Beyond the Numbers: How to Stand Out From Other Qualified MBA Applicants

MBA Applicant VolumeIt is getting harder and harder to stand out from the pack when applying to business school, especially when it comes to the quantitative side of the equation. The average GMAT scores of top schools are higher than ever and only continue to rise, with programs like Kellogg and Wharton reflecting higher and higher average scores on a yearly basis. You have a top GPA? Join the club! You won’t be the only applicant who got good grades in undergrad.

Admissions into business school are as competitive as ever so it is really important to find non-quantitative ways to stand out. Let’s explore some strategies you can take to stand out in a more qualitative fashion:

Passion:
Business schools love applicants who love them, so the more you can show your passion and excitement for the program you are applying to, the better off you will be. Passion can come across in a few different ways, the most accessible of which is via the essays. A well-written essay that oozes enthusiasm is not only a good read, but also really makes the candidate memorable and thus, stand out to the Admissions Committee. In addition, in-person interactions like class visits, information sessions and interviews can go a long way in differentiating a passionate candidate and allow the application to really jump off the page.

Fit:
It’s not just about whether you seem qualified on paper to attend a school – it’s also about whether you are a good fit for the school you are applying to based on the strengths and characteristics of the program as well as your unique development needs. Expressing a strong fit with the program will make you to stand out because so few candidates can effectively address this and make a real case for why they should be admitted.

Personalization:
One thing most applications seek to do is unearth YOUR unique reasons for being interested in a program, and how the program is the ideal next step for you both personally and professionally. It is not enough to simply answer application-related questions. It’s also critical to personalize your responses so your application is a unique package that personifies your fit with the program in a memorable way.

School Knowledge:
School knowledge plays more of a role in allowing a candidate to stand out than most ever truly comprehend. This knowledge will be obvious to the Admissions Committee during each stage of the evaluation process, and doing your research can really pay dividends come decision day.

Numbers don’t lie, but they rarely tell the full story – to truly stand out in today’s highly competitive application climate, applicants must go beyond the numbers and implore the tactics above to guarantee their success.

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

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

How to Be a Superhero in Your MBA Applications

Veritas Prep Customer ExperienceWith their extraordinary genes, powers, and privileges, you may wonder what lessons you can learn from popular superhero characters, such as Batman or Spiderman, to help with your MBA applications. Apart from having superhuman abilities, these characters effectively use their more human qualities to connect with their audiences, both in comic books and in movies. Just like them, your aim is to win over your audience – the Admissions Committee and interviewers at your target MBA programs.

Let’s look at the basic formula superhero movies have used to win the approval of audiences worldwide and how you can use it to your advantage in crafting your MBA applications:

Create Interest with Extraordinary Powers
Draw the Admissions Committee in by presenting them with your unique strengths and accomplishments. The first things that come to mind when we think of superheroes is their amazing powers or feats. Thus, these heroes become associated with their unique abilities. For example, Superman is marketed as someone who is “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

Not only are these powers described in an attention-grabbing manner, but they are also written about in a very visual and easy-to-imagine way. This strategy should be helpful in writing about the impact you have made with your own accomplishments and responsibilities.

Show Your Vulnerable Side 
From viewing Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite to seeing Spiderman’s difficulty juggling his responsibilities as Peter Parker, we as the audience are shown that our heroes are less than perfect – they each have great struggles to overcome. Rather than diminishing them, these weaknesses make them more relatable, prompting us to root for them even more.

As you write your admissions essays, don’t stress that you are not perfect – even superheroes aren’t! Instead, demonstrate your self-awareness by identifying how you can grow further, or acknowledging failures that you have learned from. This will allow you to present yourself as a mature candidate who will benefit from an MBA experience. Just as importantly, it will also present an authentic profile that your audience, the Admissions Committee, will appreciate.

Share Personal Stories
Another important way to fully engage an audience is to share personal stories. Superhero movies and comics do a great job with this by allowing us to know the reasons for each character’s decisions, which helps us understand them on a more human level. For example, Bruce Wayne (Batman) seems to have it all – riches, power, looks, and all the coolest gadgets. However, his characterization doesn’t stop there; we are also clearly shown his motivations for taking the actions that he does.

Sharing why you have chosen your current path will help show the rationale for your post-MBA goals. Even if the path you have taken is not very straightforward, you still want to show that a logical thought process has guided you, and how this logic fits with your desire to attend your target MBA program. Core values and turning points in your personal life are related to your career decisions, thus, sharing these personal stories will help you connect with the Admissions Committee on a deeper level, and allow you to submit an overall memorable application.

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

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. You can read more articles by him here

Understanding and Exceeding Ivy League Admissions Requirements

Harvard Business SchoolThere are a variety of admissions requirements for Ivy League colleges. High standardized test scores, a stellar GPA throughout high school, and a gathering of outstanding extracurricular activities are a just a few of them.

Why are Ivy League admissions requirements so challenging to fulfill? The reason is that Ivy League schools such as Princeton and Harvard want to fill their freshman class with students who have the ability to excel in their academic studies. Plus, Ivy League schools want to attract ambitious students who will be a credit to the school while they are there, as well as after they graduate.

High school students who want to apply to these colleges must put in the work to meet, or even exceed, Ivy League school requirements. Consider these tips for students who want to exceed Ivy League admissions requirements:

Take Challenging Courses in High School
Admissions officers at Ivy League schools will certainly notice a high GPA on an applicant’s transcripts. But the transcript evaluation doesn’t stop there. Most admissions officers look at the specific courses taken by students throughout high school. Did the student take on challenges by signing up for increasingly difficult classes each year? Taking on challenging work reflects a student’s desire to learn new subjects and test their abilities in order to strengthen them.

A Highly Competitive SAT or ACT Score
One of the most well-known Ivy League requirements is a high SAT or ACT score. Most Ivy League schools like to see students who scored in the 99th percentile on these exams. At Veritas Prep, we prepare students for the new SAT as well as the ACT, and each of our SAT and ACT prep courses is taught by an instructor who scored in the 99th percentile on their respective test. Students who sign up with Veritas Prep have the opportunity to work with tutors who mastered the SAT and ACT, and they can choose from either online or in-person tutoring options.

Dedication to Extracurricular Activities
Meaningful extracurricular activities are also on the list of Ivy League requirements. Ivy League admissions officers take note of the kind of activities a student has participated in as well as the duration of the person’s participation. For example, a student who volunteers for an organization for several years, holds office in school government, and participates in two or three clubs all through high school is showing dedication to a few significant activities. This is preferable to participating in dozens of activities for a short period of time.

A Standout Application Essay
An application essay is another requirement of Ivy League schools. Admission requirements that officials look for include essays that are sincere and include specific details about a student’s life and experiences. An application essay gives officials the chance to look past the transcripts and test scores at the student who wants to earn a degree at the school. At Veritas Prep, our college admissions consultants have the skills and background to help students craft standout application essays. Our professional consultants are very familiar with Ivy League entrance requirements and what these schools are looking for in prospective students.

Glowing Letters of Recommendation
Great letters of recommendation are another admissions requirement for Ivy League colleges. Students must ask for letters of recommendation from teachers, mentors, and employers who know them very well. An ideal letter of recommendation is written by an adult who has known the student for several years and has unique insight into the person’s character, work ethic, and goals.

A Memorable Interview
A student who gets the opportunity to meet with officials at an Ivy League school for an interview should be confident and enthusiastic about the college. A student should focus on what they can contribute to the school. Also, it’s a good idea for a student to mention specific resources that they will take advantage of at the school, such as a special collection in the library or a science lab. School officials appreciate seeing a student who is excited about the prospect of studying at their institution.

At Veritas Prep, we can help students meet the challenging admissions requirements of Ivy League colleges. Whether it’s teaching students strategies to use on the SAT, ACT practice, or providing guidance on an application essay, we are here to assist ambitious students. Contact Veritas Prep today!

Do you need help with your college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

All About the New INSEAD Video Essay Requirement

 INSEADA new component of INSEAD’s admissions process for its MBA program is the video essay. INSEAD is the first non-American business school to include a video essay component in its admissions process. The video essay does not replace the face-to-face interview with an INSEAD alumnus – it does, however, reduce the number of written essays you applicants are required to submit, replacing a prompt about cultural sensitivity from last years’ application set.

How It Works:
After submitting the general INSEAD application, each candidate receives a link to complete four video questions. For each question, you will have 45 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to answer the prompt. The questions are picked randomly from a bank of 70 questions. Because the questions are randomized, this component of the application will allow you to show your personality and ability to think on your feet.

Your ability to genuinely present yourself, as well as your English fluency and communication skills, will be extremely important to these video essays. As with the rest of the application package, your responses will want to show the international outlook and cross-cultural awareness that fits the INSEAD mindset. These include showing respect and open-mindedness with diverse cultures. Although you do not want your answers to sound too rehearsed, you may want to prepare some brief examples of previous experiences that highlight your cultural sensitivity, motivation, entrepreneurial spirit, and empathy before your answer each question.

The video essay questions need to be completed between the time you receive your registration confirmation and one week after the application deadline of the round you are applying to.

What You Need:
To complete the video essay questions, you will need to have a good Internet connection, a webcam, and a microphone. Ideally, you should also make available a clean (at least for the space within the camera range) and quiet room for 20-30 minutes of time to film your essay responses in — the last thing you need is for the Admissions Committee to be distracted by a cluttered room or a noisy roommate as they watch your video. Dressing up professionally would also be the safe way to go.

Overall, enjoy the process (as cliché as that sounds) as it will help you present your best self as someone INSEAD would want to be part of its community.

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

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. You can read more articles by him here

Learning from Yao Ming: How to Be Unique While Still Fitting In

Yao MingYao Ming, arguably China’s most popular athlete, was recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Ming was able to turn his massive size and refined skills into an outstanding career. Even more importantly, however, was that his cultural awareness and personality enabled him to be a global ambassador connecting the East and the West.

An icon transcending his sport, Ming became a bridge of understanding across cultures – treading the balance between sharing his culture with others, while also fitting into a different culture almost seamlessly. As you start brainstorming essay topics for your target business schools, you will surely come across two important tips:

  1. Show what makes you unique
  2. Demonstrate fit

At first glance, these points may seem contradictory to each other, but Yao Ming’s example demonstrates a perfect balance between the two:

Represent Yourself
You want to represent yourself proudly in your admissions essays, demonstrating pride in your culture and in your work. As such, do not use “weak words” or play down where you came from or what you do – you want to show the Admissions Committee that you will bring something fascinating to their school that you can share with your classmates. This doesn’t imply feeling superior to your peers, but rather, having a comfortable sense of self and knowing that you are at par even if you are different.

Adjusting to a new culture and to a new team as a young man in his early 20’s, Yao showed admirable composure and diplomacy to be respectful of both the more communal Chinese culture and the more individual-oriented American culture. This allowed him to represent himself well, while still being able to adjust to his new environment.

Collaborate With Others
Demonstrating an open-mindedness and ability to engage across cultures will show your ability to collaborate with others towards group goals, as well as the ability to share your experiences and knowledge. Thus, highlighting how you have worked with diverse teams towards meaningful goals – or at the very least, how you have held an open-minded attitude – can assure the Admissions Committee that you will be able to contribute to your classes in business school. Showing that you are aware that diversity is an opportunity for you to learn from others and further develop yourself will also be helpful in being convincing the Admissions Committee that you will be able to benefit from your MBA experience.

