Category Archives: Cornell Advice

5 Interview Tips from Cornell’s Johnson School

Many business schools will soon extend interview invitations to Round 2 candidates, so there’s no better time to absorb a few additional tips to help you navigate this all-important step in the MBA admissions process. …

Cornell's Johnson School

Many business schools will soon extend interview invitations to Round 2 candidates, so there’s no better time to absorb a few additional tips to help you navigate this all-important step in the MBA admissions process.

In a recent update to the admissions blog at Cornell’s Johnson School of Business, Christine Sneva, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, offers targeted advice that can be useful no matter where you have applied.

Here are Johnson’s five interview tips to help you successfully convey your professionalism, interpersonal and presentation skills, and readiness for a rigorous MBA program.

1. “Dress professionally but more importantly, act it.”  Sneva points out that the admissions committee takes into consideration every communication and interaction they have with applicants as part of the selection process.

2. Be prepared to talk about your work experience.”  Your interviewer needs to know what is your “professional action plan” and which transferable skills will lead you to your goals, says Sneva, who urges applicants to structure their responses carefully and clearly so you don’t go off-topic and risk not answering the question.

3. If you know your weakness, work on it!” Sometimes, applicants become paralyzed by their weaknesses and don’t realize that they can take steps to overcome them even before sitting down to interview. Have limited quantitative experience or a low GMAT score? Consider retaking the test or or signing up for a class in accounting, managerial finance, or statistics.

Worried about poor presentation or communication skills? Sneva suggests joining a local Toastmasters Club or similar public speaking group. Planning a significant career transition? Seek out informational interviews to help you refine your career goals, or network with individuals in your desired industry, Sneva counsels.

4. If invited to interview, reach out to a current student or alum. Nothing beats advice straight from someone who has already gone through the process and lives to tell the tale.

5. Lastly, “practice, practice, practice!” If you’re under-prepared or shaking from nerves, you’ll likely be unable to fully engage in the conversation, Sneva warns. “Before going into an interview, you should always have prepared your value proposition and why you are at this point in your life/career,” she says.

Enlist the help of family and friends, and ask them to provide constructive feedback. Once you have “experienced” the interview a few times you will be more relaxed and able to focus on connecting with your interviewer and demonstrating your enthusiasm for the school.

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Tuesday Tips: Cornell Johnson MBA Essay Tips

According to the Cornell MBA admissions blog, Cornell “changed the direction of our questions this year to better understand your career choices and of course, who you are.” Cornell MBA’s relatively short essay set is …

According to the Cornell MBA admissions blog, Cornell “changed the direction of our questions this year to better understand your career choices and of course, who you are.”

Cornell MBA’s relatively short essay set is a strong opportunity to focus your application strategy and demonstrate your personal qualities, goals and fit with the Johnson School. These three essays allow you to show many aspects of your background and personality.

Part I: Career Choice Essay (300 word maximum)
How would you characterize your career since college?

Part II: Career Goal Essay (400 word maximum)
Tell us about your short and long term career goals.

As directed, you should avoid communicating everything about your career progress thus far, and instead focus on the key inflection points rather than an entire resume review. When considering what aspects of your past career to focus on, think about the situations that led you to realize what you really want to do, that built skills that will be important to your goals, or introduced you to people who were crucial to your development.

For the second part of your question you will want to describe your goals ”“ ideally you can describe how you view your career unfolding from graduation to achievement of your ultimate goal as a logical trajectory.

Make sure to spend enough time on how the Cornell MBA will help you achieve your short- and long-term MBA goals to demonstrate why Cornell is the right place to spend the next two years of your life. Academics are going to be a crucial part of your career goals, yet classmates and activities will also be important as you develop your career network.

Part III: Character Essay (400 word maximum for chosen question), please choose one of the following to write about:

a. You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. Please write the table of contents for the book. Note: Approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity.

This essay is an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are on a personal level. Think about highlighting areas you may not have been able to touch in the first essay, which was focused on your professional life. You can use this opportunity to demonstrate your unique personal attributes or community involvement. If you have a consistent theme of involvement in a charity or activity this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate why you became involved and what you have done over the years.

When structuring the story, think of this essay as a way to communicate a narrative theme of your life to the admissions committee. What are the key moments that are meaningful to you? Were there key stories involving your friends, family, hobbies or interests that impacted the person you are now?

Though the essay specifically asks for the Table of Contents, you can certainly illuminate each chapter through brief descriptions. Describe the major milestones and be sure to share your essay with friends and family to make sure you are communicating effectively though the creative exercise.

b. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed and tell us what you learned.

