Category Archives: MBA

Applying to Business School: Which Round is Best?

If you are applying to business school, you may be weighing the pros and cons of applying during Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, or in some cases, even Round 4. If you apply during an early round, will your application be measured against the most competitive and prepared students? On the other hand, if you apply during a later round, will it be too late and will most spots be filled?

Which Round is Right for me?

Most business schools offer three application deadlines, and a few offer a fourth. The application dates for Round 1 (early September or early October) versus Round 2 (early January) are typically three months apart. Rounds 3 and 4 deadlines tend to occur in late March to early April. Below is a snapshot of the application round deadlines for the top 20 business schools, according to U.S. News & World Report.

2016-2017 Top 20 Business Schools Application Deadlines for Full-Time MBA Programs
In order of US News & World Report Ranking

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-8-26-05-pm

Early Admissions: Early Action and Early Decision

An Early Action round is only available at some schools, and this round is usually in early September or October. Schools that provide this application option allow students who are reapplying or who are sure they have selected their top choice to demonstrate their interest by submitting an early, non-binding application. Early Action also usually includes consideration for merit scholarships. Columbia Business School offers a binding Early Decision option for students willing to commit to attend if accepted.

Benefits of Applying Round 1 or 2

Applying during Round 1 has many benefits:

  • Every spot in the class remains open
  • The admissions staff reading your application is just beginning the process and has not yet been inundated by applications
  • You will hear your admissions decision earlier and be able to make future plans earlier
  • If you are denied from your top-schools in Round 1, you’ll still have time to submit applications to your second-tier schools in Round 2
  • Financial aid and scholarships are most plentiful in Round 1
  • More on-campus housing options are available
  • International applicants need more time to process a visa application

The bottom line, however, is that you should apply during Rounds 1 or 2, at whichever point you can submit your best application. Do not delay and wait a whole year to apply just so that you can apply in Round 1. If you need more time to raise your GMAT score, make campus visits, or enhance your career goals and fill educational gaps, it is perfectly fine to apply during Round 2.

For example, the Wharton MBA Program encourages all first-time applicants to apply in Round 1 or 2 as the majority of the class is selected during these rounds. Harvard also urges applicants to apply during Round 1 or 2. Yale, similarly, encourages students to apply during Rounds 1 and 2, but goes even further, stating that there is no difference at Yale in selectivity between Rounds 1 and 2.

In a few cases, though, the difference between Rounds 1 and 2 is meaningful. Stanford’s admissions website states, “If you plan to apply in round one or two, we strongly encourage you to apply in round one. Over the last few years, the number of applications we receive in round two has increased, making it more competitive.” Stanford also gives the opportunity to attend Admit Weekend for Round 1 and 2, but not Round 3.

Dual Degree Programs

If you are planning to apply for a dual degree, there are some programs, such as Wharton’s MBA/JD, which require you to do so by Round 1 or 2. Other schools, such as Harvard, allow you to apply for the MBA/JD joint degree during any of the three rounds. If you are interested in a dual degree, be sure to check the specific admissions deadlines of your top choices.

Planning and Preparation

When considering application deadlines, you should take into account the length of time that you need to prepare. According to Judith Hodara, the former director of MBA admissions for the Wharton School, prospective MBA applicants should begin to prepare six to nine months before the MBA application deadline. This includes securing letters of recommendation, preparing your resume, writing essays, taking the GMAT, completing any additional coursework, and gathering any other application materials.

Putting together all of the pieces of your MBA application and knowing when to apply can be a daunting process. Collegiate Gateway is skilled in the art of helping students put their best foot forward. Feel free to contact us—we’re always happy to help!

Is an MBA Joint Degree Right for You?

Due to an increasing demand for specialized education options, business schools are beginning to offer a greater variety of joint, dual, or concurrent programs. Many MBA applicants are looking to make themselves more attractive to selective employers by pursuing a degree that combines management capabilities with field-specific knowledge. Often, this involves an MBA being paired together with another graduate degree such as a law degree (JD), medical degree (MD), or doctorate degree (PhD).

Is a joint degree right for you? Collegiate Gateway is here to answer your questions, and equip you with the information you need.

What is a Joint Degree?

Sometimes referred to as a “concurrent” or “dual” degree, a joint degree is one in which a student enrolls simultaneously in two graduate programs, usually at the same school or at an affiliated university, and works towards two graduate degrees with the support of both programs. Some have a formal agreement to enable students to earn two degrees in an abbreviated period, while others even offer students the opportunity to create their own joint degree program. The University of Pennsylvania Law School, for example, allows its students to create their own programs with departments that do not have formal joint degree programs.

