Graduate Admissions

Round 2 MBA Application Deadlines

By: Dr. Kristen Willmott

December is a key time when the MBA admissions application timeline moves from a jog to a sprint for many applicants. We work with many students who target the round 1 (September and October) MBA deadlines, but there are just as many who use the fall term to perfect their GMAT scores and qualitative elements of their applications to then finalize stellar round 2 MBA applications.

Between now and mid-January, most round 2 deadlines for the top 30+ MBA programs will have come to a close and we know that if you’re an MBA applicant, you already have your calendar set for the following.


1/3/20: London Business School, Rice
1/5/20: Carnegie Mellon, Indiana, USC
1/6/20: Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, UMichigan, UNC, UVA, Vanderbilt
1/7/20: Notre Dame, UChicago, UPenn Wharton, UT Austin, Yale
1/8/20: Cornell (round 3), IESE, Northwestern, UCLA
1/9/20: UC Berkeley, Stanford
1/15/20: INSEAD, NYU Stern
1/21/20: MIT

Whew! 28 top MBA application deadlines in 18 days. It’s tight. Our round 2 deadline advice is to view any deadline as having a “preferred (AKA required) submission date of 7 days prior.”  That’s especially true of anything in the first week or so of January, post holidays/New Year’s. Application websites are known to flood, crash or go “down for needed updates”. As an applicant, you have the right to call the MBA admissions office to pose questions about troubles with your application OR to check in if you’ve received zero confirmation that it was received.  You can’t do that if the site is down or if you’ve saved your submission until 11:55pm the night it’s due.


Applying to London Business School’s MBA program? It’s going to run like clockwork and it’s set up to do so. Don’t submit at 10pm (London time!) the night of Jan. 3rd —submit by Dec. 27th!  As their site notes, it’s a tight timeline that they run, so you do the same on your end.

Date we advise you submit:  Dec 27
Date of application deadline:  Jan. 3
Interview decisions sent out: Feb. 6
Interviews held: Mid Feb. to early March.
You’ll know if you’re in by: March 31.

See? Just 3 months and it is all over! Most summer internships are not even that fast so plan accordingly!


Use your upcoming holiday and weekend breaks to get ahead with final resume edits, essay writing, GMAT prep (as that first week of December is a very popular time for a final GMAT exam since Thanksgiving break studying is prime time for many), plan out your final school list, squeeze in any campus visits, attend/present at academic/field conferences to boost your resume and sign up for a grad level course over the winter term. You’ll hear back by mid-March for most round two deadlines, so maximize your time in December and then in under three months you’ll know the life-changing campus and city you’re potentially moving to this August! Let us help you ensure that campus is the one you’re dreaming of –we’d love to help out.

Graduate Admissions Top Tips

How to Get Published Before Grad School

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

The importance of self-monitored blood pressure as a behavioral strategy; an exploration of Toxoplasma on the path to curing parasitic infections; how to pinpoint aspects of early warning signs before an eating disorder surfaces; the molecular changes that occur when stem cells are exposed to high levels of an acid in processed foods; and uncovering the “postponed power” of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

These are not just thought-provoking research topics, but real-life studies that undergraduate students have researched, written about, submitted for journal review, and gotten published in some of the top journals between May and July 2019. I’m not talking about faculty or doctoral students, but undergraduates who engaged with research participants, conducted quantitative surveys, coded the data and analyzed findings.

I often hear from students, including grad school applicants, that they feel they must obtain year-long research internships with faculty advisors to become published or that research opportunities that lead to peer-reviewed journal publications only come out of Ivy League or “near-Ivy” university on-campus opportunities. This is just not true and here’s the proof. Those five studies linked above? Here are the universities that the students attend and the journals in which they are now published (and bear in mind these publications will sit on their resumes and CVs for life, which is a plus!):

  • University of Connecticut – Journal of Hypertension
  • Clemson U – PLOS Pathogens (a high-profile microbiology journal)
  • Swansea University (in the UK) – British Journal of Psychiatry
  • University of Central Florida – Scientific Reports
  • University of Oklahoma – Journal of Supreme Court History

If you’re a current undergraduate student or a working professional looking to jumpstart your grad school career with a publication, here are some tips on getting started.


Check out your competition, and see how others do it.

Attend some undergraduate research conferences that might be nearby. Most colleges have these annually (usually in April or May, but it varies) such as those at: NYU, UMass, UC Davis, and UWashington, for example.