Leadership can be effectively formed through difficulty and failures. In this essay you will want to demonstrate how you have effectively navigated disappointment, reacted when challenged or learned how to improve from a failure.

As you think about a failure you may want to describe, consider those examples that changed your direction or approach either professionally or personally. Cornell wants to understand more about you as a person and how you think. After you describe the failure and set up the situation, make sure you describe what change and growth resulted. This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate your maturity, flexibility and leadership qualities.

c. What does diversity mean to you and how will you contribute to the diversity of our community at Johnson?

This essay requires you to research Johnson thoroughly to demonstrate that you understand what diversity at Cornell means and how you will contribute. You should be aware of the major academic, extracurricular and social components of the MBA program and think seriously about how you will add to the mix. Perhaps you want to start a club or a conference based on unique industry knowledge. Maybe you aspire to help a professor with her research because of a special interest you have. Or you plan return to the school to be a panelist or mentor once you develop your individual professional pursuits.

Research on your own is a great first step, but the personal approach may pay more dividends in this essay. Think about networking with current students or alumni, visiting campus, and attending information sessions to understand what you will bring to the table that is different. If you are able to talk to a current student or alum about your essay topic you might gain valuable feedback on the direction you can take in this essay.

Struggling with your Cornell essays? Contact us to learn how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.

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Tuesday Tips: Cornell Johnson MBA Essay Tips

Essay questions and deadlines are posted for the Johnson MBA program at Cornell. According to the Cornell MBA admissions committee they are seeking “individuals who demonstrate academic achievements, high-quality experience, leadership potential, decision-making abilities, and …

Essay questions and deadlines are posted for the Johnson MBA program at Cornell. According to the Cornell MBA admissions committee they are seeking “individuals who demonstrate academic achievements, high-quality experience, leadership potential, decision-making abilities, and outstanding interpersonal and communication skills.”

Cornell MBA’s relatively short essay set is a strong opportunity to focus your application strategy and demonstrate your personal qualities, goals and fit with the Johnson School. Career goals, a creative essay and an essay focused on your fit with Cornell allow you to show many aspects of your background and personality.

1) What career do you plan to pursue upon completion of an MBA degree and why?
This standard career goals essay requires you to demonstrate that your Cornell MBA will be the right next step to achieve your career goals. While short- and long-term goals are not explicitly requested, you may want to describe how you view your career unfolding from graduation to achievement of your ultimate goal.

Since your past experiences are likely indicators of where you are headed in the future, you may briefly outline key aspects of your career history. The question does not specifically require career history, so you have the flexibility to choose key inflection points rather than an entire resume review. When considering what aspects of your past career to focus on, think about the situations that led you to realize what you really want to do, that built skills that will be important to your goals, or introduced you to people who were crucial to your development.

Make sure to spend enough time on your interest in the Cornell MBA to demonstrate why Cornell is the right place to spend the next two years of your life. Academics are going to be a crucial part of your career goals, yet classmates and activities will also be important.

2) You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. Please write the table of contents for the book. Note: Approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity.
This essay is an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are on a personal level. Think about highlighting areas you may not have been able to touch in the first essay, which was focused on your professional life. You can use this opportunity to demonstrate your unique personal attributes or community involvement. If you have a consistent theme of involvement in a charity or activity this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate why you became involved and what you have done over the years.

When structuring the story, think of this essay as a way to communicate a narrative theme of your life to the admissions committee. What are the key moments that are meaningful to you? Were there key stories involving your friends, family, hobbies or interests that impacted the person you are now?

Though the essay specifically asks for the Table of Contents, you can certainly illuminate each chapter through brief descriptions. Describe the major milestones and be sure to share your essay with friends and family to make sure you are communicating effectively though the creative exercise.

3) What legacy would you hope to leave as a Johnson graduate?
Essay three is all about fit. As elaborated upon in the Cornell Admissions blog, “’Fit’ is different for everyone, so we want to see how authentic and purposeful you are about applying.”

This essay requires you to research Johnson thoroughly. You should be aware of the major academic, extracurricular and social components of the MBA program and think seriously about what you want to leave behind when you graduate. Perhaps you want to start a club or a conference. Maybe you aspire to help a professor with her research. Or you will return to the school to be a panelist or mentor. Think both about what you have to offer, and what Cornell needs.

Research on your own is a great first step, but the personal approach may pay more dividends in this essay. Think about networking with current students or alumni, visiting campus, and attending information sessions. If you are able to talk to a current student or alum about your essay topic you might gain valuable feedback on the direction you will take with your legacy.

