Use These 2 Kobe Bryant Strategies to Address Failures in Your MBA Essays

kobeBasketball superstar Kobe Bryant ended his 20-year NBA career last Wednesday, and many fans of the sport are using this time to reflect on, and learn from, his past highlights. Kobe’s career can be used for more than advice pertaining to basketball – we’ve imagined how he might have used his past accomplishments and failures to answer some common MBA application essay questions.

In this entry, we will discuss the ideal way Kobe could use the Failure Essay if he were to apply to business school. A staple of many MBA essay requirements and interviews, this prompt asks the applicant to relate a story of personal or professional failure that impacted his or her life. In answering this question, an applicant needs to demonstrate genuine reflection and self-awareness, while also showcasing leadership potential. Let’s examine how Kobe might answer a question like this:

Address the “Elephant in the Room”
In Kobe’s case, instead of mentioning missed shots, bad plays, or lost games as failures, it would be best to instead identify the failure to maintain a longer-term partnership with fellow superstar Shaquille O’Neal as his major failure. Aside from being an interesting topic – with rich layers and dimensions – this “failure” would help Kobe address concerns about his ability to collaborate with peers. As with all MBA essays, we want the Failure Essay to be interesting, relatable and vivid. Sharing specific details such as an argument that escalated, or personal thoughts from both superstars’ perspectives, will make for a powerful read for the Admissions Committee.

For example, Kobe could identify the double-edged sword of his incredible competitiveness and obsessive work ethic at that stage in his career, and contrast this compassionately with Shaq’s fun-loving personality and the physical challenges he faced due to his unique size, mobility, and the focus of opponents to wear him out. Displaying a high-level perspective and understanding will show the maturity and honesty that can serve him well post-MBA.

Lesson: Using an interesting situation, or identifying an “elephant in the room” in your profile, will serve the dual purpose of both addressing a red flag in your application, and displaying your self-awareness and personal development, all of which the Admissions Committee will want to see.

Show What You Learned
After setting up the context of the failure, Kobe can then highlight how he put the lessons he learned from this failure to good use. He can cite how this failure taught him to better manage relationships with teammates who shared some of Shaq’s qualities, such as the immensely talented Pau Gasol, the fun-loving Lamar Odom, and the physically dominant but oft-injured Andrew Bynum. Kobe can also share how learning from his previous experience with Shaq helped him build better relationships with his teammates overall and leverage their unique personalities to lead the Lakers to two more NBA championships.

Providing specific details as to how he built these bonds through sharing interests and communicating better with his team (whether through bonding over family activities, or by brushing up on his Spanish) would provide real insight into his world and allow the Admissions Committee to relate to him and appreciate his growth. Displaying his ability to lead and collaborate with talented peers would also prove that there is more to Kobe than just his basketball skills, and that he is ready to succeed in his future business ventures and social causes.

Lesson: Choose to discuss qualities or realizations that relate to your failure and would be transferable to future endeavors, rather than limited to a single situation. You can identify how your failure taught you to channel your inherent traits and use specific tools and techniques to proactively address potential problems. Show how you learned to leverage your personal qualities and background to collaborate towards common goals so that the Admissions Committee can conclude that the failure you experienced has helped put you in a better position for future success.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

Will Involvement in a Failed Company Hurt Your Chances of Being Accepted to Business School?

Letter of RecommendationIdeally, business school applicants would all be able to fill their admissions essays with great work stories showcasing contributions to their company’s success. Creating breakthrough products, transforming the company through original innovations, leading entry into a new market, generating record profits, and other similar accomplishments would all look great on an MBA application.

In reality, however, work circumstances and probabilities do not always play out perfectly – products can miss, campaigns can fail, companies can collapse, civil wars can break out, and global economic crises can ensue no matter how brilliant and dedicated an employee or entrepreneur is.

How, then, does an MBA applicant who went through these failures present himself or herself to be qualified for an MBA? Or how can a seemingly “ordinary” applicant elevate himself or herself from the pool of other applicants who may have more impressive success stories to tell? If this sounds like your predicament, showcase these three attributes to really make your application stand out:

Big-Picture Lessons
Recessions, industry down-cycles, and political crises can all contribute greatly to the failure of a company. However, there is a silver lining – not only do these circumstances provide the environmental context that removes blame from the applicant, but they also offer an interesting backdrop to highlight learning experiences that would make for rich classroom discussions.

If you experienced a business failure due to reasons like this, identifying the major lessons you learned will help display a high-level awareness of world events and their business impact, a quality that can be used to strengthen future leadership potential. At the company level, witnessing the impact of lost profits and jobs can provide you with firsthand experience of its effect on employee morale, corporate culture, and the real human concerns affected by difficult business decisions.

Personal Skills Gained
When struggling companies are forced to cut costs, this often results in the remaining employees handling more tasks, putting in more hours, and taking on bigger responsibilities, and all amidst a tense work environment. As such, employees lower on the corporate ladder may be able to have more involvement in reevaluating the whole business model, product lines, or distribution channels, and become part of the decision as to whether their firm should pull-out or stay in the market.

This accelerated exposure – usually reserved for very senior levels – can be a very difficult experience, however it can also be a good source of learning and growth in terms of skills, knowledge, and maturity. Explaining your business’ failure by showcasing the skills you gained from it can show the admissions committee that you know how to make the most of a difficult position and learn from your work environment.

Character Displayed
A family business may fail at an heir’s turn or a start-up may fall victim to a recession, but these “failures” may also be an opportunity to highlight character traits such as resilience and resourcefulness. Creating new opportunities or adjusting to a totally new environment will show adaptability and determination, which are strong qualities for a future global leader that admissions committees will pick up on. Even if the failed enterprise is directly attributable to you, displaying the honest self-awareness and accountability to identify areas for personal development – including how a particular MBA program will help correct these flaws – can create a compelling and authentic application that will help you stand out as a candidate.

So, will your involvement in a failed business completely ruin your chances of admission to business school? No! Explain the failure of the venture through the aforementioned traits, and the admissions committee will be able to see how a bad situation led to the development of a great MBA candidate.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

How to Maximize Your MBA Application Essay in 2 Simple Steps

writing essaySo much to share and so little space to use – this is often the case for MBA application essays. Transforming all the unique details of who you are as a candidate into a flowing personal and reflective essay is essential to stand out as an authentic and engaging personality to the Admissions Committee. A great business school essay will be able to present a multi-dimensional candidate without coming off like an unrelated checklist of highlights.

With the limited space you’re given to write these application essays, it can be quite a challenge to fit in all of the key character traits, substantiated and vivid career highlights, fit with the target MBA program, achievable career goals, and passions outside work that you want to demonstrate to the Admissions Committee. How can you ensure that you maximize the word limits you are given while still creating something that flows naturally and is easy to read? Follow these two guidelines:

1) Do not repeat details
The most common way applicants tend to break down the task of working on multiple essays is to complete them one at a time – after finishing one essay, they review it and then start off on another one. The problem with this writing process is that details from one essay often end up being repeated in another, such as background information on the company a candidate worked for or the candidate’s role within a particular organization. These sentences and phrases, usually in the introduction of each essay or as an added description along the body of the essay, not only waste precious space, but also negatively affect the flow and readability of your essay as a whole.

Keep in mind that each essay you write for the same school is part of a single application package, like chapters of a very short book. In order to create the best applciation possible, you must review your complete set of essays in one sitting to ensure that they complement each other well and provide a multi-dimensional personal profile with the right tone for the particular school you are applying to.

2) Use different settings
Just as a Tom Cruise kept viewers engaged during the Mission Impossible series by showcasing his superhuman physical stunts in various locations such as an opera house in Vienna, a power plant in Morocco and a train station in London, among others, an MBA applicant’s essay would be much more captivating if the candidate’s personal qualities were highlighted through different contexts.

This does not necessarily mean you need to use various geographic locations as the backdrop of your essays (not all of us are as free to travel the globe as Tom Cruise), but rather, to choose to highlight defining moments from your life across various work situations, extra-curricular activities, passions and stories.

By default, most applicants are a bit bias in choosing to use examples from their current work situations, as this is where they spend the majority of their time and where their most recent experiences have occurred. Thus, without careful thought, applicants often end up answering many or most of their essay questions with examples pertaining to only their most recent employment. However, this wastes the opportunity to show the admissions committee your diverse experiences and interests.

Before writing your essays, it is essential to carve out the time to take an inventory of experiences you’d like to highlight and outline your whole set of essays. Afterwards, identify for each essay the settings you can use to display a particular talking point. Doing this saves you time, and puts forth a richly textured personal application.

Following these two steps ensures that you’ll make the most of the limited  essay space you are given so that your overall MBA application package stands out from the competition.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

Utilize Kobe Bryant’s Strategies to Write the Perfect Accomplishment Essay

kobeKobe Bryant, superstar guard of the L.A. Lakers, chose to announce his retirement from the NBA this year by writing a poem addressed to the game of basketball. Inspired by Kobe’s interest in writing, and his last NBA All-Star game appearance, this entry uses Kobe’s well-documented life and career as a case study for MBA candidates who are trying to decide what points to highlight in their application essays.

If Kobe were to apply to business school and write an Accomplishments Essay on his career, these would be my suggestions (which are, of course, applicable to your own application essays):

Highlight a Team Accomplishment
With a myriad of individual accomplishments to choose from – such as being 3rd on the NBA all-time scoring list, being an MVP, or multiple All-NBA and All-Star selection including an incredible 81-point game – it would be best for Kobe to choose a team accomplishment to highlight. This would help mitigate the Admissions Committee’s concerns about him being too individualistic (and and views that he is an egotistical maniac).

Lesson: For candidates involved with very technical or individual work, highlighting interpersonal skills or group accomplishments will help address stereotypical biases and display a multi-dimensional personality. It will assure the program you are applying to that you will be able to contribute positively to group experiences both in and out of the classroom.

Provide Essential Details
To dive into his essay further, Kobe could choose to write about his first championship where he had to take on a major role in a critical game (for the NBA fans, this is Game 4 of the 2000 finals) as a highlight. Playing on a sprained ankle, Kobe had to step up to the challenge when the Lakers’ main star, Shaquille O’Neal, had to leave the game due to six fouls.

He could then weave into his story how hours of practice finally paid off and how he happy he was to deliver for his team, after remembering how he disappointed he felt after he had let the team down in 1997, as an 18 year-old, when he missed four airballs in a similar scenario.

Lesson: This example would encompass several key aspects of an MBA candidate’s profile, including ability to perform under pressure, handle large-scale responsibility at a young age, and work through personal difficulties, and including the story about the 1997 disappointment would show humility, perseverance, and resilience. These are admirable and relatable characteristics, which are important to remember when writing these essays. It will be helpful to come across as somebody that can be identified with, somebody that people would want to root for, rather than only being an otherworldly talent or incredibly fortunate heir.

Recognize Help and Mentorship
Acknowledging superstar teammate Shaq as the lead player and mentioning the guidance provided by legendary coach Phil Jackson during his essay would help Kobe come across as genuine, humble, and a good team player.

Lesson: When writing these essays, some applicants are tempted to grab all the credit. In team-based accomplishments, one wants to communicate not only his or her contributions, but also the ability to work with and learn from others.

Finally, for that slam-dunk essay, while accolades and statistics are important, Kobe’s (and your) profile has to resonate with very human qualities and a personal story explaining the journey to truly impress MBA Admissions Committees.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

3 Points International Candidates Need to Highlight in Their MBA Applications

PassportInternational MBA applicants to top programs frequently ask how much they should focus on their home countries in their applications, versus demonstrating their similarities to the typically-admitted domestic student. This is a good question, as balancing between fitting in with one’s target MBA program and standing out by bringing something unique to one’s application is a line that all candidates tread carefully.

An international applicant will usually have more materials to consider adding to their application, given the experience of growing up, studying, and working in another country. Even for second-generation immigrants, the wealth of influences and heritage from another culture could be a rich source of essay topics and passing references to consider. Used correctly, they add character and breadth, enhancing the readability of an application, which can help a candidate stand out from a competitive pool of other accomplished applicants from the same industry and country.

If you are applying to business school as an international applicant, take a look at these three factors you should focus on in your application:

1) Uniqueness
MBA essays are best used to tell a unique personal story that allows readers to understand the candidate’s motivation and goals. As an international candidate, you can use your country’s economic, cultural, or even political situations as an interesting and complementary backdrop to further stand out.

Let’s look at some examples of how this can be done:

  • An applicant managing a business from a growing consumer market could be played up to show the candidate’s potential to be a bridge for companies seeking to enter the lucrative market. This would flow nicely into the applicant’s post-MBA goal of leading a global company’s international unit.
  • An applicant who navigated and hurdled a developing country’s political and regulatory challenges to successfully lead a large-scale project of a foreign entity could use this experience to demonstrate his or her maturity and leadership qualities.
  • Candidates from a country encountering great difficulties could position themselves as people who are in a unique position to give back to their country of origin post-MBA, while also helping open the eyes of the student community to global issues.

