Tag Archives: Application Tips

Tuesday Tips: INSEAD MBA Essay Tips

Two campuses, multiple degree options and a diverse and international class set INSEAD apart from its competitors. INSEAD has released the essay questions for this year’s application, right before the deadlines for the January intake. …

Two campuses, multiple degree options and a diverse and international class set INSEAD apart from its competitors. INSEAD has released the essay questions for this year’s application, right before the deadlines for the January intake. When you approach this set of essays, make sure you are ready to explain your career plans in detail, and highlight any International experiences in your background.

INSEAD focuses separately on the job and personal portion of your MBA application essays, seeking to understand candidate’s current career position in detail before delving into the personal aspect. While most MBA programs combine all aspects of your career goals trajectory into one essay, INSEAD provides three separate opportunities to discuss your current job, past experiences and future goals. Though career is covered in three essays rather than one, you should make sure that all of the essays work coherently together. As INSEAD states on the website: “We evaluate each applicant against four central criteria: leadership potential and work experience; academic capacity; international motivation; and ability to contribute to the INSEAD experience.”

Job Description Essays
1. Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/ products and results achieved. (250 words maximum)

This question should focus entirely on your current (or most recent) work situation. Though you will want to provide relevant context for your current role, make sure you are devoting most of the essay to describing the details of your day-to-day responsibilities and oversight. If you are lighter on supervising others or managing a budget, you have the opportunity to highlight some key responsibilities and results.

When you are composing this essay make sure you focus on what you uniquely have contributed to the role, rather than reciting the job description. What have you done that is above and beyond?

2. Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words maximum)

This is essentially a walk-through of your resume using the essay format to allow you to provide a unifying thread through the narrative. INSEAD is seeking to understand your career trajectory and how you have grown and progressed through your career. Think about the choices you have made in your career, and how your past experiences have combined to provide you with your current skill set. If you have a fairly straightforward career path you can take the opportunity to comment on some of the learnings from each position. The second part of the question also needs to be answered. Think about the next step at your job, and where you might land if you did not leave to pursue an MBA. While this is a straightforward question, you may need to demonstrate that you can’t get where you want to go from here ”“ and that you will need an MBA to achieve your goals.

3. If you are currently not working, what are you doing and what do you plan to do until you start the MBA programme if applicable? (250 words maximum)

If you are not employed at the moment, you will want to answer this question to show how you are utilizing your time without full time employment. Ideally you are currently involved in an activity that is going to further your career or personal goals at this time. The best answer is one that shows you are self-motivated and do not need paid work to continue developing yourself. Perhaps you are volunteering in a non-profit that is related to your career goals. Maybe you are working with a friend on a start-up. Or you are consulting and building contacts in your industry. If you are out of work only briefly, it’s also perfectly reasonable to be pursuing travel or other activities that develop your international awareness and perspective. However, make sure that your activities can tie back to your long-term goals or other key aspects of your application strategy.

Essays
1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors, which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (600 words maximum)

Strengths and weaknesses are a common topic for MBA applications. This is a great opportunity to highlight some of your skills and attributes that demonstrate leadership, teamwork or other qualities that will drive your future career success. Demonstrating self-awareness and the ability to assess your own performance will be impressive. While examples aren’t required, consider that adcomm is reading a vast number of essays and that concrete examples are both easy to understand, and may help you stand out from the crowd.

When describing weaknesses you will want to focus on those weaknesses that you have taken concrete steps to address, or that have been a route to learning more about yourself. Often strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin, in which case you can even tie your key weaknesses to your key strengths. Because it is often difficult to write about one’s weaknesses this is an especially important essay to share with others to seek feedback on tone and impact.

2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date (if possible specify one personal and one professional), explaining why you view them as such. (400 words maximum)

Similar to the HBS question, this is an opportunity to describe two of your most important accomplishments. While impressive accomplishments are great and will certainly enhance your overall application, you should pay equal attention to explaining why these accomplishments are valuable to you. If you concisely explain the accomplishment and how you were able to bring it to fruition, you will have room to provide the context for your personal pride in the accomplishment.

Note that INSEAD prefers to see both the personal and professional in this essay. This is your first opportunity in this essay set to bring in a new angle on your profile through describing one of your most substantial accomplishments outside of work.

3. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. (400 words maximum)

The classic mistake essay seeks to understand how you handle failure and learn from challenging situations. The most important aspect of this essay is to demonstrate that you are able to learn and grow as a result of your failure. Everyone fails; it’s how you react that determines your effectiveness in an organization and in achieving your own personal goals.

A strong essay will include a clear and concise description of the situation. Describe your failure quickly and avoid any lengthy backstory. Your failure should have stakes for you ”“ was it embarrassing? Did it set your career or school pursuits back? Establish why you considered the situation a failure in your life. Once you have defined the failure you can devote most of the essay to discussing your reaction and what you learned. Demonstrating that you learned something from the situation is crucial to demonstrating self-awareness and emotional intelligence. If you have the room, either applying your lesson learned to a current situation or a subsequent experience would be an excellent way to wrap up the essay.

