Tag Archives: advice
May 19, 2015
This year Harvard Business School has decided to continue with one open-ended essay. The question has changed slightly and focused emphasis on the case method and your interaction with classmates. The HBS admissions director blog …
This year Harvard Business School has decided to continue with one open-ended essay. The question has changed slightly and focused emphasis on the case method and your interaction with classmates. The HBS admissions director blog notes that the “optional” element was dropped because: “this season, every applicant submitted a response. We get it. You want to tell us things.”
The most challenging part of this essay is remaining disciplined. With unlimited space to make your case, you may be tempted to compose a laundry list of everything interesting or impressive you have ever done. That urge could backfire, as the essay is used to determine who isn’t a fit for HBS as much as those who deserve the chance to move into the interview round. Maturity, accomplishment, and leadership are highly valued qualities and this essay is your chance to display those qualities through the stories you choose and the voice coming through your writing.
There is one question for the Class of 2018 application essay:
It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting.
Note: Should you enroll at HBS, there will be an opportunity for you to share this with them.
A note on word count: HBS values brevity in essays. Do not be tempted to go overboard with a 2,000 word essay, rather focus on concise and clear writing and consider keeping this essay to 1,200 words or less. Our clients have successfully composed essays anywhere from 500-1,300 words, though you should take a pass through your essay to cut any unnecessary words if you find yourself on the upper end of that range.
The goal of this essay is to know yourself, know HBS, and know how to match the two to demonstrate your fit for the school as you introduce yourself to your classmates. Your first task should be to evaluate all of the other aspects of your candidacy – what is the story your resume tells? What do you think recommenders will say? How does your transcript communicate your skills, accomplishments and interests? Then you need to evaluate how to fill the gaps with the essay.
When you view the recommended video on the case method you can see that diverse perspectives are valuable to the case method experience. Think about what diverse experience you bring. We have found that both personal and career oriented topics can work, and most candidates tell more than one story in the essay. Consider that from your classmates’ perspective the most interesting information will be both personal and professional. You will be studying together and socializing together. Later, you will be professional contacts in your classmates’ career network. In the past we have observed that successful HBS essays also demonstrate of a core driving passion.
As you consider possible stories to tell in this essay keep in mind that HBS has always been highly focused on leadership and wants to accept candidates who have a track record of leadership impact and a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential. Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of HBS essays, and using at least one accomplishment story in this essay may be a good strategy, particularly if your accomplishments are not obvious when reading your resume or transcripts.
A note on what not to do: We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in HBS essays. Explaining why the case method specifically is a good fit for you and your learning style is absolutely appropriate, but more detailed “why HBS” content has never been asked for in an HBS application essay question. HBS admissions is quite clear on the value of an HBS degree, and they would rather see you use the space to provide more information about yourself and your candidacy.
Looking for guidance on your HBS application? Contact us to learn more about Stacy Blackman Consulting.
May 12, 2015
MIT Sloan has just announced the essay questions and deadlines for the class of 2018. This year there is only one required question, a second required short-answer for those invited to interview, and an optional …
MIT Sloan has just announced the essay questions and deadlines for the class of 2018. This year there is only one required question, a second required short-answer for those invited to interview, and an optional open-ended essay.
For many years MIT asked a series of behavioral questions for the admissions essays because past performance was considered to be the best predictor of candidates’ future success. This year the one required essay is a behavioral question again. As you approach topics for the required question consider if you will also answer the optional question. MIT Sloan is looking for people with integrity, passion, creativity, intellectual abilities and drive and determination. Do you have a recent success that will demonstrate some or most of those traits? The success can be professional or outside of work, though should have some relationship to your professional aspirations if possible. If the situation is not one that demonstrates many of the traits MIT Sloan is seeking in candidates, you may also decide to include the optional essay in your application.
We have one required essay at the time of submission: Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words or fewer).
This essay question is set up to be a behavioral essay question, one that seeks to understand how you think and act in various situations. We often recommend using a framework called STAR to approach questions like this and make sure you are covering all of the required components. STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, and Results.
The SITUATION sets the stage and introduces the challenge you faced. It can be a simple sentence like: “My company’s key product was aging and we needed to find an area of growth to maintain revenues.”
Your TASK is a bit more detailed and identifies what solution you decided to implement to address the situation. For example: “I proposed setting up an innovation tournament for our global strategy team to come up with ideas.”
