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Comparing Computerized B-School
Application Systems

By Marian Dent, JD., Esquire

Three popular computerized application systems-- Multi-app, Embark and GradAdvantage--can help students considerably in the B-school application process. All three give you access to application forms of many different schools—documents which you would otherwise have to spend hours searching for separately on the web, or spend weeks waiting for them to arrive in the mail. All three allow you to enter repeating data only once and then paste the data into multiple applications. Most importantly perhaps for Russian students, all three allow you to use a computer rather than tracking down a rare Latin-alphabet typewriter to complete a neat application. However, there are important differences between the three systems, which should be examined before you choose the one to use.

First, Multi-app is fundamentally different than Embark and GradAdvantage, so let's compare Multi-App to the other two.

Multi-app is a CD based or downloadable program that allows you to fill out an application form once, and then paste the information into applications of many different business schools, print it out, and mail it to the schools just like you would if you were mailing the school's paper based form. Embark and GradAdvantage are actual on-line application systems where you apply to the schools via the internet.

There are some advantages to the lower-tech Multi-App for students who are applying from Russia. The first of these is that you are safer when you do not have a reliable internet connection. Imagine the anxiety of receiving one of those annoying error messages and then not knowing whether your application arrived or not! If your email isn't absolutely reliable, it might not be a good idea to rely on an online application system, and thus might be better to use Multi-App.

In addition, you have to think about encoding problems. Sometimes computer systems in US universities do not clearly read the emails from computers that use Russian fonts as their defaults. This summer, when we sent emails to Chicago Institute of Technology, for example, the recipients in Chicago were unable to decipher them. Although we were familiar with how to change the encoding for their computers to read Russian, the academic secretaries at their end did not know how to do it. Thus, some important emails were discarded as junk mail. Again, Multi-App would have been preferable in that case.

Multi-App's final, potential advantage, for Russian students, and indeed for all non-native speakers of English, is the ability to print out your application and have a native-speaking friend check it for spelling errors etc. The online systems allow you to save and print as well, but somehow it seems more comforting to have your Multi-App work saved privately on your own computer, than to have your on-line work saved on a server somewhere far away.

Multi-App's main disadvantage is that the program is not free. You can get various demo versions that let you fill out your application on computer, but until you register with Multi-App and pay the company, you will not be able to print and mail your application. Be careful though--although Embark and GradAdvantage do not charge students, they may not work out as free as they seem. Many B-schools charge an extra fee for using the on-line application. Although this fee may only be $10, if you are planning to apply to several schools this can quickly become more expensive than the Multi-App fee.

Another disadvantage of Multi-App is that the program, on rare occasions, has an outdated application. This is especially true if you are using an old Multi-App CD. You need to update it with information found on Multi-App's web site. In any case, however, you should pull up the school's on-line application and compare it with the Multi-App version to make sure that the questions are the same. A year ago the Multi-App version of Stanford's application essays was completely different than Stanford's own version.

Now for a comparison of the two main on-line systems, Embark and GradAdvantage:

You should first check the web sites of the particular schools to which you want to apply, or at least check the web sites of the two services. Although many schools are now accepting applications from both services, some only want you to use one particular one. Embark seems to have many more schools that use its service than does GradAdvantage. Particularly, Embark has several European MBA programs among its customers, while GradAdvantage does not yet seem to work with European schools. Students also report that they find Embark easier to use, and, in Russia, their website seems easier to access. Students report frequent socket-error messages when trying to apply through GradAdvantage. This can be a serious problem as the sites get busier with deadlines nearing.

On the other hand GradAdvantage has one very strong benefit over Embark: GradAdvantage was invented in partnership with ETS, the same people who administer the GMAT and TOEFL exam. GradAdvantage thus may have quicker access to your GMAT and TOEFL scores, and will send them to the schools along with your application. If you are in a hurry to beat a deadline, therefore, GradAdvantage may indeed have the advantage.

Whichever system you use--Multi-App, fully on-line systems, or good old fashioned paper and typewriter--don't put yourself up against a tight deadline. Students in the US average 2 days to complete a B-school application, and that is with English as a native language. Be sure you leave yourself plenty of time for correcting and review, and plan to send your application considerably before the deadline--just in case.

Marian Dent received her law degree from California Berkeley (Boalt Hall) and the dean of Pericles ABLE (American Business and Legal Education) in Moscow. Pericles offers a full MBA advising program. In addition to being the dean she also teaches essay writing, the Logic portion of the GMAT, Law Courses, Resume' Writing, Interviewing Skills, and a host of other courses. For more information about theses courses or any other course that we offer please contact Pericles ABLE Project at: 292-5188/6463.

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