Graduate School Application Process

Funding Your MBA

You’ve made it now what about the costs?

Before you commit to completing a MBA program you must make sure the cost is worth your time and money. The best way to look at the costs of a MBA is to look at them as an investment. The best way to capitalize on an investment is to invest sooner so you can begin earning your return faster. There are a lot of costs to think about when you plan to get a MBA. For instance the cost of attendance, living expenses, and opportunity cost of lost wages. All of these costs must be outweighed by the overall return received by increase in income over time. People looking for a career change or wanting a higher position in a company should not shy away from an MBA.

So you have committed now what?

Now that you spent all this time researching and finding the perfect business school before you have even been accepted you should start now looking at your funding options. A good method to ensure you use the right funding source is to spend a similar amount of time researching your funding options that you spent looking for you perfect school. If you have already been accepted to a school, you have a limited time window to get your finances in order. There are a lot of funding sources, almost every one of these options have a cost associated with them. There are five separate funding options for your MBA education.

  • Scholarships and fellowships
  • Company sponsorship
  • Retirement savings
  • Student loans
  • Private loans

Scholarships and fellowship: Scholarships are perhaps the best option for funding your MBA, but everyone applies to these so read the requirements carefully. You may need to fill out a different application for your school or for certain organizations. Always look to scholarships and fellowships outside of your business school. Some organizations offer very highly valued scholarships.

Company Sponsorship: When you are thinking about asking your organization for a sponsorship, or if you were offered a sponsorship, always read the fine print. Knowing what you are getting yourself into is important. Almost all sponsorships require a return to the company after you have completed your MBA. Take this into account when weighing your options.

Retirement savings: Most people would overlook this as a source of funding, but this is a great source for some people. Before you start to pull from your savings for retirement do your research and understand the costs associated. However, if you have saved aggressively and will continue to after graduating then this option could be well worth the costs.

Student loans: Federal loans are very popular for financing a MBA, but there are costs that should be evaluated. Federal student loans are a great option because of the low interest rates that are offered to new and returning loan applicants. Also, look at your school’s financing options. Sometimes they offer loans for great discount rates.

Private loans: Private loans are a last resort for most people, but some banks offer lower rates and repayment plans that might better suit your needs. Always do research when looking for private loans, and find a recommended lender that has a history of loaning to students. Find a loan calculator that will calculate costs over a desired period of time, this will help you organize your financing options.

Many individuals use a combination of different funding methods in order to cover the costs for their MBA programs. Looking into every option available is important, and you may find that you are eligible for more assistance than you expected. Although locating and applying for funding can be a daunting and exhausting task, the amount of effort you put into it could quite literally pay off.

References

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/mba-admissions-strictly-business/2014/08/15/assess-5-funding-options-to-help-pay-for-an-mba?int=97f408

http://www.topmba.com/admissions/financing-your-mba/investment-rather-cost-how-finance-mba

GMAT Scores, How Important Are They?

What is the GMAT?

GMAT is the Graduate Management Admissions Test and is constantly evaluated and validated by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC). The GMAC makes sure that the test avoids a bias in favor of native speakers. The three main areas that the GMAC can check for bias are:

  • Usage of vocabulary, idioms, and sentence structure
  • Usage of culturally loaded phrases
  • Usage of culturally offensive phrases (Ruder)

Is the GMAT Important?

How important is the score? GMAT is an effective tool at predicting academic outcomes in MBA programs, which makes it important. So, because of the GMAT’s effectiveness it is usually the first item that an admissions office will look at on your application.

Many factors will go into the acceptance or rejection of an application, but the GMAT score is ranked highest on the list. “Acceptance” doesn’t mean that you’re in the program, but they will continue to evaluate your application after seeing your GMAT scores.

How is the GMAT Scored?

The exam is scored based on different functional areas of thought processes. The score report will have the following five separate scaled scores:

  • a Quantitative score (on a 0-60 scale)
  • a Verbal score (on a 0-60 scale)
  • a Total (combined Quantitative/Verbal score (on a 200-800 scale))
  • an Integrated Reasoning score (on a 0-8 scale)
  • an Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) score (on a 0-6 scale)

Each one of these scores assesses different things about your potential abilities. The test calculates your score based on different algorithms. Most business schools (B-schools) will look at your Total Quantitative/Verbal score (on a 200-800 scale). This has the highest impact on an applicant’s potential admission to a B-school (Stewart). B-schools usually have a cut off threshold, and if you fall below that threshold then your application is rejected without looking at further factors. When looking at your application B-schools compare your score against other scores within a certain time frame and rank you accordingly. Since most B-schools only accept so many new graduate students a year they must only chose the highest ranking, thus the most likely to complete their new degree (Stewart).

