The rankings-industrial complex
University rankings are an inescapable fact of applying to college or graduate school. Applicants have a diverse array of priorities and preferences — location and reputation, campus and class size, culture and community, people and prestige, faculty and funding, and a whole lot more. But within those preferences, applicants the world over generally want to attend the best schools they can.
That's all well and good, but what does "best" mean? Part of it is kind of objective. We can measure where the most accomplished professors teach (if we can agree on what "most accomplished" means, I suppose), how many publications and awards those professors have, where undergraduates from certain universities go to graduate school (if we trust which grad schools are the best), what income levels they go on to attain (if you're into that), and all of those sorts of things.
But part of it is very subjective. Individuals' views about which schools are "better" than others are influenced by industry, geography, priorities, alumni, demographics, or even the published rankings themselves. When each of us hears the name of a university or graduate school, it evokes a certain thought, good or bad or somewhere in between, but probably not the same for everyone. Schools battle to build their brands, and many admit their classes with an eye toward boosting their ranking.
Back in August, I produced an Interview Prep video for GMAT Club, where Avanti Prep is a featured admissions consulting partner. Now that MBA interview season is in high gear, I thought it would be appropriate to share the video here as well. If you've been fortunate to secure interview invites — or are getting ready for automatic or applicant-initiated interviews with the likes of Kellogg or Tuck — then I encourage you to do everything you can to convert that interview into an admit!
Why Interview Prep is important
Effective interviews require practice and preparation to understand how to:
All of that and more is covered in the video below. If you have the time (about 14 minutes), I believe the best way to engage with the video is with a blank document or piece of paper in front of you, jotting down key takeaways in whatever manner you prefer — and beginning to map out your responses to specific questions and brainstorm your mental bench of key themes and stories.
Round 1 deadlines are on the horizon
The Fourth of July holiday has come and gone in the United States, and Round 1 MBA application deadlines are on the horizon. There are basically eight weeks between the publication of this post (Tuesday, July 10) and Harvard Business School's Round 1 deadline on Wednesday, September 5. [In Europe, HEC Paris's first rolling deadline was June 1 and IESE Spain's early date is September 4.]
HBS kicks off a six-week early-and-Round-1 deadline sprint (marathon?) for leading U.S. MBA programs. The application race doesn't let up until mid-October, after The Consortium, Indiana Kelley, Rice Jones, UNC Kenan-Flagler, and NYU Stern wrap up a busy October 15. Vanderbilt Owen follows four days later, at which point we'll be less than 11 weeks from the dawn of Round 2.
The goal, of course, is for none of this to ever feel like a race. And that requires planning. With that in mind, I prepared an MBA deadline calendar that looks out over the next few months, focusing on early and Round 1 deadlines (and all the days in between) for 29 top full-time MBA programs in the U.S. and a handful of programs in Europe and Asia. I'll update the calendar as we approach Round 2.
The MBA application process can feel like it touches every corner of your life and career. Applicants need to take the GMAT (or GRE), conduct school research, develop their story and and career goals, write and revise essays and resumes, request recommendations, and attend interviews, to name a key steps – enough to warrant the creation of 600-page MBA application guides for goodness' sake!
In working with clients, doing ding reviews for non-clients, holding Free Consultations with prospective applicants, and chatting with curious folks on GMAT Club, several elements of the MBA application process consistently stand out to me as overlooked or underappreciated. These are essentially the "Oh wow, I had no idea I needed to..." parts of the MBA application journey.
With that in mind, I decided to put together a summary that highlights these key themes, and I've included a series of steps and prompts to consider in each category. Many will feel obvious if you're deep into the application game – but even then, perhaps one or two will help refine your focus. If you're new to application land, I hope this helps you think through your strategy. A lot of these are really cornerstones of the MBA application process more than they are surprises or hidden gems.
If you’re in the midst of GMAT preparation or the MBA application process, you’ve almost certainly stumbled upon (or actively researched) stories about rising GMAT scores.
It wasn’t too long ago that an overall score of 700 represented a nice, round, respected target, even for top schools. In 2005, the cream of the MBA crop was littered with 700-level average GMAT scores – 707 at HBS, 704 at Tuck, 701 at Haas, 700 at Kellogg and Sloan, and 695 at Booth – all of which are bound to evoke jealousy or disbelief among applicants entering the process today.
Back in 1996, incoming classes at many of those MBA programs had average GMAT scores in the 650 to 660 range. At the start of the 21st century, a Quant sub-score of 45 put you in the 82nd percentile. A few years later, it was good for 78th (2006), then 75th (2007), then 71st (2009), and 66th (2013). Today, that Q45 lands you in the 57th percentile of GMAT test takers worldwide!