Reflections of a Wharton MBA Student and CommonBond Intern

Applying to Wharton in 2015? Check out our application essay tips!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 chat with Tim Hager, a student at Wharton.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Tim: I am from a small town outside of Philadelphia, PA called Ivyland. I went to Georgetown University as an undergrad (Class of 2009) where I studied Finance and Management, and played on the golf team. After undergrad, I competed as a professional golfer for 2 years, and then worked in finance for the following 3 years. My favorite ice cream is, hands down, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Brownie.

Accepted: Where and what year are you in business school? 

Tim: I am in the MBA class of 2015 at The Wharton School (UPenn).

Accepted: In what ways would you say that you’re a good fit with Wharton? 

Tim: The great thing about Wharton is that there is no “normal.” Our class represents such a diverse group of backgrounds, professions, and cultures; so everyone’s fit with Wharton is what they make it! For me, my fit is with the day to day culture: I go to school with over 800 incredibly smart and accomplished people and we all take the curriculum, studying, and recruiting very seriously.

But, equally important is that we are also good about compartmentalizing the stress of recruiting and academics and at not taking ourselves too seriously at times. We make sure we capitalize on the other benefit that b-school offers: growing your social network, traveling the world, building friendships, and just plain old having fun with your classmates.

Accepted: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?

Tim: Have it not be so darn expensive! But no, in all seriousness, Wharton is an incredible place and the friendships, networks, learning, job prospects, and just genuine fun that it provides us is more than I ever imagined. Wharton is a remarkable place of opportunity, and I wouldn’t change that at all.

Accepted: Can you tell us about your internship at CommonBond? In what ways did Wharton help you secure that internship? What’s the internship recruiting process like at Wharton? 

Tim: The internship recruiting process at Wharton means different things for different people. It really starts in early fall for first year students looking to get into mature industries like Investment Banking, Investment Management, and Consulting. In these industries, students are networking and preparing for interviews really starting a few months after they arrive at school in the fall. Recruiting for business roles (Management, Marketing, Operations, Sales, etc) at many of the Corporate, F100 Brands occurs a bit later (Jan-March). Finally, recruiting for early stage companies and startups typically happens last, but can range anytime from February to May. Sometimes startups will recruit on Wharton’s Campus, and other times students identify a startup they are interested in and secure the internship on their own. It really ranges.

Wharton was key in allowing me to get my internship with CommonBond. CommonBond was one of the early stage firms that recruits via Wharton’s internal career website, and that was the first time I was introduced to David Klein and the rest of the awesome team at CommonBond.

My internship at CommonBond has been tremendous thus far. A big reason I came here was to be a part of an innovative firm disrupting the industry in which they compete. CommonBond is doing just that. I had worked in venture (on the financing side) for three years before coming to b-school, and wanted to experience being on the operations and execution side of the equation. I have experienced just that and then some! The challenges facing any early stage firm are more than most people imagine; and when you identify an opportunity or need to get something done, it falls directly on you to do it. That is the coolest part. I’ll give you an example. Although my job role is business development here at CommonBond, I have spent time building website landing pages, running social media marketing campaigns, writing industry content, and analyzing new markets, in addition to my core BD functions.

Accepted: B-school’s not cheap (as you mentioned) — do you have any tips for us on how to finance your business degree? 

Tim: Be smart about it. Do your research. Look, the cost of education is high, we all know it. But the cost of money to buy that education is equally high. There are a lot of places to go for loans. My advice? Look to a lender who is going to provide value above and beyond the check that they write. Look for one that tried to understand who you are, helps grow your personal and professional network for you, and supports your career goals. Commonbond.co is the lender doing it the best.

Accepted: And finally, do you have additional tips you can share on how to get into a top business school like Wharton? What are some things applicants can do to optimize their chances of acceptance?

Tim: I’d love to tell you there were a specific formula (trust me, I really would), but there just isn’t. Being your genuine self is truly the best chance that you have. That said, I do have a few tips:

1. Don’t wait until the last minute to take your GMAT. Use whatever free time you have to study NOW, and take the test. Your scores are good for 5 years, and it takes the pressure off of you the 6 months before applications are due, when you should be focusing on essays, recommendations, and your personal narrative; NOT figuring out how long it will take for a cylindrical barrel to fill up with 4 hoses in it all running at different speeds. Many of the prep courses out there are good- I used Manhattan GMAT – but 80% of the prep is still going to be on your own, outside of the prep class in order for you to really nail the GMAT. Take practice tests; I took 8!

