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A great educational consultant doesn’t do the work for you. He (or she) pushes you—like a tough athletic coach—to go from good to GREAT in all aspects of your candidacy.



By Evan Forster

Lebron James has undeniable natural talent. He couldn’t be less than “good” at basketball if he shot the ball from his couch with his other hand wrapped around a Pringles tube. But if you want to be Major League, you need someone outside your own mind and body to push you to a new level.

Sammy’s application to MIT Sloan’s MBA program is an excellent example. I enjoyed Sammy’s optional personal expression essay. It was clever, well-produced, and bold. And yet it was missing something crucial.

MIT Sloan’s optional essay allows the applicant to create something original, something that reveals his or her personality.  Sammy made a video, a clever takeoff of Apple’s “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” commercials, explaining that he was no typical finance guy in the way that Macs aren’t typical computers. In making good points about who Sammy is, it did exactly what that essay is supposed to do, no more and no less.  AND THAT WAS THE WHOLE PROBLEM.

At Forster-Thomas, we refer to the upper echelon of elite schools as the Major Leagues of Admissions—Harvard College, Columbia Medical School, Haas B-School, Stanford Law, USC Film.  We do that for a reason.  It takes something special to make it to the major leagues.  Talent is a given.  Most people applying to those schools have talent.  Effort matters—a lot—but not all effort is created equal.  Some effort is wasted on things that don’t count.  That’s why major leaguers need COACHES.  You know, that guy on the sidelines in a suit or uniform (or in the case of Bill Belichick, a grungy hoodie) screaming at you to slide or bunt or whatever it is you do in baseball.  You need someone to take your clever essay ideas, your interesting interview responses and your competent resume from “effective” and “polished” to “authentic” and “compelling.” 

In Sammy’s case, his optional personal expression essay was missing that one, teeny-tiny, indispensable ingredient: HEART. While the Forster-Thomas crew enjoyed and nodded at the video when we saw it, a day later, none of us could recall a thing about Sammy—other than the fact that he’s not a PC.  And that is a BIG, BIG problem. If I don’t remember Sammy, neither will the adcoms.

While Sammy had worked with us on his applications to other schools, he did MIT Sloan on his own.  Imagine if he had had someone there to push him, to make him sweat the small stuff.  Imagine, if instead of a perfect Mac, we saw a guy who showed off two amazing things about himself like his academic ability and a great club he led. And then imagine Sammy stops. He looks down, and then back up at the camera and says, “Wait. I don’t wanna put anyone else down—not PC or anyone.” And then he reveals something not so great—like his struggle organizing thoughts, a truth about his insecurity about transitioning from law to business. And then he asks MIT for help giving him the life his really wants. And maybe he cuts to this part when he’s “backstage,” setting everything up. See?  It not only takes it past the clever “Mac/PC” commercial, but it humanizes him. Now MIT doesn’t just like Sammy. MIT remembers Sammy. We all do.  

That’s what a strong, experienced, savvy educational consultant does. He or she takes you from D-League to Major League—by helping you find and express your HEART, not just your resume.  Odds are, Sammy considered doing something personal and warm—but rejected the idea. Without someone to give him permission to get real, he backed off because admissions is scary. The more your put yourself on the line, the harder it is if you get rejected.

You may be Superman, but you have Kryptonite buried somewhere in your candidacy, and it will suck all the power out of it if you let it.  We all have a blind spot—you, me, everybody.  We all need a coach to be great.

I have a confession to make: I have a bit of an ego.  That is why it is extra hard for me to admit what I’m about to admit: I’m not a Mac.  I’m not slick, or polished.  I wake up every day and ask myself, “Was I a phony yesterday? Does anyone really care what I have to say today?"

That fear is not “slick” or “polished”—it’s just the truth.  My media consultant, Hank, otherwise known as my personal pain-in-the ass, is my secret weapon that never lets me merely be good. He helps me be great. That’s why I hire him.  And that’s why you should hire us, or another educational consultant that is the right fit for your personality and needs.

You worked hard to give yourself a shot at a top program or school.  Why settle for second best in your candidacy and your applications, the final and most telling stage of the entire process?  That’s why you need a GREAT educational consultant.  The good news is, I have a couple suggestions about where to start looking.  HECA, IECA ... I'm looking at you!

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When it comes to getting into a top filmmaking MFA like USC, not all materials are created equal.  What can you do to make your application stand out?