The meat of the essay is the ACTION. Describe in detail what you did to implement the task. Talk about the stakeholders you had to convince, any hurdles to setting up the tournament, how you encouraged buy in among all employees and any other action you personally took to accomplish your goal.
RESULTS can be relatively brief, and ideally quantitative. For example: “the tournament revealed 10 viable new product ideas, 3 of which are currently in development.”
The ACTION part of the essay should be the majority of the response, but setting up the situation clearly and demonstrating results is important and effective to a strong response. As MIT typically asked in the past, make sure to describe: “what you thought, felt, said, and did.” The admissions committee wants to see you developing creative solutions, leading others, and overcoming challenges to “visualize you in action.”
A second short-answer question will be asked of those invited to interview: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words or fewer).
This question focuses on your intellectual skills, leadership and character. When you consider topics for this question the most important aspect will be to demonstrate character. Improving the world doesn’t have to be working for an NGO in a developing country, it could also be improving your company to have more benefit to customers or employees.
For example, perhaps you were part of an employee resource group that helped new employees with their careers, increased diversity, or served the community through volunteering. MIT Sloan also wants to see creative solutions to business problems, so make sure to explain your thinking during the experience you describe.
The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us to know about you, in any format. If you choose to use a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us the URL. More information on the MIT Sloan website.
MIT Sloan’s entirely open-ended optional essay invites applicants to respond to the essay in any format desired. This allows you to do anything you need to with this space, including clarifying any concerns or highlighting interesting aspects of your background or profile. Because there is only one required written essay this year it may be useful to use this opportunity to show the admissions committee a different angle on your candidacy. The format can be a creative way for you to showcase any technical or design skills you have, but the content should be primary.
Because this essay is highly dependent on who you are and what you wrote in the required essay, consider carefully your overall strategy and refer to the list of traits MIT Sloan is looking for in admitted students. If you have an unusual background, hobby or extracurricular experience, this may be an opportunity to provide that information to the admissions committee.
With similar questions asked by other MBA programs in the past Stacy Blackman Consulting has advised candidates on everything from photo journalism projects to customized multimedia presentations. We treat the application as a holistic process and would advise you on which aspects of your background to consider revealing in this optional essay.
Stumped by your MIT Sloan MBA application? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help.
September 30, 2014
Over the past several years Cornell’s Johnson MBA program has revamped everything from the curriculum, to the programs offered by the school to the application process. Candidates can now choose between a traditional two-year full …
Over the past several years Cornell’s Johnson MBA program has revamped everything from the curriculum, to the programs offered by the school to the application process. Candidates can now choose between a traditional two-year full time MBA program and a one-year program designed for focused candidates with an educational foundation in business topics. Another, newer program, offers a one-year study opportunity in New York City focused on technology.
Cornell’s application process has innovated as well. Now a new process integrates Linked In profiles with the application process allowing candidates to auto-fill sections of the application. If you’re looking for help and advice on any aspect of your Cornell MBA application, contact us to learn more.
Applicants for both the One-Year and Two-Year Ithaca based MBA programs: You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. In 2,000 characters or less please write the table of contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. Note: approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity
This essay is an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are on a personal level. You can use this opportunity to demonstrate your unique career goals, personal attributes or community involvement. Something that has been a constant theme in your life since childhood could be an interesting part of this essay. Perhaps you have had a lifelong involvement with a charity, sport or musical pursuit.
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 key stories involving your friends, family, professional pursuits, hobbies or interests that impacted the person you are now? This narrative likely has more than one focus because you are more than one-dimensional. You may spend one chapter on a personal event, another on interests in school, and another on an important travel experience. Consider balancing the personal, professional and extracurricular carefully to communicate as much as possible about each area.
Though the essay specifically asks for the Table of Contents, you can certainly illuminate each chapter through brief descriptions. Describe the major milestones and be sure to share your essay with friends and family to make sure you are communicating effectively though the creative exercise.
One-Year Ithaca applicants only: How does your pre-MBA experience prepare you for the job that you envision post-MBA? (2,000 characters)
Two-Year Ithaca applicants only: What is the job that you would like to have immediately upon graduating with your MBA? (2,000 characters)
Both the applicants to the one- and two-year programs in Ithaca are asked to define career goals in this set of essays. The essay for the one-year program asks for your career goals, but also asks for more detail on your pre-MBA experience. The two-year essay prompt is more directly focused on your job immediately post MBA.
