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Amerasia MBA Blog

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Amerasia MBA Blog [#permalink]

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Welcome to the Amerasia Blog feed. Follow this thread to stay up-to-date on the latest MBA articles written by Amerasia.
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Download "How To Apply" Guides | INSEAD | Columbia | Harvard | Wharton

Kudos [?]: 221 [0], given: 220

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How to Survive the Inevitable "Bad Part" of an MBA Admissions Intervie [#permalink]

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New post 15 Mar 2016, 15:01
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: How to Survive the Inevitable "Bad Part" of an MBA Admissions Interview
This article is about a harsh reality of the MBA interview process, which
is that every interview is going to take a dip, or hit a rough patch, at
some point ... through no fault of anyone involved. Why is this? And how
can you address it? Let's dive into it.
What do we mean by the "bad part" of an interview?The "bad part" of an interview in the way we're referring to it is the part
where things start to slide away from the interviewee. It's that moment
where you feel like you start to "lose" your audience; where you go from
being compelling and charming and totally on point ... to something else
that feels distant and foggy and remote. It's a very unpleasant feeling
that tends to evoke panic moves and counterproductive responses. It's kind
of like getting caught in a rip tide or skidding out in your car - what you
want to do is go with the current or lean into the skid, but of course
people do the opposite and try to jerk against it and wind up with a
crisis. What we are going to teach you today is how to go with the
current, and how to turn into the skid. Please understand that we are not
talking about total meltdowns here, which are rare. In all our years of
doing this, we've only had one or two clients completely botch their
interviews. One started crying and another refused to stand behind his own
career goals. Other than those (and even both of those were more the fault
of the interviewer, it seemed), we've never had people experience true
horror stories. We're talking about something more subtle, but no less
frustrating, far more common, and something that tends to derail even the
best interview subjects.
When does this moment happen in a standard interview?The moment you start to "lose" the interviewer is almost exactly the same,
regardless of interviewee, interviewer (alumni, student, admissions
officer, whatever), or school - it happens when the interview shifts from
what we call the "nuts and bolts" section (the first 10 minutes after small
talk, where you talk about your goals, your interest in the school, your
job, etc.) and into the "behavioral" section of the interview. Nearly
every school features a chunk of the interview where they ask behavioral
questions. This is almost always after the buts and bolts section and its
the place where things tend to lose steam. So you are looking at arriving
at the rough patch about 15 minutes into things, right after you've been
crushing it, and right when they start asking you questions like "tell me
about a time you led a team," or "can you share a time when you stepped in
and resolved a conflict within a team," or "when did you have to persuade a
group of people," or any other question designed to unpack key b-school
traits (or "behaviors") such as leadership, teamwork, persuasive
communication, and so forth.
WHY does it happen during the behavioral section?This is pretty easy to understand if you've ever sat in the interviewer's
chair for more than about 10 of these. Collectively, our team has hosted
thousands of interviews. Personally, I did probably 500 of them in my past
life as an associate director of admissions. Paul did dozens upon dozens
as an alumni interviewer. One of our interview gurus did what felt like a
million of these on the GSB campus for BCG. We KNOW what it feels like to
be that person conducting the interview. And here's the dirty secret: it's
almost impossible to be riveted by one of these behavioral stories. During
the nuts and bolts section, everything is zipping and moving - your'e
talking schools, goals, career paths, motivations, and all the fun stuff
that is universal, elemental to the proceedings, and, therefore,
interesting. Further, you are also discussing the school in question ("so
tell me, why School X?") which is of course the best discussion point of
all, because both parties have a mutual interest (one person wants to go
there and the other loves it enough to either be working there, going
there, or volunteering as an alum from there). However, when you
transition to "tell me about a time you led a team," it's just impossible
to really care. Schools (at a high level) feel they must ask and tease out
these qualities, which is fine in theory, but in practice, it doesn't
translate to interesting content. If I am interviewing you and you start
telling me about Deal X and Person Y and Conflict Z, I just do not have a
personal stake or interest in any of it. So what happens is that the
interviewer - who does a bunch of these, remember - starts to drift out
during this section. They start thinking about what they will have for
lunch or how much longer this will be or maybe even the great stuff you
were just talking about. Regardless of what they fixate on, it's probably
not your answer to the question at that moment. Therefore, it creates a
feeling that the interviewer is disinterested (they are), which creates the
feeling that the energy level and dynamic is dipping (it is) ... and that
the interviewee is at fault (he or she is not) and that there is something
that can be done about it (there is not!). And that's where things start
to go sideways.
How does it go sideways?An interview goes sideways when the interviewee recognize this shift and
tries to respond in an ill-fated attempt to get the magic back. Understand
this: you are not going to get the magic back. Not yet, at least.
However, many people - especially Type A personalities - believe
everything is within their power, including dazzling an interviewer. So
what they do is start to talk more. And more. And more. And what they
talk more about is details. Facts, setup information, tangents. They just
start piling on information and they turn a 60-second story about a
leadership experience into five minutes of rambling. More facts and
details do not make it more interesting. If you have read this post up to
this point, you now know that it makes it LESS interesting! You are doing
the equivalent of taking out your conversational shovel and just digging a
deeper and deeper hole. And this is when an interview goes from "totally
normal and good" to "rough."
Okay ... so what should I do?Obviously, if we are saying that this happens in virtually every interview
and that there is a wrong approach, it implies that there is a right one.
To find out that right approach, please contact us for our interview prepservices.
Kidding, kidding. We're going to tell you what to do, in three steps:
1. Go in with prepared behavioral stories. Have 3-5 stories about
teamwork, leadership, conflict, and the like. You can use almost any story
for almost any prompt, so narrow down what you are trying to keep track of
in your head. Telling the right story in an interview is like playing the
right song at a party - it's easier if you have a loose playlist ready in
advance. Then, you can tweak and adjust based on the exact mood/question,
rather than scrambling in a mad panic to find the right song/story from a
sea of thousands of choices flying through your mind. Further, you should
structure those stories using the same SCAR model we use for our impact
essays, which is Situation (15 seconds setting up the scenario),
Complication (this is the thing that raises the stakes and makes it
interesting and is the specific response to the question they ask - "the
reason I needed to step up into the leadership void was X"), Actions (15-30
seconds of what you did), and Results (how it finished up and what you
learned about yourself from the experience). If you have that balance, it
should take 60-90 seconds to tell your story and it will be clean, easy to
understand, and - most of all - something you can stick to.
2. Ride out the rough patch. We talked earlier about going with the
current or steering into the skid. Well, same thing here. What you simply
have to do during this part of the interview is *accept that this is how it
is*. It's absolutely unbelievable what we see when we do this job, which
is a universe of people who believe that they can bend the world to their
whims. Look, we get it - many of you are candidates at elite MBA programs
because you have a certain amount of tenacity. However, some things just
are what they are. If you try to fight this universal ebb in the interview
experience, you will be the person digging away with that shovel and just
burying your chances. You become the unlikeable person who patronizes the
interviewer with way too much info, or the scattered person who just starts
rambling, or any number of unflattering archetypes. And it's all because
you can't resist just going with the flow and accepting that which you are
powerless to change. Besides, we still have step 3 here. (Between the
"powerless to change" stuff and all the steps, it is starting to feel like
a recovery program.)
3. Seize your chance to win it all back ... when it arrives. Think of it
this way: rather than fighting the current to look like a hero in the face
of an insurmountable rip tide, why not allow yourself to wash up on shore
and then, full of energy, do a few backflips to impress people? That's how
the interview works. With a few exceptions (HBS, to name one, which we
approach with a slightly different lens with our clients), every single
interview experience features a third part after nuts and bolts and then
behavioral and it is this: "what questions do you have for me?" This is
your chance to completely bring the energy back. Have questions ready to
go. Make them good and smart questions (that will interest the
interviewer). Show enthusiasm for the answers that they give to you (don't
think about how you just did during the "real" interview, stay in the
moment). Lean forward, be expressive, be charming. If you engage the
interviewer in this last frame, that person will love you. Again, having
done this job, it's so rare for people to end on a high note ... yet it's
so easy to do! It amazes me how hard people will fight to be dazzling
during the impossible stretch, yet they completely fold up their tent
during the easy part. Just stay engaged and be a generous
conversationalist, listener, and audience (yes, audience - everyone,
including interviewers, likes to hear themselves talk and everyone likes to
have people laugh at their jokes, humble brags, and self-deprecating
comments). It's all there for you at the end and since it's the last part,
it's the part they will remember. You will walk out of the room and they
will write down "Loved him/her!" on their report. The five-minute lull
where the two of you dutifully and robotically cranked out
the behavioral section will be long forgotten.
We hope this post helps many, many people be their true selves in their MBA
admissions interviews, rather than letting that nervous, eager-to-please
side erupt to the detriment of their chances. Steer into the skid,
everybody.
If you are interested in mock interview services or any of our consulting services, please email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com. This is how we think about the process - from every angle. It's not enough to know yourself and the story you want to tell, you have to understand the challenges, obligations, and desires of your audience as well. We're here to help with all that and we do it at a higher level than anyone out there. 
ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

