Monday, October 29, 2012

How to Apply with Your Partner

Everyone has different criteria for selecting which schools to apply to, but this decision becomes even more challenging when your partner is also applying to business school. This was one of my challenges in the application process and a structured approach helped to ensure that my partner and I were both happy with the result.
First, start early. Aim to apply in the first round. But before you think about specific schools, it helps to agree on a few principles. Are you and your partner set on attending the same school? Or would the same city or region be sufficient? You’ll want to consider cost in this decision, as paying two rents might not be feasible. If you prefer to attend the same school, do you have a dream school that would be an exception? What will you do if only one of you is admitted to that dream school? Establishing these principles early will help you decide where to apply and will mitigate stress as you receive decisions.

Next, do your research. Some schools value couples and will go out of their way not to admit one of you and not the other. Others clearly state that they have no preference. Still others are known for often admitting only one member of a couple. While it’s not always easy to find this information, you should look out for a few clues. First, see if the application includes a spot to apply as a couple. Second, ask the Admissions Office or a host student how many student couples come to school together. This should give you an idea of how friendly a school is to couples.
Narrow down your list of schools and segment it into first round and second round—just in case. This way you won’t be caught completely off guard if the first round doesn’t work out as you had hoped. Once you select which schools to apply to, be honest. If you absolutely would not attend the school unless you were both admitted, say that in your interview. Just make sure not to say it if it isn’t true. At the same time, be careful not to turn your interview into a “couples” interview. The interview is your time to shine, so you should focus on your accomplishments and goals, and let your partner focus on theirs.

Once you’re admitted and select a school, there are a couple more things to consider. Give the financial aid office a call and see if they have suggestions for couples. If your school has first year “sections,” express a preference to be in a different section than your partner in order to maximize your learning and networking opportunities. You might also ask Admissions to set you up with another partner couple to chat about their experience and get their advice.
I hope this helps you navigate the application process. Good luck!

Ellen Cory, Forte FellowClass of 2014, The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To BIG or not too BIG?

The first mini semester of my MBA is over! After the last stressful exam I met up with my classmates for some dinner and drinks. I looked around at the 240 students around me and thought about how dear to my heart these people have become. I love them! Every one of them!


Last Spring I was faced to choose between a 700-student program and a 240-student program. I was contemplating whether a bigger or smaller class would suit me more and saw the benefits for both options. The benefits to being part of a 700 student program were the opportunity to significantly increase my network vs. a smaller class and having a higher chance of meeting friends that share my hobbies and values. On the other hand, the benefit of being part of a smaller class was having a larger influence on the class.

At the end, I choose the smaller class program.

In the past 8 weeks at Berkeley-Haas I have truly understood the uniqueness of being part of a small class. First, the fact that I know most of my classmates by name make it easier for me to reach out and connect with others; when I walk out to the courtyard for lunch, I look around and feel comfortable to join any table. Second, I feel that the small class structure supports international students associating with American students; the small class structure creates a dependence on each student, and leads to high collaboration.

Obviously, I can only testify to the benefits of a small class program, as this is the only one I have experienced. However, I encourage you, as a prospective student, to ask students how the class size plays a factor in their MBA experience.


As the new mini semester emerges, I am eager to start the new course in problem framing, take part in the Digital Media company treks and strengthen the connection with my classmates.

Noa Elan, Forte Fellow
Class of 2014, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

* Feel free to contact me with comments or questions on this post or the MBA experience at:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Campus Visits: Discover Your Answer to “Why this School?”

All top schools are looking to find students that demonstrate “fit”.  Campus visits can help you experience MBA “fit” and pinpoint what it is about each school that resonates most with you.
Keep an open, inquisitive mind on your campus visit. Every MBA program has a reputation but it comes down to what each school means to you. Campus visits may challenge your pre-conceived ideas. When you step on to campus and feel that unique energy, you’ll know where you belong.

7 key steps for planning your visit:

1)      Check out school websites for campus visit dates. Registrations can be limited and October dates will fill up fast with Round 1 deadlines approaching.

2)     Sign up for as many activities as you can: campus tour, information session, class, and lunch with students or faculty.

3)     Schedule time to meet or chat with current students while on campus, especially if you have interest in a particular program, club, field of study, or background.  Many schools will include student profiles on their website for this reason, or if not, you should not hesitate to ask when setting up a campus visit. Take the initiative and come prepared to ask questions!

4)     Wear business casual (nice slacks, collared shirt, or dress) and shoes you can walk in for the visit. Yes, you can still get into b-school if you trip in your heels on the tour.

5)     Check out recommended accommodation and transportation details. Parking at urban business schools can be difficult. Make sure to arrive early and bring a photo ID, pen, and notepad.

