Tag Archives: Wharton
July 21, 2011
Rahul signed up with Stacy Blackman Consulting for a two-hour feedback session on his unsuccessful application from the prior year. With a 760 GMAT and a near perfect GPA from an Ivy League school, Rahul …
Rahul signed up with Stacy Blackman Consulting for a two-hour feedback session on his unsuccessful application from the prior year. With a 760 GMAT and a near perfect GPA from an Ivy League school, Rahul was surprised that he failed to receive even a single interview invitation from his applications to HBS, Stanford, Columbia, and Chicago. With better-than-average numbers, I had a feeling that Rahul needed to focus on the qualitative factors to make his case for admission.
When I read through Rahul’s application to Stanford it was clear that there was room to improve his essays and his recommendations. Rahul’s career goals were a logical extension of his current job in consulting ”“ he planned to return to the firm and advance to partner, ultimately specializing in the technology side of the firm and focusing on developing that side of the business. However, he never explained WHY technology was a passion for him, or WHY he was so devoted to his firm that he wanted to make his career there. Though in conversation Rahul was passionate about his path, it came across as a default answer in his essay.
“What Matters Most” is a tough essay topic for every candidate. In Rahul’s case he focused on his family and particularly his relationship with his grandparents who had immigrated to the United States from India and embraced a new culture and way of life. Again, Rahul’s admiration for his family and forebears was captivating in speech, but did not translate in writing.
As for Rahul’s recommenders, they praised his work, but did not advance his cause. None of them addressed Rahul’s career goals in any depth, and they did not highlight his exceptional work as compared with his peers. Overall it seemed as if Rahul was a strong contributor to his firm, but he didn’t come across as the next generation of leader and superstar there. When we discussed this issue, Rahul explained he had not shared his career goals or any of his other essay topics with his recommenders. As a result, I guessed his recommenders were not as invested in his success and may have lacked direction in writing the letters.
Rahul was receptive to my feedback and continued to work with us to reapply to HBS and Stanford, while adding Wharton, Michigan and Kellogg as new schools on his list. Rahul devoted himself to essay writing, and the results reflected his infectious enthusiasm for his work and his personal life. He also set up lunch meetings with his recommenders to go over his strategy and plans for re-application. With his recommenders in the loop on his overall goals they supported him with enthusiastic letters, and even helped him take on new projects related to technology at the firm in the year before he went to school.
Rahul was ultimately admitted to Wharton and the Kellogg MMM program.
We have so many client stories and each one is different. Even applicants who appear to have similar bios are unique when we peel back the layers. View more client case studies here.
*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.
July 19, 2011
On the front page of the Wharton MBA admissions website the adcomm states: “At Wharton, admissions is all about the right fit.” The questions this year continue on that theme, with several behavioral essay questions …
On the front page of the Wharton MBA admissions website the adcomm states: “At Wharton, admissions is all about the right fit.” The questions this year continue on that theme, with several behavioral essay questions seeking to understand how you approach your life and work.
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.
What are your professional objectives?
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.
Respond to 2 of the following 3 questions:
1. Reflect on a time when you turned down an opportunity. What was the thought process behind your decision? Would you make the same decision today?
This Wharton Business School essay asks about the path not taken. The opportunity could have been professional, either a job or a project you decided not to pursue, or perhaps personal. Think about the areas you have already covered in other essays and decide what situation would be best for this question. Whatever situation you describe, make sure you spend equal time on the second and third part of the question.
Be clear about exactly how you decided to turn down the opportunity and the factors you considered. Are you the kind of person who weighs pros and cons or goes with your intuition? What criteria did you consider? Why did you ultimately decide not to take the opportunity presented?
The final question is whether you would make the same decision today. Think about the outcome of turning down the opportunity ”“ did it ultimately lead to a better job or project? Did you ultimately reach your goals, or do you think the opportunity may have led you down an interesting path? Either way, clearly articulate how you consider the decision today, and why.
2. Discuss a time when you faced a challenging interpersonal experience. How did you navigate the situation and what did you learn from it?
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.
Often a tough experience is an excellent learning opportunity and contributes to your growth and development. Think about the type of person who will be successful in an MBA program, and as a manager and a leader. What skills do you share with a strong leader, and were any formed during a challenging interpersonal situation like this?
The challenge could range from a difficult boss or coworker, to a relationship with a friend or family member. The key to a successful essay is to demonstrate how, specifically, you navigated the experience. A lesson learned or beneficial outcome to the experience would end the Wharton Business School essay well and allow you to illustrate your leadership, teamwork or social skills.
3. “Innovation is central to our culture at Wharton. It is a mentality that must encompass every aspect of the School ”“ whether faculty research, teaching or alumni outreach.” ”“ Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School
Keeping this component of our culture in mind, discuss a time when you have been innovative in your personal or professional life.
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.
Along with the behavioral part of this question, there is an implied direction to show your fit with Wharton through your innovative mentality. 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 entire set of essays, as well as navigate interviews and other interactions with the Wharton adcomm.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Before you start your applications, make sure to take note of the deadlines!
