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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 Stanford GSB Essay Tips

Stanford Graduate School of Business has followed the lead of the majority of top MBA programs and has reduced the essay count for this year’s application. Stanford is still focused on candid self-evaluation and authenticity, …

Stanford Graduate School of Business has followed the lead of the majority of top MBA programs and has reduced the essay count for this year’s application. Stanford is still focused on candid self-evaluation and authenticity, and has just cut out the optional shorter essays. The Stanford GSB MBA admissions website provides clear guidance and advice for what to do, and what not to do, that all applicants should read and follow.

What keeps you awake at night? When you look back at your life what will you admire and regret about your choices? These are the kind of questions to ask yourself as you approach topics for this set of essays. Your accomplishments and achievements are part of why you have developed into the person you are today, however it’s far more important to explain your influences, lessons learned and motivations. Introspection and honesty should persist through the entire set of essays.

Total word count for all three essays combined should not exceed 1,100 words, so applicants must be judicious in deciding how much or little to write for each prompt. As a general guideline, Stanford GSB suggests 750 words for essay one and 350 words for essay two. Check your deadlines before you get started to make sure you are maximizing the time on your essays.

Stanford GSB Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?

This classic Stanford GSB MBA essay is your opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what motivates you, and why. Topics can range from personal history to grand visions of the future. While this topic should not be explicitly career related (and the strongest essays are likely not career oriented at all) it may raise themes that you will continue in your career essay.
To generate ideas, try brainstorming over a period of a few days. Ask friends and family what values they see you demonstrating in your life and choices. Keep a notebook by your bed so you can record your first thoughts upon waking up, and mine your personal history for ideas.

Though the essay question may seem open-ended, answering the question with vivid and specific examples will provide solid evidence that you have demonstrated or experienced “what matters most” throughout your life. Keep in mind as you select examples that Stanford GSB specifically advises focusing on people and experiences that have influenced you, rather than accomplishments or achievements.

Essay B: Why Stanford? Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.

This year Stanford leads with the most important part: Why Stanford? Be specific in your response. You should know everything about the program and show that it is your dream school. Have you met current students and alumni? Who are the professors you are excited about? What are the unique programs?

This essay question is a somewhat standard career goals theme, but note that Stanford refers to it as a “personal essay.” Stanford GSB wants to know what you specifically need that will be uniquely satisfied by the program at Stanford GSB, and research will help you determine what aspects of the academic program, community and students are crucial to your aspirations.
When you discuss how Stanford will help you achieve your goals consider that Stanford likes to see applicants who dream big, and have the credibility to achieve their goals. So think big about your plans. Don’t focus on what your parents or partner want you to do. Don’t think about the next job on the corporate ladder. What do you, with your own unique background and values, want for your life?

If the question seems too vast, take a few minutes to close your eyes and reflect. Envision your life in twenty years. Where do you live? How do you spend your days? What is your favorite activity? How does this vision fit into your career aspirations? Don’t be shy about your ambitions. Once you have identified your dream career, you also need to make sure an MBA is an important part of achieving your plans.

Stanford wants candidates for whom an MBA will make an impact on their ambitious trajectory, not candidates who are looking for a prestigious piece of paper. Remember that MBA programs want to help promising candidates reach their goals, not admit perfect people with no need for development.

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SBC Scoop: Rushing for Round 2

There are only a few weeks to go until many top MBA program’s Round 2 deadline, so we’re reposting this client case study for those who are struggling with the agonizing  question: Is it worth …

There are only a few weeks to go until many top MBA program’s Round 2 deadline, so we’re reposting this client case study for those who are struggling with the agonizing  question: Is it worth putting together a last-minute application?

Vipul came to us with this very dilemma. He had originally planned to apply earlier, but he had to re-take the GMAT after a disappointing 660 on his first attempt. He improved his score significantly, and with a 700 GMAT score, 3.6 GPA and career progression on his resume, he felt ready to try for admission to UT McCombs School of Business, CMU Tepper School of Business and Michigan Ross School of Business.