6)     After touring the campus, explore the nearby neighborhood and if possible, check out areas where current students live. This could be your new home for the next 2 years!

7)     Take time to reflect right after the visit.   Initial impressions will fade over time and it’s important to record your experience. All your notes will be great fodder for applications and interviews.

So what if you can’t visit campus? The next best thing is attending an open house event in your city or MBA program-hosted webinar.

Good luck and happy visiting!

Teresa Delgado, Forté Fellow
Class of 2014, Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business


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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Five Helpful Hints for Taking the GMAT

1.       Practice with computer adaptive tests.
Because the GMAT is computer adaptive, it’s important to practice taking computer adaptive tests.  I found myself playing a mind game – “this question’s too easy, I must be failing!” and needed to learn to tune it out.  Practicing with the format can help you focus during the test and spend your mental energy solving the problems rather than trying to make sense of the test.

2.       Don’t pay for an intensive preparation book or course until you understand what you need.

Instead of immediately signing up for an expensive and time consuming class, start with a practice test to see your score and also which problems you missed and why.  Were they questions that you didn’t know how to solve?  Was there one consistent topic that confused you?  It may be worthwhile to invest the time and energy in a class, but you may also find that brushing up on some concepts and practicing can make the difference.  However, a class can be helpful if you are far from your target score, don’t improve with practice, or can’t find the time to study.

3.       Sign up for the exam.

I bought a book and then didn’t open it for a year.  Once I decided to get serious about the test, I signed up for the exam with three months to prepare.  It was a great motivator and I was able to prioritize preparation.  I scheduled practice exams and stuck to the time I had planned.  If you’re not sure how much time you’ll need to prepare, give yourself a deadline to decide.

4.       Give yourself time to take it three times.

If you can, give yourself the opportunity to take it three times.  Even if you end up satisfied with your score the first time, knowing you can take it again will relieve some stress when you actually take it.  And if you do need the time, you’ll be glad you planned ahead.

5.       Remember that it is not the only part of your application.

Taking the GMAT is about understanding the test and about not stressing about it too much.  It is only one part of your application and the other components that make you amazing – and aren’t just based on three hours spent in front of a computer answering questions – will give you a great shot.

Judy Herbstman, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Stern School of Business at NYU
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Advice I Should Have Heeded Before Starting School

I’ve been at orientation for a month now.  Getting settled into a new city, meeting my peers and adjusting back into a school schedule makes for a fun but busy schedule.  There are a few things on my page-long to-do list that I know I should have had checked off months ago.  Whether the items are move-related or school-related, here are a few of the things I am sure someone recommended I do about a year ago, that I should not be dealing with now.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

1) Update Computer

Sounds so simple, but I still need to do this.  Take the time now to get your desktop files cleaned and in order.  Figure out which email platform works best for you and get your inbox cleaned up.  Find that calendar that best suits your needs and input any important date you can.  Get a system in place that will make your B-school transition seamless.   

2) Switch Your Bank

USBanks were all over Los Angeles.  Now that I’ve moved to Chicago, not so much.  I have spent hours going to the ATMs listed on their website, only to find I can’t deposit checks there or it is not the right bank.  Switching shouldn’t be bad; it’s just another thing to get to.  To avoid this, find out ahead of time what banks are near your school, new place or abundant in your new city and make sure you sign up.

3) Connect With More Incoming Students

This one is actually not on my to-do list, but more of an interesting insight I had during the past few weeks.  While I have really enjoyed meeting all my new classmates, there is a special bond I feel with individuals that I met before coming to campus.  Whether it be from Forte Forum, online chat rooms or information sessions at schools, keep the names and cards of your fellow applicants.  

4) Write Down Goals

You are doing this a lot in your essays, interviews and conversations, I know.  But how much of those responses are catered toward the AdCom or the specific school?  Take a minute, just for yourself, and write down a few personal and professional goals for your time in grad school.  Maybe on a note card or something else you can carry with you.  During your busy first few months at school, this can help you prioritize activities, classes, clubs and other events vying for your time and attention.

Now get going.   Actually, I’ll take my own advice and start checking these items off my list as well!

Tricia Felice, Forte Fellow
MBA Class of 2014, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Monday, October 8, 2012

Finding a dream school

So it's that time of the year when you start researching and selecting schools. Most prospective MBA students spend oodles of time coming up with their target list. Owing to this time constraint and the cost incurred in applying to B schools, it isn’t feasible to apply to TOO many schools. So you really need to put in additional effort to come up with a list of schools you would actually attend if given a chance to.
While researching for schools, most MBA aspirants tip highly towards the various school rankings. But other things such as, curriculum type, available specializations, MBA type (full-time, part-time, or online), geographic location of the school, faculty, and the tuition and other expenses should be taken into consideration as well.

