Clarification Statement

January 18th, 2016 - No Comments

In almost every admissions application, you have an opportunity to include additional information, beyond the requested questions, that you think might be helpful to the admissions committee. The Smeal MBA application includes the opportunity to provide an optional “clarification statement.” If you find yourself wondering whether or not you should disclose something that you think the admissions committee is likely to ask you about, it’s best to be up front and provide an explanation. Here are just a few examples of areas, that if applicable, you may want to clarify.

A gap or gaps in your resume. Some people have gaps for wonderful reasons such as moving across the country or traveling abroad to get married or otherwise address family matters. Some applicants might have gaps in their employment due to a long-term illness, caring for an elderly parent, raising a family, or being terminated from a job. Employment gaps aren’t necessarily bad, but it’s best to help the admissions team understand why there’s a gap. Not addressing the reason for an employment gap can seem like you are trying to hide something you fear might be damaging to your prospects.

Several job jumps. This is especially noticeable if you haven’t held a single job for more than two years. If you have a continuous upward career trajectory, even across several organizations, or if you have remained with the same company and continue to be promoted; no explanation is necessary. If you’ve taken what might appear to be demotions or your resume could suggest you can’t maintain a job for a significant period of time, explaining your reasons for job jumping is helpful. Admissions staff understand that sometimes, for example, a reduction in job responsibilities might be a trade-off for starting a family, or an opportunity to live in closer proximity to relatives. Just don’t keep us guessing.

A downward trend in the grades on your transcript or a semester of lackluster grades. Academic challenges do happen even to the most diligent student; just let us know why. Without explaining a semester of serious illness or other major life event, it may seem that lower grades in one semester are due to scheduling issues or struggling through intensive coursework, which may not reflect well on your prospects for a rigorous MBA program.

Re-taking your GMAT. Please let us know the date of your rescheduled GMAT exam. We won’t make an admissions decision until we receive your newest score.

At Smeal we value honesty and will consider every unique situation with fairness. Take full advantage of the clarification statement if any of these situations or other circumstances apply to your application. Every applicant is always given thorough and respectful consideration.

Brenda Fabian
MBA Associate Director of Admissions

Impact Smeal Day - Mentoring

Impact Smeal Day – Mentoring

Ways MBA Aspirants Can Maximize the Holidays!

December 11th, 2015 - No Comments

Across the world, many holidays are celebrated at the end of the calendar year. Holiday celebrations often come with time off, travel, and opportunities to connect with family and friends. Aside from taking a little time to rest and relax (a crucial part of staying healthy and productive!), the holidays can also be a good time for reflecting on the business school search and application process AND doing a little work to get ahead in the new year.

Some Ideas…

While students often leave university campuses in mid-December and don’t return until early to mid-January, staff is often working during some of the break. Don’t assume you can’t plan a visit just because students are gone! While it is IDEAL to visit when students are on campus and classes are in session, getting the time off from work or other obligations just may not work for you. Depending on your situation, this could be a good time to get some one on one time with an admissions officer or program staff—especially if you live close enough that could again visit in the spring when classes are back in session. If this is your only option, planning a campus visit during down time is much better than not planning one at all. Not all programs will offer this—and options may be limited—but it can never hurt to ask. (Side note: Many schools will shut down completely for about two weeks—please be patient with us if email response time is delayed during this time).

Maybe you haven’t seen Uncle George or Cousin Sara for awhile but they’ll be coming to town for a visit. While they are family first, they might also have had illustrious careers, have graduate degrees, and could be a wealth of professional information! Take the conversation to the next level. Sometimes we overlook great resources that are right in front of us. One word of caution—people might just need a break from work and might not want to talk about their career while they are decompressing during a holiday break. Be sensitive to this, and offer up the suggestion to connect after January 1st if the middle of Christmas Eve dinner doesn’t seem like the best place to talk about career goals.

Traveling? Others are too! Schools might have current students or alumni also going to a city near you who are willing to meet you for coffee. Start with the admissions office and inquire. Sometimes the stars align and you can connect while on the road.

The internet is 24/7. Have you been meaning to get on LinkedIn and start making some connections, exploring career opportunities, digging deeper into social media to learn more about b-school, what alumni are up to, etc.? Curl up in your pajamas and snuggle in with your tablet. No one says good research can’t be conducted while eating some potato pancakes or drinking a cup of egg nog!

Take time for reflection. The start of the new year is a good time to clarify what you need to do as you prepare for your journey into the world of the MBA. Depending on where you are in the application process, you’ve likely already done a lot of thinking and planning. There’s always, however, a next step to think about and plan for.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy end to 2015!

