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Stratus is a contributor to U.S. News & World Report and has been a contributor to Forbes. Click logos to view columns.

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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.

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.

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

Read More

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

 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.

Read More

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.”

Read More

New York Business Journal: How to Navigate the Columbia Business School MBA Application

by Jeff Thomas, Stratus Admissions Counseling CEO

Columbia Business School (CBS) describes itself as the only top Ivy League business school immersed in the global business hub that is New York City.

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

1. Timing

CBS has rolling admissions, and understanding how this process works may strengthen your chances of acceptance. If CBS is your first choice, apply Early Decision (ED). CBS ED is binding, meaning you are obligated to withdraw all other applications if you are admitted.

If you are applying for either Early Decision (ED) or to begin in January 2018 (J-term), your application is due October 4. You will likely have a final decision in four to six weeks.

If CBS isn’t your clear first choice, apply rolling admissions. CBS reviews non-ED applications in the order they are received, so the sooner you submit the better. This will place you at the front of the line when applicants are invited to interview. At the same time, quality is key, so don’t rush your application and compromise its effect on your candidacy. Read More

Chief Learning Officer: ​Build Leadership Skills Through Nontraditional MBA Programs

by Salma Qarnain, Stratus Admissions Counseling

Give executives greater flexibility to build global learning into their busy schedules.

LA Business Journal: ​5 MBA Application Strategies for UCLA Anderson and USC Marshall

 by Jeff Thomas, Stratus Admissions Counseling CEO

Los Angeles boasts two of the nation’s Top 25 MBA programs: The UCLA Anderson School of Management (Anderson) and the USC Marshall School of Business (Marshall).

The City of Angels offers a myriad of alternatives that enable you to identify a great fit, including:

UCLA Anderson’s Fully Employed MBA for working professionals who anticipate increased levels of responsibility and expanded management

UCLA-NUS Executive MBA Program for top executives who want a dual-degree Executive MBA. This is in partnership with National University of Singapore Business School.

No matter which program meets your needs, consider the following application strategies for admission to these business schools.  Read more

Financial Times: Amazon’s Shopping Spree at Business Schools

How the retailer has become one of the biggest recruiters of MBA graduates

Stratus Director of MBA Admissions Susan Cera is sourced in this article by Jonathan Moules.

From the article:

“Amazon is constantly entering new markets, which provides opportunities for a newly minted MBA to learn about being an entrepreneur in a low-risk environment with established infrastructure and support systems in place,” Ms Cera says.

“Most MBAs we counsel don’t view Amazon as a pure tech company because much of Amazon’s success is due to smart financial management.”

Click this link to read the article.

Chicago Business Journal: 5 MBA Application Strategies for Booth and Kellogg

by Jeff Thomas, Stratus Admissions Counseling CEO

Chicago is home to two of the nation’s top 20 MBA programs, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business (Booth) and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University (Kellogg).

The Booth and Kellogg classes of 2018 have low admit rates of 23 percent and approximately 20 percent, respectively, and average GMAT scores of 727 and 728.

Booth and Kellogg want applicants who will thrive in their focused curriculum. Consider the following strategies when applying to these elite Chicago-area b-schools. Read more

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