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August 18, 2014

MBA Admission Tip: The Optional Essay

We realize that the questions of whether to answer an optional essay and, if so, what to say are ones that loom large for many b-school applicants at this time of year.  While we’ve been offering a great deal of school-specific essay advice over the past few months, we wanted to take some time to suggest a few considerations that applicants might want to take into account when making this call.

Is it relevant?
Perhaps this goes without saying, but the only information worth sharing in an optional essay is that which will make a material difference in your candidacy.  Whether you wish to comment on an exciting leadership role you’ve just taken on or explain that you were overextended extracurricularly during that one bad semester in college, make sure to think carefully about whether this information will affect and enhance the reader’s perception of your business school candidacy.

Was it requested?
Most schools do request that applicants use an optional essay to address certain issues, such as a failing grade in a degree program or the absence of a letter of recommendation from one’s current direct supervisor.  In spite of the technically optional nature of the question, it’s very important to follow directions and provide this information if a school requests it.

Also along the lines of what information is requested, it’s wise to think carefully about a school’s other essay questions before deciding to use an optional essay or provide additional information, as each of these topics affords applicants a chance to introduce the information about their background and interests that they consider to be most important.  Your objective should be to provide as complete a picture of your candidacy as possible within the framework of a school’s required essays (as these are a good indication of what a given program is most interested in hearing about) and to only introduce information in an optional essay that you could not have covered elsewhere without sacrificing something more essential.

Is it constructive?
Once you’ve decided that a detail is relevant to your candidacy and merits mentioning in an optional essay, the next step is to think carefully about the way this information might be perceived and make sure that the impact it makes on your chances of admission is a positive one.  For instance, an essay that simply alerts the adcom to a serious medical condition might help its author stand out from other applicants, but it could also leave the reader wondering whether this person could handle the demands of a rigorous academic program.  On the other hand, a few details about this applicant’s strategies for achieving success in spite of some kind of disability and commitment to supporting others with a chronic illness or impairment might make him or her seem like a very valuable addition to the business school community.

Is it concise?
It’s always a good idea to keep in mind that by answering an optional essay, you are creating extra work for the person reading your file.  While this should not dissuade you from addressing a topic that you have deemed important based on the considerations above, it’s very important that you demonstrate good judgment by limiting your comments to the most relevant information and keeping your response as direct and concise as possible.

We hope that these general guidelines have helped to clear up some confusion and shed some light on the optional essay issue.  For more tailored feedback on your personal situation, feel free to 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.

August 11, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Off-Campus Information Sessions

For all those applicants who have recently opened a calendar to plot out the next few months only to realize they can’t possibly fit in campus visits on top of full time jobs and essay writing, never fear!  It’s true that traveling to a school’s campus is the ideal way to learn about their MBA program, but visiting is often not a viable option for applicants who are located remotely or unsure of their level of interest in a given school.  The good news is that business schools might very well come to them.  Many b-schools are getting ready to hit the road and embark on worldwide tours to dispense information and recruit qualified applicants.  Such events offer a great opportunity for interested students to meet with admissions staff (and sometimes with current students and/or alumni), learn about the program and ask specific questions.

Some of the top schools are already on the road, so we recommend looking into the travel schedules for programs of interest and planning accordingly.  Keeping in mind that these schedules are updated and amended throughout the fall, here are some of the top programs’ itineraries for the months ahead:

Berkeley / Haas:

Chicago Booth:


Duke / Fuqua:


Northwestern / Kellogg:

Michigan / Ross:

MIT / Sloan:

Stanford GSB:

NYU / Stern:

Dartmouth / Tuck:

UCLA / Anderson:

UNC / Kenan Flagler:

UVA / Darden:

U Penn / Wharton:

Yale SOM:






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.