Considered by many to be the #1 film school in America and possibly the world, USC is famous for having housed George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, all of whom continue to support their Alma Mater.   So what does it take to join their hallowed ranks?  Well, first, you have to get into the school -- no mean feat, as top film schools have become more selective every year, with USC's hovering at a measly 9 percent.

Of course, USC's deadline of November 15th is already past for this year, but there's still the spring, not to mention next year, and getting your portfolio in shape is a long-term kind of project.

The most important component of your application is going to be your creative portfolio.  Simply put, if it's great, you're in.  Here are the required elements for the 2014-2015 USC Film and Television MFA, and how to make each of them stand out from the pack.

1.  Cinematic Arts Personal Statement (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section): The personal statement will be read by the Film & Television Production Admission Committee as a measure of creativity, self-awareness and vision. We are looking for a sense of you as a unique individual and how your distinctive experiences, characteristics, background, values and/or views of the world have shaped who you are and what you want to say as a creative filmmaker. We want to know about the kind of stories you want to tell. Bear in mind that enthusiasm for watching films, descriptions of your favorite films and the involvement in the filmmaking process is common in most candidates. As a result, we encourage that you focus on your individuality. Note that there is no standard format or correct answer. (1,000 words or less).

USC's expectations in a personal statement are exceptionally clearly laid out here.  They do NOT want to hear about all the cool productions you've been a part of.  They do not want to know that you hung out with Krysten Ritter at a bar one time.  They want to know your story -- your personal, human narrative -- that led you to this point of applying to film school.

Does that mean you 'can't talk' about film?  Of course not!  How would you wind up applying to film school without having film be a major component of your life?  That would be weird!  The point is, that can't be the 'only' thing going on in your life.  They want to know what raw material, what attitudes and experiences, you're going to be drawing upon when you tell your stories.  So tell them a story -- the kind that only you can tell -- yours!

2.  Writing Sample (choose one) (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section):
An outline for a four-minute film that contains no dialogue. It can be fiction or non-fiction. The story has to be communicated visually. (No more than two pages).

One important principle in screenwriting is the ability to limit one's writing to what one can see and hear, present tense.  This prompt tests your ability to tell simple visual stories.

You could almost think about this as a picture book project -- give yourself a short, limited story to tell, and don't push yourself to be new or original, just focus on being clear, direct and specific.  Originality grows out of limitation and specificity.

Listen up, post-MTV generation -- this is not, or at least should not be, an exercise in fast cutting and showmanship.  No one cares that you know what a dolly shot is, and there should not be any camera angles.  Instead, your sentences should correspond to shots, and your paragraphs to scenes.  Think of something evolving step by step.  Include detail.  Slow the pace.

A dialogue scene between two people. Provide a one-paragraph introduction describing the two characters in screenplay format. (No more than three pages).

There is a principle in dramatic writing known as a 'fulcrum' -- the idea that every scene is a miniature conflict, and that it resolves (in one way or another) at the fulcrum, or climax of the scene.  It's imperative that the scene COULD have gone either way, but it WOUND UP going XYZ direction.

Whether or not you agree with the idea that every scene functions in this manner, for THIS assignment and this scene, you should write in this manner.  It will give you a framework, an objective to reach, and quickly -- don't waste time with introductions and setting the stage.  Get to the meat!

Describe a concept for a feature-length movie, fiction or documentary, which you would like to develop. (No more than two pages).

Concepts, or treatments, should be written in present tense format, just like screenplays.  They should be limited to what we see and hear.  

The other distinctive and important aspect of writing concepts is that they must be segmented, IE broken down into acts and sequences.  This not only helps your reader to understand the order of events, it also helps YOU to understand them.

Another challenge of concepts is deciding what to include and what to leave out.  The most important things to include are key characters, including descriptions, and important locations and plot transitions, which typically grow out of characters.

3.  Visual Sample (Choose one) (Please submit under the "Media Section"). 
Please submit only one of the two visual samples. It is essential that you specify what role(s) you have played in your visual sample.

Video Option: Create a brief narrative video in which you had a major creative role. The video can be live-action or animation, fiction or documentary, but it should reflect your aesthetic tastes and intellectual and emotional interests. (No longer than five minutes.) Please submit only ONE video. Multiple submissions WILL NOT be reviewed.

