Tag Archives: WSJ

A GMAT Reality Check

A client recently sent me this handy new utility from GMAC, purveyors of the GMAT, which allows test-takers to rate their score with reference to their cohort filtered by intended degree, age, gender, country, and so on.

If you try it you will be able to see how you stack up against the sub-group you are really competing against.

You may also take heart that the median is much lower than you think. True, this doesn’t help “GMAT paranoia” when you look at your elite school and find it has an average accepted GMAT of 720 and your score is 680…

For that you need to absorb what the schools keep telling us — once again here in a recent WSJ interview with Derrick Bolton Director of MBA Admissions at Stanford GSB — which is that the GMAT is only one among many factors that determine admission.

WSJ: “Do you check out the GMAT score and if it’s below a certain number, put that application aside?”

Bolton: “That would rob us of a lot of talent. The GMAT is helpful in terms of understanding how someone can perform in the first year, but that’s one small piece of the overall M.B.A.”

What would be nice, for the next iteration of this GMAC utility, would be the ability to check a box that shows the GMAT arc of accepted students at Stanford, or Harvard, or Tuck, etc. That arc would by definition show the 50% below the incoming median score, and how low incoming scores can be, and that would be reassuring to the many hundreds of applicants who will get into elite schools despite not being “GMAT geniuses.”

See also I Scored 700, Should I Retake? and The Myth of the 800 GMAT.


Business jargon will sell a book, but it won’t sell you to Adcom

I try to keep this MBA Admissions blog fresh and personal (like an MBA essay should be!) and don’t just rehash or repost keyword-rich MBA admissions news. In this spirit I offer you a bit of whimsey from The Wall Street Journal “Speakeasy” where Teddy Wayne explains how his job as an MBA essay editor provided the inspiration for his novel Kapitoil.

He says:

“Of the many jobs I held during my desultory postgraduate days in the early 2000s, the one that made the deepest impression was editing MBA application essays for a Web site. For two and a half years, I downloaded essays from strangers, made comments and suggestions, copyedited grammatical errors and uploaded them without any human contact. It wasn’t very rewarding work — but it did help inspire my debut novel, Kapitoil.”

So here’s insight number one. Dare I point out that if you go the big-MBA-admissions-consulting-shop route, this is the kind of person who is reviewing your essays. The business model is: your work is outsourced to unemployed graduates in the arts and humanities. These editors may not be empowered to have interactive contact with you, and they may not be highly motivated. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

Anyway, Wayne goes on to his main point:

“The applicants’ knowledge of business jargon was deeper than my own. Everything was “leveraged”; “skill sets” were “broadened”; they were all striving to achieve “short-and long-term objectives.”

“What if, I began thinking, I wrote a novel from the perspective of a character who, like these business-school aspirants, was so immersed in the language of late capitalism, so caught up in its buzzwords and phrasings, that he not only wrote and spoke in it, but thought in it?”

… “We all do it, consciously or not. Friends who are low-paid writers speak about how “at the end of the day,” “the bottom line” is that we have to “touch base” and reach for the “low-hanging fruit.”

“The language of commerce has now fully cemented itself in our vernacular, functioning the way sports, military, mafia and street slang has in the past: as a shorthand for when we’re too unimaginative or lazy to come up with original sentences.”

Here’s insight number two. Adcom members are as sensitive to business jargon as Wayne is, and view it in an equally dim light. Read Kapitoil. Have a laugh. But don’t talk like that in your MBA essays or interview.

‘I’m unemployed, does this mean my MBA application will be dinged?’

In normal times the answer to this question is ‘yes.’ Unless there is a compelling no-fault reason you are unemployed, or you have just sold a company for a few million bucks, your unemployment will count against you. In a situation where 3 in 20 are admitted, it’s going to be hard to be one of the three.

But these are not normal times. Lots of people have been squeezed out of the job market due to the Credit Crunch and resulting recession. If you’re one of them, Adcom will understand that. The emphasis then shifts to how you have responded: (a) what have you done with your time, and (b) how has the experience changed you? How have you grown? Unemployment often forces on us a period of life-stocktaking, where we have the breathing space to reevaluate our goals or at least ask ‘what do I really want to do next?’ Adcom is interested to see if you can do this ‘personal work,’ and what your answers are.

Keep in mind also that the average senior executive — your role model in your MBA aspiration — will face periods of career upheaval. Showing you can cope with this is a mark in your favor. For a sense of what others are doing and thinking, and particularly how to reflect on this kind of career bump, see the Wall Street Journal blog ‘Laid off and Looking.’

Also see The Rose Report, written by Rose Martinelli, Associate Dean for Student Recruitment and Admissions at Chicago Booth GSB. I’m a big fan of this blog which really walks the walk in making the admissions process transparent. This is what Rose has to say on whether unemployed candidates will get into Booth this year:

“The simple answer is yes! Many people have been displaced over the past year through no fault of their own, and finding a new job in their target industry/function has been equally difficult.

So what can you do? First, take stock of what you have learned about yourself during this time. For many of you, this may have shaken your confidence and impacted what you want to do with your life/career going forward. Help us to understand this in your application. Second, let us know what you have been doing with your newfound freedom and what motivates you. Are you taking classes, volunteering your services, traveling, etc.? There is no right or wrong activity… Again, help us to understand your choices and motivations. As you’ve probably learned by now, we’re so much more interested in how you have coped with these surprises and what you’ve learned about yourself.”

Footnote: back in June I posted an article here about the humanities-based diversity of Adcom’s own career backgrounds, and how this should affect your approach. Martinelli fits this mold too. She received undergraduate and master’s degrees in vocal performance from Northwestern University, and spent 15 years as a professional opera and concert singer before doing an EMBA at Chicago Booth.