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2012 MBA Action Plan Admissions Q&A with Linda Abraham

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Audio for Q&A (Click to listen now, or right click and choose “Save As” to download and listen later.)

Linda Abraham: Hello. I’d like to welcome you all to this Q&A for the MBA class of 2014. This Q&A is really a response to the many requests we’ve had after our webinars and school-specific Q&A’s for more time for unscripted questions and answers. So that is what this Q&A is about. A word of introduction. I am Linda Abraham, the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s chat. Accepted was founded in 1994, and today is a premier international MBA admissions consultancy. We have guided thousands of applicants from all corners of the globe to acceptance at top MBA programs in almost all corners of the globe.

Next, I would like to warmly welcome Accepted’s senior admissions consultants, Cindy Tokumitsu and Natalie Grinblatt Epstein. Cindy has been advising applicants to acceptance at top MBA programs since 1998. She has also written many of our special reports and blog posts and has co-authored with me several of our e-books. Natalie joined Accepted in 2008, after serving for twenty years in MBA admissions, including since as the admissions director for three MBA programs. The three of us will be responding to your questions. At the end of the Q&A, I will announce a couple of items that could further help you with your application.

A few weeks ago we asked you, MBA applicants, for the questions that you would like to see addressed during this event. You were really generous with your responses, actually fantastic, and after reading every single one of your responses, we culled a list for the most popular topics. In the interest of time, we are going to start with the three questions that seem to come up the most.

The first question is – what are the criteria that applicants should use in choosing schools? How should they choose the schools that they want to apply to?

Cindy Tokumitsu: There is a little bit of a formula that I would suggest for selecting schools. Some of it has to do with the criteria for the schools, and some of it has to do with you. First, identify your own needs, what you require in a school in terms of curriculum and other factors that are existential. Also identify your wants. Your wants may be things that you can compromise on a bit, such as perhaps location. The second step in that process is to frankly evaluate your own candidacy. Look at your numbers, the quality of your work experience, and other factors such as your age, extracurricular, your status perhaps in an over or under-represented group. And overall look at that to determine how competitive you are in a macro way. Then you start going through the programs and identify the ones that have what you need, and given your overall competitive profile, where you are a viable candidate. It just doesn’t make sense to spend time on schools that fall outside of that. That way, you will develop a working list of schools, and you may have to cull that further.

That list will probably contain schools that are reasonable reaches; some will be on par, and perhaps safeties. So then you will have to apply your judgment and your own specific situation to that list if you have lots of schools on it. Perhaps you are in the happy situation of having to narrow it down a bit with all these great options. If you find you only have a couple of schools on that list, you may have to go back and reexamine the initial parameters that you are looking for. So I think that basic three-step process is a good way to get started.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: I agree with Cindy. I’m going to take it a step further and actually have you come up with a spreadsheet. This is what I did when I was applying to schools; I came up with a spreadsheet. And in the spreadsheet I put down the skills set I was bringing to the table, my GMAT score, my undergraduate grades, GPA, and for those of you who are taking the TOEFL, it would go on that list. In another column I put down my goals and what I wanted out of an MBA program: the kind of culture I was looking for, the kind of jobs I could possibly get coming out of the program, so the direction in which I was headed, and whether or not that school’s curriculum met those needs. So the third column that I had in fact was the school’s culture, and the fourth column was whether or not they had expertise in that area. And then when I saw a cross-over, I probably should have done a Venn diagram, but I actually used the spreadsheet. That became my evoked sets in looking for schools, and it made it a lot easier for me to pick two stretch schools, two match schools, and two safety schools. Luckily, I wound up getting into five out of the six schools to which I had applied, and eventually selected the University of Michigan to attend. This is one of the exercises that you can go through.

The other thing to take into context is market dynamics. With market dynamics, we know that applications are actually going to go down next year. We see this in terms of GMAT test-taking trends. We’ve seen this with reports from the schools. This is information that we have on our website, but also GMAT has on its website. Those are good resources for you to look at. So the world of admissions changes cyclically, just like the economy. And understanding where you fit in that scope of things will help you in assessing where you are going to have the best chance of getting in.

Linda Abraham: It also represents opportunity for applicants.

