Location was prime for public transit for all locals and people coming in from out of town. The Grand Hyatt is a major landmark in Manhattan as it is right at Grand Central (key for people coming from areas north of the city) and less than a 10 minute walk from Penn Station (key for people coming from NJ Transit). Amtrak services both stations.
Disclaimer: The handouts for the two day event will NOT be posted. This is per instructions from the Kaplan
folks. The handouts from the free event (Road to Business School) will be posted as the event was open to the public.
. He was the main Kaplan
rep running the show (moderator/host)
Liza Weale (MIT alum) was another main face for the event. She does not have a profile listed on kaptest.com.
Neelam Desai, GMAT instructor. He does not have a profile listed on kaptest.comDennis Yim
presented during the Road to Business School portion of the weekend.
Other people who were not Kaplan
staff but presented at the conference will be mentioned where his/her session is.
Breakfast and welcoming from 9am-10am
A light breakfast was available for the attendees. After signing in and obtaining our materials and name tags, attendees were free to mingle and eat. Each table was manned by at least one rep from Kaplan
(or a visitor like the rep covering the event from Vault.com, Ben Barron
, etc.) People were generally friendly and open for discussion. The reps sitting at the table pushed for engagement from all parties at the table (i.e. no one was allowed to remain silent the entire time). There was a large focus on the "individual" at the event. This is KEY to the application process and it was nice to see it as one of the main drivers for the event.
We then moved to the larger hall and Liza then spoke for a bit promoting the event. She listed out the reps from schools/industries that would be present. This alone made the weekend event worthwhile..
The "pitch" was the single most mentioned thing over the weekend. The attendees were told the pitch provides the framework for the entire application process, thus one should establish the pitch before completing any of the detailed action items (updating resume, essays, etc.). Look at business school as any other major business transaction: the strategy is needed before establishing the tactics. The pitch is the baseline for the strategy. The follow up to the pitch is doing your "brand management". You are the brand and you need to pitch yourself to the customers (the schools). Here, the applicant must reflect how he/she is similar to others and how he/she is different from others. A pitch given from Kaplan
(info pulled from the GMAC) "Satisfaction *almost* guaranteed with an MBA" (see research here: http://www.mba.com/mba/WhyBSchool/Benef ... mniSay.htm
We then went through some exercises on forming the pitch. The goal was to develop a pitch to present the next day at breakfast. To properly craft a pitch, one must answer the three whys:
Why this b-school
Given these are normally aspects of the application; it makes sense to have these associated with the pitch.
We had a homework assignment for the weekend seminar to read the book Blue Ocean Strategy. I have read most of this book and would advise other applicants to read it. It's a quick read and while some aspects of the book seem "well duh", it seems many aspiring applicants for b-school and many large institutions (fortune companies) are missing out on this.
The lunch session on Saturday was hosted by Ben Barron (profile above). Ben took the attendees through some high level points on the application process. His main point was do not discount non-business experiences from your application. While we see the baller aspect of the finance types as applicants, they are a dime a dozen. If you have a story that makes you unique, make sure it is relevant (only go way back in time if it REALLY stands out) and run with it.
Ben presented Do's and Don'ts for the application process. What the admission committees look for in an applicant. To sum things up: don't keep up with the Jonses, make SURE you are different from the Jonses (in a good way). Making a strength as a weakness does not mean working too hard. The thing Ben reiterated more than once: don't aggravate the admissions committee. Answer the question asked and don't offer too much information (don't ramble). The committee is not your shrink. Also be specific (saying "I did good" doesn't tell the committee anything. Show your story with actions). If your essay does not seem to follow your pitch, question your pitch.
After lunch we had the Road to Business School event. This was a combination of the pay event and the free event and the # of attendees went sky high. As attendees of the pay event, we had some VIP seating and some VIP access to the reps from the schools at the happy hour event (this will be discussed in a bit). As this event was free, I will draft all my notes from the panel, but in a later post as I have a LOT of notes (most of my notes are from the panel). See shaselai's notes at:destination-business-school-kaplan-experience-98810.html
That night we had the happy hour event on a rooftop (ok, a halfway up rooftop, more like a balcony). Although the space was a little tight for our group, it was fairly easy to float around and speak with the Kaplan
reps or other attendees of the event. The major downside of happy hour: some of the attendees were planning on speaking to reps from the b-schools during the happy hour. The Kaplan
presenters mentioned more than once a number of reps had confirmed he/she was coming. In the end, the reps mingled together on one side (the balcony was shaped like this |_,and the reps stood near the opposite of most of the attendees, thus unless one got up and walked around the corner (for those in the opposite corner) we had no idea the reps were even there. One rep came to say goodbye to two of the attendees, and by then the other reps were gone as well. Given the Business School Fair was open to the public, it was like any other event (job fair/recruiting) where some people decided to hog a rep for up to 20 minutes. This was by far the most disappointing aspect of the weekend (not a terrible thing, but I was expecting some access to the reps without the crowd as an attendee).
