Category Archives: Application Tips
January 25, 2017
Business schools want to see how candidates interact with peers before anyone’s even admitted, which can be very telling. It’s not actually an interview, per se, because there is no Q&A with participants. Each school …
Business schools want to see how candidates interact with peers before anyone’s even admitted, which can be very telling. It’s not actually an interview, per se, because there is no Q&A with participants. Each school conducts the group interview somewhat differently, and this new evaluation model gives candidates the chance to work with a handful of their fellow applicants to solve real-world business scenarios as a team.
The exercise demonstrates how candidates approach and analyze specific situations and interact with other people, two critical components of business schools that have a team-focused learning style. Through observation of each member’s discussions and communication with the group, the admissions team hopes to glean deeper insight into each applicant’s interpersonal skills.
Although it’s a completely organic experience, there are ways you can prepare for the group interview that will increase your comfort level when the big day arrives. Start by speaking out more in groups or meetings at work. Applicants to the Michigan Ross School of Business do not receive any clues about the content of the group interview in advance, but if you’re applying to the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, you’ll receive your team-based discussion prompt prior to the interview.
Wharton recommends that applicants spend about an hour in advance prepping for the discussion. If possible, we suggest that you gather a group of three or four other people and conduct a mock discussion. Record the session and take note of things like your body language, interrupting, or any tendencies to try to control the discussion.
MBA applicants can also practice the “Yes, and…” rule from improv, where you build on whatever your partner tries. In her bestselling memoir Bossypants, Tina Fey writes that “yes, and” is one of her core principles in all aspects of her life, and means “Don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion.” During the interview, seize any opportunities to either build upon or refer to someone else’s point.
Here’s what you don’t want to do during a group interview:
- Dominate the conversation
- Cut others off or dismiss someone’s idea entirely
- Raise your voice
- Roll your eyes, cross your arms, or display any other kind of negative body language
- Take out your phone or any other electronic device
Here’s what you should try to accomplish:
- Demonstrate you’ve done your research (if given a topic in advance)
- Listen—truly listen—to the others in your group when they speak
- Put the group’s goal ahead of trying to get airtime
- Offer to summarize if the conversation has reached a point where the group would benefit from a quick recap
To maximize your experience, stay flexible and focus on how you can propel the group forward and provide value to ensure the best possible outcome for your team. As many MBA applicants are born leaders who are used to taking charge, you’ll need to be conscious of the fact that you might be surrounded by lots of Type A personalities and need to adjust your style accordingly.
However, if you tend to be introverted, don’t let others intimidate you. If no one’s given you the chance to get a word in, you’re going to have to find an appropriate way to join the conversation before it’s too late. For its part, Wharton knows that leaders come in many forms, and the school reassures candidates that the team-based interview is designed to let all types shine, regardless of how outgoing or shy you are. Just be yourself, get a read on the group dynamic, and let the chips fall where they may.
At Michigan Ross, how you manage yourself within the group is the sole focus of the observers, so it doesn’t matter if your fellow participants are “weak”, or whether you’ve landed in a “bad” group. How you interact within the team, and how you interact with people who have different styles than you, will be foremost on the observers’ radar, Soojin Kwon, director of MBA admissions, explained.
Remember, whether they show it or not, everyone participating will be nervous. Even if the team or group exercise is optional at your school, don’t forgo the experience. From our perspective as MBA admissions consultants, you should never pass up the opportunity for face time with the admissions committee. Allowing them to get to know the real you, beyond the version on paper, is critical to your chances of receiving an offer of admission.
If you have been invited to interview with a school that is using the group interview format, you will absolutely want to take advantage of Stacy Blackman’s live group practice session. This format can be fun, but also challenging and stress inducing! Success comes from practice and becoming comfortable with the format.
We’ll have dedicated groups of 3-6 people for Wharton and Ross, with experienced moderators and admissions experience. You’ll receive preparation tips and a one-hour mock experience, followed by written feedback with actionable advice. For more on this new service, click here.
January 4, 2017
Deciding in which round you should submit your MBA application can cause a lot of stress, as each seems to have its own pros and cons. As numerous business schools have second-round deadlines eminently, you …
Deciding in which round you should submit your MBA application can cause a lot of stress, as each seems to have its own pros and cons. As numerous business schools have second-round deadlines eminently, you might like to take a look at how the admissions team at the UCLA Anderson School of Management—whose R2 deadline is January 5th— views the pluses and drawbacks of each application round.
Here are just a few of the points made by the UCLA Anderson AdCom on the subject:
Applying in Round One
Pros: Applying early shows you’re serious about going to business school. In the case of UCLA Anderson, you have the best shot at merit-based fellowship funds in the first round. If you don’t get accepted in the first round you still have time to apply to other programs in Round 2.
Cons: Least amount of time to properly prepare for the GMAT/GRE. Also, the time factor may not allow enough time for you to pull together a high-quality application.
Applying in Round Two
Pros: Applying in this round allows you ample time to visit the school and make a convincing argument about fit based on those experiences on campus.
Cons: Competition is fierce as this is the most popular round. If you don’t get accepted, you may not have time to apply anywhere else this cycle.
Applying in Round Three
Pros: The final round offers the most time to continue enhancing your profile with promotions at work or deepen volunteer commitments that show off your well-rounded personality. You’ll also have time to re-take the GMAT or GRE multiple times if needed to get your score in a competitive range.
Cons: A capped class size makes this by far the most competitive round as there are fewer spots available in the class. You will likely be compared against many other individuals on the waitlist from earlier rounds.
The truth is that the admissions committees know what they are looking for. They have become pretty good at estimating numbers, and evaluating and accepting applicants that fit their criteria. The best strategy is not to play the game of which round, but to submit your application as soon as, but not until, it is ready.
Make 2017 the year you achieve your most ambitious professional goals! Take the first step by signing up for a completely free consultation with one of our all-star advisors. We can answer questions, provide advice and help set you up to make your MBA dreams come true in 2017. Sign up today at: www.stacyblackman.com/contact
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