#AskJeremy: Advice on Real Estate Programs and the GMAT

JCW_Logo_blog_photoIn a recent question, a reader in New York asked me asked a question about real estate programs and the GMAT.

As usual, I did this during my first take. Given the size of the question, I kept my response fairly brief. If anyone has any follow up questions, feel free to send them my way. See below for the question and below that for my response.

Good day Jeremy Wilson, this is Ezra. Hope your Thanksgiving week went well with family. Thank you for the advice on career advancement when we met at Cornell University’s Information Session in Fall 2008. I have decided to pursue obtaining my masters in real estate development finance. To help me move forward in taking the next steps, any advice on courses, study materials and resources for preparing for the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) would be greatly appreciated. I thank you in advance for information provided on the subject.


Here is my video response.

embedded by Embedded Video

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High level summary:

1.  You’ll have to choose between MBA programs where you can study real estate/finance or Masters in Real Estate finance programs.

2.  MBA programs (despite being a great launching pad) can provide challenges as most don’t have large real estate programs and you’ll have to convince employers/real estate firms that you really want to do it.

3. The program you choose will determine the test you take.

4.  If you end up taking the GMAT, many people who do well take classes.  I took Manhattan GMAT as did a number of others I know.

5.  It’s also a good idea to mix resources. One thing I did and like to recommend is to use a book from another GMAT company. That book will probably ask questions differently than the format of the class you’re taking. This will make you more prepared for the range of questions/styles that could come up.

6.  Remember to be organized with how you study, to understand what parts you need to work on and that all sections are not weighted equally.

As always, let me know if you have any more questions! 

Happy New Year!

#EducationMatters #AskJeremy

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 AskJeremy, Business School, Education 2 Comments

Ask Jeremy: What are the odds of getting in?

In a recent question all the way from India, Anita asked me about getting into JD/MBA programs.

See below for the question and below that for my video response.

Hi Jeremy,

I am from India. I was born and raised there and I currently work in India. I have a 760 GMAT and am sure that I can manage a good LSAT score as well. Do you think the odds of getting into a JD / MBA program are greater than getting into an MBA program at H/S/ W ? Would you happen to have the stats on what % of applicants to JD/ MBA program at H/S/W are admitted ?

Thanks !



In short:

1. Consider the other great JD/MBA programs.

2. Don’t get caught up on stats.

3. Focus on your story.

4. CLICK HERE for recent admissions advice.

Good luck!

Ask Jeremy: Response to Ryan about a masters degree in business & technology?

In a recent question, Ryan asked me asked a question on behalf of a friend about getting a master degree at the intersection of business and technology.

See below for the question and below that for my video response.

Source: Twitter

@ryantcameron  @jeremycwilson IT friend is looking to get his Masters. Which degree is the best value for a general biz and IT background? #AskJeremy



Structure of my response

Good question.  Business and technology will continue to merge.

Three options.

1. Dual Degree

2. MBA+ Classes at other schools

3. Traditional Masters + Business courses

– MSM (MS&E) degree.  See Wikipedia page with school options

Think about your career goals when deciding.

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 Admissions, AskJeremy No Comments

Ask Jeremy: Can you share any advice on recommendation letters for fellowship program?

In a recent question, a reader asked me about choosing recommenders for a fellowship application. Specifically, she wanted to know who to use and what they should write about.

See below for the question and below that for my video response.

Dear Mr. Wilson,

It was a real pleasure meeting you at the networking event last week. I intend to take you advice in my quest for success. I read your blog and I have to say that I am truly impressed. Not only it is very well known, but it serves a purpose that I take at heart. Education.


As I told you yesterday, I will apply to the (Name) Fellowship Program. I went through the application today. For the letter of recommendation,  I am not sure if I should ask one of my undergraduate teachers, one of my teachers from grad school, or my boss from my last job, what do you think? Also, when it comes to the personal statement, I was wondering if I should focus on my work experience or on my life experience from my home community.

Any advice would be helpful. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.


