More Testimonials from Round 1

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Harvard Business School and Kellogg Admit

Before working with Ivy Admissions Group, I applied to and was rejected from Harvard twice. I submitted 8 MBA applications that were ALL rejected. Of those 8 applications, 4 were under the guidance of other consultants, but I got nowhere. I wasn't a bad candidate either, with 3 years of international experience, a 730 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA from my undergraduate school as an engineer. However, I didn't have a well-articulated and genuine vision. Ivy Admissions Group changed that for me completely. They helped me clean up my applications, write the first authentic story about what I truly wanted to be doing with my life. Not only did they get into HBS (and Kellogg), but they also helped me refine my dream and vision for my future. The level of service received was second to none, and trust me I had already spent over $5000 on expensive consultants that got me no results.

- STEM, International

Purchased: Complete School Package

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Praise for Ivy Admissions Group

There is nothing more satisfying for us than to see a client we spend months and months working with finally get into their dream school. Below are the testimonials that have been collected in our evaluation forms; we’ll keep updating them as more people submit. Congratulations to all the Ivy Admissions Group clients admitted in Round 1 and best of luck to all those working with us on Round 2!

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Harvard Business School and Wharton Admit

“Initially, I was a bit skeptical of paying thousands of dollars for a consulting service, but I'm glad I did. The Ivy Admissions team really took the time to understand who I am and what I want to get out of business school. I felt supported 100% of the way and I know his feedback contributed both to my acceptance at HBS and my 110k merit scholarship at Wharton.”

- Military, Public university, Male, White

Purchased: Complete School Package

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Wharton School Admit

“If you are reading this, do yourself a favor and go with IAG. You will save time, $, and emotional struggles from this one heck of a competitive admissions cycle.”

- Consulting, State School, Female, Asian

Purchased: Complete School Package + Extra Interview


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Wharton School and Duke Fuqua Admit

“My admissions consultants provided prompt, high-quality input to my application materials that I believe increased my odds of acceptance. My consultants were professional, easy to work with, and most importantly, clearly cared about me and my application process. I have no doubts that my applications were made stronger through using the services of Ivy Admissions Group, and they were critical to gaining acceptance at my top-choice school.“

- Consulting, Military, White, Male

Purchased: Complete School Package

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Harvard Business School Admit

“Nate and Anna were consummate professionals from start to finish. The unique process at Ivy Admission Group helped me crystallize my narrative - not just for business school, but also for myself. Thank you!”

- Non-Profit, White Male

Purchased: Complete School Package

Why was I waitlisted?

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In love and admissions, there’s no answer as painful as a “maybe.”

If you’re one of the Round 1 applicants who opened up the admissions portal to find the dreaded wait-list letter, a lot of questions probably started rushing through your head.

  • Should I apply to more schools in Round 2?

  • Should I risk losing a deposit to a second-choice school or hold out for a final acceptance?

  • Should I contact the admissions committee or stay quiet?

  • If I’m applying to more schools later on, should I change my application materials?

However, the first question you should ask yourself is “Why am I on the Waitlist in the first place?” After having helped dozens of clients successfully navigate this process ourselves, we find that the answer comes down to a combination of four reasons:

1. Your narrative was too complicated.

Admissions Committees have thousands of essays to read through in a short time window. Do they have a lot of time to appreciate nuance and subtlety? No. Are they going to appreciate having to go back and re-read your story when it takes an unexpected turn? No. Are they in a hurry for you to get to your point so they know what your story is about? Yes.

Your job was to use your application to communicate a narrative story that was as simple and easy to digest as possible. If you did not accomplish that, then you need to start your analysis there. Complicated stories are far less compelling than simple ones, but they are a lot easier to write! That’s why you don’t see a lot of simple stories about waitlisted candidates.

To write a simple story requires two basic steps. First, strip out all detail that does not aid in understanding the story.  If there were five reasons why you moved from job A to job B, but one reason captures 90% of the story, just give that one reason! If your job has three major areas of responsibilities, but only one of which relates to your narrative, reduce the real estate on your resume that you devote to the irrelevant parts. Otherwise, the adcom will be inundated with so much detail they won’t know which ones to focus on.

