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UC Berkeley Haas School of Business MBA Essay Tips

Berkeley Haas admissions has been fairly consistent with prior years in this new set of essays for the 2013/2014 applicant. While many schools reduced the number of essay significantly this year, Haas has reduced only …

Berkeley Haas admissions has been fairly consistent with prior years in this new set of essays for the 2013/2014 applicant. While many schools reduced the number of essay significantly this year, Haas has reduced only slightly from five to four required essays. The set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business covers a variety of topics – from the song that expresses you to your quantitative skills. 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, will be key to put together a cohesive application. While challenging, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate several different aspects of your personality to the admissions committee. Remember when thinking about how to get into Berkeley, to not underestimate the importance of these essays in your application.

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
If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)

This sort of essay can be intimidating because it calls for creativity, and the topic is entirely open ended. When approaching a question like this, consider what your personal qualities are that may be interesting to the Haas MBA program, and then consider a song you like that can express that quality. Try to focus on personal, rather than professional, aspects. Whatever song you choose, make sure you have an emotional connection with that song and can relate it to your own personal experiences. For example, perhaps you have a favorite song from childhood that your parents played for you that reminds you of a core value that has guided your choices since.

Essay 2
What is your most significant accomplishment? (250 word maximum)

Your accomplishment can be big or small, but it should be significant to you. 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
Describe a time in the last three years when you overcame a failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development? (250 word maximum)

This question asks you to think about a time you failed, and a time you learned from that failure. This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate your maturity, flexibility and leadership qualities. Leaders are not people who are always successful, rather they are people who are willing to admit to failure and learn from difficulty.

As you recount your failure it will be crucial to demonstrate what you have learned as concretely as possible. As a thought experiment, try thinking about a recent triumph. Trace your life events backwards until you find a failure, and think about how that failure directly led to your success. For example, perhaps you took a job immediately after college that was not a good fit for you. You may have felt like the job was a failure, but instead of despairing you took the time to think about what you really wanted, and subsequently found a job that led you success in your career. Perhaps your story isn’t career oriented but showcases learning from extracurricular or volunteer involvement.

Essay 4
a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals?
b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (750 word maximum for 4a. and 4b.)

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. Think about what you hope to achieve with your MBA and the career opportunities it will reveal for you. You don’t need to recite your resume here – rather highlight the key experiences that will be relevant in your future career.

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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UCLA Anderson School of Management MBA Essay Tips

UCLA Anderson always kept the application process streamlined, with only two required essays. This year the required essays were reduced to one, focusing only on your career goals. With such a limited amount of space …

UCLA Anderson always kept the application process streamlined, with only two required essays. This year the required essays were reduced to one, focusing only on your career goals. With such a limited amount of space to highlight everything you may want to communicate to UCLA Anderson you will need to think seriously about the stories you want to tell.

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
What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals? (750 words maximum)

The UCLA MBA program is asking for a clear set of career goals that will demonstrate the need for an MBA from UCLA Anderson. Since you are not directly asked to explain your entire career path, focus on the high points that are most relevant to your career goals. When did you face a turning point or make a big decision about your career? What were some of your proudest accomplishments? If you are a management consultant now and want to become an entrepreneur, what have you learned and experienced that will help you with those plans?

It may be relevant to provide background that highlights your career passions and sets up your future goals. 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.

Along with citing specific classes, professors and programs that fit into your career goals, 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.

Re-applicant 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. (700 words maximum).

The reapplication essay requires demonstrating significant strides since your last application. Keep in mind that the admissions committee will have access to your previous application. This question is specific about requiring an update on your career progress since your last application. This may be a difficult question to answer if you have not been promoted or taken a new job, so think about the areas in your career that have been improved since last year. Did you take on new responsibility? What about projects or leadership opportunities? While refining your goals is progress and can enhance your application, make sure your story is consistent with your last application and that you have thoroughly explained any changes in your thinking since the last time you applied.

Soul searching and feedback from others likely set you on the path to improve one or more areas that may have been weak in your last application. This essay is your opportunity to outline your better GMAT score, classes you took, additional extracurriculars, or a significant increase in responsibility at work.

The third part of this essay is to demonstrate how you will contribute to the UCLA MBA program. If you are a reapplicant you have likely had the time to learn even more about the school since your last application, and your research will pay off in this essay. Be specific about your skills and how you will contribute, along with the aspects of UCLA Anderson that will be of benefit to your goals.