See below for my video response.


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Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 AskJeremy, Careers 2 Comments

Ask Jeremy: “Can you give me some interview advice?”

In a recent question, a reader asked me about interviewing. Specifically, the reader is interviewing for both jobs and possibly for MBA programs.

See below for the question and below that for my video response.


Hi Jeremy,

Congratulations on all of your success! Thank you for the website as well. I am looking to join an MBA program and also doing some interviewing for jobs currently.  I wanted to ask about specific challenges to expect during the interview process, and also ask for any tips you might be willing to share. What were some of the key things that you thought helped you enter the program? Thank you.


See below for my video response.


In short, I talk a little about 1) Framing your answer, 2) Content of your answer,  3) tips on interview style and  4) general tips.   Note that the answer here is pretty high level given the general nature of the question.

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Monday, November 19th, 2012 Admissions, AskJeremy, Education No Comments

Ask Jeremy: “Social enterprise and how to bridge gap between the nonprofit and business?”

In a recent question a reader asked me about the Social Enterprise world and about getting an MBA, or JD/MBA.  Her question was a bit complex and long, but I wanted to answer in the very first take.

As always, we’re working on improving the formatting of the response video, but for now:  “Done is better than perfect.”  See below for the question and my video response. And see below that for a few follow up links that I provided.

Hi Jeremy

I hope you’re doing well. I came across your blog while I was researching the JD-MBA program at Kellogg, as I’m currently applying. Great blog! I just had a few questions about the program and school in general, hopefully you can help me out. I have an international background, having lived in 5 different countries in the past 7 years, working, volunteering, and studying in the fields of education, journalism, human rights, and nonprofits. I’m looking to bridge the gap between the nonprofit and business sectors with my JD-MBA. I wanted to ask you about the SEEK program, in particular. I understand that almost every school has a social enterprise program/club, but why do you think, if you’re familiar with it, Kellogg’s is different? I know that they have an annual conference on social impact and innovation, but are there any other programs or even specific classes that are unique to Kellogg in this field? And as a JD-MBA, are you able to take classes at the Medill School of Journalism for elective credit? I know those are some charged questions I’ve asked, but any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much!




Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for getting back to me. No worries about the delay. I haven’t applied to any just yet … If you could still shed some light on the Kellogg experience, that would be great and much appreciated. Thanks so much and looking forward to hearing from you.



Here are a few noteworthy things to keep in mind with the SEEK department at Kellogg specifically.

Hope this is a good start


Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 AskJeremy, Business School, Education No Comments

Ask Jeremy: “Can you give me quick resume feedback?”

In a recent question a long time reader asked me how she could improve her resume.  Specifically, since she is applying to the MLT program for the upcoming year.

Hi Jeremy,
My name is Hashima and I am applying to MLT third round which is next week. I am not sure if my resume format is good enough. I have attached my resume, so you could view the format. I was wondering if you have any advice on how I could improve my resume. I will appreciate any advice you have on improving my resume because I always find useful information from your blog. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thank you,

Below is my video response.  The video quality isn’t perfect yet, but the lighting and formatting do continue to get better.



Monday, November 12th, 2012 AskJeremy, Business School, Education No Comments

#AskJeremy: Applicant Question – Can I Transfer To The JD-MBA Program?

The business and legal industries are radically changing.  Today it’s impossible to escape complex legal issues as a CEO in business. Similarly, if you’re a leading corporate lawyer, you consistently run into firm and client business issues, especially in today’s environment.  How can an employee who’s been in the industry for years keep up? And even if they can, would they be better off being trained in both business and law?  While some students know early that they want both degrees, others decide to make a career change later in their careers.  And then there’s a third group that comes to the conclusion during their first year of law school.

I recently received an email about someone in that very position.  They are interested in attending Northwestern Law and asked about transferring from Northwestern Law into the JD-MBA program.  If you’ve done a few Google searches, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not a topic that has a whole lot of public information, and in my view one where the answer is highly dependent on the specific person.

