Cornell Johnson: A Visit

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Sage Hall at the Johnson School

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University . A few elements in my visit really stand out, and I want to share them with you.

Class visit I attended a Managing and Leading in Organizations class taught by Dr. Kathleen O’Connor. She led with wit and humor a lively case discussion on Lincoln Electric. The high level of engagement impressed me. I sat at the back of a theater style classroom so I had a great vantage point. No one was surfing the web, checking email, or visiting Facebook pages. All were focused on the discussion at hand, and the overwhelming majority seemed highly prepared to deal with the questions posed, whether they volunteered answers or were cold-called.

I was also impressed with Dr. O’Connor’s practical approach. She mentioned early in the class that one outcome must be learning something from Lincoln Electric’s success that could be applied by the MBA students in future work. My sense was that her orientation is not unique to her or this particular case.

I met with a first-year MBA student before the class, and he proudly told me that he has a summer internship lined up, and that it was exactly what he had hoped for. He seems very happy with his Cornell Johnson experience. After class, when I commented on the lack of electronics in the classroom, he explained that Johnson classrooms are electronics-free zones.  Wise policy.

Meeting I also met with Christine Sneva, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, and Ann Richards, Associate Director of Admissions and Director of Financial Aid Latin America, East & Southeast Asia. Here are a few highlights of our discussion.

Portfolio of programs We spoke about the portfolio of graduate business programs Johnson at Cornell University has developed over the last several years, focusing mostly on the MBA programs. It was clear from our discussion that the two-year program and the different one-year programs each fill different needs in the graduate management education marketplace. Ann and Christine spoke proudly of the May launch of Cornell Tech’s one-year MBA program in Manhattan and its digital focus. They acknowledged the broadening of the one-year Ithaca program from one geared to people with advanced degrees in science and technical fields to one for people with an expanded array of higher educational achievement including JD, CPA, and other masters and advanced degrees. Then of course there is the two-year Ithaca program geared towards those seeking a broader and more traditional MBA education. They also indicated that other options may be coming.

Entrepreneurship A big buzz word and focus in top business schools now is entrepreneurship. While entrepreneurship is great, and I know my MBA was critical to my launching Accepted, I also know that it is still a path pursued upon graduation by less than 5% of new MBAs.  I expressed a certain skepticism about the current entrepreneurial obsession and received two great responses: 1) Many MBAs start their own business further down the road so ultimately they will be business owners. 2) Entrepreneurship is state of mind, a willingness to take risks and start something new. This mindset is something that can be taught and is valuable for existing companies who want to grow and respond to a dynamic and fluid market place. Cornell, which has evinced its own entrepreneurial spirit with the growth of Cornell Tech and the expansion of its programs, is walking the walk and talking the talk. Ann and Christine also told me that Ithaca is growing as an entrepreneurial hub for a few reasons:

1. The University resources are right there.

2. Since the cost of living is low, it is more affordable to attempt a start-up.

3. New York State is giving major tax breaks to start-ups in Northern New York.

4. Quality of life is good.

I’m glad I was able to visit Johnson at Cornell University even briefly. It’s in a gorgeous part of the country and housed in a magnificent facility. Enjoying the surroundings is a bonus, but the real value lies in seeing a school close-up, talking to members of its community, and being able to add greater context and insight to information found online, in brochures, and even gleaned from conversations. There is simply nothing like a visit when you want to learn about a school.

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

What Do B-School Alumni Think?

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95% of alumni said they would recommend their MBA program. Not bad.

GMAC released its 2014 Alumni Perspectives Survey this week – below are the highlights from the report:

•  21,000 b-school alumni from the classes of 1959-2013 responded to the survey.

•  83% of alumni from the classes of 1959-2013 reported that their graduate management degrees played an essential role in finding a job.

•  91% of 2010-2013 alumni rated their management education value from good to outstanding when compared to the cost of the degree. This compares to 95% of graduates from the classes of 2000-2009, and to 98% of alumni from the 1950s-1990s.

•  95% of alumni said they would recommend their MBA program, another sign of very high satisfaction.

•  45% of self-employed alumni who graduated in 2010-2013 started their businesses at graduation. Before 1990, that number was at just 7%.

•  66% of 2010-2013 grads say that their management education was financially rewarding. In the 1990s, the percentage was at 84%, and prior to 1990, it was at 87%.

• 77% of alumni give financially to their alma mater.

•  83% of alumni reported that they are satisfied with their jobs.