These experiences show the potential of candidates to serve as a resource for interesting classroom discussions, enriching the experiences of classmates, while also serving as a future bridge to alumni with interest in their respective countries.

Likewise, a sentence or two identifying strong core values and influences that defined a family’s history and how it inspires the applicant serve she dual purpose of showing a personal side to leave a vivid impression with the Admissions Committee, and demonstrating the candidate’s underlying motivation and personal traits. Executing this precisely will result in a profile that comes across genuinely and stands out from the pack.

Applying the right dose of details and balance between personal sentiments and professional rationality on these topics is key in ensuring your essays stay unique and on track.

2) International Exposure
For international candidates who spent most of their lives in their home countries, it is particularly helpful to mention experiences with exchange programs, international assignments, travels abroad, or at the minimum, working with cross-cultural teams. These do not necessarily have to take up major space – sprinkling in tidbits at appropriate instances will still make for an interesting and engaging read. It also helps demonstrate an international mindset, adaptability, and intellectual curiosity.

Instances of initiating projects and leading teams with international components are also valuable, as these will help show the ability to actively contribute to classroom discussions and group project dynamics. Showcasing your teamwork skills via an international setting in this way will assure the Admissions Committee that you will be able to adjust to life on campus, benefit from their program, and contribute to the experiences of your MBA peers.

3) Confidence!
The content and tone of your overall application should be confident that you are an excellent fit for the program, able to keep pace with the academics and classroom rigors the school requires, and maximize your overall experience. Coming from an environment, school, or firm that is different from the usual sources of MBA candidates, you must ensure that confidence in your intellectual horsepower and personal traits comes through, especially in your essays. Standardized measures, such as a great GMAT score, will also help address this.

Crafting such an application requires honest reflection and self-awareness – most applicants find themselves more focused and motivated after investing the time and effort to do so, thus making the whole exercise a valuable experience, so be sure you take ample time to reflect before beginning your writing process.

Creating a personal story while highlighting your successes handling complex projects or academic accomplishments, and combining this with a post-MBA goal that is both compelling and realistic are the usual ingredients for a strong application, and adding the right international flavor to this recipe will help your candidacy shine even more. Finding the right flow between answering the specific questions directly and adding international elements may be challenging, but successfully pulling it off  will result in a very personal and powerful application package.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

What is a “Good” Weakness to Put in Your MBA Application?

SAT/ACT“What are your weaknesses?”

Most MBA applicants find this to be the most difficult question to answer.

As professionals and entrepreneurs, we are trained to put our best foot forward in order to sell our businesses and ourselves. We think and rehearse how to best present our strengths, while hardly spending any time considering our weaknesses. Understandably, addressing this question during one’s MBA application essay or interview usually proves to be quite a challenge.

Asked to identify his weaknesses, a typical MBA applicant will ask him or herself two questions:

1) What should I avoid mentioning?
Everyone worries about giving an answer that will reveal a fatal flaw to the admissions committee and hurt one’s chances at being admitted to an MBA program. Thus, a frequent mistake is to answer this question using a fake weakness – saying something like, “I am too smart,” or, “I work too effectively,” does not really answer the question and will just irritate your audience. Presenting yourself as unrealistically perfect will also diminish the genuine strengths you have, and create doubt in the accomplishments you have discussed throughout the essays or the interview, as it makes you appear incapable of an honest self-assessment.

Another similar no-no is to blame somebody else for your weakness. Do not attribute a weakness solely to your work environment, personal circumstances, or ethnicity – this comes across as a reckless generalization and will not add any value to your case. It will also only shift the conversation into a negative tone and counter the strong, optimistic vibe that you want to be associated with.

2) What exactly are they looking for?
Admissions committees are looking for applicants who will greatly benefit from attending their school’s MBA program, and who can contribute to the experience of other MBA participants. Using this as a guide, the weakness question should be used to demonstrate character traits of self-awareness, ability to learn from failures, and open-mindedness to effectively use feedback and criticism.

An applicant should identify specific skills and knowledge gaps that he or she will need to work on in order to reach her post MBA goals – ideally, specifics of the target MBA program in terms of courses, culture, or community should be matched to these potential growth areas.

Executing this answer properly will put forth an honest reflection that shows genuine interest in a school’s MBA program and convinces the admissions committee that the applicant has really researched the school’s offering. Effectively demonstrating your potential to gain from, and contribute to, an MBA program through your personal story will help convince the admission committee of your fit with their school. Filling in details of how you have addressed your identified weakness or how you are in the process of doing so will also help show how proactive you are, and how you will greatly benefit from this particular MBA program.

A final tip: whenever you are asked about strengths and weaknesses in one question, whether in an essay or an interview, you must allocate time and space as evenly as possible between talking about the two. Most applicants spend 2/3 or more of the space they are given for strengths leaving little room to develop the weakness portion of the answer. This type of answer will look like it was just glossed over, and that the question was not answered adequately – it will also not allow you to make a proper case as to why you will benefit from the program.

A good answer to the “weakness” question strengthens your case to be admitted to your target MBA program even as you identify a real weakness. Skillfully weaving stories of your personal experiences, self-reflection, and vision through discussion of this weakness will make your profile unique and compelling to the admissions committee.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

How to Stay Under Your Essay Word Limit

SAT WorryOne of the hardest things for many MBA applicants to deal with when it comes to writing their business school essays is to stay under the word limit. You would think crafting a clear, well-written, and compelling essay that fully addressed the prompt is hard enough, but MBA programs make things a bit more difficult with often dauntingly tight word limits.

There are a few things that make staying under essay word limits so tough. First, most candidates are not used to explaining themselves in a limited amount of words. The MBA application is an exercise in saying a lot in a few words, meaning every word has to matter – extra pronouns, articles, and prepositions must be reduced to stay under the given word count. Focusing on being as concise and as direct as possible in your language is a major key to making the most of your word count. A good rule of thumb here is if the word doesn’t drive the essay forward and is not integral to the ultimate message you are trying to convey, then you should strongly consider removing it.

Second, many candidates will ignore one of the golden rules of MBA essay writing: answer the question! With so few words to write your essay, there is little room to answer extraneous questions or include content not directly referenced in the essay prompt. Providing extra, unnecessary information can also be seen by the admissions committee as the sign of a candidate who is repurposing essays from other schools, which is definitely a bad idea. Answering unasked questions will waste your words and reduce the focus of your narrative, so stick with what the prompt gives you.

Third, candidates often make the mistake of spending too much time trying to fit their essays into traditional writing templates with an introduction and conclusion. With so few words, it is often best to skip formalities and dive right into the content. In many instances, if the writing is strong enough, this approach eliminates the need for clunky introductions and conclusions that will most likely end up sounding forced and unnatural anyways.

Finally, don’t forget the outline! Creating an outline before writing really brings a focused edge to the essay writing process. Ensure that your outline fully addresses the essay prompt while still allowing enough real estate to communicate your narrative in a compelling way.

Don’t let tight essay word limits sap all of the life out of your essays; follow the tips above to ensure you are making the most out of this part of the application process.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.

4 Steps to Finish Your MBA Application Essay the Right Way

writing essayCongratulations! If you are reading this, then you are probably almost ready to submit your business school application essays for evaluation. You have spent a ton of time in the recent months conceptualizing, outlining, and writing responses to these notoriously challenging essay prompts. With so much time spent on these by most candidates, you would assume that these essays are typically free of error by the time they reach the admissions officers. However, with so many different touch points in the typical MBA application and with multiple applications in the mix, this process is ripe for typos and mistakes.

Admission to business school remains a very competitive process and although minor typos here and there will not greatly affect your candidacy, when multiple are aggregated they may give off the impression of a lack of attention to detail, which can ultimately tank your chances during tough evaluation periods.

Let’s walk through a few tips you should leverage as you put the finishing touches on your business school application essays:

Read Aloud

This is my favorite tip, so let’s start here. Often many candidates will tell me that they are shocked to notice typos after going through multiple in-depth reviews. Sometimes when you are so close to a document, you will overlook glaring typos. The simple act of verbalizing your essay can really help reduce the likelihood that a typo or clunky sentence will survive the final review process. This approach will ensure better flow and clarity to your writing style, and will improve the overall submission.

Taking A Break

Taking a break between reviews is also another great trick. For the most part, typos and mistakes are more a function of an oversight than incompetence – no one knowingly overlooks a mistake. Separating yourself from the essay for a few hours or days can really sharpen your eye and make you more discerning in the review process.

Leverage Personal Reviewers

Having a team of reviewers who are familiar with the application process is highly recommended, but it is also helpful to utilize a few who do not. These personal reviewers should be experts on “you” and able to ensure your essays actually sound like, and read like, the person actually writing them. Friends and family are the natural targets here – leverage these people to make sure your essays are coming across as authentic and true to your life as possible.

Proofread

This one sounds very obvious but you would be surprised how many business school applicants do not run the simplest of proofing software or conduct their own thorough review of their essays before submitting them. Remember, your MBA application will be one of the most important packages you submit in your life, so give it the attention it deserves by allocating ample time to review it in detail.

Follow these tips so come decision day, you can let the content of your essays stand for themselves!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.

4 Ways Admissions Committees Will Examine Your Work Experience

MBA JobsMany students enter business school with plans to develop their business skills and improve their overall career options. However, when it comes time to prepare to submit an application, much of the effort tends to fall on other areas of the package, such as GMAT scores or essays. Considering that “career improvement” is commonly seen as the lead reason for pursuing an MBA, more focus should instead fall on the work experience that you have compiled prior to submitting your application.

Your work experience is a key evaluation point in the admissions process and should be treated as such. Let’s discuss a few of the reasons why work experience matters so much:

1) Hireability

One of the key reasons many are even pursuing an MBA in the first place is to land the job of their dreams. so it should come as no surprise that a major evaluation aspect for admissions is whether the program can actually help you achieve your career goals. Your work experience, both from an industry and role perspective, can factor into how admissions views your profile. Even if you are one of the many applicants looking to make a career switch, some transferable skills from your current career to your future career will better showcase the viability of your plan.

2) Impact

The concept of impact is one of the most important aspects of evaluating your work experience. What results have you driven in the various roles you have held throughout your career? Programs are looking to learn about how you have made a qualitative or quantitative impact in your career. Make sure these accomplishments are clear in your resume, essays, and short answers to ensure your contributions are not being overlooked.

3) Career Progression

Your work experience gives a clear indication of the decisions you have made in your career. The various stops can tell a story about where you have been and where you plan to go. The better aligned this story is, and will be, with your future career goals, the more positive message you send to the admissions committee about your maturity and potential.

4) Classroom Value

Business school is school after all, so your ability to add value inside the classroom is a critical element of the evaluation criteria by the admissions committee. The better you can project confidence and business savvy while highlighting where in your background you generated these learnings, the better chances you have at securing an admit.

Don’t make the mistake of downplaying your work experience! Utilize these tips to create a breakthrough application.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.

Standing Out as an International Applicant from India

indiaOne of the most competitive MBA applicant pools year-in and year-out is the vast crop of talented applicants originating from the subcontinent of India. Every year, top business schools are flooded with qualified Indian applicants that present a bevy of challenging decisions for admissions committees around the world. If you’re a member of the Indian applicant pool, it is important to understand how the admission committee will view you – having a good handle on this can help a smart applicant properly strategize on producing a “winning” application.

With so many candidates and so few spots available, it is more important than ever for Indian applicants to create an admissions package that stands out from the masses. But how is this done?

Let’s discuss some different ways the typical Indian candidate can create an application package that stands out from the competition.

Work Experience

The Indian applicant pool is known for being predominantly populated by one of the country’s biggest industries: the IT industry is by far the biggest pipeline of MBA talent coming out of India. This fact feeds into the reputation of the “homogeneous” Indian applicant, and “homogeneous” is rarely ever a good buzzword when it comes to gaining admission into business school.

For many application-ready candidates, this is a tough area to stand out in. But there are still some things to do for those candidates in the early stages of planning for their MBA, or those already in the midst of application season. For those in the early stages, this can involve pursuing industries that align with an area of interest, particularly if that is outside of the IT industry.

For those already within their target industry, taking on leadership opportunities in an existing role or exploring development in other areas or functions of your current job can present a strong growth trajectory. Whatever stage you are in as a candidate, the key here is to showcase yourself as a high-potential future leader with the flexibility to succeed in multiple work functions and industries.

GMAT Scores

This one is pretty simple – with so many applicants flooding the business school pipeline; it is critical for a competitive Indian applicant to achieve a strong score on the GMAT. What is a strong score, you may ask?

