Category Archives: Application Tips
December 15, 2014
Leadership, impact, and interpersonal skills are the latest qualities explored in Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management‘s series of blog posts offering insight into how the MBA admissions committee assesses applicants. Beth Tidmarsh, director of …
Leadership, impact, and interpersonal skills are the latest qualities explored in Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management‘s series of blog posts offering insight into how the MBA admissions committee assesses applicants.
Beth Tidmarsh, director of admissions for Kellogg’s full-time MBA programs, notes that, while a candidate from the military will tap into different leadership experiences than say, a junior analyst, there are some common traits the admissions team is looking for.
“We look for those who have taken up new responsibilities and opportunities in whatever way they can, however their career path has allowed,” Tidmarsh explains. “Your roles don’t have to be formal, just indicative of your drive.”
Also keep in mind that a candidate with eight years of work experience will be expected to have a greater number of examples to support leadership skills than an applicant just two years out of undergrad. That’s perfectly fine, Tidmarsh says, since “Our admissions team is just as concerned with where our students are going as where they’ve already been.”
Where impact is concerned, the admissions committee is more interested in quality than quantity. They know you’ve been busy climbing the ladder professionally, but they want to make sure they’re admitting well-rounded candidates who are interested in something other than their careers.
“We like to see our applicants involved with something they’re passionate about. If it fits in with your personal career narrative — say you volunteer with a literacy organization, and you want to pursue education policy after Kellogg — that’s great,” says Tidmarsh, though she notes that, for many applicants, their passions aren’t connected to their career goals at all.
Don’t fret if your all-consuming work hours have left little time for outside engagement, so long as you can draw on opportunities for impact within the workplace instead. “Having an impact on organizational culture or community is just as valid, important and interesting to us,” Tidmarsh assures.
Lastly, the admissions director shares what her team is looking for where an applicant’s interpersonal skills are concerned. Kellogg is well-known for its collaborative spirit and team-based learning approach, so AdCom will be looking for candidates who fit well with that culture.
Some applicants will have already had that type of work environment, so they will mesh immediately with that part of the Kellogg experience. But candidates coming from more independent work environments shouldn’t feel at a disadvantage. As long as you can demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, you should be fine.
It doesn’t hurt to spell it out for the admissions team though. “Knowing that you want to grow in this area, explaining that you crave more teamwork and collaboration, expressing that you want to push yourself in that area — all of that is valuable information for our admissions team,” Tidmarsh says.
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December 8, 2014
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com
Think about what you would you do if you needed to move into a new job just a few months before submitting your MBA applications. Or, maybe there’s an intriguing career prospect on the horizon, but you’re not sure if changing companies now would help or hurt your chances of admission.
These scenarios happen all the time, so I’d like to share some advice to help you weigh the pros and cons of starting a new position before applying to business school.
One client I worked with, Josh, was deep into his third draft of essays for round one applications when he landed a new job. The move happened just as his former company, a tech startup, had begun a round of layoffs that likely would have included him. While Josh felt excited about starting a new position, he also worried that switching jobs right before submitting his MBA applications could cause problems.
Generally, I advise candidates who have held their position for less than a year to stay put. The admissions committee looks for consistency, and job-hopping could convey flakiness or a lack of clear career goals. However, if you’ve held the same position for a long time, a new career move might show initiative and bolster your candidacy.
Some argue the admissions committee won’t value a horizontal job move but that a vertical move with greater responsibility and leadership opportunities would be viewed favorably. While this is often true, there are always exceptions.
If you’re taking on a career change that’s in line with your long-term goals, you can move to a position with less or equal responsibility as long as you can explain through your essays that you’re trying out something new, but would still benefit from the MBA degree in terms of greater growth in the new field.
Like many applicants in this situation, Josh wondered what to do about his letters of recommendation, since most schools prefer insight about an applicant from current supervisors. Also, he wasn’t sure how to address his new work responsibilities in essays or the MBA resume while he was still getting up to speed with the practices of his new employer.
Strong recommendations are critical, so ask yourself if your possible job move will burn bridges at your existing company with present or former supervisors. One option would be to share your MBA plans with a new employer and seek a reference from someone at that company.
Because Josh didn’t want his new boss to know about his MBA plans just yet, he was advised to use the optional essay to explain that he had chosen to get a recommendation from his previous supervisors because they were in a better position to provide examples of his leadership traits and work responsibilities.
For the essays, he framed most of his career goals story in the context of the work he had done for the previous three years. Josh touched upon the reasons he joined the new company, but kept a tight focus on what skills he wanted to gain from his MBA and his future goal of starting his own company.
