Student Body, Recruitment, Location: Future UCLA Anderson MBA Interview

Click here to learn more about UCLA Anderson!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a follow up interview with Piyush, who was recently accepted to UCLA Anderson. (We first met Piyush last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)

Accepted: Can you remind us a little about who you are?

Piyush: I am an incoming UCLA Anderson MBA candidate with experience in development consulting, entrepreneurship (retail) and oil and gas. Most of my roles in these industries have been people-orientated and in sales. I am a biotech graduate from London and have lived in 7 countries, mostly in the Middle-East.

Accepted: Which schools did you get accepted to and why did you choose UCLA Anderson? Why do you think that’s the best school for you?

Piyush: I got accepted at number of top-tier business schools in India and the U.S., but choose Anderson mainly for the student body, diversity in recruitment and location. I have expanded this in detail on my Anderson student blog post here.

Based on my interests and past experiences, I will be looking in pharma/biotech marketing and sales at tech companies such as Google or Amazon. Anderson has focused its curriculum around different functional tracks including marketing, allowing me to focus early on. Also the school has a great relationship with companies such as Amgen and Google.

Accepted: Can you talk about your decision to attend a U.S. MBA program over a program in India?

Piyush: It is difficult to compare MBA programs in India and the U.S. because they are serving different markets and addressing different business problems. India scores more on the economy growth front, job placements numbers, and cost. But U.S. schools such as Anderson stand out for job readiness, leadership, exposure, diversity and experience.

It also boils down to where you want to work immediately post-MBA. The schools have the biggest value in their respective regions. Having studied and worked in India, I was looking for a new and diverse experience.

Accepted: What are you most looking forward to with starting b-school in the fall?

Piyush: I am most looking forward to being a student again. The excitement to learn new things, ask questions and at the same time have fun. I am also very excited to meet my classmates at Anderson.

Accepted: Can you talk about your waitlist experience at UNC? What did you do in between getting the news that you were on the waitlist and then getting the acceptance letter? Did you take steps to improve your profile, write a waitlist letter, etc.?

Piyush: I think the term waitlist should be renamed to some actionable term such as reach-out or something. A lot of candidates simply choose to wait, which really does not help their application. I understand that some business schools (such as Ross), only allow you to send one update but most schools are happy to host you on-campus and learn about your progress.

I was waitlisted at a few schools, and the first thing I did was seek feedback. You will be surprised how the admissions team views your application. Since I was not able to improve my profile drastically, I visited the school, networked with current students, and reached out to admissions team frequently.

Patience and persistence is generally rewarded at this stage of application.

Accepted: An MBA is not cheap – do you have any tips for our readers on paying for b-school?

Piyush: There are number of ways to finance an MBA, ranging from company sponsorship to private loans. I believe a strong GMAT score and application certainly helps you land a scholarship.

Apart from customized loan programs for international students, students can ease their financial burden during studies with academic internships and teaching assistant positions.

Accepted: How do you plan on spending the time between now and when you start school in the fall? Are you doing anything to prepare for b-school?

Piyush: I am taking some time off from work and travelling in India. Anderson has kept us busy with weekly emails, which ensure that we are ready with everything. The UCLA Anderson Parker Career Management Center has started working with us closely.

I am also doing a small pre-MBA course at mbamath.com to get ready for the academic rigor of business school.

Accepted: What would you say are your top three MBA admissions tips?

1. Start early – This is very important. I used a number of resources from Accepted.com and Admissionado to kick-start my applications.

2. GMAT score matters, at least for Indian applicants – A couple of business schools asked me to increase my GMAT to 740 during the waitlist period because I was competing with fellow Indian citizens many of whom also presented stellar applications. My GMAT score was already 720.

3. Take the medicine – Spend the time and resource to learn about the business school you are interested it. Your research and interest directly reflect in your essays and interview.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages

You can read more about Piyush by checking out his blog, Piyush Jain: Science, Technology & Sports, and following him on Twitter here. Thank you Piyush for sharing your story with us!

