Tag Archives: advice
August 9, 2016
While answering only one essay question for your Darden MBA application essay may seem simple, it requires discipline to highlight all of the important parts of your profile for the admissions committee in one short …
While answering only one essay question for your Darden MBA application essay may seem simple, it requires discipline to highlight all of the important parts of your profile for the admissions committee in one short essay. Writing a successful essay with such limited space requires you to focus only on your most compelling attributes.
Think about the other areas of your application and what they cover. Your academic potential should be highlighted through GMAT or GRE scores and your academic transcripts, leadership and professional accomplishments should come through clearly from your recommendations, and finally your essay is a chance to outline your personal qualities.
When considering which personal qualities to highlight in this essay, consider that leadership is crucial to future Darden MBAs. Your ability to work well within a team of peers is also important to Darden, a school with a small, tight-knit community.
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 important professional feedback you have received and how you responded to this feedback. (500 words)
In this question Darden is seeking to understand how you take feedback and how you process and learn from feedback. Feedback is often the first stage to grow and develop as a professional and as a leader. Learning to take all feedback – both positive and critical – and examining and incorporating the lessons from that feedback into your development is a sign of maturity.
As you describe the professional feedback you will want to set the stage for the feedback by describing your relationship with the person who gave you the feedback and any background facts. Take the time to describe how you felt while receiving the feedback, and don’t be afraid to talk about having uncomfortable feelings about it.
It’s a normal reaction to feel threatened by criticism, which is often what professional feedback is perceived as. If the feedback was positive make sure you can use the story to demonstrate development and growth.
If you can’t think of the most important moment of feedback you have received, think about working backwards from a professional accomplishment you are proud of. As you think about the areas where you have excelled you may find that the trigger was a piece of important advice or feedback from a manager, peer or customer.
Make sure your feedback story enhances the overall package of your application. This essay is one of your few opportunities to show how you think, what your leadership approach is, and how you improve as a result of input from other people. 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.
August 2, 2016
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is a close-knit community that values a diverse community and philanthropy. At the same time, diversity in experience, background and thought is important to the Kellogg admissions committee. Do …
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is a close-knit community that values a diverse community and philanthropy. At the same time, diversity in experience, background and thought is important to the Kellogg admissions committee.
Do your research on the programs, activities, clubs, classes and professors at Kellogg as you approach your essays. While you are reading and conversing with students and alumni, envision how you will contribute to the community.
Kellogg has two mandatory video essays as part of the application process. After you submit your essays you will receive the questions, one of which will focus on Why Kellogg and another will be a general “getting to know you” question. The video essay is an opportunity for the admissions committee to see the person behind the accomplishments you will describe.
Prepare as if you would for an interview, drafting the topics you want to cover and practicing your presentation. The video should accurately portray your personality and demeanor, and extensive preparation will help you be comfortable and be yourself.
Video essays can be daunting, and Stacy Blackman Consulting has developed customized preparation to help you practice for this important component of the application and provide our expert feedback. Contact us to learn more about how we can prepare you for the entire Kellogg application.
Essay 1: Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)
This essay focuses on leadership and teamwork using a behavioral essay framework. By seeing the details about exactly what you did and said in your leadership story, Kellogg admissions will understand how you are likely to perform in the future.
When approaching this essay spend some time on set up to explain the background, and then use the majority of the space describing specifically what you did, thought, felt and how you behaved.
As the question specifically asks about challenges, it will be useful to show how you have overcome difficulty as a leader or learned from a tough situation. Don’t be nervous about showing weakness here. Every leader has to learn and develop, and willingness to be open to feedback and improve will be an asset to your profile.
Do not neglect mentioning teamwork, which is a core value of Kellogg’s culture. Your leadership experience is likely part of a team at work or in an extracurricular activity, and sensitivity to teamwork and collaboration in any leadership story demonstrates maturity and people skills.
Essay 2: Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
This essay question is a hybrid of a classic career goals essay and a personal essay. Kellogg is interested in candidates who are able to integrate their personal and professional goals and show how a Kellogg MBA will serve both sides of life.