Photo Option: Prepare a series of eight photographs you have taken which, when viewed in a specific sequence, portray a unique and original character or which tell a simple narrative story. Please upload the photos in order of sequence (1-8). Also, include a one-page narrative about the character being portrayed in the photos. The images may either be black-and-white or in color. Please also upload the required one page narrative into the "media" section of the application.

You see that phrase, "specify your role"?  There is a very good reason USC is asking you to do that.  This material is being used to assess your abilities, not whether you were peripherally connected to something famous or interesting.  Don't waste this submission on attempts at name dropping or self promotion!

Another important warning here -- less is better.  USC helps you out with that by limiting the duration of your video to 5 minutes.  You can make a remarkable short film in five minutes or less.  Many people have.  Heck, you can make a great short film in 30 seconds -- just watch the super bowl ads if you don't believe me!  Show your ability to tell a story with pictures, and take advantage of your time limitations.  Embrace them rather than struggling against them.

 Don't get too bogged down in technical details like production value.  If your sample looks amazing or stars that kid from that show, hey, that's nice, but its ultimately beside the point.  USC wants to see that you have the raw materials and capabilities to be a storyteller, so that they can then mold you into their KIND of storyteller.  Particuarly a visual storyteller, someone who knows how an image can send a message.

So, there you are!  Everything you need to craft an awesome portfolio!  If you have more questions, of course, you can always ask me -- happy submitting!


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Are you struggling mightily to finish an essay for a particular prompt or school?  Sometimes the problem is not where you wound up, it's where you started.

There comes a moment in every writer's life (usually fairly early on) when she is forced to step back, assess her work with a cold, dispassionate eye, and say, calmly and confidently, "This is crap."  This is usually a bittersweet moment, coming as it does after hours (days?) of staring at a screen, fighting to make the words on the page suck less.

Sometimes the revelation comes in a more public (but equally upsetting) context -- you show it to your mom, or your best friend, and that doe-eyed, pitying look comes over her face -- oh, sugar, really?  That old story about the lawnmower again?  I hated that when you wrote about it for COLLEGE!

Look, I'm not going to sugarcoat it because it's kind of my job not to.  You wasted a bunch of time.  In your defense, it probably wasn't your fault.  But still, you might as well have spent that time listening to "All About That Bass" on repeat.  Because that's a thing people do.  Anyway, what's done is done.  The question is, what do you do now?

There is a simple way of doing triage when your essay is on life support -- vital signs that can tell you if your idea needs CPR or a shallow grave.

1.  Does it have juice?  Is there any actual emotional resonance to the idea for you?  Do you care about the subject matter, the people involved, the revelations?  Even with the most technical and business-minded essays, this is still a vital component, and if it isn't there for you, it certainly won't be there for anybody else.

2.  Is it honest and revealing?  Did you wind up contorting a few too many facts to make yourself look good?  Are you making a big deal of something that -- really, truly -- wasn't that important?  Are you showing the committee who you are, or who you want them to think you are?  And if you are applying some spin, is it at least convincingly backed up by evidence?

3.  Does it answer the question?  This is a simple one, but important nevertheless.  You'd be amazed at how many essays take on a life of their own independent of the prompt they are supposed to be answering!  So before you sink more hours into your magnum opus, be sure it is actually giving the school what they asked for!

If your answer to more than two of these questions is no, it's time to start over with a brand new brainstorm.  If you don't know how to do a brainstorm -- well, we'd be delighted to help.  But you can't start the future until you let go of the past.  Yoda said that.  I think.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Law School: A buyer's market?

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True, applications are trending downward.  But for those of you who really want to be lawyers, this might be good news.

We here at Forster Thomas have been tracking law school trends for quite some time.  As most people know by now, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of applicants to law school, leading some programs to shrink and a few to disappear entirely.  But for those of you who actually WANT to be lawyers (as opposed to those of you who just saw it as 'the thing to do'), this might actually be good news.  Why?  Because if you apply to law school this year, you are entering a buyer's market.  Schools are slashing tuition and cutting deals with cost-conscious students -- an extremely appealing prospect if, like most students, you look at the size of the debts incurred and get a little light-headed.

But there's more to it than that.  Big law firms are competing harder and harder for top students, offering bonuses of as much as $100,000, depending on experience.  Even the normally cynical Above the Law called the bonus news 'exciting.  And in certain, truly exceptional cases, such as the case of a Boies Schiller associate who put in an average of 10 hours every day, including weekends, for months on end, the bonuses got much, much bigger ... as high as $350,000.  Note -- Forster-Thomas does not endorse working 70 hour weeks.

