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Archive for the ‘Graduate School’ Category

As a college and graduate school admissions consultant and career counselor, I work with young adults of all levels of motivation, many who amaze me with their talent, discipline and goal-orientation. Often, however, I find myself nudging clients along, usually at the request of their parents, hoping to breathe life into comfortable suburban twenty-somethings who are sadly lacking in passion and purpose.

I have frequently posted about the next generation’s need for meaning and purpose. Occasionally, I encounter a young person who seems to have found a rudder for the future.

Last night, I attended a reception for the children of family friends, a son graduating from Georgetown and a daughter finishing high school and headed for Elon. I had met their parents back in my corporate years. I had known the children since they were babies, but due to geographical moves had not seen them in recent years. The reception was held at the family’s close-knit African-American Baptist church in NJ, which had been a nurturing home base for them despite several relocations over the years.

Ross, a handsome, articulate and charismatic double major in philosophy and theology, spoke about his future, bringing many in the gathering (including myself) to tears. He talked about his extracurricular community service work with inner-city teens in Washington DC throughout his years of study at Georgetown.

Ross mentioned a special connection with a young man who wanted to drop out of high school, because none of his friends had lived to be twenty-one. With such a morbid perceived life expectancy, this disillusioned teenager did not want to spend his “last years” in school. After encountering such a heartbreaking situation, Ross decided to commit two years of his life to Teach for America.

Teach for America is a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting the nation’s most promising future leaders to teach for two or more years in low-income communities throughout the U.S. The organization was founded by Wendy Kopp after she developed the idea to help eliminate educational inequity in the U.S. for her senior thesis at Princeton in 1989–the year Ross was born.

Applying to Teach For America has become highly popular among seniors at America’s elite colleges. In its first year, TFA placed 500 teachers; in 2010, it received more than 46,000 applications resulting in 4,500 new corps members. These applicants included 20 percent of the senior class at Spelman, where Ross’s mom went to college; 12 percent of all Ivy League seniors; 7 percent of the graduating class at U Michigan-Ann Arbor; and 6 percent at UC-Berkeley.

Dismal job market news for 2011 graduates continue to fill the newspaper headlines, broadcast airwaves, and cyberspace. Recent examples: “Tight Job Market for Recent Grads” (UPI.com); “Class of 2011, Most Indebted Ever” (WSJ.com); “Jobs for College Grads Growing at a Snail’s Pace” (U.S. Chamber of Commerce).

Concerned parents are understandably encouraging their college students to pursue “practical” majors that will give them a good shot at employment. Their greatest fear is that after spending  (or borrowing) $200K for their kid’s education, he or she will have to move back in with Mom and Dad after college is over, with no job prospects. And their worst fears are oftentimes coming true.

Yet, here’s a young man who did not major in accounting or economics to hedge his bets. He followed his heart, studying philosophy and theology. He saw a desperate need in society, and took it upon himself to answer the call to meet that need. Pretty simple. And profound.

Many kids coming out of college these days do temporarily move back with Mom and Dad, to begin a job search, prepare for graduate school admissions tests, get a stop-gap job and save money, or try to otherwise find their way. And I understand that for many college grads, that is a necessary route to take. But it is also deceptively easy to waste several years in a state of suspended animation. Instead, what about changing the world?

I don’t know how much TFA teachers get paid, although I know graduate school partnerships offer benefits ranging from active recruitment of TFA alumni to tuition help. But most important, experiences like TFA change the person who joins forever, and change the young people that member influences.

Ross will be teaching 8th Graders in New Orleans. Can you imagine the impact this smart, centered, charismatic young teacher will have on disadvantaged teens, especially boys, who need a grounded role model?

I work with many college and graduate school applicants writing essays about how they want to improve society. I believe most are sincere. But very few applicants find a way, through their college majors, internships, entry level jobs, or long term career choices, to actually become agents of change. Most people, in the end, settle for survival and perpetuating the status quo. Once in a while, however, someone decides to really change the world.

Related reading: A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All by Wendy KoppStart Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie (founder of Toms Shoes, available September 2011); Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made It Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide by Stacey Edgar. Great summer reading for college students to help them incorporate entrepreneurial social action into their evolving life purpose.

Related posts: Liberal Arts and the Real World; Finding a Job in a Tough Economy; So You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship…What To Do?

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In 2003, Educational Testing Service (ETS) lost the contract to manage the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to ACT and a division of Pearson. Since then, ETS has been aggressively urging business schools and students to consider using the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) instead of the GMAT.

Since Stanford Graduate School of Business took the step of accepting the GRE in 2005, 450 B-schools have followed suit. ETS will be launching a revised GRE in August, 2011, which should further intensify the competition. For those interested in the Coke-Pepsi rivalries in standardized testing, you can read the flurry of articles in the business press over the past two years: “GRE or GMAT: Test-Takers Dilemma” in BusinessWeek; “G.R.E. vs. the GMAT” in NY Times; “GRE is Fast Becoming a GMAT Alternative for B-School Applicants” in US News & World Report.

