BusinessBecause: Why Emotional Intelligence Is Key to MBA Admissions Success

by Jonathan Pfeffer

A concept born in the 90s, b-school admissions teams are now reinforcing the importance of a high EQ among MBA candidates

Excerpt: “Within the classroom, MBA programs are offering more courses on soft leadership that help students better understand the importance of EQ and the self-awareness required to improve it,” says Jeff Thomas, CEO of Stratus Admissions Counseling.

Another way schools cultivate graduates with high EQs is to intentionally mix up the teams, so students are forced to understand and implement ideas from a variety of perspectives.

“In some instances, these teams of 5-6 first-year students work together for all their core curricula, and must develop EQ skills to navigate assignments across multiple classes and functions,” explains Jeff.

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Chicago Business Journal: 5 Kellogg MBA application tips

by Jeff Thomas, Stratus Admissions Counseling CEO

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University (Kellogg) experience is dedicated to transforming students into growth-oriented leaders who inspire growth in people, organizations and markets.

Located in the “urban suburb” of Evanston, Illinois, Kellogg’s Global Hub offers stunning views of Chicago’s skyline and Lake Michigan.

Familiarizing yourself with Kellogg is crucial to creating a standout application. Here are five key considerations when preparing your MBA application.

  1. Select the right program for you.

Kellogg features several distinct programs, each highlighted below.

  • Two-Year MBA: an immersive, full-time MBA
  • One-Year MBA: an accelerated program for those with an undergraduate business background
  • MMM: Earn a Kellogg MBA and an M.S. in Design Innovation from the Segal Design Institute at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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Noodle Pros: How To Maximize Your Chances Of Being Admitted To A Top Business School

by Jeff Thomas, Stratus Admissions Counseling

Originally published as an expert guest post on Noodle Pros

Multiple studies show that MBA holders earn significantly more than their non-MBA counterparts. There is also evidence showing that the newly-minted MBAs see their annual compensation increase immediately after they graduate and start their first job.


Gaining admission to one of the top business schools in the United States is no small feat. The “survival rate” – or admissions rate, as it is more commonly known – for applicants to top schools like HBS, Wharton and Stanford stubbornly hovers around a measly 10%. And this survival rate does not consider how broadly and deeply talented the applicant pool is.

Every applicant that we see seems to stand out in multiple areas, such as stellar GMAT scores, killer work experience and/or a fantastic undergraduate track record. In addition, they all seem to have great instincts when it comes to presenting themselves to admissions committees. Still, the AdComs must find a way to eliminate 90 percent of the applicant pool and admit a group of all-star future MBA’s.

At this point, as a business school applicant, you might ask yourself if all of this is really worth it.

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” For instance, multiple studies show that MBA holders earn significantly more than their non-MBA counterparts. There is also evidence showing that the newly-minted MBAs see their annual compensation increase immediately after they graduate and start their first job.

In addition, MBA holders report feeling better prepared and equipped to tackle their jobs, as well as increased job satisfaction.

So, if you want make more money and feel better while doing it, then go get that MBA!

Once on that road, there are several tried-and-true approaches, strategies and tips that can help get you there, including:

Start Early

We have seen a direct correlation with our clients between when they seriously engage in the application process and whether or not they are admitted to their top choice schools. B-school applications challenge candidates to offer deep insights into themselves within a very tight word limit. This is not easy – and it takes time to even decide what to reveal about yourself, and then figure out how you are going to say that in 250 words.

Go Deep

On the surface, many applicants look alike to the admissions committees – high GMAT scores, great work experience, and engaged community service. The best way to differentiate yourself is to really explore your passions, motivations and goals. Figure out who you are as a person, then convey that in a powerful, effective manner.

Recruit Recommenders

Your recommendations can tip the scales in these tight admissions decisions. Find recommenders who are appropriately connected to you, willing to take the time to construct a strong recommendation, and help the AdCom see how you stand apart from your peers.

Get Help

The application process should not be traveled alone. Navigating a first-time process solo where most people fail is not the best decision. Find a trusted adviser who can help you efficiently, effectively and successfully. You might already have someone in your life who has the time, experience and trusted relationship that you need to navigate.  However, if not, you can have a professional admissions advisor on your side throughout the process.

BusinessBecause: Is There A Cheating Epidemic At Business School?

by Jonathan Pfeffer

Some MBA students are cheating to get ahead

Excerpt: Susan Cera, director of MBA admissions at Stratus Admissions Counseling, elaborates on the idea that cheating can result from a discrepancy in cultural norms:

“In the US, elementary schools teach students how to research a subject, and middle schools and high schools drill into students the importance of citing your work and making it your own. This is not the norm elsewhere in the world. When you bring students together from 40-plus countries, there is a broad range of norms with respect to what cheating is.”

