MIT Sloan Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

MIT Sloan has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Sloan has made some tweaks this year, including dropping an essay, which continues a trend that we have seen among top MBA programs so far this year. However, the school’s famous cover letter returns. This cover letter is still unique among other top MBA programs’ application essays; apparently it still works well enough that the Sloan admissions committee wants to keep it around.

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

MIT Sloan Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 24, 2012
Round 2: December 27, 2012
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NYU Stern Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

NYU’s Stern School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2015. Just as we have seen with other top-ranked business schools so far, Stern has made some notable changes to its essays this year. In Stern’s case, we don’t see any trimming of essays or words, but we do see a new push to make sure you’ve researched the school as well as an entirely new career goals essay that we like for its creativity.

Here are NYU Stern’s deadlines and essays for the coming admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:

NYU Stern Application Deadlines
Round 1: November 15, 2012
Round 2: January 15, 2013
Round 3: March 15, 2013
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Yale SOM Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

Yale School of ManagementThe Yale School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Continuing the trend we’ve seen emerge among top business schools over the past month, Yale has changed a lot this year. However, in Yale’s case, once you dig down a bit deeper you realize that Yale is still mostly looking for the same attributes in its applicants this year.

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

Yale SOM Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 4, 2012
Round 2: January 8, 2013
Round 3: April 18, 2013
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Wharton Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

Wharton Admissions GuideWharton has released its application deadlines and essays for the 2012-2013 admissions season. Last year Wharton didn’t make too many big changes after really mixing it up the year before. Let’s dig into this year’s application and see how much things have changed this year.

Here are Wharton’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2015, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Admissions Deadlines

Round 1: October 1, 2012
Round 2: January 3, 2013
Round 3: March, 2013 (exact date TBD)
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Stanford MBA Application Essays for 2012-2013

Stanford GSB recently released its MBA admissions essays for the 2012-2013 application season. You may notice some changes to the essays since last year; we’ll dig into those changes below. Perhaps most significantly, just as we predicted last month, Stanford removed one of its required essays this year, although the total recommended word count remains the same.

As it has done for the past several years, Stanford’s admissions committee provides some high-level advice right on its own website. While we think this advice is generally good, we don’t see anything in Stanford’s advice that hasn’t been said many times before. Still, any advice that comes straight from the horse’s mouth deserves your attention!
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Columbia Business School Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

Columbia Business SchoolAfter releasing its application deadlines for the 2012-2013 admissions season, Columbia Business School has released its admissions essays, and we’ll dig into those today.

Note that Columbia is somewhat unique among top U.S. business schools because it has a large January intake every year. This program allows you to complete your MBA in less than a year and a half, and is ideally suited for applicants who don’t plan on switching careers or may want to start their own venture after school (i.e., you’ll need less help from Columbia’s career services office than the typical student). The January intake deadlines are also covered below.
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Harvard Business School Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

HBS EssaysTime flies… The last applicants of the 2011-2012 admissions season are still finding out their fates, and Harvard Business School has already released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2012-2013 application season. Big news here: Consistent with what we predicted earlier this month, this year’s HBS application includes fewer essays… Just two required ones this year! (Back pats all around here at Veritas Prep headquarters!)

Here are the new Harvard essays and deadlines, taken from Harvard’s site. As usual, our comments follow in italics:
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Three Predictions About 2012-2013 MBA Admissions Essays

Every January, we make predictions about the coming year in this space. Our 2012 edition includes predictions for weaker international application volume at U.S. business schools and growth in non-traditional graduate management programs. It’s still far too early to see how those predictions will pan out, but today we want to get a little more down in the weeds and make several predictions about what MBA admissions essays might look like in the coming year.

Every spring Harvard normally leads the charge by releasing its application essays first, firing the symbolic starter pistol for the new application season. In fact, last year HBS released its essays in the second week of May, so we may be just days away from the 2012-2013 admissions season getting underway. With that in mind, here are three predictions for what we’ll see in business school application essays in the coming year:
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Admissions 101: What an Essay Word Limit Really Means

One of the most common questions we get from applicants is, “How strict are schools about word limits in their admissions essays and personal statements?” While the answer itself is rather straightforward, we often encourage applicants to stop focusing on the number, take a step back, and consider what admissions officers are really communicating when they put forward a word limit.

First, we’ll answer the question directly: Schools are not out to reject you for going over a word limit by a small amount. Okay, okay… “What’s a small amount?” you’re asking. One rule of thumb that is frequently tossed around is 10%, although it’s worth noting that admissions consultants tend to promote this rule more than any admissions officer does. However, if you can stay within 10% of the word limit for an essay, you probably are okay.
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Duke (Fuqua) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

As we round out our coverage of the admissions essays and deadlines at the world’s top business schools, today we dig into the Fuqua School of Business’ application. There are very few changes this year, so our advice remains mostly the same. Let’s dig in:

Duke (Fuqua) Admissions Deadlines
Early Action: September 29, 2011
Round 1: November 1, 2011
Round 2: January 4, 2012
Round 3: March 8, 2012

These deadlines are virtually the same as last year’s. Note that, while most schools use the term “Early Action” to indicate that the decision is non-binding, Fuqua considers it to be binding. So, we only recommend applying in this round if you’re 100% certain that you want to attend Fuqua. If you’re waiting to hear back from some other schools before applying to Fuqua in Round 2, you’ll need to at least get the ball rolling on your Fuqua application before you know your fate at those other schools, since you won’t have a lot of time between mid-December and Duke’s January 4 deadline. Duke’s Round 3 deadline is the same as it was last year.
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Yale SOM Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

Yale School of ManagementThe Yale School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. Yale has made some tweaks this year, and we’ll dig into each of them below. Here are the school’s deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

Yale SOM Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 6, 2011
Round 2: January 5, 2012
Round 3: April 12, 2012

