Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A primer on law school price cuts

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Law schools around the country are beginning to cut their sticker prices in response to declining applications.  Here are some of the schools that have taken the plunge.

By Ben Feuer


Admit it.  You thought the day would never come.  Nevertheless, here it is.  The number of applicants to law school has slid from more than 87,500 in 2010 to about 54,500 as of this month, according to the Law School Admission Council.

The Wall Street Journal has an article on how law schools are finally cutting their tuition in response to a dearth of applications year after year.  As more and more students flee to the seemingly more lucrative pastures of the MBA and Medical degrees, Law school is (belatedly) trying to make itself more competitive again.

And now, for your further edification, here are some of the programs that have cut tuition recently -- see if any of them look like a fit for you.

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA COLLEGE OF LAW -- US News #27 -- Cut 16.4% to $21,965 for residents or
$39,500 for non-residents.

ROGER WILLIAMS SCHOOL OF LAW -- US News Unpublished -- Cut 28% to $42,130

UNIVERSITY OF LA VERNE SCHOOL OF LAW -- US News Unranked -- Cut 22% to $39,900

UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO SCHOOL OF LAW -- US News #140 -- Cut 13% to $17,900 in state,
$31,074 out of state.

UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA JAMES E ROGERS SCHOOL OF LAW -- US News #40 -- Cut as much as 39% to $24,381 per year (in-state) and full-time: $38,841 per year (out-of-state)

OHIO NORTHERN UNIVERSITY'S PETTIT COLLEGE OF LAW -- US News Unpublished -- Cut 21% to $33,684


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Now live on Forster-Thomas's website are the prompts and deadlines for these four schools.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Stanford's evolving priorities

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Stanford is overhauling its curriculum and its approach to teaching business.  Here is why that matters.

By Ben Feuer

Those of you currently writing "Why Stanford" essays, take note of a new article published over at Poets and Quants.  The entire 4-page article is an intriguing read, but I think we both know that is not going to happen.  So in the interest of saving you time and effort, your good friends at Forster-Thomas have combed through the article to determine what the most important takeaways are in terms of your application strategy.

No more "cod liver oil" and "chocolate cake".  For those of you who still think of the first year as a grind through basics you already understand, and the second year as a chance to spread your wings, Stanford is trying to change all of that -- so you better be on-board.  Stanford now offers advanced options right off the bat–seven core courses taught at three different levels, basic, accelerated, and advanced, and three more courses offered at two levels of difficulty.

Advising is a work in progress.  Stanford has been experimenting for several years with different approaches to mentorship, recently shifting from formal advising relationships with faculty to staff advisors who can consult with students about what classes are best to take.  You should bear this in mind when discussing how you plan to get feedback on your curricular choices.

Video dominates classrooms.  An interesting tidbit for those trying to figure out how Stanford stands out from its peers -- they now employ video in a large number of their lectures and make the actual class time more about discussion and leadership development, also increasing interactivity.

Global is good.   "Our applicant pool is very global, with incoming classes of over 40% international. China, India, Brazil and Mexico have become big markets for us. We want to have a global pool of students coming in."

Entrepreneurship?  Kinda.  Last year, nearly one in five graduates–a record 18%–launched their own firms.  But Stanford wants to be seen as a strong general management program.  The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, huh?

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Forster-Thomas takes a peek inside this year's Haas business school application and gives you insight on the questions.

By Ben Feuer


Although we have already covered the basic dates and deadlines and the primary essay questions here, now that students are beginning their 2014-2015 Haas applications (at least for round one) we thought it was high time to take a closer look at the application.  Turns out, there are a lot of intriguing short answers and hidden prompts to address, so without further ado, let's dive in!

1.  Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world. How did this transform you? (400-500 word max) 

Berkeley has always had an enjoyably contrarian streak -- question authority, go your own way, be independent!  This prompt continues that theme, albeit in a more subdued vein than "tell us your favorite song".  You could look at this question as a 'lite' version of Stanford's What Matters Most to you and Why essay -- indeed, variations on this essay are cropping up across the b-school landscape this year.  The approach is simple but not easy.  Find a defining moment in your life, a time when you were stressed out, pushed to your limits, tested or threatened -- or a time when you encountered a dilemma, exceeded expectations, et cetera.  The point is that there must be a strong emotional heart to the incident, and it has to focus on a very limited time frame -- a month, two months.  Not six years.  Be introspective in discussing your transformation -- talk about your feelings, and focus on  the why as much (or more) than the what.

2.  What is your most significant professional accomplishment? (200-300 word maximum) 

An accomplishment can be any task that you did exceptionally well.  It differs from a leadership essay in that it does not HAVE to involve other people, although given that you only get to write one such essay in the entire application, you are much better off if your accomplishment shows adcom your ability to lead.  It is a professional accomplishment, so do not use a personal or scholastic story.

