Tag Archives: Tips

Advice from Harvard’s MBA Admissions Director

Don’t try to stand out, do make sure you understand—and are excited about—the case method approach to learning, and stay curious are three of the main pieces of advice Harvard Business School’s Dee Leopold offers …

Don’t try to stand out, do make sure you understand—and are excited about—the case method approach to learning, and stay curious are three of the main pieces of advice Harvard Business School’s Dee Leopold offers applicants in a recent post on her director’s blog.

While some candidates may feel deflated after reading her remarks, fearing they might have to switch strategies mid-stream, Leopold’s tips benefit anyone applying to Harvard and other case method-based MBA programs.

Tip #1

“Try to resist the urge to make “standing out” your primary goal in the admissions process. If you have made traditional choices all along (college, extra-curriculars, major field of study, jobs), own it. You’ll look silly if you try to portray yourself as a rogue daredevil. There are plenty of people at HBS who come from traditional backgrounds.”

I would add that excellence comes in many different packages, and sometimes small examples can brilliantly illustrate your distinctive contributions. Avoid any attempt to manufacture a memorable impression and instead focus on relaying with enthusiasm your own unique accomplishments and interests. You’re not being asked to talk about yourself for any other reason than to help a school learn why you made the choices you did. What those choices were is hardly relevant.

Tip #2

“Do your homework about the case method. It’s our signature pedagogy and it is nothing like traditional academia. Watch Inside the Case Method on our website and ask yourself if you find this method of learning intriguing and exciting. If it’s not for you, choose another school now vs. later.”

The Case Method approach is 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. However, this method may not be for everyone.  Other top programs, such as Chicago Booth School of Business, Kellogg School of Management, Yale School of Management and more rely on a broader mix of teaching methods.

Tip #3

“Stay curious. It’s so easy to stay “heads down” during the application process and become so introspective that you lose sight of the larger world. Keep reading. Keep listening. We’re looking for people who can dig into a case about a company they have never heard of, in an industry they don’t think they care about – and be 100% engaged.”

I like to remind applicants to stay connected to the bigger picture ”“ remember what this process is all about.  Ultimately it is not about submitting a set of essays.  It is not even about getting in to X school.  It is about your future, your career, creating opportunities for yourself.  Tap into all the things in life that inspire you; this will help you to make things happen.

Posted in General, Harvard Advice | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Three Application Tips from Chicago Booth

If you are contemplating applying to the Chicago Booth School of Business, here are just a few items to focus on when crafting your application package. According to a recent Business Because interview with Danielle …

If you are contemplating applying to the Chicago Booth School of Business, here are just a few items to focus on when crafting your application package.

According to a recent Business Because interview with Danielle Foster, associate director of admissions at Chicago Booth as of October 2011, applicants would do well to study her top three tips for impressing the MBA admissions team.

Tip #1:  Be Authentic

Don’t try to sell the admissions committee on an idealize image of the perfect b-school candidate. Considering the thousands of applications that come across their desks each year, it’s safe to assume their baloney detectors are finely honed! “We are very transparent at Booth and we appreciate applicants who are able to do the same on their application,” Foster says. Just be true to yourself and tell your own unique story.

Tip #2:  Do Your Research!

In addition to doing a lot of soul-searching to determine why you want to pursue an MBA, and why now is the time to do so, you must convey to the admissions committee why X program is the best fit for your career goals, learning style, etc. Culture and fit are two very important aspects of an MBA program, and truly do vary from school to school.

Foster says the admissions team values applicants who can demonstrate a clear understanding of Chicago Booth culture, and can describe how it is a mutual fit.

Tip #3: Pay Attention to Those Essay Questions

The temptation to cut-and-paste essays from one school to another is a strong one, and in some cases you may be able to judiciously recycle certain examples that support specific attributes or situations. However, Foster notes that often applicants miss the mark on answering the question actually asked in the essay set.

“We may receive a great essay, but if it is not answering the question, you have missed an opportunity to showcase your skills and talents,” says Foster.

***

If you’re looking for clear examples of how to address the essay questions, check out our recent Chicago Booth MBA essay tips post for guidance on how to successfully convey your professional and personal stories.

Posted in Chicago Booth Advice, General | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

SBC Scoop: Managing Stress with a Timeline

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client. Just about a year ago our client Emily was starting to freak out. Every time …

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

Just about a year ago our client Emily was starting to freak out. Every time she looked at her applications for four MBA programs, all she could see was a pile of work to be done with nothing complete, and worse, no sense of when she would get it all done. It was just overwhelming.

