Tag Archives: advice
June 3, 2014
Stanford Graduate School of Business has followed the lead of the majority of top MBA programs and has reduced the essay count for this year’s application. Stanford is still focused on candid self-evaluation and authenticity, …
Stanford Graduate School of Business has followed the lead of the majority of top MBA programs and has reduced the essay count for this year’s application. Stanford is still focused on candid self-evaluation and authenticity, and has just cut out the optional shorter essays. The Stanford GSB MBA admissions website provides clear guidance and advice for what to do, and what not to do, that all applicants should read and follow.
What keeps you awake at night? 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 topics for this set of essays. Your accomplishments and achievements are part of why you have developed into the person you are today, however it’s far more important to explain your influences, lessons learned and motivations. Introspection and honesty should persist through the entire set of essays.
Total word count for all three essays combined should not exceed 1,100 words, so applicants must be judicious in deciding how much or little to write for each prompt. As a general guideline, Stanford GSB suggests 750 words for essay one and 350 words for essay two. Check your deadlines before you get started to make sure you are maximizing the time on your essays.
Stanford GSB Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?
This classic Stanford GSB MBA essay is your opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what motivates you, and why. Topics can range from personal history to grand visions of the future. While this topic should not be explicitly career related (and the strongest essays are likely not career oriented at all) it may raise themes that you will continue in your career essay.
To generate ideas, try brainstorming over a period of a few days. Ask friends and family what values they see you demonstrating in your life and choices. Keep a notebook by your bed so you can record your first thoughts upon waking up, and mine your personal history for ideas.
Though the essay question may seem open-ended, answering the question with vivid and specific examples will provide solid evidence that you have demonstrated or experienced “what matters most” throughout your life. Keep in mind as you select examples that Stanford GSB specifically advises focusing on people and experiences that have influenced you, rather than accomplishments or achievements.
Essay B: Why Stanford? Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.
This year Stanford leads with the most important part: Why Stanford? Be specific in your response. You should know everything about the program and show that it is your dream school. Have you met current students and alumni? Who are the professors you are excited about? What are the unique programs?
This essay question is a somewhat standard career goals theme, but note that Stanford refers to it as a “personal essay.” Stanford GSB wants to know what you specifically need that will be uniquely satisfied by the program at Stanford GSB, and research will help you determine what aspects of the academic program, community and students are crucial to your aspirations.
When you discuss how Stanford will help you achieve your goals consider that Stanford likes to see applicants who dream big, and have the credibility to achieve their goals. So think big about your plans. Don’t focus on what your parents or partner want you to do. Don’t think about the next job on the corporate ladder. What do you, with your own unique background and values, want for your life?
If the question seems too vast, take a few minutes to close your eyes and reflect. Envision your life in twenty years. Where do you live? How do you spend your days? What is your favorite activity? How does this vision fit into your career aspirations? Don’t be shy about your ambitions. Once you have identified your dream career, you also need to make sure an MBA is an important part of achieving your plans.
Stanford wants candidates for whom an MBA will make an impact on their ambitious trajectory, not candidates who are looking for a prestigious piece of paper. Remember that MBA programs want to help promising candidates reach their goals, not admit perfect people with no need for development.
April 4, 2014
The MBA Student Voice blog of UCLA Anderson School of Management recently posted some great advice from second-year student Nathan Adelman on how to make the most of your MBA experience, and it rings true …
The MBA Student Voice blog of UCLA Anderson School of Management recently posted some great advice from second-year student Nathan Adelman on how to make the most of your MBA experience, and it rings true no matter where you eventually end up.
Adelman lists key lessons he’s learned while at Anderson, and we’ve summarized four of them below. For more of his thoughts on each subject, click over to the original post linked above.
Lesson 1: The difference between a good MBA experience and a great one is about $10,000.
No one is denying that business school is an expensive endeavor, but Adelman says ponying up an extra $10K will cover the international trips, clubs, and social events that will take your entire MBA experience to the next level.
“These experiences will impart to you a global perspective, lifelong friends, and a strong business network that will benefit you for the next 40 years of your career,” Adelman says.
Lesson 2: Not studying for a test is actually harder than studying for the test.
