Princeton Approves Grading Policy Changes

Looking for college admissions tips?

Will Princeton’s application volume go up?

Last week Princeton faculty approved changes to their undergraduate grading policy, including the removal of “numerical targets and replacing them with grading standards developed and articulated by each department.” The committee concluded that the previous system (adopted in 2004) is a large contributor to psychological stress, making students “feel as though they are competing for a limited resource of A grades.”

New policies will emphasis “quality of feedback” rather than numerical grades. The previous faculty committee on grading will be dissolved, and a new committee – the Council on Teaching and Learning – will advance this new focus. The committee believes that these changes won’t negatively impact competitiveness of Princeton students when it comes to post-college education.

The recommendation proposes that at the beginning of each year, the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing will “review the grading history for each department and program, and the dean of the college would continue to report to the faculty on the grading record of the previous academic year.”

(Source: “Princeton faculty approves changes to grading policy” by Princeton Office of Communications)

My Prediction

The grading policy policy adopted in 2004 reflected concern among Princeton faculty about grade inflation. I predict that the new policy will exacerbate grade inflation at Princeton while reducing student “stress.” It may just also increase Princeton’s application volume and yield by removing the perception that Princeton students suffer from a more rigorous grading scale and are at a “disadvantage” when applying to graduate schools because their grades may be a tad lower.

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.

Related Resources:

5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your College Application Essays
• Common Application Supplemental Essay Tips
• U.S. News 2015 Best Colleges

CMU Tepper 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

 Check out the rest of our school-specific application essay tips!

CMU Tepper

The key to admissions success here is to exhibit your keen analytical capabilities through your essays—that and your strong passion for learning and your desire to expand your role as an innovative leader. Get those points across to the adcom members and you could be well on your way to the tech-savvy business education that only Tepper can provide. 

Tepper has tweaked its application this year, changing slightly question #1 under the Post-MBA Goals, replacing the #2.  and dropping one of the other essay questions. 

Post-MBA Goals:

1.  What is your professional goal immediately following graduation from Tepper? (Maximum 1500 characters)

What do you want to do immediately after you get your MBA and in which industry do you want to do it? If geography is important to you, then include that information too. 

Since Tepper is giving you more room than is necessary to simply state what you want to do and where you want to do it, you can give Tepper background on the development of your goal. What experience convinced you this career path was right for you?  When did you demonstrate the skills or qualities this role requires?

2. If you are not successful in your first choice of role after graduation, what other role would you consider? In other words, what is your Plan B? (Maximum 1500 characters)

This is a easy question to answer — if you have a Plan B. If you don’t have one, thoughtfully create one.

If you don’t get the job you describe in #1, how would you take advantage of your past experience and your new Tepper MBA? Would you slightly change long-term goals and go down a different path? Or would you stick with the long-term goals and attempt to achieve them in a different way?  Either option is possible. Choose the one that best reflects you. 


1. Describe a defining moment in your life, and explain how it shaped you as a person. (Maximum 300 words)

This question is an attempt to get to know you, the person. The previous questions are professionally focused. Use this essay to present a different side of you. Don’t write about work and your professional goals here.

In any case, tell a succinct story of that defining moment.  What happened and what was the impact on you? How has that event influenced you going forward? How is your behavior, your life different because of that moment?

2. Based on your research and interactions with the Tepper community, share why you are a good fit with the Tepper MBA program. (Maximum 300 words)

Again do your homework before you respond to this question. If you can, talk to current students or recent alumni from Tepper to get a feel for the culture. If you can visit, even better. Review the information on the Tepper web site to get a picture of student and alumni life and research those activities you would like to participate in, initiate, or lead. Then write about one or two clubs or events that you would love  to throw yourself into.

Optional Essay. Is there anything else that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee as we evaluate your application? If you believe your credentials and essays represent you fairly, you should not feel obligated to answer this question. This essay is intended to provide a place for you to add information that you think is important but is not covered elsewhere in the application. This could include clarification of your employment or academic record, choice of recommenders or helpful context for the admissions committee in reviewing your application. (Maximum 500 words)

Use this optional essay, or lose an opportunity to provide even more reasons for Tepper to admit you. Just don’t rehash information found elsewhere. That’s a waste of time — yours and your reader’s.

If you would like professional guidance with your CMU Tepper MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the CMU Tepper application. 

CMU Tepper MBA 2015 Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline  Decision Notification 
 Round 1  October 5, 2014  December 15, 2014
 Round 2  January 4, 2015  March 25, 2015
 Round 3  March 15, 2015  May 15, 2015

MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips - Download your free copy!

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.


Related Resources:

Best MBA Programs, A Guide to Selecting the Right One
2015 MBA Application Essay Tips
• Top 10 B-Schools with the Most Satisfied Graduates

Toronto Rotman 2015 MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines

Check out the rest of our school-specific application essay tips!

Toronto Rotman

The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business is one of the leading business schools in Canada. Known for its design approach to MBA education and strong emphasis on problem solving, Rotman’s program is growing in size and renown.

