2010 AIGAC Conference in Boston

The Charles River Near MIT Sloan

I will run out of superlatives if I attempt to describe the 2010 AIGAC Conference in Boston. Suffice it say that it was extraordinarily illuminating.  MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School graciously and generously hosted the event, which was kicked off by MIT Sloan’s Dean David C. Schmittlein, who discussed the reasoning behind MIT Sloan’s portfolio of programs as well as the school’s three-fold focus on innovation, action learning, and knowledge creation. He was followed by multiple presentations about MIT Sloan, several panels with representatives from Columbia, NYU Stern, Michigan Ross, INSEAD, Tuck, Yale SOM, Haas, Kelley, UCLA Anderson, UVA Darden, and Duke Fuqua. The conference ended at HBS with a dynamic presentation and tour of the magnificent HBS campus. (Ok I’ll can the superlatives.)

Several impressions and take-aways for applicants from the different events and sessions:

MIT Sloan Panels:

From the MIT panels it is clear that MIT is looking for demonstrated success academically and professionally.  The latter translates into success or professional progression that is better than the norm for your peers. In terms of those fuzzy attributes and personal characteristics that schools talk about, Sloan wants to see drive; an ability to build relationships and influence others;  and the establishment, pursuit and achievement of goals.  A few details about the individual programs:

  1. 100% of the MFin grads have jobs this year, this program’s inaugural graduating class.
  2. The EMBA is a program for those in mid-management with a demonstrated record of success who either want to advance in their career or make a slight career change without leaving their job.  Neither sponsorship nor the GMAT is required. (the latter may be requested if MIT has questions about the applicant’s quant skills.)
  3. The LGO program focuses on managing the global production and distribution of goods and services. It is a joint, quant-heavy 24-month program between MIT Sloan and MIT’s School of Engineering. Participants earn both an MBA and an MS in Engineering.

MIT Sloan

We also heard two presentations by MIT Sloan professors. If you have any doubt that MIT Sloan is serious about innovation and global reach, abandon them. The creativity and global impact evident in just these two hours would force you to reshape your views.

Impressions from Conference Day 2 (Multiple presentations by various schools reps)

  • Schools and admissions committee members look at different elements when they evaluate an application.  Pay attention to the nuances.
  • Your informal and personally identifiable interactions with school admissions personnel are highly revealing. They COUNT! Arrogance at any point in time is a death knell for your application (and most relationships too.) Rudeness to a receptionist is a ding. What qualities impress positively? In your essays and interviews, reveal dignity, generosity of spirit, self-awareness, authenticity, and consideration of others. These qualities cannot be faked or “spun.”
  • Regarding financial aid, merit aid tends to go to the top X% based on academic stats. Generally, when evaluating fellowship essays, the readers do not refer to your application essays. Poor credit can prevent you from obtaining the loans necessary for you to attend the school of your dreams if merit aid and your resources don’t cover the tab; get your credit in order before you apply.
  • Regarding career development, the MBA employment picture improved throughout 2009-10. Read the employment reports for schools before you decide to apply and certainly before you decide to attend; you need to know school strengths as revealed in these reports. Understand the role of the career services staff (educating students about effective career planning and job search) and the limitations of that role. (They don’t create or find jobs for you.) Networking, which is about building relationships not the size of your contact list, is more important than ever. In order to build relationships, you must move beyond email.

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business SchoolBaker Library at HBS
At Harvard, we enjoyed an interactive two-hour presentation that was stimulating and engaging. To the extent it reflected the dynamism of the Harvard educational experience, I was extremely impressed.

This visit clarified for me that Harvard’s unparalleled brand is not just a matter of US News Rankings or smoke-and-mirrors branding.  At the same time, HBS is not for everyone, but like any top graduate program, it can be a fantastic experience for the right individuals.

Before the conference started my husband and I met with an acquaintance who is a professor at HBS. The professor was curious about my work, and I was curious about his. He asked me what I believe distinguishes Harvard students from the rest of the applicant pool. I thought for a moment and replied, “Leadership and impact.” He smiled, and the conversation moved on. Just before leaving, I asked him, “From your perspective as an HBS professor, what is a common quality shared by HBS students?” He replied, “I smiled when you answered my question because the students come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. However, if I have to identify a common thread, it would be leadership and impact.” If you are serious about attending Harvard Business School, make sure you demonstrate leadership and impact.

Reflections and Thank yous

Accepted.com staff at HBSAccepted Staff at Aldrich Hall (HBS). Standing: Robbie Walker, Tanis Kmetyk, Paul Bodine. Seated: Cindy Tokumitsu, Jennifer Bloom, Linda Abraham, Judy Gruen
It is our job as admissions consultants to help you choose the best target programs and show that you  belong at your chosen schools. The candor and graciousness shown by the hosting schools as well as by the presenting admissions directors will help Accepted’s staff do exactly that.

I am proud to report that Accepted’s staff was well represented at  the conference. In addition to myself, Jennifer Bloom, Paul Bodine, Judy Gruen, Tanis Kmetyk, Cindy Tokumitsu, and Robbie Walker attended.

Profound thanks to the hosts and presenters as well as to AIGAC, led by Graham Richmond of Clear Admit, and specifically to Maxx Duffy of Maxx Associates and Anna Ivey of Ivey Consulting who co-chaired the event. Thanks also to the sponsors: Veritas Prep, Clear Admit, Hult International Business School, Manhattan GMAT, MBA Podcaster, and Zoom Interviews

Learn More:  Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Choosing the One for You.