Second, structure all transitions in the story as simple cause-and-effect. Humans naturally search for causes to the effects they observe, and get confused when one is not readily available. That’s why magic exists! Don’t write your essay like a magician, with your motives coming out of thin air. Instead, articulate what formative moments in life led you to make the decisions that you did or else your chances of admission will disappear!

2. You lacked a clear mission statement.

People are never as excited about supporting other individuals as they are about solving problems. At Ivy Admissions Group, we like examining narratives through the lens of politics, so indulge us – Which person do you think was more excited to cast their vote: someone endorsing Hillary Clinton’s superior qualifications, or someone extending a big middle finger to the world by voting for Donald Trump? 100% the latter.

Admissions Committees work in a similar way. They are more excited about marshalling the resources of their programs around candidates out to solve a clear problem in the world, than those just out for their own career progression.

When I read applications from waitlisted candidates, they almost always talk a lot about the job they performed or the life they want to lead without discussing the problem they want to solve or the vision for the future that they want to create. Simply put, an overachieving professional working in the healthcare industry is not as compelling a candidate as someone on a mission to end childhood obesity in America.

3. You did not differentiate yourself among a crowded field.

What is the difference between whole wheat bread and multigrain? All I know is that when I go into a new supermarket I have to sort through a wall of bread and sometimes get so overwhelmed that I don’t want to buy any.

How do you think adcoms feel with management consultants? They all pretty much do the same thing in the same place for nearly identical companies. If you’re coming from a traditional pre-MBA background (consulting, finance, big tech), unless your application makes clear that you offer something very different than your peers, it’s likely that your admissions journey will take a detour via the waitlist overpass.

4. You didn’t seem sold on their school.

Schools hate rejection as much as candidates do. If your application didn’t convey passion for the program, or a lot of specifics that show you have done your research, they might reasonably believe that you would go to a different school if given the option.

Schools also have a lot of pride. They are not offering a generic MBA, they are offering their MBA. Schools are most excited to admit students who they believe will experience the biggest transformation by going to their program: ones whose unique gaps in skill sets will be filled by the resources that school has to offer. If your application failed to mention what gaps you are looking to close in business school and how that school’s unique and specific resources can be used to fill those gaps, you missed an important element.

So what do I do now?

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If you could go back and re-write your essay. That’s what you’d do, right? Well that option is not available to you. Instead you’re going to have to find more creative and unconventional ways of communicating your improved story to the admissions committee. That’s what we do in our Waitlist Campaign and that’s what makes our approach effective. How often do things work out?

63.6%

That’s how many waitlisted candidates over the 2017-2018 application season that Ivy Admissions Group got admitted to their desired program.

If you’re interested in getting our help for your waitlist situation, sign up for a consultation with us here.

How to apply as a re-applicant

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Not everyone get’s into business school on their first try. Don’t worry if that’s the case for you — many business schools explicitly welcome and encourage applications from re-applicants. But what can you do to make sure you' don’t set yourself up for the same disappointment?

Step 1: Gut Check

Before you invest any more time, make sure that your MBA school selection is reasonable based on the raw statistics of your profile. For example, if you are applying to the M7 and are not an underrepresented minority, is your GPA at least above 3.0 and your GMAT above 700? If not, I probably wouldn’t waste the application fee. If you need any help determining whether you have the raw stats for your choice of schools, feel free to fill out our What are my odds? form and we’ll have a conversation about it.

Step 2: Focus in on the Story

For every candidate, the area of the application that has the highest return-on-investment for admissions odds is the story. Everyone will tell you to write a good story (which isn’t very helpful, right? Why would you intentionally tell a bad one?). Essays that are fun to read are good. But the real key is in understanding the next level deeper of what other objectives you want your story to accomplish.

Step 3: Autopsy

What went wrong with your last story? The short way to accomplish your task at hand is to run a ding report to understand where your last story broke down last time:

  • Was it too complicated?

  • Did your goals lack credibility?

  • Did you fail to connect your candidacy to a larger cause or problem to solve?

  • Did you fail to create resonance through emotion and values?

  • Did you fail to articulate the urgency of your candidacy?

