Ivey Files

Featured Content

April 21, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Avoiding Red Flags

When applying to the top schools, it is important to avoid “red flags” in your application.  For the uninitiated, red flags are negative items that stand out in your file and may result in rejection from business school.  While most applicants understand the basic red flags, like a 2.4 GPA or a recommendation letter that raises serious concerns about the candidate’s maturity, there are many less obvious triggers.

Some time ago, an Admissions Director Symposium organized by the Graduate Management Admissions Council produced an interesting publication on the subject of admissions policy and red flags.  Here is an excerpt from their report:

Identifying ‘Red Flags’ in the Application Process

The Directors Symposium participants found that many of the markers of less successful students can be identified in the application process but are often overlooked – everything from numerous job changes in a short period of time to strange personal interactions or difficulty communicating.  These signals should not be ignored, said participants.  It may be useful to discuss any ‘red flags’ with other colleagues, to determine which shortcomings can be mitigated by other qualities and which should be reasons not to offer admission.

One red flag that is often ignored but should be taken seriously, said some symposium participants, is excessive contact with the admissions office.  Termed “Hassler Syndrome” by one participant, extreme dependency on the admissions office may signal a lack of self-confidence that manifests itself as neediness.  This trait may show up later in the learning environment, when the student is unable to contribute meaningfully to classes and work groups and becomes known as a “net taker”.  The same person may be a drain on career services, unable to take initiative in a job search.

Although the article was aimed at the admissions community, this information is recommended reading for applicants to the top schools.  At minimum, it should make applicants think twice before placing repeated phone calls to the admissions office!

We, on the other hand, always want to hear from you!  Contact us today for a FREE initial consultation of your candidacy.

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

April 21, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 43 -- Considering a Gap Year?

You have only ten days to go before your deposit is due at the college where you intend to enroll. That means it is time to reach some important decisions. Up to now, we've been focusing on choosing between colleges, but there is another more fundamental choice you have. Are you going to start college next year or are you going to defer starting college for a year and take a gap year? If you've been considering a gap year, this week's tips and tricks will guide you through evaluating that option for yourself. 

Week 43 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. PLEASE DO THIS -- WE ARE WORKING WITH A STUDENT THAT ONLY ACCIDENTALLY DISCOVERED HE HAD RECEIVED A MAJOR SCHOLARSHIP FROM ONE OF THE COLLEGES WHERE HE HAD GOTTEN IN BECAUSE HE ASSUMED THAT THEY WOULD HAVE SENT AN EMAIL AND HE HADN'T TAKEN THE TIME TO READ ALL THE WAY THROUGH HIS "FAT ENVELOPE"!
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

This Week

  • Continue evaluating your choices for college. You are a week away from having to make your deposit. So you should be closing in on your choice. 
  • Evaluate your financial aid offers and decide if you are going to ask for a revision to any.
  • Make your post-acceptance visits.
  • Consider taking a gap year.

Tips & Tricks

1) Determine your purpose for taking a gap year. 

Your gap year should be productive and have a purpose. So why are you taking a gap year? The most common reasons for taking a gap year are:

  • It gives you a “do-over” when it comes to college admissions. This can be a good strategy if you can really meaningful change your credentials in the next 6 months and/or you are going to take a different approach to applying to college the next time around. See more about the “do-over” in the Week 37 blog posting about what to do when you’ve been denied. 
  • It gives you a chance to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We think this is probably the best reason for taking a gap year, assuming that it really is a once-in-a-lifetime option for next year only. If it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you could have next year or some time in the future, then the question really becomes whether you are ready to get the most you can possibly get from the experience now or if waiting a few years would serve you better.
  • It gives you a chance to re-charge and restore yourself. This probably sounds like heaven to you right now, but we'll go on record here as saying that we don't really think you need an entire year to re-charge and restore. Summer should be enough. If it isn't then you probably haven't learned the art of pacing yourself and you should spend that year learning pacing, not just re-charging because the likelihood that you will get a "sabbatical" year every fifth year of your life from now on is zero. (Even if you don't have to work for a living, you'll have adult responsibilities that don't offer a year off every fifth year -- like kids!)