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of Accepted.com.

Essays That Stick and AIGAC’s Graduate Admission Summit

I am a big fan of the book Made to Stick by the brothers Chip and Dan Heath. It has so much of value for anyone interested in communicating. I have decided to show you how to apply their six key principles to your application essays and personal statements in my webinar “Essays that Stick” which I am presenting on April 28 at 11:00 AM PT/2:00 PM ET/6:00 PM GMT as part of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultant’s (AIGAC) first annual Graduate Admissions Summit. Please join me at this free webinar.

After you register for “Essays that Stick,” explore AIGAC’s Summit. No mountains to climb. No fees to pay. No travel involved. Just lots of great information from the thought leaders in graduate admissions consulting available at your computer. There are sessions and articles on dual degrees, test taking, law school admissions, business school admissions, medical school admissions, the TOEFL, international admissions, and more. The day starts at 5:00 AM Pacific Time with a presentation on identifying personal goals and continues throughout the day with a only a one-hour break. Presenters, all AIGAC members, are located in the US, Israel, Germany, the UK, Russia, and Japan. Most of the presentations are in English, but one is in Spanish and one is in Russian. There are chats, webinars, and articles. And it’s all free to you, the applicant.

Sign up for any webinars that interest you at the AIGAC Summit. Mark your calendar for chat sessions and new articles that will be posted on April 28.

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of Accepted.com.

Grad Application Preseason 5: Lining up Letters of Rec and Searching for Fellowships

These are also steps that you can start working on well ahead of next winter’s application deadlines.

If you’re still in college, contacting professors to be your recommenders will be straightforward; the benefit of doing it early is that the ones who work in your field will be able to give you advice about programs to consider, and might be able to introduce you to their colleagues who are doing research in your area of interest. If you’re out of school, try to make contact with professors you had good relationships with: for doctoral programs, in particular, you’ll need the majority of your letters to be academic references (rather than professional).

You can start early by discussing grad school with your faculty mentor(s), and later on, give them a portfolio of information to help them write the letter (a list of the schools you’re applying to, a draft of your SOP, etc). If it’s been a while since you took their class, it can be helpful to supply a copy of a project you completed for them—but in any event, try to meet with them in person if possible, and give them sufficient time to write your letter (a month is good). Follow up with a gracious thank you note.

You can also start learning about graduate funding opportunities right away. Find out about what kind of funding packages are available at the schools you’re considering. Do they fund MA/MS students, or just PhDs? What percentage of students is offered funding each year? Is there funding for international students? Does the school offer advising to help students apply for national grant programs like the NSF? Will you be considered for Teaching Assistant positions automatically, or must you apply?

Research your funding options and stay organized!

 By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School, Rebecca is available to help you write clear essays and personal statements that communicate and persuade.


Grad Application Preseason Part 2: Choosing Programs to Apply to

As you bring your interests into focus, start to create a list of target programs. Many factors will influence your decision-making process– here are some things to think about.

  • Do you have geographical considerations? (Do you need to be near family, or in a certain city where a spouse works?)
  • What are the strengths of the programs that interest you? If you’re looking to work in industry, does the program offer networking/internships/career placement? If you’re looking at a PhD, is the program strong in your subfield?
  • If you’re planning to apply for a PhD program, is there a faculty member in the department who is doing work in your area of interest, or who could serve as your mentor/research supervisor?
  • How many students does the program accept each year? (Some doctoral programs enroll as few as 3-4 students annually– so know that even if your credentials are stellar, you should have more than one plan!)
  • Is there funding available?
  • For PhD programs: does the university publish the average time to degree of students in the program? (This is sometimes rather different from the stated program length you’ll find in the catalog.)
  • Are there opportunities to work as a teaching or research assistant? If grad students in the department are expected to teach, is there a mentoring program in place? How many semesters do students TA?
  • If you’re hoping to work as an academic, inform yourself about the structure/expectations of your discipline. Do the programs you’re looking at have a strong record of placing their PhDs in postdocs and tenure track positions? (Do the professors you’re thinking about working with have such a record?)
  • If you have a good relationship with a current or past faculty mentor, ask for advice about programs and potential grad advisers to consider.

Next time, I’ll address how to develop a concrete description of your research interests.

 By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School, Rebecca is available to help you write clear essays and personal statements that communicate and persuade.

University of Pennsylvania Graduate and Undergraduate Financial Update

Unlike other Ivy League universities, University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has no plans of making significant budget cuts, reports a Daily Pennsylvanian article last week.

Yale University, on the other hand, plans to cut graduate enrollment by 10-15% in the coming academic year; Columbia University has similar plans.

The DP article states that SAS’s “budget modifications” correspond more to the job market and student enrollment than to the deficit and endowment fluctuations. In general Penn relies less on endowments than its peer schools.

Each Penn grad school has different budget modifications, but there’s one thing that they all have in common: the commitment to making stipends available.

“We’re competing for the top students in the world, and in that competition, one clear area is in the level of stipends,” explains Andrew Binns, Associate Provost for Education. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure that we can attract the best graduate students possible.”

Related, Penn undergraduate tuition next year will rise to $51,944, an increase of 3.9%. To help students manage these fees, the financial aid budget will also increase, by 11% ($15 million). Yale, Dartmouth, and Cornell have all increased their total charges by 4% or higher this year.

Related Accepted.com Resources:

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