August 4, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Applying to Business School as a Younger Applicant

As many of our readers know, it has become increasingly common for younger individuals to apply to MBA programs.  Whereas the average age and years of work experience at the leading business schools has traditionally hovered at around 28 and five respectively, many programs are now carefully considering the more youthful end of the applicant pool.  Of course, the fact that admissions officers are taking a closer look at younger applicants does not mean that getting accepted to a top program is easy for this group.  In fact, it may be difficult for younger applicants to present themselves as fully prepared to contribute to an MBA program because they often lack leadership experience and extended business exposure.  This is especially true as they will be compared to their fellow applicants who have more years in the working world (often translating to more leadership experience and professional accomplishments).  With this in mind, we’d like to offer a few tips that will help younger MBA candidates leverage the strengths of their candidacies and become increasingly competitive applicants at their choice schools.

Note: For the purposes of this article, we’ll define “younger applicants” as ranging from zero to two years of experience (i.e., undergraduate seniors and folks who are one to two years removed from their college graduation).

1) Have an exceptional academic profile. Ideally all MBA candidates will be able to present stellar GPA and GMAT scores, but for younger candidates this is especially crucial.  If younger candidates are likely to fall short in the “work experience” category, then their academic profiles are all the more important to show that they are prepared for the rigors of an MBA classroom.  Therefore it’s better if your scores (GMAT and GPA) are above than the published averages for schools’ incoming classes.  In addition, it will be to your benefit if you have received undergraduate scholarships and awards or graduated at the top of your class, as this indicates that you excelled relative to your peers.

2) Demonstrate your leadership experience and potential. Younger applicants may have only limited full-time professional experience.  Without much time in the working world, there is often less opportunity to move up and gain the responsibilities that lead to management and leadership experiences.  Despite this fact, one way to demonstrate your responsibility and management experience is through your participation in and leadership of extracurricular and undergraduate activities.  In short, as a younger applicant, it is important for you to use whatever experiences you have had thus far (internships, collegiate activities, part-time work, community service, etc.) to demonstrate your leadership and responsibility, displaying your experience as well as your potential for personal growth and ability to benefit your target MBA programs.

3) Have clear goals. Presenting a clear vision for the future is always a good strategy, as the majority of MBA programs are hesitant to accept students who they feel will get lost in the program’s available choices once they arrive.  For younger applicants this is even more crucial, as your relative lack of professional work experience could cause some concern about your ability to pinpoint your short- and long-term goals.  It is therefore important that you provide details about your planned career path, as well as demonstrate confidence that you will stick to this plan.  Applicants who have more years in the working world can draw on their experiences as proof that they understand their interests and work habits; as a younger applicant, you must demonstrate that you are able to do the same despite your relative inexperience.

4) Be able to explain why you are seeking an MBA now as opposed to later. It’s necessary for younger applicants to describe how the timing of their applications relates to their academic or work experiences to date as well as their future goals.  Your challenge will be to convince your target MBA programs that you are able to make a valuable contribution to their schools without further work experience.  In order to do this, you will need to demonstrate that continuing at your current job is not conducive to your future goals at this juncture.  You might also suggest that there is some degree of urgency related to the pursuit of yours goals, due to applicable circumstances such as a closing market opportunity, taking advantage of an industry trend, or making a transition in your career.    Having clear goals and a detailed career plan will help you explain why you must pursue a formal business education now in order to achieve your objectives.

5) Demonstrate your maturity. It’s important that younger applicants don’t let the adcom mistake their youth for immaturity.  One of the ways you can demonstrate your maturity is by showcasing your ability to analyze your actions, accept blame, and grow and learn from mistakes and failures, as these are trademarks of a reflective and mature individual.  An easy opportunity to do this is in essays that ask you to detail a failure, mistake, or setback.  In these essays, it is crucial that you do not appear petty, arrogant, or unable to accept or grow from criticism, as this would only further emphasize your youth.  Another way you can demonstrate your maturity is by focusing on your more recent work experiences and accomplishments.  Some of these might be from college, as you may not have had time to prove yourself in the working world, however, it’s generally best to try and use the most recent experiences possible, as these will provide a clearer picture of who you are today.  You may be tempted to use high school or grade school experiences as examples of leadership, challenges, and accomplishments, but because pre-undergraduate activities will make you appear younger than you are, they should ideally not be discussed in depth.

