Category Archives: MBA

“Personal Branding” for MBA Applicants

Submitted By Dan Bauer, The MBA Exchange

What exactly is a brand? Most of us consider it to mean a distinctive set of attributes intended to differentiate competing products of different companies. Coke vs. Pepsi. BMW vs. Mercedes. Verizon vs. AT&T.

Digging deeper, it’s helpful to think of a brand as a promise from the provider that the buyer’s experience with the branded product will meet or exceed expectations. If that promise is clear and credible, then the buyer is likely to believe it and make the purchase. This is true for soft drinks, automobiles, cellular services–and, yes, MBA applicants!

Read more about “Personal Branding” for MBA Applicants by clicking here.

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6 Keys to a Better MBA Resume

Submitted By The MBA Exchange

The first exposure that a business school gets to your candidates is usually your resume — sometimes called a CV (curriculum vitae). Typically 1-2 pages in length, the resume provides the admissions committee with an engaging snapshot of your career and life since the time you enrolled in college.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, the reality is that some MBA applicants misunderstand or even misuse the resume in ways that reduce their chances for admission. To help our clients make the most of this important opportunity, The MBA Exchange advises them to consider these 6 points when presenting themselves via a resume:

1. Present substance, with clarity and succinctness
Usually the school’s application instructions specify a “1-page limit,” you should not delete core content that puts your candidacy in positive light. However, this also means that you should not just fill the space with extraneous details. Reading a 2-page resume that should have been a 1-pager is not going to endear you to an overworked admissions stagger with a stack of apps sitting on his or her desk. So, make every word count. We encourage our clients to minimize the use of “articles” — a, an, the — as they add little value.

Read more about 6 Keys to a Better MBA Resume by clicking here.

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Useful Tips to Craft an Effective MBA Resume

Submitted By Poonam Tandon, PhD. English, Founder & President of

Resume is a critical part of the MBA applications, and yet it is often the most neglected one. Unfortunately, some applicants ignore resume and focus all their attention on essays. Your resume demands as much of your attention as your essays do. In fact, resume is your first introduction to the Ad Com, so it should be impactful enough to make them want to know more about you through your essays. When working with applicants on their resumes, I often quote Ross Admission Director Soojin Kwon. “For me, the resume is just as important as your essays……. How your describe your experience matters. What you choose to highlight matters. Think of it as trailer of the movie about about you. It needs to show there is substance there. I think that many applicants don’t take enough care with their resume.” Kwon said.

Read more about Useful Tips to Craft an Effective MBA Resume by clicking here.

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MBA Applications: 4 Tweaks for High Impact

Submitted By LTG Team

We all know the standard resume advice. It’s been drilled into our heads by parents, teachers, advisors and professors so often that it hardly bears repeating: Keep it one page in length. Make sure your grammar is perfect. Include extracurricular activities. Proofread. Include leadership experiences. Proofread. Highlight your accomplishments. Use concise words. Proofread. Use action words. Proofread.

We get it. Unfortunately, most resume guides for MBA applications rehash these same tips and say little about tailoring your resume for an MBA application. Yet your resume is often the first thing read by admission committees. It serves as an introduction, as credentials, and it should also serve as the plot points of a compelling story, your story.

Read more about MBA Applications: 4 Tweaks for High Impact by clicking here.

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2016 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey Reveals Global Insights on B-School Admissions Process

What is on the mind of prospective MBA students around the world? Why are they applying to business school? What factors influence their school selection?  How do they really feel about the application components, such as standardized tests and video essays?

The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) set out to find the answers to these questions – and many more – as part of the 2016 MBA Applicant Survey released on June 15, 2016.

The annual survey, which was launched in 2009, covers each stage of the admissions process, ranging from tools applicants first use to research programs, as well as the reasons they select programs, to career and salary expectations.

“The survey pretty much sums up all factors I considered when deciding on the MBA program of my choice.” –2016 AIGAC Survey Applicant

Wide range of survey participants, representing 83 countries

More than 3,500 applicants completed this year’s survey, which was fielded between February 15 and May 2, 2016, in partnership with Constituent Research. With a particular interest in the most immediate incoming class, AIGAC segmented the findings based on the 1,114 respondents who intend to enroll by January 2017.  Of this population, the majority are male (65%) and 44% live in the U.S.  Nearly 20% already hold a master’s degree.

High expectations with an eye on the bank account

Among the many survey findings, one main takeaway is that MBA applicants continue to be optimistic about their post-MBA employment and salary prospects, while also being mindful of costs and showing increasing interest in shorter full-time programs.