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MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Essay Tips

On its website, MIT Sloan states that “MIT Sloan is simply more dedicated to creating effective innovation than any other leading school.” Innovation is key for MIT Sloan and seeks interesting students to build a …

On its website, MIT Sloan states that “MIT Sloan is simply more dedicated to creating effective innovation than any other leading school.” Innovation is key for MIT Sloan and 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 two key stories that can showcase your achievements at school, work and extracurricular activities while demonstrating that you will contribute to MIT Sloan’s mission. This year MIT Sloan has removed the iconic cover letter requirement, and has added an extremely open ended aspect to the optional essay.

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 two behavioral questions in the MIT Sloan application require you to describe your past accomplishments and experience on a very pragmatic level. A key part of the MIT Sloan set of essays is the focus on understanding how you work, think and act. The instructions ask you to provide a brief overview of the situation, and then follow the situation with a detailed description of what you did. This requires being very specific about your thoughts and actions as you respond to each essay question.

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: Describe a time when you pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

This essay is the second behavioral question in the set, consistent with MIT Sloan’s belief that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. This essay gives you an opportunity to choose a personal, work or extracurricular example and to show an interesting side to your personality or background.

If you have had significant international experience this may be an ideal question to showcase how you adapted to a new culture. Or perhaps you pursued a sport or hobby that was difficult for you and were able to prove to yourself that you could master a new skill. Remember that the story is less important than what you thought, felt and did and that this essay is an opportunity to showcase your unique personal qualities.

Optional Question: The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us to know about you, in any format.

This year MIT Sloan has created an entirely open ended optional essay and invited 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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UVA Darden MBA Essay Tips

Darden was the trendsetter two years ago when they first introduced the single MBA essay question. The other school most devoted to the case method, HBS, has followed suit this year and many other programs …

Darden was the trendsetter two years ago when they first introduced the single MBA essay question. The other school most devoted to the case method, HBS, has followed suit this year and many other programs have streamlined the number of questions or the word counts for the essay portion of the application.

While writing only 500 words may seem simple, it gives you much less room to highlight all of the important parts of your profile for the admissions committee. 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 crucial to future Darden MBAs. Personal qualities are also crucial to Darden, a school with a small, tight-knit community. Learn more about the school by visiting the Darden website, attending events and speaking with current students and alumni.

MBA Application Essay Question:
Share your thought process as you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. What did you learn about yourself? (500 words maximum)

In this question Darden is asking to understand how you behave in a challenging or complex situation and what such challenges have taught you about yourself. The best use of this essay space will use specific examples to illustrate how you handled the challenge or problem and how you arrived at your change in perspective.

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 were preceded by a challenge or problem you needed to solve. Work backgrounds from the accomplishment to see where the challenge or issue arose and how you transformed it into a learning experience.

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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Yale School of Management MBA Essay Tips

Yale is an Ivy League university with expertise across fields. The school now investing heavily in continuing to improve the business education at Yale School of Management. A new campus is slated for January 2014, …

Yale is an Ivy League university with expertise across fields. The school now investing heavily in continuing to improve the business education at Yale School of Management. A new campus is slated for January 2014, Yale continues to hire top talent in the administrative departments and faculty, and has innovated in the admissions process.

This year Yale SOM has streamlined the admissions process with only two essays coming in under 1,000 words total. Additionally, Yale has eliminated the English-language test requirement this year. The video interview is another new aspect of the admissions process that allows interviewers to review the applicant’s performance after the fact and compare across applicants.

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.

Essay 1
What motivates your decision to pursue an MBA? (300 words maximum)

Think about this essay in terms of the inflection points in your career thus far. When you consider why you want an MBA at this time there is likely some consideration of your immediate professional goals, some reflection upon your interests and experiences thus far and a bit of aspirational thinking about the long-term future you envision for yourself.

Because this is a short essay and you will be submitting your resume as part of the application you can avoid reciting each job and accomplishment and focus on the moments that have impacted your decision. For example, you might 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 and demonstrate how you are thinking about your future and how an MBA will assist you with your goals.

Essay 2
The Yale School of Management provides leadership education for broad-minded, rigorous, and intellectually curious students with diverse backgrounds; a distinctive integrated curriculum; connections to one of the great research universities in the world; and the broad reach of an innovative and expanding global network of top business schools.