Stacey Dorang Peeler, MBA Admissions Director


Stacey Dorang Peeler at the GMAC Conference in 2015

Making the Most of a Preview Day

December 1st, 2015 - No Comments

You’ve been invited to a Smeal MBA Preview Day. It’s time to prepare, especially if you’ve also been invited to interview. Consider ways to maximize your visit.

You’ll receive a schedule for the day in advance. Review the schedule and determine whether there is anything else you might like to see or anyone else you might like to meet. Let us know as soon as possible what those activities may include so we can advise you or even make arrangements for you.

You’ll be meeting with staff from admissions, career services, employer relations, and student services. Make a list of any questions you have for each of these areas.

Where are you in the admissions process? Are you just starting to consider MBA programs or have you decided that Penn State Smeal is one of your top choice schools? What questions do you need to have answered to narrow down your choice of programs? What is your greatest barrier or barriers to pursing graduate business education? Are you concerned about costs, do you have multiple priorities and stakeholders to consider, or are you exploring academic readiness or employment issues? Be prepared to talk with current students and staff about class sizes, teaching styles, support services, and anything else you may be curious about.

Consider your background, our curriculum, and your short-term and long-term goals. Are any questions coming to mind for you? Hopefully you have some questions about your future! Questions related to goal planning, employers visiting campus and graduate outcomes are good places to begin when you meet with our career services and employer relations team.

The student services team supports our MBA students in their overall student experience, from classroom to career. Direct any questions you may have about life inside and outside of the classroom to our student services staff. What questions do you have about housing, co-curricular activities, academic advising and scheduling, global and leadership immersion programs, or any other questions related to a student’s MBA experience at Smeal?

You’ll have three opportunities to meet and talk with current students. Your first opportunity will be during Coffee Buzz which occurs between morning classes and just before you sit in on a class during your visit. Talk with current students about your academic and career interests. You’ll begin to expand your network very quickly as our current students connect you with their peers. Lunch will be hosted by current students. Faculty and staff will not be present during lunch. We encourage our current students to talk openly and honestly with prospective students because we want to make sure incoming students are a good fit with our program. It’s good to ask about challenges, concerns, and even disappointments. To close the day, you’ll have ice cream at Berkey Creamery with a group of current students.

Your final session includes time with our program director and faculty liaison. Ask any questions that arose throughout the day, during your class session, and about academics. This is a great time to learn more about why classes are structured the way they are and how you might make the most of a Smeal education.

Preview Day is exactly that – a preview. If you met a great student contact, email them with follow up questions. If you don’t remember who you met, work with an admissions staff member and we’ll get you in contact with the right person.

Throughout the day assess your comfort level about whatever is most important to you. Be sure to have fun too!

Brenda Fabian
MBA Associate Director of Admissions


Holiday Networking

November 24th, 2015 - No Comments

The holidays are upon us! How can you use them to network your way to a stellar job? Even as a prospective student considering an MBA, you can start the search for your summer internship now.

While some job seekers assume everyone they might want to reach will be out over the holidays, the smaller numbers of resumes and cover letters submitted then are likely to get more attention. Additionally, a firm’s new fiscal year may start in January, which can be the busiest hiring month of the year AND “people hire people they know and like,” so don’t be a stranger!

Many parties happen in December. Whether it’s your own office party or an event through a health club, social or religious organization, make it a point to be there and introduce yourself. Ask questions that show interest in people’s lives and career paths. If you commonly work with a small group within a larger firm, challenge yourself to interact with at least three colleagues whom you don’t know well and learn something about their passions. You never know who they might know in your target industry or what they’ve done in a previous job that may align perfectly with your career goals.

While it’s true that many folks add precious vacation days to national holidays to lengthen time away to visit family or flee to warmer climates, some do stay in the office to get work done in peace. Reach out to alumni from your undergraduate alma mater or other contacts you can find through LinkedIn at some of your target firms and request an info interview, even in the first couple weeks of December. Keep the note short and professional, asking for no more than 30 minutes to get insight on their function and how things work in the company. Briefly state your background and what motivates you to learn more, based on your knowledge of the firm. Indicating that you realize they may not have any openings at this time could relieve their potential concern that you’re reaching out just to ask for a job! Include your availability for a call or meeting over the next week or so and if you’re local or planning to visit the area on a particular day, offer to meet at the office or a local coffee shop, if that’s more convenient. Meeting in person can boost your credibility and demonstrates a clear willingness to invest in the relationship and your career.