Many schools ask re-applicants to submit essays explaining what has changed in their life and career since their last application, so it is imperative to understand where you fell short so you can then show improvement.

Step 4: Tell your Narrative

When we lead our clients through the Narrative Bootcamp portion of our Complete School Packages, we start from the facts of their life and build an argument from the ground up as to why this background is the ideal preparation to solve a particular problem. We then explain how our client is on a mission to solve that problem, starting from an emotional origin story and proceeding to some important vision for the future. We then show how they are prevented from accomplishing that mission in their current position, but how business school will allow them to achieve that mission if admitted. We call this specific structure of story a "Narrative" and you can read some posts about it here and the process we recommend using here.

The interview questions Northwestern's Kellogg is asking this year

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is one of the couple business schools in that it requests all applicants to schedule an interview. On-campus interviews will be conducted by an admissions officer or a current student, while off-campus interviews are usually conducted by alumni. For all interviews, the interviewer will have only read the resume submitted upon registration. Expect the interview to last 30-45 minutes.

The Chicago Skyline minutes away from Kellogg’s Campus

The Chicago Skyline minutes away from Kellogg’s Campus

Both on- and off-campus interviewers at Kellogg are not given a predetermined script, so applicants should be ready for a variety of questions to be asked. The level of rigor and engagement can also vary widely depending on who ends up conducting the interview. However, applicants should expect the interview to have a conversational feel, with the goal of getting to know the applicant more intimately.

Analysis of the questions this year:

Our analysis of the questions our clients have been asked by Kellogg indicate that in addition to the typical career transitions, Kellogg is very interested in understanding the specific leadership style of each candidate and what experiences have informed the formation of that style. Additionally, Kellogg is placing a greater emphasis on diversity and experience in leadership of diverse teams and wants to see a certain baseline of that experience in its applicants.

The specific questions Kellogg has already asked this year:

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  • Walk me through your resume.

  • Why did you choose your undergrad? Your major?

  • Tell me about which experience in your career you had the most impact.

  • Tell me about a time where you dealt with a team with a lot of diversity. What did you gain/learn? What challenges did you face.

  • How did you manage your junior team members? What did you learn as a manager?

  • What does leadership mean to you?

  • What are the specific traits that define a leader?

  • What are your strengths?

  • What are your long and short term goals?

  • Why MBA? Why Kellogg? Why now?

  • Tell me about your biggest concern or challenge you expect to face at Kellogg.

  • Kellogg is a diverse school. When have you interacted with people differently than you?

  • What is your leadership style? Why is it the way it is?

  • What role do you play within a team?

  • What specially do you hope to gain with your time at Kellogg?

  • Any questions for me?

The interview questions HBS is asking so far

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Perhaps the most feared and intimidating interview in MBA admissions is the one at Harvard Business School. That’s true for several reasons.

First, unlike student or alumni-led interviews, where the interviewer reviews your resume as you hand it to them, the HBS Admissions Committee comes dangerously prepared. The night before they carefully review each resume, looking for inconsistent themes, odd career transitions, vaguery to clear up, and anything they happen to find interesting. They then write up a list of pointed questions and prepare to deliver them rapid fire over the course of their 30 minutes with you.

Second, the entire time the interviewer and their scribe will be evaluating your communication skills to see if you’d crack under the pressure of the case classroom. They will want to see that you are able to clearly articulate your thoughts with logical structure and that your answers are persuasive. They will also probe to test the depth of your professional knowledge to see if you will be able to serve as an appropriate representative for your industry to the rest of your section.

Third, HBS’s admissions department is a well-oiled machine, and many find the incredible professionalism of its staff to be intimidating. There is a dedicated check-in center where Admissions Director Chad Losee can often be seek taking applicant’s coats. At the appointed time, an admissions staffer walks all the interviewees up to their “green room” to wait for their individual interviewers to be ready. Precisely at the appointed hour, the interview room doors open, and the names of each applicant are read out. Exactly 30 minutes later, the interviews end and the applicants are led back downstairs and on their way. For some, this is too much and we often receive reports that when clients visit the bathroom before and after the interviews, they can hear other applicants vomiting.

