By Ben Feuer, photo by Steven Lilley

The 2017-2018 common application questions have been released into the wild. This year they’re pretty consistent with other recent years, but there are a few new twists, so read carefully.

First, a few ground rules.  Your word count should be between 250 and 650 words for each question.  Don't feel obligated to use every word -- but don't go over, either.  Double and triple-check your spelling and grammar -- don't get dinged on a technicality!  Read all of the topics and consider each of them before choosing which one you will answer.  Don't choose based on what story about yourself you feel like telling, or what you think the committee 'ought to know' about you -- instead, select a story where you grew, changed or evolved as a person.

THE QUESTIONS

1.  Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Read this prompt carefully.  This is a standard 'diversity' prompt -- which means it asks students to share some distinctive element of their background or upbringing -- BUT the wording is very strong.  Only choose this prompt if your background is so integral to your life that you really can't imagine writing about anything else.

Note that this prompt also invites you to tell a story that is central to your identity -- that could be (for instance) a narrative about personal growth, or about an unexpected friendship or chance encounter -- again, so long as it is central to who you now are as a person, it's fair game.

2.  The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

The common App has softened this prompt, perhaps after a bunch of complaints of being triggered by even thinking about past failures … 😊  So now, you can write about a challenge, setback or failure. But guess what – you should still write about a failure. If you don’t feel up to it, or don’t think you have a strong failure to discuss, then call us. But seriously, if you don’t have a strong failure, you should pick another prompt, you certainly have plenty to choose between.

OTOH, if you're applying to a reach school, or if you're concerned about other areas of your application, this prompt is your chance to stand out from the crowd and make an impression.  Nothing grabs admissions officers' attention as quickly as a well-thought-out failure essay, particularly because most students run screaming from this kind of prompt.

So what makes a great failure essay?  We cover this at length in our MBA admissions book, but the fundamentals are this -- you need a singular, powerful failure narrative where you failed not just yourself, but others you cared about.  The failure must be absolute -- no saving the day at the last minute.  It must point to some underlying aspect of your character which you then identify (stubbornness, overcaution, arrogance).  You finish up the failure essay by telling a brief (50-100 word) anecdote about how you have changed as a result of this failure -- use concrete examples here! 

3.  Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome

The flipside of the failure essay, the challenge (or as we call it, the leadership) essay is one of the most commonly seen essays on the common application.  This, too, has been weasel-worded down to a softer “questioned or challenged”, but your story about that time you asked the teacher if you really had to sit at the front of the class all year is NOT good essay material, trust us.

If you have accomplished something that was exceptionally challenging for you and really shaped who you are as a person, this is your prompt.  If you are just looking to brag about your killer grade in that AP History class or your five goals in the championship bocce match, this is NOT your prompt.  Move along.

When thinking about challenges, students always want to focus on the external -- what happened and why it's impressive.  This is the wrong approach. The question-writers are giving you a very big clue when they ask you to describe what prompted your thinking – they want to understand how your mind works. The important story to tell is how you GOT to the impressive result -- and what you thought about, did and said that led to that result.

Finally, remember that these types of stories work best and are most impressive when you're motivating other kids (or adults!) to excel -- contrary to what your lovin' mother told you, it ain't all about you.

4.  Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

This prompt is a somewhat unusual spin on a common theme of transformation and growth.  There is an obvious STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) spin to this question -- after all, a laboratory experiment or a planned course of study fits into this prompt very neatly.  But resist the urge to get completely technical and step outside your own experience!  Remember that whatever prompt you choose for your essay, the central figure in the story is you -- your challenges, your growth, your maturity.

This prompt also might be a good choice for students who have been fortunate enough to have interesting experiences in unusual places and contexts.  Worked on a social issue overseas?  Spent eight months living with the Amish?  Shadowed a researcher at CERN?  This could be your prompt.

5.  Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Rites of passage can be fascinating topics for essays -- if they're handled well.  No one wants to hear about how grandpa cried at your confirmation -- snoozefest!  Becoming an adult is about accepting the responsibilities, limitations and joys of being human, and so should your essay.

The focus on a particular event is important.  It's very easy when writing an essay to drift from one subject to another, but great essays have a singular focus -- they're about one thing and one thing only.  In this case, the event or accomplishment in question and why it became a period of maturation.