I have a couple of questions for our guests before we proceed. First of all, which tests are you planning to submit? Are you planning to submit:

90% have voted, and it’s all GMAT. So that is pretty clear; we’ll only talk about the GMAT here today.

The second question that I’m going to ask is where are you at with your GMAT? 25% have taken the test and are happy with their scores, 45% have taken it and plan on retaking it, and 30% are studying for the first GMAT.

Returning to the top questions asked, the next question is how should an applicant address a weakness, specifically a low GMAT or a low GPA, or being from an over-represented group? Natalie, can you please address the low stats, and then Cindy, can you please address the over-represented group part of the question.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: This is very common, so don’t feel like you are out of sorts. Nobody has a perfect application, and in fact, I had to retake the GMAT when I was applying to schools. Again, after you’ve gone through the exercise of determining your evoked set of schools, you might have to adjust that evoked set of schools based on the GMAT score. Certainly, you can retake the GMAT. There does become a saturation point for admission directors if you’ve taken the GMAT too many times. For me personally, if somebody took the GMAT more than three times, I started to get a little antsy. I think the key thing with the GMAT is that you have to meet a minimum threshold, particularly on the quant. Most of the top schools want to see that you scored over an 80% on the quant. If you don’t score over an 80% on the quant, you really want to retake the GMAT and concentrate mostly on the quant. With the verbal, they don’t put as much emphasis on it, but they do like to see a balanced GMAT score. And the same thing applies for the AWA. We are looking at students that score a five and above on the AWA, but there is really not as much emphasis on that as there is on the quant because business schools are heavily quantitative.

So my recommendation is if you’ve only taken it once and you’ve scored below 80% on your quant, retake the GMAT. Find a tutor to help you with that 80%, or set your sights a little bit differently in terms of the schools to which you plan to apply. Look at those profiles. Take a look at the kind of students they are admitting to the program and what their average GMAT score is. And remember when they are reporting median, half are above and half are below. So if you want the best chances of getting in, you are certainly scoring above the median, but that doesn’t mean that you are going to be knocked out of the coursework.

In terms of GPA, and I hate using GPA as a terms of a measure because to me it’s really about the academic record. What classes did you take? At what school? What course loads did you carry, and what grades did you receive? And certainly there are people that had issues when they were in school, maybe a semester was not as strong as they wanted to see, but there are some things that you can do to mitigate that. One would be to address that issue in an optional essay. And the second things would be to take some additional coursework, particularly in the quantitative space, although I’ve had some of my clients take writing courses before they go to business school. MBA Math is another great option for you. It will prepare you for school, but it also gives admission directors some semblance of satisfaction to know that you will be able to succeed in the program academically. All in all, you should address these in your optional essay, and certainly we can help you in trying to mitigate any concerns that an admissions director might have.

Linda Abraham: Wouldn’t it be fair to say that if you have a statistical weakness, let’s talk about the GMAT and the GPA, the goal should be to show that those measures are not accurate to show reflections of your ability today? With the GPA, it would be saying that it was basically circumstances in school, etc. that have changed, and provide evidence that you can do better. And with the GMAT, it’s probably to point to either your GPA or your work experience or other tests that you have done well on as evidence that you have done the work. In a nutshell, isn’t the goal to say that those particular measures are not the most credible ones for you?

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: You try to mitigate the concerns of the admissions committee by showing additional coursework. Your work experience may not do that unless you are working in a hefty quantitative field. If it’s one or the other, there are certainly ways to mitigate it. If it’s both, it’s very difficult. And then the third issue is that if you are trying to show a correlation between poor test taking and your GMAT score, then your SAT or ACTs need to be weak and yet you have performed well in school. So there are a lot of factors that go into it, and I really think that on an individual basis, the prospective applicant should really consult with someone in order to figure out how to mitigate the concerns of the admissions committee because there are so many different factors that go in.

Linda Abraham: The other weakness that was commonly asked about in the questions we received was overcoming being from an over-represented group.

Cindy Tokumitsu: I really have to note that this is so important. This is something that we have encountered in massive quantities because part of our mission really is to help you differentiate yourself. There are two key ways to help you stand out. If there is nothing really out there that you can readily identify as differentiating you, I can guarantee that your own story will. It may not seem that dramatic to you, but clarify what motivated you to take a specific action, or to develop certain goals, or how you responded specifically in a situation, or what you learned from a given experience that then led you to take a certain action.

