Posts by Metro MBA

Jan 17, 2018 by

How To Save Valuable GMAT Time

GMAT time

MetroMBA’s sister site Clear Admit recently offered up some essential tips about how to get an MBA, specifically when it comes to saving valuable GMAT time, which you can read below.

When working through GMAT Quantitative problems, at times some students will comment, “well, I solved this problem this way, so that’s fine right???”

Totally. As we’ve covered in quite a few posts, there are always several different ways to get to the correct answer for a problem solving or data sufficiency question. However, there are ways that are more efficient than others, and it’s all about what you do “inside” your work on the problem that makes a difference.

Reality: the GMAT is a timed test. With oodles of time, it’s likely that a lot of us could get to the right answer. But the GMAT expects that you complete quantitative questions without a couple minutes, on average. This means that each question CAN be done within that time frame, but it’s more likely that a savvy, high-scoring test taker will average out to two minutes a problem.

There are quite a few problems, particularly in the 500 range, that can be completed in just a spare few seconds if you understand the core concept being tested. There are others that require a few calculations, but once you see the pattern or where a problem is moving, the right answer becomes apparent. And, lastly, there are questions in this space that are best accomplished working backwards from the answer choices, because those answers choices show us where to get started.

Completing these questions as quickly as possible is essential to “saving up seconds” for higher order thinking questions.

But, once we get to the more complex questions, where we save time is all on a) recognizing when we’ve taken the wrong path and need to circle back and/or b) having efficient scratch work.

Many students are so used to “showing the work” that they waste time in scratch work writing out steps they already understand or manually doing calculations in their heads, on their fingers, or simply, more efficiently. Saving seconds allows us to apply time where it is needed (setting up the problem, double-checking the right answer) supporting a high score.

Over the next few posts we’ll highlight questions that fall into this category. In the meantime, as you approach your quantitative practice, think – where can I shave seconds?

Stay tuned to MetroMBA and Clear Admit for more valuable advice about admissions, GMAT tips, and more.

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Featured Home, GMAT Tips, News | 0 comments

Jan 16, 2018 by

The QS World MBA Tour Is Coming To These Select Cities

QS World MBA Tour

There are few better opportunities to learn about the exemplary business school opportunities than at an MBA fair. And luckily, for many prospective MBA students, that opportunity will soon be arriving in their city with the QS World MBA Tour.

Continue reading…

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Events, Featured Home, News | 0 comments

Jan 16, 2018 by

How to Master the Letters of Support on Your MBA Application

admissions letters support

While business schools require candidates to submit anywhere from 1-3 recommendations as part of the regular admissions process, we’re devoting this admissions tip to a lesser known relative of the formal recommendation: the letter of support. The letter of support is very different from a typical letter of recommendation, in ways that we will detail below. In fact, we’ll use this admissions tip to share the following information:

• What is a letter of support?

• Who can author and submit such letters?

• When should a letter of support be submitted?

• What should a letter of support cover in terms of content?

• Should I seek out a letter of support at my target schools?

• How many letters of support should I seek out?

So without further ado, let’s dive into this lesser known element of the MBA admissions process.

What is a letter of support?

A letter of support is a short document (1-2 pages in length) that is submitted on behalf of an applicant by a third party – often without any involvement from the candidate. The letter is addressed to the director of admissions and seeks to make a case for the applicant’s candidacy at a given school. In many respects, a letter of support is really just an informal letter of recommendation.

Who can author and submit a letter of support?

Letters of support typically come from any one of three sources:

  • Students at the school to which you applied
  • Alumni of the school to which you applied
  • Faculty of the school to which you applied

These are the stakeholders of the institution, and as such, have a voice in the campus community that the admissions team is open to engaging. The logic is that stakeholders in the school community should naturally seek to positively influence the outcome of admissions decisions (e.g. they should want the best and brightest to join the community of which they are a part) and that they will speak up (via a letter of support) if an exceptional candidate they know has applied.

When should a letter of support be submitted?

Most letters of support are submitted after the candidate in question has applied – usually within 2-5 weeks of the application submission date. The reason these letters should not be submitted prior to the candidate’s application is because it creates an extra hurdle for the admissions team – they can’t ‘match’ the letter to a file in their system until they actually have the application. It also makes sense, from a timing perspective, for the letter to come in after the application so that it can provide a bit of color commentary – or even a last word – on the candidate.

