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Friday, August 18, 2006

GMAT Class in Sao Paulo, Brazil September 7th - 23

A lot has happened since my last post. We did another GMAT prep course in Mexico City, I graduated from BYU's MBA program and took a job with a technology startup in Washington DC. Looking back, the BYU MBA experience was truly unique and I'm very grateful for the opportunity to attend - its also very nice not to have a huge debt load hanging over my head thanks to BYU's low tuition.

ACE and BYU have decided to put together another GMAT class in Sao Paulo in September. We are also looking into doing something in Rio, but on a smaller scale.
I've also started another blog with tips and tricks on how to Learn Spanish Fast.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

GMAT Prep in Brazil

As mentioned in a previous post, BYU plans to double its class size over the next few years. My personal hope is that the majority of the growth will come with international students. BYU is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). And since over half of our members are from outside of the US, it only makes sense that we grow heavily our international student body.

BYU has pockets around the world of interested and prospective MBA candidates. But the challenges facing international applicants can be daunting at times. Besides the financial, cultural, and language hurdles, many students struggle with the GMAT – the verbal section in particular. BYU’s MBA recruiter has identified a group of about 15 students in Brazil who are meeting regularly to study for the GMAT - all of them are planning on applying to BYU. They are part of a support group called Incentivo ( and have as one of their major aims to help people get into BYU’s MBA proram.

To help build a relationship with the BYU MBA program, Ace GMAT prep (the company that I’ve been teaching for) has agreed to send my friend Jeff Jensen and I to São Paulo to teach a nine day crash course. Typically, Ace charges about $800 for our 8 week course (3 times a week). For this Brazil pilot, we’re planning on charging a very modest $125 considering the expense of traveling to Brazil. Many prospective applicants in Brazil are on vacation at that time, which complicates things. But for those who are committed, it’s actually a great time to have the class since we will be able to do a few all-day sessions for those who have time off from work.

So, if you happen to know of anyone living in or near São Paulo who may be interested in the course, they can get more information by writing to


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Married and getting an MBA

One of the most unique aspects of BYU’s MBA program is the high percentage of students who are married and have families. Compared with other programs, it’s a total anomaly. For instance, at Wharton, the percentage of students either married or with partners is 22% ( and those that have children are about 2%. I’m not sure what the percentage is of students here at BYU who have children, but the percentage of students married is around 70% (

So, what about singles? We recently hosted a single student on campus for a lunch and class visit. The subject came up and I told our visitor that (being married myself) I really couldn’t speak about the single scene – but felt it was probably not so good. However, one of our single male hosts commented that it was actually pretty good, that our college town was still a decent place to meet members of the fairer sex. I’ll leave that topic to some other blogger who can speak from experience but will just say that I frequently overhear my single friends talking about their regular events and parties. It sounds like they are having a ton of fun. But even the most positive characterizations should to be put into context. As a Mormon school, BYU has a pretty strict honor code forbidding alcohol and premarital sex. So, the singles scene may indeed be a lot of fun, but it’s a pretty squeaky clean one.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was on the waitlist at Wharton when I decided to apply to BYU. So, I did a fair amount of research into what life would be like for my family had we moved to Philly. When we went out to visit Penn we stayed with a friend who said that that his closest friends were actually the international students since they were more likely to be married with children. They all attended the same social events and had the same schedules so it just sort of happened naturally. Whereas many other students made their regular rounds to local pubs, my friend hurried home to put his kids to bed. Another factor that made life different was the fact that he lived outside of the city center, so once he left campus to go home it was a bit inconvenient to head back in. I’ve talked to other married alumnus who lived in the city center by Penn and had a fabulous time – even with children, but that seemed to be relatively uncommon.

BYU has pretty much got to be the most family friendly school that there is. In fact, last month we were given just that title by the Princeton Review ( BYU has a very large and active spouse association ( My wife hasn’t been too involved but I know they have pretty regular activities such as “Girls Night Out” and pre-school for MBA kids. If its sounds like the spouse association is pretty much for wives of male students, that’s a pretty fair characterization. Someone may flame me for erroneously overlooking the husbands of our women students, but from my perspective they sort of do their own thing. Because so many of the students here also have children (as do I) the spouse association is pretty family focused. One of our married students lives in California and flies in each week for class. Yesterday I saw her on campus with her newborn, although she didn’t bring him to class.

If it were just my wife and I, it would have been a blast to go to school somewhere like Columbia or Chicago. But, for those of us with kids, it’s really hard to beat BYU. When we were thinking about life back east, my wife suggested that she’d come visit me at school sometimes. I laugh and cringe now just thinking about it, because after we visited Huntsman Hall on a cold February day, I know that there is no way on earth I would have wanted my wife cruising around the inner city alone with a baby stroller. Penn is in a pretty sketchy part of town, and I’ve heard anecdotes that morning commutes consist of lines of students crouched down in their locked cars and rolled up windows (though I hear its much better than it used to be). Even once you’re on campus, there are so many people crossing so many different paths that it’s just not a place for kids to pay a visit under any circumstances.