Importantly, students do not have to double their course load each semester while trying to complete a joint degree. Most programs allow students to focus on one degree at a time, and typically when a student takes courses in both programs, they are not expected to take more than a normal course load.

Joint degrees can be a combination of the following: law (JD), medicine (MD), doctorate (Ph.D or similar), professional masters (MPP, Ed.M), and academic masters. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the most popular MBA joint degree programs combine an MBA with the following:

  • Law
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Public Policy/Public Administration
  • Engineering
  • Technology
  • International studies

Is a Joint Program Right for You?

Before you consider applying, it is critically important to research the MBA joint program and come to a thorough understanding of why it would be best for you. Not only will this help you evaluate if the MBA joint degree is the best option, but it will also aid you immensely while writing your personal essay later on. Often, a good strategy is to look into the typical career paths that joint degree graduates usually pursue, and see if these careers are a good fit.

Everyone’s ambitions and circumstances are different, and there are various aspects to consider when weighing the pursuit of an MBA joint degree. Here are some important factors to keep in mind:

  • Competitive Advantage. Getting a dual degree may give you a competitive advantage in a specific field, as you would have a wider breadth of knowledge. No matter your intended profession, a strong foundation in business and management can only make you more appealing to employers and make it easier to transition to management or administration. However, if you simply want to practice in a particular field, it may not be necessary to pursue an MBA joint degree in order to be qualified to do so. For example, if you wish to practice non-corporate law, a JD degree will be sufficient, and an MBA may not be necessary. MBAs are designed for business management or administration, so if you do not intend to delve into these areas, an MBA joint degree may not the best choice for you.
  • Time Commitment. MBA joint degrees will most likely take a longer time to complete than a single graduate degree. While there may be programs that allow students to complete their degree in an abbreviated period, you should expect to stay in school longer. However, pursuing a dual degree is generally faster than pursuing degrees separately, as some courses fulfill requirements in both programs.
  • Cost. While getting an MBA joint degree would be more expensive than simply pursuing an MBA, it would be cheaper than getting a graduate degree, and then later deciding to obtain a second degree.
  • The Application Process. Typically, prospective students seeking an MBA joint degree have to complete two, or even three, applications. Students will most likely need to apply simultaneously to each graduate program, and possibly complete an additional application to the joint program itself. It is important to note that being accepted into a certain graduate program does not automatically qualify you, nor necessarily increase the likelihood of being accepted into the program with which it is paired. Acceptances into the graduate programs for a joint degree are decided separately. Applying to a less competitive program just to get into the counterpart program of a joint degree is not a recommended strategy.

Trends & Statistics of MBA joint degree programs

The various options of MBA joint degrees available has surged 54% over the past decade. However, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which started collecting dual-degree enrollment data in 2005, the portion of MBA students enrolled in dual degree tracks has never risen above 1 percent. In fact, that percentage has shrunk, from about 0.9 percent of MBA students in 2005-06 to 0.7 percent in 2010-11.

The JD/MBA joint degree is one of the most common joint degrees, and looking at the number of students that apply for the degree may give some insight into the total number of students who ultimately choose to pursue an MBA joint degree. In the 2012 testing year, the GMAC found that only 2,364 people took the GMAT with the intention of pursuing a JD/MBA—down from 3,397 in 2009. These numbers do not account for the people who did not actually end up getting an MBA/JD.

GMAT Exams Taken by Potential

JD/MBA Applicants

Testing Year

2009

Testing Year

2010

Testing Year

2011

Testing Year

2012

Total 3397 3046 2351 2364
Non-US Citizens 943 805 529 629
US Citizens 2454 2241 1822 1735

 

JD/MBAs At Top Schools: A Rough Portrait JD/MBAs, Class of 2016 JD/MBAs, Total
Northwestern 27 70
U. Penn 14 45
Harvard 10 35
Stanford 21*
Columbia 15*
Duke 5*
UC Berkeley 1*
*Admissions’ estimate

Source: Poets & Quants

However, these numbers are not a proper indication that MBA joint degrees are on a decline. In fact, the decline may be due to a diversification of the types of MBA joint degrees now readily available, industry-specific factors, and other specialized degree offerings. In 2014, Poets & Quants found that MBA joint degrees were on the upswing. Schools such as Yale have seen an increase in MBA joint degree applicants—in 2014, Yale set a record for its percentage of MBA students taking joint degrees, with 15% adding another sheepskin to their business master’s, up from 14% the previous year. 

What kinds of MBA Joint Degrees are out there? What are the newest programs that I should be aware of?