As you can see, what I am referring to are all specifics, not generalities, but really experiences and then the ramifications of those experiences. Your motivations, your perspective. Your story is automatically going to differentiate you. First of all, it’s no one else’s. Even if you are in a group or it looks like your work experience and academic experience is similar to others, how you came to your decisions and your experiences and your life and career goals are really going to be unique to you. Second of all, this approach has the added benefit of being a story and literally is just a lot more interesting to read than pure expository discussions. So I would really dig into your experience to the extent possible. Use that experience by detail in answering the essays.

The second idea is similar. Just like no one has your exact story, no one has your exact responses and perceptions, even if they are in the same work environment, even if they have a similar career path, and even if they had a similar education. So go into the specifics conveying your insights, reflections, perspectives, and perceptions as they derive from actual experiences, and describe those experiences. In a sense, it’s more stories. These can be mini-stories or examples within your essays. That has an added benefit. Not only does it differentiate you just as telling your own story does, but it has the added benefit of showing you to be a reflective, engaged person – someone who is vibrant and will contribute to the program – and that is really something that they are always looking for and are very responsive to. I know what it is like to read essay after essay after essay. And when someone really gets this right and just gets those details and those stories right, it makes the memorable reading of the day very often.

Linda Abraham: How should we balance being ourselves and revealing our passions with practical, winning essays?

Cindy Tokumitsu: I would say that if you are asking this question, you probably perceive some gap of credibility between what you think is going to be a good application and what your actual interests or your passions are, what your goals are. Obviously you have to be ethical and do the right thing and write essays that are true. At the same time, you want to do everything that you can to get yourself admitted and to develop a strategy that will get yourself admitted. So how do you balance the two when it is not clear that they necessarily overlap? You are not obligated, no matter what the question is, to write everything that is in your mind or everything that you are considering about your future goals, or anything you are planning. You have to be selective from that for your essays. And sometimes it will differ from school to school because you are multifaceted, and different facets of you are going to come out depending on different sets of essay questions, even being your most honest and forthright. So not everything is going to or has to come out regarding your passions, your interests, or your goals, although everything you write does have to be true.

So for a particular situation where you feel that your long-term goal or your passion is not really going to be credible, yet that’s really what you want to do and yet here you are, so how do you deal with that? One way is to not focus so much on that glowing horizon out there, that wonderful thing that you want to do, but focus on the nitty gritty. How are you going to get there? You still have to get there anyway, so you might as well focus on it in the essays, and develop a career path post-MBA, or even start perhaps with the internship, but focus on how you are going to get there in practical terms. And you don’t even have to mention it, but what will that last role be before you do that?

I can actually give you an example. I had a wonderful client who was an Indian IT in finance and he wanted to do as his long-term goal a finance enterprise assisting role in India. Now unlike most of my Indian clients, this person actually had no track record of community service. There was nothing at work or outside of work to indicate that this had been a long standing concern of his, even though he was from such an area. But given the competition and the number of people who had similar kinds of goals to assist development back in India, it was just really not going to fly to just say this, although I could certainly hear from talking to him the sincerity of his interest. But working out a career path from where he was to that position right before he might be able to launch such a thing was very exciting. He actually worked out a career path where his short term goal was going to be IT strategy consulting, and from there moving into private equity in India. And as he was working on this career path, he just became very excited, not just on that beautiful vision but also about the opportunities and potential in each of these steps. And his passion ended up coming through for these steps into a successful application. I don’t know what happened to his dream or if that is still the case, but it was a way to deal with that issue in a practical way. And since you are going to have to get from where you are to that goal, this might be a way that will be helpful.