Learning these lessons from the talented giant, Yao Ming, may not necessarily lead to a huge endorsement deal with Apple, but it could help you get into your dream MBA program, and make the most of of your time there once you are admitted.

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

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. You can read more articles by him here

How to Articulate Why You Need an MBA

SAT/ACTPast accomplishments, roles, and career goals tend to dominate the essays of the typical MBA applicant. These factors, alone, tend to take most essays over the word count, and as such, many applicants never actually share the reasons behind the paths they have taken or why they want to pursue an MBA in the first place (unless the essay prompt specifically asks).

Sharing your personal motivations, and the factors that have led to the decision to attend business school, is just as important as identifying your goals. It will help you convincingly show that aside from having the tools to succeed in business school, you also have the motivation to accomplish your post-MBA goals.

Articulating one’s personal motivations is not as easy as it sounds, however. In many cases, applicants feel like attending business school is just where life “took them”. What then are some specific steps to help you articulate why you need an MBA?

Memorable Events
Try recalling the highs and lows of your life, starting from childhood – these can include exciting personal triumphs, heartbreaking failures, and embarrassing mistakes. Such memorable events can  provide the Admissions Committee with great context as to why you want to pursue an MBA.

Turning points for your family – such as experiencing the sudden growth or collapse of the family business – can also be underlying incentives for wanting to attend business school. Highlighting the lessons that were learned from any of these experiences, and sharing how these particular events have helped guide your decisions and career, will help you take the Admissions Committee through your thinking and motivations.

Not only does this exercise help you express what drives you, but it also allows you to paint vivid pictures and present relatable details in your essays. All of these will help bring your application to life and make your overall profile more interesting to your readers.

Significant Feedback 
Another easy way to articulate your reasons for wanting an MBA is to remember the feedback you have received from past mentors, supervisors, or peers at work. Recalling this could help you explain why you got promoted or what allowed you to accomplish certain tasks at work, and can even help you identify areas for personal development than an MBA would help you achieve.

Articulating the feedback you have received from others will show the Admissions Committee that you are self-aware, receptive to constructive feedback, and able to plan your next steps clearly (including the step to achieve an MBA).

Epiphanies Experienced
Finally, recollect the experiences that opened your eyes to opportunities that you eventually took on during your career. These could include world travels, extracurricular activities, or work you did in a new or challenging environment that have led you down the MBA path.

For instance, I once worked with a Canadian applicant who shared how travelling to Latin America made him realize the continent’s promising potential for his business venture. Sharing this epiphany allowed the Admissions Committee to understand why he wanted to pursue a global MBA, and also displayed his open-mindedness, reinforcing the credibility of his claim that he would greatly benefit from the multi-cultural environment of business school.

The above steps are all good starting points, but to probe deeper, it would be beneficial to have someone who can help you ask yourself the right questions (perhaps a Veritas Prep Consultant?).

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

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. You can read more articles by him here

How to Omit Unnecessary Words in Your MBA Application Essays

writing essayThe book Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, has long been known as an excellent source of information about elements of the English language and an overall guide to writing style.

Some of the most practical tips that are discussed in this book will also be useful in writing your MBA application essays:

Respect Space and Attention
Not only are the spaces you are given to write your business school essays constrained by the given word count, but the attention span of the Admissions Committee (who will be reviewing your applications) is also rather short. Using unnecessary words dilutes the impact of the most powerful parts of your essays, the same way adding water to a perfectly blended coffee would dilute the drink.

Being respectful of word limits and the valuable time of the reader should help provide you with some discipline, allowing you to cut down on unrelated tangents and lengthy deliveries as you edit your writing.

Write for a Broad Audience
Taking into account that your reader may be someone who does not hold an MBA himself – and even more likely, holds a background outside your specific field – avoid using industry jargon and company-specific references while writing. These details are needless words that will only bore, and potentially even alienate, your readers. Instead, write with a broader audience in mind, focusing your essays on your impact on people, your company as a whole and events, rather than on finite, technical details of your work and accomplishments.

Focusing on only the style of your writing, especially by showing off an overly-immense vocabulary, can also distract from your message, just like the 2013 movie, The Counselor. (Chances are you haven’t even seen this movie, and that just makes my point!)

With a top-caliber cast and crew, this film disappointed critics and the box-office alike – with names like Brad Pitt, Cormac McCarthy, Ridley Scott, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz associated with the film, it was a wonder that a movie could fail so badly. However, word-of-mouth from most moviegoers and critics was often unnecessarily long-winded and boring. Thus, the film’s vast talents and materials at its disposal were wasted.

Just as a successful box-office hit will keep a wider audience engaged while still delivering its message powerfully and subtly, your essays should present your personal story well to all readers, and make the Admissions Committee root for your triumph.

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

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. You can read more articles by him here

Applying to Business School: Tips for Older MBA Applicants

MBA EssaysWhile researching potential MBA programs, many applicants find themselves older than the typical student at their target school. Thus, they ask themselves whether they should still bother to apply, and how they should distinguish themselves from younger business school applicants

As with any MBA candidate, statistics such as GPA and GMAT score do matter, however the emphasis on these quantitative aspects of the application is somewhat shifted for older candidates to the factors discussed below. Although these are important factors for candidates of any age to keep in mind, they are more critical for older ones to use to their advantage:

Display Greater Focus
If you are an older MBA applicant, the Admissions Committee will expect you to be more mature. As such, you should show greater self-awareness and display more specific direction than younger applicants do. Clearly identify why you need an MBA, what you want to pursue post-MBA, and how the specific program you are applying to will help you achieve those goals. These goals could include personal development, knowledge gaps that you need to fill, and courses you are looking forward to take.

Discussing your future goals in a focused way is especially important if you are applying to one-year programs, as you will not have as much time during these programs to feel your way around or explore. You will want to present to the Admissions Committee that you know what you need, and that you know how you will use what their program offers.

Leverage Wealth of Interesting Experiences
As an older candidate, you will likely have gone through more experiences at work, in life, and in the community. Interesting experiences could range from exciting strategic shifts to crisis management. Using the knowledge you have gained from these episodes and their aftermath as fodder for your essays not only allows you to highlight your personal qualities and how you have developed, but also to show what you can contribute to classroom discussions.

MBA programs consider the diversity of experiences, perspectives, and networks their students bring to campus to be assets. With more professional and life experiences under your belt, use these to differentiate and strengthen yourself from other, less-experienced candidates.

Play Up Leadership Abilities & Expertise
At this point, it will also help to showcase how you have been able to lead teams, accomplish goals, or mentor others. Even if your official job responsibilities do not directly involved leadership over others, you can still highlight leadership experiences at work, and at your extracurricular activities, in other ways.

You may share the realizations you have gained through your leadership experiences and how they have impacted your leadership style, as well as the motivations behind them. Relate how an MBA will further develop these and help you make an impact on the world around you. You may also identify specific valuable expertise that you can contribute and that your peers can leverage in the classroom, especially if these are in a rare field.

Doing all of the above will present you as someone who will use his or her vast experiences to enrich the experiences of their peers, and of the school community, as a whole.

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

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

Applying to Business School as an Entrepreneur

MBA AdmissionsFor the vast majority of business school applicants, pursuing an MBA is primarily about the opportunity to secure employment at their dream corporations. If you are one of the the ambitious few who are interested in entrepreneurship, your MBA dreams may align with incubating your own venture and forgoing the sanctity and security of the more traditional post-MBA career paths.

Applying to business school as an entrepreneur sets up a very specific set of considerations applicants should be aware of, however. Let’s discuss a few things that should be considered before applying to MBA programs as an entrepreneur:

Chances of Success:
How confident are you in the viability of your concept/business? Applying to business school as an entrepreneur is very risky from an application perspective. The Admissions Committee will surely scrutinize your plan and its potential for success, so it is important you have run a similar “stress test” on your concept or business.

Generally, business schools want to make sure their students are employed after graduation – an MBA who is not placed at a job at graduation (or 3 months after) can not only bring down the statistics of the school’s post-graduation employment report, but it can also cause that graduate to be an unhappy alumnus, which can lead to a negative perception of their MBA experience. As such, it will be best to make sure your entrepreneurial ambitions are clearly achievable, to both yourself and to the Admissions Committee.

Back-up Plan:
A high percentage of startup businesses fail. Do you have a contingency plan if your concept fails or if you just decide entrepreneurship is not for you? Schools will be looking to know that you have thought through all of the permutations and combinations of your decision. This can commonly manifest itself as an application question, essay prompt or an interview question, so have an answer ready that is well-thought-out and aligns with your past experiences.

Program Support:
Are you targeting MBA programs that have a track record of supporting entrepreneurship? The more your school is receptive to the challenges of the entrepreneurial lifestyle, the more well-received your application will be. Don’t think this makes your chances of admission much higher, as these schools are also looking to weed out those less committed to their goals. Also, some programs support entrepreneurs as alumni through funding and loan forgiveness, which could be advantageous during those lean early years of launching your business, and will be handy to keep in mind as you compile your list of target schools.

Timeline:
Does your timeline for diving into entrepreneurship make sense? Often, applicants will identify entrepreneurship as their short-term post-MBA goal. However, if the road map to starting your business appears a bit murky, shifting this short-term goal to the long-term may help make a better case for your profile. The Admissions Committee tends to be a bit more forgiving with long-term goals, given that so many things can happen before reaching them, but with short-term goals, the expectation is these should be highly achievable.

Applying to business school as an entrepreneur can be challenging, but can also represent a tremendous opportunity to pursue your dreams. Consider the above factors before you start your own application process.

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

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

Lesser-Known Facts That May Contribute to College Acceptance

GMATMost college-bound high school students know the basics when it comes to college acceptance criteria. They understand that college admissions officials look at a student’s grades, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities. But there are some lesser-known factors that can affect a student’s college acceptance chances. Consider just a few examples:

Studying Overseas
College admissions officials take notice of high school students who have studied overseas. A student who has spent time overseas has experience with other cultures. Plus, it’s very likely that the student is fluent in one or more foreign languages. This type of experience and knowledge appeals to colleges looking to fill their freshman class with students who have a unique perspective on the world. In addition, a student who has studied overseas may be able to get credit that counts toward fulfilling a college’s foreign language requirement.

Knowledge of a School
A student’s knowledge of a school can affect their college acceptance chances. College officials appreciate when a student takes the time and effort to learn about the history of their school. In order to get this type of knowledge, a student can ask questions during a campus tour as well as read about the traditions of the school. In short, a student who knows more than what is displayed on a school’s website is going to get the attention of college officials during an interview.

A Record of Taking on Challenging High School Courses
College officials look at whether applicants challenge themselves in high school. In some cases, a student who takes increasingly difficult courses each year is more likely to get a college acceptance letter than a student who excels in classes that are relatively easy. Students who take challenging courses are showing an enthusiasm for learning and a willingness to expand their skills. Colleges want students who are excited about growing academically.

A Strong Admissions Essay
High school students know that writing an admissions essay is a step on the road toward a university acceptance letter. But some students neglect to give this essay the attention it deserves. The admissions essay gives college officials the opportunity to get to know a student in a personal way. For instance, sometimes, students are called upon to write about the biggest influence in their lives. A student’s description of this person can reveal a lot about their level of maturity and goals for the future. A sincere, well-written essay can play an important role in a student’s college acceptance.

