Archive for 2010

My Thoughts on Day At Kellogg (DAK), Round 1, Class of 2012

The more admit weekends I’ve been to over the past year, the more I realize how different each school’s culture actually is. Although many students come to town with similar career paths — consulting, banking, finance, marketing — the school culture usually take the lead at these weekends and so the divergent pieces of the programs really stand out.  This past weekend, I joined a couple hundred admits at Kellogg’s admit weekend (DAK). And it was definitely an interesting couple of days!

I was personally admitted to Kellogg last year — alongside Kellogg’s class of 2011 — not this year.  But because I’m in the JD-MBA program and began my program at the law school, I’m actually a part of the Class of 2012. That means that this year’s admitted students will be in my graduating class. So despite a pretty heavy course load at law school last week, I headed out to Evanston to attend as many events as possible.

The weekend was not only the perfect chance to meet dozens and dozens of classmates, which is something I thoroughly enjoy, but it was also a chance to really get a feel for the culture of Kellogg and for MBA programs in general.  And I feel like I had a pretty interesting perspective on things, given I’ve spent all year in law school, which in my opinion is completely different.  Here’s a quick summary of the themes I saw this weekend.

Diversity Reigns. Similar to what I saw at many of the admit weekends last year, the people at Kellogg are really diverse.  Admits not only came from Chicago but they also came from all parts of the US — both big cities and small ones — and all corners of the globe, all with a common purpose — to choose the right MBA program. Although on the surface there was a bit of commonality in the career paths of the admits, after doing some probing, everyone definitely had very unique career experiences and insights. I met students who worked in consulting, investment banking, investment management, private equity, start-ups, family businesses, technology companies, government agencies, political campaigns, marketing departments, and in a wide variety of other roles. And even within this categories, there was a pretty wide range of experiences. For example, in the consulting industry, I met folks both from the big three firms, and also from at least 15 or 20 other firms, including start-ups and middle market firms. And many of the consultants had traveled extensively around the world to serve clients in places like Dubai, Mumbai, London, New York City, and Barcelona. I found it pretty interesting to learn about people’s career experiences.

Academic theory has suggested that at times too much diversity can threaten a community’s ability to work communally. While the argument might have merits in some environments, the theory doesn’t hold at all in business school, especially at a collaborative place like Kellogg.  At Kellogg, all the activities are run by students, including DAK. And so in my opinion, student leaders tend to do a pretty good job working together and bringing people on the same page.  All of the sessions over the weekend were run by teams of five or six, and I was particularly impressed how most groups worked seamlessly together and how members were pretty good about jumping in when a teammate needed help.

That said, I did notice that some of that diversity seemed to get funneled out a bit in the recruiting process.  Although a number of students came in with unique backgrounds and even more unique dreams for the future, many first years ended up recruiting for similar industries and companies. At Kellogg, like some of the other top schools, students interviewed for marketing, consulting, banking and finance.  But this funnel is certainly not unique to Kellogg.

On one hand, I think these industries are great launching pads for a wide variety of careers — they equip you with the hard and soft skills to become better managers and leaders and often give you the credibility and experience to progress more rapidly.  But on the other hand, I also think there is merit in pursuing your career passion earlier than later.  Because the path to success is often long and hard, I think some people might be better off picking jobs that they are committed to from the start, engaging in activities where they will thrive in spite of setbacks, and undertaking leadership positions that allow them to be creative and implement their biggest ideas.

It’s A Small World. My experience at DAK also reminded me that the world can be pretty small sometimes. But this was not really a surprise. Technology and social media certainly brings all of us closer than we’ve ever been.  And over the weekend, I met a number of people I had pretty close connections to. I met the twin of someone I knew years ago at Stanford as an undergrad. I had a long conversation with an admit who’s good friend is the current roommate of my old college roommate.  I re-connected with a girl that was in my sister sorority back at Stanford.  I chatted with a student who is related to a section mate here at the law school.  And I even spoke with multiple people who had been followers of my website (thanks for following!)

It was definitely a lot of fun to meet and network with such an interconnected crowd. For many, the idea of networking induces negative emotions, as people too often think of networking as self-interested schmoozing, passing out business cards, and hoping to find a job. But to me, that’s a pretty superficial view.  For me, it’s all about meeting people, learning from their experiences, getting new perspectives on things, and most importantly being equally willing to do a favor rather than take one.  In my case, I’m usually more willing. Imagine if everyone had this mentality!

Questions.   Answering questions also seemed to be a big theme at the admit weekend, and admits had a great venue to ask lots of questions about the school. And dozens of first years came out, armed both with information and with time to answer the questions. And so the most curious folks benefited most, especially given the experienced pool of Kellogg students.

But I noticed this year, even more than last year, that some admits also enjoyed doing a lot of the talking. While talking is not necessarily a bad thing and although I’m also a big talker myself, my opinion is that having that mentality all the time doesn’t always work so well at these types of events.  Given first years have so much to offer, admits definitely lose out by not listening more.  Further, admits always run the risk of coming off a bit too arrogantly if they don’t take the time to listen. The first year students are there specifically to provide information about Kellogg, and so not listening doesn’t give them a chance to do what they came out for.