What should a letter of support cover in terms of content?

The key narrative should be about your fit with the school. The author of the letter does not need to follow the questions the school asks of the required recommenders. Schools are always interested to learn about how a candidate would integrate into the learning community of the program – and a supplemental recommender should be able to address this, through the lens of her own experiences with the school and with you. The more heartfelt and detailed the recommendation, the more useful it will be to the admissions team. A few sentences won’t make much of an impact, but a page or two that brings the applicant’s background and personality to life will signal that the writer really cares about your candidacy.

Should I seek out a letter of support at my target schools?

This is a question that many candidates ponder. The answer is that it depends on whether or not you know of someone who qualifies to submit such a letter (e.g. a student, alum or professor at the school) AND who knows you well enough to write a supportive and illuminating letter. Of course, you will also want to take into account a given school’s policy on such letters (more on this below).

Beyond whether you should seek out a letter of support, it is also worth considering what you might do if someone offers to write a letter on your behalf. Some schools actively encourage their stakeholders to offer informal recommendations (letters of support) for candidates they know. These schools may even have a process in place to solicit such input. Engaging with alumni, students and faculty in this way can also become an effective marketing tool for the school, allowing the members of their community to actively reach out and shape the next generation of MBA candidates.

Of course, some schools actively discourage any additional materials, post application. So if you are going down this path, then you should take into account the individual school’s policy for additional materials post-application submission. Of course, even in cases where a school tells applicants not to submit anything once their application is ‘in process’ it can still be fair game to a) have a supplemental recommender provide a recommendation prior to submitting your application, or b) if a member of the school community submits a letter unbeknownst to you. Of course, in the case that such a letter comes in prior to your application, you may find that it is harder to ‘match’ that letter to your file (as we indicated earlier).

How many letters of support should I seek out (if any)?

In most, if not all, cases, a single letter of support (per school) is sufficient. The risk of soliciting multiple letters is that it might suggest a ‘letter writing campaign’ (with the applicant overtly attempting to pull strings) and may not be welcomed by the admissions committee.

A Final Thought

For those who are unable to gain a letter of support from a stakeholder of the school, don’t panic. While this type of letter can help a school learn more about fit, the majority of candidates will not have this type of informal recommendation – and schools work hard at being fair to candidates with varying degrees of access to their school during the admissions process. As always, there are many other aspects of a candidacy that the school considers before making an admissions decision.

This article has been edited and republished from our sister site, Clear Admit.

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Advice, Featured Home, Letters, News | 0 comments

Jan 9, 2018 by

Admissions Tip: Clearing Up the Background Check

Background Checks for Students

With a slew of schools releasing their R1 notifications, we know that many of our readers will be asking about the background checks conducted by leading programs. Here are some quick facts to help explain the process:

1. What are background checks?

Background checks involve the verification of information that a candidate has provided in his or her MBA applications. Although the process varies from school to school, it usually includes checking that an applicant attended the undergraduate (or graduate) school(s) that he or she claims to have attended, received the grades indicated and earned the GMAT score reported. It also involves the verification of the candidate’s employment history, job titles, starting and ending dates and salary/bonus information. Finally, some background checks involve contacting recommenders to verify their support and confirming applicant involvement in community activities.

2. Do all schools conduct background checks?

When do they do this? How do they have time? Many of the leading MBA programs like to verify the information that has been provided by applicants. This is typically done only for those applicants who are admitted, since there is no sense in expending resources to verify information for applicants who do not make the cut. Most background checks occur in the spring – after decisions for most rounds have been released and students begin sending in their deposits. In many cases, the schools outsource this function to a professional risk consulting firm like Kroll.

3. Why bother with background checks? Don’t the schools trust me?

The purpose of background checks is to protect all stakeholders of the MBA program (students, faculty, staff, alumni) from those who would falsify their backgrounds to gain an unfair advantage in the admissions process. Some schools opt to investigate the backgrounds of a relatively small sample of randomly selected admits, hoping that the mere possibility of a check will give applicants incentive to be as honest as possible. In a way, this measure therefore serves to increase the adcom’s trust in its applicants.

