Tag Archives: Tips
May 28, 2013
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.
October 23, 2012
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.
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.
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.
October 9, 2012
“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.”
For more UM Ross advice, see our tips for approaching this year’s Ross MBA essay questions.
September 21, 2012
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
September 19, 2012
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.