The questions HBS has already asked this year:

In general we are finding that HBS is much more interested in measuring each candidate’s industry knowledge and ability to represent their industry in section. We recommend that candidates prepare by researching the latest trends in their industry and be able to speak to the recent performance of their own company.

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  • Explain to me why you studied [foreign language on resume].

  • Explain how the [foreign language listed on resume] alphabet works.

  • Why did you study [undergraduate major]?

  • What is your criteria for turning down investments?

  • Compare and contrast [your sector] with [another adjacent sector].

  • Why did you choose to work abroad? Why that city?

  • Tell me about your most interesting consulting project.

  • What about your background led management to choose you for this project?

  • What are the challenges that the company you are working with right now is facing?

  • How have you tried to [solve problem mentioned in your application] through your professional work?

  • Tell me more about [the start-up you interned at]. What is the next big thing for it?

  • Which competitors should [start-up company] worry about? Do you think [company] will ever be profitable?

  • How would you evaluate [your undergraduate college’s] recent endowment investments in your industry?

  • What do you read, what news?

  • What do you do for fun?

  • Was your military service mandatory? If not, why did you do it?

  • Why do you want to move to [country]?

  • Evaluate the value of [your industry].

  • Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?

Secret Advice: What Harvard Kennedy School’s Ron Heifetz teaches in his re-entry talk for graduating students

Ronald Heifetz, King Hussein Bin Talal Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School

Ronald Heifetz, King Hussein Bin Talal Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School

Ron Heifetz is a leadership guru’s guru. Trained as a psychiatrist with a degree from Harvard Medical School, he served as the founding director of Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. His classes at Harvard Kennedy School, including Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change, are so popular that they often go for the maximum number of points in the school’s bidding system.

 So what does he have to teach?

 Thankfully, he offers a “re-entry talk” for graduating students, chock full of hard truths and secrets to success. Student pack into every square inch of HKS’s Forum to hear his wisdom, but you won’t find videos of it online. Instead we have distilled the essence here:

1. You are in more danger than you realize.

Students reentering the workforce will find out, quite painfully, that it was much safer for them to be angry or outraged in graduate school than in the real world. Institutions inherently resist change, and as an agent of change, institutions will constantly be looking for ways of neutralizing you. In polite society, this can be accomplished by isolating you if you lack allies, stymieing you if you lack organizational knowledge, or denigrating you if you leave yourself open to personal attacks.

2. Reenter quietly.

People will be incredibly interested what you learned in graduate school. But if they ask you to give them advice based on what they learned – don’t! Prof Heifetz believes “if you do you might as well put a bulls-eye on your chest and say ‘shoot me here’!” Some people may be competitive and resent the credential you have and look for reasons and ways to tear you down. Instead if asked for advice, say “One thing I’ve learned is how to listen.” Ask them to tell you what’s happened in their organization or community since you’ve been gone. They will be flattered that you are showing interest in them.

3. Negotiate your job offer to provide time to learn.

It is far less effective to dive straight into your work than to plan 3-6 months to first get a lay of the land. You’ll want to understand which issues are relevant, evaluate the proper way to sequence issues, identify possible allies, and find best voices to champion those issues besides you. Heifetz says that in leadership, “People die with their mouths open. No one was neutralized for listening too much.”

4. Grasp the limits of your knowledge.

You think you know “your people,” but anyone can only know a sliver of a location, group, people. None of us really know our people and especially not since we’ve been gone. As much as you have had to “represent” your tribe at HKS, now go back and understand more of it.

5. Understand the differences between allies and confidants.

Allies amplify your voice. It is much harder to isolate groups of people clamoring for change than the lone gadfly, so having allies ensures that your message is not easily neutralized. Confidants, on the other hand, are there for venting. To be a confidant, they need to have no conflicting interests with you. They may not even care about the issue!

For example, as you try to gain resources for your team at work, your co-worker may be your ally and your spouse may be your confidant. You can freely vent to your spouse about downsizing the marketing departments to get manpower for your team. After all, he or she doesn’t know these people and has no interest in the conflict. But if you were to do the same with your co-worker, you may put them into compromising position. What of your co-worker has allies of her own in marketing? How could you expect her to your secret from them?

