MBA Admissions News Roundup


  • On September 7th and 8th business schools all over the world will be taking part in The Economist Group‘s Which MBA? MBA Online Fair. Don’t miss this opportunity to research different programs and engage with admissions officers, deans and recent graduates at your top choice schools –No travel requiredRegister today!
  • GMAC has posted its first article in a series of Graduate Management News articles that will help MBA applicants navigate the four new question formats appearing on the GMAT exam in 2012.  Each of the additional articles is accompanied by a video that further explains the new types of GMAT questions.
  • US News examines the growing number of MBA students using their management degree to go into the nonprofit sector and examines some of the MBA programs that guide students in the nonprofit direction. The Social Enterprise Initiative at Harvard Business School, the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford Graduate School of Business, The Social Enterprise at Kellogg (SEEK) program, and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Saïd Business School, are just a few of the programs to help MBA students integrate the business and nonprofit worlds.
  • Businessweek takes a look at a new test, the Certified Business Laureate Exam, which is a standardized business skills test for those planning on applying for entry-level corporate jobs. Guy Friedman, the test’s creator, argues that a good mark on the CBL exam could give job applicants a leg up. Even Businessweek believes that the exam could give students that extra edge.
  • An article in The Washington Post provides helpful tips for future MBA applicants from admissions officers at five top-ranked MBA programs.  Each admissions officer tackles one of the five main components of the MBA application process: application essays, letters of recommendation, academic credentials, work experience and an entrance interview.
  • London Business School announced that it plans on having women make up 30% of its MBA programme this coming year.  This goal was inspired by the target of the 30 Per Cent Club, which is shooting for 30% of British boardroom members to be female by 2015.
  • The MBA market is booming in the UK, while applications to MBA programs in the US are slightly down.  The Independent looks at why the London Business School has had 3,500 applications this year, and the demand for business courses in the UK is up 8%—higher than ever before. The top business masters in Britain are: London Business School, Said Business School, Oxford, Cambridge Judge Business School, Lancaster University Management School, Cranfield School of Management, Imperial College Business School, Manchester Business School, Cass Business School, London, Warwick Business School, and Strathclyde Business School.
  • Poets and Quants featured Accepted’s own Linda Abraham! In the first article, in a series of MBA essay writing tips, Linda teaches you how to start attacking the scary essay questions thrown at you in the MBA applications. Her most important piece of advice: Start with notes. ~ Helping You Write Your Best



The Spiced Up MBA


When one applies to business school they typically worry about whether they have enough work experience under their belt, or whether they can compete with Ivy League graduates and 4.0 GPAs.  But statistics show that since the financial crisis MBA programs are no longer looking for cookie cutter students. “Diversity” is the name of the game.

The Spiced Up MBAAn article in the Financial Times (“Variety is the Spice of Life”) looks at how recruiters are now focusing on finding all different kinds of students to enroll in their MBA programs.  Schools like Harvard, Wharton and Stanford are enrolling fewer investment bankers and more women, entrepreneurs, military personnel, environmentalists and not-for-profit managers in future classes. In fact, only 12%-14% of the admitted students at Harvard and Wharton in 2011 had investment banking backgrounds.

Even the average age of incoming MBA students is changing! The typical incoming Harvard Business School student is now 27, up from 26 a year ago.

Wharton is also working to diversify its student body. Ankur Kumar, deputy director of admissions at Wharton, explains, “This has been a focal point for the past few years. We wanted to dispel some of the stereotypes and misconceptions [about MBA programs].” Wharton has gone so far as to reach out to high school students and teach them about the importance of a business education.

Stanford has even developed its own approach to incorporating diversity into its program. The school has ensured that one in six accepted MBA students is studying for another degree alongside their MBA.
Although American schools still need to incorporate more international students into their student body (Wharton is only 36% international and Harvard is only 34%), the MBA programs have made enormous strides towards accepting more women, applicants in a wider age range, and out-of-the-professional-box MBA candidates. This openness to diversity, if not commitment to wider definition of diversity, allows future applicants to think more creatively about how to market themselves to business schools.  Getting into MBA programs no longer requires fitting into the investment banking mold, but is more about breaking the mold altogether.

I have seen several articles about the increasing diversity of accepted MBA applicants and we have seen less emphasis on the classic professions with our clients as well. I recently spoke, however, to one admissions director who told me that this openness is driven as much by a change in the applicant pool as by the increased openness touted in this article.