Nonetheless, I’ll provide a few of my thoughts here, and also present you with how I might think about the decision if I were in your shoes.  But I’ll also preface that given the lack of information, I won’t make many assertions and unfortunately can’t provide many data-driven answers.

See below for the question and below that for my response.



Dear Jeremy

Thanks for the blog. I was wondering how feasible it is to transfer from the NU JD program into the JD/MBA program. I spoke to admissions, but they did not seem to provide a very clear answer. Do you know if JD transfers to the JD/MBA program are common?




Hi (Name)

Thanks so much for visiting my site and for sending your question. I’ll preface my response  by saying that, as I alluded to in my intro paragraph, this is definitely a tricky topic, which is likely why the response from admissions may have “seemed” a bit unclear to you.  Not only is it a topic without much concrete information to begin with, but it’s also one that’s turns out to be more convoluted than you might think.

As you’ve probably already noticed here on Northwestern’s website, the JD-MBA program, unlike Northwestern Law School, does not accept transfers from other schools.  I suspect there are a number of reasons for that, one being that the JD-MBA program is considered a real joint “program,” not two disjointed graduate school programs.  As such, it has a handpicked class that gets to know each other well during the first year, the students are afforded the opportunity to strategically take certain electives in the fall that you would likely not take at another school, and we go through the same recruiting process together for our shortened and more intense first summer.

On the other hand, as you deduced, there is no “formal” policy against transferring from the law school to the JD-MBA program.  So why the unclear answer from admissions?  Probably because the process is  unclear, and also because transfers are not typical in the program.  One reason may be because transfers are not typical to MBA programs generally, which is the program you’d be in at the start of your second year upon transferring.  And if you’ve taken the time to look at our site, the JD-MBA application process at Northwestern is managed out of Kellogg.

Another reason, which is much less concrete, is that admissions has always been somewhat of a “black box” anyways. And that’s not just at Northwestern, but it’s the case at most top schools, especially business schools.  That’s because admissions has to balance determining the composition of a class, aligning competitive test scores and GPAs, looking at things like diversity of background and country of origin, read your personal story and assess fit to the program, and in the end make sure all of that fits together every year.  And for Northwestern, this is true not only of Kellogg but the JD-MBA admits must fit the same way at the law school and in the JD-MBA “program” specifically.  A herculean task by all measures, and one that can’t be described in a simple email or phone chat.

And one last reason that it’s difficult to measure success (i.e. “feasibility”), because there’s not much good data out there. For one, it’s hard to say how many people actually apply to transfer every year.  People certainly do, but I suspect a number of applicants don’t disclose to students that they apply, both (i) because of the complicated nature of the process and (ii) because of the competitive nature of getting admitted to Kellogg.  So it’s impossible to tell you how many people apply every year, and I also can’t estimate any number that might come to Northwestern Law with the hope to come to the JD-MBA program.  My hunch is that the latter number is not that big.

But perhaps more importantly than the pure numbers, is the probability that many transfer candidates don’t submit their best applications. That’s because to apply to business school as a 1L is a hard task. Taking the GMAT, writing your essays, interviewing, and worrying about your application are hard enough on their own, let alone balancing that with being a 1L, which has long been considered the hardest year in any graduate school.

Similarly, the application process to business school tends to be more difficult because the application is so different. Law school admissions have long stressed grades, writing ability, and the LSAT. On the other hand, business schools tend to emphasize things like quantitative skills, leadership qualities, and management experiences. So they look for different things in the application, and as a result, it’s likely many law students don’t submit the right information in their applications.

Further, there’s also the challenge that most candidates have that the biggest qualification for top business schools is strong work experience, and at a school like Kellogg it’s usually either prestigious or very interesting experience. And that’s in addition to managing teams, leading high impact projects and having strong sense of where you want to take your career, something many law student don’t bring to the application process because their focus was different and are often a tad younger.