A History of Community Service
Students are aware that college admissions officials take a close look at an applicant’s extracurricular activities. Officials like to see students who participate in activities that give them the opportunity to practice their leadership skills. They also appreciate students who serve their community. This may mean volunteering at a local homeless shelter or helping to collect food and clothing items for a local organization that provides hurricane relief. The length of participation in community service is something that college admissions officials look at as well.

Positive Items on Social Media
Today, many high school students have a lot of experience with social media. Chances are good that they have more than one account where they post photographs and communicate with friends. It’s not out of the question for admissions officials at a college to go online to look at an applicant’s communications via social media. Students who have questionable items on their social media pages may leave college admissions officials with the wrong impression. When it comes to college acceptance, information on the Internet can work either for or against an applicant. Students who are applying to college should make sure that all of the items they put on social media are appropriate.

At Veritas Prep, we provide students with a variety of services as they make their way toward college. We offer SAT and ACT prep courses taught by professional instructors who’ve mastered these tests. Also, we provide advice and tips to students regarding their college application. Our consultants worked in the admissions offices of some of the country’s best colleges. In short, we know what college admissions officials are looking for! Contact our offices today and let us know how we can help you on your journey toward higher education.

Do you need help with your college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

MBA Essays: Optimizing Content to Make You Stand Out

writing essayBusiness school candidates are often asked to reflect on the most special moments of their lives as they write their application essays. However, prompts that ask for this are so open – they allow applicants to discuss any aspect of their lives, from the very personal to more typical career highlights – it is often difficult to know where to start. Follow these tips to make sure your MBA essays truly stand out:

Use the Space for More Unique Highlights
Reflecting honestly, some candidates may identify the birth of their children (if they have them) as the most special events in their lives. For example, an applicant may feel that overcoming a challenging pregnancy or mentoring his or her child is their most important moment – like most parents, I agree that these can be the most significant, fulfilling, and life-changing events a person can experience.

However, even if it is not explicitly stated, there is also a need in your business school applications to show what sets you apart from other candidates – what unique dimensions you can bring to the program. Thus, while parenthood is a great blessing and a primary aspect of life for many, it is not a great differentiator for one’s MBA applications. With such limited space available to write your essays, your parenthood can be mentioned briefly as a source of motivation and purpose for pursuing your MBA, but should probably not be the main focal point of your essay.

Remember to also keep your answers to essay questions concise. For example, you may share how you saved your family’s business during one part of your application, and play up your sense of responsibility as a major strength during another section of the application, however sharing the former should have already done the job of covering both points. You can then use the second space to display your other impressive strengths.

Being concise in your essays will allow you to cover more ground, share more of your personality, and add more dimensions to your application. You would be better off highlighting another, different strength than writing about a strength that could have been covered in an earlier narrative.

Add Just the Right Level of Detail
Although you should definitely use your MBA essays to touch on your motivations and inspiration for attending business school, and share other exciting activities that you participate in, remember that allocating 200 words to specifics such as a detailed medical procedure or your philosophies about parenting is not ideal. Briefly mentioning these details in passing can tie the theme of your essay together and give it a nice flow, but dwelling too long on them can jumble your message and confuse the reader.

Similarly, playing up only one general strength (such as your physical prowess) through a whole paragraph could come off negatively and make it seem like you do not have much else to offer. Allocating too much space for one strength comes with the opportunity cost of not being able to present your other strengths and aspects of personal development to the Admissions Committee. In contrast, sharing an unexpected range of talents and interests will be more exciting and win over a broader type of audience.

Remember to Be Real
Finally, as you choose your essay content, be sure that you choose meaningful events and real challenges that you have faced. Stay away from token failures and weaknesses – for instance, identifying losing a game at a party would seem silly to mention during your essays, and writing about it could actually make you come off as insincere. Use the space you are allotted to show your ability to honestly evaluate yourself, identify the next steps in your development, and recognize how an MBA will fit into your career plans.

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

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

Setting Your Strategy as a Business School Reapplicant

GoalsThe only thing more challenging than applying to business school is applying twice. After setting a comprehensive strategy in a previous year and not being successful, it can be really challenging to devise a new approach for the same school. For most, their initial MBA application was about sharing their most compelling anecdotes, experiences and challenges, so it can be difficult take on this application again with a whole new approach.

Here are a few tips to help you successfully navigate the reapplication process:

Understand the Process:
Each business school has a different reapplication process so it is important to understand what is necessary to be considered again for admission. The only difference a reapplicant will face from the typical application process is that most schools will require the candidate to submit an additional reapplicant essay (and for some schools, the only new submission necessary may be the reapplicant essay).

To further complicate matters, depending on how far-removed your last application was, your application status may not be technically considered a reapplication. The bottom line here is to make sure you understand the specific process at the programs you are targeting, because there is a lot of variation from school to school.

Review Your Prior Application
Was your previous application the best assessment of your candidacy? Were there any typos? Did you answer all of the questions as posed? Were you truly competitive? These are the type of questions that are important for reapplicants to ask themselves.

Reviewing your old application in-depth and honestly reflecting on your situation will go a long way in ensuring you create a successful application package this time around. It may be difficult to understand exactly why your first application was unsuccessful, but identifying some of the quantitative (easy to flag) and qualitative (harder to flag) issues in your prior application will make it easier to confront the reapplication process.

Take Action and Make Changes
After taking a full inventory of how your candidacy needs to change or improve as a reapplicant, it is important to take action and produce a new and improved submission. For example, if your GMAT score was below the average of your target school, then retake the GMAT again to improve this aspect of your candidacy. If there may have been confusion around your career goals, consider refining or simplifying them to avoid questions surrounding the viability of your post-MBA plans. If your GPA is below the average score listed, create an “alternative transcript” by taking additional classes.

These are just a few of the action-oriented changes a reapplicant can make to their profile. It is important to not simply submit the same application package again and expect different results – that goes for the essays as well, even if the prompt remains unchanged!

Take this also as an opportunity to build upon the relationships you forged during the preparation of your initial application by exploring additional aspects of your candidacy that can reinforce, or clarify, why you would make a great fit for your target program. Follow these tips to better inform your reapplication and increase your chances of admission to your dream school.

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

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

What You Can Learn from Zootopia About Setting Realistic MBA Goals

imgresZootopia, one of 2016’s top box office hits (grossing over $1 billion dollars), is an animated Disney movie showcasing impressive visuals, funny moments and a powerful theme of acceptance and inclusion. Seemingly a children’s movie, nods to iconic films and television shows such as The Godfather, Breaking Bad, and older Disney works prove to entertain the whole family.

In this entry, we will use this popular movie to illustrate how to strengthen one of the most important aspects of your MBA application: identifying your ambitious, but achievable, post-MBA goals.

Showcasing Your Achievements
Like many MBA applicants, Zootopia‘s main character, Judy Hopps, has excellent academic credentials (valedictorian of her class) and big goals. Judy also has an idealistic view of Zootopia (the city in which she lives), believing that anybody can be anything. Although she has initial success in becoming the first rabbit cop amongst heavyweight mammals (such as buffalo, rhinos, and elephants), she still faces many struggles in her career.

Lessons Learned:
As you write your MBA application essays, highlighting your various distinctions and achievements – including any barriers you have broken or obstacles you have encountered and surpassed (or hopped over) – will help showcase that you possess the ability, drive and perseverance necessary to achieve your future goals.

Ability to Overcome Challenges
The movie also deftly shows how Judy had to grow through prejudices and biases, both of others and of herself, while still keeping her idealism and her belief that she can make an impact on her anthropomorphic world. Seeing Judy win over the trust of her boss, who doubted her abilities to get the job done, makes us believe even more that she can achieve great things in the future.

Lessons Learned:
Sharing personal, vivid anecdotes of the struggles you have faced and how these challenges have helped you evolve and mature will make your business school application more compelling. Sharing your failures, weaknesses, and realizations will allow the Admissions Committee to understand and relate to you better. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect – nobody is!

Using your essays to showcase your self-awareness, how you have handled adversity, and how you have grown will make it more convincing that your post-MBA goals are not driven by blind idealism, but are grounded in reality and are actually achievable. For example, if your future goal requires working with regulators and big businesses across various industries to create social impact, it would be a good idea to share experiences of the similar challenges you have faced in the past, and how you have effectively collaborated with counterparts representing different agendas.

As you identify your bold post-MBA goals, show that you have the experiences, skills and expertise that are necessary to accomplish these goals.  Be sure to refer to specific episodes in your past that display your awareness of what happens on the ground, and that your path to your goal is based on a well-thought-out plan, with the next step being an MBA at your target program. You could also identify the unique benefits you would gain from an MBA at this particular program, enumerating the necessary steps to achieving your objectives.

Outlining these various details will help convince the Admissions Committee that you know what you are getting into, why you need an MBA, and how you will succeed after graduation.

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

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

Playing Up Athletic Accomplishments in Your Business School Applications

For the MBA admissions game, applicants often feel that the content they should be including in their business school applications is limited to their professional and academic highlights. However, impressive personal details – such as athletic achievements and experiences – can also come in handy when building up one’s profile.

Just as a beauty pageant contestant would want to impress the competition judges with both intelligence and physical beauty, an MBA applicant will do well to win admiration from the Admissions Committee with different aspects of his or her personality, as well.

I know you are applying for a top MBA program (and not an NBA team!), but sharing that you are part of a national team or that you hold (or held) regional, age-level records in your chosen sport will still help your application. Apart from differentiating you from other candidates within your same industry, your accomplishments can also be used to show consistent character traits that have been common in your successes, which you can bring with you as you make the move to business school.

For example, you may highlight the leadership skills and drive that have allowed you to excel as captain of your soccer team as the same strengths that have been key to your success as a project manager. This will help you be more convincing when you say that these skills will enable you to be successful at the prestigious MBA program you are targeting. Likewise, accomplishments in competitive sports can also be effective in strengthening your personal brand – they could be additional illustrations of your reputation as an achiever or as a team player.

Sharing interesting personal anecdotes of how a particular athletic event changed your mindset or helped you grow as a person is another way to leverage your athletic background. Rich materials abound in this field – you can demonstrate your ability to collaborate with teammates, your resilience in overcoming personal setbacks (such as injuries or failures), and other positive traits.

One inherent advantage to showcasing your athletic background is that your stories will be easy to visualize (like an ESPN highlight reel), and the Admissions Committee will be able to better relate to the highs and lows that you share. Thus, your stories become effective set-ups for presenting lessons you have learned and how you have become the person you are today. Aside from strengthening your message by demonstrating it across various contexts, this also presents you as a multi-faceted individual.

Lastly, when presented properly, your passion for sports can be an effective “ice breaker” for your interviews or to help you build relationships with your future business school peers. Sharing a keen interest in a particular sport can develop rapport. Being associated with positive qualities such as strength, agility or gracefulness can only help you as you reach for that coveted spot at a top MBA program.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Dartmouth Tuck’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

Tuck MBA Application season at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these updated essay prompts. With all of your essays for Tuck, treat your responses holistically and try to paint a complete picture of your candidacy within the school-specific suite of essay questions.

