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We have seen one pagers, two pagers, three pagers--the gamut.
We believe that the strongest move is to put forward a one page resume. Why? Well, here are three great reasons:
1) Once you get into HBS, they provide a resume format that they publish as being "ideal." That format, the official HBS format, is just one page. Why would anyone who hasnt even gone to bschool need more than one page, if actual HBS MBA grads only need one page? Also, why not just skip all the mumbo-jumbo, and just use THEIR official format? I have it. I can send it to you. Hit me up.
2) When applying to elite schools, you will NEVER have the coolest experience. No matter how much of a badass you are, theres another dude who has done better things. If you cured cancer, the next guy cured "viruses." You get the idea. So. What happens if THAT guy (the guy who cured "viruses") can get his resume down to one page. Now, youre tellin me that YOU need TWO pages, but that cat only needs one? It makes you look like a chump. Some amazing people will capture all their experiences in one page. To be the guy who "requires two pages" is a pretty bold statement on your part. Youd better be able/willing to back it up. Youd better be preeeetty darn cool.
3) Work gets better when it is shorter. Write a one page resume--the process will FORCE you to capture the essence of your work. It will be better, I assure you, than the two page version.
Hope this helps gang. One page should be juuuust fine. Trust me.
Okay gang, today it is time to talk about our friends out East. And no, I dont mean my former classmates from Boston, at HBS!
Today I want to talk about Korean applicants to the top bschools. Each year we work with countless folks from Korea--and today, they are attending top schools worldwide, including Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Duke, and others.
What is the toughest part of the Korean application? Well we didnt realize this until a few years back--but it tends to be making the most of MILITARY experience! And this doesnt have to be the case. That is, military experience should be a FANTASTIC way for applicants to make themselves stand out. And this is especially true for our friends in Korea.
So what are the two most common pitfalls in Korean applications? Two come immediately to mind:
1) Not discussing military experience. This is madness! Whether you are from Korea or the USA--play up your military experience for all it is worth--it is powerful LEADERSHIP exposure. Just because so many Korean clients have that experience, most non-Korean clients do not. And schools love the military leadership exposure. So make sure to capture that experience gang!
2) Characterizing others in the military negatively. This is actually a great lesson for ALL clients--negativity is a bad thing. (So to speak...) We always want to be POSITIVE in our writing--so if someone in your brigade wasnt pulling his weight--do not judge the person. Be positive--let the reader make the judgement. You should simply show us what you did to motivate the guy. But you dont need to bring others down to show yourself in the brightest light.
Good luck to everyone--whether you're writing apps from Korea, here in the US, or beyond!
At HBS we did not do "problem sets," "math problems," or anything at all to do with a "team," ever. There were countless students there with egos the size of Montana if not bigger, and a surprising number of less-than-fabulous young professors.
But aaaal that being said, HBS taught me one very important lesson that I want to share: the power of a brand name.
When I was deciding where to go to bschool in 2002, I was torn between HBS and Stanford. Id been accepted to both, but couldnt figure out which school to attend. After all, Stanford was harder to get into, but HBS seemed to have a bigger name. I ultimately decided on HBS, mostly because I didnt see myself working in the SF area. I figured that if I were set on moving to California, then perhaps Stanford made more sense. But otherwise, stick with HBS.
Cut to two years later. I have 4 job offers as a graduating second year at HBS--and I ended up taking the one...in San Francisco! Whats my point? From HBS gang, you can go ANYWHERE. East coast, west coast, China, Korea--but with other schools it is just harder. Period. This is the power of a brand name--not just HBS of course. But of a powerful brand name.
Dont get sucked into all the over-thinking here. Go to the best school you can get into. : ) We say it once a month or so.
Remember those old Choose Your Own Adventure books? Holy crap, I sure do. I used to love em. So today we will present our own--our first annual MBA Re-Applicant Choose Your Own Adventure book:
The Story. Last year, you applied to CBS. You were dinged, and are now reapplying, during ED. And the sooner the better. When suddenly, it is time to select your career goals! You have three choices:
Choice 1) Keep your goals exactly the same as last time. After all, you have improved your app--just repeat the goals part of your application. Most likely they were good enough the first time around, last year. After all, you are afraid that the adcom will think that you're a floozy for changing your goals at all...