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.

July 31, 2014

That Crazy June LSAT Game

Today’s LSAT advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep. Blueprint offers live LSAT prep classes throughout the country and online LSAT courses for those who want to study on their couch.

The last two LSAT administrations have had weird Logic Games. The February LSAT was rumored to have a circular ordering game, and the June LSAT had, well, a game that made a whole lot of LSAT test takers freak out. Was it LSAT-pocalypse 2014, or a whole lot of fuss about nothing?

I’ve looked at the Logic Game in question from the June LSAT (the fourth one). It’s unusual, sure, but it’s not nearly as weird as many people made it out to be. The setup is something that hasn’t been on the LSAT in a while, but the rules are perfectly normal. In fact, similar rules come up in lots and lots of ordering games. Looking at the rules together leads you to a simple deduction that helps you answer the questions. The rules alone answered most of the questions, and there was little need to build detailed hypotheticals. 

Some LSAT test-takers nailed the Logic Game in question, while others bombed it. Here’s the biggest difference between them: The ones who did fine applied their skills flexibly. They recognized everything that was normal about the game, started there, and adapted to the weird stuff as they went along. In this particular game, as long as you understood the rules, you were going to be OK.

The ones who bombed the June LSAT Logic Game froze because they couldn’t fit the entire game into a predetermined box. Because this game looked different on the surface, they didn’t recognize how the skills they had learned from other Logic Games applied to this one.

The lesson is: as you study for the LSAT, focus on skills and techniques over rote memorization. It’s well worth it to study the types of Logic Games that have come up over time. But don’t just learn a setup for each type; think about how you build that setup and why it works. If you’re comfortable with the underlying logic, you’ll have an easier time adapting your skills to something weird.

This isn’t just true for LSAT Logic Games. Some LSAT Logical Reasoning questions in recent years have had unusual-sounding prompts. Students who were only comfortable identifying question types by rote had trouble with those questions. On the other hand, students who thoroughly understood the logic behind each question type had no trouble reading these weird prompts carefully and identifying them as the normal questions they actually were.

There’s nothing really new on the LSAT. Even the fourth game from the June 2014 LSAT has a direct antecedent; the fourth game of PrepTest C from LSAC’s SuperPrep book is very similar. When something looks weird, don’t freak out. Read carefully and look for something familiar. Figure out what it’s really asking you to do. If you’ve studied extensively for the LSAT, there’s going to be a way to apply your skills.

Here’s one more thing about this June’s LSAT: The first three Logic Games were straight-down-the-middle normal. Being really good at the normal stuff can buy you time for the weird stuff. A little extra time always helps with the weird stuff. 

Good luck to everyone studying for the September LSAT. Be on your toes!

To see what Blueprint LSAT Prep has to offer, sign up for a free account.

July 29, 2014

Anna's Law School Application Workshops

Are you a natural-born test taker? No? Then you and I are birds of a feather. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I took the LSAT, and I'm glad I don't have to take that sucker ever again. I leave LSAT prep in the capable hands of Blueprint, with whom I'm teaming up to provide law school application workshops throughout August (three in California, one in New York, and one in DC). They are each four hours of law school admissions goodness, so if you're in town, come on by. You can sign up through Blueprint, and the workshops are open to non-Blueprint students as well. See you there.

July 28, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Planning for the R1 MBA Deadlines

Anyone who’s familiar with the MBA application process knows that August moves forward at an accelerated pace, and come September, entire weeks seem to disappear.  To help this year’s Round One applicants avoid the classic time crunch, today’s blog post offers some basic advice on how to approach the Round One deadlines at a reasonable pace.