•  20% of alumni work in finance and accounting and 20% in products and services.

See the 2014 Alumni Perspectives Survey for more details.

Take-aways from the 2014 GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey.

•  The main conclusion to draw from this alumni survey, as with previous ones, is that alumni are overwhelmingly satisfied with their graduate education in business. Other graduate educational categories would love to be able to report the kinds of numbers that GMAC routinely presents.

In short, reports of the MBA’s demise are greatly exaggerated. (While the survey includes responses from non-MBA graduate management alumni, approximately 75% are from MBA alumni and more than half of the MBAs were enrolled in two-year, full-time MBA programs.)

•  Cloud hidden in all the glitter. GMAC attributes increased satisfaction with the degree and specifically with the value of graduate management education among more senior alumni to the passage of time. The more senior the grads, the happier they are that they invested in an MBA.

However there could be a much more concrete contributing factor: Perhaps those changing numbers over time are also due to the increased cost of the degree over the last thirty years. In other words, more recent alumni see a lower ROI and are consequently slightly less ecstatic simply because the cost has increased.

This development doesn’t mean that the degree lacks value for you applying now or in the next couple of years. It means you need to do your homework and look at expected return on your MBA investment, just as you would analyze expected return on any other investment.

If schools don’t get tuition under control and MBA salaries stay relatively flat, those satisfaction stats will decline over time.

•  MBAs are increasingly, although still in fairly small numbers, starting their own businesses upon graduation. In the past the overwhelming majority of MBAs worked as employees for at least three years before starting their ventures. However, since 2010, 45% of self-employed alumni started their own business immediately upon finishing their MBA.

•  “Soft skills” taught in business school are among the top five skills business school alumni use on the job regardless of the alum’s job function. Perhaps critics who say you can learn what business schools teach from books or by taking a few business functional courses are missing key benefits of the education.

This Special Report will help you navigate the MBA Maze.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Pew Study Shows Grad Degrees Pay Off!

Learn how to evaluate your profile, skills, and experiences to determine if, when, and where you should apply to graduate school.

A graduate education can be a fantastic investment, or burdensome expense.

According to a Pew study, earnings of college grads with no further education have increased 13% since 1984, while earnings of those with advanced degrees have risen 23% in that same time period. For those with professional and doctorate degrees, the numbers jump even higher, to 34%.

This data, however, doesn’t take into account the following two things: 1) These increases don’t reflect the unemployment rate – that is, they only show a pay increase for those graduates who have found work; 2) They don’t take household income into consideration – the higher the socioeconomic status, the greater the chance is that marriage and childbearing has been delayed (i.e. fewer dependents) and the greater the chance for greater gains.

Let’s take a look at monthly household income for a moment: The median adjusted monthly household income of college graduates has gone up $1,300 since 1984. For households headed by someone with an advanced degree, that inflation-adjusted amount is $1,500, and for those with professional or doctorate degrees, it’s skyrocketed to $3,400. For those who have not completed a bachelor’s degree, monthly household income has decreased since 1984.

Here are two additional points:

•   The study doesn’t show that higher education has caused financial gain, just the association between the two.

•   Since 1984, the percentage of college grads who’ve gone on to complete an advanced degree has only gone up 1% (from 26% in 1984 to 27% in 2009). This amount is statistically insignificant and goes against the belief that a weak economy pushes people into higher education.

My Thoughts

While I’m always glad to see evidence that a graduate education pays off, I’m concerned about two omissions in this report.

1. This research doesn’t reflect the increased cost of graduate education since 1984.

2. By talking in terms of averages and aggregates, this research doesn’t reflect the uneven benefits of graduate and professional education. The STEM fields in general are booming. The job market for humanities and law grads has basically crashed.

Before plunking down those tuition dollars or even starting the application process, it behooves you to pursue your dreams with an eye on the top and bottom line and a few of the lines in between. What is your education going to cost you? What are the likely financial benefits?

A graduate education can be a fantastic investment, or burdensome expense. Do the homework and research necessary before spending your hard earned cash or assuming thousands of dollars in debt. You want to arrive on campus with confidence that the return on your tuition dollar and time will be more fantastic than the cost.

Download your free copy of GET YOUR GAME ON: Preparing for Your Grad School Application

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Top MBA Programs for Entrepreneurs

B-schools are always touting their entrepreneurial offerings, programs, and placement, so when we examined the employment reports of U.S. News’ top 25 business schools to see which schools send the most graduates into entrepreneurship, we were surprised to find that only thirteen programs provide this information in their employment reports.