Yale’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are virtually unchanged, but Yale has pushed back its Round 3 deadline by almost a month this year. Perhaps the school recognizes that very few North American MBA programs have deadlines past late March, and wants to keep its doors open for as long as possible so that strong candidates don’t have to turn to European programs (which tend to have later or different deadline cycles than U.S. programs). We still advise that you aim for Round 1 or Round 2, but this is a subtle signal that Yale truly does consider applications that come in after Round 2.
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NYU Stern Application Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

NYU’s Stern School of Business has released its MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

NYU Stern Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: November 15, 2011
Round 2: January 15, 2012
Round 3: March 15, 2012

These deadlines are identical to last year’s. Note that, unlike many other top business schools, Stern has kept its Round 1 admissions deadline firmly in the middle of November. The good news for you is that, if you’re applying to Stern along with a few other schools in Round 1, this gives you a chance to get those ones done in October, catch your breath, and then give your Stern application your undivided attention. The downside is that Stern won’t notify Round 1 applicants until as late as February 15, 2011, so you will have to make choices about your Round 2 applications (which mostly have January deadlines) before you receive your final decision from Stern.
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UCLA Anderson Application Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

UCLA Anderson Admissions GuideUCLA’s Anderson School of Management recently released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. At first glance, there are not a lot of changes this, but what’s most interesting with Anderson’s essays this years is something that’s not included. Let’s dig into the school’s deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 26, 2011
Round 2: January 11, 2012
Round 3: April 18, 2012

All three of Anderson’s admissions rounds have been pushed back by close to a week. Keep in mind that, if you apply to Anderson in Round 1, you may not receive your final decision until late January, meaning that you won’t know where you stand with Anderson before most other top business schools’ Round 2 deadlines come and go.
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Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays for 2011-2012

Michigan Ross MBA Admissions GuideThe University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2014. After making big changes to its essays last year, Ross has only made small tweaks this time around. We’ll dig into the school’s essays and deadlines below, followed by our comments, in italics:

Michigan (Ross) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 10, 2011
Round 2: January 4, 2012
Round 3: March 1, 2012
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Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays for 2011-2012

Darmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently published its application deadlines and admissions essay topics for the Class of 2014. You may notice that Tuck’s questions have changed very little since last year, suggesting that the school’s current batch of essay topics works well for the admissions committee. By “works well,” we mean that the essays help admissions officers get to know applicants better, and helps them separate out the great candidates from the merely good ones.

Also, note that Tuck does not have hard word limits for its essays, but the school does provide some rough guidance: “Although there is no formal restriction on the length of your response, most applicants use, on average, 500 words for each essay and you should work hard to try to keep your answers around that length.”
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MIT Sloan Application Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

MIT Sloan has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. (You can view the essays once you create an online account to access Sloan’s application.) There are some small changes to the essays this year, although not many, and Sloan’s famous cover letter returns. This cover letter is still unique among other top MBA programs’ application essays; apparently its still works well enough that Sloan wants to keep it around.

Here are MIT Sloan’s deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:
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Chicago Booth Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

Chicago Booth Admissions GuideChicago Booth has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2011-2012 applications season. Last year the Booth admissions office made a lot of changes to the school’s application. While the change look less dramatic this year, there’s still plenty to dig our teeth into, so let’s begin.

Here are Chicago Booth’s MBA admissions deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:
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UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions EssaysUC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. Haas made some big changes to its essays (lots of short ones!) this year’s so let’s dig in. Here are the school’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Berkeley (Haas) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 12, 2011
Round 2: December 1, 2011
Round 3: January 18, 2012
Round 4: March 7, 2012
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Wharton Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

Wharton Admissions GuideWharton has released its MBA application deadlines and admissions essays for the coming year. Last year Wharton really stirred the pot by introducing radically different essays. Let’s dig into this year’s application and see how much things have changed this year.

Here are Wharton’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2014, followed by our comments in italics:
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Columbia Business School Admissions Essays for 2011-2012

Columbia MBA Admissions GuidePreviously we announced that Columbia Business School had released its admissions deadlines for the 2011-2012 application season. The school has also released its admissions essays, and we’ll dig into those today.

Note that the first step to applying to Columbia is to create an “Inside MBA” account on the school’s website. Columbia requires you to create a separate account on the school’s actual application site, too. This can be a little confusing, although Columbia seems to be working toward consolidating the two under the “Inside MBA” system.
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Kellogg MBA Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

Kellogg Admissions GuideNorthwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management recently released its admissions essays and application deadlines for the Class of 2014. We dig into them below.

Note that Kellogg has an unusual two-part application process: Part I includes your data sheets, resume, self-reported GMAT and TOEFL scores, and stated preference for whether you would like an on-campus or off-campus interview. (They also ask for your $250 application fee in Part I!) Part II includes your letters of recommendation, your essays, and your official GMAT and TOEFL scores. For each admissions round, be sure that you hit both deadlines!
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Harvard Business School Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

HBS EssaysIt must be spring, because Harvard Business School has just released its application essays and deadlines for the 2011-2012 admissions season. Note that these are for Harvard’s traditional MBA program; we covered the HBS 2+2 Program application a couple of weeks ago, although the two applications have become very similar to one another.

Here are the new essays and deadlines, taken from Harvard’s site. Our comments follow in italics:
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HBS 2+2 Program Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

HBS 2+2 ProgramThe Harvard Business School admissions committee has just released its admissions essays for the HBS 2+2 Program for the coming year. Today we’ll dig into the program’s application deadlines and those essays.

Regarding deadlines, note that the big change since last year is that there are now four deadlines, vs. one single summer deadline for the program. Even though the window in which you can apply is now more wide open, note that the program is still designed with current college juniors in mind. (HBS phrases it as anyone who will “be graduating from your college or university between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012,” which mostly applies to those who are just wrapping up their junior year in college.)
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MBA Admissions Essays: Where Have All the Teamwork Questions Gone?

