Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

Below are the brand-new 2015-2016 Common Application essay topics!  For tips on how to handle these questions, check out our best practices blog.

Instructions. The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

1. Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

To get started, access the new Common Application.

----

Need help with your college application? We can help!  Schedule a consultation today.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Get to know London Business School

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

Considering a trip across the pond?  London Business School is one of the most highly ranked in the world.  Here are a few highlights from a recent interview with the dean. 

 By Ben Feuer

 

Poets and Quants published a very interesting interview with the dean of London's business school.  We have reprinted some of the highlights of the interview below, and added our analysis.  For more on this interview, please read the extended version in the link above.

--

THE QUOTES

The Americans hail from a wide variety of employers, ranging from Accenture, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Deloitte, to Fannie Mae, General Mills, and Wells Fargo. None of the American students in the Class of 2015 are from McKinsey, BCG, Bain or Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Sounds as though LBS is making a (rather pointed) point about American high finance.  This is a good reminder that while American business schools seem to still be dazzled by the name brands, overseas those brands have been tarnished considerably by the 2008 credit crisis.

Since a few years there are more students from the U.S. than from the U.K. enrolled in the school’s full-time MBA program.

Making London an attractive option for a highly ranked full-time program if your work history is slightly off the beaten path (or simply not conducted at one of the big names in finance.)

“In a typical study group, you’ll have group members from every part of the world. On top of that, London is now a truly global city in all aspects of life, where it used to be seen as mostly a global financial center.”

For Americans interested in working abroad or building their international network, this should be welcome news.

“The City’s financial jobs are back to where they were before the crisis.”

According, at least, to the dean who wants you to apply to his school.  Still, the article also states that applications from the EU are still down (new initiatives in China have helped to bridge the gap).

----

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.


Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

If you want to attend a top school, ditch the spin, dig deep and find your story.

By Kirsten Guenther

The only good kind of spin

Every year, I have one client that I have to remind myself I love, even when they make it very, very hard. This year it was Tony.

I knew Tony was trouble at our first meeting when he told me about how he had been let go from his last banking job. It wasn’t his fault, of course—it was his manager’s fault—and he asked me how we could “spin” his having been fired. (Did I mention he was also fired from his job before that? Oh yeah, that wasn’t his fault either.)

Then, Tony told me how he had volunteered at an after school soccer program for inner city kids—by which he meant he had showed up to one meeting—and asked if we could “spin it” so that it seemed like he had done more than he had. “I just need you to make me sound interesting,” he informed me.

Around this point, I told Tony to stop talking.  Then I broke the bad news.  He was NOT getting into Kellogg (his first choice). Not if he put a “spin” on his application. Not if he wanted to “sound more interesting.” Because when you’re applying to business school you don’t put a spin on it. You don’t try to sound interesting. You be interesting.

And that’s when Tony said, “But maybe I’m just not very interesting.” He looked at me as if he expected me to pat him on the back and tell him, “It’s OK”.

I didn’t.  “Here’s the thing Tony, it’s actually really easy.  Kellogg is interested in who you truly are.”

As obvious as that sounds, it really freaked Tony out. He had spent his whole life spinning things. And being asked to actually just be clear and honest about who he was terrified Tony.

But here’s the truth: If you are the guy that got fired from your fancy banking job because you really messed up—then tell Kellogg about that. Failure stories make some of the very best essays. Talk about your mistake, talk about what you learned from it—talk about how you went from being a guy who thought he had to spin everything to someone who found success after he found himself. Because there is power and leadership in that.  It’s interesting.