My tips are in blue below. 

Essay Questions:

1. Please state your professional goals and how you plan to achieve them. (Please limit your answer to 25o words.)

This is a pretty straightforward goals question, requiring a concise answer. What do you want to do and where do you want to do it? The “where” refers to industry, not necessarily geography, but geography could be a part of your goal. If it is, you should include it in your response.

Your essay should show Rotman that you have thought about your career path, Rotman’s role in that chosen path, and how your career can realistically progress after you receive your Rotman MBA. 

2. Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have received recently. Please detail the circumstance and your plan to address it. (Please limit your answer to 25o words.)

Tell a brief story here. What were you told? What was the context? How has it proven constructive? If you have room in your essay and you feel it fits with the rest of your response, include a situation similar to the one that prompted the criticism and that you handled well as a result of the advice you received. 

Alternatively, you could even start with the situation that ended well, and then provide the background, including the story of the constructive feedback. 

3. Reflection Question: List 3-5 attributes or characteristics that best describe you. Limit response to 50 characters. (3-5 word maximum.)

My suggestion here would be to avoid what my friend and colleague from Maxx Associates, Maxx Duffy, calls “umbrella words.” These are general terms for valued attributes, but they tend to be abused and overused in the MBA application process. There is nothing wrong with them other than the reality that they are sapped them of meaning and impact. And if you use these umbrella words, you will blend in with all the others who are also using them, just like one more black umbrella on a rainy day.

An example: leadership.  I guarantee that attribute (or any form of “lead”) will be the most commonly mentioned term. I encourage you not to use a form of “lead” or “leader.” It is an umbrella word. Instead, go into the key attributes you have that make you a great leader.  Those are the qualities that go under the umbrella. They will be more distinctive and more memorable. 

Video Interview:

The video interview component is a required part of Rotman Admissions process designed to give all candidates guaranteed “face time” with the Admissions Committee and showcase your personality, characteristics, passions, and values.

You will have an opportunity to test the technology, and then will be asked two taped questions. Both questions are personality/values based and are designed to be answered without any advanced preparation and will only take a few minutes to complete. After completing your questions, you will receive a confirmation email and unique URL to input into this section of the application and complete the video component. Good luck and have fun with the process!

We’ve written blog posts on the video essay, and last year I had a fascinating interview with Niki da Silva, Rotman’s Admissions Director, who provided excellent advice on the Rotman video interview. It is by far, our most popular podcast.

Here are links to these resources.  

• Tips for Video MBA Essay Questions

• MBA Video Essays: A Conversation with Rotman’s Niki da Silva 

• MBA Interview Tips: Video Essays

Toronto Rotman 2015 Deadlines:

Round  Application Deadline  Decision Notification 
 1  November 3, 2014  December 12, 2014
 2  January 12, 2015  February 27, 2015
 3  March 2, 2015  April 17, 2015
 4  April 20, 2015  May 22, 2015
 5  June 1, 2015  July 3, 2015

Want more school specific MBA application essay tips? Click here!

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.


Georgetown McDonough 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Check out the rest of our 2015 MBA application essay tips!Georgetown McDonough, the top MBA program at the intersection of business and government, takes advantage of its Washington D.C. location, its connections to the greater Georgetown University community, and its Jesuit roots while at the same time focusing on the global nature of twenty-first century business.  Your application should show that you need the education provided by McDonough to achieve your goals and that you wholeheartedly embrace its values.


Essays should all be double-spaced using 12pt. font. Prepare your attachments offline in separate document files and upload them individually. Please follow the instructions regarding length of each attachment, and label each page with your name.

1. Why You? (Hint: We are looking for an answer that cannot be found from research on our website.) (750 words or fewer)

This question is all about fit. It is an attempt by Georgetown to learn about you and why you think you are a good fit for Georgetown and Georgetown is a good fit for you.  Georgetown wants to see how you think and come to a major decision.

There are lots of different ways to approach this essay. Clearly you shouldn’t spit back the McDonough web site. If you can, talk to current students about the culture and distinctive elements of the program to gain a deeper understanding of it. You also need to reflect on the reasons you personally would choose McDonough. Why is it the best program for you?

You could start with a highly influential experience that influence your decision to pursue an MBA, go into more depth about what you hope to achieve and why you believe Georgetown is the best place for you to achieve it.

Alternatively, you could start with a day in the future where you attain your goal and then circle back to discuss the development of that goal and McDonough’s role in helping you achieve it. You can also discuss how you intend to contribute to McDonought’s community.

In short, why should McDonough accept you? How will you make the school proud that they did?

Optional Essays:

1. If you are not currently employed full-time, use this essay to provide information about your current activities. (250 words or fewer)

Show them that you are using this period to acquire new skills, contribute to your community, or grow in some way.

2. Please provide any information that you would like to add to your application that you have not otherwise included. (500 words or fewer)

Please see The Optional Essay: To Be or Not to Be.

