Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A new dean at Tuck: what will change?

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

Dean Paul Danos is stepping down at Tuck.  What does this mean for future MBA applicants?

By Ben Feuer

After twenty years, Dean Paul Danos will be stepping down from his position at the head of Tuck Business School.  That's some seriously impressive staying power, and we wish him all the best in whatever he chooses to do next.

So what does it mean for the MBA candidates thinking of applying to Tuck this year?  Four words -- all bets are off.  Tuck's questions have barely changed at all over the past three years, sticking to the old B-school chestnuts -- goals, leadership, failure/setback, and sometimes diversity.  And if you don't know what those essay types are, you seriously need to pick up a copy of our book.

But with new faces inevitably come new ideas, and history shows that the dean that replaces Paul Danos will want to stamp the program as his own, probably this year.  Fortunately, even though the questions business schools ask change almost every year, the structure and substance of great essays remains the same.  Tell the truth, be powerful, and limit your word count.


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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

As the cost of attending an elite business school continues to rise, MBA students are shouldering the burden without increasing their personal debt ... for now.

By Ben Feuer

Remember how a couple of weeks ago, we took note of the rising costs of medical school, and, concurrently, the rising amount of debt held by medical students?

Turns out that is not a universal problem.

MBAs are more than happy to pay the increased fees for attending top business schools around the country, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.  This is a little depressing, but not really surprising -- after all, MBAs earn more than their pre-med counterparts, and some of them even solicit employer contributions to their education.

On a somewhat more disturbing note, the guys who commissioned the study claim that this should help policymakers distinguish between undergraduate degrees, which the study calls “a must for anyone who wants to secure a middle-class income,” and graduate degrees, which usually aren’t “the foundation for economic opportunity.”

Excuse me?  How do you get that from this?  We here at Forster Thomas see the exact opposite trend developing.  As college degrees become nearly universal, a graduate degree from a top school is THE distinguishing factor in allowing you to have the career you want.  All this proves is that some careers will always be more lucrative than others.


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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
If you are an MBA applicant looking for the next amazing entrepreneurship opportunity, forget Silicon Valley -- Beantown's where it's at.

By Ben Feuer

As someone currently living in Boston, I may be a little biased when I say this, but this city deserves more credit.  And perhaps it's finally getting it.  According to a new BBC article, Beantown may well be taking its rightful place beside New York City and Silicon Valley as an innovation hub. Not that that would be news to famous Boston innovators like Ray Kurzweil, innovator in OCR and music.  For them, this is merely an acknowledgement of what has long been true -- Boston is one of the most educated and intelligent cities on the planet.

Now, new tech companies like Spritz are choosing to make their home in Boston rather than flee to the West Coast.  Spritz, which promises to increase reading times by saving your eye the effort of scanning a page of text, has a cool tech demo on their homepage, and if it works, it could be particularly useful for our law students, who seem to spend half of their waking hours reading and taking notes.

Spritz, by the way, is from MIT.  MBA applicants take note -- if you have entrepreneurial ambitions and you have even a passing interest in tech, how can you NOT love this school?  And if for some reason you don't, you have more than 100 other options available to you.

Yeah, New York and LA are great.  But don't forget about Boston!

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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
To reveal or not reveal other awards? That is the question.

During this time of year—and more and more, during this economic climate—my accepted students revisit, meet with, and ultimately follow-up with financial aid appeal letters to their top-choice colleges and universities, asking for more financial assistance. And why not? It never hurts to ask—especially if you are a top, sought-after candidate at that college. Right?

Maybe. All too often, the request from the college-of-your-choice is the same:  “Please attach the offers you have received from the other schools to which you were accepted.”

So what should you do? Is it ethical for your first-choice school to see what other institutions have offered? Is it anyone’s business? Should you ignore the request?

Let’s work through these questions for some peace of mind.

Recently, a student of mine who was accepted to her first-choice private university, and offered $10K per year. Nothing to sneeze at, but not enough. What she needs is $15K to make it possible for her to attend without taking a job. After her second visit to the campus, the financial aid office asked her to reveal the other colleges’ offers. That’s when my student asked me, “What should I do?” After all, no one had offered her $15K. Her second and third choices offered her $11K and $13K respectively. She was worried she had boxed herself in.

