Booth, McDonough and McCombs have released their essay prompts for this year.  Check them out right here on our website!

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
How the learning algorithms work, and what it can teach you about your writing strategy.

By Ben Feuer

Automated writing assessment (as a supplement to human writing assessment) has been used for years now in undergraduate university settings.  It is used by EdX MOOCs.  But how exactly does it work?

Those familiar with the technology will know exactly how it works -- it is based on machine learning algorithms, which consists of a computer studying human behavior and turning key components of it into patterns the computer can then recognize and spit out at will.  The more patterns the computer spots, the better it gets at reproducing the 'model' it has in its virtual head.  A much more detailed (and fascinating) explanation of the software can be found here.

All well and good in theory, but how does this affect how you take your GMAT?

The machine learning algorithm that governs computerized essay grading is going to focus on errors in grammar, passive use cases, ability to adhere to a central message or theme and the ability to support that message.  Obviously, in a context independent of human readers, it's easy to game that system, as MIT professor Les Perelman has been demonstrating for years.  But the GMAT uses the machines as a second reader, and (very hurried) human beings as first readers.

So the optimal strategy for the GMAT AWA would be to write a technically perfect essay that answers the central question well enough not to offend the sensibilities of the human 'first reader'.  Most likely, if the essay passes a sanity check and contains a few worthwhile insights, the human reader isn't going to give the essay a hard time, and the machine will recognize what it is trained to recognize -- good grammar and sentence structure and staying on topic.


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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

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?


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.


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.


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.


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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
Well regarded in the rankings and in the hearts of applicants everywhere, Harvard's GSD inaugurates our new series of top Architecture Graduate programs.

By Ben Feuer


•  Ranked #1 overall and #1 in design in DesignIntelligence’s 2014 top architectural program rankings.

•  History.  The world’s oldest landscape architecture program (1893) and urban planning program (1900) are both Harvard.

•  Strong focus on design and theory

•  Experiential learning opportunities and recruiting visits from top firms.

•  Programs and initiatives including a Joint Center for housing studies, a program for Islamic architecture, and nine labs.


Start by filling out an inquiry form.  It’s a great way to introduce yourself to the program and formally announce your interest.

The application will be available in the fall.   Deadline to apply is December 15, 2014.

Submitting through the online system is required. Applicants may not send application materials to the GSD through the mail.

You must submit transcripts, GRE, and three letters of recommendation.  For international students, TOEFL is required.  All programs except M.UP require a portfolio. 

Students may concurrently pursue two degrees offered by the GSD. Often concurrent degrees are completed with two of our professional degree programs (MArch I, MLA I, MUP). If you apply to more than one program, you will need to submit a separate application fee and form for each program and must be admitted into each degree program independently.

An applicant may apply a maximum of three times to the same GSD degree program.

The GSD does not accept transfer credits for work completed at another institution.

For more information, check out the GSD’s website or contact us via the links above.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

Booth's new interest in raising the percentage of alumni who give back, and the amount they give, can influence your admissions decision.

By Ben Feuer

A new initiative from Chicago Booth seeks to identify students who are likely to be successful -- and loyal -- in the future by conducting surveys and analyzing key characteristics of popular students on campus.  If this sounds mildly absurd to you, well, it does to us as well.  If there was a magic bullet predictor of career success, and it could be found in a simple poll, it would have happened a long, long time ago.

More interesting is Booth's REASON for doing this.  In the 2011-12 school year, after the portion of alums who donated to Booth slipped to 16.8 percent, Booth began a number of new initiatives to boost alumni donations, and this was one of them.  The number the following year was back up at 18.6 percent, but the reasoning remains the same.  Clearly, Booth is trying to attract loyal students with a successful financial future ahead of them, and clearly, they are factoring this into their admissions decisions this year.

Does that mean you should make loyalty your watchword in writing the essays?  Not if it wasn't already.  But if you consider loyalty one of your primary virtues, and if you have a history of donating to institutions you've been a part of, this would be a great application to mention those things.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
On the other end of the spectrum from yesterday's post, a supreme court justice overreacts to US News Rankings.

By Ben Feuer

This is old news, but worth highlighting as a counterpoint to yesterday's post about MBA rankings.  Law School rankings, although still very problematic, are an excellent predictor of employability and salary, at least according to some sources.  But justice Alito had some hard words for US News's rankings, calling them an 'abomination' and claiming that the legal community would be better off if they were eliminated.

Here is a list of Alito's clerks in the last four years.