Re-Applicant Essay:

How have you strengthened your candidacy since your last application? We are particularly interested in hearing about how you have grown professionally and personally. (500 words or fewer)

This is a key question (whether asked explicitly or not) for all reapplicants to any MBA program. What has changed? How are you “new and improved” since last year — when you were rejected? Georgetown does you the favor of providing this explicit prompt so you can address this question while retaining the ability to address the main essay.

If you would like professional guidance with your Georgetown McDonough School MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Georgetown McDonough MBA application.

Georgetown McDonough 2015 MBA Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline Decision Notification
 Round 1  October 10, 2014  December 20, 2014
 Round 2  January 5, 2015  March 20, 2015
 Round 3  April 1, 2015  May 15, 2015

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.


Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

Related Resources:

2015 MBA Application Essay Tips
Optional Essays: When and How to Write Them
• 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your MBA Application Essays

Johnson at Cornell University 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Check out the rest of our school-specific MBA essay tips!Are you looking for a close-knit, collaborative MBA program focused on experiential learning, committed to innovation, and further differentiated by an immersion learning component? Plus, it’s located on an Ivy League campus with all the resources and networking opportunities the larger community provides. Still interested? You’ve found it at Cornell Johnson.

I attended a class there last March and was really impressed by the dynamic professor and lively classroom interaction. I am also pleased to note that Cornell Johnson is letting you link to your LinkedIn profile as part of your MBA application. In addition to saving you time, this optional step allows Cornell Johnson to see you as a potential employer would.

This innovation highlights two realities in MBA admissions:

1. Social media count. For LinkedIn in particular, keep your profile up-to-date and professional. Make sure it’s something you’re proud of and happy to have others view.  

2. Much of MBA admissions is driven by prospective employment at graduation. Schools want to know that you have the experience to attract recruiter attention and to land a great post-MBA job. Many, many schools will at some point in the application evaluation process seek input from career services if they have any doubt about the attainability of your post-MBA goals. Let your profile and any information about your professional experience speak to that point.

Finally since your LinkedIn profile doesn’t have the tight limits you have in your MBA application, you may be able to provide more context and information there than here. However, no one wants to read a detailed autobiography on LinkedIn. Keep your job descriptions within reason if you do give Cornell access to your profile.   


1. You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. In 2000 characters (including formatting characters) or less, please write the table of contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. Note: approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity.

Have a little fun with the question. You certainly have a lot of options and flexibility here. You can reveal something about your youth, influential experiences or people, challenges, hobbies, interests, passions… Perhaps where you intend to be in 30 years. It’s Your Life Story. 

2. Targeted Job Type: What is the job that you would like to have immediately upon graduating with your MBA? (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

Be concrete in describing what you would like to do. “Pursue a position that I find personally satisfying” or “Have a positive impact on society” are non-starters.  What task do you want to perform and in what industry do you want to perform it? The answer to that question is the foundation of your response to Cornell’s question.

2000 characters is a little less than 400 words so you may give a little background as to how this goal developed or why your previous experience when combined with a Johnson MBA, will help you achieve it.

3. Post-Collegiate Activities: List community activities (clubs, church, civic, etc.) and professional associations you contributed to since graduation from college. Please include the organization name, your role, hours dedicated, elected offices held, and dates of participation. (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

Depending on how many activities you have, you may be able to go into a little detail or you may need to just stick to the facts. As much as possible, highlight evidence of impact, leadership, and collaborative teamwork. Quantify if you can.

4. Collegiate Activities and Employment: List your extracurricular activities while in college in order of importance to you. You may include details about your positions and the time commitment, honors or awards received, and dates of participation. The list may also include part-time and summer employment held while in college. Please list your employer, job title, responsibilities, hours per week, and the dates for each position. (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

Very similar to #3, highlight impact, leadership and teamwork. Quantify when possible.  The one twist with this question: list the extracurricular activities in order of importance to you.  

5. Hobbies and Activities: Please describe any hobbies or activities that hold special significance for you. (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

What do you do regularly when you aren’t working? Which of these activities would you like Johnson to know about? If you have too many to fit in the 2000 character limit, then choose those that show you contributing innovatively to your community and taking initiative. 

Optional Essay: Complete this essay if you would like to add additional details regarding your candidacy. For instance, if you believe one or more aspects of your application (e.g., undergraduate record or test scores) do not accurately reflect your potential for success at the Johnson School. (2000 character limit, including formatting characters)

Clearly you can use this optional to add context for a weakness in your record. Either a low stat or a period of unemployment or some dip in an otherwise strong record of achievement.However the wording is pretty open. If there is something positive or if you want to provide context for an achievement — challenges you overcome or circumstances that made your accomplishment even more noteworthy — you can also do so here. 

If you would like professional guidance with your Cornell Johnson MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Cornell Johnson application. 

Cornell Johnson 2015 MBA Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline Decisions Released
Round 1 October 1, 2014 December 17, 2014
Round 2 January 7, 2015 March 25, 2015
Round 3 March 11, 2015 May 13, 2015
Rolling June 3, 2015 – Final day to submit Rolling admissions

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.