As a result of everything I just described above, I’ll reiterate that law students likely don’t always submit the best applications, so this should not necessarily discourage you from applying if you do come to Northwestern Law.  Instead, remember that people have applied to transfer from Northwestern Law and have gotten in before.  And so a low acceptance rate may not be as relevant to someone who really does fit the MBA profile and has significant experience. If you have the experience, credentials, and a good application, but for some reason never knew about the program, then in year’s where there’s space, they will probably consider your application.

In sum, transferring into any program that has all these requirements would seem to be a convoluted process, and a nearly impossible process to quickly explain to a “potential” applicant to the program.  Ultimately, you’ll have to really asses your desire to obtain both a law degree and business degree, and balance that with the risk of not getting into Kellogg and only obtaining a law degree only.  On the other hand, if you decide the risk is not worth it and wait to apply to the JD-MBA program, that ‘s also risky, because the JD-MBA class is small and getting the program is competitive.  And in the end, it’s just a balancing test of sorts, and a decision that only you can make.

So take your time to think about it.  Collect as much information as you can. Talk to students in all of the respective programs. And try to speak with admissions, who will know more than any other source.  And after that, all you can do is use that information to formulate a plan. And that plan should be one that makes the most sense for you in terms of fit and interests.

And in the end, no matter what you decide (MBA, JD/MBA, or JD application), your success will likely hinge on your ability to not only prove you have what it takes to get in (intelligence, scores, experience, etc.) but also on writing the right type of application for each school and in the process evincing why you would be a good addition to the class.

I hope this helps.  Best of luck whatever you decide!

#AskJeremy – Careers Question: Undergraduate Major and Path To CEO

Becoming CEO of a top company is no easy feat. Most of them tout bachelors degrees and MBAs from world class schools, are on the board of multiple Fortune 500 and non-profit organizations, are over-networked both in and outside their industries, and have long lists of professional credentials and positions that would make just almost anyone envious. That’s because to get to the top in today’s global, hyper competitive world, it’s almost a prerequisite for executives to be on that path early — to gain significant training and exposure, experience at high performing corporations, strong mentor relationships, and also a quality business education, not only in terms of management but also in the realm of finance. And in a recent message from a reader, I received a question about just that.

I recently received a question from an undergraduate student who is currently thinking about what to study as he goes into his junior year of college. I responded with a few words, which I’ve shared below. But I’ll also note, that my answer only scratches the surface, as this question is complicated. Not only as there are an infinite number of factors that change over the course of a twenty year career but also because interests and career paths change too, not to mention ongoing changes in the economy.  To that end, it’s impossible to talk about all of them in a single post. Hopefully this response will be a good starting point.

Dear Jeremy,

First of all, I love your blog! It’s very well written. It’s informative! And it really is relevant. Please continue posting, especially responses to reader questions. So here’s my question.

I’m an undergraduate student now at a top 20 school, and I eventually want to end up as a CEO or in a position that’s similar.  But I’m having trouble figuring out exactly what to study.  When I look at everyone going into consulting, I see people with finance, accounting, and engineering, degrees, and the same is true for investment banking. But I’m also interested in other classes that are less technical, like sociology and communications, and I’m not sure which to choose as I think about going into business.

At the end of the day, I really just want to prepare myself to have the best chances now and going forward.  Do you have any insights?

Thank you in advance,


Hey (name)

Thanks so much for writing and for taking the time to ready my blog. I’m glad you’re finding the website to be a good source of information. I’m also always glad to see when I’m able to use my experiences to help others in their careers. I suspect that many other MBAs and experiences professionals might also be able to chime in on the topic. That’s especially true in this case, where you didn’t provide very thorough information in regards to your career interests, classes already taken, or professional background. So for now, I’ll keep my answer a bit more generic.

So, as you know, you’ve asked me a pretty tough question. In all fairness, the answer will never be the same for anyone, not even for two people with really similar backgrounds or similar career goals.  And frankly, there may not even be a right answer. Interestingly enough, I recently had a short phone conversation with a new friend from Chicago. Culture or strategy – which one is more important in business, we asked.  In a sense, because we had pretty different experiences, we also had different ideas on how to answer the question.

