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Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 02 Dec 2009, 15:11
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Hello GMAT Club Members!

We would like to welcome Precision Essay to our community to offer free application feedback and profile evaluation. We hope this partnership serves for the benefit of many GMAT Club Members. You are welcome to post your questions and profile evaluation requests in this thread. Feel free to PM dzyubam or PrecisionEssay if you have any questions. Please note that no advice or consultation can be offered via PMs.

Have a good application season!
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greetings folks,

been getting a ton of inquiries on stanford's famous "What Matters Most and Why" question.

some folks use this precious space to make a candidacy pitch. they're gonna get plenty of that in your resume, other essay questions, recs, etc. for this sweet little question, they are more interested in learning about your values, who you are, what makes you TICK----how you think about stuff in a way that reveals how you're interesting and different.

it's an incredible question, just close your eyes and chew on it for a second: "of all the things... ever......... which thing matters MOST to you. and why?"

family? health? trust? discovery? kevin on top chef? your childhood teddy bear? humility? fear?

we see a lot of "family." it's instinctual. it almost makes you feel bad to think anything else, right? and we've seen some superb ones, but unless your reasoning/angle is incredibly unique, just be aware that TONS of folks are gonna use that.

here's a potentially helpful way to THINK about a cool kind of answer:

"While this may rank 7th on someone else's list, it's #1 on mine: XXXXXXXX."

here's a made-up example:

"While others value accountability to greater or lesser degrees, for me, it is an indispensable rudder."

i'm into this sucker instantly for a few reasons: (1) i like the idea that this kid is comfortable going out on a limb, and (2) i like that he may just SURPRISE me with his reasoning. i don't know what he's gonna say next. and that's awesome. can't say the same for "my family matters most to me." ----> we pretty much know EXACTLY how that story goes.

while it's true of most essays, it is never more relevant than HERE to be authentic and honest. the more soul-bearing and less calculating the response, the better. write this one for yourself, not for the adcom. it's what they want. you almost can't lose if you START there.

hope that helps,
raj

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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 04 Dec 2009, 09:34
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we wanna talk about the phrase "career progress." let's zero in on that word PROGRESS. it is the key to tackling this issue in a bunch of essays.

the impulse is to travel back in time to Job 1 and discuss it: role, duties, accomplishments. then move onto Job 2, and do the same thing: role, duties, accomplishments. then 3. then 4, and so on.

sound familiar? that's because this is "a resume." NOT career progress!!

the key here is the difference between *DYNAMIC* and *INACTIVE* writing.

think about the DECISIONS that pushed you from one major bulletpoint to the next. what factors in Job 1 (when combined) caused you to "take the promotion"? or to "make the lateral move to Company Y"? or to "reboot and alter the course of your career path entirely"? don't just walk us through the chronology--again, that much we can see plainly in a resume: A, B, and C. what we DON'T see, is WHY A went to B, and WHY B led to C. This gives us a sense of progression, and therefore... where it's all headed.

what did you like? hate? what turned you on? off? was there ever an "aha!" or "light bulb" moment? when was it? take us back to that moment and make US feel it too. whenever a question asks you to assess your career progress to date, or the like, they want to know about (1) what your goals were at each node, and (2) how successful (or unsuccessful) each experience was in meeting those goals. focus on the evolution of your DECISIONS, not on the jobs themselves. those are simply the names of the streets. we wanna know why you turned left or right.

the best way to NAIL all this is to walk us through your career history always WITH RESPECT TO YOUR GOALS. sometimes the goals are unwavering, sometimes the goals themselves evolve. either way, think about what were you after, and why you accepted Job offer #1? okay, now assume it met certain needs. presumably, you're set for life, right? end of story? you can remain at that job forever and ever?

no?

well, what ran out, what changed, what made you DECIDE to make the next move? something did. focusing on those decisions give us dynamism, and brings this piece to life.
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 08 Dec 2009, 12:48
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friends--

quick thought on structure. and specifically... setup.

rather than trudge through your accomplishment, or failure, or story X, in a long, dull-as-paste manner... you can knife away all that fat with a strong setup.

there are two simple components to an intelligent setup:

(1) The Objective
(2) The Obstacles

The Objective --- company hemmoraging money, you were called on to stop the bleeding; defect in product, you needed to fix it before the hit-the-shelves date; boss left abruptly, now you were tapped to run the show; blah blah blah. identify what it was you needed TO DO. or that needed TO BE DONE. define YOUR ROLE in it. "it was on me to XXXX." "my job was to YYYY." sometimes these will be one, sometimes they will be two.