Linda Abraham: I just want to comment also on this question. There can be a tension between being you and writing winning essays. There is certainly a tension between your most causal, least professional self and writing winning essays, or the worst side of you and writing winning essays. There should be no conflict between the best side of you and writing winning essays. It should be really you, but we are all multi-faceted individuals. Choose the facets of you, the real you, that are going to be most valued by an employer, most valued by a team, most prized by your friends. And those are the ones that you want to reveal.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: I think in most cases, people don’t really know what they want to do. They know what they don’t want to do, and that is where they start from, and there is a frustration there. And they read about what these schools are doing and say, oh yeah, I’d like to do that. And that all of a sudden becomes their dream. It’s not really in their heart in terms of what they wanted to do. And I think the key thing in working with a consultant is being 100% honest about that, and letting us help you match those dreams. I mentioned to Cindy and to Linda the other day about a client that I had that was going in completely the wrong direction. The degree program that she wanted was really not the degree program she should be seeking; it was really something completely different. And when we started talking about what that degree would be for her, it started clicking for her – Yeah, that is what I want to do. And she didn’t even recognize that there were degrees out there that would enable here to do what she wanted to do. So don’t think of the MBA as a do all, end all. It is not a magic wand.

Linda Abraham: It is not an end in itself.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: Right. It certainly hones your skills set. For many people it is new, it is creating a skills set. And you certainly get a network and amazing personal growth through that. But the core of your goals and the core that needs to be in those essays, has to be what is inside of you. And so that is where we can help you. As long as you are honest with us, we can help you and we can guide you towards what makes a winning essay for a particular school, keeping your passions at the forefront.

Linda Abraham: Now for today’s questions. Samiur asks, “I’ve changed jobs. This is my third job in four years, and I plan to apply for the class of 2014. I will have had three jobs in 4-5 years. May that be problematic? I’ve had strong reasons for the job changes, in other words, moves to more challenging careers, acquiring actual experience, etc.”

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: The job swapping issue isn’t a problem if you are taking on more and more challenging roles. So as long as you can show why you went from point A to point B to point C, and eventually want to do x after your MBA and how the MBA will help you get there, it’s not really a problem, particularly in today’s economy. So if you can show progression in those roles, I don’t really think it’s an issue, and I think you’d have some interesting stories to talk about as you progressed within the role.

Linda Abraham: If anything, one of the things the schools want to see is professional progression and growth. So if you relay it in those terms, it’s not job hopping or job changing, it’s promotion and growth.

Nagarjuna asks, “I really want to know what the admissions committee looks for in application essays.” Natalie, can you address the “what”, and Cindy, I think you may have touched on how to produce it.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: The “what” at the very basis are some strong writing skills. That is kind of key. But the other thing is that they want you to answer the question, and they want you to answer the question in a way that will resonate with them. So one of the things that Cindy mentioned is that you need to create a story. Stories are memorable. She said that it’s not just probes; it’s really digging in. And not getting into flowery language, but really understanding what they are asking and then addressing what they are asking in a way that enables you to tell the story. So if you are describing a team experience, you may want to talk about what the project is itself and the people that were involved in the project. Maybe hone in on one of those individuals, depending on what the question is and moving forward from there. I like to use frameworks, either PAR: Problem – Action – Result, or STAR: Situation – Task – Action – Result to address stories. It is an easy way for you to put into place what it is you are doing in sometimes 400 words, and sometimes 100 words or less, but for the most part 500-600 words on average. You need to set up the problem, answer the question, and help it resonate with the admissions committee. They want to connect with you. They want to live through your story. You have to make it real for them.

Cindy Tokumitsu: I would say a couple of things to add to that. Sometimes the hardest part of the essay is before you even start to write it, which is deciding what to say. I guess that goes back a little bit to the “what” – what they are looking for. It’s actually a decision making process, and being selective about what you are going to write about for certain essays. And that will actually often guide you, guide the “how”, to make it easier to tell the story. Once you’ve got your mental framework for what you want to say, you probably will have a reason that you want to say it or use that particular experience. So that decision making process upfront is a strategic process and it really can be the most important part of the whole process. That involves an understanding of what you are bringing to the table and where that intersects with what the admissions committees wants overall, and what they want to learn from your essays. You need to make sure that the essays reveal you, and they can be different facets of you, depending on the essay question.