Many Indian applicants come in with above-average GMAT scores, which makes this aspect of the admissions process particularly competitive. With so many high-performing applicants coming from this region, admitted candidates often report GMAT scores that exceed school averages.

Generally, you will want to aim for around +20 points above the average score for your target program, with anything above that, of course, being increasingly more beneficial for your application.

Education

Education is another fairly competitive area that is pretty unique in comparison to the typical structure favored by U.S. educators. Coming from a nation with a unique ranking system and some high-profile colleges, this is an area where international Indian candidates can try and stand out. Another common item on the transcript of the Indian MBA applicant can actually be an MBA. It is not uncommon for candidates to pursue a second Western MBA after already completing one in-country, so if this is you, make sure to have a clear rationale on why a second MBA is necessary.

Application

A common knock against the Indian applicant is the non-data portion of the application process. A lot of focus tends to go into the GMAT, and not enough on other more nuanced elements of the application. This reputation feeds into the “homogeneous” reputation of the Indian applicant, as the opportunity to differentiate is often missed.

Extra-Curriculars

Undergraduate engagement is important, but continued engagement is also key. The focus in this area should be on leadership within these activities and not just participation. Don’t be afraid to leverage these experiences for other areas of your application as well – your ability to share highlights and impact from your engagements will go a long way in establishing these as meaningful experiences in your application.

Essays

Be interesting! Too many essays are bland responses focused on writing what the candidate feels the AdComm wants to hear. Breakthrough essays will be introspective and passionate responses that provide a unique insight into a candidate’s personal and professional background and goals. Avoid generic responses and use language that builds a narrative that cannot otherwise be gleaned from a resume or transcript.

Understanding the perception of your applicant pool is a key first step in creating a strategy to differentiate your profile from the masses. Use these tips as a starting point to creating a breakthrough application that showcases you as a unique candidate.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Our Thoughts on Duke Fuqua’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

FuquaApplication season at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. With all of your essays for Fuqua, treat your responses holistically and try to paint a complete picture of your candidacy. This post will focus on the actual required essay prompts but keep in mind, Fuqua does also have three required short answers focused on career goals, so it makes sense to limit those discussions to that that section.

Essay 1: 25 Random Things About Yourself

The Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you-beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. Share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are.

This essay from Fuqua is one of the more unique questions asked among top MBA programs. It really takes most applicants outside of their comfort zone and implores them to put some thought into some of the more insightful elements of who they are as a person. This can be a tough task that many applicants will struggle to address properly.

A good start is drafting a broad list of items and curating this list based on the elements that best connect with the values the Fuqua MBA is best known for. Make sure to select your list in alignment with the prompt by avoiding information already available elsewhere – take this as an opportunity to let your personality shine through while getting creative. If this list does not truly reflect who you are as a person then it is time to start over, so make that connection and try to have fun with this one.

Essay 2A: Why Duke?

When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful. (2 pages)

This is one of two optional questions for Essay 2, which may actually be the simpler of the two options, but decide for yourself which option will allow you to most impressively tell your story. Keep in mind the areas you have already covered in the other short answer/essay responses, and use your choice here to complement the previous narrative.

I love this first question option from Fuqua, as it really strikes at the core of the desire for an authentic response. You are not addressing the AdComm here, but those close to you instead, so the expectation with your response is that it should touch on some more honest elements that might differ from the more formal, canned responses typically provided. Be honest and personable here, and try and connect with the AdComm on a more human level. Also, don’t forget to include some program specifics – it is still important to communicate how Fuqua is the ideal fit for your personal and professional development goals.

Essay 2B: Team Fuqua Principles

If you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 “Team Fuqua Principles” – Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, Uncompromising Integrity. Which one would it be and why? Your response should reflect your knowledge of Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student. (2 pages)

Another very unique essay prompt coming from Fuqua. A common theme should be becoming obvious to applicants with this school: Fuqua really wants to get to the core of who you are, what you will bring to the student community, and whether Fuqua is the right MBA program for you. This question seeks to address exactly that.

A strong foundation of school research is the key to crafting a successful response to this essay question. Leverage research about the program to identify which “Team Fuqua Principle” is most consistent with who you are and what you plan to bring to the table. The requested timeframe for your selection is worth noting, so keep your planned contributions focused on your time at Fuqua and less on the past.

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Fuqua, hopefully this will help you get started.

If you are considering applying to Fuqua, download our Essential Guide to Fuqua, one of our 13 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Fuqua and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Our Thoughts on Wharton’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

Wharton AdmissionsApplication season at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 MBA admission essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. There is only one required essay question this year, but an additional “optional” essay that candidates should strongly consider addressing is also presented.

 

Essay 1:

What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

A very similar essay to last year’s returns from the Wharton School. This is a classic “Why School X”/“Career Goals” question but with a little Wharton twist. The biggest trap in this prompt is to treat this question like the typical school fit variety. I caution against simply repurposing responses to similar questions from other schools. This question implores candidates to address not only the professional fit with Wharton but also the personal fit.

Breakthrough candidates will utilize a very personal narrative that uniquely captures the essence of why Wharton is the ideal fit for the applicant’s development goals. Wharton is looking for specifics here so avoid general statements that could be harbored by any candidate. This is your chance to connect 1 to 1 with the Admissions Committee, so do not waste this opportunity. The personal element is what makes this question a bit more unique, particularly since many applicants tend to struggle with the personal, more holistic side of the application process.

Really take a future-oriented approach to this essay and think of how the Wharton MBA is uniquely positioned to help you achieve these personal and professional goals. Don’t limit your response to just what things you can gain from Wharton – make sure to also share what elements you bring to the student community as well.

Essay 2 (Optional): 

Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy? (400 words)

Another dreaded “open ended” prompt from an elite program, and to complicate your application, this essay is technically an “optional” one. My first recommendation is to avoid treating this like an optional essay in two key ways:

The first, answer the question! With limited opportunities to tell your story in the Wharton application process, the chance to share additional details should not be missed.  The second, do not approach the response to this question as you would a typical optional essay – avoid discussions about low GPAs or gaps in employment in lieu of a well-developed, concrete essay response.

When contemplating topic selections here in Essay 2, consider focusing on topics that will round out the perception of your candidacy. This essay should offer additional information to showcase the candidate as a “360 degrees” applicant, so avoid any previously mentioned information that may live elsewhere in the application and put this additional real estate to use!

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Wharton, hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Wharton essays and deadlines, check out another post here.

If you are considering applying to Wharton, download our Essential Guide to Wharton, one of our 13 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Wharton and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Our Thoughts on Tuck’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

Tuck MBA Application season at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. With all of your essays for Tuck, treat your responses holistically and try to paint a complete picture of your candidacy within the school-specific suite of essay questions.

Essay 1:

What are your short- and long-term goals? Why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically? (500 words)

This essay is Tuck’s take on the common “Why MBA?”/“Why School X?”/“Career Goals” essays. One of the biggest challenges with this incarnation of this common question is the word limit. These are all common application prompts, but having to address them all in the same essay is a bit uncommon and really forces applicants to be concise with each point.

It is important to directly address each point while highlighting your strong fit with the Tuck MBA. Tuck is known for their strong culture and highly connected alumni base, so your evaluation by the Admissions Committee will be based on how well you will fit into the student community.

Tuck is a very specific MBA experience. From the small class size to the tight-knit community to the remote location, it is your job to convince the AdComm that Tuck is the best place for you and your development goals.

Essay 2:

Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck? (500 words)

This is a classic “Leadership” essay that really puts a responsibility on the applicant to clearly articulate the role they played in a leadership anecdote. Like many business schools, Tuck places a premium on leadership skills, so it is important to use this essay as a conduit to highlight your strengths.

Don’t limit yourself to just professional examples – this prompt is purposefully vague with which direction your response can go, so select the topic that best highlights your leadership skills. Make sure you connect the dots for the AdComm by also detailing out the impact the lessons learned from this experience had on you and your career, and how it will factor into your contributions as a Tuck MBA student. This area should be directly aligned with Tuck’s reputation for having a tight-knit community. Make sure your contributions to this community are clear, and reference specific programs at the school.

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Tuck, hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Tuck’s essays and deadlines, check out another post here.

If you are considering applying to Dartmouth Tuck, download our Essential Guide to Tuck, one of our 13 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Tuck and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Our Thoughts on Berkeley Haas’ MBA Application Essay for 2015-2016

UC BerkeleyEarly Thoughts on Berkeley Haas 2015-2016 Essay Questions

Application season at the Haas School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. Haas has three required essays, so keep in mind how you plan to balance out your narratives across them all.

 

Essay 1:

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

This is a very creative essay prompt from Haas. Candidates should rejoice at the opportunity to provide some insight into their personality and background. Typically, there are very few chances where candidates can bring the Admissions Committee into their world that does not conflict with remaining professional. Be authentic here and do not focus on what you think the AdComm wants to hear, but instead on what you feel is meaningful for you to share. The “why” is the most important aspect of this prompt so make sure the relevance of the chosen song is clear.

Essay 2:  Respond to one of the following prompts

1) Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you. (250 words)

Think broadly with this one – the prompt emphasizes “the world,” so identify something that is beyond you that strikes at the core of your belief system. Again, I caution against overthinking in your essay. The more honest the response the more authentically it will be received by the AdComm.

2) Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud. (250 words)

These situational type essay prompts will be structured very similarly for whichever one you choose. One key element that should be in each response is self-reflection. The AdComm is really trying to get at your thought process and whether these skills shared are repeatable or one-off examples. Make sure your response here comes full-circle with a focus on the relevance of the chosen accomplishment.

3) Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging. (250 words)

With each question option in Essay 2, your choice of topic can be quite telling for the AdComm. How you define significant, difficult or life changing provides a unique glimpse into your value system. Make sure the topics selected align with the value system you wish to present to the AdComm in your application.

Essay 3: 

Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey? (500 words)

This is a very typical “Career Goals”/“Why School X” essay, so most applicants should have a pretty easy time handling the format and structure of this essay. Breakthrough candidates will avoid using a generic and repurposed career essay, and instead fashion a highly tailored response to the prompt. Haas has many unique aspects to their program, so make sure you are directly connecting your personal and professional development goals to the specific offerings of the Haas MBA.

One thing to keep in mind, the prompt does signal that Haas is looking for a bit of a recap of your career as well. This should be concise and really align tightly with where you see the rest of your career headed and how Haas fits into this vision.

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Haas, hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Berkeley’s deadlines and essays, check out another post here.

If you are considering applying to Berkeley Haas, download our Essential Guide to Berkeley, one of our 13 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Haas and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Our Thoughts on Yale SOM’s Application Essay for 2015-2016

Yale

Application season at the Yale School of Management is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this year’s single essay prompt from Yale:

The Yale School of Management educates individuals who will have deep and lasting impacts on the organizations they lead. Describe how you have positively influenced an organization as an employee, a member, or an outside constituent (500 words maximum).

Again, Yale only has one essay this year so candidates must make sure to really double down on this aspect of the application. The first step should be to sift through anecdotes within your personal, professional and academic careers to discuss in this essay. It’s not enough to simply select an example where you made a big impact, but instead, one where the full breadth of your interpersonal skills are on display. The ideal social skills to highlight are ones that jive with the Yale SOM mission. This year, Yale brings back their same essay prompt as last year, so if you are a candidate who applied in the 2014-2015 application season or got a head start on your essays by bench-marking against that essay, you are in luck.

This is a hybrid “influence”/“impact” essay where applicants are asked to describe a unique personal, professional, or academic situation where they have made a difference. Also, it would be wise to leverage some of the clues within the prompt itself. Words like “deep”, “lasting”, “lead” and “influence” should serve as elements of the story you should lean on to make your case. Make sure the example(s) selected have a bit more staying power –Yale is looking for sustainable impact you have had on an organization.

The typical candidate will tell the Admissions Committee how they influenced an organization. Breakthrough candidates won’t just tell the AdComm how they influenced an organization, but instead will show the underlying process in how it happened. Introspection will be a key element to any successful Yale SOM essay, relating why this specific anecdote is significant to YOU. Finally, consider if and then how this experience will allow you to make a similar impact on the greater Yale SOM community as a whole.

Just a few thoughts on this year’s essay from Yale, hopefully this will help you get started.

If you are considering applying to Yale SOM, download our Essential Guide to Yale, one of our 13 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Stern and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Our Thoughts on Stanford GSB’s Application Essays for 2015-2016

stanford-gsb-buildingApplication season at Stanford GSB is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

Essay 1:

What matters most to you, and why? (750 words)

The dreaded Stanford open-ended essay prompt has been one of the most feared parts of the school’s application process for years. For many students the more open the prompt the higher the anxiety – couple this with the inherent pressure that results from applying to Stanford, and many students derail their chances of success before they even put pen to paper. Many students struggle with how to tackle this type of essay question and with Stanford, it’s best to follow the direction provided by the Admissions Committee.