Nearly half of applicants (41%) who intend to apply by January 2017 expect a salary increase of more than 50% within 6 months after their graduation. The majority of applicants expressed interest in the traditional post-MBA career paths of Consulting, Finance/Accounting, and Technology.

Other key insights

The 2016 MBA Applicant Survey revealed the following additional key insights from respondents who intend to enroll by January 2017:

  • Declining interest in two-year, full-time MBA programs, and a willingness to consider options perceived as more cost-effective
  • Reputation and impact on career are the most important factors in school selection
  • Reliance on multiple sources of support for the application process; friends (44%) admissions consultants (39%), and family members (30%) topped the list of resources used
  • Standardized tests and essays are the most challenging application components

Respondents show increasing openness to programs other than traditional two-year MBAs

Interest in full-time, two-year MBA programs decreased from 89% in 2015 to 69% in 2016. Meanwhile, interest in full-time, less than two-year programs increased from 33% in 2015 to 40% in 2016. Slightly more than a quarter of applicants (26%) considered part-time MBA or executive MBA programs in 2016.

Affordability is a significant factor in school selection but reputation matters most

Cost appears to loom larger in applicants’ minds than it did in the first AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey in 2009. Nearly a quarter (21%) of 2016 MBA applicants indicated that they modified their list of target schools during the application process based on cost and access to financial aid, and 41% of 2016 respondents indicated that their initial choice of schools was partly influenced by affordability. By comparison, financial aid and program costs were ranked the least important factors in 2009.

Still, reputation (ranking) of the MBA program (74%), followed by impact on career (48%), city/geographic location (46%), and school culture (38%) are the most influential factors in specific school selection, although 30% of the respondents considered net cost (program cost/availability of scholarships) when evaluating specific schools.

Role of admissions consultants in expanding school choices

More than a third of applicants (32%) indicated that their admission consultant encouraged them to earn a higher GMAT score before applying. Meanwhile, 29% of respondents said their admissions consultant encouraged them to apply to a school that they had not previously considered, and 27% of applicants said their consultant encouraged them to apply to more schools than they had originally planned.

Standardized tests and essays are still considered harder than video essays and group exercises

The majority of respondents (61%) named standardized tests as the most challenging application component, followed by written essays (46%), and interviews (20%). Only 19% of applicants indicated that recorded video responses and group exercises were especially challenging. Nearly half of applicants (49%) claimed that the video essay represented them “well” or “extremely well,” although survey comments revealed concerns by some applicants regarding technical difficulties in remote overseas locations.

Survey respondents continued to overwhelmingly favor the GMAT vs. GRE

The GMAT remains the test of choice, with 89% of applicants reporting that they submitted a GMAT score and only 7% of applicants noting that they submitted a GRE score in 2016. Survey participants indicated that they took the GRE primarily because they were applying to multiple types of graduate programs or because they had already taken the GRE before applying to business school. Nearly a quarter of respondents, however, said it was because they had struggled with the GMAT.

Ten schools ranked highest in getting to know applicants well  

Applicants acknowledged the schools that made an effort to get to know them well. They include, in order:

1. Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College
2. IE Business School
3. Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
4. Fuqua School of Business, Duke University
5. Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University
6. The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
7. IESE Business School, The University of Navarra
8. Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
9. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
10. Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
10. McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin

 Providing a Voice to Applicant Needs and Aspirations

The survey findings provide admissions officers with the opportunity to hear from applicants who may not otherwise share their feedback about the admissions process directly with the schools. Moreover, the survey data add to the collective insight on an industry-wide level so schools can learn how applicants to other schools are responding.

We are pleased that past survey findings have had a tangible impact and helped to enhance the application process for prospective students and schools alike. For example, the 2013 edition of the survey highlighted the pressure that many applicants face from their recommenders, encouraging them to write their own recommendations. The analysis and ensuing discussion was a large reason why many prominent business schools started to move toward more standardized recommendations.

In order to continue to build a strong pipeline of the best applicants, we encourage schools to consider the following recommendations based on this year’s findings.

  • Given the increasing level of cost-consciousness among MBA applicants, it would be beneficial if all graduate business schools fully disclosed the net cost of MBA program attendance as well as the amount of financial aid available to students and the timing when it will be dispensed. Leveling the playing field in terms of the disclosure of such information would be very helpful in facilitating the school selection process among MBA applicants.
  • As graduate business schools continue to experiment with and incorporate new technology into the MBA application process, such as video essays, applicants can provide valuable suggestions for improving and fine-tuning the use of such technology through the constructive feedback that they provide in AIGAC’s MBA Applicant Survey (e.g. Some survey respondents commented that they felt that there should have been more preparation and response time for the video essays).
  • Many international MBA applicants apply to American graduate business schools with the dream of working in the United States following graduation. It can be frustrating and disappointing when they aren’t able to secure the job (and place) of their dreams because of visa limitations. Additional communication to manage expectations regarding the likelihood of post-graduation employment in the United States would be beneficial for all concerned. Furthermore, many international students run into additional challenges following an internship when their hiring manager wishes to hire – and retain them – for a period longer than they are eligible to work in the United States under current regulations.  Again, clearer communications on the front-end (i.e., during the application process) will establish a better experience throughout their educational journey.



