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Tuesday Tips: 2014 UCLA Anderson Essay Tips

Last year UCLA Anderson reduced the required essays to only one, following the trend started by Harvard. UCLA’s essays were previously focused on career goals and last year’s single essay only asked about short- and …

Last year UCLA Anderson reduced the required essays to only one, following the trend started by Harvard. UCLA’s essays were previously focused on career goals and last year’s single essay only asked about short- and long-term goals. This year the one required question adds an additional element to the question by asking a more open-ended question to get at applicants’ personal lives and values.

With over a decade of experience helping applicants just like you, contact us to learn how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help you define your best essay content.

Required Essay
UCLA Anderson is distinguished by three defining principles: Share Success, Think Fearlessly, Drive Change. What principles have defined your life and pre-MBA career? How do you believe that UCLA Anderson’s principles, and the environment they create, will help you attain your post-MBA career goals? (750 words maximum)

This single required essay is actually three essays in one. First you will need to think about the principles, or values, that have influenced your life and career. Second your post MBA career goals need to be defined to answer the final part of the question. Third, you will need to explain why an MBA, specifically an Anderson MBA, will help you achieve your goals.

When you reflect upon the principles that have defined your life consider telling one or two key stories to illuminate who you are. UCLA is looking for personal expression in this essay, and to understand how you are different from other applicants. Consider the turning points or moments that triggered reflection for you. Have you experienced a significant personal setback? What is your family background? Have you lived outside your home country? When did you face a turning point or make a big decision about your career? What were some of your proudest accomplishments? What moments have called upon your need to collaborate, lead or innovate?

For the second part of the essay briefly explain what you plan to do immediately after graduation, and then what you want to accomplish over the long-term with your career. A career path that focuses on demonstrated passions and interests throughout your life is going to be most compelling as you write this essay and each section should bridge seamlessly into the next.

For the part of the essay focusing on UCLA Anderson’s part in your plans, UCLA specifically requests citing specific classes, professors and programs. To express a bit more on the personal side it will be helpful to include the social and extracurricular aspects that attract you to the small and close-knit experience at Anderson. Be specific as you discuss the clubs and conferences that are unique to the UCLA MBA.

Optional Essay
Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words maximum)

It is important to focus on explanations rather than excuses in this essay. Potential extenuating circumstances may be a very low GPA, academic probation or using a recommender other than your current supervisor. Clearly explain the situation, and if it is a situation from the past, explain why you have changed. Providing evidence that you will not repeat the actions in question will be very important.

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Tuesday Tips: MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Essay Tips

On its website, MIT Sloan highlights programs from Entrepreneurship to the Digital Economy. Innovation is key for MIT Sloan and the program seeks interesting students to build a class that can learn from each other …

On its website, MIT Sloan highlights programs from Entrepreneurship to the Digital Economy. Innovation is key for MIT Sloan and the program seeks interesting students to build a class that can learn from each other and continue the tradition of innovation.

When approaching this set of essays, your task is to remain focused on your overall application strategy and choose the key stories that can showcase your achievements at school, work and extracurricular activities while demonstrating that you will contribute to MIT Sloan’s mission.

Essay 1
The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and generate ideas that advance management practice. Discuss how you will contribute toward advancing the mission based on examples of past work and activities. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

The MIT Sloan application relied heavily on “behavioral essays” in the past. This year there is only one essay of this style, that requires you to describe your past accomplishments and experience on a specific level. These questions have typically focused on understanding how you work, think and act in a variety of situations. As you provide examples of past work and activities ideally you are highly specific about your thoughts and actions in the situation.

This question is seeking to understand how you develop and execute on ideas. A work or extracurricular example where you demonstrated the ability to generate strategy and execute upon it would be ideal here. How did you identify your idea? What did you do to develop it? What did you ultimately accomplish? This essay will demonstrate your intellectual capacity and curiosity, which are crucial attributes MIT Sloan is looking for in MBA admits.