I have a very good friend who is from Seoul, South Korea. His company was willing to send him to any school in the US. When some of his colleagues came to visit him they expressed their opinion that this place is Paradise. He lives in a house a few blocks from campus on the edge of foothills of the beautiful Wasatch front ( There’s great golfing nearby, and a lake on the other side of the valley. The quality of life is really pretty good once you get your coursework done. Every school has its own distinct characteristics (I’ve heard pets are sometimes seen at Dartmouth Tuck) – and BYU is known for being clean, safe, very livable, and family friendly. My family has spent several Saturday afternoons hanging out on campus, bowling in the student center, or chasing the ducks around the pond. Here are some pictures of for those who have never been. The campus is extra-ordinarily well cared for; I’ve seen custodial go to great lengths to do such minute things as scrape gum of the sidewalk.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Free Practice GMAT

For those of you who live in Utah and are planning on taking the GMAT, āce GMAT prep (the company I’ve been teaching for) is offering a free GMAT practice test this Saturday, December 3 at 8:30. The location of the test is the Meridian school (931 East 300 North, Provo). I think they are administering a written exam followed by a pitch about how taking their course can help your score. Do register for the practice exam go to and click on the link near the top.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Even before the first semester of MBA School even started, the career center at BYU was giving us resume advice. We had speakers, seminars, and 2nd year students all assigned to help us craft the perfect message. Many MBA programs require applicants to submit a resume, so I’ve decided to list some resume pointers that may be helpful to applicants to BYU’s MBA program.

1 page

I thought everyone in the world knew this, but I still see resumes from people who, either don’t know about this rule, or don’t think it applies to them. Unless you have over 10 years of significant work experience you have no justification in making your resume longer than one page. Doing so puts everything you have at risk. People will usually just look at your resume really fast, and if it interests them they’ll read on. But, if they pick up a really long and wordy document, they are very likely to be put off by it. In reality, if you can’t communicate the essence of who you are in the first few lines, then you are failing at communication.

It isn’t your job to list everything you’ve ever done and let the reader thoughtfully draw the conclusions for you – they won’t give your resume that much attention. You need to make it very clear for them the type of person you are. However, on the other hand you can’t just come out and say things like “hardworking, committed” – that isn’t going to fly. There’s no evidence for it and lacks credibility. You want your readers to draw their own conclusions, but you want to make it very easy for them to do. You want them to think in their minds “this person is hardworking and committed.” Here’s how you do it.

The “CAR” method

C.A.R. stands for Context, Action, and Result. In your brief sentences you should try to tell your audience the context of the situation, the action you took to solve it, and the result that you achieved (with quantifiable numbers whenever possible). Here are a couple of examples:

Eliminated major source of customer complaints and team turn-over by spear-heading automatic testing that reduced team’s record defect count to 0

Here the context was customer complaints, attrition, and a record defect count. The action was leading a testing strategy. The result was a zero defect count. It’s hard to pack sentences to tell the whole story, but is worth doing. I wasn’t able to include the result on attrition and customer complaints – but I did include another bullet point as follows:

Reversed team exodus by recruiting and interviewing dozens of potential new-hires through networking, cold-calls, and career fairs (team grew from 2 to 7)

In this example the context was, again attrition. The action was recruiting, and the result was that our team grew – with quantifiable results. Again, whenever you can have numbers here or percentages the better. One someone reads this they draw their own positive conclusions about being smart, hardworking, resourceful, or whatever. This also invites them in an interview setting to ask you more questions since they only got a brief glimpse of the full story.

Leading with strong verbs

In the examples above I led the sentence with “Eliminated” and “Reversed” to start the sentence. It’s a good idea to use verbs such as led, initiated, created et cetera and don’t worry about pronouns, articles (such as “a” or “the”), or even punctuation that may interfere. For instance, never start out a bullet point with the word “I”. It’s implied with every sentence so you don’t need it; in fact it will appear a bit ego-centric if they read the word “I” throughout (same things for essays and letters, try to avoid it). In the above examples I used the past tense. If you’re still doing your present job you can use gerund “ing” tense of each verb.

Another advantage of leading with verbs is that your bullets will be parallel. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, but it’s very important. You shouldn’t, for instance, have one line that says “I created a new product concept” followed by a line saying “It was my responsibility to”. The two sentences should have the same basic format – they should be parallel. By starting off with strong verbs sort, parallelism just comes naturally.

Your focus should be on clarity and simplicity. Typically, when you are writing numbers you spell them out if they are equal two or less than ten, and write the number format if they are greater (but be consistent within the same sentence). However, when writing for a resume, you should typically always use the number format – for instance say “5” instead of “five” because it jumps out more, is quicker to read and noticeable at quick glances. Also, you probably don’t need to worry about periods – just use punctuation where it adds clarity and makes it easier to read.

The Golden Triangle

On your resume, image an imaginary triangle that extends from the top left corner to the top right corner and down a few inches back to the left side of the paper. This is the “golden triangle” – the place your readers will spend most of their time. Try to pack everything you really want to say in this area. Your reader’s eyes will naturally stay in this space. For this reason many people choose to have an Executive Summary section at the very top with four bullets or so that gives the most important points from the resume. If the job you are applying for has listed requirements A, B, C, and D, then use this section to hit those points in that exact order. Make it really, really obvious that you are the right fit for the position. If I were looking for a position of managing computer programmers, for instance, I would include this in my Executive Summary:

MBA with strong quantitative skills and 10 years of computer programming experience


In terms of how your resume looks, make it a work of art, but don’t make it artistic. For business professionals, is important that you don’t make it look fancy or trendy. Stay within 10-12 point font and leave plenty of inviting white space. If your presentation is lacking, or you have misspelled words or other major errors, your reader will likely assume you are even more sloppy about your day-to-day work when even less is at stake. I recommend that if you are using Microsoft Word you use a table to a make sure things stay in the correct location when sent to other who may have a different version of Word or different display settings. However, if you use a table, be sure and set its border color to be white. Otherwise, they’ll see a soft gray line when looking at a digital copy. One other pointer about Word – it saves info about the document you may not want your readers to see. For instance, I looked at someone’s resume for a job by clicking “File”, then “Properties” and noticed that they originally made the resume up for an entirely different company than the one they were currently applying for. It’s not a huge deal, but be careful what other information you may be sending along unknowingly.

