Have you heard of the STAR interview technique? It’s when an interviewer asks you a behavioral question (which usually begins, “Tell me about a time when you…”) and you respond by laying out the Situation, … →
Have you heard of the STAR interview technique? It’s when an interviewer asks you a behavioral question (which usually begins, “Tell me about a time when you…”) and you respond by laying out the Situation, the Task you were given, the Action you took, and then the Result you achieved. It’s an excellent method for MBA hopefuls to leverage in AdCom or alumni interviews.
But the STAR technique shouldn’t be thought of as only an interview-response strategy. We’ve found that it’s also a helpful way to organize essays, short-answer responses and even resume bullet points.
For example, let’s take an essay that asks you to describe your greatest professional achievement—in only 300 words. The STAR method helps you pare down all of the information you could possibly include. You’ll want to set up the Situation for your reader as succinctly and clearly as possible. Leave out industry jargon, acronyms, and “inside baseball” details that the AdCom is unlikely to care about. Remember, they want to learn about what YOU did—not the intricate complexities of your company or client’s issue.
Next, pinpoint exactly what Task you were responsible for. Sure, business schools are looking for team players, but if they’ve asked you to describe your most impressive accomplishment, they want to understand precisely what your marching orders were.
The Action section is where you should expand a bit more. This is your chance to shine by explaining exactly what you did, and ideally showing how you went above and beyond in your role. Then you can wrap up by revealing what Results you achieved. Keep in mind that both qualitative and quantitative outcomes are important to include if possible.
After you’ve got your S, T, A and R information covered in your essay, take a read through it again to ensure the emphasis is on the Actions you took, and then the Results you achieved. We know it’s hard to condense what may sometimes be a years-long project into only a few sentences at the beginning, but it’s better to keep the focus on why YOU will be a welcome addition to any MBA program.
Your final task is to ensure that you’re within the word count limit and that you’ve told the story of your achievement in a compelling, memorable way.
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The latest post on the MBA Insider’s Blog at UCLA Anderson School of Management reveals that the full-time MBA program will require applicants to submit two letters of recommendation for the class entering in Fall … →
The latest post on the MBA Insider’s Blog at UCLA Anderson School of Management reveals that the full-time MBA program will require applicants to submit two letters of recommendation for the class entering in Fall 2016.
It seems many applicants in previous years were submitting two letters anyway, so the program decided to make it official this season and will monitor how useful the extra recommendation will be to the admissions committee.
“The letters of recommendation are very helpful in providing a third party’s perspective on your leadership and management potential, readiness/fit for business school, interpersonal skills and teamwork abilities,” writes admissions officer Jessica Chung.
In addition to listing who you should and should not choose as a recommender, Chung also details what kind of information these champions for your b-school candidacy should share with the admissions team.
Finally, she stresses the importance of managing your recommenders and providing them with reminders of your strengths and past accomplishments to make the process just a little bit easier.
“It’s a small investment of time on your part,” Chung notes, “But your recommenders will absolutely appreciate your insight because it will make their job easier!”
The UCLA Anderson School of Management has updated the one required MBA essay question for the 2015-2016 admissions season. It asks: We believe that the best results are achieved when you share success, think fearlessly … →
We believe that the best results are achieved when you share success, think fearlessly and drive change. With this in mind, what are your goals at UCLA Anderson and in your short-term and long-term career? (750 words maximum)
According to admissions officer Craig Hubbell’s post on the MBA Insider Blog, “The best essays show that you understand our school’s culture and how to use it to optimize your future.”
When approaching this essay, applicants should think about their long-term goals and work backward to show how Anderson will help them reach those goals; brainstorm professional or personal events that demonstrate thinking fearlessly; and convince the admissions committee of their passion for UCLA Anderson.
The admissions officer shares several other tips for applicants as well, so if UCLA Anderson is on your short list of schools, take a look at his post and start thinking about how you’ll make a case for your candidacy. “Whatever your target may be, your essay is the platform to distinguish yourself with your passion, clarity, planning and eloquence,” Hubbell writes.
Below are the additional essay questions within the Fall 2016 application:
Optional Essay: The following essay is optional. No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit an optional essay. Please note that UCLA Anderson only accepts written essays.
Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? Please use your best judgment. (250 words maximum)
Re-Applicants – One Required Essay:
Reapplicants who applied for the class entering in fall 2014 or 2015 are required to complete the following essay:
Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (750 words maximum)
The UCLA Anderson MBA application will go live August 1st.
As MBA applicants look to funding their MBA education, finding and applying for fellowships is an important next step. →
Business school is an expensive investment, and it’s never too early to start figuring out how you will pay for it. An MBA must be seen as a long-term investment, and fortunately, schools are committed to working with students to find a solution to financing school through a combination of loans and scholarships.
As you create your plan to pay for business school, you should contact your prospective school’s financial aid office. You can also get advice through admissions events. Financial aid officers are an amazing resource. They’ve seen it all before, and they wantto ensure qualified candidates can pay for a degree.
Starting early – about three months before applying – is also important if you’re pursuing scholarships, fellowships or grants. Since scholarships are free money, competition can be fierce, and you’ll benefit from having the time to create strong scholarship applications and from knowing the key deadlines so that opportunities don’t pass you by.
You may also need to submit a different application for each fellowship or scholarship. Don’t lose out because of a missed deadline. Look beyond your business school, too, to organizations like the Forte Foundation or Consortium for Graduate Study in Management that offer highly valuable scholarships for MBA students.
You may be considered for merit fellowships based on your academic credentials, accomplishments and experience that has already been communicated in your application. Some schools may also offer additional fellowships that you can apply for directly through the program.
Applying for the Money
There are many different application processes for financial aid, from demonstrating need to demonstrating merit. Organize the deadlines and submission guidelines to make sure you have a plan to complete the applications, and carefully follow the directions of each scholarship, fellowship or loan you are applying for.
If you are required to submit an essay, answer the question thoroughly and succinctly as you would any other MBA essay. Questions may vary, though this question is representative of the type of question you may receive:
Describe what you see as the value of fellowships/scholarships to students. Why should you receive one? What impact will it have on you and/or your Wharton experience? (500 words)
The value of fellowships/scholarships should be fairly straightforward, though you may emphasize either need or merit in your response, depending upon the direction you plan to take in the argument for your own application.
The need based direction may be difficult to prove without serious financial hardship. If you did have difficulties with finances throughout your life and would not be able to attend business school without such assistance, you may have a good argument. If not, you should pursue the merit-based direction.
Providing evidence for the need-based direction of the argument should be fairly straightforward. Describe your situation and why you would have difficulty paying for your MBA education. Avoid any complaining or blame, and instead focus on what you have been able to accomplish in your life with little resources and how you would be able to continue to accomplish as you benefit from greater resources.
If you are going with a merit-based argument you should outline your accomplishments, both academic and professional. Sell yourself as you would in a job interview, and provide solid evidence for your accomplishments as you did in your application essays.
The impact of financial assistance may allow you to pursue activities such as travel and leadership opportunities. In addition, your receipt of aid may benefit the people around you. If you have been involved in your community or with charity, you can certainly describe the impact you have made on the lives of others thus far and how that impact will be even greater with a business education.
Columbia Business School is highly concerned about fit and your knowledge of the program. New York City is another aspect of the school that pervades its culture and defines some of the unique opportunities of … →
Columbia Business School is highly concerned about fit and your knowledge of the program. New York City is another aspect of the school that pervades its culture and defines some of the unique opportunities of the program. Thorough school research is crucial to your preparation for this application. Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and to review the personal elements you will want to discuss.
Short Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters maximum)
This is a simple question, but may require you to condense your career goals into one clear career vision statement. Columbia presents several examples on their website, all of which have some unique aspect. Rather than a generic statement like: “Work in finance” the goal is to infuse some specificity. Something like: “Work in real estate finance within a private equity firm” tells the admissions committee far more about your interests and goals. Note that the limited character count is intended to get you to the point quickly and that all of the examples Columbia has provided are concise and lack any elaboration.
Essay 1: Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (Maximum 500 words)
Remember that this essay has two purposes: demonstrate that you know why you are interested in Columbia, and showcase why you are an excellent fit for the program. Both goals should be kept in mind as you answer the question.