What motivates you to apply to the Yale School of Management for your MBA? What will you contribute to Yale and Yale SOM? (450 words maximum)

This question offers you plenty of clues about why you might be the kind of student who would pick Yale SOM for your MBA. As you describe the reasons Yale appeals to you, don’t forget you are also selling yourself. Make sure you are coming across as an intellectually curious student with a diverse background and that you are interested in the integrated curriculum.

When you research Yale for this essay question it will be most useful to talk with current or former students or visit campus if your scheduled allows. Understanding Yale on a personal level with your own unique tastes and motivations will help you to make the best case for admission. You will need to know the programs and classes you are most interested in and why, what clubs and activities appeal to you, and the unique attributes of the Yale curriculum that will help you achieve your specific goals.

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University of Pennsylvania Wharton MBA Essay Tips

Joining the trend of streamlined application essays, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has published only two required essay questions for the 2013 application. Wharton seeks diverse candidates who understand the Wharton brand of Knowledge For …

Joining the trend of streamlined application essays, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has published only two required essay questions for the 2013 application.

Wharton seeks diverse candidates who understand the Wharton brand of Knowledge For Action. Understanding yourself and your fit with Wharton, and telling a cohesive story is key to success with these essays.

Required Questions:
What do you aspire to achieve, personally and professionally, through the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

The career goals essay is a standard MBA prompt. Wharton has traditionally kept the career goals question focused entirely on professional goals, but this year expands this essay question to also include your personal goals for the MBA. This is certainly about fit with Wharton and to gauge more about your personality and potential success in the program.

Be careful to answer the specific question in this career goals essay. Notice that you are not asked about your professional background or your key accomplishments. To answer the question asked, you will want to focus mainly on the future and what you are planning to pursue with your MBA degree. At the same time, there is certainly room to add color by using your background information where it is most relevant to your goals. Think about the key moments of your professional life that crystallized your goals for you, and focus on illuminating those decision points rather than reciting your entire resume.

When you address your personal goals for the MBA make sure you are making the case for Wharton specifically. Consider what living in Philadelphia might be like, the many clubs and student activities, and leadership development opportunities like traveling to Antarctica with your classmates that may address some of your personal life goals.

Academic engagement is an important element of the Wharton MBA experience. How do you see yourself contributing to our learning community? (500 words)

This question is similar to questions asked in previous years about courses and the opportunities you plan to pursue at Wharton. This question is both about your intellectual curiosity and your knowledge of the Wharton MBA program.

Wharton no longer asks candidates “Why Wharton” explicitly in essay questions, but rather seeks to understand how your unique personal qualities fit with the overall Wharton culture. Doing your research on the culture and understanding exactly how you fit in will help you approach this essay, as well as navigate interviews and other interactions with the Wharton admissions committee. Consider inlcuding specific information from your Wharton research in this essay such as Wharton faculty you would like to study with or unique educational opportunities at Wharton.

Remember that Wharton’s brand positioning is “knowledge fuels action.” As you consider how you might contribute to the learning community do not neglect your professional experiences and the way you approach learning at work and at school. The Wharton academic environment is one where professors often consult to industry and like to experiment in the real world, and you should be able to bring your own real world experience to contribute to the community.

Reapplicant Essay:
All reapplicants to Wharton are required to complete the Optional Essay. Please use this space to explain how you have reflected on the previous decision on your application and to discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). You may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

All reapplicants are required to provide information that supports your renewed candidacy. The most successful version of the reapplicant essay will provide tangible evidence that you have improved the overall package you are submitting this year. Improvements like GMAT score or new quantitative classes as especially tangible, but a promotion, increase in responsibility at work, a job change or even a change of goals and mission can apply.

A rejection or waitlist last year is a form of feedback, and may have led to soul searching for you. When you describe your changes make sure reflect your ability to take feedback and improve. Describe how you approached the reapplication process after assessing your own strengths and weaknesses as a candidate and making the appropriate efforts to improve.

Optional Essay:
If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)

This question is truly optional and should only be used if you have extenuating circumstances in your background. If you do have an area of concern that is on this list, make sure you spend your optional essay space on explanations, not excuses. While you might be embarrassed to explain your D in undergrad Chemistry, better to explain that you had a difficult semester in your personal life than to leave the admissions committee to speculate.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has over a decade of experience assisting candidates to achieve their Wharton MBA dreams. We offer customized advice, including specific preparation for the Wharton group interview, to give you a competitive edge. Contact us to learn more.

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