May 12, 2011
A lot has been said in recent years about schools like Harvard and Stanford taking a greater interest in younger applicants and denying older applicants, with many top schools following suit. In fact, I have …
A lot has been said in recent years about schools like Harvard and Stanford taking a greater interest in younger applicants and denying older applicants, with many top schools following suit. In fact, I have seen posts in forums that basically tell people there is “no chance” past a certain age. Whereas ten years ago there was buzz about getting as much work experience as possible, more recently, applicants have feared having too much experience, being too old. This case study is meant to demonstrate that older applicants do get in, and can and should apply. But I also want to provide a context and explain why older candidates do often have a tough time. Since our client ended up at HBS, I will speak to HBS, but this really applies to all top schools.
Harvard values great leadership. If you are applying to Harvard when you are 34 or like our client, 37, you better have already developed terrific leadership skills and have a lot to show for them. The problem is that many people with great leadership skills have achieved so much by the time they are almost 40, that they are not interested in going back to school. However, if one of these people is interested, and can demonstrate great achievement balanced with a legitimate need/desire to return to school, than they have a good chance. You see, proving that you are a strong and accomplished 40 year old leader, and balancing that with the fact that you want to improve in order to get to the next step, is tough to pull off. But it is pulled off and “old” people are admitted every year!
Our client, Max, was 37 and applied to a full range of schools. Harvard was actually a re-application for him ”“ the others were all first time apps. In a nutshell, his numbers were just average (3.5 GPA from mid tier school and 670 GMAT), and he had a nice, though not outrageous record of extra-curriculars.
Max’s work experience was stellar. He had advanced quickly and impressively, and had significant P&L responsibility at Nestle. He had rock solid evidence of strong leadership and communication skills, and he clearly had a lot to offer peers in classroom discussion. Recommendations were also very good. In drafting his application, he struggled with the balance between past experience and articulating ambitious, reasonable goals that supported his desire for an MBA. Ultimately, he had a very big, high impact vision for his career. But it was not a “pie in the sky” type of pipe dream. His prior experience informed and inspired his future goals, and made them appear to be realistic: ambitious and realistic. He was also able to tie unique personal experiences to his goals, showing how his career plan had personal meaning for him and was about more than just “making money”.
Even though he emerged from the process with admits from HBS and Tuck, it was not a smooth road. His initial results were not so happy as he was waitlisted and then denied first from Wharton and later also denied from Columbia and Stanford. At that point he seized upon the only aspect of the application that was still within his control and prepped like crazy for his Round 2 interviews. Guess it helped tip him over the edge! A very happy ending.
Facebook Contest: Answer the question below in the comments section for a chance to win an account from Apply in the Sky ($75 value). The winner will be chosen by the Stacy Blackman Team on 05/15:
How do you see an MBA degree helping you achieve your goals post-graduation?
To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.
March 30, 2011
My client, Abhi, was a very accomplished individual who desperately wanted to attend a top business school. In particular, he had his sights set on Wharton. Unfortunately, Abhi had one significant challenge: his profile was …
My client, Abhi, was a very accomplished individual who desperately wanted to attend a top business school. In particular, he had his sights set on Wharton.
Unfortunately, Abhi had one significant challenge: his profile was nearly identical to hundreds and hundreds of other applicants. Abhi was from India, and after earning his undergraduate degree, he had come to the US to earn a Masters in Engineering. He then took on a technical role within a financial services company in Washington DC. He stayed there for three years and did very well, earning an important promotion along the way.
Abhi was involved in a handful of extra-curricular activities, but even those were similar to ones we had seen many times from other Indian applicants. He had participated in dance competitions back home, and in the US volunteered regularly with a well known organization, raising funds for India. On the personal front, he sent money home regularly to help his parents and sister who struggled financially. All of these things highlighted a truly giving, hardworking individual who was passionate about developing himself and his communities. Abhi’s GPA and GMAT were average.
When we first met with Abhi, we had a difficult conversation about the reality of this highly competitive situation. We encouraged him to apply to a portfolio of schools in order to maximize his chances. He did agree to apply to four schools, with Wharton by far being the most competitive and his first choice. The final list also included Tepper, Darden and Stern.
We then proceeded to map out some stories to share with the admissions committees. We decided to mention his long track record of service, but really hone in on a more recent activity. He had organized a large group to train for a marathon and raise money for a six year old girl who was sick with leukemia. He discussed his own training process, recruiting and engaging others, planning multiple fund-raising events and the leadership ups and downs that he encountered throughout.
He also discussed a relationship that he had developed with an important business mentor, and some of the activities that he had completed on his behalf, as well as a business organization that he had joined as a result. This highlighted his initiative over and above what he did in the office, and his ability to network and develop relationships. This story was completed by a recommendation written by the mentor, which further discussed the relationship.