Essay 1:
Tuck educates wise leaders who better the world of business. What are your short- and long-term goals? How will a Tuck MBA enable you to become a wise leader with global impact? (500 to 700 words)
This essay is Tuck’s take on the common “Career Goals” essay. Tuck returns this year with an updated approach to this essay that asks applicants to hone in on the leadership and impact aspects of their career goals. This is a great opportunity to really show the school how you plan to become a global change agent, and how Tuck is the ideal place to help you manifest this goal. School research is key here, so make sure your school interest aligns with Tuck’s strong value system.

Leadership is not typically an item that is directly called upon in a career essay prompt, so this should be a clear focus in your response. Tuck is looking for candidates who are aspirational and who truly see themselves making an impact on the world around them through a leadership role, so think through how your career goals will do that and make sure to frame your future plans in the context of leadership.

Essay 2:
As a diverse and global community, our students arrive at the same place from many different paths. Tell us about an experience in which you have had to live, learn and/or work with other people very different from yourself. What challenges and/or opportunities did you experience, how did you respond, and what did you learn about yourself as a result? (500 words)
Attending Tuck is a very different MBA experience than one might have at other programs – from the remote location, to the small class size, to the close community, it is your job to convince the Admissions Committee that you are a strong fit for this unique student experience.

In your response, it is important to directly address each point of the prompt while highlighting your strong fit with the Tuck MBA. Tuck is known for their unique culture and strong alumni network, so your evaluation by the Admissions Committee will be based on how well you will fit into their student community.

Don’t limit yourself to just professional examples here; this prompt is purposefully open-ended, so whichever direction you choose to go should showcase a cross-section of both your interpersonal skills and comfort in interacting with people from various walks of life. The experience you select should have a good deal of depth so you are able to address each aspect of the prompt in great detail. Make sure you also connect the dots for the Admissions Committee by detailing the impact this experience had on you, the lessons you learned from it, and how it will factor into your contributions as a Tuck MBA.

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Tuck – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Tuck and its application essays, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

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

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

Early Thoughts on UNC Kenan-Flagler’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Question

MBA@UNCApplication season at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 application essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this year’s essay prompts:

 

Essay 1Please describe your short and long term goals post-MBA.
Explain how your professional experience has shaped these goals; why this career option appeals to you; and how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree? (500 words)
This is a very involved career goals essay, so you’ll want to make sure you compartmentalize each component of the prompt to ensure you are properly answering the question. 500 words is generally seen as a lengthy word count among the essays of other top business schools this year, but with all of the components in this essay, it is critical to stay concise with your response and move things along.

Addressing your response to this prompt via a relevant story that captures your passion for your desired career path is a great way to stand out while still informing the Admissions Committee of your post-MBA goals.

Essay 2: Optional
What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (300 words)
These questions can be difficult for many candidates to answer, but for an MBA application, candidates must be unafraid to highlight what makes them truly unique. Remember, unless you say it, the Admissions Committee will never know, so don’t be bashful here.

Focus on the “distinguish” aspect of the prompt to highlight not only what makes you unique, but also what you could potentially bring to campus. Try to avoid basic responses here – dig deep to think through your personal and professional strengths and connect them to UNC student life and what you could contribute to the Kenan-Flagler community.

Essay 3: Optional
If your standardized test scores are low, or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum (300 words)
Only answer this question if you realistically fall into this bucket. If your GMAT score is materially lower than the average score listed for Kenan-Flagler students, then the school would probably define you as a “low test score” recipient. If you have worked in an analytical function or plan to take pre-MBA coursework, this essay would be a good opportunity to highlight these aspects of your profile to address the potential red flag of your score.

Essay 4: Optional
Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? (300 words)
This is a more traditional optional essay, so only use it if it feels absolutely necessary (given that the school already has a few outlets to address typical optional essay topics). This essay tends to be a good area to show an aspect of your personality, passion, perspective or professional career that has not been discussed otherwise in your application.

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from Kenan-Flagler that should help you get started for this admissions season.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Yale SOM’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Question

Yale MBA Admissions GuideApplication season at the Yale School of Management is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 application essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this new essay prompt. This year, Yale has made some changes from last year’s prompt, so let’s explore how to best approach this essay:

Essay 1:
Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words maximum)
Yale returns this year with a new essay prompt that is one of the shortest among the top MBA programs. Yale only has one essay again this year, so candidates must make sure to really focus on this aspect of their application.

With other similar, open-ended questions like this, your choice of topic will provide the Admissions Committee with a good deal of insight into your character, personality and values, so it is important to choose what you will write about wisely. In addition, understanding that this essay prompt was created in concert with a Yale Professor of Organizational Behavior should signal the layered thinking that will be expected from you in your answer to this seemingly-innocuous question.

The school also references “leadership” and “integrated” curriculum as it describes this professor, which might illuminate the type of interpersonal elements that Yale is looking to learn more about in your essay response. A successful applicant will examine the values that Yale SOM has made the hallmarks of their program and connect these values to a personal and introspective response to the essay prompt. To dive deeper here, you’ll want to use your commitment story to share your own personal values in the same way Yale has done.

The first step to completing this essay will be to really sift through anecdotes within your personal, professional and academic career to discuss in this essay. It’s not enough to just select any old commitment, but instead, you should choose one where the full breadth of your interpersonal skills are on display – the ideal skills to highlight are the ones that jive with the Yale SOM mission. Also, it would be wise to leverage some of the clues within the prompt itself. Use the aforementioned signals as elements of the story you will lean on to make your case. Make sure the example you have selected has a bit of staying power, too – Yale is looking for sustainable commitment, here.

Introspection will be a key element to any successful Yale SOM essay, so remember to relate why this specific anecdote is significant to YOU. Finally, consider if and then how your experience will allow you to make a similar impact on the greater Yale community as a whole.

Just a few thoughts on this year’s essay from Yale – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Yale SOM and its application essays, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Duke Fuqua’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

duke-universityApplication season at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some thoughts on how best to approach these essay prompts, which have remained relatively consistent over the last few years. The two essays give applicants a great opportunity to showcase their fit with Fuqua, which is a program that really strives to create a cohesive student community built around its values.

Essay 1: 25 Random Things About Yourself
Share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of “25 Random Things” about YOU.
Year in and year out, Fuqua’s “25 Random Things” essay remains one of the most creative prompts among the top MBA programs. This Fuqua essay truly strikes at the core of what makes their program unique. Showcasing your thorough understanding of Fuqua’s value will help you determine what “random things” you choose to highlight.

Your list should reflect an honest portrayal of who you are. Remember, the goal of this essay is to uncover some of the elements that are stated in the prompt, so seriously brainstorm some of the unique aspects of your personal, professional and social identity. The most common mistake I see in this essay is when applicants take the exercise too seriously. Now this is a business school essay so it should, of course, be professionally drafted, but applicants should also feel comfortable having a little fun with this prompt and letting their personality shine through.

Consider what perception you want to leave behind for the Admissions Committee after reading your “25 Random Things” and make sure each one addresses some aspect of this positioning.

Essay 2:
Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, how do you see yourself engaging in and contributing to our community, outside of the classroom? (2 pages max)
Essay 2 is your opportunity to take the Fuqua research that informed your approach to Essay 1, and share some of the specifics that really resonate with how you plan to have an impact on the school’s unique student community.

Breakthrough candidates will personalize their narrative and avoid generalities, here. Not only should you be specific with your answer, but you should also make sure you identify your future role in each of the activities you plan to be involved in. The contribution aspect of this prompt is also very important, so be sure to identify what individual impact you will have on your chosen extracurricular activities and on the Fuqua community as a whole.

Just a few thoughts on this year’s essays from Duke – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Fuqua and its application essays, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

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

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

Preparing the Perfect Package for Your MBA Application in 4 Steps

MBA AdmissionsYou have done all the hard work and put in the hours to get to this point. Your GPA, GMAT, work experience, and extracurricular activities are what they are. You have researched schools extensively, even visiting campuses and making an effort to connect with alumni. Now, it is about putting this all together into one application package that will determine whether you get to attend your dream school or not… no pressure.

Here are three ways you can prepare the perfect package for your target programs:

Selecting Stories
As you start sorting through potential ideas for your essays, list the interesting anecdotes that would best present you in a nutshell – think of these as scenes in a movie that would best capture the essence of the lead character. These can help you stand out through your interesting experiences and serve as attention-grabbers that captivate your audience. These stories could come from your personal life, professional accomplishments, or passions.

Recommenders can also add to this aspect of your application by relating specific stories about you that will help substantiate the qualities that you are highlighting. Powerful examples of your leadership and teamwork skills or ability to benefit from constructive criticism will greatly help. Thus, reminding your recommenders of these episodes in your relationship could come in handy.

Presenting Perspectives
Your application essays are also avenues that allow the Admissions Committee to understand where you come from, what motivates you, and where you want to go post-MBA. Sharing your unique upbringing, family values and inspirations will help present a more personal profile. This is not limited to just the positive events or outstanding accomplishments in your life, either – the challenges you have overcome or even the weaknesses you are still addressing also humanize you, making you more relatable so that the Admissions Committee wants to root for your success.

Sharing your personal story and challenging circumstances will also emphasize that you will be able to contribute to the classroom experiences of your future peers. In addition, use your interesting passions or talents that showcase surprising skills to also help you stand out among the other applicants, similar to the way football players singing and dancing to Beyonce’s music make for a memorable bit.

Tweaking the Tone
Apart from the theme and the great stories you choose to showcase in your application, fine-tuning the overall tone of your presentation can go a long way in delivering a powerful message. Having the perfect mix of displaying your strengths, humbly admitting your weaknesses, and showing fit between your target program and career goals is critical. However, be sure to show personal accountability for, and general reflection on, your failures as you plan your next steps – make sure your choice to pursue an MBA at this time in your life is displayed with clear purpose for the Admissions Committee.

Delivering these details with a personal tone and a positive vibe shows your ability to collaborate and be in sync with a select group of star performers as you apply for a coveted slot in a top-tier program.

Fitting Finale
Take some care to end your application on a positive note, carefully considering the last impression you want to make, just as the last song of a musical has to be well thought-out and excellently executed to deliver a fitting finale.

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

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

How to Tackle Kellogg’s 2016-2017 Video Essays

Kellogg MBA Admissions GuideNorthwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has double downed on the recent trend of video essays, bringing back their video essay for another year. Kellogg has continued to tweak the questions and format over the years but the general premise and ways to succeed in this aspect of their application have remained consistent.

As far as the operational aspects go, you have a week to complete the video essays after submission of your application – the video essays themselves are pretty straightforward and should be approached as such. I believe that these video essays are genuinely used so that the admissions committee can “get to know” the candidate on a more personal level. Therefore, the applicant should try to be friendly and open about the questions (while still being appropriate, of course) rather than overly stiff and formal.

The video essays can also be used as another way for the Admissions Committee to get a little glimpse into the personality traits of applicants. This is not something that will be really tricky or challenging, such as a mini-case – it is much more personal.

Kellogg is looking to see how you come across in an unscripted, conversational moment. The important thing to remember here is to convey calm confidence and answer the question directly within the time allotted. The good thing about these video essays is that you have a bank of 10 practice questions to prep with, so utilize this to get a feel for the questions and the technology. I would also recommend practicing a few responses for timing purposes to see how long or short a minute really is.

