Tag Archives: MBA program

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.

Posted in Virginia Darden Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Posted in Application Tips, UPenn Wharton Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

SBC Scoop: Overcoming a Challenging Academic Record

When our client Irene first started working with her SBC consultant, she brought up an issue that was causing her a lot of anxiety. At the beginning of her sophomore year of college Irene was …

When our client Irene first started working with her SBC consultant, she brought up an issue that was causing her a lot of anxiety. At the beginning of her sophomore year of college Irene was undergoing personal challenges and was suspended for academic dishonesty. The charges were eventually dropped when Irene returned to school, but she was ashamed of this “mark” on her permanent record and extremely concerned about its impact on her MBA applications.

Irene’s consultant reassured her that she was not alone. Many MBA applicants have something less than stellar on their academic record. While it seems devastating at the time, nearly everything that an applicant is ashamed of can be explained appropriately in an MBA application. The key approach is to offer explanations and evidence of growth when explaining anything embarrassing that needs to be addressed.

Irene decided to take on the issue head on in an essay where she discussed her personal challenges during her sophomore year. She briefly explained the circumstances of her difficulties, which were generally related to a family dispute and an abusive romantic relationship, and focused the majority of the essay on what she did to emerge from the challenge a stronger person. Irene had worked hard to improve her relationship with her family and herself, and proactively sought positive interactions during the remainder of her college career. Additionally, Irene prioritized academic achievement and her career goals, and was able to graduate with a 3.7 GPA and an offer from a top consulting firm.

By emphasizing the positive results of the academic probation, Irene was able to gain admission to two of her three target MBA programs and ultimately attended NYU.

Concerned about your own academic record? Contact us to request a free consultation with one of our expert consultants.

Posted in SBC Scoop: Client Case Studies | Tagged , , ,

The Case Method: Alive and Thriving or On its Way Out?

The case method approach has come under increased scrutiny of late. Established by Harvard Business School more than a century ago, it is still widely used at top MBA programs worldwide.  Harvard relies on the …

The case method approach has come under increased scrutiny of late. Established by Harvard Business School more than a century ago, it is still widely used at top MBA programs worldwide.  Harvard relies on the case method for approximately 80 percent of its instruction, and students at Darden School of Business are exposed to more than 500 cases in a variety of industries and functions during their time at the UVA MBA program.

By definition, case studies are authentic business or management scenarios that present executives with a problem or uncertain outcome. The case lays out the situation in the context of the players, events and issues that influence it, and enables students to identify closely with those involved. The next step is to perform the necessary analysis””examining the causes and considering alternative courses of actions to come to a set of recommendations.

If the case method approach is so useful, why doesn’t every top business school embrace it wholeheartedly?  In an article that created quite a buzz in management education when first published, Harvard Business School professor James Heskett pointed to concerns that the case method is too time-consuming, ill-suited to teaching quantitative techniques, and based on the idea that there’s no right or wrong answer””only some that are better than others.

Columbia Business School uses cases about 40 percent of the time, and in a recent interview with MBA Channel, Vice Dean Amir Ziv explains where he thinks the approach succeeds, and where the criticism is valid. For Ziv, the obvious advantage is that the case represents a real-life situation and forces students to solve it.

The second big advantage,” he adds, “Is that a case draws on everyone’s experience. If you have 60 students and everyone has four years of work experience that is many more total years than what I have myself. In the case method everyone benefits from the shared experiences of everyone else in the class.”

As for the downsides, Ziv agrees that sometimes the problem is efficiency. “In order to teach two plus two, I don’t need a case””I can teach that in a lecture, which is less time-consuming,” he says.

Another big problem: most cases are already too complete. When handed a 30-page analysis, students already have everything they need to know and don’t need to do any additional research. “That is artificial and doesn’t allow students to think what additional information they might need and how to get it,” Ziv notes.

In order to deliver a good case analysis you need lots of preparation from your students, Ziv adds. “If people are stressed or tired or do not prioritize academics, they don’t prepare, it shows, and all the benefits of the case method are absent.”

Columbia has come up with an alternative method called the decision brief that teach students to handle tough, real-world issues by providing them with incomplete data that forces them to become resourceful, and hence, better decision-makers.

“In one case we hand out two emails and one picture. You have to figure out what the issue is, who on the team should work on what, and what other information you need,” Ziv explains. “That’s how we overcome the weakness of the case method: by giving our students incomplete and unstructured information.”

The case method approach is considered a proven winner because it brings the subject to life, brings business back to reality, and allows you to benefit from the professional experiences of a diverse group of classmates. But judging by the interview with Ziv, and other media stories on the issue, this method may not be for everyone.

Are you applying to school that relies heavily on the case method approach? Or, are you looking for an MBA program with a broader teaching style that combines lecture and experiential learning? We’d love to hear feedback from our readers on the usefulness of this teaching approach, so please leave us a comment with your opinion below.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday Tips: Duke Fuqua Essay Tips

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.

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 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 ”“ 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.

Posted in Application Tips, Duke Fuqua Advice | Tagged , , , , ,

Tuesday Tips – UCLA Anderson MBA Essay Tips

UCLA Anderson has only two required essays for first-time applicants, which will allow you only 1500 words to communicate directly with the admissions committee and make your case for admission to UCLA Anderson. Your personal …

UCLA Anderson has only two required essays for first-time applicants, which will allow you only 1500 words to communicate directly with the admissions committee and make your case for admission to UCLA Anderson.

Your personal qualities are of utmost importance to the admissions committee. With a class limited to 360 students, and a desire to create a diverse and interesting atmosphere, your personal answer to essay one will help make your case just as much as your goals and accomplishments in essay two.

What is your proudest achievement outside the workplace, and how has it impacted you? (700 words maximum)

Starting this set of essays with a personal question about your achievements outside of work establishes UCLA MBA’s interest in knowing what you are passionate about and how you may exercise leadership outside of work. When approaching this question, keep your overall application strategy in mind, and make sure you are presenting a holistic view of yourself. Much like Stanford’s “what matters most” essay, brainstorming an overall theme that can take you from the personal tone of Essay 1 to the career goals in Essay 2 could provide a thread to unite your application strategy.

Specific examples are always the best way to demonstrate your personal qualities without sounding generic. In this essay you are invited to tell a personal story. You are unique and an interesting activity outside of work can be an effective way to set the tone for your application holistically. If you choose effectively, your story will support the overall theme of your essays and support what you say about your career and personal development.

What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals? (700 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?

Because you have effectively set the stage with question one, you have likely established your passions and personal interests, which will back up your career 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. Keep in mind that UCLA recently rehabbed their curriculum to train MBA candidates more specifically for their chosen careers. While your education will still have some flexibility, you are more likely to be a strong fit with UCLA Anderson if you can see yourself benefiting from the program and its educational approach. 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)

Focusing on explanations in this essay, rather than excuses, is very important. 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. The UCLA MBA specifically asks for an update on your career progress since your last application. You may not have 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.

Looking for help with your UCLA MBA application strategy? Contact us to learn how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help you define your best essay content.

Posted in Application Tips, UCLA Anderson Advice | Tagged , , , , , , ,