Review the types of journals that typically accept submissions from undergraduates or working professionals pre-grad school (and those in grad school as well).

I love the list that the University of Nebraska maintains here because it’s so easy to search by field and discipline. All of the journals (with details on each regarding the types of submissions they accept) are separated into categories that include: Art and Literature, Business and Econ, History, Humanities and Social Sciences, Interdisciplinary, International Studies, Math and Physics, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Science and Chemistry, and Tech and Engineering. Most of the journals within each category are open-access, double-blind, peer-reviewed journals and THAT is what is most respected in the land of academia –that’s what you’re looking for.

Google “Call for Submissions” and then type a keyword that links to your preferred field.

Sort by date so that you can see the most recent requests for submissions and abstracts. Then, you could prep a paper (or upcycle a past course paper of at least 15 pages) geared specifically to a journal’s recent call for submissions.

Peruse UPenn’s massive list of conferences seeking abstract submissions for presentations (a great place to start) AND journals seeking paper submissions, AND books seeking chapter submissions.

Let’s say you’re interested in ethnic studies and cultural studies. You’d go to the UPenn Call for Papers site then click the category called Ethnicity and National Identity, and then BOOM –this pops up:

Special Issue Call for Papers: “Using Popular Culture to Bring Awareness, Develop Understanding, and Find Solutions to Issues in our Contemporary World.” Deadline for submissions: August 1, 2019. Publication date: February 2020. Journal title: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. They accept not only papers but essays that review books, films, games, conferences and more that relate to popular culture and pedagogy. Now THAT’S a neat way to get published and no faculty connections or three-month summer research internships are needed.

What if a paper is too intimidating and you want to start small?

Writing and publishing a book review is a great way to dive in. Did you know there are many top journals that will mail you a brand new free book published by top scholars in hundreds of fields so that you can read it and then write a book review, and then have your review published in their journal? Here’s one outlet where you can find out about these unique opportunities: The HNet: Humanities and Social Sciences Online.

Let’s say you’re interested in African American literature. The Ohio State University houses and publishes a journal called Research in African Literaturesand they maintain a list of books that are waiting for writers to read the book and submit a review of it. The list of books and the info to contact them to apply to do this is here.

Where did I find out about this?  It was on the HNet, and it’s one of MANY book review opportunities posted there.


So, as you can see, you’ve got publishing options and there’s no reason not to start even as early as junior year of high school. This Texas high school junior recently solo-authored and published a June 2019 article in the University of Texas San Antonio’s Journal of Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Work.

A peer-reviewed publication is a huge boost to your Common App (if you’re in high school) and if you’re a college student or working professional, it is more likely to lead to better funding as a graduate student and also better admissions odds as a Master’s and certainly as a doctoral applicant.

A publication can be a terrific opportunity for your scholarly and professional track, and sometimes you can even secure a publishing opportunity that lets you kill three birds with one stone (a publication, a named honor or award, and a monetary prize) and that’s what I call “The Publishing Trifecta.” Not sure how that works?  Check out HNet, a public site so few students even know exists, where I found the below example.


  • Prep a paper on Cold War military history and submit it by 11/15/19 for review by the Virginia Military Institute’s Center for Military History and Strategic Analysis. 2019 is the 15th year the essay contest has been held and it is aimed at recognizing and encouraging innovative scholarship on Cold War subjects.
  • If your paper is deemed one of the top three submissions, you could win a monetary prize: first place will earn a plaque and a cash award of $2,000; second place, $1,000 and a plaque; and third place, $500 and a plaque.
  • Get published: The Journal of Military History will consider prize-winning essays for publication.


I couldn’t agree more with hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky’s statement, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” And in this case, I can guarantee that if you don’t start the process and submit a paper for review, you won’t get published. I can help you attain ‘The Publishing Trifecta’; let me know when you’d like to get started.

Graduate Admissions Top Tips

Grad School Applicants: Maximizing Academic Conferences

By: Dr. Kristen Willmott

Grad school applicants are well into the graduate school admissions process and we are assisting with personal statement brainstorming, resume and CV edits, exploring publishing opportunities, and pinpointing which writing samples to submit to grad school programs.

Before you go too far into the grad school admissions process, review the websites of faculty you hope to study with in your targeted programs. Explore the campus and lab facilities and resources you will have access to on campus and check out what current graduate students are researching and learning. Grad school admissions is a two way street and it’s key you consider why you’re a great fit for a program, but also why is the program, and your targeted field of interest a great fit for YOU.