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B-school Buzz: Interviews, Acceptance, Book Recs and More

This week, our B-school Buzz bloggers share some exciting news on their b-school applications and internship interview tips, among other updates.


This week, our B-school Buzz bloggers share some exciting news on their b-school applications and internship interview tips, among other updates.

Accepted! – If you’ve ever had the gratifying experience of learning that your b-school application has been accepted, then Ellipsing My Way… To Business School’s post about hearing from the Cornell Johnson School of Management will take you right back to that magical (and overwhelming) moment. He writes, “I didn’t know what to do or say. To be honest I barely remember what was said…  ‘Congratulations this…  deposit that…’  All I could do is keep saying ‘Thank you… Thank you…. Thank you….’  I do remember saying ‘I’m sorry I don’t even know what to say other than thank you…’” Way to go, Ellipsing!

Interview invites – Mako at Random Wok had good news to share this week as well: He’s been invited to another interview, this time with the Wharton School. This was especially great to read, given that Mako was dealing with a rejection from Harvard Business School last week. Once again, he writes with emotional candor about his application process so far, and ends the post on a positive note: “I’ve been invited to interview at more than half the schools I applied to, and reaching this milestone is a good feeling.”

Internship interviews – Meanwhile, Praz at Columbia MBA Class of 2012 reminded us that the interviews don’t end once you’re accepted to a program. He shared his preparation strategies for on-campus internship interviews, explaining how he readied himself for both the technical and behavioral/fit parts of his interviews. The result? “For the summer I’ll be here in NYC at American Express as a finance manager intern,” he writes. Nicely done!

A couple of other posts worth checking out this weekMilitary to Business shares some research he conducted to find out how many military personnel have made their way to Harvard Business School, and the GMAT Prep blog highly recommends the book The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma, commenting, “I like the way Robin Sharma makes success look so easy and achievable…. Consistent simple steps followed daily lead you to success.” Sounds like a book worth checking out.

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B-school Buzz: A Few Stops Along the Road

As we all know, the journey toward an MBA degree is long and rarely straightforward. In this week’s roundup, our B-school Buzz bloggers discuss a few of the various stops along the road that they’ve encountered recently.


As we all know, the journey toward an MBA degree is long and rarely straightforward. In this week’s roundup, our B-school Buzz bloggers discuss a few of the various stops along the road that they’ve encountered recently.

Selecting Schools - My Unfathomable MBA Odyssey is busy finalizing the list of schools to which he plans to apply. This week he shares some insights into the parameters he is using to make his final selections, such as brand recognition, how well the program will help him meet his short- and long-term career goals and “love,” which he says, “There are no reasons to explain about Love Schools, I am just in love with them, I just want to be there.”

Interviewing - The last time we checked in with Ellipsing My Way… To Business School, he was preparing for his Cornell Johnson School of Business interview. This week, we learned that his hard work paid off. He writes, “So you know how sometimes you just feel when something goes well?  That’s the case with my Cornell interview…. I was cool, calm and collected and was at ease the whole time.” Well done!

Facing Rejection - From a high point in the journey, we go to a low. Mako at Random Wok writes with candor about receiving his rejection from Harvard Business School, reminding readers that it always stings to discover that the hours spent writing essays and gathering recommendations ”“ not  to mention writing checks for expensive application fees ”“ have not led to the big payoff. Yet Mako is handling the moment with grace and shifting his focus to his other upcoming interviews.

Rejecting the MBA - Every so often, the tables are turned and a prospective b-school student rejects the MBA instead. This week, Mukaam outlines her decision to join Teach for India and turn down a spot at the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business. Among her reasons: Teach for India will allow her to impact the lives of children immediately and take a step toward  her ultimate career goal of working in the non-profit sector in India ”“ without the student loans.

Working as an MBA - Finally, Felish… da dish reminds us that even when you join an MBA program, the path is still complicated as a student. This week she writes about her experience of adding a part-time job to her already packed schedule. She only took on outside work during her second year of b-school, for the very good reason that as an overwhelmed first year student, “I made a choice between having pocket money and saving my sanity. Sanity won out.”

Want to see your blog on B-School Buzz?  Email me at buzz@StacyBlackman.com.

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Tuesday Tips – Johnson Cornell MBA Essay Tips

Cornell Johnson’s MBA essays are concise and will require focus and strategy. Learn how to approach them with this week’s Tuesday Tips.