Tips for taking yourself out of the spin cycle:

  1. Don’t “sound” interesting. “Be” interesting. Take a hard look at your life — at the moments where you experienced a significant change — and ask yourself why you got so angry, or sad, or happy? When you get to the root of the feeling, you find the story.
  2. Write your own origin story. Have you noticed how many superhero films tell the story of how Spiderman became amazing, or how Superman became, uh, super. Figure out what YOUR super power is—compassion, focus, intensity—and reverse engineer how you became so great at it. It might be one event or it might be several. For instance, you might be a great consultant (not naming names) because you are excellent at putting yourself in other people’s shoes.  Maybe your grandmother instilled in you the importance of understanding where other people are coming from at an early age.  The point is: what is important to you DOES make you interesting. So, don’t spin it, write it.
  3. Stop worrying about what Kellogg thinks. If you’re the guy that always worries about what other people think, you are probably also the ‘spin’ guy. There’s no need.  Believe it or not, when you control the story, you have the power to shape the world’s opinion of you.  Kellogg is not cross-checking your accomplishments against a secret checklist – they just want what everybody wants – to be moved, inspired, shocked, or excited.

What happened to Tony? He took my advice—he wrote a moving obstacle essay about getting let go from his banking job and realizing that it was all HIS fault. It was not easy. He fought me on it. But eventually he stopped spinning. And guess what? It was really interesting.  And his first choice, Kellogg, agreed.


----

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.


Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

To commemorate Businessweek’s 2014 ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, Forster Thomas is profiling the top ten. Rounding out the top five is Washington U. in St. Louis's Olin School.


By Ben Feuer

WHY TO GO:

#5 is a collaborative, intellectually rigorous program with a long and proud history, both for undergraduates in general and for the b-school itself.

Job security – 97% of students have offers at graduation

Long tradition – founded in 1917

Gotta love a B-School with a selfie contest

Relatively even distribution of jobs on graduation, with 33% in Financial Services, 18% in consulting and 7% in media

An average salary upon graduation: $60,000

HOW TO GO:

FRESHMEN

According to Businessweek, 100% of admitted applicants each year are incoming freshmen, and Olin is a bit unusual in that its BS in Business Administration is declared freshman year – so right from the beginning, you take business classes. Ideal for students who know what they want from a young age. Admission is through the University, and is very academically rigorous (75% SAT = 1550).

Although Washington University does not require a supplemental essay for the Common Application, supplemental essays are required for Academic Scholarship and Fellowship Programs, which are open to all freshman applicants.

TRANSFERS

Olin offers transfers in the fall semester. You must demonstrate high scholastic performance from a two- or four-year college that mirrors most of Olin’s freshman and sophomore academic requirements, like microeconomics and the equivalent of Calculus II at the college level. If you’re a junior-level transfer candidate, requirements would also include financial accounting, macroeconomics, and, possibly, managerial accounting.

Successful applicants present at least a B+ average from a two-year or four-year college in courses across a broad academic curriculum.

----

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.


Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

To commemorate Businessweek’s 2014 ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, Forster Thomas is profiling the top ten.  Today is the #4 school, Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. 

By Ben Feuer

WHY TO GO:

It’s a top ranked Jesuit business school in the Northeast, where business opportunities abound for young graduates.

• One of the more expensive and larger programs in the top ten, at 2000 students and $44,870 annual tuition

• Top ranked Jesuit business school

• Over $17 million in need-based scholarships in 2014

• 38% of students go to work in Financial Services

• An average salary upon graduation: $58,000

HOW TO GO:

FRESHMEN

98 percent of admitted applicants each year are incoming freshmen.  Simply choose Carroll as your undergraduate division when applying to Boston College. 

Boston College does have a common app supplement, choosing one of the questions below and writing an essay of no more than 400 words.

1. St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, encouraged his followers to live their lives in the service of others. How do you plan to serve others in your future endeavors?

This question directly addresses the question of service.  Try not to define service too narrowly in your mind as you think about how to answer.  Remember that you can be of service to family, loved ones, friends – think about where in your life you have the deepest impact, not only on others, but on yourself, and factor that into your answer.

2. From David McCullough's recent commencement address at BC:

“Facts alone are never enough. Facts rarely if ever have any soul. In writing or trying to understand history one may have all manner of 'data,' and miss the point. One can have all the facts and miss the truth. It can be like the old piano teacher's lament to her student, 'I hear all the notes, but I hear no music.”

Tell us about a time you had all of the facts but missed the meaning.

This can be interpreted as a failure or setback essay with a very narrow range of scope.  (if you don’t know how to answer those questions … check out our book)  Although it is also possible to read this as a success story (after all, if you had the facts, missed the meaning, got the meaning and saved the day in the end, you’re still answering the question, technically) but to answer it in that way misses the spirit of the quote.  This essay is about the ‘soullessness’ of facts – which implies being misled in some way by facts.  Look for that quality in your response.

3. In his novel, Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann writes:

“We seldom know what we're hearing when we hear something for the first time, but one thing is certain: we hear it as we will never hear it again. We return to the moment to experience it, I suppose, but we can never really find it, only its memory, the faintest imprint of what it really was, what it meant.”

Tell us about something you heard or experienced for the first time and how the years since have affected your perception of that moment.

A rather artful and literary spin on a writing about a life-changing experience.  This experience might be transformative, like a powerful journey you would narrate in a personal statement, or it might be reflective of a value or a deeply held belief that stays constant over time.  It could also be a way to broach the question of diversity in an essay.

4. Boston College has a First-Year Convocation program that includes the reading and discussion of a common book that explores Jesuit ideals, community service and learning. If you were to select the book for your Convocation, what would you choose and why?

There are two components necessary to answering this question, each equally important.  One is a deep understanding of Jesuit ideals, and an ability to give examples of how they have shaped your choices in life.  The other is, of course, having read and been moved by a book.  Rather than describing the book at length, use points about the book to illuminate points about yourself – this is, after all, your application, and not the book’s.

TRANSFERS

INTERNAL TRANSFERS:

If you wish to switch undergraduate divisions after your first year, you may apply for an internal transfer. However, transferring into the Carroll School of Management or the Connell School of Nursing has become increasingly difficult, and there have been years when these undergraduate divisions have not been able to accept any internal transfer candidates.

FOR OUTSIDE STUDENTS:

Each year, approximately 125 students transfer into Boston College. The majority enter in the Fall semester. A small class also enrolls each January.  Minimum GPA is 3.5, and students must spend a full academic year in school of acceptance. Calculus must be completed at time of application.


----

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.


Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

To commemorate Businessweek’s 2014 ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, Forster Thomas is profiling the top ten.  Today is the #3 school, Cornell University’s Dyson school.  

 

By Ben Feuer, Photo by Zaphodsotherhead

WHY TO GO:

For some of you out there, the prestige of attending a top business school is not enough – you’d also like to have an Ivy undergraduate institution on your resume.  Cornell strikes a great balance between the two. 

• Mid-range private tuition of $28,990

• Not only is it a strong business program, Cornell is an Ivy League school itself

• 67% of students are from the Northeast

• 46% of students go on to work in Financial Services … 7% in Entertainment

• An average salary upon graduation: $61,000

HOW TO GO:

FRESHMEN

Cornell's Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, home to the university's only accredited undergraduate business degree, is located in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). You will therefore apply to CALS for admission and must complete the Common Application and Cornell University Supplement. The major code for Applied Economics and Management is 140.

You are encouraged to visit campus and attend an information session. We do not require an interview.

Factors considered include academic achievement, standardized test scores, academic interests, leadership accomplishments outside the classroom, and recommendations, with academic achievement being the most important.

TRANSFERS

Two types are recognized -- Intra-University transfers: students from other colleges or schools at Cornell, and Intra-CALS transfers: students from other departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell.

Transfer students are considered with a minimum GPA of 2.75, but 3.3 is more realistic.  Cornell strongly recommends microeconomics, macroeconomics and Calculus as prerequisites.  AP credit is accepted.  Students must also receive a grade of B+ or better in at least one business course.

In addition to coursework, the admissions decision is based on qualitative factors such as work experience, leadership positions, internships, and the internal transfer applicant's ability to explain why the AEM major is a good fit for him or her.

For current Cornell students, there is an application here, but check this website first for additional information.

For students of other universities, there is an application here, and overall school transfer requirements here.  Interviews will also be required – students apply directly to Dyson.

----

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.


Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

To commemorate Businessweek’s 2014 ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, Forster Thomas is profiling the top ten.  Today, the #2 school, University of Virginia: Mcintire.


By Ben Feuer

WHY TO GO:

McIntire is the top ranked state school for undergraduate business majors, according to Businessweek, and it is the top ranked major feeder school for Washington DC.  Need I say more?  All right then, I will.

• In-state tuition just over $10,000

• No need to declare your major until your junior year

• Students give back – 30% of alumni donate to the school

• Strong presence (1500+) in NYC and Washington DC

• An average salary upon graduation of almost $64,000 – not too shabby

HOW TO GO:

McIntire requires that students complete a minimum of 54 credits and strongly desires that students complete a minimum of two academic years before enrollment.

Admission is competitive, and personnel look for evidence of competitive academic performance, intellectual ability, significant work or life experiences, as well as other qualities of character that may not be quantitatively measured. These include:

•Strong communications skills

•Motivation

•Tenacity

•Maturity

•Integrity

•ability to work with others

•self-confidence

•self-reliance

•leadership

For Current UVA Students:

A committee of four faculty members separately reviews and makes independent decisions on each applicant. Afterward, the group meets to reach consensus.

Important academic factors considered by Admissions include cumulative grade point average, academic performance in prerequisites and those courses related to business (accounting, economics, mathematics), and degree of difficulty of courses taken to date.  Also considered are Collegiate Extracurricular Activities, Activities and leadership within organizations, and Work experiences.

For more information, check here.

For Transfer Students:

Applicants enrolled at schools other than the University must apply to the University of Virginia as a transfer student and should indicate application to McIntire.  It is strongly recommended that students complete all prerequisites before transferring to the University, and transfer should be made directly to McIntire as a third-year student. The University of Virginia: Transfer Information Web site has more information about this process.

Students currently enrolled at a Virginia community college and interested in applying to McIntire should complete the suggested courses listed in the Prerequisites-Equivalents at Virginia Community Colleges.

Some Useful Facts:

• The mean GPA of students admitted to McIntire from other colleges and universities has historically averaged 3.8.

• The same admissions criteria apply for transfer students as for current students, including extracurriculars and work experience.

• The University is aggressively increasing the goals for admitting students from the Virginia Community College System; over half of McIntire’s incoming transfer students are historically from the VCCS.


----

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.


Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

How to Write the Perfect Medical School Personal Statement

Med School graduate guru Kirsten Guenther shares her unique insight into crafting the ideal personal statement for your application.

By Kirsten Guenther

Admit it. You’ve watched at least one episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Even if you rolled your eyes the whole time, and made a gagging motion when they removed that kid from a block of cement with no permanent damage. (Okay, I’ve watched more than a couple of episodes.)

Although Grey’s Anatomy (sadly) is more Fabio than Florence Nightingale, it might actually be worth another look, because believe it or not, Grey’s Anatomy could help you with your personal statement for medical school.

Tom, one of my medical school hopefuls last year, had beaucoup internships and shadowships, a 37 MCAT score and a 3.9 G.P.A from Yale.  What he didn’t have was a compelling story for his personal statement.  Rather than writing about who he was, Tom just listed facts about himself—where he was born, what classes he had excelled in, all his fabulous qualities and qualifications.  Dullsville.  So I gave Tom some homework – he was to watch season one of Grey’s Anatomy and report back. 

Next week Tom gushed, “Kirsten! It was amazing! It’s called Grey’s Anatomy because it’s the Anatomy of Dr. Grey! The episode is like an x-ray of her soul.”

Yes, Tom …

Every episode of Grey’s Anatomy is centered around a deeply personal revelation for the main character. And the show is narrated by her—so you really get into her head and her heart. The character is self-aware—she shares her fears, her goals, her strengths, and her weaknesses. And at the end of each episode, (or for purposes, essay) she shares a revelation that changed her.

Tom eventually found his inner Dr. McDreamy and got into his top choice of school, and you can too, as long as you follow these FIVE SIMPLE TIPS.

  1.  You are writing an autobiography.  And the heart of this autobiography is simply this -- why do you want to be a doctor?  Tell admissions the story of your evolving relationship to medicine, and make sure to demonstrate how passionate you are about medicine through self-understanding and action.
  2. Show compassion. Notice I said show, don’t tell. Do not FYI them that you are understanding and patient. Walk them through the time you broke through to that tutoring student that just ‘didn’t get it’, or the time you helped that patient at the free clinic deal with a diagnosis of cancer.
  3. What kind of doctor are you?  I don’t mean your discipline – pediatrician or brain surgeon, it’s all good.  I’m talking about your bedside manner. The way you describe your internship experiences, in particular, should provide clues on how you will treat your patients once you become a doctor.
  4. Demonstrate self-awareness. How scary would it be to have a doctor who thinks he or she is perfect? Exactly. You are not perfect, thank goodness, so be clear about your strengths and weaknesses. Where can you grow and develop at medical school?
  5. Evolve.  Even if you are into Intelligent Design, you can still benefit from some personal evolution. Each experience you describe must build on the previous one – not only will your essay become infinitely more dynamic, you will show a pattern of progressing maturity over time that will reflect well on you as a candidate.

By the end of the essay, admissions must be certain you will be come a doctor. That it is in your bones, and this is their chance to help you get there.  And if you still don’t understand what I’m talking about, I sentence you to watch more Grey’s Anatomy! (Best to stick to the first three seasons.)

----

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.


Monday, April 07, 2014

MBA Jargon: Globalization

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

This is one piece of jargon that is overused not just by MBAs, but by JDs, poll science majors and many others.

By Ben Feuer

In Robert Reich's new movie, "Inequality for All", he talks at some length about this noxious word.  As you can see from the chart below, it has taken off in popularity since 1980, when it was practically unheard of (literally).

Unlike some of the words we feature in this series, globalization does have a unique meaning and can be a very useful word -- in context.  However, that utility is very narrow indeed, and many essay writers attempt to wave the word around, thinking it makes them sound hip and relevant.  Globalization is forcing the world to be more competitive.  Globalization is making it easier for me to sell my doohickey overseas.  Globalization makes my getting an American MBA more relevant.

The sad truth is, globalization has become a catchall, 'dog ate my homework' justification for nearly any entrepreneurial or social ambition.  So take a moment to ask yourself -- does my proposed company, non-profit or initiative actually need to be global in scale?  Local is valuable too!  At Forster-Thomas, we always encourage our candidates to think about who benefits from their proposed idea or business, and to define that group as precisely as possible.  Global communities are, by their very nature, imprecise, and quite frankly, when it comes to 'the world', most of us don't know jack.

So eschew globalization in favor of a more targeted, precise demographic -- no matter what the scale, relevance is what matters.

----

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A new dean at Tuck: what will change?

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

Dean Paul Danos is stepping down at Tuck.  What does this mean for future MBA applicants?

By Ben Feuer

After twenty years, Dean Paul Danos will be stepping down from his position at the head of Tuck Business School.  That's some seriously impressive staying power, and we wish him all the best in whatever he chooses to do next.

So what does it mean for the MBA candidates thinking of applying to Tuck this year?  Four words -- all bets are off.  Tuck's questions have barely changed at all over the past three years, sticking to the old B-school chestnuts -- goals, leadership, failure/setback, and sometimes diversity.  And if you don't know what those essay types are, you seriously need to pick up a copy of our book.

But with new faces inevitably come new ideas, and history shows that the dean that replaces Paul Danos will want to stamp the program as his own, probably this year.  Fortunately, even though the questions business schools ask change almost every year, the structure and substance of great essays remains the same.  Tell the truth, be powerful, and limit your word count.

----

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.