Take the time to research faculty and staff at your targeted programs. Most graduate school applications will require at least a short essay asking some version of  “Why our program?” We advise current graduate school applicants and future graduate school applicants, to start researching the faculty at the programs they’re targeting ASAP. Where to start? Check the graduate school’s online directory to get to faculty webpages. Many often include links to their curriculum vitas –which are terrific little microscopes into what faculty are teaching, researching, which kinds of student thesis and dissertation projects they chair, which committees they sit on at the university, and perhaps most interestingly, which academic conferences they’re presenting at in the near future —that’s a real life opportunity to witness them in action and meet them in the flesh in their environment.


Start attending and presenting at academic conferences this summer and fall. Did you know you can list a conference presentation on your CV as “accepted for presentation” even if the conference is scheduled to take place after your graduate school admissions application is due?

Often you don’t have to travel far to find top conferences in your field (it might even align with a campus visit you’ve already booked) and there’s a discounted student rate (if you’re an undergraduate) or sometimes a one day registration rate if you’re a working professional and attending just one day’s worth of sessions. 


Here are 5 conferences happening this August 2019 in an array of academic fields  —check out what’s in your field and consider registering today. Review the keynote speakers, the exhibitors, and the program schedule online.

  1. August 1-5, 2019: The American Alliance for Theatre and Education is holding their annual conference in NYC. Conference attendees will explore how artists and scholars can be responsive and effective in the current socio-political climate.
  2. August 3-7, 2019: The American Society of Plant Biologists is holding their annual conference in San Jose, CA.
  3. August 9-13, 2019: The 79th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management will be held in Boston, Massachusetts. The program theme is Understanding the Inclusive Organization.
  4. August 10-13, 2019: The 114th American Sociological Association’s Annual Conference will be held in NYC. The 2019 theme is Engaging Social Justice for a Better World. This is a great one for those with a passion for sociology, cultural studies, gender studies, etc.
  5. August 11-16, 2019: The Ecological Society of America is holding its 104th Annual Meeting in partnership with the United States Society for Ecological Economics in Louisville, Kentucky.



Here’s an example of how attending a conference as a grad school applicant can work in your favor. Let’s say you’re a grad school applicant targeting the University of Wisconsin-Madison and environmental science is your field. You head to the department website and find that Dr. Andrew Bent’s research interests in plant disease resistance (and the lab he runs) align with yours and you happen to live in or be visiting California this August. Check out his faculty webpage, read his journal article that was published June 10, 2019 on plants with a short lifecycle, read about The Bent Lab, and then register for the American Society of Plant Biologists’ annual conference in San Jose, CA. Once you’re at the conference, attend the symposium Dr. Bent is co-moderating at 8:30am on Mon. 8/5/19 on topics including sustainably feeding a growing human population as the planet’s climate continues to warm. Maybe you even hang around after the session to chat with Dr. Bent about what you most connected to in his June article… The conference has a discounted student rate that includes the following:

  • Access to Major Symposia, Concurrent Symposia, Posters, Workshops, & Career Center
  • Access to the Exhibit Hall
  • 4 days of coffee breaks and snacks
  • 2 evening poster receptions with snacks
  • Morning coffee
  • Opening Welcome Reception
  • Final Party

It’s not 100% clear what that included-with-conference-registration “final party” entails, but we certainly hope everyone will arrive in the matching black “Plant Cell-ebration” t-shirts the conference website features. One of the two discounted conference hotels, the San Jose Marriott has a rooftop pool that looks like this. If that’s not a spectacular summer vacay in San Jose, we don’t know what is. How many weekends have you spent poolside chatting up renowned plant biologists?


The bottom line is that there is an academic conference in your targeted field this year, if not this summer. You might just not yet know where to look, or how to find which faculty are presenting, or how to obtain a discounted student rate, or how to maximize your attendance, or how to submit a successful conference abstract to become a presenter and boost your CV, or how to approach a faculty member whom you hope will become your PhD advisor. Let us help!

Graduate Admissions Top Tips

2019-2020 MBA Plans & Essay Prompts

By: Dr. Kristen Willmott

It’s that time of year when students have graduated from college and are thinking about their future, or those out of college for a year or two wonder about next steps. MBA admissions inquiries are plentiful here at Top Tier Admissions! Now that it’s June, more and more top MBA programs have started to release their 2019-2020 MBA deadlines, notification dates and essay prompts for the upcoming MBA admissions season, and some have even adjusted their number of rounds AND moved their round 1 deadline earlier than ever before (talking to you, Harvard!) —and we’re all over it for you.