Choice 2) Keep the goals the same--but rephrase them. Come up with BETTER logic. Tie them more closely to your past, and explain how your thinking is now clearer, even if the goals remain the same.
Choice 3) Change your goals! Brand new goals, but this time much more clearly thought out. Perhaps this time we skip the career change--after all, that was likely how we got caught last time...
So. Lets see which of the three choices/endings work out well...
Choice / Ending 1. Oh no--since you didnt update your goals AT ALL, you dinged again. Another year, come and gone. The adcom wonders, "When will this guy ever learn?"
Choice / Ending 2. Wahoo! You get an interview. By keeping your goals the same, but by clarifying them--by PROVING them better, the adcom now thinks that you are ready to rock.
Choice / Ending 3. Wahoo! You get an interview. We arent at all worried about your tweaking your goals since the last time around. After all, its been a long year. Youve rethought your approach, and come along way. Nicely done.
So the lesson here folks, is that you can take choices 2 or 3--you can either keep your goals the same, or you can tweak them. But no matter what you do, dont simply reiterate what you wrote last time around. That simply shows bad judgment.
Okay gang, today we are gonna talk about ONE-YEAR PROGRAMS. Indirectly.
Lots of buzz recently about the J-term, INSEAD, European programs in general...all good things. And one year programs are AMAZING opportunities for some students.
After all, why spend two years getting an MBA if you can do it in one, right? Seems like a no-brainer. Spend less time, less forgone salary, less money spent in general--let's just getter done in a hurry, right?
Well, maybe. Here are three reasons why you may NOT want to get your degree in one year:
1) No summer internship. If you are a career changer especially, you will most likely NEED the summer internship. It will be your MAIN chance to transition into the field of your choice. If you dont have that internship opportunity, how will you prove yourself in your new field?
2) Less chance for exploring. One of the best parts of school is the fact that you have OPTIONS. You have time to chat with professors, students, even folks in the field. Any field. Who the heck knows where you're gonna wind up, if you keep your options open. By enrolling in a two year program, you will expose yourself to marketing classes, accounting classes, finance classes--no matter what you THINK you wanna do. And who the hell knows what youre gonna like, what youre gonna bump into, or whats gonna happen? We like options...
3) Bschool is fun. Whats the hurry? If I had spent just one year at HBS, I would have had, well, half as many amazing memories. If I had skipped my first year, I wouldnt have musical directed the HBS show. If Id skipped my second year, I wouldnt have taken Tom DeLong's class (which changed my life.) I wouldnt trade EITHER year for the world. Enjoy bschool--two years of goodness is often better than one...
This of course isnt to say that two year programs are always better than one--not at all, not for many people. But today, I wanted to expose the OTHER side of the coin...
Friends, today I want to share a heart-warming story. With our help, one of our clients this year just got into INSEAD, his top choice, off the waitlist. Why is this so significant? Well let me tell you.
1) He was waitlisted at programs that were NOT as highly ranked. 2) His work experience, though strong, wasnt stellar. He worked at a commercial bank, not at an investment bank or management consultancy. 3) In one of his interviews, he bombed. Royally. We're talking laid a serious egg.
So whats the moral of the story my friends? Keep your heads up! Dont pretend that you can predict who will get into what programs--you NEVER know. Each year some clients will be waitlisted at Kellogg, but get into Stanford and HBS. Put your best foot forward, find someone to guide you through the process, and you will be juuuust fine.
Imagine someone who doesnt get into a bunch of programs...then is accepted at his top choice? : ) Today gang, we are walkin on sunshine.
Just thought Id spread it around. Have a great weekend.
So this morning, I visited Starbucks for my morning cup of joe. As usual, there was a line out the door. Youd think these people dont have coffee machines! I mean, we can make the EXACT same cup of coffee at home. But...we dont.
Now lets take a giiiiant step back. Starbucks didnt do anything new. Their product isnt unusual, brilliant, or "unlike anything we've ever seen before." All they did was take something familiar, and make it BETTER. They built an exciting NEW brand around something OLD.
"Jon, why the f^&* are you talking about this?"
Well, because it relates to our MBA apps. We are working with a few guys from Private Equity companies, and a few guys from consulting companies. Their concern is always the same, "Yeah, but arent there so many other people out there who are going to tell the same stories? Great, just what the adcom needs, another story of a consultant helping a client get results..."
