Category Archives: Application Tips

Tuesday Tips: London Business School Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips

London Business School is a close-knit program with an international focus, set in one of the most exciting centers of culture in Europe. Among one of the top-ranked programs in the world, LBS is equally …

London Business School essay tipsLondon Business School is a close-knit program with an international focus, set in one of the most exciting centers of culture in Europe. Among one of the top-ranked programs in the world, LBS is equally valued by employers in both the US and Europe.

This year LBS has further refined the essays in the application to one career goals question and an optional question. To cover all of your career accomplishments, extracurriculars and personal attributes will require using other parts of the application like your resume and recommendations.

Make sure your resume highlights what you are most proud of at work and in extracurricular activities, and that your recommenders support those stories. Your recommenders can also talk about your leadership, ambition and teamwork.

Essay 1
What are your post-MBA goals and how will your prior experience and the London Business School programme contribute towards these? (500 words)

Self-awareness about your strengths and interests will help you refine what you truly want in your career. To take your research into your post-LBS options deeper it could be helpful to talk to colleagues and alumni who have MBAs in your field to identify various career paths. Make sure that your career goals are both realistic and aspirational. Think about the short term roles that may lead to your most ambitious longer term goals.

Your past experiences have certainly informed your post-MBA plans, and touching on those most relevant will be helpful to setting the background for your current pursuit of an MBA. To make this essay more than a rehash of your resume, think about explaining the rationale for your decisions throughout the essay.

Why did you pursue your past experience and what has been the impetus behind subsequent career choices? At this point, why are you choosing LBS? If space permits, you will want to discuss the question of timing – why you have made the choice to pursue an MBA at this time, and why you want to attend LBS now.

Essay 2
Is there any other information you believe the Admissions Committee should know about you and your application to London Business School? (500 words)

The formerly optional question from the LBS application is now required. This open-ended question is a great opportunity to touch on a personal story or add color to your career goals. This could be the ideal place to describe a unique background, experience or attribute that did not fit elsewhere in the application.

If you can’t think of a topic, consider using a story that illustrates your passion for London or an aspect of LBS culture. To inform your story, make sure you have done as much school research as possible. Ideally you have visited the school or attended an admissions event, or at a minimum, spoken to current or former students.

Because this essay is required, we would recommend using at least part of it to cover a positive aspect of your application instead of explanations of weaknesses, but taking a paragraph to address an issue like a low GPA or GMAT score may be a good use of this essay.

Challenged by the LBS essay questions? Contact us to learn how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.

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August ‘To Do’ List for MBA Applicants

The summer may be winding down, but MBA admissions season is just ramping up. By August, all of the top MBA programs have announced their deadlines and essay questions, and applicants should have a solid set …

MBA interviewThe summer may be winding down, but MBA admissions season is just ramping up. By August, all of the top MBA programs have announced their deadlines and essay questions, and applicants should have a solid set of schools they plan to target.

If you’re ready to start your application, one of your first decisions is whether to try for Round 1 deadlines, which are in September and October, or aim for Round 2 in early 2017. After you’ve made that decision, the two heavy-duty areas applicants need to focus on right now are prepping recommenders and brainstorming and drafting essays.

Ready to learn more? To read the rest of my August “To Do List” for applicants, click on over to Business Insider!

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3 Unconventional Steps to Writing Great MBA Essays

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News. The essay component is arguably the most important piece of your business school application. After all, a compelling story can help counterbalance weaker aspects …

MBA essay brainstorm

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

The essay component is arguably the most important piece of your business school application. After all, a compelling story can help counterbalance weaker aspects of your candidacy.

Before you start working on your MBA applications in earnest, first think through and articulate your career objectives, assess your strengths and weaknesses and make sure you have done as much research as possible on the business schools that seem like the best fit for you. Through our work with applicants, we’ve learned that it’s best to begin the brainstorming phase by sifting through an array of life experiences to see what emerges as a core strength.

But what can you do if you’re seriously stumped on what to write about? When you feel blocked, don’t panic. Inspiration is everywhere in your daily life. Try these unconventional approaches to help spark a great MBA essay.

1. Ask people around you for their insights: Sometimes it’s hard to see what makes each of us special, so ask a coworker, mentor or friend for inspiration. An invigorating or profound conversation with a good friend can really stir up new ideas and get your creative juices flowing.

To jump-start this process, gather friends and family and have them share what they think is most interesting and memorable about you. Ask what values they see you demonstrating in your life and career or in your personal choices.

Dig deeper and ask yourself how you would want your future classmates to see you. What are some of the personal stories you would share with a new friend?

What would your future professors want to know about you? How might you contribute while in school and after graduation?

2. Record your first thoughts: What do you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about? When you look back at your life, what will you admire and regret about your choices?