2. Apply in round 1 or round 2….don’t wait for round 3 unless you’ve won an Olympic gold medal, walked on the moon, or are fluent in 10 different languages.

3. Be YOU in your essays, and not who you think the admissions office wants you to be.
Seriously. If you think admissions directors haven’t heard every line in the book, your mistaken. Insincerity is unmistakable. And so is vanity; be proud of who you are but there’s no need to boast…I promise you, your classmates-to-be are equally as cool and accomplished. Finally, do some hard thinking about what is truly unique about you? I’m not talking about how you were the only one of your PE associates to get asked back by your PE firm for a third year (Let your boss say that in his recommendation!). You focus on what truly matters to you in life? Answer that and let it come out in your writing.

4. Apply everything in point #3 to your in-person interview as well.


5. Have a cocktail [or 3] after your last in-person interview, and celebrate!
You just went through a grueling process. The work is done at that point and stressing more will only take hair off of your head and years off of your life – it won’t change your admissions decision. :)

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Wharton see:

• What’s Right with Wharton (and How to Get In), a free webinar.
• Wharton 2015 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips
• Wharton Executive MBA 2015 Essay Tips

Thank you Tim for sharing your stories with us!

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Top MBA Programs Using Shared Letter of Recommendation Questions

Looking for application essay tips? Click here!

A Shared LOR = Good News for Applicants, Recommenders, and B-Schools

The number of top-ranked MBA programs now asking the exact same questions for the letters of recommendation is growing, which is good news both for recommenders and for candidates. LORs are very important to an applicant’s case, providing an objective assessment from a supervisor, former manager, or other professional that helps affirm (or not) what the applicant has stated about her own skills, traits and abilities. But different questions with different word limits were onerous for both applicants, who had to ask the same people to write varying assessments for their multiple applications, as well as the recommenders.

This year, Harvard, Darden, Yale, Stanford, Columbia and Wharton are asking these questions:

 • How do the candidate’s performance, potential, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. 

 • Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

Harvard, Wharton, and Yale have word limits for both questions, though the other programs do not. Not all schools had released their LOR questions for the 2015 application season as of this writing, so this list is not comprehensive, and other schools may be added to the list. Stanford has a helpful link to a transcript of a podcast on what elements make for successful and effective LORs. This advice is certainly applicable to LORs for any other MBA program as well.

Some schools also ask recommenders to fill out a personal qualities and skills grid form, evaluating applicants in a variety of areas. Currently, there is no unity among the schools on the use of a grid, so carefully check each school’s requirements.

Graduate school admissions consultants have lobbied to streamline this LOR process for years, and this convergence around shared questions is a direct outgrowth of those efforts. Last year, at the annual conference of the Association of International Graduate School Consultants (AIGAC), the topic of LORs became unexpectedly lively, with school admissions directors expressing concern over the integrity of what they were reading in LORs, and AIGAC members arguing that using shared questions would enhance the integrity of the process because it would take pressure off both applicant and recommender.

Anna Ivey, president of AIGAC, is pleased with the development of more schools converging around shared LOR questions. “Applicants have for years found themselves in quite a pickle because they have had to dump so much work on their recommenders. In some cases, their recommenders have had to write more words than the applicants do in their essays. That has created all kinds of distortions, despite good intentions.

“As AIGAC’s MBA Applicant Survey has shown since its inception, a sizable minority of recommenders ask applicants to write their own letters, and we suspect that’s because there’s only so much bandwidth they can dedicate to someone else’s application, let alone for multiple people for whom they might be writing letters. That multiplier effect makes for a daunting amount of work. Any convergence around common recommendation questions not only makes the application process easier for applicants and their recommenders, but also helps preserve the integrity of those recommendations and the application process. Cutting down on the duplication and extra work for recommenders will make it more likely that recommenders write their letters themselves, and that’s a great outcome.”

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

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.

Entrepreneurship, Fashion, and Wharton: MBA Alum Interview

For more MBA student & alum interviews, click here!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 chat with Dorie Golkin and Emelyn Northway, Wharton graduates and co-founders of Of Mercer (which you’ll read more about below).

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favorite non-school book?

Dorie: I (proudly) grew up in New York City. At Princeton, I majored in Civil Engineering and minored in visual arts, with a focus on darkroom photography. My favorite non-school book is Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Emelyn: I’m originally from East Grand Rapids, Michigan. I attended Cornell University and majored in Economics and Psychology. My favorite non-school book is Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. I also love Tina Fey’s Bossypants for a laugh out loud read.