This is the kind of thing where I think over-preparation could potentially backfire, since you don’t know what the questions will be (outside of video prompt #2, which the school has made publicly available to all). Remember, the objective of the exercise is to be yourself and have fun, so be ready to be flexible in your responses to what you are asked. Your personality should be consistent with who you have portrayed yourself to be in the application (which should be in line with who you really are) while factoring how the Admissions Committee perceives you (young candidate, international, brain, etc.).

Prep some responses to common questions under each of the prompt categories, but keep in mind that these questions are not meant to be brain teasers, just personal questions you should have sorted through about yourself and your interest in the school prior to completing your application. One question will be Kellogg-focused, another will be more personal and the last will exploring a challenge you have faced.

Finally, try and have a good structure in your responses to the questions – communication is obviously one of the major elements being tested here, so stay poised and show off that executive presence Kellogg values so much.

For more thoughts on Kellogg, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

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

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

How to Explain Work Gaps in Your MBA Applications

ChecklistIf you have a prolonged gap in activity – either at school or at work – on your resume, you probably already know that explaining it can be difficult. Being open and ready to address this “hole” in your profile with the Admissions Committee will greatly benefit your application. Let’s examine the two major ways you can tackle work and education gaps in your business school essays and interviews:

Be Open and Ready
Be prepared to answer questions from the Admissions Committee regarding your gap. Being ready to discuss your gap will allow you to be composed when asked about it during your interview. An honest demeanor will help keep the interview on the right track, while allowing you to explain the context of the gap. Addressing this openly in your essays also gives you the chance to take control of the message and show your character, personality, and purpose.  

Over the years, I have had successful clients who had gaps in their educational or professional history be admitted to top programs. Reasons for these gaps have ranged from choosing to take a break to explore other countries, to taking care of the family business, to recovering from illness. Being forthcoming about the reasons for these interruptions helped demonstrate their authenticity and made it easier for the Admissions Committee to appreciate their personal growth.

Add Another Dimension
Explaining the reason for your breaks will also allow the Admissions Committee to gain more insights about your personal life story and your priorities. For instance, an applicant who had to overcome personal issues to eventually complete his undergraduate degree reflected thoughtfully that his struggles at that key point allowed him to build resilience and empathy – the same qualities that have formed the foundation of his leadership principles. Communicated sincerely, a message like this will come across powerfully, especially when supported with the context of applicable leadership activities you may have taken on during, or after, your gap.

Another applicant had to take over the family business due to his father’s illness while he was still studying. Doing so helped shape his sense of responsibility at a young age, and his maturity served him well in taking on early leadership roles. Experiences such as these are attractive, as business schools look for applicants with strong leadership potential.

Additionally, your travels can be used to show your international motivation, openness to new experiences, and ability to relate to diverse cultures. Sharing your involvement with worthy organizations while you are on break will also give a peek into the causes you hold dear. Highlight this whenever possible, as it will show your personal enrichment and act as a unique addition to your profile.

To conclude, don’t be too secretive about your education or work gaps. Instead, use your gap as an opening to connect with the Admissions Committee on an even deeper level.

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

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

Early Thoughts on MIT Sloan’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

MITApplication season at MIT Sloan is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

This year, Sloan has made some changes that echo prompts used in the past. Let’s explore how to best approach your responses:

Cover Letter:
Please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions. (250 words)
This year, Sloan brings back its “Cover Letter” essay, which it retired a few years back. Sloan was one of the schools that ushered in this recent trend of non-traditional essay prompts. Your response here is limited to only 250 words so it is important to be even more concise as you address the prompt.

Given the word count, it may make sense to leverage a story-like narrative to touch on a few relevant personal accomplishments that distill your goals, passion, values and interests. The key here is to orient your response around Sloan’s core values that have always been heavily influenced by the ability to problem solve and drive impact. So with these factors in mind, really think about what you can uniquely bring to the student community at Sloan.

Do not limit your impact just to the Sloan community – MIT alumni have impacted the world in many different forms so think about how the school can be the impetus for you to do the same. This is where research comes in handy, so do your due diligence. Keep in mind, with the tight word limit you don’t want to stray far away from the prompt, so stay focused on the type of support you choose to include in your response.

Similar essay prompts in the past have asked applicants to “describe accomplishments” and/or “address extenuating circumstances,” so keep these elements in mind as well as you structure your response.

Optional Essay:
The Admissions Committee invites you to share additional information about yourself, in any format. If you choose a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us with the URL. (500 words or 2:00 minutes)
Not all optional essays should be considered optional, and in this case I suggest candidates utilize this essay accordingly. This essay is a really an opportunity for Sloan to get to know you, and with so few other touchpoints in the application process, you should make the most of this space.

Sloan gives candidates a pretty good runway on this one with a lengthy word and multimedia count (as far as “optional” essays go), but you will still want to keep things focused. Use as much of the real estate as you need for your answer and none more. You should really use this space to get personal; it is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself so make sure it is not something you have previously covered elsewhere in your essays.

Just a few thoughts on the essays from Sloan – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on MIT and its application essays, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

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

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

3 Business School Essay Mistakes That are Easy to Make

EssayBefore even reading the essay questions and prompts for their MBA applications, most business school candidates have made a checklist (written or mental) of the accomplishments, highlights, and goals that they want to share in their essays. While this is very helpful in mapping out your stories to share and the overall profile you want to present, be very careful of these common mistakes in your essay responses:

Not answering the questions!
As an example, take a look at the prompt below from one of the top MBA programs:

“Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned.”

This prompt may seem simple at first – all applicants are able to identify the achievement they want to play up and can extensively set up the details regarding it (even going so far as to fill in unnecessary details). This results in a having a very limited space to discuss the failure aspect of the question. Surprisingly, even with the great care taken to reflect, review, and revise, more often than not, applicants forget to address the question about how these experiences impacted their relationship with others.

Applicants will often get fixated on one or two parts of a longer prompt and totally miss out on critical aspects of the question. This is a very basic mistake committed during the essay-writing process, and it can happen no matter how much time and effort you have invested. Thus, be mindful of the need to the match each aspect of the given prompts with your responses before clicking the submit button.

Not showing how!
You know that you need to share awards, distinctions and accomplishments to strengthen your application chances, however, just as importantly, you also need to identify how you were able to earn these. Relating the specific actions you took and your outstanding personal qualities to these accolades will help demonstrate your potential to do the same in the future.

So, take your essays as opportunities to showcase the key factors that led to your successes, and choose the ones that would also be applicable to your future endeavors. For example, you may have inherently physical gifts, such as extraordinary hand-eye coordination, that allowed you to excel in multiple sports, but it might be better to highlight qualities such as focus, drive and leadership skills, as these would be more applicable to the endeavors you’re sure to take on during your post-MBA career.

Not explaining why!
Another chance to connect with the Admissions Committee on a deeper level is to explain your motivations, both for what you have done in the past and for your future plans. Whether explicitly prompted to or not, sharing more of yourself by explaining your background, values and interests in a reflective and honest way will help you put forth an engaging application package, and will allow the Admissions Committee to get to know you better.

Sounds easy, right? Avoiding these three simple mistakes will surely raise your chances for a homerun application.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Berkeley Haas’ 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

UC BerkeleyApplication season at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach the essay prompts, which are essentially the same as the prompts from last year. There are three full essay questions for Haas, with Essay 2 providing the applicant multiple options to choose from.

Essay 1:
If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words)

The most important thing about what song you choose here is that the song you choose does not matter. The fact that the school does not care what language, culture, or even what the lyrics are should signal this to you. It is all about “why” this song is so important to you, so when selecting a song think long and hard about a song that provides some insight into who you are. The more authentic the better, so use this as an opportunity to really let the Admissions Committee in so you can stand out from other candidates.

Essay 2:
Choose one:

  • Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you
  • Describe a time when you were challenged by perspectives different from your own and how you responded
  • Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging

(250 words)
There is a common theme between these three potential essay prompts, so it can be difficult for applicants to decide on which one to pick. Overall, with all three of these prompts, Haas is looking to understand how you have handled uncomfortable situations in the past. Again, which prompt you choose does not really matter for this essay – what is most important is to dive deep and be vulnerable and reflective on the experience you choose to share.

Essay 3:
Tell us about your career plans. How have your past experiences prepared you to achieve these goals? How will Berkeley-Haas help you? (500 words)

Essay 3 is the longest of the three essays and is by far the most traditional. This is your opportunity to really connect the dots for the Admissions Committee and help them understand how a Haas MBA will uniquely position you for success in your future career path. Spare the generalities here and get specific – highlight how your past, present, and future all link together with the Haas MBA. Hint: Haas’ “Defining Principles” are a great place to start!

Just a few thoughts on the new batch of essays from the Haas School of Business – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Berkeley and its application essays, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

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

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

Early Thoughts on NYU Stern’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

NYU CampusApplication season at NYU Stern is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these essay prompts that have remained relatively consistent over the last few years. The two essays Stern requires are structured to give applicants a chance to showcase both the professional and personal sides of their applications.

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations
Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life? What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience? What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation? (750 words)
This is a very multi-layered prompt provides applicants with a great opportunity to share their professional game plan and why Stern specifically is a key part of this. This prompt differs from other more traditional “career goals” essays by including multiple questions that will tease out many details of your planned career trajectory.

Keep your approach simple here and consider addressing each aspect of the question in order. The wording of this prompt signals that you should touch on the past a little to provide context for the factors that have brought you to this point in your professional journey. Make it clear that you are self-reflective and have a deep understanding of where you have come from and where you are going professionally.

Don’t shy away from honestly assessing why now is the right time to pursue your MBA. Whether it is personal maturity, industry changes, desired promotion or something else that is motivating you, the impetus of your timing is important to have pinned down.

The second aspect of the prompt involves “fit.” Stern is really looking for specifics here, so don’t shy away from the detailing your research of schools and how Stern in particular has stood out for you from other MBA programs. The more you can personalize this aspect of your response, the better.

The rationale and  likelihood of reaching your identified career goals post-MBA is also a key aspect of how Stern will evaluate its applicants. Connecting your personal development goals to Stern’s unique offerings is critical to showcasing true fit with this program.

Essay 2: Personal Expression
Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.
Many programs have begun to move towards more open-ended and creative essay prompts such as this. The goal of this prompt for Stern is to get to know who you really are. Unique to most other MBA programs, Stern provides various multi-media options for candidates to use to convey their message. This allows you the opportunity to have a unique and creative approach in answering this prompt.

Keep in mind that the use of more non-traditional media can really stand out in a typically text-heavy process. Think creatively about how you plan to share your response, even if you are only using words. Creativity is not only limited to the medium – how you structure and organize your response could be another interesting way to stand out.

This essay is an opportunity to balance out the heavy professional focus of Essay #1 with elements of your unique personality. Make sure you share details that would be relevant to someone who you are potentially about to spend a lot of time with over the next 2 years. This essay is a great place to showcase your interpersonal skills as well as how you plan to utilize them while working with your future classmates.

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Stern – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Stern and its application essays, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Chicago Booth’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Question

Chicago BoothApplication season at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business has officially kicked off with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 application essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this essay prompt that remains relatively consistent from last year:

Essay 1:
View this collection of shared Booth moments. Choose the moment that best resonates with you and tell us why.

