Do Your Part to Improve MBA Admissions – Win $500!

Share your opinions and get entered into a drawing to win $500!

Survey respondents will be entered into a drawing to win $500

AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, is conducting a survey and would like YOUR participation! This is your chance to share your opinions of the MBA admissions experience with top MBA admissions committees.

In May, AIGAC will hold its annual conference in New York City where they will present anonymous data about MBA applicants to the top MBA programs. That data will come from these surveys, so the more responses, the better. You can read more about the survey here.

The survey closes at the end of February, so please respond ASAP!

What about the $500?

We saved the best part for last – survey respondents will be entered into a drawing to win $500 (via PayPal). Your email address would be used only for prize notifications.

Share your opinions with the top b-school adcoms!

What We Learned Visiting Wharton: Report from Day 2 of the AIGAC Conference

Wharton12Wharton generously hosted the second day of the AIGAC conference on campus. In addition to giving us a tour, we met admissions directors, program directors, professors and members of the career services staff, whose content-rich panels got us all up to speed on what’s new and notable in Wharton’s curriculum, community, programs and admissions.

By the end of the day, we were simply wowed by the depth and breadth of the school’s programs. Established in 1881 as the world’s first collegiate business school, Wharton is famously known as a “quant and finance” school, but in addition to its strengths in those areas, it offers a dizzying variety of academic specialties, dual degree programs, global modular courses, leadership treks, and much more. As founder and president Linda Abraham observed, “Wharton is dedicated to providing a premier program in all areas and dimensions, and the breadth of Wharton’s offerings is breath-taking.”

Here are some highlights from the panel discussions:

More Curriculum Flexibility

Director of MBA Program Frank Devecchis emphasized the increasing flexibility of Wharton’s curriculum, including a new structure that includes a core curriculum in management fundamentals, analytics and leadership. Notably, more than half the core curriculum provides flexibility within the requirements so that students can design a custom path to one of 18 majors, among them: business economics and public policy, environmental and risk management, legal studies and business ethics, multinational management, and real estate. Students can also create an individualized major as well.

Wharton’s new West Coast campus in San Francisco is also drawing more and more students who want to be near the technology hub of Silicon Valley. It is now the home of a West Coast EMBA program for Wharton, and offers a semester there for qualifying full-time MBA students.

Emphasis on Social Value

Wharton’s motto of being a “force for social good” is taken seriously, and one primary vehicle for this is the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, which offers courses in cross-functional management in a variety of disciplines: business and public policy, education, finance, social policy and practice, management, and more. The research, experience and student-centered programs of the WSII are geared to further the school’s commitment to this goal.

Dual Degree Programs: The Lauder Institute – for Internationally Focused Students

AIGAC members enjoyed an in-depth presentation about this Wharton program, open to applicants who are already fluent in a second language and motivated to work in the international arena. The Lauder Institute offers a joint Wharton MBA or Penn JD with an MA in International Studies, and is an extremely rigorous program that is designed for an intellectually charged group who want to explore the intersection of business, language, and social science. With approximately 70 students per class, the program offers a certain degree of intimacy, in addition to the breadth and richness of Wharton.

Program Director Mauro Guillen explained that the program is meant to teach students “how to operate across borders.” Toward that goal, students have an intensive summer immersion program abroad, devoted to adding language and cultural proficiency as well as business study. Students research businesses and interview business leaders and/or government officials, and write a research report. Lauder students have traveled to every continent in the world for this program, utilizing their language skills in Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, French, Hindi, German, and more.

While this program adds additional costs to the Wharton MBA, the Lauder Institute has a generous endowment that allows for financial aid for qualifying students. Dr. Guillen emphasized that lack of funds should never deter the highly motivated, intellectually curious student who wants the joint Wharton Lauder program.

The JD/MBA Program

In 2009, Wharton launched a 3-year JD/MBA program, and two classes have graduated so far. There is a joint admission process (one application, joint decision) and both GMAT/GRE and LSAT are required. Associate Director Colleen France emphasized that this is also a very demanding program, geared for students who want to work at intersection of law and business, not for those who just want to “pick up” an extra degree.