I personally think there’s incredible value to asking lots of questions. For one, there are so many aspects to learn about Kellogg, and that’s also true for many other schools too.  So the more quality questions you ask, the better. And even aside from the chance to learn something new or to hear about others’ perspectives, asking questions also provides one of the best venues to engage in genuine conversation. And so my opinion is that asking good questions, and doing so in the spirit of collaboration and generosity, is one of the best ways to get past the formality and really connect with a person. I found this happening quite a bit this past weekend.

Habit Of Decision-Making.   At most admit weekends, there are some people who have made up their mind to attend a school, and others who are still deciding. At DAK, I found a good mix of both, though definitely more people still in the decision-making process than I had anticipated. Some admits were still waiting around for other schools to get back to them. Others were waiting on Kellogg for financial aid information. A third group was so happy to get in, they hadn’t thought much about the decision. And a fourth group was relying on their DAK experience to decide.

To me, that whole decision-making process about school is also indicative of MBA programs. Business schools, as first evinced in the case study system, are venues that facilitate constant decision-making. Every single day, you have to decide how much time to spend in the library, how much time to prep for upcoming interviews, and how much time to spend out at the local pub celebrating with friends. And in some classes, there is the case — the cases often revolve around CEOs or other leaders who face adverse circumstances and have to make tough decisions, sometimes quickly. And so the student is put in the seat of the decision-maker and has to think through that decision. Sometimes with a lack of information. Sometimes in the midst of uncertainty. And usually with little or no experience (we’re just MBA students!). Schools like HBS and Darden use the case method a bit more than Kellogg (according to students I’ve met), but Kellogg is a great general management and leadership school and I’m personally looking forward to some of the case-based classes there.

From my experience this year, MBA programs are more welcoming of this style of decision-making than law schools are, both because these types of decisions are more common in business and because a lawyers job is to mitigate risk not utilize it. And so MBA programs prepare you with a willingness to take risks. To calculate those risks based on information and analysis, yes, but to take them. That said, the admitted students at Kellogg are pretty lucky. While some may see it risky to take on loans to get an MBA, it’s certainly not very risky getting a Kellogg MBA in the process.

Clubs Will Be King.  It was also clear that clubs are a pretty important part of Kellogg. Clubs give students a direct way to dive into various industries, functions, and other interests during school. On one hand, this access allows them to learn about different things they’re interested in. On the other hand, it also allows them to gain access to critical information that could facilitate a student’s progress toward their ultimate career goals.  But maybe more important than nature of the clubs and the information the clubs may have, club membership also provides an ideal venue for students to work on their leadership skills. Because most activities at Kellogg are run entirely by students, student leaders are accountable to organize events, meet with other student leaders and with administration, and execute agendas, for all events on campus.  At DAK, I was very clear how much work it took to pull this off.

Although some people tend to underemphasize this experience in the application process, I personally think that in the right environment (i.e like at Kellogg), organizing events and activities is a great way to practice your leadership skills.  In my own experience before Kellogg, I’ve spent significant time doing similar things in the community. Doing so, I’ve come to learn the power that comes with planning, organizing activities, setting priorities, and achieving goals. Especially when you’re 100% accountable for the results. And the good news about Kellogg is that you have the Kellogg brand backing you up, and that you can lead in a safe environment with classmates.

What About Leadership? So what do all these issues mean for MBA students — future firm managers and world leaders?  That’s a great question, and I don’t have the perfect answer. But one trend I do see is that there is definitely a change in the leadership skills that will be most effective going forward.  And while there are certain leadership qualities that will always be critical – the ability to influence others, create change, build consensus, and rally people to action — today the ability to lead in more diverse environments, to listen to the perspectives of others, to understand and collaborate with different cultures, and to maintain a broader perspective are also important. Leaders will need to use these abilities become more adept at developing relationships in the high-growth yet still shrinking “small world” that is developing.

And in the end, my personal opinion is that leadership will continue to have more correlation to the ability to connect with others, to exchange information, and to build new relationships. What do you think?

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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 Leadership 3 Comments

Applicant Question: Should I Also Pursue a JD?

It’s that time of year, when people from all over the country are hearing back from graduate schools and trying to decide what to do with the next few years of their lives. Many will choose to go to business school and spend two years gaining a wide range of opportunities and learning experiences. Another group of students will choose to go to law school and spend three years reading cases, writing memos, and honing razor-sharp critical thinking skills. And there’s one final group who, in number, is only a tiny fraction of the applicant world. They will decide to spend time doing both.

The good news is that either degree on its own, especially from a top school, will look great to an employer. On the other hand, the dual degree can also be attractive, depending on your target industry, career goals, and development objectives. I recently received a question from a potential applicant with this dilemma in mind.  The applicant is leaning towards applying to MBA programs but also has questions regarding the value of a law degree.  The applicant listed out a few specific questions that I’ve responded to below.

