Tag Archives: Tips

Think of Your Resume Like a Movie Trailer, Advises UM Ross Admissions Director

“For me, the resume is just as important as your essays,” Soojin Kwon, admissions director at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, recently wrote on her blog. Wednesday, October 10th is the round …

“For me, the resume is just as important as your essays,” Soojin Kwon, admissions director at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, recently wrote on her blog. Wednesday, October 10th is the round one deadline, so there’s no time like the present to weigh how your resume stacks up against her expectations.

Here are the three tips she passed on to applicants:

1. A good resume takes time.

“I find that many applicants don’t take enough care with their resumes,” Kwon said, perhaps dashing off  something that might suffice if you were applying for a job in your industry. This is yet another chance to tell your story, but it most be done with brevity and in a way that engages the reader. No industry jargon, please! “It should be clear and concise, yet detailed enough to give us an idea of your skills, experiences and interests,” Kwon explained.

2. Quality trumps quantity.

For applicants concerned their resume is on the thin side, Kwon stressed that the admissions committee is looking not at the number of years worked but on the quality of that professional experience. Ross wants to see what skills you’ve gained and the contributions you’ve made.

3. Fear not, ye poets!

For UM Ross, like most top business schools, the beauty of creating a diverse class comes from pulling together compelling candidates from all sorts of undergraduate backgrounds—which includes those from liberal arts or other such “non-business” degrees. Class discussions would fizzle pretty quickly if everyone in the group came from just one or two industries or majors.

“How you describe your experiences matters. What you choose to highlight matters,” said Kwon. “Think of it as a trailer for the movie about you. It doesn’t need to be flashy and exciting. It needs to show that there’s substance there.”

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For more UM Ross advice, see our tips for approaching this year’s Ross MBA essay questions.

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5 Things to Weigh Before Applying to B-School

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com All aspiring MBAs must decide how many and which business schools to apply to; the key is to be aware of where you …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

All aspiring MBAs must decide how many and which business schools to apply to; the key is to be aware of where you are in the application “window”””or where you are in life in general.

The vast majority of MBA students are in their mid-20s to early 30s. Only a small portion comes directly from college, and only a few attend full-time business school in their late-30s or 40s. But even within the prime eight-year window””from 24 to 32””applicants should consider five issues when deciding where to apply.

1. Age: Many applicants in their mid-20s decide to apply only to their first two choices, figuring that if they don’t get in, they can reapply down the line when they have more experience. While this approach may work for some younger candidates, it’s not recommended for applicants who are a bit older. Instead, older candidates should apply to a wider array of schools to ensure that they will at least have the option of attending business school next fall.

Of course, the best scenario involves an intelligent mix of “reach” and “safety” schools that will yield a choice of MBA programs for the applicant. Unfortunately, some candidates get on a misguided “Harvard or Stanford ”¦ or nothing!” kick that doesn’t serve anyone’s interests.

2. Career path: Some MBA aspirants hold positions where they can continue for many years, but others work in areas, such as consulting or investment banking, where policy or tradition encourages young employees to get further education.

In environments where one can continue to advance unfettered, a candidate might consider applying solely to his or her top choice programs. However, candidates coming from companies with two- to three-year analyst programs, which don’t allow for much upward progression, should probably cast their nets wider and assemble a bigger portfolio of schools.

3. Career track satisfaction: Several MBA applicants, who feel locked in roles that are too technical or too narrowly defined, have told me they want to apply to just a couple of very highly ranked programs.

However, when people hope to transition to either an entirely new role or industry sooner rather than later, they should apply to a broad range of business schools. There are incredible programs throughout the top 20 in the b-school rankings (and even beyond) that can provide the classes, career programs, and alumni networks that aid this kind of transition.

4. First timer or reapplicant: A candidate who is going through his or her second round of business school applications should almost always apply to more schools. If the candidate is applying a couple of years down the line after dramatically improving her experience base, then she might add two or three new schools to the mix, but should still target her top programs from a few years before.

However, if the candidate is applying the very next year without significant changes in role, experience, or extracurriculars, he should pursue a different base of schools, with perhaps one or two holdovers from the previous year.

5. Family considerations: Taking two years to get an MBA is not just a business decision””it’s also a life decision. Sometimes, the interests of boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, or children are critical factors in making the decision of if, when, and where to apply. These considerations are much more complex and varied than the factors listed above, so it’s difficult to work through them in depth here.

For instance, some students want to get through business school quickly so they can start a family afterward, while others may view business school (with day care, low travel requirements, etc.) as a great environment to begin to build up their brood.

Candidates should talk with family, friends, and mentors (and potentially an MBA application adviser) early in the process to determine where they are in this window for business school. Says Jesse Hopps, founder of DemandMetric, this was an absolutely critical step in managing the application process thoughtfully.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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