Veritas Prep: The New SAT

October 20, 2016

The Veritas Prep team has provided resources via YouTube on the new SAT:

Math Strategies for the New Sat

Tips for the New SAT

SAT Preparation Tips: Maximize Your Score

DC Conference – Video Webinars

October 25, 2015

Missed our DC Conference, see the links below for all the amazing content from that event!

Undergrad Sessions:
Liberal Arts Colleges

A Guide to Application Essay Writing

Applying to Highly Selective Colleges

MBA sessions:
Resume Translation

Understanding the MBA Application Process

Whole Life Resume

JD sessions:
Harvard Law

Personal Statements

Decoding the Day

Learning About The MBA

July 27, 2014

The MBA gurus at Tuck Business School, Veritas Prep, and GMAC s2s-webinarshared their wisdom with Service to School applicants in an hour-long webinar. If you weren’t able to make it, the following three posts include key takeaways (loosely transcribed):

Kristin Roth

Associate Director of Admissions at Dartmouth Tuck

Q: What is an MBA?

Different form other graduate degrees: An MBA is a professional degree that improves a particular skillset, network, and credentials.

Skills: An MBA program provides the opportunity to understand various business functions and continue to develop you as a leader. Veterans generally have great leadership experience, and an MBA can help you transition that existing skillset into into a different culture. An MBA will not only teach you soft skills like managing people in a civilian environment, but also hard skills like finance, accounting, and marketing.

Network: You will gain the opportunity to branch into areas outside of the military. You can also leverage your veteran networks, which are very powerful at several schools and companies.

Credentials: You will gain a MBA brand name that employers recognize. This can validate your ability to function in an environment outside the military. An MBA tells employers that you can perform at their company because you have completed these transitional studies.

Q: What should I consider when applying?

Understand Yourself: Self-reflection will be very important throughout the application process. Also, it will be important when the recruiting process begins when you’re a student.

Know how an MBA aligns with your goals: Be sure to explain this in your application. Do not just state that you want to transition into civilian culture. Be able to explain where you see yourself in the future, how an MBA will help you get there in the long and short term, and why you think that now is the time to earn an MBA. With veterans, an MBA is often at a natural break point in service, but you still need to be thoughtful in your explanation and say so expressly.

As you think about why an MBA is important for you, think about the career flexibility and advancement that it provides. Current Tuck veteran students recognize that they can get a job in the civilian sector without an MBA, but it’s not about the job they can get now. An MBA is about what job they want 5 years from now, 10 years from now, and beyond. You are not pigeonholed into a particular career with an MBA, and your earning potential is also increased.

Understand where a particular MBA program’s students and veterans begin their career post-MBA. Look at the schools’ employment reports. Most schools can provide you with this information, and you should make sure to research this information at every school you’re considering. Even when considering a particular industry, companies and roles vary greatly. For example, financial services include private equity, investment banking, commercial banking, private wealth management, etc. Consulting includes health care, non-profit, military, manufacturing, retail, energy, real estate, and technology, to name a few. Also, be sure to understand the top recruiters and employment record at each school. Every good MBA program should be able to give you statistics on how many graduates receive an offer within 3 months of graduation and where those graduates end up.

Study the class profile of the existing first-year class. That gives you some insights: What is your network likely to be? If you benchmark yourself against the class, do you fit there?

You do not need an undergraduate business degree to go to a top MBA program. A traditional b-school background does not exist anymore.

Q: How should I pick an MBA program?

Strive to get the best education possible. Consider what your experience will be like at each campus you are considering. Fit is very important for business school and for future job satisfaction. The research you do when considering fit will guide you to apply to schools where you will be happy and successful, and will also help you in the application process.

Research as much as you can online. Do not ask the schools questions that you could have found on their websites. Dissect popular media for more information. Look at rankings as a starting point. Understand that each ranking uses different criteria, so don’t restrict yourself to one ranking. Ensure that you understand the criteria that each ranking uses.

