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Article by Evan Forster, Photo by Chris Lott


Today I read a pretty boring and useless article in the Chicago Tribune about whether college admissions officers look at social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other sites during the admissions process. This is certainly nothing that has not been examined over and over in, but it’s a great opportunity for a teachable moment—especially since the article did not have one.

Admissions officers look at social media much more than they claim to. Very few colleges actually admit to this publicly, or include “social media” as one of the factors they consider in admissions. But they do! However, it’s usually a good thing: If an admissions officer is not interested in you, they don’t waste their time checking out your Facebook page or tweets.

The “solution” of many students and/or parents who are beginning the college application process is to scrub their social media presence altogether. But let me be clear: This is a bad solution. In this day and age, having NO social media presence hurts you as much as having a “questionable” one (though in different ways and for different reasons). As one select-university admissions officer recently shared, "We want students who are engaged with the world around them, who are part of the social dialogue of the age." I heard the same thing at an IECA conference two years ago, and it’s even more true now.

At Forster-Thomas, we do a "social media audit" without even telling our students first. When we find something questionable, we discuss it with them. It's an opportunity to teach the student about responsibility, maturity, and public persona. We've never found something truly disturbing, nor have we had to mention anything to a parent. The worst is usually too many "duck-face photos" on Instagram or Facebook or a multitude of party photos.

A great start in the social-media-maturity lesson is email addresses: I quash immature names like "pinkpony13" or inappropriate names like "kim2hot2b" in favor of simple first-name-last-name-numeral addresses. My favorites are email addresses where the domain name is the family's last name (like evan@forsternyc.com…BTW not my real email). 

Some things that are OK, although they make parents nervous, are beach photos (bikinis and board shorts are just what people wear on the beach…nothing you need to be worried about), party photos that don’t involve drugs or alcohol (or such things in the background), and think-piece blogs on controversial issues like civil rights, abortion, religion, etc. Outside of truly fringe ideologies, having controversial ideas is not a problem—having no ideas is a bigger problem. Colleges like thinkers, including public ones. This demonstrates courage and involvement.

So don’t scrub your social media presence, just make sure it reflects who you truly are -- a member of the 21st Century. 

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In a recent opinion column for the Observer, Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes rolled out the by-now-all-too-familiar canard about how worthless college and graduate degrees are.  Citing his own experience, he argued that the MBA should be seen (as the JD now is) as overpriced.  While his complaints are legitimate (MBAs do cost more than they used to, and graduate pay is not back at the giddy pre-recession levels yet), the fact is for the majority of mid-career businessmen and women, MBAs still make a lot of sense.

Holmes argues that MBAs are making less money than they once did.  Well, that’s not exactly news.  Everyone who isn’t a CEO (sorry, a ‘founder’) is making less than they once did because America has well-documented economic polarization problem.  Like many masters level degrees, MBAs are oversupplied right now — but elite top 50 MBAs are in as short supply now as they ever were, and clearly, their value is well-recognized.  Where you get your degree matters.

In fact, for top 50 MBA programs, which are the ones to seriously consider, the typical graduate earns 50-80 percent more.  More details via Forbes — If your pay before starting an MBA happened to be $50,000, you might expect to be offered $75,000 salary plus bonus (up 50%) at graduation.  By the end of five years post-MBA, Fifth Year Pay was up 80% over Post-MBA Starting Pay for full-time students.

Over the course of a typical-length career (retirement at 65), this could conservatively add up to $2,830,000 MORE earned vs non-MBAs.  Even compared against $150,000 in lost salary, $200,000 in tuition, room and board and perhaps $30,000 in debt servicing, that’s a net win. 

So much for pay — but what about networking?  Surely in this internet age, we can all find our next job without actually trudging out to social gatherings, right?  Yeah, maybe not.  Don't get me wrong -- social networking is great.  I meet a lot of cool people on Linkedin, and I’m sure you do too.  But it’s no substitute for meeting someone in person.  Fox Business points out (accurately) that relationships built exclusively via social networks tend to be shallower and less valued.  Although Linkedin is a great way to monitor who’s hiring, for instance, or track interesting companies, 60 to 80 percent of hiring decisions happen through personal connections.

So what about the exceptional case Holmes cites — some girl who got a million dollar investment via Twitter?  Even if we accept that as the entire and complete story (which I, for one, don’t), Ms. Ferreira was attending prestigious NYU Steinhardt at the time of her tweet, and she did not drop out UNTIL Richard Branson literally handed her a million dollars on a silver platter.