A large percentage of people credit networking with helping them land a job. Building relationships can take time, so starting this process early is wise. At the end of your meeting, be sure to ask with whom the person recommends you speak, given your specific interests. This will enable you to join existing networks and get a broad array of perspectives on your function and industries of interest, either to help you clarify your goals or to prepare you for interviews.

Happy Holidays!

Emily Giacomini
Associate Director, MBA Career Services

Giacomini Orientation

Emily Giacomini at Orientation 2015

Six Attributes of Career Self-Reliance

November 19th, 2015 - No Comments

Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright was asked if there were any guarantees to lasting employment in the future. In her response, she said the only guarantee is of lasting employability; fostered by a positive attitude, strong communication skills, the ability to get along with others, the ability to solve problems and to accept change.

Brown Orientation

Mike Brown at Orientation, 2015

Within business and organizations, the old employment contract of job security and life-long employment has disappeared. Because of increased technology and the need to be competitive in the global marketplace, companies are constantly restructuring their workplaces.

Payroll costs account for up to 65% of total operating costs. “Doing more with less,” has become the mantra of American business during the last 15 years. The rules have changed and hardworking, loyal “company people” have found themselves in search of new jobs or new careers.

It is this concept of employability that must become a part of our mindset. Employability or career self-reliance rests with the individual not the employer.

The best symbol of the old employment contract was the “career ladder.” A representation of the new contract is the “career lattice,” or “jungle gym” in which one’s career will take an upward, diagonal, horizontal or even downward route. Under the new employment contract, we must develop a “self-employed” attitude; becoming self-directing managers of our own careers.

I believe these attitudes toward employability or career self-reliance are indispensable for future success:

Own your career. View your work as owner of your business. Career success is now your responsibility, not your employers. Set goals; plan the steps to achieve them. Regard your skills and technical abilities as products, being always aware of your marketability.

Assess and evaluate your accomplishments, abilities and personal strengths constantly. Chronicle your achievements quarterly, or at least yearly. Benchmark your competencies to others in your field or industry. Remain competitive and never become complacent. Standing still is moving backwards!

Be open to multiple career directions. If you could paint your “career mosaic,” what would each of those tiles say about you? Manager, writer, student, lecturer, furniture refinisher, volunteer, activist, hobbyist. You may have a “portfolio” career based on your skills, interests and values. Your opportunities to develop secondary work will become greater. At the same time, you will create multiple streams of income and work satisfaction.

Become a continuous learner. Enhance your work and life skills. Determine areas of personal or professional development that may be holding you back. Attend seminars and training seminars to acquire new skills. Pursue advanced degree, continuing education and certificate programs. Participate in lectures and speaker series.

Be passionate about your work. Do what you love and love what you do. View your work not as a job but as a value contribution to your employer, and a series of career accomplishments to bolster your own “product portfolio.”

Constantly re-think, re-define and re-construct your work. Be your own agent of change. You may reinvent yourself for three or four career changes and have 10 to 20 different jobs. The key is being proactive, rather than reactive.

The beauty if this wisdom is simple. It will change. As companies continue to reinvent the way they do business, we too must reinvent our worklife. With a new mindset of employability, however, you will control the choices.

Mike Brown, Director, Smeal MBA Career Services

MBA Diwali

November 9th, 2015 - No Comments

One of the great perks of attending a full-time MBA Program (and, honestly, being an administrator at one) is experiencing daily a diverse community of people. In this program, you learn a great deal from people who originate from a different background than your own. Our international students are always more than happy to share their cultures and traditions with us and our program is richer for it.

Our community celebrates three major events each year in order for us to learn more about various cultures. Those events are Diwali, Thanksgiving, and Lunar New Year. On October 26th, our MBA Association collaborated with our Indian students to host a Diwali celebration. Diwali is the Indian festival of lights and is the biggest holiday in India. The Diwali celebration in the MBA program, begins with an Indian buffet dinner (pro tip: if you haven’t had Samosas in your life, you’re missing out). Following dinner is a series of dances, songs, videos, games, and a fashion show. A large portion of attendees don traditional Indian clothes including beautiful kurtas and stunning saris.

This event is a wonderful way to come together as a community and experience this magnificent celebration. We speak often about how close knit our program is and events such as this one really make us a family. Because We Are!

-Susan K. Winarchick
Penn State Smeal MBA Admissions Operations Manager

Diwali 2015

From the left: Susan Winarchick, Samarpita Guha, Stacey Dorang Peeler, and Effie Li.

Is This My Fork?

