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MBA Admissions Essays: Where Have All the Teamwork Questions Gone?

MBA Admissions Essays: Where Have All the Teamwork Questions Gone?

When business school admissions officers evaluate a candidate, they primarily look for four dimensions that round out a strong applicant: leadership, teamwork, innovation, and maturity. (These applicant dimensions are detailed extensively in Your MBA Game Plan, the industry’s most effective book on MBA admissions strategy.) All four matter, and admissions officers look for signs that you possess all four of these important attributes.

Why, then, have essay questions that directly hit on teamwork mostly disappeared from business schools’ applications over the past decade? Why have many of them been replaced by diversity questions? Could this mean that teamwork suddenly doesn’t matter like it used to? Are business school going to revert back to the “every man for himself” reputation that has (rightly or wrongly) been assigned to them over the years?

Admissions 101: Focus on Your Decisions, Not the Outcomes

Admissions 101: Focus on Your Decisions, Not the Outcomes

Perhaps the most typical mistake applicants make on their early drafts is polishing their achievements so that the link between their decisions and the successful results fits like a custom made glove. Dan Ariely wrote a great piece in December 2010’s HBS called “Good Decisions. Bad Outcomes.” The article is worth reading but essentially boils down to this: you should be more concerned with explaining your decision process than with the results — because results may have many contributing causes over which you have no control. This applies equally to success and to failure. You may have had a great idea for a viable restaurant concept — and opened your first few outlets on the Louisiana & Mississippi in spring 2010. The BP spill was bad luck — you still might make a good MBA candidate.

The wisdom in Ariely’s argument is that causality is tricky stuff.

Admissions 101: What Admissions Essays and Wedding Speeches Have in Common

Admissions 101: What Admissions Essays and Wedding Speeches Have in Common

Who's the lucky guy?

Next week yours truly will deliver a speech at a wedding. I have known the groom for nearly two decades, and I consider him to be one of my closest friends, even though distance unfortunately keeps us apart most of the time (I live in California and he lives in Beijing). While I don’t consider myself to be an expert toastmaster, I’m not too worried, since I know that what makes for a great admissions essay or personal statement also makes for a terrific wedding speech.

Think back for a minute and consider the last few weddings you’ve been to. If you’re lucky, you only have witnessed great wedding speeches and toasts, but odds are that you’ve sat through at least one or two bombs. What accounts for the difference?
Writer's Block? Try These Three Cures

Writer's Block? Try These Three Cures

"What matters most to me? Why? WHY??"

If you’re applying to graduate school this year, there’s a good chance that right now you’re surfing the Internet while procrastinating on writing your admissions essays or personal statement. The Internet is the ultimate procrastination tool, after all, but hopefully finding this article will be the best thing that could have happened to your essays.

The term “writer’s block” means different things to different people, but here we’ll use it to describe any situation where you know what’s on paper (or on your computer screen) is far from being a finished product that you’ll be happy to submit as part of your finished application. Maybe you just can’t think about what to start writing about (this is what most people think of when they hear “writer’s block”), but an even tougher case can be when you’re staring at a nearly-finished essay and you just know that it’s not working. In either case, try these three things to clear your mind and start fresh
Try This Exercise When Editing Your MBA Admissions Essays

Try This Exercise When Editing Your MBA Admissions Essays

Edit ruthlessly! Repeat!

Earlier this week Darren K., one of the most experienced editors on the Veritas Prep MBA admissions team, circulated this short article on a hypothetical college course that the author would one day like to teach. The course would require students to ruthlessly edit their own writing with every assignment they submit. We immediately circulated here, because it hit so close to home for the Veritas Prep team. Every day we work with clients to help them sharpen their ideas, and this exercise helps crystallize it perfectly.

The author, Jason Fried, describes the class he would like to teach:
INSEAD Application Essays for 2010-2011

INSEAD Application Essays for 2010-2011

Today we take a close look at INSEAD’s admissions essays for the coming application season. You can access these essay topics in INSEAD’s online application.

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UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

Today we dig into UCLA Anderson’s MBA admissions essays for the coming year. You will notice that Anderson has changed its essays pretty extensively this year. And, the school’s famous “video essay,” which is optional, returns for 2010-2011. Pay special attention to our advice regarding the video response, below.