If you’re targeting a top MBA program, then you know that aiming for the round 1 deadline is key. However, if your GMAT isn’t where it needs to be, or you’re about to land a promotion with a new leadership role at work that will amount to a big resume boost, then the later rounds are not going to kill your admissions odds and may well be something to consider.


Maybe that means you start off by taking this summer to boost your application odds and resume with:

We’ve helped applicants secure admission to many of the best MBA programs in the world and would love to help you as well.

MBA Programs 2019-2020


To help you plan your MBA application timeline, here is a sampling of 3 top MBA programs and their recently released 2019-2020 application deadlines and essay prompts:

Columbia Business School’s Full Time MBA Program

2019-2020 Rounds and Deadlines:                                       

-To start in Jan. 2020 OR Aug. 2020, apply by 10/4/19 (70% of full time MBA students start in -August and binding early decision is available for August entry only)

-Merit-based fellowship deadline, apply by 1/3/20

-Final regular decision deadline, apply by 4/10/20

2019-2020 Columbia MBA Essay Prompts:

Short Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters max)

Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Essay 2: Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words) -NEW!

Essay 3: Who is a leader you admire, and why? (250 words) -NEW!

Optional Essay: Is there any further information that you wish to provide the Admissions Committee? If so, use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history. This does not need to be a formal essay. You may submit bullet points. (500 words max)

Harvard Business School’s Full Time MBA Program

(they’re sticking with just the 2 rounds as that was a new change for them last year!)

2019-2020 Rounds and Deadlines:   

-Round 1: App due 9/4/19                  You’ll hear by: 12/10/19

-Round 2: App due 1/6/19                  You’ll hear by: 3/31/20

-2+2 Program: App was due 4/9/19   They heard by 6/5/19

2019-2020 Harvard MBA Essay Prompts:

Main Essay: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program? (no word limit)

For joint program applicants only (for the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Kennedy School): How do you expect the joint degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and a personal level? (400 words max)

UPenn Wharton’s Full Time MBA Program

2019-2020 Rounds and Deadlines:   

-Round 1: App due 9/17/19    You’ll hear by: 12/18/19

-Round 2: App due 1/7/20      You’ll hear by: 3/26/20

-Round 3: App due 4/1/20      You’ll hear by: 5/8/20

2019-2020 Wharton MBA Essay Prompts:

Essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words max)

Essay 2: Describe an impactful experience or accomplishment that is not reflected elsewhere in your application. How will you use what you learned through that experience to contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words max)

Additional Essay (required for reapplicants): Explain how you have reflected on the previous decision about your application, and discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words max; first-time applicants may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances.)


So . . . get thee to an MBA info session, campus tour, faculty symposium, academic conference, professional affiliation panel, etc. You might want to start with: the June 23rd Dartmouth Tuck Coffee Meet and Greet in Bellevue, Washington, or the June 25th event in NYC called “HBS in NYC: Harvard Graduate Programs Panel & Fair,” or the July 25th MBA Tour Grad Fair in DC, or the August 13th Harvard Women & the MBA Panel.”

Try to register for one now, and then reach out to us to help you take it from there!

Graduate Admissions

Top Ten New Master’s and PhD Programs

–by Dr. Kristen Willmott

Two and a half years ago I wrote: Top New Master’s Programs You’ve Never Heard Of.  It was one of the most popular grad school admissions blogs on our site. I heard from one of the program’s admissions officers who said their website received a record-breaking number of visits to the post. Since then, Top Tier Admissions has helped graduate school applicants get into all ten of the institutions mentioned in the article, and many more.

Much has changed in graduate school admissions since 2016, but new programs continue to emerge at even the most elite institutions. I still believe that applying to new Master’s or doctoral programs can have substantial admissions advantages. As I noted back in 2016, “The program’s direction is still being decided, faculty may be new and more eager to take on advisees, and thousands of possible peer applicants might not even be aware the program exists.”

Assorted headlines recently have featured one of the most unique approaches to a graduate degree in recent history. The gist (as revealed by where else but Vogue) is that Kim Kardashian West plans to become a lawyer without going to law school, and without ever having obtained a college degree. As California does not require a law degree to take the bar exam, she is working towards becoming a “law reader” by apprenticing with a practicing lawyer. The program entails studying and working for four years as an apprentice at a law office or in a judge’s chamber. Kardashian West says she has almost one year down, as she started in July 2018, and will sit for the bar in 2022.

