Planning for an MBA? Here’s When You Should Take the GMAT or GRE

Planning for an MBA? Here’s When You Should Take the GMAT or GRE

If you are planning to obtain an MBA, you’ll need to take the GMAT or GRE. When should you do that? The short answer is that sooner is generally better than later. In fact, you should consider studying for these exams while you are still in college. Your senior year is often the perfect time to take the GMAT or GRE.

MBA program applications are evaluated based on a variety of factors. Undergraduate GPA, professional progression and responsibilities, leadership, community service, and GMAT or GRE score all play a role. Many undergraduate students who know they may want to someday earn an MBA assume that the best time to study for the GMAT or GRE will be a few years before they apply. They just meld GMAT or GRE prep with the process of submitting an MBA application in their minds. But, one can take the GMAT or GRE long before they actually fill out an MBA application. Still other undergraduate students have a vague sense that getting an MBA might be something they consider in the future but have no idea if they’ll actually pursue one. These students may not even have thought about the GMAT or GRE at all.

In this article, we’ll explain why studying for an taking the GRE or GMAT while you are still in college is a reasonable way to improve your score and chances of admission to a top MBA program. And really, the same logic applies to any sort of graduate school program (which would then require the GRE, not the GMAT).

Why Could Taking the GMAT (or GRE) While You are Still in College Improve Your Score?

There are two basic reasons that studying for standardized tests while you are still an undergraduate can improve your score.

First, you probably have more time to prepare during your senior year of college than when you are in your second year of your first job. You might feel extremely busy when you are in college, particularly if you hold a leadership position in one or more organizations or are still looking for a job. However, although you can’t realize this while still in college because you can’t peer into your own future, you’ll likely be even busier when you are working full-time (i.e., with increasing amounts of responsibility, perhaps a new spouse and/or other family responsibilities, etc.). If you have more time to prep, it will be easier to build GMAT or GRE prep into your weekly schedule and consistently spend time on it.

Second, some, not all but some, of the skills you’ll need to excel on the GRE or GMAT will be much fresher when you are still in college.  Both the GMAT and the GRE test things like: mathematic ability, vocabulary skills, knowledge of grammar, problem-solving, logic, and reading comprehension skills. Although these exams are much less like academic math tests than many people believe, you’ll still need to know the rules of algebra, probability, and geometry.  If the last math class you took was 6 months ago instead of 6 years ago, you’ll be much better positioned to absorb the conceptual material so you can focus on test-taking strategy. If you haven’t taken a math class for nearly a decade, you might quickly find yourself considering a GMAT tutor.

So, if you know you want to get an MBA someday, you should strongly consider taking these exams while you are still in college. But perhaps more importantly, even if you don’t know whether you do or don’t want to get an MBA, you should still consider taking one of these exams while you are still in college.

How Long Are GMAT or GRE Scores Good For?

The astute reader might point out that GRE and GMAT scores have a shelf-life. They are not valid forever. Your GMAT score will be valid for five years from the day you take the test.  When you are applying to a top MBA program, they will treat your GMAT score the exact same whether you took it 1 month before applying or 59 months before applying. GRE scores are also valid for five years.

The fact that your GMAT or GRE score is only valid for five years is obviously relevant. You certainly don’t want to spend 12 weeks studying for the GMAT, get a great score, and then not apply to an MBA program within five years. If you follow that path and then decide you DO want to get an MBA, you’ll have to take the GMAT all over again. However, although it varies over time, typically 2-4 years of professional experience is more than enough to put forth an excellent MBA application. In fact, if you wait for 5+ years before applying for an MBA program, you can quickly become one of the older applicants. So, taking the GRE or GMAT during your senior year sort of forces you to prepare for applying to an MBA program within 5 years, which is not a bad plan.

Furthermore, many admitted students can defer matriculation for at least one year. So if you have an expiring GMAT score, you can apply, get admitted, and then defer for one year.

Should you take the GRE or GMAT?