In our first conversation with Vipul we gave him the honest feedback that three weeks to complete three entire MBA applications would be unlikely to result in the best outcome. Typically, we work with clients for several months honing essays and ensuring recommenders are engaged in the process.

Vipul was confident that the timing was right for him, and he had already done the necessary soul searching on his future career goals, school selection, and recommenders. Most importantly, Vipul was willing to re-apply the next year if necessary because he enjoyed his job and knew he could continue his career there.

We decided that the hourly service would be the best option to assist Vipul. With limited time to devote to his essays and recommendations, Vipul first contacted all of his recommenders and asked them if they were able to submit by his deadline.

After a quick brainstorming session to determine his essay topics, Vipul got to work on his essay drafts. We focused on the key content Vipul needed to make his case for submission and he was able to quickly turnaround his drafts of the essays. Three iterations of his essays later we felt good about his final product and he was ready to submit after only three weeks of work.

Vipul’s dedication paid off and he was admitted to McCombs.

Rushing to make a deadline isn’t always the right course of action, though. For example, our client Michael made the decision to postpone to the next round in order to strengthen his application. If you’re wondering which course of action is right for you, sign up for a free consultation today.

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

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Duke Fuqua MBA 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.

Stacy Blackman Consulting can help you prepare a compelling, individualized strategy to approach your Duke Fuqua application this year, contact us to learn more.

Required Short Answer Questions: Answer all 3 questions
Respond in 250 characters only (the equivalent of about 50 words).
1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
2. What are your long-term goals?
3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?

This career goals essay asks for your plan in three parts. First, you should describe what you plan to do immediately after your MBA. Then you’ll explain the long-term vision for your career. Finally, Duke admits that many career paths are forged through circumstance, and asks you for Plan B.

Think big picture and focus on the overall story trajectory. What would be the most logical (and interesting) progression from your current skill set and MBA education? How will your next step flow from the combination of those experiences? And your alternative path ideally isn’t a massive departure, but simply shows the areas you could see yourself exploring if your primary plan doesn’t materialize.

For example, perhaps you are focused on becoming a marketing executive at a CPG company. If you don’t find the suitable position after Duke, maybe you would consider another industry for your career path. Think about your range of interests and go from there. Because you have limited space, you’ll have to boil your plans down in a clear statement of what you plan to do, but ideally any plans are supported by the information provided in your resume, recommendations, and other essays.

Required Essays: Answer both essay questions

Essay One: The “Team Fuqua” spirit and community is one of the things that sets The Duke MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. When a new person joins the Admissions team, we ask that person to share with everyone in the office a list of “25 Random Things About Yourself.” As an Admissions team, we already know the new hire’s professional and academic background, so learning these “25 Random Things” helps us get to know someone’s personality, background, special talents, and more.

In this spirit, the Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. You can share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of “25 Random Things” about YOU.

Please present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may be only a few words, while others may be longer. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.

This essay is entirely open ended and topics can span your personal background, work experiences, values or extracurriculars. If you have a particularly interesting story in any of those areas, this is the place to tell that story. This creative exercise is certainly an opportunity to follow the admissions committee’s advice to share what makes you a dynamic, multi-dimensional person.

Coming up with 25 random things to list in this essay may seem daunting at first. To jumpstart your creative process you may want to brainstorm with friends and family about what is most interesting and memorable about you. Or keep a notebook with you to record thoughts as you go about work and personal activities. A themed list that ties into a bigger point may be effective, but resist the urge to package the list too perfectly. In the end, Duke is interested in who you actually are and how your life has unfolded until now.

Essay Two: When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.

This essay is entirely focused on why the Duke MBA program is the right place for you specifically. This may be another opportunity to demonstrate your multi-dimensional personality as you explain which classes, clubs, and community activities most resonate with you.

The best essays will be both specific and personal. While everyone benefits from a diverse alumni network, what specifically do you want to give and receive from your classmates? If you describe clubs and classes you are attracted to, also offer specific examples from your past experiences to show your consistent personal or professional passions.

While the focus of the essay is the Duke MBA program, you are also being asked why these aspects are most meaningful. Your fit with the program is crucial, and therefore you must exhibit the qualities Duke is seeking as well. The Duke MBA program is especially interested in your role within the community, and will place significant weight on this factor. If you research thoroughly and are specific, you should be able to clearly demonstrate why you are going to be strong contributor and teammate.

