Category Archives: Application Tips

Tuesday Tips: Wharton MBA Essay Tips

Wharton’s essay questions remain the same this year, with only one required prompt, an essay for reapplicants and an entirely open-ended optional question. Wharton has been experimenting with the admissions process for the last several …

Wharton’s essay questions remain the same this year, with only one required prompt, an essay for reapplicants and an entirely open-ended optional question. Wharton has been experimenting with the admissions process for the last several years and seems to have landed on a productive essay question that asks applicants to reflect upon their fit with Wharton both personally and professionally.

As you consider how to approach this set of essays make sure you are conducting thorough school research. Getting to know the Wharton community through campus visits, online research and the many admissions events around the globe will help you understand the personality of the school and the alumni network to write an effective set of essays.

Required Essay: What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

This is both a standard career goals question and an inquiry into your personality and potential success in the program.

Be careful to answer the specific question in this career goals essay. Notice that you are not asked about your professional background or your key accomplishments. To answer the question asked, you will want to focus mainly on the future and what you are planning to pursue with your MBA degree. At the same time, there is certainly room to add color by using your background information where it is most relevant to your goals. Think about the key moments of your professional life that crystallized your goals for you, and focus on illuminating those decision points rather than reciting your entire resume.

Understanding exactly how you fit in will help you describe what Wharton will do for you, as well as navigate interviews and other interactions with the Wharton admissions committee. Consider including specific information from your Wharton research in this essay such as Wharton faculty you would like to study with or unique educational opportunities at Wharton.

When you address your personal goals for the MBA make sure you are making the case for Wharton specifically. Consider what living in Philadelphia might be like, the many clubs and student activities, and leadership development opportunities like traveling to Antarctica with your classmates that may address some of your personal life goals.

Optional Essay: Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)

If you think that your application materials and the required essay are enough to provide a complete picture of your candidacy you may want to forgo this essay. There is no need to submit additional material just to submit something – consider whether the admissions committee will appreciate the information or think you are wasting their time.

If you do choose to answer this question note that the essay can be used for any topic that you would like. If there is something about your personal background you did not cover in the required essay and it is relevant and useful for your application, this is the place to cover it. Perhaps you didn’t have room in the required essay to describe an important accomplishment or to tell a story about your life that is relevant to your pursuit of an MBA. Anything that you think will be an asset to your application is fair game as a topic for this essay.

Reapplicant Question: All reapplicants to Wharton are required to complete this essay. Explain how you have reflected on the previous decision about your application, and discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words)

All applicants, including reapplicants, can also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

All reapplicants are required to provide information that supports your renewed candidacy. The most successful version of the reapplicant essay will provide tangible evidence that you have improved the overall package you are submitting this year. Improvements like GMAT score or new quantitative classes as especially tangible, but a promotion, increase in responsibility at work, a job change or even a change of goals and mission can apply.

A rejection or waitlist last year is a form of feedback, and may have led to soul searching for you. When you describe your changes make sure reflect your ability to take feedback and improve. Describe how you approached the reapplication process after assessing your own strengths and weaknesses as a candidate and making the appropriate efforts to improve.

If you are not a reapplicant this essay is a potential space to address any areas of concern in your application. If you have a low GPA or GMAT, gaps in your resume, disciplinary action in undergrad or anything else that you want to explain, this is where you would provide a brief explanation and any supporting evidence to show you have moved past the setback.

Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting for customized advice to give you that competitive edge in your Wharton application

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Tuesday Tips: Berkeley Haas MBA Essay Tips

The set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business covers a variety of topics – from the creative to the personal to the professional. In approaching these questions and deciding between …

Haas schoolThe set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business covers a variety of topics – from the creative to the personal to the professional. In approaching these questions and deciding between topics it will be important to remain focused on what you want to communicate to the admissions committee.

A clear understanding of your application strategy, particularly your career goals and strengths/weaknesses, is the key to putting together a cohesive application. While challenging, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate several different aspects of your personality to the admissions committee.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has successfully coached applicants to the Haas MBA program for over a decade, contact us to learn more about how we can help you set a winning application strategy.

Essay One: If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)

This is a creative and open-ended question. Take the opportunity to infuse personality into your answer and think about your favorite music and what song most represents you. Perhaps it’s a song that you grew up listening to with your family, and it reminds you where you came from. Maybe it’s a song that helps you feel optimistic about your future. Music often evokes emotion, and the essay should capture that feeling and describe why it is meaningful to you.

Essay Two: Please respond to one of the following prompts: (250 word maximum)

Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.

If you decide to answer this question think about the moments that have truly changed you. One way to approach this is to think through transitions. Perhaps the transition from high school to college was meaningful for you.

Traveling for the first time outside your home country may have been another transition. Transitioning from University to the work place could have exposed you to new people and a new lifestyle. If none of those transitions lead to a topic for this essay you can delve into the smaller incidents in your life. A friendship, family experience or trip could have opened your eyes to something new and changed your approach.