Are you convinced you should take the GRE or GMAT during your senior year of college? Great! But which should you take? Top MBA programs all accept both. The question is how many truly treat them equally in the application review process. MBA programs typically place a slightly higher degree of importance on GMAT or GRE quant performance. And the GMAT is an MBA-specific exam that tends to be more challenging from a quant perspective. So, if you are serious about getting an MBA and want to demonstrate that to MBA programs, you might consider the GMAT. On the other hand, if your quant skills aren’t the strongest, the GRE might allow you to put a much strong foot forward. Schools may marginally prefer the GMAT, but if they see a 90th percentile GRE quant score and a 70th percentile GMAT quant score, that GRE quant score is going to be considered much more impressive.

And of course, if you are considering other types of graduate programs, the GRE makes perfect sense, since it’s accepted for MBA admissions and many other types of graduate school programs. For the college senior who really isn’t sure what the future holds, taking some time to study for the GRE is a fantastic use of time.

Conclusion

Generally speaking, the sooner you can take the GMAT or GRE, the better. The older we get, the busier we tend to get, and the more responsibilities we have (and therefore we have less time available to study). And the older we get, the longer it’s been since we engaged with the academic coursework these exams will ask us to recall.

About the Author

Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a boutique provider of private GRE tutoring and test prep for a wide variety of exams. He holds a B.S. from Indiana University and an MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. 

Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

COVID is still hindering in-person learning, forcing clubs to meet online (if not canceling them outright), and may even throw a wrench in in-person educational and extracurricular planning for the spring and summer. A primary focus of our work with 10th and 11th graders is extracurricular planning, and there’s one that is almost never dependent on needing to be anywhere in person: the independent study. 

Independent studies (IS) can be done anywhere and work with almost any area of interest, which is why in such uncertain times, they are our go-to EC. Like the “purpose” or “passion” projects many of our students undertake, the IS is a create your own educational opportunity, so there’s no one size fits all model to follow or template you can use to just plug and play. Below are some of the details we suggest thinking through if you are interested in conceptualizing an IS.

Who

The IS requires the student to have an area of interest that they want to explore (or explore more), as well as the time, energy, and foresight to plan it on their own. However, students may want to seek out support from a teacher at their high school or a mentor from outside of school if they desire to formalize it or have some guidance or check-ins along the way. 

What

Anything goes! But we suggest an area of academic interest related to what you may pursue in college. It might be a new topic, or it might be an extension of a topic you have already researched. The bottom line is, it should 1) be a topic/area you choose because you will need to be into it to make the work happen on your own and 2) if possible, it should work with your academic narrative (the academic story that unfolds in your college apps). 

Where

Planning the IS as a remote activity is a good call given the uncertainties around COVID. Doing so also provides the flexibility to add on other activities/formal programming or have time for a job if that suits you while still working on the IS, as well as plan something like travel (college visits?) if that becomes reality again! 

When

Winter break or early in the new year is the perfect time for students to start planning their independent study. As for an ideal start time? Many juniors are busy with testing so we suggest it as a summer activity, although students who may not have AP testing in May or who have finished or not yet started ACT/SAT testing could realistically start in the spring if their courseload allowed. The classes that appear on your transcript will always be the most important to colleges, so you don’t want your IS to get in the way of excelling in those courses. 

Why

Beyond how the restrictions that might be in place around COVID make it an ideal activity, an independent study helps demonstrate to colleges your commitment to learning, your intellectual focus and curiosity, and that you are a self-directed learner interested in charting your own course and not limiting yourself to what you can take in school (or afford to take outside of it). 

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10th and 11th Graders: College Planning Starts Now!

10th and 11th Graders: College Planning Starts Now!

By 10th and 11th-grade college talk should be fairly consistent—especially if you are, or have a student who is—aiming to attend a selective college or university. The majority of our work with students, which includes summer planning, narrative development (your “story” for college), compiling school lists, and completing the personal statement, app data, and a comprehensive resume—starts in 10th and early in 11th grade. If this is you (or your student!) there is no better time to start the process than right now.