If you don’t have a personal connection, you’ll be applying to your next job through a typical resume/interview process — and the very first thing most companies do is filter applications without the relevant experience and keywords (so-called ATS hiring systems).  Let’s pick a few of the top business-oriented jobs from a respectable company … say … Hootsuite.  Here are a few of their current openings as of May 2015.

Alliances Associate: Competencies associated with a post secondary degree in business or other related fields

Director, Hootsuite Labs: BSc in Computer Science, BComm, MBA or equivalent experience

Product Marketing Manager: B.A. in marketing or business preferred

CFO: 12+ yrs experience in progressive financial roles with at least 3-5 years in C-suite.  

Good luck getting past any of those filters without quality degrees.

You want to go beyond riding a trend and posturing, Ryan Holmes?  Fine.  State outright that Hootsuite will IGNORE educational experience in hiring.  Explain to your HR managers that you want them to treat a high school graduate who’s been working at a pizza shop for four years but shows intriguing leadership ability the same as they would an MIT MBA with a Wall Street pedigree.  Then get laughed out of the room.

Until somebody creates an efficient alternative credentialing system that employers recognize and respect, the MBA and its sister professional degrees are not going anywhere.

 Photo via Trent Bigelow/Flickr


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Another exciting opportunity for those of you still trying to figure out how you're going to finance the next stage of your career;  Bank of America is offering a $40,000 scholarship to MBA students planning to begin classes in the Fall of 2015.

It's a diversity fellowship, so you'll need to be one of the various and sundry minority groups (or in the case of women, majority group) that Bank of America lists on its application page.

Mercifully, the requirements for application aren't too onerous -- a 500 word essay about your career goals and how the BofA fellowship is going to help get you there, a current resume, an example essay from one of your B-school applications (a Stanford What Matters Most essay might be a good choice here if there isn't too much overlap with the essay you write for the BofA application), and a few other odds and ends.

It's also nice that Bank of America has chosen to open this application up to anybody -- you don't need to be a former Bank of America employee to apply (although I'm sure it helps).

So go ahead and start filling out those application forms -- and if you need any advice on your essays, contact us.

Photo by Chung Hu.

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Article by Evan Forster.  Photo by Ted Eytan.


A weird thing happened last week here at Forster-Thomas.  We were settling in for our usual Friday afternoon grind when we heard a strange sound -- my partner David thought it was a foghorn coming from the pier, but I knew better: It was a collective sigh of relief from 2000 Wall Street hopefuls who had just read the new Harvard Business School MBA essay prompt.  

 I could read their minds (I've been doing it for 20 years now) -- 

"Thank God, I don't have to face that crazy open-ended essay."  

"Thank God, they're not saying that scary stuff about already knowing everything about me."  

"Thank God, this is just like that Columbia essay my sister did a few years ago."  

"I can handle this."

We all chuckled a bit and went back to enjoying our appletinis.  

True, Harvard has opened the back door to rejection a little wider with this prompt, and a lot of applicants are going to waltz right in, rattling off laundry lists of accomplishments: mountains conquered, championships won, tests aced.  Cue the Legally Blonde references.

Now which of these people do YOU want to be?  Elle Woods or IQ 187?   Rattling off your bona-fides is like slapping your admissions officer in the face.  They can read.  They know who you are.  What they don’t know is how you operate. How you take on your community, your country, your world.


I'm going to introduce you to one of my favorite clients, Manolo.  But I'm going to do it Harvard style, by focusing on his passions and his transformation.

When Manolo came to the US, he didn't know a word of English.  (And before all you 'reverse racism' types start sharpening your pitchforks, he wasn't poor or raised by a single parent, he was just an immigrant.)  Manolo was a quick study.  He attended UNLV, where he was president of the Honors Society and found himself an internship at Goldman Sachs.

So with all that under his belt, you might think Manolo would be a little self-important, but actually, Manolo didn't want to talk about his accomplishments--he started asking me about Forster-Thomas’s nonprofit arm, Essay Busters.  Manolo desperately wanted to get involved with Essay Busters, but he couldn't do it over the summer; his internship hours were just too crazy.  I sort of shrugged my shoulders--I hear that kind of excuse a lot.