When Emily had her first meeting with her consultant and set up a strategy for her applications to HBS, Stanford, Wharton and Kellogg, the answers seemed manageable. Discussion with her consultant helped her set up a plan to prepare her recommenders. Though she did not consider herself a strong writer generally, they had already brainstormed a few good ideas to start developing. In other words, no single piece of the process was all that intimidating when they spoke. However, when Emily would sit down a few days later to get to work, all she could see was big pile of incomplete applications, a long to-do list, and a hectic eighty-hour work week at her hedge fund to work around.

Emily’s consultant could tell she was about ready to panic, and when she heard Emily’s long list of concerns, knew just what to do. They needed a plan for when to do what: a timeline that she could follow over the next three months. First, they created a master list of what needed to be done and attached a rough time estimate to each. With four applications to write, they estimated Emily would need ten to fifteen hours to complete the work and essays specific to each one. They budgeted time to contacting recommenders and looking into her network of contacts for alumni to speak with. They also looked up sample GMAT class schedules and factored in study time for the test retake she had already planned.

The master list was almost as frightening as the unfinished applications, but the next step was to attach each task to a specific timeframe. They found items that Emily would start this week and others she would kick off the next week and the week after that. After talking about Emily’s writing style, they budgeted a few hours each Saturday afternoon to give her enough time to sit and think clearly, but not so much time that she would get stuck.

With a timeline in hand, Emily felt reassured. She explained her own tendency to leave things to last-minute marathon sessions, so she felt great knowing what would get done in what order. Emily’s consultant also suggested finishing her applications several weeks ahead of the fall deadlines in order to give her time to think and reflect on whether the application was exactly what she wanted to send, with enough time built in to make any changes. They both felt the timeline would squash the panic and give Emily enough structure to make sure her best foot was forward, and sure enough, she was admitted to both Stanford and Wharton.

Read more case studies and contact us to learn how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help you attack your daunting applications.

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

Tuesday Tips: MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Essay Tips

On its website, MIT Sloan states that “innovation and collaboration [are] at the heart of what we do.“ Your task is to remain focused on your overall application strategy and choose two key stories that …

On its website, MIT Sloan states that “innovation and collaboration [are] at the heart of what we do.“ 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. At the same time, keep in mind that MIT is seeking interesting students to build a class that can learn from each other and continue the tradition of innovation.

Remember to choose examples from the last three years of your life, as specifically directed in the instructions, for the most relevant and recent examples.

Because MIT Sloan does not require the standard “career goals” essay, your work background will be mainly communicated through the required resume and cover letter. The resume should be approached in a similar way to other MBA application resumes. Avoid industry lingo, communicate your measurable achievements, and focus on aspects of your job that involve leadership and teamwork.

Make sure to double check your deadlines for this season before making your MBA application plans.


MIT Sloan Cover Letter
Please prepare a cover letter (up to 500 words) seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should describe your accomplishments, address any extenuating circumstances that may apply to your application, and conform to standard business correspondence. Your letter should be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions.

Think about how you would approach a cover letter for a job application. You would think about the requirements of the position, and pick the most relevant achievements from your past experience to showcase. Approach this cover letter in the same way to make a strong case for your selection into the MIT Sloan class. Just as with a professional cover letter, make sure you introduce yourself and explain why you are seeking admission to MIT.

The cover letter is also your opportunity to make the case for your fit with MIT Sloan. Note that the cover letter format will require a marketing approach that focuses on key points that will make you a great MIT Sloan student, rather than the narrative style of the typical career goals type of essay. Personal touch points with current or former MIT Sloan students are a great way to learn more about the school, and may give you the most personalized information about the school targeted to your situation.

Essay 1: Please describe a time when you had to convince a person or a group of your idea. (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 work with a team when you are not necessarily in charge. A work or extracurricular example where you demonstrated emotional intelligence would be ideal here. When did you realize you needed to convince someone to accept your idea? What was your strategy and how did you read group or individual dynamics to successfully sell in your concept? This essay will demonstrate your ability to lead from within a group, or to manage up in situations when you are not in charge.

MIT Sloan Essay 2: Please describe a time when you overcame a personal setback. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

Setbacks can be either a result of your own actions or of circumstances, and the most important aspect of a setback is how you were able to overcome the situation. Leadership can be effectively formed through difficulty and MIT Sloan is interested to see how you react to setbacks. Are you someone who can effectively navigate disappointment? How do you react when challenged? Are you able to learn from experience?

Use most of the allotted space to describe your reaction to the setback rather than the background story. As you recount your setbacks it will be crucial to demonstrate what you have learned. Think about why you selected each experience and what change and growth resulted from the situation. This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate your maturity, flexibility and leadership qualities.