This essay can also be a place to talk about how the Duke MBA fits into your career goals. What do you know now that will be enhanced through your MBA education? And what crucial aspects of the skill set required for your future career will be augmented by attending Duke?

Optional Essay (Limit your response to two pages)
If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware, please explain them in an optional essay (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, or any significant weakness in your application).

As with most optional essays, the Duke MBA asks that you only use this space to explain extenuating circumstances. If you have a low GPA, a non-typical recommender or gaps in work history this is the correct place to address those issues.

When approaching any concerns about your background in the optional essay it’s important to focus on recent performance, whether academic or professional, and what such performance demonstrates about your ability. Your goal is to remove questions from your application and to address in a factual manner any information the admissions committee needs to know to fairly evaluate your application.

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Tuesday Tips: Stanford GSB Essay Tips

Stanford Graduate School of Business has just published the essay questions without changes for this new application cycle, maintaining the theme of candid self-evaluation and authenticity. The Stanford GSB MBA admissions website provides clear guidance …

Stanford Graduate School of Business has just published the essay questions without changes for this new application cycle, maintaining the theme of candid self-evaluation and authenticity. The Stanford GSB MBA admissions website provides clear guidance and advice for what to do, and what not to do that all applicants should read and follow.

As you approach topics for this set of essays think about the events of your life that have shaped your values and your future plans. Your accomplishments and achievements are part of why you have developed into the person you are today, however it’s far more important to explain your influences, lessons learned and motivations. Introspection and honesty should persist through the entire set of essays.

Total word count for all three essays combined must not exceed 1,600 words, so applicants must be judicious in deciding how much or little to write for each prompt. As a general guideline, Stanford GSB suggests 750 words for essay one; 450 words for essay two; and 400 words for essay three. Check your deadlines before you get started to make sure you are maximizing the time on your essays.

Stanford GSB Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?

This classic Stanford GSB MBA essay is your opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what motivates you, and why. Topics can range from personal history to grand visions of the future. While this topic should not be explicitly career related (and the strongest essays are likely not career oriented at all) it may raise themes that you will continue in your career essay.

To generate ideas, try brainstorming over a period of a few days. Ask friends and family what values they see you demonstrating in your life and choices. Keep a notebook by your bed so you can record your first thoughts upon waking up, and mine your personal history for ideas.

Though the essay question may seem open-ended, answering the question with vivid and specific examples will provide solid evidence that you have demonstrated or experienced “what matters most” throughout your life. Keep in mind as you select examples that Stanford GSB specifically advises focusing on people and experiences that have influenced you, rather than accomplishments or achievements.

Stanford GSB Essay 2: What do you want to do—REALLY—and why Stanford?

We’ve observed that in these economic times plenty of candidates are content to be conservative about their dreams. For Stanford that approach may backfire. Stanford likes to see applicants who dream big, and have the credibility to achieve their goals.
So think hard about what you REALLY want to do. Not what your parents or partner want you to do. Not what your boss wants you to do. Not what you think an MBA program wants to hear. What do you, with your own unique background and values, want for your life?

If the question seems too vast, take a few minutes to close your eyes and reflect. Envision your life in twenty years. Where do you live? How do you spend your days? What is your favorite activity? How does this vision fit into your career aspirations? Dream big about what two years at Stanford can bring into your life. Once you have identified your dream career, you also need to make sure an MBA is an important part of achieving your plans.

Stanford wants candidates whose MBA will make an impact on the career they REALLY want, not candidates who are looking for a prestigious piece of paper. Remember that MBA programs want to help promising candidates reach their goals, not admit perfect people who will not learn from the two years in school.

One thing that is crucial “not to do” is be less than specific about why Stanford. You should know everything about the program that overlaps with your interests and aspirations. Have you met current students and alumni? Who are the professors you are excited about? What are the unique programs?

Stanford GSB wants to know what you specifically need that will be uniquely satisfied by the program at Stanford GSB, and research will help you determine the specifics of the academic program, community and students will be essential to demonstrating your knowledge and fit with the program.