But I underestimated Manolo.  Within four weeks, he conceived of and laid the groundwork for Essay Busters: Nevada.  He engaged every club of which he was a member, securing funding, even working with the mayor of Paradise.  He lined up 32 potential mentors in four weeks.  From New York. While interning full time at Goldman.

What was that about your amazing 780 GMAT score again? Zzzzzzz.


If you want to go to HBS, you need to find that passion.  Where are you leading?  What are you creating?  If the answer is not screaming at you right now, you need to ask yourself, are you really HBS material?  

Choose something you are excited, almost desperate, to have others be a part of.  Then talk about it.  Perhaps you're paving the way for future female Wall Street CEOs.  Maybe you're an engineer working on ending the drought in California.  Or you're at McKinsey trying to create an entirely new private equity marketplace.  Whatever it is, you're up to something big, something that's going to transform the planet one day, and you're sharing the impact with everyone around you.  True transformation has a ripple effect.  

That was clear with Manolo.   He made those around him better.  Find what you have to share--find a way to make those around you better.

Mark my words: Manolo will be invited to interview at HBS in the fall.  And it won't be because he's well-connected, because he's the right color, or because he has an amazing GMAT or "perfect background" (whatever that is).  It will be because he demonstrated an ability to transform himself and the desire to help others do the same in his home community of Las Vegas.

That's introducing yourself -- Harvard style.


You may have read about them in Bloomberg or on other mainstream news sites.  You may have heard business schools grumbling about it devaluing the nomenclature (“They’re not REAL MBAs!”).  But like it or loathe it, the mini-MBA monicker is here to stay, and so is the certificate, although how it is earned (and how much it’ll set you back) has evolved over the years.

There are a few different theories as to the origins of the mini-MBA. MBA boot offered by consulting companies such as McKinsey & Co. and Booz Allen Hamilton on business essentials may have been taken over by universities — others claim they can be traced back to McGill University in the late 1940s.

In either case, the mini-MBA as we know and love it today comes in three basic flavors.

1.  The online superMOOC.   Forget networking, late night commuting and CE credits.  Some people just need a basic grounding in business practices and terminology, either for their own startups or because of a recent promotion.  

For this kind of UNC Kenan-Flagler has you covered, as do many other schools that have chosen to offer relatively inexpensive online certifications.  These can last up to eight weeks,  but the work is done remotely and the lectures are all online.

2.  The in-person crash course.  This was the original concept for the mini-MBA — a one-week crash course (or possibly up to three or four) which would allow middle managers to network, gain vital skills and terminology, and become better leaders at their respective companies.  Rutgers owns this type of mini, with over 18 offerings (although it has online offerings too), but there are many, many options here.

3.  The elite pre-eMBA.  Schools like Columbia and Kellogg have studiously eschewed the mini-MBA monicker in favor of more sonorous titles like “Essentials of Management”.  The price of these programs is truly eye-popping — from $24,000 up to $48,000 for a few weeks — but they do offer lodging and (some) meals, as well as the confidence in knowing the guy sitting next to you in the classroom has scratch to spare.  Many students use these type of programs to evaluate a school’s eMBA offerings and decide if they’re interested in an even bigger commitment somewhere down the line.


UNC Business Essentials
 Cost: $2,500 Highlights: Offered by an elite B-schools, available online only, and affordable.  Each of the six UNC Business Essentials modules takes an average of 10-12 hours to complete. The entire program can be completed in 4 months if an individual spends 4-5 hours a week on coursework.   Includes certificate. Website

Buffalo Online Mini-MBA Cost: $995 Highlights: Price, price, price.  Under $1000 for 17 credits and a certificate makes this the best deal of the bunch, by a country mile, if you don’t need a name brand school. Website

University of St. Thomas, Mini-MBA
 Cost: $2,995 Highlights: One of the original mini-MBA programs, available onsite in Minneapolis and online, affordable Website

Rutgers, Mini MBA 
 Cost: $4,995 Highlights: Available onsite in New Jersey and online, several specialization available, including digital media and biopharma.  Lasts 1 week.  Includes a certificate and CE credits. Website

Loyola University Chicago Mini-MBA Certificate Program
 Cost: $3,500 Highlights: Highly reputable school, 10-week onsite program in Chicago. 