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QUESTION FROM MY READER

Jeremy, After graduating with an economics and agri-business degree, pursuing a career in trading stocks, bonds, commodities, financial derivatives, and other forms of equity is a dream of mine. After some experience in trading, I would like to open an estate planning / financial planning firm, capitalizing on the baby boomer generation coming to retirement age as well as retiring farmers that are cash heavy and have a limited idea on how to capitalize on the markets. Feeling an MBA degree would benefit me the most, I find the JD degree is also attractive to most hiring. I have started to look into studying for the LSAT and GMAT but am not sure which would benefit me the most. I currently work full time at a top 5 financial institution working with attorneys and debtors every day trying to avoid foreclosure of their real estate properties by underwriting their loan and approving them for a modification. Here are a couple of questions that I have for you, 1. Is the JD something that will benefit me? 2. What is more valuable when applying; grades, work experience, or test scores? 3. Would my work experience be good grounds for my personal statement? 4. Since I want nothing to do with Litigation, will a JD be pointless? Thanks for any help or guidance you can relay, feedback is most appreciated, thanks! (Name)

MY RESPONSE TO MY READER

Hi (Name),

Thanks so much for your question and for checking out my blog.  I hope you find my posts to be informative and that you continue to check for new posts and articles as you contemplate your application.

In general, this is a great question, and I’m glad to see you weighing your decision early.  Many applicants rush into one program or another for a variety of reasons, but would benefit to think more deeply about it.  As I’ve mentioned before in quite a few posts, the MBA and JD are very different programs–they will test you in very different ways and will help you to hone very different skills.  That said, graduates from both program come out as well rounded professionals, smart, critical thinkers, and highly capable. Also graduates of both programs are very valued in a wide variety of fields. So the answer to this question comes down not only to your specific personal career goals but also the skills you want to develop to help get you there.

1. Will a JD benefit you?
This is nearly impossible for anyone but you to answer, but I can certainly give you my thoughts on the JD and a few thoughts on how it might relate to a profile like yours.  In general, my opinion is that the JD is a highly valued degree.  This is true across a variety of industries, sectors, and positions. And in my personal experience (which in your industry is a bit limited), it is also true in the finance industry, although this may be less so in a trading role, as traders generally don’t tend to possess JDs.  But that said, no degree is valued the same in a single industry, so I suspect that many finance firms, and even some interviewers at within the firm, may give a law degree more value than others do.

That said, you should not only think about how it will add value to your professional options but also think about how it will add value to your current skill set. A law degree is often valued because of the perceived skills and knowledge you gain while in school–the ability to identify the issues, think critically and analytically about those issues, and also organize information and communicate that information persuasively. Many employers also value legal training because it helps students to do a better job at assessing risk.  And others, because they believe it’s good proof that you are smart and can work hard. So it might also be important to assess whether these skills are important in your own development and also in the industry and companies you seek.

2. What is valuable in law school application?
My first response is to this question is that this will be very dependent on the specific school, on the skills you actually bring to the table, on the legal experience you already have, and on when you decide to apply.   Generally speaking, I think that well-rounded applicants tend to do best in graduate school applications.  That said, law schools very much value intellectual horsepower, which they usually measure based on an applicant’s grades, test scores, and other similar measurable statistics.  But it’s hard to say exactly to what extent that holds. And based on my experience, I personally think that there seems to be a trend (a very small trend) that law schools are beginning to look more broadly at applications and perhaps are giving a bit more weight to work experience and leadership qualities, as articulated in the personal statement and evidenced in your activities and recommendations. But this seems to be a pretty modern trend, not to mention a tricky topic that is not consistent across schools just yet.  And since I have less experience with this aspect of law school admissions, I’d recommend talking specifically with target law school admissions teams about that question. And my guess is that Northwestern Law–a school where work experience and maturity are highly valued–will respond differently than some of its competitors. Most schools also talk a lot about this the admissions websites.

3. Should I Include Work Experience In My Personal Statement?
Though I haven’t written many personal statements for law school, I think the answer here is definitely yes. The personal statement portion of an application is important in my mind for two reasons.  First, given that law schools have traditionally relied on statistical measures, I think the personal statement gives an applicant the chance to differentiate his or her profile a bit more, which I suspect is really important when schools are comparing candidates who look identical in terms of test scores and grades.  This is especially true because, unlike MBA programs, most law schools don’t require interviews (Northwestern Law is one exception), and so an applicant has less chance to personalize the written application.  Second, law schools generally put a heavy emphasis on writing, so your statement is a great way to convey that ability.  The ability to structure your thoughts and organize a series of complex events.  The ability to articulate a persuasive and compelling story and to narrate it in a lively yet realistic manner.  And to do both of these effectively, I think an applicant would be at an advantage to not only discuss school activities and future goals, but also to discuss substantive work experiences and how they will help you in your journey in the legal field.