Business School AdmissionsWhen 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?
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Admissions 101: Focus on Your Decisions, Not the Outcomes

MBA AdmissionsPerhaps 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.
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Admissions 101: What Admissions Essays and Wedding Speeches Have in Common

Business School Admissions
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?
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Writer’s Block? Try These Three Cures

MBA Essays
"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
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Try This Exercise When Editing Your MBA Admissions Essays

MBA Essay Editing
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:
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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.

Note that INSEAD’s essay prompts have not changes for the past several years. When a school doesn’t change its essay topics, that suggests that the admissions committee is pleased with how applicants have been answering the questions. What makes for a good batch of responses? Essays that are clear and revealing, and that help the admissions committee identify who’s a good fit with the school. Pay close attention to what the schools asks in its essay prompts — they ask these things for a reason!

Here are INSEAD’s essays for 2010-2011, followed by our comments in italics:

INSEAD Admissions Essays

Job Essays

  1. Please give a detailed description of your job, including nature of work, major responsibilities; and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, number of clients/products and results achieved. (250 words)
    The goal of this essay is clear: You must succinctly help the admissions office understand exactly what you do on a day-to-day basis. As easy as it is to become consumed with your GMAT score and your extracurricular activities, at the end of the day, the most accurate predictor of your professional potential is what you have done in your career to date. Don’t be spooked by the fact that the school asks for the number of employees under your supervision and the size of the budget you manage — if you haven’t really managed a team or owned a budget yet, that’s okay. The school is just trying to understand exactly what it is you do in your present job. Also, note the emphasis on your PRESENT job. This is not a typical “career progression” essay; stick to what the question asks.
  2. Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)
    Here is where you can provide some context around your career progression up until now. Of course, doing this in 250 words is a tough job, do you will really need to stick to the highlights in terms of what you have achieved and the reasons for the moves you have made. You will have to ditch most of the flowery prose in favor of clear, easy-to-follow facts. The second part of this question is interesting in that it pretty directly hits on something that INSEAD and any other top business school wants to know — that you’re interested in pursuing an MBA to turbocharge an already successful career, not to bail out of a stagnant one. Painting the picture of a successful young professional (in not many words, of course!) will be key here.

Personal Essays

  1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors, which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (400 words)
    While the Job Essays above required you to really stick to the facts and simply summarize your resume, here is where you can start to provide more narrative. Many applicants see the word “weaknesses” and tense up, thinking, “Oh no! I need to come up with an innocuous weakness that won’t kill my candidacy!” But the admissions committee knows that no one is perfect. INSEAD truly wants to understand what you’re good at and where you need some work. The school wants to see evidence of strong self-awareness and a desire to build on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. The seemingly natural place to go from here is to explain how INSEAD can help you with these areas, although note that this is not a “Why INSEAD?” essay prompt. Keep the focus mostly on you and what you have accomplished to date.
  2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why you view them as such. (400 words)
    This is not very different from Harvard’s “three most substantial accomplishments” essay. Accordingly, our advice is pretty much the same: This gives you a great opportunity for you to spell out at least two main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. Remember, the “why” in your story is even more important than the “what,” so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. Also, don’t feel that both accomplishment need to come from your job. If you have a great achievement from outside of work — such as from your community service efforts or even from a hobby that you’re passionate about — that can also provide great material for this essay.
  3. Describe a situation taken from school, business, civil or military life, where you did not meet your personal objectives, and discuss briefly the effect. (250 words)
    Ack, a failure question! Time to run for the hills! Don’t worry — as stated above, INSEAD knows you’re not perfect. The question is how you are able to overcome your failures and grow as a result of them. INSEAD’s word choice in asking for the “effect” of your failure is odd; what the school really wants to hear is what you learned and how you improved (both as a professional and as a person) as a result. And, ideally, you can even work in an example of how you put what you learned to use when faced with another challenge. Of course, the word count is tight, but being able to work in this example shows that you’re not just talk.
  4. Discuss your career goals. What skills do you expect to gain from studying at INSEAD and how will they contribute to your professional career. (500 words)
    Now we’re really getting into the “Why an MBA?” and “Why this school?” questions. Note that, as important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to spell out why specifically INSEAD can help you achieve your goals. This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the school that you’re not only applying because INSEAD is a highly ranked program.
  5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:
    a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What did it mean to you? (250 words)
    b) What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country? (250 words)
    Both of these essay prompts try to help the admissions committee understand you a little bit better. While it’s easy to lump these questions into the “diversity” bucket, really what the school is trying to gauge is your emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity. More than perhaps any other MBA program INSEAD truly is a melting pot of management education. You may be in study teams with people from four other continents — how well will you work with them at 3:00 AM when you have a tough final project due in six hours? A little bit of humor a humility can go a long way in answering these questions. Help the admissions committee be able to envision you sitting in a study group on INSEAD’s campuses in Fountainebleu and Singapore.

Applying to INSEAD this year? Download our INSEAD Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

UCLA Anderson Admissions GuideToday 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.

Here are the school’s essay topics (for new applicants) for the coming season, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Application Essays

Required Essays

  1. What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why? (750 words)
    This question is new, although it’s not radically different from last year’s first essay prompt. Really, the admissions committee is trying to dig deep into who you are and what makes you tick. We actually prefer last year’s wording, since this year’s version seems to put extra emphasis on a single event, which may create some pressure in applicants’ minds to come up with a dramatic single incident. In reality, the “or life experience” part of this year’s question still leaves it open-ended enough that you shouldn’t feel the need to focus on one single point in time. Try to answer this question with your personal development in mind. Your tendency will be to tie it right back to your career and why you’re pursuing an MBA, but consider this input from the admissions office: “Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. Content is more important than style of delivery. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.”
  2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)
    This question carries over unchanged from last year, and should be approached the same as most other “Career Goals” / “Why an MBA?” essays. Note that the “Why an MBA?” component is very important, but you absolutely MUST demonstrate in this essay a knowledge of and a passion for UCLA Anderson. One way any school protects its admissions yield is by ferreting out those who don’t demonstrate enough enthusiasm for the program. Failing to answer the “how will UCLA Anderson help you achieve your goals” part of the question is a sure way to get ferreted out by the admissions committee.