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Interview with an Admitted UCLA Anderson [Re]Applicant

Click here to read more MBA student interviews!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a follow up interview with James Huntington, who was recently accepted to UCLA Anderson. (We first met James last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)

Accepted: It’s nice to have you back! Can you tell us a little about how you’ve spent your last year?

James: Thanks! I am excited for the opportunity to share a little bit more about my experience. I never imagined how much time, energy, and effort would go into applying to b-school. It definitely consumes you. Other than applications, interviews, etc., I have tried to spend as much time as I can with my wife and kids (we are expecting another boy here in a couple weeks). We did a couple family surf trips, one to Washington and one to Mexico…Mexico was a little bit warmer. I have also spent the past couple months brushing up on some math/Excel skills, as well as taking a few computer science and coding classes to help prep me for my goal to transition into the tech industry.

Accepted: Congrats on your acceptance to UCLA Anderson! In our last interview, you had said that you were applying to Tuck, Haas, Kellogg, MIT, and Yale – but no mention of Anderson! When did you add Anderson to the list? Did you apply to any others not on your original list?

James: Thank you so much! Anderson was on my shortlist of schools I wanted to apply to, but I decided I didn’t want to tackle more than five applications in round one, even though I got a very early start being a reapplicant. After being dinged or waitlisted by the schools I applied to in round one, I decided to apply to Darden, Tepper, and Fuqua, in addition to UCLA Anderson.

Accepted: Where else were you accepted to? What tipped the scales to favor Anderson? 

James: I ended up getting into Darden and Tepper as well. At first, I was having a very difficult time deciding where to go. There were aspects of each program that I really liked and I knew I could be successful at each one. However, as I talked to more students/alumni, reflected on my personal/professional goals, etc., Anderson was clearly the right choice for me. This is not to say that Darden or Tepper lacked in any of these areas, but there were a few things that really stood out to me about Anderson:

Students

Throughout this whole process, I have found that Anderson students have been some of the most, if not the most responsive, friendly, genuine, and helpful students I have talked to. Of the students I contacted or was introduced to, 100% of them responded and took time to talk with me. The only other school that came remotely close to that was Tuck. All the students I spoke with at Anderson were down to earth and very friendly. A few even offered me a place to stay while I look for housing. I appreciated the fact that after I was accepted I was assigned a buddy by the admission office. I was also contacted by an alumni and spoke with him about his experience at Anderson. Another thing that really impressed me compared to some of the other programs was the amount of help/advice Anderson students gave me in terms of preparing for school and a career transition.

Location

One factor I didn’t think would be too important to me while I was researching programs, but became increasingly so, was the location of the school. For my career goals, to transition into tech, aside from perhaps the Bay Area, I couldn’t have picked a better location. Plus, having grown up in California, I am looking forward to returning to my home state and enjoying the great weather! No more snow 2014!!!

In relation to location, one thing I really like about Anderson is they offer academic internships. With the relatively strong tech start-up scene in the Los Angeles area, this will give me the opportunity to further gain and develop the needed skills and experience while in school to land a job in tech post-MBA.

Career/Technology

Along the lines of location and career, another big plus for Anderson was the strength of their tech club, the High-Tech Business Association, and the amount of different offerings for students interested in tech. With nearly a quarter of the students from Anderson going into the tech industry, the school has put a lot of resources into developing this area of their program. With some of the other schools, I felt like I would have to put a lot of personal effort into being able to get anywhere near the experience I would at Anderson. Another big draw to the program was that Anderson’s Career Management Center, Parker CMC, has consistently be ranked one of the top MBA career management centers. From all my conversations with Anderson students, the strength of the Parker CMC is one thing that came up in almost every conversation.

Community

Although there are a ton of other reasons I chose Anderson, the last one I will talk about is the community. I mentioned this earlier, but all of the students and fellow admits that I have spoken to have been very down to earth, friendly, and receptive. I initially really wanted to be in a small town to make sure I got the tighter-knit, community feel from the program I attended. However, after the experience I have had thus far with Anderson, I am confident I will get the tight-knit community feel while being in one of the most vibrant cities in the world!

Sorry to go on and on, but as you can tell, I am really excited about Anderson!

Accepted: Can you talk about your different interview experiences (this year and last year when you applied the first time)? And can you share a few tips with our readers on interviewing?

