Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Campus visits from across the globe

Basecamp has come and gone. And I am halfway through the first mini at Tepper School of Business. The past month and a half has gone by in a blink of an eye and it is now time for the much-dreaded midterms.  For the Admissions Office, September kicks off prospective student campus visits.

I recently received an email from the Admissions Office requesting current students to take prospective students to class/lunch. Campus visits are a great way to connect with current students and to establish your ‘fit’.  For many students who are not from the United States (like me), campus visits happen after you get admitted.

So, how do you build your own ‘campus visit’?  (I’ll share resources that helped me with finding my ‘fit’ at Tepper.)

Virtual campus visits – Leverage technology! A lot of business schools’ websites offer virtual campus visits, whereby you can have 360 degree views and photos of classrooms, campus, neighborhoods, etc. You can get a good feel of the campus/neighborhood.

Use the ‘Contact a Current Student’ or “Contact an Alum” resources – So what if you are not able to meet current students in person- get in touch with current students and alums virtually. Schools provide contact details of current and past students who can respond to your questions. In my experience, current students and alums are your best resources to answer those burning ‘fit’ questions. Tip: Ask to connect on Skype- a great platform to make that personal connection!

Attend webinars – Webinars are a great way to ask your questions live to admissions staff, current students and other prospective students. Most of my target schools had regular webinar sessions about various subjects ranging from curriculum to life in ‘x’ city. If you cannot attend them, make sure that you view the recordings. Webinars have a lot of useful information.

And just like at the end of a campus visit, do not forget to write down what stood out from your various interactions, what you liked and what you did not like as much. These notes are going to come handy when it is time to shortlist your schools.

Good luck with your application process!

Veenusha Santchurn, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon

Monday, September 24, 2012

To Move or Not to Move for Love: Consider Your Partner a Priority in Your B-school Research

Contrary to popular belief, it is becoming more commonplace to have significant others follow their women to b-school. Therefore, if you have not yet done so, start having the difficult conversations with your partner regarding your b-school journey and how your partner can be a part of it.
Following are three critical considerations for your research:

1. Your Partner’s Career:
Determine whether your partner’s job could be relocated to a commutable area near your target schools or could be done remotely. If not, start researching available jobs in the area. This requires you to become intimately familiar with your partner’s professional background and career interests. Leverage the schools’ network to identify any available career opportunities. Ask admission representatives about available opportunities in the area and for any referrals to people who may be able to help.  

2. Your Partner’s Social Life:
Learn about activities at and around the school that meet your partners’ interests. Most schools have a partners’ club or network so reach out to them to learn more about what they have to offer. This information may also be available online depending on how active partners are with the schools. Admissions representatives come prepared with information regarding partners so definitely use them as a resource.

3. Other Partner-specific Circumstances:
Lastly for matters that do not neatly fall within your partner’s career or social life, such as familial obligations or certain health needs, obtain information about relevant resources at the schools and surrounding area, and again, don’t hesitate to reach out to the schools’ partner network and to use admission representatives.

These considerations should help you make your b-school journey not just about you but also about your partner. As you progress in your research, continue to keep your partner engaged in the process – have your partner assist you with creating your list of schools to pursue; take your partner with you to school visits; look at housing options together; review any offers together. The earlier you can integrate your partner in your b-school journey the easier it will be to pull the trigger on your school of choice and to make the transition.

Shaw-chin Ioana Chiu, Forte FellowMBA 2014, The Fuqua School of Business at Duke, Forte Fellow
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Take the Plunge: A Non-Traditional MBA Student View

As Sociology major in college who ran straight to non-profit work, I’d never really considered an MBA. For me, the “business world” seemed far removed from the deeply personal work I was doing as Director of a health and wellness program for girls. Yet as I navigated the intricacies of program coordination and growth, budgets, funding, marketing, and community outreach, I began to think about more about process. How do you create functional, high-performing structures and systems, not just in a work environment but in your own life?
After my first week of classes at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, I’m already sold on the power of an MBA to address this question. If you’re coming from a non-traditional background and are unsure about whether an MBA is right for you, consider the following life skills you build through an MBA program.

Analysis and Persuasion:  My four required classes this term include Managerial Economics, Leading Individuals and Teams, Statistics for Managers, and Analysis for General Managers.  See a pattern? What stands out beyond the key theoretical concepts in each course is the point of view from which we approach the material. We’re learning how to sift through large amounts of information, pinpoint what’s relevant, ask great questions, and make an argument. 

Time Management: Yes, we have a lot of academic work. We also have meetings with career counselors, company briefings and cocktail hours, club sports, study group dinners, and a school-wide scavenger hunt. I’ve learned very quickly about my priorities (sleep, exercise) and my procrastination tools (Facebook). Time is our most precious asset, and I’m learning to use it wisely. 