Below you’ll find the results – the U.S. News’ top 25 MBA programs that reveal the number and percentage of 2013 grads who immediately founded their own businesses after completing their MBA:


# of 2013 Grads

Starting Their Own Business

% of 2013 Grads

Starting Their Own Business

Standford GSB 70 18%
MIT Sloan 37 9.5%
Wharton 59 7.5%
Harvard Business School 63 7%
Yale SOM 10 4.5%
UCLA Anderson 14 4%
Kellogg* 3%
Chicago Booth 17 3%
Columbia 18 2.5%
NYU Stern 2%**
Michigan Ross 8 1.5%
Duke Fuqua 4 1%
CMU Tepper 2 1%

* Numbers include all Kellogg MBA programs
** % of reported placements

Clearly, Stanford is way out in front in this horse race. MIT Sloan with its program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation is a distant #2, followed by HBS and Wharton in a tie for third place. Stanford and Sloan have long been known for entrepreneurship, but HBS and Wharton are generally thought of as financial services and consulting breeding grounds. In reality, both programs – without taking away from their strength in consulting and financial services – have sharpened the entrepreneurial saw over the last decade.

This comparison is useful for those of you who want to start your own business ASAP after earning an MBA. It is an indication of an entrepreneurial culture and education. And if entrepreneurial spirit and ultimately an entrepreneurial alumni network is important to you, then you need to know which schools are strong in this area and how they compare.

While this listing is useful, it still doesn’t tell the entire story of MBA programs’ entrepreneurial strength. Many business school grads will work for a few years to pay back loans and then start their own businesses. Among those, there will be a few grads who immediately enter a startup, so essentially they will initially be entrepreneurs on someone else’s dime. There are other MBAs who will work in entrepreneurial areas of established companies. None of these MBAs are reflected in the chart above, but all still benefited from their MBA program’s entrepreneurial education and culture.

Additionally, either we couldn’t find the data or schools don’t all publish these numbers. Consequently, the chart above is incomplete. Don’t automatically assume that programs we haven’t listed aren’t good for entrepreneurship. For example Haas has a highly entrepreneurial culture and many courses relevant to entrepreneurship, but we couldn’t find the number of 2013 grads who started their own business immediately upon graduation. Don’t let that lack of info prevent you from considering Haas if founding a startup is your dream. Similarly, Georgetown has many entrepreneurship resources (See Jeff Reid on Entrepreneurship at Georgetown). Finally, programs outside US News’ top 25, may be excellent for entrepreneurship, deserving of consideration, and easier to get into (For example, Babson).

As with almost all stats in MBA admissions – especially anything related to (un)rankings and comparing programs – take this data as useful information not as the be all and end all of evaluating the entrepreneurial value of different MBA programs. It is simply a succinct compilation of data that you should incorporate into the additional research you should do before deciding where to earn your MBA. Also consider:

• Entrepreneurial curriculum. What classes are offered? Are there opportunities to develop and work on a business plan?

• Extracurricular groups and activities. Are there venture capital competitions, clubs, events, etc.?

• The student profiles at specific schools. Are they entrepreneurial? Would you like to be on a project with them?

Now it’s time for me to get back to drafting that business plan on the back of a napkin.

If any school in the US News’ top 25 includes that data in their employment report and we missed it, or they published the data after we visited their site, please email and we’ll add it.

MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

FT’s Best Global MBA Programs in 2014

The Financial Times released its 2014 global MBA rankings! Read on for the list, the facts, the analysis, and the sources.

The List:

2014 Rank

3 Year

School Country 
1 1 Harvard Business School USA
2 2 Stanford Graduate
School of Business
3 4 London Business School UK
4 3 U Penn Wharton USA
5 5 Columbia Business
6 6 INSEAD France/Singapore
7 8 IESE Business School Spain
8 8 MIT Sloan USA
9 10 Chicago Booth USA
10 15 Yale School of Management USA
11 12 UC Berkeley Haas USA
12 15 IMD Switzerland
13 11 IE Business School Spain
14 11 Hong Kong UST
Business School
15 15 Northwestern Kellogg USA
16 19 Cambridge Judge UK
17 17 Duke Fuqua USA
18 18 NYU Stern USA
19 19 CEIBS China
20 18 Dartmouth Tuck USA

To truly understand the rankings, much less use them, please see the methodology so you’ll know what’s being ranked. While there are twenty factors considered in the FT rankings, the FT methodology puts the most weight on increase in salary in $US PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) and weighted salary in $US PPP.

