Category Archives: Application Tips

Tuesday Tips: Wharton School Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania released the essay questions for the class of 2019 with the inclusion of a second required essay. This additional essay focuses on teamwork and complements the main …

wharton school essay advice The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania released the essay questions for the class of 2019 with the inclusion of a second required essay. This additional essay focuses on teamwork and complements the main essay question that asks candidates 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.

Essay 1: (Required) What do you hope to gain 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.

Essay 2: (Required) Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)

Wharton is an intense environment, but also one that takes pride in collaboration and community. This question seeks to understand how you work with others and what your leadership style is. Collaboration and teamwork are important key concepts to illustrate in this essay.

Your contribution to Wharton could be in the classroom, clubs or within small group projects. You might bring your experiences launching a new product to your marketing case studies. Maybe you will lend creative ideas to your learning team as you prepare a research project.

Perhaps you will tutor your learning team mate in accounting principles because he has never done accounting at work. Or you might contribute to the Media and Entertainment Club by leading a career trek or bringing a new speaker to campus. Think about what you have learned in your career and in prior academics that may help those around you.

This essay does not explicitly require examples of teamwork or leadership from your past experiences, but it will be a stronger essay if you provide evidence. Think about a time you demonstrated your collaborative approach to team problem solving, and consider how you can prove what you contributed to your community in your workplace or extracurricular activities.

Essay 3: (Optional) 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 essays 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 essays 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 essays 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.

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 are especially tangible and convincing, but a promotion, increase in responsibility at work, a job change or even a change of goals and mission can serve as reasonable updates.

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: Harvard Business School Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips

Harvard Business School continues to provide one open-ended essay question to applicants. This year the essay is required (unlike two years ago) but the essay question has changed from last year, and is instead much …

HBS essay adviceHarvard Business School continues to provide one open-ended essay question to applicants. This year the essay is required (unlike two years ago) but the essay question has changed from last year, and is instead much more flexible (like two years ago).

Last year the HBS admissions director blog noted that the “optional” element was dropped because: “this season, every applicant submitted a response. We get it. You want to tell us things.”

The most challenging part of this essay is remaining disciplined. With unlimited space to make your case, you may be tempted to compose a laundry list of everything interesting or impressive you have ever done.

That urge could backfire, as the essay is used to determine who isn’t a fit for HBS as much as those who deserve the chance to move into the interview round. Maturity, accomplishment, and leadership are highly valued qualities and this essay is your chance to display those qualities through the stories you choose and the voice coming through your writing.

There is one question for the Class of 2019 application essay:

As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?

From HBS: There is no word limit for this question. We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.

A note on word count: HBS values brevity in essays. Do not be tempted to go overboard with a 2,000 word essay, rather focus on concise and clear writing and consider keeping this essay to 1,200 words or less. Our clients have successfully composed essays anywhere from 500-1,300 words, though you should take a pass through your essay to cut any unnecessary words if you find yourself on the upper end of that range.

The goal of this essay is to know yourself, know HBS, and know how to match the two to demonstrate your fit for the school. Your first task should be to evaluate all of the other aspects of your candidacy – what is the story your resume tells? What do you think recommenders will say? How does your transcript communicate your skills, accomplishments and interests? Then you need to evaluate how to fill the gaps with the essay.

Last year HBS recommended a video on the case method, which is worth watching now. The video clearly shows that diverse perspectives are valuable to the case method experience. Think about what diverse experience you bring. We have found that both personal and career oriented topics can work, and most candidates tell more than one story in the essay. In the past we have observed that successful HBS essays also demonstrate a core driving passion. HBS students are ambitious, motivated and never boring.

As you consider possible stories to tell in this essay keep in mind that HBS has always been highly focused on leadership and really loves candidates with a track record of leadership impact and a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential.

Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of HBS essays, and using at least one accomplishment story in this essay may be a good strategy, particularly if your accomplishments are not obvious when reading your resume or transcripts.

A note on what not to do: We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in HBS essays. Explaining why the case method specifically is a good fit for you and your learning style is absolutely appropriate, but more detailed “why HBS” content has never been asked for in an HBS application essay question. HBS admissions is quite clear on the value of an HBS degree, and they would rather see you use the space to provide more information about yourself and your candidacy.

Looking for guidance on your HBS application? Contact us to learn more about Stacy Blackman Consulting.

Image credit: Chris Han (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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Tuesday Tips: NYU Stern Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips

As the NYU Stern School of Business website states, “Stern develops leaders who make an impact on business and beyond.” Evolving from a pure finance school into one that focuses on areas like entertainment and technology, …

NYU Stern essay tips

As the NYU Stern School of Business website states, “Stern develops leaders who make an impact on business and beyond.” Evolving from a pure finance school into one that focuses on areas like entertainment and technology, Stern takes advantage of the vibrant and changing business opportunities in New York City.

The individual components of your application will be academic ability, professional achievements and career aspirations, and personal characteristics. Stern provides podcasts to describe each component on the admissions website, and it’s worth starting your research there. While your academics will be evaluated mainly through your GMAT and GPA, the essays are a crucial part of your application strategy.

The personal expression essay offers you the opportunity to present yourself creatively, but also requires you to apply structure to a completely open-ended question. It’s a great test for a life solving business problems after your MBA.