And of course…

Relationships:  From day one, I’ve been blown away by intellect, perceptiveness, and diversity of experience of my peers. Everyone brings something to the table, no exceptions. Many people attend business school for the professional network of alumni, but equally important are the relationships you will build with your peers. They will support you academically, professionally, and even emotionally as you navigate the business world. 

The return on your investment? You emerge a competent, insightful leader in your workplace and your community. For one perspective on how MBA programs shape great leaders, check out Tuck’s approach to leadership development.

Stephanie O’Brien, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Are you ready to study for the GMAT?

Two years ago around this time of year, I bought my first GMAT study book. It was soon after I had made the decision to apply to business school. Investing in this surprisingly expensive book, seemed like a worthy initial step to take. A year later, I finally opened the first page. In the intervening months, while I had known for a while that I was planning to apply in the upcoming fall, even casual studying seemed too daunting. On one hand, it was difficult to even know where to begin. Perhaps more importantly, I was also hesitant because I knew that as soon as I committed myself to GMAT practice, it would represent the commencement of a long, hard slog of a year where much of my waking hours outside of work would be devoted to the application process—whether standardized testing, application writing, recommendation requesting, or interviewing.

In the end, it took Labor Day weekend early last fall to get me into action. While I am several years out of undergraduate school, the start of September still brings a mental change from the end of lazy summer to the start of busy, no-nonsense fall. After spending Labor Day weekend camping at the summit of a Southern California mountaintop, I came back ready to take on the GMAT. With an end goal of an October test date locked in and the clock ticking down, suddenly the path forward seemed so much clearer. It was the starting line of the race—one that would finish in the spring and ideally would do so amid a shower of admittance letters. Studying every evening outside of my apartment with endless timed practice tests was easier knowing that I had a concrete end date in mind. Baristas at my local coffee shop began to know me by name and by drink order, sympathetically asking, “Studying again?” I owe them all a big thank you for letting me stay for hours on end for all those evenings. In the end, I did far better than I expected. I can’t say I recommend waiting until the fall of your applications to take the GMAT—believe me, it’s no treat to be churning out essay drafts while revisiting high school algebra. At the same time, you shouldn’t begin studying until you are ready to commit wholeheartedly, because unopened study books don’t read themselves and because the application process that begins afterward will be a long, arduous road no matter what.

Lilian Haney, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Yale School of Management

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Friday, September 14, 2012

MBA Admissions Advice from the Experts

We recently wrapped up our fall Forté Forum events and now offer a series of webinars to further support you in the pre-MBA process. This week, I hosted our first “MBA Admissions Advice – General Application Tips” webinar.
The panel of seasoned MBA Admission Representatives discussed topics such as preparing for the GMAT, work experience and leadership, letters of recommendation, writing your essays & preparing your resume, and finally the interview process. Here are a few quotes from the panel:

“We look at your undergrad record, graduate experience, as well as your GMAT tests. The reason we are looking at this, is the Admissions Committee wants to get a good sense of your ability to handle the rigor of the MBA program,” Patricia Harrison, Associate Director of Admissions, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

One of the first things we look at is your resume. I cannot stress enough the importance of putting together a polished, professional resume that is comprehensible to someone that does not work in your industry,” Soojin Kwon, Director of Admissions, Ross School of Business at Michigan

“Make sure you speak to the recommender ahead of time… and also make sure it’s going to be a positive recommendation,” Debby Herczeg, Admissions Coordinator, University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

“The essays and interviews are my favorite part of the application, because I get to know the most about who you are as an individual through the interviews and the essays,” Kelly Wilson, Executive Direction, MBA Admissions, Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon

Take some time to listen to the complete webinar online:

Arrion Rathsack, Manager of Sponsor Relations and Programs, Forté Foundation

P.S. Join us for an upcoming webinar to gain all the information you need to know about getting your MBA. From financing your MBA to getting advice on the application process to hearing from women of color who’ve sought their MBA, the webinars will put you in touch with successful businesswomen who can provide you with the answers you’re looking for to make this important decision.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Asking for Letters of Recommendations in the Fall

Those applying Round 1 or 2 are likely starting to think about asking for recommendations from your current employer. This timeline puts you in a potentially uncomfortable position at work – you are giving 10 months notice instead of 2 weeks, and it could put you at a disadvantage for promotions, training, and even just desirable projects. Here are some options:

1.       Don’t ask anyone from your current organization.  For many schools, you will have to write a brief explanation.  However, most business schools state that it will not count against you and they understand why this timeline is difficult for many applicants.