She is a rising second year MBA at a peer school outside of Chicago.  She was an accounting major at a local college in Chicago, got a CPA worked at an accounting firm after school, and really enjoyed, and thrived in, the field.  As for me, I was an anthropology major, and while I did have some finance experience before coming back to school, my role was not a traditional finance job, but instead I worked in the consulting field which balanced finance with human capital in addition to other general management issues. So as you might suspect, our perspectives began in different places, which made for an interesting conversation.

Conventional wisdom suggests that finance is king. That company performance is tied to financial metrics and that understanding those is critical to communicate with investors and eventually move the company forward. And as you might guess, her perspective was more similar to conventional wisdom than mine was. She valued her accounting training in undergrad and her post-graduate experience and gave her view on the important of that knowledge in CFO level role.  She was also happy that she didn’t get drilled too badly on technical questions in her MBA interviews.  And that’s a a really nice advantage.

Similarly, I’ve heard the same story from a few high level leaders over the past few years in my career. In an old post last year comparing HBS and Kellogg, I wrote about a Bain recruiting event where I heard this from a Senior Manager at the firm. He said “That finance is the language of business,” and if you don’t know finance and accounting, you probably won’t get to the top. And even if you did, you wouldn’t survive for too long, because you can’t speak effectively to the CFO, can’t compel shareholders to invest, and may not understand some of the typical economics cycles of the company. My professional mentor, and Partner at another large consulting firm agreed, as he studied finance, accounting and engineering in college.

On the other hand, there is a viewpoint that differs from conventional wisdom. Business gurus like Peter Drucker suggest that “culture will eat strategy for breakfast” and at the same time, Political leaders like Colin Powell say that the best leaders know that communications values are most important to maximize your impact.  I think the main idea is that cultural factors are important, because they have the potential to create divisions in a company and the potential to also create connections which form communities, and drive the actions the work in business. In a recent interview at a consulting firm, my interviewer referenced team culture and referenced the Pittsburgh airport test in choosing new hires at the firm. Similarly, in his exit interview from HBS a few years ago, Dean Kim Clark said the exact same thing. That “he wished he would have engaged in leadership in his role sooner.”  And that HBS (and other schools) look for cross-cultural leaders first, before anything else.  And that includes technical skills.

The main lesson I take away is that anthropology and accounting–culture and strategy–are both important.  1. Without culture, you won’t make people feel valued and enjoy their environment, and they’ll be naturally less productive and committed to their work. 2. On the other hand, without finance, you won’t always be able to understand the most important business issues, and won’t be able to execute a strategy that drives a company forward to operate in today’s complex finance-based business culture. And perhaps without both, companies will never be able to compete at the highest level.

But when a company does excel at both, they position themselves not only to grow, but also to beat the markets and have broader impact over time.  To that end, maybe we shouldn’t  have to decide. Maybe culture and strategy can [and should] work together to produce results. After all, isn’t this what the CEO does – focus on both? Similarly doesn’t the CEO work side by side with the CFO to understand the financial heath of the company and with HR to architect the organizational culture of the firm.  Further, isn’t HR tasked with the interest role of balancing quantitative finance and compensation studies alongside culture and change implementations?

To relate this back to your question, for you this means, there may not be a single major that makes or breaks your path to the C seat.  And in fact, for some people major may not prove to be very important at all depending on what field they go into. For some, the answer may be more dependant on context than anything else. The context of your current background, the classes you’ve already taken and will take, what your classmates decide to study, and what your target employers like and look for.  And all of that needs to be taken into account in the context of the current economy and your propensity for risk, if you’re not sure how some employers might look at your profile.