It’s also worth noting the emphasis on understanding others. Surprising or difficult events often deepen our ability to empathize with others’ struggles – if you have a story that involves learning to see the world in a new way, this could well be your prompt.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

This is a brand new prompt, for those of you who are just 100 percent not comfortable talking about yourselves in any way, shape or form. Now, before you breathe a sigh of relief and rush off to write yet another paean to microbiomes or Martin Luther King, let us insert a caveat. This is usually the wrong kind of prompt to choose. For most people, most of the time, you’re going to get an essay that’s dry, technical, and reveals nothing about the candidate – in other words, a waste of word count.

In order to write a good essay about an idea or concept, you have to loop in … feelings!  Yours and others.  Talk about the people who share your passion, or the ones who inspired it. Talk about the key moments in the development of your favorite obsession – how did it all begin, where do you see it going?  Relate it back to larger themes in your life. How has this experience helped you to grow and mature?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]

This is what we call an open-ended prompt. You can do whatever you want with it, which most folks find utterly terrifying. Not to worry – this should really be a last resort prompt if you have a fantastic essay already written that just doesn’t seem to fit any of the other prompts.

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So there you have it!  Not so scary after all, huh?  Still, you probably have a lot of questions as yet unanswered.  Or maybe you have a draft all written up and you want some seasoned eyes to take a look?  If so, drop us a line -- we'd be happy to help!


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Photo by English106, Article by Ben Feuer

 The new common application questions are out for 2015-2016 -- students and parents everywhere are wondering how to answer them.  This guide will help you get started!

The brand-new common application questions have been released into the wild!  First, a few ground rules.  Your word count should be between 250 and 650 words for each question.  Don't feel obligated to use every word -- but don't go over, either.  Double and triple-check your spelling and grammar -- don't get dinged on a technicality!  Read all of the topics and consider each of them before choosing which one you will answer.  Don't choose based on what story about yourself you feel like telling, or what you think the committee 'ought to know' about you -- instead, select a story where you grew, changed or evolved as a person.

And now, without further ado, the questions!

1.  Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Read this prompt carefully.  This is a standard 'diversity' prompt -- which means it asks students to share some distinctive element of their background or upbringing -- BUT the wording is very strong.  Only choose this prompt if your background is so integral to your life that you really can't imagine writing about anything else.

Note that this prompt also invites you to tell a story that is central to your identity -- that could be (for instance) a narrative about personal growth, or about an unexpected friendship or chance encounter -- again, so long as it is central to who you now are as a person, it's fair game.

2.  The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

If you're applying to a reach school, or if you're concerned about other areas of your application, this prompt is your chance to stand out from the crowd and make an impression.  Nothing grabs admissions officers' attention as quickly as a well-thought-out failure essay, particularly because most students run screaming from this kind of prompt.

So what makes a great failure essay?  We cover this at length in our book, but the fundamentals are this -- you need a singular, powerful failure narrative where you failed not just yourself, but others you cared about.  The failure must be absolute -- no saving the day at the last minute.  It must point to some underlying aspect of your character which you then identify (stubbornness, overcaution, arrogance).  You finish up the failure essay by telling a brief (50-100 word) anecdote about how you have changed as a result of this failure -- use concrete examples here!

3.  Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

The flipside of the failure essay, the challenge (or as we call it, the leadership) essay is one of the most commonly seen essays on the common application.  If you have accomplished something that was exceptionally challenging for you and really shaped who you are as a person, this is your prompt.  If you are just looking to brag about your killer grade in that AP History class or your five goals in the championship bocce match, this is NOT your prompt.  Move along.

When thinking about challenges, students always want to focus on the external -- what happened and why it's impressive.  This is the wrong approach.  The important story to tell is how you GOT to the impressive result -- and what you thought about, did and said that led to that result.

Finally, remember that these types of stories work best and are most impressive when you're motivating other kids (or adults!) to excel -- contrary to what your lovin' mother told you, it ain't all about you.

4.  Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

This prompt is a somewhat unusual spin on a common theme of transformation and growth.  There is an obvious STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) spin to this question -- after all, a laboratory experiment or a planned course of study fits into this prompt very neatly.  But resist the urge to get completely technical and step outside your own experience!  Remember that whatever prompt you choose for your essay, the central figure in the story is you -- your challenges, your growth, your maturity.

This prompt also might be a good choice for students who have been fortunate enough to have interesting experiences in unusual places and contexts.  Worked on a social issue overseas?  Spent eight months living with the Amish?  Shadowed a researcher at CERN?  This could be your prompt.

5.  Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Rites of passage can be fascinating topics for essays -- if they're handled well.  No one wants to hear about how grandpa cried at your confirmation -- snoozefest!  Becoming an adult is about accepting the responsibilities, limitations and joys of being human, and so should your essay.