International Resumes
The rules for resumes vary widely by country. The ideas mentioned here are just some things I’ve learned when applying to US schools or companies. Sometimes international applicants make the mistake of including such things as their picture, marital status, religion, age, or sex on their resume. This may be OK, or even expected in some countries, but it is not appropriate in the US.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

One More Thought on MBA Brands

Unlike medicine or law, there is no governing body that regulates who can and who can’t practice business. So to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter as quite as much where you go to school. But since there is no sort of certification for practicing businesses, the place where you get your MBA is all that people have to go on to judge the adequacy of your education. Hence, reputation is king.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Online MBA

More and more I hear people talking about getting on online MBA, and each time it surprises me. A few months ago, for instance, I ran into a friend of mine who works as an engineer at a blue-chip software company and he said that he is planning on getting an online MBA so he doesn’t have to leave his job to get the degree. I have another friend who was strongly considering an online MBA degree but decided against it (he’s now at Wharton).

I think the reason that it baffles me is that I just don’t see the benefit of an online degree – especially in business. I’m not trying to offend anyone, its just that the primary reason to go to MBA school is not (IMHO) to learn accounting, finance, or any other discipline in isolation. The purpose is to meet people, work in teams, discuss business cases, argue through solutions, and build networks that will help you in your career. Learning a discipline is an integral part, but its not just learning how to do something, but debating why and how in a collegial atmosphere.

During the summer my colleagues and I used our web development software to recreate a site for a medical organization. One of the PhD’s on staff said that he feels his MBA at the University of Phoenix was the best thing ever. It was staffed by working professionals as teachers that really know their subject matter. He felt the coursework was very demanding and he came out really having mastered several things such as accounting. He felt like traditional MBA programs are “soft” in many respects.

My internal reaction was “so what” – just learning accounting isn’t really the point of an MBA in most cases. There’s really nothing (in terms of books or lessons) in MBA school that you couldn’t just learn on your own. You could read the accounting and finance books at your own leisure or take an evening (or online) course. The real benefit and growth comes from the interactions, the cold-calls, the experience of acting it all out in front of critical peers. I don’t how they do things at UoP, but it doesn’t really make sense online – its all about the personal interactions and relationships.

From a more superficial standpoint, online degrees (and even UoP) are simply just not valued very much in the market. The brand is really weak. Just the other day I was filling out a survey and realized that I was filling out a form to apply to be a UoP teacher. It didn’t leave a great impression with me. I’ve read people refer to them as diploma mills and suggest that your resume is better off without that entry. Because the school advertises so much in seeking teachers and students, its hard for people to take it seriously. Even more so with an online degree were you don’t even physically meet. That’s not to say they can’t provide a great education – they very well may. But, in terms of MBA brand it doesn’t matter much. I’ve heard some Harvard MBA alums say that at HBS its hard to tell how your learning, that the hardest part is getting in, and that the second year is largely a waste of time. Does it matter? No, not really. Nobody will value a candidate with an online degree over an HBS student. And its ok that it may mostly due to the initial filter of selecting the right applicants.

One last thought. When I was visiting schools I noticed that wherever a school was ranked on the pecking order – they assured prospective students that they were ranked just high enough. For instance, at a top 50 school, administrators said “as long as your at a top 50 school, it doesn’t really matter where you go.” They say the same things at a top-10 school. When I was visiting the Stanford GSB, my host said “there are pretty much only two schools worth attending” and at HBS there was only one school worth the investment. So, I admit that my apparent snobbery about online degrees or UoP works for higher ranked schools who look down on BYU as second tier. But of course it all depends on what you want to get out of the program. If you’re applying to a top school to get a trophy that you can show off to family and friends, then go for it! If you just want to learn accounting and finance, probably any online degree will do. But, if you want to get a better job and generally improve your marketability, go to the best school you can get into that matches your needs and goals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

MBA Program to expand in size to 250

(also posted at

Last week we had a “mix-n-mingle” with the MBA Director Jim Stice. We have these about every other month where we go to eat, hang out, and usually listen to a speaker. He talked a little bit about graduation and told us of plans for the future. He said that the powers that be have approved plans to expand the business building and that they have a goal to increase each MBA class from the current 130 range to 250. He also said that they will not rush it, but that it will simply take as long as it takes. That means that basically everyone who applies who is qualified will be admitted. He stressed that they will not lower their standards for admission.

This is really great news for applicants because it means that you’re not really competing with other students. Instead, you’re basically competing against the high standards of admission (which as mentioned tend to favor the GMAT). At Wharton, the AdCom has admitted that about half of the students that apply are qualified to attend, but they simply cannot take them all. Also, since they tend to keep the demographics on incoming students about the same, an I-Banker is basically competing with other I-Bankers, and former consultants are competing with other consultants (which can really skew the actual admission criteria). But since BYU is planning to grow, for the next few years the gate is open to all who qualify.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Entrepreneurship at BYU

A friend of mine works on the MBA Student Voice newsletter ( and asked me a few questions about entrepreneurship at BYU for an upcoming article. I thought I’d post my comments here for prospective students. Check out for more info on entrepreneurship at BYU.

