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Entrepreneurship at MIT

Earlier this year, Kauffman Foundation published a report on the key role that MIT has played in setting up and fostering companies to boost the economy. You can find the detailed report Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT on the Kauffman Foundation website.

Key points highlighted by the report are:

1. There are about 25,800 companies set up by MIT alumni

2. Over 3.3 million people are employed by these companies

3. These companies generate annual world sale of about $2 trillion, which is equivalent to the 11th largest economy in the world.

This is a very detailed report and shows the important role MIT has played globally to foster entrepreneurship and innovation. If you are considering applying to MIT in Fall 2009 or if you are waitlisted by MIT. I would highly encourage you to read this report to better understand MIT and its culture.

Waitlist Strategy

So you have been waitlisted. Well the good news is that you still have a chance to get admitted and the school kinda wants you. The bad news is, you are a backup for the school. If someone with a profile that is similar to yours, declines the school’s admission offer then the school will take you off the waitlist and accept you.  But wait, you are not the only student on the waitlist so if the school lets you send updates, then you have to show your love for the school and a strong desire to attend the program to get off the waitlist.

School’s use waitlist since they know that some of the student’s they extend offers to, will not accept them. Most times, the school extends excess offers based on their yield, but often the school has to reach into its waitlist and extend offers to candidates who are on the waitlist to complete the class. Most school’s do not rank their waitlisted candidates. Therefore, if you are on the waitlist, your chance to get off the waitlist is the same as the next guy on the waitlist. This is your chance to outshine the fellow waitlisted applicants.

While on waitlist some schools such as Chicago Booth and Columbia, let you send updated material to provide the admission committee additional information before they make a final decision on your application. On the other hand, school’s such as Wharton will not accept any updates and will make a final decision based on your original application.

So before we can come up with a strategy to get off the waitlist. Let’s discuss some of the most common reasons school puts you on the waitlist and what they mean.

1. They are not convinced that you will be able to handle the academic rigor of the business school or a fancier ways of saying this is – the school wants to see more example of your intellectual vitality. This basically means your GPA or your GMAT is below the school’s mean GPA or mean GMAT.


You cannot go back and change your GPA. The best thing to do is get another recommendation, where the recommender can vouch for your intellectual horsepower and provide specific instances where you portrayed superior analytical skills. If GMAT is the issue, you can retake the GMAT and provide the school with the updates score. Note: If your score is just 10 points less than the school average, then GMAT may not be an issue. Most applicants are obsessed with GMAT score. Only retake GMAT if you are confident you can increase the score by atleast 50 points. Retaking GMAT can be a good way to show the school your interest. It shows you are willing to go through the pain of taking a standardized test again.

Hint: Think why would the school want to lower their mean GPA or GMAT because of you. You need to provide them with a compelling reason.

2. Another reason can be that the ad com believes that their particular school is a back up for you. This basically means you have not provided enough reason why you wanted to attend the school, or your reasons were “brochure” reasons without any insight or thought.


The best way to show the school that they are your first choice is to visit the school. Again, some school’s such as HBS don’t care, if you visit or not, however school’s such as Columbia and NYU Stern care a great deal about school visit.

While visiting the school, try to set up a meeting with admission committee member, if you are successful this is your chance to show your commitment to the school and convince them that the school is your first choice school. Admission committee members do meet with applicants. Treat this as your second interview and bring out your A game.

You can also write another essay, however, make sure you provide unique reason to attend the school and not the same ones you used in your original essays.

3. One major reason for placed on waitlist is that, the ad com does not believe you are passionate about your goals, or they don’t think they are realistic. This basically means, the ad com thinks you are telling them what they want to hear, to get an admission.


Situation like this can arise when you do not show commitment to your goals. For example you might be working for a management consulting firm for the last four years and never spent an hour doing com unity service, but now all of a sudden you want to start a non profit to help kids in Somalia. This example is an exaggeration and will mostly get you a ding, not a waitlist, but my point is that you have not shown any progress towards your goal or your story sounds fake.