The “what” of your essay is less important than the “why.” Stanford GSB, as much as any other program, truly wants to know who you are. So give them the chance by offering up some direct insight into who you are as a person. Introspection is key in this essay, and walking the AdComm through the “what” of the question, as well as why you are uniquely motivates by this “what”, will serve to humanize your candidacy and make your response more personal. Stanford strives to admit people, not just GMAT scores or GPAs, so make sure you let them into your world. Breakthrough candidates will utilize structured storytelling effects to craft a compelling narrative that brings the Stanford AdComm deep into the candidate’s world.

This essay honestly at its core is about getting to know you, so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft the perfect answer for what you feel the AdComm wants to read.

Essay 2:

Why Stanford? (400 words)

This is a typical “Why School X Question,” however, you will want to avoid the typical boilerplate response with Stanford and dive a bit deeper here. Think of this prompt in two parts: “Why MBA?” and “Why Specifically a Stanford MBA?” Be specific and connect your personal and professional development goals to the unique programs at Stanford that are relevant to your success. Breakthrough candidates will not only select clear, well-aligned goals, but will connect these goals with a personal passion that makes their candidacy feel bigger than just business. Now do not reach here, the more authentic this personal passion is the better it will connect with the AdComm, but for years Stanford has maintained a track record of looking for something a bit different in their candidates.

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Stanford, hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Stanfords’s deadlines and essays, check out another post here.

If you are considering applying to Stanford GSB, download our Essential Guide to Stanford, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Stern and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

 

Our Thoughts on Ross’ MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

Michigan Ross MBA Admissions GuideApplication season at the University of Michigan’s Ross MBA program is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

Essay 1:

What are you most proud of and why? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)

This is a typical “accomplishment” essay, and with the limited word count it would be wise to focus on one accomplishment in the most direct fashion possible.

Dig deep as you identify what topic to discuss as these types of open-ended questions give applicants an opportunity to really differentiate themselves from the competition. Breakthrough applicants will align their personal, professional, or academic stories around some of the relevant values expressed by the Ross MBA.

Don’t be afraid to select a topic that extends outside of your professional career. Many candidates will opt to go the professional route, so consider “zigging” when the rest “zag.” Remember admissions committees will be reading a lot of essays so stand out by allowing them to explore a topic a bit more unique then the mundane. Also, keep in mind that you will have time to talk about your professional career and highlight some of your past accomplishments via the second essay.

Finally, don’t think if your accomplishment does not involve $100 million in savings or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro that your response will not be well received. What makes your response to this question relevant is the impact this accomplishment had to YOU.

Essay 2:

What is your desired career path and why? (400 words)

This is a traditional “career goals” essay. This type of question should come as no surprise to any candidate applying to business school. In fact, your response to this question should involve what initially drove your interest in business school to begin with, so Ross will be expecting a pretty polished essay here.

Many candidates will write generic essays outlining their career goals that could be relevant to any MBA program. What will separate breakthrough candidates from the masses is how personalized the essay reads.  Ross will be looking for you to combine your well thought out career goals with specifics on how you plan to utilize their program to reach these goals. Also, if relevant, connect your goals to an underlying passion you have for the role or industry. This will make your interest more tangible and highlight underlying elements of your personal story.

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Ross that should help you get started.

If you are considering applying to NYU Stern, download our Essential Guide to NYU Stern, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Stern and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Create Breakthrough MBA Application Essays with Mini-Stories

writing essayIn many of the great business school application essays, candidates who are able to leverage creative writing tactics as the baseline for their essay responses create breakthrough essays. Now business school essays should remain polished and professional, but breakthrough essays tend to create a compelling and visual portrait of the situation and circumstances addressed with a response to an essay prompt.

Mini-stories are a great way to ensure you are capturing all of the most interesting and engaging aspects of your profile. The thought behind these mini-stories is that they should be designed to be independent of the essay questions asked by schools. Select stories that reflect the four dimensions of Leadership, Innovation, Teamwork and Maturity emphasized by many MBA programs that you can later apply to the specific essay questions asked from each school. The focus should be on highlighting your strongest and most in-depth personal, professional, and extra-curricular life experiences.

One of the most valuable aspects of creating mini-stories is that you don’t necessarily need any external information. The process is entirely about you and your background, so whether it is in the heart of application season or during a quieter period like the springtime, a candidate can create these valuable anecdotes.

When identifying these stories, don’t limit them to only one aspect of your profile. Include anecdotes from undergrad, extra-curricular activities, work experience, and personal life to develop a diverse array of talking points for potential essay responses. Aim for 5-8 mini-stories covering a diverse set of experiences.

With each story, include a short description and some supporting bullets describing some of the players involved and why the situation was transformative to you, focusing especially on its impact and what you learned from the experience. Remember, what is most important in these mini-stories is the “how” and not just the “what”. Think critically about your thought process in each scenario and the impact of your decisions.

The best essays combine multiple personal elements and touch on different characteristics and skills developed. For the sake of this exercise you want to briefly summarize how the main takeaways and characteristics are represented in the story. Once these mini-stories are completed and the essay topics are available, the next step is to match relevant stories to essay topics.

Utilize this structured and creative approach to most effectively tackle those daunting business school essays and create breakthrough essays that will stand out in the application process.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

 

 

Our Thoughts on NYU Stern’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

NYU Stern Admissions EssaysApplication season at the NYU Stern School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions.

Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations

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? (750 words)

This is a very multi-layered essay coming from Stern that provides the candidate a great opportunity to share their professional game plan and why Stern is a key element to this game plan. The two essays are naturally structured to give candidates a chance to touch on both the professional and the personal side of their application. The way this prompt is worded signals that applicants should touch on the past a bit to provide context to what has brought the applicant to this point in their professional journey.

Stern is looking for a few things in this essay. First, it must be apparent that you have a clear understanding of where you come from and where you are going professionally. Stern is looking for self-reflective applicants who are clear on their professional aspirations. Addressing the concept of “Why Now” is a critical element in drafting a successful essay. Second, it must not only be clear of the candidate’s interest in the Stern MBA, but also what steps the candidate has taken to identify and realize this fit. Stern is looking for specifics here, so don’t shy away from the details about your primary and secondary research.

The rationale and the likelihood of success in reaching these identified career goals, given matriculation to Stern, is also a key aspect of how the school will evaluate candidates. Connecting these uniquely personal development goals to the unique offerings of the Stern MBA is critical to showcasing fit with the program.

Essay 2: 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.

Similar to open-ended essay prompts at other elite programs, Stern wants to know who you are. Stern provides a bit of an alternative approach to this new trend by allowing applicants the chance to respond to the question across various multi-media options. If some of the alternative options work better for the narrative you are trying to communicate, then this could be a unique and creative approach to answering the question.

This essay feels like an obvious area to focus on more personal elements that would be relevant to someone whom you are about spend a lot of time with over the next two years. This essay is a natural area to show off your interpersonal skills and how you plan to utilize them while working closely with your classmates.

Think creatively about how you plan to share your response even if you are only using words. Creativity is not only limited to the medium – how you structure and organize your response could be another interesting way to stand out.

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Stern, hopefully this will help you get started.

If you are considering applying to NYU Stern, download our Essential Guide to NYU Stern, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Stern and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Our Thoughts on Kellogg’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

Kellogg School of ManagementApplication season at the Kellogg School of Management is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

With all of your essays for Kellogg, treat your responses holistically and try to paint a complete picture of your candidacy within the school specific suite of essay questions.

 

Essay 1:

Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

This is a hybrid “leadership” / “teamwork” essay that should come as no surprise coming from Kellogg. In fact this essay is similar to past incarnations at the notoriously teamwork driven program. One nuance to this reputation is that internally Kellogg views itself as a developer of leaders of teams not just team players, so this essay prompt strikes at the core of the mission of the program.

Historically, Kellogg has been as good as any other program at allowing students to tell their story with very specific and detailed essay prompts. Take the opportunity to share your perspective on a leadership story that has a little “bite” to it. Many candidates will share a leadership story and answer the individual questions as posed in the prompt. Breakthrough candidates will put the admissions committee right in the middle of the story via an introspective narrative that details the conflict inherent in any leadership challenge.

Also, a great essay will most definitely include references to people dynamics and how the candidate as a leader was able to evangelize the team. Just because there is not a direct individual question about teamwork in the prompt does not mean this should not be discussed – the first sentence of the prompt should be clue enough of your direction for this essay.

Essay 2:

Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)

This essay is Kellogg’s take on the common “Why MBA” / “Why School X” essay. But with Kellogg you should always expect to go a bit deeper. Kellogg is looking for you to share a bit about your past, present and future and what makes Kellogg such an integral part of your planned journey. Program specifics will be key here so make sure you do your research and identify professional, academic, and social aspects of the program that will be integral to you reaching your development goals.

Breakthrough candidates will be introspective throughout their response to this essay reflecting on how they have reached the point of applying to Kellogg and what the path forward looks like as a Kellogg MBA.

These are just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Kellogg, and hopefully they will help you get started. For more thoughts on the essays and deadlines for this year, click here for another post.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Thoughts on MIT Sloan’s Application Essay for 2015-2016

MITApplication season at MIT Sloan is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There is only one essay question for MIT Sloan so it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available here.

Essay 1:

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)

MIT Sloan’s only essay this year falls into the category of an “accomplishment” essay. However, this essay is a bit more multifaceted than the typical “accomplishment” essay so this is a prompt applicants should read through a few times before diving in.

First thing’s first, make sure you follow the rules of the prompt. Nothing turns the admissions committee off faster than a candidate who does not answer the question as prescribed. Sloan is looking for a RECENT success so avoid examples that are too far in the past no matter how impressive. The subsequent clarifying questions in the prompt should signal the method by which Sloan is looking to hear your response.

Don’t fall into the trap of just telling the admissions committee how the success happened. Breakthrough candidates will show not tell the process behind the identified success. Your goal should be to have the reader feel like a “fly on the wall” in the story of your success. Bring the reader into the moment and your thought process as you introspectively recount the relevant business challenges and situations encountered during this experience.

Also, as you move to wrap this essay up try to quantify your impact as much as possible. For some accomplishments it will be easier than others, but a school like Sloan is looking for real impact so don’t shy away from the numbers here if possible. Why a specific accomplishment is relevant to you may not be immediately clear to the reader so make sure to highlight the significance of your recent success.

Finally, your essay topic along with all other elements of your application package should be aligned with the core values of the Sloan MBA. Review these tenets before you finalize your topic and make sure you are crafting your response to this essay with these values in mind.

These are just a few thoughts on the essay from MIT. Hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Sloan’s deadlines and essays, check out another post here.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Our Thoughts on the Harvard Business School Application Essay for 2015-2016

Harvard Business SchoolApplication season at Harvard Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There is only one essay question for HBS so it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available here.

Essay 1:

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. (No word limit)

The dreaded open-ended essay prompt has caused many sleepless nights for MBA applicants, couple that with the inherent pressure that results from applying to HBS and this essay may be viewed as one of the more nerve-wracking questions of the application season. Many students struggle with how to tackle this type of essay question and I’m here to tell you to relax and just stay structured.

With seemingly open-ended prompts like this one, the key is to stay structured. Typically, with more detailed essay prompts that have more individualized components within the question the outline of the essay almost writes itself. An open-ended essay like this one requires the applicant to more formally structure the response upfront to ensure the narrative is clear for the AdComm.

However, before diving into the structure, topic selection is critical. This will involve a good deal of introspection both in selecting the anecdotes as well as in the context of your actual writing. Aligning your narrative around a personal or professional passion is a powerful approach to telling your story. The more authentic this passion is the better it will be received by admissions.

Painting a vivid narrative of how the current incarnation of you has manifested will separate the mundane essay from the truly breakthrough essay. It’s about showing and not telling here so highlight the unique experiences that have brought you to this point. With HBS, the pressure to impress tends to be very high but focus less on the outlier stories from your competition (climbed a mountain, sold a start-up, ran a marathon) and focus on letting your own unique personality shine through amidst the anecdotes you share.

This essay honestly at its core is about getting to know you so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft the perfect answer for the admissions committee.

These are just a few thoughts on the new essay from HBS. Hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Harvard’s deadlines and essay, check out another post here.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018. Tuck stuck with two required essays this year, and the questions are substantially the same, although both of them have been reworded a bit for this year’s application. These small changes suggest that the Tuck admissions team was mostly happy with the responses they saw from last year’s applicant pool.

