Category Archives: SBC Scoop: Client Case Studies

SBC Scoop: Legally Admitted

Doug enlisted the help of his Stacy Blackman consultant when he started researching schools and realized very few successful MBA applicants had a similar legal background to his. Doug had attended a top law school …

Doug enlisted the help of his Stacy Blackman consultant when he started researching schools and realized very few successful MBA applicants had a similar legal background to his. Doug had attended a top law school immediately after graduation from a large state school. He was academically talented and had a strong GPA and great LSAT score. After law school he had worked at a large firm and became interested in mergers and acquisitions after working on several deals over the two years he practiced law. He decided to pursue an MBA to transition to the business side of the transactions, and was preparing for the GMAT when he started working with us.

Doug’s consultant took a close look at his undergrad transcript and advised Doug to take two or three quantitative classes to balance his political science major with pre-MBA prep. Doug found calculus, statistics and microeconomics classes online that he could balance with his demanding work schedule. The classes doubled as excellent preparation for the GMAT, and Doug was able to pull off a 710 in the first try.

With his academics in order, Doug and his consultant focused on the essays and recommendations. One concern about JDs, and anyone with advanced post-graduate degrees, is that the applicant is simply collecting credentials rather than focusing on accomplishment in the real world. In Doug’s case he had already done significant research and talked to successful M&A professionals both at large banks and in corporate finance positions at large companies. He determined that while a JD was extremely helpful to him, knowing the fundamentals of business and finance were crucial to accomplish his future goals. Doug and his consultant crafted a convincing narrative about his aspirations, and coached his recommenders to emphasize the utility of the MBA in Doug’s specific situation.

After all of his hard work, Doug was thrilled at acceptances from Columbia, Wharton and Duke.

Contact us to learn how your unique background can be an asset in the MBA application process.

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SBC Scoop: Overcoming a Challenging Academic Record

When our client Irene first started working with her SBC consultant, she brought up an issue that was causing her a lot of anxiety. At the beginning of her sophomore year of college Irene was …

When our client Irene first started working with her SBC consultant, she brought up an issue that was causing her a lot of anxiety. At the beginning of her sophomore year of college Irene was undergoing personal challenges and was suspended for academic dishonesty. The charges were eventually dropped when Irene returned to school, but she was ashamed of this “mark” on her permanent record and extremely concerned about its impact on her MBA applications.

Irene’s consultant reassured her that she was not alone. Many MBA applicants have something less than stellar on their academic record. While it seems devastating at the time, nearly everything that an applicant is ashamed of can be explained appropriately in an MBA application. The key approach is to offer explanations and evidence of growth when explaining anything embarrassing that needs to be addressed.

Irene decided to take on the issue head on in an essay where she discussed her personal challenges during her sophomore year. She briefly explained the circumstances of her difficulties, which were generally related to a family dispute and an abusive romantic relationship, and focused the majority of the essay on what she did to emerge from the challenge a stronger person. Irene had worked hard to improve her relationship with her family and herself, and proactively sought positive interactions during the remainder of her college career. Additionally, Irene prioritized academic achievement and her career goals, and was able to graduate with a 3.7 GPA and an offer from a top consulting firm.

By emphasizing the positive results of the academic probation, Irene was able to gain admission to two of her three target MBA programs and ultimately attended NYU.

Concerned about your own academic record? Contact us to request a free consultation with one of our expert consultants.

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SBC Scoop: Extracurricular Make-over

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client. When Travis originally met with his Stacy Blackman consultant to kick off his application, what …

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

When Travis originally met with his Stacy Blackman consultant to kick off his application, what jumped out immediately was the depth and focus of his work experience. He led off with a resume stuffed to the gills with accomplishments and detail, much of it extremely impressive. After all, he had spent several years at a prominent engineering firm, been promoted ahead of schedule, and even filed a patent already, so it made sense that his work experience would dominate his resume. As he started talking about his application strategy, what he described was essay topics that drew from experiences at his firm, and a set of recommenders entirely from within the company. Despite the good first impression all of Travis’ work experience presented, his consultant felt his strategy had a huge missing piece: anything outside of his work.