November 5th, 2015 - No Comments

First year MBA students at Penn State Smeal recently completed Career Immersion Week. One of their workshops included an etiquette lunch. The presenter, Kelly Frager, put students at ease by explaining that much of the information she would cover during the meal would serve as simple reminders. Kelly explained how etiquette has been around for a long time, doesn’t change, and that this refresher etiquette lunch should help students feel more confident about their table manners. Because so many interviews and business meetings happen around meals, it’s important to be prepared.

Throughout lunch it was interesting for me to consider how casual dining, which is becoming increasingly more common in business settings, might inadvertently cause us to break the rules. In a formal dining situation, diners have at least two forks – one for salad and one for their entrée. Most casual restaurants will encourage us to keep our forks from appetizer through dessert. In a formal or casual dining situation, if you drop your utensil, you are supposed to leave it where it landed and ask for a new one. Of course it makes sense to avoid putting a dirty fork back on a clean table and you certainly wouldn’t use it for eating. However, I could also image a server in a more casual restaurant thinking it’s rude for a diner to leave their utensil on the floor, especially if it lands in other peoples’ path. Knowing the rules and understanding the expectations in both formal and informal settings is essential for making good impressions.

Students found the session to be fun and informative. As Kelly explained, etiquette is about being “other-centered.” If you’re focused on making others feel comfortable and put them at ease, you’re demonstrating proper etiquette. I also think about a quote from Oscar Wilde, “The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.” Because table manners involve more than just being courteous, I’m glad we offer an etiquette lunch to every first year class. Our graduates “roll up their sleeves” attitude and a top-notch curriculum with world class faculty, combined with refined manners help to explain why our MBA graduates are consistently successful in the workplace.

Brenda Fabian
MBA Admissions Associate Director


B-School Blog Halloween Edition: The Horrors of Fashion

October 30th, 2015 - No Comments

I’ll start by saying that by no means am I a fashion maven, or even what someone would consider a “snappy dresser”. I don’t seek designer labels, and I’ve been known to refer to winter as “black pants season.” Given my small stature, simply buying pants that don’t trail like a train behind me can be a major item on my “to do” list (translation–I have some basics that I stick to, and only occasionally do I stray from the “norm” when it comes to work dress). I do, however, have experience evaluating future business school students. And I can tell you, that while you can’t always judge a “book by its cover”, how you present yourself to a recruiter is very important. That includes what you choose to wear to a recruiting event, how you decide to style your hair and makeup, and what accessories you select. This advice is for men and women–so listen up. 

In the spirit of wanting to see people be successful and present themselves as confident professionals in the application process (yes–as early as the “just looking for information” at an MBA fair), I’ll proceed with a few tips that will hopefully help b-school applicants avoid some big professional dress “no-nos”. Unfortunately, my inspiration comes from a series of recent recruiting events (which, even in this month of Halloween, have scared me more than any horror movie). The egregious errors I will address are not for the faint of heart–but will hopefully serve as a warning to others. 


-Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy are classic film characters (and even breakfast cereal stars). Where they do NOT belong: on your leggings underneath your business casual, otherwise lovely, navy blue dress. 

 Bloody Bandages 

-Where you expect to see them: operating rooms, accident scenes, and in some Halloween decorations and costumes. Reality check: shaving accidents happen. That’s ok. Just please, PLEASE, change the Band-Aid before putting on your dress clothes. No one wants to see the aftermath of what happened in your bathroom earlier in the day.


-Traditionally used to cover windows, for vampires to hide behind in Bela Lugosi movies, and for the occasional nanny sewing project in such films as The Sound of Music. If your wardrobe choice consists of anything that looks like Mary Kate and/or Ashley Olsen wore it 10 years ago, save it for another occasion. The bohemian look can be trendy–but it’s not trending in the b-school application process. (For those mystery novel fans, “Curtains” is also a great book for spook season by Agatha Christie).

 Crocheted Ties 

-I love a good find on Etsy. I appreciate the handicraft of a talented knitter. I’ve even been known to crochet a scarf or two. Would I recommend wearing something grandma made with your suit, loafers and French cuff dress shirt? No. Points to said wearer for boasting school colors, but way too artsy for the business school recruiting fair scene. Save this tie for the school graduation celebration, and instead, pick a traditional silk tie–even one with a pop of color– if you want to add some whimsy to your business casual dress on recruiting day.


-If your dress begs the question “did she forget pants?”, it’s too short to wear to a business event. If that’s your best option, at least grab some tights or leggings. Enough said. 