Poets and Quants criticizes the FT rankings for absurd results in calculating “Value for Money” as well as for having too many criteria and several criteria that really don’t reflect the quality of education. Others say that it is biased against U.S. programs.

Regardless of the criticism’s validity, the FT ranking is arguably the most cited ranking of global programs because it compares U.S. and international programs in one ranking and seems to do a better job of it than the alternatives. That prominence doesn’t mean these rankings are Gospel. It does mean you have a lot of data in a format where you can easily compare MBA programs from around the world on designated criteria.

The Facts:

Here are some fun facts about FT’s 2014 rankings:

• 7 of the top 10 and 12 of the top 20 programs ranked are US schools.

• Big jumpers this year include Boston University’s business school and Washington Forster, which each jumped 20 spots, to 75th and 58th place, respectively. Another big US jumper this year was USC Marshall which jumped 17 spots to 65th place. UNC Kenan Flagler jumped up 12 slots this year from its 3-year average rank, moving from #45 to #33.

• The biggest losers this year include Dublin’s Smurfit School (dropped 27 spots to 91st place) and Vlerick Business School (fell 16 places to 100th place), as well as the schools which disappeared off the list entirely: U of Iowa’s Tippie School (74th last year), Korea University Business School (86th last year), Incae Business School in Costa Rica (90th last year), Case Western’s Weatherhead School (94th last year), and others.

• Newcomers to the list include: UC Davis (98th), Wake Forest (94th), BYU’s Marriott School (93rd), and ESMT European School of Management and Technology in Germany (89th).

• In terms of geographic representation, the top 20 schools are all in the US, UK, Europe (France, Spain, Switzerland), China, and Singapore, but further down the list, other countries gain their spots: India comes in at 30th place with the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad; SDA Bocconi in 31st place represents Italy; South Korea appears in 45th place with Sungkyunkwan University’s GSB; Canada’s first school on the list is Toronto Rotman at 51st place; Portugal follows with The Lisbon MBA in 52nd place (new to list); South Africa’s U. of Cape Town GSB comes in at 59th place; in the 62nd slot we have Australia’s Australian Graduate School of Management; and Brazil’s Coppead is in 79th place.

•  The city with the highest concentration of schools in the top 100 is (of course) Boston with six top b-schools – Harvard (1), MIT Sloan (8), Hult International Business School (61), BU School of Management (75), Boston College Carroll (82), and Babson Olin (95).

The Analysis:

While it’s fun to look at the changes – who climbed and who sank – for me the real lessons from this ranking are:

1. The top programs move and change very slowly. That lack of drama in these rankings is a better reflection of reality than the gyrations one sees outside the top twenty. Significant change takes time so sharp jumps and dives probably mean nothing. Sustained change in ranking has greater credibility – if you value the same qualities as the FT.

2. The one point made repeatedly in the commentary on this ranking, and it is the same conclusion I draw from both the FT ranking and the Forbes ranking, which both emphasize ROI and increase in salary, is this: The MBA education at top programs provides a solid return on investment for most students. The MBAs surveyed for the FT rankings started their MBA in 2008, just as the Great Recession hit, and graduated in 2010. These MBAs still report on average a 100% increase in salary over what they were making before they started business school.

There are obviously critics of graduate business education, specifically the MBA, and those detractors either believe an MBA isn’t valuable or that the value has declined. I agree with the latter group. However, the questions for today’s applicants are:

1. “Given my current professional background and salary and my anticipated salary after I earn an MBA, do the anticipated financial rewards plus increased job satisfaction justify the investment (both out of pocket and opportunity costs)?” The fact that those entering b-school ten or twenty years ago could anticipate a higher ROI is irrelevant. It is merely a historical curiosity and for you an unfortunate one.

2. “Is the full-time MBA – or whatever flavor you are considering – the optimal way for me to attain my MBA goals?”

FT, to its credit, also has an article on those claiming the MBA is not worth the effort. Sometimes they are right. Each one of you individually needs to examine your circumstances and goals to see if for you the MBA is an expensive waste of time and effort, or if for you it is likely to be worth both. Clearly, most of the people surveyed by Forbes, the Financial Times, and GMAC are in the latter group.