Optional Essays

  1. You may respond to the following question via written essay, audio or video clip: What is something people will find surprising about you?
    It’s back! But, this year the school only gives you one answer option, rather than giving you a choice between a question about entrepreneurship and the one presented here. It’s easy to get too worked up over this video response. But, in short, we do recommend that our clients take advantage of it, despite the point that Anderson makes about not giving preference to those who submit one. Why? It’s simply easier for an admissions officer to envision you at the school if he or she can see your face and feel at least some connection with the real you. It’s simply human nature, despite their best efforts to remain objective. We think you should prepare well and make sure you deliver your answer smoothly, but a more impromptu-sounding response will sound warmer and more authentic than an overly scripted response. Lastly, have fun with this! Your response doesn’t need to be funny or wacky, but brightening the admissions committee’s day always helps.
  2. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)
    Our advice for this type of question is always the same: Only use this question as necessary. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our UCLA Anderson Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

NYU Stern Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

NYU Stern Admissions GuideRecently 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.

You will see that Stern’s essays are virtually unchanged since last year. Still, our advice has evolved slightly, so read closely. Stern looks extra hard for applicants who can prove that they really are passionate about the program.

Our comments follow each question in italics:

NYU Stern Application Essays

  1. Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Describe the following (750 words):

    (a) What choices have you made that led you to your current position?
    (b) Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life?
    (c) What is your career goal upon graduation from the NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal?
    This question carries over unchanged from last year. What we think makes this question unique vs. other school’s “Why an MBA?” questions is Stern’s emphasis on the choices you’ve made up until now. Be sure to answer that part of the question — don’t simply write about what you’ve done up until now, but also explain why you did those things and made those choices. Stern provides some useful admissions tips on its essay page, including podcasts to help you clarify your story. These are great resources for any Stern applicant.

  2. We take great care to shape the Stern community with individuals who possess both intellectual and interpersonal strengths. We seek individuals who are highly intelligent, collaborative, and committed to flourishing as Stern leaders. Please answer the following questions (500 words):

    (a) What is your personal experience with the Stern community? Tell us what actions you have taken to learn about us.
    (b) Describe what most excites you about Stern from both an academic and extracurricular perspective.
    (c) How do you anticipate making your mark on the Stern community? Be specific about the roles you will take on and the impact you hope to achieve.
    This question is also unchanged. Stern has removed the part of last year’s question that asked about the toughest piece of feedback you’ve ever received, and as a result this question has evolved to hit the question of “Convince us that you’re passionate about Stern” more directly. Note the emphasis on specifics — don’t speak in generalities or just copy language from the school’s web site. What do you know about NYU Stern that convinces you that it’s right right school for you, and that you’re the ideal Stern student? And how will you convince the admissions committee? Looking at this kind of essay question early in the process will hopefully provide the impetus you need to really do your homework.

  3. 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.
    This question is also unchanged. Like Booth and Anderson, Stern seeks new ways to learn about what makes you unique. The admissions office really does want to get to know the real you. Stern’s admissions officers are almost begging you to stand out here, which is a reminder about how you can make their job easier by helping them remember the real you. One other note: Just because this question allows you to use any medium, that doesn’t mean that you need to submit something other than the written word. If that’s your best medium, use it. “Being memorable” means more than just sending them something outrageous; the most effective submissions really are the ones that leave admissions officers feeling like they know you better.

Applying to NYU Stern this year? Download our NYU Stern Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

UC Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays for 2010-2011

UC Berkeley (Haas)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.

You may notice that Haas has barely changed its essays since last year. When we school make few or no changes, that tells us that its current essay prompts are doing the job. By “doing the job,” we mean that they help the admissions committee get to know each applicant better, and they help the committee separate the great applicants from the rest of the pool. As long as the school gets what it needs, there’s no need to tinker with the formula too much.

Here are Haas’s MBA admissions essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays

Short Answers:

  1. What are you most passionate about? Why? (250 words)

    Whoa! Did Stanford’s Derrick Bolton slip into the Haas admissions office? Actually, this question carries over from last year. The key here is to write about something that you really, really care about. A good litmus test is this: How knowledgeable are you about the subject? Many applicants will be tempted to go bold and say something like “Fighting income inequality is what I’m most passionate about,” because they feel like that’s just what one is supposed to say here, but then can’t back it up with facts… and passion. Admissions officers will see right through this, so try any stunts here!

  2. Tell us about your most significant accomplishment. (250 words)

    This question also carries over from last year. Ideally the story you choose will demonstrate at least one or two of the key themes in your application. All things being equal, a story from your professional life will serve you best, but don’t feel that your significant accomplishment MUST be from the workplace.

  3. At Haas, our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles -— question the status quo; confidence without attitude; students always; and beyond yourself. Give an example of when you have demonstrated one of these principles. (250 words, Review Berkeley-Haas’ Defining Principles)

    This question is new this year, replacing a question that put emphasis on innovation and creativity. The fact that the admissions office directs you to the school’s defining principles sends a very clear message that those ideas/traits matter to Haas A LOT, and that the admissions office will be looking closely for evidence of those throughout your application, not just in this essay. Any of the four should make for a good starting point for a compelling essay, although we have noticed the admissions office frequently bring up the the “confidence without attitude” one in our discussions with them. If you’re unsure of which one to choose, we’d say go with that one.

