2010 AIGAC Conference in Boston

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I will run out of superlatives if I attempt to describe the 2010 AIGAC Conference in Boston. Suffice it say that it was extraordinarily illuminating.  MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School graciously and generously hosted the event, which was kicked off by MIT Sloan’s Dean David C. Schmittlein, who discussed the reasoning behind MIT Sloan’s portfolio of programs as well as the school’s three-fold focus on innovation, action learning, and knowledge creation. He was followed by multiple presentations about MIT Sloan, several panels with representatives from Columbia, NYU Stern, Michigan Ross, INSEAD, Tuck, Yale SOM, Haas, Kelley, UCLA Anderson, UVA Darden, and Duke Fuqua. The conference ended at HBS with a dynamic presentation and tour of the magnificent HBS campus. (Ok I’ll can the superlatives.)

Several impressions and take-aways for applicants from the different events and sessions:

MIT Sloan Panels:

From the MIT panels it is clear that MIT is looking for demonstrated success academically and professionally.  The latter translates into success or professional progression that is better than the norm for your peers. In terms of those fuzzy attributes and personal characteristics that schools talk about, Sloan wants to see drive; an ability to build relationships and influence others;  and the establishment, pursuit and achievement of goals.  A few details about the individual programs:

  1. 100% of the MFin grads have jobs this year, this program’s inaugural graduating class.
  2. The EMBA is a program for those in mid-management with a demonstrated record of success who either want to advance in their career or make a slight career change without leaving their job.  Neither sponsorship nor the GMAT is required. (the latter may be requested if MIT has questions about the applicant’s quant skills.)
  3. The LGO program focuses on managing the global production and distribution of goods and services. It is a joint, quant-heavy 24-month program between MIT Sloan and MIT’s School of Engineering. Participants earn both an MBA and an MS in Engineering.

We also heard two presentations by MIT Sloan professors. If you have any doubt that MIT Sloan is serious about innovation and global reach, abandon them. The creativity and global impact evident in just these two hours would force you to reshape your views.

Impressions from Conference Day 2 (Multiple presentations by various schools reps)

  • Schools and admissions committee members look at different elements when they evaluate an application.  Pay attention to the nuances.
  • Your informal and personally identifiable interactions with school admissions personnel are highly revealing. They COUNT! Arrogance at any point in time is a death knell for your application (and most relationships too.) Rudeness to a receptionist is a ding. What qualities impress positively? In your essays and interviews, reveal dignity, generosity of spirit, self-awareness, authenticity, and consideration of others. These qualities cannot be faked or "spun."
  • Regarding financial aid, merit aid tends to go to the top X% based on academic stats. Generally, when evaluating fellowship essays, the readers do not refer to your application essays. Poor credit can prevent you from obtaining the loans necessary for you to attend the school of your dreams if merit aid and your resources don't cover the tab; get your credit in order before you apply.
  • Regarding career development, the MBA employment picture improved throughout 2009-10. Read the employment reports for schools before you decide to apply and certainly before you decide to attend; you need to know school strengths as revealed in these reports. Understand the role of the career services staff (educating students about effective career planning and job search) and the limitations of that role. (They don't create or find jobs for you.) Networking, which is about building relationships not the size of your contact list, is more important than ever. In order to build relationships, you must move beyond email.

Harvard Business School

At Harvard, we enjoyed an interactive two-hour presentation that was stimulating and engaging. To the extent it reflected the dynamism of the Harvard educational experience, I was extremely impressed.

This visit clarified for me that Harvard’s unparalleled brand is not just a matter of US News Rankings or smoke-and-mirrors branding.  At the same time, HBS is not for everyone, but like any top graduate program, it can be a fantastic experience for the right individuals.

Before the conference started my husband and I met with an acquaintance who is a professor at HBS. The professor was curious about my work, and I was curious about his. He asked me what I believe distinguishes Harvard students from the rest of the applicant pool. I thought for a moment and replied, "Leadership and impact." He smiled, and the conversation moved on. Just before leaving, I asked him, "From your perspective as an HBS professor, what is a common quality shared by HBS students?" He replied, "I smiled when you answered my question because the students come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. However, if I have to identify a common thread, it would be leadership and impact." If you are serious about attending Harvard Business School, make sure you demonstrate leadership and impact.

Reflections and Thank yous

It is our job as admissions consultants to help you choose the best target programs and show that you  belong at your chosen schools. The candor and graciousness shown by the hosting schools as well as by the presenting admissions directors will help Accepted’s staff do exactly that.

I am proud to report that Accepted's staff was well represented at  the conference. In addition to myself, Jennifer Bloom, Paul Bodine, Judy Gruen, Tanis Kmetyk, Cindy Tokumitsu, and Robbie Walker attended.

Profound thanks to the hosts and presenters as well as to AIGAC, led by Graham Richmond of Clear Admit, and specifically to Maxx Duffy of Maxx Associates and Anna Ivey of Ivey Consulting who co-chaired the event. Thanks also to the sponsors: Veritas Prep, Clear Admit, Hult International Business School, Manhattan GMAT, MBA Podcaster, and Zoom Interviews

Learn More: Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Choosing the One for You.

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of Accepted.com.

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