Getting Accepted: The Best of Jon Fuller

Thinker 2

Other Questions

Can I get into Columbia Business School with a 700 GMAT?

“I like your profile for CBS overall, but there are a few things that will help your cause there. These might not be totally novel/unexpected, but they bear repeating with this program.

One, be sure to engage with CBS as much as is feasible for you – visit campus, attend on- and off-campus events (online works, too), get to know some alumni/students, etc. CBS wants to be very confident that you truly are “extremely interested” in going to their school, and in this context actions can speak louder than just the words you might convey in your application.

An extension of this aspect is when you apply – with CBS, the earlier the better – I strongly advise that you apply through their Early Decision option. And by “early”, I don’t mean October 1 given the October 7 deadline. August 1 would be good, if not earlier, if you can get your ducks in a row and put together a strong overall application by then.

Lastly, your GMAT. Sounds like you’ve just taken it once? I would take it again if you’re confident that you can boost your overall and quant scores. If you were pleasantly surprised by either number, then you can probably sit tight, but if your preparation leads you to believe that you have a 720 or better in you, then it’d be worth your while to give it a shot.”

How would you answer the “Walk me through your resume?” (Should we focus more on the “whys” of our journey or more detail of each job duty?) and the “Tell me about yourself” questions (i.e. should we focus more on personal or strictly stick to our professional goals and what motivates those?)

“Thanks for your post and good to hear from you again. I really see those two questions as being fairly synonymous with one another and inviting very similar responses. One iteration or the other will often be the first question that is asked, especially in a typical blind interview context.

While you know that your interviewer can read, they’re still interested to hear how effectively you can pitch yourself and your background. Your answer should be a high-level overview to the tune of 2-3 minutes in length and shouldn’t cover every single bullet/experience in detail. This background primer allows the interviewer to ask follow up questions or dig into specific roles as s/he chooses.

More often than not, the structure and content of your comments should pretty closely align with what you’ve presented in your resume – where you’re from/grew up, where you went to undergrad and your major, your post-undergrad professional experiences, notable things that you do outside of work, etc. I’d plan to keep things more on the professional level overall. Your comment about providing some context about why you selected your particular school/major or changed from Job A to Job B, is on point, especially if some decisions are not necessarily intuitive on their own.”

Do you have any advice on extracurriculars?

“…yes, this kind of role could be an asset to your profile and MBA applications. Here’s some of the high-level advice that I give for extracurriculars/activities …when you think about this aspect of your profile, there are a few key things to focus on:

Depth in a few is better than dabbling in many. And depending on your situation, not everything you do might warrant a mention in your application.

Good to show consistent, active involvement over time.

Group-oriented activities are usually better than solitary ones. Example – being a dedicated distance runner is fine but doesn’t show much sociability. Participating and/or leading a running group would be even better.

Typically, the most ideal ECs are those that show that you’re engaged with a community and/or show leadership skills. It’s also great to have activities/hobbies that can be extrapolated to the MBA community through student clubs/orgs that are also tied to that activity/hobby. This provides some insight into what you have to offer the program and your classmates.”

Does the value of an MBA offset the opportunity costs?

“Thanks for your post. Broadly, yes, I absolutely think it’s worth the opportunity cost to attend an MBA program outside of the top 10. The further down you go, though, you do have to be a bit more attuned to the opportunity costs and many, many other aspects, too – like who your classmates will be, employment prospects in your intended post-MBA career path, alumni base and geography, etc. The numbers only tell part of the story, too – for better and/or for worse – so you definitely need to talk to some current students and recent grads to get a more nuanced impression of what those outcomes look like. Maybe those numbers are achieved by students working in a part of the country that isn’t acceptable for you, or at companies that aren’t a good fit for you. Average salaries and bonuses only tell part of the story.”

When are online or part-time programs a better option?

“…when you say “specific programs or program types,” are you wondering whether a PT or an online program would be a better fit to your interests/aspirations? I can imagine scenarios where either option could fit the bill for you, but part of my recommendation would revolve around where you’re actually located and what program options are in proximity to you. For instance, if you’re in a major metro area like NYC, Chicago, SF, or LA, then you’d have a variety of strong PT programs to choose from that would more easily allow you to balance your academic/professional/personal lives. If you don’t have access to a good program/one that offers the curricular offerings that interest you in your region, then an online option (Kelley and Kenan-Flagler are well established) may be a better fit.

Overall, I respect and appreciate your intellectual curiosity when it comes to MBA content, and lots and lots of programs could provide you with the raw content in a quality fashion. But to get the best return on your investment and help you the most when it comes to advancement, professional recognition, etc., earning your degree from a well regarded program with a strong brand is certainly going to be in your best interests.”

Do you have any advice on goals?

“For your goals, it’s always advisable to be specific. As I often joke, everyone knows that your application isn’t exactly a contract, but schools want to see that you have a very clear and realistic direction. Being specific helps you make that case. So I recommend you settle on an industry and a particular functional role within that industry. Taking it a step further and naming particular companies and job titles can help too, although your audience will understand if things are a little more gray the further out you go.”

“When talking about your goals in an application, it’s best to show a high degree of focus on your aspirations rather than to say that you’re considering A, B, or C. It’s also better to articulate goals that will be considered realistic and fairly intuitive given your background and experiences to date.”

What should I look at to get started?

“A thing I would encourage him to do is to really attend to the employment outcomes each program is likely to present him with…where (geographically) do graduates work? What do they do? What do they make? How long does it take graduates to secure employment? Even if he still doesn’t really know what he wants to do post-graduation, hopefully that sort of information will help him determine what his options might be with each. Also, he should try to take advantages of opportunities to meet the people who are likely to be his classmates in both programs.”

What are the best schools for management consulting?

“For consulting, you actually have lots of solid options. If you’re really focused on MBB, then you’ll be better off focusing on schools where those firms recruit heavily . . . no surprises with this list – H/S/W, Sloan, Kellogg, Booth, CBS, Tuck. Ross, Fuqua, Darden also do quite well w/those firms and are also strong programs for consulting.”


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