Without further ado, here are Tuck’s deadlines and essays for the 2015-2016 application season, followed by our comments in italics:

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Deadlines
Early Action round: October 7, 2015
November round: November 4, 2015
January round: January 6, 2016
April round: April 4, 2016

Tuck’s deadlines are almost exactly the same as they were last year. Rather than joining other top MBA programs in pushing its first round deadline into September, Tuck decided to hold steady. Note that Tuck is one of the few top business schools to offer an Early Action admissions option. “Early Action” means that the decision is non-binding, although if you are admitted you will need to send in a $4,500 deposit by January 15 if you plan on enrolling. If Tuck is your top choice, or at least a very strong 2nd or 3rd choice, Early Action is a great way to demonstrate that you’re seriously interested in Tuck.

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays

  1. What are your short- and long-term goals? Why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? Why are you interested in Tuck specifically? (500 words)

    This question has been substantially reworded since last year, although at its core, it’s still the same fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that many business schools ask. One notable change is actually the addition of the second question in there (“Why do you need an MBA?”), and the fact that the Tuck admissions team added this part suggests that perhaps not enough applicants were addressing this fairly obvious question last year.

    The other subtle change is how the last part of the prompt changed from “Why are you the best fit for Tuck?” to “Why are you interested in Tuck specifically?” No matter how the question is asked, Tuck really is still trying to get at the concept of fit here — what about Tuck interests you enough that you would consider devoting two years of your life to the program? Tuck takes the concept of fit very seriously when evaluating candidates — which makes sense, given its small class size and remote location — so you need to take it seriously, too.

    Keep in mind that anyone can browse the school’s website and drop some professors’ and clubs’ names into this essay; a response that will really stand out is one that is believable, shows that you’ve done your research and reveals something unique about you. In this way, the wording in last year’s essay prompt can be a great guide to writing a great response to this year’s question.

  2. Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. How will that experience contribute to the learning environment at Tuck? (500 words)

    This question has also been tweaked for this year’s application. The meaningful difference is in the second part: While last year’s question asked you what you learned about yourself, this year’s version squeezes in the part that was dropped from Essay #1. Why does this matter? Because the part that was dropped (“What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?”) is still actually pretty important, and it’s hard to imagine writing a great essay that doesn’t at least briefly cover that material this year.

    Since you only have 500 words for the whole essay, being succinct will be important! You need to describe what the situation was, what action you specifically took, and what the results were (Situation-Action-Result, “SAR”). And devoting at least several sentences to how you grew or changed makes a lot of sense… So you’re left with less than half of essay to tie this all back to Tuck and how you will contribute. No problem, right?

    Are you grasping for a story to use for this essay? Don’t lose site of that important word in the first part of the question: leadership. Keep in mind that leadership shows itself in many forms, not just from being the official manager of a team. Perhaps you took on a tough problem that no one else wanted to deal with. Maybe you faced a tough ethical decision that kept you up at night. Or maybe you spotted an opportunity for how something could be done in a better way, and you convinced your peers to come around to this new way of doing things… All of these could make for rich stories to use in this essay!

    Finally, remember to tie it back to Tuck. Our advice here is not to force it (e.g., “… and that is why I will be a natural to lead the Tuck Finance Club”). The key is to tell an story that demonstrates your growth as a young, developing leader, and then to demonstrate that you understand what Tuck’s respectful, collaborative culture is all about.

  3. (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application. (500 words)

    As we always tell applicants when it comes to the optional essay for any application, only answer this essay prompt if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!

Each year we work with dozens of MBA applicants who want to get into Tuck. If you’re ready to start working on your own candidacy, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

A Breakdown of Columbia Business School Essay Questions for 2015-2016

columbia-mba-admissions-guideApplication season at Columbia Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

There are three essay questions for Columbia, which is a high number in these days of essay consolidation at most other business schools. With so many essays it is critical that applicants present their candidacy in a clearly aligned fashion.

Essay 1:
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (Maximum 500 words)

Columbia’s first essay falls into the category of your typical “career goals” essay and is double the word count of the other essays so the school is expecting a fully fleshed out path forward. Avoid spending much time detailing your past as the prompt clearly has taken account of your past professional career. This is purely a future-oriented career essay.

With that said, clear articulation and alignment of your short-term and long-term career goals will be key to executing a successful essay here. Probably even more important, given the ubiquity of the career goals portion of the prompt, is the fit portion of the essay. Breakthrough candidates will cite specific references to Columbia’s professional, academic, and extra-curricular programs that will support the applicant’s development goals. With so much competition amongst similar institutions it is critical to make a bold case for a strong fit with the program.

Essay 2:
Columbia Business School’s location enables us to bridge theory and practice in multiple ways: through Master Classes, internships, the New York Immersion Seminars, and, most importantly, through a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (Maximum 250 words)

Again keeping in mind the totality of the three essays, it may make sense to reserve the NY specific advantages until essay two. Essay one presents a clear opportunity to do this but doubling down here would make more sense. With so few words to work with you want to get right to the point in this essay.

Columbia outlines a few of the potential advantages the school offers in the prompt, so you want to get specific on what the relationship between the school and the “Big Apple” can offer you. Breakthrough candidates will personalize this essay right from the start and structure the essay around specific aspects of the Columbia Business School experience relevant to the candidate’s personal and professional development.

Essay 3:
CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (Maximum 250 words)

This is a great opportunity to let your personality shine through. The first two essays cover career goals and fit and interest in Columbia, but this essay is a bit more open. These types of essays tend to be the greatest opportunities for candidates to differentiate themselves, so don’t miss out on this chance!  As you choose which topic to discuss keep in mind what would engage your classmates and it goes without saying but whatever you share should actually be something not immediately obvious to the Admissions Committee. Breakthrough candidates will leverage their research into the Columbia culture to frame a response that is not only unique but also compelling to the admissions team.

These are just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Columbia Business School. Hopefully these thoughts will help you get started.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Chicago Booth Admissions Essay and Deadlines for 2015-2016

The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago recently released its MBA application deadlines and essay for the Class of 2018. After years of whittling down its essay count to just one single essay last year, Booth returns with one essay this year, although it’s a new one. Booth has always been one of the pioneers in using unusual essay prompts, and it’s good to see that continue. The way they go about it this year is a little different (and perhaps not ideal), but we dig into that in much more detail below.

Here are Chicago Booth’s admissions deadlines and essays for the 2015-2016 season:

Chicago Booth Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 17, 2015
Round 2: January 5, 2016
Round 3: April 5, 2016

Once again Booth has moved its Round 1 deadline forward by a week, making Booth the latest top business school to have its first deadline come in mid-September. (Five years ago, Booth’s Round 1 deadline was October 13… Things have changed!) The good news is that applying to Booth in Round 1 means that you will get your decision back by December 10, which gives you almost a month before most business schools’ Round 2 deadlines come in early January. Booth’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines each moved only slightly compared to last season.

Chicago Booth Application Essay

  1. Chicago Booth values individuality because of what we can learn from the diverse experiences and perspectives of others. This mutual respect creates an open-minded community that supports curiosity, inspires us to think more broadly, take risks, and challenge assumptions. At Booth, community is about collaborative thinking and tapping into each other’s different viewpoints to cultivate new ideas and realize breakthrough moments every day. Using one of the photos provided, tell us how it resonates with your own viewpoint on why the Booth community is the right fit for you.

    This essay prompt is new this year, although at its core, it’s not that different from last year’s essay. The Booth admissions team wants to get to know you better, and this is their way of doing it. Why did they change the essay prompt? Our bet is that they actually liked what they saw from applicants last year, but they seemed determined to make their essays a moving target because of all of the coaching resources that applicants have access to (such as this blog!)… This is their way of trying to keep it fresh while not messing with the formula too much.

    We always tell applicants that they have to do two things to be successful: stand out from other applicants, but also show fit with their target MBA program. With this essay prompt Booth is going after the latter; they explicitly ask you to show why the Booth community “is the right fit for you” here! But, how you show fit is one way you can stand out vs. other applicants. Don’t be afraid to get creative here! (Here are all of the technical details of what you can and can’t submit.) Remember, the reason Booth kept this question is because it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to get a sense of your personality, so let that personality shine through here!

    Finally, the addition of the “react to one of these photos” idea is… interesting. We have a feeling that a lot of applicants will end up forcing the explanation of why a photo of Eugene Fama resonates with them… At a high level, our advice is not to get too hung up on your choice of photo. Don’t just randomly pick one and then use editorial duct tape to attach that your own story, but remember that the admissions committee really wants to learn about YOU here, not about what you think of one of these photos. Any one of Booth’s thousands of applicants can write about those photos, but only you can tell Booth about you.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Booth and other top MBA programs, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions EssaysThe Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley recently published its MBA admissions deadlines and essays for the coming application season. After chopping away at its essay count in the recent past, Haas has held steady this year, keeping the required essay count at three. But, interestingly, the school has made some changes that make this year’s application look more like the application that Haas used two years ago. We’ll dig in and tell you everything you need to know below.

Now let’s dig in! Here are Haas’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Berkeley (Haas) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2015
Round2: January 7, 2016
Round 3: March 31, 2016

Haas’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. The one bit of news here is that while the school used to wait until mid-January to notify Round 1 applicants, now applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by December 17, giving you at least a couple of weeks before most schools’ Round 2 deadlines, should you need to scramble and apply to some backup schools. Looking at Round 3, Haas pushed back this deadline by nearly three weeks vs. last year, matching similar moves at some other top schools to hopefully catch a few more great candidates who may have missed the earlier rounds.

Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays

  • If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words)

    This question is new this year, although Haas actually used it before dropping it last year. Now it’s back, and it’s clear that the Haas admissions team wants to get past the normal jargon and stuffy language and get a real sense of your personality here. That means you shouldn’t be afraid to have a little fun or reveal the real you here. If an admissions officer reads this essay and then still has no sense of what it would be like to meet you in person, then you haven’t made good use of this essay. That doesn’t mean your choice of a song needs to be wacky or so deep that it will make the reader cry, but avoid the temptation to choose a song that merely echoes one of the more straightforward themes you will cover below. And, we’re willing to take bets on the number of applicants who say their favorite song is John Lennon’s “Imagine”… Save the high-minded “I want to save the world” stuff for another essay! This one is more for just helping admissions officers feel like they know you at least a little bit.

  • Please respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words)
    – Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.
    – Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud.
    – Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.

    All three of these essay prompts try to get at the same thing — identifying an experience in your life that led to growth and transformation. The first one is essentially carried over from last year’s application, and the second one is quite similar to a prompt from last year, although it’s a little broader this time around (it can be any accomplishment, not just a professional one). The third question is new this year. And, most notably, you’re picking just one, while the first two questions were actually two separate required prompts on last year’s application. We like that Haas gives applicants three different ways to go about this one; your best story may come from an accomplishment, or from overcoming a setback, or from making a tough choice in life. Why not let you choose which story to tell here?

    No matter which essay prompt you choose, think about the “SAR” (Situation-Action-Result) essay framework here — describe what happened, what you did, and then what happened as a results. Sounds obvious, right? You would be surprised by how often applicants get lost in the details and end up using most of their words merely to describe to the situation… the result gets tacked on in two sentences at the very end! That’s too bad because the result — not just what happened in that situation, but also how you changed as a result — is what Haas really wants to know here! Even seemingly smaller accomplishments or life events, such as the first time you spoke in front of a large group, can make for a really impactful essay here.

  • Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey? (500 words)

    This is the more conventional “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that MBA programs often ask. Ask yourself these questions: Where do you see yourself in a few years (and beyond that), and why do you need an MBA to get there? Specifically, why do you need a Haas MBA to get there? Why not another top-ten MBA program? Really force yourself to answer that question, even if not all of your answer makes its way into your final essay response!

    By the way, the Haas admissions team gave you a big hint here: On the Haas website, check out the paragraph that introduces the essays. It describes the four key principles that define the Haas culture: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Your goal here is NOT to see how many of these you can cram into your essay (this is not merely an exercise to see if you bothered to read the website), but if none of that appeals to you, and you can’t even articulate why Haas is the right way for you to invest in yourself, then you need to take a step back before drafting this essay. You obviously are an unfinished product, which is why you’re considering business school… Help the admissions committee believe that Haas is the right place for you to grow for the next two years, invoking those four key principles where you can.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Haas and other top business schools, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

3 Ways to Write the Perfect Business School Application Essay

writing essayEssays are one of the most important aspects of the MBA application process. They are also one of the most challenging for many applicants to excel at. The essays are a critical opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves from the hordes of similar applicants in the process. Admissions committees are looking for a surprisingly small list of things in these essays and executing on these elements is a step in the right direction for breakthrough candidates.