The facts are clear enough -- while this might not be an ideal time to be at the bottom of the law school pyramid, or even in the middle, for students graduating at the top of their class or for students graduating from T14 law schools, this is an excellent time to be entering the job market.


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When it comes to getting into a top film MFA like NYU Tisch, not all materials are created equal.  What can you do to make your application stand out?

NYU Tisch is a top five film school in America, producing graduates like James Franco, Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone, along with many recent independent and studio filmmakers.   So what does it take to join their hallowed ranks?  Well, first, you have to get into the school -- no mean feat, as top film schools have become more selective every year, with Tisch's hovering at around 15 percent.

The most important component of your application is going to be your creative portfolio.  Simply put, if it's great, you're in.  Here are the required elements for the 2014-2015 Tisch MFA in filmmaking.

  1. Visual Submission: a sample or samples of your work presented visually. Material done in collaboration with other artists is acceptable provided you were the major creative force (i.e., director, producer, writer, camera operator or editor) and you explain in detail the exact nature of your contribution. Choose ONE of the following formats (i.e., do not combine video and photography):

    Video: The submission can contain one or more selections as long as the total running time does not exceed 30 minutes.  Video footage of staged plays or theatre performances are not acceptable. Please be clear about your specific contributions to the video sample. You may upload up to ten minutes of video on to the media page within Slideroom. If the total running time of your video sample exceeds ten minutes,  a link to your work must be provided on the media page. Please test your video prior to submission.  If you are submitting a link, please be sure no downloads or passwords are required.

    Or


    Photography
    (Stills): no more than 10 prints on any subject, black and white or color, with or without commentary. The photographs may also be a presentation of work in other media, such as painting, illustration, sculpture, set design, costume design, etc. (Still images and scans uploaded to tischfilmandtv.slideroom.com should be a minimum of 72 dpi).
You see that phrase, "major creative force"?  That should be your mantra here -- love it, live by it.  This material is being used to assess your abilities, not whether you were peripherally connected to something famous or interesting.  Don't waste this submission on attempts at name dropping or self promotion!

Another important warning here -- ONLY SUBMIT YOUR ABSOLUTE STRONGEST WORK.  This might sound obvious, but you'd be amazed how often people are seduced into thinking more is better. It's not.  Less is better.  You can make a remarkable short film in five minutes or less.  Many people have.  Heck, you can make a great short film in 30 seconds -- just watch the super bowl ads if you don't believe me!  Show your ability to tell a story with pictures, and take advantage of your time limitations.  Embrace them rather than struggling against them.

 Don't get too bogged down in technical details like production value.  If your sample looks amazing or stars that kid from that show, hey, that's nice, but its ultimately beside the point.  Tisch wants to see that you have the raw materials and capabilities to be a storyteller, so that they can then mold you into their KIND of storyteller.  Particuarly a visual storyteller, someone who knows how an image can send a message.

2.  A story synopsis for a four-minute silent film. Only exterior settings should be used, without description of camera angles. There should be a visual story line and characters, but no voice-over, dialogue, or music.  No more than three double spaced pages describing only what we can see designed to play as a four-minute movie.

One important principle in screenwriting is the ability to limit one's writing to what one can see and hear, present tense.  That skill is what is being tested by this prompt.  Simple pictorial storytelling.

You could almost think about this as a picture book project -- give yourself a short, limited story to tell, and don't push yourself to be new or original, just focus on being clear, direct and specific.  Originality grows out of limitation and specificity.

Listen up, post-MTV generation -- this is not, or at least should not be, an exercise in fast cutting and showmanship.  No one cares that you know what a dolly shot is, and there should not be any camera angles.  Instead, your sentences should correspond to shots, and your paragraphs to scenes.  Think of something evolving step by step.  Include detail.  Slow the pace.

3.  A dialogue scene between two people. Write an interesting conversation that reveals something about the two characters.  You can give a one sentence description of each character, but please only essential details.  No back story. A maximum of two pages, in screenwriting format.

There is a principle in dramatic writing known as a 'fulcrum' -- the idea that every scene is a miniature conflict, and that it resolves (in one way or another) at the fulcrum, or climax of the scene.  It's imperative that the scene COULD have gone either way, but it WOUND UP going XYZ direction.

Whether or not you agree with the idea that every scene functions in this manner, for THIS assignment and this scene, you should write in this manner.  It will give you a framework, an objective to reach, and quickly -- don't waste time with introductions and setting the stage.  Get to the meat!