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NY Business Journal: 5 Johnson MBA application tips

by Jeff Thomas, Stratus Admisisons Counseling CEO

The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management (Johnson) MBA program emphasizes intense collaboration and prepares leaders for global success.

Located in Ithaca, N.Y., four hours from New York City, the campus is surrounded by hiking trails and waterfalls. Ithaca also boasts more restaurants per capita than NYC.

Familiarizing yourself with Johnson is crucial to creating a standout application. Here are five key considerations when preparing your MBA application.

1. Select the right program for you

Johnson features several distinct MBA programs, each flexible, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary. Six of them are highlighted below.

  • Two-year MBA: traditional full-time MBA for those who want to hone their technical and leadership skills, differentiated by the opportunity to select one of eight immersions
  • One-year MBA: accelerated MBA for professionals with significant work experience and advanced degrees or certifications
  • Cornell Tech MBA: NYC-based one-year MBA degree preparing graduates for start-ups or management roles in technology.
  • Dual degree programs: Earn a MBA along with another Cornell degree in a compressed timeframe. Specializations include in real estate, law and health administration.
  • Cornell Executive MBA Metro NY: collaborative weekend program 12 miles from NYC
  • Executive MBA/MS in Healthcare Leadership: NYC-based two-year joint degree designed to prepare the next generation of healthcare leaders

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BusinessBecause: Hate The MBA Rankings? What Lower-Ranked Business Schools Can Do To Compete

by Jonathan Pfeffer

Outside the top-ranked elite, b-schools in the US are developing new strategies to stay competitive

There’s a feeding frenzy at elite business schools right now with every Stanford, Harvard or Wharton applicant—and there are plenty—sweating bullets that a name brand degree is their only ticket to ride.

Excerpt with Stratus Admissions Counseling expert insight:

In fact, at lower-ranked business schools, students can still get a world-class education at a fraction of the price and a sliver of the admissions headache.

Jeff Thomas, CEO of Stratus Admissions Counseling, sings the praises of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, despite a low USNWR ranking:

“[Thunderbird’s] overall ranking on USNWR is 88 (of 93). However, if you look behind the numbers, Thunderbird is ranked fourth in terms of its international program. If an MBA candidate knows that they want to work internationally after earning an MBA, they can receive a top-five international business education at the 88th-ranked business school!”

TippingtheScales: Top 3 Clichés to Avoid in Your Law School Personal Statement

by Erin Abrams, Stratus Admissions Counseling

Originally published as an expert guest post on TippingtheScales 

You’ve taken the LSAT (and hopefully scored well), built a strong academic record in college and pursued internships that prepared you for a career in the law. You are now ready to apply to law school. Bear in mind that law school Admissions Committees (AdComs) read thousands of these essays per year, and come across the same overused themes and logical fallacies. When you begin to compose your personal statement, your mind blanks. You think to yourself, “I know that I’m an interesting and unique person who has a lot to offer the world as an attorney. How can I convey all of that in two double-spaced pages in 11-point font?”

Composing a personal statement is the most challenging part of the law school application process for many aspiring law students. In order to stand out from the crowd and improve your chances of admission to your top choice program, avoid variations on the following three themes in your personal statement.

1. “Despite my privileged background, I have overcome significant hardship.”

Overcoming adversity can be a meaningful theme for a personal statement, if stated in a nuanced and thoughtful way.

  • For example, if you have experienced socio-economic hardship, faced discrimination, or struggled with illness or disability, express how these experiences have shaped your character. Treat narratives of overcoming personal hardship with a healthy dose of self-awareness.
  • A truly “next level” essay will go beyond explaining how overcoming such challenges has enabled you to better relate to marginalized people in society. It will take that analysis a step further and examine the position of privilege and relative advantages that have enabled you to make the choices you did. Maybe you had particularly supportive parents or access to resources that others lacked.
  • Demonstrate resilience without sounding trite by being specific about how you addressed these difficulties and how your experiences have shaped your professional interests.
  • Demonstrate resilience without sounding trite by being specific about how you addressed these difficulties and how your experiences have shaped your professional interests.

2.  “I spent a few days/weeks helping poor people and now they are better.”

Some of the best personal statements focus on an applicant’s volunteer work providing valuable services to marginalized people but so do some of the worst. What’s the difference? The key difference is found in the level of self-awareness and the depth of experience. A first-rate personal statement will articulate your depth of experience and reflect on those experiences in a complex and insightful way. For example, how becoming a lawyer might help you to better address the systemic forces of inequality that you observed.

  • If your volunteer experience has been brief and limited to “voluntourism-type” activities, mention it in support of a larger theme or not at all.
  • If you have lived abroad volunteering for a nonprofit organization or worked full-time providing free legal services, contemplate the moral dilemmas or ethical conflicts that you confronted in your work.

3.  “Obtaining a law degree will enable me to succeed in business or politics.”