In the short-run though, sometimes the major you choose CAN be very important for recruiting, especially in a sluggish economy, and especially if you really want to go into certain industries, where majors are prerequisites, such as accounting, computer engineering, etc.  In these cases a major is not only a good way to show demonstrated interest, but also a way to show you have what it takes to do the work. On the other hand, I personally think that passion and interest are also important, because it’s likely you’ll study harder if you have a natural interest in the subject, and in the end, its also likely you’ll do better (see my recent post on passion).  One thing some people like to do is hedge their bets study both.  Majors today are more interdisciplinary than ever, and most schools allow double and even triple majors. So it might make sense to do something like that and get as much experience as possible. On the other hand, it’s likely that hedging will take away time from you to pursue your passion and interests. In the end, it’s a trade-off only you can make, and that only you should decide.

But also in the end, my view is that Culture and Strategy — Anthropology and Accounting — are both important and make a good team. I’m looking forward to my next discussion.

Good luck!

PS – By the way, the Kim Clark exit interview from HBS (former Dean of school) above is a great interview on leadership. I recommend that you make the time to watch it. Especially the final few minutes on what good leaders do.


Monday, May 17th, 2010 AskJeremy, Careers 12 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!


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?



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.


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Friday, February 5th, 2010 Admissions, AskJeremy, Business School No Comments

Applicant Question: Round 3 Application Advice On Essays and Story – #AskJeremy

What’s going on everyone. Seems like many of the MBA applicants out there have a lot more time on your hands these days now that you’ve finally turned the corner and submitted your last second round applications earlier in the week. Congratulations and be sure to take a well-deserved breather. But for some of you, the application cycle still lives. I’ve gotten a few emails from some of applicants who got a little gun shy at the last minute, others wanted to submit to a few extra schools just to be sure, and a couple of people wanted to do a little shoe shining and polish up your applications before going through with submitting.  And so that brings me to a question I recently received from a JD-MBA applicant, who wanted to get a bit of clarity on his essay strategy as well as a bit of insight on applying in the third round since he decided not to submit in round two.  See a small portion of our Q&A below.

Original Email From Applicant

“Hey Jeremy, I really enjoy your blog – thanks for taking the time to update as you do! I know you must be terribly busy with all the questions/calls you’ve been getting but I wanted to give a shot at getting your advice.

I’m not sure the precise path I’d like to take post JD/MBA – I see myself open to a few different options such as IB work, government or entrepreneurship. Sometimes I defend my uncertainty by thinking it’s naive and silly of me to even set my mind on something with all the variables and changing landscape.

How much emphasis is placed on having concrete goals post graduation? How would you advise someone handle this issue in the essays? Perhaps just focus on the most likely or suitable path given my background and leave the others out?

I’d really appreciate your thoughts and wish me luck!

Best Regards,

My Response To Original Email From Applicant

Hi (Name), I’ve begun writing my response and plan to respond shortly. You look like a potential good fit for the program. When do you plan to submit your application. Round 2?


Another Email From Applicant

“Hi Jeremy, I’m very pleased to hear from you! Unfortunately it looks like I will be submitting in R3 and perhaps reapplying early next cycle if things don’t work out. R3 must be a killer eh?

I’m still not exactly sure how to sell myself and present my goals given my 4yrs experience in finance but diverse interests as I mentioned already. I just want to make sure that I have my story straight before I apply. I’ll be waiting to hear your thoughts – thanks so much for taking the time!

Best Regards,

My Quick Response To Applicant

Hey (Name), keep your head up for round 3. I don’t think it’s an absolute impossibility, especially if you take the time to turn in a great application. Stay tuned for my response email.

My Final Response

Hi (Name),

Thanks again for your original message and for checking out my blog.  I’m glad you like the site and find my posts to be informative. Please keep checking back for new posts and articles as you navigate the application cycle.

So your situation is a tough one, and perhaps equally as tough as some people find it to apply in the third round. I hope you’re up to the challenge! I’ll start my response with a bit of high-level advice regarding your decision to apply in round three, and not two.  As I previously mentioned, it’s not at all impossible to be admitted in round three. I know a couple of people in the program now who have made it across the round three finish line. That said, these admits were doing some serious springing across that line, not jogging,  because these guys were really accomplished, and I suspect that their applications were pretty stellar. And so my broad advice to applicants is that  if you’re considering applying in two different rounds but not sure which, then shoot for the earlier of the two.  Given the sudden skyrocketing number of b-school and JD-MBA applications, on the margin, earlier is usually better.