Planning on taking the GMAT soon?

Whether you are planning on taking the GMAT, or have just finished taking it, there are a few things to consider. Always take a few pre-tests to determine a strategy for taking the GMAT. The pre-test can help you determine where you should do damage control or just cut your losses. Quick hint, if you feel that you did horrible you can always elect to cancel your score after you have completed the exam. If you feel like you did well, but think you could do better you can always retake the GMAT. Note that when you send your scores to a B-school they will get all your scores from past five years. How they determine what score to use is dependent on what their policies are. Some schools will just take your highest score and other schools will average your score in the respective section. (Stewart)

Have we learned anything?

So basically, we have learned that B-schools look at your GMAT score to determine if you qualify to be ranked in the overall application process. Your Quantitative/Verbal combined score is the most important score on your exam, but don’t discount the others as they can help boost your ranking percentile. Last but not least, make sure you are properly prepared for the test. Good luck!

References

Rudner, L. (2012, October 1). Behind the Scenes: Guarding Against Bias. Retrieved May 21, 2015, from http://www.mba.com/us/the-gmat-blog-hub/the-official-gmat-blog/2012/oct/behind-the-scenes-guarding-against-bias.aspx

Stewart, M. (2012). Applying to MBA Programs — How Important are GMAT Scores? Retrieved May 21, 2015, from http://www.west.net/~stewart/gmat/qa_1.htm

Schweitzer, K. (n.d.). How Important Is Your GMAT Score? Retrieved May 21, 2015, from http://businessmajors.about.com/od/takingthegmat/a/GMATScoreTips.htm

About the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

What is the MCAT?

The Medical College Admissions Test (a.k.a., MCAT) is taken by future students of medicine, including future students of veterinary medicine, for admission into medical schools around the world. Scores from the MCAT are used to measure both students’ skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and writing and students’ knowledge about scientific concepts. The MCAT is a computer-based exam that is administered year-round at a variety of locations and testing centers. The basic registration fee for the MCAT is $270, but the overall cost can vary depending on when and where you register to take your exam and if you need to reschedule your exam. Read on to learn more about MCAT sections, scores, and preparation.

MCAT Sections

The MCAT is divided into four sections that are administered in the following order: Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences. The Physical Sciences section includes 52 multiple-choice questions about general chemistry and physics. The Verbal Reasoning section contains 40 multiple-choice questions that gauge understanding about writing selections. The current Writing Sample section prompts test-takers to write two short essays, but the Writing Sample section will be removed from the MCAT in 2013 and will be replaced with a voluntary, unscored trial section to test the validity and reliability of the MCAT. Like the Physical Sciences section, the Biological Sciences section includes 52 multiple-choice questions about organic chemistry and biology.

MCAT Scores

The three multiple-choice sections of the MCAT are scored separately on a scale ranging from 1 to 15. Only questions that have been correctly answered are scored (incorrect or missing answers are not scored), so if you don’t know the answer to a multiple-choice question, you should guess rather than leave the question blank. For the Writing Sample section, each essay is scored separately by both a human and a computer to yield a total of four scores for the section, and the four scores are added together and converted into a letter score ranging from J (lowest) to T (highest). Scores from the multiple-choice and writing sections are combined for a composite score so that the highest MCAT score possible is 45T (15 on each multiple-choice section and T on the Writing Sample section). The average composite score accepted by most medical schools is 30P or 30Q; however, every medical school has its own requirements for MCAT scores, so you should make sure that you understand the MCAT requirements of each school to which you apply. Like similar standardized tests, you can void your MCAT scores during your exam or up to 30 days after your exam (before you receive your scores) if you feel like you have not done well. If you are unsatisfied with your scores after you receive them, you can retake the MCAT as many times as necessary (but only 3 times per year). However, if you retake the MCAT multiple times, medical schools may take an average of all your test scores to determine whether or not you meet admissions requirements, so you should try to only take the MCAT once.

MCAT Preparation

You should take the MCAT the year before you plan to start medical school, but only you can decide exactly when you have enough background knowledge and are ready to take the MCAT. It is very important that you do some sort of MCAT Prep; You can use test-prep materials for a variety of sources to prepare for the MCAT, but the most reliable test-prep material comes from the MCAT creator: the American Association of Medical Colleges. After you have reviewed some test-prep material, and/or done some other type of MCAT Prep, and have determined that you are ready to take the MCAT, you should register for the exam as early as possible so that you get your preferred testing date and location and so that you have plenty of time left in the year to retest if necessary.