"Last fall at XX company, as lead YY, I was responsible ZZZ." or
"My company needed to XXX. My job was to coordinate YYY."

The Obstacles --- this is the absolute key. if anyone could have done it, or if it weren't out of the ordinary in some way, it probably isn't the best story to use. there have to have been SOME elements that made it a CHALLENGE. "normally it takes 3 months; i was given 3 weeks." now it's a story. "this is hard even for a typical team of 20; i had a team of three trainees, none of whom had any formal experience." you get the idea. there are ALWAYS elements that ... complicate the task. POUR IT ON. the more the merrier.

these two things (objectives and obstacles) need to be front-loaded for a few neat reasons:

1. thinking through the setup forces you to figure out what the key points of your story are BEFORE you start writing. remember, we do not want resume-detail... we just need the elements that show us how you overcame the obstacles to achieve your goal. this helps with focus, and therefore that pesky issue of "word count" [if you find that your essays are bloated beyond recognition, 10 out of 10 times the problem is with a flawed setup]

2. honestly? it makes for a muuuch sexier read---present us with a clear objective and stakes and we are instantly engaged on a visceral level. we are hard-wired to respond to dramatic situations... if setup properly.
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 09 Dec 2009, 19:05
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Recycling Essays.

:?

oh so tempting. you've got the wording JUUUUUST right. the essay for that next app is... more or less the same, you convince yourself.

so you figure why not just cut and paste the sucker?

(1) if a school were to sense that any given essay had been written for a different school... it just doesn't look good. they're not fools, they recognize that most of you are applying to multiple schools, and that you're gonna claim that each one is your top choice. but they WANT to believe that you mean it when you say it to them. you will WRECK your case with a thinly veiled copy/paste job. your job is to make each school feel like you only have eyes for THEM.

(2) as similar as some essay prompts might seem to one another, there is almost ALWAYS some nuance to each question that begs care and attention. sure, you may have nailed certain descriptions of a work experience or career goal etc etc, and can't possibly phrase the stuff any better. by all means, don't lose sleep over reworking the thing only to produce something that reads "less well." it's okay to lift pieces here and there. and, frankly, time when you absolutely should.

BUT--> spend the extra few hours/days/whatever it takes, adapting every single response [start to finish], to make absolute sure you answer every nook and cranny of the question.

(3) unless you really spend the time to ADAPT the sucker... your reader will always know. and you'll come across lazy... or worse, disrespectful. it is absolutely worth the time and effort to tend to each question. start early and don't paint yourself into a corner.
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 16 Dec 2009, 08:42
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specificity of plan and path

many of the folks you're competing with have very specific plans about what they want to achieve. and unlike, say, college.... business school training is a very targeted two years. think of it as an incubator for folks with IDEAS. why give away a highly coveted seat to someone without clear goals? those people will be less likely to take advantage of their two years than those who know what they want.

consider the following analogy: you own a GIANT toy store----like a Toys R Us. and your goal is to make as much money on christmas eve as humanly possible. your store is physically huge and to walk up and down every aisle could take someone a few hours. but your store is going to be open for only six hours on Christmas Eve and you're going to give special access to only 500 people out of thousands who have written letters to you to earn this "golden ticket." remember, your goal is to make money, which means... SALES. whom do you give those tickets to?

here are two candidates:

CANDIDATE 1 -- Dear Store Owner, I am dying to own an XBox 360 and have wanted one for an entire year and my mom finally agreed to let me buy one. I know that it's in Aisle 32, and I've studied the floor plan of your store in my sleep. The minute I enter the front doors, I will hang a hard right and proceed up Aisle 3 to the mid-section, then cut diagonally past the bikes and tires to the way back, where I'll make a left at 32 and walk to the middle where I'll find my system on the middle shelf. I will then proceed straight to checkout with credit card in hand. Please give me a ticket to your store on Christmas Eve. Sincerely, Jimmy