Are you in a similar situation? Have you already met with the financial aid office? If so, here are a few questions you might be asking yourself:

If my first-choice college—the one I want the $15K from—sees the lower offer from another school, are they likely to meet it or beat it? What is the benefit of showing them a better offer? Isn’t it like showing your poker hand?
Should I reveal the lower offer, but explain that although my first-choice college is A, I will have to go with College B—a great school, but not the one I have my heart set on?

Since it’s my number one choice, should I just take the 10K offer and figure out a way to make up the difference? Work at Starbucks or the bookstore?

Obviously, you get that all of the questions depend on how bad you want to be at your number-one choice, here are some responses from the wisest colleagues in the admissions biz.

First off, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples—make sure the tuition is frozen for the next four years—meaning the colleges you received financial awards from are similar in rank and style…

1. Go ahead and show your number-one that better offer from the other schools. All colleges base their calculations on the same federal methodology, but alter their offers based on their particular financial policies. So, seeing a higher offer just might get you the extra $ you need. If the margin is small, my colleagues assure me, your top-choice will adjust their original offer to match the other schools.  But make sure you’re only sharing the letters of “comparable” schools…for example, a highly selective college won’t care that you got a full ride from a local “suitcase school.”

2.  When you’re sending in that “please, sir, I want some more” request, make sure you do it with grace and respect. Express your regret at even having to make the choice between your number-one and the other schools.

3. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. If your number 1 is really your number 1—has the programs, the people and the professors you want—then rise to the occasion and don’t let a few thousand dollars come between you and dream school. Who cares if you spend a few hours a week in college asking “would you like fries with that” if you’re set up for the career you’ve wanted?

Finally, I’d go with what Nirav Mehta, the associate director of admissions at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, said when I asked him the above three questions:

“I believe the other offers should be revealed, as requested by the Financial Aid Office. But it's equally important to highlight the real financial need without an adversarial approach. Financial aid officers are interested in helping young people realize their educational dreams, but they're making decisions with limited information. Helping financial aid officers get an honest picture of the situation will be the most effective approach. I have seen modifications in the financial aid package with this kind of approach that focuses on the need, especially if [you’re] academically stellar.”

Thanks, Nirav!

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

Bottom line: It never hurts to ask, and honesty is the best policy.

Auntie Evan

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
Forster-Thomas interview skills expert Jani Moon offers ten great tips on how to conduct a powerful, sexy, persuasive MBA admissions interview.

By Jani Moon

In case you missed it, yesterday I explained in detail how to have a mind-blowing sexual encounter – I mean, MBA interview. Actually, I explained both at the same time. Check it out. And then come back here for the after-party – ten essential tips that will make you irresistible in an admissions interview.

1. Get my attention. I'm HBS. I'm the hot chick in the room, and I know it. If you do not get my attention, you won't get anywhere with me. So start with a dramatic introductory fact, question, statistic, quote, or thought. Make sure you've practiced it in front of a mirror and can deliver it well. If it's good, it will hook me.

2. Give me foreplay. Here's a little open secret about us girls – you have to lower the drawbridge BEFORE you storm the castle. Set up the story. Give me the time and place. Introduce the cast of 'characters' I need to know. Present the internal or external conflict. An internal conflict is a struggle that you have within yourself and external conflict is one you have outside of yourself.

3. Guide me, but gently. Some like it rough, others like it gentle. But here's something nobody likes – being left uncertain what to do. This is your ride, and you have to be my guide. Tell me a sequence of specific events that build to the conflict and climax. Tease me with details. Use metaphor, simile, personification and the language of the senses to paint a full picture.

4. Reveal your thoughts and feelings. What are you thinking right now? I want to know. No, I'm not just asking, I really want to know! Those kinds of details are exciting! Whatever you talk about in the interview, make sure I know what you are thinking and feeling about it. I will feel more connected to you. You're opening a gateway into your soul, an opportunity for me to relive this specific moment and time with you.

5. Build to a climax. I know it's coming. I've been waiting for it. Don't disappoint me. Instead, dramatically build into your climax. Increase the pace of your voice, use a higher pitch tone, and repeat phrases to build intensity. And don't be afraid to surprise me with a last minute twist.