For either essay you will want to give some background about why you are interested in your specific career pursuits. Rather than reciting every experience pre-MBA you ideally will focus on the key inflection points in your career. When considering what aspects of your past career to focus on, think about the situations that led you to realize what you really want to do, that built skills that will be important to your goals, or introduced you to people who were crucial to your development.
For the one-year essay prompt note that the essay asks generally about your pre-MBA experiences and not only your purely professional experiences. You may have learned about yourself and your interests from an extracurricular or volunteer activity and that background may be entirely appropriate for this question as well.
Make sure to spend enough time on how the Cornell MBA will help you achieve your career goals to demonstrate why Cornell is the right place to spend the next two years of your life. Academics are going to be a crucial part of your career goals, yet classmates and activities will also be important as you develop your career network.
Johnson MBA at Cornell Tech: As the only MBA program not housed in a business school, we know our students will be different. Students will be part of an innovative environment where creativity, technical sophistication, and sharp business sense share seats at the table. We value expressions of who you are and what you add to this formula.
There are three ways to demonstrate how you fit within this dynamic setting. You must select one of the following as part of your application, demonstrating your creativity, style and technical experience:
• send a link to your work
• upload a video
• provide a written sample
Whether you choose a creative approach or write an essay in response to this question, researching the Johnson MBA at Cornell Tech is a productive way to start working on this question. The Johnson MBA focuses heavily on technology and digital, and is seeking students who have practical experience in those areas. This experience could span anything from programming to graphic design, or even business development.
If you are someone with a creative or technical skill set than sending a link to your work may be an ideal expression of why you are applying to this program. For almost anyone creating a video could demonstrate your creativity, personal attributes, and personal fit with the program. If you focus on a written essay as a response make sure you are able to communicate your passion for technology, the digital economy, and the opportunity to study with students in the Cornell Tech Master’s program.
September 30, 2014
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 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 recruiters in both the US and Europe. LBS is an excellent choice for MBA hopefuls who have international experience, a goal to work in London or other parts of Europe, or just an interest in attending school outside the US.
LBS has significantly slimmed down the essays required for the application this year. It will be a challenge for you to present everything you may want about your career, extracurriculars and personal attributes. Make sure you formulate a clear game plan for this set of essays so you can maximize the questions and the space permitted to make your case for admission.
What are your post-MBA plans and how will your past experience and the London Business School programme contribute? (500 words)
Defining your post-MBA plans may be difficult as you approach your question. Most MBA applicants are pursuing the degree for a specific career goal post-MBA, but if you need a bit more reflection to answer this question it is worth doing the work. 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.
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 why you have made the choice to pursue an MBA at this time, and why you want to attend LBS.
How will you add value to the London Business School community? (300 words)
Thorough research into the London Business School community will be crucial here, whether online or in person. Consider both the academic community and the extracurricular communities. 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 of activities you will impact. 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 could start to demonstrate your value to the groups you plan to join or lead at LBS.
International experience may be another asset to the LBS community you can touch upon in this essay. Since LBS is a particularly international program they are certainly seeking applicants who are well traveled and thoughtful about the rest of the world. If you focus on an international background make sure you are able to explain what you have learned from interacting with cultures that are not your own, and relate your experiences back to what you will bring to LBS.
Is there any other information you believe the Admissions Committee should know about you and your application to London Business School? (300 words)
This essay can be used to explain possible weaknesses in your application like a low GPA or GMAT score, or could be another opportunity to reveal an aspect of your candidacy that has not been covered in the previous questions.
If you use this space to explain a less than stellar aspect of your candidacy make sure you are offering explanations and not excuses. Keep all background information succinct and factual (no whining!) and explain the concrete steps you have taken to improve your candidacy and to be ready for an MBA programme like LBS.
If you are in the enviable position of having nothing to explain, this can be a great opportunity to touch on a personal story or add color to your career goals. Especially if you have a unique background or an experience that has shaped your outlook on life and career this could be a place to discuss that personal aspect of your candidacy.
Challenged by the LBS essay questions? Contact us to learn how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.
September 23, 2014
Michigan Ross is a program that emphasizes learning both inside and outside the classroom, and is seeking candidates that are intellectually curious and able to accomplish their goals. At the same time, fit is a …
Michigan Ross is a program that emphasizes learning both inside and outside the classroom, and is seeking candidates that are intellectually curious and able to accomplish their goals. At the same time, fit is a crucial part of the Ross evaluation process and Ross wants to know that you have investigated the program thoroughly and know why you want to attend. When you are approaching this set of essays, think carefully about how you will best illustrate your fit with the Michigan MBA program.