  • Choose the format that works for you
  • Determine your own length

I would think of your approach to this essay in three buckets. First, you want to identify the story you want to tell to the Admissions Committee. Second, you want to identify the image that best allows you to paint this picture in the most comprehensive and all-encompassing way. Finally, you want to select the medium that allows you to best bring your response to life in a vivid and clear fashion.

Let’s explore each bucket in greater detail:

Story Identification:
Who will you be to the Admissions Committee? This prompt really seeks to understand the candidate who is applying to Booth, and it is your job to identify the aspects of your background that best connect with the mission of the program. Theoretically there are many things a candidate could focus on as a theme – be authentic here, but make sure you are highlighting a narrative or anecdote that aligns your personal and professional strengths with qualities that will endear you to Booth’s admissions team.

Image Selection:
The school wants to know what aspects of the Booth student experience you most viscerally connect to and gets you the most excited. A big part of this is research, so conducting primary and secondary research into the program to really understand the symbolism of each image is a major key to success in your response here. Using your “story” to inform your choice is a really smart way to go – pick the image that best aligns with your tale and allows you to communicate the most robust narrative.

Medium Choice & Length:
This aspect of approaching the Booth prompt tends to give applicants the most trouble. In the past, Booth limited responses to four slides; these limitations on both the length and medium of an applicant’s response made candidates’ approaches much more straightforward. Now, with the more open-ended prompt, applicants are left with a bit of anxiety when deciding on an approach. One thing to always keep in mind during the application process is when a school states they have no preference, take them at their word. Select the medium that you feel will best illustrate a clear, cogent, and passionate response to the prompt.

This is a great opportunity to leverage your writing or visual skills to help you stand out. On the length side, many schools have been moving towards shorter essay length requirements, so keep this in mind and try to communicate your response in a concise and direct fashion. This is really a judgement call, but think of every element used in your deliverable and evaluate whether it is actually building or diluting your argument.

Just a few thoughts here on approaching this year’s essay prompt from Booth – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Booth and its application essays, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Ross’ 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

MichiganApplication season at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these essay prompts.

The essays this year are fairly similar to last year’s prompts, however with a few tweaks:

Essay 1:
What are you most proud of outside of your professional life? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)
This is a traditional “accomplishments” essay, and Ross has tweaked it this year to really have applicants focus on accomplishments outside of the professional arena. Coming from a very culture-focused campus, this nuance should come as no surprise. Ross has always had a very active student community, so highlighting an example that shows your prior engagement – preferably in a leadership capacity – will show your fit with the program.

Dig deep to identify the topic you are going to discuss; these types of open-ended questions really give applicants the chance to differentiate themselves from other candidates. Make sure, however, you are direct in your approach to answering this question, as Ross’ Admissions Committee has emphasized in the past the importance of answering their question as directly as possible.

Also, keep in mind that you will have time to talk about your professional career and even highlight some of your past accomplishments through the second essay, so keep this first essay tightly focused on your life outside of your professional career (unless your professional career was somehow shaped by this accomplishment).

Finally, don’t assume that if your accomplishment does not involve saving a beached whale or climbing Mt. Everest that your response will not be well-received. What makes your response to this question relevant is the impact this accomplishment had on YOU.

Essay 2:
What is your desired career path and why? (250 words)
This is a typical “career goals” essay and should come as no surprise to any candidate applying to business school. In fact, your answer to this question should be what initially drove your interest in pursuing an MBA in the first place, so Ross will be expecting a fairly polished essay here.

What will separate you from the competition as a breakthrough candidate will be how personalized your essay reads.  Like many other MBA programs, Ross wants students who are truly passionate about their school and who want to be there. With this in mind, they will be looking for you to combine your well-thought-out career goals with details on how you plan to utilize their unique program to reach these goals.

In addition, if relevant, try to connect your goals to an underlying passion you have for the role or industry you are interested in. This will highlight other underlying elements of your personal story and make your goals more tangible to the Admissions Committee.

Hopefully these thoughts on the new batch of essays from Ross will help you get started with your own essays.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Wharton’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

Wharton AdmissionsApplication season at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. This year Wharton has added an additional required essay question (as opposed to last year’s one required essay and one optional essay).

Essay 1:
What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

The Wharton School brings back this prompt again for another year, but this time with a bit of a change. Gone is the “personal” element of last year’s question, which will allow candidates the opportunity to focus directly on the impact a Wharton MBA will have on them professionally. The biggest trap in this prompt is to treat this question like the typical “career goals” essay – I caution against simply re-purposing responses to similar questions from other schools. This question implores candidates to really think through their planned professional development while at Wharton and the impact the Wharton MBA will have on them post-graduation.

This prompt is also asking you to think broadly, so don’t minimize your vision. Breakthrough candidates will utilize a very personal narrative that uniquely captures the essence of why Wharton is the ideal fit for the applicant’s development goals. Wharton is looking for specifics here about why their particular school is the best one for you, so avoid general statements that could be harbored by any candidate.

Think holistically about how the school will impact you – whether it is through skill development, specialized training, alumni access, or networking. Make sure the transformative effect that this program will have on your professional career is clear to the Admissions Committee.

Essay 2:
Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)
This prompt is all about “teamwork” and “impact,” and a successful essay will really align these two elements. Hone in on the unique aspects of your profile that relate to these to showcase how you will make a positive impact on the Wharton community – whether it is through academic, professional, social, or diverse means, think through what you will contribute and how this will positively affect others at Wharton.

Your ability to translate a past teamwork experience to your planned future contributions at Wharton is a good approach for this essay. Past performance will add additional validity to your claims if you can effectively connect the dots for the Admissions Committee. If you can specify which aspects of the Wharton community you will influence, that would be even better. The pillars of the Wharton MBA are clear, so align your narrative around impacting the school’s most important focus areas.

Just a few thoughts on this year’s essays prompts from Wharton – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Wharton and its application essays, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Columbia Business School’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

Columbia UniversityApplication season at Columbia Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. There are three full essay questions and one shorter prompt for Columbia, which leaves this school with one of the lengthier application packages around.

With all these essays, it is crucial that applicants present their candidacy in a very clear yet non-redundant fashion. Let’s take a look at each of the essay questions Columbia is asking this year:

Goal:
What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (50 characters)
Given the tight character limit to this prompt, keep your response here short and sweet. Most of the context you would normally provide in such a response will find a home in your response to Essay 1.

Essay 1:
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (100-750 words)

This is basically the same prompt for Essay 1 as last year, but with greater flexibility on the word count, which now spans from 100-750 words as opposed to last year’s 500-word limit. Do not feel it is absolutely necessary to hit the upward bounds of the new word count just because you have the option – efficiency and impactful messaging always reigns supreme in business school essays.

Columbia’s first essay question falls into the typical “career goals” essay category – the key difference here will be a focus on the future and your post-MBA career, so avoid placing too much of an emphasis on your past professional career. Remember, the Admissions Committee will already have your resume and thus, some sense of your past, so avoid rehashing your background (outside of providing any necessary context).

With this in mind, presenting both your short-term and long-term career goals in a well-aligned and clearly articulated way will be key to executing this essay successfully. Probably even more important, (given the ubiquity of your career goals), is the “fit” aspect of the essay. Breakthrough candidates will cite specific references to Columbia’s professional, academic, and extra-curricular programs that will support their development goals. With so much competition between business schools, it is critical to make a strong case that you will fit well with Columbia’s particular MBA program.

Essay 2:
Columbia Business School’s students participate in industry focused New York immersion seminars, in project based Master Classes, and in school year internships. Most importantly, they are taught by a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (100-500 words)

Columbia comes back this year with a slight tweak to Essay 2 with the ultimate prompt effectively being the same. Columbia is uniquely positioned at the heart of business in NYC, which has lured many applicants to this top program for years. Use this essay as an opportunity to avoid generalities about NYC that other applicants may make, and get specific about how Columbia’s unique location in NYC will serve as a clear advantage in your personal and professional career, and specifically during your time on campus. This essay can also be used to build upon your response to Essay 1. 

Essay 3:
CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (100-250 words)

This question is a great chance to let your personality shine through. This is the shortest of the three full essays so every word counts – take advantage of this more open essay prompt and really try and give the Admissions Committee some “behind the scenes” insight into the type of person your classmates will meet in the Fall of 2017.  Use this essay as the platform to differentiate yourself, and remember to keep your tone light and authentic to give the school a better understand of who you are and how you will fit as a member of their incoming MBA class.

Just a few thoughts on the (not so) new batch of essays from Columbia Business School – hopefully this will help you get started with your own application. For more thoughts on Columbia and its application essays, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

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

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

Early Thoughts on Harvard Business School’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Question

Harvard Business SchoolApplication season at Harvard Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this year’s new essay prompt. HBS is mixing it up again this year with a slightly different essay prompt that maintains the same spirit of last year’s essay question. With only one question, it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available, here.

Essay 1:
As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program? (no word limit)
Open-ended prompts such as this are often the most stressful type of essay question MBA applicants receive – couple that with the inherent pressure that comes with applying to Harvard, and this essay may be viewed as one of the more nerve-wracking questions of the application season. The challenge here for many will be just the sheer simplicity of this question. This essay prompt is a good example of why it is important to really just pay attention to the advice the HBS Admissions Committee offers:

“Don’t overthink, over-craft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.”

HBS has really gone out of its way, particularly through Dee Leopold’s blog (soon to become Chad Losee’s blog), to emphasize a desire for authenticity and transparency in the essay-writing process. Candidates who are able to channel their approach in a compelling and natural way will stand out from the flock of impersonal, inauthentic and overly-curated essays the school is bound to see.

This approach tends to fly in the face of what the expectation is at other business schools, but in this case, candidates who are unable to adhere to the guidance provided by the school will struggle with securing admission to HBS. Breakthrough candidates will answer this specific question posed in the manner the school has outlined – your response should be brief, conversational, and really provide the Admissions Committee with insight into aspects of “you” that are not currently represented elsewhere in the application.

Harvard has set the tone of an almost casual “blog-style” approach to their essay, and last year, even focused their prompt around having candidates write from the perspective of communicating with their future classmates. Even though the prompt, itself, is a bit different this year, maintain the spirit of this communication style to really make your essay stand out. At its core, this question is honestly about getting to know you, so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft a seemingly “perfect” but dispassionate answer for the Admissions Committee.

These are just a few thoughts on the new essay from HBS – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Harvard and its application essay, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

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

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

Our Early Thoughts on Stanford GSB’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Questions

Stanford UniversityApplication season at Stanford GSB is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay questions. Stanford comes back with the same slate of essays from last year. Let’s discuss, from a high level, some early thoughts on how best to approach the essay prompts:

Essay 1:
What matters most to you, and why? (750 words)
For years, Stanford’s infamous open-ended essay prompt has been one of the most dreaded aspects of its application process. Stanford is one of the MBA programs that has ushered in the movement of using more “open” essay prompts in evaluating applicants – a trend that has taken hold among many other top programs.

Stanford, as much as any other program, seeks out candidates who can be introspective, self-reflective, and authentic when responding to their essays. The school provides clear guidance on how best to approach these, and it’s not meant to trick you or confuse you, but instead to do the opposite.

As communicated by the school, the “why” of your essay is much more important than the “what.” Stanford truly wants to know who you are, so keep your narrative personal and focus on the experiences that have truly shaped your reasons for applying.