4.   Describe one concept for a feature-length script, narrative, or documentary that you would like to develop. No more than one page, typed, double-spaced.

Concepts, or treatments, should be written in present tense format, just like screenplays.  They should be limited to what we see and hear.  

The other distinctive and important aspect of writing concepts is that they must be segmented, IE broken down into acts and sequences.  This not only helps your reader to understand the order of events, it also helps YOU to understand them.

Another challenge of concepts is deciding what to include and what to leave out.  The most important things to include are key characters, including descriptions, and important locations and plot transitions, which typically grow out of characters.

A personal statement.

 The personal statement is easy to overlook -- after exhausting yourself trying to come up with amazing creative samples, who has the energy to devote to explaining one's personal background and motivations?  You do, that's who.  You do.  

The thing that you are forgetting is that YOU are a character.  YOU have an important story to tell, and it's yours, the path you took to arrive at NYU's door.  There should be twists and turns, surprising revelations.  Exciting and dramatic insights.  And of course, there should be strong and plausible reasons why this, of all things, is what you have chosen to dedicate your life to.

 You might be thinking, yeah, but my life is really not that exciting of a story to tell.  I beg to differ.  You just have to learn to look at it like a screenwriter does.  Start pulling out the little conflicts and conversations inherent to each life and teasing them into longer pieces.  You'll have yourself a rich story in no time.

And that's about it!  If you have more questions, of course, you can always ask me -- happy submitting!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Business insider's 2014 top 50 law schools

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Business Insider released its annual top 50 law schools.  Check out what has changed in recent years.

Another year, another top schools list.  Pretty soon we're going to need a top 50 list of top 50 school lists.  Business Insider releases information on a range of professional programs, including law school, and their new list just came out.  We gave it a once-over and came away with some interesting impressions.

While the top five has remained fairly steady year over year, there are some interesting shifts in the top 14.  U. Penn and Chicago have both dropped substantially in the rankings since 2012, while Duke, a (somewhat inexplicably) hot school in pretty much every ranking lately, soared to #5.  NYU dropped a few slots in the rankings as well, although it remains the top school for tax, and still boasts an extremely impressive 97% employment rate after graduation.  Michigan Ann Arbor and Northwestern both dropped a bit (Michigan's employment numbers are in the mid 80s, not a sparkling number for a T14 school) and UCLA dropped precipitously, from just outside the T14 to 21.

Overall, however, the differences are mostly minor, musical chairs more than sea changes, and any school in the top 25 remains an excellent destination for a prospective legal scholar, assuming he or she is prepared to put in the hard work and graduate in the top 50%->25% of his or her class.

 

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A fascinating new Poets and Quants article explores the best and worst things about top MBA programs from the point of view of perspective students.  How can this help you with your applications?

Poets and Quants released an interesting article last week quoting students' real impressions, positive and negative, of their schools.  We here at Forster-Thomas decided to translate that into all-important "fit",  which many schools consider one of the most important factors in a candidacy.  How can you present yourself as a good 'fit' for a target school?  Use these helpful tips!

HBS.  HBS is a great fit for outgoing, self-confident, diverse students with proven leadership ability, either in their workplace or extracurriculars.  Harvard is looking for exceptionally strong academic performers, partly because their quantitative coursework is considered questionable by some, and partly because they can.  HBS is very large, so you have to prove that you have the ability to stand out from the pack, or at least be comfortable getting lost in a crowd a little bit.

Stanford.  GSB is looking for people with diverse work backgrounds (IE not just entrepreneurs ...) and inclusive, humanist personal attitudes.  Stanford is extremely academically rigorous, and although entrepreneurship is far from the only thing to do at Stanford, the large amount of available opportunities mean that self-starters, team-builders and natural leaders with warmth and kindness are bound to be looked on favorably.

Booth.  Chicago is a top-notch conventional business school, feeding a lot of banking and consulting, but very interested in out-of-the-box thinkers with unconventional backgrounds and ideas looking for a fresh start or a new direction.  Creativity is important, as is the ability to make friends quickly and securely.

Wharton is the oldest and most academically rigorous of the top programs, with an excellent (if occasionally a bit stodgy) reputation.  Wharton's quantitative demands are high and it focuses on finance, although entrepreneurship is on the rise there.  A strong Wharton candidate will present a stellar work and academic history and a reasonable ability to 'make nice' socially.