The prescribed curriculum begins with 1L at Penn Law, followed by a summer of additional classes. Students must complete both a pro bono requirement and an internship in law or business during the second summer. The third year is highlighted by a Capstone project, where students work with a law school advisor and an industry advisor. As with the Lauder program, students in the JD/MBA program must meet full requirements at both schools. Of the past two graduating classes, 75% graduated with honors, and enjoy a JD/MBA mentoring project during the program and dual alumni networks from both Wharton and Penn Law afterward.

Specialty Tracks of Note: Healthcare Management, Entrepreneurship, Real Estate, Retailing

Wharton’s program directors were eager to showcase the numerous specialty tracks and majors that people don’t often associate with the school, along with the considerable resources affiliated with each one.

For example, the healthcare management department began back in 1971, according to program director June Kinney, and covers many niche areas, including medical devices, government-managed care, and venture capital. Unlike other majors at Wharton, the health care management major must be declared at the time of application. It also helps students find summer internships and permanent positions in the health care sector, including consulting firms, biotechnology, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals, insurers, and government agencies. There are also dual degree options, including the MD/MBA, MBA/MB, and MBA/MSN.

Wharton’s Entrepreneurship program is not just about starting a business, but about increasing support for students who want to pursues positions in a company’s earliest stages, according to Emily Cieri, Managing Director in Wharton’s Entrepreneurship program. Students in this program can consult with the Wharton Small Business Development Center, develop ideas through the Business Plan Competition, participate in the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, as well as apply for an Enprepreneurial Intern Fellowship, the Venture Initiation Program or Wharton Venture Award, a $10,000 summer grant.

The Jay H. Baker Retailing Center offers MBA students a curriculum that weaves retail theory and practice. Wharton is the only Ivy League School to offer a concentration in Retail, and the Center is led by Barbara Kahn, internationally recognized marketing scholar. Courses specific to retail include supply chain management, consumer behavior, store management, and merchandising. The Center works closely with Wharton’s MBA Retail Club, and some classes also focus on luxury retailing.

Peter Fader, Co-director of Wharton’s Customer Analytics Initiative Research Center, says that no other MBA program is producing students who have bona fide marketing science, and that recruiters are taking notice. Customer analytics courses at Wharton are rigorous and meaty, and a “real point of differentiation” between Wharton and other MBA programs. “Marketing professors grossly underestimate what students are capable of doing in marketing, and may think that people escape to marketing to avoid quantitative work,” he said. These elective courses are drawing students with broad business interests, including finance, ecommerce, and those heading toward tech start-ups. “They’ll be sitting on tons of data and as a result of our classes that teach hard analytics, they’ll know what to do with it.” Fader also noted that when he shows colleagues what his students are doing, they laugh because they can’t believe what they’ve done, but “I get the last laugh.”

The Real Estate concentration focuses on real estate law, development, and finance, while electives explore related issues such as real estate economics, urban fiscal policy, the relationship between government policy and private development, international real estate markets, and the aesthetic and technical considerations of architecture. In conjunction with the Samuel Zell & Robert Lurie Real Estate Center, MBA students with this focus can attend sponsored conferences, seminars, and other specialty programs in the field. Wharton’s real estate program has repeatedly ranked among the top in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. The Lurie Center also hosts a career fair, with more than 90 companies recruiting on campus.

Leadership: Get Ready for Teamwork

Jeffrey Klein, Director of The Wharton Leadership Program, recently wrote in The European Business Review, “At The Wharton School, our approach to leadership development begins with teams. MBA students can expect to join at least 15 teams throughout their 21 month tenure as graduate students.” These include Course teams, Wharton Leadership Program teams, fellowship teams, club teams, conference teams, and intramural sports teams. “Teams permeate the MBA experience in the same way that teams are a dominant social structure for businesses and organizations,” he added.
The pre-term Learning Team Retreat launches the week-long program, held at a rural camp, and culminates with “The Big Idea,” a learning team exercise in which students formulate an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing a compelling business or social issue. The MBA curriculum is heavy on leadership courses, including Foundations of Teamwork and Leadership, an immersive course that features the Wharton Teamwork and Leadership Simulation.

Additionally, Wharton’s Leadership offerings for MBAs include the Executive Coaching and Feedback Program, conferences, leadership ventures, fellowships, and other experiential programs. Notable authors, such as Daniel Pink and Mario Moussa, as well as major business leaders, address students through the authors@wharton and leaders@wharton speaker series.