2) Have a solid plan that will achieve your purpose.

Now that you have identified your purpose, you need to develop a plan for your gap year that you are CERTAIN you can execute and that you are convinced will really achieve your purpose. For example, if you intend to join an expedition to the South Pole for your gap year, are you certain that you can join the expedition? If not, do you have a fail-safe alternative expedition? Or if you are going to take the year re-charging, what does that look like? It should involve activities that really do re-charge you. Hint: Truly re-charging yourself will definitely involve lots of sleep, but it will also involve doing interesting and stimulating productive things. Even the most devoted slackers get bored about Day 45 if there is nothing to do beyond sleeping, eating, and generally hanging out. And it gets worse once all your friends leave for college because then hanging out isn't really much of an alternative. 

3) Do an “opportunity cost” analysis.

Economists use opportunity cost analysis as a method for determining the best choice between mutually exclusive alternatives. An opportunity cost analysis requires you to consider the relative cost of choosing one alternative over another. In this case, your “opportunity costs” for taking a gap year are the time, money, and energy you invest in that year. Is it going to be worth that investment? Will it deliver a better return on your investment than starting college would? For example, consider the money you will invest. There is no financial aid when it comes to gap years, so you have to be prepared to fund the costs of the gap year yourself and it is not unusual for a gap year to cost the equivalent of an extra year of college.  Do you and/or your family have the resources for that? And if you do, are you sure that this is the best investment of those resources? For example, if you are taking a gap year in order to have a “do-over” when it comes to college admissions, you might be better served by using those resources to start college somewhere and build your record for transfer. Or if you are doing your gap year so that you can travel abroad, maybe it would be wiser to use that money for a study abroard experience later in your college years.

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

April 14, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Addressing Academic Strengths

While we devoted time last week to advice on addressing weaknesses in one’s academic record, today we wanted to explore the other side of the issue: the strengths that lie in your undergraduate record.

Beyond issues of aptitude or previous achievement, there are a number of other things that your academic profile might say about you.  For instance, if you have a range of quant-focused classes in your record, this might create the impression that you are well prepared for the sort of coursework you would undertake in business school.  Meanwhile, if you have pursued extensive coursework in an area beyond the more traditional disciplines of economics, business administration or engineering, this could indicate some unique interest or perspective that you would bring to the classroom.

For example, applicants who pursued significant language study or took a number of classes in disciplines such as sociology, psychology, art, etc., will stand out among candidates who focused primarily on math, engineering or business courses in college.  Along these lines, applicants whose transcripts show they studied abroad as undergraduates may be seen as more globally aware or as better prepared to work with an international student body.

In addition, for applicants who held a part-time job or were involved in a number of extracurricular activities during college, high grades might be taken as a sign of a solid work ethic and strong organizational or time management skills.  Finally, because many college students don’t take their studies seriously for some or all of their time at college, consistently strong grades could be taken as a sign of maturity and responsibility at an early age.

As you can see, there are a number of things that the adcom could conclude about an applicant’s general qualities and characteristics simply by looking at his or her transcript.  This should encourage you to think about the more abstract ways that your academic record reflects your positive qualities and consider ways that you could convey this information in your application.

For more helpful information, contact Clear Admit to receive a FREE initial consultation on your candidacy.

Related article:

Admissions Tip: Addressing Academic Weaknesses

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

April 14, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 42 -- Make the Most of Your Post-Acceptance College Visits

Torn between two colleges? Just can't decide whether you want to be on an urban campus or in a "bubble" campus? Not really sure which college's professors are really the most accessible and involved with undergraduate students? Not sure if you can trust the information you've gotten from the admissions office? If this sounds like your current dilemma, then we recommend you make a post-acceptance visit to the campuses of your top two picks. There is no better way to really get a sense of what a college is about than to visit it. But, let's face it, post-acceptance visits are costly both in terms of time and money, so you definitely want to make the most of yours. This week's tips and tricks give you ideas for how to do just that. 