These are the kind of questions to ask yourself as you approach a variety of common MBA essay topics. Keep a notebook by your bed so you can record your first thoughts or dreams upon waking up – these might help you understand your passions.

Here’s another strategy to try: Set your alarm for an odd hour, wake up and read an essay question. Contemplate the first things that pop into your head.

Often, the act of doing something simple in a new way or just at a different time will get you out of your rut and allow you to see things from a fresh perspective. Take a new route to the office, switch up your workout schedule or skip the nightly Netflix binge and end the day with an intriguing novel instead. See whether these simple changes boost your essay ideas.

3. Keep a journal: In the weeks leading up to writing your application essays, keep a journal and jot down moments that impact you, such as a great meal, an amazing sunset or a funny video. Then when you begin to write, look through your notes and see where inspiration strikes.

For convenience, you may prefer to dictate your thoughts into your phone while you are out and about. Often, casual speaking tone translates into a more authentic and personable version once written on paper; this can be a great launching pad for the first drafts of your essays.

Another useful technique is documenting your life as it is now on a storyboard with various categories, such as personal, professional, extracurricular and academic. As a starting point, you may want to think about the choices that have led you to your current career path.

Focus on the inflection points that have inspired you – whether coursework in college, early exposure to running your own business or watching a family member pursue his or her dreams – to help clearly outline the reasons you have made certain life choices thus far.

Once you’ve tried one or more of these unconventional but effective exercises, you should start to develop a few intriguing ideas. Then no single piece of the MBA essay writing process should seem intimidating.

And remember to plan ahead and leave plenty of time for rewriting – truly great essays aren’t crafted overnight.

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Developing ‘Brand You’: The Way to Drive Home Your Main Points

As part of our month-long anniversary celebration, I’d like to highlight some of my favorite blog posts from along the way that I think will really resonate with applicants who are gearing up for submission …

taking notes entrepreneur

As part of our month-long anniversary celebration, I’d like to highlight some of my favorite blog posts from along the way that I think will really resonate with applicants who are gearing up for submission this fall. 

Enjoy!

Think for a moment about the audience for your business school application: you will be spending hour upon hour writing a magnum opus may be read by just one person, or a select few at most.

These people have dozens of applications they need to get through each day and even the most diligent may at times miss some points in your essays. That’s why you need to make things as easy as possible for the admissions committee members by making sure they can’t miss who you are and what you can add to the class.

The best applications feature three or four aspects of the applicant’s character and experiences that anyone reading the essays can’t help but identify. These three or four traits combine to form “Brand You.”

We all know the power of brands. Companies spend tons of cash to make sure you know how they deliver value and what they stand for. While there are many more subtle facets to their full corporate identities and many nuances to their product/service offerings, firms need to make sure that customers have a complete and unambiguous understanding of a limited list of characteristics.

Take, for instance, this list of traits for a few well-known companies:

1. Low prices everyday, huge selection, one-stop shop
2. Great place to hang out, socially responsible, respect for employees
3. Great design, simplifying the complex, cool
4. Irreverent, youth-oriented, influencing lifestyles
5. Fun, family, fantasy

Even from just these short descriptions, you can probably guess which companies we’re referencing (answers below). That’s because these messages have been pounded into your head through repetition, multiple interactions with the firm or exposure to marketing messages.

Similarly, candidates need to make sure the people who read their applications make no mistake about the core of their character and experiences. Certainly, all applications end up covering more than three to four points if they capture the wonderful complexities of us as humans. But if we give equal weight to 20 traits, we water down the main things the admissions committee needs to know about us.

Sure, a candidate wants to be known as a “natural leader, intellectual, creative, driven, community-minded, responsible, action-oriented, nurturing, committed, rigorous, internationally-focused, physically fit, welcoming, laid back, institution-building and adventurous,” but ultimately, we really don’t know what this person stands for.

People “branding” themselves like this have made choices on what they want to emphasize:

“A behind-the-scenes leader, creative problem-solver, and passionate about international development.”

“A great motivator, cutting-edge thinker on financial markets and committed to education.”

“Dedicated to environmental causes, a skilled negotiator, a committed mentor and family-oriented.”

Reinforce the main three to four traits through repetition; other aspects of your character and experience will come out naturally.

Just a few words can trigger our thoughts about a brand. Did you get these from the short statements above?

1. Wal-Mart
2. Starbucks
3. Apple
4. MTV
5. Disney

It’s never too early to start mulling over the general outlines and topics for your essays.  Paying attention to what makes a “great essay” long before you start writing will help you sort through your best concepts.

 

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Tuesday Tips: Cornell Johnson Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips

Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management is a flexible MBA program housed within an Ivy League campus. Cornell Johnson offers multiple full-time options, including a one-year MBA, executive programs and a tech focused program. Cornell …

Cornell Johnson MBA essay tipsCornell University’s Johnson School of Management is a flexible MBA program housed within an Ivy League campus. Cornell Johnson offers multiple full-time options, including a one-year MBA, executive programs and a tech focused program.