Do you think that there is competition in the minds of MBAs between
the entrepreneur and the company man in each of them?

Absolutely – except that the company man almost always wins. Nearly every MBA I talk to about my business comments that they too would like to start their own business someday after a few years of corporate experience. You could probably ask anyone in the Creating and Managing New Ventures class and they’d tell you they’d really love to go out on their own. But for many, the perceived risk is way too high. I can’t remember the exact contexts, but I recall on more than one occasion Rich Zollinger asking a professor or guest speaker how one could start a business being married with children. His questions revealed the underlying assumption held by many that the risk is just too great to give it a go – especially once you start your family.

Personally, I strongly agree with Rich and am terrified of failing on a new venture (married with kids myself). That’s why I decided to start my business just before coming back to graduate school. Being here at BYU has been an amazing opportunity to test-drive my idea without taking on any real career risk. Plus, everyday I learn new things to help me; my only real complaint is that I can’t absorb it all fast enough. Sometimes I wish I could spread the MBA out over several years and just take one or two classes so I could devote the rest of the time to my business. As others have said, its like a suitcase that I’ll be unpacking for the rest of my life. But as school is beginning to come to and end for me, I’m feeling increasing internal pressure. We’re not yet making enough revenue to support ourselves once school ends and so I’ve tried to keep my employment options open in case things do not work out. Likewise, I’m working even harder on my business – hoping that things will progress enough that I can be fully self-employed next April.

Do you think that entrepreneurship is focused on enough in MBA school?
Or shouldn't it be, because undergrads make better entrepreneurs,

If undergrads do make better entrepreneurs (not sure I agree with that), its only because they’ve gone down that road and tried it – whereas MBA students typically have just had great corporate jobs. I think if more MBA students would just go out and try to start a business, they’d get that rush of excitement and (using their broader skill set) be much more successful than a typical undergrad. BYU itself has tremendous resources for entrepreneurship – but you sort of have to leave the MBA program to find them. I don’t necessarily think there should be an entrepreneurship track, but I think the school should make it really clear that is OK if you don’t do the cookie-cutter Finance, Marketing, Supply Chain, or OB/HR programs. I almost didn’t want to come to BYU because of the track system, and would have appreciated more visibility for the general management or self-designed route.

You and I talked once about the weights on each side of the scales:
What are the pluses of entrepreneurship? The pluses on the other side?

For me, the only real benefit of corporate life is the relative financial stability – that is unless you’re lucky enough to find that perfect job that you just absolutely love. But if you succeed at entrepreneurship the rewards are much greater, more personal, and more transcending than money. When I decided to start my own business I felt like I had just arrived as a new immigrant to America – ready to find my fortune. It was an incredible feeling of freedom, excitement, and possibility.

Before coming to BYU I researched and visited a wide variety business schools, including the Wharton school at Penn. During a class on entrepreneurship a professor at Wharton suggested that if you want to go be a “potted plant” in some large corporation that you should demand a salary of at least $250,000 to justify passing up the financial opportunities of entrepreneurship. His point was that – on average – the money is so much better for those who are successful at starting their own businesses. Its also more risky – but I think its ironic that those of us in MBA school (who are far more educated on what it takes to be successful) are often more risk averse than your average entrepreneur who often will start and succeed in business just because he or she was too naïve to know how hard it would be.

International Student Support

As I mentioned before, I was personally disappointed to discover that there weren’t more international students in the MBA program. BYU has a tremendous international presence and so I expected a higher representation. One reason why the % of international students is the lowest in many years is due to visa problems (One of our students from China almost had to drop out of school last year because, during the first semester, she had trouble getting her visa renewed). However, another reason is cost. As I think I mentioned before, our international students have much more work experience and – in general – have a lot more to offer the school, making their opportunity cost of coming back to school pretty high.

BYU already has incredibly low tuition, but for those international students who are married members of the Mormon church, there is the Cardon International Sponsorship program ( which pretty much pays for everything. If accepted, the only string attached is that you need to return to your home country within a couple of years. The reason why the donor requires that students be married is that students who are already married are supposedly more likely to return to their home country. Some international students have resented the marriage requirement and one of our top international students even turned it down because he didn’t want to have any predetermined timeline to return to Ghana. But for those who meet the criteria, its an exceptional opportunity.

There are other scholarship programs such as the Extended Reach Scholarship (, the International Graduate Student Scholarship (, and the Single Parent Scholarships ( There are also general academic scholarships that BYU hands out for those who do well on their MBA application or during their first year. BYU is very scholarship friendly; I was very surprised to discover how much money they give away considering the already low cost of attendance.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve heard stories that some recruiters are placing pressure on BYU to accept more minority applicants. This is only anecdotal, but the emphasis seems to be on underrepresented US minorities that already have authorization to work in the US. So for international students, the pressure to find a job can be much greater. With that in mind, the additional support for international students is greatly appreciated and seems to be continually on the rise.

The other day I talked again with the MBA Director of Recruiting and he is considering sending some GMAT teachers abroad for a crash course to help the very qualified prospective students get over the high GMAT hurdle. He told me that in places such as São Paulo, the Alumni Chapter ( is already sponsoring weekly GMAT classes to help prospective students.

BYU also has an English Language Center ( that teaches English to the next crop of MBA students. I have neighbors from Brazil, Japan, and Mexico who are all enrolled with the aim starting the MBA program next year.

Check out ( for more information for international applicants.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Non-profit opportunities

Although the MBA program is heavily corporate focused, there are opportunities within the Marriott School to pursue non-profit work.