The Johnson School at Cornell offers a flexible program, including a virtual EMBA with Queens School of Business in Kingston, Ontario Canada. Top areas of study at The Johnson School include consulting, finance, entrepreneurship, and portfolio management. Last year the Cornell MBA added new concentrations that focus New concentrations focus on preparing MBA students for a tough job market.

According to the Cornell MBA admissions committee, they are seeking “to enroll a class composed of students whose insights are distinct and whose actions are penetrating. The essay portion of your application gives you the opportunity to candidly demonstrate your attributes and your compatibility with our rich and vibrant program.”

Cornell MBA’s relatively short essay set is a strong opportunity to focus your application strategy and demonstrate your accomplishments, goals and fit with the Johnson School. Both questions 1 and 2 are in line with other MBA application questions, while essay 3 requires a creative approach to demonstrate your unique attributes.


Cornell MBA Essay 1: Describe your greatest professional achievement and how you added value to your organization (400 words)

This version of the accomplishment essay asks you to focus specifically on a professional achievement, so it is not the right place to discuss your extracurricular achievements. The second part of the question, requiring you to describe how you added value to your organization, suggests that your greatest accomplishment should be one that is not only significant to you personally, but also benefited your company or team.

When you select an achievement, one particular accomplishment may stand out. It was likely one that was above and beyond your normal work responsibilities. Choosing an achievement that demonstrates your strengths and the work that you most enjoy is a great way to both showcase your skills and describe what drives you to achieve. This can be a great way to prep the reader for your career goals if it shows what you are most passionate about.

If you are in a profession that allows you to demonstrate quantifiable results, it will be important to outline those specifically. Did your accomplishment lead to a product launch? Increased revenue? Reduced costs?

Even if your impact cannot be measured in numbers, think about specifics you can cite. Did you receive feedback from your boss or coworkers? Did your accomplishment lead to a better process or solution? How did you know that your achievement added value?

Cornell MBA Essay 2: What career do you plan to pursue upon completing the MBA and why? How will the Johnson School help you achieve this goal? (400 words)

This standard career goals essay requires you to demonstrate that your Cornell MBA will be the right next step to achieve your career goals. While short- and long-term goals are not explicitly requested, you may want to describe how you view your career unfolding from graduation to achievement of your ultimate goal.
Since your past experiences are likely indicators of your skills and future direction, you may briefly outline key aspects of your career history. The question does not specifically require career history, so you have the flexibility to choose key inflection points rather than an entire resume review. When considering what aspects of your past career to focus on, think about the situations that led you to realize what you really want to do, that built skills that will be important to your goals, or introduced you to people who were crucial to your development.

Make sure to spend enough time on your interest in the Cornell MBA to demonstrate why Cornell is the right place to spend the next two years of your life. Academics are going to be a crucial part of your career goals, yet classmates and activities will also be important. Make sure to investigate your fit with Cornell through talking with current students or alumni, visiting campus if you can, or attending information sessions.

Cornell MBA Essay 3: You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. Please write the Table of Contents for the book. Note: Approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity. (400 words)

This essay is an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are on a personal level. Think about highlighting areas you may not have been able to touch in the previous career focused essays, and demonstrate your unique personal attributes or community involvement. If you have a consistent theme of involvement in a charity or activity this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate why you became involved and what you have done over the years.

When structuring the story, think of this essay as a way to communicate a narrative theme of your life to the admissions committee. What are the key moments that are meaningful to you? Were there key moments with your friends, family, hobbies or interests that led you to be the person you are today?

Though the essay specifically asks for the Table of Contents, you can certainly illuminate each chapter through brief descriptions. Illuminate the major milestones and be sure to share your essay with friends and family to make sure you are communicating effectively though the creative exercise.

Optional Essay: Complete this essay if you would like to add additional details regarding your candidacy. For instance, if you believe one or more aspects of your application (e.g., undergraduate record or test scores) do not accurately reflect your potential for success at the Johnson School. (400 word limit)

This optional essay allows for either an explanation of any weaknesses in your application or additional information that may bolster your application. If you have a poor GPA or GMAT, concerns with your undergraduate record, or were unable to provide a recommendation from a current supervisor, this is the place to offer explanations, not excuses. Quickly describe the situation and what may have contributed to the issue (illness, family difficulties, etc.) without editorializing. Focus the balance of your essay on looking forward: what have you done in the recent past to demonstrate your skills and intelligence?

This essay could be an opportunity to communicate exceptional leadership experiences, accomplishments or extracurricular involvements that did not fit into your previous essays. If you focus on an additional aspect of your application strategy you need to make sure your essay demonstrates significant information that will benefit the admissions committee’s decision-making process.

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