Sophomores should consider the following:

  • Starting to prep for standardized exams early. Don’t wait until spring of your junior year to begin prep. We have a small list of tutors that we can highly recommend; don’t leave who you work with up to chance.
  • Meet with your school guidance counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and the letter will be much more personal if you know each other.
  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you heavily involved with any of your extracurricular activities (other than sports)? Look for leadership opportunities in school and consider activities outside of school as well. Does your resume point toward a major? It should start to at this time, and if it does not, that should be a goal for your summer plans.

And juniors, it’s not too late to:

  • Prep for and take the ACT or SAT. Yes, schools are going to be test-optional this year, but high test scores always help!
  • Meet with your school guidance counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and the letter will be much more personal if you know each other. Talk about your goal schools and your high school’s track record at those schools. Get their take on schools that are going to be a fit, and hash out a preliminary application plan.
  • Visit the websites of the schools you are interested in, explore the admissions and academics pages, attend ALL of the virtual offerings offered, and sign up for a peer guide with us to really go above and beyond in your research. Now is the time to kick your college research into high gear.
  • Start your Common App essay brainstorming. Ask us how!
  • Plan your summer wisely. You’ll want to use this summer to round out your resume and make sure it’s pointed toward your intended major, and you’ll also want to finish most of your applications. Make a plan now because you don’t want to be playing catch-up in the fall.

Email us or fill out the contact form to schedule a consult and find out how we can support you in your college planning and application process!

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Prepping for AP Exams

Prepping for AP Exams

Yes, you should prep for AP exams!

US News posted a short 4-week self-study plan that you can find here. We agree that four weeks is typically sufficient, but also sense APs could become more important, so a six-week plan might not be a bad idea if you have the time. 

We also suggest going beyond self-study if you struggled in class, or after taking a full-length practice test, notice some gaps in your knowledge. The AP curriculum is not taught in the same way by every teacher, and it’s not uncommon to have not covered every single thing on a test. The good news is, prepping for an AP test is not nearly as time-consuming as prepping for the ACT or SAT. 

Reach out to us for some tutor recommendations so you can get started by early April!

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Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Computer Science

Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Computer Science

As part of your college application, extracurricular activities—including those over the summer— help demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and commitment to an area of study (typically, the one you might pursue in college). The following programs are some of our favorites for students interested in computer science and technology.

Please keep in mind that “programs” are not the only way to explore academic interests. In fact, many colleges like to see students go beyond canned programming (ask us about this directly). You can join clubs at your school or locally, take free online classes via edX and Coursera, shadow, or intern (aka volunteer for most students)—there are tons of options ranging from super formal (and pricey) to those as simple as reading in your free time.

Google Computer Science Institute
A 3-week intro to coding for high school seniors. The program aims to train emerging tech leaders and innovators, held in multiple states each summer, with an inside look into Google operations. Participation is free.

Stanford AI4ALL

Stanford AI4ALL aims to increase diversity in the field of Artificial Intelligence. During this three-week online program, students are immersed in AI through a combination of lectures, hands-on research projects, and mentoring activities. Participants engage with professionals in the field to learn about cutting-edge ideas, such as how AI can be applied in medicine, disaster response, and combatting poverty.

CMU Computer Science Scholars

Participants will attend lectures by Carnegie Mellon faculty with expertise in various aspects of computing. They will also attend two academic seminars focused on programming and higher level mathematics. Project based learning will supplement classroom experiences and offer students an opportunity to apply learned concepts to real world challenges. Outside of the academic experience students will engage virtually with industry leaders to learn about the vast opportunities in the field of computing. Students will have an opportunity to be mentored by industry leaders throughout the country. At the conclusion of the program students will receive a comprehensive evaluation which can be integrated into their academic portfolios for college admission purposes.

Women’s Technology Program – MIT

The MIT Women’s Technology Program (WTP) is a rigorous four-week summer academic experience to introduce high school students to engineering through hands-on classes, labs, and team-based projects in the summer after 11th grade. WTP is designed for students who are excited about learning, have demonstrated their ability to excel at math and science in their high school classes, and who have no prior background (or very little) in engineering or computer science, with few opportunities to explore these fields. WTP is a women-focused, collaborative community aimed at empowering students from groups historically underrepresented and underserved in engineering. We especially encourage students to apply who will be the first family member to attend college, who come from high schools with limited access to STEM classes and activities, or who are African American, Hispanic, or Native American.

