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Coach Your Student to Communicate with ProfessorsAmy Baldwin, Ed.D.
You’ve listened. You’ve reviewed the pros and cons. You’ve offered your point of view and confirmed your support. Now your student makes the big announcement: they’re going to grad school! Woo-hoo! Decision made!
But…the sense of relief you expected to feel isn’t quite there. Questions pop into your mind:
A 3.6 GPA probably is good enough. According to Poets & Quants, in 2014 GPA’s for the top 50 MBA schools averaged from 3.21 (Carnegie-Mellon) to 3.74 (Stanford). Of course, the level of difficulty within the course plays a role here. If your student has a high GPA but is taking relatively easy classes, it might be worth risking a slightly lower GPA to take a few more rigorous courses. Challenging classes focusing on the types of skills students will utilize in grad school may be especially helpful, such as courses involving statistics, data analysis and problem solving.
Think twice before advising your student to reduce time spent on outside activities. When making admission decisions, most graduate programs look at community involvement. Active participation in outside organizations offers a glimpse into the type of person your student is and if they will be a good fit for the program.
When reviewing how your student spends their free time, schools expect to see a commitment to and passion for the projects they’re involved with. For example, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business looks for “evidence of a candidate’s ability to fit in and to make a contribution to the school’s culture and community” including “a history of long-term involvement in activities and community service." Similarly, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College states, “Candidates we accept do not simply go through the motions of attending school, working, or joining organizations — they have put their heart and soul into helping make those institutions better in some tangible way.”
Yes, B-Schools want to see evidence of strong leadership and teamwork skills. Whether in academics, co-curricular activities or on the job, your student needs to showcase their ability to both lead a team and to work collaboratively within a team environment. In terms of their leadership ability, this means not only taking credit for a successful end result but also demonstrating their ability to:
Within the team environment, there are many other “soft skills” successful leaders demonstrate which may be overlooked by students including:
If your student hasn’t had an opportunity to develop these traits, now is the time to encourage them to get involved in something they’re passionate about.
Absolutely. It’s never too early to start preparing for grad school, and some areas to focus on include:
As always, offer your love and support and be a sounding board as your student completes their undergrad years and prepares for grad school. While it can be hard to hang back and let them make their own choices, they're the ones who’ll be held accountable by admissions committees to explain those choices and why their skill set and portfolio of experiences make them the right candidate for the school.
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