MIT Sloan Supplemental Information (Optional)
You may use this section to address whatever else you want the Admissions Committee to know. (250 words or fewer, limited to one page)

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 issue demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since.

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

We can help you approach your MIT Sloan MBA application. Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn more.

Posted in Application Tips, MIT Sloan Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday Tips – University of Pennsylvania Wharton MBA Essay Tips

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has published the new essay questions for applicants seeking a space in the class of 2015, along with a new brand position: Knowledge for Action. This essay set focuses on …

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has published the new essay questions for applicants seeking a space in the class of 2015, along with a new brand position: Knowledge for Action. This essay set focuses on your knowledge of Wharton. As the front page of the Wharton MBA admissions website states: “At Wharton, admissions is all about the right fit.” Understanding yourself and your fit with Wharton, and telling a cohesive story is key to success with this set of essays.

When contemplating the optional essays, it will be important to choose topics that will allow you to demonstrate both achievements at work and your extracurricular or personal activities. In addition, refer back to your application strategy and strengths and weaknesses to determine which personal qualities you want to highlight in your two essays.

Required Question:
How will Wharton MBA help you achieve your professional objectives? (400 words)

The career goals essay is a standard MBA prompt. For this particular prompt, notice what is NOT asked. 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.

Budget your words carefully on this essay and be sure to answer each sub question thoroughly. When discussing your career progress, focus on building a path from your past to your future short- and long-term goals. The AdCom will be looking for evidence that you can achieve your career goals and your goals are a logical extension of your background and interests. Do your homework on Wharton and provide very specific reasons why you want to pursue your MBA at the Wharton School.

Respond to 2 of the following 3 questions:

1. Select a Wharton MBA course, co-curricular opportunity or extra-curricular engagement that you are interested in. Tell us why you chose this activity and how it connects to your interests. (500 words)

This question allows you some flexibility to talk about either academic or extra-curricular activities that you are interested in. Because this question asks why you chose the activity you want to pursue at Wharton, you can showcase an interest that ties into an aspect of your application strategy you want to highlight.
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 adcomm. Specifically to this question, you could identify Wharton faculty you would like to study with or demonstrate your knowledge of Wharton clubs and activities.
This question also provides an opportunity to show how you will be part of the vibrant Wharton community. Don’t forget to talk about how you will impact the course, co-curricular opportunity or extra-curricular engagement and your fellow students’ experience.

2. Imagine your work obligations for the afternoon were cancelled and you found yourself “work free” for three hours, what would you do? (500 words)

Entirely open-ended questions like this can be a gift to an applicant, or can derail an otherwise strategic application.
Before you select a topic for this question refer to your application strategy and list of strengths and weaknesses. Have you covered your key professional experiences? What have you demonstrated about leadership? If you have not addressed important extracurricular or volunteer activities or a story from your background that illuminates your interest in Wharton and potential contribution to the class, this is the ideal space to provide that information.
This essay is a great way to demonstrate your capacity for creativity and innovative thought. In addition, this essay can be an opportunity for you to highlight experiences in your professional or personal life that may not have been covered in the previous essay due to limited space. If your professional experience doesn’t demonstrate the innovation you would like to highlight in this essay, perhaps your extracurricular or academic pursuits offer ideas.

3. “Knowledge for Action draws upon the great qualities that have always been evident at Wharton: rigorous research, dynamic thinking, and thoughtful leadership.” ”“ Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School
Tell us about a time when you put knowledge into action. (500 words)

This question is entirely about your fit with Wharton, as exemplified by a story that shows how you fit with the new Wharton brand platform. Wharton combines intellectual rigor with an interest in making an impact in the business world, so ideally your essay tells a story about a time that you used analytical rigor and action to make an impact.
Behavioral questions like this one are meant to illustrate how you have acted in situations in the past, as a predictor of future behavior. Your answer should be concise but detailed, and clearly lay out both the situation and what you did and thought as you navigated the outcome.
While a professional example seems like the perfect fit for this type of question, don’t neglect the possibilities you might have outside of work. If you have made a large impact in a volunteer capacity this may be a place to discuss that process. Whatever the source of your example, make sure you are clearly demonstrating your ability to make thoughtful decisions and act upon them.

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.

Concerned about your Wharton application? Contact us to learn more about how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.

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

Tuesday Tips: Stanford GSB Essay Tips

Stanford GSB has published the essay questions for this application cycle, and has maintained the theme of candid self-evaluation and authenticity. The Stanford GSB MBA admissions website provides clear guidance and advice for what to …

Stanford GSB has published the essay questions for this application cycle, and has maintained 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.

Posted in Application Tips, Stanford Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,