And I think Natalie talked about describing a team member sometimes or digging in. I often tell clients that I see people tending to stay at one kind of level of distance from the experience they are describing. And it really produces a kind of lull in the reader’s mind. I think you should take an analogy from the movies. When you are telling a story or you’re even doing exposition, vary it. Vary the rhythm. Zoom in and zoom out. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes you’ve got to span a few months or maybe even a few years because what happened isn’t really going to add anything. But then you really want to zoom in into one hour when things got really intense in this team meeting. So I know it’s kind of easy to say and not that easy to do, but it still makes a huge difference to the reader to have some variation in there, just as a writing technique to make your stories as lively as possible.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: The essence is that you need to bring the reader into your world. You need to help them become part of that world. Let them walk in your shoes.

Linda Abraham: There is a fantastic book called “Made to Stick”, about memorable communication in general. It’s not an admissions book at all, I just happen to love the book. And I did a webinar specifically called “Essays that Stick”, applying the principles they lay out in that book to application essays and personal statements. It’s all mine, and it should help you with just these essays. How do you make an essay impressive and memorable and persuasive? You also may want to look at the site. We have MBA Essay 101 which provides all kinds of tips and advice and resources – special reports, articles, webinars – that can help you write really good, solid, compelling essays. You can certainly talk to us; we are more than happy to talk to you. But if you want to do some preliminary research on the website, those resources are available for you.

Nagarjuna asks, “I find it difficult to find a resource for the research about this career I’m interested in after my MBA. For example, I am in IT and I want to take up a career in consulting, but as of now I am researching about this industry in websites for top consulting companies. It would help if some other resources or websites could be addressed in this session.”

As a matter of fact, Nagarjuna, I completely agree with you. I think it is very hard for the applicant who has a clear goal. And you should have clear goals to find out what schools best support your goals. So one of the things Accepted.com has started to do and is going to be doing over the next several months is we are going to be focusing on schools that are strong in particular areas. We are going to be talking about the resources that they have in terms of their curriculum, their extracurricular resources, and their recruiting strengths. So you can find the beginnings of that, and we have already two articles for consulting on our blog. And you can look forward to more coming out over the next several weeks and months. The other place you should look is at specialty rankings; those would be a good place for you to start exploring the schools that send a lot of graduates to consulting, in your case. US News has specialty rankings, I think Financial Times has specialty rankings, and Business Week has specialty rankings. And I personally find those ranking more valuable than the general ones.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: One of the things that I have my clients that are interested in consulting do is I have them read “The McKinsey Way”. It’s a book that was written years ago, but it still works for consulting. And there are a series of books that Rasiel wrote, but that one is first and foremost. And if you want to understand management consulting inside and out, that’s the one to read.

Cindy Tokumitsu: I also just want to say that if you want to learn about particular industries, aside from what may be available on the web, it would be great if you could in any way, shape, or form get yourself an informational interview, particularly if you are switching careers, but even if you are not. You don’t need a half hour; ten to fifteen minutes can do wonders, and you can write about making that effort and taking that step in your essays as well. And perhaps you can make contacts in your industry. I’m surprised how few people do this, and I always recommend it.

Linda Abraham: That is a great suggestion, and I’ve seen it work wonders also in terms of the informational interview actually leading to an internship, which has a strong probability of leading to a job. So you don’t ask for anything other than a little bit of time and information; you don’t ask for the internship, you don’t ask for the job at this point. Take somebody to coffee, take somebody to lunch and you simply ask them some good questions.

Shreeraj asks, “I’m curious to know how much specificity is required in goal planning. Can you share any real case example?” He also asks, “Which particular schools match my goal’s needs? Can you list out schools good for consulting careers, project management, and business development careers?”

I’m going to address a little bit of this question and then turn it over to Natalie and Cindy. I would again suggest that you reference the specialty rankings of the different major ranking agencies. I would also say that if you are talking about consulting, project manager, business development, you do not have a clear sharp goal and you need to narrow it. Those are three very distinct and broad fields. And that in my opinion would not be a good solid goal; it would tell me that you don’t know what you really want to do. Natalie, do you agree with that one?

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: I totally agree with that one.

Linda Abraham: So your homework from today’s webinar is to clarify your goal. Getting back to the specificity required in the goals essay, Cindy, last year you were the expert on an MBA Goals webinar that we hosted. Do you want to address that question for us?