2.       Ask someone at your current company who doesn’t directly assign your work assignments, but knows your work well. If possible, this option may be a good middle ground. Have you considered trusted colleagues who work in other divisions? Are there people senior to you who are not in your direct chain of command but with whom you’ve worked on a project?

3.       Frame your application process and departure as likely but not definite. Many people are not committed to leaving but instead want to see how the decision process and other factors play out. It is reasonable to tell your supervisor that you are applying to business school and intend to enroll in the fall, but that you first need to explore your options, which include deferring school if you decide to stay in your current position.
4.       Just ask and hope for the best. If you already have a good supervisor, he or she will handle this request with sophistication and keep your best interests at heart. If you have a difficult supervisor, then it is unlikely that asking for a recommendation will substantially change your situation. 

I primarily followed #4 and was fortunate that my boss and colleagues handled my situation with generosity. I did not notice any repercussions and enjoyed the opportunity to share this process with my co-workers.

What strategies have people used?  How did it work out for you?  Did you face any consequences in the short or long term? What other ideas do you have?

Judy Herbstman, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Stern School of Business at NYU

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Choosing between Part-Time, Executive, or Full-Time MBA programs

You've made the choice to pursue an MBA, congratulations!  Before you start tackling those applications, your next big decision is to choose the type of program that is right for you: Part-Time, Executive, or Full-Time.

Each program varies slightly and now’s your chance to spend some quality time determining what you need out of a program and the differences between each type.  I've listed some questions below to help you think about how your personal goals (and sometimes major life adjustments) will fit with each of the MBA programs.
Once you have a firm understanding of what you need, you'll be able to communicate your goals in your admissions essays and clearly articulate why that school's program is a fit for both you and the school!

Designed for working professionals, part-time MBA programs allow students to work full-time during the day and attend classes in the evening.*

·         Does my current employer offer tuition reimbursement?

·         Are classes offered within a reasonable distance to my office or home?

·         How will I allocate my time to attend to my other obligations outside of work and school?

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs focus on enhancing the careers of working executives, many of whom are company sponsored.*

·         As an expert in my field, what management skills do I need to continue to progress in my career?

·         Does my current employer require an MBA for a promotion opportunity and if so, will they sponsor me?

·         How will I adjust my schedule in order to attend classes at night or on the weekends?

Two-year full-time programs are primarily for students who are able to take the time off from working full-time to concentrate on their studies.*

·         Am I prepared to quit my job (and paycheck!) to attend school full-time for 2 years?

·         Do I want to switch careers?

·         What is my goal for the summer internship between my 1st and 2nd year?

·         Will I attend school full-time in my current city or do I want to move in order to attend my top choice of school?

I encourage you to reach out to Forte Foundation women or MBA Admissions offices for current students and alumni contact information.  Talking to students that have been through each program is a fantastic way to learn and a great way to network!

Liz Schaab, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, SMU Cox School of Business

*I used the GMAT website for descriptive information on each type of program.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Two Strategies to Jump-Start your Essay Writing Process

Write Great Essays While Preparing for your Internship Search

MBA orientation is different than undergrad orientation in only one way: it is incredibly job focused. Orientation made it clear to me that much of the preparation for my internship search could have been accomplished while writing my admissions essays. Many of you are preparing your applications for the first round of MBA admissions in October. The application process, much like your MBA program, makes incredible demands on your time, so working smart is key. Here’s how I propose you leverage interview logic and company research to write better admissions essays and prepare for your internship search at the same time.
Develop 10 core stories about yourself and your experience.
Hanna Morgan, writing for US News, likens interviewing to improvising and says that most improv performers“adapt pre-rehearsed stories based on the responses from the audience.” If you draft ten pre-rehearsed stories you can adapt them to almost any interview question; you’ll also have 10 stories to insert into your admissions essays.

The key to a great story is its structure. I recommend the STAR structure. When you first start outlining or when you’re stuck with an essay going nowhere fast, force yourself to identify 10 situations (S) were you were given a task (T) and took actions (A) to complete the task, producing tangible results (R). If you can do this when you’re brainstorming your essays then you’ll have no problem selling your experience during an interview.
Do company research.

Check out The Two Hour Job Search, by Steve Dalton. It is a quick and organized way to identify your dream companies and companies that hired alumni from your program (or future program.) Force yourself to compile your list while writing your essays. Not only will your personal statement become clearer, in combination with your 10 stories, this list will help you see connections between where you’ve been and where you want to go – a key component of a strong essay’s structure.
Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I wish I had had a comprehensive approach to essay writing. If you approach your essays as an extension of your job search preparation you’ll save a lot of time your first semester. If you have other suggestions for how to work smart I’d love to hear your strategies!

Amelia Crist, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Michigan State University (Broad College of Business)