James: Absolutely! Of the entire application process, I enjoyed the interview the most. I felt like I was able to paint the best picture of myself while interviewing, as long as I was prepared. The difference between my first interview last year and my last interview this year was like night and day. I think some of it had to do with just gaining experience interviewing, but it was mostly due to my level of preparation and understanding my story.

Of all of the interviews I did, my favorite was by far my interview with Darden. The interviewer came in completely blind, she didn’t even have my resume, and she asked me to tell her my story. She wanted to know about my personal life, my professional life, and my goals. She would interject from time to time with questions, but overall, she let me direct the conversation. Because I wasn’t restricted to answering specific questions, I felt like I was able to express who I am and who I want to be much better than in other interviews. I think that question would have been overwhelming if I hadn’t prepared and didn’t know that Darden was known for the “Tell me your story” interview style, but thanks to the various forums and interview reports, I was, and it made the experience very enjoyable.

For those that will be interview soon, make sure you prepare! Don’t just prep for general interview questions, but look up interview reports for each school, the interview formats can be very different. The better prepared you are, the smoother the interview will go.

Also, know your story inside and out. Own it! Know what you want to do, how you are going to do it, and how the school you are interviewing with is going to help you. When asked, “Why our school?” don’t respond with general comments like, “Collaborative culture,” “Tight-knit community,” etc. Be specific! If those things are important to you, tell them how their school exhibits those characteristics. Be genuinely specific about classes, clubs, conferences, and activities that are going to help you achieve your goals. Again, be specific about how you will contribute to you class and the program. In order to do that, you will need to prepare, research, and talk to students/professors.

Accepted: What are you most looking forward to in starting b-school in the fall?

James: I have always enjoyed going to school. I am really looking forward to stepping away from work for a while and devoting all that time and energy into school. I believe that an MBA is a great opportunity to better yourself personally and professionally, and I am looking forward to doing that with some great classmates. I have already had the chance to connect with a few members of my future class and I have been impressed by all the different backgrounds and things they have accomplished. I am really excited to get to know them better and to meet more great people. Outside of school, I am looking forward to going surfing, and my kids are pumped to be so close to Disneyland!

Accepted: Do you still blog? How do you think your blog will evolve now that you’ve been accepted? 

James: I am still definitely blogging. So many of the other prospective students’ blogs and current students’ blogs helped me throughout this process, I want to give back in some way if possible. Hopefully some of the things I write about will help those that are just beginning the process, and maybe inspire some reapplicants to keep working hard and going after their dreams.

My blog has definitely evolved since I started it. When I first started writing, it was mainly for myself. It was an outlet for all the pent up thoughts/anxiety brought on by the application process. I feel like it has become more of a place for me to share my experiences and information I have come across to help benefit others who are going through the process now. My hope is that it will become a resource for those individuals. I plan to blog while I am in school as well, although it might not be at the same rate, and offer insight into life at b-school, specifically UCLA Anderson.

You can read more about this blogger’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, MBA Reapplicant! Thank you James for sharing your story with us!

Tips to help you ace those MBA interviews!

 

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The Economist’s Top 20 North American MBA Programs

How much do MBA rankings matter? Click here for the short answer. Below you’ll find The Economist’s top 20 American business schools, with a rank on the left (ranking the top 20 in the U.S. and Canada) and a rank on the right (the school’s place in the top 100 global rankings). As you’ll see, the American programs listed are all located at the top or very close to the top of the top global programs. The Economist article highlights the legacy of American programs – their size, their history, their all-star faculties (all of Wharton’s 245 professors have PhDs), and their financial magnitude.

As always when looking at rankings, you need to understand the methodology behind them. The Economist’s methodology is a weighted average going back to 2011 of some fairly quirky factors including “Diversity of recruiters,” “Number of languages taught,” and “Number of overseas countries with an official alumni branch.” If those and other factors considered by the Economist are not important to you, then this ranking probably isn’t that useful to you.