  4. There are many ways to learn about our program, what steps have you taken to learn about the Berkeley MBA? (250 words)

    Haas slightly reworded this essay since last year, although it essentially remains the same. One subtle but importance difference: The addition of “There are many ways to learn about our program,” almost says to us, “Please skip past the obvious ones like our web site and brochures… Show us some real effort, please.” Our stance on essays like this is always the same: You’d better have better reasons for applying than “Because it’s a top-ten program!” The Haas admissions team seeks evidence that you’ve really done your homework on the school.

Required Essays:

  1. Give us an example of a situation in which you displayed leadership. (500 words)

    This question has remained the same for the past several years. Haas hits on it directly: The admissions office wants you to show how you are a leader. This should give you a clear idea of how important this trait is to the Haas admissions office when evaluating applicants. You don’t need to have a big job title or have a team of ten people reporting to you. Think about any time when you showed leadership — maybe by overcoming an obstacle, or by helping a colleague or was struggling — regardless of your role or the circumstances.

  2. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? How will an MBA from Berkeley help you achieve these specific career goals? (1000 words)

    This question also carries over from last year. Note that last year Haas added the “post-MBA” part to the question, suggesting that some applicant had perhaps been speaking in terms that were too “big picture.” Pretty standard question here: 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? Even though you will answer another “Why Haas”-type question, clearly it’s very important to the school that you answer this question.

Plan on applying to Haas or another top MBA program this year? Veritas Prep now offers the ability to start working with an admissions consultant today and pay over time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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.

It’s interesting to note that, after there was some chatter a few months ago that Booth would drop its “PowerPoint question” this year, it lives on. We firmly believe that schools like Booth are still looking for new ways to learn more about you, and while that question hasn’t been perfect, they don’t want to give up on it since it’s still Booth’s best bet to get to know the real you before interviewing you.

Here are Chicago Booth’s essays for the Class of 2013, followed by our comments in italics:

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.

It’s interesting to note that, after there was some chatter a few months ago that Booth would drop its “PowerPoint question” this year, it lives on. We firmly believe that schools like Booth are still looking for new ways to learn more about you, and while that question hasn’t been perfect, they don’t want to give up on it since it’s still Booth’s best bet to get to know the real you before interviewing you.

Here are Chicago Booth’s essays for the Class of 2013, followed by our comments in italics:

Chicago Booth Admissions Essays

  1. The Admissions Committee is interested in learning more about you on both a personal and professional level. Please answer the following (maximum of 300 words for each section):
    a. Why are you pursuing a full-time MBA at this point in your life?
    b. Define your short and long term career goals post MBA.
    c. What is it about Chicago Booth that is going to help you reach your goals?
    d. RE-APPLICANTS ONLY: Upon reflection, how has your thinking regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application?
    This question is new this year, although in many ways it’s a direct descendant of last year’s first essay question. This is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most schools ask. Note that, as important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to take part (c) seriously… What about Booth attracts you to the school? This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the school that you’re not only applying because Booth is highly ranked.
  2. Chicago Booth is a place that challenges its students to stretch and take risks that they might not take elsewhere. Tell us about a time when you took a risk and what you learned from that experience .(750 words)
    This question is also new this year. The best response here will come directly from your work experience, provide enough drama to pull the reader in, and give you an opportunity to really answer the second part of the essay prompt: What did you learn from the experience? Last year “reflection” was a big theme in Booth’s essay questions, and while this question doesn’t specifically ask for reflection, this is your chance to show the kind of self-awareness and introspection that Booth admissions officers really want to see.
  3. At Chicago Booth, we teach you HOW to think rather than what to think. With this in mind, we have provided you with “blank pages” in our application. Knowing that there is not a right or even a preferred answer allows you to demonstrate to the committee your ability to navigate ambiguity and provide information that you believe will support your candidacy for Chicago Booth.

    We have set forth the following guidelines:

    • The content is completely up to you. Acceptable file formats are PowerPoint or PDF.
    • There is a strict maximum of four pages, though you can provide fewer if you choose.
    • The document will be printed in color and added to your file for review; therefore, flash, hyperlinks, embedded videos, music, etc. will not be viewed by the committee. You are limited to text and static images to convey your points.
    • The file will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.
    • Files need to be less than 9 megabytes in order to upload. If your file is too large you may save your file as a PDF and upload your essay.

    This is the famous “PowerPoint question,” although Booth sets it up differently this year, putting much more emphasis on the “Hey, you have a blank slate here!” message than before. Here the school asks you to present yourself creatively and succinctly. Almost nothing is out of bounds, but you really must ensure that these pages add something new to your application — don’t use it to just show off professional achievements that you already cover elsewhere in your application. Be creative! The reason Booth kept this question is because, while it hasn’t worked perfectly for the school so far, it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to tease some personality out of your application. So, give them some!

Are you applying to Chicago Booth this year? Download our Chicago Booth Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools, available on our site. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

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.)

You’ll notice that Darden has one of the shorter sets of admissions essays that you’ll find among top schools. Also, Darden’s essays are pretty different than most other schools’ essays, meaning that you won’t be able to do much copying and pasting. Darden wants you to put original thought into these essays and demonstrate your fit with — and your enthusiasm for — the program.

Here are Darden’s essays for the 2010-2011 admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:

Darden Admissions Essays

  1. The Darden MBA program expects students to actively participate in learning teams, the classroom, and the broader community. Please share one or two examples from your past experience that best illustrate(s) how you will contribute to this highly engaging and hands-on learning environment. (500 words)

    This question is new this year, although it’s loosely descended from last year’s Essay #2, which asked what you will contribute to an MBA program. This new version is actually very focused compared to most MBA admissions essay questions: Darden doesn’t wallflowers, but rather active participants… Give them specific reasons to believe you are one of the latter. Ideally you can spell out at least one really good example using the “Situation-Action-Result” method outlined in Your MBA Game Plan. (One really good example beats two okay ones, hands-down.)