_________________


Paul Lanzillotti | Founder| About | mba@amerasiaconsulting.com | 877.866.9251

Schedule a Consultation | Twitter | Blog

Download "How To Apply" Guides | INSEAD | Columbia | Harvard | Wharton

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MBA Applicants: Which Round to Apply [#permalink]

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New post 15 Mar 2016, 15:01
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: MBA Applicants: Which Round to Apply
As we move through the winter months and host calls with b-school candidates for the upcoming cycle, it's interesting to note that some admissions questions come up a lot more this time of year than they do later.  We are going to try to use that as a cue to address these types of issues and concerns here on the blog - and we are starting with a very common question this far out from the process, which is "what round should I apply in?" 
The answer to this question depends largely on three factors: 
  • Level of readiness (will you have everything done by Round 1, will have you time to put forward your best effort, are there any post-Round 1 events that would strengthen your case such that you should wait)
  • Which schools you are applying to
  • Your level of desire to keep your entire process "in lockstep" (having all your deadlines, interviews, decisions, etc. take place around the same time)
We can throw out #1 for the purposes of this post, as each person is different and there is no reason trying to cover every permutation.  #3 can be handled quickly.  Basically, if you are someone that looks to group things up, or avoid protracted periods of ambiguity, or even just logistically have things organized, you should probably try to pick a round and apply to your schools that round, rather than spread them out or try to "game" things.  If you don't care about that, or you even prefer to spread out a process, than a blend of Round 1 and Round 2 may be for you.
With that out of the way, how do schools play a role in all this? Basically, you want to think about the schools as belonging to three groups: "Round 1 is better", "Round 2 (possibly) is better", and "It doesn't matter." 
Round 1 is BetterIn my opinion, there are five schools where it is better to apply to the earliest round (technically, we've been using "Round 1" but what this means is basically the earliest deadline).  They are: 
  • Columbia Business School Early Decision
  • Duke Fuqua Early Decision
  • Dartmouth Tuck Early Action (Decision)
  • MIT Sloan Round 1
  • Stanford GSB Round 1
Columbia is a full-on Early Decision, and both logic and stats bear out that it's better to apply early if it's a top choice (and/or you are willing to eat a huge deposit).  Duke and Tuck also have early application periods and in the case of Tuck in particular, they like to see real interest given the school's remote location, and applying early can be a good way to show that level of passion.  With MIT Sloan it's more of a feel thing - because they only have two rounds, I would much rather see someone apply to the "first" rather than the "last" round. 
Stanford GSB is the one where it's more nuanced.  Because Stanford uses a more curatorial approach to building a class (think of most schools as customs agents stamping a long line of passports, whereas Stanford GSB is someone putting a seating chart together for a wedding reception), it follows that you want to be seen earlier in the process rather than later.  This is because you run a larger risk of them already have people "like you" from Round 1 if you wait.  We're obviously talking about the margins here, given the school's obscenely low acceptance rate, but then again, winning on the margins is often the key. 
Round 2 is (Possibly) Better
  • HBS
  • EU Schools
Let's start with the EU b-schools, because these MBA programs are less controversial.  Most people will tell you that being "fashionably late" with the European programs is not only acceptable, but probably better.  EU programs have a ton of rounds and to apply in the very first one is not only unnecessary but also carries some risk of looking overeager.  
With HBS, this take is a little more unique, but I actually believe you have a slight advantage waiting for Rd 2.  I wrote about Rd 2 in general here (http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/blog/2015/7/15/looking-for-an-mba-advantage-consider-round-2), but will quote the relevant part about HBS: 
"Display of confidence.  I have seen more HBS clients of mine get in during Round 2 the last few years, honestly, and I think it's in part because it shows a really assured attitude.  It's almost "I don't need to scramble around like a maniac for your increasingly, insanely early deadline.  I'll lay back.  I'm good."  And I truly believe that confidence gets rewarded.  Again, I can't prove it, so I'm not going to tell all of my HBS clients to NOT apply Round 1 ... but I truly think they might have a slightly better chance if they wait."The idea here is that as HBS continues to test how confident and self-possessed the applicants are, the more merit there is to possibly waiting.  You can let all your Type A peers rush to meet a deadline that gets earlier every year, while you hang back and show a little more confidence that your abilities and accomplishments are more than enough to carry the day.  It's once again a battle on the margins, but as with GSB, that can make a difference.  
It Doesn't MatterAll the other schools.  Seriously, you will hear them say Round 1 is better if you go to an information session before Round 1, but that is to drive applications.  If you go to the same session you will hear a new spin saying how Round 2 is just as good.  At every other top school in the world - I have seen no evidence (statistical or anecdotal) that there is a difference between Round 1 and Round 2. 
So ... "If I am applying to Stanford AND HBS, what should I do?"
You should apply Round 1.  Unless you are someone okay with spreading out your process and using multiple rounds (which means doubling the length of this ordeal, having two waves of interviews, having competing enrollment deadlines, etc.), you are going to want to apply to your schools in lockstep.  And, to me, the upside of of applying Round 1 to GSB is much higher than applying to Rd 2 to HBS.  
Final ThoughtIt goes without saying, but we will say it anyway, that you need to apply with the best possible application.  If you submit something mechanical or shoddy or lacking depth or that fails to connect with program DNA, it won't matter which round you apply.
No matter the round, we have helped more than 1000 clients successfully apply to top business schools worldwide since 2008. Let us help you figure out your next step. Schedule a complimentary, one-hour consultation with a member of our expert admissions team. Email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com or visit us online at www.amerasiaconsulting.com/contact.
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ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