6. Release into darkness. That's it. You hit the emotional summit. But don't be sad. Instead, be silent. This was amazing. No need to talk about it. Sh-h-h-h. Breathe. Pause. Pause. Pause. Silence is golden.

7. Surrender. When you finally do speak again, don't you dare ask me how it was. Do not seek my approval – your job is not finished yet. Now it is time, softly, slowly, and with total vulnerability, to tell me your deepest, darkest, rawest truth. The one that scares you. That's the one. Your fear, your pain, your dream, your joy, your hidden belief that you are not good enough. That moment will complete our emotional bond.

8. Give empathy. When I participate, offering something in return, be a generous partner. Empathize with my point of view, even if you do not agree. Be kind and accepting and prepared to learn something amazing. Above all, be humble and grateful for the emotional ride and soulful experience that you just shared.

9. Complete. Ok, so we had this earth-shaking, amazing moment. Now what? Don't leave any questions in my mind, or in my heart. Resolve every story, answer every concern or fear I may have (remember, I'm vulnerable here too!). Make sure before you walk away that I am satisfied and I know what the next action should be.

10. Share what you learned. It may not come up, but if it does, you have to be ready. If asked what you learned, thoughtfully reflect on the experience. Tell me how you have changed because of our meeting. Share a valuable lesson. Discuss what you might do differently – next time. Remind me there will be a next time.

Wow! That was amazing. I think I need to take a cold shower now.

Take me on the ride of my life. Interview like you are making LOVE to me and get into the MBA program of your dreams. I dare you.


Jani can guide you personally! Schedule a consultation to find out how.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
Forster-Thomas interview skills expert Jani Moon shares everything you always wanted to know about sex and MBA admissions interviews, but were afraid to ask.

By Jani Moon

As a professional interview skills expert at Forster-Thomas, I've seen my share of MBA applicants. As a sexy Asian girl living in New York City, I've had my share of romantic interludes. Believe it or not, the two experiences have a lot in common!

A great interview is like great sex. I go on an epic emotional journey, fully present to both who and what I am. You share deeply with me, and take risks. I am moved and I surrender, releasing into darkness and coming out the other side grateful, alive, and transformed.

Am I telling you climb across the conference table and get all “hey girl” Ryan Gosling on me? Of course not. But the same DYNAMICS apply. Talk to your HBS, Kellogg or INSEAD interviewer like you would an old friend or a confidant. Make her fall in love with you, call her to action. Leave her inspired.

Jerry was a bad 'lover'. As he robotically rattled off the facts of his painful divorce during our interview session, I missed the TRUTH of the story he was telling. Where was the pain he had felt? What lessons had he learned? How had he transformed? I was ready to fire up an e-cigarette and call it a night.

I get it. Interviews are scary, especially when you want that slot at Columbia GSB so badly you can taste it. Jerry was scared of rejection. He didn't feel safe or confident. So he held back – and I got nothing.

Sorry, Jerry, but that's not the way to get in. You can't hold back. You have to lean in, bust out of that cage you call a three piece suit and PLEASE me. In other words, be more like Pia.

Pia knew what she was doing. I felt her emotion but also her groundedness, her humbleness, but also her complete and utter transparency. The story about the death of her mother moved me to tears. She left me begging for more. And by the way, it wasn't just me who dug Pia's act – after Kellogg saw her video essay, she got into her school of choice without even breaking a sweat.

You're probably thinking – dammit, I'm a Jerry, not a Pia. But you're wrong. Jerry was a Pia, he just didn't know it. You already are amazing, sexy, dynamic. You have what I want. You just have to believe that you do.

Tune in for part two tomorrow and find out the ten essential tips that will make you irresistible in the the interview room, AND the bedroom.


Want to meet Jani? (we don't blame you) Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
There are certain terms MBAs use that, when seen in the proper context (real life), are meaningless. In this series, we tell you how to avoid them and choose superior alternatives.

By Ben Feuer

Somewhere along the line, the American public decided that innovation was a good thing.  This was not always so.  In Victorian England (or pretty much anytime in China), innovation was subordinate to a host of other virtues such as obedience, piety and courage, none of which you're likely to encounter in an essay for business school today.