Kellogg Advanced Management Program
 Cost: $36,000 - $48,000 Highlights: Top ranked school.  Offers both on-site and remote.  Huge cost. Website

Columbia University, Columbia Essentials of Management 
 Cost: $24,450 Highlights: Elite University, available onsite only, very expensive Website

Georgetown University, Business Administration Certificate Cost: $5,370 Highlights: Powerhouse university, taught by faculty at the McDonough School of Business, on-site in Washington, DC. Website

Ross University Executive Certificate Cost: TBD Highlights: Another very solid school, with a slightly unusual piecemeal offering — you choose four credits that then become one certificate. Website

McKinsey Mini-MBA
 Cost: TBD Highlights:  There are a few certificate offerings out there NOT from schools — McKinsey’s is one of the most interesting, since the company has had training programs like this for many years.  3 weeks in person combine with 4-8 weeks of ‘pre-work’, making this a fairly significant time commitment. Website


It depends on what you want to do with it. You can certainly get a decent grounding in the basics of business with a mini-MBA, but discerning employers aren't going to be taken in by a fancy name on the certificate. They want the real thing. 

To give yourself legitimacy in a crowded marketplace, there's still no substitute for the traditional two-year MBA program. You also get more networking benefits from two-year MBA program, which is key if you want to land that first big job. 

If you already have a career you're happy with, but want to advance and boost your reputation within that career, you could also consider an Executive MBA or Part-Time MBA program. Both of these degrees have been around longer than the Mini-MBA, and are taken more seriously by employers at the moment.

To summarize --

If you just want a low-cost grounding in business fundamentals and you're a self-motivated learner, go for the Mini-MBA or Online MBA.

If you want a steady career with a blue-chip employer and a strong network, choose the Two-Year MBA.

If you want to advance or boost your reputation at your current job, try an Executive MBA or a Part-Time MBA.


Contact us, we're happy to help! Or you can read more about how we help MBA applicants of all stripes get into top business schools around the world.

Photo by Elizabeth Perkins, miniyo73, Paul Levy.

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Image by Isado.  Article via IECA and Ben Feuer. 

PANELISTS: WPI, American University, Lafayette College, MSU, Swarthmore 

How do colleges look at transcripts, and what are they used for?  When they evaluate transcripts, admissions officers are looking for RIGOR and ACHIEVEMENT.  Achievement is usually evaluated by grades or verbal evaluations – how well did you do? Rigor, the more complicated of the two factors, is evaluated somewhat subjectively, and depends on what others at your school did – did you take the hardest classes available to you?   Did you challenge yourself with subject matter?   Did you take advantage of what your HS had to offer?

TRENDS are very important to admissions officers.  Did you improve or did your grades slip as time went on?  More and more colleges are demanding senior year grades before making a final decision for this exact reason.  Early decision is now conditional on maintaining GPA at many schools.  Schools with rolling admissions can (and do) rescind offers.  Seniors are being asked by schools routinely to self-report their senior year grades.  Swarthmore pointed out that students should take it as a very good sign if a school calls to ask for senior year grades – they don’t call for rejects.  Trends also matter with electives – do you demonstrate passion and commitment over the long haul to specific unified interests?

School Profiles, which most schools create and send to colleges and universities, are vitally important.  They give context to each transcript the admissions officer receives.   Without a profile or with a weak or incomplete profile, it is very challenging for admissions officers to properly evaluate a transcript, especially because grade inflation continues to be a massive problem.

The Transcripts



This is theoretically the easiest type of transcript to read, and the most common, but in fact, every single panelist handled this type of transcript differently, which is a testament to how complicated the transcript evaluation process is overall.  American University recalculates only transcripts over 5.0 on the scale – recalculates in this context meaning normalizing to a single unified standard for all transcripts.  If Phys Ed or Music was missing a grade, they would add it in.  Michigan State, on the other hand, recalculates every single application, bar none.  They count only core subjects when evaluating GPA – no gym, no electives.  Lafayette recalculates unweighted GPAs, trying to focus on rigor.  They use professional judgment when deciding whether to calculate the arts into GPA – a student with a long list of music focused classes will probably have them added in, a math whiz with one random painting class probably won’t.  Lafayette believes that the arts should reflect passion – so they’re going to look more favorably on trends.  Swarthmore did not recalculate, but did cut the transcript down to core courses only.  Finally, Worcester Poly, a technical school, looked at math and science GPA exclusively.