Non-profit stuff is huge at BYU in general – largely due to the Mormon missionary effect. Since many of us have served and lived in the third-world countries, people are seemingly always looking for ways to give back. Just last month I hosted a French national who is running an Orphanage in Nepal using the resources of our NetImpact club ( One professor in particular, Warner Woodworth ( is a huge non-profit, development guru and has started many organizations such as Unitus ( which is devoted to non-profit work. I heard Warner speak at a conference at Columbia last year and happen to know he’s quite active at helping other Universities get more involved in the effort. Our business school has a self-reliance center here on self-reliance ( and hosts a conference every year ( BYU recently put together a documentary called Small Fortunes ( that talks about a very popular approach to development called micro-credit and Muhammad Yunus who founded the movement comes to Provo every year or two.

International MBA

BYU is a small school, with only about 130 students each year. With such a small class the actual % varies quite a bit year-to-year. As I think I mentioned, the number seems to be done a bit because of visas. I don't know the first year students well, but I know second year students from Switzerland, Ghana, China(4), Mexico, Korea(3), Uruguay, Jamaica, Finland, Brazil(3) and Bulgaria. I know a couple of first year students from Romania, Chile, and Brazil and a few MPA students from Tonga, Japan, Romania, Mexico, Italy, and Ecuador.

Although the majority of the students are from the US, the global awareness of BYU MBA students is (IMHO) unrivaled. Most students have spent two years as Mormon missionaries in foreign countries and some of us look for every opportunity to return. A few months ago I met an executive MBA student here who is not Mormon and is from Brazil. He said he was shocked to find that half his classmates spoke Portuguese.

When I was looking at schools I attended an international language class sponsored by the Lauder program at the Wharton School. There were two people in the class, a 2nd year student who had traveled to Latin America with the military and a 1st year student who had served a Mormon mission to Chile. The class was basically a conversation between the Spanish professor and the 1st year student; it was pretty obvious the 2nd year who hadn’t the same exposure was lagging behind. It was then that I started realizing just how strong BYU’s international connection is because of all the missionary experience. Unfortunately, the school doesn’t exploit it much, but I honestly think that with some effort BYU could dominate the international MBA scene. Since the international connection is primarily due to Mormonism, most of the international students are members of the church and you’re much more likely to run into someone speaking some obscure Filipino dialect than Hindi since we have lots of Mormons in the Philippines, but not so many in India – so it is a bit skewed.

Do Grades Matter?

Some of the top business schools (Wharton, Stanford, and HBS) have this really great policy called grade-nondisclosure. Students are not allowed to share their grades with others and recruiters are not allowed to ask. Before coming to BYU I visited the Stanford GSB and met with a 2nd year MBA (BYU alum) who said that he really had no idea how he was doing compared with others in his same class. He knew what his grades were, but had no idea how they compared.

Last January I met a 1st year Wharton student with Utah roots at a Venture Capital conference in Salt Lake City. He had come home for Christmas break and had stayed in Utah a couple of weeks after school resumed so that he could visit family and attend the conference. Incredulous, I asked him how he could just miss a few weeks of class without worry. He simply shrugged his shoulders and responded: “grade non-disclosure”. He also remarked that he didn’t really consider applying to BYU’s MBA program because his friends that had gone to school here were “always” studying – they had tons of homework every night. Having done his undergrad in finance at Penn, he said that wasn’t something he wanted to repeat in MBA school.

So, do grades matter in BYU’s MBA program? In my opinion, the answer is a qualified no. During new student orientation professors and 2nd year students alike told us that grades do not matter and that very few recruiters even ask for them. However, some of my peers (now 2nd years themselves) have suggested that its not quite true. It turns out that some recruiters (especially for finance job) actually do ask for grades. For those considering seeking a Ph.D. grades matter very much. However, its still a far cry from law school where grades are often the only real determinate. Much more important than grades, I’d argue, is previous work experience and your ability to network.

I’ve seen students who have done very well in school fail to land a great internship. On the flipside, I’ve seen others who have paid less attention to their studies land some great opportunities; often they spent class time networking an interview. BYU has a very generous grading curve – typically the lowest grade is a B-. And, since you are working in groups your grade is often dependant on the efforts of others on your team. And since many of the classes cover topics that are really hard to grade, scores are incredibly subjective. That said, many people recognize that grades are not the best indication of talent and are simply looking for an indication that you’re smart and hard-working.

My bias is to view the MBA program like a giant buffet table, with students free to pick and choose where they want to spend their time. Rather than feel like you need to perfectly execute some pre-contrived plan, just decide what you want to get out of school and measure your portions accordingly. Last year I decided to miss my finance class a couple of times to make important presentations for my evolving business ( Because I missed a quiz or two, I was curious if I would have in fact received an A instead of my A- had I not ditched class. Because I knew the professor well, I decided to risk looking like a grade-grubber and find out jut how close I was to getting an A. It turns out I was right on the border: my decision to spend class time on my business definitively hurt my grade. However, the professor followed up with a strong rebuke telling me that I needed to decide what my focus was and stick to it. He said that if I wanted to succeed as an entrepreneur I needed to commit to it without looking back.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Diversity at BYU

Like most MBA admissions office, BYU’s also favors women and diversity applicants. As a white male myself, it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I really wish there were more diversity in the students here. Unfortunately, BYU has only about 14% women and the smallest number of international students it has had in many years (perhaps because of recent visa issues). I know some of us in the majority resent slightly lower admissions criteria for international students, but I’m strongly in favor of having a diversified class – it’s a lot better for the school, and more interesting for the students.