4. What about very minor discrepancies?

It’s natural for admitted applicants to get anxious at this point in the process, wondering whether their offer of admission might be rescinded if, for instance, the “start date” for an old job is one week earlier than the start date that HR reports during the background check. The good news is that most schools report any discrepancies back to the applicant and give them a chance to explain a plausible mistake. Having said that, it of course makes sense to do your best to verify all of your information before applying to school, so that you can be certain that the data you report is accurate. Should any potential issues come to mind after submitting, you might consider preemptively contacting the adcom if the error is serious enough.

5. Won’t the background checking process alert my employer to the fact that I am applying to b-school?

Since the process typically takes place long after you’ve been admitted, this ideally won’t be an issue, as most applicants give their employers ample notice and take some time off before school. Having said that, the schools still try to conduct the checks in a discrete fashion, consulting with your HR department to verify your dates of employment and salary – but not necessarily revealing that you are heading to business school.

6. How can I ensure a smooth background check?

While the obvious answer is to be honest in your applications, it’s also important that you don’t fudge anything out of laziness (a common occurrence). Dig up those old W-2 forms or check with former employers in order to present the committee with the most accurate information you can.

Stay up to date with all of our latest MBA admissions tips here.

This article has been edited and republished with permissions from our sister site, Clear Admit.

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Advice, Featured Home | 0 comments

Jan 2, 2018 by

What You Don’t Know About MBA Admissions Data Forms

MBA admissions data forms

As we approach the new year and many of our readers begin to work in earnest on their round two applications for the January deadlines, we would like to turn our attention to an oft overlooked element of the MBA application process: the application data forms. These forms—typically referred to as ‘data forms’ for short—are the online forms that one fills out when applying to a business school. While the forms used to be straightforward and brief (essentially amounting to contact information, academic information, and work history), they have been expanding in some areas and have become an increasingly important part of the mix of application materials. In the wake of an industry-wide reduction in the number of essays required by each school, many programs have actually shifted questions away from the essays and into these forms (as ‘short answer’ questions). As such, it is important to pay close attention and address the data forms early—and to avoid leaving them for completion on application deadline day. In fact, it can be rather dangerous to not give data forms the same amount of time and care you would afford any other component of your application.

In this tip we will address the commonly asked questions across all school’s data forms. For our next admissions tip, we will examine some of the more unusual questions asked by a few schools.

Contact Information

Schools need to communicate with applicants at various stages of the admissions process. It is important that they are able to do so, so the contact information questions address this issue. Most communication these days will occur online, so obviously the e-mail address is important. It is probably best to use a personal e-mail address, rather than a work e-mail address, so schools can continue to communicate with you once you have left your work. You should also make sure the e-mail address is appropriate, might not send the right signals. For those students who are admitted, a regular mailing address will be used to send out more detailed information in the form of an “admissions packet.” Often times, schools will ask for a current address, and a permanent address. These can be the same, but the difference will occur, for example, when a candidate is working on a temporary assignment.

Background Information

Schools will ask a set of questions to better understand your background. They will generally ask about your parents, specifically their employment status and their highest level of educational attainment. This can be meaningful for the admissions committees who might be seeking out those candidates who have achieved careers that are very different from the achievements of their parents. It also signals those who are first generation in terms of attending college. This may signal a candidate’s grit and determination. On the other hand, a candidate who has parents who are highly successful and went to elite schools may benefit from a bit of an “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” bias.  Some schools will also ask about siblings, partners and children.

The majority of schools also seek to learn if your relatives have connections with their program, or the wider institution.


The key to addressing the academics questions is to follow the specific directions of each school. They may want a PDF of a transcript to be uploaded of your undergraduate school record, or they may want all transcripts from all schools you have attended, whether for additional coursework, transfer credits and so forth. Most schools will ask for your overall GPA, and also will be explicit on whether to convert a GPA that is not on a 4.0 scale; the common rule in this regard is to not convert, and to identify what the scale is. Some schools ask specifically if you have covered course work in accounting, statistics, calculus and economics. These are not pre-requisites, but help schools identify your analytic skills. The majority of schools will ask for self-reported transcripts upon application and only require official transcripts after they have made an admissions decision, but some might ask you to bring those documents if you are invited to interview.