Girls Who Code

Events and programs vary year-to-year. Check site for more information.

Girls Teaching Girls to Code

Events and programs vary year-to-year. Check site for more information.

Others:

Duke TIP Artificial Intelligence Class

UT Auston Computer Science Academy

Illinois Tech

NJ GSET – GovSchool

Khan Academy – Computing Section

 

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Common Application Essay Spring Break Bootcamp

Common Application Essay Spring Break Bootcamp

Complete Your Common Application Essay in One Week! 

Have some extra time this spring break? Want to get the most important piece of writing in your college application completed efficiently, effectively, and early? 

In one week of focused 1:1 work, you will be able to check a very important college application item off your list: the Common Application essay.  

In this bootcamp you will: 

  • Attend a live session to learn what makes a successful Common Application essay.
  • Complete our specialized brainstorming process, working with an essay expert 1:1 to decide on the most unique approach to your essay. 
  • Draft your essay and receive detailed, targeted feedback to take it from a rough draft to a polished final essay.

You’ll also get access to sample personal statements by real-life students we’ve worked with (and who have gained admission to selective colleges and universities!).

When is this program offered?

  • This bootcamp is offered on-demand in March and April! Let us know your preferred week, and we will reach out to you with our availability. If we are not available for your preferred week, we will work with you to find another time that fits both of our schedules. 

Who should sign up for this program?

  • High school juniors who are ready to write their Common App essay (aka the personal statement) and who have a few hours daily to dedicate to it over the course of one week. This means they have time every day, for seven days, to work on their essay. 

How do I get more information and pricing?

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Free Online Courses for High School Students

Free Online Courses for High School Students

I have been suggesting free classes via edX and Coursera for a while now. They are the perfect way for students to build their academic narrative, which is a must when applying to selective colleges. If you did not jump on this suggestion already, this summer is a great time (if you don’t have a lighter EC load right now!

Below are some of my current favorites from both platforms. Click on the course title for a direct link.

Specializations (Multiple Courses)

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Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Business

Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Business

The best programs are the ones that help you explore your academic interests. As part of your college application, they help demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and commitment to an area of study (typically, the one you might pursue in college).

The following programs are some of our favorites for students interested in exploring business.

The University of Pennsylvania, Leadership in the Business World (LBW)

Supported by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Leadership in the Business World (LBW) is an intensive summer program for a select group of rising high school juniors and seniors who want an introduction to a top-notch undergraduate business education and the opportunity to hone their leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Learn more here.

New York Univesity, Summer @ Stern

Summer @ Stern through NYU Precollege offers rising high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to learn fundamental concepts of business—including accounting, finance, economics, marketing, and psychology—from NYU Stern’s world-renowned faculty.  Summer @ Stern is a two-course program that will give high school students an introduction to business, college life, and the cultural vibrancy of New York City. Learn more here.

Cornell University, Fundamentals of Modern Marketing

In this rigorous program, you’ll gain an understanding of the forces at work in the buying and selling of goods, services, and ideas. You’ll learn about the principles and fundamentals of modern marketing by exploring real-world examples, such as the evolution of Tesla’s products and distribution, how Halo Top and other niche marketers compete with Unilever, and the communication approaches of Google’s Unskippable Labs (digital advertising) and Cheetos/USA Curling (sales promotion). Learn more here.

LEAD, Multiple College Campuses

The Summer Business Institute (SBI) program is LEAD’s longest running Summer Institute and is considered the “flagship” program. The SBI program exposes scholars to business principles and the skill sets needed for successful business careers. The program challenges them through applied learning experiences often facilitated by college professors, links scholars to corporate executives in business fields and peers with similar aspirations and abilities. During LEAD SBIs, scholars reside and attend classes on-campus at a select number of the nation’s top business schools for three or four weeks. SBIs provide diverse, high-achieving rising high school seniors the opportunity to explore finance, entrepreneurship, accounting and marketing, among other business sectors. Learn more here.