You are provided the freedom to pull examples from multiple areas, and this is an opportunity to demonstrate another side of you that has not been explored in the previous personal or career essays.

4. a) Discuss your short and long term career goals. (300 words maximum) and b) How will studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words maximum)

This essay is a continuation of the first two essay questions. Here you should make a case for why an MBA is the appropriate next step in your career and life, and why INSEAD is the right place to do it. You already laid the groundwork on where you have been in essay 2, and where you are right now in essay 1, and this essay is a continuation of your overall career trajectory. Consider what you said about your next position in career essay 2, and how INSEAD will enhance your future career.

INSEAD seeks MBA candidates with a range of experiences and the school wants to clearly know why you are seeking an MBA. Your future career goals should flow logically from where you have been in your career and your education at INSEAD. If you are confident about where you are going the admissions committee will be confident about your ability to take advantage of the unique MBA experience.

5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:
a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain? (250 words maximum)
b) Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock. (250 words maximum)

Both of these essay choices seek a response that will demonstrate your awareness of the world outside your home country. INSEAD is a highly international program and seeks candidates that both demonstrate and value diversity. Either one of these essays offers an opportunity to highlight any international or cross culture exposure you have had, whether while traveling outside your home country, or when experiencing foreigners within your home country. You will want to demonstrate cultural sensitivity, but also an awareness of the real cultural differences between people and nationalities.

Culture shock can be a result of visiting or living in a new country, an unfamiliar group of people, or even a novel situation. Because INSEAD is such an international community it would be best to use this opportunity to discuss your awareness of other cultures and people. Choose an example that is easy to understand, and then spend some time explaining why you felt the culture shock and what it signified to you.

Option b allows you to act as host in your own country, describing the customs and challenges that may await a foreign visitor. This essay can demonstrate your skills of observation and empathy as you step into a stranger’s shoes and evaluate your own culture and values.

Whether you choose option a or b, it will be important to make sure you are highlighting your ability to conduct business across cultures. A highly international program like INSEAD will want to see demonstrated international savvy in any successful candidate.

6. Is there anything that you have not mentioned in your application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (350 words maximum) This section is optional.

This essay is 350 words you can use for anything you would like to showcase and that you were unable to work into the rest of your application. Because INSEAD’s questions are quite thorough you may have covered all aspects of your candidacy and personal qualities in the other five essay questions, in which case you can feel comfortable skipping this question (it IS optional). If you did not have a place for an interesting hobby, new aspect of your background to describe, or key accomplishment, it may be appropriate to use this space to tell that story.

It is far better to fully explain any issues in your application than to leave the admissions committee to guess what happened. If you have any challenging aspects to your candidacy like a low GPA or a failing grade in college, this is the correct place to address those concerns. 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 rather than focusing on the negative. Avoid blaming anyone else for your issue, and relentlessly show why this one incident is in your past and will stay there.

7. In case of reapplication, please provide an update on any new aspects of your professional, international, academic or personal profile that would not have been included in your previous application. Please also explain your motivation for re-applying to INSEAD. (400 words maximum)

For your reapplication to INSEAD, you should outline the changes in your profile that support your renewed candidacy. The most successful applicants will provide tangible evidence of improvement. Aspects 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 to 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.

Struggling with your INSEAD application? You can still make the upcoming deadlines ”“ contact us to start the process of partnering with Stacy Blackman Consulting.

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How To Get Into Berkeley

We hope the following is of help to applicants wondering how to get into Berkeley. The set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business covers a variety of topics ”“ from …

We hope the following is of help to applicants wondering how to get into Berkeley. The set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business covers a variety of topics ”“ from the song that expresses you to your quantitative skills. In approaching these varied questions it will be important to remain focused on what you want to communicate to the admissions committee. A clear understanding of your application strategy, particularly your career goals and strengths/weaknesses, will be key to put together a cohesive application. While challenging, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate several different aspects of your personality to the admissions committee. Remember when thinking about how to get into Berkeley, to not underestimate the importance of these essays in your application.

Remember to check your deadlines before you start your application.

1. If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)

This sort of essay can be intimidating because it calls for creativity, and the topic is entirely open ended. When approaching a question like this, consider what your personal qualities are that may be interesting to the Haas MBA program, and then consider a song you like that can express that quality. Try to focus on personal, rather than professional, aspects. Whatever song you choose,  make sure you do have an emotional connection with that song and can relate it to your own personal experiences. For example, perhaps you have a favorite song from childhood that your parents played for you, and it reminds you to believe in yourself.

2. What is your most significant accomplishment. (250 word maximum)

Your accomplishment can be big or small, but it should be significant to you. While you have limited space, this is an opportunity to demonstrate what matters to you and to showcase one of your proudest moments.

While you are asked only about the accomplishment, the best essays will use this limited space to demonstrate clearly what the accomplishment was (be specific!) as well as commenting upon the significance of the accomplishment.


3. Describe a time when you questioned an established practice or thought within an organization. How did your actions create positive change? (250 word maximum)

To answer this question effectively you will be revealing how you tend to approach conflict and accomplish change. While that’s an intense subject, you can use topics that are not necessarily huge in scope. For example, while you may not have changed recruiting practices at your investment bank, maybe you did change the way your volunteer alumni committee organized a recent reunion.