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NYU Stern Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

NYU Stern Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

Recently we wrote about NYU Stern’s MBA application deadlines for 2010-2011. Today, we take a close look at Stern’s admissions essays for the year.

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UC Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays for 2010-2011

UC Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays for 2010-2011

Recently we wrote about the Haas application deadlines for the coming admissions season. Today we’ll dig into the school’s admissions essays for 2010-2011.

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Chicago Booth Application Essays 2010-2011

Chicago Booth Application Essays 2010-2011

Recently we wrote about Chicago Booth’s admissions deadlines for the coming year. Today we dig into the school’s admissions essays, which have changed quite a bit since last year.

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UVA (Darden) Application Essays for 2010-2011

UVA (Darden) Application Essays for 2010-2011

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has released its application essays for the 2010-2011 admissions season. (We wrote about the school’s upcoming MBA admissions deadlines last week.)

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Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays for 2010-2011

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays for 2010-2011

Darmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently published its admissions essay topics for the 2010-2011 application season. You’ll see that some of the questions have changed a bit vs. last year’s essays, although Tuck still hits on the same themes this year. That suggests that the school still feels that these themes (e.g., leadership and overcoming adversity) work well for the school in terms of finding applicants who are good Tuck material.

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The Rise of the Multimedia MBA Admissions "Essay"

The Rise of the Multimedia MBA Admissions "Essay"

Imagine the business school application of the future: Rather than spending weeks on dozens of revisions of multiple essays, you sit down at a computer and give short verbal responses to questions, which are recorded via a webcam and uploaded to your target business school’s online application system. Sound crazy? It’s not necessarily as far away as you might think.

MIT Sloan Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

MIT Sloan Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

A few weeks after releasing its application deadlines for the coming year, the school has published its admissions essays. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

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Michigan (Ross) Application Essays for 2010-2011

Michigan (Ross) Application Essays for 2010-2011

A couple of weeks after releasing its application deadlines for 2010-2011, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has released its admissions essays for the coming year. Ross has made some very significant changes to its essays this year. While the school’s Round 1 deadline is still more than three months away, now is a great time to start mapping out your application strategy, starting with these essays.

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Kellogg Application Essays for 2010-2011

Kellogg Application Essays for 2010-2011

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management recently released its admissions essays for the coming year. While Kellogg’s application won’t be live until early August, now is a great time to start mapping out your essays for a Round 1 application to Kellogg.

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Stanford MBA Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

Stanford MBA Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

A couple of weeks after announcing its application deadlines for the coming year, Stanford GSB has released its MBA application essays for 2010-2011. Bucking the trend that some other top business schools have exhibited so far this year, Stanford hasn’t made a single change to its essays. Accordingly, our advice mostly remains the same.

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Wharton Application Essays for 2010-2011

Wharton Application Essays for 2010-2011

After releasing its application deadlines a few weeks ago, Wharton has just released its admissions essays for the Class of 2013.

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Yale MBA Application Essays and Deadlines for 2010-2011

Yale MBA Application Essays and Deadlines for 2010-2011

The Yale School of Management has released its application deadlines and admissions essays for the coming admissions season. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics.

Duke (Fuqua) Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

Duke (Fuqua) Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has released its admissions essays for the 2010-2011 season. They’ve made some pretty interesting changes this year, so let’s dig in. Our comments are in italics.

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Columbia MBA Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2010-2011

Columbia MBA Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2010-2011

Last week Columbia Business School released its online application for the 2010-2011 admissions season. Oddly, they seem to make applicants create two accounts on their site: One on their “Inside MBA” site and one on Apply Yourself, which actually hosts Columbia’s online application.

HBS Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2010-2011

HBS Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2010-2011

If you were wondering whether the 2010-2011 MBA admissions season could really upon us already after Wharton released its application deadlines last week, then wonder no more. Yesterday Harvard Business School announced its application deadlines and admissions essays for the 2010-2011 season. Here they are, taken from Harvard’s site. Our comments are in italics:

On Becoming a Responsible Manager

On Becoming a Responsible Manager

(Today’s post is a guest feature by Darren Kowitt, one of Veritas Prep’s most experienced MBA admissions consultants and essay editors. He shares some insights about what makes a great manager, and how these lessons also apply to crafting an effective business school application.)