CANDIDATE 2 -- Dear Store Owner, I am a lover of toys ever since I was in the crib. I enjoy playing with them and creating things and using my imagination. My family has built a set of shelves to make room for all the new toys I'm going to buy. It is my belief that toys are fun to play with. I cannot wait to come to your store which is the best store in the whole world to be exposed to all the greatest toys and possibilities. Please give me a ticket to your store on Christmas Eve. Sincerely, Patty

now, if your goal is to make money, you are absolutely gonna give your tickets to 500 kids who are like Candidate 1----know exactly what they want. they're gonna have a plan, and make a sale (at least). Candidate 1 also sounds well-researched, and is more likely to spot a good deal when he sees it, and buy more stuff. i.e., take advantage of his surroundings. but you KNOW he's gonna at LEAST grab that Xbox. that second kid is probably gonna get overwhelmed by the number of options, and ultimately get lost. she's probably gonna be so excited, she'll start at Aisle 1 and then by the time she gets to Aisle 8, the store's closed and you've lost a sale that COULD have gone to a kid with a better plan. yeah, this kid could grab everything in sight, ton of potential... but without a plan, it's just.... more of a liability than anything else.

we need the blueprint. we need the exact steps. you can still change your mind at bschool. (of course the schools know and expect this), but is says a great deal about you to have a lot of momentum toward... SOMETHING.
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 24 Dec 2009, 13:38
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hey folks--

happy holidays to everyone. [congratulations you east coasters especially on your exceedingly white christmas.]

wanted to say a few words about essay questions dealing with TEAM FAILURES.


we've been noticing the following pattern. story starts out, sets the stage, describes the "team" and the objective, and then... the failure.

aces. so far so good.

but then----> when the analysis kicks in, it's all about YOU. what you did wrong. how you mismanaged this, and how you neglected to do that, should have done this versus that, etc etc. and just like that, what we end up with is a LEADERSHIP FAILURE story. or a "time when you made a mistake."

for those of you who have been a part of a team led by someone ELSE, and the team failed in some way, the story tends to write itself fairly organically. you were one of many to have contributed to the failure. less complicated.

in many cases however, there are team failure stories where YOU were the leader.

now what.

well, keep one thing in mind, and it should keep you out of trouble: if it were alllllll about you and only you, theoretically, you wouldn't have needed anyone else to succeed at the objective. think of any team leader. kobe bryant is the leader of the los angles lakers. or joel robuchon is the leader of his kitchen.

yes, these guys are leaders and in some cases are actually in charge... but unless it's a one-man operation, no leader can actually do the jobs without the help of a team, right?

okay, so let's pull back and identify the TEAM OBJECTIVE. now reveal THAT the team failed to meet that objective. they needed to finish the job at 5pm sharp, they finished it three hours too late. or they needed to produce 100 widgets, they only produced 86. they needed to execute XXX, but they failed to execute XXX.

now, let's figure out how the TEAM failed to do what it was supposed to do. let's say you were the leader and didn't delegate properly. well, you can describe the way the chaos led to inaction or inefficiency or whatever it was, and conclude that that was "bad." now, having said that, you can sink into YOUR ROLE in the matter, you can say, it was on me to delegate, and i shanked it. but don't just stop there---push it through to reveal how that action leads to some type of collapse in team success. if you do that, you'll be golden. what makes a team successful or not successful is star of this essay.

if the entire framework of the essay is "here's how i messed up," then in some ways, you're missing the boat on what teamwork really means. YES you should reveal your hand in it---that's key, of course. but, be sure to couch it in the overall failure of the team's effort.

when it comes time to discuss what you would do next time, or if you could do it all over again, rather than say "i had a chance to redeem myself" you'd wanna say, "we had a second shot, and here's how it was different. i did this and that, this guy did this and that, we were communicating, we were this-ing and that-ing, etc etc... success." show us that you understand that a team is a living breathing beast unto itself, and that you now have a better sense for how to feed that beast, and nurture it, and help IT succeed.

happy holidays again, everyone.
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 24 Dec 2009, 22:37
Thanks for the posts. I especially like the first one. I look forward to reading more.
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 04 Feb 2010, 11:30
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Friends, today we at Precision Essay turn over an entiiiirely new leaf. Kind of.

We have been posting on other Forums quite regularly, but in the heat of the moment (and working with our clients) havent checked this board as frequently as we'd like! But never fear, Jon Frank is here. Founder of Precision Essay, and graduate of the HBS Class of 2005.

We are now back, and in full effect.

One quick note here for everyone's consumption: today I want to talk briefly about the WAIT LIST. Most of our emails have been focused on the best ways to get through the wait list process. We recently achieved success with a client using one method in particular--and I wanted to share it. A client of ours was waitlisted at HKUST. So we laid out a plan of attack--an additional letter, and an additional recommendation. Pretty good for starters. But then, the applicant was made a job offer: the company said, "If you are accepted at HKUST, we will give you a part time job between now and then." After we communicated this info, within two days, our client was admitted at the school!