Getting straight A’s doesn’t open any more doors for your career path than getting B’s, Adelman says, who believes classes are the activity in business school that have had the least influence on landing his dream job.
“Once I was comfortable with that feeling, it enabled me to better manage my time and prioritize my commitments which in turn allowed me to get the most out of my business school experience, inside and outside of the classroom,” he explains.
Lesson 3: Greater career focus yields more career opportunities.
Recruiting for multiple industries and job functions actually creates fewer opportunities for finding something you truly like, Adelman believes. Be as focused as possible, he urges, and take the time to go for something that really gets you excited.
“All this extra time allows you to focus on specializing in your specific area of interest. This means you actually have the time to do industry research, network with people in the industry, and get to know the companies intimately – all things that you will actually talk about in your interview!” Adelman advises.
After all, he says, it’s much easier to help the “Restaurant Girl” or the “The Pharma Guy” than it is to help the “Maybe consulting, maybe marketing, maybe tech Guy.”
Lesson 4: Mentors cannot be assigned, they must be found.
While most schools have mentorship programs that pair students with someone experienced in their field of interest, Adelman believes the best mentorship relationships happen organically between people with an authentic connection both professional and personal.
“It is this personal connection that really separates an ‘advisor’ from a ‘mentor’, and also it cannot be faked,” he says. “So don’t be afraid to seek out those people whom you admire and want to emulate – odds are one of them will see something in you as well.”
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December 30, 2013
Guest post by our friends at Magoosh Blind to fallacies, we put off our applications to business school, wait to meet with professors or managers to ask for letters of recommendation, wait to write our …
Guest post by our friends at Magoosh
Blind to fallacies, we put off our applications to business school, wait to meet with professors or managers to ask for letters of recommendation, wait to write our application essays, and wait to start our preparations for the GMAT. And we craft elaborate reasons why we can wait, but never notice that our reasons are pockmarked with fallacies—the very fallacies that we should be preparing to identify and analyze on the GMAT.
How will you analyze arguments on the test if you can’t analyze them in your own arguments? Let’s first change ourselves by looking at four common reasons we tell ourselves to put off studying for the GMAT. And along the way, we might even find a little GMAT preparation as well. (See how I just turned this into an opportunity to not procrastinate?)
Argument: “I am writing all the time at work. I have to read reports, write reviews for our staff, and write proposals to clients, so my verbal skills are strong. I just need to freshen up on math, and I will be ready for the test, so no need to start preparing now.”
Fallacy: False Analogy
This is a classic false analogy—comparing two things that seem comparable, but actually are not. Yes, writing a proposal is writing. Reading reports counts as reading. But the GMAT tests a particular type of writing and a particular type of reading. Just because both are writing or reading doesn’t mean that they are analogous. You need the time to refine your latent reading and writing skills and calibrate them to the specific tasks on the GMAT. I know it’s tempting to compare what you do now with what you think you will need to do on the GMAT. But don’t believe the fallacy.
Argument: “I work on a team of people and one of them just received their GMAT scores, and she did really well. We have the same role at the company, and we both work at the same pace. She only spent a week preparing, so I won’t need that much time to prepare.”
Fallacy: False Cause
We are pattern recognition machines always looking for causal relationships in historical events, weather phenomenon, market fluctuations, stomach aches, etc. But things are not as they seem; Plato said as much in his allegory of the cave.
We miss the complexity in our world, simplify the whole system so we can understand it, and end up confusing causation and correlation in the end. So what might appear to be the cause of a peer’s success—a week of preparation and their pace of work—might not actually be what matters. Many other things, like taking the test multiple times, taking classes in the past year, or reading voraciously, were probably as important.
Most likely, there are numerous things that lead to a peer’s success that we can never know. We can’t expect to replicate another person’s success by following the steps we think mattered, not to mention that we also fall into our previous false analogy fallacy when we do so.
Argument: “I am a naturally strong test taker. I always crammed for tests in college and I did fine. I had a 3.8 GPA. I don’t need to spend a whole lot of time preparing.”
Fallacy: Appeal to Nature
What is nature and what is nurture is not entirely clear. For all we know, we might be simplifying—false cause fallacy—the whole process of becoming who we are, and missing the numerous aspects of the world that go into shaping our abilities. Further, popular culture loves this idea of a natural talent, the naturally gifted athlete, musician, or scientist.