Since the financial crisis and the subsequent layoffs of a few years ago, there are fewer investment bankers, and there are fewer investment bankers applying to MBA programs. There were also fewer college grads hired into investment banking in 2008 and 2009. But over the next few years members of those college classes will apply in increasing numbers. It will be very interesting to see if the trend discussed in this article represents a real increased commitment to professional diversity in MBA admissions, or simply a response to necessity combined with spin.

If the latter, investment bankers will once again have the inside track, and we’ll read that an MBA is a typical stop on the investment banking career track; if the former, professional diversity will continue to reign.


Linda AbrahamBy , President and Founder of

Photo credit: lju photo

Another US News Top Ten!

US News is at it again!  The magazine’s newest top ten list is the top 10 Business Schools That Receive the Most Full-Time Applications. Not surprisingly, almost all the top 10 programs listed in US News’s rankings of the best business schools were also on the list of the top 10 business schools that received the most applications for full-time admissions in the 2010-2011 academic year (Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business was the only exception).

A total of 261 business schools provided US News with application data. On average, programs received 525 applications for admission.  But Harvard Business School surpassed them all with 9,524 applications, 32% more than the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which received the second highest number of applications.

However, the US News data does not reveal the number of students accepted into the class, making application numbers misleading. For example, Stanford has a class of fewer than 400, whereas Harvard’s class size is approximately 930. These statistics are also just a close approximation of the upcoming US News’ top 10.

Other schools that made the list of “the 10 business schools that received the most applications for full-time admission in 2010” were: University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)Columbia University, Northwestern University (Kellogg), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan), New York University (Stern), University of Chicago (Booth), University of California—Berkeley (Haas), and Duke University (Fuqua).

find-out-which-b-schools-are-best-with ~ Helping You Write Your Best


Photo credit: lotyloty

Forbes Announces Top Ten Business Schools


Forbes has just released its list of the top business schools in America. The Forbesranking methodology is based on the return on investment achieved by the class of 2006. They surveyed 16,000 alumni at over 100 schools and received feedback from 30% of those grads. They then compared the earnings of the respondents from 2006-2011 to the cost of business school.

While Forbes lists 74 top schools, the top ten are:

  1. Harvard
  2. Stanford
  3. Chicago (Booth)
  4. Pennsylvania (Wharton)
  5. Columbia
  6. Dartmouth (Tuck)
  7. Northwestern (Kellogg)
  8. Cornell (Johnson)
  9. Virginia (Darden)
  10. MIT (Sloan)

Poets and Quants analyzes the Forbes’ data in terms of winners and losers, those who went up in the Forbes’ rankings and those who went down; it provides a useful table comparing the salary data by school to previous years’ salary data.

Of greater interest to me is the overall profitable MBA picture presented by the Forbes data: every single program in the top 74 has positive ROI, admittedly less in more expensive locales and a few in single digits, but the overwhelming majority showed a greater than 20% gain after five years. And that’s despite the recession.

So for those of you who have professional goals that require an MBA, it looks like a solid investment.   

Linda AbrahamBy , President and Founder of



MBA Admissions News Roundup


  • The Daily Pennsylvanian celebrates the fact that 45% of Wharton’s incoming MBA class of 2013 will be women.  This number represents quite an achievement—a 5% increase from the classes in the past two years and the highest percentage in Wharton’s history. Harvard has also reached a new record this year with women representing 39% of its incoming class.
  • Bloomberg Businessweek wrote about the fervor worked up around plagiarism at the GMAC annual conference coming up. Due to excessive amounts of plagiarism discovered in last year’s batch of Penn State applications, many business schools are expected to be more aggressive this year.  Penn State has begun using a software application called Turnitin, and many other universities are expected to follow suit.
  • An article in the Financial Times announced that Trium, the three-center Executive MBA program taught by New York University’s Stern school, HEC Paris, and the London School of Economics (LSE), will be adding a second cohort in 2012. While students already split their time between New York, London and Paris, the new cohort will enable more time to be spent in emerging markets, such as India and China.
  • A $37,000 tweet? It sounds like a misunderstanding, but Bloomberg Businessweek explains that it is in fact a full-tuition award package for whoever can tweet the most creative response to The University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business’  “application tweet” question:  “What makes you an exceptional Tippie Full-time MBA candidate and future MBA hire? Creativity encouraged!” While social networking savvy is increasingly important to business schools, Tippie has definitely taken it to the next level! ~ Helping You Write Your Best

“It’s the Cake that People Come to Eat”


New business school deans typically take 18 months to introduce the first changes into their schools. But Harvard Business School’s new dean, Nitin Nohria took only six months to start shaking things up at HBS since he began his tenure last July.