    Also, you only have 500 words, but this question is your best chance to demonstrate a measure of fit with Darden… Again, words are precious here, and the majority of your response will need to focus on you, but you need to give the admissions team at least some reasons to believe that you “get” the Darden community and understand what they’re looking for when they talk about valuing active contributors.

  2. Please discuss how a global event that has taken place in the past two years has impacted the way you think about leadership broadly and personally. (500 words)

    This question is a revision of last year’s Essay #1, which asked “How have the changes in the global economy over the last 18 months affected you and your plan for the future?” We didn’t particularly like this question, since it tended to steer applicants towards talking about “big picture” issues instead of talking about themselves. Plus, built into the question was the assumption that everyone HAD been affected by the rocky economic climate, while in fact many applicants’ plans hadn’t changes at all. This left many strong applicants scrambling to generate an impressive-sounding story when they didn’t necessarily have one.

    So, we’re glad they changed the question, although the risk of an applicant focusing too much on “big picture” global issues — that don’t really shed any light on who they are and what they hope to achieve in life — still remains. The key here is to especially focus on the last few words, which put the emphasis on on YOU. If the global issue you want to discuss is rising energy prices and your alarm over what you think is a lack of a coherent national energy policy for your country, don’t just stop there. Bring it back to a time you witnessed a similar challenge at work, and how you took the steps needed to make sure your team wasn’t only making short-sited decisions. That’s the type of story that can turn a potentially murky response into a winner.

Plan on applying to Darden this year? Download our Darden Annual Report, one of 15 free business school admissions guides available on our site. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC, under a Creative Commons license.

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.

Note that Tuck does not have hard word limits for its essays, but the school does provide some rough guidance: “Although there is no restriction on the length of your response, most applicants use, on average, 500 words for each essay.”

Here are Tuck’s essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays

  1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA program for you? (If you are applying for a joint or dual degree, please explain how the additional degree will contribute to those goals.)

    This is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most schools ask. Tuck takes the concept of “fit” very seriously when evaluating candidates — maybe more so than any other top school, given its small class size and remote location — so be sure that you can present a compelling argument for why Tuck in particular is the right place for you to earn your MBA. If your answer has everything to do with you and nothing to do with Tuck, then you probably have more work to do in researching the school.

  2. Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?

    This question is new this year, and replaces another leadership question. Interestingly, last year’s question was more specific and contained more clues as to what exactly Tuck looks for in its applicants. As we noted last year, the previous question was maybe a bit ambitious in terms of how much an applicant could cover in about 500 words. Still, the advice we gave last year remains mostly the same: Keep your response focused on one single situation, what action you took, and what the results were (Situation-Action-Result,” or “SAR” as we call it at Veritas Prep). Note the last part of the question, about what you learned about yourself. What exactly happened is very important, but so is evidence of self-reflection. Ideally you can show that you learned something about yourself, such as a shortcoming or lack of experience, that you were able to act on and improve. That’s the richest type of response one can give here.

  3. What is the greatest challenge or hurdle you have overcome, either personally or professionally, and how did you manage to do so?

    This question is also new, and replaces one about the toughest criticism you ever received. While this question is certainly different, in many respects it addresses the same core attribute that Tuck wants to see in its applicants: The ability to objectively take a challenge and setback and turn it into something positive, coming out better in the end. It’s interesting that Tuck had gotten away from the “toughest feedback” or “biggest failure” questions, since those tend to be very revealing. This question is subtly different, but there are many responses that could work for a “failure” question that could still work well here. In fact, writing a response about overcoming a failure or weakness will usually more powerful than answering with “My biggest challenge was completing a marathon.” While that’s impressive, it’s far less revealing than a story about a time when you had to make a more fundamental change to who you are as a person and as a leader.

  4. Tuck seeks candidates of various backgrounds who can bring new perspectives to our community. How will your unique personal history, values, and/or life experiences contribute to the culture at Tuck?

    This is a good chance to specifically highlight any strengths or themes that may need more emphasis in your application. Everything in your background is fair game here: your work experience, your personal life, and your hobbies all make you unique. Don’t just think of “diversity” in terms of race or national origin!

  5. (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.

    As always, only use this 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 any. More generally, if you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it’s okay to skip this essay!

Applying to Tuck this year? Download our Tuck Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

The Rise of the Multimedia MBA Admissions "Essay"

Business School ApplicationImagine 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.

Some MBA admissions officers have begun to experiment with wildly different formats that replace the traditional essay. These multimedia questions, which are completed through such platforms as audio, video and sometimes PowerPoint, are an increasingly common tool used by the likes of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and the Anderson School of Business at UCLA to learn about the “real” applicant, or the person behind the resume, GMAT score and undergraduate institution of record.
Continue reading “The Rise of the Multimedia MBA Admissions "Essay"”

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:

MIT Sloan Cover Letter
Prepare a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Describe your accomplishments and include an example of how you had an impact on a group or organization. Your letter should conform to standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Director of MBA Admissions. (500 words)

While this isn’t an essay in the traditional sense, the cover letter is a rite of passage of MIT Sloan applicants every year. Over the past couple of years the prompt has evolved slightly to place more emphasis on your “impact on an organization.” (And regular readers of this blog know how much emphasis we place on demonstrating impact!!) This year the question remains the same, so the Sloan admissions office must think that this phrasing helps them more effectively get at what they’re looking for in MBA applicants.


MIT Sloan Application Essays
  1. Please describe a time when you went beyond what was defined, expected, established, or popular. (500 words)

    Sloan added this question last year, and it must have liked what it saw in applicants’ responses. Just as the cover letter prompt has evolved to place more emphasis on impact, this change suggests that Sloan is really looking closely for evidence of how you have gone beyond your regular job description to make a positive impact on those around you. We consider this as one of the key ingredients of leadership, and Sloan clearly wants to see more of it in its applicants.