What’s New in Wharton Admissions

Last year, editors fielded many questions from Wharton applicants who were nervous about the school’s new group interview process. Admissions director Ankur Kumar addressed that and other issues during a Q&A about the Wharton admissions process. Kumar said that what the applicants actually proposed was not as vital as the group dynamics. In other words, Wharton is looking for people who know how and when to listen, and how and when to speak. “We expect interviewees to self-regulate” their comments, she observed.

Answering other questions from AIGAC members, Kumar said that Wharton does not have a preference for the GMAT over GRE. Regarding the “goals” essay question, she acknowledged that stated career goals may not become reality, and that she is looking more for “thoughtfulness and awareness” in crafting an answer, knowing that goals can be fluid.
She also said that Wharton looks for diversity among students in the broadest sense: business background, geography, perspectives, and sense of identity. “Diverse perspectives contribute to innovation,” she said.

A calculus test is required for all admitted students, and a business math class is required if the student does not pass or passes at a low level.

Career Services

Shannon Connelly, senior associate director of Employer Services, said that Wharton helps students with their immediate post-MBA job searches from many angles. Primarily, she said their staff works to manage student expectations and keep them reasonable by assessing students’ goals, experience and risk-tolerance. Her office also teaches job search skills and actively promotes the Wharton MBA brand among prospective employers.

Notably, Wharton has “relationship managers” who work with companies across various industries, as well as student advisors. Overall, Wharton’s Employer Services office is in contact with up to 700 companies, and keeps up to speed with what they anticipate their hiring needs will be in the coming year, as well as what worked for them in previous years.

To read about the highlights of the first day of the conference, check out:

•  What’s New in MBA Admissions? A Report from the 6th Annual AIGAC Conference [Part 1] 

• Innovations in MBA Curriculum

• The Growth of Part-Time and Virtual MBA Programs

•  What’s New in MBA Admissions? A Report from the 6th Annual AIGAC Conference [Part 2]

Judy Gruen By , MBA admissions consultant since 1996 and author (with Linda Abraham) of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

What’s New in MBA Admissions? A Report from the 6th Annual AIGAC Conference [Part 2]


At Columbia, career orientation begins just four weeks into the first year

Five editors, including company president and founder Linda Abraham, attended  the 6th annual conference of Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants in Philadelphia in mid-June. We were graciously hosted by Wharton on day two, and on day one, we met with admissions directors from a dozen top MBA programs who told us about the latest changes in their own programs, from the applications process to career services. We were treated to these updates by admissions directors from Yale, Columbia, UNC, NYU, UT-Austin, Georgetown University, Tuck, Cornell, Rotman, and CEIBS (China Europe International Business School.) A subsequent post will cover our day at Wharton.

This is the second post containing highlights from the first day.  Check out the first post for more about innovations in the MBA curriculum and the growth of part-time and virtual MBA programs.

Career Services – More Involved than Ever

• Many adcom directors emphasized the involvement of their Career Services staff, often beginning at the application stage. At NYU Stern, career counselors meet with applicants to assess how plausible their post-MBA career goals are and whether they feel the school can help them achieve those goals. When students matriculate, career services staff meet with them again to help them plan their academics for maximum success in achieving their goals.

• At UT Austin, adcoms also look for past evidence in applications of entrepreneurship.

• At Columbia, career orientation begins just four weeks into the first year, and the school is focusing more on case-based interviews and group projects, where people learn to solve a problem together. They also offer some “pre-MBA” days before matriculation during which students are offered self assessment workshops.

• Columbia’s popular Business Plan Competition also helps students earn seed funding and team up for entrepreneurship options. Associate Dean for Admissions Amanda Carlson said there is now a more bifurcated and less structured recruitment process, with an emphasis on early recruiting in the spring of the first year. This helps determine how well people are keeping up with industry intelligence, and students can adapt their spring courses accordingly.

• Similarly, at Georgetown, the school’s Career Ignition Series offers webinars and self- assessment intakes by mid-summer before matriculation. This emphasis on self-assessment and other preparation helps students present themselves to recruiters in the strongest possible light. Georgetown also has a career fair in conjunction with their sister school in Barcelona, held each year at Georgetown, with 150 recruiters.