But that’s old news now, since you’re applying in round three and since you didn’t feel ready last round. But you’re definitely doing the right thing by submitting now in round three rather than waiting. If you’re admitted, then you’ll be jumping for joy out of your seat at work come May, and you won’t have to hide the good news for long.  On the other hand, even if you’re not admitted this year, then you’ll be in a much better position to do a little sprinting in round one of next year, and Kellogg will be expecting your application.

Now, let’s talk a little strategy for your application. For one, keep in mind that the third rounds exists for a reason. And if schools didn’t want it, they simply wouldn’t take applications, like Tuck and Sloan don’t.  I suspect that this is especially true in the Kellogg JD-MBA program because the class size is small, the program has fewer applicants, and the class compositions is just as important as all the fancy class statistics and the number of consultants and bankers in the class.  In fact, my completely unverified but strikingly plausible personal opinion is that the admissions team relies so heavily on fit that they go into round three every year with VERY open mind, ready and willing to admit standout applicants who come into play.  So relax the nerves a little about round three, but also get ready to put the petal to the metal so you can stand out. It just may pay dividends.

Also,  you hit the nail on the head in your email in regards to essays. Part of standing out means putting together first-class essays … essays that both articulate a compelling story about the past, convey interesting plans for the future, and include persuasive reasons for how the dual program fits in the middle. That means the more persuasive and lively you write the better. It also means the more structured you discuss your ideas and relate them together, the better.  Now keep in mind, by structured I don’t mean 100% specific. But I would suggest that your response is logical, organized, and pretty targeted.

During rounds one and two, my impression is that most admits do this pretty well.  I’d go further to say that almost all round three admits have done this.  Unlike MBA programs that have hundreds seats to fill and dozens of those seats reserved for people who still need to do some soul searching, the JD-MBA program gives less time for that. Because we split our time between two campuses and ultimately spend less time than our classmates at each, we have to be a bit more deliberate and decisive.  So you’d do yourself a favor to show that trait in your essays, by either proving that you have a plan, or that you can come up with one quickly.  And then Kellogg can then have an easier time walking away from your application with a clear picture of who you are and why you want the dual degree, whether it’s specifically to be an I-banker, government leader, or entrepreneur, or if it serves more broad goals such as impacting your way of thinking, expanding a certain skill set, or giving you the boost you need to switch industries. There’s generally no right answer to “career choice” questions.

So try do some soul searching in the next few weeks, think deeply about what’s most appealing and what suits your background, and at some point soon take a stand on putting your career story together, coming up with something as specific as you’re comfortable with. Once you do so, use that story to synthesize an overall vision for your essay package. Then structure each essay to convey something different about that vision, while also showcasing new skills and picking new stories for elaboration. And finally, be sure to talk about how the dual degree fits into all of that.  And in the end, I suspect that you’ll be more confident about your story than you had in round two.

Hopefully that helps a bit. Good Luck!


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Thursday, January 21st, 2010 Admissions, AskJeremy 2 Comments

#AskJeremy (Applicant Question): Is My GMAT “Good Enough” To Get In ?

Hi there everyone–I recently received an email from a really excited reader who is applying to business school but is concerned about her GMAT score. She is a potential applicant to the JD-MBA program in next year in 2011, and she sent me a message to ask my opinion.  I’ve written her a response below, but I preface that by saying, usually, the “is my GMAT high enough” dilemma is one of those questions that there’s probably no right answer to and that’s ultimately up to the applicant.  But I did provide her with a little context. Hopefully it is helpful for everyone. Check out our email exchange below.