3.  What is your desired post-MBA role and at what company or organization? In your response, please specifically address sub-questions a., b., and c. How is your background compelling to this company? What is something you would do better for this company than any other employee? Why is an MBA necessary and how will Haas specifically help you succeed at this company? (500-600 word maximum for 3a, 3b, and 3c combined)

See any of our previous posts on goals, or our book, for a sense on how to approach this. 

SECTION III: Optional Essays

1.  Please feel free to provide a statement concerning any information you would like to add to your application that you have not provided elsewhere.  (500 words maximum)

Given the extensive section II supplemental questions (not covered in detail here) which ask about your professional and extracurricular background, letters of recommendation and all the other things that would usually be covered in an optional essay, this should be interpreted in the same manner as HBS and Wharton's optional essays -- IE, it is a good idea to fill this out.

The prompt is completely open-ended, which means you can discuss anything you have not discussed elsewhere.  Since you already have a defining moment essay, you could consider using this for additional leadership material, or discussing diversity experiences, or talking about your values -- or maybe telling them your favorite song!  :)

2.  If not clearly evident, please discuss ways in which you have demonstrated strong quantitative abilities, or plan to strengthen quantitative abilities.  You do not need to list courses that appear on your transcript.  (250 words maximum)

It's not entirely clear why this is an essay, and why it is optional rather than supplemental, but for those of you who do not come from conventional quantitative backgrounds, this is a must-answer.  Avoiding your transcript, highlight experiences and abilities the admissions committee may not otherwise know that you have.


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Friday, September 12, 2014

Weird essays

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 Weird essays.  We have all read them -- not so much in terms of the structure or approach, but in terms of the content.  So are they a good thing or a bad thing?

By Ben Feuer



I had an interesting conversation with a client, Louie, the other day -- a typical I-banking/PE guy.  I was spending my time (as I so often do) trying to wring more personality out of his essays, which read like they were written by committee.  Louie, of course, fretted over every little trait I wanted to highlight, no matter how mild.  "Won't this make me look childish?"  "Won't this make me look goofy?"

"Of course it will," I answered.  "That's the whole point.  This is a personality game.  You can't win with your whole self tied behind your back."  Louie, like so many others, had worked long and hard to excel in his professional life, and he did not want to throw it all away by seeming out of step with the other lemmings -- while simultaneously fretting endlessly over differentiation, a prized bugaboo for nearly all applicants.

Well Louie, you can't have it both ways.  Hide if you must, but don't be surprised when you fail to make it out of your 'bucket' -- a little personality goes a long way.

A Darden professor, Martin Davidson, has been studying the effect of oddballs and outcasts on business for quite some time, and he has a new article in Businessweek discussing some of his findings.  He concludes that we undervalue oddballs in corporate environments.  Business school, in this regard, is very different.  B-schools WANT the mavericks.  They want the leaders.  So the same lockstep behavior that served you well in your previous life will not serve you well here, in your applications.

You can be like everybody else -- or you can set the building on fire.  Your choice.


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kellogg Video Essay Questions 2014-2015

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The Kellogg Video Essay questions are arriving with the round one candidates.  Here are the ones we have heard so far.

By Ben Feuer

The prompts for the Kellogg video essays are beginning to trickle in.  Here are the ones we have heard so far --

What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten?

What is your favorite TV show?

Tell us about your first job.

If you could teach any course, what would it be?

Remember that these questions are intended to be answered in a casual, off the cuff manner -- do NOT attempt to script responses and read them to the camera!  Speak naturally, as you would to a friend.  Use the questions above as PRACTICE -- don't overthink this!

For more detailed advice, check out our other blog on this topic as well as our helpful video


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 Forster-Thomas offers helpful tips for MBA applicants seeking an international edge.

 By Ben Feuer

The Guardian wrote on Friday about the ever-increasing value of international experience in the admissions process.  More now than ever, business is global, and MBAs looking to get the maximum value out of their degree and their training should think about whether they are competitive on an international scale.

Are you fluent in a second language?  English may be the worldwide language of business, but Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese and Arabic can all come in very handy for MBAs.

Are you experienced at integrating into unfamiliar cultures?  I don't mean going on a fun vacation in Taiwan or backpacking across Europe with your buddies.  Have you immersed yourself in a foreign culture, forged connections, made new friends and contacts in completely alien settings?

Do you have skills that translate internationally?  Are you strong quantitatively?  Do you have a lot of experience with Excel or other computer programs that are commonly used overseas?  Do you understand the fundamentals of leadership and how to motivate people?

Mastering your core skills and honing them is the best way to be competitive nationally AND internationally -- and as businesses continue to expand their influence, these abilities will only grow more important.


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The 2014-2015 Emory, INSEAD, USC Marshall Essays and Deadlines are up on our website!  Check them out right here. 

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Duke Fuqua 2014-2015 Essay Prompts with Analysis

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Duke's essays maintain their distinctive flavor this year -- here are some tips on how to attack them.

