Category Archives: Application Tips

Pros, Cons for MBA Applicants of the Single-Essay Trend

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News. A decade ago, business school applications commonly included up to six essay questions for applicants to fret and labor over. For at least …

writing MBA essays

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.

A decade ago, business school applications commonly included up to six essay questions for applicants to fret and labor over. For at least the past three application seasons, however, many top-ranked MBA programs have abbreviated their required essays. Several now ask candidates to answer just a single prompt.

My immediate reaction to these changing requirements has been, “I love it!” It makes sense to test applicants in this way. After all, the world’s best b-schools want students who are future leaders – those who can act quickly and decisively, with little to no direction, under stressful circumstances.

Client feedback in recent cycles has ranged from confusion to outright panic, so applicants may benefit from plenty of guidance as they grapple with how to present themselves and thoughtfully tell their story.

Prospective MBA applicants should know there are pros and cons to the streamlining trend.

Pro: Having to write just one essay eases the burden on applicants applying to multiple programs. Our 2016 SBC Survey of Prospective Applicants revealed that almost 38 percent of applicants plan to apply to five or more schools this year, and fewer and shorter essay requirements are precisely what motivated nearly 52 percent of respondents to apply to more schools.

As a bonus, admissions teams are betting that requiring a single essay means applicants will be less able to recycle essays for other schools.

Con: This increase in applications skews the overall application, acceptance, and yield numbers as the volume of the applicant pool increases but the quality declines. Schools need to adjust to these new figures, as they may influence a prospective applicant’s decision not to target a specific school if the program is perceived as less competitive and therefore, less desirable.

Pro: They say high self-awareness is the strongest predictor of overall success. The single prompt forces you to be very clear about who you are and what you want to communicate. In fact, many admissions committee members believe serious self-reflection prior to applying lays the foundation for compelling essays. A lot of thought will have to go into distilling your messages, which is hard work, but will ultimately benefit you.

Con: It’s much harder to mold your agenda with fewer words and only one question.But whether you have multiple essays, or a single prompt, 1,500 words or 500, the process of coming up with your personal brand is the same. You need to have a strategy for your application process that includes a lot of brainstorming up front to help you come up with the highlights of your candidacy that you want to convey, regardless of what is being asked.

Pro: From the photo commentary essay at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, to the “cover letter in lieu of essay” requested by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, to the “meet-and-greet at the airport layover” scenario posed by Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business, these single essays provide an exciting opportunity for more creativity and meaningful content, rather than multiple, potentially more rambling essays of what applicants think the committee wants to see.

Con: Having a lot to say is overwhelming and can be stressful, but then having to stuff all an applicant wants to say into limited words only compounds that feeling. With so many accomplishments to highlight and leadership examples to share, the critical task of editing leaves many applicants incredibly anxious since it’s their one shining moment to share their story.

As communication in general seems to have condensed on many fronts thanks to social media, the single-essay trend appears here to stay. Ultimately, I see these types of questions as an invigorating exercise in presenting oneself, knowing what needs to be told and what can be left out. Just remember that having a well-thought-out strategy will be the key to making this lean essay format work for you.

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Michigan Ross Director Calms Common Applicant Concerns

Applying to a top-tier business school is a time of high anxiety for many MBA hopefuls. With such fiercely competitive admission rates, it’s only natural that candidates might feel vulnerable about their chances. Plus, going for …

Ross MBA admissions

Applying to a top-tier business school is a time of high anxiety for many MBA hopefuls. With such fiercely competitive admission rates, it’s only natural that candidates might feel vulnerable about their chances. Plus, going for an MBA is a huge and expensive decision, so how do you know if the school you’re targeting will be right for you?

In a recent update to the Admission Director’s Blog at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Director Soojin Kwon shared the reflections of several second-year Ross Student Ambassadors who were in your shoes not that long ago. Their experiences should help calm any fears or concerns you have about the application process in general and, in particular, about choosing to apply to the Ross School.

Here are some key excerpts from Kwon’s post:

 Applicant Fear #1: “I wasn’t sure that Ross and Ann Arbor would be as diverse as other schools/cities I was considering.”

