Author Archive

Preparing for the GMAT

By Dana

For many, the most agonizing component of completing the b-school application process is the GMAT exam. It does not have to be as stressful as it seems, so long as you plan ahead, and prepare yourself accordingly.

First and foremost, timing is key. This is not like cramming for your history exam in college; staying up the night before hoping to cover all of your class notes and sleeping with the text under your pillow to absorb the material by osmosis. From the moment you consider attending b-school, you should also begin considering the GMAT, including researching potential dates and locations for the exam to help give yourself an idea of what kind of time frame you will have to study. Many Admissions folks will recommend a preparation time of at least 6-8 weeks, with the idea that a couple of hours each night you will be able to dedicate taking practice exams and familiarizing yourself with the format of the exam.

Practice makes perfect. Try taking practice exams online before the big day, and determine what areas could use more attention in your studying to avoid concentrating too much effort in any one area that you have already mastered. It is best to sit down and complete an exam as if it were a real life situation. This will give you a fairly good idea of what to expect when you sit down for the real thing.

We recognize that taking the GMAT does put a dent in your wallet, but there is nothing like having the expertise of surviving an actual GMAT exam under your belt! Prior experience will likely help put you more at ease on your second or third testing day. Most Admissions Offices will take the highest score you have achieved on your exam when considering you for admission to b-school. That being said, taking the exam more than 2 or 3 times will not be entirely useful, nor will it be cost effective, as you apply to MBA programs. My advice is to take the exam, and determine whether or not the score you receive is the score you feel confident in submitting along with your application. If you believe that you can score better a second time around, there is no harm in trying again. If on your first try you are fortunate enough to achieve a score that you are confident with and proud of, then by all means, use this score for your application! Bottom line; do not rush to submit an application that does not have your full confidence. Many schools will not allow you the opportunity to resubmit your scores once you have clicked the submit button on your application, so while you are being deadline conscious in applying, you want to put your best application forward, not your fastest.

Good Luck!


Mom: Your biggest fan, but not the right choice for a letter of recommendation to business school.

By: Dana

We have discussed the importance of the campus visit, how to make a good first impression, and tips for a successful business school essay.  What’s left?  For many people, the most challenging piece of the application puzzle is securing a positive letter of recommendation.  Not because you aren’t brilliant, or because nobody wants to write one for you, but rather because you don’t know who to ask, when to ask them, or even how to approach asking in the first place.

What is important to remember about the letter of recommendation is that it is the one component of your application that you are leaving in the hands of someone else.  You earned the degree and grades on your transcript, you studied for months to achieve that score on the GMAT, you spent hours writing your essay, and you traveled all over the map to visit schools and meet with admissions representatives.  Now you are left to the opinions of another in completing a work of art that you have, to date, been meticulously crafting, perhaps even at the expense of spending time with your friends and family.  So before you begin frantically hitting the send button in your email, mass mailing requests for a letter of recommendation from everyone in your contact list (although I am sure your mother could write pages about how wonderful you are), here are a few things worth considering to ensure that the recommendation you submit is a complimentary and professional supplement to your already well-crafted business school application.

1.)    Plan ahead.  Begin thinking about the people in your life who could say positive things about you relevant to the world of business.  Asking a best friend seems like a good idea at first, but aside from the fact that this person likely cannot speak to your professionalism in the work place or how you have performed as an employee, and are typically the harshest of critics because they know you so well…almost too well.  Rather, you want to ask someone who can objectively speak to your success in the business setting; someone who always sees you putting your most professional foot forward.  Someone who will give an accurate, honest, and positive overall account of your work ethic and value you add to the company, and even in noting your areas for improvement, can discuss your progress and willingness to work on your shortcomings.  To accomplish this, most business schools will suggest asking your supervisor to serve as a recommender.  In the event that your current supervisor is unaware of your plans to leave for business school (or you are hesitating to mention it because you are afraid it will hurt your chances at that promotion you are up for), asking a former supervisor or a client is a perfect alternative strategy that can position you for success in achieving the same end result.  While we are on the topic, and in keeping with the theme of planning ahead, it is also worth mentioning that when leaving any position during the course of your career, it is best to part on good terms.  Don’t burn bridges.  Keeping in touch with supervisors from previous jobs is not only a wise networking move, but also one you might be thankful  for later in life should you find yourself considering masters or even doctorate level study, and wondering who to ask for a letter of recommendation!

2.)    Once you have determined who to ask, invite that person out for coffee or lunch.  Spend some time with him/her discussing your plans for the future.  Explain why business school is a logical next step for you, and inform your recommender of your goals for the future.  Give this person every reason to believe that investing a recommendation in you is worthwhile because you have given this a lot of thought and will be successful in your plans.  Bring a copy of your most up to date resume, displaying the progression you have experienced in your career thus far, and mentioning how a business degree will assist you in meeting your future objectives.  At the end of your conversation, ask this person if he/she would be willing to write you a positive letter of recommendation.