By Ben Feuer

Required Short Answer Questions: Answer all 3 questions. For each short answer question, respond in 250 characters only (the equivalent of about 50 words).

1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA? 

2. What are your long-term goals?

These are standard goals essays.  See any of our previous posts on goals, or our book, for a sense on how to approach this. 

3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?

This question is unique to Fuqua.  Simply put, they are testing how adaptable you are to change if your goals do not work out exactly the way you want them to.  There are two great ways to answer this question.  The first way is to focus on the same long term goal, but find an alternate short term path to arrive there -- a different kind of interim position, or a different field.  The other way to approach this prompt is to create a completely new long term goal and explain how you would go about achieving that from scratch.

First Required Essay – Answer the following question – present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may only be a few words, while others may be longer. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.

1. The "Team Fuqua" spirit and community is one of the things that sets The Duke MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. When a new person joins the Admissions team, we ask that person to share with everyone in the office a list of "25 Random Things About Yourself." As an Admissions team, we already know the new hire's professional and academic background, so learning these "25 Random Things" helps us get to know someone's personality, background, special talents, and more.  In this spirit, the Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you–beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. You can share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of "25 Random Things" about YOU. 

This essay has been around for years -- frankly, it's one of our favorites here at Forster-Thomas.  We find it is often very revealing, and a lot of fun to read and to write!  The approach couldn't be simpler -- list random things about yourself.  You can and should draw from every aspect of your life, personal, professional and extracurricular -- be diverse!  You should list more than 25 initially so it is easy to cut a few.  They should vary in length and complexity -- here are two examples, one short, one long.
SHORT: my favorite food is salmon.
LONG: One time I wanted to surprise someone by jumping out of their trunk when they got back to their car, but they never opened the trunk so I was locked in there as they drove home.
Some should be funny, some should be serious -- show a range of unconnected facts about yourself.

Second Required Essay – Choose only 1 of the following 2 essay questions to answer. Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length.

When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.

This is a why school essay with a twist -- namely, that your friends, family and colleagues are asking you why you want to go to Duke.  This means that you should spend at least some time discussing your friends and family -- what do they want for you?  What are their primary concerns as far as your development goes?  Maybe your aunt is only concerned about money.  Maybe your wife is concerned with work life balance.  Maybe your uncle is a former college quarterback and wants to know about fun athletics opportunities.  Use the essay both to demonstrate your interest in the school, and to tell Duke a bit more about the important people in your life.

The Team Fuqua community is as unique as the individuals who comprise it. Underlying our individuality are a number of shared ideas and principles that we live out in our own ways. Our students have identified and defined 6 “Team Fuqua Principles” that we feel are the guiding philosophies that make our community special. At the end of our 2 years at Fuqua, if you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 Principles listed below, which one would it be and why?  Your response should reflect the research you have done, your knowledge for Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.

Authentic Engagement: We care and we take action. We each make a difference to Team Fuqua by being ourselves and engaging in and supporting activities about which we are passionate.
Supportive Ambition: We support each other to achieve great things, because your success is my success. The Success of each individual member of Team Fuqua makes the whole of Team Fuqua better.
Collective Diversity: We embrace all of our classmates because individuality is better and stronger together.
Impactful Stewardship: We are leaders who focus on solutions to improve our communities both now and in the future. We aren’t satisfied with just maintaining the status quo.
Loyal Community: We are a family who looks out for each other. Team Fuqua support you when you need it the most.
Uncompromising Integrity: We internalize and live the honor code in the classroom and beyond. We conduct ourselves with integrity within Fuqua, within Duke, and within all communicates of which we are a part. 

First, choose one (and only one!) of the six principles listed below.  Pick the principle that you feel you best embody.  Use about 2/3rds of a page to tell a few stories about previous experiences and accomplishments you have had that highlight why you represent this quality.  Then use the rest of the essay to talk about what you plan to do and take advantage of at Fuqua that will allow you to win this award, using the usual "why school" principles to guide your decisions on what to include.  An essay like this is all about your ability to 'give back' to the school, its clubs and programs -- and in order to explain how you would give back, you have to understand some of what the clubs and programs would actually need from you.  Be specific!

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Most indebted MBAs 2014

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US News published a short list today of the top ten MBA programs ... in terms of student debt.  Probably not the ranking you want to reach the summit of.

Fuqua, Darden, Sloan, Ross and Johnson occupy the top five slots.  All are top 20 ranked b-schools nationally.  The only low-ranked school with a high debt load is the anonymous USF Masagung school.

Overall, what is perhaps most striking about the list are the size of the numbers involved, with AVERAGE student debt topping $100,000 at all three of the top ranked programs -- this for a two-year graduate degreee, no less.  Those numbers suggest that students are shouldering nearly all of the cost of the degree themselves, and are financing their degrees almost completely through debt.


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