Tag Archives: advice
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.
August 29, 2013
A clear application strategy is crucial to approaching these essays. Duke’s mission is to “identify, engage, and foster the development of future leaders of consequence,” and you will want to demonstrate you are the kind …
A clear application strategy is crucial to approaching these essays. Duke’s mission is to “identify, engage, and foster the development of future leaders of consequence,” and you will want to demonstrate you are the kind of leader the admissions committee is looking for.
Don’t forget the personal – in this essay set you have the opportunity to add 25 new facts to round out your profile. As always, it is important to demonstrate that you know Duke Fuqua well and are a strong fit with the program. Starting your research and personal networking now will put you in a solid position to prepare the most specific and effective essays.
Stacy Blackman Consulting can help you prepare a compelling, individualized strategy to approach your Duke Fuqua application this year, contact us to learn more.
Required Short Answer Questions: Answer all 3 questions
Respond in 250 characters only (the equivalent of about 50 words).
1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
2. What are your long-term goals?
3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?
This career goals essay asks for your plan in three parts. First, you should describe what you plan to do immediately after your MBA. Then you’ll explain the long-term vision for your career. Finally, Duke admits that many career paths are forged through circumstance, and asks you for Plan B.
Think big picture and focus on the overall story trajectory. What would be the most logical (and interesting) progression from your current skill set and MBA education? How will your next step flow from the combination of those experiences? And your alternative path ideally isn’t a massive departure, but simply shows the areas you could see yourself exploring if your primary plan doesn’t materialize.
For example, perhaps you are focused on becoming a marketing executive at a CPG company. If you don’t find the suitable position after Duke, maybe you would consider another industry for your career path. Think about your range of interests and go from there. Because you have limited space, you’ll have to boil your plans down in a clear statement of what you plan to do, but ideally any plans are supported by the information provided in your resume, recommendations, and other essays.
Required Essays: Answer both essay questions
Essay One: The “Team Fuqua” spirit and community is one of the things that sets The Duke MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. When a new person joins the Admissions team, we ask that person to share with everyone in the office a list of “25 Random Things About Yourself.” As an Admissions team, we already know the new hire’s professional and academic background, so learning these “25 Random Things” helps us get to know someone’s personality, background, special talents, and more.
In this spirit, the Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. You can share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of “25 Random Things” about YOU.
Please present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may be only a few words, while others may be longer. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.
This essay is entirely open ended and topics can span your personal background, work experiences, values or extracurriculars. If you have a particularly interesting story in any of those areas, this is the place to tell that story. This creative exercise is certainly an opportunity to follow the admissions committee’s advice to share what makes you a dynamic, multi-dimensional person.
Coming up with 25 random things to list in this essay may seem daunting at first. To jumpstart your creative process you may want to brainstorm with friends and family about what is most interesting and memorable about you. Or keep a notebook with you to record thoughts as you go about work and personal activities. A themed list that ties into a bigger point may be effective, but resist the urge to package the list too perfectly. In the end, Duke is interested in who you actually are and how your life has unfolded until now.
Essay Two: When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.
This essay is entirely focused on why the Duke MBA program is the right place for you specifically. This may be another opportunity to demonstrate your multi-dimensional personality as you explain which classes, clubs, and community activities most resonate with you.
The best essays will be both specific and personal. While everyone benefits from a diverse alumni network, what specifically do you want to give and receive from your classmates? If you describe clubs and classes you are attracted to, also offer specific examples from your past experiences to show your consistent personal or professional passions.
While the focus of the essay is the Duke MBA program, you are also being asked why these aspects are most meaningful. Your fit with the program is crucial, and therefore you must exhibit the qualities Duke is seeking as well. The Duke MBA program is especially interested in your role within the community, and will place significant weight on this factor. If you research thoroughly and are specific, you should be able to clearly demonstrate why you are going to be strong contributor and teammate.
This essay can also be a place to talk about how the Duke MBA fits into your career goals. What do you know now that will be enhanced through your MBA education? And what crucial aspects of the skill set required for your future career will be augmented by attending Duke?