The Admissions Process: Still Evolving

 Top MBA programs continually reassess their admissions process, trying to look for ways to get key information from applicants. At Cornell, video clips are the latest addition to the application process. Schools who are adding video clips hope to get a good feel for the students’ personalities and how well they communicate. Tuck has an optional video, knowing that many candidates are camera shy.

• Almost all schools are cutting the number of essays in their applications, as well as cutting the number of words and characters per essay. Columbia has sliced one of their essays from 200 characters to 100, because they felt people were not getting to the point fast enough. UT-Austin is adding a “getting to know you section” that allows applicants to answer in a Facebook style, with photos and short captions. While this was optional last year, 40% chose to answer it. One of Georgetown’s “essays” is a tweet, but candidates are invited to embed a link to a video if they choose.

• Cornell’s quirky “Write the Table of Contents to the story of your life question” remains a keeper this year: the adcom loves the creativity and variety they see, and makes the applications more exciting and interesting to read. Tuck, which offers an open interview, is keeping their three essays, because “it allows candidates to convey what they want to convey.”

• Not surprisingly, all the admissions directors agreed that campus visits, whenever possible, are one of the best ways applicants can assess their suitability for a particular program. The knowledge gained will also help them write their applications in a way that demonstrates familiarity and enthusiasm for the program. Reaching out to current students or alumni, and developing those relationships is also a great way to get information: ask alumni about their experiences, and if they had it to do over again, would they have made the same choice?

Letters of Recommendation – Surprisingly Controversial

The last panel of the day turned out to be surprisingly lively. Admissions consultants and admissions directors all agreed that the highly individualized nature of letter of recommendation (LOR) forms make this aspect of the application arduous and duplicative. Recommenders often find this a daunting task and often, punt the job to the applicant, which presents a dilemma for the candidate.

This form of LOR is also foreign – culturally speaking – to many of the recommenders being asked to write them. This lack of familiarity, in addition to language barriers, pushes many applicants into a situation where they hear from their recommender, “You write it, I’ll sign it.” Admissions directors feel this is ethically wrong, and also claim they can tell when applicants have written their own LORs. Worse: the suspicion that the LOR is written by the applicant damages an MBA candidacy. editor R. Todd King, who attended this year’s conference, observed, “It was a surprise to see just how much self-written recommendations count against a candidate – the schools do not take a neutral stance on this. Applicants truly need to find recommenders willing to write on their behalf.”

The admissions directors agreed that a simpler, perhaps even universal LOR form would help resolve this situation. But the takeaway for MBA applicants is that even if they are asked to write their own LORs, they do so at their peril. For information on how to handle this sticky situation, see our ebook, “MBA Letters of Recommendation that Rock.”

Judy Gruen By , MBA admissions consultant since 1996 and author (with Linda Abraham) of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

What’s New in MBA Admissions? A Report from the 6th Annual AIGAC Conference [Part 1]

Georgetown McDonough

Speakers at Georgetown inclue the President of the United States.

Change and innovation are vital in nearly every industry today, including in graduate school admissions consulting. Five editors, including company president and founder Linda Abraham, attended the 6th annual conference of Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants in Philadelphia June 12-15. We were graciously hosted by Wharton on day two, and on day one, we met with admissions directors from a dozen top MBA programs who told us about the latest changes in their own programs, from the applications process to career services. We were treated to these updates by admissions directors from Yale, Columbia, UNC, NYU, UT-Austin, Georgetown University, Tuck, Cornell, Rotman, and CEIBS (China Europe International Business School.) A subsequent post will cover our day at Wharton.

Here are highlights of the day:

Innovations in MBA Curriculum

• At Georgetown’s McDonough Business School, Senior Associate Dean of Marketing Strategy & New Program Development Elizabeth Griffith said the program has strengthened its quant courses, added intensive three-week sessions during year one on economics, ethics, and policies, as well as an accounting “boot camp” option. McDonough is also bringing in professors from a variety of disciplines for a more multi-disciplinary approach to subjects, such as analytical problem solving, firm analysis and strategy, leadership, and social intelligence.

Georgetown’s international consulting project also ensures that any student who arrives without international business experience will have some to put on their resumes by graduation. The school’s Washington, D.C. location is extremely appealing to students interested in government and international business: Speakers at the school include the President of the United States, prime ministers, ambassadors, and other top government officials, who address topical issues.