Kellogg.  Northwestern is a friendly school with a true Midwestern feel, a strong marketing reputation, and a collegial and supportive student body.  It can be a bit slow paced and does not have the fanciest facilities, but there are tremendous experiential learning opportunities for self-starters and a tight-knit alumni network for glad-handers.

Columbia.  A top-notch school with unparalleled industry access.  Driven students and strong multitaskers fit well here.  There are a wealth of opportunities, but this can overwhelm certain students.  Columbia has at times been seen as stern and a bit unwelcoming, and is consciously making efforts to counter that impression.

Tuck.  Dartmouth is perhaps the most close-knit school among the top MBAs.  There is a certain sense of cloistered isolation from the world, which strengthens that impression even further.  Ability to play nicely with others is tremendously important here.  Academic requirements are a little more relaxed than at some other top schools, with more allowance given for interesting work history and overall fit.

Duke.  Fuqua is an approachable, slightly easygoing MBA experience, a particularly strong choice for future consultants.  Emphasis is placed on gentility and the ability to fit in with the relaxed, thoughtful culture.  The '25 Random Things', in particular, is a strong indicator of a prospective student's ability to laugh at himself a little.
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 The QS TopMBA Global 200 has been released for 2014-2015.  With its international focus and emphasis on employability and recruitability, this continues to be a useful tool in determining which business schools are worth the money.

Hot on the heels of Bloomberg, this year’s QS Topmba rankings have been released.  These rankings focus almost exclusively on surveys of global employers, and as such, should be seen in a very different light than any other ranking out there.  QS did add 15% for “academic reputation” this year, but it had little to no impact in the top six: Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg and Columbia are safe yet again.


In North America, certain trends jump out.  Yale climbed the QS ranking and the Bloomberg ranking this year — a coup for the school, it would seem.  Yale is ranked 11th, up from 17th, this year in QS.  Canada overall sank in the rankings, with its top school, Rotman Toronto, dropping to 14 from 8.  One shocking loser in this year’s QS rankings is Vanderbilt Owen, which plummeted from #37 to #86 — a testament to the volatility of ranking by survey.  Owen’s drop in the Bloomberg rankings was much less precipitous, from 25 down to 30.  USC Marshall and UT Austin McCombs also made substantial gains in this year’s rankings.

One of the most eyeball-grabbing figures in the 2014-2015 QS rankings is the precipitous drop in overall score after Rotman at #14.  It plummets from 90 to 78, a massive 12 point drop, and by rank #17, Desautels McGill, the overall score is down to 71 percent.  This suggests that somewhere around this point in the rankings, the limitations of the survey size probably began to make themselves felt, and fluctuations in the lower 70-80 percent of the rankings should be taken with a large grain of salt.

The international trends are equally fascinating.  While business schools in the US and Europe remain the most popular study destinations among MBA students, schools elsewhere in the world such as those in Asia are growing in popularity.  According to the QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey 2014, over 50% of MBA students are choosing schools based on the country in which they wish to work — a very sensible decision, if you ask us.

In Europe, IE, IESE and IMD (the magic Is) were slightly displaced by (relative) newcomers like HEC Paris and Judge school in Cambridge.  SDA Bocconi in Italy continues to do well in QS rankings.  Again, there are massive overall score dropoffs at #11 and #14.

In Asia, INSEAD Singapore borrows name and reputation recognition from its powerful European sibling, scoring more than 35 points higher than any other school in Asia overall (although still much lower than the top European and American business schools).  The highest ranked mainland Chinese school, Beijing BiMBA, has an overall score of 25.3, and there are only 30 schools in the Asia ranking. 

Latin America, the Middle East and Africa have 15 total schools to offer out of the top 200, none ranking higher than 23.5 points overall, mostly suffering by dint of professional name recognition.  As the economy continues to globalize, the reputations of these schools will undoubtedly continue to improve.

Overall, it's worth remembering not to place too much emphasis on this (or any) particular ranking, but rather to consider them holistically, as part of a spectrum of information about top schools.  That said, as the importance of global business school rankings continues to increase, we can only hope that the rigor of QS's methodology will increase along with it, making this a reliable ranking for years to come.


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MIT is planting its flag firmly in the soil -- education's future is going to be more interactive and more student-driven. So what kind of student will succeed in these future schools?

In a revealing article published yesterday, MIT's director of digital learning advocated for what he sees as the future of education -- a blend of traditional lectures and interactive components, with online and massively online coursework playing a much greater role.

