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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.

July 1, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Addressing Unemployment or Gaps in Employment

Given the emphasis that schools place on a candidate’s work experience, it is important to be proactive in addressing gaps in employment.  When applying to business school, many candidates worry about how the adcom might perceive gaps in employment.  We would like to take some time to discuss strategies for addressing this issue.

It’s not unheard of for an MBA candidate to have a gap in employment, and this will not necessarily make a negative impact on someone’s candidacy.  Gaps might be due to anything from lay-offs to periods of travel.  As a rule of thumb, applicants should explain gaps in employment that are three months or longer in an optional essay or, if instructed, on their data forms.  The adcom will not want to play detective with vague dates on an applicant’s résumé or large chunks of unaccounted for time.  As the adcom will simply want to know what an applicant was doing during a period of unemployment, applicants should show that they made productive use of this time.  It is important for applicants to be open and clear about extended gaps to show that they were not simply spending the time to look for full-time employment.

Addressing current unemployment in applications, however, requires a different strategy than simply discussing past gaps in employment history.  Candidates applying to business school who are not currently employed are in a trickier situation, as business schools view themselves as career accelerators rather than career jump-starters.  The task is not impossible, though, and given the current state of the economy, more candidates are applying to business school during a period of unemployment.  As with addressing gaps in employment, these applicants should not evade discussions centering on this issue.  On the other hand, they should not present unemployment as the reason for applying to business school nor should they suggest that they aren’t presently looking for work due to the need to devote time to their MBA applications (a major red flag).

In addressing unemployment, applicants should show that they are doing their best to find something temporary or engaging in volunteer work.  Ideally, applicants would show that they are doing something in line with their stated professional goals, like attending conferences or working to secure an internship in a field they want to explore.  Whatever the case, applicants should be honest and appear proactive.

As every applicant is unique, we encourage our readers to contact Clear Admit directly if they need guidance on tackling a gap in employment or current unemployment situation.  Send us your résumé and sign up for a free one-on-one session with one of our counselors.

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.

June 23, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Visiting the Campus

As many applicants are finding out at this time of year, conducting thorough research on MBA programs is an essential step in formulating a list of target schools and crafting convincing essays.  Surfing the web and speaking with friends and mentors are great starting points in identifying programs of interest.  However, to really get a feel for a school and determine whether it’s a good fit for one’s goals and personality, applicants need to dig deeper and gain some firsthand experience with the program and the people.  Visiting the campus is a great way to gather this kind of information, and it can also be advantageous in the application process.  Although most formal campus visit programs will not start until the fall (when classes are in session), we’d like to offer a few “head start” pointers for getting as much mileage as possible out of a trip to your target program.

1) Make yourself known.  Putting forth the effort to travel to a school is a signal of interest in the program that the adcom loves to see, however, you need to let them know that you’ve made the trip.  It is possible to communicate this in your essays and interview, but the simplest route is often to register for a visit through the admissions office.  Not only will most schools arrange for you to sit in on a class and have lunch with current students, but many will also make a note of your visit and include it in your file.  Be sure to take advantage of all that the admissions office offers in this regard; even if you have friends on campus, it’s wise to speak to as many people as possible.

2) Think it through.  Before arriving on campus, you should think carefully about the sort of information you hope to take away from your visit.  Whether your inquiries cover something as broad as the night life or as narrow as the syllabus of a particular course, your trip will be much more informative if you come prepared with a sense of the details you hope to glean from information sessions and conversations.  Further, it’s a great idea to reach out to members of the community before you arrive; if there’s a club about which you are particularly curious, for instance, you could contact one of its leaders and arrange a conversation over coffee on the day of your visit.

3) Put your best foot forward.  Even though your conduct and interactions won’t be on the record in the way that they would be when interviewing on campus, it’s important that you be aware of the impression you’re making.  Because spending time on campus is a great way to forge ongoing contacts with students who could become allies for you in the admissions process, you’ll naturally want to put your best foot forward.

We hope that these simple tips will set applicants on the path toward a positive and productive stay on campus.  For more tailored guidance on application strategy and school selection, feel free to contact us for a free initial consultation or check out the school-specific information in the Clear Admit School Guides.

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.

June 23, 2014

Should I Submit Supporting Materials for a Required Disclosure Addendum?

I am writing an addendum for a disciplinary probation proceeding.  The infraction was described by the judicial proceeding as: “used outside sources on an assignment without proper attribution.” The assignment was to “imagine myself as a curator for an art exhibit,” and to record myself giving a tour in which I should discuss certain paintings – their form, style, origins, etc.

The intent was not to deceive, but rather I was careless in completing an unfamiliar assignment. I described this using those words and wrote briefly about how I learned to bring a much greater degree of scrutiny to my work.  