Big news, eh? Let that be a lesson to ALL of us--nothing is more important to an adcom, than the possibility that you are EMPLOYABLE--whether before, during, or after graduation. In this economy, prove that you can get a job--the adcom will respect that very, very much.

Hope this helps. And good luck to everyone!

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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 05 Feb 2010, 09:18
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Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.

Today I want to talk about a topic that used to be much hotter in MBA circles, REAL ESTATE.

As some of you may know, I am a bit of a real estate junkie. I have worked at ING Real Estate, Trammell Crow Residential, and now I own my own multifamily properties. At HBS I took advantage of all the Real Estate resources available to me (including those at the Kennedy School and MIT).

Many of the questions we get each year have to do with not just real estate, but ANY specialized program. That is, "But Jon, HBS offers only one real estate class. Why go there if I want to do Real Estate?" Or for example, "Why would I go to Kellogg instead of NYU--I am interested in finance, not marketing!"

Let's get into it guys, because this is the WRONG way to go about the process. In real estate especially, there are three main considerations in selecting an MBA program:

1) GO TO THE BEST SCHOOL YOU CAN GET INTO. I dont care how many real estate classes your school offers or doesnt offer. Real estate isnt rocket science-you will learn all you need to on the job! Go to business school to meet interesting people, develop a more well-rounded background, for the reputation, etc. NOT just to learn, for example, "real estate." One day, whether youre raising money for your venture (be it real estate, marketing, what have you) some rich oil dude in Alaska will say to you, "Well where did you learn all that you know?" You dont want to have to tell him a story about "Well you may not have heard of it, but THIS program has the best class offerings in my field!" Nossir. Tell him "I went to Harvard," and he will give you his money.

2) GO TO THE BEST SCHOOL YOU CAN GET INTO. I cant say this enough times in a row. This. Is. The. Key. To everything.

3) CONSIDER GEOGRAPHY. Real estate is a local business. The only possible exception in the real estate world to the above 2 rules, is one of geography. If you are 100% sure that you will end up in, say, Atlanta, then you should consider programs in the Georgia area. Real estate especially is a local business, and there is no doubt that there is some benefit to being plugged into these markets. If you know that you want to wind up on the west coast, for that matter, consider schools in California. You get the idea.

Hope this helps gang, from one real estate junkie to...others, I hope.

Jon Frank
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 08 Feb 2010, 14:16
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Friends,

This past weekend, I found myself in snowy New York City, visiting with some old friends (and one former client). Always nice to be back home, and I thought it would be a perfect chance to talk a bit about...Columbia.

As we all know, the Columbia Early Decision Round deadline hits before most other deadlines of note. What does this mean for you? It means that some very, very eager young applicants will submit their work to the school as early as humanly possible, well before any deadline even hits. Forget the fact that the deadline tends to be as early as mid-August. If you are reading this post, and if you are thinking of applying to CBS for next year, mark my words: YOU WANT TO BE ONE OF THOSE APPLICANTS. Apply to CBS early. Every year, countless clients wonder whether it is worth their time to apply to CBS for their Round 2 or 3--and I always think the same thing, sometimes aloud: why didnt you apply sooner!

Let me share just one related story. Last year, a client was accepted at Stanford, HBS, Kellogg--you name it, all in the second round. Why is this significant? Because he was NOT accepted at Columbia during THEIR second round. Why? Because so much of that class is filled with their ED applicants.

If you are thinking of applying to Columbia my friends, time is of the essence. Do all you can to submit for ED, and submit EARLY.

Good luck to everyone!

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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 11 Feb 2010, 14:11
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Greetings, fellow business school enthusiasts.

This morning we had an interesting question from a girl in Indonesia. She essentially wanted to know why everyone's so obsessed with Rankings, which Rankings are the best, Rankings, Rankings, Rankings. WIth her permission of course, I decided to address this question to a larger audience.

First of all, we all know that everyone loves to rank the bschools. And why? Because it sells magazines! It sells books! Its business, like any other. So how much faith should we put in these rankings? Very, very little, of course.

So what good do they do? Well, for better or for worse, employers check them out. Enthusiasts (such as myself) check them out as well. They are silly, sure, but they do influence people. And why are we getting an MBA, if not to influence people? US World and News Report's rankings have somehow become a bit of a benchmark--and you will see that they consistently Rank Harvard and Stanford as the top two programs. This, too, has become conventional wisdom at this point. (Im partial to HBS myself, but thats only because I picked HBS over Stanford...)