About the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

The Law School Admission Test, commonly known as the LSAT, is a test taken by prospective law school students as part of the grad school application process for law school. The test is offered in testing centers around the world and was designed to provide a standard measure to assess the reading and verbal reasoning skills of law-school applicants.

About the LSAT

The LSAT is comprised of five sections of multiple-choice questions and a writing sample. The four scored sections incorporate logical reasoning, reading comprehension, and analytical reasoning questions. The remaining multiple-choice section is not scored; its primary function is to allow test-makers to assess the validity and reliability of new questions that could potentially be incorporated into future exams. The writing sample is also not scored, but it allows admissions committees at law schools with to review your writing skills as well as your comprehension and analytical skills outside of the multiple-choice sections. LSAT scores range from 120–180, and you will receive a percentile rank included in your score report.

LSAT Prep

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the LSAT. You can purchase LSAT prep software, books, and practice tests online or from local bookstores. A good method of LSAT prep is to set aside some study time each week starting 3 to 6 months in advance of taking the test. Logic questions are generally one of three types: those that require you to determine attributes of each item, those that require you to divide items into groups, and those that require you to put items in a certain order.

If you are unsatisfied with your score and choose to retake the LSAT, keep in mind that although scores for repeat test-takers often rise slightly, the likelihood of a substantially higher score is rare. Actually, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) reviews unusually large score differences because they may be an indicator of test misconduct or irregularity. Law schools can access both your original test scores and your subsequent scores, and they may compare and question them, too. It is certainly best to have done as much LSAT prep as possible the first time you take the test to avoid having to consider a retest.

Undergraduate GPA, grade distributions, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and LSAT scores are all considered by admissions committees during the admissions process for law school.

About the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

The Graduate Management Admission Test, commonly referred to as the GMAT, is taken by graduate candidates for business school as part of the grad school application process. For those pursuing a career in business, the GMAT is accepted at nearly every business school in the world; however, a growing number of graduate and business programs are now also accepting the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). As of June 2012, the GMAT, and therefore GMAT prep, has been revised to incorporate a new section on Integrated Reasoning.

About the GMAT

The GMAT is comprised of four sections: the Analytical Writing Assessment, the Quantitative section, the Verbal section, and the new Integrated Reasoning section. Your score report will include five separate scores: one score from each section as well as one total score. Total GMAT scores range from 200–800, with two thirds of test-takers receiving a score from 400–600. Top graduate programs typically look for candidates with scores above 620, although this varies by school. Look below for information on how GMAT prep can greatly improve your personal score. Nearly all schools now report their programs’ “middle 80%” GMAT range on their websites. If your score falls within your desired school’s 80% range, you stand a reasonable chance of being admitted. The Analytical Writing Assessment requires you write one essay based on analysis of an argument. Scores for this section range from 0–6 in half-point intervals. The Quantitative section contains 37 questions about data sufficiency and problem-solving. The Verbal section was developed to assess reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction. Scores for the Quantitative and Verbal sections range from 0–60. The questions for the Integrated Reasoning section include questions about multiple-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, two-part analysis, and table analysis. Scores for the Integrated Reasoning section range from 1–8 in one-point intervals. Note that one of the multiple-choice portions of the Integrated Reasoning section is not scored to allow the creators of the exam to assess the reliability and validity of new questions that could potentially be incorporated into future tests.

GMAT Preparation

Many preparation materials for the GMAT are available online or in bookstores; however, the official GMAT website offers free GMAT prep software, which contains general advice, sample questions, and two full-length practice tests. Other helpful tips for GMAT prep include researching and understanding the full format of the GMAT, brushing up on your basic math skills, and practicing your essay-writing skills.

You should prepare as much as possible for the GMAT to achieve a competitive score your first time. Retaking the GMAT may not be helpful if you receive a low score because all scores for tests you have taken in the past 5 years are still reported to the graduate programs you had listed as score recipients. You do have the option of cancelling your scores; however, you only have this opportunity while at the test center before the scores have been displayed or reported to you. Your best bet is to start preparing 3 to 6 months in advance of the test date to achieve a high score the first time you take the test. If your desired graduate program requires you to take the GMAT, it is up to you to do the research and work on GMAT prep if you want to receive a competitive score.

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