When you describe professional and personal growth in the past, make sure it is relevant to your plans to pursue an MBA at Kellogg. The story you tell in this essay should provide insight into your decision to pursue an MBA and allude to your future goals. Because this isn’t a question about your entire career thus far you can choose just one or two main experiences to share.
The topic of this essay should also be an experience that did show growth over time. Something like starting in an entry level position at work and progressing into a management role comes to mind easily, but also consider something like developing leadership skills over time and personal investment in your career.
You could also focus on a passion outside of work that has developed over time and led to personal growth.
Dual-degree applicants: For applicants to the MMM or JD-MBA dual degree programs, please explain why that program is right for you. (250 words)
Doing your research on Kellogg MBA’s academics and resources will help you answer the question about why you need a dual degree to achieve your goals. If you are applying to the MMM program, you’ll have to show how the degree will prepare you more effectively for your career goals than the MBA alone.
Be able to articulate what is different about the Kellogg MMM program as compared to the MBA and other joint degrees. Know the classes you want to take, the professors you hope to work for, and how the MMM experience will be an asset in your future career.
Similarly, the JD-MBA at Kellogg is a highly competitive admissions process and will require a very clear explanation of what you will do with both degrees after school. Consider the unique attributes of the Kellogg JD-MBA program as compared to others, and also why you specifically need both a JD and an MBA to achieve your career goals.
Re-Applicants Only: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 word limit)
In answering this question make sure you provide tangible evidence that you have improved the overall package you are submitting this year. Some of the most tangible improvements are a stronger GMAT score or grades from new quantitative classes you attended since the last time you applied.
Other steps that you can describe include a promotion at work, new volunteer activities, or increased responsibility at work or in your activities. If you don’t have something tangible and external to report, it’s reasonable to discuss how your career goals have changed or your personal aspirations have been refined as you revamped your applications.
Additional Information (Optional)
If needed, use this section to briefly describe any extenuating circumstances (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, etc.) (no word count)
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.
Low GPA issues should be explained here, and if there is a grade of C or below on your transcript the admissions committee will want to know why and feel comfortable it is an outlier in your overall academic record. For academic questions make sure you emphasize your improved performance either later in your college career or in subsequent work or classes since college.
Image credit: Mike Willis (CC BY-ND 2.0)
August 2, 2016
The set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business is a holistic exploration of personal to professional topics. A clear understanding of your application strategy, particularly your career goals and strengths/weaknesses, …
The set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business is a holistic exploration of personal to professional topics. 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.
Note that Haas describes four defining principles for the community: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself. Which of these principles do you identify with? Make sure you have strong examples that illustrate how you have demonstrated these principles and use them in the following essay set.
Stacy Blackman Consulting has successfully coached applicants to the Haas MBA program for 15 years. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you set a winning application strategy.
Essay 1: If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words maximum)
This is a creative and open-ended question that invites you to show your personality as you open this set of essays. Take the opportunity to think about your favorite music and what song most represents you.
Perhaps it’s a song that you grew up listening to with your family, that reminds you where you came from. Maybe it’s a song that helps you feel optimistic about your future. Music often evokes emotion, and the essay should capture that feeling and describe why it is meaningful to you.
Essay 2: Please respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words maximum)
All three of the potential essay prompts for Essay 2 deal with change, growth and transformation. This essay is seeking to understand how you handle challenges to your own status quo, and what you learn as a result. Flexibility, curiosity and the ability to handle change would be positive personal qualities to demonstrate with whatever example you choose.
Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.
If you decide to answer this question think about the moments that have truly changed you. One approach is to think through transitions. Perhaps the transition from high school to college showed you a different way of life, or the transition to working from college exposed you to new people and new ideas.
Traveling for the first time outside your home country may have been another transition. 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 volunteer opportunity could have opened your eyes to something new about yourself and the world.
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? Ideally you learned something from this transformation and explaining that lesson learned would be a strong finish.
Describe a time when you were challenged by perspectives different from your own and how you responded.
The brainstorming process for this question can be similar to the option above. Consider the transitions in life when you have been in a new environment or culture that didn’t quite fit with your past experiences.
Those could be the moments when you were exposed to new perspectives and were forced to respond. Another possible scenario would be a new person introduced to your school or workplace, one who brought a new perspective or culture.
