Monthly Archives: June 2013

Poets&Quants’ Top 100 U.S. MBA Programs of 2012

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: June 7, 2013)

In a recent article Poets & Quants released its own ranking of the top US MBA programs.

Although several established rankings are available (e.g. from The Financial Times, Forbes, US News, Business Weeks), we consider Poets and Quants’s ranking valuable because it is built as a composite of the 5 major rankings. As most rankings’ methodology can be criticized (often because of the emphasis that they arbitrarily put on a given criteria), “combining the five most influential rankings doesn’t eliminate the flaws in each system, but it does significantly diminish them. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or biased methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress it” according to the ranking’s author.

If you’re unfamiliar with P&Q’s ranking, their site is worth having a look at.

Analyzing the Applications: the NYU Stern Essays

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: December 17, 2013)

The transition to shorter word counts and fewer essays continues. Two weeks ago, it started with Columbia Business School and the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Last week, Harvard Business School announced it would request (although not require) only a single essay for its 2014 applicants, a decision which this blog (not to mention the rest of the web) has analyzed at length.

This week, it seems to be the New York University Stern School of Business’s turn, announcing two big changes to its 2014 essay requirements: First, applicants can now choose between either answering the “two paths” question or the “describe yourself” question. Last year both were required. Second, the final question, which allows applicants to provide any additional information they would like to the admissions committee, is now optional.

So, for this next installment in our Analyzing the Applications series, we’re breaking down these changes and discussing the keys to writing good essays for the NYU Stern Class of 2016 application.

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HBS Releases Class of 2015 Profile

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: December 17, 2013)

Harvard Business School just released a preliminary profile of the class of 2015. Acceptance rate decreased to 12% (from 13% last year), and with 940 enrolling students as of June 3 (out of 9,315 applicants), the yield reached an impressive 90% (although surprisingly HBS may not be the #1 school in the U.S. in terms of yield according to John Byrne).

The percentage of international students is up from last year (35% vs. 34%), as is the proportion of female students (reaching an all-time high of 41%), which should not come as a surprise on the 50th anniversary of women at HBS. STEM* majors are up 5 percentage points vs. last year, reaching 39% of incoming students.

On the GMAT side, the range remains quite broad (550 – 780 vs. 570 – 790 last year), and the median is unchanged at 730. This means that even at HBS a low GMAT is not necessarily an application killer, although an MBA applicant needs to shine in other area of her application in order to compensate for a significantly below average score.

Finally, the average age of admitted students is 27. Keep in mind however that HBS does admit a significant number of students in their 30’s, and that people well above that age do stand a chance if their story is compelling. Do not let anyone tell you that you are too old for HBS (a trap I almost fell into as a 32 year old applicant… but that’s a different story)!

Wanting to measure your chances of admission at Harvard Business School: why not give our algorithm a try? We’re also happy to offer you a free consultation. In any case, make sure to read Kyle’s posts about the HBS application.

* STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

Analyzing the Applications: the HBS Recommendations (PART II)

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: December 17, 2013)

Yesterday we published part one of this post analyzing the HBS recommendation questions for Class of 2016 applicants. Today we pick up where we left off and break down the second (and more difficult) recommender question:

Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)

This is such an excellent question, and one HBS used last year, too. I expect it produces a whole lot of terrible answers and perhaps only a handful of truly excellent ones. Let’s consider it from the perspective of each of the main players in the admissions process:

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Analyzing the Applications: the HBS Recommendations (PART I)

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: December 17, 2013)

Strong recommendations are more important than ever now that the HBS admissions committee has scaled back the number of recommenders to two and reduced the number of essay questions to one. What’s more, HBS recommenders only have about half the word count that they had last year, which means they need to make the space that they do have count that much more.

Before analyzing each of the two recommender questions, it’s worth reflecting on what HBS wants to get out of your recommendations more generally. Ultimately, there are really two qualities they want to see. First, the recommendations test your self-awareness. How closely does what your recommenders think about you mirror what you think about yourself (in your essay and interview)? Consider the importance of self-awareness to the school’s curriculum: after I was accepted to HBS (but before I matriculated), I had to solicit a handful of people to complete a survey about my strengths and weaknesses, which I also completed myself. During FIELD, we reviewed the survey results to see how closely others’ opinions of us aligned with our own self image. Suffice it to say that the two didn’t always align for my classmates or myself. Self-awareness was also a consistent theme in classes like LEAD, LCA, ALD, and others. That’s why it’s important to, in part, view the recommendations as an attempt by the admissions committee to screen out any candidates that are too far disconnected from reality.

Second, the recommendations test whether you inspire other people. After all, the school’s mission is to educate business leaders who make a difference in the world, and it’s awfully hard to make a difference in anything if you can’t inspire others along the way. I’m not saying your recommendations need to be pledges to follow you to the ends of the earth or anything quite that dramatic. So long as the HBS admissions committee senses some admiration in your recommendations, all will be achieved.

If you’re going to get either of these qualities out of your recommendations, you absolutely must heed the advice iterated time and again by HBS: select recommenders that know you well. Once you’ve done that, it’s worth looking at the two public recommender questions for the Class of 2016 application:

How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)

This question is really just a combination of the first two questions from last year’s application. The intent is twofold. First, did you do what the admissions committee asked and select recommenders who know you well? Hence the question’s emphasis on “specific examples.” Second, this question is your recommenders’ best opportunity to convey your ability to inspire others. To achieve this, the best approach is the one I took when I applied in 2010 (described in detail here): provide your recommenders with a few good anecdotes that they can rely on to illustrate your strengths rather than forcing them to lean on a list of vague platitudes.

Additionally, as we mentioned in our post analyzing the new HBS essay question, if your application has a particular weak point (for me, it was a lack of significant quantitative experience), the recommendation, not the essay, is the best place to mitigate it because you can have a credible source address it on your behalf. Focus the anecdotes you provide your recommenders on examples that demonstrate strength where your weaknesses may be; it will go a long way to assuaging any concerns the admissions committee may have.

Part two of this post continues here and looks at the second recommender question (the more important of the two) and provides some additional advice on how to make your recommendations count…