These roles are not static. Take other example: if your mother-in-law comes to visit, your co-worker may become the confidant you vent to while your spouse becomes your ally in dealing with her needs.

The problem with confusing allies for confidants in a given situation is that you will confuse reasonable negative reactions as betrayal: a feeling so bad, as Heifetz notes, that Dante put it in the 9th circle of hell. However, the original sin is yours: putting allies in the bad position.

6. Develop practices to reflect.

Heifetz says that the best basketball players are the ones who can escape the perspective they have in the thick of the game to see the whole court, as if from above. Put another way, good leaders can be both on the dance-floor, interacting with their allies and associates, and on the balcony, seeing all the players including themselves in one view. Develop structures that will help you build this skill, such as journaling.

7. The brain does not distinguish between cognition and emotion.

In addition to logos, use pathos and ethos in all your arguments. (if you’ve been reading this blog, you already know that)

8. Separate yourself from your role.

Much of what you encounter in your job is not personal, but it is easy to take things personally – especially if what happens to your job is that you lose it. Heifetz talks about discussions he had with the King of Jordan. Heifetz asked whether having people constantly praise him ever boosts his ego. The King said no, because when people praise him, they are not praising him, the man, they are praising “the King.” No one cares about him, they care about his throne. Similarly, when there was an assassination plot that nearly took his life, he had to recognize that those people were not trying to kill him, the man, they were trying to kill “the King”. Remember that you are more than any one role, and that no role, however big, is big enough for you to fill it with your full self.

How to become a Baker Scholar

George Fisher Baker (1840-1931), the first major benefactor of Harvard Business School and namesake of the Baker Scholars

George Fisher Baker (1840-1931), the first major benefactor of Harvard Business School and namesake of the Baker Scholars

Case method classes in business school are unlike any other academic environment one will encounter. They require diligent preparation, excellent communication skills, and the ability to quickly analyze an evolving business problem in front of your peers. Class participation at many case method schools account for half of one’s grade. That’s the situation at Harvard Business School, where even though there is an official policy of grade non-disclosure, there is stiff competition for top marks.

At the conclusion of each course, students are assigned one of four grades designated as Category I, II, III, and IV.

Category I - given to the top 15-25% of students

Category II - given to the next 65-75% in a section. The actual number of Category II grades is subject to the number of Category I grades assigned.

Category III - given to the lowest-performing 10% of students in an elective curriculum course section.

Category IV - seldom assigned; designates failure of achievement and/or commitment and, therefore, failure to meet minimum standards of the course. If Category IV is used in a course, the combined number of students who receive Categories III and IV must equal the lowest 10% of the elective course section.

Those whose accumulation of “Net Category I” grades (i.e. the sum of their “I”s minus the sum of their “III”s and "IV"s) puts them in the top 5% of their class (over both years) earn the distinction of “Baker Scholar,” an honor named in memory of George F. Baker the "Dean of American Banking" who literally built HBS. Those who receive 5 or more “IIIs” face suspension from the program pending a review by the academic board (something called “hitting the screen”).

What steps can you take to make Baker Scholar and avoid hitting the screen?

1. Invest in your team.

Case method schools often assign students to discussion groups to analyze the case before the class. See our article on how to get the most of your Discussion Group here. These people are not there to merely suck up an hour of time you might otherwise spend sleeping – they are there to make you look good by challenging your understanding, assumptions, and analysis private before your classmates will attack them in public. This really only works if you foster trust, cooperation, and reciprocity among your discussion group, so before you get to work, get to know them first and foster the comradery you would want in a high-performing team.

2. Work smarter with “Case Captains”.

Read our article on that system here. Until you get really good at preparing cases they take 2-3 hours each to read, analyze, and write-up. That means that you’ll need to prepare 6-9 hours in advance of a three-case, easily sucking up any time that you might otherwise spend on other productive activities such as networking and recruiting. By using Case Captains, you can free up time on nights when you’re not on duty to attend social events to keep you sane, and recruiting events to keep you employed. Plus, if something happens and you’re not able to read the case, the Case Captain system throws you a lifeline to see participate in class.

