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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Never Underestimate the Letter of Recommendation
In a recent interview with four business school admissions "experts", the Wall Street Journal asked whether applicants were spending (or wasting) too much time focusing on a single aspect of their applications. The answers went down an unexpected path towards a discussion of letters of recommendation.

The overall consensus on such letters? Students aren't always picking the right recommenders. When they do, they aren't spending enough time with them. At least two on the interview panel suggested taking the recommender out to lunch. Some of the suggestions were even more obvious. Make sure your recommender knows why you want to go to business school.

While the recommendation letter isn't the deciding factor in admissions decisions, it does offer a unique perspective. Grades and test scores are generally objective markers of success. The application essay offers window into the applicant's character, but it is necessarily colored by the student's own spin. Everyone wants to use the essay to make themselves sound more appealing.

A letter of recommendation is thus the only component of the application that allows the subjective views of a third party to influence the admissions decision. However, students should take care to invest some time in their recommenders. They shouldn't assume that the highest-profile recommender will necessarily offer the best recommendation.

These experts want to hear from someone who really knows the candidate, and understands their strengths and weaknesses. An endorsement from a virtual stranger may come across as detached and unhelpful. A certain level of familiarity is essential if any letter is going to truly have impact. And how hard could it be to take someone to lunch?

For the full interview, click here: Wall Street Journal


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Monday, October 22, 2012
Harvard Law School to Conduct Video-Conferencing Interviews
Up until a few years ago, the idea of talking to someone live through a video-feed on a computer seemed positively futuristic. Then, along came Skype and suddenly the world seemed smaller. There is something more tangible and personal about seeing a person's face while you're talking to them.

It isn't a perfect medium just yet-patchy internet connections and geographical distance can cause video transmissions to be inconsistent. But even the echo and occasional frozen screen of a video call doesn't take away from its value as a communication tool.

Apparently, Harvard shares this view. Like many law schools, Harvard uses the personal interview as a tool in its admissions application process. Unfortunately, for students living far away, the interview poses some logistical issues. With the hopes of expanding the interview option to more students, Harvard Law is shifting to video-conferencing.

Telephone interviews will become a thing of the past for the university, something that should come as welcome news to students who would not otherwise be able to make it to an in-person interview.

Harvard taps the shift as another move towards its goal of offering a more "practical-based" law school education. Already, the university has made reforms to its curriculum, including the addition of clinical courses, in order to encourage better practical training for its law students. Law school education is notoriously theoretical; some critiques charge that newly minted law students know the law well, but know little about its real-world application.

The video-conference makes sense. It challenges students' technological savvy, their ability to perform under pressure, and their oral skills of persuasion. A good move in the right direction.


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Monday, October 15, 2012
Bringing the Admissions Decision Closer to Home
Applying to college is a process rife with unknowns. You don't really know much about your competition. You don't know who will be reviewing your application. You don't know what they'll be like. And while you may know generally what colleges are looking for in an ideal candidate, you're not really sure what it will be that will set you apart.

Wouldn't it be great to know the person deciding your fate?

A small, liberal arts college in New England is trying that idea on for size. At Southern Vermont College (SVC), a 550-student institution with a commitment to helping "at-risk" students, admissions officers are enlisting high school counselors to help them make admissions decisions. The hope is that the counselors--who are closer and more invested in the students-- are better situated to recognize talented students whose admissions metrics don't immediately jump off the page.

The college application is an instrument designed to introduce a student to a stranger. An admissions officer is required to make an objective decision based what is often highly subjective information. The transaction is stripped of the personal contact that informs and enriches most of our social relationships.

SVC recognizes that high school guidance counselors are often in a unique position to evaluate and recommend students. Exceptional candidates might rank highly in other aspects visible only to someone who has had the opportunity to really observe or interact with them.

Even at SVC, the final decision rests with their admissions officers. Arguably, the project would be unwieldy at a large university in a bustling metropolis. The idea, however, is novel and thought-provoking. What if, just what if, a person involved in one of your greatest life decisions actually knew a little bit about you?


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Sunday, October 7, 2012
Why Business School? Why Now?
This may be my favorite quote of the week (courtesy, MBA Admissions Expert, Stacy Blackman): "When it comes to your essays, I can't tell you how many first drafts I've read that cite the 'unmatched student body, world-class faculty, and committed alumni network' as the reasons the applicant has chosen a certain MBA program. This person has said nothing".

For college admissions counselors who edit admissions essays for their client, there is a great need for balancing diplomacy and constructive criticism. Often times, when reviewing an essay, I find myself at a loss for both. A student may write a perfectly well-structured, acceptable essay. The problem? It says nothing. It's worse than boring. It's just pointless.

For undergrads, platitudes and regurgitations of university mission statements become crutches, of sorts. The well of life experience is rather unfilled for teenage students. At this point, you're going to college because a) you don't know what else to do at this juncture or b) you know you need that B.A./B.S. even if you don't yet know why. For business students, the expectation is higher.

By the time you're applying to B-School, you've finished college. You may have worked for a few years. You're going to business school for a reason. It's probably pretty specific. If so, your essay should write itself.

Maybe you see an MBA as a tool for increasing your professional worth. If that's the case, be prepared to talk about the "how" and the "why".

Just remember, business schools don't need you to rewrite their brochure or loot it for inspiration. If the school asks you to get specific, then by all means, do.

For Blackman's full article: US News


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