But remember Starbucks, guys. You dont need to be brand new--you dont need to do something that nobody else has done before. Guess what--thats impossible anyway. Everything has already been written, all topics have already been covered, and every "new gimmick" has already been used and reused a thousand times. Instead, it's okay to do the same thing...but do it better. Do it SMARTER. Do it the way that only YOU can--do it in a way that is uniquely your own.
And youll be just fine. I mean shoot, $2.25 for a cup of coffee? Those Starbucks cats are onto something...
Friends, today I wanna get good and specific. Lets talk about who is actually reading your applications on the adcom.
Actually, lets first talk about who is NOT reading your MBA applications:
1) Savvy business people. Thats right, the person reading your essays has likely never used the term WACC, XIRR, or even stagflation. She is a young woman, very bright, and committed to finding the most accomplished, most promising young applicants she can. Dont get technical gang--she wont understand what youre writing, and worse yet, she will get bored.
2) Specific domain experts. Very similar to the above comment gang, you use jargon in your current jobs daily. Please, dont assume that your reader is familiar with the RE business, or the banking business--or consulting, etc. The reader is a GENERALIST. Treat her as such.
Now, sometimes MBA students will also read your apps (at Wharton especially, and some others.) So how do we treat THIS scenario? Dont say anything that a young, up-and-comer might disagree with! Dont make claims about the future which a budding (if relatively green) MBA might not like. For example, arguable comments such as "China is poised to take over the Western markets by 2020," and "India will eclipse China in the global outsourcing race" etc. All of these things may be true, and they may NOT be true. But what you DONT wanna do, is say something that your eager beaver MBA reader might disagreeable, let alone offensive.
Hope this helps gang. Remember your audience, at all costs.
Today we are gonna talk about a dirty little topic in MBA applications: family connections.
A few times this year already, applicants have been reluctant to talk about their families. "After all," the logic goes, "nobody wants a guy who's relied on his family to get to where he is today."
And of course, that is true! But. We dont want to (howyousay) throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let me explain.
If you have a prominent family, it is reasonable to assume that you will follow in their footsteps. One day you will have all that your family has today, and if your folks know how to manage money, youll have even MORE. And applicants with money? Well, theres no shame in that.
If your family has prominent positions abroad, or once ran a country, or continues to run a huge company...dont HIDE this information. It could open doors for you, and even for your fellow classmates if you are generous (think Godfather part 1) with your connections. There is an artful way to divulge this information, without seeming like a chump.
Dont hide from who you are gang--if your family is a big deal, if they used to be, dont be afraid to come out and say it. Schools WANT applicants who come from good positions in the world. Just treat the topic...gingerly.
Friends, today we were doing a free consultation. And it was a COOL essay guys. I mean, creative, unusual, unique--and literally laugh-out-loud funny. I mean, I was laughing as I read the thing. Columbia's essay number two.
But there was one problem--this isnt comedy school. This isnt laid back unusual school, this isnt even "uniqueness" school. No gang, it is BUSINESS school. Dont be too informal in your writing. Dont try too hard to set up the perfect jokes and make the admissions people respect how unusual and witty you are. To do this would require LOTS of words--this cat I was working with today had written 500--and of that 500, 350 or so were committed to the jokes, asides, and informalities. And that left just 150 with actual MEAT. Actual examples that the reader would take away, thinking "Gosh this is a GOOD candidate." A good BUSINESS school candidate.
Dont overdo it gang. Dont assume that it is okay to be clever or creative at all costs. Always provide examples of your accomplishments. Always be specific, and avoid jargon. If every single sentence doesnt make you seem like a more able applicant, then you are wasting your valuable words.
Hello my friends. Jon Frank here, your friendly neighborhood HBS alum.
Today I wanted to recap a conversation that we had today with a client--he was struggling with one of his essay questions. He was dealing with the new MIT executive MBA program--but the lesson we discussed pertains to ALL apps. Essentially, we discussed the question, "How do you choose what stories to write about?" He had all his questions mapped out but one.