Kwon: Nearly a third of our students come from outside of the U.S., with India, Brazil, China and Peru as our leading international countries. Within the U.S., the state with the highest representation at Ross is California. The metro area where the most students lived prior to Ross is New York, followed by Washington, D.C.

Our entering class has worked in a wide range of industries – from consulting, banking, marketing, and startups to the military, education, nonprofit, healthcare/pharma, tech, law and hospitality. They’ve worked in 340 different organizations including the Kenya Ministry of Health, the Turkish Treasury, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, NBCUniversal, Time Warner Cable, Coach Inc, and Coca-Cola.

Women comprise 40% of our entering class. Minorities comprise 24%.

As far as Ann Arbor goes, it may surprise you to know that we have more restaurants and independent bookstores per capita than any other city in the U.S. It’s been ranked among the most educated city in the U.S.

Applicant Fear #2: “I heard mixed messages about which round to apply in. Obviously, it worked out in the end, but I was worried I’d hurt my chances if I applied in one round vs another.”

Kwon: Chances are, you have an idea of which school is your top choice. Let’s call it “School A.” You submit an app to School A in Round 1. Your app to Schools B and C are nearly ready but you decide to wait until Round 2 to submit those apps. In the months following your Round 1 submission to School A, you visit the campus of Schools B and C. You connect with students and alumni of those schools. You fall in love with School B and decide that that school is your new top choice. (We see this a LOT.)

You resolve to submit a killer app for School B in Round 2. In December, you find out from School A you’re admitted. Great! School A requires you to submit a non-refundable enrollment deposit in February…before you find out if you’re admitted to your new top choice school. Now you have to either (1) put money down to hold your spot at School A or (2) take your chances on being admitted to School B. We frequently see applicants choose Option 1.

The moral of this story: if you’re close to being ready to submit an app for several schools, you should strive to submit them in the same round.

It’ll give you the benefit of being able to make a decision with all your options laid out at once. Of course, you should apply when your application is as strong as it can be. But if your app is ready for one school, chances are, you’re probably close to being ready for another school. The main difference is generally only the essays.

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The Ross admissions director also shares advice on handling low GMAT/GRE scores,  enlightens applicants who are unfamiliar with what Michigan Ross is “good at,” and reveals why you don’t need to devote an excessive amount of effort to answering the Ross essay questions.

Read Soojin Kwon’s complete post, and with any luck, you’ll feel much more relaxed about the whole process…well, at least a little bit!

You may also be interested in:

Michigan Ross School Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips

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7 Qualities of the Ideal Wharton MBA

What does it take to land a seat at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School? As one of the top MBA programs in the world, Wharton is very selective about who it accepts—just 20% of …

What Wharton looks for in MBA applicants

What does it take to land a seat at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School? As one of the top MBA programs in the world, Wharton is very selective about who it accepts—just 20% of applicants in 2015—and the admissions team has some specific traits in mind when it assesses candidates.

Reflecting on my 15 years of experience helping clients get into Wharton, I recently shared my take on the seven characteristics Wharton is looking for in MBA applicants with Business Insider.

1. Global awareness is key.  

Candidates must show they are able to adapt, accept, and understand in a diverse environment. Wharton graduates will compete in a global marketplace, so experience with the challenges of doing business globally and a natural curiosity for learning more about other countries and cultures will be valued by the admissions committee and should therefore be emphasized during your interview.

2. Entrepreneurial abilities are a must.

Being entrepreneurial means knowing how to recognize and capture opportunity, minimize risk, make the most of limited resources, and make excellent decisions even with inadequate or incomplete information. You can demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset if you have identified opportunities to make an impact above and beyond the call of duty.

3. Community involvement is paramount.

Finding time to do community service can demonstrate your devotion to making your community better. The hours required for a Wharton MBA are comparable to your current job, so you have to prove the ability to manage your time and energy and put it toward a good cause.

But admissions officers at Wharton aren’t only interested in whether you’ve done community service. They are also interested in the character revelations that come with the projects you took on.