_________________


Paul Lanzillotti | Founder| About | mba@amerasiaconsulting.com | 877.866.9251

Schedule a Consultation | Twitter | Blog

Download "How To Apply" Guides | INSEAD | Columbia | Harvard | Wharton

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Applying to MBA Programs in Round 3 [#permalink]

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New post 21 Mar 2016, 10:01
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: Applying to MBA Programs in Round 3
The common myth surrounding Round 3 of the MBA application process is that you can't, or shouldn't, apply late in the admission cycle.  "The class is pretty much full" is one refrain.  "You have to be a truly unique applicant" is another.  "Only European programs admit people that late" is yet another. As with anything, there are bits of truth in these sound bites ... but only bits.
Let's work through those three statements:
  • The class is pretty much full.  There are a few ways to look at this.  The first is to say that Round 1 andRound 2 make up the biggest segment of an incoming class.  That is definitely true.  However, the other way to examine the timing of all this is to note that in many cases, Round 3 applicants arrive beforeRound 2 admissions decisions are made.  This is done for an obvious reason, which is to generate enough wiggle room in case Rd 3 applicants come in and trump the people who are about to be admitted.  So the class is probably just about full ... but a lot of decisions are pending, in case some great people flood in late.  Which leads us to...
  • You have to be unique to get in.  This is not true at all.  Or, to put it another way, you only have to be as unique as you would have had to be in a previous round.  It's not an exotic species contest.  What IS relevant is whether you are A) qualified, and B) what the class mix needs.  There is no way to predict the second part, of course, but you can certainly take stock of the first bit.  A flier in Round 3 is probably not a great way to work through a low GMAT score, but if you have a good profile, you may be exactly what an MBA program needs.  Maybe School X is light on females, or marketers, or Canadians.  You never know.  So you don't have to be "unique" so much as qualified and something they might need more of in the class.
  • Only European programs admit this late.  This one is a bit of a trick statement, because programs in Europe DO tend to admit quite late.  But we throw in the "only" to once again state that many U.S. programs keep a sharp eye and/or hold back spots for the later rounds.
Okay, so now that we know there is actually a chance, what do you need to do?  Four critical things:
1. Consider the reapplication process.  Even with our rose-colored glasses, we still admit that the odds are longer for late rounds, which means you want to be thinking of the reapplication process for those schools.  Because the time frame will be shortened between Rd 3 of this year and Rd 1 of next year, you have to really think about what you are doing.  Does the school in question let you submit a new application or just a reapplicant question?  If it is the latter, you want to make sure that enough "stuff" can happen over the next seven months for you to write about in a "what have you done since your last application" question.  If you won't have the ammo there, you may want to hold off on that program.  If they do accept new applications though, you can fire away for Round 3 and even strengthen your stated interest in the program.
2. Submit perfection. If you are eyeing reapplication, you still have to nail the essays and the entire application this time around.  Why?  Because you are creating a permanent record and file at that school.  Even if it is unlikely that your admissions officer will pull up both applications on the first lap around, there is a good chance that at some point, they will want to see how your goals evolved, if you have learned more about the program, are more self aware, etc.  So if you are going to seek help from an expert, do it now, before you leave one of this smeared hand prints in the concrete and live to regret it. (Note: we minimize the risk for our Round 3 clients, which you can read about below.)
3. Explain yourself. If you are applying late, explain why.  You should be hitting "why now for an MBA" anyway, so really nail it here.  Tell the reader why this is coming in the door now instead of five months ago.  Put them at ease.  Don't let them think you are firing off a panic application just because you got dinged at six other schools.  Speaking of...
4. Figure out amenable schools by looking downstream. You can sometimes guess which schools are most open to Round 3 applicants by looking for "downstream" programs.  What we mean by that is a school that might get some great late arriving candidates who were dinged or waitlisted at higher ranked programs.  Many candidates are either short on time or overly ambitious and so they might only apply to a few schools in Rd 1 or Rd 2, leaving them with no options and a last-minute game plan for Round 3.  Examples include UCLA Anderson (downstream from Stanford GSB), Darden (downstream from Harvard), Texas (downstream from MIT and Haas for tech), Duke (downstream from Kellogg), and Cornell (downstream from a lot of schools).  These programs may be sensitive about this, so make sure to have really excellent reasons for applying late (beyond, "I got dinged at GSB") and make sure to nail school fit, but you are going to find that these programs probably have a few more slots saved than a place like HBS.
If you need help with Round 3 - either comprehensively or just stress testing your essays to make sure they hit the mark - email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.  The arms race for consulting help usually starts in April forRound 1 of the next year, but the best value is probably right now.  You can get more distance from the field inRound 3 than at any other time and the quality of your work will make a huge difference.  To demonstrate our commitment to doing Round 3 right, we have a very unique policy: work with us on a comprehensive package for the late round and we will help you reapply to the same schools free of charge in the fall, should it come to that. View our "Round 3 Guarantee" for complete details.
ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