This is another very common type of transcript.  Classes are ranked by difficulty (AP, honors, regular, remedial, etc) and then weighted accordingly – the more difficult the class, the more heavily it is weighted into the overall GPA.  Sometimes it can be difficult for admissions officers to know which classes a school considers honors (it may be a good idea for students to mention this on their application if the school uses weird lingo such as accelerated, enriched or enhanced, especially if the school is a small one).  American University indicated that they would not recalculate this type of transcript, but added that numbers alone were not decisive, trends would matter a lot.  WPI indicated that they would again recalculate for math and science only, but that they might weight differently based on their own preferences.  Technical schools like WPI are less interested in required courses.  They want to see students seeking out more STEM.  They prefer to see Calculus BC, for instance, and a steady trend of taking as many Calculus courses as possible.  They also like courses like “Robotics”, although sometimes it’s not clear if a course like that is rigorous or not – again, the school or guidance counselor can help clarify this kind of thing sometimes.  Lafayette added that in a transcript of this kind, they would prefer to see a well balanced student.

There are also oddballs that fall into this category – one panelist described a school that did not give out A-, B- etc, only A and A+.  In such a case, GPA is weighted differently – A+ is 4, A is 3.5, B+ is 3, etc., instead of the usual A+ is 4, A is 3.7, A- is 3.4, B+ is 3 etc.

All the panelists agreed that when they couldn’t make sense of a transcript, they weighted test scores more heavily in their decision.  This can be a plus or a minus for a student, depending on how he did on his ACT/SAT.


Religious schools and Jewish Day Schools often have dual curricula – one for religious instruction and one for secular instruction.  The transcript is then split in half, with grades for each half.  Some universities, like Michigan State, simply ignore the religious half.  Unless it’s history, they say, religion is not an academic discipline, and won’t be included in a recalculated GPA.  That said, even though it doesn’t factor into ACHIEVEMENT, it does get considered in RIGOR, since it’s another responsibility the student had to take on.  Other schools, such as Lafayette, calculated separate religious and secular GPAs and considered both when evaluating a student.


Many international schools, as well as a growing number of US schools, use the International Baccalaureate system, in which students are graded on a 1-7 scale, 1 being poor, 7 being excellent. 

Official- The IB’s Descriptors for 1-7




Minimal achievement in terms of the objectives.


Very limited achievement against all the objectives.  The student has difficulty in understanding the required knowledge and skills and is unable to apply them fully in normal situations, even with support.


Limited achievement against most of the objectives, or clear difficulties in some areas.  The student demonstrates a limited understanding of the required knowledge and skills and is only able to apply them fully in normal situations with support.


A good general understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them effectively in normal situations.  There is occasional evidence of the skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.


A consistent and thorough understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them in a variety of situations.  The student generally shows evidence of analysis, synthesis and evaluation where appropriate and occasionally demonstrates originality and insight.


A consistent and thorough understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them in a wide variety of situations.  There is consistent evidence of analysis, synthesis and evaluation where appropriate.  The student generally demonstrates originality and insight.


A consistent and thorough understanding of the required knowledge and skills, and the ability to apply them almost faultlessly in a wide variety of situations.  There is consistent evidence of analysis, synthesis and evaluation where appropriate.  The student consistently demonstrates originality and insight and always produces work of high quality.

Unfortunately, some US schools do not use the IB system in the same way that international IB works – instead, they are using numerical GPAs AND 1-7 systems in a weird hybrid, kind of like this --

7 = 93

6 = 88

This creates massive confusion for adcoms.  The IB system is an alternative to 0-100 grading rubrics, and isn’t designed to be thought of as a numerical percentage in that way.  Cutoffs and the meaning of particular GPAs was totally unclear.  Therefore, for American IB schools that use this system, school profile becomes vitally important.


Some students transfer.  Others take community college courses to supplement HS courses.  Either way, those students are going to wind up with more than one transcript when they apply.

At American University, multiple transcripts triggered an automatic recalculation.  For some of the other schools, it was a judgment call, depending on how many classes were on the 2nd transcript and what they were.

More than one admissions officer commented that they don’t like to see students taking community college courses when the same courses are offered at the high school.  To them, it looks like a dodge, and they will weigh that into their admissions decision.

Online courses and transcripts were viewed in a similar light – were you taking it because it was easier, or because there was no similar course offered at your high school?  Name recognition matters with online courses a lot.


There are actually a lot of reasons a student may have no letter grades on his or her transcript.  Some elite private schools like St. Anne’s don’t provide letter grades – instead, they provide massive written evaluations.  This is understandably a bit exhausting for admissions officers – 200 pages of written evaluations PER STUDENT – so they skim and focus on the negatives – are there any trends of problems or recurring issues with the student?  At schools that offer narrative evaluations, profile becomes very important – what percentage of students go to 4-year college?  Adcoms care about that a lot, particularly with the more obscure schools.

Some other reasons a student might not have letter grades include studying abroad, home schooling, medical leave and attending an alternate school within the public high school.  As long as there is a good REASON for it, this doesn’t hurt a student at all.  But it DOES mean that standardized tests, recommendations and essays are going to carry a LOT more weight.


Schools are pretty understanding about issues with the transcript.  Their overall attitude is that problems come up, and as long as you explain them on your application, they’re not going to hold it against you.  Depending on how good your reason is, they might actually consider it a plus.  The exception to this is academic discipline, which always looks bad, although again, cheating is much worse than an accidental drinking violation.  Unexplained missing grades also look very bad.  As Swarthmore put it – all these things are flags, but not necessarily red flags.  They may be green flags – good things!


Overall, the panel came back time and again to a few key factors in admissions decisions: love, rigor, and story.

LOVE: Schools want to know why you chose them.  Those with good reasons to attend particular schools get into those schools.

RIGOR: Numerical GPA is important, but it’s also more or less cut and dried (except for recalculation).  Rigor is highly subjective and determining rigor is a big part of Adcom’s job.

STORY: Again and again, schools said that the REASON things happen matter as much or more as that they happened.  As one officer put it, “Don’t let us guess – explain it.”

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Photo by Jed Record, Article by Ben Feuer

UNC Kenan-Flagler, one of the top business schools in America, doubles down on its commitment to private equity by creating an institute devoted to business data analytics and research.  We analyze aspects of the press release below -- to read the release in full, just follow the links.

The University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School has launched the Institute for Private Capital (IPC).

“Our mission is to promote a deep understanding of the role of private capital markets in the global economy, which is not widely understood,” said Douglas A. Shackelford, dean and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

This seems like a lure for Private Equity types.  After all, who else in the business world spends inordinate amounts of time fretting over the behavior of closely held middle market firms? 

The IPC will create databases, produce research and develop curriculum and educational initiatives, which are of great interest to both academic and industry leaders.

“We will create and share the data and knowledge that are missing today,” said 
Gregory W. Brown, professor of finance and director of the IPC. 

Databases of private equity and closely held companies?  Aside from the potential creepiness factor (do you really want UNC knowing about and profiting from your business’s vital signs?) this could certainly be a useful resource, not just to schools but to researchers at firms as well.  The IPC’s website claims that the data will be made available specifically to academic researchers, but it also states that Burgiss, a private company known for data analytics, holds the database.

The database will cover private capital investment – such as venture capital funds, buy-out and growth capital funds, hedge funds, debt funds, real estate funds, natural resources funds, and closely held and family businesses. 

Pretty much speaks for itself – a clearinghouse for data on VC, PE and medium sized business.

“Since private capital constitutes the majority of global capital, IPC research will have a significant impact on practice and policy, and will spur curricular innovations nationally and internationally.”

Although some reference is made to benefits ‘trickling down’ to students, there is no explicit talk of new courses or professor hires – it seems like the educational benefits of the IPC will be secondary at best.

IPC will work with a global team of faculty from other top universities, leading industry practitioners and key policy makers.

In the past, that has included faculty from Booth, Darden, Said and Fuqua, among others.


A word on funding – the database is funded by Steven F. Maier, an adjunct UNC professor who created the UNC Treasury management program, via one of his nonprofit foundations, the UAI Foundation.  The same foundation also created PERC, another UNC program.  In 2011, UAI appears to have paid $120,000 to fund PERC – on the scale of business school, this implies that these programs are relatively inexpensive to run, although there could well be more money coming in from other directions.

All in all, the announcement seems to be a fairly positive move – it is true that publicly held corporations attract much more press, and that much more information tends to be available for those types of corporations.  But there is a lot that is left unsaid in this press release, so in the end, it will come down to the details.  From our standpoint, the key unanswered question is, how specifically will the IPC improve MBA experiences, outcomes and recruitment opportunities?

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On April 29th, the Brookings Institute released yet another rankings system for colleges -- much like the "Money Magazine" system, this one attempts to rank colleges by their INCOME value per dollar spent.  The results are occasionally shocking and consistently interesting -- read on to learn more.

One thing immediately leaps out about the Brookings Institution's efforts -- they show their roots as a think tank quite clearly in their more rigorous and complete approach to the rankings than certain magazines take.  Their methodology is intriguing, and to Brookings' credit, they do an excellent job of diagraming and explaining precisely how it works on their page.  
Another plus is that this ranking addresses two-year as well as four-year colleges.  Considering 40 percent of Americans wind up at 2-year schools, the subject is well worth a closer look.

So, how about the results themselves?  Unfortunately, Brookings falls into the same trap as all rankings, namely, that they either confirm the biases you already have (US News) or throw them so out of whack that you have trouble taking the methodology seriously, which is more where this one falls.    It certainly does offer an amusing scramble -- how often do you get to see Pacific Lutheran University outrank Yale?  -- but its hard to take such a result seriously, no matter what methodology was used to achieve it.

There's an argument to be made that it is not the methodology but rather the data that is flawed, and that colleges themselves should be held more accountable for their students' outcomes.  We here at Forster-Thomas certainly think that wouldn't hurt, as long as it wasn't carried too far. 

Of course, this ranking, which is focused on earning potential, also lauds STEM degrees and those who earn them.  Although it's safe to say the demand for many liberal arts professions is unlikely to grow, and that STEM appears to be dominant, remember that nothing lasts forever.  The tech bubble could collapse again, and Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT would be tarnished as a result.  The 'hot' field is an 'of the moment' phenomenon -- students ought to pursue the careers and colleges where they can excel -- note that I didn't say the school you "love" -- the schools that challenge them, push them to improve on their strengths and shore up their weaknesses, and leave them with a greater sense of direction and purpose than they had going in.

Perhaps the most valuable thing to come out of the Brookings rankings are their conclusions about what factors are associated with successful economic outcomes, DISCOUNTING existing advantages that the student had going into the school.  Brookings cites the following as being decisive factors:

•   Curriculum value: The amount earned by people in the workforce who hold degrees in a field of study offered by the college, averaged across all the degrees the college awards;
•   Alumni skills: The average labor market value, as determined by job openings, of skills listed on alumni resumes;
•   STEM orientation: The share of graduates prepared to work in STEM occupations;
•   Completion rates: The percentage of students finishing their award within at least twice the normal time (four years for a two-year college, eight years for a four-year college);
•   Student aid: The average level of financial support given to students by the institution itself.  Schools at the top of the prestige ladder do well -- Williams, for example.

For more on this, check out Brookings's site, or just drop us a line.

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If you're thinking of applying to b-school this year, you have something right now that is more valuable than you can possibly imagine -- preparation time.  But we all lead busy lives -- what is the best use of that time?  What really matters, and how long will it take to do?

Article by Ben Feuer, Image by Moyan Brenn

We here at Forster-Thomas know that applying to any graduate program can feel completely overwhelming, with a hundred little things to take care of and not enough time to take care of it.  So what should you focus on and when?  Here's a cliff-notes answer to that important question.  Please note -- this is in no way intended to be a comprehensive list, but it should give you plenty to think about if you're trying to maximize your application's chances.


3 YEARS - Congratulations!  You're really into planning ahead.  Keep earning top grades at your school (or if that's too easy, transfer into a tougher school) and tackle meaningful leadership challenges in your clubs and organizations.  If you're early on in the workforce, start building the key professional contacts who can later serve as recommenders or write letters of reference for your target schools.

3 MONTHS - Depending on the relative strengths and weaknesses of your application, you could either focus on retaking your GMAT or taking your GRE (standardized test scores are important) or you could look to burnish your resume with meaningful leadership by founding a small business or taking on a big responsiblity for a nonprofit.

3 WEEKS -  Although this can be enough time to do a rushed GRE/GMAT retake, depending on when the tests are scheduled, perhaps the most important thing to think about with three weeks remaining is corralling your recommenders.  Hopefully they already know you're applying at this point, but it's a good time to put in a few gentle reminders, set up any necessary meetings to provide information or just catch up, et cetera.  

3 DAYS - Do a campus visit for the weekend!  Prepare by reaching out to students via Linkedin and asking pointed, thoughtful, comparative questions about their b-school experience thus far.  Invite them to talk about their favorite and least favorite aspects of what they do every day, and what parts of school they got the most out of.  Once you arrive on campus, take a lot of notes -- they'll help you when the time comes to write your "why school" essays -- and shake a lot of hands -- depending on the school, face-time with profs and admissions staff can help your chances of getting in quite a bit.

3 HOURS - Write a first draft of an essay.  Don't try to get it perfect your first time out of the box.  That isn't possible.  Just write something complete, authentic and honest with a clear plan in mind.  If you're going over three hours for your first draft, you're overthinking it!  Relax and wrap it up.  Then hand it to your brain trust (you do HAVE a brain trust, right?) and be prepared to be told it doesn't work at all.

30 MINUTES - Jot down five essay brainstorms for a particular prompt -- one-paragraph reminders of things you've done in the last three years or so.  You can also reformat your resume in 30 minutes, leaving plenty of negative space, compressing to one page, emphasizing recent employment and accomplishments, and purging things that aren't relevant for b-school like technical skills.

3 MINUTES - Take a deep breath and relax.  You've hit submit -- it's out of your hands now.  The best thing you can do is put it out of your mind and wait.


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

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An open letter to the students about to begin their first year of college in the fall, parents anxiously hovering over their shoulders, and anyone interested in claiming the crown of Westeros.

By Ben Feuer

Dear future scholars of the world;

Felicitations!  You've gathered up your admits and rejects, pored over the pile and decided where you will spend the next 4+ years of your life.  Along with your pencils and pens, you're likely to receive a boatload of 'helpful' advice about what the hot STEM majors are, which courses to take to maximize your earning potential, and how to navigate the sometimes hazardous world of first year course selection to maintain an A average.

Bully for all that.

But allow me to retort.  Instead of spending your next four years like Stannis Baratheon, hunched over a map and madly plotting away, spend them like Daenerys Targaryen spent her youth -- exploring and eventually conquering the free cities of the East.

I know, I know.  But think about it.  Stannis is a schemer -- he spends his days plotting away, eager to use any and all means at his disposal to get what he believes ought to be his.  Aside from making him pretty annoying to hang out with, this is a losing strategy long-term.  No one wants to side with the guy who's stuck in the past.  Daenerys, despite her tragic past, is firmly focused on the present.  Instead of making obvious power plays or cutting bad deals with black magicians, she roams the free cities and welcomes new challenges and experiences.

So how do we translate this diatribe from high fantasy to higher learning?  Here are a few ways to channel your inner dragon princess and approach college with an open mind and heart.

Avoid trendy courses.  I know, that "Twilight and 18th Century Philosophy" elective sounds totes dramatic, but you are wasting your parents' hard-earned money when you sign up for courses that teach you what you already know.  Instead, seek out your favorite professor's signature course, the one that he or she has been developing and shaping for years.  Explore his or her research topic.  Live inside someone else's brilliance for awhile - you'll be glad you did.  Seek out courses on subjects you know nothing about -- when you come into a class with a blank slate, you get a lot more out of it because your guard is down and your preconceptions aren't as limiting.

Build strong relationships with the right professors (and don't grade grub).  One of the most important things you do in college is learn how to build lasting relationships.  Although most of these are going to be with your peers, it doesn't hurt to have a few professors in your corner too.  It's important, however, to pick your allies wisely.  That hella popular prof that everybody loves is not going to remember you three years from now, whereas the charming, bookish, brilliant adjunct could be heading a department of his own in ten years.  Plus, a little bonus note on grade-grubbing; before giving a prof a hard time over your B+ (which I guarantee you earned), ask yourself this -- would I rather have a (likely useless) bickering session or a powerful positive recommendation and connections down the line?  Schemers brood over past wrongs.  Explorers bet on the future.

Don't be a dilettante -- but don't fixate, either.  Unless you're doing something incredibly rigorous like pre-med, don't be afraid to experiment with unusual classes.  This is particularly true for liberal arts schools and humanities majors -- you're not getting what the school has to offer if you don't play the field a little bit.  And by the way, this goes double for student organizations and clubs.  That said, you can go too far in this direction; always keep an eye on the requirements for your major and minor so that you aren't caught short in your final semester.  This is particularly true for students thinking about transferring at some point in their college careers -- get in touch with your school of choice to make sure your credits will carry over, and talk to your intended major to make sure they'll have you.

College can be a scary place (although Westeros is definitely more scary).  Nevertheless, when you make important educational decisions from a place of fear, bitterness or resentment, you're hurting yourself in the long run (and probably in the short run, too).  When it comes to your college plans, be a dreamer, not a schemer -- live big and fail big, because just like GoT, it's going to be over before you know it.