Week 42 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. PLEASE DO THIS -- WE ARE WORKING WITH A STUDENT THAT ONLY ACCIDENTALLY DISCOVERED HE HAD RECEIVED A MAJOR SCHOLARSHIP FROM ONE OF THE COLLEGES WHERE HE HAD GOTTEN IN BECAUSE HE ASSUMED THAT THEY WOULD HAVE SENT AN EMAIL AND HE HADN'T TAKEN THE TIME TO READ ALL THE WAY THROUGH HIS "FAT ENVELOPE"!
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

This Week

  • Continue evaluating your choices for college. By now, you should be narrowing in on no more than two finalists.
  • Evaluate your financial aid offers and decide if you are going to ask for a revision to any.
  • Make your post-acceptance visits.

Tips & Tricks

1) Be a sponge and soak up everything you can.

You are considering whether this is “the college” for you. So nothing should be beyond your notice. Engage all of your senses. What do you see when you sit in a class? Are people taking notes on laptops? Do the professor and students seem to know and like each other? What do you hear when you go into the library? Is it more like a quiet coffee shop with the murmur of conversation coming from various tables and corners or is it so quiet that you worry your shoes are making too much noise? What does the residence hall smell like? More like fresh washed laundry or last week’s smelly socks? How does the food in the dining hall taste? Yummy or not? How does the overall campus vibe feel to you? Great, just what you wanted, or setting off your Spidey sense that this isn’t really such a good fit for you?

2) Talk to as many current students and faculty as you can.

The more the better and the more diverse the better because a large and diverse sample set will give you a much richer and more accurate picture of the college. It is particularly important that you check out information that is critical to you with more than one source. For example, let’s say that you intend to major in biology, but you also want to study abroad and you’re worried that study abroad might not be possible for biology majors. So, you ask your student ambassador and he tells you that it’s easy peasy for a biology major to study abroad (because that’s what he heard from his girlfriend’s friend’s friend at a party although he doesn’t tell you that). If you leave it at that, that’s the information you’ll use when making your decision. But, if you take the time to ask some biology majors you meet in a class or you stop by the study abroad office and ask people there, you’ll find out that it is possible for biology majors to study abroad, but it isn’t easy and very few do it. Now you have better information when it comes to making your decision.

3) Spend as much time exploring on your own as you can.

The structured admitted student programs are great for giving you a taste of college life in a short time, but they are not really representative of your day in, day out life at the college. Strike out on your own before or after the scheduled program or substitute an adventure of your own when everyone else is going to the bookstore to buy college swag (you can order that online). Here are a few ideas for solo adventures that only take an extra half-hour or so:

  • Get to campus at least one-half hour before the program starts. Go to a residence hall where freshmen live. Pretend you have just rolled out of bed and have to get to your first class in the next 15-20 minutes. Where are you going to get coffee or a granola bar? How are you going to get to class – walk, bike, take a shuttle? Follow some students who seem to be on their way to class (or somewhere) from the residence hall. What do you notice about them? Check out their destination for more observations and then go join the admissions program.
  • Stay on campus one-half hour after the program ends. Check some of these places out to get a sense of what everyone else on campus is doing this time of day: a classroom building, the student center, the fitness or rec center, the library, the lounges in the residence halls, the green and open areas of campus. Are people hard at work, taking a break, missing in action?
  • On a middle of the day break, steal away to someplace on campus where they serve coffee. Get yourself a cup of coffee, grab a student newspaper and hang out. Read the student newspaper cover to cover and listen to the conversations around you. What is the big topic of conversation? What is the tone of the conversation? Serious and intense or teasing? 