Now there is no such thing as a perfect business school essay but the three points below are necessary in executing a successful business school essay:

Relevance

Have you answered the question asked? Candidates would be surprised how often this very basic question goes unanswered at the end of an essay. Many applicants become so consumed with including every element of their past, present, and future into an essay that often times the most obvious aspect of the essay goes unnoticed. Not only is it important to ensure you have answered the question but also that the response selected is the most relevant to the question posed. It is important to step back and consider if there are any better anecdotes, stories, or examples that could be used for this essay.

Authenticity

Could anybody else have written this essay? Successful applicants present their authentic selves in a captivating and compelling fashion in each essay and the entire application as a whole. Don’t be afraid to explore uncomfortable themes and personal anecdotes that can amplify interpersonal elements of your candidacy. Remember it is easy to write the bland, impersonal essay that is commonplace with unsuccessful applicants. Dive deep and show the admissions committee what makes you unique and why you will be a valuable addition to their business school community.

Polish

There is no worse way to show you are not business school material than to submit an essay loaded with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. Mistakes like this show an obvious lack of attention to detail and carelessness that can be disastrous for an applicant during such a competitive process. Take the extra time to earmark additional reviews from friends and trusted advisors like Veritas Prep to ensure come decision day minor typos do not stand in the way of an admit.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Kellogg Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Kellogg School of ManagementThe Kellogg School of Management recently released its essay questions and deadlines for the 2015-2016 admissions season. After doing a lot of essay trimming over the past several years, Kellogg has decided to stay the course this year and stick with two required written essays. However, the essay prompts are new this year. And, the school’s “video essay” remains. Kellogg has a decent FAQ for its video essay on its website.

Let’s get down to it. Here are Kellogg’s application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Kellogg Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 22, 2015
Round 2: January 6, 2016
Round 3: April 6, 2016

After moving its Round 1 application way up (i.e., making it much earlier) last year, Kellogg has only made a minor adjustment this year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by December 16, which should give you enough time to complete your Round 2 applications for other programs if you don’t get into Kellogg. The school’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines have not changed much this year, with the only notable change being that the Kellogg Round 3 deadline comes five days later this year than it did last season.

Kellogg Application Essays

  • Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)
    This question is new this year, although it’s really quite similar to the second essay on last year’s Kellogg application, which started with, “Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others.” Note the emphasis on leadership and teamwork here… Both are key traits that the Kellogg admissions team looks for in all applicants. And, even though the second sentence above only mentions leadership, you’d better believe that the admissions committee also wants to see evidence of collaboration and cooperation… in other words, teamwork! Kellogg isn’t looking for sharp-elbowed people who lead by ordering others around. rather, the school wants to find applicants who inspire people to work harder and achieve great things through teamwork and empowerment.

    This essay is a classic candidate for the SAR (Situation – Action – Result) outline that we recommend our clients use. The situation will likely be an opportunity or challenge where you needed to rely on someone in order to get something done. The action will be how you managed to influence them in order to see things your way and to convince them to take up your cause. Perhaps it was an employee or teammate who wasn’t motivated, or didn’t agree with what you wanted to do. How did you win them over? Finally, the result will be the outcome — not just of that particular situation, but also the positive impact that it had on you as a young leader. Pay particular attention to the last few words of this essay prompt; what you learned may be what admissions committee pays attention to the most.

  • Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
    This question is also new this year. However, over the years Kellogg has asked similar questions that have all addressed the ideas of personal growth and change. Assuming you have a good leadership growth story covered in Essay #1, then look for stories that will complement that nicely. How have you matured as a young adult? What was a weakness that you’ve worked on and have overcome? What strong qualities in others have you been able to emulate? As yourself these questions as you consider what makes for an effective topic here. Your story absolutely can come from your personal life — indeed, those often make for the most moving stories in essays like this one — but the more recent, the better. You’re still young and you are still evolving, so a story from fifteen years ago will likely be less compelling for admissions officers than one that happened in the past few years. (Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule!)

    The second part of the question may require you to drastically shift gears halfway through this essay… Your reasons for wanting to attend Kellogg may have very little to do with the compelling growth story you identified for the first part of this prompt, which is why we don’t necessarily love this new question from Kellogg. Sticking these two questions together may leave many applicants tempted to invent a theme in which they dramatically shape the story in the first half to fit what comes in the second half. We actually think a more effective approach is to present a true, impactful story of personal growth in the first part, and then hit the “What do you want to do at Kellogg?” question (which is really a “Why an MBA? Why Kellogg?” question at its core) head on. Some writers will tie the two together better than others, but remember that this isn’t an essay writing contest. It’s far more important for you to help the admissions committee get to know you (and want to admit you!) than to come up with an artful essay theme that doesn’t reflect the true you or make a convincing case that Kellogg is right for you.

Want to know what your chances are of getting into Kellogg? Fill out a free profile evaluation and get an in-depth evaluation from an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

5 Things to Do Once MBA Application Essay Topics are Released

writing essayOne of the most anxious days for many candidates is the release of applications for their target schools. Candidates nervously obsess over all aspects of what to expect from a school’s yearly changes in the application process. So when the new applications are released it is an exciting day and signals the official start of a school’s application season.

Even if applications aren’t quite released, you can still start thinking about how to get rolling once applications are live.

Now there is no one size fits all approach to making the most of those summer months but see below for some things to consider as you start mapping out your game plan:

1. Develop Mini-Stories

One of the most helpful aspects to have prepared before essays are released is your mini-stories. The focus of these mini-stories is to highlight your strongest and most in-depth personal, professional, and extra-curricular life experiences. These anecdotes will feed right into the essays once topics are released allowing you to mix and match appropriately.

2. Confirm School List

Prior to the kickoff of application season, your school list should be basically set. Many candidates waste valuable time once applications are released wavering on school selection and starting applications for programs that they will eventually not apply to. Get ahead of this by starting your school research in advance of application season, so once applications are released you can hit the ground running.

3. Complete School Research

Now that your school list is set, it is time to dive deeper into your school research and really begin to identify the elements at each individual MBA program that are uniquely attractive to you.

4. Outline School Specific Essays

With the details set of your specific interest in your target program it’s time to align your mini-stories with school specific essays. Remember each individual essay should be created from scratch but use the details developed via your mini-stories as a launching point.

5. Write and Review Essays

All the hard work has been done so now it’s time to actually write the essay. If the other steps are completed properly then the actually process should be very easy. A key aspect of the writing process is the review process. Utilize a team of trusted eyes to help you review your hard work.

Considering applying to MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

MIT Sloan Application Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

MIT Sloan recently released its admissions essay and deadlines for the Class of 2018. While hardly any top business schools have cut essays this year (after several years of doing so), Sloan actually did cut an essay, going down to just one required essay this year. But, here’s a twist: The Sloan admissions team has added a second essay just for those who are invited to interview. So, you’re still going to need to write two strong essays to get into Sloan, and we break down the essay prompts below.

Here are MIT Sloan’s essays and deadlines for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

MIT Sloan Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 17, 2015
Round 2: January 14, 2016
Round 3: April 11, 2016

Several noteworthy things here… First, Sloan’s Round 1 deadline has moved up by almost a week, pushing into mid-September for the first time ever. And, the school’s Round 2 deadline comes almost a week later than it did last year. If you apply to Sloan in Round 1, you will get your decision by December 16, which will give you plenty of time to get Round 2 applications ready for other MBA programs, if needed.

The other interesting thing here is that Sloan has added a Round 3! For a while, Sloan had been unique among top U.S. business schools in that it only had two admissions rounds. For instance, last year, if you hadn’t applied by January 8, then you weren’t going to apply to Sloan at all. Now stragglers actually have a chance of getting into MIT Sloan, although our advice about Round 3 is always the same — there are simply fewer seats available by Round 3, so only truly standout applicants have a real chance of getting in. Plan on applying in Round 1 or 2 to maximize your chances of success.

MIT Sloan Admissions Essays

  1. 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)This question is new to MIT Sloan’s application this year. What we like about it is how it very explicitly spells out what Sloan’s admissions team wants to see. For these types of questions, we always advise applicants to use the “SAR” method — spell out the Situation, the Action that you took, and the Results of those actions. There is no hard and fast rule for how many words you should devote to each section, but the situation is where you want to use up the fewest words; you need to set the stage, but with only 500 words to work with, you want to make sure that you give the bare minimum of background and then move on to what actions you took. And, make sure you leave enough room to discuss the result (“What type of impact did this have?”) Your individual actions and the impact that you had are what the admissions committee really wants to see.One final thought here: Don’t only think about the impact that you had on your organization, but also spend some time thinking about the impact that the experience had on you. What did you learn? How did you grow as a result? And, how did you put this lesson to work in a later experience? That may be a challenge to fit into a 500-word essay, but this is the type of introspection and growth that any business school admissions committee loves to see.
  2. For those who are 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)The wording of this prompt has changed slightly since last year, but the biggest change (other than the fact that it’s become the essay only for those invited to interview) is that the word count has dropped from 500 to 250 words. At its core, this is a “Why MIT Sloan?” question. The admissions committee wants to see that you have done your homework on Sloan, that you understand what the school stands for, and that you really want to be there.When Sloan asks you to share something that “aligns with” its mission, it’s not just asking about what you will do while you’re in school for two years, but also about how you plan on taking what you’ve learned (and the connections you’ve built) and going farther than you could ever have without an MIT Sloan MBA. Note the very last part of the question: The key to a believable essay here will be to cite a specific example from your past when you got involved and make things better around you. Don’t be intimidated by the high-minded ideals in the first part of the essay prompt — making an impact (rather than just standing idly by and being a follower) is what they want to see here, even if it’s on a relatively small scale.

The MIT Sloan MBA admissions team just posted a brief video that has some good basic advice on how to tackle their essays. There are no huge “Ah ha!” moments in the video, but it’s always good to hear advice straight from the course. Here is another article with some advice for the essay.

Do you dream of getting into MIT Sloan? Give us a call at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

7 Tips for your Application to the Chicago Booth MBA Program

So you’ve decided to try the presentation for the Booth MBA application.  Now what?

A simple question accompanied by a blank canvas to start with can be daunting.  It helps to have a structured process in place to put your ideas together, while still leaving plenty of room for creativity.  When I work with my clients, I take them through a very simple process to help them think about the content for the pages that will ultimately answer the question “Who are you?”

There are two parts to the process.  First, you need to determine what you want to say to the Admissions Committee?  And second, figure out how you want to say it?

There are no real right or wrong answers to these two questions.  Each individual will have his or her own story and style.  And that is what makes this application so fun.  It gives candidates the opportunity to truly be unique.

What to write:

Answering the question “Who are you?” is not easy for most people.  To make it simple, I have my clients write down a list of bullet points that will act like the Table of Contents in a book about your life.  If someone were to write a biography about your life, what would the main chapters be about?  What would those defining characteristics and moments be that make it into your story?  What are the things that are important to you and what are things that you like and enjoy?  Don’t be afraid to get personal.

Once you’ve created your list, ask yourself: do those chapters accurately capture the person that you are?  Few of the chapters by themselves will differentiate you, but when you add them all together, you get…you.

There are no rules about what can or cannot be included as part of your story.  This simply means that you should not be limited by time or age or by things that haven’t happened yet.  In other words, can your dreams be part of your story?  Absolutely.  Your dreams are part of who you are, right?

Who you are encompasses everything: your past, your present, and your future.

How to share your story:

While you’re coming up with your outline and your Table of Contents for your own personal story, you will need to think about ways you can present your story to the Admissions Committee.

I recommend that you try to use a ‘theme’ that is personal to you.  What could a theme be?  It can be anything, really.  I’ve seen candidates who have used a children’s book as the backdrop to their story, their favorite magazine or newspaper, baseball cards and sports, or technology.  The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination (and Booth’s minimal requirements: it can’t have animation, and it has to be under 16 MB in size).

I always recommend that my clients open this challenge up to their friends and family members.  What would be an interesting, creative, and personal way to share your story?  The more ideas you have from the people who know you, the greater the chances are that you’ll have a good idea that is unique to you.

Putting it together:

Once you’ve got your outline and have identified your theme, it’s time to start putting your presentation together.  A few guiding principles that I like to offer to my clients:

Be efficient with your words.
You don’t want to write a lot if you’re developing a presentation.  While there is no word limit, a good rule of thumb is that your presentation shouldn’t have more than 750 words in it on the high end. It’s definitely possible to have an effective presentation with more words, but it all depends on the format you end up going with (e.g., using a newspaper theme might require more text compared to a shopping catalog, for example).

Use images and visuals to enhance your story.
It’s always good to include images from your life in your presentation, but they are by no means necessary.  I’ve seen plenty of great presentations that don’t have personal images but instead use hand-drawn pictures or visuals created in tools like Photoshop.  Whatever you choose, try to use images that demonstrate the full spectrum of your personality, your interests, and the story you’re trying to tell.