In this video  Della Bradshaw, FT’s Business Education Editor, discusses the results of this year’s FT Global MBA rankings including the finding that MBAs in the class of 2010 are now enjoying salaries double those they were earning before they entered b-school.

The Sources

• FT Global MBA Ranking 2014

•  FT: MBA Ranking 2014: Key & Methodology

•  FT: Big Names Dominate FT MBA Ranking Top Spots

•  P&Q: Winners & Losers in 2014 FT MBA Ranking

•  Accepted: 4 Ways You Should NOT Use the MBA Rankings

•  Accepted: MBA Rankings: What You Need to Know

Learn how to evaluate your profile to determine the best business school for you!

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Columbia MBA Extends Fellowship Deadline

Columbia Business School has on its web site the following notice:


As I noted in response to Kellogg’s postponement of its Round 2 deadline, if you feel your application is ready — you’ve put in the necessary time to think and write, edited it, and proofed it appropriately — don’t feel compelled to start monkeying with the essays or answers. You may actually make it worse. Just submit.

If on the other hand, you believe you rushed the writing or didn’t have the appropriate distance and objectivity when editing and proofing your application, then take advantage of the postponement to work on it some more and submit tomorrow.

You may want to view the MBA Essay Editing Funnel,  an on-demand webinar, if you’re not sure if you thoroughly checked your application.

Kellogg Extends Round 2 MBA Application Deadline 2 Days

Due to the bitter cold in the Midwest, Kellogg’s admissions office is closed today.

Kellogg announced that it has extended its Round 2 deadline two days. The new deadline is January 9, 2014 at 5 PM CST. The Kellogg website reflects the change.

If you feel your application is ready — you’ve written it, edited it, and proofed it again, don’t feel compelled to agonize further or to wait until Thursday to submit. Go ahead and send it in. Then you can chill.  (Oops poor use of the word for most of the country.)

On the other hand, if you feel you rushed your Kellogg application or didn’t have the proper distance or perspective to edit it, then take advantage of the additional two days.  Put it on ice (sorry) until tomorrow, and then edit it and submit either tomorrow or Thursday.

Download your free report: TOP MBA PROGRAM ESSAY QUESTIONS: HOW TO ANSWER THEM RIGHT! Detailed question analyses and valuable advice on how to answer the questions so your candidacy shines.

Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Your Resume – Part 1: The 9 Do’s

Use these resources to help you construct a winning business school resume. While some potential employers or b-school adcoms may spend a few minutes looking at your resume, the vast majority will spend less than that. You may conclude from that that your resume is not so important since it will only receive a cursory glance, but it actually works the other way around: Since they’ll only be spending about 20 to 30 seconds looking at your resume, you need to make sure that your resume is written in a way that only a moment’s glance will provide its readers with an understanding of your key skills and experiences.

This is not an easy feat.

The following “Do’s and Don’ts” will help you create a powerful, dynamic resume that will enable you to sail through the employer’s initial 15-second screening process and earn your outstanding qualifications the closer look they deserve. If your resume will be used in your b-school application, these tips will help you compose a resume that complements the other components in your application to help show that you are the well-rounded, capable, and compelling applicant that the adcoms are seeking.

The Do’s:

1) Place your strongest material at the top of your resume. Create a two-inch space 2 5/8 inches from the top of the page and use this as your “primetime” space—this is where you’ll showcase your most impactful, impressive qualifications and achievements. If your resume reader only gets this far, at least he or she will have received a compelling image of who you are and what you can do. You should write this professional profile/qualifications section after you’ve completed the rest of your resume, when you have a better idea of what your strongest assets are.

2) Give your most recent professional experience the most attention. This position should receive the most space on your resume and should include more bulleted accomplishments than previous positions.

3) Rank accomplishments in order of decreasing relevance.

4) Use details to quantify your impact on the organizations you’ve worked for. Include how much or by what percentage you reduced expenses. Say how many people were on the team that you supervised. Demonstrate your impact by using specific numbers.

5) Place your educational information after your work experience if you’ve been working for more than five years.

6) Resume design should be as important as resume content. Use a 10- to 12-point conservative typeface (nothing in script or with squiggles that you think looks fancy or pretty), use lines to separate resume sections, and try and stay within 1″ margins (slightly smaller on the top and bottom of the page).

7) Include resume “extras” like honors, publications, presentations, patents, professional licenses or certifications, and relevant volunteer experiences. These points of interest could be what convince the employer or adcom to invite you in for an interview.

