Tag Archives: Application Tips

Tuesday Tips: 2015 Michigan Ross MBA Essay Tips

Michigan Ross is a program that emphasizes learning both inside and outside the classroom, and is seeking candidates that are intellectually curious and able to accomplish their goals. Ross is also a close-knit community and …

Michigan Ross is a program that emphasizes learning both inside and outside the classroom, and is seeking candidates that are intellectually curious and able to accomplish their goals. Ross is also a close-knit community and fit with the program is important to demonstrate in the application process. Visiting Ross or learning about the program through current students, alumni or faculty would be helpful before starting this set of essays.

The Ross admissions blog states that concise, clear and simple language is prized in the essay portion of the application. Make sure you are using the limited space to explain specifics about you and your experiences and goals rather than generic statements.

Essay One: What are you most proud of and why? How does it shape who you are today? (up to 400 words)

Last year Ross separated the professional and personal in this question, asking candidates to explain what they were most proud of in both realms. This year you have the flexibility to pull from any area of your life to discuss what you are most proud of and why.

If you choose a professional topic remember that intellectual ability, professional achievements and teamwork are all among the qualities the Ross admissions committee is looking for in applicants. As you consider topics for this essay focus on the ones that will demonstrate you are a strong leader and that you can learn from experience.

The personal attributes the admissions committee are looking for in applicants include community engagement and interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills.

When you consider topics for this essay you may want to write about an important extracurricular accomplishment, a challenge you overcame, or an event in your life that highlights something unique about your background. For example, if you have a track record of club leadership through college and afterwards that can be compelling evidence of your community engagement and leadership skills. On the other end of the spectrum perhaps you have spent time outside your home country for school or work and that has shaped your teamwork, interpersonal and communication skills.

In some cases you may be most proud of an accomplishment because of what you learned and how it shaped your career. In other cases the follow up questions are two separate components of the essay. Either way the why behind your pride in accomplishment will reveal what you value most – whether prestige, credit, or the motivation to achieve your goals. Make sure that your values are aligned with how you want to be perceived by the admissions committee.

Whatever you are most proud of, make sure you are addressing why it is important to you. What you learned and how you have used what you learned since in your life can offer invaluable insight as well.

Essay Two: What is your desired career path and why? (up to 400 words)

Michigan Ross is interested to hear what you plan to do after your MBA and what is motivating that decision. The Ross admissions blog is clear that the question is meant to understand your motivation and interests, and that no specific “correct” career is expected. Both traditional and non-traditional MBA goals are welcomed as long as you are sincere about the path you plan to take.

Answering “why” you chose your career path is crucial. As you describe your career path make sure you explain what has led you to pursue it, and why it resonates with you. The answer doesn’t need to be elaborate or dramatic, but it should be convincing and real. The question doesn’t ask “Why MBA?” or “Why Ross?” but you may want to address both questions. Particularly if Ross has unique resources that will help you achieve your goal, it may help your case to explain why Ross.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has worked with successful candidates to Michigan Ross for over a decade and can offer comprehensive strategic advice every step of the way. Contact us to learn more.

Posted in Application Tips, Michigan Ross Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday Tips: 2015 Harvard Business School MBA Application Essay Tips

This year Harvard Business School has decided to continue with one open-ended essay. The question has changed slightly and focused emphasis on the case method and your interaction with classmates. The HBS admissions director blog …

This year Harvard Business School has decided to continue with one open-ended essay. The question has changed slightly and focused emphasis on the case method and your interaction with classmates. The HBS admissions director blog notes that the “optional” element was dropped because: “this season, every applicant submitted a response. We get it. You want to tell us things.”

The most challenging part of this essay is remaining disciplined. With unlimited space to make your case, you may be tempted to compose a laundry list of everything interesting or impressive you have ever done. That urge could backfire, as the essay is used to determine who isn’t a fit for HBS as much as those who deserve the chance to move into the interview round. Maturity, accomplishment, and leadership are highly valued qualities and this essay is your chance to display those qualities through the stories you choose and the voice coming through your writing.

There is one question for the Class of 2018 application essay:

It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting.

Introduce yourself.

Note: Should you enroll at HBS, there will be an opportunity for you to share this with them.