While it is normal to be taken aback or threatened by new perspectives, ideally you were open minded and tried to understand and learn through this experience. Describe the experience, your initial reaction, and then use a significant portion of the essay to describe what you learned and how you changed as a result.
Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.
Difficult decisions are often a moment to reflect again upon your values. What were the stakes of your decision and why did you struggle to make a clear choice? Perhaps you were choosing between priorities in your life, family or work, where to study for university or what career path to pursue. No matter what the decision was it will be important to talk a bit about your process for making it. Why did you choose one option over another and what did you learn about yourself?
Essay 3: Tell us about your career plans. How have your past experiences prepared you to achieve these goals? How will Berkeley-Haas help you? (500 words maximum)
This is a short career goals essay and asks you to describe your path to business school along with your future goals. As you describe your path 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 explain your background for a desired next job, and tailor your approach accordingly.
Describe your future goals in a succinct manner, considering what aspects of your background to explain in the “path” section that will support your goals development.
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.
Use this essay to share information that is not presented elsewhere in the application, for example:
Explanation of employment gaps or academic aberrations
For re-applicants, improvements to your candidacy
Haas recommends using this space to address any information that was not adequately covered elsewhere, specifically suggesting that any employment gaps or lack of apparent quantitative skills be covered.
A short gap between school and a secured job is not necessary to explain, but an unexplained gap of several months between two jobs should be addressed. If your resume has significant employment gaps you should describe what you did between jobs in this space. Ideally you can point to additional education, training, volunteering or traveling that you engaged in while unemployed.
If you have a strong quantitative background like an engineering or hard sciences degree, or you work in a quantitative field like finance, it is likely unnecessary to further explain your quantitative skills.
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.
Reapplicants can describe hard improvements to your candidacy such as an improved GMAT score, new grades from quantitative classes, or a promotion. Other improvements might include refined career goals and additional leadership responsibilities at work or within a volunteer activity.
July 26, 2016
Yale School of Management continues to have only one required essay as part of the MBA application, yet has streamlined that question this year and left the answer open ended. Because there is only one essay …
Yale School of Management continues to have only one required essay as part of the MBA application, yet has streamlined that question this year and left the answer open ended.
Because there is only one essay question to highlight your personal qualities and leadership ability, and no specific career goals essay, make sure your resume and recommendations showcase your key accomplishments.
You may want to highlight specific projects at work that have most excited you and shaped your future goals on your resume and ask your recommenders to comment on those same projects. Strategically designing all of the application components to support your key accomplishments and showcase your best qualities will enhance your candidacy.
Keep in mind the Yale values: “Leaders for business and society think broadly about global trends and challenges, bring a sense of purpose to their work every day, and move forward with analytical rigor.”
Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words maximum)
As you approach this essay 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 (the tip off is “describe”) 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.
You may decide to focus on a key solo accomplishment at work, and that may be entirely appropriate since most MBA applicants are individual contributors. However, ideally you can demonstrate how you work with others as a leader. 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.
Contact us To learn more about designing the best Yale application possible with Stacy Blackman Consulting.
image credit: Yale School of Management
July 26, 2016
UCLA Anderson School of Management is a small and close-knit school with particular focus on entrepreneurship, entertainment, real estate and other major industries in Southern California. While UCLA has a dominant position in the region it …
UCLA Anderson School of Management is a small and close-knit school with particular focus on entrepreneurship, entertainment, real estate and other major industries in Southern California. While UCLA has a dominant position in the region it is also a nationally known program that will position you well in whatever career you pursue.
Anderson is highly selective about the composition of each MBA class, therefore your fit with the values and principles of the school is of primary importance. When approaching this set of essays make sure you understand what Anderson will do for you and what you plan to bring to the community.
We have helped countless applicants achieve their UCLA Anderson dreams. Contact us to learn how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help you.