Cindy Tokumitsu: Sure. There should always be some specificity. How much will depend on how the question is worded and on how much room you have. So a typical scenario is maybe a 500-700 word essay, and they ask for your short and long-term goals and why you want to apply to that particular program. So you figure that a good portion of that essay is going to be describing your goals. First of all, short-term goals should be more detailed than long-term goals for obvious reasons. But in your short-term goals, you should be discussing things with a due degree of specificity; obviously the industry, but the particular functions that you want to be working in. Give an example or two of a company possibly and those positions. Discuss a little bit about what you will do. Don’t just say you want to go into consulting. They’ll assume you probably want to be a consultant, but there are other roles. Really talk about the role. What do you expect to do and what do you want to accomplish in that short-term goal? It’s not just that you want to learn this, it’s not just what you want to accomplish for yourself. Obviously that goal is a step to later goals.

A lot of people make the mistake of focusing in the short-term goal on what they want to get out of it. I’ll be learning this, I’ll be exposed to that, and I’ll be meeting this person and that. But also you want to accomplish something there; you want to get the admissions committee excited about the idea of you doing that thing. So to do that, you have to talk with some degree of knowledge about what the conditions are, what the circumstances are, and what you will be doing. And then in the broader context, relating back to what I mentioned earlier, you do want to give some sense of motivation for your goals – why you want to do this. That little fact might even end up being a small sentence or two in the essay, and it ends up framing the entire thing and making it dynamic and giving it meaning. Otherwise it’s just kind of information on the page. Having that motivation makes it dynamic.

And last but not least, if you could have a little bit of a vision that relates to what you want to achieve. That would be more like what your legacy would be in that role. That is a lot for the short-term goal. You may not have room for all of that, but you really should have those specifics I would say pretty much for your short-term goals. For your longer term goals, obviously it can be less detailed; it should be less detailed because it is further out and there is a lot more uncertainty.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: I agree with that. I just want to add that one of the things you should keep in mind is how you are going to add value to an organization or an industry or a community. I have a lot of clients who want to move into social entrepreneurship, or any entrepreneurship, and I have them do their executive summary for their business plan. I don’t ask them to do their business plan. I don’t care to see the financials on it, but I do want them to know what the market is, and I make them do some research. And it is important so that you can articulate it. Most of them have gotten to the point where they are going into this in-depth in the interview. And so you need to be able to articulate what that vision is for you.

Linda Abraham: In my mind, the minimum amount of specificity required for an MBA goal is what do you want to do? What function do you want to perform? So it’s function, it’s industry, and where in terms of industry do you want to perform this function? And sometimes it might be geography, depending upon what you actually want to do. Obviously if you want to work in emerging markets, that says something geographically. And for some of you, geographic location can be a really big part of your goal, in which case it should be included. For some of you, it’s just not a big deal.

I had an interesting question emailed to me. “Why do B-schools look for community service in a candidate’s profile? I understand that it makes a candidate seem like a responsible, considerate individual, but is there more to it? Why is it that such qualities are important from a B-school’s perspective? Why does this candidate with a stellar profile, minus community service, score low over somebody with a decent all-rounder? After all, this evil-sounding person can probably contribute to the classroom in more ways than anyone else can.” This evil-sounding person may be a trifle arrogant, but let’s ignore the possible sounding arrogance in this post and respond to some of the questions raised because I think they are shared.

Cindy Tokumitsu: To my understanding, from what I’ve seen and certainly heard from attending and meeting with many of the admissions committees’ top directors at a number of our professional conferences over the years and through Linda’s online chats as well, they want a person who is going to be in it for the long haul. Somebody who has a balanced life, and that often will include community service, is going to be somebody who has their goals but they also have the rest of their life. And when they talk about doing x, y, and z, aside from providing value to the community, they are going to be able to sustain their success and their impact in the community and in the business world over the long haul. Also business schools, and hopefully businesses these days, are more and more concerned about the overall quality of life and sort of social balance, and that is just a value that they have, and you may agree or disagree with it, but they have that value and they want to see it reflected in their students.

