Archive for November, 2010
Monday, November 22nd, 2010
So, why should I move to University Park and do a full-time in-residence MBA when I could much more easily do an MBA online? This is a question we get quite frequently in admissions. The first thing we recommend is that a prospective applicant looks carefully at his or her career goals, financial situation, life circumstances, and in general what they would like to get out of an MBA program. Of course, there are merits to online programs and live full-time programs …and executive MBA programs, part-time programs, but the key is knowing what specific degree and program is going to open the doors that you need it to open, and ultimately, how will you best set yourself up for a successful MBA experience?
Recently, in my own personal graduate education journey in a part-time Penn State program (not the Smeal MBA), I had to choose between taking an online summer course or delaying my studies until fall when the next live class I needed was offered. After researching my options (talking to faculty in the department and students who had done both online and live classes in the program) I decided to “take the plunge” and give online a shot. As a “non-traditional student” (aka—older than most in this case!), I was a little intimidated by the thought of using online classroom technology (even though I am exposed to various types of web-based applications in my job on a daily basis). Of course, as a part-time student I also had the luxury of doing a summer course as a “test drive” vs. having to make the decision to enroll in a full-time program without first testing the waters. I thought this would be great for me, as online study would give me more flexibility than having to be in a classroom at a certain time on a certain day.
I found out quickly, however, that not having personal, face-to-face interaction with other students in the class and the instructor was a significant change from what I was used to. So, was change bad? Not necessarily, but it was definitely different. As the weeks progressed, I found that I was having trouble catching on to key concepts that I had not been exposed to before. Despite doing the reading, e-mailing with others in the class, and watching the lessons online, it just wasn’t really suited to how I learn best. Others in the class were veterans at taking classes online, and did just fine, but I realized that this wasn’t the best learning environment for me. In essence, it was a learning experience and I’m glad I tried it. I’m sure others will be very successful pursuing their degree online, but I learned that that type of learning experience just wasn’t for me.
In conclusion, I learned to take my own advice. Explore, research and talk to others—and then decide what’s best for you!
Monday, November 15th, 2010
Mothers around the world always tell their children “just be yourself and people will like you.”
When writing application essays or preparing for an interview a potential candidate must be true to themselves and resist the urge to try and tell the Admissions Committee what they think it wants to hear. Every candidate wants to “get it right” with the perfect essay answer. Every candidate wants to “impress the committee” with their plans to be CEO of company x, y or z by the age of 35. Guess what? There is no perfect answer and your lofty goals don’t impress the committee nearly as much as answering why an MBA is right for you and how it will help you get to where you want to go (even if you’re not sure exactly where that is).
Our Admissions Committee reviews over 700 applications and interviews nearly 400 candidates yearly. The people we remember and the people who “wow” us rarely have the perfect answers or the most impressive goals. They are the candidates who let us get to know them on a personal level. If you know yourself and do your best to allow us get to know you in your essays and interview, it can go a long way towards setting yourself apart from the application pool.
It turns out all those Moms were right… again. I guess we should all go and wash our hands, eat our vegetables and put on clean underwear.
Monday, November 8th, 2010
Most people shift career paths at least once in their lifetime. In fact, that is why many people seek an MBA. About half of our incoming classes change careers while they are here. When I was younger, I knew that finance and financial analysis was the perfect area of business for me. I enjoyed the numbers and problem solving that went along with the analysis. When I sought my MBA, I thought my focus would be in finance as well. Well, life happened and my focus shifted towards strategy.
Time went on and while I found myself in different positions, they typically focused on data and strategy. However, now I am in a very new and unique position. My role in Admissions for the Penn State Smeal MBA program has taken (pushed) me into the field of Social Media Marketing and marketing in general. What a different world I have entered! Suddenly my creativity is linked to my numbers. The people who “like” what I post determine the success of my endeavors. The learning curve for social media is somewhat steep. I have had to jump in and learn as I go. I learn more every day, and attempt to share what I’m learning with others on my team. What I have taken from this experience is that sometimes life throws you opportunities that aren’t in your plan, and those situations are the ones that can teach you the most.
- Ann Mallison
Monday, November 1st, 2010
I love standardized testing. I love math. And well, data sufficiency problems, I’d rather do those than eat ice cream in the park on a sunny day. For those who know me, they know I am kidding when I say these things. They also know that I am math averse, and that I struggle with the format of multiple choice tests. Having worked with many graduate school and business school bound students I can certainly empathize with the pain applicants feel as they gear up to take the GMAT or GRE. So much is riding on four hours in front of a computer. No wonder tests give people anxiety! So, why do admissions people make candidates go through the trials of standardized testing? Because standardized test scores give us a yardstick with which we can equitably compare candidates. If a candidate takes a standardized test like the GMAT, we know he or she is tested on the same content and concepts that another candidate who might have a completely different background has also been tested on. In addition, research shows that tests like the GRE and GMAT are predictors of academic performance in the first year of a graduate or MBA program. Believe it or not, admissions committees WANT applicants to do well on these tests. We hope that they will prepare and get competitive scores and get into the program that is the best fit for them. A student who is in a program that is a good fit where they can succeed is a win/win situation for all.
Rest assured, however, standardized test scores aren’t the only thing the committee is concerned with. We also want to see a record of successful previous academic performance, leadership experience, work experience, and solid essays, goals and recommendations. At Smeal, we truly look at every part of the application to determine fit. However, if you can get a stellar test score, not only can it help you gain admission to the program, but it just might help you lock in merit-based financial aid as well.
So, what can you do to prepare for the exam? Plan in advance for your exam, understand what the exam questions are asking, and practice for the exam. There are many options to prepare (classes, tutors, books, etc.), and each candidate should choose the best method of preparation for him/her. No one should go into a test site and unprepared for the questions they will face when the exam begins. Someone who has never run before doesn’t get up one day and decide to run a marathon that afternoon! The same idea applies to achieving a competitive GMAT or GRE score and reaching the goal of being admitted to the program of your choice. Instead of looking at the GMAT or GRE as a hurdle, look at it as an opportunity to shine during the application process!