And the answer, as usual, is simple. The first step is to IGNORE THE ENTIRE APPLICATION. : ) Thats right--dont even look at the thing. Ignore individual essay questions. Instead, take a giiiiant step back. No matter WHAT the application says, you should put forth your best stories. Five essay questions? Pick your five best stories. This is the same advice we give our interview prep clients--no matter what they ask you, you come to the show ready with the five stories that you NEED to tell. That way, there will be no curve balls. "Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult team mate who cooked chicken on Thursdays." So be it--start telling one of your five stories, and work in the chicken piece. At the very least, you had the chance to put your best foot forward.
When the time comes, you make them fit the stories as required.
I would put it to you this way--and this may sound strange. The SAME story can be used to answer ANY question that they throw at you. A team success, a leadership success, a failure, a hard decision, an easy decision, the time you did...preeeeeeettty much anything. The same stories can fit--forget the application guys.
Think Bob Marley Legend, my friends. Come to the table with your greatest hits. Period.
First of all gang, I wanted to offer up a heart-felt thank you to the folks who have reached out to me privately, thanking me for the work we do here every day. It keeps me going, and I appreciate it.
Now. Today I want to make a point that we've made before--but this time I want to make it differently.
90% of the work Ive done over the past two weeks has been correcting TWO errors. The same two errors eeeevery time. In fact, Id say that 80% of ALL our work at Precision Essay amounts to correcting two errors. Here they are.
1. Jargon. I know I sound like a broken record. But the admissions people are NOT technical. Read your essays aloud--if a 14 year old girl next to you doesnt understand it, it is too technical. If your dentist wouldnt understand it, its too technical. A waitress at a bar--you get the idea.
2. SHOW me, dont TELL me. This is the biggie--I have reviewed 7,000 applications in my day (give or take) and I dont know that even ONE of that 7,000 has avoided this mistake. THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST COMMON ERROR THAT APPLICANTS MAKE, EVERY YEAR. PERIOD, BY FAR. It isnt enough to tell me that youre smart, that you solved the problem, that you dealt with management, that you managed up and down. In the essays, you need to SHOW me HOW you did these things. Walk me through the actual steps that you actually TOOK. SHOW me, dont tell me.
Literally gang, if people didnt make these mistakes, we would have 90% LESS work. Wait, maybe I shouldnt have shared this info...
I just completed a Ding Analysis for a client, and saw something in the app that I needed to share immediately--a letter of recommendation was submitted to the schools that was luke warm! Worse yet, it was almost passive aggressively...negative. Can you imagine?
Nothing will cream your chances so quickly as a negative letter, my friends. It isnt even necessarily because of what the recommender had said--it is the judgement that the client has shown by selecting him. That is, "What kind of applicant picks this guy, who cant even write a positive review?" It shows bad judgement on the part of the applicant. Period. Not to mention the fact that the LOR feedback was decidedly blaaahh...
So what can we do about it? Give your recommenders decent copies of your essays to look at, BEFORE they submit the work. Maybe theyll let you take a peak at theirs before its done. Tell your recommenders all the things that we've listed in our Forums, countless times. Being specific, being energetic, aaaall the stuff you can find up here (and we will double back to repost soon.)
But this broke my heart--and I wanted everyone to benefit here. Nothing can cream an application's chances like a luke warm (or even cold) LOR...
Friends, today we will address a challenge that most of us (myself perhaps not included) have all faced at one time or another. WRITERS BLOCK.
As the application season is now full steam ahead, now is the time to begin writing. But many people are having trouble getting the ball rolling. So as usual, we have some tips that should make things a bit easier for everyone. In fact, lets go ahead and post the First Ever Precision Essay Guide to Beating Writers Block:
1. Outline. The worst thing you can do is spend hours and hours on your first paragraph. Who cares about the first paragraph anyway! This should be the LAST one that you write. For each essay, you should first set up an outline. Just some bullet points that will spell out your roadmap through the essay. "First I wanna talk about this. Then this, and I'll end with that. That should cover 400 words, these three paragraphs." Then you dig a bit deeper. Go into each bullet, and add a bit more to each one. Then a bit more. Then formalize the language a bit. And before you know it, your informal outline and bulletpoints have become an ESSAY. Dont start to even "write" paragraphs until you're well on your way. After all, bullet points and outlines are much easier to develop. Nobodys ever heard of "bullet points block," have they...