But this is incredibly misleading. Natural talent may really just be a tendency or inclination that nudges a person in one direction and another person in another direction. After that, the individuals have to work at it. Tolstoy didn’t naturally write compelling, epic novels; he worked tirelessly to make them that way. Michael Phelps has the frame and build of a great swimmer; but it was his hard work and intense dedication to swimming that led him to become the most decorated Olympian ever.
There is nothing natural about success. It only comes from hard work and dedication. The same is true for test taking. What was once seemingly “natural” might in truth be a skill that needs to be practiced and worked at to ward off atrophy.
Argument: “I scored in the 98th percentile in the SAT math section. I looked at a GMAT score calculator and it looks like there are a lot of possible scores in the 90th percentile, more than the SAT. I don’t think I’m too rusty so I’ll spend a month preparing for the GMAT, maybe a little less. I have a lot that I am doing already anyway.”
Fallacy: Appeal to Tradition
We have no laurels to rest on. The only thing consistent is inconsistency; the only thing that doesn’t change is that things are constantly changing. Appeals to tradition often ignore this. What we did in high school or in undergrad is not going to help us today. The problems we faced then are not the same as the ones we face now. Circumstances change. We can’t expect to use solutions from the 1950s to solve the problems of today. We’ve already seen that legislation written in 2001 is out-of-date and insufficient in light of the technologies of 2013.
So although similar to the SAT in some respects, the GMAT is a very different test. We will see math questions on the GMAT that we have never seen before. And just because we found a plan on How to prepare for the GMAT in one month doesn’t mean that we will only need a month to hone our skills so that they are sharp on test day. A history of performing well and of cramming is just that—history. What matters for tomorrow is what you do today.
It may appear strange, but we can’t trust ourselves, especially our reasons and rationalizations. The fallacies that we have to diagnose on the GMAT exam are the same ones that make us procrastinate and put off our preparations. So instead of coming up with reasons not to start preparing, why not come up with reason to start now? At least this way, our logical fallacies are put to good use.
December 26, 2013
Finding yourself on the waitlist at your dream b-school definitely comes with a mixed bag of emotions. While it’s disappointing not to have a definitive yes, you’re still in the running and should take some …
Finding yourself on the waitlist at your dream b-school definitely comes with a mixed bag of emotions. While it’s disappointing not to have a definitive yes, you’re still in the running and should take some comfort in knowing that you’ve passed an important hurdle with the admissions committee.
As their classes begin to take shape, admissions committees will return to the waitlist and admit a fair number from this group. Meanwhile, there are a few things you can try to increase your chances of moving off the waitlist.
Each school is different, so find out what your target school expects from applicants. Some schools only want to hear whether you want to remain on the waitlist or be released. If this is the case, don’t try to send more information or pester the admissions committee about their reasoning because you’ll only be shooting yourself in the foot if you do.
However, if the school is open to receiving more information from waitlisted candidates, think hard about what concrete information you can provide that might sway them in your favor. Are they open to receiving just an update letter? Are they willing to read an additional letter of recommendation? Do they want regular updates? You want to do as much as you can without disregarding their requests or overloading their staff. Above all remember that you are still in the game!
If you’ve been promoted or taken on more responsibilities at work, improved your GMAT score, deepened your volunteering commitments, or had a new, meaningful travel experience, be sure to share it and include why these updates make you a better candidate, and therefore student, who would further enrich their program.
The waitlist is a frustrating stage, but you really should see it as a sign that your application is strong, and you may be fortunate enough to receive final admission from your chosen school.
For a first-hand account of how our client Max successfully managed his waitlist experience and ended up at Harvard Business School, read this SBC client case study.
December 23, 2013
There are only a few weeks to go until many top MBA program’s Round 2 deadline, so we’re reposting this client case study for those who are struggling with the agonizing question: Is it worth putting together a last-minute application?
Vipul came to us with this very dilemma. He had originally planned to apply earlier, but he had to re-take the GMAT after a disappointing 660 on his first attempt. He improved his score significantly, and with a 700 GMAT score, 3.6 GPA and career progression on his resume, he felt ready to try for admission to UT McCombs School of Business, CMU Tepper School of Business and Michigan Ross School of Business.