The focus on a particular event is important.  It's very easy when writing an essay to drift from one subject to another, but great essays have a singular focus -- they're about one thing and one thing only.  In this case, the event or accomplishment in question and why it was the turning point in your journey from boy to man or girl to woman.

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So there you have it!  Not so scary after all, huh?  Still, you probably have a lot of questions as yet unanswered.  Or maybe you have a draft all written up and you want some seasoned eyes to take a look?  If so, drop us a line -- we'd be happy to help!

 


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Below are the brand-new 2015-2016 Common Application essay topics!  For tips on how to handle these questions, check out our best practices blog.

Instructions. The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

1. Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

To get started, access the new Common Application.

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The common application revolutionized college admissions in the 70s and 80s.  Why can't it do the same to business schools?

Every year, the b-school admissions process makes for a lot of not very jolly holidays here at Forster-Thomas, and this year was no different.  As I tore through the fifth of nine schools with one particular last-minute MBA applicant, she complained how much easier the process was when she was applying to college.  There’s no question that applying to business school, or any graduate school, is a much more complicated and provincial process then the now largely standardized college applications. That isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of challenges when applying to college; supplementary essays, unusual application or transfer requirements, and school research are three that come to mind. But the fact remains that it is much more practical for a student to apply to 12 colleges than to 12 business schools. So why don’t they get with the 21st century program, so to speak, and offer a common application?

On the surface, it seems like a pretty obvious idea. Although it is far from perfect, most students would agree that compared to the days when you had to write out every application by hand and mail them in to schools across the country, the common app is cheap and convenient. It also saves a bunch of trees – eco-friendly, hooray!  The common app, for all its shortcomings, offers a more level playing field for  students without Ivy-league graduate parents or robust school guidance systems. 

And yet, despite the arguments in its favor, a b-school common application is unlikely to ever come into being.  There are both political and practical reasons for this. First, the practical reason. Graduate programs at any top university are incredibly diverse. Among MBAs alone, one has to consider the one-year, the two-year, the JD/MBA, the MPA/MBA, the eMBA, the online MBA, and dozens of others.  What’s more, the offerings evolve every year. As if that wasn’t enough, they all have different requirements, different deadlines, and different volumes of applicants. Even standardizing an application within a school is a challenge; if you decided to do it at the graduate level, which programs would be included and which would be excluded?  Then there’s the related question of accreditation. Should all accredited business schools be included? Only third tier and above? Who gets to make that decision?  There’s also the other elephant in the room, US News Rankings.  Schools don’t know how a common application might affect rankings, and most are not eager to find out.

That leads us into the more salient reason why there is no common app for graduate school; from an admissions officer’s standpoint, it would be self-defeating. Each and every business school likes to believe that it offers a unique educational experience, and they like having complete control over their applications, essays, and other requirements.  It gives them tools to hone and winnow the incoming class to their particular taste.  It also forces the applicants to show genuine interest in the school, and it helps them carve out a niche, or so they feel. It’s not in Olin’s best interest to make it easier for students to apply to Harvard. And it’s not Harvard’s best interest to have students applying to Harvard just because they can.

College admissions and  graduate school admissions are both highly politicized processes. They are likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. So if you are an applicant or are planning to be one next year, focus on what you can control, and limit the range of schools you are applying to only include schools you’re seriously considering.


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A study exploring the correlation between expensive and elite colleges and future earnings raises intriguing questions about the efficacy of higher education. 

We here at Forster-Thomas are busy little bees, always improving ourselves for your future benefit.  You're welcome.  Recently, a study came to our attention that we thought was worth passing along to you.

The study looked at two things -- how much does a school's selectivity impact students' future earnings, and how much does a school's cost impact students' future earnings.  The correlation you probably expected to see was nowhere to be found.  At least for the class of 1972 (upon which this study is based), students who were accepted to Harvard but chose to go to Kenyon wound up earning the same amount, on average, as those who actually attended Harvard. 

 However, there was a correlation between cost and future earnings, meaning that those students who were accepted to Harvard but chose to go to San Diego State U. to save money wound up earning less in the future.

This finding, quite frankly, is strange, and it's hard to know exactly what to make of it.  It's easy enough to make up reasons for it to be true; richer students going in tend to earn more money going out, for example.  But what it really suggests is that further study is needed.