For Wharton, Abhi put on an extra push: he visited campus more than once, and came to know the school extremely well. This was made clear in his essays. He also asked a good friend who was a current student and who could legitimately add insight into his candidacy, to submit a letter on his behalf. The final package truly highlighted how passionate he was about the program and what a good fit he was in terms of culture and goals.
In the end, Abhi was admitted to both Wharton and Tepper. We all celebrated!
To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.
March 23, 2011
Our client, Jackie, had a lot to offer business school, and in fact, any community that she joined. She had a true track record of success and made a positive impact on others and on organizations.
As an undergraduate, Jackie attended a top 20 school and majored in American Civilization. She earned a 3.5 GPA, and really enjoyed the academic experience. When she graduated, she joined a small arts non-profit in San Francisco, CA. Because it was a very small organization, Jackie wore many hats. She helped develop art guides of major cities, organized lectures, led grass roots marketing efforts, developed and managed strategic relationships and much more. In her personal time, she was very involved with improving arts programs in local public elementary schools, and volunteered many hours per week.
After three years, Jackie felt that it was time to move on, and decided that business school would be a good catalyst for whatever was next (and she was admittedly a bit unclear).
She studied for and took the GMAT and after two attempts, proceeded with a 640. Despite a score that was below average for her target schools, she decided to apply to four top tier business schools: UC Berkeley Haas, UCLA Anderson, Stanford and Wharton.
In developing Jackie’s application, we brainstormed short and long term career goals and she was able to clearly articulate an interesting career path that made a lot of sense for business school. She also highlighted her involvements effectively and overall, submitted a very strong application.
However, she knew that a major hole in her candidacy was proof of quantitative abilities. She had almost no quant courses on her academic transcript, minimal quant exposure in her job, and her GMAT score was below average in both quant and verbal. Jackie knew that schools might question her ability to navigate a rigorous quantitative courseload, and did highlight plans to take a quantitative class in the near future.
When the results came in, our concerns proved to be well founded. Jackie was denied at Anderson and Haas. She was placed on the waitlist at Stanford and was eventually denied admission there as well. Wharton gave her a “conditional” acceptance. She could attend as long as she took a Calculus course and received a B+ or higher.
This was good news that unfortuantely held a bit of uncertainty and anxiety. Ultimately, however, Jackie earned an A in the class, fulfilled her requirement and went off to Wharton. Whew!
*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.
February 23, 2011
Earlier this month, as part of our Facebook 1,000 Final Stretch Contest, I asked you for suggestions on how to improve our blog, our Facebook page and my Tuesday Tip videos. Over and over you suggested …
Earlier this month, as part of our Facebook 1,000 Final Stretch Contest, I asked you for suggestions on how to improve our blog, our Facebook page and my Tuesday Tip videos. Over and over you suggested that we discuss:
“diverse experiences of people…”
“specific backgrounds and their weaknesses…”
“backgrounds of people we have helped…”
Sounds like you want some case studies!! So I thought about the best way to do this, dug into my client database, contacted clients, asked for permission to anonymously feature them and…
WA-LAH! Introducing the newest weekly feature on the Stacy Blackman Consulting blog: SBC Scoop.
SBC Scoop will provide an inside look at our client experiences. I hope that reading about our clients, understanding the advice they were given, and viewing the results, will help you on your quest for an MBA.
Our first SBC Scoop case study is about a client who decided to ask for a deferral.
Our client, “Jason’s” father was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks after he started working with us. This was a difficult situation, but he decided to forge ahead with his applications, as this had been his plan for a long time, and his father’s prognosis was unclear. Jason applied to four schools: Wharton, Kellogg, Michigan and Tuck. He put together a very strong package and was ultimately admitted to three of his target schools: Wharton, Kellogg and Michigan. Unfortunately, over the next few months, his father’s health greatly declined and Jason felt that he needed to be near his family in southern California, to help support them. Jason moved from his home in San Francisco, down to Los Angeles, and put his business school plans on hold indefinitely. Of the three schools that he received admits from, he was torn between Wharton and Kellogg as his first choice. He decided to contact those two schools and ask for deferrals. We discussed the situation with him, and although deferrals are rarely guaranteed, this felt like as good a reason as any to request one. We were optimistic that if he honestly relayed his story to the admissions comittee, and conveyed his enthusiasm for the programs, they would be sympathetic.
What ultimately happened taught us a lot about deferrals. Wharton granted a deferral and he ended up attending one year later. I am sorry to report that my other alma mater, Kellogg, declined his request. Obviously, this made Jason’s decision very easy and he still went on to have a great experience at one of the top business schools in the world. This was Kellogg’s loss, but for us certainly highlighted the uncertainty around deferral requests. It’s never a good idea to plan for a deferral to be part of your strategy. Obviously, life can be unexpected, and in case something comes up, it’s nice to know that a deferral might be an option. Yes, a possible option, but never something to count on.
So, what do you think? Does this outcome surprise you? Let me know in the comments below, and let me know what you think of SBC Scoop as well. If you have ideas for profiles to feature, you can also suggest them below.