Generally, AdComs are wary of personal statements that do not evidence a clear desire by the applicant to become a lawyer, and instead suggest a wide range of possible career options upon graduation. A strong personal statement conveys a sense of direction and details an area of intellectual curiosity or passion Resist the temptation to explain how you “solved” your clients’ problems.

  • Don’t be afraid to question, in your essay, whether the work you performed helped your clients and what social, political, racial or economic dynamics impacted your work within the law.
  • A law degree prepares you best for one thing – practicing law. Following the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the conventional wisdom that a J.D. is a useful advanced liberal arts degree no longer holds.
  • While it is true that many successful businesspeople and government officials hold law degrees, their paths to those roles usually are not linear and they have often spent some time practicing law. In fact, you may have broad ranging career ambitions and feel unsure of what your future holds in 10 or 20 years.
  • However, for the purposes of your personal statement, clearly communicate why you want to be a lawyer and identify at least one or two areas of the law in which you are interested.

What should you do to create a stellar personal statement?

In order to avoid falling into three personal statement traps, organization, planning and authenticity are key. Start by asking yourself some key questions and reflect on the answers honestly. For example:

  • Why do I want to be a lawyer?
  • What are my academic or intellectual interests?
  • What experiences have I had professionally or personally that have prepared me for law school and the practice of law?
  • How will I contribute to the diversity of student life on a law school campus?

Write down the answers to these questions. Then, organize them into an outline. Hone and revise the outline so that it hangs together structurally and is organized around a common theme.

  • Start to fill in the outline with details – specific anecdotes, stories and quotes that build upon your theme with clear examples from your life.
  • Review and revise your essay until you feel like it is the strongest and most authentic reflection of yourself.
  • Then cut, cut, cut! Be ruthless and don’t fall in love with your own words.
  • If something doesn’t ring true to you, AdComs will have the same reaction. Every sentence should implicitly support your theme and advance your candidacy as a law student.
  • Finally, ask friends, family and mentors to review your essay and offer you feedback on it.

If you follow the steps outlined above, your personal statement will be unique reflection of your personality and will clearly demonstrate why you would make an excellent addition to the incoming class of law students at your top choice school.

About Stratus

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Chicago Business Journal: How to Prepare Your Chicago Booth Application

by Jeff Thomas, Stratus Admissions Counseling CEO

The Chicago Booth School of Business (Chicago Booth) features an academically rigorous program, with an emphasis on questioning conventional wisdom, conveniently located in one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas.

The Chicago metro area is home to more than 30 Fortune 500 companies in the consumer foods, financial, transportation, and insurance industries, among others.

Familiarizing yourself with Chicago Booth is crucial to developing a powerful application. Here are four ways to help you prepare your Booth MBA application.

1. Select the right Chicago Booth MBA program for you

Chicago Booth features four distinct MBA programs, all featuring the same world-renowned faculty and similar coursework.

  • Full-time MBA: a traditional 2-year, full-time MBA that includes a summer internship between the first and second years
  • Evening MBA: a convenient option for working professionals interested in evening classes
  • Weekend MBA: an opportunity for students commuting from across the country to attend Saturday courses
  • Executive MBA: perfect for seasoned career applicants hoping to advance to the next level of senior management within their organization

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LA Business Journal: How to Prepare Your UCLA Anderson MBA Application

How To Get Into UCLA’s

Anderson School of Management

Learn How  

by Jeff Thomas, Stratus Admissions Counseling CEO

The UCLA Anderson School of Management (Anderson) describes itself as intently focused on the future of business while providing “limitless access” to all that Los Angeles offers.

One of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in world, L.A. has more than 300,000 small businesses — including media and entertainment studios as well as Silicon Beach — and is home to hundreds of tech companies and start-ups.

When applying to Anderson, understanding the following nuances will help you prepare an impactful application.

1. Flexible curriculum

Anderson’s curriculum emphasizes leadership and communications, and offers 15 specializations, including technology leadership, marketing analytics, entertainment and global management.

In year two, the Applied Management Research (AMR) capstone project is a 20-week field study. During this project, a team of Anderson students partners with an organization to conduct primary research, solve strategic challenges, explore new markets or launch new products.

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U.S. News & World Report: You Don’t Need an Elite B-School for an MBA to Pay Off

by Farran Powell

Stratus Admissions Counseling CEO Jeff Thomas is cited several times as an expert source in this story.

Is an MBA worth it? U.S. News data show that there is a return at most ranked business schools.

Most MBA applicants try to get into HarvardStanford or Wharton – commonly called HSW – to fast-track their careers. But whether you get into one of these premier programs or not, earning an MBA is probably still worth it.

“There’s a wide variety of business schools that offer people – depending on their career – a choice that’s not limited to three or four schools,” says Jeff Thomas, CEO of New York-based Stratus Admissions Counseling. “There are dozens of schools that pay off for people in terms of the value to their career and pure earnings power.”

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