What Travis needed to fill in were the extracurriculars, things he did outside of the daily work grind. Though a strong focus on work is of course great, his consultant wanted to showcase other aspects of his personality and prove that he could bring a diverse set of skills to an MBA program. Travis found this frustrating at first, since he loved his job and dedicated long hours to it, often to the exclusion of many other activities. He was also wary of suddenly jumping into new extracurricular activities at the last minute, as this would clearly look like resume-padding.

After some thought and discussion, Travis’ consultant found that he had worked many summers at the same summer camp he attended as a child, and while it had been a few years since his last work there, he had recently helped with their annual fundraiser and still had many ties to the camp. Travis and his consultant agreed that the long-term nature of the activity outweighed that it was recently a bit dormant. He had also been a competitive chess player as a youth and had started chess clubs in high school and college. Travis decided to start volunteering to teach chess at an afterschool program, and he and his consultant felt they could tie this extracurricular into one longer story.

With a little effort and thought, Travis and his consultant used extracurriculars to add extra dimensions to his application and strengthen his chances. As a result, Travis was admitted to Tuck, Kellogg and MIT and is entering Kellogg this fall.

Struggling to round out your profile? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help.

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SBC Scoop: New Job, No Recommendation

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client. Our client Sandra was stuck without a current supervisor recommendation to round out her MBA …

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Our client Sandra was stuck without a current supervisor recommendation to round out her MBA application. She had spent a few years with an ad agency but had recently advanced her career at a client firm with a promotion. However, the timing was tricky- Sandra was working on the core of her business school application with her Stacy Blackman consultant right around the time she finished her initial training in the new position. She would normally ask her direct supervisor for a recommendation for the application, but in this case, Sandra was practically brand new at her job. With no sense of her performance at the new job, Sandra also didn’t think her supervisor knew her story to the degree needed to write a strong application.

Additionally, Sandra was still getting her footing at the new firm, building up trust with her fellow employees, and didn’t want to rock the boat, so to speak. She had heard enough stories to know that while the firm was in good shape, there had been several rounds of layoffs after the financial crisis a few years before, and the general feeling was that shows of dedication were appreciated. In this environment, Sandra thought she should be careful who she informed about her plans.

Of course, she still needed that recommendation, so Sandra and her consultant listed a few possibilities. In many cases, her consultant suggested, they could look to another department within her company for another senior employee who had been a mentor in some capacity. This often helped in cases where an applicant moved to a new position within the same company, or perhaps followed a mentor to the new company. In Sandra’s case, there wasn’t a great fit here, though she kept a research director she had already met with for a few minor projects in mind for the future.

Sandra’s consultant then had her think about people connected to her outside leadership pursuits. Was there someone associated with a charity or a civic group that knew Sandra’s work well and could attest to her leadership abilities? Sandra had years of experience volunteering for kid’s summer camps through her church, so she added Pastor Mike to the list as possibility, but maybe not the strongest. Sandra and her consultant decided Pastor Mike was a good secondary recommendation if needed.

Sandra’s consultant hit on an answer as they went through Sandra’s resume again. If she couldn’t ask her current supervisor for a recommendation, how about a former one? This worked out perfectly for Sandra. Her previous boss knew her well and in fact had strongly recommended her for the position she now held- he was sure it would be a great fit for her and wanted to see her succeed. Raphael’s recommendation slotted perfectly in to Sandra’s application, and she maintains that it was his help that got her into Stanford.

Looking for stories that match you own situation? Find all of the Stacy Blackman Consulting case studies here.

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SBC Scoop: Re-application, Re-recommendations

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client. Guillaume thought he was on-target for MBA admission the first time around. He had very …

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Guillaume thought he was on-target for MBA admission the first time around. He had very competitive GMAT scores and found a pair of schools that he felt were a great fit for him. Guillaume was confident when he sent in his applications. Instead of the acceptances he expected, Guillaume was surprised by two rejections. The next cycle he decided to hire a Stacy Blackman consultant to see what he could do to improve- and possibly identify what went wrong.