Work History

All schools will ask you to upload a resume. While some programs will be specific about the length of the resume, keep in mind that they generally prefer one page. Beyond uploading a resume, you will also be able to complete a work history section in the online application, where you enter each of your work positions. Most schools do allow a new entry for each new position, regardless of whether it is for the same company, a few require just one entry per employer. Each school will tell you specifically how it wants you to enter this data. For most schools you are asked a variety of questions, including beginning and ending salary, bonuses, and so forth. You should also have an option to complete your job function and role. This is a very important text box to complete with considerable thought. You will have a limited number of characters, usually, to establish your growth and impact. One or two schools do not have this option, which places more weight on your resume and essays. Schools will generally ask you how many years work experience you will have, at the time of matriculation, rather than the time of application. Some will also ask how many years of management experience you have.

Test Scores

All the schools we cover accept both the GMAT and the GRE tests. It is important to read the instructions for each school in terms of how to report your test scores. A few schools want to know all your scores, and may look at the individual breakdowns of components of the scores. A few schools also ask whether you plan to retake the test, after you submit your application, at least one school asks if you would retake the test if asked. Schools will also require a test for English communications for those who are not native English speakers (unless the language of instruction for undergraduate was English, in which case most schools will offer a waiver). While the TOEFL is the most commonly used test, there are also other tests that schools will use like the IELTS, so it is important to review the requirements of each school you are interested in.

Other Activities

Most, but not all schools will ask you about your activities outside of work, and your extra-curricular activities while you were an undergraduate student. They want to see if you are well-rounded, and seek to identify other passions you might have, that will make for a richer MBA learning environment for all. It is also a good place to show case additional opportunities for your leadership and ability to make an impact. Each school asks these questions slightly differently. Some schools ask about hobbies, some do not. Some schools ask you to list the most important activities in which you have been involved, forcing you to prioritize with a limited number, some schools have free-flowing text boxes for you to answer the questions. One school does not ask about these activities at all, but their instructions for the resume clearly state to include them in that document. Regardless, it is important to read directions carefully, and consider your application in a holistic manner.


Probably the biggest shift in the use of data forms in the last few years is the increasing use of this medium to examine your career goals. You may be asked about your short-term goal (e.g. your career path directly out of the MBA program) and some schools also ask about your long-term goal (the position you would like to hold 5+ years after earning the MBA).  A few schools will also ask for an alternative short-term goal if your preferred goal does not work out. Addressing these questions with considerable thought will be crucial. Schools really want candidates that have thought thoroughly regarding why they are applying. Some school have stopped asking these questions in the essays, so they rely on the data form answers.

Marketing questions

Finally, a few schools use the data forms to understand how you first learned about the program, and what other marketing events you may have attended. They might also asked who you met and know, from the school, during the process of putting your application together. If you have developed a network of alumni at the school and these questions are being asked, make sure you highlight who they are. Much like the questions for background information, any time you can highlight your connections to the school can only be an advantage.

For our next admissions tip, we will explore more of the unusual questions that a few schools ask in their data forms, which cover issues like the feared “To which other schools are you applying?” as well a move to ask more internationally focused questions.

This article on MBA Admissions Data Forms has been edited and republished from our sister site, Clear Admit.

Check out more MBA admissions advice you cannot miss here.

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Nov 27, 2017 by

Admissions Tip: The Waitlist

admissions tip waitlist

Last week was marked by Round 1 decision releases from a couple of the schools covered on MetroMBA and Clear Admit, and in the coming weeks, many of the remaining schools are scheduled to release R1 decisions. Clear Admit’s MBA LiveWire has captured a lot of this news, including quite a few candidates recently reporting that they’ve been waitlisted at places like London Business School and INSEAD.

For better or for worse, waitlisting is rather popular with top schools in the first round of admissions. As such, we’re devoting this week’s admissions tip to guidance for candidates who find themselves placed on a waitlist. Before we get to that, let’s look first at why schools use a waitlist.