Accepted: Where did you go to b-school and when did you receive your MBA? What have you been doing since?

D&E: Both of us went to Wharton Business School, where we were members of the class of 2013. Since graduating a year ago, we have been working full-time on our startup, Of Mercer, a new women’s workwear brand of fashionable, office-appropriate apparel that we launched last November. It is a concept that we conceived and worked on while at school, after discovering that we weren’t the only women who struggled to find budget-friendly, desk-to-dinner clothes.

Accepted: When you started Wharton, did you know that you wanted to start your own fashion line/online store? How did your company evolve? Can you point to specific classes, clubs, or other resources that directly helped you launch your company?

D&E: We both came to Wharton planning to pursue entrepreneurship, but not necessarily in the e-commerce space. We’ve both always been interested in fashion, but Of Mercer was really about solving a personal problem, one that we discovered after we wore the same work dress to an event and realized it was the only one in our closet that we actually wanted to wear to work. While at Wharton, we conducted numerous surveys and focus groups to test and refine our idea. It was through this feedback that we decided go with a direct-to-consumer model and develop a “beta” line of five dresses that we tested and sold at Wharton before building out our launch collection.

During the process, we were accepted into the Venture Initiation Program, Wharton’s incubator program. Having a team of advisors, a network of fellow entrepreneurs, and a wealth of start-up specific programming and resources to draw on was incredibly useful in helping us go from idea to launch.

We also tailored our course selection to what would be most helpful (both in the near and long term) for Of Mercer, including Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship, Customer Analytics, Digital Marketing and E-Commerce, and many more.

Accepted: What was your favorite thing about Wharton? If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?

Dorie: It was definitely the Wharton community. Everyone from our professors to our peers was incredibly supportive of us and our venture, and was willing to help in any way possible, whether that meant taking an hour of time to participate in a focus group or sitting down with us for a one-on-one conversation about inventory management. In addition, the community of student entrepreneurs at Wharton is strong and growing. In fact, our class had a record number of students who went on to pursue their own startups after graduation.

Emelyn: Wharton’s curriculum has really evolved and covers the gamut of topics you’ll need to know well to be a successful entrepreneur. However, I would love to see a few more opportunities to learn the more gritty, practical skills and tasks that are actually part of the day-to-day operations of an early-stage startup – things like basic coding, graphic design, or even how to set up bookkeeping and payroll.

Accepted: How would you rate Wharton as a program for entrepreneurs? Which other b-schools do you think are best for entrepreneurs? 

D&E: Wharton is a great place for aspiring entrepreneurs. We were incredibly happy with the program and can’t imagine going anywhere else. We felt support from all levels – from our peers to the administration – support that still continues today, a year after graduating.

We didn’t go to any other business schools, so we don’t think we can accurately comment on their programs, but great entrepreneurs come out of all the top schools. It’s all about having an entrepreneurial mindset going into business school and using your resources effectively while you’re there.

Accepted: Can you share your top three admissions tips with our readers? (These can be specific to Wharton or general, or ideally, a combination of both.)

Dorie: Be authentic and realistic. You don’t have to claim that you’re going to cure cancer to stand out, but you should have a track record of what it is you want to pursue. Even if you’re making a career change, there should be something on your resume – an extracurricular pursuit, a specific project, etc. – that shows you’ve already dipped your toes in the water and are bringing valuable experiences to the school and your future peers.

Emelyn: Be honest in your application about how business school will take you to the next step in your career. It’s quite possible that the next step may change once you get there, but you need to apply with a clear vision of what you think that step is now – not only to get in, but also to get the most out of going to business school and hit the ground running once you’re there.

Focus on your essays and make sure they shed light on qualities about you or experiences you’ve had that may not come across on your resume. They’re one of the few places in your application in which you have the ability to differentiate yourself. And don’t wait to get feedback on your essays – get it as early as possibly from as many people as you can (preferably people who have gone to that school) to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Wharton see:

Thank you Emelyn and Dorie for sharing your stories with us!

Applying to Wharton? Check out our 2015 Wharton Application Essay Tips!
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Wharton 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Check out our Wharton b-school zone! Wharton is still marching in the MBA application shrink parade. It now has one required question and has dumped the question about contribution to Wharton’s learning community.  However, it has made the optional a broader question than it was last year and has increased the optional essay word limit. Overall the Wharton essay word limit count has declined from 1250 to 950 including the optional.

My tips for completing the Wharton application essays are in blue below.