This year Ross changed the essay questions significantly to focus on what you are most proud of both personally and professionally. While previous years’ essays focused on career goals and why MBA, this year the questions require introspection and a demonstration that you learn from experience.
Essay One: What are you most proud of professionally and why? What did you learn from that experience? (400 words)
Intellectual ability, professional achievements and teamwork are all among the qualities the Ross admissions committee is looking for in applicants. As you consider topics for this essay focus on the ones that will demonstrate you are a strong leader and that you can learn from experience.
One possible source of ideas are the inflection points in your career. When did you face a turning point or make a big decision about your career? What were some of the most challenging projects you have been part of? Have you been surprised by what you have done well at in your career?
In some cases you may be most proud of an accomplishment because of what you learned and how it shaped your career. In other cases the follow up questions are two separate components of the essay. Either way the why behind your pride in accomplishment will reveal what you value most – whether prestige, credit, or the motivation to achieve your goals. Make sure that your values are aligned with how you want to be perceived by the admissions committee.
Essay Two: What are you most proud of personally and why? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)
The personal is equally important to Michigan Ross, and the MBA program is designed to help you develop your leadership skills both in terms of professional accomplishment and personal and community interests. The personal attributes the admissions committee are looking for in applicants include community engagement and interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills.
When you consider topics for this essay you may want to write about an important extracurricular accomplishment, a challenge you overcame, or an event in your life that highlights something unique about your background. For example, if you have a track record of club leadership through college and afterwards that can be compelling evidence of your community engagement and leadership skills. On the other end of the spectrum perhaps you have spent time outside your home country for school or work and that has shaped your teamwork, interpersonal and communication skills.
Whatever topic you choose, make sure you are addressing why it is important to you. What you learned and how you have used what you learned since in your life can offer invaluable insight as well.
Stacy Blackman Consulting has worked with successful candidates to Michigan Ross for over a decade and can offer comprehensive strategic advice every step of the way. Contact us to learn more.
September 16, 2014
Yale School of Management is part of an Ivy League university with expertise across fields. The school is now investing heavily in continuing to improve the business education at Yale with a new campus, top …
Yale School of Management is part of an Ivy League university with expertise across fields. The school is now investing heavily in continuing to improve the business education at Yale with a new campus, top talent in faculty, and the admissions process.
This year, Yale SOM has streamlined the admissions process by reducing the essays to one 500 word essay (reduced from with two essays coming in under 1,000 words total last year). As we reported when Yale posted the question: “Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions Bruce DelMonico explains that the change from two questions last year to a single prompt for the class entering Fall 2015 is an effort to focus on what really matters to the admissions team: finding out how applicants are making an impact in their professional and personal lives.”
Yale is still using the video interview platform to add an additional personal touch to your application. Stacy Blackman Consulting has been working with a similar video interview platform as the one Yale is using and we are familiar with the technology and process. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you prepare for the Yale application and interview process.
Because there is no specific career goals essay, make sure your resume and recommendations highlight the key elements to your work experience that influence your desire to pursue an MBA. You may want to highlight specific projects at work that have most excited you and shaped your future goals and discuss why. The key is to add some insight to your background through those additional parts of your application.
The Yale School of Management educates individuals who will have deep and lasting impact on the organizations they lead. Describe how you have positively influenced an organization as an employee, a member, or an outside constituent. (500 words maximum)
Impact and leadership are key components to this question. Impact could range from driving business results for your company to starting an affinity group for an underrepresented employee population. Overall the impact story should be one that you are proud of and that showcases both your values and your leadership traits. Remember the type of MBA student Yale is most interested in admitting. Ideally you are coming across as an intellectually curious student with a diverse background deeply interested in the integrated curriculum.
Behavioral questions like this one seek to understand how you actually operate in various situations. Try to be as specific as possible about how you positively influenced the organization. What did you think or say when you were determining what to do? What did you actually do? How did you feel about the result? Start by describing each step in detail in terms of what you did, the reaction of others and your own reaction. From there you can cut out anything that is too detailed or too superfluous to the story to maintain the 500 word maximum.
Note that while this question could focus on a key solo accomplishment at work since most MBA applicants are individual contributors, ideally you can demonstrate how you work with others as you lead. Regardless of whether you choose an individual or team accomplishment it should show a significant positive impact on the organization or people within the organization.