As the new dean explains, “In the end, it’s the quality of the educational experience that brings people together. All that other stuff is the icing on the cake, but it’s the cake that people come to eat.”

And Nohria is clearly changing HBS’ cake recipe. Three recent articles in Poets and Quants highlight the way in which Nohria has transformed one of the top business schools in the country:

  • The Reinvention of Harvard Business School” focuses on Nohria’s appointment of unlikely professors to take on chair positions and other programmatic changes, such as introducing an eight-day global internship in the first year. The article also profiles Nohria and explains why these changes are dramatic for Harvard.
  • The Four Curriculums of a Great MBA” looks at how Nohria utilized a study done by a Harvard professor analyzing the impact that HBS had on its graduates.  The study arranges HBS’ impact on students into four categories—academic, social, career, and cultural—“mirroring the four curriculums that Harvard offers.”
  • The Five Priorities of Nitin Nohria” examines how Nohria moved forward with changes based on his five priorities, better known as the “Five I’s for Innovation”:

Innovation- Tackling the fact that some companies no longer see enough added value in MBAs by bringing change to Harvard’s program through adding a ‘field method’ to complement the ‘case method’  

Intellectual Ambition- Although faculty has already contributed to many of the most important management concepts, Nohria wants to ensure the faculty continues to bring forward new ideas.  

Internationalization- to increase its international impact, Nohria feels the school must expand its international base.

Inclusion- Nohria wants HBS to be a home for all; therefore, he has spearheaded many new inclusion efforts, the first of which is to look at the challenges facing women at HBS.  

Integration- HBS already collaborates with other departments at Harvard, but in the future they are going to be  “breaking down [more] logistical barriers.”

For HBS applicants all three P&Q articles are a must read. Primary take-aways:

  • If you are coming from blue chip firms and fields, don’t be confident that you have it made. You will still want to show an innovativeness and international outlook that perhaps wasn’t quite as important 2+ years ago.
  • As always, make sure you don’t simply mouth the mantra. Show that you have lived as many of the 5 I’s as you can, that you walk the walk.
  • If you thought your non-traditional background reduced your chances at HBS, think again. The program has become more inclusive in more than just gender and ethnicity.

On a personal note, I found Nitin Nohria’s “Four curriculums” very close to the critical elements I have been urging you to focus on for years, both in deciding where to apply and attend and in responding to “Why School X?” questions.  I have focused on: recruiting and career opportunities (Nohria’s career), the curriculum (academic), co-curricular activities (social) , and, personal preferences (cultural).  

It’s nice to know Dr. Nohria has been reading this blog. :)

 By Linda Abraham,’s president and founder.


The Times They Are a’ Changin’


Bob Dylan’s song lyrics capture the meaning behind the statistics Harvard Business School just released in the class profile for its entering class of 2013. It appears Harvard has decided to include fewer finance types in its MBA program, more women and more people from scientific/technical and manufacturing backgrounds.

While Harvard provided the profile on its website, Poets & Quants analyzes the numbers in “Harvard Down on Finance Types”:  

  • Individuals accepted from private equity and venture capital firms fell from 18% to 13%, and those from investment banking and investment management fields went from 14% to 12%.
  • 39% of accepted applicants were women, up 3% from the last two years and the highest percentage of women EVER in a Harvard Business School class.
  • The median GMAT score has hit a new high –a record 730.  Last year’s median was 724, and that score was a record last year.

While these statistics are striking, Harvard’s director of admissions and financial aid, Deirdre Leopold, sent an even more surprising e-mail to round 1 interviewed applicants a day before decisions were released.  This e-mail explained, “that the diversity of Harvard’s class was more important than the quality of the candidates in the admission process. ” Hmmm. Retrospectively, it’s clear Leopold was hinting that, “the times, they are a’ changing.”

Other observations in comparing the class of 2013 vs 2012:

  • Applications to HBS declined approximately 4%. Every little bit helps, but it’s not a big deal when Harvard’s acceptance rate is 11-12%. See next point.
  • Harvard’s yield increased 1% to an eye-popping 90%.
  • The average age edged up from 26 to 27. My take on this stat and HBS’ announcement that it will not admit anyone straight from college and without full-time work experience: Harvard’s infatuation with the “early career candidate” is cooling. I predict other schools will follow suit.