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

April 7, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Addressing Academic Weaknesses

To follow up on last month’s advice about GMAT preparation and timing, we wanted to offer some general comments about the role of academics in the admissions process.  Many candidates considering business school focus on the credentials they will hold and the network that they will join upon graduation, but it is important to keep in mind the academic experience at the heart of any MBA program.  Because a business school is, after all, a school, it makes sense to begin your consideration of your profile by thinking about your academic aptitude and track record to date.  Your performance in your educational endeavors up to this point will be treated as a predictor of your success in business school.

While this is all well and good for applicants whose undergraduate GPAs and GMAT scores are close to the average of students at their target schools—about 3.5 and 710 for the top programs—things become a bit trickier for candidates who fall below the pack in either or both of these categories.  Retaking the GMAT is always an option, but this can become counterproductive after the first two or three attempts, and there is obviously nothing to be done to alter one’s college marks.  If the other aspects of your candidacy are strong and you’re only lacking in one of these two academic areas, an effective strategy is often to use an optional essay to acknowledge that one of these numbers is below the school’s average and assure the adcom that the other is the more accurate indication of your academic ability.

Meanwhile, applicants who fall short in both of these measures—as well as anyone who simply wants to strengthen his or her academic profile or falls well below the average in GMAT or GPA—should consider putting together an alternative transcript that demonstrates a track record of As in quantitative coursework, e.g., in basic classes in accounting, statistics, calculus or economics.  These classes can be taken at any community college or even through an accredited online program.  This is a particularly sound strategy for candidates who focused on the social sciences or humanities in college and do not have a record of demonstrated success in quant-heavy disciplines.  Applicants can then point to this as a more recent—and therefore more accurate—reflection of their present abilities in a classroom setting.  While one or two classes can suffice, keep in mind that the more classes one takes, the more convincing this argument becomes (assuming strong performance in these supplemental classes, of course).

Still, these are general guidelines about the ways that one might address a shortcoming in a single element of the admissions process.  For a more detailed evaluation of your entire candidacy and more comprehensive advice about your applications, contact us for a free initial consultation.

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

April 7, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 41 -- How to Evaluate Your Financial Aid Awards

You've been admitted to the college of your dreams and now you're wondering whether you can really afford to go to school there. You want to compare your financial aid packages before you choose between where you are going to college. You really need (or would really like) an increase in your financial aid award, but you are not sure if you should. Any of these circumstances apply to you? If so, this week's tips and tricks are just what you need.

Week 41 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. 
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

This Week

  • Continue evaluating your choices for college. 
  • Evaluate your financial aid offers and decide if you are going to ask for a revision to any.
  • Schedule/plan your post-acceptance visits.

Tips & Tricks

1. When evaluating whether a college is affordable for you, be realistic about your actual cost of attendance.

The college will set a "cost of attendance" based on its own policies and standards and your financial aid award will only provide funds to cover the specified "cost of attendance." But the college's policies and standards may or may align to your particular circumstance. For example, Boston College allows a total of $2200 for books and miscellaneous expenses, including your travel expenses to and from your home. But what if your home is in Honolulu instead of nearby New York City? Your travel costs will obviously be more. Will their allowance be enough or do you need to find additional funds to cover the extra costs you will incur? The time to consider whether you will REALLY have enough money to pay for your first year of college is now. 

2. When comparing financial aid offers from different colleges, compare the components of the aid as well as the total amount of aid awarded.

College X and College Y have the same cost of attendance and both have offered you $25,000 in financial aid. So the awards are equal, right? Maybe,but maybe not. You need to read the details to determine what makes up the $25,000 in aid. As it turns out, College X has offered $15,000 in scholarship and grants that do not have to be repaid and $10,000 in loans and work-study. College Y has offered only $5,000 in scholarship and grants that do not have to be repaid and the $20,000 balance in loans and work-study. From a financial perspective, College X's financial aid package is much better for you. 