The day started with working on our pitch. People were asked to present his/her pitch and we received some feedback on the speaker understood/processed the pitch. There was a big focus on keeping it short/simple, while delivering the complete message.
The Mastering the GMAT session was next, hosted by Neelam Desai. Given the time constraint (one session in a weekend program), we focused on 700+ questions and strategies for approaching them.
Disclaimer: the next item is my personal opinion on the Kaplan
prep programs (the below is based on both the GMAT session during the free portion and the session during the pay session)
Two strategies Kaplan
used to pitch were focus on the first 10 problems and listen with your ear on the sentence correct (verbal section). I did NOT like either one of these strategies and did not net success using them. Let's go through them one by one:
If you browse the forum, you will find people who like the focus on first 10 problems strategy. The downside of this is it becomes much easier to run out of time at the end. As seen in the GMAC Test Prep summit (gmatclub-attends-gmac-test-prep-summit-85573.html
), the GMAC confirmed consecutive problems incorrect and not answering problems entirely hurt you much more than spaced out incorrect problems. It is true doing well at the beginning will get you to higher rated problems sooner, but crashing at the end will easily remove this benefit (and perhaps be your downfall).
Listening with you ear on SC: Even if you are a native speaker of the English language, if you routinely violate grammar rules in speech, email, thought, etc., you will violate the same rules on the test. For some of the more irregular idioms, one might do fine there, but for the other major violations people routinely commit (company – their (singular vs plural), parallels, tense, etc), using your ear is a big no-no.
Now for the good news: both of the above were NOT mentioned. For verbal, the speaker said mastering 7-10 grammar rules will cover the majority of the topics covered on the GMAT (I agree with this). Also the focus on the first 10 problems was debunked using a graph similar to the one seen in the GMAC Test Prep Summit (see link above)
+1 for Kaplan
Next, we had a mock MBA strategy class hosted by Paul Mcmanus from Boston College (profile
). Forewarning here: Paul is a VERY lively lecturer and DEMANDED participation from all parties. It is not possible he was representative of all MBA profs.
To a degree, if someone was consistently silent, he would "ask" if he/she had a thought or opinion on a specific topic. He had a desire to hear from every attendee. The mock class was very enjoyable and a nice intro as to what one can expect in a case based school (or a multifaceted school that uses cases as part of the curriculum). The main driving forces for a strategy discussion (limited to the short case we were given (4 pages)):
What industry is the company in?
Who are the customers?
What is the strategy?
The round robin followed the mock strategy class. This *almost* made up for the lack of time with the school reps. We had five alums from different schools (HBS, Ross, Tuck, 2 from Kellogg and one from the executive program at Stern). The round robin was 15 mins each guest for a one hour slot (there were five guests, so the attendees had to pick one not to sit with). The guests were AMAZING. We had three in the banking world, one in non-profit, one entrepreneur (restaurant industry). All guests were more than willing to talk about anything, b-school, career, recruiting, internships, etc.. All were very honest (reality checks are always nice) and very willing to discuss things outside of the Kaplan
One point of advice from the round robin I found particularly beneficial: exploit resources for potential internships BEFORE the term begins (assuming you are in a full time two year program). Start reaching out to companies and alums early. Recruiting season for MBAs is at the same time it was for undergrad: during the time in the semester when everyone is getting crushed (mid terms, papers, exams, cases due, etc.). Also, if you’re targeting a company that does not actively recruit at your campus, you need to be ahead of the game to land a spot.
The final event was a session hosted by Jeremy Shinewald, founder of mbaMission
. Jeremy took the attendees through strategies on getting accepted to your school of choice. The take away points:
Make sure essays "show", not just "tell"
Show passion, don't be dry and rehash facts
Simplicity goes a long way (many people complain about not being an excellent writer. You don't need to be an excellent writer)
Keep the reader interested. Don't provide the entire story in two lines
Be yourself. If you try to fit a generic mold of the "ideal candidate", you'll just that, generic.
Again, all in all I give the event an 8 to 8.5 out of 10. You get a great value for $300 (if you lump all the provided amenities (materials, benefit from alum/round robin, etc.). Also, the attendees were all very open and looking to network with others. Outside of the zoo during the free event and the lack of access to the reps at the rooftop event, the event was a smashing success.
Feel free to post questions/comments. I will transcribe the admission committee rep panel in the coming days (I took notes during the entire session, so it may take some time).