_________________


Paul Lanzillotti | Founder| About | mba@amerasiaconsulting.com | 877.866.9251

Schedule a Consultation | Twitter | Blog

Download "How To Apply" Guides | INSEAD | Columbia | Harvard | Wharton

Kudos [?]: 221 [0], given: 220

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The Chicago Booth Waitlist Video Assignment [#permalink]

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New post 21 Mar 2016, 23:01
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: The Chicago Booth Waitlist Video Assignment
Let's get into this WL video a bit.  It always causes people to feel tremendous stress when they see this option because they immediately think "how can I create an amazing video that will blow away the admissions committee?"  This is especially stressful when there are caveats like not having strong skills in areas like shooting film or editing or things of that nature.  So the first ting to do is stop, take a breath, and reframe the entire operation. 
What is the purpose of this assignment?
Is Booth looking to see who is awesome at filmmaking?  Obviously not.  Even if you could make a case that their continued PPT assignment is meant to - in some small way - measure business skills (creating presentations) that will one day be used (as a consultant, for road shows, etc.), that logic doesn't extend here.  There are just simply not very many post-MBA roles that involve making 45-second videos.  And if you ever are involved in such a thing, you will not be doing the filming, lighting, sound, and editing yourself, I am guessing.  
What about "getting to know you?"  Maybe.  I think there is some of that at play here.  NYU Stern has always welcomed a video essay question, UCLA used to ask one, and there are other examples, so it's not a stretch to think that the school - especially having seen enough to WL you - might want to get a peak into more pockets of your life or personality.  However, if they really felt this was the best tool for that, they would definitely include it in the original app and it would come before the interview phase, not after. 
Therefore, to me, the clear reason they include this is to measure effort?  Just being willing to make and submit a video is half the battle!
Why is effort so important here? 
Normally, elite business schools aren't going to play a game of "who wants it the most?" when it comes to admitting students.  However, the WL is a totally different ballgame.  Why? 
Well, it all starts with understanding how the WL works and impacts the "numbers" of building a class.  Normally, when an admissions office is making a decision, they are using simple math: how many students do we need (or want) to enroll?  What is our projected yield rate?  Okay, now we know how many to admit.  As they go through files, they may engage in what is called "yield protection" (leaning towards candidates more likely to attend), but the pressure to figure out "who is coming here if they get in?" does not factor nearly as much as it does when a school is working off the WL. 
The reason for this is simple: they already sent out as many acceptance letters as they really wanted to send.  If they have not yielded the class with that - meaning if they are going to their WL - it means they are going to have to admit more people.  In situations like this, schools are far more inlined to want to have "one-for-one" conversions - meaning if they are going to send out another acceptance letter, they want to know that person will attend.  The last thing a school needs if they are going to be sending out more letters is to send out even more than they need to. 
All of this means that if you can waive your arms around and say "I really want to attend!" it can be helpful.  But you have to avoid looking desperate when doing so, which is why it's hard to make that kind of display at a lot of schools.  Booth has threaded the needle perfectly by offering a task that is hard enough to require real effort (thus signaling real interest), but nothing that will make a candidate look desperate.  
What should you make the video about? 
The key is to be able to get this done efficiently and to show some personality and passion, so I would always default to those factors.  Some people want to see out "coverage" of their application gaps - meaning try to cover some new territory or hit on an aspect they feel wasn't strong.  The problem with that approach is that A) if you got an interview and then landed on the WL, you didn't have any major issues or gaps on your app.  There is absolutely no way Booth would WL you if there were issues.  There are just a lot of amazing candidates and they are clearly having a huge year (U.S. News just ranked them second, behind only HBS).  
Rather than try to reverse-engineer your content based on what the school might want, you should be thinking about what YOU want.  Is Booth so exciting to you that you want to talk about going there?  Then pick the Why Booth option.  If you feel you have a real sense of momentum in your life right now and are just dying to hit the ground running, then talk about Why Now.  If you have some specific elements of your goals you want to dive into (beyond what you already shared in the short essays on the app), go that route.  
In the end, it's all about picking something you can get excited about it and then go film yourself talking about.  If you put in the passion and the effort, you will be accomplishing everything this task is meant to offer you.
If you are interested in a free consultation, please email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.  
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3 Key Thoughts About Columbia's 2016 Essays [#permalink]