In fact, many large firms that recruit at BYU are also keenly interested in seeing more diversity in the student body and some (I’ve only heard stories) have threatened not to come back to BYU unless there are more women and minority students. So if you dislike having a different admissions standard for women or minorities you should just get used to it. That is the way the game is played everywhere and BYU is under a lot of pressure to catch up. I’ve also noticed that some of the American minority students here have done exceptionally well in landing a job or internship – it appears on the surface that their placement rate is much better than the average white male.

That said, I’m personally not a big fan about talking about diversity much once school has started. We had a seminar last year where the three Deans talked at length about diversity – I hated the whole thing. For me the tone was divisive rather than unifying, and I talked to a few international students who similarly resented being placed in a special category. Some in the majority felt like the meeting also had an accusatory tone against white males. The meeting had good intentions, but it was a bit awkward. My preference would be – after crafting an incoming class – to treat us all the same, the only label we carry being “BYU MBA”. I realize that may appear as a double standard, (discriminate on admissions but not afterwards) but not if you keep in mind that minority students often apply with an inherent disadvantage (language for international students as an example) and that, as a church school, BYU should admit a class more representative of all the church members throughout the world subsidizing the school through tithing donations.

Anyway, there is a lot of push to be more inclusive here and yesterday the recruiting director sent out this e-mail about a diversity open house.

“[In] an effort to increase our diversity student population, we are hosting a diversity open house for women and under-represented minorities on Wednesday Nov. 9th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM in room 710. If you know of any women or diversity candidates, would you please invite them to the open house? A light buffet will be served and current students will be there to answer questions.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Grades, Work Experience, or GMAT… what matters most?

Last week I had lunch with Tad Brinkerhoff, the Director in charge of recruiting for BYU’s MBA program. I met Tad last year on a MBA trip to New York and did a little bit of work with later on in setting up a prospective student visit program. Students who are interested in attending class and meeting with current students can come spend a few hours and really get a feel for the program. Brian Cutting is the student in charge of it – you can e-mail him at brian –at– if you’re interested.

Anyway, I met with Tad last week with people from ACE GMAT prep encourage him to tell prospective students about ACE’s GMAT course. He talked a bit about the admissions criteria and admitted that a great GMAT score is far more important than your GPA – and that the reason why is that it is pretty much the only criteria that is easy to compare across candidates. Because students come from such a variety of Universities and majors, a GPA is much harder to compare. He said that he encourages prospective students to spend a significant amount of time preparing for the GMAT – and that he finds it ironic that students anguish so much about grades when the GMAT matters so much more, and is easier to improve.

So, what about work experience? Although he didn’t come out and say it, there were a few things he said that indicated that having four years of solid work experience is even more attractive than a nice GMAT score. BYU is probably the only school that doesn’t count LDS mission experience – that is – unless you are a woman. In that case, Tad said they count it to encourage more female applicants.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Getting In

The other day I ran into a friend of mine who is trying to get into the MBA program here at BYU. He said that he had been accepted to the MPA program, but because his GMAT score wasn’t quite high enough he was not admitted to the MBA program and would have to try again next year. He decided against the MPA degree and plans to try again next year. It sounded like the only hurdle he had to cross was a great GMAT, but talking to him reminded me of when his brother applied to school. He didn’t get in even with a 750, double major, great grades, and great work experience (we were co-workers).
Although Every school varies somewhat on its criteria, most schools seem to value things in roughly this order: story, work experience, GMAT, grades. Things such as letters of recommendation can be very important (not so much here at BYU) but mostly just to confirm your story.


You’re story is a critical part of the application. Getting into an MBA program is almost like trying to get a job. Being qualified isn’t enough, they want to find a good fit. You need to show in your application that you have a well thought out plan, that you know how you’re going to get from point “A” to point “B” and that an MBA is the logical connecting point. At BYU its very important that your application and goals be consistent with the aims and mission of BYU. Since the school is mostly financed by the LDS church, the administration looks at a students motives pretty carefully. If you are a Mormon, then I think the bar is pretty high in terms of your commitment to building up the church worldwide. If you’re not a Mormon, its not so tough but you need to demonstrate a commitment to follow the honor code. I’ve heard a few stories suggesting that they don’t care how qualified you are; if your commitment doesn’t come through they are not going to give you a spot.

Work Experience

BYU, more than most schools, is pretty uptight about work experience, and LDS missions don’t count; if you’re LDS its almost expected. I’ve known people who’ve gone to HBS with zero or only one year of work experience besides their mission, but here it doesn’t happen for most applicants. BYU has been hammered by some recruiters threatening to boycott BYU unless they get their minority and percentage of female students up and so they have a few diversity initiatives – they also have experimented with letting in super smart women right out of undergrad on an experimental bases.
However, for most applicants, work experience is imperative. I have good friend in the program who is super smart and placed last year in BYU’s business plan competition. Although he scored a 790 on the GMAT, because he had only one year of work experience he had to apply to a joint-degree program with the engineering school. Every year BYU accepts a handful of IPD (Integrated Product Development) students who excelled as engineering students – they get two masters degrees in three years and are admitted with no post-graduate work experience. He’s trying to drop the engineering commitment and just do the MBA, but is having a really hard time getting permission because he only had one year of work experience.
Furthermore, the students who have the most experience also seem to get the best scholarships. I looked over the list of students who received the incoming Dean’s full-tuition scholarship and they were typically those students who had the most experience. Also, its pretty important that the work experience be post-graduate experience rather than something you did during school.