3.)    If your recommender agrees to write you a letter at the conclusion of this meeting, be sure to provide him/her with a copy of your resume, as well as any additional forms that he/she will need to complete the letter on time.  Discuss with him/her a reasonable time frame in completing the letter of recommendation.  While you are certainly being cognizant of your own deadlines, you must also be aware of the deadlines and workload your recommender may be experiencing as well.  The more time you allow your recommender to complete the letter, the better off you will be.  Rushing a quick turnaround doesn’t leave your recommender with a good impression of your time management or planning abilities.

4.)    Last, but certainly not least, thank your recommender!  The things that he/she says about you in that letter could be the deciding factor on whether or not you are admitted to your dream school!  Also, let him/her know how things pan out for you- where you end up going to pursue your studies, what your next steps will be in your career.  Maintain communication with your recommender beyond that coffee or lunch meeting.  You never know when you might need to call on this person again in the future, or perhaps where you might bump into them as you progress along your career path.

Good Luck!

Making the Most of Your Campus Visit

Aerial photo of the Simon School located on the University of Rochester River Campus

By: Dana Eagle

So you’ve researched business schools, met with representatives at recruiting events, emailed with current students and alumni…what’s next? The most important part of your business school search process still remains…the campus visit. Here are a few things to keep in mind before gassing up the car or booking your flight to visit your top business schools.

1.) First impressions count: As a prospective student for business school, you want to make sure that you are making a good first, second, and even third, impression. Whether it is your first encounter with the school, or you are there for your long sought after admissions interview, putting your best foot forward is critical. Keep in mind that everyone you meet during your visit could be an influential contact. This includes, but is not limited to, the receptionist at the front desk, the admissions representative you are sitting down to chat with, the student who is taking you on a tour, and the professor who has welcomed you to sit in on a class. From the moment you step foot on campus, all eyes are on you.
2.) Dress the part: Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard is to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This certainly holds true in your MBA search process as well. It is never a good idea to show up for your campus visit like you just rolled out of bed, or are running late from an appointment with your fitness instructor. Dress to impress. Be professional, wear business attire, and leave the weekend lounge clothes in the closet at home. Dressing smart will also help you feel more confident and professional, allowing you to carry yourself in a way that is appropriate for interactions with faculty, staff and students alike during your visit.
3.) Know your resume: When meeting with an admissions professional, they will likely want you to share your story with them. It’s a great way for admissions folk to hear your interpretation of the text on your resume, and allows you the opportunity to bring your resume to life with anecdotes or accomplishments you may have left out to keep within the 1-2 pages of formatted script. But, knowing is half the battle. You must also be prepared for the questions that follow. Have answers prepared before your visit to avoid sounding caught off guard during an informational meeting, or formal interview. Be ready to discuss that gap in employment, or why you chose your course of study in your undergraduate or post graduate academic career. These questions, and more, are fair game and likely to come up during your conversation.
4.) Silence your cell phone: Sure, mom, dad, your spouse, or a close friend will be eager to know how your visit is going, but getting that call in the middle of your interview or while sitting in on class is not going to help your efforts towards securing a good first impression. Be sure to keep you cell phone silenced, or, to be safe, turn it off altogether.
5.) Be observant: Talk to as many people as you can while you are there. These interactions will give you a good idea of what the culture of the school is like. Pay attention to how others around you are interacting as well. Do people look happy to be there? Are the students and faculty communicating? Are people helpful? Graduate school is a big investment and you are likely going to spend a lot of your time on campus whether it is in the classroom, working with your teams on projects, studying, eating, studying some more…you get the idea! You want to make sure that you enjoy the atmosphere. You should also consider driving around the city while you are there. This place could be home for at least a year or two, so be sure to find out what there is to do in the area, and assess whether or not you feel safe and contented in these surroundings.

I wish you all the best of luck in your search, and hope to you see you touring the halls of Simon in the near future. Safe travels!

Simon Volunteers Club Spreads Holiday Joy

By: Stefanie

Each December, with the help of the Simon and Rochester communities, the Simon Volunteers student club launches a Secret Santa Campaign.  The Volunteers work with several local organizations and their member families to purchase holiday gifts for underprivileged children in the Rochester area.  Last year, the Volunteers were able to make the holidays brighter for 135 children and their families.  This year’s goal is 160 children. 

Throughout the year, the club plans multiple events as fundraisers including a Beer Tasting event (always a favorite!) and a Silent Auction – with donations from local businesses, faculty, staff, and students.  You can bid and win such prizes as a round of golf with a faculty member at the exclusive member-only Oak Hill Country Club, guitar lessons, a baked good once a month for a year, a gourmet meal for you and 3 of your favorite friends – just to name a few!  And all for a good cause.  The money raised, along with cash donations, goes to the shoppers (Secret Santas) to purchase the gifts on the children’s wish list.  

The Secret Santa campaign then culminates with one of the most eagerly awaited annual traditions – the Wrapping Party!  Current students, faculty, staff enjoy listening to carols, sipping hot cocoa, and wrapping the many presents purchased with care.  If you aren’t already in the holiday spirit by the wrapping party, you sure will be after!  Every year I enjoy being a Secret Santa and having the chance to give a child in the Rochester area a brighter holiday.  There is no better way to join the Simon community in celebrating the holidays!