There are 16 schools on the global rankings that have an average GMAT score over 700; 14 of them are American (with Stanford GSB taking the cake with an average of 729).For opening up doors career-wise, the top 5 schools in the global rankings were all Americans – Chicago Booth, Dartmouth Tuck, UVA Darden, and Columbia. Interestingly, even with the top marks for job opportunities, graduates from American programs tend to earn less than those from European and Australian programs – the Economist article claims that this is likely due to the limited pre-MBA work experience of those accepted at American programs. (Even Stanford’s grads, who in America boast the highest average salary of around $130,000, earn less than grads from less prestigious programs like IMD in Switzerland and University of Queensland in Australia.)

In terms of cost, the American schools certainly rank at the top of the chart. A Harvard MBA will run students $112,000. A degree from Wharton costs $130,000.

How much do rankings really matter? Click here to view our 2-min answer.

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GRE vs. GMAT: Trends

A recent Poets & Quants article highlights some of the current data surrounding the decision applicants make in choosing between the GRE and GMAT. According to the Educational Testing Service, almost 10% of MBA applicants took the GRE instead of the GMAT in the 2012-2013 testing year, a 38% increase since last year’s testing period.

One factor responsible for this shift is the fact that some major MBA players (mainly Chicago Booth, UC Berkeley Haas, and Georgetown McDonough) finally decided to accept the GRE.

Here are some additional stats:

• 29% of b-schools surveyed by Kaplan Test Prep said that at least 10% of their applicants were GRE test takers. 18% of schools said that their GRE pool was at 18%. 6% of respondents said that their applicant pool was made up of half GRE test takers and half GMAT test takers.

• At Yale SOM, 21% of applicants submitted GRE scores last year, an increase of 18% since the previous year.

• 25% of Notre Dame Mendoza prospective students submitted a GRE score last year, up from 12% previously.

• At UCLA Anderson, only 3% of applicants submitted GRE scores.

• 5% of Columbia Business School applicants took the GRE last year, compared to 2% the year before.

• At Emory Goizueta, 8% of last year’s prospective students took the GMAT, up from the previous year’s 3%.

• Washington Olin’s GRE pool dropped 7% from 31% in 2012 to 24% last year (which is still high).

• Texas McCombs also took a slight dip, from 13% in 2012 to 11% last year.

• In India, the number of GRE test takers increased 68% last year, from 52,792 in 2012 to 88,884 last year. In the U.S., the increase in test takers over that same period was just 5.3%, from 401,286 test takers in 2012 to 422.668 this past year.

Reasons for the Growth in GRE

• Versatility of the GRE. Rob Weiler, UCLA Anderson’s associate dean, points out that many students are submitting scores from GRE tests they took up to a few years ago. “It’s clear that they had graduate school in mind when they took the test but were still considering the best avenue to take for their career,” he says. “Once it became clear that business school was their choice, they used their GRE score to apply.”

• Price. The GMAT is priced at $250, while the GRE costs only $195.

• Rankings and willingness to accept lower scores. The P&Q article states that admissions consultants are suggesting that applicants take the GRE over the GMAT because of the way official rankings take the GMAT into consideration. “So an admissions office might be overly sensitive to a low GMAT score, but might pass on a lower GRE,” states the article, which then goes on to compare GREs and GMATs of accepted students at Yale – the former being lower than the latter. (Using ETS’ comparative tool, the equivalent GMAT score based on the GRE scores accepted at Yale would be 660; the average GMAT score at Yale is 714. A similar phenomenon is found with other programs, with a 91 point gap at Cornell Johnson, a 126 point gap at Washington Olin, and a 118 point gap at Vanderbilt Owen.)

• The ScoreSelect option. This allows test takers to retake the exam and send only their best score to their target schools.

The following chart comes from the P&Q article and shows the percentage of 2012-2013 applicants who submitted GRE scores, as well as the GRE-GMAT differences.

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Source: Business schools reporting to U.S. News & World Report

My thoughts

On one hand, the focus on the comparator tool may be misplaced. When I have spoken to admissions committee members about the GRE we spoke in terms of percentile scores. I would love to see this data and the comparison between the GMAT and the GRE comparing percentile scores. I think that would be more worthwhile. I suspect it would still show similar results, but perhaps with smaller gaps.