-T-shirts are a casual staple. You can even dress them up (a little bit), with jeans and a blazer for a put together look. Logo t-shirts that boast the acts from the last music fest you went to and/or promote your favorite cocktail–paired with a suit AND SNEAKERS–don’t cut it. Just. Don’t. 


-They call undergarments unmentionables, because no one should be mentioning them. Only you should know what’s under that suit or dress. Do a trial run of your outfit and check a mirror from all sides. If anything is causing lumps, bumps, or showing through your clothing, it’s not the right item for your outfit.

 Questionable Graphics 

-If you choose to express your personal style on a handbag, backpack, or other garment/accessory, that’s up to you. Just think about the image it might portray in a professional situation (example: toting a purse with a handgun spraying bullets on your pocketbook might not make the best initial impression with those reviewing your grad school application.) Show them how tough you are by flying through the application process with professionalism and poise.

 In no way is this blog an attempt to thwart your personal style, but there is a time and place for everything–and that time and place may not be a recruiting fair. Use good judgment. Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter. Ask a good friend for a candid assessment. And then go out there and put your best foot (and shoe!) forward.

 Happy Halloween!

 –Stacey Dorang Peeler

THON Fundraising Season is Here!

October 22nd, 2015 - No Comments


MBA Soccer Fundraiser for THON

September 25th marked the beginning of THON fundraising for the 2015-2016 academic year. Our MBA students are again sponsoring dancers to participate in the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), which is a philanthropy run by students to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Four Diamonds provides assistance for children who are diagnosed with pediatric cancer and their families.

Last Friday, MBA students participated in a charity soccer game, where the 2nd year team defeated the 1st year team.  Each player made a donation and the proceeds were donated to THON. Upcoming fundraisers include a silent auction during our Diwali celebration and a Turkey Bowl flag football game.

If you would like to make a donation to THON earmarked for the MBA dancers, you can do so at this link:

Ann Mallison
Director of MBA Student Services

Behind the Scenes

October 14th, 2015 - No Comments

Many of you are probably wondering what goes on behind the scenes after you hit submit on your application. While I’ll save you from the tedious recounting of every single step, I thought it would be helpful to give you a general idea of the journey your application file takes once it hits the admissions office!


Susan is in her office somewhere!

Step one:  All of your submitted information, which comes to us through several different systems, is compiled by our team and checked for completeness. This also includes running essays through our iThenticate software. If any piece of the application is missing, someone from our team (usually Susan, our Operations Manager, will reach out to the applicant and let them know their file is still incomplete).


Step two: Every applicant’s file goes to a member of the admissions team for initial review. What are we looking for? Ultimately, a reason to want to invite you to an interview to get to know you better—which is the next step in the process! We will begin assessing your candidacy during our initial review in several areas, keeping in mind these three themes:

-Will you be academically successful at Smeal? (transcripts, GPA, test scores)

-Are your goals clear and are we the right program to help you achieve them and find the type of job that you want post-MBA? (resume, essays, video)

-Are you a good fit for are program, and is our program a good fit for you? (all parts of the application can help us answer this)


Step three: The first decision is made. Those we hope to get to know better and whom we think could be a good candidate for the program based on their applications are invited to interview, and an interview invitation is sent via email. For those who do not receive an invitation to interview, a deny letter is sent. This typically happens within 2-4 weeks of when the application is received. At peak times of year, it takes a bit longer to move people through the process.


Step four: For those who move on, an interview (in-person or via webcam) is conducted. During the interview, someone from our team seeks to learn more about your goals, your past experiences, what you want out of an MBA, etc. in the interview conversation. You will also have time to ask us questions. Remember, while we are selecting you, you are also selecting us! Have some questions prepared.


Step five: The next decision is made—the BIG ONE. After we have assessed your print file and video and evaluated your interview performance, the committee will determine if you will be offered admission, denied admission or wait-listed. These decisions are then communicated before the next round deadline. (Timetable: For those who are admitted, financial aid packages may be awarded at time of admission OR later in a separate communication. Aid, like admission, is done on a rolling basis, so just because someone doesn’t get aid initially doesn’t mean they might not receive it later in the process.


Step six: You evaluate, we wait. In your admission letter, you will be given a date by which you must communicate your enrollment decision to us and put down a deposit if you will attend our program—which we hope you will do if given the opportunity! Your enrollment deposit is viewed as your final commitment to us and holds your spot in our next class.


While this is a very basic, high level overview of our process, we know applying to business school can be stressful, and we hope this provides a little bit of insight into what goes on behind the scenes. We hope to see your application soon!


–Stacey Dorang Peeler

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