MBA Action Plan

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of

MBA Admissions: Should You Write Essays Now?


Yes, the Harvard 2012 MBA essay questions are out. But your target programs’ questions are not out. Furthermore you’re busy with work, community service, perhaps GMAT preparation. Even life takes some time. Should you start drafting MBA essays now?

Yes and no. Considering everything on your plate and the fact that questions are likely to change (except for HBS) and you may actually have better stories to relate in two months, I would not start drafting essays now – unless you are applying to the HBS 2+2 July 6 2011 deadline.So no, don’t list “writing MBA essay” on your to-do list. Not yet.

What should you be doing now? Focus on your GMAT prep, school research, excellence at work, volunteering, taking on leadership roles, and everything else. You can start filling in the boxes in the online applications, emphasizing impact. You can finalize your resume. You can talk to your recommenders.

You can also take notes about possible topics for your MBA essays. For now I would jot down anything that comes to mind. When you get serious, you will find yourself with an inventory of material from which to choose.  You won’t use it all, but you will then have something much more helpful than a blank screen facing you and a swirl of ideas in your head.

What should your notes consist of? Influential events. Achievements. Experiences that demonstrate your leadership, communications skills, and strength of character. Anything that you would like the admissions reader to know about you. For each topic, jot down the experience, what you did, the result, the lessons you learned, and the traits you revealed.

I created a spreadsheet that you can use for your MBA essay musings. I also find that Evernote, a free tool, is excellent for this kind of project because you can tag all notes and reach them from any place with an Internet connection. Evernote can also serve as the nerve center for your MBA application process. (No I don’t have shares in Evernote and am not an affiliate. I just like it.)

Don’t worry about length, editing, style, or making it pretty. This is just for you, and you don’t have the bandwidth for such niceties. Now it’s back to work.

Download Accepted’s new special report, MBA Action Plan, for more practical tips on what you can do now to increase your chances of getting in to a top business school next year. (P.S. It’s free!)

Linda Abraham  By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of


Harvard Business School 2012 Essay Questions and Tips

Harvard Business School

The 2013 Harvard Business School tips are now available.  Click here to check them out!

This HBS MBA Application tip post is one of a series of posts providing MBA application and essay advice for applicants to top MBA programs around the world. Check out the entire 2012 MBA Application Tips series for more valuable MBA essay advice.

The Harvard MBA application is now online.  While it still consists of four questions, all are new this year.  Furthermore instead of elective questions or choose X from Y, the fourth question is a complete wild card.

Harvard’s instructions and question are in black below; my comments and tips are in blue:

1.  Tell us about three of your accomplishments. (600 words)

This is a variation on a theme. Harvard’s lead question for years queried: “What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?”

While the word “substantial” is no longer included, I believe that omission is a nod to brevity. You only want to include substantial accomplishments in your MBA essays; there simply is no good reason to waste valuable essay real estate on the insignificant. I also encourage you to indicate why these accomplishments are important enough to include in your Harvard application. What impact did you have? What did you learn?

Like almost all MBA essays, this essay should include analysis and narrative. If an event is important enough to relate in these 600 words, your reader needs to know why it’s there. Throughout your essays, integrate perceptive insight and revealing description to create a compelling essay.

At least two of the three accomplishments should show leadership and/or teamwork with leadership dominating. I also like to see breadth in this essay. My ideal would be to have one each — personal , professional, and community — accomplishments in this essay, but that distribution isn’t mandatory.

2.  Tell us three setbacks you have faced. (600 words)

New question.

“What?!? I’m an over-achieving super-hero! They want me to talk about set-backs????”

True, but real heroes are resilient. That’s the key quality you want to portray in this essay. True heroes can handle occasional failures and view them as hurdles to overcome, not as personally defining moments or the end of their dreams. Being resilient, they rebound. They learn from mistakes and sometimes even from failures. And they transform those “Oh no’s!” into just a setback, maybe even a  minor one, on the road to self-improvement, growth, and achievement.

So in addition to the trio of accomplishments discussed in essay 1, write about a different trio, this time, of setbacks. But remember: “Setback” implies that you rebounded and moved forward. In your essays succinctly convey what went wrong and then portray in more detail what you did on the upswing. Finally, what lessons can you take from the experience?