But as a college student or recent grad, you simply want to know: “Which test should I take?” Here are some considerations:

1. Differences between the two tests and your own test-taking strengths. Historically, the GMAT has been known to emphasize  logic, while the GRE has measured the test-takers’ ability more in vocabulary. The GMAT has been known to favor students of higher mathematical ability. However, I would warn against studying specific internet comparisons of GMAT vs. GRE right now, because the GRE is about to be changed (8/2011). Check out a comparison of the old vs. new GRE in About.com.

2. Your future goals.The GRE is the entry level test for the broadest set of future goals. If you plan to get a masters or doctorate in just about any field, including economics, the GRE has you covered. You may want to do your graduate school standardized test-taking while you are still in student mode, but you are not ready to commit to saying you will be applying to business school five years hence.

3.Where do you plan to apply? Most of the top ranking B-schools accept both the GRE and GMAT now: Stanford, Harvard, MIT Sloan, Columbia, NYU Stern, Wharton,  U Chicago Booth, U Mich Ross, UVA Darden, UNC Kenan-Flagler, Duke Fuqua, and Dartmouth Tuck. However, there are a few stars missing from the list: Northwestern Kellogg, UCLA Anderson, Cornell Johnson, USC Marshall, Emory Goizueta. So if you intend on applying to any of these schools, you will need to take the GMAT.

I advise researching the schools you are most interested in, to see what their philosophy is about GRE vs. GMAT. According to Wikipedia, Stanford GSB prefers the GRE but accepts both; NYU Stern prefers the GMAT but accepts both; Columbia accepts the GRE only if the applicant has not taken the GMAT in the past five years.

At this point in time, it may actually make sense to take both tests, to maximize flexibility. This is admittedly an expensive approach ($140 GRE, $250 GMAT), but what future brand manager would want to apply to Wharton, Tuck or Duke without applying to Kellogg? After the GRE is revised in 8/2011, there may be more efficiencies in studying for both tests. And hey, someday you may just want to get a PhD.

Recommended reading: The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets: A Former Harvard Business School Admissions Board Member Reveals the Insider Keys to Getting In by Chioma Isiadinso. Related posts: Does Your College GPA Matter? Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Can I Get an MBA if I Wasn’t a College Business Major?

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It depends… on what you ultimately decide to do, either in college or after college. During undergraduate, you may choose to transfer to a more prestigious school, or apply for a cool study abroad program that requires a good GPA. After college, you may aspire to an elite graduate or professional program, or a top tier company entry level position. If whatever goal you end up choosing does not require decent grades, then you’ll be ok if you slack off. But if you slack off, and later decide on a higher aspiration, then you’re screwed. Let’s look at the possible goals after college that could require a strong  GPA.

1. Law School. According to US News & World Report, the 25th-75th percentile GPA scores for all students for the lowest of the top ten law schools is 3.5-3.9. If your GPA is on the low side, that puts more pressure on your LSAT score.

2. Graduate Business School. According to US News & World Report, the average GPA score for the lowest of the top ten graduate B-schools is 3.5. If your GPA is low, that puts more pressure on your GMAT score.

3. Medical School. According to US News & World Report, the  average GPA score for the lowest of the top ten medical schools (primary care)  is 3.7. If you are a serious pre-medicine student, you are probably not reading this post anyway!

4. Graduate Programs. According to About.com, most master’s programs require minimum GPAs of 3.0 or 3.3, and most doctoral programs require GPAs of 3.3 or 3.5. If you are applying for a doctoral degree in a competitive field, seeking a fellowship, and aspiring to attend a top ten graduate school, expect requirements to be higher. Graduate programs would like to see that you were in an undergraduate honors program with a research thesis, and qualifying for that opportunity requires a 3.5 or higher GPA. If you are considering graduate work in your field, you should be doing a thesis anyway, just to get your “feet wet” in the world of research.

5. Entry Level Jobs. 3.0 is the bare minimum. Top tier companies in fiercely competitive fields, such as investment banking, management consulting, and Big Four audit firms, will use GPA to weed out less qualified candidates. Additional opinions about GPA and entry level jobs: “Those Low Grades in College May Haunt Your Job Search” NY Times, “Low GPA in Top Engineering School: What To Do?” College Confidential, “Should I List My College GPA on My Resume?” Quintessential Careers. You may never want to go to graduate school or work at an elite company. Then again, you might. Your best bet is protecting your GPA at all costs: it follows you forever.

Relevant reading: How To Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real Students Use to Score High While Studying Less by Cal Newport, The Best Law Schools’ Admissions Secrets: The Essential Guide from Harvard’s Former Admissions Dean by Charles H. Whitebread, The Best Business Schools’ Admissions Secrets: A Former Harvard Business School Admissions Board Member Reveals the Secrets for Getting In by Chioma Isiadinso.

Related posts: Best Websites for Careers in Finance, Take the GMAT While You’re Still Smart, Getting a Job with a Lackluster GPA.

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