So the key here, is that Rankings alone dont matter. But REPUTATION does. One of the best reasons to go to bschool (and dont say this on your app) is that it gives you credibility. "Oh, well if hes good enough for HBS hes good enough for us." And rankings, for better or worse, do influence how people view programs. "Oh right, I read that Babson has the best entrepreneurship program." Without the rankings, Babson might not have gotten the word out as effectively.

Hope this helps, yall. Keep the great comments coming, and good luck!

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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2010, 07:10
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Healthcare. The financial crisis. TONS of new MBAs. Acceptance rates declining, credit crunch, the apocalypse...

Over the past 18 months, we have been overwhelmed by emails from applicants who are ALL asking the same question--"What does it all mean for ME?" And before we even answer that question, I feel it my duty to share just a bit of history here--EVERY year, there are reports of "rising applications," "the future for MBAs in decline," and so forth. Let me provide some advice for you all, my friends, in these challenging times.
IGNORE ALL OF IT.

Yep, you heard me. Ignore all of it. You will be bombarded over the coming months with postings, articles, second hand stories, third-hand stories, etc. "The end is nigh," and "Apply now, because if you dont you will be doomed to failure forever," etc. Please, guys. Dont buy it. Dont believe the hype.

Of course there is a financial crisis, and frankly we dont quite understand how wide-spread it is yet. And we wont for months, perhaps even years. BUT WHO CARES? So instead of accepting 10% of applicants, your school of choice will go to 9.5%. Even, god forbid, 9%. How does that affect you? It doesnt. It shouldnt.

The best schools will ALWAYS be competitive. Whether the economy is strong or weak, you will ALWAYS be up against the nation's best and brightest applicants. And guess what? Your application will be EXACTLY the same, regardless of external circumstances.

Just keep your eye on the ball, gang. Dont believe the hype. If the timing is right for you, you will apply to bschool this year. If you have a strong application (and craft your story correctly) you will get in. Just do what youve got to do, and dont drive yourselves too crazy along the way...

Your psychiatrist in these challenging times,

Jon Frank
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 18 Feb 2010, 12:28
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My friends,

Today we will address a veeeery common misconception. It typically sounds something like this, "But I dont want to do marketing. Why should I even consider Kellogg?"

: )

There are so many things wrong with this statement, I dont even know where to begin! But to keep things niiiice and simple, lets focus in on three main issues.

1) Kellogg has a GREAT finance program. Kellogg has a GREAT Organizational Program. There is more to Kellogg than just marketing! There is more to MIT than just tech and entrepreneurship. There is more to Booth than finance--you get the point. These are the best business schools in the world! To say that you need to pursue that one area in order to make the school worth your time is misguided. Cocky, even. The brightest professors in the world work at these schools--in ALL departments. You might even get more personalized attention, if you are at Kellogg and NOT doing marketing, for example...

2) Can you imagine how hard it is to get the Proctor and Gamble job if you are at Kellogg? Can you imagine how hard it is to get a job in Private Equity, if you are a finance guy at Booth? Very, very difficult! Because SO many people go to Kellogg with marketing in mind, obtaining positions in those fields is always very challenging. Hundreds of resumes will flood towards those positions. Now, by the same token, what if you are a finance guy at Kellogg? There will be fewer of you--and the job prospects for you will be less competitive. What if youre a real estate guy at HBS? Again, you will be in a GREAT position to get a job--after all, there wont be very many people fighting for your interviews! HBS only offers two RE classes, and only one when I attended...

3) You may not actually know what you will be doing for a living in five or ten years. I know you think you do--and 50% of the time or so, you will be right! But trust me, the future is a bright, bold, twisting and turning adventure. You dont actually KNOW beyond all doubts what you will be doing in the future. You think you do...but you dont. : ) Truuuuust me. So the idea that you are a finance guy at Kellogg, or a real estate guy at HBS could actually work in your favor. After all, wouldnt it be cool to get the opinions of OTHER people, in OTHER fields, for a couple years?

Keep an open mind, gang. There is more to CBS than finance. There is more to HBS than leadership. You get the point...

JDF
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 24 Feb 2010, 08:05
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Hey gang. Today I want to talk a bit about our friends with MILITARY backgrounds.

Each year we will work with a bunch of military guys (and by the way, as most military folks already know, we offer discounts for anyone brave enough to serve).