Talk to current students and alumni of the program that you are considering. This will not only tell you how accessible the network is from that school, but it will also give you a better sense of what the school is like and how you fit. Also, connect with the veterans group at each school to understand their candid thoughts on their particular MBA program.

If you can, visit the schools that interest you most. This will give you a grounded perspective on your future life-long network.

Consider the classroom nuances and teaching styles: specialized versus general management; large class size versus small class size; case study method versus lecture based learning versus experiential learning, etc.

Q: What are MBA programs looking for?

The admissions team wants to make sure that you can handle the academic rigor of the program. This is assessed through your undergraduate record and test scores. They also evaluate your record of accomplishments to see if you have you been successful in prior endeavors. MBA programs do this to assess whether they feel you will be successful in leading, interacting with others, and experiencing new challenges.

The best way to prepare for an MBA application and program is to take your time (and build in enough timeline). You need time to think about what you want out of an MBA program, do your research, and talk with people. Some people work on this for a whole year before submitting. Develop mentorship relationships with others, especially veterans who have already transitioned. Be sure to speak with students and alumni too.

Most schools will be very interested in how you perform quantitatively. They’ll want to see that you have a strong background in quant, either in previous schooling or on the job. If you need to brush up, take math intensive courses such as those offered online through Coursera. If you can, take any brush-up courses for a grade so you can show the schools that you perform well. MBAMath.com is also a good resource. Tuck has incoming students take brush-up courses through MBAMath, but you can get a head start if it’s a weakness.

Study and take the GMAT or GRE. Many applicants take the exam more than once, and that’s fine. If your first effort isn’t what you want, fix it. There are diminishing returns after the second test, though.

Get your finances in shape. Find out your eligibility for military benefits such as the Yellow Ribbon Program and other education benefits. In case your funding changes down the road, apply for financial aid even if you think you’re currently covered.

Be self-aware.  Think about your experiences, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Don’t be humble. Demonstrate how you have been outstanding and how you have led. You want to show the admissions committee that you are a team player, but that shouldn’t be your entire focus. Have an understanding of your future goals and how you are going to achieve them.

Q: What is considered most in the application?

There is no insignificant part of the application! No question is asked for the fun of it. If you’re weaker in one part of the application, play up your strengths in the other parts of the application. It is crucial to understand that all portions of the application are important.

Check with the school about their policy around standardized tests. Many take GMAT or GRE, some are GMAT-preferred. If you’re going to take the GRE for a dual degree that requires it, then that’s okay. But only the GMAT was designed for business school.

Your undergraduate academic record will be scrutinized heavily. The rigor of the program, your performance, your outside activities that were competing for your time, grade trends (up? down? outliers? quantitative classes?) are considered as well. If your undergrad record is an area of weakness, then your standardized test becomes more important.

Contributions outside the classroom and professional maturity are important factors as well. Leadership potential is assessed not only in leading officially, but also by being the person who takes the initiative. MBA programs seek students that jump in and tackle the difficult problems.

When crafting your essays, be clear, and make sure to answer the actual question. Don’t recycle from other schools — the admissions committee can figure out when you’ve written an essay for another program.

Speak with your recommenders about your professional and life goals, your strengths, and your weaknesses that need to be worked on. Let them know why you are applying to the schools you’re applying to and why those schools are a good fit for you. They’ll need to write a detailed recommendation, so prepping them is very important. Pick recommenders who are willing to write their own letter, though.

The interview is another opportunity to tell your story. Be sure to be well prepared, because this is the only portion of the application that cannot be edited. Generally, people either talk too much, or they don’t give enough detail. Find the happy medium.

Translate your military accomplishments in a way that everyone can understand. Avoid jargon – if you’re not sure, show it to a civilian. Rely on measurable things such as number of people led, missions accomplished, budgets, and logistics. Also look at big the big picture and be accurate and concise about your accomplishments. Resumes should not exceed a page in length.

Q: What is the Tuck application process like?