Let’s start by taking a quick look some of at the published Round One deadlines for the top MBA programs:

September 9: Harvard
September 15: Oxford Stage 1, ISB
September 17: Duke/Fuqua Early Action
September 19: Cambridge/Judge 
September 23: MIT Sloan
September 24: INSEAD 
September 25: Chicago/Booth
October 1: Wharton, Cornell/Johnson, Stanford, UC Berkeley/Haas
October 5: CMU/Tepper
October 6: Ross
October 7: IESE
October 8: Columbia Early Decision & J-Term, Tuck Early Action
October 10: Georgetown/McDonough, UVA/Darden
October 14: NYU Stern, UT Austin/McCombs
October 17: UNC/Kenan-Flagler Early Action
October 22: UCLA Anderson

Though some schools have yet to announce their deadlines (such as London Business School and USC/Marshall), one can still get a general sense of the lineup of R1 deadlines.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating your personal timeline:

1) Plan to be busy in August.  Yes, it can be tempting to work on one’s tan instead of one’s essays.  However, many MBA applicants squander the month of August only to wake up in September and realize that they cannot make their target deadlines.  If not bogged down by professional obligations in August, this makes for a great opportunity to devote time to working on your MBA applications in the evenings.  The last weeks of summer can easily be split between resume drafting, essay writing, recommendation coaching, GMAT prep, school research, and more.

2) Think carefully about the timing of the R1 deadlines.  Looking at the deadlines above, it becomes clear that some deadlines may be easier to make than others.  A candidate applying to Haas and Tuck could have a leisurely October when compared to someone targeting Haas, Tuck, and NYU Stern.  Look at the deadlines, assume about three weeks of research and writing for each school’s application and count backwards to determine a start date for each.  It is entirely possible to meet back-to-back deadlines, such as Tepper and Ross, but doing so requires a well-planned schedule and consistent progress.

3) Consider taking some time off from work.  We realize that many MBA applicants work 70 hours/week and haven’t had a day off in months.  For such applicants, a day or two out of the office can really do wonders for focus and organization.  Applying to business school is a serious undertaking, and in the long term you won’t regret having given yourself enough time to prepare strong applications.  Many successful candidates take a week off in late September to make the final push.  It’s not a glamorous way to spend your vacation time, but an offer to attend a leading MBA program can make the sacrifice well worth it.

4) Get your recommenders on board early.  While many of the schools have not yet made their online applications and recommendation forms available, it’s a good idea to engage your recommenders early and inform them about the process and your timeline.  Sit down with each recommender in July or early August, perhaps over lunch or coffee.  Present them with a rough sketch of the deadlines and the process.  It’s then a wise idea to meet again once the forms are available, and by that time many applicants are in a position to share their background materials (a résumé, career goals essays, etc.) to help their recommenders understand—and support—their message.

Happy planning!  For more information on the application process and school selection, we encourage you to contact us for a free 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.

July 21, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Using Rankings to Your Advantage

There are numerous sources that can knowledgeably rank the “top” MBA programs.  However, because business schools receive different rankings depending on the sources’ criteria, it can be difficult to understand which are the “best” schools.  Therefore today we’d like to talk about how b-school applicants can use rankings to discover the “best” schools—for them.  Although the general merits of each school are important, we also believe that it is important for MBA applicants to rank schools based on their individual needs and interests.  Therefore we encourage students to use official MBA school rankings in the following ways:

1. Use rankings to create a consensus.  Sources rarely have the exact same rankings as each other, and therefore trying to determine the “top five” schools can be frustrating.  However, it’s best to compile these different sources of rankings to form a consensus regarding the top schools.  For example, if your target program is consistently listed in the top 15, regardless of its individual ranking among different sources, you should feel confident that it is regarded as a top school by industry professionals and future employers.  You may not be able to pinpoint the ultimate “number one” school, but you will be able to distinguish between the different tiers of schools.

