Advice for Prospective Students Prep

Stephanie Chen, SCM Class of 2016
Stephanie Chen, SCM Class of 2016

In today’s post, Stephanie Chen will give advice to prospective students. Stephanie Chen is an international student who is also a recipient of the “Women in Supply Chain” scholarship and a graduate of Wellesley and Harvard. We hope her advice will be helpful to future applicants.

Note: Given the November 15 deadline, these tips may come a bit late for Round I applicants. To Round I applicants, good luck!

You can learn more about the MIT SCM Program’s admissions here.

General Advice

We all know that when you apply for grad school, you apply to several programs. Therefore, you should give yourself ample time before the deadlines (as a rule of thumb, 3-4 months).

The 1st step is to research programs to find out which schools are the best fit for you by searching online, talking to mentors, contacting alumni, looking at placement statistics.

Why 3-4 months? Because most of you are working, so you need to dedicate a bit of each night or day to completing the application. The application components, such as the letters of recommendation, resume, video statement, and Statement of Objectives, take time. So, start early!

Application Components

Letters of Recommendation

Recommendation letters take time– especially if you want them to be well-written. Generally, you should ask the people you have in mind early and gauge their willingness.

The people you ask will have different levels of enthusiasm and time availability, You have to maneuver within these restrictions. In the end, you want someone who shows great interest in your development (and why you are applying for SCM) and knows you well enough to write a personal yet professional letter that makes you stand out. In my experience, recommenders who only say nice things don’t tend to stand out; it is the more critical ones who can balance your positive traits with improvement aspects that can best deliver what letter readers are looking for. You want a writer who knows you well enough, is critical of people’s quality of work, but loves your work!

Some useful information to provide to your recommenders includes:

  • Your resume
  • Information on the program you’re applying to
  • Your statement of purpose
  • How you hope they present you in the letter. This means, again, start early and have back-up lists of recommenders if your preferred ones don’t work out.

Tip: Don’t ask for recommendations last minute and then harass your recommenders when they don’t respond because you contacted them very late. Show courtesy to those who agree to write for you, especially last minute.

GRE/GMAT

I took the GRE over the GMAT because the GRE is accepted in many places. Traditionally, non-business graduate programs accepted the GRE and business schools accepted the GMAT. However, both are perfectly acceptable for the SCM program, and we recommend picking the one that plays to your strengths.

The best way to prepare is to get your hands on past tests and practice, practice, practice!

I personally spent 3 months:

  • 2 months going over basic materials to review vocabulary, grammar, writing style, readings, and quantitative problems
  • 1 month just doing practice tests

The GMAT and GRE are constantly revised, so you might find that older versions are not as reflective of the current test. Remember, the point of the practice is not just for you to learn the material, but to also learn about the test (and how to pace yourself, how to approach it, etc.).

Some people find prep courses helpful. If you find the class time useful (or find that it forces you to practice), this can also be a viable approach. I went to a cram school after scouting several schools, and it was really helpful.

Editor’s Note: I recommend a similar approach for the GMAT. Make sure to get the Official Guide and work through the problems, focusing on the sections that you find toughest. Online forums for the GMAT/GRE can also provide helpful advice and support.

Resume/CV

This is a tough one. How do you shine through a pile of resumes/CVs? First, the basic ground rules:

  • Make everything fit within 1 page
  • Fonts should be legible: Arial and Times New Roman are standard. Font size should be 10-12 pts
  • Margins should be no less than 0.5 inches, and things you did should be in written in the past tense.
  • Resumes shouldn’t look extremely crowded

A good source of sample resumes is MIT’s career office (GECD) website and past SCM resumes. Take a peek and get inspired!

Content-wise, remember that a resume shouldn’t simply list your job description; it should contain accomplishments. e.g.: Re-engineered manufacturing processes, doubling production speed and innovating product features.

It’s best to begin with an action verb describing what you did and then the achievements that resulted. Example of action verbs: executed, initiated, coordinated, succeeded.

Choose the accomplishments that are MOST RELEVANT to SCM. Remember, you should tailor your resume to whatever you’re applying for. Finally, if you have friends or career advisors, it’s a great idea to ask them for advice.

Statement of Objectives

Start by clarifying your goals and knowing what you want to get out of this program. Only with a clear purpose will you convince your reader that you will be a good fit for the program. Then, focus on expressing your passion for and curiosity towards supply chain management.

Some questions you may try to answer include:

  • What prompted you to apply?
  • Which aspect of supply chain do you know about and which aspect do you wish to learn more about? How does that tie into choosing MIT’s program vs other supply chain programs?
  • What do you plan to or want to use the things you learn at MIT for?
  • Describe a career goal or a plan you have after graduation. After all, this is a business-oriented program.
  • Have you taken SCM courses before? (e.g., CTL.SC1x)

Make sure your statement is specific to this program. Readers can tell if your statements are too general or only minimally tailored from a common statement.

Video Statement

  • Invest in a high-quality camera and microphone
  • Dress as if for an interview.
  • Record in a quiet, well-lit environment
  • Prepare a script and go for it.
  • Do a few trial runs — remember, you have time

Tip: You may find a few video statements from past classes on YouTube if you are resourceful enough.

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Advice for Prospective Students Prep

5 thoughts on “Advice for Prospective Students Prep

  1. Hey Alankrita,

    Thanks for your tips. I am an APICS CPIM certified supply chain professional and have 8+ years of a work-ex supply chain. I took TOEFL last week but got a below expectation score of 103. I took the test without any preparation and could not perform because of various reasons that I can change if I re-take it. Do you think that 103 is a decent score or should I try again?
    My GMAT score is also not very high (690). Though, I have done some real good stuff on the supply chain that I have mentioned in my statement.

    1. Peter Tsai says:

      Hi, you seem to have a great background. Speaking as a current student, I would offer 2 pieces of advice:

      1. Contact the SCM admissions people directly for the best advice here: http://scm.mit.edu/program/connect_us

      2. My rule of thumb would be:

      – TOEFL: You’re fine as long as you meet the minimum (which you do!)
      – GMAT: I would aim for hitting the median/mean score, but for more experienced candidates it is not the most important factor.

      From the SCM website:

      a) From the FAQ: http://scm.mit.edu/admissions/faqs#tests
      What are the required tests and minimum scores and is there a reporting code?
      GRE or GMAT: general test, no minimum requirement
      IELTS or TOEFL: Applicants from non-English-speaking nations must offer evidence of written and oral proficiency in the English language by taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Please have the official score reports sent directly to our office. To request a waiver (directly in the online application), you must meet one of the following criteria: Received an undergraduate degree (4 years) from a U.S. University or College OR Attended both primary and secondary schools taught in English. We look for an IELTS score of 7 or a TOEFL score of 100.
      GRE Institute code: 3514
      GRE Department code: 4313
      GMAT code: X5X-QS-17

      b)
      http://scm.mit.edu/sites/default/files/StudentEmploymentReport2015.pdf
      Median GMAT Score: 710

  2. Is having an experience in supply chain necessary for getting selected in the SCM program? I have 4 years of experience which includes interaction with the Supply chain team, but no direct role to play.

    1. Hi T.K.T. — someone from the SCM admissions team here. Our students really do come from a variety of professional backgrounds, and certainly not all of them have prior supply chain experience. Having a strong quantitative background is of far more importance. From what you’ve said you have already, it sounds like you still have very strong qualifications.

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