In other words, we have all conformed to innovation.  How's that for irony?

We're not knocking innovation.  Innovation is a good thing.  But it is also a rare thing.  Were your leadership techniques really innovative, or just imaginative?  Even inventive sets a lower bar than innovative, which means, quite simply, the introduction of something NEW.  New, as in unprecedented.  Any leadership technique you are likely to have utilized at your job has been used literally millions of times before, and the relentless hyperbole and self-aggrandizement implied by the word innovative is (dare I say it?) itself now a cliche.
What about your business idea?  Surely it is innovative, or at least revolutionary.  Again, probably not.  If your business were truly innovative, brand new, we would have heard about it.  It might be clever, dynamic, sophisticated, efficient -- but double-check your word choice when you use that tired word innovative.

Innovative is played out.  If you really are a groundbreaking thinker, use that 1000 watt brain of yours to dream up a more exciting word to use.

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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email
Should a prospective student visit college before applying?  Does a student gain significant advantage visiting or can "Demonstrated Interest" be displayed by attending local fairs, hotel and high school presentations? 


Visiting schools is a MUST—at least the ones that are most important to a student. Colleges do take it seriously and it absolutely helps the student demonstrate interest—especially if you’re on the edge (academically or otherwise) or you’re applying to select/top colleges and universities.

Nothing says "I am serious" like showing up on campus. College fairs and online research are good. After all, Big-Brother College knows when you’ve been checking ‘em out—every time you go to a college site. But does your mother suddenly think you’re really doing your homework because the postal worker delivered an info pack from Harvard? C’mon.  

Consider visiting college a “cost of doing business” for applying to (and attending) higher education. (This will become clear when Mom & Dad get that bill for $50K.)  Look at it from the point of view of an admissions team: You are willing to shell out the money to go to their “dream school,” but you can't bother to look at it until you know you're accepted? What does that say? Certainly not "I'm serious."

If this is not enough to get my point across and you or your parents don’t see the import of going to visit, then you better have something really amazing to bring to the table—at the very least, excellent grades. For students who are not clear admits (and who is for the most selective schools?), only attending college fairs and hotel and high school presentations just doesn’t say "I wanna be at your school." Much better (and on the record) is a registered visit. (That means you actually go online and sign up for a scheduled college tour and college info session.)  The same is true for the “clear admit”—schools don't want to waste an offer on a student who does not seem like he or she is ever going to say "yes" if accepted.

And what if you are on the edge academically—and you do bother to figure out a way to visit? You might just get there, decide it's a whopping "not for me" and voilà, you just saved mom and Dad some real $$$$—not to mention the cost of applying.

As for NOT having the time—that is the worst reason not to visit. Make the time. Time is NO excuse. (And summer visits are absolutely fine.)
Making the time is what responsible people do.  If Mom or Dad can't take you, get it together with a few friends and get on a bus or train, or car and get there. (Also, getting in a car with four of your friends saves money; split the gas fare, make a bunch of sandwiches, and off you go. That's what we all did back in the day. When did traveling independently become such big deal for someone who claims to be ready to go off to college?)

If you live in a foreign country, or you're on the other side of the country—and you are not from a family of means—then you get the pass. Then and only then can you settle for meeting with the reps who visit Nigeria. (I am not being sarcastic.)

And if, like many of my truly disadvantaged kids, you really can't afford to visit, then you get a pass. In both cases, you need to find a way to explain your reasons for not visiting in a letter of some sort or in your supplemental essay for that school and you had better done everything else in your power to research that college and write about these extraordinary things you did to get to know the school and its majors and programs beyond fairs. You scoured though YouTube videos, youniversitytv.com, contacted the head of (for example) the College Republicans Club or the GLBT club president, that Accounting professor, and on, and on, and on. And explain why you were not able to visit.

I am serious. It just gets Auntie Evan crazy when y’all come up with excuses like time. I'd like to know what you’re so busy with that you cannot find a day here or there or a weekend to visit three of your ten top choice schools. Think of it this way: If a college was a girl or guy you were into, you’d fall over backward to find the time to get to that first date.

In short, not visiting campuses is “pennywise and pound-foolish.” Ask your grandfather what that means.