Here's the thing though: everything we have always said about "jargon" still applies. Let me share an example. Guys with IT backgrounds may make the following mistake, writing "And then I realized that all I had to do was re-phase the micron chip, and then thanks to my creative thinking, the network reconnected to the Oracle CLM frame at eighty point twenty two jigawatts, its fastest speed in years." This sentence may make sense to its author--but not to the rest of us. JARGON IS OUR ENEMY. The folks reading your apps will not know what anything technical means. Period. Nor should they have to.

Same goes for the military. "I realized that the only way that the commissioned outgoing service officer would understand my orders, would be for me to reach out to our sister battalion commander, who was unfortunately well over fourteen miles south of Obscurania, and twenty miles east of Weirdspotatonia." In this sentence, you have lost your reader--at least three times in a row. What is a commissioned outgoing service officer? What is a sister battalion? Where is Obscurania? While the facts and backgrounds have changed since our IT example, the problems with the essays remain the same. When writing MBA essays, jargon is our real enemy.

As you craft your essays, pretend that you are writing for a very, very smart fourteen year old. Or, pretend that you are writing for, say, your dentist. Don't overestimate the business, technical (or military!) backgrounds of our friends reading the apps on the adcom.

I hope this helps. And of course, Raj and I wish all our military friends nothing but the best of luck, and the fortune to come home safely and soon.
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 02 Mar 2010, 15:41
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Hey gang. I am writing today because in our work lately, we have found a number of people testing applications' word limits. Let me add juuuust a bit of color to that debate.

Generally, most people have argued that an overage factor of 10% is acceptable. And yes, generally we tend to agree. However, this is not to say that for every single essay, you can shoot for a full 10% overage! First of all, when schools say that the essay should be between 750-1,000 words...don't overshoot the 1,000! They have already provided the overage factor for you. Dont push your luck. If you need more than 1,000 words in this case, as they said in Mr. Mom..."you're doing it wrong."

Secondly, you should not push for an overage in every single one of your essays. If your 1,000 word essay is 1,100, and all your 500 word essays are 550, your application may grow to be thousands of words longer than your peers' would be--and that will NOT work in your favor! Your app will be too long. Period.

Do yourselves a favor, my friends. Shoot for the word limits. If you need to be 10% over, that is fine. But 5% is better. 0% is the best. Given two perfect essays, one at 500 words and the other 10% over at 550, I would pick the 500 word essay seven days a week, and twice on Sunday. Why? Because it will go quicker. And the adcom is, I promise you, in a hurry.

Best of luck,
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 08 Mar 2010, 07:20
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My friends, pleeeease do your research before signing on to work with a consultant! I just got off the phone with a very, very disgruntled young woman who had been taken by a not-so-friendly consultant. In this case, a very experienced dude, but MEAN! : ( She was heartbroken, felt ripped off, all that bad stuff. Do yourself a favor, and research your consultants. It breaks my heart every time we hear one of these sad stories. Every week a new "consultant" posts...someplace, trolling for business--please, please be careful.

But. That is not what we came to discuss. Today, Id like to talk about non-traditional applications. And I dont mean applications written by people from unusual backgrounds. We always have some clients who hope to "do something different" in their applications. "What if I told a short story," or "wrote a poem," etc.

And to be honest, we have had a great deal of luck with such unusual approaches. Why do everything the exact same way as the rest of the applicant pool? No reason to. But, if you do take this unusual approach, always remember to do two critical things:

1) Answer the question. No matter how interesting your approach is, and no matter how craaaazy you decide to skin this thing, always answer every single solitary piece of the question. Dont try to outsmart the adcom, "they dont need to know THAT," etc. Write a poem. Send in a video of interpretive dance--do it. Im cool with it. But make sure to answer every piece of their question along the way.

2) Explain your decision. If you choose to do something unique, always find a way in the app to explain your decision to the adcom. Why did you do a poem? Why did you send dance? You will need to set the thing up somehow--otherwise, you run the risk of the adcom's thinking that you are simply trying to make a point. And of course, thats not the case...

Good luck!

JDF
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 27 May 2010, 09:29
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Columbia has released its questions as many of you know, and there’s an interesting change from last year. Gone are the questions about Master Classes and about team failure; the application is now simply two big questions [listed below for your benefit].

One can only speculate as to why Columbia changed it up in this way, but what interests us is: “What does this mean for you?”

Well, let’s figure it out.