Tuck lets applicants self-initiate the interview before the application is read (on-campus only if self-initiated).

If you did not self-initiate an interview, they’ll invite you to interview on campus or you can meet them on their travels.

Applications are read and assessed by multiple people. The Admissions Director makes the final decision: accepted, rejected, or wait listed.

There are four submission rounds at Tuck.

Q: Do you have any tips for future MBA applicants?

Know your story. Know why you want an MBA, and why you are a fit for that school.

Every contact with the admissions office, with a student, and with alumni is an assessment point. Make sure to network with people outside of the veterans group too.

They know you’re applying to other schools, but you don’t have to advertise it. Proofread your work – don’t tell Tuck why you want to go to Wharton.

“It’s only a problem if you don’t explain it.” Use the optional essay to talk about things that aren’t self-explanatory – low grade, gap in work experience, your choice of an unusual recommender, etc. Don’t leave possible red flags to the admissions committees’ imagination.

Schools really do differ. Research and take advantage of all the resources out there.

Meet the deadlines, especially for financial aid.

Understand the school’s policy around financial aid. At some schools, it’s the same application, at others they’re separate.

Emphasize when you’ve been signaled out for any special honor, promotion, etc. Explain what you’ve accomplished, but also why it matters The admissions committee needs to understand why they should be impressed with your accomplishments.

Know that you can always change your mind with your future goals. The admissions committee wants a snapshot of your current thinking, but it’s important to show that you have a focus. Otherwise, when you get to business school, it will be difficult for you to prioritize your time. For example, if you say that you “want to do consulting or private equity or marketing,” you sound scattered. It would be better to say that you are “interested in energy consulting” and explain why. In that context, you can identify the transferable skills that you will continue to use. You can also determine the skills that you want or need to learn in that context.

Talking to students and alums is very helpful — how did they get where they are? Many applicants make the mistake of saying, “I don’t like what I’m doing now and I want to do anything but that,” and they assume that business school will be an opportunity to explore and find themselves. But you start interviewing with recruiters three weeks after your show up – you have to have some idea what you want to do before school even starts. You won’t have time to talk to all of the recruiters. How will you choose? Start the process now and think about how you’re going to narrow your career focus.

Apply when your application is at its strongest. There is no point in turning in a weak application in an early round.

Steve Janco
Navy SEAL, current MBA student at Tuck

Regarding your career goals and how you’ll transition, you probably already know something about international relations, security, etc. from your military roles. The business school application forces you to do research beyond what you already know. How are you going to use your life experiences in your new field? That’s a hard question. I stayed with my background (I had been doing security consulting for multiple countries), so my five-year plan was to segue into management consulting but stay flexible. Think of the 20-year-plan as your dreams – what are they? Think big. After that application is done and you get admitted, you have to keep talking to as many people as possible in as many possible different fields. Then you understand a lot more about your options and what you want to pursue by the time you jump into the recruiting process. You’re reinventing yourself before you even get to school.

Joanna Graham 
Director of Field Marketing 
Overseas Military Outreach Program
GMAC  (www.mba.com/military)

Q: What general advice do you have for veterans applying for business school?

GMAC offers many free practice materials. Download their free software. They use the same scoring algorithm on their practice exams as on the real test. This is a great way to benchmark your current GMAT performance.

Download the Operation MBA Planner for veterans.

The MBA Admissions Guide (click here) through Service to School is also a very useful tool.

Travis Morgan
Director of Admissions Consulting
Veritas Prep

Q: The Air Force requires its officers to have a master’s degree to be competitive for promotion. A few years ago I completed a MBA program from an online, University of Phoenix type institution. It did not provide the theoretical base I would have expected from an advanced degree, which is why I would like to pursue another MBA from a bricks and mortar school. Would having this in my background hurt my application?

This will depend on the MBA program you’re applying to. Some programs have very strict policies. If you’ve already received an MBA, you will not be considered. Other schools have more flexibility.