8) Proofread and edit mercilessly. Reduce fluff and make every word count. Spell check, grammar check, and style check. Have a friend or a professional editor look over your resume for errors you may have missed.

9) For your MBA application, stick to a one-page resume.

Stay tuned for Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Your Resume – Part 2: The 10 Don’ts.

Click here to download your free report!

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

2014 Hiring Outlook Looking Good

Interested in a maters in management? Check out our interview with Sheryle Dirks of Duke's MiM program!

MiM Grads Seeing the Greatest Increase in Demand.

The most recent GMAC press release shared new data from the company’s Year-End Poll of Employers, including the following highlights:

• 72% of employers polled plan to hire b-school graduates, up slightly from this past year’s 71%.

• 87% plan on hiring direct-from-industry hires in 2014, up 5% from 2013’s 82%.

• The percentage of those who plan to hire master in management grads in 2014 also increased 5%, from 37% in 2013 to 42%.

• 87% plan on increasing (43%) or maintaining (43%) the number of hires in 2014 from this past year.

• 56% of employers plan on increasing annual base salaries for MBAs in 2014. 45% plan this increase at the rate of inflation and 11% plan to increase above the rate of inflation.

• 61% of employers plan on hiring MBA interns in 2014

• 85% of employers met or exceeded their MBA hiring plans for 2013.


While it’s not time to break out the champagne, these stats show a steady and solid state in employer recruiting of business graduates with basically marginal improvement in hiring numbers. Salary stats are pretty flat. Continuing a trend I commented on last year, masters in management grads are seeing the greatest increase in demand. For college seniors and early career applicants, that program could be a really attractive option. (For more info on Duke’s MiM program, please see Admissions Straight Talk: Interview with Sheryle Dirks.)

To me this report says that b-schools are going to have to pull back on tuition increases, which have exceeded the rate of inflation for years. If they don’t, they will kill the ROI that lay the golden egg called the MBA.

But for current MBA students and probably for this year’s applicants, ROI is positive, employers are hiring, and things are looking good. Just not yet ready for the bubbly or excessive exuberance.

View the recording of our free webinar: Career Strategy for MBA Applicants!

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

4 Reasons You Got Dinged (And What You Can Do About It)

Check out our MBA Application Evaluation service. You really don’t want to repeat the same or similar mistakes again.

You really don’t want to repeat the same or similar mistakes again.

Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, and Cornell (among others) released decisions last week. More schools, including Wharton, Chicago, and Ross, release decisions this week.

Did your app hit the chopping block? Here’s why:

1) You didn’t qualify.

You gotta call a spade a spade sometimes (or always, really). If you had weak test scores, low grades, or inadequate work experience either quantitatively or qualitatively, then you’re just not going to measure up at the top schools. In essence you fail to convince the school that you can handle the work or represent the school well to recruiters…and you’re toast. …and they may be right. (Sorry to be tough here, but not everyone is qualified to attend H/S/W/C.)

TIP: Apply R2/R3 to different, less competitive programs OR reapply next year to the same schools after you’ve strengthened your profile (improved test scores, taken additional coursework, increased work responsibilities, etc.).

2) You didn’t present your qualifications, fit, or goals well.

There are a number of points to be made here. B-schools seek applicants with multiple talents, and you need to demonstrate that you’ve got them. Competitive stats are frequently necessary for admission, but not sufficient. For example, if you have the stats, but didn’t show the soft skills, didn’t show fit, didn’t explain why you need the degree from this particular program, or failed to present your achievements in an authentic, thoughtful, and compelling way, then the answer could easily still be DECLINE. The adcom may ding you for lacking such qualifications, even though you may have them, because you failed to present them effectively.

TIP: Apply R2/R3 or reapply next year with a stronger application that clearly highlights your qualifications, fit, and goals.

3) You were a victim of the numbers at intensely competitive programs that reject more qualified applicants than they can accept.

This is true of most top 15 programs especially if someone comes from an over-represented group in the applicant pool.

TIP: Apply R2/R3 to different programs or reapply next year to the same ones and keep your fingers crossed for better luck!

4) Combination of the above.

Most likely you weren’t rejected for one single reason, but due to a combination of various factors.

For more on understanding your rejection (and then doing something about it!), please see

And let’s face it, it’s hard to be objective about your application. If you’re unsure why you were rejected or what you can do to change the outcome next time around, check out our MBA Application Review. You really don’t want to repeat the same or similar mistakes again.

Don't make the same mistakes again! Have your essays reviewed by a professional.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.