Why Schools Use the Waitlist

First and foremost, while schools now know the quality of their Round 1 pool, they don’t yet know how strong the remainder of their applicants for this admissions season will prove, nor can they predict how many of the candidates admitted as part of Round 1 will ultimately enroll. Simply put, the waitlist helps schools manage these unknowns to arrive at the strongest possible class come fall. Some schools will “under admit” Round 1 candidates in case there is a flood of quality applicants in Round 2 or a higher yield of Round 1 candidates than predicted. The goal of the school is, after all, to admit the best overall class, regardless of when someone applies. They also do not want to over admit during an early round, which will limit their opportunities to admit strong candidates later, thus the push to “under admit,” and place significant quantities of candidates on the waitlist who may very well gain admission in later rounds. Chicago Booth explains this well on their web-site:

“The waitlist at Chicago Booth is used to gauge the pool of candidates in a subsequent round before offering a final decision to those candidates placed on the waitlist.”

Schools also can learn, by placing a candidate on the waitlist, how committed he or she is to attending the school. There is signal value in how a candidate responds to the waitlist decision. Some candidates placed on a waitlist receive offers at other schools they would prefer to attend, in which case they will opt out. Others remain convinced that the school that has waitlisted them is their best choice and will hold out to see if they can ultimately gain admission.

As well, if you are waitlisted, we’ve outlined some more advice we feel will help you on the way to earning an MBA.

Five Tips for Making the Best of the Waitlist

If you find yourself on the waitlist, don’t lose hope. Top programs admit a fair number of individuals from the waitlist in Round 2 and even later. That said, we know that cautious optimism does not make the wait for an answer any easier. To help those in this situation make sure that they’re doing all they can, we do have a few strategic waitlist tips:

Know—and follow—the rules. 

Schools vary in their stances when it comes to interaction with those on the waitlist; some shun communication from applicants and even go so far as to discourage on-the-record campus visits, whereas others welcome correspondence and assign an admissions office liaison to serve the needs of waitlisted candidates.

We know that the natural impulse is to update the adcom that recent promotion or the final grade from that accounting class you took to bolster your academic profile. At first blush, a short letter or quick call to communicate this kind of update might seem harmless. But no matter how exciting the piece of news you want to share may be, ignoring the adcom’s instructions is ultimately going to reflect badly on you. Though policies discouraging communication from waitlisted candidates may seem frustrating or unfair, it’s important to respect and abide by the preferences of each school.

Communicate if you can. 

For those programs that do permit or encourage contact from waitlisters—Booth, for example, has traditionally invited waitlisted candidates to submit an additional 300-word essay—it is important to provide an update. In addition to the obvious news items mentioned above, it’s beneficial to read over your essays and reflect on whether there is some piece of your background or interests that you haven’t gotten across yet. Taking the time to write about your relevant recent experiences, positive developments in your candidacy and ways that you’ve enhanced your understanding of the program is a nice sign of your interest in the school and a good strategy for telegraphing your commitment to attending. It is, of course, also in your interest to make sure that the adcom has the most up-to-date information so that it can make an informed decision the next time your file comes up for evaluation.

Keep in touch.

Don’t disappear after an initial note to the adcom or phone call to your waitlist manager (if applicable). If you have plans to be on or near campus, for instance, send a quick email to alert your waitlist manager (or whoever you may have interacted with on the adcom) to this fact. In many cases, you’ll find that the adcom will even invite you to stop by for a friendly chat about your candidacy—something that can go a long way towards helping your case. Beyond a visit, sending a brief update every few weeks or so is another way to reaffirm your interest in the school and keep you fresh in the minds of the adcom—something that could work to your advantage in a discussion of which candidates to admit from the waitlist. In all cases, it is important to remember that there is a fine line between persistence and pestering, so use good judgment!

Letters of support.

If, during the admissions process, you have interacted with students or alumni of the program, it may be worth reaching back out to these individuals and updating them on your status. Assuming you have made a positive impression during the admissions cycle, they may be willing to provide an additional letter of support for your candidacy at this stage of the process.

Have a contingency plan.

While it’s important to be consistent and enthusiastic when waitlisted and communicate with staff at your target program, it’s also wise to have a backup plan. With the Round 2 deadlines for several top programs a little over a month away, there’s still time to put together a solid application to another school. Even if you’re waitlisted at the school of your dreams and intend to reapply if not admitted, it’s also never too early to start thinking about the coming year and what steps you might take to enhance your candidacy before next fall.

Good luck to everyone waiting to receive decisions over the next few weeks!

This article has been edited and republished with permissions from Clear Admit.

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Advice, Featured Home, Recommendations | 0 comments