4. Litigation?
Of those I know, most JD-MBAs here have not gone into typical litigation roles after graduation, and I think that is consistent with many top JD-MBA programs. In some respects this is because the MBA portion of the program adds certain business skills and knowledge, that students can leverage to do well in corporate law. And conversely, corporate firms do value the degree. Further, from what I’ve seen about Northwestern Law specifically (not JD-MBA), it generally tends to have a pretty businessy edge to it as well, as in many instances, classes here approach both the practice and the study of law with a business emphasis. And so as a result, many JDs here also go into corporate law. That said, many Northwestern Law students (non JD-MBAs) also definitely go into litigation. (To get the most accurate and up-to-date information on career paths, you should probably visit Northwestern Law’s Admissions website. The law school here does a very good job at discussing their admissions strategy and the school’s overall strategy. It should also give you some of the recent numbers on where graduates have gone to work.) In light of all the data I’ve seen, my general response here is that you definitely don’t have to want to go into litigation to make the JD useful. And that’s especially true, if like I mentioned above, you think more broadly about the usefulness of the law degree.

So in sum, my opinion is that there is more to a law degree than hopping into an industry or qualifying for a company.  And also in my opinion, the JD-MBA is a powerful combo if it’s the right fit.  But the fit question is important.  And the way to best determine fit is to gather as much accurate information as possible to make a personal decision Unfortunately, I don’t have any numbers on hand about the industries you mentioned. But one piece of advice I do have is, don’t put too much trust in websites or in people who neither have the experience working toward the degrees or the admissions experience to make meaningful remarks about the programs.  Most sites will tell you that no job needs both degrees and that employers won’t value them. And while that may be true in some specific instances, it’s quite untrue in others. And in my opinion, it’s also a bit silly, because no job really “requires” any degree to be proficient in a role.  And so while their opinions are interesting and sometimes valid, they may also add little substance to your decision.

So the real question for you, after you research, is if it’s worth it for you specifically. The cost, time, network, skills, varied experiences, and the trade-off of breadth and depth. And at the end of the day, you’re best positioned to answer that question. And considering the potential investment, it also makes the most sense for you to answer it.

Good luck!

There are important skills and values, and significant bodies of knowledge that you can acquire prior to law school and that will provide a sound foundation for a legal education. These include analytic and problem-solving skills , critical reading abilities, writing skills, oral communication and listening abilities, general research skills, task organization and management skills, and the values of serving faithfully the interests of others while also promoting justice

Saturday, February 13th, 2010 Admissions 2 Comments

Kellogg Stats Waiver Exam Results

Just yesterday I found out that I passed the Statistics waiver exam that I wrote about in a post last week (Click here for post). Most of my JD-MBA classmates also passed, which is good news. Before the exam, I was a little worried given I had never taken stats before, but I put in some good study time the night before, and was able to learn the material pretty quickly.

The exam itself was three hours, and the material was a bit harder than I predicted it would be and a bit harder than the practice test.  But then again, most “final” exams feel that way. Fortunately, we were able to use a calculator and bring in notes into the exam.  And because all the material was still so fresh in my mind, since I had just  studyied the night before, I was able to reason my way through all of the problems and eventually figure out most of them, or at least enough of them to pass.

I took the exam over at Kellogg, not the law school. Although he didn’t proctor it, a Kellogg professor did grade the tests. And yesterday, the school emailed me a copy of a document that he wrote up, which provides everything that I’m expected to know as I move on to future classes. While the DECS 433 course seemed interesting, it’s definitely nice to move ahead and to make more free time for electives at Kellogg.

So now the question is which exam is next? … Maybe Accounting? Maybe Stats 2? Or maybe none of the tests–since I think the other classes would be useful to take.  At this point, I’m not sure.  But if I do end up taking another waiver exam, I’ll try to post a bit of information on my experiences with those as well.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 Uncategorized 4 Comments

1L Job Search Continues

Last August, most students came to Northwestern Law ready to study hard, perform well, and make their way to a top tier law firm. But for some, that plan got thrown out of the window a long time ago. By November, before recruiting ever began for 1Ls, the economic environment was the nation’s center of attention. So students began making appointments with advisers. And the career center quickly took charge and did a good job of loudly communicating the message to keep our options open. And in December, students started pumping out applications. To law firms, government agencies and non profits. Both big and small. You name it, somebody sent it.  All in hopes of an interview.

But things have definitely shifted a bit over the past few months.  After a rocky and unpredictable start, students are now balancing school with their job searches. Some students seem to look a bit more stressed, and some seem in more of a hurry. But most of the group seems to be staying cool and collected–the older Northwestern Law students seem to hand pressure well.  And as for the rest, you really just don’t see them at the school very often. Only in class, the career office, or dressed in their best suit on their way to an interview. In fact, on any given day you’ll spot someone cruising the atrium in their best suits and newly shined shoes. It’s so common that nobody usually takes a second look.

Also more students are increasingly becoming interested in non-profits and in public service organizations, which is a great by-product of the economy. And this isn’t just happening here at Northwestern, students are feeling the urgency at most of the top schools. I recently spoke with a friends at Penn, Harvard, and Chicago, and the climate is similar.