Avoid the temptation to resort to common business school stories around work accomplishments, and instead focus on the things that have had the most impact on your life. Breakthrough candidates will utilize structured storytelling to craft a compelling narrative that brings the Stanford Admissions Committee deep into their world.

Essay 2:
Why Stanford? (400 words)
Essay 2 is the more traditional essay of the bunch, but even so, with Stanford you will want to avoid the typical boilerplate response and dive a bit deeper.

You will want to think about this prompt as really answering two questions: “Why an MBA?” and more specifically, “Why a Stanford MBA?” Be specific here – connect both your personal and professional development goals to the unique programs Stanford has and explain why they are crucial to your success. Breakthrough candidates will not only showcase their clear, well-aligned goals, but will also connect these goals with their personal passions to make their candidacy feel bigger than just business.

Stanford has historically clung to candidates that hold a more mission-based approach to their careers, so if there is some underlying passion inherent in your goals, do not be afraid to leverage that within this essay. Now, this does mean you should stretch the truth – keep your response as authentic as possible, but also keep in mind that Stanford has traditionally held a track record of looking for something special in their candidates.

Just a few thoughts on the new essay from Stanford – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Stanford and its essays, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

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

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

Tips for Completing Your MBA Application Form

Applicant SurveyApplying to business school can be cause for major stress and anxiety for many applicants, and the majority of this anxiety tends revolve around the more time-consuming application elements required of them, such as their GMAT scores, essays and even recommendations. Most applicants spend hours upon hours in these areas in an effort to craft the perfect application.

Business school is a huge personal and financial investment, so to the well-informed, this time commitment should come as no surprise. What may come as more of a shock is that candidates often do not utilize this same level of diligence and focus when it comes to completing the application form itself.

By application form, I am referring to the actual online form in which candidates are required to input relevant details of their personal, academic, and professional profile for consideration for admission. (Application components like essays or recommendation submissions are aspects of this as well, but are typically submitted via attachment or external upload, and so are not the focus of this discussion.)

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you work through the often-overlooked MBA application form:

Do Proofread:
Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Did I mention it is really important to proofread? As I mentioned above, the application form tends to get overlooked, so don’t make the mistake of investing too little time in completing this. It is important to make sure you avoid making crucial little typos like wrong dates or misspelled words that could potentially send the wrong message to the reviewing Admissions Committee.

Don’t Wait:
Many applicants will leave filling out the application form until right before the deadline. Do not make this mistake! Typically, when you leave something until the last minute it is because you deem it less important – avoid this flawed way of thinking and put this component of the application process on the same footing as the others. It does not need to be the first area you tackle while completing your application package, but it certainly should not be your last. The application form is surprisingly time consuming, and thus, should not be rushed given its relative importance to your future business career.

Be Honest:
The application form often puts many candidates in difficult moral situations. Certain questions around past mistakes, arrests or honor code violations can be difficult to confront. Even more simple moral quandaries such as accurately reporting salary or awards tempt many an applicant to stretch the truth.

Keep this part of the application form simple by being honest. It is not worth risking a potential admission for something that is probably very minor in the grand scheme of your candidacy. Business schools take this aspect very seriously and seek to maintain the integrity of their honor codes at a very high level.

Remember, the application form is just as important as every other aspect of your MBA application package, so follow these tips and give this form the attention it deserves.

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

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

3 Basic Last-Minute Checks for Your MBA Essays

EssayHave you ever noticed that there are always more last-minute details than there are minutes to fix them in? You have put in months (or even years) of work to fit all your experiences at school, work, and life in general into the perfect MBA application essays, and now it is time to finally upload them into the application form. However, no matter how much time and effort you have put in, some additional details always come up.

Use the following last minute checks to address some of the most common business school essay mistakes before you hit “submit”:

1) Make sure you really answered the questions.
At this stage, your essays have probably already gone through several revisions. Most likely, you started by answering each of the essay questions directly, and then filled in your highlights as much as you could. Finding out that you went past the word count limit, you stopped or cut down on your writing and, in the process, some key parts of the essay’s prompt may have been left unaddressed. For instance, an applicant might write about his or her lofty post-MBA goals in detail, but not show how the program they are applying to will help them achieve those.

Thus, make sure you match each part of the essay question or prompt to your essay and ensure that you have addressed each one adequately. If not, edit accordingly. This does not mean you need to completely re-write your essay – changing two to three sentences could be all you need.

2) Be careful with spell checking and transferring content.
As tempting as it is to click “Change All” when you complete spelling and grammar checks on your computer, this can be very risky, especially for the use of proper nouns (for instance, “INSEAD” is often autocorrected to “instead”). Therefore, it is necessary to take the time to actually review spell checker suggestions one by one.

At this stage, if you have to choose between accepting all of the spell checker’s changes blindly or skipping spelling and grammar checks altogether, you would be better off skipping them. This is because the mistakes that remain in your essay will most likely be minor or understandable typographical errors, which is better than having the name of the school you are applying to accidentally autocorrected to something else.

In addition, doing a simple “copy/paste” from your word document to the online application form sounds very basic and routine, but errors can (and do) happen here. Make sure you are pasting your answers to their corresponding questions, and at the very least, check that the word count matches and that no paragraphs are accidentally truncated by looking at their last words (although a more thorough final check of your essays before you officially submit them is always recommended).

3) “Control F” or “Command F” can save you from embarrassing slip-ups.
Imagine you are applying for a job, created a fantastic cover letter, and accidentally wrote in the name of one of the company’s competitors that you are also applying to work for. That is probably the equivalent of writing up your MBA application essay, praising your target program and declaring why you are a great fit for them, only to use the name of another school. This is a common mistake for recycled essays – where you use an essay that you have already submitted to another school and merely edit a few details or sentences.

A quick way to eliminate this risk is to use the “Control F” or “Command F” find functions. For example, say you are working on your application for Wharton and you have also already applied to Columbia and Stern – search for the two latter schools in your Wharton essays as you are proofreading them! This is an easy way to double-check that there will be no embarrassing name slip-ups (although hopefully, you have customized your essays in terms of content and not simply changed the school names!).

Any other tips? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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

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

Build Your MBA Profile Like Angelina Jolie

writing essayAngelina Jolie is known worldwide as both a glamorous movie star and an advocate of several worthwhile humanitarian causes. Even more impressive than this amazing image is how she has managed to accomplish so much while simultaneously battling with substance addictions, social controversies, and failed relationships. By building your MBA profile like Angelina has built her career, you can also overcome any potentially negative components of your application.

From “Wild Child” to “World’s Most Admired Woman”
Growing up an unpopular schoolgirl and then becoming an unsuccessful model struggling with an eating disorder, drug addiction, depression, and flops after flops, Angelina’s rise to success was not as easy as one might assume. Early in life, she made the news more often for the wrong reasons than she did for any positive accomplishments.

The turning point, she says, was adopting her son, Maddox – his entry into her life made her commit to ending her self-destructive ways. Around this same time, the filming of her blockbuster hit “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” in Cambodia opened her eyes to the worldwide humanitarian crisis, leading to her involvement as a United Nations ambassador.

From her image as a wild child, to being named the World’s Most Admired Woman in 2015 by YouGov, Angelina Jolie has ably managed her public image to benefit her career and make an impact on worthwhile causes.

Lesson for MBA applicants:
Just as early missteps did not define Angelina – and have even proved to make her story interesting – MBA applicants can build their profiles even with previous failures or mistakes. Identifying turning points and key events that allowed you to mature and fulfill your  potential will allow the Admissions Committee to better understand and relate to your early vulnerability, redemption, and success.

Images of Refugee Camp Visits
Striking images of Angelina’s well-documented visits to refugee camps in Kenya, Lebanon, and all over the world, are also helpful in presenting her awareness of, and commitment to, her cause in a way that is both credible and powerful, such that her reputation as a humanitarian is able to drown out accusations that she is may be a “home-wrecker.” (Apologies to Jennifer Aniston’s fans, if any are still reading up to this point!)

Lesson for MBA applicants:
Sharing stories complete with vivid images that will favorably surprise the Admissions Committee or counteract negative perceptions or stereotypes about your background will be very useful for your MBA essays and your overall profile.

For instance, private equity analysts could be seen as mainly doing desktop research and not getting exposed to the outside world. Thus, an applicant of this background would do well to richly relate the experience of inspecting the mines or interacting with people in the factories. In contrast, an applicant from a very poor country would do well to highlight global leadership experiences and personal exposure across different nations to help assure the Admissions Committee that he or she will do well in a diverse top-tier MBA program.

Building a well-rounded profile like Angelina Jolie will be essential to gaining admission to a top-tier business school; showing that you are someone who can “hit the ground running” wherever you go is the type of candidate MBA programs are truly looking for.

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

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

3 Ways to Fit the Most Details Into Your MBA Essays

help - wordsDo you have too many “knick-knacks” and seemingly unrelated, but interesting, details about your MBA candidate profile? Are you unsure of where to use them in your essays, how to fit them into the limited word counts you are given, or if you should even include them in your application at all?

Frequently, I see business school applicants who have accomplishments that they are very proud of – such as winning a competition at their undergraduate university, excelling on a sports team, or holding a long-running passion for performing arts – but that do not seem to fit into the context of their answers to the essay prompts they are given.

Some schools have essays asking applicants to share outside activities or interesting personal facts, but most of the time, you will need to deliberate as to how these attributes will fit in your essays as you address the questions.

Below are three suggestions on how you can find space to share these details in a way that will help make your essays both more personal and powerful:

1) Draw Parallels
As is true in many aspects of life, in your business school essays, showing, instead of simply telling, is often the best way to get your point across.

For example, trying to convince your reader (the Admissions Committee) of your ability to persevere and work hard by mentioning the number of hours you spend at the office may not be all that effective. Instead, you could say how your work habits formed by years of training as a ballerina, and how this experience prepared you to understand the blood, sweat, and tears required to achieve great successes.

Drawing these parallels will put personality into your essay – creating an image for the Admissions Committee, while also reinforcing the character traits you want to highlight by showing how you demonstrate them in another context.

2) Use Your Interests as Examples
Another great way to mention seemingly unrelated, but still impressive, activities is by using them as examples in the context of addressing a question.

For instance, if you are discussing your initiative to improve your time management skills, you may mention that apart from being able to accomplish your responsibilities at work, you have also created time to enrich your life with engaging activities, such as mountain-climbing or performing with a band. This will help show your range of involvement across diverse interests and present you as a multi-faceted character, while still allowing the Admissions Committee to better relate to you.

3) Pivot From a Common Point
In writing your essays, you may also identify a common thread that ties all of your varied interests together. This could be in the form of emphasizing a strength, by giving examples of your involvement in different activities that leverage a particular trait.

For example, you could identify your ability to adapt as a major strength and give examples of your experiences as a student leader working with international students, a volunteer working in the community with refugees, and your current position handling global clients. Relating these activities to each other through a common point will allow you to mention many details without needing to describe them in great detail.

MBA programs want to see applicants who are adaptable, multi-dimensional and interesting. Using your wide array of experiences in the aforementioned ways can help you accomplish this, while also allowing you to express yourself and to submit an application that truly shares your personal stories.