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 10

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 10


(This is the final installment in a series introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back soon to see what else we have in store!)

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How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 9

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 9

(This is Part 9 of series on the Veritas Prep Blog, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more admissions essay tips!)

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How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 8

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 8


(This is Part 8 of series on the Veritas Prep Blog, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more admissions essay tips!)

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How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 7

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 7


(This is Part 7 of series on the Veritas Prep Blog, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more admissions essay tips!)

Filed in: MBA Essays
The Best Way to Write Great Admissions Essays

The Best Way to Write Great Admissions Essays

Continuing our new MBA admissions video series, this week we investigate how some of our admissions experts attack the process to help their applicants write knockout admissions essays. This clip covers two important steps that every applicant should take — one tactical step at the beginning, and one strategic step closer to the end of the process.

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How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 6

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 6


(This is part of series on the Veritas Prep Blog, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

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How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 5

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 5


(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

Filed in: MBA Essays
How Personal Is Too Personal in Your Admissions Essays?

How Personal Is Too Personal in Your Admissions Essays?

Continuing our new MBA admissions video series, this week we ask how personal someone should get in their admissions essays, and how much personal information is too much. One thing that we always tell our clients — and admissions officers frequently tell their applicants — is that they shouldn’t be afraid to get personal in their essays. Admissions officers don’t want to only read about your accomplishments; they want to get to know the real you, and that means sharing a piece of yourself, even if it means revealing some vulnerability.

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How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 4

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 4


(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

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How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 3

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 3


(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

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How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 2

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 2


(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

Filed in: MBA Essays
How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 1

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 1


(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

Filed in: MBA Essays
Columbia Business School Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

Columbia Business School Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

As we round out our analysis of the top MBA program’s application essays, here are Columbia Business School’s application essays and deadlines for the September 2010 intake. Everything remains pretty the the same since last year, but we’ve put everything to make sure our readers have everything they need. Our comments follow in italics:

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays for 2009-2010

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays for 2009-2010

As we round out our analysis of the top business schools’ admissions essays for the coming season, today we look at The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business’ admissions essays. Ross’s essays actually carry over completely unchanged vs. last year, and so our analysis remains pretty much the same.

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Personal Statement Mistakes

Personal Statement Mistakes

With application season around the corner, the law school personal statement is becoming a hot topic around the Veritas Prep offices. With applications projected to rise for the 2009-2010 season and the personal statement increasing in importance, students are desperate to ace this difficult assignment and improve their chances. Unfortunately, the best efforts to do so are often misguided. As the basketball coaching legend John Wooden once said, “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

Filed in: MBA Essays
Cool MBA Tool: MBA Essay Map - Online Google Doc with Essay Topics from Top US, Asian and European Business Schools

Cool MBA Tool: MBA Essay Map - Online Google Doc with Essay Topics from Top US, Asian and European Business Schools


MBA Essay Map: View all business school essays, side by side, in one succinct view.


The wealth of online information about the business school application process and programs is staggering.
  • I certainly appreciate the opportunity to gather a number of differing viewpoints on essays topics and school culture, for example.
I also know that as b-school applicants navigate through the application process, they do have the potential to get lost in the weeds.

  • As I have seen with many MBA applicants, they get “analysis paralysis”, innudated by almost too much data.
  • Having worked in management consulting, I come from the school of tell me what I need to know, when I need to know it and how I can use it to get the right result.
  • In finance terms, I want to see a balance sheet. Give me a snapshot of where I stand today.
This is why I created the “MBA Essay Map“.
  • The MBA Essay Map rolls up all essay questions from top US, Asian and European MBA programs.
  • It puts them all in one view, side by side, for comparitive purposes.
  • I also included a side by side comparison of word limits and deadlines. This should help an applicant estimate workload and timing so they can address the writing process in the most efficient manner.
The Map also includes specific formatting requirements for each program and any specific reapplicant stipulations.
  • I can not tell you how many times I have seen essays submitted using the wrong format or reapplicants who neglected to follow the rules. This is a huge red flag for the admissions committee.
View the “MBA Essay Map” here:
-Paul Lanzillotti

UCLA Anderson Application Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

UCLA Anderson Application Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

The UCLA Anderson School of Management has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the coming application season. Here they are, followed by our comments: