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Hang onto your hats, things are about to get  wild around here.  Bloomberg released its newest ranking of MBA (and undergraduate B-school) programs this week.  We can see the headlines now -- Death of HBS?  Duke ascendant?  Take it easy.  Let's look at this more closely.

 

 By Ben Feuer

The first thing to consider when evaluating any ranking of schools is the methodology.  Bloomberg relies primarily on surveys of students and employers, and secondarily on faculty article publications.  This method has some obvious flaws -- there will be a tendency by students to rank their school more highly to try to make their school appear more prestigious, and since the methods of the ranking are publicly known, it would be completely conceivable for a lower ranked school to 'game' the rankings.  Bloomberg claims to correct against this by having psychologists evaluate the data.  The survey of employers seems more reliable, but ultimately basically amounts to a 'who is best known' contest.  Finally, the ranking by article publications is naturally going to favor schools with more prominent journals, since it is easier for Harvard professors to get published in Harvard Journals, Duke professors in Duke journals, et cetera.

So with those caveats in mind, what conclusions can we draw from the striking changes in the 2014 rankings?

In a post-online world, will Harvard's name brand dominance finally be challenged?  The most striking jump is HBS, from 2 down to 8.  Is this the beginning of the end of HBS's rankings dominance?  Hold your horses there, cowboy.  In their description of this year's ranking methodology, Bloomberg explains that this year’s ranking will show more change than previous rankings have done because previous years of data weigh less heavily on the current scores -- A LOT LESS.  This year's student evaluation counted for 75 percent up from 50 percent, and the 2010 survey was eliminated completely from the ranking.  The reason Bloomberg used to incorporate multiple years was to prevent 'outlier years' -- of course, this new methodology seems destined to create many outlier years (and many headlines).  Ultimately, it is far too soon to ring a death knell at HBS based on this survey alone.  All of what we just said for HBS also applies to MIT, and in almost precisely the same manner.

Holding Steady ... In some ways, given the radical difference in methodology, it's more striking to note what did NOT change.  Three of the top four -- Booth, Wharton and Stanford -- are materially identical to last year, with slight changes.  Wharton continues to hold a higher place in Bloomberg's ranking than Stanford.  Lately some pundits have been quick to bury Wharton as outdated -- not the trendiest of top MBA hotspots.  I think this ranking shows that from an employment and student satisfaction standpoint, at least, Wharton is still a top three school, year after year.

Up and Coming?  Duke and Yale have long had well regarded MBA programs, but this might mark a watershed moment for both schools.  Duke is probably benefiting from its exceptional regional reputation, since the methodology of the employer survey this year incorporates regional and industry-specific recruiting more effectively than past surveys, and also devalues pure 'name brand recognition' somewhat (a battle HBS, Stanford and Wharton will win every year).  Yale's ascendancy is the most striking -- a quantum leap from 21 to 6 -- and could mark the beginning of a big two years for Yale's business school.  Given the strong name brand recognition of the undergraduate program, it's hard not to feel optimistic about Yale's chances for climbing higher in future US News rankings.

Conclusion.  Overall, it would be a mistake to read too much into Bloomberg's biannual rankings.  They change a lot every time they're done, and this year in particular, the major shifts in methodology produced a lot of upheaval.  The healthiest approach would be to look at this as one more data point in a long line.  Perhaps it will make some students reconsider strong programs they might otherwise have overlooked, like Tepper, Yale and UCLA Anderson.  That alone would be a fine outcome for this ranking.

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We all know it when we see it (or think we do).  But do we know how to use it, and how not to?

By Ben Feuer

Bullshit, or BS, as it is affectionately known, seems to be undergoing a kind of renaissance lately.  Respected schools like USC Marshall conduct studies which are then misinterpreted and used to make clickbaiting articles (like this one!) proclaiming to the heavens the value of powerful sounding vagaries.

A lot of people (including some of my clients) enjoy proclaiming with great confidence that they 'don't do bullshit'.  A lot more people (including some of my clients) announce that everything they are saying is 'just bullshit', then say it anyway, as though that was somehow going to improve my impression of the bullshit they are about to say.

We all know too much BS is a bad thing.  So what value (if any) does it have in an essay?  Are we all writing it, to a lesser or greater degree, and some of us are just better at it than others?

The answer is no, but if you're convinced the answer is yes, nothing I'm about to say will change your mind.  For those of you willing to learn a little bit about how language works, read on.

BSing consists of saying things you do not believe are true.  In your essays, you should not be writing things that are not true.  Therefore, there should be no BS in your essays.

That's the black and white answer.  Now for the shades of gray.

Some people have truths that, for one reason or another, simply MUST be evaded or omitted when they write their essays.  An essay is not meant to be 'full disclosure', it is meant to give an accurate portrait of you as a candidate.  So if there is a non-representative but utterly damning fact about you, well, it might be a good idea to choose not to talk about it.  BS?  Of course not.  This is just common sense, and most people intuitively get this.

Going deeper into the rabbit hole, things get more complicated.  Some candidates have a story they're dying to tell but no space in which to tell it.  BS allows them to shift the 'question' to suit their packaged answer.  You see politicians do this all the time.  It doesn't work for them and it will not work for you.  Answer the essay question, even if it means giving up on your 'favorite' story.

Some people have big, complicated ideas and work histories and very limited word counts to explain them.  In these situations, you must simplify things.  Simplifications are not BS -- if done well, they clarify a point you're trying to make, not obscure it.  The problem comes when they are done poorly.  The fact is, it is really hard to make a big idea simple without destroying it.  Simplifications that rely on jargon "make you sound stupid", to quote the Marshall professor who commissioned the study.  Simplifications must use simple, plain language that speaks to emotions rather than to facts.  

Once simplified, stories can often read rather abrupt and lifeless.  This is where detail comes into play.  Detail makes stories feel real and lived-in, so details (metrics, dates, facts) are vital to telling a compelling story.  This is a key way readers unconsciously distinguish BS, however well written, from reality.  Even if it means you have to say less, say it with enough detail to be convincing, but not so much as to be overwhelming.  Pick and choose your most valuable details.

Hopefully this helps draw something of a line in the sand distinguishing BS from effective (and necessary) self-promotion and self-explanation.

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Forster-Thomas breaks down the advantages and disadvantages of coding experience for an MBA, and evaluates its worth in a b-school application.

By Ben Feuer

There is an intriguing ongoing debate right now about whether MBAs should learn to code.  As the workforce becomes more and more technical, coding becomes a more and more valuable skill.  The question, really, is how much is too much?  And on a related note, if you are seeking an MBA and you know how to code already, how valuable a skill is it to bring to the table?

CODING PROS:

Managers who can code (at least a little bit) know enough to be able to determine what is feasible and what is not.  This allows them to make smarter management decisions.

Coding teaches logic.  Logic is a valuable tool in any management position, and helps with problem solving.

CODING CONS:

Managers may become overconfident in their understanding of coding.  A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

The work is long and arduous, and could potentially distract from core MBA curriculum.

As a fundamentally solitary activity, coding-focused MBAs might be poorer communicators and less visionary leaders and become more concerned with the nitty gritty.

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Fair enough.  So what about that other category, MBAs who already have coding experience?  Historically, the results for highly technical people seeking an MBA has not been great, if that is their primary qualification.  The needle on that issue may be moving somewhat, but Forster-Thomas needs a few more years of results before we can definitively say whether it is or it is not.

In the meantime, the status quo still rules -- b-schools respond first and foremost to leadership in group contexts and the ability to take on visionary initiatives and see them through to completion.  Coding, unless it is in the context of a more ambitious goal like building a startup, should be seen as a complementary flavor rather than a main course.


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To commemorate Businessweek’s 2014 ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, Forster Thomas is profiling the top ten. Jumping three spots to #6 this year – UT Austin McCombs.

By Ben Feuer

WHY TO GO:

McCombs, the second highest ranked state school on our list, is ideally situated in Austin, a growing city that has a strong focus on energy, tech, and entrepreneurship.

Reasonable in-state tuition of $10,738 anually

Top feeder for Deloitte, well represented in consulting

Outstanding career center

Powerful alumni include the CEOs of ConocoPhillips and Southwest Airlines

Average salary upon graduation: $58,049

HOW TO GO:

Thanks to an unusually well-organized admissions website, getting the information you need is easy.

FRESHMEN

Freshmen apply through the usual ApplyTexas website – unless they are interested in the Business Honors program, no separate application is required. Letters of recommendation are optional, and UT Austin does NOT conduct interviews for candidates applying to the McCombs School of Business.

TRANSFERS

Transferring into McCombs is, of course, highly competitive (last year's acceptance rate was 72%), and bear in mind the McCombs School of Business accepts students for the fall semester only.

INTERNAL:

McCombs requires at least 24 hours in residence at UT Austin, at least one year of college foreign language or two years of high school foreign language, Calc I, II, Micro and Macroeconomics.

Students are limited to two attempts, and must be made within the first four semesters.

EXTERNAL:

3.0 GPA minimum, 3.5 recommended. The residency and class requirements are the same as for internal transfers, as is the foreign language requirement.

In addition to these requirements, students must have at least 30 hours of transferrable coursework.

17% of appliants were admitted last year.


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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.

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Okay, so you aren't currently attending a top tier MBA program, but you still want to attract top tier companies and recruiters?  A new article from Bloomberg sheds light on the process.