The last time I looked, BYU had the highest average GPA of any school listed in the US News rankings. Whereas most top schools had average GPA’s in the 3.5 range, BYU was listed about 3.6. My opinion is that this is primarily due to the fact that roughly 60% of Marriott MBA’s went to BYU for their undergrad and BYU has a fairly bad case of grade inflation. I haven’t heard much inside the school about undergrad GPA as a criteria so unfortunately don’t have much else to say about it.


As with most top programs, doing poorly on the GMAT can keep you out, but doing exceptionally well will not necessarily get you in. Its primarily a hurdle that you have to jump over just to be in the game. From my experience, at lower-ranked schools a stellar GMAT can guarantee you an “in” but typically it just gets you in the game; you need it just to be considered. BYU publishes that they pay more attention to the quantitative score than verbal and ignores the AWA section. From their website “The average GMAT score for students admitted to the MBA program is 660, and scores below 600 are usually not considered competitive for admission” ( For those of you in Utah, there is an excellent GMAT course available ;) that I teach with a friend of mine

Monday, September 26, 2005


On the first day of orientation last year, BYU’s MBA director Jim Stice said the he didn’t think we came back to graduate school just for an MBA; but believed that there were three other letters that were probably equally important to us: “BYU”. Before coming back to school I visited a number of other schools and started to appreciate how different each school can be. BYU’s MBA program is especially unique because of its Christ-centered mission, and small community feel. However, the quality that most surprised me about the Marriott School is how supportive it is for budding entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the most striking quality of BYU is that the Marriott School has a number of faculty who basically donate their time. Typically, these are alums that have built and harvested successful businesses and now are seeking a way to give back. Without giving names, I can think of eight off the top of my head that I’ve been fortunate to associate with or take classes from. These teachers are fantastic and they genuinely care about their students. Some of them are members of local Angel networks and they have a history of investing in student-run businesses. I’ve found them to be very free with their contacts and very blunt with their counsel.

In addition to their time, some of these faculty members also provide scholarships to students to encourage them to start their own business. I felt pretty fortunate to receive a full-tuition scholarship my first year, but I almost felt guilty about receiving an entrepreneurial scholarship my second year because the tuition was already so affordable. I was chosen to participate in the Entrepreneurship Center’s “Mind Your Own Business” scholarship program. About 10 students were selected and paid to build their business over the summer in lieu of an internship. One of the requirements was to meet weekly with a mentor who provided terrific feedback. The center’s philosophy is “Learn, Earn, Return” and they have several alumni who have done just that and lend continued support to the center.

BYU has other programs like the annual Business Plan Competition and the Student Entrepreneur of the Year competition that encourage those of us with entrepreneurial leanings to take the plunge. The school was – literally speaking – built by entrepreneurship. The legend is that when BYU’s President Rex Lee was approached about constructing a building for business education he responded ‘you’re entrepreneurs, you figure out how to raise the money and then we’ll build it.’ Not surprisingly, its one of the nicest buildings on campus.

Another advantage of BYU’s MBA program is that it is located in a small, but vibrant technology center. Last year I did a demo of my technology to a seasoned startup executive in Silicon Valley to ask him questions about how best to proceed. He commented that I was very fortunate to be in Utah where the market was less mature. He told me that nowadays it is virtually impossible for an entrepreneur to build a business now in Silicon Valley unless he or she is already well-connected. Gone are the days, he said, when an entrepreneur with a great idea get something off the ground; now it’s all about who you know. Contrastingly, here at BYU everyone seems supportive a good idea and are happy to make helpful introductions. Even if I decided to discontinue working on my business, my network of contacts has grown considerably through the process enough to make effort worthwhile.

Another major advantage of BYU’s MBA program is the low-cost tuition. When I was preparing to attend the Wharton School I was anticipating a debt load of $150,000. Just thinking about that expense makes me nervous. Now that I’m approaching the end of my MBA experience, I feel very grateful to have a modest debt load. I’ve been able to do things I never would have considered with a student-loan mortgage to pay off.

This summer I decided to forgo a traditional internship and opted instead to work on a business (Evolving Web) with three other MBA students: Mike Reall, Eric Nicholson, and David McKnight. Boy, did the summer go fast. We sequestered the MBA lounge as our unofficial office space, hired an intern to help us out, and dined prospective business partners at the “corporate cafeteria” outside – otherwise known as the Marketplace Café. We worked really hard, played a lot of foosball, and decided that being in business for ourselves was as much fun as it is work.

As I already mentioned, the highlight of my summer was taking a trip to South Korea to pitch our software to giant SK Telecom. Peter Yoo is another 2nd MBA student who will return to SK after graduation and made the trip arrangements and company introductions. Despite my sincerest desire to learn some Korean before our trip, I never even mastered a simple “Thank you”. I had a fabulous time, but felt a bit like a little child walking around a big city with my escort father. Apparently, the feeling was mutual as some locals went out of their way to help the dumb American survive. For instance, one evening when Peter and I went out to a movie I had a headset for translation. I didn’t really feel like hanging the translation box around my neck, but as I began to unhook the connecting strap the gentleman next to me concluded I couldn’t figure out how to use the contraption and promptly reconnected the strap for me.
Another fun memory was touring the Presidential Palace (the “blue house”) with some little children and being the only one in the group who couldn’t follow directions. It was amusing most of the time, but in the middle of presenting to a room of 20 Korean managers I wished I had spent more time learning the language and culture. Once, for instance, I was chided for not presenting my business card with both hands; I was too busy trying to remember to bow to everyone. Before the trip I had read that it was very important to stop and read each person’s business card. I was very conscientious of this and made a point to stare at the unintelligible Korean characters before me – it wasn’t until after our most important visits that Peter showed me that on the other side of each card was an English translation. I just hope I didn’t look too stupid pretending to read the Korean names and titles. Peter was an absolutely fabulous host (couldn’t have been better) and showed me enough of Seoul that – given the opportunity – I would absolutely love to return. We presented to a couple of other organizations, piqued some interest, and began – what we hope – will lead to some business going forward.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