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New post 24 May 2016, 12:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: 3 Key Thoughts About Columbia's 2016 Essays
Like last year, we are going to use a little running device of "three key thoughts" for each essay release.  If you want to get a deep dive into these essay sets, of course, the answer is probably obvious: sign up for our services and become a client, at which point we can guide you every step of the way.  Now, on to some thoughts from the new Columbia essays! 
As with the last few years, CBS is using three essays and for the most part, they follow the same general format: goals, Center of Business, Cluster.  They offered up some odd word count ranges rather than exact counts and made some language changes, but for the most part they are still trying to get at the same ideas: why do you want to go to Columbia, what do you want to do with your life, how are you going to make sure you have a job, and what do you bring to the day-to-day experience of the place. 
Let's dive into our 3 Key Thoughts: 
1. Do not talk abut wanting to go to Columbia because it's in New York.  We have been issuing this warning every year since I have been doing this, but it doesn't seem to be getting out there to the masses, because it seems to clearly be an ongoing problem for CBS, such that they actually moved the Why Columbia request out of its natural place (Essay 2) and into Essay 1 last year.  In the past, it was key to make a subtle distinction, which was to point out what awesome Columbia features, made possible by the New York "very center of business" location, were attractive to you and fueling your interest.  My guess is that too many candidates were still flipping that around and saying "I love New York and I love this and that about it" instead of looking at the ways CBS utilizes its location.  Now, by once again asking for Why Columbia content in Essay 1, they can force candidates to laser in on some aspects of the school.  And if those applicants fall into the New York Trap on Question 2, it won't completely bury the info the school wants.  Of course...
2. Use Question 2 to stand out.  Now that Why Columbia is getting some coverage in Question 1, my guess is that "I Love New York!" essays probably ran wild for Essay 2.  What else is there to write about than Columbia's location, right?  Wrong.  You should be using this essay to talk about the way YOU will engage with a "center of everything" kind of place - talk about why a dynamic location and atmosphere is not only good for you, but the kind of environment where you thrive and dominate.  Talk about how it will bring our your best.  Site specific areas of interest and site specific past examples of doing this.  It's going to bring your leadership and teamwork qualities to the surface and make you seem like the kind of vibrant, "make it happen" candidate that they are looking for. 
3. Save the joke answers for the Cluster question.  In previous year I couldn't prove to clients that a joke/goof answer to Question 3 was a bad idea, but now we can.  This is because Columbia has linked to its "Columbia Matters" program, which seems to me a lot like reading Stanford Essay 1 responses out lout.  I (half) kid, but obviously the video is very serious and earnest and it's about digging deep and being vulnerable with your Cluster members.  Now, you don't have to write a deathbed confessional in this 250-essay and you can still have some fun if you want, but don't give them a goofy response when the prompt includes this really earnest content.  Take the tonal cue and dig deep enough that you are actually saying something about yourself here.  (Remember to also address both "surprise" and "pleasant" in your response.  Don't just share something weird or secretive, make sure that others around you will benefit in some way from this aspect of yourself, or there is nothing "pleasant" about the surprise of others.)
If you would like help on your Columbia application or any other program, email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com for a free consultation.  
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3 Thoughts on the HBS Essay [#permalink]

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New post 18 Jun 2016, 13:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: 3 Thoughts on the HBS Essay

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Despite HBS featuring the most publicized changing of the guard in admissions that I can remember, they are basically keeping their "open-ended" question style intact.  In fact, more than keeping it intact, they have reverted to the more straight forward version they used in 2013 and 2014, rather than the more clever (but probably ultimately less effective) "introduction" prompt from last year.  And because they are staying in this lane, it means that my three thoughts need to stay in the same lane they have been in for years - because understanding the psychology behind this essay goes a long way to explaining how you might solve it.  
For three years now, I have watched a MASSIVE (all caps are necessary here) gulf emerge between good and bad use of this space, among candidates.  More important than even the size of the gulf is the nature of the divide - you could almost amass all of the applicants into two groups on each side of it: the self-assured, clear-speaking confident types and the hot messes.  I'm being rather cruel to the latter group and probably overstating it a bit, but it's still true.  This is because it's been clear for years now that HBS has been introducing ambiguity into the process.  Is that intentional?  I believe it is (I won't go into why in this post), but even if not, it's still a fact.  Consider just these three clues, which are today's Three Thoughts: 
1. The post-interview response assignment measures confidence.  This is a Type A person's worst nightmare.  A 24-hour window to get it done (basically restricting you from getting the type of feedback and reviews you are probably accustomed to), vague instructions, hints suggesting it should be a little scruffy rather than polished.  I mean ... that's not a comfortable assignment for the typical person who has made it as far as an HBS interview.  It's almost like a dare.  How comfortable can you be in your own skin?  Can you shrug, and just knock it out or are you going to melt down?  I would wager that what they are looking for when they review those is evidence of stress.  When they see something free and easy, confident and cool, they are impressed.  When they see something that came out of a stress ball implosion, they are like "next."  That's my interpretation at least.  
(Note: when I work with clients on this I approach it in the way HBS wants me to ... but not because they are bullying me, but rather because it's the correct approach.  There are times when I need to be like a golf swing coach.  I need to break down my client's swing, work out some kinks, help them discover their best self, etc.  But when it comes to the post-interview response, my role becomes caddie on the 18th green of the Masters.  My job is to say, "You are a good golfer.  Your swing is grooved.  Stop tinkering.  Stop thinking.  Hit the damn ball."  This is what HBS wants, guys.  They want you to just step up and take your swing, confident and true.)
2. The unusual waitlist scenario measures confidence.  HBS will WL you, defer you to a later round, and basically ask you to hang around for sometimes months and months to get a result.  That's not terribly unusual - all schools have to use some sort of WL mechanism to control enrollment numbers.  What is unique about HBS is that they don't let you respond in any way.  More specifically: they say of you want to stay on the WL, do nothing.  Only respond if you *don't* want to stay on.  And then - don't do anything.  Don't move a muscle.  In my opinion, it's another dare.  Who can hold their powder?  Who can stay cool and just ride it out.  I'm reminded of a thriller movie I saw once (can't remember what it was) when the hero and the villain were in a standoff on opposite sides of a wall.  Neither knew for sure if the other was on the opposite side, though they both had their suspicions.  They waited in complete silence.  For hours.  Waiting each other out, not moving a muscle, not making a sound.  Finally, the villain determined that no one could wait that long and came around the corner.  The hero blew him away.  That's who you have to be - the one willing to wait it out longer than anyone else.  When you flinch, when you panic, when you just can't resist sending an email or having your boss/uncle/friend/[insert whoever you think has sway at HBS] lob a call in ... you're DOA.  
3. Most of all, the open-ended essay question measures confidence.  Ah, finally, we come to the part of the post you clicked on this to get to.  The HBS question that was introduced in 2013 and that has been more or less restored this year is, to me, the latest (and greatest) example of this trend.  It's another dare.  Can you follow their instructions?  Can you resist repeating your resume?  Can you resist telling them your entire life story?  In short, can you step up with confidence and state something that they don't already know, that is worth sharing?  It's not an easy thing to do, but it's absolutely essential.  I have seen dozens of failed HBS essays from the last three years and while the formats differ, the length is never the same, and the content is all over the map, they all have the same exact scent - a scent of desperation.  There's no confidence, control, or assertive elegance.  Contrast that with what I signed off on as it went out the door - different formats, length, and content on this end as well, but all defined by a strong (and often simple) thesis and a self-possession that came through on the page.  I firmly believe that even more than what those essays said, it was HOW they said it that generated such good results.  
Last personal note, aka "Why I love Harvard, but Harvard probably doesn't love me."  There is a prevailing and lingering theory out there that HBS is trying to drive admissions consultants out of the process.  I'd like to respond to that - as much to Harvard as to potential clients. It's self-serving to say this, of course, but in all my years in admissions, I never felt more valuable to my clients than I have for my HBS folks the last three years.  And not because I told them what to write or gave them some secret formula, but because I helped them find what made them special to begin with and then I gave them the permission and confidence to believe in that and to articulate it clearly and with assurance.  I stood behind them so they could stand strong and confident.  And when they did that, they thrived.  Now, HBS may still wish I didn't exist, but I firmly believe that they have admitted over 30 amazing Harvard students the past three years at least in part because I was involved in their candidacy.  Everyone comes to a point in life when a coach helps them not just train or boost their skills, but to gain clarity.  I've hired trainers and life coaches and each time, they've helped me get out of my own way and put my best self forward.  HBS' application process helped me serve the same role for my clients last year.  So if Harvard really is trying to drive me out of the process, it kind of backfired.  I've never been more valuable or fulfilled in my work.  
If you are looking for help with the HBS app - or any other - email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.  
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5 Tips for Applying to MIT Sloan in 2016 [#permalink]