Yale, Yale, Yale, Yale  #1
Stanford, Stanford #3
UVA #8
Duke, Duke, Duke #10
Cornell #13 (tie)
Georgetown #13 (tie)
Texas #15
George Washington #20
Notre Dame #26
Seton Hall #68

A couple points to make about that list.

1.  Yale, the #1 ranked law school, accounted for a quarter of all clerks.
2.  Top ten schools accounted for more than half of all clerks.
3.  One clerk from outside the T50 schools made it as a clerk ... 5 years out of school.

We here at Forster-Thomas hate to point fingers, but if Justice Alito wants to make a case for ignoring law school rankings, he could start by doing that with his own clerks.  And if you are applying to law school, rankings do matter ... although probably not as much as you think they do.

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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
In this panicked season of candidates praying for admissions gold, it's a great time to reflect that, after all, an MBA isn't everything.

By Ben Feuer

Ok, I'm being a bit tongue in cheek (more than a bit?).  I know if you are reading this blog post, you probably already have your heart set on Stanford, HBS or bust.  And you know what?  More power to you.  That's a great dream, and those are great schools with lots of top notch opportunities should you attend one of them.

But there's more to life than a brand name on your resume, and so Forster-Thomas is taking a few minutes out of its day to present the counter-argument ... why a name-brand MBA might NOT be exactly what you need at this juncture.

1.  Many successful CEOs don't have one.  Consider this US News article -- of the top Fortune 100 companies, less than half of the CEOs had an MBA, and only HBS and Wharton were disproportionately represented on the list (8 and 4, respectively).

2.  Recruiters often have their own sets of concerns.  As this article from Business Insider reminds us, top recruiters have their own concerns which sometimes overlap with the concerns of b-schools, and sometimes don't.  They value work experience very highly, and see the value of going back to school as more contemplative, useful for certain types of work (and for networking).  Background discipline matters enormously.  Furthermore, they have their own opinions of what schools are really great, ranging from Kelley to McCombs to Darden.

3.  Startup CEOs often skip the MBA stage.  Since they start young and tend to focus on tech, many (but not all!) startup CEOs don't bother with an MBA.  As this rather vitriolic Fortune article reiterates, startups are about the product rather than the management know-how.

So are you convinced?  Going to give it all up and start an emu farm in Topeka?  Or a cozy corner-store bakery, perhaps?  No?  That's OK.  For investment banking, management consulting, private equity, venture capital, entrepreneurship, and a hundred other opportunities, a name-brand B-school is still a great way to go.

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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

By Ben Feuer

Businessweek reports that top B-schools like Fuqua are now using analytics to track applicants' interest in the program, taking note of things like how many times you email admissions, whether you perform a campus visit or not, and the like.  They're doing this because of yield -- long story short, the school wants to know that if you are admitted, you will attend, and they feel this is a good way of determining that.

This is a great opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants with minimal effort -- just researching the school and following up your application status alone will demonstrate a higher level of interest than many people do, especially in the next few years, before it becomes common knowledge that this software exists.  Other schools can track whether alumni interviews and program information have been requested, so that all counts as well.

Even if this software didn't exist, reaching out to your target school would still be a great idea.  It helps determine fit, and gives you a chance to get a foothold in the campus community by talking to alumni and current students.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out there and start knocking on doors!


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

Thursday, July 03, 2014

College: A Bargain Hunter's Approach

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
More and more college students are seeking the best deal as well as the best degree.

By Ben Feuer

The Chronicle of Higher Education's article discussing flat tuition revenue at many colleges highlights an interesting trend in college admissions overall; namely, college students and their parents are becoming bargain hunters, and schools are having to come up with inventive new ways to attract students.  The article highlights a few of these trends, including small private colleges discounting tuition to be more competitive with students who are admitted to large state schools, and discounts for junior transfers.

This may not be great news for every school, but it is great news for college students.  The more research you perform, the more schools you apply to (and are accepted to), the stronger your bargaining position.  You are doing yourself a disservice, in this day and age, if you are NOT talking to enrollment officers at your target schools and seeing what kind of arrangements they can offer for your son/daughter/self.

So if you (or someone you know) is looking to apply to college sometime in the near future, don't simply be content to pay the 'sticker price'.  Find a balance that works for your education as well as your pocketbook.


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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
It's a red letter day at the FT offices -- new essays and deadlines have been released!

By Ben Feuer

Our essay guide was just updated with four new schools -- NYU Stern, UVA Darden, U. Michigan Ross, and UNC Kenan-Flagler.  Check out the prompts and deadlines at the following links!