Last but not least, community service is a little bit narrow. They want to see something other than just work very often, and commonly that is community service or something like that, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. I work with people who are extremely passionate and accomplished artists or people who have some other kind of outside interest. Many people do sports, but occasionally you’ll meet somebody who does it on a different level. There are different ways to provide that well-roundedness, aside from just strictly community service, so you shouldn’t necessarily think it is only community service.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: I agree with Cindy; it is about well-roundedness. But there is also an old adage that I remember from business school, which is to think globally and act locally. And it is a business’s obligation to take care of the community around them. If a business flourishes, the community around them flourishes. And it’s that mindset that has business schools doing socially responsible activities in and around their community and throughout the world.

Linda Abraham: I think there are actually two points that I would like to add. I think this is kind of intrinsic in what both of you said on this point. One is that one of the basic beliefs of every admissions committee director I have ever met, not to mention most human beings, is that past behavior frequently predicts future behavior. So if you have been active in your community in the past, they believe you will be active in their community in the future if they accept you. And that is something they value. Two, for many people, community service and extracurricular activities are just ways to show leadership where perhaps as a junior member of the staff, you don’t have that opportunity on the job. So those are two other points about community service that I just wanted to highlight in response to this question.

Jolie asks, “I would like to know the schools’ preferences towards re-applicants.” I think the key question here is – what do schools want to see in a re-applicant?

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: I think she posed it correctly because there are some schools that really don’t want to see re-applicants, and there are some that welcome re-applicants. Those that welcome re-applicants want to see that you’ve accomplished some things and you’ve learned some things since the last time you’ve applied. So when you reapply to the program, you need to talk about the achievements you’ve accomplished since last you’ve applied, or things that you’ve addressed that you believed were weaknesses. But for the most part, schools do welcome re-applicants. There are very few that don’t, and I would not bother with the ones that don’t.

Linda Abraham: Manoj asks, “What exactly do the consultants do?” Admissions consultants advise you as you apply to schools on a lot of the questions that have been raised here. But as Natalie pointed out earlier, instead of giving general principles that you have to apply yourself, we can apply them to your particular situation and we can take the exceptions into account and we can weigh everything up, as opposed to giving you general rules that may or may not be applicable to you.

Number two, we could edit your essays, resume, and any other written communications that you have. We can prepare you for interviews. And the advantage of working consistently with one consultant is that the consultant gets to know you. The advantage of having an editor for you writing is that professional writers have professional editors for a reason. And that is because their writing benefits from the second pair of critical eyes. Cindy was an editor for a book publishing house for many years before coming to Accepted. Those professional writers didn’t publish a thing or show much to anybody without having somebody else look it over. I don’t see why amateurs are somehow better writers than professionals and don’t need that. So that ability to have somebody critiquing, mentoring, guiding, and correcting is a tremendous advantage provided by a consultant, and that is what we actually do.

Tarun asks whether he should he give his GMAT a chance first, and then try to clarify his goals.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein: I think overall what he is talking about is how to organize the process of preparing to prepare for your applications. Part of that is going to be knowing where you stand and how much work you are going to need on the GMAT. So I think if you are going to need a lot of preparation for that, you should be able to do that, but also start to think about your goals and do some research on the side. But obviously you have to make a priority. So if the GMAT is going to need a lot of preparation, it would have to be first. But I don’t think it has to be either or. You can do that, and then hopefully, even with a busy career, you can work on some of the other points that you need to work on simultaneously, so that once you take that GMAT, you are ready to go for it.

Linda Abraham: Know what you want to do first and then you’ll know if it’s the GMAT you need, if it’s the MBA you need, and whether that is the test you should be taking. As Natalie said, if you have goals that don’t require an MBA, you don’t need the GMAT, and you might be taking the wrong test at a very high price.

Thank you very much for your questions today. To those of you who responded to our email asking for questions, thank you very much for that too. I want to announce a couple of things happening at Accepted.com.

Thanks again to Natalie and Cindy for sharing their experience and expertise. If you would like to work with either Cindy or Natalie, you can request them in an order or in the comments box of any registration form. You can also reviews their bios online, and request them from the bio page. If you want to ask additional questions, there are several ways you can do so. You can ask the questions on our Facebook wall, in our LinkedIn group, or in a forum. We will be monitoring all of them so if you would like to continue, choose your method.
Thank you so much for your participation today. Good luck with your applications!

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