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New post 07 Jul 2016, 17:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: 5 Tips for Applying to MIT Sloan in 2016
We have updated our best tips for applying to MIT Sloan based on a number of changes the program has made.
MIT Sloan is one of "those" schools - the ones that seem to slip into the nooks and crannies of the admissions process. People don't talk about Sloan as much as its elite counterparts. Nobody immediately thinks about it in terms of being a top 5 program until you start digging and realize, whoa, this program is insanely good. In the past, we have chalked this up to its unique end-of-October deadline and equally unique two-round admissions process. We even went as far as to say that we would bet on the application quality at Sloan is far lower than on other top business school programs. Candidates would not even even start on their Sloan apps until after the October 3-16 gauntlet of deadlines and then they race to finish because they fear waiting until the "last" round.  Simply put, a lot of applicants have viewed Sloan as an after thought, and we've done our share of walking clients back from making mistakes associated with that mindset.  Well, all of that has changed.
In 2013, MIT Sloan moved their round 1 application into the month of September (23rd) and joining the parade of top MBA programs who have sought to leapfrog competitor programs by inching days or weeks ahead. In 2015, MIT Sloan moved their deadline up to September 17 and added a third round that hit in April 2016.  Clearly, the powers that be at MIT must have read our original 5 tips blog post. Riiight. The reality is that no one likes to play second fiddle, and the school like MIT Sloan made the move to be taken more seriously by applicants. In our opinion, a change that was a long time coming.
Here at Amerasia, we take pride in offering our clients advice that is based on our experience and that stands the test of time. Although we have updated the MIT Sloan 5 Tips post we first made back in 2013 (to account for the addition of a third round and a September deadline), we still stress the fundamentals of good application writing. Sloan's cover letter and optional essay are not an afterthought.  Even if you write HBS and Stanford GSB first and then Sloan second, you have to suck it up, maintain your focus and keep your eye on improving the quality of your messaging; moving with both intent and speed. In fact, let's start with this idea of "speed": 
1. "Be quick, but don't hurry." The late, great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden had many fantastic, quotable expressions ("never mistake activity for achievement" is our favorite), but this is one of the best for business school applications. Getting something done in a timely fashion for round 1 is important, but not if you are hurrying through the process. We have always believed that Sloan's round 2 was just that - round 2 - and not a de facto round 3. With round 2 still being he most popular round of admissions at pretty much every MBA program, you can forgo round 1 if it is going to be a fire drill to get your application done. Please, don't rush it. Just wait. And in case this isn't clear at this point, if you are just trying to throw one more round 1 dart, don't. Again, just wait for round 2. It's okay to be quick and efficient and certain in your efforts, but don't hurry. Our rule of thumb is don't try to apply to Sloan Round 1 if you don't have your Cover Letter done by October 15. This is especially important because…
2. Know that MIT Sloan is an execution-dependent application. To borrow from another industry, there are two dreaded words in Hollywood when a producer or executive hears your movie or television pitch: "execution dependent." It means that the concept alone isn't enough to start making plans around; you are going to have to write the script. And it's going to need to be good! Well, in the b-school environment, these words don't carry the same negative connotation. In fact, it's often a good thing, because it rewards excellence. But what do we mean by this phrase? When you are an expert trying to break down various applications, there are pretty much two ways of viewing an essay set. One is strategy-dependent, where just knowing how to attack the questions - where to put X and where to put Y - is half the battle. To us, Wharton is this way. We have a very specific strategy for how to get all of the "right" content into the tricky Wharton questions, which takes the pressure of the actual execution. With Sloan, there's nothing magical about the questions. It's all about how you execute the answers. So take the time to do it right! Surely you can just copy and paste from other apps though, right? Not so fast…
3. Understand that MIT wants a different kind of answer. By the time you get to Sloan, you might have 3-to-4 sets of essays in the bag. Lots of cut and paste opportunities, right? Nope. MIT Sloan is a different animal than these other programs. They want to know how you think, act and reflect, they want to know how you have been both principled and innovative. They want to know what you internalized and feel about things. It's not just Situation, Complication, Action, Results as so many stories are. That "tell us anything you want" essay from HBS or "what matters most" essay from Stanford GSB probably isn't going to be nearly as on-point or succinct enough. It might get there, but once you go from 750 words ("what matters most") to a different kind of 250-word "cover letter" that's no cut and paste. The leadership story you used for Tuck might be really deep and focused on thoughtful examination, but Sloan admissions knows that, and they are forcing this format upon you to make sure that it if so choose to cut and paste, it's going to read like a pure cut-and-paste (which it is). We really believe that Rod Garcia and his committee are looking to eliminate those who cut and paste right out of the gate (thank you for your $250 MBA application fee BTW and have a nice day).  Remember the "recommend yourself" essay question from 2014? Our belief is that that was an attempt to see if you "cut and pasted" on your own recommendation - that is, if you wrote it yourself and handed it to your boss. If you want more evidence we could go on and on, but you get the idea. MIT requires that you step back and really put some thought into this. There's going to be some trial and error. You are going to want to have someone really smart on the other end of an email connection or phone line so you can bounce ideas off them and search for the right stories. We don't often put a lot of stock in school branding slogans, but MIT Sloan has always had a great way of summing up their action learning approach: "Thoughts, Feelings, Words, and Actions." Notice that actions come last, meaning that equal or greater value is given to the ability to think, feel, and articulate. Most applications are loaded with brute force actions that drive the narrative forward. Not MIT Sloan. Repeat: not MIT Sloan! 
4. Embrace the Cover Letter. For many, when they think of Sloan, they think immediately of the infamous cover letter essay assignment. Like the other infamous MIT admissions tradition - the behavioral interview - the cover letter is a great way for Sloan to figure out who has dexterity of skill and intelligence, rather than just rote portrayal of those traits. Rod Garcia, the man to whom the cover letter must be addressed, has often stated that MIT Sloan is looking for that which has predictive value. End of story. If they can't learn something predictive, it's not worth anything. It's part of the reason they don't have a goals essay - they find little predictive value in you merely telling them what you plan to do. They want to know WHAT YOU HAVE DONE. They want to know WHO YOU ARE. So tell them! The cover letter is not a hard essay - it's a gift from the MBA gods. You get to sit down and say "here is who I am and what I want." Don't try to turn this into your goals essay. Don't turn it into a love letter to MIT. Can you briefly allude to your goals? Sure. Can you mention why you want to go to Sloan? Of course (and you should!). But this letter should sum you up and tell the admissions committee what you bring to the table (i.e. past experiences that show you are in sync with Sloan's learning culture). It should tell them what you want (a spot in the class) and it should tell them who you are (let's say principled and innovative) and what you have done (focusing on making an impact). Our rule of thumb is this: if they would not be able to admit you solely off the cover letter, you don't have a good MIT Sloan cover letter. Oh, and all of this must be done in 250 words. Not hard if you understand the program, impossible if you don't. 
5. Remember the not-so-distant past, when Sloan actually had more traditional essays? Yes, we know that this year's cover letter essay is a bit of a recycle from year's past. But what we are advocating is looking to the past to gain insight on what this year's cover letter and optional essay could be looking to get from you. You can learn a TON from prior year's essays, one of which read: Please describe a time when you had to make a decision without having all the information you needed. Translated: show us you can navigate ambiguity. We felt that was one of the most beautiful essay questions that any school has introduced in quite some time (and we also felt the "recommend yourself" essay that Sloan put out in 2014 to be about the worst essay ever.) Why? Because the entire process of applying to b-school is an exercise in navigating ambiguity. There are not easy answers to everything. You can't go on a forum and gain certainty through consensus of opinion. You can't float your career goals at a dinner party and group think it. You can't know for sure that you are always making the right decision. The people who succeed in this process (and I'm referring to people who work with us, so in fairness, they have already added an expert to the equation) are the ones who can plant their feet, stand tall, and make a decision. They can ultimately say "yes, this is the right story for this essay" or "thank you for presenting me with X, Y, Z, now I am going with my gut here." They are the ones who roll with the punches in an interview, understanding that it won't be perfect, but it can still be good. They set their recommenders up for success by sitting down for coffee, sharing information, and then trusting that person to do the job (rather than getting involved and turning the rec letter into a essay with someone else's name on it). In years of doing this, what we have noticed more than anything is that some people have the courage of their convictions and some people are just leaves blowing in the wind. You can guess which group does well. Embrace the spirit of this essay prompt from year's past, and this application (which is still loaded with ambiguity), and this whole process with the courage of your convictions. Show that you can navigate ambiguity. Share with Sloan - and with everyone, for that matter - that you can survey the landscape, do your best to acquire info, and then charge forward with passion, confidence, and determination. It will be your gift to the school, to your admissions consultant, and to yourself.
For an overview of our MBA Admissions Consulting services, please visit http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/client-services/.
If you are interested in the MBA Admissions Consulting services offered by Amerasia, please email mba@amerasiaconsulting.com or visit http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/contact to inquire about setting up a free consultation.
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Ranking the Best MBA Programs - Making Our 2015 Data Public [#permalink]