3. Courteously asking for an increase in your financial aid award is wise if your circumstances support such a request.

There are two circumstances when you should ask for an increase in your financial aid award. The first circumstance is when your family's financial situation has changed substantially since you filed your financial aid applications. For example, if one of your parents has lost his or her job, it would be appropriate to request a review of your financial aid award. The second circumstance is when you have received a higher award from another comparably selective college. In this circumstance, you should investigate whether the college you want to increase your aid has a policy of "matching" awards. Some colleges do. For example, Cornell will match awards made by other Ivy League colleges, Stanford, Duke, and/or MIT. If you cannot determine what a college's policy is regarding "matching," then politely inquire. 

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

March 31, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Feedback Sessions for Denied Applicants

As many of our readers know, a small number of leading MBA programs offer admissions feedback sessions to applicants who did not make the admissions cut in a given season.  Though we’ve touched upon this subject before, we’d like to use today’s blog entry to underline the importance of these feedback sessions for those of you who are considering reapplication.

While not all schools offer feedback, a handful of schools issue an open invitation to all unsuccessful applicants.  Additionally, some programs occasionally offer feedback “by invitation” to top candidates for whom they just didn’t have room that year.  In all cases, if you are given the opportunity to get feedback, you should absolutely take advantage of it.  There are several reasons for this:

1) Signal commitment to improvement.  Signing up for a feedback session demonstrates that you are motivated to learn more about your application’s weaknesses and are seeking to improve going forward (with the intention of reapplication).  Most schools make note of these sessions and keep these notes in your file in the event that you do reapply.

2) Get the inside line.  A feedback session gives you a chance to learn something about your candidacy from the source.  Feedback sessions can draw your attention to a perceived weakness you were unaware of or confirm your own thoughts with regards to areas for improvement.

3) Advertise your interest.  In addition to demonstrating your passion to improve and your intent to learn more about your candidacy, signing up for a session suggests a dedication to the MBA program in question.  Since not all reapplicants bother to get feedback, the fact that you take this aspect of the process seriously can work in your favor.

4) Make a connection.  In many cases, a feedback session can be the beginning of a relationship that is forged with a member of the adcom.  If the person gives you feedback, you should email them a “thank you” letter and take advantage of the opportunity to develop an advocate for your candidacy on the committee.

Stay tuned to this blog for some tips on proper feedback session etiquette in the near future.  In the meantime, be sure to sign up for feedback sessions if your target school offers them.  If your target school does not offer this kind of service, you may want to take advantage of Clear Admit’s feedback service, which includes a strategic review of your prior application(s) and a written report highlighting your strengths and weaknesses as well as specific guidance for reapplication.

Contact Clear Admit if you are interested in learning more about this service.

Related articles

 

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

March 31, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 40 -- I've Been Wait-Listed...What Should I Do?

Being wait-listed may be the cruelest fate of them all. You want a decision. You need a decision. And instead, you get a decision that isn't a decision. What do you do now? This week we offer you 5 essential dos when it comes to handling being wait-listed.

Week 40 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. 
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

This Week

  • Decide which, if any, wait list offers you are going to accept and then take the recommended steps below to maximize your chances of being admitted from the wait list.
  • Continue evaluating your choices for college. 
  • Schedule/plan your post-acceptance visits.

Tips & Tricks

1. Do hold a spot on a wait list if you know that if you received an offer from this college, you would accept it immediately, and you would happily turn down all of your other offers of admission. If you would not accept that offer of admission, then there is no reason for you to be on the wait list. Staying in limbo keeps you from moving forward, directing your energies to ending your senior year well, and investing emotionally in the college you will attend. Keeping yourself in the running for a college you will not attend is also unkind to others on the wait list who really do want to attend that college. Be a good applicant citizen and do the right thing.