Clearly they were getting too much information compared to what they need in order to make a meaningful decision. Put another way, cutting the essays down, they’re really indicating very clearly that all they really wanna know is: (1) what are your goals, and (2) what are YOU all about? They’re picking PEOPLE, after all, and not just resumes.

Essay 1 remains a “classic” Career Goal essay. We’ve dug hard on it here in the blog, and we’ll continue to dig hard---there is absolutely NO such thing as too much analysis on this question. It is the cornerstone of the app—all apps.

(1) Communicate clear goals—non-MBAs should understand them fully
(2) Connect your past experiences and inspiration TO the goals—what you’re really doing here is convincing the reader that you “belong” at this party. You “belong” to your goals. You have good cause to pursue them. And will likely be successful.
(3) Map out a sensible PLAN—make us picture the path of success…
(4) Indicate how CBS helps YOU achieve YOUR GOALS – not how CBS is a good school and can help your average MBA student; anyone can write an essay about that, but only you can write the one about your specific goals.

Onto Essay 2.

We are seeing here a trend that is reflected in many business schools and the business community on the whole that comes from a sort of existential crisis, in which it’s not enough just to succeed, but to succeed in something that has personal significance, that connects you to the world, because that is both how you will find the most personal fulfillment, as well as bring yourself success.

This one’s all about WHO YOU ARE. (Not to be confused with the Pete Townshend song.)

Two huge concerns here:

(1) Be Alive
(2) Let your personality SPARKLE – and therefore be MEMORABLE.

Be Alive:
If you come across inert, chances are, your reader won’t even get through your application, let alone remember it. There needs to be momentum, spark, energy, enthusiasm, passion, aggressiveness, drive. You get the idea. How do you achieve that? Easy:

GET EXCITED ABOUT YOUR TOPIC!

If you think about stuff you love, you SHOULD find that when you write about it, your brain is flying at a speed that is physically impossible for your fingers to keep pace with. This is… great. Your first draft should be almost gibberish because you were too damn excited about whatever it was you were writing about. Get that energy down. You can work on clarity and efficiency and word choice and all that fine-tuning stuff in due time. If you start with a sluggish block of stone though, the thing will always just be dead weight.

Be Memorable:
What you’re interested in should REVEAL something about you. So, this is not so much about WHAT you’re saying, as HOW you’re saying it. Show us the passion. Make us get excited about the AUTHOR, not the AUTHOR’S topic. See the difference?

Imagine a really hot woman wrote a review of a particular restaurant. Imagine her review to be written in a kind of sexy, flirty way. At the end of it, you should want to meet HER more than you want to eat at the restaurant. Same exact thing here. Make it so that while your reader might be interested in the stuff you’re talking about, he’s more interested in meeting YOU because there was a “quality” that leapt off the page.

If you say “I like freedom” or “I would love for there to world peace” or “I am interested in real estate” … we learn nothing. But, if you said “If someone told me I had 24 hours to live and handed me $1M in cash, I would immediately buy myself a one-way ticket [First Class] to Buenos Aires. Why? Because there’s a street-food vendor at the corner of Uriarte and Cordoba who makes a beef empanada that is worth dying for.” ----> Now, I don’t give a rat’s tookus about anything OTHER than… I’m hooked. I like this kid. I want to like this kid. I see some energy here. I see fire. He can talk about anything, and I’m likely to be SOLD. If you come across smart, energetic, inventive, active, etc… it is EASY to picture you SUCCEEDING at whatever you attack. And that, my dear friends, is the key.

Rip into it. Show us who you are and what you’re all about. Reveal something about yourself. Don’t force it. Don’t try to out-creative your own passions. Start by asking yourself what are you ACTUALLY interested in? Truly? Generate a list, pick your favorite three (pick the three that make you smile just THINKING about it) and then fire up three word-vomits (pardon the unsavory image). Then see which one (on a second read) has some juice in it.

This is a fun essay question, so… have fun with it.

Application here: http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/mba/learnmore/applynow

Essay 1
What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Recommended 750 word limit)

Essay 2
Please tell us about yourself and your personal interests. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (Recommended 500 word limit)

Optional Essay
Is there any further information that you wish to provide to the Admissions Committee? (Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.)

Reapplication Essay
How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate your short-term and long-term goals. Explain how the tools of the Columbia Business School will help you to meet your goals and how you plan to participate in the Columbia community. (Recommended 750 word limit).
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 02 Jun 2010, 18:56
Hi PrecisionEssay, would you please take a look at my profile?