Again, you can write another essay, which shows that you are passionate about your goals. Also, you can have your recommenders vouch for you. In addition meeting the ad com to convince them in person could do wonders to your application.

To conclude, if you are put on a waitlist and the school accepts additional material, then send them a letter thanking them for their time immediately after you have heard from them. And follow it up with a school visit, additional essay and/or recommendation letter.

Hint: People do all kinds of creative things to get off the waitlist. You can create a powerpoint presentation, rather than a plain essay to convince the ad com. In past, I have known people who have written songs for the school and created picture collages. Whatever you do, your main aim is to convince the ad com that – 1. You will accept the admission, if offered. 2. You are clear about your goals and are willing to work hard to achieve them, and 3. You are a great fit at the school.

Columbia Business School – January 2010 Accelerated Admission

The Columbia Business School’s January 2010 application will be available on April 20th. However, they have decided to keep the same essays that they had for the September 2009 start. Below are the essay questions along with some analysis and strategies to help you answer the questions.

Columbia Business School Application Essay Questions:

1. What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Recommended 750 word limit)

The purpose of this essay is to convince the ad com of the following things:

1. You have clearly thought through your goals. You know what you want to do right after school (short term goal) and what you want to do in 5-10 years (long term goal).

2. You have tried to progress towards your goal. If you are a career changer. This will be hard to show. However, you need to show why you want to change careers. What attracts you to the new career and why will you be successful (for some reason – B School’s like successful alums :P) in the new career.

3. In the essay you want to weave in some of your accomplishments and show how you grew because of them. I know this is not required in the essay. But you want to distinguish yourself from everyone else who is just answering the question.

4. Why CBS is THE school for you. And although they love to say that they are in New York. But I think location as a reason to attend the school is a very weak reason. Especially, since there is NYU Stern also in New York. Please be more specific as to the programs, clubs, professors you like.

5. The ad com will also try to see how much in “love” are you with CBS. I personally think CBS really cares about applicant who show their “love” in the application. You want to talk about school visit, alums you have spoken to, school information sessions you have attended etc etc. Anything that shows you have gone out of your way to learn more about your “love” – CBS

6. Another important point to convey in this essay is – Why do you want an accelerated degree and not a regular degree?You need to reflect if you can achieve your goals without an internship. Be sure to highlight why the J-Term is ideal for you.

Essay Layout Suggestion: Please consider this as just a suggestion.

This is the standard question which asks you to elaborate on your short term and long term goals. I suggest clearly stating your short term and long term goals right in the beginning (preferably in the first paragraph). This will help set the stage for your reader to know what to expect in the upcoming sections. Also, in the section where you describe your short term goals. It would be a good idea to link one unique point about Columbia Business School (CBS) which attracts you to the school. This will show your interest and strong desire to attend the school.

In the next few sections you should explain why you chose that goal and what you have done so far to show your growth towards achieving your goal. I know you are applying to business school to get to your goals. However, “theoretically” business school should  just accelerate your progress towards your goals. If you are determined to achieve your goal, B School or no B School, you should get there. This is also an opportunity for you to talk about your achievements and how you have grown both professionally and personally from your experiences.

One thing to keep in mind is that the best essay’s that I have seen are those in which the applicant has tied his/her desire to attend the target school, and the strengths of the school at multiple stages in the essay. Some people leave it at the end to answer the question – Why our school? However, if you answer the question at the end it seems more of an after thought. I suggest subtly weaving CBS’s strengths in your essay and show how they will help you achieve your goals.

2. Master Classes are the epitome of bridging the gap between theory and practice at Columbia Business School. (View link below). Please provide an example from your own life in which practical experience taught you more than theory alone. (Recommended 500 word limit)

View with Real Player:
View via Google:

CBS has shrewdly included a marketing video in one of their essay questions. To answer this question successfully please check out the link to Master Classes. This essay requires you to highlight a situation where you learnt much more from practical experience rather than any classes. You can talk about situation which is work related or extra-curricular. Some good topics to consider while answering this question can be social-interactions. Very few college courses talk about social interaction. Maybe while working you learned how to deal with various personalities. Or you can highlight professional learning such as some aspect of your work that you did not know, but you learned (and mastered) on the job because of practical experience. You can, at a very very high-level, view this as an achievement essay. Where you don’t know something, you learn it through practical experience and master it. However, be cautious not to use your achievement essay as-is. If you are re-cycling essays, and I know most applicants do, please spend sometime to tailor it to answer the question.