Essay 2
Write a professional letter of recommendation on behalf of yourself. Answer the following questions as if you were your most recent supervisor recommending yourself for admission to the MIT Sloan MBA Program: (750 words or fewer)

• How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?
• How does the applicant stand out from others in a similar capacity?
• Please give an example of the applicant’s impact on a person, group, or organization.
• Please give a representative example of how the applicant interacts with other people.
• Which of the applicant’s personal or professional characteristics would you change?
• Please tell us anything else you think we should know about this applicant.

MIT Sloan asked candidates to submit a cover letter for their MBA application for several years. This iconic essay challenged candidates every year to encompass career goals, reasons for an MBA and interest in MIT Sloan in a short professional style cover letter.

This year MIT Sloan returns to a typically professional format with a requirement to draft a letter of recommendation for yourself. You are placed in the role of your most recent supervisor and asked a series of questions that MBA programs typically ask of your professional recommenders. The wrinkle to this question is that your most recent supervisor may also be writing an actual letter of recommendation for you. MIT Sloan is one of the few MBA programs without a preference for your current supervisor as a primary recommender, so you could also avoid that scenario. Regardless, this “recommendation letter” should both reflect similar feedback as your actual recommendation letters and provide new information.

The key challenge in answering this question is the tone to take. Ideally you are measured about both your strengths and weaknesses, while showing confidence that you are accomplished and also that you are able to improve when you need to. The ideal tone is mature and logical, without overt bragging. Your actual supervisor may get away with more glowing terms when describing your work, but you will want to keep in mind that self-awareness and interest in improvement are assets to an MBA applicant.

Take note that several elements of this question focus on interpersonal skills. This is your opportunity to showcase leadership and teamwork. Self-awareness about your impact on others will come through here and demonstrates you know yourself and how you come across to your team, managers and peers.

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.

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.

This essay is an ideal opportunity to provide any information that you were unable to work into the other two essays and provide a new angle on your candidacy. 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. The format is far less important than the content, but it’s also true that images or presentations can provide a new perspective on your application.

Stumped by your MIT Sloan MBA application? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help.

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Tuesday Tips: 2014 Chicago Booth MBA Essay Tips

Chicago Booth is consistently rated in the top echelon of MBA programs in the United States and is known for a strong intellectual community. This application is designed to evaluate candidates on their ability to …

Chicago Booth is consistently rated in the top echelon of MBA programs in the United States and is known for a strong intellectual community. This application is designed to evaluate candidates on their ability to handle the Chicago curriculum, contribute to the community, and grow in their careers. This year Chicago has eliminated most of the essays in favor of the creative and popular PowerPoint presentation question.

Academic ability will largely be communicated through your GPA/GMAT, transcripts and other fixed data points, though intellectual curiosity can be demonstrated in the essays and the interview. Chicago will be looking for demonstrated leadership, team building skills and community involvement, as well as your fit with Chicago Booth and the perspective you will share with your classmates. All MBA candidates are ultimately looking for a degree that will enhance their career. Chicago Booth wants to know about your track record of success, expectations for the MBA, and plans for the future.

Chicago Booth’s open-ended creative presentation or essay confounds many candidates. Whether you choose to write an essay or prepare a presentation, take a step back from the unique format and think about the question strategically. The PowerPoint format simply gives you the freedom to express who you are in words, images, graphics or some combination. The best presentations will be simple, evocative and expressive. Remember, content is far more important than visual drama of presentation. Stacy Blackman Consulting has significant experience coaching applicants through the Chicago creative essay. Contact us to learn more about our strategic approach.

Presentation/Essay: Chicago Booth values adventurous inquiry, diverse perspectives, and a collaborative exchange of ideas. This is us. Who are you?

This creative essay offers you a blank slate to express yourself with any content you choose. When approaching the question focus first on content, and then on delivery.

As your one opportunity to showcase why Chicago Booth is the right place for you to pursue an MBA, think about how you want to present aspects of leadership, teamwork and intellectual curiosity. Perhaps there is a formative work project you would like to highlight. If there wasn’t enough opportunity to outline your core career passions in your resume or through recommendations, this could be a place to illuminate that detail. This is also the ideal opportunity to bring in any aspect of your overall story that may feel personal.