FIRST-TIME APPLICANTS—ONE REQUIRED ESSAY:
We believe that the best results are achieved when you share success, think fearlessly and drive change. With this in mind, what are your goals at UCLA Anderson and in your short-term and long-term career? (750 words maximum)
He also elaborates on the three phrases in the video and essay question: “At UCLA Anderson, three principles form our foundation. First, we SHARE SUCCESS within our community, which is to say we collaborate to achieve our goals. While working together, we THINK FEARLESSLY to go past the obvious, to go around the obstacles — with our sights set on making a real impact. And with the opportunity for impact comes our desire to DRIVE CHANGE as a result of all that we do.”
Thorough school research will provide examples you can use to describe why these values and principles drive your goals while attending UCLA Anderson. Your career goals should be examined through the filter of Anderson’s values and how you plan to use those values in your post-Anderson life.
When structuring this essay consider telling one or two pivotal 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.
The following essay is optional. No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit an optional essay. Please note that we only accept written essays.
Are there any special circumstances or life experiences that you wish to share with the Admissions Committee? Please use your best judgement on what is pertinent to share. (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 help to solidify your answer.
RE-APPLICANTS—ONE REQUIRED ESSAY:
Reapplicants who applied for the class entering in 2015 or 2016 are required to complete the following essay:
Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (750 words maximum)
If you are a recent re-applicant this essay gives you the opportunity to highlight improvements since your last application. You have room to add other “ways in which you have improved your candidacy” such as an improved GMAT score, academic updates or extracurricular activities. While most MBA programs are focused on quantitative improvements to your profile, keep in mind that here UCLA Anderson is expressly asking for an update on your career.
July 19, 2016
The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth 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 …
The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth 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. This revised set of essays focuses on global approach as a significant value as well.
The Tuck admissions blog offers the following advice: “There are no right or wrong answers. We encourage applicants to limit the length of their responses to 500 to 700 words for Essay #1 and 500 words for Essay #2. Please double-space your responses.”
Stacy Blackman Consulting has worked with many successful Tuck applicants, contact us to learn more about the customized assistance we can provide for your application.
Essay One (Required): Tuck educates wise leaders who better the world of business. What are your short- and long-term goals? How will a Tuck MBA enable you to become a wise leader with global impact?
Tuck has updated the career goals essay to include a question about your global vision and impact on the world of business. Consistent with a standard MBA career goals essay you must also 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.
As you consider how you will make a global impact in your career, you should incorporate “Why Tuck” as a crucial element. Make sure you have researched the school’s programs and determined how your education will help you achieve your goals.
For example, Tuck has multiple global business programs, including a class where you can consult to an international company and short Global Insight Expeditions. By reaching out to current students and alumni you can learn more about the experiences and classes that would inform your development as a global leader.
Essay Two (Required): As a diverse and global community, our students arrive at the same place from many different paths. Tell us about an experience in which you have had to live, learn and/or work with other people very different from yourself. What challenges and/or opportunities did you experience, how did you respond, and what did you learn about yourself as a result?
The new required Essay Two also seeks to understand your global awareness and ability to learn and grow from those with different backgrounds. This essay prompt is open ended and allows you to choose an example from work or from an extracurricular experience. Think broadly about your background and when you have expanded your world by interacting with someone very different.
A compelling narrative will demonstrate learning and growing through interacting with others. Think about a time when you were truly challenged by a person or group of people different from yourself, and how you resolved the experience.
What did you learn about yourself and others? Interacting with your Tuck classmates may challenge you in a similar way, and showing a growth mentality would be attractive to the admissions committee.
This essay is not only an opportunity to discuss your ability to learn from others, you can also show that you are a leader in the Tuck tradition. The Tuck School of Business definition of leadership is inherently collaborative. Team based experiences are preferable, and as you describe working with someone different from yourself you can likely work in a strong leadership example.
Essay Three (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.”
Essay Four (Required from Reapplicants): How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally.
If you are re-applying to Tuck this essay is the place for you to showcase any developments since your last application. Ideally you have concrete improvements like a stronger GMAT score, grades from business classes, or a promotion. Even if nothing quantitative has changed in your profile you likely have developed more leadership activities or progressed in your job responsibilities.
If you are struggling to think of any clear improvements you can describe refined goals or deeper thinking about your future that has led you to apply again to Tuck. Demonstrating growth in maturity or introspection can be a huge improvement to your application and absolutely should be highlighted.