Email Message From Sender

“Hi Jeremy, I’m thinking (and really hoping) to get into Northwestern’s program. I really need some advice on whether I should take the GMAT again (I just got a 660 but know I choked on the math section). I’ve been working in Egypt for a 1.5 now and it will be 3 years by the time I start – I’m planning on starting fall 2011. I work for the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank) working in communications. I’m also sitting for the first round of the CFA exam in June. A lot of people keep telling me the international experience will mean more than the GMAT, but I’d really appreciate some advice from seeing the backgrounds of fellow classmates etc if you think its necessary to retake the GMATs.”

Hi (Removed)

Thanks so much for writing, and for checking out my blog. I’m glad you’re interested in Northwestern’s program. I hope you do apply next year and encourage you to apply in round one for the best shot at getting in.

I generally like to give two pieces of advice to “completing” business school applicants.  First, you want to be satisfied with your work on every part of the application, at least to the extent possible.  Second, you want to balance that satisfaction with not juggling too many pieces of the application at the same time—GMAT, essays, class visits, supplementary classes, etc—and possibly dropping the ball on one or multiple pieces.  Now given you’re not applying until 2011, you should have plenty of time to avoid excessive juggling, so you should not automatically rule out the GMAT. Here’s why.

With the economic downturn, the past two years for MBA admissions have been pretty unrivaled in terms of applications, both in number and in quality. Applicantions are literally coming out of every corner and every part of the world imaginable. Average GPAs, GMATs, and number of degrees are higher than ever.  And people are literally taking the GMAT time and time again aiming for scores well above 700.  That said, the rule of thumb is that top programs like to see you hit the 80th percentile on both sections (quant and qual) of the GMAT, and especially the quantitative section to prove you can handle the curriculum.

But no need to fret if you don’t attain that score  There are always plenty of people that get in t0 top programs every year with scores below 80th percentile as well as with below total scores below the median. In fact, most top MBA program a really large number of kids in this range, including Kellogg.  Some of those are like you and have finance experience. But others may not have that experience. One caveat I’ll mention about the JD-MBA program here is that the average scores for one class tends to be slightly higher than Kellogg’s.  I suspect that happens for two reasons. One is that fewer “alternative career” students apply to this program given the cost. Second, is because the LSAT is not required for admission here, so a higher GMAT score might indicate that a student is well-prepared to hand both sets of classes. The range is usually about 15 to 20 points higher for the dual program, which is by no means insignificant. (Click here for details) I suspect the same types of differences exist in any other dual programs you may be considering.

So what does this mean for you?  Overall that’s a tough question for me to answer. That might depend on your original target score, how many times you’ve taken the test, how well you did on the practice exams, and how busy you are at work. If you were aiming higher and were hitting 700s on practice tests, then you may want to consider retaking it, especially given the time you have and considering the economy. But if that weren’t the case, and you did everything you possibly could to get your 660, then the payoff might not be worth it.

Here is an analogy I used to give when I was part of my Undergraduate Admissions Team a few years ago.  I used to tell the high school students that the SAT (GMAT or readers here) test score was just a hygiene factor. I said they should think about it like they were going on a date. And if you have bad breadth (i.e. bad hygiene) on the date, then chances are you won’t be getting a second one.  On the other hand, if you have good breadth, that also won’t get you a second date. But it does allow the other person to concentrate on the more important things and then decide from there.

Similarly, when applying to an MBA program, the real key is just getting a GMAT score that does not keep the admissions team from learning about “more important things” from your essays, work experiences, and leadership potential. For most schools, you can estimate that number based on the ranges they publish on their websites. And your positioning in that range should couple with how strong of an overall applicant you are otherwise. In your case, don’t forget to factor in the you’d be on the lowest end for age range for the JD-MBA program, as the “average age” admitted to the program is almost five years out and the lowest age is usually three years out.  Also, I agree that your international experience will certainly be valued and may affect your comfort level with your GMAT when applying.

I know this may not be as direct an answer as you wanted.  But I hope it helps. Thanks for writing and best of luck over the next year.

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Monday, January 18th, 2010 Admissions, AskJeremy, Business School 6 Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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