Background
Age: 25
Sex: Male
Nationality: Thai-Taiwanese
UG: Double Major in two engineering degrees from UC Berkeley (GPA 3.55)
GMAT: 690 (Q 48, V 37)

Work Experience
-3 Years, Process Integration Engineer at Top 10 semiconductor firm in Japan
-Support customers in process related issues during the development of computer chips
-Consult with fab (semiconductor factory) to decide on solutions/proposals and present them to customers

Extracurricular Activities/Leadership Experience
Undergrad
-Activities Officer for Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
-Plan and organize over 50 events for TBP, including fun events, social networking, and professional workshops.

Post Undergrad
- Officer for Habitat for Humanity Japan
- Have been involved with Habitat for a long time (Went to Philippines twice to build houses back in high school, was president of community service club back then.)
- Continue participating in Habitat after arriving in Japan. I am in charge of running and planning the monthly meeting where we try to get more people involved in Habitat. I am also the official translator for Habitat in Japan. After my participation, the retention rate and participation rate in builds increased significantly.

Some Other Facts
-Lived in 4 different countries throughout career (Taiwan 12 years, Thailand 6 years, US 4 years, Japan 3 years)
-Able to speak quite a few languages. Mandarin (Native), English (Fluent), Japanese (Fluent), Thai (Basic), Taiwanese (Basic)

Weakness in Application
- Do not have a direct leadership role in work experience. I can talk about holding meetings and being influential to co-workers but do not have someone directly reporting to me.
- A slightly below average GMAT score for top schools

Post MBA
-Management position in semiconductor/consumer electronics industry (more specifically strategy) or management consulting
-Have a strong interest in working in Greater China region due to family and my language ability.

Target Schools
Columbia (Reach) ED/R1
Tuck (Reach) EA/R1
Duke (Competitive) ED/R1
Ross (Competitive) R2
UCLA (Competitive) R2
Other Schools in consideration: NYU, Cornell

Questions
1.Can you please comment on my school selections? I am thinking about ED for either Duke or Columbia depending on whether I have a strong enough shot at Columbia ED.
2.Is there anything that stands out from my application that you would suggest me to focus on? If leadership experience question comes along, should I focus on my Habitat role (where I made much greater impact) than my current job role?
3.Given my background and goal, can you suggest a few safety schools to look at?

Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate any comments/insights.
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 04 Jun 2010, 11:38
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lonewolf--

hey man, here are some thoughts on your post

1) regarding the ED issue, regardless of the likelihood issue, it tends to boil down to personal preference. if you're prepared to commit or are willing to lose the money if you elect not to attend... why not go for it? 690 is always a very tricky GMAT, and you'll need to overcome the lack of leadership exp through incredibly compelling goals and proof that you can pull it all off -- very tough to say based on your specs alone how you'll fare at CBS or Duke ED without seeing your essays

2) yes on Habitat. and just be careful to frame your stories in a way that highlights the way in which you made an IMPACT based on ACTIONS - make us picture what you did specifically to have made that impact; if you succeed there, you can overwhelm what might seem to be a lack of leadership on a quick glance

3) Tepper, Kenan-Flager, both excellent programs... and with your current selection (and very very clear writing), you should be able to get into one of the schools on your list.... [cornell is not a bad idea]

hope that helps, buddy
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Re: Ask Precision Essay [#permalink] New post 06 Jun 2010, 22:17
precisionessay wrote:
lonewolf--

hey man, here are some thoughts on your post

1) regarding the ED issue, regardless of the likelihood issue, it tends to boil down to personal preference. if you're prepared to commit or are willing to lose the money if you elect not to attend... why not go for it? 690 is always a very tricky GMAT, and you'll need to overcome the lack of leadership exp through incredibly compelling goals and proof that you can pull it all off -- very tough to say based on your specs alone how you'll fare at CBS or Duke ED without seeing your essays

2) yes on Habitat. and just be careful to frame your stories in a way that highlights the way in which you made an IMPACT based on ACTIONS - make us picture what you did specifically to have made that impact; if you succeed there, you can overwhelm what might seem to be a lack of leadership on a quick glance

3) Tepper, Kenan-Flager, both excellent programs... and with your current selection (and very very clear writing), you should be able to get into one of the schools on your list.... [cornell is not a bad idea]

hope that helps, buddy


Thank you very much precisionessay. I will take a more look at your suggested schools.
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