A note on word count: HBS values brevity in essays. Do not be tempted to go overboard with a 2,000 word essay, rather focus on concise and clear writing and consider keeping this essay to 1,200 words or less. Our clients have successfully composed essays anywhere from 500-1,300 words, though you should take a pass through your essay to cut any unnecessary words if you find yourself on the upper end of that range.

The goal of this essay is to know yourself, know HBS, and know how to match the two to demonstrate your fit for the school as you introduce yourself to your classmates. Your first task should be to evaluate all of the other aspects of your candidacy – what is the story your resume tells? What do you think recommenders will say? How does your transcript communicate your skills, accomplishments and interests? Then you need to evaluate how to fill the gaps with the essay.

When you view the recommended video on the case method you can see that diverse perspectives are valuable to the case method experience. Think about what diverse experience you bring. We have found that both personal and career oriented topics can work, and most candidates tell more than one story in the essay. Consider that from your classmates’ perspective the most interesting information will be both personal and professional. You will be studying together and socializing together. Later, you will be professional contacts in your classmates’ career network. In the past we have observed that successful HBS essays also demonstrate of a core driving passion.

As you consider possible stories to tell in this essay keep in mind that HBS has always been highly focused on leadership and wants to accept candidates who have a track record of leadership impact and a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential. Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of HBS essays, and using at least one accomplishment story in this essay may be a good strategy, particularly if your accomplishments are not obvious when reading your resume or transcripts.

A note on what not to do: We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in HBS essays. Explaining why the case method specifically is a good fit for you and your learning style is absolutely appropriate, but more detailed “why HBS” content has never been asked for in an HBS application essay question. HBS admissions is quite clear on the value of an HBS degree, and they would rather see you use the space to provide more information about yourself and your candidacy.

Looking for guidance on your HBS application? Contact us to learn more about Stacy Blackman Consulting.

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

Tuesday Tips: 2015 MIT Sloan MBA Essay Tips

MIT Sloan has just announced the essay questions and deadlines for the class of 2018. This year there is only one required question, a second required short-answer for those invited to interview, and an optional …

MIT Sloan has just announced the essay questions and deadlines for the class of 2018. This year there is only one required question, a second required short-answer for those invited to interview, and an optional open-ended essay.

For many years MIT asked a series of behavioral questions for the admissions essays because past performance was considered to be the best predictor of candidates’ future success. This year the one required essay is a behavioral question again. As you approach topics for the required question consider if you will also answer the optional question. MIT Sloan is looking for people with integrity, passion, creativity, intellectual abilities and drive and determination. Do you have a recent success that will demonstrate some or most of those traits? The success can be professional or outside of work, though should have some relationship to your professional aspirations if possible. If the situation is not one that demonstrates many of the traits MIT Sloan is seeking in candidates, you may also decide to include the optional essay in your application.

We have one required essay at the time of submission: Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words or fewer).

This essay question is set up to be a behavioral essay question, one that seeks to understand how you think and act in various situations. We often recommend using a framework called STAR to approach questions like this and make sure you are covering all of the required components. STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, and Results.

The SITUATION sets the stage and introduces the challenge you faced. It can be a simple sentence like: “My company’s key product was aging and we needed to find an area of growth to maintain revenues.”

Your TASK is a bit more detailed and identifies what solution you decided to implement to address the situation. For example: “I proposed setting up an innovation tournament for our global strategy team to come up with ideas.”

The meat of the essay is the ACTION. Describe in detail what you did to implement the task. Talk about the stakeholders you had to convince, any hurdles to setting up the tournament, how you encouraged buy in among all employees and any other action you personally took to accomplish your goal.

RESULTS can be relatively brief, and ideally quantitative. For example: “the tournament revealed 10 viable new product ideas, 3 of which are currently in development.”

The ACTION part of the essay should be the majority of the response, but setting up the situation clearly and demonstrating results is important and effective to a strong response. As MIT typically asked in the past, make sure to describe: “what you thought, felt, said, and did.” The admissions committee wants to see you developing creative solutions, leading others, and overcoming challenges to “visualize you in action.”

A second short-answer question will be asked of those invited to interview: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words or fewer).