Founded in 2006, the non-profit Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) exists to define ethical standards for graduate admissions consultants, contribute to their professional development, educate the public about the admissions consulting industry, and strengthen relationships with related service providers (e.g., test prep) and business schools. AIGAC is the standard bearer for best practices and excellence in advising graduate school applicants around the world.

AIGAC is committed to helping applicants educate themselves about their options and optimize their candidacy as they make high-stakes decisions and investments in their higher education. Members of AIGAC include former admissions officers from top universities, graduates of leading programs, widely-read authors, and subject-matter experts who are frequently quoted in the international media including the Bloomberg Businessweek, Financial Times, Forbes, Poets & Quants, and The Wall Street Journal.

Follow AIGAC on Twitter and Facebook.


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How to Pick Between Full Time, Part Time, Online, and Executive MBA Programs!

Submitted By Critical Square

For some applicants, the decision is black and white. For others, the grey areas are significant. And others don’t really know the difference to begin with. So the great question is, how do you pick between full time, part time, and executive MBA programs? There are a lot of things to think about such as your goals, budget, age, needs, and options. That’s what makes this decision such a personal one – there is no ONE answer. No RIGHT answer. It simply has to make sense for you. Because an MBA is a significant investment and you don’t want to make a decision that leads you down the wrong path. You only do this once – so it’s worth doing correctly!

So what we thought would be useful is a quick overview of the types of programs followed by a short “profile” of a type of applicant that might find this option right for them. That doesn’t mean that’s the ONLY profile. It’s illustrative.

Read more about How to Pick Between Full Time, Part Time, Online, and Executive MBA Programs! by clicking here.

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Six Steps for Successful MBA Reapplicants

By Vince Ricci

How to reapply to an MBA program: three questions to ask yourself after being denied admission

Did you submit an MBA application in a previous year that resulted in a denial? Here are some tips for how to reapply successfully. We start with three questions to ask yourself after being denied admission

(read more at ▸


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How to Select the Right MBA Program for You

By Scott Shrum

Just as the quality of a stage production or musical performance depends on all of the work that went into months and months of rehearsal before the performance, how successful you are in your business school applications depends a great deal on all of the work you do before you ever start drafting an essay. Remember that your application is a mere snapshot of who you are (and how well you can present yourself) at one point in time. How well that message will be received will partly depend on whether you’re targeting the right schools, and how well MBA admissions officers at those schools see a good fit between you and their institution. And this comes down to knowing how to select the right MBA program for you.

Click here to read the full blog by Scott Shrum.

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Go Global with an MBA Exchange Program

By Betsy Massar, Master Admissions

AIGAC is a truly international organization; not only are our members from places like Spain, Brazil, Russia and China, our clients are from even more exotic places. I recently worked with someone from Inner Mongolia! For those who have not had too much cross-border experience, many MBA programs allow for, if not encourage or require, study abroad. Students who leave, as well as those who host, are amazed at how much they learn.

International exchange programs were brought home to me at a Forté Foundation where I met Katie Cannon, a London Business School student currently on exchange at UCLA Anderson. Katie’s infectious enthusiasm for LBS and international study—and her passion for the arts and her interest in media management— make a semester in LA perfect for her.  There’s no question that the Anderson students will be learning from Katie as much as she will be learning from them.

Katie is hardly the only one studying abroad during business school.   More than half of the top MBA programs offer full-term international exchange programs. London Business School is a good example. It’s a particularly international school; about 35% of its students spend a semester in a foreign country, and a typical class may have people from over 60 different countries.  To facilitate exchange, LBS partners with over 30 schools worldwide, and students at those schools can also study in London.

UCLA Anderson, located in southern California, is an ideal exchange choice for students like Katie who want to pursue careers in film, television, or talent management—or even financial services and venture capital.  It’s also a great home-base business school for students who want to study abroad— 20% participate in an international exchange.   UCLA—along with Cornell Johnson, Duke Fuqua, NYU Stern, Chicago Booth, and Michigan Ross—is a member of the Partnership in International Management network , an international consortium of business schools, and it also has exchange agreements with schools outside that network.