Cornell Johnson has multiple joint degree programs as well from a JD-MBA to MBA-MD. Whatever your goals and background Cornell has a program that can help you achieve your goals.

When approaching this set of Cornell essays it will be useful to set an application strategy. Identify the program you are most interested in and do substantial school research. Then examine your background and goals to see what is most important to explain as part of your story.

Next, add the layer of personal background and experiences – consider what makes you truly unique. Finally, make sure you have solid academics, work experience and extracurriculars. If you identify any holes in your profile or story, take the time to fill them prior to starting your application.

CREATING IMPACT
At Cornell, we value students who create impact. Please indicate the opportunities for impact that you have identified through engagement with our community and describe how these interactions have influenced your decision to apply to Johnson. (500 words or fewer)

This year Cornell has replaced a standard careers goals question with a question about your fit with Johnson. The framing of the question brings in a core value of the program, creating impact, and asks you to imagine how you might create impact at Johnson based on your research into the program.

The first step in answering this question is to do your research. Ideally you will have an opportunity to either visit Johnson or to attend an admissions event in your city. If neither option is available to you, reach out to your network to see if you can meet current students or alumni of the program.

When you meet members of the Johnson community, make sure you ask about the unique opportunities on campus to contribute, whether through social clubs, volunteering, professional clubs or academics. Johnson offers groups for interests ranging from cooking to ice hockey, and has professional clubs for every possible career path.

Once you have identified opportunities for you to contribute to campus life at Johnson, ideally you can support your story with evidence from your past experiences.

For example, if you want to bring new speakers to the Johnson Marketing Association because you have contributed to your young professionals group at work, explain that you have successfully organized events featuring major speakers for a large group of people and can bring that skill to create impact for your peers at Johnson.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
You are the author of your Life Story. Please create the Table of Contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. We value creativity and authenticity and encourage you to approach this essay with your unique style. Alternative submission formats may include a slide presentation, links to pre-existing media (personal website, digital portfolio, YouTube etc.), as well as visually enhanced written submissions.

Maximum file size is 5 MB. If you choose to submit a written Table of Contents, please limit your submission to 500 words or fewer. Please limit multimedia submissions to under 5 minutes

This essay is an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are on a personal level. Think about highlighting areas you may not have been able to touch in the previous career focused essays, and demonstrate your unique personal attributes or community involvement.

If you have a consistent theme of involvement in a charity or activity this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate why you became involved and what you have done over the years.

When structuring the story, think of this essay as a way to communicate a narrative theme of your life to the admissions committee. What are the key moments that are meaningful to you? Were there pivotal experiences with your friends, family, hobbies or interests that led you to become the person you are today?

This essay can be delivered in any of the media specified above (video, slide presentation, website) and you should tailor the format you use to the message you want to send. Though a creative format can impress the admissions committee, substance is always the most important part of the essay. Make sure you are highlighting unique, individual qualities that will make the case for admission to Cornell.

OPTIONAL ESSAY
Complete this essay if you would like to add additional details regarding your candidacy. For instance, if you believe one or more aspects of your application (e.g., undergraduate record or test scores) do not accurately reflect your potential for success at Johnson.

If you are reapplying for admission, please use this essay to indicate how you have strengthened your application since the last time you applied.

This optional essay allows for either an explanation of any weaknesses in your application or additional information that may bolster your application. If you have a poor GPA or GMAT, concerns with your undergraduate record, or were unable to provide a recommendation from a current supervisor, this is the place to offer explanations, not excuses.

Quickly describe the situation and what may have contributed to the issue (illness, family difficulties, etc.) without editorializing. Focus the balance of your essay on looking forward: what have you done in the recent past to demonstrate your skills and intelligence?

If you are a reapplicant this is the ideal place to explain what you have done since your last application to strengthen your case for admission. If you have a new GMAT score or took classes in calculus or statistics you have a solid case for improved academics. A promotion could signal career development and leadership.

Even if you don’t have a clear cut development to describe you can use this space to explain how you have improved your thinking, career goals, or fit with Cornell.

Stuck on the Johnson Cornell essay questions? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help.

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Tuesday Tips: UVA Darden Fall 2017 MBA Essay Tips

While answering only one essay question 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 …

Darden MBA essay tipsWhile answering only one essay question 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.

Think about the other areas of your application and what they cover. Your academic potential should be highlighted through GMAT or GRE scores and your academic transcripts, leadership and professional accomplishments should come through clearly from your recommendations, and finally your essay is a chance to outline your personal qualities.

When considering which personal qualities to highlight in this essay, consider that leadership is crucial to future Darden MBAs. Your ability to work well within a team of peers is 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 this feedback. (500 words)

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. 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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