In the last year, several top universities have added new joint degree offerings.

In September of 2014, The Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership—the nation’s preeminent organization of its kind, based at Teachers College, Columbia University—teamed up with Columbia Business School and with INSEAD to launch innovative MA/MBA dual-degree programs.

In October 2014, Stanford Graduate School of Business announced that it launched a new dual-degree program, where students can study for an MBA and a MA in International Policy Studies simultaneously.

In September 2015, Boston University began offering an accelerated three-year joint JD/MBA degree program similar to those at Cornell, Yale, Penn, Columbia and a handful of other schools.

The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University has formalized collaboration with the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai to offer a dual Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program. The program began to enroll students in the fall of 2015.

There are many differing MBA joint degree programs available from universities across the country. Collegiate Gateway has compiled a comprehensive list of all the programs available. Feel free to contact us to learn more about these programs and to discuss if an MBA joint degree program may be right for you – we are here to help!

What Work Experience is Needed for an MBA?

Is my current work experience good enough? How can I get the right experience to make me an ideal applicant? How much do I need to have?

Navigating the MBA application process is complex—especially when it comes to work experience. Unlike a GMAT score or GPA, there is no number that really tells us how much (and what kind) of experience an applicant needs to be successful. In this blog, Collegiate Gateway will help clear the fog and shed some light on this enigmatic aspect of the MBA process.

How much work experience should I have?

While the amount of work experience one should have varies from school to school, students at top business schools typically matriculate with at least two to three years of full-time work experience. According to Harvard Business School, the average time between undergraduate and business school is four years, and at least 30 percent of matriculated students worked for two to three years prior to business school. However, students should be aware that quality matters more than quantity – more work experience does not necessarily equate to better chances at admission. According to Mae Jennifer Shores, Director of Admissions at UCLA/Anderson, “The depth and breadth of work experience are more important than the amount of time or number of years spent working.”

What types of work experience should I have? Do internships count?

Students at top business schools usually have work experience that is in the form of full-time, paid positions. Collegiate Gateway has spoken with top admissions offices from Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, and found that full-time paid training programs, such as apprenticeships or job shadowing, have the same value as other types of paid employment.

For applicants who wish to apply to MBA programs immediately after college, internships can be a great way to show dedication towards a career path or to highlight accomplishments. However, Graham Richmond, graduate and former admissions official at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School notes that “admissions officers do look at [internships] as a part of the applicant’s profile, but given that most applicants also have full-time, paid positions to showcase, they often take a bit of a back seat.”

No matter what their experience, it is important that applicants assess their professional profile and the roles they have taken on. Were you proactive? Did you take on leadership roles? What were your contributions? What was your impact? These are all important questions to ask – a person with less experience, but more responsibilities under their belt may be considered a stronger applicant. Professional experiences are only assets if you are able to emphasize how they are relevant to your career goals.

What field of work makes me the best candidate for an MBA?

MBA applicants come from all different types of background – there is no “correct” profile that one must adopt to be qualified. No specific background is required for the degree – in fact, business schools aim for a well-rounded student body. This often means that those applying from an oversubscribed profession (such as Finance, IT, or Consulting) may have to work even harder to stand out in an applicant pool. In a survey conducted by TopMBA in 2012 on the employment background on candidates, only 16.3% of candidates came from a financial services background and 11.6% from consulting, with the other 72.1% coming from various other fields. 

Most business schools have pre-requisites, so students may be required to take general mathematics, accounting, finance or similar courses before starting their MBA program. Applicants with an undergraduate degree in a business-related field are more likely to have completed pre-requisites for the MBA program and may bypass additional course load. But for those without such a background, these classes will help student learn concepts that will adequately prepare them and ensure that they succeed in the program.

How important is work experience?

MBA admissions are a multi-faceted process, and there is no single factor that will make or break an application. When assessing an applicant, there are many aspects that are considered: GMAT scores, undergraduate GPA, caliber of undergraduate institution, coursework, degrees earned—all these factors play a part. Additionally, candidates are also evaluated based on their leadership, ability to work in teams, emotional intelligence, and other non-quantifiable characteristics. Admissions counselors are looking for a candidate who is well-prepared and ready to master challenging tasks. It is up to you to draw from your experiences and build the credentials that can show that you are ready to take on an MBA program.

Choosing to pursue an MBA is a major career decision, and there are many components of the application process to take into consideration. Collegiate Gateway is always happy to help! Please feel free to contact us.