2. Consider individual rankings.  MBA applicants should assess schools based on how they will help them gain what they want from their business school experiences.  Therefore we urge you to ask yourself what matters most to you in an MBA program.  Some applicants may value strict adherence to the case method more than the amount or size of research centers, whereas other applicants may want a large number of diverse student organizations or a strong joint-degree program.  Looking at the individual criteria from which rankings are calculated may help you judge business schools based on the specific factors that matter most to you.  For example, if you are interested in entrepreneurship, then perhaps you should consider applying to an MBA program with a strong program in this field, even if it receives lower scores in other areas—especially if these areas are not a main concern for you.

3. Think about where you want to go after business school.  In addition to considering what you want to get out of your business school experience, you should think about how business school will help you pursue your future career.  Therefore, some important rankings to consider may be the number of internships students gain at a particular MBA program or how many recruiters from different fields visit specific campuses.  These rankings may be especially important if you need to follow a specific career path to achieve your career goals.

In addition to studying rankings, we encourage b-school applicants to do further research in understanding the comparable merits of business schools, such as perusing admissions information, talking to professors and students, and visiting campuses.  Furthermore, we encourage applicants to check out our Clear Admit School Guides, which offer detailed profiles of the leading MBA programs.  Best of luck to those researching business schools!

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.

July 16, 2014

Welcome David, a New Addition to Our College Admissions Team

Please say hello to David Jewett, a new addition to our college admissions team. David most recently served as an admissions officer at Tufts and has also taught in the Boston Public Schools. He majored in Earth and Planetary Sciences as an undergrad at Harvard (smartypants, I mean really), and outside of work loves theater, carpentry, and sailing. Welcome, David!

Learn more about David here

July 16, 2014

Praise for Ada from a rising HLS 1L

Nice praise from a happy camper for our team member Ada Sheng, which also appears on our Testimonials page. Nice job, both of you!

When I first read Ada’s profile I was extremely excited to speak with her on the phone. I figured, who better to help me prepare my applications than a past admissions officer from Harvard Law School? However, Ada’s approach was so much more than a quick fix. She came to the conversation with a plan to help me accentuate my strengths – unique characteristics about me that were just waiting to turn into the foundation of a phenomenal personal statement! Ada also helped me organize my professional time during the application cycle, which made a huge impact on my CV. At no point did Ada overly direct my themes or writing. She merely acted as a flashlight, precise with years of experience, illuminating the potential in my applications. Ada helped me edit my essays to perfection, and personally analyzed each legal institution and special program I was interested in.

Ada was always a phone call away and made herself extremely available, especially before my law school interviews. Thanks to Ada’s amazing interview prep, I was accepted to all of my top choice law schools, and also received two full ride scholarships. Ada then helped me navigate negotiations between school administrators regarding my scholarship options and grants.

When I first started my applications I told Ada my exact goals for the application cycle and I can now say that I will be attending the law school of my dreams, Harvard Law School!!  In all, working with Ada Sheng, and the entire Anna Ivey consulting group, has been the best investment I have ever made in applying and preparing for my legal education!  

July 7, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: School-Hosted Blogs

As the summer progresses and applicants begin researching their target schools in more depth, we would like to highlight a valuable research tool: school-hosted blogs.  The last few years have seen a significant increase in the number of MBA student blogs hosted by schools’ admissions offices, as well as in admissions offices’ use of blogs to keep applicants informed of deadlines, admissions policies and events.  Both types of blogs are useful throughout the admissions cycle; the factual information in the admissions office blogs is helpful in understanding and planning for the application process, while the student blogs offer valuable insights into student life, culture and academics.

Below we’ve provided links to some of the active blogs hosted by the leading MBA programs.

Admissions Office Blogs:

Harvard Business School Director’s Blog

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business

Wharton MBA Admissions

Stanford MBA Admission Blog

Chicago MBA Admissions Blog

School-Hosted Student Blogs:

London Business School

Fuqua Daytime MBA Student Blog

Wharton Student Diaries

Yale SOM Community Blog

Finally, the Tuck School of Business  offers a blog for which both students and admissions officers contribute.  In addition, the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee at Chicago Booth maintains a blog written by students but offering advice and information on the admissions process at the school.

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.

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