Once you have selected a topic for this essay you will need to explain how you were transformed. What was your attitude like before the experience and what are you like now? Was the transformation internal or did you change how you approached other people? It’s likely you learned something from this transformation and explaining your lessons learned is always a strong finish to an MBA essay.

Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud.

This essay can focus on either a personal or professional accomplishment. The most important part of any accomplishment essay is describing why this specific accomplishment has resonated with you. What did you do and how did you do it? Were you proud of the outcome or the process? Did you demonstrate leadership or integrity in a way that was important to yourself or others? Ask yourself what truly matters to you and the accomplishment that showcases your values.

Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.

Difficult decisions are often a moment to reflect again upon your values. What were the stakes of your decision and why did you struggle to make a clear choice? Perhaps you were choosing between priorities in your life, family or work, where to study for university or what career path to pursue. No matter what the decision was it will be important to talk a bit about your process for making it. Why did you choose one option over another and what did you learn about yourself?

Essay Three: Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey? (500 word maximum)

This is a short career goals essay and asks you to describe your path to business school along with your future goals. As you describe your path you don’t need to recite your resume here – rather highlight the key experiences that will be relevant in your future career. Think about the cover letter you would write to obtain your desired position at this company and tailor your approach accordingly.
Describe your future goals in a succinct manner, considering what aspects of your background to explain in the “path” section that will support your goals development.

Be specific about why the Haas School of Business is the right program to pursue your goals as well. As you consider past experiences and your future goals you will be able to see what you want to gain from the Haas experience to fill any gaps. If you have an advertising background and want to become a brand manager you’ll likely need classes in operations and finance to understand the analytical side of brand management.

Other goals will require specific skills gained from an MBA and your own unique background will inform how you take advantage of the Haas experience. Make sure you have determined exactly what courses make sense for your career goals and the programs and clubs that you will participate in to reach your personal and professional goals. Thorough school research will be invaluable in approaching this question.

Optional: Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? You may also use this essay to provide further explanation of employment gaps or your quantitative abilities. (500 word maximum)

Haas recommends using this space to address any information that was not adequately covered elsewhere, specifically suggesting that any employment gaps or lack of apparent quantitative skills be covered.

A short gap between school and a secured job is not necessary to explain, but something like several months between two jobs should be addressed. If your resume has significant employment gaps you should describe what you did between jobs in this space. Ideally you can point to additional education, training, volunteering or traveling that you engaged in while unemployed.

If you have a strong quantitative background like an engineering or hard sciences degree, or you work in a quantitative field like finance, it is likely unnecessary to further explain your quantitative skills. Otherwise, you may want to take one or two examples to demonstrate that you have an analytical mind and can take a quantitative approach to problem solving and evaluating data. As the question specifically asks you not to focus on the grades on your transcript, use this space to describe projects at work, additional post-graduate coursework, or your plans to strengthen your quant skills before you enroll at Haas.

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Tuesday Tips: Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Tips

The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth has a small student body and a rural location, combined with world-class faculty and academic focus. As you approach your Dartmouth Tuck MBA application it will be important …

Tuck School of BusinessThe Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth has a small student body and a rural location, combined with world-class faculty and academic focus. As you approach your Dartmouth Tuck MBA application it will be important to consistently show how you will fit into the school values of leadership, teamwork and collaboration and bring your own unique qualities and experiences to the community.

Before you begin the essays think about the areas you want to communicate to the Tuck Business School admissions committee. As you consider each topic be sure to provide specific examples to illustrate your unique qualities. Real life experiences are your best evidence of leadership qualities, teamwork skills and management potential.

The Tuck admissions team encourages applicants to respond fully but concisely to these essay questions, and to limit the length of their responses to 500 words for each essay.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has worked with successful Tuck applicants for over a decade, contact us to learn more about the customized assistance we can provide for your application.

Essay One: What are your short- and long-term goals? Why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically?

This standard career goals question requires you to clearly outline your short- and long-term career goals. Your short-term goals are the aspirations you have for your job immediately after graduation, while your long-term goals may be 10 or 20 years after you complete your MBA. In this relatively short essay you will need to explain what you have been pursuing in your career thus far, and why you need an MBA at this point in your life, along with your career goals.

“Why Tuck Business School” is an important element to this essay, and your opportunity to demonstrate fit. Make sure you have researched the school’s programs and determined your education will suit your plans. By reaching out to current students and alumni you will gain crucial insights that will provide a personal perspective on the culture of the school.

Essay Two: Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck?

As you consider topics for this essay reflect upon the situations that may have revealed your own strengths and weaknesses. Think back to Tuck Business School’s criteria, and possibly use this essay to either demonstrate your interpersonal leadership skills or to show something from your background or experience that is unique. Think about the leadership opportunities that led to a deeper understanding of yourself and others, and may have resulted in definition of your strengths or an improvement in your weaknesses. The example you choose can be from work or community involvement, as “great leadership can be accomplished in the pursuit or business and societal goals.”