Keep in mind what Chicago Booth represents. Booth is a school with a tradition of intellectual rigor, non-conformity, and innovation. When you introduce yourself to Chicago Booth you can share anything from any context, from work to home to extracurricular activities. Think outside basic essay parameters to aspects like travel experiences or the unique relationships in your life.

If you decide to write an essay response, you have enough space to tell a story that describes something new about yourself. If you decide to prepare a PowerPoint in response to this essay question, refine your story to its key elements. While this year Chicago Booth permits any length of essay or presentation, in prior years the limit has been four slides. To keep a presentation visual and interesting, consider how you will format. Can you use photos? Drawings? If you use words, keep them clear and focused. Take every point up a level, so you are communicating a vision rather than a thesis.

Reapplicant Question: Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 words maximum)

This reapplication essay question gives you the opportunity to focus on your thinking and development rather than any tangible changes you have made since you last applied. Of course, if you do have new accomplishments like a promotion or higher GMAT score that will be of significant value to your re-application. If you do not have any new, hard changes to your profile, this essay is an opportunity to show that you have done the work to evaluate your candidacy and have made changes this time around. The word reflection is explicit in the question, and the admissions committee will be looking for your thoughtful consideration of Chicago Booth, your future and your MBA plans.

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Tuesday Tips: 2014 University of Virginia Darden School of Business MBA essay tips

While writing only 500 words for your University of Virginia Darden School of Business application essay may seem simple, it requires discipline to highlight all of the important parts of your profile for the admissions …

While writing only 500 words for your University of Virginia Darden School of Business application essay may seem simple, it requires discipline to highlight all of the important parts of your profile for the admissions committee in less space. Writing a compelling essay with such limited space is actually quite challenging and requires you to focus only on the most important aspects you need to communicate.

Leadership is a crucial attribute for successful Darden MBA applicants. Personal qualities are also particularly important for a close knit community like Darden School of Business. Darden, similar to HBS, is devoted to the case method of teaching business subjects. Learn more about the school by visiting the Darden website, attending events and speaking with current students and alumni.

MBA Application Essay Question:
Describe the most courageous professional decision you have made or action you have taken. What did you learn from that experience? (500 words maximum)

In this question Darden is seeking to understand how you view courageous decisions and to demonstrate lessons learned from a specific action or decision. The best use of this essay space will use specific examples to illustrate the courageous decision and the action you took.

Lessons learned are crucial as well, and it will be helpful to be introspective about how you have changed as a result of this situation, and to consider why you viewed it as the most courageous action or decision in your professional life.

Before you start answering the question it may help to brainstorm some of your best professional accomplishment stories. As you think about the areas where you have excelled you may find that many of your accomplishments required courageous decisions or actions. Work backgrounds from the accomplishment to see where the moment arose and what the learning experience was.

Once you have a list of all of the potential experiences to discuss, choose the examples that will also demonstrate some of your personal qualities to the admissions committee. You have your career history submitted in your resume. Your GPA, transcript and GMAT will demonstrate academic ability.

This essay is one of your few opportunities to show how you think, what your leadership approach is, and how you handle teamwork and conflict. Think about the situations that showcased your best performance at work, or that taught you something about your interests or future career goals.

Because you have only one essay question to present yourself, make sure you have a trusted reader to tell you if you are effectively communicating why you are going to be a strong leader who deserves a spot in the UVA Darden MBA class.

Looking for perspective in your approach to your Darden MBA application? Contact us to discuss how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.

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Tuesday Tips: UC Berkeley Haas School of Business MBA Essay Tips

The set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business covers a variety of topics – from the personal to professional. In approaching these varied questions it will be important to remain …

The set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business covers a variety of topics – from the personal to professional. In approaching these varied questions it will be important to remain focused on what you want to communicate to the admissions committee.

A clear understanding of your application strategy, particularly your career goals and strengths/weaknesses, is the key to putting together a cohesive application. While challenging, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate several different aspects of your personality to the admissions committee.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has successfully coached applicants to the Haas MBA program for over a decade, contact us to learn more about how we can help you set a winning application strategy.