GMAT strategy

Last week’s first MBA class went pretty well. Since it was the first time I had ever taught the class, I felt a little rough around the edges, but I think overall it was a success. The organizers had asked me to explain different test-taking strategies such as back-solving and number picking. However, the idea of using strategies seemed so new to some of the students that we spent most of the time just explaining that there are strategies, and gave examples of each. Here are a few of the things that I talked about.

For instance, when I was an undergrad at BYU I lived in the same apartment complex as Jeopardy phenom Ken Jennings. I knew he was active in BYU’s college bowl team and was over at his apartment one evening when he and some friends were going through some random facts in preparation for an upcoming meet. It was something he really worked at. So when I found out he was winning on Jeopardy I tuned in to watch the show pretty regularly. Ken is undeniably smart, but more than that, I think he is great at playing the game of Jeopardy. He knows what type of questions (or answers in the case of Jeopardy) to anticipate and is fast at the buzzer. I read somewhere that before he appeared on jeopardy he would even practice buzzing in at home.

As I watched jeopardy and started playing online I noticed some patterns that I had been unaware of before. For instance, one of the questions (er, answers) I remember hearing went something like this: “This Central American country has its national anthem in English” – the correct response was “What is Belize?” As I played the game online I ran into this very similar question/answer: “This Latin American country has English as its official language.” The correct response was “What is Belize?” It was the same question – just put a different way. I began to realize that the questions Ken was studying years before in our apartment complex were probably used over and over again in different ways. They can’t ask something so obscure that nobody will know the answer, but they also need new and fresh questions each year. So, when writing “new” questions, they often just repackage old ones. It’s the same with the GMAT.

I think that there are really smart people out there who can simply walk in to take the GMAT cold and ace it. For the rest of us, I think it’s possible to get familiar enough with the types of test questions that you know what to expect. There are only so many ways that they can ask a Venn diagram question, for instance. Be familiar with the limited ways to complicate a Venn diagram and you’re ready to move onto another category of questions. Master them all, and you’re well-prepared for the test.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

First day of GMAT prep

Tonight is the first day of class, I’ve been invited to teach āce’s first ever GMAT course with a friend of mine, Jeff Jensen. In the past, āce ( has garnered a terrific reputation for its LSAT course and they’ve decided to expand into new markets. I’m really excited for this, its going to be a lot of fun. So, here’s a little bit about my GMAT and MBA credentials.

Currently, I’m a 2nd year MBA student at BYU’s Marriott School of Management. I absolutely love this place. Ironically, when I first considered where I wanted to go to MBA School I didn’t even look at BYU. Perhaps it was because I came here as an undergrad (and worked and studied in the Marriott School) that I was looking for a new experience elsewhere.

After graduating from BYU in 2000 (Computer Science), I worked for (at the time) Utah’s technology darling TenFold Corporation ( After things started to go south I went to a startup called Attensity ( where I helped develop their Natural Language Processing technology. The core technology was pretty amazing, and I spent 2½ years developing solutions for Whirlpool and In-Q-Tel (a CIA-backed Venture Capital Firm). It was while working at Attensity that I started seriously looking into B-Schools and prepared for the GMAT.

I took the GMAT in November of 2001 and was both pleased and grateful to have scored very well. People who knew how I had done unknowingly assured me that I could go anywhere I wanted to go, and I began to visit schools from Cambridge to Palo Alto. I was very flattered to receive invitations to visit a few other schools and took advantage of some of them. I was having a lot of fun and getting very excited to think about where in the world I might continue my education. Along the way I discovered the Business Week message boards ( and Wharton’s Student-2-Student message boards which provided a wealth of information about schools.

For the next two years I visited and research several schools, and by the time summer of 2003 rolled around decided to apply to Wharton’s Lauder program. I was so excited about Wharton (and optimistic that I would be accepted) that it was actually the only school I applied to at the time. I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t the first applicant that year. Much to my disappointment, I was put on the waitlist and sort of had to scramble to get in applications at some other schools, including BYU. Because I had invested so much time and energy into my application, I felt a bit of resentment that I had – in effect – put my future into the hands of an admissions committee. I wanted to feel like I had more control over my destiny and began looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity.

A few months later, I quit my job at to start my own business. Since May of 2004 I have been working on this company, Evolving Web ( developing some really cool Internet technology. My partners and I think our platform has tremendous potential and are really excited about the opportunity. We’re just getting off the ground, but have had a great run so far. Instead of doing an internship this year, we worked on our business full-time. My summer highlight was traveling to South Korea to pitch our product to some potential business partners. This is something I never would have dared doing if I was racking up the student debt. I couldn’t think of a better place to experiment with a real business than here at BYU. It’s the ultimate case study. My only complaint with the MBA program is that I can’t absorb the information fast enough. The faculty support has been amazing and I’m continually impressed by the quality of the faculty and other students. I feel that the friends I’m making here will be close for years to come.

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