The first thing to point out about this article, of course, are its inherent contradictions.  MOOCs and massive online lectures are, if anything, MORE distancing and less engaging than in person lectures.  Interactivity, which should be an absoutely integral part of the online learning experience, has been a while coming.  It's clearly not going to be an overnight transformation.  EdX is aware of this problem, and is working on it.

Assuming these issues get ironed out (and there's no reason to think they won't), the future of school might indeed look very different.  But what will the ideal STUDENT for those schools look like?  How will admissions change, and how will it stay the same?

Standardized tests aren't going anywhere.  Love 'em or hate 'em, standardized testing is here to stay.  Until sentient AIs are capable of judging a million applicants in a nanosecond, there's no practical way for schools to make holistic judgments on large numbers of students.  Standardized testing is the next best thing.  So your aspiring MIT grad should focus on making good grades wherever she is enrolled (school name matters less than GPA) and acing those SATs and ACTs.

Differentiation through individual achievement, accomplishment and leadership will matter more.  Every mentor seeks a worthy apprentice (just ask Obi-Wan Kenobi).  If you want to appeal to the faculty of MIT or fill in the blank school of the future, you'll need to look for interesting things to do, situations where you can take initiative and have an impact.  Locally, unconventionally, where will you be able to make a difference?  National Honors Society isn't going to cut it anymore.

An affinity for technology is a must.  This might sound a bit obvious, but a great way to appeal to a futuristic school like MIT is to be well versed in future technologies like 3d printing, Virtual Reality, and Web APIs and programming.  If you programmed your own little game in your spare time, or if you win your science fair with an innovative 3d printed experiment, that's going to count for even more in the 'apprenticeship' model MIT is describing.

Whatever the college campus of the future looks like, and however much time students actually SPEND on it, it's absolutely certain that college will continue to be an essential tool for people to advance in society.  So crack those books and get to work!

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New reports on the cost of four year colleges show that things are only getting worse.

The Chronicle of Higher Education released an  new report on the long-term costs of attending college.  This chart traces tuition increases from 1998 to 2014.  Unsurprisingly, the trend is as dramatic as it is disturbing.


At the most expensive four year undergraduate colleges, which are Sarah Lawrence, Harvey Mudd, Columbia, NYU and U.Chicago, tuition has increased at a rate of around $1000 per year ABOVE the rate of inflation.  Looked at another way, if you are earning the median income in America, $50,000/year, and you have gotten inflation-appropriate raises every year (a generous assumption) you would still be paying an additional ~ 1/3rd of your yearly salary, every year, on college tuition alone.

Schools claim they need this extra money, that they cannot manage without it.  The numbers tell a different story.  Students are, of course, only one source of University revenue.  At small liberal arts colleges, they account for a much higher percentage of total revenues.  But at top research Universities, tuition is a small slice of the pie indeed.  The top five most expensive colleges had an average endowment of 6.6 billion dollars in 2013 (note that the range is extreme — a mere $74 million for Sarah Lawrence, a whopping $8 billion for Columbia), and earned anywhere from 6 percent to 17.5 percent on those endowments.  Research universities also make a lot of money from their attached hospitals, and from private gifts.

Take U. Chicago, for example.  This past calendar year, U. Chicago earned 6.6 percent on its endowment for a $447.15 million profit.  According to its website, that accounts for approximately 12% of its operating budget.  

Assuming all students paid full tuition last year, and all students paid the undergraduate tuition rate, (both fo which are obviously optimistic assumptions), U. Chicago earned $943 million in tuition last year, which would account for around 25% of its operating budget.  (An interesting aside -- this also means that U. Chicago is earning billions of dollars from its hospital, land, private gifts and other sources.)

According again to its own web reports, Chicago’s assets were valued at $371.3 million more than last year, and it also showed an operating budget profit of $6.1 million.  Combined, these numbers mean U. Chicago became $378.4 million dollars RICHER last year.

If tuition was suddenly returned to 1998 levels, would that still be the case?

U. Chicago would make $737 million from students …

and would STILL be $172 million dollars richer than last year.  So yes, it would.

Colleges aren’t charging more because they have to.  They’re charging more because they CAN.  We have placed private colleges at the epicenter of American life, and they are profiting handsomely from it.  Food for thought for employers and students who are still obsessed with ‘brand names’ in education.  You are paying for it.