In general, the first year law student job search can be a bit chaotic. In some sense, it’s a bit of an unstructured process, where companies post jobs periodically, others come in one by one to OCI (on campus recruiting process), and others come drop by for career fairs or employers mixers.  Unlike second year summer recruiting where all the employers come during the same period, interview dozens of students, and hand out offers, most 1Ls rely on an individual search.

The up side to this less formal process is that you can do a lot of it at your own pace and on your own time. For some, this means getting done very quickly or being able to spread the search out over time, which may help you with balance. The down side is that for most it will end up taking longer, given there are less jobs to go around.  For some, this might mean making a trade-off between grades and the job search, if students don’t balance everything correctly. And that decision may depend on first semester grades or on work history. But it’s hard to say how things will turn out this year, here or elsewhere, because we’re still right in the middle of the process.

So at this point, a lot of 1Ls here are still looking and deciding what to do for the summer, which is typical, even during the best recruiting years. For one, some students don’t want to get tied down without going for their top job choice first.  Others will sometimes work a few different angles at the same time, which may lengthen the process. Although I suspect less of that will happen this year.  Also, the 1L schedule usually lasts through the spring, given the majority of first year students don’t even begin until January.

The hard part though, in writing a more detailed post, is that recruiting, just like most of law school has a big element of secrecy.   Just as most people don’t say much about grades, an ever smaller number talk about jobs, especially early in the process and especially now when things so uncertain. I think a lot of the 1Ls followed the lead of the 2Ls, who recently went through the worst recruiting cycle ever and thus were quieter than normal.

But personally, I’ve been asking around, and I’ve got a bit of information on a small number of first years, and some have already locked down jobs. Some will be working for government agencies, like the FTC, others at non-profits and legal aid organizations, and others clerking for judges here in Chicago and elsewhere in the U.S. But I suspect that many students will be working on recruiting for a good chunk of the semester, and some for the full semester. For those hoping to work in GC offices or at firms, the large majority of hiring decisions have not been made yet.  In fact, some firms haven’t even begun their interview process.

As for the JD-MBAs, most of the group is not going through the 1L recruiting process.  Instead, they’ll be taking classes full-time this summer. A few are looking at short-term assignments before classes begin, and a smaller few are going through the recruiting process.  But the good news for JD-MBAs here at Northwestern is that part of our program includes the opportunity to work at either the Small Business Opportunity Clinic or at in a local company General Counsel’s office during the first summer. Both experiences are supposed to be a lot of fun and a good chance to learn a lot.  I suspect that a majority of my classmates will end up working in either of the two roles. We’ll see how the numbers turn out.

Saturday, February 6th, 2010 Law School 2 Comments

#AskJeremy: Applicant Question – Taking The GMAT Multiple Times

In a recent message from one of my readers, I was asked for a bit of advice about the GMAT.

My usual first piece of advice to GMAT questions is to remember, that it’s one part of your application and will almost never “bar” you from admission and that you should be careful aiming for a higher score if it comes at the expense of other pieces of your application. However, unlike most applicants with GMAT questions, this reader has already made it to the promise land and scored above a 700.  His concern is that took four attempts and a few bad testing incidents to get there.  Check out my response to the question below!

MESSAGE FROM MY READER

Hello Jeremy,

Your blog’s really nice. Very informative. I interviewed with Kellogg on campus yesterday for the jd-mba program. It was a wonderful experience visiting both the Evanston campus and the Chicago downtown campus (great views from the library there!). I work on Wall Street for a prominent Investment Bank (Bank Holding Company now) as a front office quant. The JD-MBA program at Kellogg is my first choice. My application is under review by the ad com now, however I was quite keen on understanding a few things about how Kellogg considers multiple GMAT attempts? I had to take the GMAT 4 times to crack the 700 barrier. Although unfortunate a couple of times, I had to file incidence reports with GMAC because of bad testing environment (with other co-test-takers shouting out numbers in their math section while i was doing my RC in the verbal etc), I cant possibly give those as reasons for my below-par-performances. I am proud of my perseverance toward cracking the 700 barrier however. Kellogg clearly says that they consider the best score if the latest and the best score are equal. Is this really true? Does the number of GMAT attempts weigh down an application heavily?

Thanks.

MY RESPONSE TO MY READER

Dear (Reader), thanks for writing in with your question about Kellogg and for reading my blog. I’m glad you enjoy the site.

First off, congratulations on finishing your Kellogg interview. It can definitely be a nervous part of the process for a lot of candidates. It sounds like yours went well, which is good news.  Also, you’re absolutely correct about our library. The views from that side of the building are pretty amazing, and they can be quite distracting in the fall and spring if you study by the windows, which can be a good or a bad thing. And finally, I’m glad Kellogg is your first choice and I hope you were that enthusiastic when you completed your application. My opinion is that the JD-MBA program does their best not only to select top tier applicants but also those who demonstrate that they  really want to come. While this is clearly not always so easy to predict, I suspect that the best applicants are able to convey this message pretty clearly.