To read four more traits Wharton looks for in the ideal MBA candidate, follow the link to the original post on Business Insider. 

You may also be interested in:

Wharton School Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips

Image credit: Jack Duval (CC BY 2.0)

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No. 1 Trait HBS Looks for in MBA Applicants

Do you have an idea about what the number one characteristic the admissions team at Harvard Business School is looking for in MBA applicants? I recently shared my thoughts on the subject with Business Insider, …

HBS applicantsDo you have an idea about what the number one characteristic the admissions team at Harvard Business School is looking for in MBA applicants? I recently shared my thoughts on the subject with Business Insider, based on my 15 years of experience advising clients on how to position themselves when applying to the world’s top business schools.

It may not surprise you to learn that the most important trait the AdCom looks for is high-impact leadership, or what I call the “big kahuna” at HBS.

When evaluating your leadership potential, the admissions committee will be looking for evidence that you have made a positive impact on the communities of which you’ve been a part, both personally and professionally. However, it’s not about the scale of your achievements – rather, it’s the fact that you left indelible footprints.

Click on over to Business Insider to read more about what I believe are the 10 traits Harvard Business School looks for in the ideal MBA candidate.

Image by Flickr user Chris Han (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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SBC Debuts New Column: Ask the AdCom

Hey everybody! We’re really excited around here about “Ask the AdCom,” our new weekly column debuting today. We know MBA applicants love to get information straight from the source, and we’ll be sharing tips and advice from …

Hey everybody! We’re really excited around here about “Ask the AdCom,” our new weekly column debuting today. We know MBA applicants love to get information straight from the source, and we’ll be sharing tips and advice from admissions team members from a dozen top schools.

Since AdCom members are human, too, we thought our readers might enjoy seeing  a different side of what makes these guys tick. This fun space is not really about the application process but more about real-life topics, like where’s the best place on campus to eat or study, what are the can’t-miss courses, and all the fun stuff that happens at b-school that makes lifelong memories for students.

We hope you enjoy their insights!

best apps for MBA students

Today’s question is: What are the best apps for students?

Melissa Fogerty, Director of Admissions (Yale School of Management): Look for apps that will assist MBA students with their career search. I recommend Jobtreks, a job search organizational tool launched in 2015 by Yale SOM alumna Susan Weil ’88, an Advisory Board Member and Board Member of the Program on Entrepreneurship at Yale SOM, and her co-founder Terri Wein. Jobtreks is a personalized “CRM” platform that allows users to manage their job search, network, and explore careers through job boards, interview prep, and more.

Twitter to follow the companies that interest them and to stay current on trends in their target industry. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times mobile readers are other great tools for this purpose, and you’ll want to be an avid follower of digital news publications relevant to your industry (TechCrunch, Ad Age, etc.).

 Shari Hubert, Associate Dean, MBA Admissions (McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University): GroupMe or What’s App are used quite frequently to keep up with study teams, connect in advance of starting classes, and during breaks.

 Judi Byers, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid (Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University) shares these tips from students: 

  • Groupie (an App for sharing road trips) and Facebook for communicating with classmates. I also use Instagram. Peter Su, MBA ’17 (Cornell)
  • I like Groupme and Spotify. Daniel Greenhaw, MBA ’16 (Cornell)

Virginie Fougea, Associate Director of Admissions (INSEAD): We know that many applicants like to follow the Facebook page of INSEAD. They also use You Tube to watch videos on the MBA programme.

Other applications to be mentioned are the INSEAD Knowledge App, which features new research from INSEAD faculty and comments on news stories, the Life@INSEAD app, and the Blue Ocean Strategy app.

John Roeder, Assistant Dean Graduate Admissions (SMU Cox School of Business): Whatsapp, Microsoft OneNote are some real good ones that students use.

Rodrigo Malta, Director of Admissions (McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin): The “Canvas” app is useful for classes, while apps like “GroupMe” are useful for group texts with study teams, friends, etc. and our Executive MBAs love “Slack.”

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Look out for the #AskAdCom in our social media channels, and we’ll see you again next week when we check in to Ask the AdCom what are some of the best reads for b-school aspirants!

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