Guillaume’s experience with a French investment bank seemed to tie nicely into his plan to work in international finance after his MBA program. Guillaume and his consultant polished his essays a bit to better fit each program, but his consultant felt they were strong to begin with. When she got to his recommendations, however, she was sure she had found the issue.

For one of his recommendations, Guillaume had gone to a high-level executive at his bank. The executive was a graduate of a top-tier MBA program as well, and Guillaume assumed his impressive title would lend his recommendation weight. What he had overlooked was that his work was several levels below this executive and their contact was relatively minimal.

When his consultant read the recommendation, she saw a generally positive tone held back by generic language and a lack of tangible details. This recommendation might tell the reader that Guillaume would be a good hire at a similar company, but didn’t provide the personal connection and story needed to catch the attention of an admissions committee.

Guillaume’s consultant found a slightly different problem with his second recommendation as well. He had gone to a supervisor from a previous position, and while he left on good terms personally and professionally, Guillaume had never been fully comfortable at the firm, which was why he left to find a better job he was more passionate about.

Unfortunately, Guillaume’s supervisor had perceived his lack of enthusiasm for his job as well. Along with a few years distance from Guillaume’s work as well, the former supervisor wrote a recommendation that was polite and mainly positive to a hurried reader, but a closer read revealed some deliberate omissions and even a few veiled criticisms. Guillaume’s consultant clearly saw a case of a recommendation that could be called “damning with faint praise.”

As they discussed these recommendations, it was easy to see why Guillaume had overlooked their importance. He had done so much work for the applications himself, and simply getting a few people to say yes had been tough enough, but he was too close to the situations and the recommenders themselves to see the flaws with each.

Together they brainstormed some ideas for new recommendation sources, and Guillaume found his immediate supervisor and a colleague from his university alumni group both happy to write him a glowing, specific recommendations. This time Guillaume and his consultant worked on a document to guide each recommender on specific stories and examples. The strategy worked, and Guillaume was admitted to LBS and Duke.

Looking for more examples of real client success? Review all SBC case studies.

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SBC Scoop: Adding an EMBA to Your Options

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client. Our client Luis had been weighing his options for a while before he began working …

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Our client Luis had been weighing his options for a while before he began working with his Stacy Blackman consultant. His list of target programs included the top 3 most-competitive programs. While they were all excellent, Luis faced challenges as compared to the application pool for those full time MBA programs. He had fairly strong GMAT score of 710, and over ten years’ worth of work experience at his company, a sports management firm. He had joined right after college, loved it and excelled with three promotions over ten years, and had both clients and his boss- the owner of the firm- ready and eager to write stellar recommendations for him.

So what was the problem? It was exactly that extensive experience, Luis’ consultant informed him. Luis had just celebrated his 33rd birthday, and while that alone was not necessarily a major strike against him, it put him well above the average age for the top full-time MBA programs. More directly, it was his current position and experience. Luis had risen to a vice president level in his position, with a strong track record over a number of years. Luis was the sort of MBA applicant who had more than potential, he had realized actual management experience. That was wonderful for Luis, but made it difficult to show how he could truly gain from a full time MBA program. Typical recruiting out of even the best full time program would be far too junior for Luis’ level of executive experience.

But Luis felt stuck. He had just about hit the ceiling at the company, which was relatively small and privately owned. Luis felt he needed the knowledge and contacts an MBA program would provide to continue to advance his career and potentially start his own firm. Along with applying to the top three programs with his consultant’s help they decided to approach another option: an EMBA program.

Luis and his consultant discussed why Executive MBA programs could be a perfect fit for Luis. He could continue working while attending a program with a curriculum intended to challenge students further along their career path and looking toward the next step. His fellow students in the programs would be his peers in terms of both their experience and age, so he would be making contact with a cohort of students in similar situations. Furthermore, his profile – the same GMAT scores and resume he felt would make him a fit for a full-time MBA – was even more compelling to the top EMBA programs.

Luis put in a solid attempt for the full time programs, and ultimately decided to attend Kellogg’s EMBA program. Luis is still working and finishing his EMBA at Kellogg, and plans to start his own management agency when he’s done.

Read more case studies covering a range of real client stories.

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