By Ben Feuer

Bloomberg has a popular new article this week about why corporate headhunters choose certain schools over others.  Spoiler alert -- no real bombshell revelations come to light.  But that doesn't mean there is nothing to be learned from it.

Companies recruit on campus for the same reasons anyone recruits anywhere -- they have had good experiences with it in the past, OR their boss (someone highly placed in the company) tells them to, or persistent efforts of the student body to demonstrate interest in their field draw recruiters.  

This third option is the most interesting from a Forster-Thomas standpoint.  Why?  Because where a lesser man or woman might look at this and see a brick wall (oh, how am I ever going to get them to recruit HERE?), a leader will see this as an opportunity (I'm going to find a way to get them to start recruiting here).  Several candidates I have worked with in previous years have written application essays about their experience promoting their business major on the undergraduate campus.  Some have had real success in helping place alumni in jobs.  Others created strong campus interest in an industry where there was none before, like accounting or consulting, purely through student groups and simple legwork.

So read the article and start thinking about how YOU might be able to put it to work at your school -- whatever tier it is.

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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.


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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.

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To commemorate Businessweek’s 2014 ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, Forster Thomas is profiling the top ten.  First up – the #1 school, University of Notre Dame: Mendoza.

 

By Ben Feuer

WHY TO GO:

Mendoza is the #1 business school this year according to Bloomberg Businessweek, and there are a lot of very good reasons for that.  Here are a couple of points that distinguish Mendoza.

• Choose from five majors -- ACCT, FIN, MARK, MGT IT, MGT Consulting

• Strong emphasis on ethics – they even put it on their homepage.

• Happy student body – Mendoza graduates are loud and proud

• Chicago market feeder, with over 2300 graduates in the Chicago area on Linkedin

• With an average salary upon graduation of almost $60,000, you won’t need to pinch pennies with a Mendoza diploma in your pocket.

HOW TO GO:

There is no separate application for UND Mendoza this year.  Interested students should apply to Notre Dame and pursue a “broad liberal arts curriculum in a variety of academic areas”, according to Mendoza’s home page, before declaring a business major in their second year.

Notre Dame accepts the common application, with a writing supplement, choosing three of the following five prompts and providing a response between 150 and 300 words to each.

  1. In his 2005 inaugural address, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, challenged our community: “We at Notre Dame must have the courage to be who we are. If we are afraid to be different from the world, how can we make a difference in the world?” When you leave Notre Dame, what is one way you will bravely face the world, stay true to your values, and make a difference large or small?

This is a kind of cousin to an essay about a goal or even a personal statement, but phrased broadly, so as to allow for the fact that you probably have no idea what career you’d like to have.  But most likely there is some corner of the world, something you’ve had personal experience with, where you WOULD like to make an impact.  Where is it?  This is not a ‘brag’ essay.  This should reveal something about who you are at your core, something surprising and (hopefully) endearing!

  1. What is your proudest accomplishment that doesn’t appear on your résumé — an act for which you did not receive a trophy, grade, or other type of outward recognition?

Another way to look at this question is “what don’t we know about you that we SHOULD know about you?”  The most obvious way to answer this question (and potentially a very effective one) is to talk about your family, using a specific incident as a springboard to discuss a larger lesson about your life, like when you went on a summer camping trip with your uncle and learned what roughing it really meant.  But this could also be a story about overcoming an internal obstacle, or even a powerful friendship.  Whatever you choose, it will most likely revolve around a relationship.

  1. Tell us about a time you fell in love… with an academic concept. What excited you about this idea, project, or lesson?

When writing an essay about academic achievement, the most important thing to remember is that this is NOT a question about grades.  Believe me, Notre Dame has seen your transcript.  This is an opportunity to go beyond that.  The question asks about excitement, falling in love with an idea – believe it or not, this is anything but a dry, intellectual question, so don’t treat it like one!  Tell them about a time when learning became hands on or personal for you, an unforgettable teacher, or a project that took you above and beyond your everyday expectations.

  1. Why are you interested in attending the University of Notre Dame?

A standard-issue ‘why our school’ question.  The usual caveats apply.  Try to find something specific that links your application to the school,  do your research, and don’t be afraid to discuss campus visits and current students you’re friendly with, especially if they helped to give you perspective on the school.

5.  By the end of the college application process, you will have probably written dozens of essays and responded to a multitude of questions. Use this opportunity to try something new.

This is what we in the business call an ‘open-ended’ question.  The worst thing you can do when faced with a question like this is panic.  With no multimedia component and only 150-300 words to play with, there’s no call to get too out of the box.  Think about strengths or interesting qualities in your application that might otherwise go un-noticed, and then figure out a specific format for your answer – don’t speak broadly about your non-profit commitments, instead, write about that one unforgettable summer in Kuala Lumpur. 

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