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New post 07 Jul 2016, 20:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: Ranking the Best MBA Programs - Making Our 2015 Data Public
We've had a number of requests for this, so we're making public the data we used to come up with our 2015 ranking of the "Best MBA Program for".  
Basically, this blog post is a data dump of data from 2014 that the career centers from each of the MBA programs we covered.  We post links to where you can find those reports at the bottom.
What this blog post is not: a careful analysis of this employment data. In  fact, we had to aggregate some data from particular business schools in order to make consistent comparisons across industries. So draw what conclusions you can from what we present. 
Rest assured, we are keeping our most up to date career data analysis and employment numbers for our current clients. 
MBA Employment Reports
Haas http://haas.berkeley.edu/groups/careerc ... ummary.pdf
UCLA Anderson http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/Documents/ ... 5%20LR.pdf
Stanford GSB https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/sites/defa ... 013-14.pdf
MIT Sloan http://mitsloan.mit.edu/pdf/Class_of_20 ... report.pdf
HBS http://www.hbs.edu/recruiting/mba/data- ... stics.html
Wharton http://www.wharton.upenn.edu/mba/your-c ... istics.cfm
Kellogg http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/car ... stics.aspx
Chicago Booth http://www.chicagobooth.edu/employmentreport/
Columbia https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/recruiter ... mentreport
NYU Stern http://www.stern.nyu.edu/programs-admis ... statistics
Tuck http://www.tuck.dartmouth.edu/careers/e ... statistics
Yale SOM http://som.yale.edu/yale-som-connect/re ... statistics
Michigan Ross http://michiganross.umich.edu/our-community/recruiters
Duke Fuqua http://www.fuqua.duke.edu/mba_recruitin ... tatistics/
Cornell Johnson http://www.johnson.cornell.edu/Career-M ... -Year-MBAs
UVA Darden http://www.darden.virginia.edu/recruite ... t-reports/
Carnegie Mellon https://tepper.cmu.edu/recruiters-and-c ... s/analysis
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Ranking the Best MBA Programs for Real Estate [#permalink]