Getting into Business: Educational Alternatives to an MBA

Earning an MBA can be a wonderful and effective way to advance one’s career – but it isn’t the right choice for everybody. In fact, there are several educational alternatives to an MBA that may be a better fit for you and your career goals. In this blog, we’ll explore a few of these alternatives, and put them in the context of relevant industry trends

Enroll in a Master’s Program

Before enrolling in a master’s program, it is important to understand the differences between traditional MBA programs and master’s programs in business. While the general approach in a traditional MBA program is to equip a student with the knowledge to deal with a wide variety of business-related situations, a master’s program allows students to specialize in specific fields, as well as obtain a more theoretical, academic education.

In a study conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council, a record number (259) of specialized non-MBA business master’s programs received more than 64,000 applications for the 2014-2015 school year. These specialized masters include, but are not limited to: finance, management, marketing, economics, accounting, health administration, communication, and real estate. Students may find these specialized studies to be more in line with their interests in the business field.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 12.58.55 PM

Employers are interested in these specialized master’s programs as well. According to GMAC’s 2015 Corporate Recruiter’s Survey Report, the proportion of companies planning to hire recent graduates of master’s programs in accounting, finance, and management is also expected to rise this year compared with 2014.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 12.59.59 PM

Deciding on whether an MBA or a master’s degree is right for you depends entirely on your intended career. If you are thinking of pursing a general management position, then an MBA may be the better choice. An MBA allows exposure to every major business function, which offers enough depth to deal with specialists in the field and also provides the breadth necessary for graduates to oversee multiple departments. If you want your career to focus on one discipline, you may want to consider a specialized master’s instead.

Exploring Mini-MBA Programs

According to Bloomberg Business, the downturn in the economy has pushed people to look for fast and inexpensive ways to build their business skills and bolster their credentials. Additionally, commitment to work, family, or other factors may also make pursuing an MBA unrealistic. Mini-MBA programs are a great option for those who want a structured learning environment, but cannot commit to the time and monetary investment of a full MBA.

A Mini-MBA program is a term used by many non-profit and for-profit institutions to describe a training regimen focused on the fundamentals of business. These programs are taught by MBA professors, who hold classes that provide an abridged overview of major topics and concepts typically taught in full-time, two-year MBA courses. Students generally receive continuing education credits for these programs, which they can apply toward a degree program, should they choose to pursue one.

More business schools have begun to offer these programs on campus. “I think the advantage for schools, especially by calling them mini-MBAs, is they get to provide a set of experiences that help people understand the value of an MBA degree program and to know whether or not it is right for them,” says Dan LeClair, vice-president and chief knowledge officer at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which accredits business programs.

While they are not a replacement for full time MBA programs, mini-MBA programs can be a great testing ground for those who are on the fence about pursuing an MBA. Additionally, they are excellent opportunities for individuals to gain more skills and possibly better positions in this competitive job market. Interestingly, McKinsey & Company sends many of its non-MBA employees to a 3-4 week mini-MBA boot camp so that they can build a strong foundation of cross-functional business knowledge.

Enrolling in a Certification Program

Certificate programs enable students to gain mastery in specific areas of study by providing coursework or specialized training to keep students up-to-date on developments in their field, expand their areas of expertise, augment their professional skills, and earn additional credentials that can help advance their careers.

Kristin Williams, assistant provost for graduate enrollment at George Washington University (which offers 110 certificate programs), says that employers do not view these programs the same way they do a full degree, and whether they are impressed by the credential varies by discipline and specific job requirements. Nevertheless, a certificate can provide mandatory training for certain jobs or promotions, or make one eligible for higher pay scales. They can also show interest and acquired knowledge in an area that is likely helpful in performing a job, and make an individual more appealing as an applicant for hire.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 1.01.28 PM

Explore Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Massive Open Online Courses are open-access online courses. These courses contain traditional course materials (filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets) as well as user forums that help facilitate community interactions with professors, students, and teaching assistants. Many of these MOOCs are created by the nation’s top educational institutions, and offer free (or extremely inexpensive) certifications for courses taken.

These courses have increased access to learning opportunities for millions of people, including underserved audiences with little or no access to higher education. While MOOCs are certainly not replacements for MBAs, they provide an opportunity for students to access traditional course materials and explore fields in business they may be interested in before committing to a degree-granting program.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business offers the Wharton Foundation Series online, free of charge. The series covers topics typically taught in an MBA program, such as Marketing, Corporate Finance, Financial Accounting, and many others. OnlineMBA also provides a great list of free business courses available online, including ones offered by top universities. Other well-known MOOC resources include Coursera, HarvardX, and MITOpenCourseWare.