Regardless of the validity of the comparator tool, this article suggests that the GRE may not only be cheaper, it may in a way take your score out of the public eye. And if you don’t need a high GMAT to snag an interview at an elite bank or consulting firm, and you’re struggling with the GMAT, the GRE may be a better test for you.

Although I can’t locate the blog post, soon after schools started accepting the GRE in greater numbers, I suggested that those of you with other evidence of academic ability who are struggling with the GMAT should contemplate applying with the GRE. I felt that because the GRE is not reflected in the published GMAT averages that applicants, alumni, and employers use as a quick-and-dirty reflection of student “quality,” submitting a GRE score instead of the GMAT would give admissions officers wiggle room to focus on other aspects of your application. It would allow them to consider your application without worrying about a hit to their GMAT average.

On the other hand if you can do well on the GMAT, go for it. Schools want GMAT bragging rights.

Got GMAT Questions? Visit GMAT 101 for advice.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com 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.

Where Does Wall St. Hire: U.S. B-Schools Sending Grads into Financial Services

According to GMAC’s just released Prospective Students Survey Report, 37% of prospective MBA students hope to go into finance after they earn their degree, making it the most popular post-MBA destination. If you fall into this crowded category, then you’ll be interested in knowing which b-schools prepare the most grads for jobs in financial services.

As you’ll see below, we’ve created two charts (based on data from U.S. News’ top 25, which happens to have 26 schools because of a tie for 25th place) that display the U.S. schools with the highest percentage of grads going into financial services and those with the highest number of grads reporting financial services jobs. We did not include non-U.S. programs because U.S. News doesn’t rank them, and we wanted the data to be consistent. There are definitely financial powerhouses outside the U.S.

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For more information about the top MBA programs, check out our B-School Zone pages.

The top names on this list, in terms of absolute numbers, are the standard bearers in finance, known as Wall St. breeding grounds. I was a little surprised at how low MIT Sloan came out on both totem poles. It has very prominent faculty in finance, including Nobel Prize winner Robert C. Merton. Perhaps those smaller schools known for entrepreneurship, like Stanford, MIT Sloan, and Haas, are sending more of their graduates into non-traditional fields. Consequently they will not do as well in this kind of a ranking even though they have the curricular, co-curricular, and placement ability to support financial services goals.

Can you put less weight on attending schools at the top of the list even though you may want to go into financial services when you graduate? You can if you’ve already worked in financial services and are looking to get a broader understanding of business, management and leadership through the MBA. Those of you with that background already have valuable skills and a relevant network. Those of you looking to get into financial services for the first time, however, will probably want to look more closely at the programs higher up this list.

Realize that these lists don’t reflect the class profile of the programs or the typical credentials of admitted applicants. You need to know that information too to assess your competitiveness when choosing where to apply. Washington Olin (2nd in percentages) has an average GMAT of 696. UNC Kenan-Flagler (ranked #4 in percentages) has an average GMAT of 683. Both schools send 32% and 28% of their grads respectively into financial services. For those of you without GMAT bragging rights or other qualifications to get into Chicago (average GMAT 723), Columbia (716), and Wharton (average GMAT 725) — the leaders on this list in absolute numbers and overall USN ranking – Olin and Kenan-Flagler may be a good alternative and at least start you down your desired career path.

Much as I did with the similar data we compiled on consulting I must issue a warning: This list or ranking is valuable, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. “Financial services” is a very broad category covering everything from private equity and venture capital, to investment banking, money management, corporate financial analyst positions, and even good old bean counting (AKA accounting). Clearly your specific area of interest is critical, and you have to dig deeper into the employment reports at your target schools to confirm strong placement in your particular area of interest. Also understand how the curriculum and co-curricular activities, events, and clubs will help you do what you want to do after your MBA.

You want to attend a b-school that will help you realize your career goals. Identifying schools with exceptional track records for students with similar goals – especially for those of you seeking to change industries and enter financial services – is an excellent place to start when choosing which MBA programs to apply to, and ultimately, deciding where to attend. This list helps you focus your research. It is the starting gate, not the finish line.

Focus on Finance will help you research and identify the best programs for you to apply to given your finance goals.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com 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.