Essay 1
Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world. How did this transform you? (400-500 word maximum)

Berkeley Haas leads this set of essay questions with a highly personal topic. It also sounds incredibly lofty, and may be intimidating if you wonder whether you have had a transformative experience in your life. One way to approach this is to think through transitions. Perhaps the transition from high school to college was meaningful for you.

Traveling for the first time outside your home country may have been another transition. Transitioning from University to the work place could have exposed you to new people and a new lifestyle. If none of those transitions lead to a topic for this essay you can delve into the smaller incidents in your life. A friendship, family experience or trip could have opened your eyes to something new and changed your approach.

Once you have selected a topic for this essay you will need to explain how you were transformed. What was your attitude like before the experience and what are you like now? Was the transformation internal or did you change how you approached other people? It’s likely you learned something from this transformation and explaining your lessons learned is always a strong finish to an MBA essay.

Essay 2
What is your most significant professional accomplishment? (200-300 word maximum)

This year Berkeley Haas asks for a professional accomplishment specifically. Though no timeframe is specified most similar MBA essays like to see an experience from your fairly recent professional past.

Your accomplishment can be big or small, but it should be significant to you. Explain what the accomplishment meant from a big picture perspective. Was it the first time you demonstrated a valued skill? Did you learn a key lesson about your industry or work? How have you used what you learned since?

While you have limited space, this is an opportunity to demonstrate what matters to you and to showcase one of your proudest moments. While you are asked only about the accomplishment, the best essays will use this limited space to demonstrate clearly what the accomplishment was (be specific!) as well as commenting upon the significance of the accomplishment.

Essay 3
What is your desired post-MBA role and at what company or organization? In your response, please specifically address sub-questions a., b., and c.
a. How is your background compelling to this company?
b. What is something you would do better for this company than any other employee?
c. Why is an MBA necessary and how will Haas specifically help you succeed at this company?
(500-600 word maximum for 3a, 3b, and 3c combined)

This is a fairly typical career goals essay that asks for both short- and long-term goals and the background that led you to this juncture in your career. The unique aspect of this question is the request for a specific company or organization you would prefer to work for. Thinking of a specific company or organization helps you to focus this essay. As the follow up questions request, you will need to tailor everything you discuss to this specific opportunity.

Researching your target company or organization will help you craft the strongest essay. Think of it like a job application and interview and take the time to discuss your desired role with friends and contacts who may have advice.

For the question about your background you don’t need to recite your resume here – rather highlight the key experiences that will be relevant in your future career. Think about the cover letter you would write to obtain your desired position at this company and tailor your approach accordingly.

Your company research will pay off in the second part of the question, “what is something you would do better for this company than any other employee?” This question really is aimed towards your future career identity, which will combine your current experience with your MBA. What will be unique about you after you graduate from Haas? For example, perhaps you have a creative marketing job now and will add the quantitative rigor of an MBA program to your skillset making you the perfect combination of creative and analytical for your future position.

Be specific about why the Haas School of Business is the right program to pursue your goals as well. As you consider past experiences and your future goals you will be able to see what you want to gain from the Haas experience to fill any gaps. If you have an advertising background and want to become a brand manager you’ll likely need classes in operations and finance to understand the analytical side of brand management.

Other goals will require specific skills gained from an MBA and your own unique background will inform how you take advantage of the Haas experience. Make sure you have determined exactly what courses make sense for your career goals and the programs and clubs that you will participate in to reach your personal and professional goals. Thorough school research will be invaluable in approaching this question.

Optional Essays
Please feel free to provide a statement concerning any information you would like to add to your application that you haven’t addressed elsewhere. (500 word maximum)

This question is entirely open ended, so you can either use it to explain anything you need to in your application, or add another aspect to your overall profile. If you need to explain something in your application like a low GPA or a recommender that is not your current supervisor, keep the explanation brief and factual. Focus on explanations, not excuses. If you felt that there are stories in your work, extracurricular, or personal profile that you did not have the opportunity to express in the prior essays, this is an opportunity to add that information.

