions officer for the express purpose of gaining sufficient experience to actually get into my business.  Often this experience was a student adcom member. Please note, not all admissions consultants with admissions officer experience fit in this category.  It applies only to some newbies.   

The Lucky Secretary:   This is actually a dying breed, all are women (or at least 99%), who started their careers back in the 1970s or 1980s as departmental secretaries or the equivalent.  They worked their way up into increasing levels of responsibility.  Not likely to be found at top schools anymore, but certainly out there.  The most famous example of this sort is not an MBA admissions officer, but the former Dean of MIT, who had no university degree and "fabricated her own educational credentials."  She is an undergraduate admissions consultant now. America is indeed a land of second chances.

The Failed Academic: His or her PhD  may or may not be complete, but the admissions gig beats working at Starbucks, shelving books at the library, or  leaving the university.  The Failed Academic can be found throughout the entire administrative structure of almost any university in the US.  The admissions officer version of this person is clearly a much more well-adjusted and pragmatic person than that nasty guy at the used bookstore.  If you don't know what I am talking about you have not spent enough time in and around American universities.

The Drone: Ever go to an admissions events where the speaker was an admissions officer without personality who was reading from his or her notes?  Did you feel the boredom and sleep overcoming you?  This person totally lacked personality and you could not in the least imagine giving a marketing/sales job to someone who clearly belonged in the back office.  If the Drone interviews you, don't expect to hear anything but the sound of your voice and his/her note taking.

The Baby: You simply can't believe that your fate is in the hands of someone who recently graduated from university. Your imagine of being judged by slightly older wise people has been completely shattered.  The good part is that you can't possibly be intimidated. Still, he or she can ding you.

I am sure there are other types, but these are the ones that come to my mind at the moment.  Of course, admissions officers are people, so take the above as a mere guide and, at best, a faulty one:  The map is not the territory.
Questions? Write comments, but do not send me emails asking me to advise you on your application strategy unless you are interested in my consulting services. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.
Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see my post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant."
-Adam Markus
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ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング MBA留学
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