This question focuses on your intellectual skills, leadership and character. When you consider topics for this question the most important aspect will be to demonstrate character. Improving the world doesn’t have to be working for an NGO in a developing country, it could also be improving your company to have more benefit to customers or employees.

For example, perhaps you were part of an employee resource group that helped new employees with their careers, increased diversity, or served the community through volunteering. MIT Sloan also wants to see creative solutions to business problems, so make sure to explain your thinking during the experience you describe.

The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us to know about you, in any format. If you choose to use a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us the URL. More information on the MIT Sloan website.

MIT Sloan’s entirely open-ended optional essay invites applicants to respond to the essay in any format desired. This allows you to do anything you need to with this space, including clarifying any concerns or highlighting interesting aspects of your background or profile. Because there is only one required written essay this year it may be useful to use this opportunity to show the admissions committee a different angle on your candidacy. The format can be a creative way for you to showcase any technical or design skills you have, but the content should be primary.

Because this essay is highly dependent on who you are and what you wrote in the required essay, consider carefully your overall strategy and refer to the list of traits MIT Sloan is looking for in admitted students. If you have an unusual background, hobby or extracurricular experience, this may be an opportunity to provide that information to the admissions committee.

With similar questions asked by other MBA programs in the past Stacy Blackman Consulting has advised candidates on everything from photo journalism projects to customized multimedia presentations. We treat the application as a holistic process and would advise you on which aspects of your background to consider revealing in this optional essay.

Stumped by your MIT Sloan MBA application? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help.

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

Yale School of Management MBA Essay Tips

Yale is an Ivy League university with expertise across fields. The school now investing heavily in continuing to improve the business education at Yale School of Management. A new campus is slated for January 2014, …

Yale is an Ivy League university with expertise across fields. The school now investing heavily in continuing to improve the business education at Yale School of Management. A new campus is slated for January 2014, Yale continues to hire top talent in the administrative departments and faculty, and has innovated in the admissions process.

This year Yale SOM has streamlined the admissions process with only two essays coming in under 1,000 words total. Additionally, Yale has eliminated the English-language test requirement this year. The video interview is another new aspect of the admissions process that allows interviewers to review the applicant’s performance after the fact and compare across applicants.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has been working with a similar video interview platform as the one Yale is using and we are familiar with the technology and process. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you prepare for the Yale application and interview process.

Essay 1
What motivates your decision to pursue an MBA? (300 words maximum)

Think about this essay in terms of the inflection points in your career thus far. When you consider why you want an MBA at this time there is likely some consideration of your immediate professional goals, some reflection upon your interests and experiences thus far and a bit of aspirational thinking about the long-term future you envision for yourself.

Because this is a short essay and you will be submitting your resume as part of the application you can avoid reciting each job and accomplishment and focus on the moments that have impacted your decision. For example, you might want to highlight specific projects at work that have most excited you and shaped your future goals and discuss why. The key is to add some insight to your background and demonstrate how you are thinking about your future and how an MBA will assist you with your goals.

Essay 2
The Yale School of Management provides leadership education for broad-minded, rigorous, and intellectually curious students with diverse backgrounds; a distinctive integrated curriculum; connections to one of the great research universities in the world; and the broad reach of an innovative and expanding global network of top business schools.

What motivates you to apply to the Yale School of Management for your MBA? What will you contribute to Yale and Yale SOM? (450 words maximum)

This question offers you plenty of clues about why you might be the kind of student who would pick Yale SOM for your MBA. As you describe the reasons Yale appeals to you, don’t forget you are also selling yourself. Make sure you are coming across as an intellectually curious student with a diverse background and that you are interested in the integrated curriculum.

When you research Yale for this essay question it will be most useful to talk with current or former students or visit campus if your scheduled allows. Understanding Yale on a personal level with your own unique tastes and motivations will help you to make the best case for admission. You will need to know the programs and classes you are most interested in and why, what clubs and activities appeal to you, and the unique attributes of the Yale curriculum that will help you achieve your specific goals.