We saved the resume revisions for the end, when Josh had been on the job for a couple of months and felt more confident in describing the responsibilities of his position. This three-pronged approach worked, and Josh was accepted to Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
If there’s one cardinal rule about late-in-the-game job switching, it is to never change positions as a ploy to impress the admissions committee by shifting into a career path you think the school will find safe or compelling. As long as you can show how the recent job change is consistent with your mid- to long-term career goals, you should be fine.
However, be sensitive to any concerns the admissions committee may have that your new job is so great that you won’t actually want to leave after eight months to go to business school. Whether you choose to stay on the existing job or try out a new one, be prepared to explain the whole story in your application.
December 5, 2014
Round three is far and away the most competitive round in MBA admissions. Almost all of the seats have already been filled, and applications submitted this late in the game need to be absolutely amazing…and …
Round three is far and away the most competitive round in MBA admissions. Almost all of the seats have already been filled, and applications submitted this late in the game need to be absolutely amazing…and come with some sort of explanation as to why the candidate waited until the last minute to apply.
One former admissions employee explains that people best suited for this round have a highly unique background that would truly add to the class. Such as, for example, the Olympic gold medalist from Cameroon.
The directors of MBA admissions profiled in a recent Wall Street Journal piece on late-round applicants seem to agree.
“We actually enjoy round three,” Dee Leopold, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School, tells the WSJ. “It takes a certain amount of confidence to apply then. Those applicants march to their own drum, and we would never want to miss them.”
In the past, applicants often applied in Round 3 as a last-ditch effort to get into business school after being dinged by their first-choice schools in Rounds 1 and 2. But Liz Riley Hargrove, associate dean for admissions at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, believes times have changed. Fuqua admissions officers look for later-round candidates with backgrounds in Peace Corps service or nonprofit management, among others, she tells the WSJ.
Waiting until the final round has significant drawbacks, including reduced access to merit-based aid, having no choice but to interview on-campus, and missing out on welcome weekends. But this round may be a great time for military veterans, entrepreneurs, and candidates from underrepresented geographic or ethnic group to apply, notes the WSJ.
If you are considering submitting your MBA application in the final round, make sure it is strong on all fronts, and that your story is compelling with a capital C. You just might be that missing element the admissions committee is looking for to spice up the mix.
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December 4, 2014
MBA hopefuls are always looking for clues as to how the admissions process works. With that in mind, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has attempted to demystify the applicant assessment process with a series …
MBA hopefuls are always looking for clues as to how the admissions process works. With that in mind, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has attempted to demystify the applicant assessment process with a series of blog posts this week.
Beth Tidmarsh, director of admissions for full-time MBA programs at Kellogg, addresses three key areas in this series: intellectual ability, work experience, and professional goals. While this information is tailored for a specific group of applicants, we believe the guidance holds true no matter where you’re applying.
Kellogg is looking for candidates who have demonstrated academic excellence. While your GMAT or GRE scores are key indicators that you can handle the work, the admissions team also wants to see what you’ve done to broaden your knowledge base and challenge yourself academically.
“If your scores or grades seem a little lopsided, we dig deeper into your application to look for evidence that you’ve taken steps to develop those skills,” says Tidmarsh. “That tells us if you’ve taken charge of balancing out your skill set.”
When in doubt, err on the side of explaining any dips or gaps in your academic record. You never want the admissions team speculating about your past performance.
Tidmarsh’s comments about work experience are particularly enlightening, and perhaps reassuring as well for some candidates. The director explains that applicants are analyzed within the context of their own career paths—not compared against each other.
Use your application to show how your work experience is noteworthy. If you’ve taken on more responsibilities, been promoted more quickly, and generally progressed faster than others at your same level, this is the kind of information the admissions officers want to hear, says Tidmarsh.
We really like her tip to help applicants avoid the trap of using too much industry-specific jargon.
“Think about how you would explain your job to a 10-year-old or your grandmother…This is a great place to show us how you can communicate ideas across fields and disciplines.”
Because the admissions team already has a copy of your resume, use the opportunities within the application to further explain your responsibilities and provide rich detail about your career to date. Don’t just copy your resume into the input fields, Tidmarsh admonishes.
Finally, it’s important to have a pretty clear picture of your career goals and how a Kellogg MBA will help you reach them. That’s not to say you can’t change your mind once you’re on campus. Students often explore new paths while in business school, and may decide to pursue a new direction after experiencing all that an MBA program has to offer.
“Our Admissions officers are checking to make sure you’ve got a plan in mind. We understand the plan may change over time, but do think about what areas and opportunities you would focus on if you were starting our program today,” Tidmarsh advises.