Optional Essay (Limit your response to two pages)
If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware, please explain them in an optional essay (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, or any significant weakness in your application).
As with most optional essays, the Duke MBA asks that you only use this space to explain extenuating circumstances. If you have a low GPA, a non-typical recommender or gaps in work history this is the correct place to address those issues.
When approaching any concerns about your background in the optional essay it’s important to focus on recent performance, whether academic or professional, and what such performance demonstrates about your ability. Your goal is to remove questions from your application and to address in a factual manner any information the admissions committee needs to know to fairly evaluate your application.
August 28, 2013
The Dartmouth Tuck School of Business has a small student body and a rural location, combined with world-class faculty and academic focus. As you approach your Dartmouth Tuck MBA application it will be important to …
The Dartmouth Tuck School of Business has a small student body and a rural location, combined with world-class faculty and academic focus. As you approach your Dartmouth Tuck MBA application it will be important to consistently show how you will fit into the school values of leadership, teamwork and collaboration and bring your own unique qualities and experiences to the community.
Before you begin the essays think about the areas you want to communicate to the Tuck Business School admissions committee. As you consider each topic be sure to provide specific examples to illustrate your unique qualities. Real life experiences are your best evidence of leadership qualities, teamwork skills and management potential.
Stacy Blackman Consulting has worked with successful Tuck applicants for over a decade, contact us to learn more about the customized assistance we can provide for your application.
Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck?
This standard career goals question requires you to clearly outline your short- and long-term career goals. Your short-term goals are the aspirations you have for your job immediately after graduation, while your long-term goals may be 10 or 20 years after you complete your MBA. In this relatively short essay you will need to explain what you have been pursuing in your career thus far, and why you need an MBA at this point in your life, along with your career goals.
“Why Tuck Business School” is an important aspect to this essay, and your opportunity to demonstrate fit. Make sure you have researched the school’s programs and determined your education will suit your plans. By reaching out to current students and alumni you will gain crucial insights that will provide a personal perspective on the culture of the school.
Tell us about your most meaningful collaborative leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?
This question gets at your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. An addition to this question this year is the use of the word “collaborative” when associated with leadership. Tuck is a close knit community with a strong alumni network, and considering your leadership skills in a group context will be important to demonstrate fit with the program.
This essay requires that you describe one specific example that illustrates your leadership challenges and strengths. Think about the leadership opportunities that led to a deeper understanding of yourself and others, and may have resulted in definition of your strengths or an improvement in your weaknesses. The example you choose can be from work or community involvement, as “great leadership can be accomplished in the pursuit or business and societal goals.”
You will need to adhere to the Tuck School of Business definition of leadership and include a team-based aspect to your example. As you describe your leadership experience, make sure you explain how you were able to inspire and enable others to accomplish.
Describe a circumstance in your life in which you faced adversity, failure, or setback. What actions did you take as a result and what did you learn from this experience?
This question is your opportunity to show how you handle challenging situations. Everyone faces adversity, failure or setbacks at work or in personal life, and it is how you decide to react that demonstrates your character. Revealing your emotions and thought process along with your actions in this essay will provide a window into how you process difficult experiences and emerge from them with a new direction.
Think back to Tuck Business School’s criteria, and consider using this essay to either demonstrate your interpersonal skills (if your challenge was of the interpersonal variety) or to show something from your background or experience that is unique.
When brainstorming for this essay think first about what you learned from the situation, and then work backwards to describe the circumstances and the initial challenge or hurdle, that will help you see the whole situation from a more optimistic viewpoint. Did you learn from the experience and did it impact your life or demonstrate a specific aspect of your character, goals or accomplishments? Even the most difficult situations often lead to personal growth and change and have contributed to who you are today.
(Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.
This is your opportunity to discuss any perceived weaknesses in your application such as low GPA or gaps in your work experience. When approaching a question of this nature, focus on explanations rather than excuses and explain what you have done since the event you are explaining to demonstrate your academic ability or management potential.
You could potentially use this space to add something new that was not covered in the previous essays or in the application, resume or recommendations, however use your judgment about the topics as Tuck asks that you only complete this question if you “feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.”