Auntie Evan


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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

 Chipotle is adding its first new menu item in eight years: tofu sofritas.  What does that have to do with b-school?  Everything.

By Ben Feuer

Bloomberg Businessweek reported this week that Chipotle will be sprucing up its menu with its first new offering since 2005 -- and it's going to be tofu sofritas.

Excuse me?

Tofu?  Isn't that that mushy paste you feed to people who lost all their tastebuds in a tragic chewing accident?  (full disclosure -- this author is a former vegetarian). Quiznos is offering me "Toasty Mac and Cheese Pasta". Taco Bell is selling something called "XXL Crispy Steak".  And you're bringing nothing to the table but overpriced soybeans?  What kind of sense does that make?

Every kind.

7.3 million Americans are now vegetarians.  That's 3 percent, up from 1 percent in 1971.  22.8 million, or ten percent, are vegetarian inclined (including yours truly).  Of that 7.3 million, over 40 percent of them are 18-34 years old, AKA, the demographic that is currently forming lifelong buying habits.

So there's that.

Then there are the dieters.  20 percent of America at any given time, according to HuffPo.  Any veteran dieter will tell you vegetarianism is a great, healthy way to shed excess weight, if you control your portion sizes.  Oh, and by the way, dieting is a $50 billion a year industry.

Chipotle is a smart, forward-looking company.  They're replacing conventional "attractive people eat our products!" advertising with hip short films by up and coming filmmakers.  They're avoiding cluttering up their menu with silly seasonal promotions and 'limited time' offers, focusing on what they do well.  Attention, goals essay writers -- this is what leadership looks like.

If you're a prospective MBA candidate, this is the way you should be thinking.  Forget what's mainstream at this moment.  Be courageous.  Be a visionary.  Lead your market in the direction you think it should go.  And above all, write great essays.


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

Facebook Twitter Google Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon Email

The changes to the SAT starting in 2016 are creating a lot of hand-wringing in the college admissions industry. But it  is, as Shakespeare would say, Much Ado About Nothing.

When the news of the new SAT broke, Evan Forster and I were visiting colleges in North Carolina. Everyone was talking about the new SAT—except for the admissions officers giving info sessions. As “test optional” becomes increasingly common in the college admissions process, and is even starting to take root at very selective schools, the best ticket to success in admissions remains the same: DO WELL IN HIGH SCHOOL, and take advantage of the most rigor your high school offers (AP courses, honors, etc.). For colleges that continue to review standardized tests, the only change is their job got a little easier: They are back to the 1600-point scale most are familiar with, and they will continue to factor in the SAT as one of many data points in their decision-making.

The changes are not going to affect the test prep industry at all—0%—except in their curricular focus. It’s not going to “cripple” them, or reduce business, nothing. Even with Khan Academy. If you had the money for test prep to begin with, you’ll still going to want a personalized touch—a teacher at the front of the room, sitting across from you at a table, or talking interactively with you on a screen.

Khan Academy is going to EXPAND access, it’s not going to eat away at the test prep industry. Imagine if Khan Academy put out great videos on how to write a personal statement and choose the right school for you, etc. Would college counselors lose their job? Not a single one. So Evan and I applaud the partnership with Khan Academy, and support our test prep brethren like Applerouth in their continued growth as well.

Everything else is hand-wringing and will be forgotten in a week—unless we keep the drama going.

At the end of the day, this isn’t about predictive power, or the test prep industry, this is about the College Board trying to stay relevant in an ACT world. The more we talk about test prep and the impact of the changes, the more relevant College Board remains.

What’s happening right now is like Miley Cyrus taking off her clothes at the VMAs: It got everyone talking, and her career went to another level. The College Board is Miley Cyrus, and we’re all willing participants in this game.

--David Thomas and Evan Forster

Also, check out our videos on the subject!

What Does the New SAT Mean for Me?

What does the new SAT 2016 mean for you? Short answer: you should rejoice! Watch to find out why.

Tags: College Admissions Consulting, Leadership

The College Board is Like Miley Cyrus

The new SAT to be launched in 2016 isn't a big deal -- the College Board is just trying to stay relevant. They are just following the Miley Cyrus playbook.

Tags: College Admissions Consulting, Leadership