  2. Please describe a time when you convinced an individual or group to accept one of your ideas. (500 words)

    This question is new this year, and it is yet another example of how Sloan is really looking for leaders in its applicant pool. If you just read that last sentence and thought, “Oh no, I’ve never managed anyone or been a team lead,” that’s okay. That’s not how Sloan (or any top MBA program) defines leadership. One practical definition of leadership is the ability to positively influence others, and Sloan directly asks for an example of that ability with this question. Even if your example feels fairly mundane (such as an engineer convincing other engineers to pursue a certain technical solution), you will be successful if you can show real skill maturity in HOW you go it done.

  3. Please describe a time when you took responsibility for achieving an objective. (500 words)

    This question carries over from last year. Once again, we see a question that gets at signs of leadership. In this case, it’s a willingness to take on the burden of achieving a goal. Once again, the “SAR” technique will be critical to demonstrating not just what you accomplished, but also HOW you accomplished it, which is what the admissions committee really wants to see. They don’t want to simply hear about how you were handed a goal and you easily achieved it; discuss an instance when you took on an especially challenging goal, maybe when others avoided it or had failed in achieving it, and describe what exactly you did to make it happen.

  4. You may use this section to address whatever else you want the Admissions Committee to know. (250 words)

    Our usual words of warning here… Applicants tend to err on the side of overusing this essay to explain away small details in their profiles. Only use this essay if needed! Two examples are if you have a low undergrad GPA (this is the most common use that we see) or if your current supervisor does not write a recommendation for you. But don’t waste the admissions office’s time unless you really need to answer a significant question that admissions officers might have about your application.

Getting ready to apply to MIT Sloan? Download our MIT Sloan Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools, available on our site. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

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.

Here are Ross’s admissions essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays

  1. Introduce yourself in 100 words or less.

    Wow… Short and sweet! This question is new this year, and it’s the quintessential “elevator pitch.” You have just four to six sentences to highlight what the admissions committee absolutely must know about you. This is not an exercise is seeing how much information you can cram into 100 words. Instead, your challenge is to distill down your candidacy to no more than several key points that 1) demonstrate your fit with Ross and 2) help you stand out vs. the competition. This essay will be a super-summary of the rest of your application, so don’t be bothered if some of the content here seems to overlap with what’s in your other essays.

  2. Describe your career goals. How will the Ross MBA help you to achieve your goals? (500 words)

    This question is also new this year. It is essentially the typical “Why do you want an MBA, and why this school?” question. Remember to keep it realistic and to demonstrate that you understand what a Ross MBA will and won’t do for you as a young professional. Note that many similar questions start with “Describe your career progress to date,” but this essay is only forward-looking. Still, any discussion of your career goals will likely include at least some background on what you’ve learned and accomplished. So, you should plan on succinctly discussing what you’ve done until now.

  3. Describe a time in your career when you were frustrated or disappointed. What did you learn from that experience? (500 words)

    This question is also new, and replaces a question on last year’s application that asked for an applicant’s most significant professional accomplishment. This new question gets much more at the “emotional intelligence” that we hear admissions officers talk about wanting to see in applicants. While this isn’t explicitly a “failure” essay, an example of a time when you failed is fair game here. Other possibilities are a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker or a time when you had a hard time winning others over to your way of thinking. These would all make for good demonstrations of how you’ve dealt with adversity. And remember that the second half of this question is the most critical: What did you learn from this rough patch in your career? (And, how did it make you a better person or more successful professional later on?) That’s what Ross admissions officers most want to know.

  4. Select one of the following questions:
    • What are you most passionate about and why? (300 words)
    • We expect that Ross MBAs will not only be effective leaders, but also effective teachers. How will you contribute to the learning experience of your peers at Ross? (300 words)

    Both of these questions are new. The first one is very much like Stanford’s famous “What matters most to you, and why?” question, and requires an honest response about something that truly moves you. Again, the second half of the question is the meatiest part: You can be passionate about anything, but what really makes great responses stand out is when the “Why” part is memorable, believable, and contains specifics about how you have acted on that passion. Are you passionate about bicycling? Great. Now explain why, using specific examples… All in 300 words!

    Regarding the second question, when you hear the word “diversity” used to describe a business school classroom, this goes beyond race or gender. This also refers to the experiences (both personal and professional) that you bring to the classroom. Your job here is to demonstrate those experiences and convince the Ross admissions office that you’ll actively contribute these in the school’s “action-based learning” environment. Ross doesn’t want wallflowers in the classroom, so don’t look like one!

  5. Optional question: Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (500 words)

    As always, only use this 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 any. More generally, if you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it’s okay to skip this essay!

If you want to learn more about the Ross School of Business, download our Ross Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools, available on our site. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Kellogg Application Essays for 2010-2011

MBA AdmissionsNorthwestern 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.

Here are the new essays, followed by our comments in italics:


Kellogg Application Essays

  1. a) MBA Program applicants — Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing an MBA. (600 words)

    b) MMM Program applicants — Briefly assess your career progress to date. How does the MMM Program meet your educational needs and career goals? (600 words)

    These questions have changed only very, very slightly from last year. For the most part, they are the standard “Why and MBA? Why now?” questions that you will see on nearly every top business school’s application. One challenge that applicants face is BRIEFLY describing their career progress until now, and then devoting enough space to why an MBA is right for them, why now is the right time, and why specifically Kellogg is the right MBA program for them. While there is no hard rule, ideally the backward-looking part of your essay will take up no more than about half of the total word count. Admissions officers will learn enough about your professional background from the rest of your application (your CV, your data sheets, your letters of recommendation, etc.), so no need to completely rehash it here.