It would be particularly helpful to know how this has evolved over time, since 1972 was a period of relatively low cost AND selectivity for all colleges, and the entire admissions landscape has transformed rapidly since then.  We'll keep our ears to the ground for you.


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The ongoing debate on a potential Federal government college ranking has revived the old debate about just how important rankings are.

By Ben Feuer


Here at Forster-Thomas we have been saying it for years -- a great fit matters much more than a number on some ranking, both in terms of student experience AND ultimate success.  That said, it's a lot easier to attempt to gauge schools on some sort of consistent set of metrics, and that is where rankings come in.

The New York Times today highlights the ongoing debate on whether the Federal government should create a college ranking system, and whether it should tie 'success' (as gauged by these rankings) to the ability to offer student loans or Pell grants.

If you are thinking about your college application right now, this debate is more relevant than you might think.  Believe it or not, both the schools and the government are curious what YOU, young high school student, have to say about this.  How was your personal experience moving through the system?  What has it inspired you to do?  Are you a minority?  If so, how (if at all) do you feel you were treated differently, and did it impact your ability or your willingness to go to college?

These are great topics to consider if you are thinking about what to write for your 2014-2015 common application essay prompts.  After all, your school experiences (beyond the simple fact of your grades or your test taking ability) are a big part of what have shaped you up to this point.  How have you felt the personal impact?  It's worth thinking about before setting out to write the great college essay you are capable of writing!


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Intimidated by the 2014-2015 Common App Essay Prompts?  Don't be.

By Ben Feuer

So the common app has been out for some time now, but we continue to get questions on how to attack these prompts.  We posted the prompts themselves awhile back -- check here if you don't remember -- but now we have taken the time to go over these questions and offer some guidance on how to answer them.  Hopefully it'll be helpful!
And remember -- 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

1.  Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.   

To some extent, this is a so-called diversity prompt -- it is asking you to explain how your background, your life experiences, made you the person you are today -- one life experience in particular.  You could answer this question very effectively, and very legitimately, by simply focusing on that.  But the prompt is crystal clear that it is not ONLY referring to your background -- any kind of story that really defined who you are would do.  A story about your mother or father, or your best friend, or your worst enemy.  The hardest thing you ever tried to do.  The most amazing place you ever visited.  Whatever it was that really defined you.
Whatever you choose to talk about, write about it in a fast moving, narrative style.  Talk not so much about what happened as how you felt about what happened, and what you think about it now.  And leave enough space to give examples of how you have changed as a result of this -- prove that it really was an influential moment in your life.

2.  Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.  How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

To write persuasively about learning from a failure is a deceptively simple AND difficult thing to do.  Why is it difficult?  Because the first step, the step that most people are unwilling to take, is ADMITTING YOU FAILED and explaining the nature of your failure.  After that, you must highlight the COST of your failure; who you hurt (you don't count).
Then, once all of that is done, you can talk about how you did better the next time you were faced with a similar problem.  But if you don't explain the failure first, it won't be of much use.  Remember, the more honest and direct you are when writing this kind of essay, the better off you will be.

3.  Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Challenging a deeply held belief, yours or someone else's, shows character and leadership, and that is what you should focus on when you write about this topic.  Start by identifying what the idea was, then explain YOUR OWN thought process in understanding that the idea, whatever it was, was flawed.  After that comes the real meat of this kind of essay -- explaining how you went about challenging the idea.

Don't choose a topic where there was little or no conflict.  Avoid easy answers to easy questions.  I proved to my friend that racism is wrong.  Well, good for you, but everybody knows that.  Dig deeper.  Find a really challenging question and a really powerful answer -- or else choose another prompt.

4.  Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

This prompt is a bit of a trap.  By inviting you to talk about a place, and a pleasant place, at that, it opens you up to waste 500 words rhapsodizing about how pretty Walden Pond is in the summer.  Don't fall into that trap.  This essay, like every essay, is a chance for admissions officers to get to know YOU, and that won't happen if you spend all your time talking about some place they can see just fine from Google Earth.

Focus instead on the experiences.  Use them as a springboard to discuss your own growth, evolution, and maturation.  The place is just a place -- its meaning for you could be tied up in a loved one, or a key moment in your life where everything changed in some important way.  Ask yourself this simple question -- why am I choosing to write about this instead of anything else?  What does it say about me?

5.  Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

There is a term, bildungsroman, which came to be translated into English as "coming of age".  Three quarters of the books you were forced to read in middle school are coming of age stories, in one way or another.  To Kill a Mockingbird.  Lord of the Flies.  A Separate Peace.  Catcher in the Rye.  When you think about this prompt, think about those books.  How did their protagonists change, grow and evolve?  When was the moment that it happened?