Work Experience / Company Rotational Programs

Many large companies offer leadership development or management programs that target young professionals. These programs usually involve rotations through different departments or roles within the company, so that participants can gain exposure to all aspects of the business. These rotational programs are a great way to gain hands-on, paid experience, and could greatly benefit long-term career objectives.

Aside from rotational programs, any work experience in a certain field can be beneficial. You may decide that you only want to work in the business industry as a means of gaining experience and realize that you do not wish to pursue an MBA. On the other hand, if you decide that work experience is not sufficient, you can apply to an MBA program as an even more qualified applicant. Regardless, it is always worthwhile to gain experience in full-time, paid positions.

Deciding on whether an MBA is right for you is a difficult decision. You will need to assess your individual needs, interests and career goals in order to determine which educational programs will best support you. And as always, Collegiate Gateway is here to help.

Applying to B-School: Do You Have the Right Work Experience?

MBA applicants are evaluated according to a variety of factors, many of which are common to nearly all admissions processes – grades, test scores, personal statements. Unique to the process, however, is the significant role of work experience. But what particular kind of work experience are B-Schools looking for? And how much? Do my internships count? What about my time at graduate school? Or the year I spent in the Peace Corps? Why do I have so many questions?

Take a deep breath. Collegiate Gateway is here to help you make sense of it all.

What is the desired length of work experience MBA programs like to see in candidates?

Though seemingly a basic question, there really is no straightforward answer – how much work experience you’ll need will depend a great deal on who you are, and how your experiences contribute to the total picture of you as an applicant. For the purpose of the MBA application, you’ll want to evaluate your work experience qualitatively, rather than quantitatively. The question is not so much “ how many years have you worked?” but “what have you accomplished?” and “how has your work experience helped you define your future career path?” There is no universal “right time” to apply. In the words of Wharton’s admissions office:

“[W]e evaluate work experience not in terms of years, but the depth and breadth of an individual’s position, his or her contributions to the work environment, and level of responsibility and progression.”

That said, students at top business schools typically matriculate with at least one or two years of professional experience in the form of full-time, paid positions, though different programs will have different norms and standards. While there are some schools that have hard-and-fast requirements, like Fordham, which requires at least two years of work experience, most impose little or no formal requirements. The Class of 2015 at Stanford Business School ranged from 0-12 years of work experience, with an average of four years. The average student admitted to Wharton has worked for five or six years, but the program does accept exceptional early career candidates with limited or no experience (provided they exhibit strong managerial and professional potential).

Harvard’s MBA program, on the other hand, encourages college seniors to apply, but with the expectation that they will be offered deferred admission, conditional upon acquiring full-time work experience. In fact, Harvard has recently developed a special “2+2 Program” for a group of 100-125 students who are graduating college or graduate school without having had full-time work experience. The program especially targets students who have majored in areas such as science, technology, engineering and math, holding about half of the 2+2 spots for such students, with the remainder open to a broad range of undergraduate majors.

In an interview with US News, Graham Richmond, a graduate and former admissions official at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and co-founder of MBA admissions consulting firm Clear Admit, encourages students to think less about the number of years they’ve worked, and more about the quality of their “professional profiles” as a whole:

“In all cases, candidates should ask themselves several key questions: Have I made a significant impact on my company, clients, or co-workers? Have I been recognized in some way for my efforts on the job? Have I learned all that I can in my current role? Are other areas of my candidacy (academic profile, community service, etc.) strong enough such that I may be relatively less reliant on my work experience in the admissions process?”

What qualifies as work experience? Are there specific kinds of experience that MBA programs prefer?

In almost all cases, work experience is fairly broadly defined. Harvard states that work experience consists simply of “opportunities in which students have been able to develop their professional and leadership skills.”

The truth is, top business schools seek a well-rounded student body, and regularly accept students from a wide variety of both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds, from Peace Corps workers, to venture capitalists, to brand managers.

Rather than focus on specific categories of work experiences, programs are more interested in applicants’ roles, responsibilities and achievements. According to Richmond, “…work experience—whether full time, part time, interning, etc—doesn’t have to be paid work experience in order to be valuable in the admissions process per se. It’s more about what you have accomplished, how you have led, who you have collaborated with and how you have grown.” And leadership can certainly be demonstrated by a variety of extracurricular and community service activities in areas you are truly passionate about.

Generally, however, full-time work is valued more highly than internships. But exceptions may be made for younger applicants with zero to one year of full-time work experience. For these students, summer internships can be helpful, and reflect a student’s accomplishments and dedication to a certain career path.  It’s also important to note that graduate school is universally not regarded as a substitute for professional work experience.

For more guidance or information regarding MBA admissions, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help.