Pay attention to the details.
The details can be a lot of fun.  If you’re using a theme that would be recognizable to others, put the effort into making it as authentic as possible, and use your creativity to incorporate your own personal style into the presentation.  For example, you may want to rename a newspaper to make it personal to you and Booth (for the record, I don’t recommend using a newspaper theme because you won’t be the only one doing it, but it’s an easy example to demonstrate with).

Review, review, review.
Ask your friends and family for feedback and input.  You’ll be surprised by how many good ideas they will have and how willing they will be to invest in your success.  The presentation is a way for you to stand out from the crowd, so make sure it is capturing the story that you want to tell to Booth.

Have fun with it.
The process of developing the presentation is often one of the most rewarding experiences for business school candidates.  I have had many tell me that the Booth application was their favorite because it challenged them to think outside the box and forced them to think about questions they don’t normally think about.  Many have surprised themselves by how creative their presentations ended up being, and everyone has had fun doing it.  And that’s the point.  This process of self-discovery and creativity is intellectually stimulating – and that’s one of the reasons you’re applying to Booth in the first place, right?

If you get stuck, we’re here to help.

Good luck!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Rich Williams is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His specialties include consulting, finance, and nonprofit applicants. 

Wharton Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Wharton Admissions GuideToday we break down Wharton’s admissions deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018. Although Wharton frequently plays with its application’s essay questions from one year to the next, this year the admissions team has decided to stay the course. Consequently, our advice mostly remains the same.

Let’s get down to it. Here are Wharton’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 29, 2015
Round 2: January 5, 2016
Round 3: March 30, 2016

Wharton’s admissions deadlines have changed just slightly vs. last year. Its Round 1 deadline crept up two days, pushing into September, but that’s not a huge change. Wharton’s Round 2 deadline is the same as it was last year, and its Round 3 deadline was moved back by four days. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will receive your decision by December 17, giving you several before most top school’s Round 2 deadlines, if you need to hurry up and apply to some “Plan B” schools.

Many top business schools make a point of emphasizing that there’s no ideal time to apply, but not Wharton. The admissions team gives pretty explicit advice about application timing: “We strongly encourage you to apply in Round 1 or 2. The first two rounds have no significant difference in the level of rigor; the third round is more competitive, as we will have already selected a good portion of the class. However, there will be sufficient room in Round 3 for the strongest applicants.” So, unless you walk on water (and even if you do walk on water), you should plan on applying no later than Round 2 if you want to have a good chance of landing at Wharton next fall.

Wharton Application Essays

  • What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

    As we mentioned above, this essay prompt carries over unchanged from last year. At its core, it’s really the same “Why an MBA? Why Wharton?” that the school has asked for years. Note the word “personally” in the question — Wharton isn’t just interested in what six-figure job you hope to land after earning your MBA, but also wants to know how you plan on growing as a person from the experience. You definitely still need to nail the professional part — you absolutely should clear, realistic career objectives here — but the admissions committee also wants to see maturity and introspection. How do you see yourself growing during your two years at Wharton? How do you hope your two years at Wharton will impact your 10 years from now? This sort of depth will make the difference between a great response and a merely good one.
  • (Optional) Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)

    You should only use the optional essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need to. However, as schools like Wharton have been cutting down on essays, the role of the optional essay has evolved a bit. No need to monopolize the admissions committee’s time, but since Wharton’s application now gives you far less space in which you can describe your interests and inject some more personality into your application, this essay provides the perfect place to do that. Have a passion or something else that goes “beyond the resume” and will help Wharton admissions officers get to know you better? This essay gives you room to discuss it and make your application that much more memorable.

    Our original advice still holds, too. If you have a blemish that you need address, then this is the place to do it. You don’t want to leave a glaring weakness unaddressed. However, if you don’t have too much explaining to do, don’t be afraid to reveal something personal and memorable about yourself here!

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Wharton and other top business schools, you can get a free profile evaluation from one of our MBA admissions experts. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

Stanford GSB has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the 2015-2016 admissions season. After making some pretty significant changes to the essay prompts last year, the Stanford admissions team has only made one minor word count tweak (actually adding 50 words!) this year. As a result, our advice mostly remains the same. Keep reading to see Stanford’s relatively unique questions, and how we recommend that you go about answering them.

Here are the Stanford GSB application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Stanford MBA Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 22, 2015
Round 2: January 12, 2016
Round 3: April 5, 2016

The biggest change here is that Stanford Round 1 deadline is 10 days earlier than it was last year, pushing into September for the first time. Just as is the case with HBS, putting together a winning Stanford GSB application will require getting started no later than the beginning of August. Stanford’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadlines each actually moved back by a few days.

Note that, if you apply in Round 1, you will receive your decision by December 9. That’s critical if you plan on applying to some other programs in Round 2 if you don’t receive good news from Stanford in Round 1. It gives you close to a month to get your applications ready in time for most top schools’ Round 2 deadlines.

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays

  • What matters most to you, and why? (750 words suggested, out of 1,150 total)

    Despite all of the changes that have taken place in the MBA admissions essay landscape over the past few years, this question manages to hang on. Before you start to work on this essay, consider the advice that the Stanford MBA admissions team provides: “Reflect the self-examination process you used to write your response.”

    This question requires a great deal of introspection, after which you should create an essay that truly answers the question asked, whether or not you feel that it’s directly applicable to the job of getting into Stanford GSB. Naturally, telling a random story that has nothing to do with anything of relevance can hurt your chances, but mainly because you will have wasted this valuable space to reveal something about yourself. Where many Stanford applicants go wrong is by writing about their grand plans for the future, rather than providing a real glimpse into who they are as people. The latter is much more powerful and, ultimately, much more effective in helping you get in. With the other essays in this application, you have ample opportunity to cover the exact reasons why you want an MBA from Stanford.
  • Why Stanford? (400 words suggested)

    Wow! Stanford is giving applicants 50 more words than it did last year! Otherwise, this essay prompt carries over unchanged from last year. Stanford has the luxury of not having to spend too much time sleuthing how interested you are in the program. Most people who are admitted to Stanford end up going there. However, the guidance that the admissions team provides with this question (“Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.”) shows that they really are paying attention to see if you’ve done your homework, and if you have given any real thought to making the most of your time at Stanford (beyond “Get into private equity and get paid.”)

    Definitely resist the urge to do a few web searches and then simply drop the names of some programs or professors into this essay. An effective response will provide specific details that tie back to you (think about your past and your future) as much as they tie to Stanford. Many applicants will read that “distinctive opportunities” advice and think “The scavenger hunt is on! Let me find something no one else will write about!” but that misses the point. Stanford wants to know that you’re applying for reasons other than the fact that it’s such a platinum name in education, so spell out how You + Stanford = A More Effective Business Leader.

Note Stanford’s Take on “Feedback” Vs. “Coaching”
Stanford includes some noteworthy language re: what is an acceptable form of guidance to seek as you craft your application essays. As the admissions team writes:

Appropriate feedback occurs when others review your completed application — perhaps once or twice — and apprise you of omissions, errors, or inaccuracies that you later correct or address. After editing is complete, your thoughts, voice, and style remain intact. Inappropriate coaching occurs when you allow others to craft your application for you and, as a result, your application or self-presentation is not authentic

It is improper and a violation of the terms of this application process to have someone else write your essays. Such behavior will result in denial of your application or withdrawal of your offer of admission.

We appreciate that Stanford spells this out, and we couldn’t agree more with the school’s stance. If you can’t even write your own essays, then you already know that you’re not Stanford GSB material. For more than 10 years we have been helping people apply to the world’s most competitive MBA programs, and we have done it (pretty well, we might add) without writing essays or putting words in our clients’ mouths.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for Stanford and other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Harvard Business School Application Essays & Deadlines for 2015-2016

MBA applicants, start your engines. A handful of the top U.S. business schools have already released their application essays and admissions deadlines, it’s that time of year when we start digging into them for you. Today, we’re going to start with the business school with the biggest name and the earliest Round 1 deadline: Harvard Business School.

After years of slimming its essays down to the point where it had only one essay and even made it optional, HBS has changed course this year. The school has an all-new essay prompt, and it’s no longer optional. The essay becoming mandatory again actually isn’t huge news; in a recent blog post, HBS Admissions Director explained that, not surprisingly, every applicant submitted a response. So, no point in making the essay optional and confusing the issue. There’s one essay in the application (not counting the Post-Interview Reflection), and you’re going to write it if you want to get into HBS.

Without further ado, here are Harvard’s deadlines and essays (including the “Post-Interview Reflection”), followed by our comments in italics:

Harvard Business School Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 9, 2015
Round 2: January 6, 2016
Round 3: April 4, 2016

Harvard still has the earliest Round 1 deadline in the business, although the school’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. To give you an idea of how much this deadline has crept up over the years, back in 2008 HBS’s Round 1 deadline came on October 15! Harvard’s Round 3 deadline moved up two days this season, but that’s the only change this season.

Harvard Business School Admissions Essays

  • 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. We suggest you view this video before beginning to write. (No word limit)

    Harvard went with an entirely new essay prompt this year. Last year’s “What else would you like us to know?” question seemed effective, but this change tells us that the HBS admissions committee is still trying hard to break applicants out of the habit of writing overly formal essays that don’t tell them anything interesting. While Harvard is normally a trendsetter, this year the school follows in the footsteps of schools such as Stern and Fuqua, which have used similar questions in recent years.By trying to put you in the shoes of students who have already gotten in and are now introducing themselves to their classmates, HBS wants get you to write with as natural a voice as is possible. In fact, in the blog post that introduces this question, Dee Leopold urges you to imagine “saying it out loud.” Of course, you will (and should) put more thought into this essay than you would put into what few words you might say to break the ice in Aldrich Hall.

    Any essay you write here still needs to help you do at least one of the two things that all successful MBA applicants do — demonstrate fit with HBS and also stand out in a very competitive field of applicants. Resist the urge to go for a gimmick, but don’t be afraid to truly listen to Leopold and actually let your hair down a bit. What brought you to this point in your life? What do you want to do after HBS? (Remember, write in the voice of someone who’s already gotten in.) What do you like to do outside of school and work? What gets you up in the morning? What would you say in your verbal introduction to get a laugh out of your new friends?

    Of course, the challenge is that there’s a lot that you would normally emphasize in a more traditional essay (“Why an MBA? Why now? Why HBS?”) that you probably wouldn’t say as you’re speaking to your new classmates. While in a traditional essay you might want to go on and on about how your minimal community involvement is actually something you’re really passionate about, how much time would you really spend on that in a verbal introduction? So, those things need to come out in your resume, your recommendations, and — should you get that far — your admissions interview.

    Overall, we bet that applicants will still err on the side of being too formal (and to wordy!) with this essay. One way to combat this is to actually record yourself doing a verbal introduction of yourself, and then, once you have a complete draft of an essay, compare it to see how much it matches it in terms of tone and length (not necessarily in terms of exact content). If your written piece is much longer or much more formal than your verbal sample, you know you have a bit more work to do to get to what the Harvard Business School admissions committee wants to see. We expect that most great responses will take up less than 1,000 words (maybe even more like 500 words) here.

  • Post-Interview Reflection: Within 24 hours of the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection through our online application system. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process.

    The Post-Interview Reflection gives you a chance to include anything you wish you had been able to mention in the interview, and to reframe anything that you discussed but have since thought about a bit more. You will submit this piece within 24 hours of your interview.Especially since this letter has no word limit, the temptation will be for you to cram in half a dozen additional things that you wish you had covered in the interview. However, less is always more — keep the note limited to no more than two or three core ideas that you want to highlight. Ideally you covered all of the important things in the interview already, but of not, then this is a chance to hit on those here. Keep in mind, though, that sharing these ideas in the interview is always going to be more effective than cramming them into this note.

    Finally, be realistic about how much this letter will help you. Chances are that it won’t turn a dud of an interview into a terrific one in hindsight. Do NOT go into the interview with this note already drafted; let it truly be a reaction to the discussion, which was hopefully an interesting and provocative one. If your interviewer reads this note and it sounds like a replay of an entirely different discussion than what he or she remembers, that will only serve to hurt you come decision time.

Read more of our thoughts on the HBS essay here.

Every year we help dozens of applicants apply to Harvard Business School. Want to see if you have what it takes to get into HBS? You can get a free profile evaluation from a Veritas Prep MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

How to Tackle the Booth MBA Application

Chicago BoothI’m biased, but the Booth application is my favorite out of all of them.  I love the question – it’s simple, but not easy, and it forces applicants to do something that all of us should at some point in our lives: introspect.  The possibilities are endless.  The question not only challenges each applicant, but provides them with a great opportunity to stand out if answered well.