Now to your email–First, I think this is a really good question, and it’s one that I also thought about back when I first considered applying to b-school.  It’s funny, but like you, I quickly noticed that generally some programs don’t clearly state their policies online–some seemed to exclude them while others made me search every possible link to find it.  Off hand, I don’t know where Kellogg fits into this sphere–and perhaps they may list it openly on the site. But I wonder if not focusing on this fact is actually a good thing, because it keeps students from worrying too much about the logistics and instead allows them to focus on achieving their target scores and giving their best efforts. That said, I still don’t really know why the schools have decided to go about it this way. Perhaps, it was not purposeful.

But from experience, I suspect that you may not need to worry too much about it.  I think the fact that GMAC allows you to take the GMAT up to 5 times per calendar year and that MBA programs don’t object suggests that you’re chances of admission will not “significantly” change.  I’ve met admits from other top MBA programs who have taken five tests. Also, the fact that GMAC sends the past three tests scores (and not just one), in my opinion, seems to be more correlated to the fact that schools may want to see scoring trends over time and changes in performance. I’ve actually asked admissions reps about this before, and most will concede to looking for positive trends from candidates, though I’ve never heard anyone mention seeking out negative trends. And third, the average GMAT score published by online by MBA programs, in my experience, reflects each person’s highest score across the entering class, not each admits average score. This suggests that schools may place more importance, at least in terms of public perception, on the highest scores.

What does all this mean? It’s hard to say for certain, but I think it reflects both admissions’ desire to see upward progression on the test, and their significantly stronger desire to see your highest score. And in my opinion, the only time that taking multiple tests really comes into play for those who improved is for candidates with mid-range scores or with borderline applications. Then the committee might look for upward score progression or look at quantitative and verbal score combinations over time, to see if you perhaps had a string of bad days in one section, to see if you’re a hard worker, or to find other (in)consistencies in the application.  For example, if there were two candidates for admission, where one that had a change in GMAT score from 600 to 640, and the second who scored a had 600, then I suspect that the extra effort would be applauded.  Conversely, if you have to take it twice to hit 600, just to apply with the same score as the other applicant, then while you might guess that the second person would look better, it’s also possible that the committee may admire your persistence, rather than think negatively of your profile. It’s hard to predict what anyone might say for certain, but I can’t think of many cases where multiple GMAT scores would “dramatically” ruin your application.

I do agree that your case seems a bit different, but I’m glad you didn’t write much about it in the information section. For one, Kellogg plainly tells you that it considers your highest score and second because most committees don’t want to hear anything that might sound like an excuse.  But, in terms of Kellogg specifically, they are usually pretty similar to other top schools when it comes to the GMAT, and I don’t have any reason to believe that they’d look at your scores any differently than what they said. So I’m pretty certain that they aren’t taking the average of your scores, but it’s always hard to say anything for certain. But here is what I do know for certain. I do know at least a dozen MBAs at top ten schools who had three and four GMAT attempts. I also know multiple JD-MBAs in this program who took the exam more than two times.  I personally did not crack 700 on my first GMAT attempt.  In fact, I was far from it. So rest assured that candidates like you, with upward trends in scores, final scores above 700, good resumes, and good interview (as you seemed to suggest) usually do pretty well in the admissions process. Of course, this assumes my very first point above, which is that you didn’t use the four attempts at the expense of other parts of your application.

I know may this not have been the perfect “yes” or “no” you were looking for,  but I hope it answers your question. Best of luck with all your applications, and with the JD-MBA program!  Feel free to let me know how things turn out.

#AskJeremy

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Friday, February 5th, 2010 Business School No Comments

Good Article: Law Firm Diversity

Diversity has become a bit of a buzzword over the past few years. People use it about as much as business people throw around the word “leadership,” as frequently as admissions teams talk about “fit,” and as habitually as law school professors use the word “reasonable.” But thankfully, many institutions today are taking it more seriously. Chief among those institutions are law firms, especially California law firms according to a recent article I found.  Among other things, they are promoting diversity on their websites, starting diversity scholarship programs, increasing target “interview” numbers, and giving diverse employees a seat at the executive table.

I recently found an article that discusses this very issue. The article focuses more on the diversity of new hires than of executives and diversity scholarship, but it raises a few interesting points about ensuring that diversity continues to improve–talking a little about some of the tactics firms are using to recruit and also about the way firms are collaborating to tackle the issue.  Ultimately, the end goal for firms is to use the best tools they can to work effectively and more systematically on the issue and to finally bring change to the legal industry. It sounds like some firms may finally be on their way. And not only is this true in California but it’s definitely true for firms based here in Chicago too, firms like Vedder Price, Foley & Lardner, Kirkland & Ellis, and Perkins Coie (HQ Seattle but big Chicago program)

This could be a really big moment in law firm history. Is your law firm staying on pace with the new diversity standard? What about your business? Or your school? If not, then how will you and your organization fit in going forward?  Will you resist change or will you finally adjust and help push this new standard forward? Why … because sometimes the best leaders aren’t always the entrepreneurs or those who come up with the bright ideas. Instead they’re often the ones with the intuition to quickly recognize another good idea, adapt, and then work in diverse teams and broker complex networks to influence others to do the same. Business and law firms have the current opportunity to lead in the push for diversity.