Some consultants will say that learning is not important, it is the practical experience which you need to highlight. I don’t think I fully agree with that. I think the learning is as important as the practical experience. The learning will reflect how mature you are in your thinking. Spend sometime and pick an example where you can highlight your recently (and I use the word recently loosely – in the last 3-4 years) learned something important.

3. Please provide an example of a team failure of which you’ve been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (Recommended 500 word limit)

Ahhh the dreaded failure essay. My strategy for answering the failure essay was the following. I used to spend about 100 – 150 words to set up the situation. Another 100 words to describe the failure and the remaining 250 – 300 words on the learning’s and how I grew. And if you are ambitious and have words to play then include an aspect of the business school program which you know will help you overcome my weakness.

Hint: Look out for Program on Social Intelligence (PSI) at CBS. If you have a “people” story then PSI will be a good program to bring out. This will show that you have done your research on the school. You have tied all your essays to CBS and most importantly this program is more or less unique to CBS and hence, you can show your desire to attend the school.

I am sure there are other things you can also use which will show your desire to attend CBS. My main point is to tie as many of your stories to CBS as possible.

4. (Optional) Is there any further information that you wish to provide to the Admissions Committee? (Please us this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.)

Believe it or not, I think this is the hardest question to answer, if you chose to. The most common reasons for answering this questions are:

1. Below average GMAT score. And by below average I mean less than the mean for CBS which should be around 710.

2. Below average GPA.

3. Break in work experience.

4.Anything else you want to provide to AdCom.

Analysis of this question is a complete post in itself and I will try to have one soon. I will put the link to the new post here. However, in the meantime, if you have any particular questions feel free to leave a comment and I will try my best to respond as soon as possible.

Your Dream Business School Part 1

There are number of factors to consider when selecting the business school you want to apply to. One of the most important factors to consider is the Teaching Methodology

Every person learns differently. Some people like group projects and team based case discussions while others thrive on lectures. There is no right answer on which school to go to. However, it is important that you realize how YOU learn the material best and which schools use the learning style that you are most comfortable with.

Below is the table which shows different teaching methodologies and their break down by percentage.
Teaching Methodology

It is clear that some schools such as HBS employ case method extensively (about 80% of material is delivered through cases), while other schools such as MIT Sloan balances various different teaching methods. Again, select a school which complements your learning style.

School Rankings – It’s not the be all and end all of your MBA journey

One of the most debated topic during the business school applications season (which seem to last year round) is the business school rankings. The two most cited publications for the business school ranking are – US News and Business Week (BW) . Although, rankings play a huge part while selecting a school, but as an applicant you should know the strengths of each school so that you can get the most out of your business school degree. In one of the upcoming posts I will get into detail on what to look when selecting a school.

I personally believe that US News provides a more accurate representation of business school rankings. However, there are people who beg to differ, especially students at Chicago Booth (Which is currently ranked number 1 by BW).

Although, rankings are important, but they should not drive your decision to apply or accept an offer. The only time when you will discuss rankings so much, will be NOW (during the application season). Do you even know what your undergrad institution is ranked currently? If you know the answer, more power to you. Also, if you care about rankings so much there is no way to guess what your b-school ranking will be in 5 years or 10 years down the road. So although, you might get into a top 5 program now, but in 10 years it might be ranked lower.

So to sign off, I just want to say that don’t obsess over rankings. Is there a difference between HBS and Kellogg. Yes definitely there is. But will it matter how your career progresses. Not really! You can be a superstar at Kellogg and love your 2 years there or you can be an infamous Harvard grad (Check this story – Harvard Begins Case Study as Tainted MBAs Reveal Damaged Brand )