The Admissions Committee wants to get to know you on both a professional and personal level. We encourage you to be introspective, candid, and succinct. Most importantly, we suggest you be yourself.

Essays:

1. What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

What do you want to achieve personally and professionally that you can’t do now and that a Wharton MBA will help you achieve? Note the questions is not just asking what you want to do after you graduate, and it’s not asking for exclusively professional aspirations. It is giving you the option to dream a bit.

As with most MBA goals questions, Wharton still wants to see how you connect your Wharton education to your future. Keep in mind that Wharton has an incredibly rich curriculum. How will you take advantage of its premier offerings to prepare yourself to achieve your vision for the future?

Reapplicant Essay. All reapplicants to Wharton are required to complete the Optional Essay. Explain how you have reflected on the previous decision about your application, and discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). You may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

The key part of this question is the update part. Don’t ignore reflection on your previous decision, but focus on the new and improved you. For more suggestions for your reapplication, please see MBA Reapplication 101.

Optional Esssay. Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)

You can use the optional essay to explain or provide context for decision you have made or events in your life. For example:

  • Why isn’t your current boss writing your recommendation?
  • Why is there an eight-month gap between your first and second job?
  • Why did your grades dip during the last semester of your junior year?
  • What are your responsibilities while working for a family business after having left a prestigious consulting firm, and why did you decide to go into the family business?

Your optional essay can respond to any of those questions (but not all).

Or you can use your optional essay to highlight something in your experiences, background, personal or professional life that didn’t fit into the required essay and that you want the admissions committee to know about. You can discuss a diversity element, a unique area of interest or an accomplishment that you don’t feel is adequately described elsewhere. 

Don’t use it as a grand summary of you application or reasons for wanting Wharton. Make sure it adds value.

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

Wharton 2015 Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline . Decisions Released
Round 1 Oct 1, 2014 Dec 16, 2014
Round 2 Jan 5, 2015 Mar 24, 2015
Round 3 Mar 26, 2015 May 5, 2015

*To be considered for a round, you must submit a complete application by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on the day of the deadline.

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.

B-Schools with the Highest ROIs

Want to learn more about HEC Paris? Check out our HEC B-School Zone!

In First Place: HEC Paris

When determining an MBA’s return on investment (ROI), it makes a big difference whether you’re considering the short-term or long-term gain. The Economist recently released data that measures the ROI (measured by taking the difference between pre- and post-MBA salaries and dividing it by the total cost of the program, including forgone salary plus tuition fees). For some programs (like Wharton) the short-term payoff is very low, but long term it’s much greater. Other programs, like one-year program HEC Paris, will give you a much more immediate positive ROI.

It also depends on YOU – if you had a low paying job, especially if you come from a poor country and then land a job in a country with a stronger economy, then you’ll have a better chance of leaping to a significantly higher salary post-MBA, thereby influencing your ROI.

Here are the top ten b-schools with the highest ROI from the Economist report:

School ROI after One Year
HEC Paris (France) 66.5%
Aston (Britain) 64.5%
U. of Hong Kong 60.2%
SDA Bocconi (Italy) 55.5%
International Uni of Japan 52.4%
York Schulich (Canada) 52.0%
Mannheim (Germany) 51.9%
Vlerick Leuven (Belgium) 51.9%
Grenoble (France) 51.0%
Dublin Smurfit (Ireland) 48.9%

As you’ll see, if you check out the Economist article, the list is dominated by European programs, and the top ten are exclusively non-U.S. programs (and almost the top 20 – U. of Pittsburgh Katz came in at 19th place). Those programs are almost all one-year programs with lower out-of-pocket costs (like tuition) and lower opportunity cost because you are out of the workforce for a much shorter period of time.

Wondering where top U.S. schools come out on the chart? All the way at the bottom, with ROIs like this:

School ROI after One Year
Harvard 14.8%
Stanford 13.5%
Columbia 13.0%
Kellogg 9.8%
Wharton 6.3%

A Poets & Quants article elaborates on the absence of U.S. programs from the top of the list, by opening with “Looking to get rich quick after graduation? Don’t go to Wharton, Stanford, or Kellogg…Go to HEC Paris (or the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business), instead.”

In short, the P&Q article explains, average first-year salaries pitted against two-year U.S. tuitions and lost earnings, don’t compete with the “winners” early on in the game. Wait it out, however, and a degree from Wharton will certainly be a coveted item with a rocket high ROI later on in your career. Furthermore, there are many people who would love to have the bottom-of-the-barrel, short-term returns on their tuition investment, especially given the anticipated long-term uptick.

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs
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