Please see below for a link to the article.

Title: Study: California Law Firms Lead In Diversity — But It’s Not Easy
Source: Fenwick & West LLP
Article Link: Click here to read the article

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 Diversity No Comments

1L Networking Event With Employers

We’ve all had that feeling before. The sudden adrenaline rush that shows up right before you’re one chance to pitch a product to your most important client. That flood of nervous energy you can’t seem to shake, but instead paralyzes your body the moment the hiring manager walks out and says hello. The feeling that you must have miscalculated and that now you’re in just way over your head. This is how a lot of people feel when it’s time to network. So they stay as far away from networking as possible. But there’s just one problem. If you’re looking for a job, or want to lay the foundation for a future one, then networking is one of the most effective things you can do.

Now don’t get me wrong, some people do just fine without taking single stop into a networking event. And perhaps you can too. But at the end of the day, there’s not whole lot of benefit to running away from the crowds and deciding that you’d prefer to meet fewer people than your peers and competitors. Not only do you lose out on the chance to “build your network” as some people might say, but you also forgo the chance to meet some pretty interesting people, to hear about issues from different perspectives, to quickly catch up with current trends and changes, and to build a couple of good relationships along the way.  And equally as important, you skip out on the chance to help someone else to do the same.

Just last week the law school put on a pretty interesting networking event with a couple of our school’s partner law firms.  The point of the event was twofold. On one hand, it gave students an intimate and safe venue to speak with attorneys from various major law firms, all of which will come back to Northwestern to recruit next fall during OCI.  But the event was also pitched as a time for students to practice their networking skills. To think about how to ask the right questions, telling the right stories, and effectively engaging in small talk.  I personally suspect that the networking spin for the event was partially a response to this year’s economy.  Since less firms are doing hiring this year, specifically amongst first year students, I suspect that the school assumed it would be a good use of the event to give students time to practice interacting with attorneys.

Our careers office strongly encouraged students to attend the reception, and they flooded our Inboxes with email reminders.  And the students responded.  The final turnout reached max capacity.  And so sixty to seventy students put down their books for a few hours on a Wednesday night and made their way to the law school for the chance to speak to attorneys from McDermott Will & Emery, Perkins Coie, Ropes & Gray, and Winston & Strawn.  All four firms tend to spend quite a bit of time at Northwestern, and I personally ran into a couple of lawyers that I had met previously, including an employment attorney from Perkins Coie, who I had just run into a week before the event, as well as an attorney from Ropes & Gray, who I met last semester.  I also found the chance—right at the beginning of the event—to strike up conversation with an attorney from McDermott. I had seen this person at Northwestern once or twice before, but I never the opportunity to chat with her until this reception. We had a pretty good conversation and ended up trading a few Northwestern stories since she was an alum.

As this last conversation suggests, I personally tend to look at these events as a good way to meet new people, rather than a venue to gain an edge.  As a result, I usually tend to be pretty comfortable, and I typically end up talking to a pretty good number of people (recruiters and attendees).  You might say that one of my incentives is that because I’m personally interested in the Chicago market, there’s a good chance I’ll run into many of the people again. But I’m not so sure that’s the case. For one, that idea does’nt really crossed my mind at these events.  Instead, I usually tend to spend more time thinking about the things I mentioned above. That I’m in a venue where the odds of meeting interesting people, building new relationships, and learning are high.  And it’s also a great venue to be a resource for others, as people often rely on you for pieces of information, need you to introducte them to someone you know (including recruiters), or maybe they just need a spark of inspiration, which they might find because of your energy or generosity.

In any event, the reception turned out to be pretty fun, and for me was well worth the time.  For others though, it’s hard to say whether they feel the same way.  I suspect that many of the 1Ls would say that the event was not worth it.  There were fewer attorneys that showed up than expected, there were a lot of law students at the event so face time with the attorneys may not have been optimal, especially for the less outgoing, and frankly the event was “practice” and and not the real thing.  But I do know a few who enjoyed the experience.

Also, most of the students at the event were 1Ls and not 1Js (term for first year JD-MBAs). While some JD-MBAs do participate in the OCI process, many decide not to work full-time during the first summer and instead take classes at Kellogg and the law school. But even if that weren’t the case, the JD-MBAs tend to be pretty skilled and comfortable at networking events, so many of them may not have found this “practice” event useful.  But personally, I tend to think these events are gold mines. Less so for the hope of reeling in that rare six-figure salary job offer and more because it’s a great chance to meet (or see again) a lot of people and recruiters, the majority of whom are there to do the same thing. And in the end, there is no doubt that there will certainly be students who find jobs and firms who find employees along the way.

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Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 Law School 2 Comments

Good Article: Authenticity And Admissions Essays

For many people, writing essays is the most feared part of the admissions process.  It can serve as a huge barrier to entry to those less skilled at writing, or as an unnecessary time-consuming hurdle for those without the time or energy to write them. Other applicants thrive on the essay section. For those applicants, essays are the perfect chance to express who you are at the core, to talk more deeply about your accomplishments and reflections, and to convey your hopes and dreams to the admissions team.