• Meanwhile, Columbia’s MBA program is offering more integrated courses in law and business, technology, optional tutorials on math and accounting, and emotional intelligence self-assessments to build awareness. The school continues to see a “strong appetite” for social entrepreneurship among students.

• University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is adapting to students’ requests to become more efficient. Director of Admissions Sherry Wallace said the school is responding by allowing students to “attend” some lectures online in response to their request for more class time devoted to questions and discussions. (Attendance tracking is part of system, she noted.) UNC also has a new healthcare concentration, developed in conjunction with the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Law. Students can also now assess themselves on leadership abilities and map their growth, based on a customized program.

The Growth of Part-Time and Virtual MBA Programs

• Part-time, evening and online programs continue to gain in popularity. Georgetown’s new, three-year evening program enrolls 130 students per class and has the same curriculum as the FT program. Sixty percent of the students in this program are career switchers, with experience in government, consulting, and government contracting. McDonough’s Associate Dean, Shari Hubert, said these students enjoy the same support in the career counseling department, and are a “very disciplined” bunch, juggling FT work and school. The school is also offering a variety of customized Executive MBA programs.

• At Cornell, applicants can apply to a one-year accelerated program or a 16-month virtual program that has “board rooms” in many cities. As one example, the school has partnered with both New York City and the Technion for an engineering program that will meet on a new campus on Roosevelt Island (the campus is expected to be ready in 2017). In May 2014, Cornell will also launch a one-year innovation program at Google’s campus in New York City. Ann Richards, Cornell’s Associate Dean of Admissions, said this will be “completely different” than the current one-year program: it will be technically focused, not finance-focused, feature modules, and offer credits for experiential work. It’s geared for students between 25-30 who want to focus on the tech-based entrepreneurship.

• Beth Flye, director of admissions at MBA@UNC, UNC’s online program, announced that Kenan-Flaglar has new, exclusive partnerships with to provide an MBA program in the virtual space. Geared for FT workers, including those with more than 20 years’ work experience, the first cohort of 17 students has just graduated; the next cohort will have more than 550 students. (For more information on MBA@UNC, please check out this week’s podcast, Are Online MBAs the Real Thing? A Conversation with MBA@UNC’s Beth Flye )

Despite the virtual nature of the program, Flye said it remains “very high touch,” with lots of interaction among the students and between students and instructors. has created what Flye calls a very sophisticated, very customized Learning Management System in which students can learn together, work on group projects, and even run clubs.

• All the schools emphasized the considerable career support offered in these alternate MBA programs. In some cases, they interview applicants before the programs begin and based on what they foresee are their strengths and hiring viability, they may steer them from one type of program to another. Many schools offer virtual counseling, large networking events in major cities, and mini career fairs. Adcom directors also noted that recruiters are often particularly interested in graduates of accelerated programs, knowing these candidates have proven themselves able to successfully manage both a rigorous school workload and FT job.

Keep your eyes peeled for my next post which will cover some of the other topics discussed at the conference:

• Career Services – More Involved than Ever

• The Admissions Process: Still Evolving

• Letters of Recommendation – Surprisingly Controversial

Judy Gruen

By , MBA admissions consultant since 1996 and author (with Linda Abraham) of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Fun Facts about this Year’s B-School Applicants

On average, applicants spent 90-140 hours on the MBA application process.

Poets & Quants provided a lengthy summary and analysis of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC)’s recent survey on b-school applicants’ opinions and experiences of the MBA admissions process.

Here we’ll provide some highlights from the survey, and then I’ll provide a few additional thoughts.

•   Applicants ranked Dartmouth Tuck, Duke Fuqua, and Chicago Booth as the top three b-schools for getting to know the applicants during the application process. (These three were followed by Stanford GSB, UC Berkeley Haas, and Northwestern Kellogg.)

•   57% of respondents reported that they used the assistance of admissions consultants when applying to b-school.

•   91% of respondents who used the service named the essay assistance as the most valuable admissions consulting service. The five most popular schools according to the respondents were HBS, Wharton, MIT Sloan, Kellogg, and Stanford.

•   On average, applicants spent 90-140 hours on the MBA application process, 70-110 hours excluding the GMAT.

•   38% of applicants were asked to write or draft their own letters of recommendation. For international applicants, that number was at 50%.