In our first conversation with Vipul we gave him the honest feedback that three weeks to complete three entire MBA applications would be unlikely to result in the best outcome. Typically, we work with clients for several months honing essays and ensuring recommenders are engaged in the process.
Vipul was confident that the timing was right for him, and he had already done the necessary soul searching on his future career goals, school selection, and recommenders. Most importantly, Vipul was willing to re-apply the next year if necessary because he enjoyed his job and knew he could continue his career there.
We decided that the hourly service would be the best option to assist Vipul. With limited time to devote to his essays and recommendations, Vipul first contacted all of his recommenders and asked them if they were able to submit by his deadline.
After a quick brainstorming session to determine his essay topics, Vipul got to work on his essay drafts. We focused on the key content Vipul needed to make his case for submission and he was able to quickly turnaround his drafts of the essays. Three iterations of his essays later we felt good about his final product and he was ready to submit after only three weeks of work.
Vipul’s dedication paid off and he was admitted to McCombs.
Rushing to make a deadline isn’t always the right course of action, though. For example, our client Michael made the decision to postpone to the next round in order to strengthen his application. If you’re wondering which course of action is right for you, sign up for a free consultation today.
*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.
September 18, 2013
The 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 valued by US and international recruiters. LBS is an excellent choice for MBA hopefuls who have international experience or would like to develop a career without borders.
When approaching this streamlined set of questions, you will want to make sure you are also presenting your well-rounded self, with focus on career, extracurriculars and personal attributes. Make sure you formulate a clear game plan for this set of essays so you can utilize the limited space effectively.
What will your future look like after completing your MBA? (500 words)
The first two questions for the LBS application focus on your career goals. Though the questions are separated into two, your overall narrative thread should flow organically from your past experiences to your MBA decision and into your future career goals.
To make this essay more than a recitation of your resume, think about explaining the rationale for your decisions throughout the essay. Why did you choose your first job, and what was the impetus behind subsequent career choices? At this point, why are you choosing LBS? While your future career goals are the subject of the next question in this set, you will want to discuss why you have made the choice to pursue an MBA at this time, and why you want to attend LBS.
There should be a clear link between your immediate post-MBA goals and where you plan to be in five years and longer term. You have set the stage with your career story thus far and now you need to explain what your LBS education will launch you towards in the future.
Many applicants aren’t exactly sure what they will do in the long-term or even five years into the future. Certainly the future is not entirely in your control, but this essay is a great opportunity to think about what you really want from your career. Self-awareness about your strengths and interests will help you refine what you want. To take your research deeper it may be incredibly helpful to talk to colleagues and alumni who have MBAs in your field to see what your career path options are. Make sure that your career goals are both realistic and aspirational. An MBA will certainly open doors for you, and also may define a specific career path. Make sure you are well-informed about what others have done before you.
What value will you add to London Business School? (300 words)
LBS would like to see that you have considered their program specifically and have an idea of how the program differs from other top schools. Of course you are applying to more than one program, but the answer to this question will show that you have considered your application to LBS and researched it extensively. As Oliver Ashby, head of MBA recruitment and admissions wrote in the LBS admissions blog: “One of the most common failings we see in applications is an inability to differentiate between top business schools.”
Thorough research will be crucial here, whether online or in person. Reaching out to the clubs and organizations you are most interested in may allow you to interact with a current student who can provide context for you. To be most effective in answering this question you will want to be specific and logical in your choices. What activities make the most sense in the context of your career and industry interests? What about your hobbies? Any community involvement you are currently pursuing and plan to continue will be especially credible here.
What is the School’s responsibility to you and what is your responsibility to the School? (400 words)
The answer to this question, as in the previous essay, should focus on your fit with LBS. The relationship you have with your MBA program is a two way street and LBS wants to know that your expectations of the support you will receive from the program are realistic. At the same time, LBS wants you to realize that you are not just taking education and career progress from the program, you are also contributing to the school both while on campus and afterwards. Values for LBS include taking your studies seriously and being part of the fun, vibrant community and your answer should contain elements from both aspects of the MBA program.