Fordham University, NYC Business Insider

It takes just one week—five days behind the scenes of Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and Silicon Alley—to show you what a career in business looks like. Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business invites high school juniors and seniors to experience New York City as the commercial capital of the world. Network with new friends, and maybe even with your future college professors. Visit the boardrooms, showrooms, and stadiums where business gets done in New York. Learn more here.

Non-“Program” Ideas We Love

Khan Academy Modules

Free Online Classes from Top Colleges & Universities

JUV Consulting

  • Gain experience with prototype testing and feedback, give your opinions and perspectives on trends, be a part of potential focus groups, contribute to school outreach programs, and participate in brand ambassadorship opportunities. Learn more here.

Learn Bloomberg and Financial Modeling via Excel

Internships and Shadows

  • Ask us about this one!

 

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The Best Summer Programs for High School Students

The Best Summer Programs for High School Students

Guess what? There is no such thing as a “best” summer program.

The best programs are the ones that help you explore your academic interests. As part of your college application, they help demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and commitment to an area of study (typically, the one you might pursue in college or at least indicate that you might pursue in college on your app).

That said, the best way to spend your summers, if you have these aims in mind, might not be a summer “program” at all. There are a few very competitive and highly-regarded summer programs for high school students, but most pre-college programs are not selective. In future posts, I will be sharing some of my favorite summer programs for students with specific academic interests (business, engineering, computer science, etc.) as well as some ways to explore interests that are not formal pre-college programs (for the most part, free options!). These other options will include activities that you can participate in all year, so if you want to get started now you can.

Stay tuned…and if you want an email alert when these lists are posted, please subscribe!

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February Action Plan – By Grade

February Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • Once your applications have been submitted, track the status of each app online to ensure all of your application materials were received. Follow up with your school counselor ASAP if a college is missing your transcript or a letter of recommendation. Check your junk email folder regularly (daily), so you do not miss correspondence from colleges.
  • Interviews! Sign up for interviews for all of your RD schools as soon as possible (where available/and if still open), if you have not done so already.
  • For RD schools, consider writing interest letters to schools that welcome additional information. It might even be beneficial to have an extra LOR sent if you did not send one within the Common App. 

Juniors:

  • Keep prepping for standardized tests (ACT, SAT) and working hard in all of your classes; your grades this year are very important.
  • Do you know what major(s) you will mark on your application? Do you have a clearly defined academic interest or set of interests for your college apps? This is a critical part of your application that should be determined now.
  • Continue working on your resume. Some summer programs, internships, and interviewers may ask for this, so it’s useful to have it handy.
  • Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you tell your story for college! Get those plans in place now.; there is still a lot of uncertainty because of COVID, so having multiple plans/irons in the fire is a good idea. 
  • Meet with your school counselor about your preliminary college list and go over your goals and plans for college visits/outreach.
  • Take a college tour via CampusReel. Visiting campus in person is great, but you won’t be able to tour all of the schools on your initial list. Plus, formal campus tours can be a bit limiting! CampusReel is one of my favorite ways to get a real insider look at colleges.
  • Tired of online tours? Sign up with one of our Peer Guides!!! 
  • Start to think about your senior year schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your senior classes should be the most challenging of your four years.
  • If you’d like to start your Common App essay early, now is the time. If you are not working with us and would like to on your essays, reach out via the contact form. We help quite a few juniors finish their CA essays over the winter/spring, especially those with busy summer/fall schedules. 

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. Work on creating smart study habits this year.
  • Will you be starting your SAT or ACT prep this spring/summer? Begin to decide on a testing schedule and plan for how you will prepare for these exams.
  • Many 2021 summer program applications are now open. Please begin thinking about your plans for summer and work on applications if needed.
  • Start to think about next year’s course schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your classes next year should be more challenging than this year.
  • Now is the time to build your academic profile for college, and this means pursuing what interests you academically and intellectually outside of your classes. Have you gotten more involved with any academic extracurricular activities? Have you thought about what you might want to major in? Think about ideas for new and different activities or how to get more involved in your favorite activity (academic and non-academic); exploration now will help you begin determining what you might want to study in college. A great place to start exploring your academic interests is Khan Academy or TedX.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed in your app is through your resume. Keep working on yours this month.

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