Essay 3: Answer one of the three questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it.
What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years.

Choose strategically here. What aspects of your background or career progress have not be highlighted in the previous two essays? Is there a community service involvement you would like to demonstrate? All examples must be from the past three years, and it is important to clearly describe your process and results.

HOW is the key word for these two essays. By asking specifically about your behavior, the admissions committee hopes to understand your motivations by clearly “seeing” your actions.

Option A: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

If you have formally led a team at work, this is an ideal essay to highlight your management experience. Most candidates for Stanford have little formal management or leadership experience. In that case, think about the times you have served informally as a leader. Perhaps you led a team as part of a project at work. If work did not provide an opportunity for you to lead a team, consider an example in your volunteer or extracurricular activities.

Whatever the situation, describe what happened and your role in the performance of the team. In addition to clear description, explain what the expectations were for the team and how your team exceeded them. Be as specific as you can about the how: what were you thinking and doing as you built or developing the team?

Option B: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization.

While formal management experience may be less common if you’ve only worked for a few years, improving an organization is something that is possible with any job description. Think about the times that you have seen a problem and proactively solved it. Did you create a new initiative that involves many others? Have you impacted the culture or operations of your organization through an idea or by developing your team? Think about actions you have taken that may have lead to a fundamental shift in the way things are done or perceived within your company or organization.

Option C: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.

The topic of this essay can be from almost any area of your life. It will be helpful to give the context around what was defined or established to clearly demonstrate how you went beyond. Why and how did you achieve results beyond expectations? This topic could be similar to Option A in scope, yet is focused on your individual achievement rather than directing a team’s actions.

As you put together your Stanford GSB application it will be helpful to read all of the essays together (and have others read them) to see the overall impression. It should be clear what your underlying motivations are, what you hope do you with your career, and how you operate as an individual and in a team within an organization. As Stanford GSB clearly requests, the best essays will illuminate your individual voice clear and strong.

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Inside the Yale SOM Admissions Process

Have you already applied to Yale School of Management or thinking of doing so in an upcoming round? Admissions director Bruce DelMonico recently posted insight into the Yale SOM MBA admissions process that we’d like …

Have you already applied to Yale School of Management or thinking of doing so in an upcoming round? Admissions director Bruce DelMonico recently posted insight into the Yale SOM MBA admissions process that we’d like to share with current and future applicants.Yale SOM

Step # 1

Two different members of the Admissions Committee review the submitted applications. Like most top-ranked schools, Yale SOM takes a holistic approach to its review and DelMonico says no one element of the application is determinative. The school is looking for candidates with strong academic backgrounds and leadership potential, with certain qualities that make Yale SOM students distinctive.

According to the admissions director, successful applicants will possess “broadmindedness and intellectual curiosity,” as well as “the ability to think rigorously and act purposefully, and the constancy to navigate uncertain situations.” With a class size of just 250 students, it’s imperative that each member of the community brings an element of diversity through his or her background, experiences, interests and professional aspirations.

Step # 2

For those who applied in Round One, know that Yale SOM has extended approximately a third of the total interview invitations it plans to offer for the round. While an interview is certainly a positive sign, DelMonico cautions against assuming that an invite is a strong indicator of AdCom’s final decision.

“We typically interview roughly 30% of our applicants, and a little more than half of those interviewed are ultimately offered a place in the class,” he explains.

The purpose of the interview is to get a better sense of how you think and act, DelMonico says. Preparation is vital, and you should come in ready to discuss your leadership experience and career trajectory as well as elements from your resume and essays.

Step # 3

If you applied in Round One, you will receive a decisions by December 13, 2012. For those applying on the January 8th Round Two deadline, expect to hear back by March 28, 2013. If you are  still working on your application and interested in learning more about the school, DelMonico notes that Yale SOM has posted additional events to its schedule, including online chats, which are a great way to get a feel for the campus and community.

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For more on applying to Yale School of Management, read Stacy Blackman’s previous posts with Round Two advice, application tips, interview pointers, and more.

 

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