This question is entirely future focused and specifically asks you to get away from a recitation of your resume. Spend the majority of the space describing your career goals and what you envision you will learn and experience at Columbia to help you achieve your goals. As you talk about your future you may need to refer to your past career and personal experiences. As you consider what to say make sure you are citing only relevant examples from your career. Think about the experiences you can describe that were truly pivotal and can support your future goals.
For example, perhaps you want to be a general manager of a company or division, and right now you have been working primarily in marketing. You might spend your time at Columbia learning about finance and strategy, being part of consulting projects and interning at a start up to round out your experience and start on your general management path. Make sure your goals are both achievable and aspirational and that you have specifics about Columbia to support your assertion that it is the right place for you.
Essay 2: Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)
As you decide how to approach this question make sure that your individual goals for learning and career are impacting how you answer. You should consider the industry you plan to enter, and either the key adjunct professors from that industry at Columbia or the access to major companies from that industry in New York City. Consider your personal interests and how you might pursue them in the diversity of such an international city, and also the ways that Columbia’s alumni network can provide opportunities within the metropolitan area.
A mix of personal and professional interests may be covered in this topic, and you may want to emphasize either one of those angles depending on the answers you present to the other core questions.
Essay 3: CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)
If you watch the linked video, you’ll see that CBS Matters is a part of the Columbia cluster experience that centers around a personal presentation. This essay is entirely about your life story and how you will be perceived by your peers at Columbia. If you did not cover anything personal in the prior two essays this is your opportunity to stand out from the pack of other applicants.
This essay is somewhat about what matters most to you, and what you would share if asked who you really are. Dig deep into your passions and background and find the aspects that resonate emotionally with you and seem to convey a truth about who you really are. If you are stumped by this essay prompt you may want to ask friends, family members or colleagues what they view as interesting and unique about you.
Once you have ideas about how to approach this question make sure that you are describing something about yourself that will be interesting both to your peers and to the admissions committee. Something that is a passion point for you and that demonstrates a bit more about your background and motivations will likely be interesting both your clustermates and the admissions committee.
Optional Essay: An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.
If there are any areas of concern, this is the correct place to address them. Strike an upbeat tone here and avoid excuses. Explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the issue. For example, if you had a disciplinary issue in college, spend most of the essay demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since.
If you do not have a weakness to address here, it’s an ideal opportunity to provide any information that you were unable to work into the other three essays. If you have an unusual background, hobby or extracurricular experience, this may be an opportunity to showcase your unique profile.
First, the (kinda) bad news: it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use the current version of your resume for your business school applications. In fact, you’re probably going to want to spend a significant amount … →
First, the (kinda) bad news: it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use the current version of your resume for your business school applications. In fact, you’re probably going to want to spend a significant amount of time on a complete resume overhaul. But the good news is that your resume is a very important part of your materials, and the extra work you put into revising it could be what makes the difference between a ding and an interview offer.
A resume gives you one whole page (and, in some special cases—mainly if you’re in your 30s or have military experience—two pages) to tell the AdCom why you’d be an asset to their program. From this document, they should be able to clearly understand what sort of work stories you’d be talking about in class, or what sorts of “lessons learned” you’ll be able to speak to from either your professional or community-service experiences.
Reworking your resume so that it functions more as a narrative about your career and outside interests (versus a dry list of responsibilities and achievements).
Getting rid of acronyms and industry jargon, and then rephrasing your accomplishments so that anyone could understand them.
Doing away with any bullet points (or sub-headlines) that only list general, vague or high-level responsibilities for a given role.
Deleting unnecessary company or casework/deal descriptions (which are especially popular on consultants’ and bankers’ resumes). You’ll be able to include this information on the school’s application, so no need to repeat it here.
Using the space you have to explain exactly what YOU did on a project, showcase specific achievements and results, and highlight your skill progression and increased responsibilities over time.
Since admissions committees and alumni interviewers are looking for people who others will enjoy being around both inside and outside of class, it’s also a great idea to include at least some brief mention of your interests and hobbies at the bottom of the document. A lot of times it’s this information that interviewers use to “break the ice” when they first meet you.
Here’s a little inspiration as you begin to revise your resume so that it will catch the AdCom’s attention:
Do you want to stay on top of the application process with timely tips like these? Please subscribe to our weekly newsletter and you’ll receive our expert advice straight in your mailbox before it appears on the blog, plus special offers, promotions, discounts, invitations to events, and more.