If not clearly evident, please discuss ways in which you have demonstrated strong quantitative abilities, or plan to strengthen quantitative abilities. You do not need to list courses that appear on your transcript. (250 word maximum)

If you have a strong quantitative background like an engineering or hard sciences degree, or you work in a quantitative field like finance, this may not be a necessary essay. Otherwise, you may want to take one or two examples to demonstrate that you have an analytical mind and can take a quantitative approach to problem solving and evaluating data. As the question specifically asks you not to focus on the grades on your transcript, use this space to describe projects at work, additional post-graduate coursework, or your plans to strengthen your quant skills before you enroll at Haas.

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Tuesday Tips: Columbia Business School MBA Essay Tips

Columbia’s updated essay questions are consistent with last year, with a new video about Columbia and New York City as a defining feature. As usual, Columbia is highly concerned about fit and your knowledge of …

Columbia’s updated essay questions are consistent with last year, with a new video about Columbia and New York City as a defining feature. As usual, Columbia is highly concerned about fit and your knowledge of the program. Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and to make sure you have done as much school research as possible.

Short Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (75 characters maximum)

This is a simple question, but may require you to condense your career goals into one clear career vision statement. Columbia presents several examples on their website, all of which have some unique aspect. Rather than a generic statement like: “I plan to work in finance after Columbia” the goal is to infuse some individuality. Something like: “After my MBA I plan to pursue a career in real estate finance within a private equity firm” tells the admissions committee far more about your interests and goals.

Essay 1: Given your individual background and goals, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (Maximum 500 words)

Remember that this essay has two purposes: demonstrate that you know why you are interested in Columbia, and showcase why you are an excellent fit for the program. Both goals should be kept in mind as you answer the question.

Columbia has traditionally asked a similar question to determine why you are pursuing an MBA and why Columbia is the right program for you. It is likely that part of your answer to this question deals with your future career goals. When you think about your future plans it will add credibility to describe how you tend to approach goals in general. Are you determined despite obstacles? How have you demonstrated your persistence in your career thus far? This essay is not a recitation of your resume and should focus only on relevant examples from your career, but often the best indicator of future performance is the past, and therefore examples can support your position that your goals are achievable with a Columbia MBA.

The question is open ended enough to allow you to describe other details about your background. If you have a unique path to the MBA this is the place to describe it. If your cultural or family background is interesting and relevant to your application examples featuring details about your experiences could also be appropriate in response to this question.

Essay 2: Please view the video below: The Center
How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)

The video Columbia asks applicants to watch can give you a few clues about the selling points that Columbia Business School sees in their New York City location. Leading edge research, access to heads of companies, and the major industries of New York City are all mentioned in the video. Watch carefully and determine what resonates most for you.

As you decide how to approach this question make sure that your individual goals for learning and career are impacting how you answer. You should consider the industry you plan to enter, and either the key adjunct professors from that industry at Columbia or the access to major companies from that industry in New York City. Consider your personal interests and how you might pursue them in the diversity of such an international city, and also the ways that Columbia’s alumni network can provide opportunities within the metropolitan area.

A mix of personal and professional interests may be covered in this topic, and you may want to emphasize either one of those angles depending on the answers you present to the other core questions.

Essay 3: What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

If you did not cover anything personal in the prior two essays this is your opportunity to stand out from the pack of other applicants. If you are stumped by this essay prompt you may want to ask friends, family members or colleagues what they view as an interesting and unique fact about you.

Once you have ideas about how to approach this question make sure that you are describing something about yourself that will be interesting both to your peers and to the admissions committee. Facts about your prior work experience, any international experiences or travel, or extracurriculars that are a strong passion for you are all both potentially interesting to the people in your Cluster and the Columbia Business School admissions committee.

Optional Essay: An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.

If there are any areas of concern, this is the correct place to address them. Strike an upbeat tone here and avoid excuses. Explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the issue. For example, if you had a disciplinary issue in college, spend most of the essay demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since.

If you do not have a weakness to address here, it’s an ideal opportunity to provide any information that you were unable to work into the other three essays. If you have an unusual background, hobby or extracurricular experience, this may be an opportunity to showcase your unique profile.

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