3.  Why do you want an MBA? (400 words)

New question.

What motivates you to earn an MBA? What do you want to do that requires an MBA?  Include experiences that relate to your MBA goal. Also demonstrate that you need the transformative education provided by Harvard Business School to achieve your goals. Don’t just claim to need it; demonstrate that you need it.

4.  Answer a question you wish we’d asked. (400 words)

A joker. A wild card. And entirely new. Use this essay to showcase an experience that didn’t fit into the other essays. Or use it to shine a spotlight on your non-professional side. In either case, keep in mind Harvard’s admissions criteria and the distinctive nature of Harvard’s approach to graduate business education. What about you do you most want them to know and haven’t yet told them?

HBS Application Deadlines

Round                   Due Date                 Notification

Round 1                October 3, 2011       December 19, 2011

Round 2                January 10, 2012     March 29, 2012

Round 3                April 10, 2012           May 17, 2012

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

Linda Abraham By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of

HBS 2+2 Essay Questions and Tips


This HBS 2+2 Application tip post is one of a series of posts providing MBA application and essay advice for applicants to top MBA programs around the world. Check out the entire 2012 MBA Application Tips series for more valuable MBA essay advice.  

Harvard Business School 2+2 Essay Tips

The Harvard 2+2 application is now online.  While it still consists of four questions, three are entirely new or at least a little different, and there are no elective questions in this year’s application.

Harvard’s instructions and question are in black below; my comments and tips are in blue:?

1.  Tell us about three of your accomplishments. (600 words)

This is a variation of what has been for year’s Harvard’s signature question. In the past HBS asked, “What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?” 

Obviously you want to include “substantial accomplishments.” I strongly encourage you to also provide some indication of why you think they are important enough to include on your Harvard MBA 2+2 application.

This essay, like almost all MBA essays, has to balance narrative and analysis. If an event is important enough to relate in the little bit of essay real estate that you have, ensure that the reader knows why you include it. It may be obvious from the story. If it isn’t, combine critical events with insightful analysis to create a revealing, compelling essay.

At least two of the three accomplishments should show leadership and/or teamwork with the emphasis being on leadership. I also like to have this essay show some breadth. My ideal would be to have one professional/internship, one community, and one personal accomplishment in this essay, but that breakdown is neither set in stone nor imperative.

2.  Tell us three setbacks you have faced. (600 words)

New question.

“Oh no! They want me to write about setbacks!!!! I’m supposed to be a super-star.”

True, but real super-stars are resilient. They can handle a set-back and they frequently view failures as hurdles to overcome, not as the end of the world, or their future. They rebound. They learn from mistakes, failures, and bumps in the road and turn them into nothing more than …. well than a setback on the road to achievement, accomplishment and success.

So in addition to the three achievements discussed in response to #1, write about three setbacks. The word “setback” implies that you then moved forward. In your essays briefly describe what went wrong and then go into more detail on how you set it right. Finally, what did you learn on the rebound?

3.  Why do you want an MBA? (400 words)

New question.

What do you intend to do with the degree? Do you have solid, well-reasoned  motivations for pursuing an MBA? Do you have experience that connects to your MBA goal. Include them in your response.

Your reasons should show that you share Harvard’s commitment to leadership. Do they also demonstrate that you need the transformative education provided by Harvard Business School to achieve your goals?

4.  What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400 words)

When introduced, I thought this query was going to produce monotonous, boring pieces, but it didn’t. To my pleasant surprise, I reviewed several responses as part of our quality control program, and they were revealing, excellent essays.

Your topics will clearly vary depending on your experience and the rest of your application, but my ideal answer will discuss a leadership experience from your undergrad career to show that you are a natural leader. Remember: HBS wants to develop leaders, not create them. It wants to admit people in the “habit of leadership.” Show that you are one of those people.

This essay should complement your other essays and reveal another dimension of your personality and experience.

HBS 2+2 Application Deadlines

Round                   Due Date           Notification

Summer Round     July 6, 2011        September 2011

Round 1                October 2011     December 2011

Round 2                January 2012     March 2012

Round 3                March 2012        May 2012

If you would like more help with your Harvard 2+2 MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our HBS 2+2 MBA Packages, which include essay editing, interview coaching, consultation, and a resume edit for the HBS 2+2 MBA application. ~ Helping You Write Your Best