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

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

Steps to a Stronger MBA Profile in 6 Months

RecommenderOnce you have finally decided to pursue an MBA, you will naturally start assessing your chances of actually being admitted. Undergraduate academics and GMAT score aside, most business school applicants will fret as to whether their extracurricular activities and overall profile are impressive enough for their dream schools, especially as these aspects of an applicant’s profile are not as straightforward to quantify and compare.

How then can you improve your profile in the last six months?
Should you rush to get registered in additional community organizations? Should you learn a new language or a musical instrument? Should you go on a trip to the wilderness or join a religious mission?

As a rule, the Admissions Committee will consider the length of time and level of involvement with the activities you participate in when they weigh these as part of your profile (just as any potential employer would during a job interview). On your end, you should consider the limited time remaining towards the deadline, and the demands of polishing up your whole application package while focusing on fulfilling your current work and personal responsibilities.

Below are some practical tips to strengthen your profile:

1) Do More with Current Involvements
You may feel that your current activities are not as impressive as they really are and, thus, do not make you stand out as an applicant. One way to address this is to look for the chance to introduce something new to your profile that would make your potential future contributions to the school unique.

For instance, you may be the leader of your undergraduate alumni branch – from this, you can find an innovative way to link up across other chapters, and strengthen alumni engagement and knowledge transfers across your entire network.  Or, you may be involved with donation drives for the less fortunate; try to find new ways to boost your funds or at least organize activities that can better showcase your leadership and teamwork skills.

Initiatives such as these give more credence and value to your current activities, without having to start from scratch.

2) Do the Same Thing for a Different Audience
This should be relatively easy to do – look for some opportunities to leverage your long-running interest or hobby to demonstrate more involvement and impact on the community. As an example, you may be singer who performs regularly at a club. You may use this talent and volunteer to sing for several worthwhile causes. In this way, you can enrich your stories about your singing talent (or at the very least, the audacity to perform in front of an audience!) and make them more interesting for the Admissions Committee. 

Taking this point further, let’s say your lack of international exposure is perceived to be a weakness – look for ways to at least show how open-minded and internationally aware you are by getting involved with the expatriate community, nearby refugee camps, or by performing with multi-cultural groups.

Use these tips to help strengthen your business school applications and set your current activities apart from those of other MBA candidates, and to further your own personal development, as well.

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

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

How to Discuss Individual Work Experience in Your MBA Applications in 4 Steps

Successful ApplicantAccomplished individual contributors in highly specialized fields – whether from finance, science, or technology fields – often face the challenge of sharing the scale of their responsibilities and the impact of their accomplishments. In this entry, I’ll share four tips on how MBA candidates in these situations can maximize their backgrounds while writing their application essays:

Pause…
Out of habit, your first essay draft will likely be littered with jargons (industry terms that only few would actually understand). Often, the examples you choose to showcase – whether it’s leveraging a sophisticated financial instrument or introducing an advanced manufacturing process – are even more advanced and complicated than you realize, so that even those with a basic level of knowledge regarding your work will probably not comprehend the scope of your activities. Thus, remind yourself that you are not writing a paper for peer review or for your immediate superior, but instead, you are communicating to people without your level of expertise.

Share What Got You There
How can you communicate your expert abilities if the limited space you are given for your essays does not allow you to take non-industry readers through the minute details of your work experience? One way to do this is to show how rare it is for someone to get to your role. Highlighting selectivity and how qualified you are is a good way to show your career progress and accomplishments.

In this way, your story can flow naturally from academic performance, to previous successes at work, and, finally, to why you were entrusted with such a challenging role – saving on word space while still tying in the personal and professional components of your application profile at the same time.

Use Analogies
Often, I find that applicants attempt to answer essay prompts that ask for examples of accomplishments and failures with stories involving the most complex, technical issues they have dealt with. This is understandable, as these examples are probably the most memorable and impressive in the applicants’ professional lives. However, the limited essay space also poses a problem, as as one’s essay must then be divided into setting up the situation, the action the applicant took, the results achieved, and the lessons learned.

One quick and effective way to handle this issue is to use analogies (quotations from leaders in your field could also be used) to describe the situation and demonstrate its complexity, probability of success, or scale of impact. This will make it easier for the Admissions Committee to understand the challenges you faced and complement your general description – think of this the same way you would make friends and family members at a dinner party understand what you have been up to.

Highlight the Impact
Lastly, validate the importance of your work by relating it to impact, both at the qualitative level, and in terms of quantifiable numbers (if possible). Use examples of personal stories and paint vivid pictures to touch the emotions of your audience (the Admissions Committee) and help them appreciate the impact of your work. Numbers such as profitability, processing time saved, or potential customers impacted are also helpful to substantiate the context of your role.

Following these tips can help you show yourself not only as just a brilliant individual contributor, but as someone with the ability to communicate like a future senior leader, making your unique profile stand out and be appreciated.

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

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

Applying to Business School With a Non-Profit Background

NonprofitIf you’re applying to business school from a non-profit background, then congrats! The richness of the student community at many top business schools is due to the diversity of their student’s unique backgrounds and perspectives, so do not run from your non-profit experience – embrace it!

MBA programs have historically been filled with students from more traditional feeder industries, such as consulting and finance, but this does not mean these are the only industries Admissions Committees are looking for. There are a few factors to keep in mind, however, as you apply to top MBA programs from a non-profit background:

Academic Transcript
What type of coursework did you take as an undergraduate student? Was it primarily quantitative or more qualitative? These factors play a big role in how ready your candidacy appears for the predominantly analytical core curriculums found at most business schools. This issue is heightened even further if you also have a low GPA or poor performance in past quantitative classes, given that your non-profit work experience may not be perceived as analytically rigorous as other traditional MBA feeder industries. 

GMAT Score
Your GMAT score plays another important role in the viability of your candidacy. Your ability to achieve a competitive score, particularly on the Quantitative Section, could help dispel any doubt about your ability to perform in your first year at business school.

Interpersonal Skills
Although the non-profit sector still remains a relatively small industry for MBA applicants to come from, the transferable skills schools look for in candidates from this field are relatively similar those from other, more traditional industries. Showcasing your leadership and teamwork abilities will be critical to highlight your potential to make an impact on campus and as a future alum of the school.

Career Goals
Like many other applicants, non-profit candidates often pursue business school as an opportunity to switch careers – sometimes this career switch is a complete turnaround from their prior work experiences, and other times it’s just a subtle tweak to their career trajectories.

In both respects, it is important to identify the transferable skills that you have gained during your time working in the non-profit sector and how these skills will be able to be utilized in your future industry of choice. If there is a personal passion that drove your initial interest in your non-profit, try and connect that in some way to your future career goals, if relevant. Having a commitment to something that has a broader impact on the world around you has always been viewed positively by the Admissions Committee (when authentic).

Keep these strategies in mind as you plan out your approach for applying to MBA programs from your non-profit background.

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

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

How to Answer the “Post-MBA Goal” Question in 3 Steps

GoalsOne daunting, yet common question every business school candidate must answer at some point during the MBA application process is, “What are your post-MBA goals?”

In many cases, applicants do not have a concrete answer to this question – they just know that they don’t like where they currently are, but do not have clear post-MBA goals in mind. This kind of applicant will usually answer this question with something like, “I’ll explore my options during the program and go from there.”

While this is understandable, answering the question in this way could make the applicant come across as being unfocused, and doubts would arise as to whether the applicant has thought about his or her MBA goals properly. In these cases, it would be better for applicants to research likely post-MBA career paths with respect to their experiences and interests. This will allow them to state realistic post-MBA options, while also explicitly showing fit with the business schools they are interested in.

All things equal (as Econ professors love to say), identifying specifics will be the best way to go when discussing your future plans. Let’s examine 3 ways you can better define your post-business school goals to the Admissions committee:

1) Identify Career Fit with Your Personal Background
You would want to identify a goal that an MBA can help you achieve – that investing in a particular business school will create real value for you. In line with this, the Admissions Committee will evaluate how worthwhile and realistic your goal is given your previous experiences, current skill set, and potential future path with the school. This could include your academic potential, international exposure, work experiences, network, and personal passions.

Highlighting your unique qualities, track record of accomplishments, and resources you can leverage to make your future goals a reality is part of convincing the Admissions Committee of the feasibility of your post-MBA goal.

2) Showcase Your Knowledge of the Job Market
Identifying potential roles and the target market for yourself post-MBA, in the same way you would if you were creating a business plan for a new entrepreneurial venture, would clearly show the feasibility of your MBA plans. Matching your selling points in terms of knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences with the job market will be part of this process.

If possible, identify specific roles, companies, industries, and locations that are an ideal match for you – reaching out to people who have gone down a similar career path to the one you are interested in would help you determine if that particular track and the day-to-day realities that they experience match with your vision.

3) Emphasize Your Interest in This MBA Program
Finally, demonstrating keen interest in a particular MBA program by identifying how its culture, courses and clubs would fit your goals communicates a well-thought out plan. This will show the Admissions Committee that you took time to genuinely reflect on your personal development and what their unique school has to offer. Your interest will also help convince Admissions that you will readily accept a slot into their MBA program, if offered one.

With these tips in mind, be sure to invest your time and effort in researching the specifics of your target MBA programs and demonstrate that you have done so. If you are not yet confident in your answer to the post-MBA goal question, now is a great time to reflect and research – not only will a great answer to this question it strengthen your MBA application chances, but it will also give you clarity on the next stage of your life.

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

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

How to Avoid Negativity in Your MBA Application Essays

MBA EssaysAnyone who has gone through the MBA application process knows how stressful it is. Applicants have to wrestle with preparing for the GMAT, deciding which schools to apply to, evaluating probabilities of admission, and worrying about finances – all while juggling various pressures at work and home.

Handling all of these responsibilities simultaneously while targeting specific application periods makes it tempting to just rush through the essay writing process to meet school deadlines and move on to other duties. Exhausted and unfamiliar with this process, applicants often get side-tracked and spend their time fine-tuning their essays with the wrong starting points.

One of the most common mistakes I have seen candidates make during my past eight years working with Veritas Prep is allowing negativity to seep into their application essays. Being mindful of this tendency can take you several steps closer to crafting a great application.

Many MBA applicants express time and again how unhappy, insignificant or stuck they feel with their current roles or companies, and while we always encourage applicants to be honest in their essays, focusing on the negative aspects that are prompting you to apply for an MBA does not help your cause and just wastes precious space.

For example, saying something like “I am just a salesman,” or “It is a boring job with little intellectual challenges,” diminishes your own accomplishments and portrays your past experiences as weak and unremarkable. The admissions committee might also wonder if you would eventually feel negatively about your MBA experience at their program, and thus, be an ineffective ambassador for the program when you become part of their alumni community.

My advice is to remain truthful but to shift your perspective. It is true that you are very motivated to go from your current situation (point A) to your post-MBA goal (point B), however it is better to emphasize what you have gained or learned at point A and how this will help you get to point B, where you are excited to make a great impact, than to complain excessively about point A.

Filling in details on why you want to get to point B, adding in specifics about how your target MBA program will help get you there and why this is a worthwhile and realistic goal, would boost your chances of admission. Just as importantly, this positive outlook will also make you happier and help you plan the next stages of your life productively.

In conclusion, a positive mindset and tone will help you come across as forward-looking, optimistic, and grateful to the admissions committee. It will also help you focus on your goals and convince the school that you will be a valuable member of their community.

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

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