My question:

The Dean of Students for my college offered to write me a brief letter of character discussing how the incident unfolded since before any judicial measures were taken by the professor I immediately brought the assignment to him and said: "this is what I did -- did I screw up?" We have a close relationship.  The point would be to impart that this was not a question of character, but a moment of carelessness which is no longer an issue -- he is willing to attest to that.

Should I include this with my addendum and attach it to the section that asks me to disclose disciplinary action, or do I leave it out and just attach my explanation.

And here we always thought it was obvious how to put yourself in the shoes of an art curator. ;)

That's not to triviliaze the charges or the proceedings. They are serious things, and because they are serious things, I think it's a great idea to attach his letter if he's willing to write it.

You're not required to include a letter like that for your disclosure addendum, but what a nice bonus that your Dean of Students has volunteered to write you one. Everything you say in your disclosure has to be accurate, as I can tell you already know, but it can help to have a third, authoritative party with some knowledge about you and the incident validate that your one lapse in judgment won't be an ongoing problem.

If he weren't saying supportive things, it wouldn't help you to include the letter, but in this instance, it sounds like a good thing for you, and something an admissions officer might value.

Good luck to you! Hope it all works out.


Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. You can find more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions. Join the conversation here in the blog comments and on Twitter and Facebook, or email us a new question for the blog.

June 16, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: How to Write a Résumé that Will Get You In | Admissions Tip

Your résumé is not only an important component of your MBA application, it’s also a great place to start when crafting your overall positioning strategy.  This document forces one to distill a candidacy into a concise summary, focusing on key aspects and themes.  With that in mind, here are a few simple tips to get you started:

1) First things first.  Because you’re applying to graduate school, it makes sense to lead this document with a section detailing your academic history.  This is also the format that many business schools’ career offices instruct students to use when applying for internships or full-time jobs post-graduation.

2) Keep it simple.  While you’ll certainly want to describe your professional responsibilities and achievements in some detail, remember that this document needs to fit on a single page, with very few exceptions.  Rather than overwhelming the reader with information, try to identify three or four discrete projects or accomplishments to complement a few concise statements about your day to day responsibilities in each position.  Remember that it’s also important to be as specific as possible about the impact you’ve had on your organization by quantifying the results of your efforts.

3) Round it out.  Don’t discount the importance of your interests and outside activities.  Schools like applicants who are well rounded and demonstrate a track record of involvement outside of work and the classroom, so formal extracurricular activities are a logical category to include.  At the same time, information about your less structured interests and hobbies is also relevant, as these details can lend some more color to your candidacy and help the adcom get to know you better.  Remember to be as specific as possible; many business school applicants are interested in “travel” or “film,” so specifying a region you especially enjoy visiting or your favorite movie genre will be the key to setting yourself apart.

We hope that these general guidelines serve as a good starting point for Class of 2017 applicants in translating their experiences and achievements into this brief but important document.  For more tailored guidance, contact us to speak with one of our counselors about your background.  You can also read the Clear Admit Résumé Guide for a complete step-by-step “instruction manual” for crafting your résumé (available for download in our publications shop).

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.

June 9, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Crafting Strong Essays – The Rewards of Reflection

With several of the leading schools having already released their essay questions for this admissions season, we’re sure that quite a number of early birds are eager to get a jump on the process in order to complete as many applications as possible by Round 1.  As applicants find themselves brainstorming for essay topics, we wanted to offer a few tips on presenting yourself and your experiences as advantageously as possible.

1) Take time to reflect.  Before diving in and beginning work on a draft of any one essay, it’s often fruitful to think carefully about all of the stories and accomplishments at one’s disposal.  These can include experiences from the professional realm, formal outside activities, college clubs and even more casual hobbies and interests.  A comprehensive, reflective approach should enable you to arrive at the essay topics that are most impressive and in line with your overall positioning.

2) Establish balance.  It is crucial that your essays work together to present a consistent and compelling picture of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you bring to the table; the adcom is looking for students who are interesting, well-rounded, and likely to make a contribution to the school both in and out of the classroom.  In selecting topics for your essays from your list of possibilities, remember that it’s ideal to have a balance of stories covering your full career and to introduce your interests and involvements outside of work.

3) Keep it relevant.  While it’s important that you have a wide range of stories to tell and positive characteristics to convey, there are a few things that you shouldn’t mention in your essays.  In terms of chronology, remember that you are applying to graduate school and that the adcom is primarily interested in your experiences since the time you began college.  There are of course some exceptions to this (such as questions that ask you to recap your life story or discuss what matters most to you), but as a general rule it’s best to avoid writing at length about your high school accomplishments or your upbringing, as this can make an applicant sound immature or stuck in the past.  Other topics of which you should steer clear are those that are potentially sensitive or emotionally charged, such as politics and religion.