Regarding admissions consulting, AIGAC provided the following chart (which we, as an admissions consultancy, found interesting!):


Additional Thoughts:

I attended the AIGAC conference in Philadelphia. Unfortunately flight delays caused me to miss much of the discussion about the survey results. A few thoughts on both what I heard and on these results:

•   The most important stat above is that applicants reported spending 70-110 hours on the applications excluding GMAT prep. Don’t underestimate the amount of time required by the application process, specifically the essays. Frankly, I believe the estimates above both for GMAT prep and essay writing are on the low side. Indeed, the time required by the application process is one of our motivations for our Early Bird Special. We encourage you to start early and submit a thoughtful, unhurried application. And we are putting our money where our mouth is.

•   At the conference, the letters of recommendation stats attracted the most attention. Apparently many of the admissions directors in attendance were shocked that so many applicants are asked to draft the letter for the recommender’s signature. I was shocked they were shocked, but they were. (Lots of shock going around.) I hope that the discussion surrounding the letters of recommendation leads to a less burdensome and more authentic recommendation process. If it does, however, it probably won’t happen until the next application cycle. In the meantime, seek recommenders willing to spend the time to write their own strong letters on your behalf.

•   While I don’t believe that 57% of all applicants use consultants (this survey was conducted by consultants and probably skewed towards those who use our services), I do believe that the percentage of applicants benefiting from consultants is growing.

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.



 This article was sponsored by PaGaLGuY. PaGalGuy is India’s largest network of MBA aspirants with 700,000 unique visitors per month. 80% of all GMAT takers in India use PaGaLGuY to network with schools and alumni for their application process, research, essays, VISA tips, etc. PaGaLGuY has been continuously solving one of the major challenges faced by a lot of B-schools outside India -to consistently reach-out to Indian GMAT takers/applicants who may be a good fit for their programs.

AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey [You Can Win $100!]

AIGACAs Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) members, we are conducting a survey to help us better understand our readers’ goals and needs.

Take the MBA Search Survey, and win $100 and our sincere gratitude! The anonymous data will be shared with admissions officers from top programs. Make your voice heard!

We’d like to invite all of our MBA readers to share their school selection priorities and views on the MBA application process.

The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. Please complete it by May 15th, 2013. Everyone completing the survey will be entered to win one of three VISA gift cards (contact email will be used for prize purposes only). We’ll also be sharing the results of the survey this spring to help candidates better understand the nature of today’s applicant pool.

Click here to take our MBA prospect survey.

Admissions Straight Talk: Interview with Anna Ivey

Anna IveyListen to the full audio of our informative conversation with Anna Ivey for valuable insight into the world of law school admissions:

00:24:50  –  Meet Anna Ivey: admissions consultant, author, president of AIGAC, and former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School.

01:08:00  –  “I wanna’ be an admissions officer when I grow up!” Just kidding.

02:38:50  –  Highlights of the AIGAC conference in Spain. (The first venture out of US borders.)

04:15:00  –  The most important takeaways for applicants.

07:00:00  –  What is the legitimate role of an admissions consultant in the admissions process?

09:22:00  –  With all the turmoil in law school admissions, law schools, law jobs, who should be applying to law school?

11:00:00  –  The due diligence required of law school applicants: Why? Why? Why?

18:37:00  –  Changes in law school admissions in response to the recent meltdown.

21:28:50  –  What should law school applicants do to prepare for the new market?

23:51:00  –  A key differentiator that law school applicants need  to demonstrate in their personal statement.

27:22:00  –  Words of wisdom for applicants applying this Fall.

Visit for more info, and be sure to check out her blog.

Admissions Straight Talk

Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes so you don’t miss any segments! Stay in the admissions know. (And while you’re there, feel free to leave us a review.)

*Theme music is courtesy of

Why Use an Admissions Consultant?

This blog post originally appeared on AIGAC’s blog.

There are endless and frequent discussions on forums and message boards questioning the value of admissions consulting. One of the more common arguments against using a consultant runs something like this:

“Everyone I know that’s been accepted and is attending top schools did so without …an admissions consultant…. Is [using a consultant] crucial to top-school acceptance? Absolutely not.”

I’m sure if you took a poll of AIGAC members, the overwhelming majority would have attended grad school without the aid of a consultant. Many, including me, would not have taken a test prep course before applying to graduate school. However, over the last thirty years test preparation went from being an act of desperation, to a competitive edge, to a mainstay of the application process. Today, to maximize chances of a top score and acceptance at the best possible school, virtually all applicants take a test prep course.