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations
(750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
• Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
• What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
• What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

Why MBA, why now, is an important question to answer. While many people seek an MBA degree, NYU wants to invest in those who can use it most effectively. Perhaps you’re seeking an MBA for networking or professional credibility, or maybe you want an MBA to learn specific skills to change careers. Whatever your own personal reasons may be, make sure you can point to specific aspects of the MBA education both generally and specifically at Stern that are necessary to achieve your goals.

Note that this question specifically asks about your interest in pursuing an MBA at this point in your life. Why is now the right time for you, both personally and professionally? What will an MBA add to your already successful career trajectory to get you to the next level? If you are an older applicant you will need to spend time carefully communicating that you realize what an MBA can and can’t do for you at your professional level, and that you have a plan to leverage the MBA professionally in your next job.

This essay also offers an opportunity to demonstrate your fit with NYU Stern and describe why NYU Stern is the right place for you to spend the next two years of your life. Certainly personal experience of the campus through visits or student touch points would be ideal, but even if you are halfway around the world you can illustrate the many ways in which you learned about the NYU Stern experience.

Your post MBA goal should be both achievable and demonstrate the need for an MBA. An MBA from NYU Stern will open professional doors for you, and you should demonstrate that you are ready to take advantage of those opportunities. Think about a logical sequence that starts with your past work experience, then your MBA education and ends with your immediate post MBA goal. Ideally your goal pulls from both your current work experience and the skills you will gain in the NYU MBA program.

Essay 2: Personal Expression
Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

If you submit a non-written piece for this essay (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit this essay via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.

Open-ended essays like this one can be intimidating. You are allowed any method to introduce yourself to your classmates, and you’re probably wondering what the best medium for your message is.

However, your content is king in this essay. The best first step is to brainstorm the information you want to convey. Reflect upon your unique personal qualities and what is valued most by your friends and family. How would you want your classmates to see you? What are some of the personal stories you would share with a new friend?

Once you have established the content you want to use for the NYU Stern essay 2, it’s time to consider the medium. If you are a visual person you may chose a drawing, painting or photo series. If you are a creative writer perhaps it’s a poem or short story. If none of the “creative” approaches feel right to you, feel free to write a standard essay where you explain who you are and introduce yourself to your classmates. The medium is not the most important aspect of this essay. What is most important is the message and content of your composition to demonstrate your motivations and who you are to the admissions committee.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has helped countless aspiring NYU Stern MBA students to showcase personal and professional stories that cut through the clutter. Contact us to learn more.

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Turn Failure Into a Great B-School Essay

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News. It’s the dreaded failure topic: “Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed.” MBA applicants often freak out …

failure essay MBA

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

It’s the dreaded failure topic: “Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed.” MBA applicants often freak out when faced with this common admissions essay question because they fear that showing any weakness will torpedo their admissions chances. However, at one point or another, everyone faces adversity, failure or setbacks, whether at work or in life.

Your response to these situations demonstrates your character, and business schools understand that failure represents a learning opportunity.

This essay is your chance to demonstrate your maturity, flexibility and leadership qualities. Leaders aren’t always successful; rather, they are willing to admit to failure and find motivation in their misfortune.

So how do you tell the business school admissions committee how failure has truly affected you?

First, start with some real introspection. It’s important to use a failure that is emotionally important to you.

Your failure should also be real and something that led you to gain some insight about yourself. The negative situation could have led to a transformative experience for your team, a positive opportunity for someone else or a chance for you to better understand another person through a team challenge.

The admissions committee will easily see through an accomplishment that you frame as a failure; furthermore, that will not demonstrate your maturity or ability to grow. Think creatively about this aspect – do your best to describe how you have changed your approach as a result of the failure.

When brainstorming for this essay, think first about what you learned from the situation you plan to detail; then work backward to describe the circumstances and the initial challenge or hurdle. That will help you more optimistically view the whole situation. What did you learn from the experience and how did it impact your life or demonstrate a specific aspect of your character, goals or accomplishments?

Think honestly about all the emotions you felt. As ugly as they may have been, be honest and write them down.

From there, try to more eloquently describe your feelings in your essay. Remember, even the most difficult situations often lead to personal growth and likely have contributed to the individual you are today.

For example, one of my clients was caught plagiarizing a term paper during college. He was very lucky the school did not expel him, but he did fail and have to repeat that course.

This startling wakeup call became a valuable life lesson. It spurred him to join student government, help develop for the school policy guidelines on cheating and speak publicly about his plagiarism experience and the importance of respecting intellectual property. When he applied for business school, his transformative experience resonated with the admissions committee and he ultimately attended one of the top-three MBA programs in the country.

The key here is detailing not only your actions but also your feelings. Another client I worked with chose to write about her layoffs at three different companies over a five-year period. Although the layoffs had nothing to do with her job performance, each experience devastated her, and she struggled both financially and emotionally until she finally landed a position that allowed her to flourish.

She turned those low moments into a powerful admissions essay of resilience and problem-solving. She showed how the experience ultimately taught her waysto better evaluate career opportunities. Demonstrating this type of humility and self-awareness made a positive impact on the admissions committee, and she ultimately attended the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania – with a scholarship to boot.

As you finalize this essay, focus on embracing the positive aspects of your past mistake and demonstrating the ways you have used the incident as an opportunity to learn and grow. This may just be the factor that makes your candidacy stand out amid a sea of so-called “perfect” applicants.

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