Posted in Application Tips, Yale SOM Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

NYU Stern MBA Essay Tips

As the NYU Stern MBA website states, “we seek students with strong intellectual ability and superior interpersonal skills (IQ + EQ)” The individual components of your application will be academic ability, professional achievements and career …

As the NYU Stern MBA website states, “we seek students with strong intellectual ability and superior interpersonal skills (IQ + EQ)” The individual components of your application will be academic ability, professional achievements and career aspirations, and personal characteristics. While your academics will be evaluated mainly through your GMAT and GPA, the essays are a crucial part of your application strategy.

NYU has traditionally required a personal expression essay, but this year allows you to choose between the options. Either essay will tie back to your fit with NYU Stern. Option A is a great choice if you want to discuss your drive and motivation, while Option B allows a more personal expression of who you are.

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum)
Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

Why MBA, why now, is an important question to answer. While many people seek the degree, NYU wants to invest in those who can use it most effectively. Perhaps you’re seeking an MBA for networking or professional credibility, or maybe you want an MBA to learn specific skills to change careers. Whatever your own personal reasons may be, make sure you can point to specific aspects of the MBA education both generally and specifically at Stern that are necessary to achieve your goals.

Note that this question specifically asks about your interest in pursuing an MBA at this point in your life. Why is now the right time for you, both personally and professionally? What will an MBA add to your already successful career trajectory to get you to the next level? If you are an older applicant you will need to spend time carefully communicating that you realize what an MBA can and can’t do for you at your professional level, and that you have a plan to leverage the MBA professionally in your next job.

This essay also offers an opportunity to demonstrate your fit with NYU Stern and describe why NYU Stern is the right place for you to spend the next two years of your life. Certainly personal experience of the campus through visits or student touch points would be ideal, but even if you are halfway around the world you can illustrate the many ways in which you learned about the NYU Stern experience.

The activities that most excite you academically should be logically related to your career goals explained in essay 1. The activities you are involved with might be professional, or could be personal hobbies or interests. This essay is your opportunity to describe who you are outside of work, and discussing the hobbies and extracurricular interests you have pursued thus far will be an important data point.

Your post MBA goal should be both achievable and demonstrate the need for an MBA. An MBA from NYU Stern will open professional doors for you, and you should demonstrate that you are ready to take advantage of those opportunities. Think about a logical sequence that starts with your past work experience, then your MBA education and ends with your immediate post MBA goal. Ideally your goal pulls from both your current work experience and the skills you will gain in the NYU MBA program.

Essay 2: Choose Option A or Option B

Option A: Your Two Paths (500 word maximum)
The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact.

Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?
How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?
What factors will most determine which path you will take?

Option A asks you to exercise a thought exercise about your future career goals. After identifying your immediate post-MBA career goal in Essay 1, where can you see your long-term career evolving? Again, both trajectories should be logical. For example, if you worked as an analyst in finance prior to your MBA, and plan to work in private equity post MBA, perhaps you see yourself as a partner in your PE firm as your first path, or operating a company as your second path. Each could unfold depending upon the choices you make or opportunities you see as you engage actively with your career.

The second part of this question asks you to tie both paths to the NYU Stern mission, which is to “develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society.” Almost any career goal can reflect this mission, though infusing an element of leadership into your plans can help maximize your impact beyond the career of one individual. Developing people who can transform challenges could multiply your impact and create tremendous value.

In the third section of the question you should consider all of the factors you might use as criteria to evaluate future career goals. This is a great time to consider what has motivated you in the past – do you thrive on achievement? Relish accomplishment of a difficult goal? Desire to help others? This question is one that demonstrates your ability to evaluate your own decision-making process, as well as revealing the values you hold most closely. Answer this question strategically to ensure you are intentionally revealing personal attributes that are most representative of your values and potential.

Option B: Personal Expression
Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

Open-ended essays like this one can be intimidating. You are allowed any method to introduce yourself to your classmates, and you’re probably wondering what the best medium for your message is.

However, your content is king in this essay. The best first step is to brainstorm the information you want to convey. Reflect upon your unique personal qualities and what is valued most by your friends and family. How would you want your classmates to see you? What are some of the personal stories you would share with a new friend?

Once you have established the content you want to use for the NYU Stern essay 3, it’s time to consider the medium. If you are a visual person you may chose a drawing, painting or photo series. If you are a creative writer perhaps it’s a poem or short story. If none of the “creative” approaches feel right to you, feel free to write a standard essay where you explain who you are and introduce yourself to your classmates. The medium is not the most important aspect of this essay, rather the message and content of your composition will demonstrate who you are to the admissions committee.