The same phenomenon is occurring to admissions consulting, but educational advising is currently at the “competitive edge” stage. At this point, using a consultant is not crucial for some. It is extremely helpful for all.

The question is not whether one can get accepted to business, law, or medical school without a consultant. Many are accepted without professional advising. The question is: Are the advantages of using a consultant worth the cost?

First let’s discuss the ways in which a consultant can help you. We bring:

  1. Experience that you lack.
  2. Objectivity to a subject that is difficult to be objective about: You
  3. Editing skills. Professional writers have editors because their writing benefits from a knowledgeable, critical eye. The same is true for the writing of non-professionals.

How do these benefits justify the cost and provide a critical competitive edge?

Using an admissions consultant can:

  • Enable your acceptance to a “better” school. “Better” implies more professional opportunity, increased earnings, and an educational experience more to your liking. Just looking at dollars and cents, “better” represents potentially tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket during your career.
  • Help you snag a fellowship or scholarship. Savings: tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Save you the cost of reapplication. Applying to medical, law, business school or any other graduate program including application fees and travel expenses can cost several thousand dollars. When you apply one time, you save.
  • Reduce the time, stress, and frustration you (and those close to you) experience during the admissions process. We can guide you so you don’t go down tangents and useless paths or flounder for weeks as you struggle to learn what we know.

So can you gain acceptance to a graduate school without using an admissions consultant? Certainly. Should you try? Only if you don’t value the experience, objectivity, and skill that can provide you with returns many times the cost.

By Linda Abraham, AIGAC‘s vice-president,’s founder and president.


Why We Post Sample Essays

As co-founder, current board member, and past president of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) as well as founder of Accepted, I have worked hard to maintain ethical and professional standards in the admissions consulting industry.

So why has posted sample essays on its site since 1996? Am I talking out of both sides of my mouth? On one side, blasting those who write essays for others or who plagiarize essays, and on the other, providing material for plagiarism?

No. I recognize the merit of seeing real examples that real applicants wrote and that contributed to their acceptances at top schools. These essays won’t have the slickest jargon and they may not be as perfect or glossy as you would expect. The value of reviewing them lies in seeing their variety and hearing authentic voices in the different essays.

And that’s why we post them. Here is a list of our sample essay pages, each of which links to a special report that tells you how to use the samples to effectively tell your own story in your own voice:

There is no value in using these sample essays as templates and certainly none in copying them even in part. Either abuse of the sample essays could cause your rejection. No questions asked.

Realize that many of the sample essays have been on our site for years so copying them is incredibly foolish. Admissions committee members are familiar with them, and at one point Jonathan Fuller, Senior Associate Director of Admissions at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, even tweeted: “I swear I read Linda’s exact sample essay a few times in R1.” What do you think about the authors’ chance of acceptance?

FYI: will cease work with clients who copy and refuse to write their own essays when confronted with the plagiarism. Unfortunately we have had to do this in the past.

So learn from the sample essays provided on our site. That’s what they’re there for. But please write your own.

Linda AbrahamBy , president and founder of


INSEAD 2012 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips.

The 2013 INSEAD tips are now available.  Click here to check them out!

This INSEAD 2012 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.

INSEADINSEAD 2012 MBA Essay Questions


1. Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major
responsibilities, and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget,
clients/ products and results achieved. (250 words maximum)

The key to strong job descriptions is “results achieved.” Definitely provide the other requested elements, but the differentiator is going to be those results. Quantifying impact usually brings out their significance.

The second most important element is “major responsibilities.” Don’t list the mundane or the aspects of your job that everyone with your title will share. Where did you shoulder “major responsibility”? Be specific in these descriptions to differentiate yourself, especially if you are from a common professional group in the applicant pool.

2. Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)

Don’t confuse “full description” with “complete history.” How would you characterize your career since college? You also have to answer the second part of the question and you only have 250 words. Choose the most important elements — those elements that show contribution, leadership, and since this is INSEAD, a multi-cultural and global perspective.

3. If you are currently not working, what are you doing and what do you plan to do until you
start the MBA programme? (250 words maximum)

This is pretty self-explanatory. Show that you aren’t waiting for the phone to ring. How are you improving yourself in the interim? How are you improving your community?