I have worked with clients on the Booth application since 2007, and while it has evolved over time – wherein applicants have had to write fewer and fewer words for Booth over the past decade – one constant remains: the presentation.

It is daunting.  At first.  Many of the clients I have worked with over the years approach the question initially with the “blank stare” strategy.  I’m sure many former and current Booth applicants who are reading this know the feeling.  Confusion.  Anxiety.  No idea where to start.  It happens all the time.  And that’s where we come in.

As we inch closer to Round 3, I’m going to share my own beliefs about the Booth application and how I recommend approaching it here on this blog.  We’ll incorporate some thoughts from other Booth experts as well.  Hopefully, after a few weeks, you’ll be in a much better position to answer the question, “Who are you?”

For now, let’s look at the advice Booth gives on how to think about the question. Booth gives the following five pieces of advice on the website.  I’ve added my own thoughts for each piece of advice below:

Be reflective.  This should go without saying, but often people don’t think deeply enough about what goes into their application.  Think about it this way – when the reviewer has finished reading your application, what are all of the things you want that person to know about you?  Have you shared those things in your answer in one way or another?  Introspection is a critical part of this process.

Interpret broadly.  Each applicant has a unique way of answering this question.  It should be personalized and customized based on you, not trying to force-fit what you think the admissions committee wants to know about you into some framework that doesn’t feel right or doesn’t fit.  The question allows for a lot of creativity in the response, and that is a tremendous advantage if done well.

Determine your own length.  They mean it when they say this.  I’ve already seen successful submissions that are in the 10-page range as well as half that or less.  There’s no right or wrong answer for length.  Each story will have its own natural length, and that must be determined by the format you use, the way in which you decide to tell your story, and other factors.  So when they ask you to determine your own length, they mean it.

Choose the format that works for you.  I’ll be writing about this in more detail in the next post, but I like to have people think outside the box here.  The initial instinct of many applicants is to write an essay.  But I challenge my clients to think differently in the way they tell their stories and use creativity to their advantage as a differentiator.

Think about you, not us.  The key message here is not to tell them what you think they want to hear.  Be original and sincere in your message.  But there are areas where it is perfectly fine to talk about Booth.  Your quest to get into Booth is part of who you are – sharing parts of that story is often essential (or necessary).

Hopefully, after you’re done with your Booth application – after you’ve looked at yourself objectively and pushed yourself out of your comfort zone creatively – you can look back and agree with me that it was your favorite application, too.

Good luck!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Rich Williams is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His specialties include consulting, finance, and nonprofit applicants. 

How to Write Breakthrough Application Essays for Kellogg

The Kellogg School of Management has always been known to be as innovative in the design of their unique academic community as they have been in the construction of their application. This year is no different as the school returns for the 2014-2015 application season with a stark departure from last year’s set of essays. Kellogg’s change has resulted in the school having some of the most introspective essay topics amongst top business schools. A school like Kellogg that has such a clear sense of the type of candidates they are looking for is looking for candidates to really open up in these essays.

Let’s take a look at each individual essay:

Essay 1 – Resilience. Perseverance. Grit. Call it what you will…. Challenges can build character. Describe a challenging experience you’ve had. How were you tested? What did you learn?

The three adjectives signal right away what Kellogg wants from you in this essay. It’s all about self-reflection and maturity. So open up! It is not enough to simply offer up a challenging experience for this essay. Admissions is also looking for your thought process during this situation. Where was the strife? What made the situation so challenging? How did you overcome this challenging experience? How did this experience impact you moving forward? Be introspective and dive deep into the specific of the situation. Breakthrough essays will put the reader right in the middle of the conflict early on and show NOT tell the specific steps the applicant took to overcome the challenge while including the corresponding thought process during this experience. Also, since essay 2 is focused on a professional experience, this essay may be an obvious opportunity to get a little personal with your choice of topic.

Essay 2 – Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others. Describe a professional experience that required you to influence people. What did this experience teach you about working with others, and how will it make you a better leader?

The core of the Kellogg MBA is development of interpersonal skills through collaborative learning. The school has always had the reputation as the premier teamwork school in the world. One rarely discussed nuance of the Kellogg MBA is that the school is not simply interested in developing team players but instead they want to develop leaders of teams. As you identify which experience makes sense here, select one that you can really tell a full and comprehensive story for. Too many candidates select anecdotes with limited scope, which really restricts the depth with which candidates can write.

A key trap many applicants fall into here is to not fully answer the question. The essay is about two things: leadership and influence; not addressing both will be a major missed opportunity to show off those fancy interpersonal skills Kellogg loves so much. The “influence” component of this essay is the more common area where candidate underwhelm. Breakthrough candidates will showcase how they have changed mindsets as leaders and the mechanisms by which they have successfully done so.

As with all Kellogg application components it is important to remain self-reflective while integrating the personal elements of your professional decision making into responses to these essays. Remain focused on these key tips and come decision day you will be seen as a breakthrough candidate by admissions.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

3 Ways to Make Your MBA Application Essays More Interesting

This essay is about how to make your essays for admission to graduate school in business more interesting. Oh wait, that opener didn’t catch your attention? Well that is exactly what admissions officers think when they read the majority of business school essays.

Admissions officers read thousands and thousands of essays a year and for lack of a better term the majority are boring. Now the term boring in a vacuum may not be perceived as necessarily a bad thing, when considering these essays are in fact for professional school, but the similar feel of most essays can clump most candidates together. With so much competition at top schools around the world it is important for candidates to utilize their essays to stand out from the pack.

Essays are a natural place to stand out, but how? The key here is to make your essays more interesting. Here are a few ways candidates can make their essays more compelling.

Topic:
Making your essays more interesting starts right from the beginning. Your choice of topic can go a long way in piquing the interest of admissions. When possible, choose topics outside of the typical professional variety. Topics that dive deep into personal, social, and academic anecdotes while highlighting b-school friendly skills like leadership and teamwork diversify your application in a very interesting way and will help you stand out from the masses.

Writing Style:
Clearly your main goal with any essay is answering the question but how you answer the question is just as important. The best essays read almost like a story where the reader is immersed into a colorful world that provides unique insight into the candidate and their life experiences. Leverage vivid imagery through “live” or “hot” openings to capture the audience’s attention. I know I already said making your essay more interesting starts at the beginning but it really does. How you open an essay can really set a positive vibe and direction for the reader.

Personalization:
What better to way to create a unique essay than by writing in a way and about things that only you can. Essays that utilize self-reflection, very personal anecdotes and internal dialogue can really stand out in a sea of monotonous essays while highlighting the maturity and insight b-schools crave in applicants. Other opportunities to personalize essays include using actual names and locations to really set an introspective context for your essays.

Follow these tips and watch your essays move to the top of the pile on decision day!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

How to Get Started on Your Business School Application Essays

You’ve made the decision to apply to business school and you begin sorting through a virtual pile of applications essay topics. You’ve written essays throughout high school and college, and for some candidates even other graduate programs like law school, but these business school essays are different. The schools seem to want something a bit different from you this time around.

Business school essays differ from other traditional essays because of what they require of the writer. Succeeding with this unique type of essay requires introspection, maturity, clarity, focus, preparation, and of course good writing skills don’t hurt either. Understanding that these are the necessary inputs is the first step in creating breakthrough essays.

The next step, and probably the most important, is creating what I like to call “mini-stories.”  The thought behind these mini-stories is that they are designed to be independent of the essay questions asked by schools and more-so select anecdotes that you choose to reflect the 4 dimensions of Leadership, Innovation, Teamwork and Maturity emphasized by many MBA programs. The focus is on highlighting your strongest and most in-depth personal, professional, and extra-curricular life experiences. You will later apply these mini-stories to specific essay questions asked from each school.

To get started I would aim for 5-8 mini-stories covering a diverse set of experiences. With each story include a short description and then some supporting bullets describing some of the players involved and why the situation was transformative. Make sure to especially highlight the impact and what you specifically learned from the experience. After you have created your set of mini-stories its time to utilize all of your hard work. Now don’t start writing any essays yet, you’re not quite ready.

I’m sure you’ve already done a bit of research but take another pass at exploring your target schools and their unique DNA. Review recent press clippings, news and information published by the school, and hold conversations with current students and recent alums to get an in-depth feel for the program. Now take a look at the essay questions of your target schools utilizing your recent review of the school to identify not only what the question is directly asking you but also what the school is seeking to learn about you.

Once you determine this for each school match up your mini-stories to the corresponding application essay. As you decide which mini-stories to select keep in mind that each school specific set of essays should showcase the diversity within your profile and paint a complete picture of your candidacy. So be judicious with your essay selections and make sure each one builds upon the other. The essay writing process does not have to be daunting, follow these steps and you will be writing breakthrough essays before you know it.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

How to Utilize the Re-Applicant Essay

A year ago you put together what you thought was the perfect application at your dream school and when the smoke cleared things did not quite work out as you expected. So you’re back at it again, a year has past since your last application, and you’re ready for another shot at admissions glory at your dream school. Of course you spent the year wisely improving your profile and now its time to tackle the re-applicant essay, but what should you include?

The optional essay should be all about showing admissions how you have changed (and hopefully improved) in the interim time between applications. The first step should be conducting a personal year in review. Take inventory of all the great things you accomplished over the year and frame them for admissions. Let’s look at the ideal areas candidates can mark improvement in their profiles in the re-applicant essay.

GPA/Courses:

Did you suffer from a low GPA or poor performance in analytical classes? Show the admissions team how you improved or counteracted past poor performance. If you took additional coursework or gained another degree in between applications this is a great place to showcase all of your hard work.

GMAT:

The GMAT tends to be one of the biggest reasons students believe they are denied admission. If you made a major improvement on your GMAT, share it in this essay. But don’t stop there. Share your hard work and how this score is a more accurate reflection of your aptitude and watch as potential red flags disappear in your profile.

Resume:

Were you really ready for business school? Some applicants suffer from lack of work-related accomplishments, impact, and management experience resulting in tough news come decision day. If you have received a promotion, more responsibility, led others, closed big deals or otherwise made a major impact at your company – the school wants to know. Don’t waste this opportunity to highlight the great work you did during the year. Additionally, changing jobs or careers warrants a mention as well. New roles can really show growth, round out a candidate’s profile, and eliminate skill gaps for the applicant.

Career Goals:

Have your career goals changed or even simply been refined? Lack of clarity with regards to career steps post-MBA can signal lack of research and immaturity when it comes to the process. Schools want to admit candidates they feel can be placed in their careers of interest. If in the past you have identified goals that don’t sync up well with your background or the specialties of that particular school, this may have been a reason for being denied. Re-evaluate your goals and make sure they are well aligned with your background and your target school. Don’t let this opportunity to explain any changes in your career trajectory pass you by.

If you’ve done your job in between your last application, writing the re-applicant essay should be the final piece in helping you claim a spot on decision day.

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.

What to Expect with the Video MBA Essay Questions

Written essay questions have been the foundation of MBA applications for as long as we can remember but some leading graduate business schools have introduced a new wrinkle over the last few years. Recent technological advances have made video essays a reality within the admissions process at top b-schools around the world. However, there’s no need to worry, this new addition at schools like Kellogg, Yale and Rotman are not meant to stump you.

These video essays are genuinely so the admissions committee can “get to know” the candidate on a more personal level.  Therefore, the applicant should try to be friendly and open about the questions (while still being appropriate, of course) rather than overly stiff & formal. The video provides a little glimpse into the personality traits of all applicants. So don’t expect to see anything really tricky or challenging, such as a mini-case, these are designed to be much more personal.

Specifically, admissions is looking to see how you come across in an unscripted, conversational moment.  The important thing is to convey confidence and answer the question directly, within the time allotted, in an articulate manner.  As always highlighting the core elements of Leadership, Innovation, Teamwork and Maturity that business schools covet within your responses will go a long way in executing a successful response. If you’re an international candidate, take the video essay seriously. Because for admissions, this is also another way to assess the English ability of international applicants so additional prep may be required.

Speaking of preparation, do it! Prep some responses to common interview questions, again these questions are not meant to be brain teasers just personal questions you should have already sorted through, about yourself and your interest in the school, prior to completing your application.

This is the kind of thing where I do think over-preparation could potentially backfire since you don’t know what the question will be, and the objective of the exercise is to be yourself and have fun.  The important thing is to be flexible. Your personality during the video essay should be consistent with who you have portrayed yourself to be in the application (which should be consistent with who you are) while factoring how admission perceives you (young candidate, international, brain, etc). With this being said remain professional in your tone, language and dress to ensure admissions continues to view you as a serious candidate.

Finally, each video essay school has a slightly different process when it comes to this exercise. Help yourself out by reviewing each aspect of the process diligently so there are no surprises when it is time to complete.

Good luck!

Want to craft a strong application? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. Click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.