Essay 3. Additional Information (optional)
Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE and/or TOEFL or any other relevant information.

NYU Stern provides the optional essay as an opportunity for you to explain a low GPA, GMAT or TOEFL. If you are in that situation, avoid excuses. Focus on the facts, and explain why this performance is not indicative of your future performance at NYU Stern.

If you are not submitting a recommendation from your current employer, this is the place to explain the situation. A few valid reasons may include a brief tenure working for your current boss, that you are not sharing your MBA plans with your supervisor, or that you work more closely with other members of the team.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has helped countless aspiring NYU Stern MBA students to showcase personal and professional stories that cut through the clutter. Contact us to learn more.

Posted in Application Tips, NYU Stern Advice | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Columbia Business School MBA Application Essay Tips 2013

Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for this fall’s application. Columbia has updated several questions with an increased focus on New York City as a defining feature. As usual, Columbia is highly concerned …

Columbia Business School has posted the essay questions for this fall’s application. Columbia has updated several questions with an increased focus on New York City as a defining feature. As usual, Columbia is highly concerned about fit and your knowledge of the program. Before you get started with this set of essays it will be helpful to brainstorm your career objectives, strengths and weaknesses, and to make sure you have done as much school research as possible.

Short Answer Question: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (100 characters maximum)

This is a simple question, but may require you to condense your career goals into one clear career vision statement. Columbia presents several examples on their website, all of which have some unique aspect. Rather than a generic statement like: “I plan to work in finance after Columbia” the goal is to infuse some individuality. Something like: “After my MBA I plan to pursue a career in real estate finance within a private equity firm” tells the admissions committee far more about your interests and goals.

Essay 1: Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time? (Maximum 500 words)

Remember that this essay has two purposes: demonstrate that you know why you are interested in Columbia, and showcase why you are an excellent fit for the program. Both goals should be kept in mind as you answer the question.

Columbia has traditionally asked a similar question to determine why you are pursuing an MBA and why Columbia is the right program for you. It is likely that part of your answer to this question deals with your future career goals. When you think about your future plans it will add credibility to describe how you tend to approach goals in general. Are you determined despite obstacles? How have you demonstrated your persistence in your career thus far? This essay is not a recitation of your resume and should focus only on relevant examples from your career, but often the best indicator of future performance is the past, and therefore examples can support your position that your goals are achievable with a Columbia MBA.

The question is open ended enough to allow you to describe other details about your background. If you have a unique path to the MBA this is the place to describe it. If your cultural or family background is interesting and relevant to your application examples featuring details about your experiences could also be appropriate in response to this question.

Essay 2: Columbia Business School is located in the heart of the world’s business capital – Manhattan. How do you anticipate that New York City will impact your experience at Columbia? (Maximum 250 words)

The two videos Columbia asks applicants to watch can give you a few clues about the selling points that Columbia Business School sees in their New York City location. Everything from galleries and food to access to professionals in finance is referenced and could be included in your personalized response to this question.

As you decide how to approach this question make sure that your individual goals for learning and career are impacting how you answer. You should consider the industry you plan to enter, and either the key adjunct professors from that industry at Columbia or the access to major companies from that industry in New York City. Consider your personal interests and how you might pursue them in the diversity of such an international city, and also the ways that Columbia’s alumni network can provide opportunities within the metropolitan area.

A mix of personal and professional interests may be covered in this topic, and you may want to emphasize either one of those angles depending on the answers you present to the other core questions.

Essay 3: What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

If you did not cover anything personal in the prior two essays this is your opportunity to stand out from the pack of other applicants. If you are stumped by this essay prompt you may want to ask friends, family members or colleagues what they view as an interesting and unique fact about you.

Once you have ideas about how to approach this question make sure that you are describing something about yourself that will be interesting both to your peers and to the admissions committee. Facts about your prior work experience, any international experiences or travel, or extracurriculars that are a strong passion for you are all both potentially interesting to the people in your Cluster and the Columbia Business School admissions committee.

Optional Essay: An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.

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 essay 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 showcase your unique profile.

Posted in Columbia Advice | Tagged , , , , , , ,