3. Enlist a feedback buddy.

It’s really hard to be on the dance floor and to visualize yourself from the balcony at the same time. Likewise, it’s very difficult to accurately assess how you come across with your comments in class and what you need to improve. That’s why you should enlist a feedback buddy to keep special notes on the things you say. Things to have them look for include (1) the logical flow of your comment (was it easy to follow?), (2) your volume (could you be heard?), (3) its relevancy (did it fit in with the flow of the conversation or did it take the class on a tangent?), (4) the reaction of the professor and the class (positive or negative?), (5) any public speaking ticks to correct (you’re practicing a skill when you speak in public, practice it correctly!)

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4. Keep a comment log.

Related to the above. Note on a I-III scale how well you think you did with your comment. This will give you a sense of how well you think you should be doing going into mid-term feedback and will help you understand where you need to invest your time to improve your grades. Noting when you speak in class will also tell you when you are due for a comment. When you’re overdue (i.e. it’s been more than three classes since your last one) you might want to start expecting a cold call. Having air-tight analysis pre-prepared in such a situation will make you look like a rockstar, but you’ll probably only be able to do that when you know the cold call is coming!

5. No case-facts or chip-shots

Every comment you make in class is graded. Each one is assigned a potential maximum value based on its level of difficulty (think of the way gymnastics and diving are scored by “degree of difficulty” in the Olympics). Questions where the answer is a case fact are by their nature incredibly easy. The best you can score by answering such a "chip-shot" flawlessly is a low “II.” If you mess it up, you’re in for a low “III”. Professors specifically ask these questions for students who are extremely nervous or under-prepared so that they can get their participation grade and get back out of the conversation. If you’re hoping to do anything more than not fail out of the school, you should avoid these questions at all costs.

6. Don’t speak in the first 30 minutes of class.

Related to the above. This is where all the case-fact questions are asked. The questions with a level of difficulty in the “I” range come usually at the two-thirds or three-quarters mark.

7. Quantity has a quality.

Every professor will say that the quality of your comments matter more than the quantity. However, after a certain point, quantity achieves a quality all its own. This happens for a couple reasons. First, faculty work to balance the airtime between students, so if you’re always speaking, the professor won’t want to waste a (dreaded) cold call, when they can use that to instead draw quieter students into the conversation. Second, and related, if you know that you won’t be cold called, you won’t have to play defense by answering chip-shots and case-fact questions. This gives you the freedom to only raise your hand to speak when you have a truly great comment. Last, while faculty say that quality is much more important than quantity, quantity is much easier to measure and consequently has greater weight for grading purposes.

8. Dig past the obvious answer

Most cases are meant to teach an incremental topic or framework. You know that the finance class on using comparable companies to calculate the WACC will involve calculations of comparable companies’ Beta. Don’t be content just calculating the other Betas; chances are all of the other smart kids calculated it too. Instead, ask one question deeper. Something like, are these even the right comparables? What do their Betas tell me about the strength of their firms? What does this WACC tell me I should invest in?  

9. Make one point and make it well.

Comments with one thesis are easier to execute and easier for the class to follow. Complex comments referencing five points made over the past 30 minutes disrupt the flow and won’t be appreciated.

10. Erect signposts.

"Signposting" is the act of providing meta-structure to your comment in order to aid in its understanding. Example, “I disagree that the CEO should fire her CFO for three reasons. The first reason is that…”. This will help the class understand the journey that your comment is going to take them on, as well as then they can expect it to be over.

11. Let overripe comments go

Every comment has a moment in the case conversation. When the moment for your comment comes and goes, let it pass. Saying it anyway will disrupt the flow of the conversation and make it look like you were not listening to your classmates (i.e. being disrespectful). There is nothing more self-denying and zen than sitting on a comment you were sure would score a home run after your team has taken the field again.

12. Visit office hours.

Professors are people too and they appreciate getting to know you outside of class. Making one or two appearances shows your interest in their subject, and can provide great opportunities to ask questions that you never got to in class. Plus, professors can be valuable assets after graduation and visiting with them can really boost your professional network.

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