One aspect to remember as you draft this essay is that the Tuck School of Business definition of leadership is inherently collaborative. Team based experiences may be preferable, and as you describe your leadership experience, make sure you explain how you were able to inspire and enable others to accomplish as well.

Essay Three: (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.

This is your opportunity to discuss any perceived weaknesses in your application such as low GPA or gaps in your work experience. When approaching a question of this nature, focus on explanations rather than excuses and explain what you have done since the event you are explaining to demonstrate your academic ability or management potential.

You could potentially use this space to add something new that was not covered in the previous essays or in the application, resume or recommendations, however use your judgment about the topics as Tuck asks that you only complete this question if you “feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.”

Essay Four: (To be completed by all reapplicants) How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally.

If you are re-applying to Tuck this essay is the place for you to showcase any developments since your last application. Ideally you have concrete improvements like a stronger GMAT score, grades from business classes, or a promotion. Even if nothing quantitative has changed in your profile you likely have developed more leadership activities or progressed in your job responsibilities. If you are struggling to think of any clear improvements you can describe refined goals or deeper thinking about your future that has led you to apply again to Tuck. Demonstrating growth in maturity or introspection can be a huge improvement to your application and absolutely should be highlighted.

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Avoid Choosing the Wrong MBA Recommenders

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com You probably already know not to ask the CEO of your company to write your business school letter of recommendation – unless of course he or …

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

You probably already know not to ask the CEO of your company to write your business school letter of recommendation – unless of course he or she is  someone you work closely with and who knows you very well.

Below are three more potential pitfalls when it comes to selecting a recommender. Avoid these mistakes or you may find your chances of admission crushed despite having an overall compelling application.

• Don’t select someone who can’t answer the questions: In other words, you may feel tempted to choose someone who knows you inside and out, but not in a professional setting. He or she can speak to your love of soccer, your compassion and your integrity, which are all great attributes. But this person cannot answer the specific career questions recommenders must address.

Business schools typically ask recommenders to evaluate how the candidate’s potential, performance or personal qualities stack up against those of other individuals in a similar role.

We worked with one client, Mike, when he was applying straight out of college. He had done a few short internships during college, but had no full-time work experience to draw from or a supervisor to tap for a traditional recommendation.

Mike had a stellar academic record, but a choosing a professor is rarely a good choice for a business school reference, no matter how cordial the teacher-student relationship. However, once we learned that Mike had worked as a teaching assistant for one of his professors, we knew we’d found someone who could better speak to the types of questions asked. Though unconventional, the recommendation from a professor became the right choice for Mike.

• Don’t select someone who is not an advocate for you going to business school. This may sound strange, but plenty of successful and well-positioned professionals won’t understand why you would want to go to business school. They may even be actively against it. Maybe they don’t want to lose you as an employee for two years, or maybe they aren’t really your biggest fan.

Our client Todd worked in finance in an office that didn’t require the MBA degree for promotion, and many higher-ups scoffed at its value. While his boss agreed to write the recommendation and had plenty of good things to say about Todd, he sort of laughed it off and clearly would not act as a true advocate for him going to business school.

Todd worried about what might happen if one of his target schools called his boss to discuss the reference, and that uncertainty was just too stressful. He decided instead to choose his supervisor from a prior position, someone with whom he had kept in touch and discussed his graduate school plans with quite a bit.

Choose people who like you, who care about your success and who think you’re good at what you do. Choose capable writers who can express their opinions clearly. If a potential reference seems less than enthusiastic in any way, keep looking. That person’s ambivalence will likely come through in the letter.

• Don’t select a person who doesn’t know who you are and where you stand now: If you worked with someone four years ago and have not done a good job of staying in touch, that person really cannot comment on your progress and skills today.

We worked with one client, Guillaume, who was reapplying to business school after receiving a series of setbacks the previous season. Upon reviewing all of the components of his previous application, it quickly became apparent that a feeble recommendation letter had likely weakened his otherwise strong candidacy.

He had gone to a supervisor from a previous position, and while he left on good terms personally and professionally, Guillaume had never felt fully comfortable at the firm, which was why he resigned to find a job he felt more passionate about. Unfortunately, it appeared Guillaume’s supervisor had also perceived his lack of enthusiasm for his job.

Having few years of distance from Guillaume’s work, the former supervisor wrote a recommendation that would appear polite and generally positive upon hurried review, but a closer read revealed some deliberate omissions and even a few veiled criticisms. In this case, the recommender’s letter was actually damning with faint praise. 

When considering potential references, ask yourself whether the person has worked closely with you, thinks favorably of you, and will put in the time to write a thoughtful, detailed endorsement of your candidacy. If you can’t answer yes to these three requirements, move on until you find the person who fits the bill perfectly. Your chances of admission to the school of your dreams may well depend on it.

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