1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors, which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (600 words maximum)

For a question like this I recommend two strengths and one weakness. If you can choose one anecdote that reveals both the strengths and the weakness, you could have a strong essay. (See the video in the update below for more on this idea.) Don’t forget to discuss how these qualities influenced your personal development.

A word on weaknesses. Be honest without going overboard. Don’t make up a phony weakness. I attended an HBS info session a few years ago. One of the alumni said that he discussed a “phony weakness” in his essays (required for HBS that year), and his interviewer focused right on it, and basically said, “Come on. What’s a real weakness?” The applicant had to get real in a hurry. Take advantage of the essay: Give it some thought and respond with the benefit of that reflection. For more information, please see “Flaws Make You Real.”

At a recent AIGAC conference one of the adcom members remembered that an applicant in response to a similar question had listed his weakness as “pitching new ideas in a meeting.” The adcom member felt that the applicant was specific, real, and showed self-awareness by revealing this flaw. In fact, by demonstrating these qualities in addition to the requested weakness that he was working on, the applicant actually enhanced his chances of acceptance with his response.

Don’t write about “weakness in pitching new ideas in meetings” as your flaw just because you saw it here :-) It will become the lame, stale example everyone uses. However, you all have weakness. Just be thoughtful enough and honest enough to reveal yours.

2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date (if possible specify one personal and one professional), explaining why you view them as such. (400 words maximum)

Reference achievements from different areas of your life. (But don’t go back to high school and earlier to do so.) The accomplishments should show impact, contribution, and for INSEAD at least one should have a multi-cultural flavor. Quantify to add credibility and specificity to your attainments.

3. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed.
Discuss what you learned. (400 words maximum)

OK. when did you blow it. What did you learn from the experience. That lesson is the key element. The question is about resilience — your ability to learn and bounce back from failure.  Much like HBS 2, this essay is a place for you to show that quality. Leaders need it.

4. a) Discuss your short and long term career goals. (300 words maximum) and
b) How will studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words maximum)

New variation on the goals theme. For A, show that you have a clear direction, a goal for your MBA. That means not that you know what you want to study while at INSEAD, but that you know what you want to DO and where you want to do it after you leave INSEAD. Define the function you want to perform and the industry you want to perform in it when you have your MBA. If relevant, you can also provide geographic preferences.

For the long-term goals, a little fuzziness is allowed, certainly more than for the short-term. However, the long-term goals should flow directly from the short term. It should all make sense and hang together.

For B, given your goals, why do you want to attend INSEAD? What about its distinctive, intense, multi-campus program will help you achieve your goals. What do you anticipate learning and how will it help you realize your vision.

5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:

a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain? (250 words maximum),


b) Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture
shock. (250 words maximum)

Choose the option that is easiest for you to answer and allows you to bring out an aspect of your experience not found elsewhere. Keep it short, real short.

6. (Optional) Is there anything that you have not mentioned in the above essays that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (350 words maximum)

Use the optional essay to give them one more reason to accept you. DON’T use it for a superficial summary, a restatement of your other essays, or anything similarly boring and trite. If you choose to write it, produce a tight, focused essay revealing something you haven’t yet discussed.

7. (Reapplicant)In case of reapplication, please provide an update on any new aspects of your
professional, international, academic or personal profile that would not have been
included in your previous application. Please also explain your motivation for re-applying
to INSEAD. (400 words maximum)

Historically, INSEAD was tough on MBA reapplicants. Hopefully this questions signals a greater openness to reapplication.

How are you a better applicant now than you were last time? What’s changed? INSEAD adds a twist by asking you to explain why you are re-applying. Why do you think you will get accepted this time if you didn’t last time? The answer had better not be that you’re counting on a decline in application volume to help you squeak in the Fountainbleau door. Again, how are you “new and improved”? Why do you still want INSEAD?

INSEAD Application Deadlines

Jan 2012 Application Deadlines:  30 March 2011; 15 June 2011; 3 August 2011

Sept 2012 Application Deadlines:  28 September 2011; 7 December 2011; 21 March 2012

Jan 2013 Application Deadlines:  11 April 2012; 20 June 2012; 16 August 2012

*To be included in a specific round, applications must be complete and submitted by midnight (23.59) Central European Time on the day of deadline.

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

Linda Abraham By , President and Founder of