We’ve helped our students prep for the LSAT (needed for law school applications) and secure admission to some of the best law schools in the country including UPenn, Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, and Duke. For those without Kardashian blood and seeking the old-fashioned way of career climbing and obtaining a grad school degree, I offer a 2019 update to:



1.) George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School’s Juris Master (JM) Degree: For those not on board with the “law reader” path mentioned above, yet still looking to explore legal studies, George Mason’s new part-time program is a good one to consider. The JM degree (also called an LLM at some law schools, including Harvard and Yale) is aimed at professionals who interact with lawyers and legal issues. It’s a two-year, part time program and is offered by over half of all tier one law schools in the country.Applications are accepting on a rolling basis until August 1st for a late August 2019 start.


2.) New York University’s PhD in Data Science: This 72-credit hour program with 3 years of coursework and 2 years of dissertation research offers funding for up to 5 years. It features just 15 credits of required courses and 57 credits of electives, so there are plentiful options for specializing in your preferred subfield.

3.) McGill University’s PhD in Quantitative Life Science: This new program is one of three offered through McGill’s Interfaculty Studies (Biological and Biomedical Engineering and the Integrated Program in Neuroscience are the others) and is currently accepting applicants for September 2019.

4.)  Pepperdine University’s PhD in Global Leadership and ChangeThis is a unique new hybrid (online and Los Angeles campus-based) PhD program for students who are seeking careers in strategy and policy for nonprofit, government, for-profit, and academic institutions. It entails 3 years of coursework, 1 trimester abroad and a 2-year dissertation process.


5.) Tufts University’s Master’s in Offshore Wind Energy Engineering: The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has a new program in this very specific field which is the first of its kind in the U.S. The one-year program focuses on wind policy, technical applications and project management. Part time study is also an option and there’s an added ability to obtain two degrees: an M.S. from the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering AND an M.S. in Innovation and Management.

6.) Georgia Institute of Technology’s Master of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Management: Students in this new program will study topics including sustainable energy, utility regulation and policy, Earth systems, economics of environmental policy, big data and policy analytics, climate policy, and environmental management. They also have access to Georgia Tech’s popular 5-week, 6-credit summer program on Sustainable Development and Climate Change in Venice, Italy.  The program has a flexible 30-credit format, with part time, on-campus, and online options. GIT is accepting applicants through 6/15/19 for the inaugural class; you could apply in May and start in August! PLUS, they are offering up to 7 fully funded fellowships for full-time on-campus students. That means you’d obtain full tuition funding plus a $1,500/month stipend.


7.) University of Texas at Austin’s Master of Science in Health Care Transformation: This new one-year Master’s program focuses on health delivery and creating high-value services in healthcare. It is a joint project between Dell Medical School and the McCombs School of Business. The hybrid program is designed to be completed while working full time and they are currently accepting applicants for the Class of 2020.

8.) University of Rochester’s Master’s in ASL Interpreting in Medicine and ScienceWhile still in the final stages of development, URochester has announced they will launch a new Master’s program, likely in August 2019, aimed at training interpreters who have experience in the deaf community and scientific research. The Master’s program will be one of the first of its kind and based at URMC, which houses Strong Memorial Hospital, the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and the University of Rochester School of Nursing.


9.) Tulane University’s Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering: Tulane’s School of Science and Engineering has a new Master’s program designed to help graduates on career paths in biotechnology, aerospace, defense, information technologies and energy. There is an option for an MSE program or an MSE 4+1 program and it can be done in just 24 credits plus a thesis. They have a late application deadline (due 6/30/19) for a fall 2019 start (the first cohort of this program) and there are part-time or full-time study options.


10.) Penn State University’s Master’s in Strategic Management and Executive Leadership: This 30-credit program is aimed at developing corporate leaders and it is offered exclusively online through Penn State World Campus in partnership with the University’s Smeal College of Business.

Master's Programs

So, are you interested in law, leadership, healthcare studies, or sustainability? How about working to become one of the seven fully funded Master’s students at Georgia Tech this August? Consider signing up for an Intro to Sustainability Coursera course via U Illinois tonight to gauge your interest in this exciting field. There’s no time like the present and I don’t know about you, but a five-week summer program in Venice and a $1,500 monthly stipend for a Master’s degree, doesn’t sound half bad. You’re only out their $75 application fee to give it a shot.  We’d love to help you plan out your grad school application process from the application to the resume/CV to the essays; please reach out!