Schools tend to agree with the latter perspective, especially MBA programs. But because writing a good set of essays for multiple schools often feels like a herculean task, applicants have tended to recycle essay material across multiple applications in hopes to create some economies of scale.  Sources indicate that some applicants even take it further by using online materials and old applicant essays to supplement their own.  It looks like schools may finally have the chance to confront this challenge.

Just today, I stumbled across a quick article that suggests MBA Admissions teams will soon have the opportunity to tighten up the essay writing process. It suggests that the day is near where applicants will no longer be able to submit the same essays to Kellogg, Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, and Stanford, and in fact, maybe not even submit “similar” essays.  Further—and more importantly in my opinion—applicants will also not be able to steal ideas or rip-off information from online sources, as this new “Big Brother” tool will also compare an applicant’s essays to online sources and past application essays.

I see merit to both sides of the debate. In some sense, this service is going pretty far out of the way just to ensure that students can’t take a line or two from online sources that are usually highly irrelevant to your personal story and pretty scarce anyways. But on the other hand, today’s business school applicants are usually pretty resourceful, and with enough Googling or Binging, most of them can navigate the web’s darkest cracks and corners to uncover the hidden treasure they might be looking for.  And so this service may be a good incentive not to do that.

In the end, I think that most schools aren’t out to punish applicants per se. Instead, I think they really just want to hear the applicant’s voice –  the way they talk about values, reflect on past leadership experiences, and inspire others with their dreams and their compelling stories.  After all, conventional wisdom says that good leaders are also good storytellers. Stanford Business School takes a similar approach to essays.  Admissions Director Derrick Bolton has long-advised that applicants strive to write authentic essays and not perfect ones. On the website he says “Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us. This is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams. In your short answer responses, we learn more about the experiences that have shaped your attitudes, behaviors, and aspirations.” I personally think he has an interesting point.

Check out the BusinessWeek article below.  And decide for yourself how you feel about the possible service.

Title: Crackdown on Plagarims in Admissions Essays
Author: Louis Lavelle
Source: BusinessWeek

Click here to read the article.

Sunday, January 31st, 2010 Admissions 1 Comment

Optimizing Our Coursework. DECS Waiver Exam

statisticsHow can I optimize my academic experience in the JD-MBA program? That’s a question many of us here at Northwestern think about tpretty often given our limited time at both Kellogg and Northwestern Law. The general answer seems to be take more classes we enjoy, take less required courses, and enroll in more classes that will help jumpstart our careers. But that’s easier said than done given the steep course requirements at the law school, not to mention the foundational courses needed at the business school. But hopefully that won’t stop a few of us from being able to lighten up our required b-school course load this semester and make our transition to Kellogg more exciting this fall.

Just this week, the JD-MBA group finally received the results of the waiver petitions we submitted a few weeks ago. Many of us hoped that Kellogg would help us lighten our b-school core by giving us credit for relevant college courses.  A number of JD-MBAs got classes waived, including Accounting, Finance, and Statistics, while many others did not receive any waivers.  A third group of students have been out of school for just long enough, that although they may have deserved waivers, Kellogg decided not to give them credit because of the time.  For the second and third groups who ended up without waivers in some classes, we’ve decided to take Kellogg’s waiver exams to try to waive courses.  The first exam is tomorrow morning 9am sharp, less than 7 hours from now. And it’s for Decision Sciences (DECS) 433.

DECS is really just a fancy title for Business Statistics, which is a class where you apply statistical mathematics to business topics such as “inventory management, supply and demand, principal-agent models, herd behavior, selection bias, rare events, real options, and risk.”  Although it sounds pretty interesting now, tomorrow morning at 9am, a group of us are going to do the best we can to pass out.  Me and one of my classmates have never taken statistics before, so it should be interesting to see how it turns out for the two of us. We just started learning most of the coursework last night, and we’re quite thankful for two amazing classmates who stayed at the school late on a Friday night just to give us a crash course.

Turns out one of our classmates is a stats guru, and the other is a pretty gifted teacher who taught LSAT, GMAT, and SATs for a while before Northwestern. We’re both pretty thankful they offered to stay around to help, and we’re both feeling pretty good about the test now. But no matter how the test ends, I suspect we’ll both be pretty happy.  Either we’ll be excited to pass out of the class and to take an extra elective course at Kellogg or we’ll take a stats class that sounds pretty interesting and learn all about business statistics.  So it that sense, it’s a win-win situation.

In the end, we all just really want to optimize our time in the shortened program, and that not only includes taking as many new courses as possible but also learning all the things we need to learn while here, including stats if need be.  And no matter how the class plays out, its always a lot of fun spending time with our JD-MA classmates and learning about the new and interesting experiences everyone has had. In fact, it oftens turns out that these end up being some of of the best experiences.  Hopefully we’ll all pass the test together in the morning. I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 30th, 2010 Business School 4 Comments

2010 Day at Kellogg Admitted Students Reception


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