UC Berkeley Haas offers exchange programs established with several leading b-schools, “if,” says the website, “you can bear to be away from Berkeley.” (Click on the Haas link for useful descriptions of each of the exchange schools.)  In addition to international offerings, Haas also has an exchange with Columbia Business School, giving students the chance to spend a semester in New York City.

Most other top schools require some form of international experience during their MBA years. For example, Yale School of Management mandates that students take a short-term trip abroad in the second semester of the first year.  Professors lead the trips in countries they specialize in, from Brazil to Estonia to Israel to Japan.  Yale also offers a more traditional fall term international exchange for second year students.  Stanford GSB  also mandates a “Global Experience Requirement” which can be fulfilled by study trips or a summer immersion program.

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The Cultural Side of Admissions Consulting

By Candy Lee LaBalle, mbaSpain

Six Tips from the Trenches

MBA admissions consultants help applicants in everything from choosing schools to essay brainstorming to resume editing. But, when dealing with non-US applicants, we also have to do a little cultural translating. At mbaSpain, I face this reality every day, and, after comparing notes with several AIGAC colleagues, I’ve identified six application areas where cultural awareness is essential.

1. Sell Yourself

Call it branding, positioning, or tooting your own horn, what is second nature to US applicants is often taboo to non-Americans.

“With Middle Easterners, particularly women, I spend a lot of time encouraging them to talk openly about themselves, their accomplishments and initiatives, and their dreams,” notes Tanis Kmetyk, who handles EMEA applicants for With Asian applicants, she says, “Standing out is not considered a ‘plus’… so helping them to, well, stand out, is important.”

In addition, many foreign applicants believe an MBA application means all business. Rocio didn’t think the fact that she co-founded one of Spain’s most important youth sporting events to be relevant. “But I was in university, wouldn’t the schools rather hear about my banking experience?”

2. Embrace your Failures

“Even physical hurdles that people face (like handicaps) are seen as a weakness in many countries,” says Tanis. We have to push them to realize that the value of that failure, what they learned can actually be a strength for their application.

Some non-US applicants try to avoid sharing failures by thinly veiling achievements. Jaime was determined to tell LBS that his failure to graduate number one in his class (instead of number two) was due to his demanding role as captain of the rugby team! It took a bit of coaxing to help him realize that his initial struggle with leadership was actually a more powerful story.

3. Answer the Question

Getting non-US applicants to clearly tell a story is another struggle. Vince Ricci who runs in Japan notes, “Japanese storytelling emphasizes context – a long wind-up before the final punchline.” With this approach, they’ll run out of words before they get to the point.

Spanish applicants love to share mucho ruido, pocas nueces (a lot of noise, few nuts). Though it is good advice for all MBA hopefuls to stay focused and answer the question, non-US applicants benefit immensely from the application of STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Result.

4. Commit to the Tests

Standardized tests provide their own cultural challenges. Victoria Pralitch of MBA Consult in Russia says “My applicants see GMAT as just a math test, and our schools in Russia give a great math training, so no need to overstrain. As a result, the percentage of those who pass successfully the first time is not that high.”

“German applicants are typically exasperated about the GMAT requirement,” notes Dr. Marlena Corcoran of Athena Mentor. “They are convinced they are superior candidates, and their less-than-stellar scores on a standardized exam must mean the exam is unfair.”

Other applicants choose to ignore their English test until it is too late. “I have a 720 on GMAT and use English everyday,” Pedro, a very promising candidate told me last November. “I don’t have to prepare TOEFL.” He got a 104 and had to put off his Harvard application for a year.

5. Recognize Extracurriculars

“Most Western Europe governments take care of their people from ‘cradle to grave,’ so community activity here is not at all the same as it is in North America,” notes Tanis.

Maybe our non-US applicants haven’t done typical extracurricular activity, but most likely they’ve played team sports, served on an events committee at work, helped a family member open a business, or participated in some activity that allowed them to take initiative, have impact and show leadership.

Ricardo was convinced he had no extracurricular activity to share. Then I found out that when he was in university, his family went bankrupt. He used his computer skills to make 20,000 euros in an online venture which helped his father get his business back. Talk about impact!

6. Go Beyond Rankings

“I have to educate my non-US applicants about the diversity of schools – many are just focused on the top 10 and it’s frustrating, whether it’s not realistic for them or just there’s a better fit,” says Yael Redelman-Sidi of based in New York.

While a top-ten obsession is typical among most MBA applicants, non-US applicants also face the cultural pressure of attending a brand-name school. Everyone in Spain, China and Brazil knows Harvard, not so many know Babson or Kelley or Tulane. It is our job to mediate their expectations (not all of them can go to Harvard) and open their eyes to other schools that could be a better fit.

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