2. Forget essay questions, just list your accomplishments. As we have already mentioned, the key is that in your application, no matter what questions are asked, you want to cover your Greatest Hits. So before even dealing with the questions, first list out the key areas you need to cover. Then, simply link these stories to the questions, AFTER the fact. And voila! You have essays.
3. Dont look out--look IN. Finally gang, we all have a tendency to listen to TOO many people. This forum, that forum, a new "expert" popping up every day, this site, that site, this book, etc. Forget all that--this game is all just simple logic and common sense. Dont get carried away in following countless peoples' advice--simply look inside you, and write something that is earnest. If you do get stuck, dont look out to other sites and "experts" for guidance--look inside yourself.
The book captures a TON of the work that we have done through the past five years--and especially for those who cant afford the full boat of our services, this should be a great primer especially. So have a look, gang. If I do say so myself, the book is pretty great.
If you like this thread, you will LOVE the book.
Thank you for humoring me here--but we are excited. Very, very excited.
Oookay my friends. Time to get back to business. But thanks to everyone for all the kind words regarding our new Precision Essay Guide! It is our absolute pleasure to help, however we can.
Now today, I was speaking with a client who reminded me of a topic to discuss today in our Forum. Today we will talk about retaking the GMAT.
Now as many of you know, I graduated from HBS in 2005. And not one but two of my friends at HBS had retaken the GMAT not once...not twice, but THREE times. Thaaats right people, four chances at the GMAT. And finally on their last attempt, they got the score they needed!
What is the lesson? Keep trying, guys. There is this rumor (a nasty, misguided one) that you dont wanna take the test three times, or even four. And that is absurd! If you retake the test, and if you do a GREAT job on it your second, third, or even fourth time, you will show the adcom that you are both smart, AND determined. PROVE yourself by taking it another time--dont be afraid of the third or fourth time. Take it from my friends who are now HBS grads...
We just finished working with a client--she had asked us to take a quick look at her work (on the house), and we of course obliged. But we say something that warranted a quick post: Bullet points. Oh no!
We need to avoid using bullet points in our writing, gang. These arent informal memos, or notes jotted down to your buddies. These are business school essays, for the most elite programs in the world! Force yourself to write full sentences, full paragraphs--not shortcut-laden work with abbreviations, bullets, etc.
Keep it real guys. We dont need to be formal, but we do need to put our best foot forward.
Thanks to some recent business development at Precision Essay, we have been flooded recently with Chinese and Korean clients. And that is awesome news! So the question has recently come up, for countries like China and Korea--that is, populous countries with many talented US MBA applicants, do MBA programs' standards change at all?
And the answer, sadly, is yes. Yes they do. Let me walk you through the simple math of the thing.
Lets assume that an MBA program admits on average 600 students per year. Figure that 1/3 will be international. Of that 1/3, figure that there is an even split of men to women (which there isnt but humor me to keep the math simple). That leaves 100 slots, total, for "all men from all countries other than the US." That is tough, gang! There are a LOT of countries out there. And certain countries such as China, Korea, and India especially, have a TON of amazingly smart applicants. Folks who are NAILING the GMAT especially.
So what does this mean? Yep, you guessed it. That 710 isnt good enough anymore. Is it a double standard? Well you could look at it that way. But we prefer to think of it in terms of simple math and statistics.
Even though we didnt do any math or statistics at HBS, THESE stats are simple enough that even I can understand them.
Hope this helps gang--sorry to be debbie downer, but these are the facts. And they are undisputed.
Now, just a quick point today on this sunny Chicago Sunday morning. Today I want to talk about WORK. I was reading a client's essays this morning, and she had crafted a very strong application, rooted in her personal experiences. She referred to her sister and culinary school, her experiences in college, and her passion for education. There was only one thing missing--her WORK experience!
I looked at her resume, and she had worked at a GREAT investment bank, and at a GREAT private equity firm. Why had she barely mentioned those experiences?
Lets not lose sight of the big picture my friends. This is BUSINESS school. Some personal stuff is great--even required! But this isnt personal school, education school, or meaning of life school. This is BUSINESS school.
If you arent writing a whole essay about your current job, you are doing it wrong.
If you are talking about your college experience in all your essays, you are doing it wrong.
If you spend more time talking about NOT work than about WORK, youre doing it wrong.
Business school, guys. Dont lose sight of the key here...BUSINESS.