2. Do send an update to be added to your application file with any positive news you have to share. Good grades on your most recent report card? Forward a copy of your most recent grade report and ask your school counselor to send an optional report in support. Any new academic honor or award? Share the news in your email update. Likewise, if you have had major developments on the activity front, let the admissions office know – especially if they demonstrate passion, talent, initiative and/or impact (the core four)! (If you've forgotten about the core four, refer back to chapters 4 and 8.)

3. Do communicate that you will accept an offer of admission if made in your update. Colleges are not interested in admitting applicants off the wait list who are going to say “no.” It decreases their yield (yield is the percentage of applicants who accept offers of admission), and yield is important to rankings. Communicate your intentions directly and forthrightly to the college in your email. If you have never answered the “Why College X?” question (because it was not asked on the application), then incorporate a brief answer to “Why College X?” in this communication.

4. Do ask anyone you know who has influence with the college to send a note of support for your admission. Because the college is focused on serving its institutional goals when admitting from the wait list, admissions officers are very attuned to who is advocating for particular applicants. Here is the short list of possible influential advocates:

  • Your school counselor, if he or she has a relationship with an admissions officer at the college or your school is a feeder school for the college (feeder schools provide a steady stream of students to the college every year) 
  • Anyone you know who is a graduate of the college, if he or she has been involved with the college since graduation as a volunteer, donor, and so on Anyone you know with a high-level contact at the college (a high-level contact would be someone like the president or one of the vice presidents of the college, a board member at the college, or a particularly influential faculty member at the college) 
  • Anyone you know who is on the board, faculty, or senior staff at the college Anyone you know who has been a major donor to the college (a major donor would have been recognized for at least a six-figure gift and might have something at the college named in his or her honor).

5. Do be prepared to respond to an offer of admission promptly. You are often asked to respond to an offer of admission within a short period of time – sometimes as short as 48 hours. So stay on top of your email and telephone messages and be ready with your answer! 

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

March 24, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Waitlists That Discourage Supplemental Information

We have previously posted some correspondence tips for those applicants who have been waitlisted by schools that welcome supplemental materials and communication.  Today, we’d like to provide some advice to those who are in an arguably more difficult position: waitlisted by schools that discourage further contact with the adcom.

This may sound obvious, but if a school indicates that they do not want supplemental materials, then you should respect their guidelines.  In other words, do not send along a new recommendation or an essay if the program has clearly indicated that you should not do so.  There may be exceptions to this—for example, if a dramatic change has taken place in your candidacy—but in most cases, you should simply follow the rules.

While at first it seems as though this leaves little option for waitlisted applicants other than sitting and waiting for a more definitive decision, one of the best things an individual in this position can do is just the opposite—take action and visit the school.  This makes particularly good sense for those who have never been to the campus of their target programs.  Very many things can happen when spending time at the school:

1) You may interact with students or professors who can better inform you of opportunities at the school and give you a better sense of the campus culture.  If you make a particularly strong impression, you might even inspire someone to intercede with the adcom on your behalf.

2) By visiting a school and gaining a feel for the community and setting, you may actually realize that a given program is really not for you.  This will enable you to focus your energy and attention elsewhere and give up your spot on the waitlist to someone who might be a better fit with the program.

3) A school may take note of your visit (if you sign in with the admissions office) and view it as a potential sign of your interest.  All other things being equal, the adcom is generally more likely to admit an applicant if they believe him or her to be likely to accept an offer of admission.

4) You never know when you’ll have that chance meeting with an admissions officer who is willing to give you a little feedback (and who through the process of meeting you face to face might get a better sense of your candidacy).  In fact, if planning a visit, there’s no harm in letting the admissions office know in advance—especially if you have a “waitlist manager” or someone on the admissions team who you’ve corresponded with in the past.  Just send them a polite email indicating that you will be on campus on date X and would love to stop in and introduce yourself, etc.  You’d be surprised at how often an admissions officer ends up being available to speak with you for a few minutes.  Having said that, it’s critical not to force such a meeting or make unreasonable demands on the adcom, so be sure to use your best judgment.