I started with a long list of schools (25) based on their strong concentration areas (Marketing and Management in my case) and rankings. As I progressed forward, additional elements were added to my research and I narrowed down to 6 schools. One thing I heard a lot about during my research and so will you is the whole idea of "safe schools" and how one must apply there. I frankly do not believe in this concept. I think you should choose schools that excite you and make you want to be a part of their class irrespective of the forecasted probability of getting admitted there. You need to be a good fit for the school and vice-versa. Not to forget, few schools will explicitly mention certain attributes they expect in their prospective class. If you do not fit the bill, do not waste your resources by applying to that school. Also, if you have financial constraints it is important for you to consider schools that provide the necessary aid in terms of scholarships or graduate assistantships to their students.

Now that you have your list of schools, it is time to head out and visit the campus to get a better sense and feel of the program. If you are an international candidate like I was, don’t worry you can attend the various information sessions held by the admissions committee in your home country. Also, don’t forget to converse with as many current students and alumni as you can for it is a perfect way to learn more about the school.
Good Luck!

Urvashi Marda, Forté Fellow
Class of 2014, Kelley School of Business at Indiana University
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Getting started on those essays

After the GMAT, writing the admissions essays is one of the most daunting tasks. For those of us who are not born writers, just to get started on the essays can be tough. While I researched most of the top MBA schools for close to two years, I eventually ended up applying only to INSEAD. Through this post, I hope to share with you the specific steps I took to get started on my essays for INSEAD.

1.       Keep a diary for admissions essays: I got this tip from a HBS video I watched online when I first started my research and it helped me capture all those fleeting thoughts I had throughout the day. Copy the admissions essay questions into your diary/notebook/word document.

2.      Reflect often and reflect deeply:

a.      Think about what you would say to a good friend/favorite sibling/significant other over coffee in response to the question. Take them out for coffee if it helps. Think/talk about where would you like to be in 5 years? What makes you interesting? What makes you a leader? This may make you slightly uncomfortable as it will gradually become a collection of your most personal and deep reflections about yourself, your abilities, your leadership theories, fears and what you would like to learn at MBA School.

b.      Think stories. Anecdotes from your childhood, high school or undergrad. Stories from work/personal situations that convey something about you and relate to questions.

c.       Observe yourself from a third person perspective in those stories—what did you do or didn’t do? What did that tell you about yourself and how does it make you a better leader to know what you know now? What else will you need to learn to become even better?

3.      Write in bullets if it helps: After a few days/weeks, you should have enough material to start writing in bullets a first draft of each essay. You may find yourself spinning out an entire essay in the first sitting for some essays.  For others you may have to go back to reflecting and capturing new thoughts again, which is alright as well.

The essay process becomes much easier once you have something on paper that you can discuss with friends and family, especially those that have gone through the MBA admissions process themselves. The self-reflection process will undoubtedly be extremely useful once you do embark on your MBA. Good luck!

Sweeny Chhabra, Forté Fellow
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Monday, October 1, 2012

MBA Life in High Gear

If you’re serious about applying to business school this year, you’ve already had a busy few months studying for the GMAT, exploring different MBA programs, and soul-searching for essay responses that show why an MBA is right for you. Applications (and, later, interviews and admit weekends) on top of work make it feel like you’ve kicked your life into high gear. Get used to that feeling — it won’t go away any time soon.

From our first day at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, my classmates and I have been moving fast. Ross threw down the gauntlet the first week with the Ross Impact Challenge: Develop a for-profit venture that addresses a social-sector problem in the city of Detroit. In six days, my 10-person team learned an enormous amount about the hunger gap in Detroit. We conducted on-site research and had conversations with community partners before putting in long hours to brainstorm and refine our solution. As I stood in front of the panel of judges and answered questions about our proposal, I marveled at how Ross’s purported “action-based learning” was not just a buzzword.

After our trial-by-fire introduction to action-based learning and collaborating with teammates, we have only done more of both. Academics brings a different set of challenges but here, too, my classmates serve as teammates. Some of the core curriculum courses come with assigned group work and study groups. Fortunately my peers are happy to work in organic teams and catch me up on Econ even when it’s not required. (I studied Ancient Greek in college — I need all the catch-up I can get!) This past week also saw our first recruiting events as well as my first case competition. Recruiting will take up a significant amount of time this fall, but my MBA2-led career group has steered me in the right direction.

When you consider which schools to put on your short-list, think about your learning style and how you want your MBA program to shape your education. So far, learning at Ross has been anything but clean: We’ve rolled up our sleeves and dug into a variety of tough problems inside and outside of the classroom. Think about what kind of learning environment you want in a school and, more important, which programs take you there from Day One.

Elizabeth Mills, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Ross School of Business at Michigan
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