Questions like this one call for a specific situation that you can explain concisely while demonstrating how you tend to approach problem solving and working with others. This type of question is one that seeks to understand your future behavior by how you have behaved in the past, so make sure you use a concrete example and explain what you thought, felt and did during the situation so the reader is clear on your approach and behavior.

4. Describe a time when you were a student of your own failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development? (250 word maximum)

This question asks you to think about a time you failed, and a time you learned from that failure. This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate your maturity, flexibility and leadership qualities. Leaders are not people who are always successful, rather they are people who are willing to admit to failure and learn from difficulty.

As you recount your failure it will be crucial to demonstrate what you have learned as concretely as possible. As a thought experiment, try thinking about a recent triumph. Trace your life events backwards until you find a failure, and think about how that failure directly led to your success. For example, perhaps you took a job immediately after college that was not a good fit for you. You may have felt like the job was a failure, but instead of despairing you took the time to think about what you really wanted, and subsequently found a job that led you success in your career. Perhaps your story isn’t career oriented but showcases learning from extracurricular or volunteer involvement.

5.a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals?
b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (750 word maximum for 5a. and 5b.)

This is a fairly typical career goals essay that asks for both short- and long-term goals and the background that led you to this juncture in your career. Think about what you hope to achieve with your MBA and the career opportunities it will reveal for you. You don’t need to recite your resume here ”“ rather highlight the key experiences that will be relevant in your future career.

Be specific about why the Haas School of Business is the right program to pursue your goals as well. As you consider your past experiences and your future goals you will be able to see what you want to gain from the Haas experience to fill any gaps. If you have an advertising background and want to become a brand manager you’ll likely need classes in operations and finance to understand the analytical side of brand management. Other goals will require other skills and your own unique background will inform how you take advantage of the Haas experience. Make sure you have determined exactly what courses make sense for your career goals and the programs and clubs that you will participate in to reach your personal and professional goals. To those wondering how to get into Berkeley, it is important to know how important each of these essays are to your application.

Optional Essays
Please feel free to provide a statement concerning any information you would like to add to your application that you haven’t addressed elsewhere. (500 word maximum)

This question is entirely open ended, so you can either use it to explain anything you need to in your application, or add another aspect to your overall profile. If you need to explain something in your application like a low GPA or a recommender that is not your current supervisor, keep the explanation brief and factual. Focus on explanations, not excuses. If you felt that there are stories in your work, extracurricular, or personal profile that you did not have the opportunity to express in the prior essays, this is an opportunity to add that information.

If not clearly evident, please discuss ways in which you have demonstrated strong quantitative abilities, or plan to strengthen quantitative abilities. You do not need to list courses that appear on your transcript. (250 word maximum)

If you have a strong quantitative background like an engineering or hard sciences degree, or you work in a quantitative field like finance, this may not be a necessary essay. Otherwise, you may want to take one or two examples to demonstrate that you have an analytical mind and can take a quantitative approach to problem solving and evaluating data. As the question specifically asks you not to focus on the grades on your transcript, use this space to describe projects at work, additional post-graduate coursework, or your plans to strengthen your quant skills before you enroll at Haas.

We hope the above is of help to those wondering how to get into Berkeley. Struggling with your UC Berkeley application? Contact us to learn how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.

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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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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.

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Tuesday Tips: NYU Stern MBA Essay Tips

If you are applying to NYU Stern keep in mind the admissions criteria that will be used to consider your application. As the website states, “we seek students with strong intellectual ability and superior interpersonal …

If you are applying to NYU Stern keep in mind the admissions criteria that will be used to consider your application. As the 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 tool to communicate who you are to NYU Stern.

Make sure to check the deadlines before you get started.

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum)

(a) Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?

(b) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?

(c) 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 your past work experience, MBA education, and immediate post MBA goal as a logical sequence. Ideally your goal pulls from both your current work experience and the skills you will gain in the NYU MBA program.

Essay 2: 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.

(a) Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?

(b) How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?

(c) What factors will most determine which path you will take?

New this year, Essay Two 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? Accomplishing a difficult goal? Or helping 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.


Essay 3: 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. If you submit a non-written piece for Essay 3 (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit Essay 3 via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.

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. As advised for a similar essay, the Chicago powerpoint question, 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 4: 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.
If you are unable to submit a recommendation from your current supervisor, you must explain your reason in Essay 4.
If you are a re-applicant from last year, please explain how your candidacy has improved since your last application.

NYU Stern is quite clear about who should use the optional essay and who should not. Like many other schools, NYU Stern provides this 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.

If you are a re-applicant it will be important to establish what has changed from last year. Have you earned a promotion? Improved your GMAT score? Whatever you have been able to develop since last year, highlight why you are a stronger candidate now.

If you are looking for guidance on your NYU Stern application, Stacy Blackman Consulting can help with hourly and comprehensive consulting services. Contact us to learn more.

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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.

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