Best of luck to those of you playing the waiting game, and feel free tocontact us to learn about our application feedback and waitlist counseling services.  Hang in there!

For additional valuable guidance about being on the waitlist, check out the Clear Admit Waitlist Guide.  This guide will teach you to understand the ground rules of a program’s waitlist policy, formulate a plan to address weaknesses in your candidacy, craft effective communications to the admissions committee and explore every opportunity to boost your chances of acceptance.  This 23-page PDF file, which includes school-specific waitlist policies and sample communication materials, is available for immediate download.

Related articles

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

March 24, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 39 -- I Haven't Heard Anything...What Should I Do?

This is the week when all should be revealed. The vast majority of colleges will release their decisions before April 1, so if you haven't heard yet, this is the week you should hear. So what if you don't hear? No news is definitely problematic, especially when you are waiting to hear from your top choice college. This week we focus our tips and tricks on what to do if you haven't heard anything from one or more of the colleges on your list.

Week 39 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. 
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

This Week

  • Get your decisions -- you should know from every college on your list within the next two weeks.
  • Continue evaluating your choices for college. 
  • Schedule/plan your post-acceptance visits.

Tips & Tricks

1. Verify that you should have heard something. 

Before you take any kind of action, you need to verify that there is something amiss. Just because you've heard that decisions are out for College X via the grapevine doesn't mean that it's true. Check the college website or call the college admissions office to verify that ALL decisions have been released. Some colleges release all decisions at the same time; other colleges release decisions in groups.

2. Doublecheck that you haven't heard something.

Colleges notify applicants of their decisions in different ways. Check these three places before you assume that they haven't notified you:

  • Check your application status online. If the college made it possible for you to monitor your application status online, then they often post decisions online and expect you to check there to get your decisions. 
  • Check your email carefully -- including your trash and spam folders. Many colleges send their decision letters via email and a shockingly high percentage get funneled to your trash and spam folders! So check those. Also open every email in your inbox -- the email may have come from a different address than you expect.
  • Check your snail mail at the permanent mailing address on your application. Admissions letters do still come by snail mail, so don't overlook checking there. Also be sure you are checking snail mail at the right address. These letters are usually sent to the permanent mailing address given in your application. Boarding school kids and gap year travelers need to be especially alert to this possibility. 

3. Take immediate action if decisions really are out and you really haven't heard.

This is the time for an antiquated 20th century method of communication – the phone call.  During this phone call, you have one mission – get the information necessary to resolve whatever is keeping you from getting your decision.  Notice that we don’t say your purpose is to get the decision.  Why?  Mostly because admissions offices generally have policies that prohibit sharing a decision over the telephone.  But, the quickest and best way to learn what you need to do to actually get your decision is to talk to someone at the college.  

  • Go to a private, quiet place and call the Admissions Office during their regular business hours.  Be prepared to sit on hold if necessary.  

  • When you get a live person on the other end, politely state your problem.  “I’m calling because I applied for entry into the freshman class of 2011 and I understand you sent decision letters/emails out, but I haven’t received my letter/email [or when I log in, there is no decision posted for me].  Can you help me figure out why I haven’t gotten my decision yet?”  
  • Regardless of what the reply by the admissions officer is, your primary focus needs to be staying calm and accomplishing your mission.  Say, for example, that the admissions officer says, “You haven’t received a decision letter because we have no record of your application.”  
  • Now this reply completely freaks you out, because you absolutely positively know they got your application and you are beside yourself that your top choice college would screw up your future this way.  How could they do that to you?  But before you share your freak out with the admissions officer, take a breath and remember the mission of this call.  You just need information so that whatever problem there is can be resolved.  Sooner rather than later.  
  • So, take a breath.  Then reply politely and evenly, “Wow there must be some mistake.  I submitted my application on December 15 and I have the email reply confirming receipt here.  What should I do?”  The admissions officer will then walk you through what to do and the admissions office will bend over backwards to correct their mistake.

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

Syndicate content