Category Archives: Application Tips

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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Tuesday Tips: NYU Stern MBA Essay Tips

As the NYU Stern MBA 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 …

As the NYU Stern MBA 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.

After making the personal expression part of the application optional last year, NYU Stern has added it back as a required essay this year. The personal expression essay offers you the opportunity to present yourself creatively, but 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 3, 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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Tuesday Tips: UVA Darden MBA Essay Tips

While writing only 500 words for your Darden MBA application essay may seem simple, it requires discipline to highlight all of the important parts of your profile for the admissions committee in one short essay. …

While writing only 500 words for your Darden MBA application essay may seem simple, it requires discipline to highlight all of the important parts of your profile for the admissions committee in one short essay. Writing a successful essay with such limited space requires you to focus only on your most compelling attributes.

Leadership is crucial to future Darden MBAs. Personal qualities are also important to Darden, a school with a small, tight-knit community. Darden, similar to HBS, is devoted to the case method of teaching business subjects. Learn more about the school by visiting the Darden website, attending events and speaking with current students and alumni.

MBA Application Essay Question:
Describe the most important professional feedback you have received and how you responded to it. (500 words maximum)

In this question Darden is seeking to understand how you take feedback and how you process and learn from feedback. Feedback is often the first stage to grow and develop as a professional and as a leader. Learning to take all feedback – both positive and critical – and examining and incorporating the lessons from that feedback into your development is a sign of maturity.

As you describe the professional feedback you will want to set the stage for the feedback by describing your relationship with the person who gave you the feedback and any background facts. Take the time to describe how you felt while receiving the feedback, and don’t be afraid to talk about having uncomfortable feelings about it. It’s a normal reaction to feel threatened by criticism, which is often what professional feedback is perceived as. If the feedback was positive make sure you can use the story to demonstrate development and growth.

If you can’t think of the most important moment of feedback you have received, think about working backwards from a professional accomplishment you are proud of. As you think about the areas where you have excelled you may find that the trigger was a piece of important advice or feedback from a manager, peer or customer.

Make sure your feedback story enhances the overall package of your application. You have your career history submitted in your resume. Your GPA, transcript and GMAT will demonstrate academic ability. This essay is one of your few opportunities to show how you think, what your leadership approach is, and how you improve as a result of input from other people. Think about the situations that showcased your best performance at work, or that taught you something about your interests or future career goals.

Because you have only one essay question to present yourself, make sure you have a trusted reader to tell you if you are effectively communicating why you are going to be a strong leader who deserves a spot in the UVA Darden MBA class.

Looking for perspective in your approach to your Darden MBA application? Contact us to discuss how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.

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