4) Show, don’t tell.  Keep in mind that a given adcom reader often spends only 15 or 20 minutes on each application.  As a result, it is imperative that you make an impression and give the reader a clear sense of who you are and what you’ve done.  Specific anecdotes and vivid details make a much greater impact than general claims and broad summaries.  Be sure to quantify your impact, fully explain your actions, and provide illustrative examples to produce a set of engaging essays.

Happy writing!  Stay tuned to this blog throughout the summer for additional essay-specific tips and guidelines.  Feel free to contact us for a free initial consult on your candidacy and to speak with one of our admissions counselors on how to best approach your target schools’ essay topics.

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.

June 9, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 50 -- Handling the Vital Records Related to College Admissions

Through the course of the last few years, you have accumulated a lot of “stuff” related to your college applications – some of it is probably paper (college brochures and printouts of applications), but most of it is probably electronic (emails, online applications, documents, files). A huge percentage of this “stuff” is now trash and it doesn’t really matter much what happens to it, but a small, significant percentage of this “stuff” is your treasure -- vital records that you should take the time to preserve and store securely. This week’s tips and tricks help you sort the treasure from the trash and tells you what to do with the treasure once you find it.

Week 50 To-Dos 

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to either the college where you are enrolling or any college where you are on a wait list. All else is now junk! 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

  • Retrieve your vital records from your piles of “college admissions” stuff.
  • Store your vital records securely.   

Tips and Tricks

1) Vital records are now your responsibility.

Keeping track of your vital records is one of the responsibilities that you acquire as a grown-up. Up to now, your parents have probably done this on your behalf. They have preserved and stored records like your birth certificate, your medical records, and your citizenship documents for you. But you are about to be launched from living under their care and into the adult world, so soon keeping track of your vital records will be something on your list of things to do.

Retrieving your vital records related to college admissions is a great place to start. When we speak about vital records, we are really talking about two sets of records:

  • records that are legal documentation that you may want or need in the future; and,
  • records that provide you with information or work product that you may want or need in the future.


2) Use this list to identify your vital records when it comes to college admissions.

We put the following things into the “vital records” category when it comes to all the stuff you have related to college admissions:

  • A list of where you applied and the outcome from every application (you won’t believe this, but in a few years, you will forget and you get asked on transfer applications and graduate/professional school applications).
  • Copies of all submitted applications (download them from the Common App or other online applications because these databases are “cleared” every year and you won’t be able to retrieve them long past June 30);
  • Copies of all submitted financial aid forms and all submitted scholarship applications;
  • Originals of any offers of admission (the signed letters, not just the emails), denials, offers for wait lists.
  • Originals of your financial aid award and/or scholarship award letters.
  • Copies of documentation for colleges where you withdrew your applications before decisions.
  • Electronic versions of all your essays (you may actually want to recycle, re-use them in the future and it represents a lot of work!)
  • Electronic version of any resumes you created (choose one to use as your master and update it now!)
  • Proof of payment of your enrollment deposit (credit card receipt or copy of cashed check)
  • Copies of all documents submitted for purposes of obtaining a student visa.
  • Copies of any documents or forms you have completed or submitted to the college you will be attending – housing deposits, orientation enrollment, registrations, etc.
  • An official transcript from your school with your final grades and graduation documented (you’ll have to request this from them).
  • Official test score reports for all the standardized tests you took.
  • Login information for the standardized test sites – your accounts stay live with them forever and you may be taking more of their tests in the future (come grad school time).
  • Your high school certificate or diploma (if framing, copy goes in vital records)
  • Copies of any recommendations or other supporting documents that others shared with you.
  • Copies of all your supplementary materials (portfolio etc.)
  • Contact information for all key people that you might want to stay in touch with, particularly your recommenders, your interviewers, and admissions officers.

3) Preserve and store securely. 

These vital records need to be preserved and stored securely. Here is what we suggest: 

  • For paper/hard copy documents (like transcripts, signed letters): scan and keep one copy in your digital storage, store the paper originals in a fireproof, locking box of some sort – it can be a file cabinet or safe at your parent’s house (if they don’t mind) or a safety deposit box. 
  • For electronic documents: store in two locations – one in the cloud and one on an external drive that you put in the fireproof, locking box. In the cloud, your options include iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Evernote, and more. Your external drive can be a thumb drive or a zip drive.

Note that we are creating “duplication” and “redundancy” in your storage system. Paper copies AND electronic copies; physical locking box AND digital cloud box AND digital external drive. Duplication and redundancy are the keys to making your system failsafe – there is never just ONE place that the document exists.

4) Use labels/tags and names to make search and retrieval easy.  

Take the time to create labels/tags and names for your vital records that make them easily searchable and retrievable. Although full text searching means that labels/tags and names aren’t as important as they used to be, it is faster and easier to find the essay you wrote about why you wanted to study mechanical engineering if it is labeled/tagged “why mechanical engineering” or the name of the document is “Why Mechanical Engineering Essay” than it would be if document has no labels/tags and is named doc13.

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.


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