  2. Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experiences. (600 words)

    This question has been the same for a couple of years now. The best examples of responses to this question are ones in which the applicant focuses on no more than two or three mini stories. The fewer, the better, since including too many examples means that no one story will have very much impact. Be as specific as possible here, rather than discussing leadership in broad terms or with vague generalities. When discussing what areas you want to develop, be realistic about what you will learn in the classroom — Kellogg knows that you won’t emerge from a classroom lecture as a completely finished leader. Discuss what you want to learn at Kellogg, but also tie it back to the “real world” and your post-MBA career.

  3. Assume you are evaluating your application from the perspective of a student member of the Kellogg Admissions Committee. Why would you and your peers select you for admission, and what impact would you make as a member of the Kellogg community?

    Kellogg introduced this question last year, although it’s similar to a question that Kellogg used to use, which encouraged applicants to evaluate their applications as if they were admissions officers. Note that the emphasis is now on how a STUDENT member of the admissions committee would look at your application, driving home the emphasis that Kellogg places on fit with its culture. This is a terrific opportunity to highlight the two or three core themes that you want to make sure jump out from your application. While Kellogg looks for some humility in every one of its students, don’t be a afraid to toot your own horn a bit here!

  4. Complete one of the following three questions or statements. Re-applicants have the option to answer a question from this grouping, but this is not required. (400 words)

    a) Describe an instance where you encountered resistance in a professional team setting. How did you address the situation?

    b) People may be surprised to learn that I…

    c) The best mistake I ever made was…

    Questions A is new this year, although it’s closely related to last year’s Question 4A, which asked about a time when an applicant had to make an unpopular decision. This is your chance to discuss an experience that shows off leadership abilities, teamwork, and/or ethics. Question B lets you have some fun and discuss some less obviously MBA-related traits. Don’t underestimate how important these traits are to admissions officers; they truly do want to get to know you “beyond the numbers.”

    Question C is new this year, which is sort of too bad, because it replaces the school’s old “I wish the admissions committee had asked me…” question, which we always liked. However, this new question gives you a chance to show off some serious introspection: You had the humility to admit you made a mistake, you learned from it and grew as a person, and then (ideally) you were able to put what you learned to use in another setting. If that structure reminds you of a story in your background, this new question could be a great one for you to choose.

  5. Required essay for re-applicants only — Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (400 words)

    (This last question says it all when it comes to describing what every top MBA program looks for in reapplicants. Ideally you will have at least one or two significant achievements or experiences that will bolster a weakness that may have kept you out of Kellogg last year. The most obvious examples are a big promotion at work, a higher GMAT score, or strong grades in some post-college coursework, but anything that demonstrates leadership, teamwork, maturity, or innovation — if one of these was a weakness in admissions officers’ eyes last year — can help your candidacy.)

If you haven’t already, this is a good time to check out our Kellogg Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

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.

One thing we really about Stanford’s essays is that they put so much emphasis on an applicant’s impact and willingness to go beyond what’s expected of him. While all top business schools look for these exact same traits, we like that Stanford hits these ideas right on the nose. Also, note how much coaching Stanford gives applicants right on its essay page. When in doubt, start with the advice that they explicitly give you!

Here are Stanford’s admissions essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Stanford GSB Application Essays

  1. What matters most to you, and why? (750 words recommended, out of 1,800 total)

    This question has been around for years. Believe it or not, it used to have no word limit. Now, the essay’s 750-word limit forces applicants to be a little more economical with their words. With this essay, take Stanford’s advice to heart: “Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us.” 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 your candidacy. Obviously, the more relevant your essay is to the goal of getting into business school, the better, but where many Stanford applicants go wrong is by writing about grand ideas and using impressive-sounding words, rather than a real glimpse into who they are as a person. The latter is much more powerful and, ultimately, much more effective in getting you into Stanford GSB.

    We leave you with these words of advice, taken directly from Stanford’s own site: “[The best essays] do not focus merely on what you’ve done or accomplished. Instead, they share with us the values, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspectives. They are written from the heart.”

  2. What are your career aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them? (450 words recommended)

    This is the more common “Why do you want an MBA, and why this school?” question. Here you can feel more comfortable writing about the topics that business schools more often look for in their applications. Remember to keep it realistic and to demonstrate that you understand what the Stanford MBA experience will — and won’t — do for you as a growing professional. Again, you will do well to heed Stanford’s advice here: “Use this essay to explain your view of your future, not to repeat accomplishments from your past.”

  3. Answer two of the four questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years. (300 words recommended for each)

    Option A: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

    Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.

    Option C: Tell us about a time when you motivated others to support your vision or initiative.

    Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

    As noted above, these essays all carry over unchanged from 2009-2010. What that tells us is that the Stanford admissions office likes what it got from applicants last year. For Option A, note the emphasis on “whose performance exceeded expectations”… Results matter, and you need to show them here. This is a classic Situation-Action-Result (“SAR”) question. Again, we love the “impact” idea in Option B… Stanford is looking for young professionals that leave a trail of success and positive, meaningful impact everywhere they go. If you have a good example to use, we strongly urge you to answer Option B.

    Over the years Option C has evolved from a question about overcoming an obstacle or failure to a question that gets at one version of leadership — motivating others to support your ideas. Stanford considers this type of persuasiveness a key ingredient in the future leaders that it wants to produce. Option D is another results-oriented question that also gets at a core component of leadership: the ambition and ability to do more than what is listed in your job description. We think the way this question is phrased sounds a bit pedestrian, but a great response will show you you tackled a problem or pursued an opportunity (in the workplace or in your community) that would have otherwise gone ignored.

If you plan on applying to Stanford GSB this fall, download our Stanford GSB Annual Report, one of 15 free guides to the top business schools on our site. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow Veritas Prep on Twitter so that you don’t miss a beat in the worlds of GMAT prep and MBA admissions!