You have had moments like this in your life.  All of us have.  The moment when you first understood that the world is not fair.  The moment when you first fell in love (or out of it).  The moment you realized your parents were only human.  The pride you felt when you earned your first paycheck.  Take one such moment and write an essay about it.  Knock my socks off.

Hopefully this was helpful.  If you have more questions, email us!
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To commemorate Businessweek’s 2014 ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, Forster Thomas is profiling the top ten. Rounding out the top five is Washington U. in St. Louis's Olin School.


By Ben Feuer

WHY TO GO:

#5 is a collaborative, intellectually rigorous program with a long and proud history, both for undergraduates in general and for the b-school itself.

Job security – 97% of students have offers at graduation

Long tradition – founded in 1917

Gotta love a B-School with a selfie contest

Relatively even distribution of jobs on graduation, with 33% in Financial Services, 18% in consulting and 7% in media

An average salary upon graduation: $60,000

HOW TO GO:

FRESHMEN

According to Businessweek, 100% of admitted applicants each year are incoming freshmen, and Olin is a bit unusual in that its BS in Business Administration is declared freshman year – so right from the beginning, you take business classes. Ideal for students who know what they want from a young age. Admission is through the University, and is very academically rigorous (75% SAT = 1550).

Although Washington University does not require a supplemental essay for the Common Application, supplemental essays are required for Academic Scholarship and Fellowship Programs, which are open to all freshman applicants.

TRANSFERS

Olin offers transfers in the fall semester. You must demonstrate high scholastic performance from a two- or four-year college that mirrors most of Olin’s freshman and sophomore academic requirements, like microeconomics and the equivalent of Calculus II at the college level. If you’re a junior-level transfer candidate, requirements would also include financial accounting, macroeconomics, and, possibly, managerial accounting.

Successful applicants present at least a B+ average from a two-year or four-year college in courses across a broad academic curriculum.

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To commemorate Businessweek’s 2014 ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, Forster Thomas is profiling the top ten.  Today, the #2 school, University of Virginia: Mcintire.


By Ben Feuer

WHY TO GO:

McIntire is the top ranked state school for undergraduate business majors, according to Businessweek, and it is the top ranked major feeder school for Washington DC.  Need I say more?  All right then, I will.

• In-state tuition just over $10,000

• No need to declare your major until your junior year

• Students give back – 30% of alumni donate to the school

• Strong presence (1500+) in NYC and Washington DC

• An average salary upon graduation of almost $64,000 – not too shabby

HOW TO GO:

McIntire requires that students complete a minimum of 54 credits and strongly desires that students complete a minimum of two academic years before enrollment.

Admission is competitive, and personnel look for evidence of competitive academic performance, intellectual ability, significant work or life experiences, as well as other qualities of character that may not be quantitatively measured. These include:

•Strong communications skills

•Motivation

•Tenacity

•Maturity

•Integrity

•ability to work with others

•self-confidence

•self-reliance

•leadership

For Current UVA Students:

A committee of four faculty members separately reviews and makes independent decisions on each applicant. Afterward, the group meets to reach consensus.

Important academic factors considered by Admissions include cumulative grade point average, academic performance in prerequisites and those courses related to business (accounting, economics, mathematics), and degree of difficulty of courses taken to date.  Also considered are Collegiate Extracurricular Activities, Activities and leadership within organizations, and Work experiences.

For more information, check here.

For Transfer Students:

Applicants enrolled at schools other than the University must apply to the University of Virginia as a transfer student and should indicate application to McIntire.  It is strongly recommended that students complete all prerequisites before transferring to the University, and transfer should be made directly to McIntire as a third-year student. The University of Virginia: Transfer Information Web site has more information about this process.

Students currently enrolled at a Virginia community college and interested in applying to McIntire should complete the suggested courses listed in the Prerequisites-Equivalents at Virginia Community Colleges.

Some Useful Facts:

• The mean GPA of students admitted to McIntire from other colleges and universities has historically averaged 3.8.

• The same admissions criteria apply for transfer students as for current students, including extracurriculars and work experience.

• The University is aggressively increasing the goals for admitting students from the Virginia Community College System; over half of McIntire’s incoming transfer students are historically from the VCCS.


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

 

By Ben Feuer

WHY TO GO:

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

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

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

• Happy student body – Mendoza graduates are loud and proud

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

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

HOW TO GO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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