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New post 08 Jul 2016, 04:01
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: Ranking the Best MBA Programs for Real Estate
A RANKING OF BUSINESS SCHOOL PROGRAMS BY PERCENTAGE OF GRADUATES ENTERING THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY IN 2015.Today's blog post is a follow up to our Best MBA Programs for Finance ranking, Best MBA Programs in Entertainment and Media rankingBest MBA Programs for Pharmaceutical/ Biotech/ Healthcare ranking, and Best MBA Programs for Technology rankings
It's also our continued attempt at ranking top MBA programs by industry and based on publicly available data. You can find all of our aggregated MBA employment data here for your own data manipulation.
Michigan Ross (really?) comes out on top when it comes to sending graduates (as a percentage of all graduates in 2015) back into the real estate industry with a job. Stanford GSB is close second, with Yale SOM in third and UCLA Anderson in fourth. According to the employment data Ross reported, Michigan is the place to be if you're into real estate and want to work for a related firm in the industry.  
CHART: BEST MBA PROGRAMS FOR REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY JOBS  (2015)Permalink
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Ranking the Best MBA Programs for Energy Industry Jobs [#permalink]

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New post 08 Jul 2016, 05:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: Ranking the Best MBA Programs for Energy Industry Jobs
A RANKING OF TOP US BUSINESS SCHOOL PROGRAMS BY PERCENTAGE OF GRADUATES ENTERING THE ENERGY INDUSTRY IN 2015.Today's blog post is a follow up to our Best MBA Programs for Finance rankingBest MBA Programs in Entertainment and Media rankingBest MBA Programs for Pharmaceutical/ Biotech/ Healthcare ranking, and Best MBA Programs for Technology rankings
It's also our continued attempt at ranking top MBA programs by industry and based on publicly available data. You can find all of our aggregated MBA employment data here for your own data manipulation.
The Yale School of Management comes out on top when it comes to sending graduates (as a percentage of all graduates) back into the energy industry with a job. Michigan Ross is second, with Haas in third and UCLA Anderson in fourth. According to the employment data Yale reported, the SOM is the place to be if you're into energy and want to work for a related firm in the industry.  
CHART: BEST MBA PROGRAMS FOR ENERGY INDUSTRY JOBS  (2015)Permalink
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Getting an MBA While the World Falls Apart [#permalink]

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New post 10 Jul 2016, 13:01
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: Getting an MBA While the World Falls Apart
There are times when things feel so crazy, out of control, and even hopeless that our own individual pursuits start to feel trivial, selfish, and even misguided.  I can remember vivid moments over the past 10 years where I had a distinct feeling of living the wrong life, given what was going on around me.  When the financial collapse took hold in 2009, I thought to myself "why did I leave corporate law - where I could be part of the solution - to instead help people apply to business school right in the teeth of a recession?"  Just this past winter I watched "Making a Murderer" on Netflix and kicked myself for not remaining a lawyer ... but this time not a corporate lawyer, but instead a constitutional attorney like the individuals portrayed early in that documentary series.  And now, as police/citizen animus and race problems in America reach a peak, as the EU teeters, as [seriously, enter any of a dozen paralyzing issues] I sometimes am not even sure what I should be doing.  But I do know it doesn't feel like enough; it feels to insular and self-absorbed and small.  But then it occurred to me: I bet a lot of people feel that way, including my past and present clients pursuing an MBA.  So let's talk about that.  
How do you lock in your focus and devote everything you have to a task like "getting an MBA" when the macro problems in the world feel so seismic and crushing?  I think it's worth analyzing this from both the perspective of applying to and then attending business school, because they are different aspects of the same end goal.  
Attending Business School Amidst Chaos
I'm starting here because attending business school is likely to be the phase of the process where these macro issues are going to flood your world.  Class discussions are going to center around issues like Brexit and Trump, hallways chatter will grapple with Black Lives Matter and the militarization of local police departments, and affinity groups will no doubt wrestle with social media nearly as much (if not as much) as real life.  Your MBA life will be surrounded and engulfed with real life, because the days of going off to a leafy campus to disconnect from Planet Earth for two years ... well, those days are over.  
What do you do with this reality?  My advice, honestly, is to take a step back from it.  It's great to be around other young, smart, driven, passionate people and to be on a college campus, where issues have a way of becoming causes.  However, you also invested two years and probably 150K to get a professional degree that was part of a long-term plan of attack.  What was that plan when you started?  What does it look like now?  Be sure to constantly step back from the crowds and the emotions of your experiences to analyze your entire life, your interests, and your goals.  Make your moves - not just what job to take, but what classes to take, what clubs to join, how you spend your time, etc. - based on that big-picture plan and not what is spiking the blood pressure of people around you.  In a Twitter world, in a world where Donald Freaking Trump is the Republican nominee, in a world of protests, it is easy to pursue paths that "feel" right (whether because of your moral compass or the "street cred" points you pick up in the process), but aren't actually right for you. 
Others may disagree with me on this, but having gone to an elite graduate school and been swept up in such things myself (only to land in a hedge fund law group of which I never planned to participate in), I learned the hard way that grad school is not College, The Sequel - you are investing in your career.  Just don't lose sight of that. 
Applying to Business School Amidst Chaos
Okay, so if my advice for attending an MBA program is to stay focused and to keep a cool remove from the waves on campus, surely I have the same recommendation for the application process, right?  Nope. 
When applying, it's essential to "read the room."  We know what that phrase means in the context of an actual room or a meeting, but what I mean here is you have to know the mood of the application process into which you are applying.  There are years where cold, hard plans to make a lot of money and be a super innovative genius are going to be passable.  This is not one of those years.  We live in a time where social injustice is streaming onto our phones everyday, where news media is transforming overnight, where "global business" means twenty different things, where the world is literally melting down environmentally, and where tech and business platforms offer some of the very best solutions to those problems.  This means two things when you talk about your goals, passions, interests, and why you want an MBA:
1. You will probably come across as cold, heartless, and out of touch if you write about goals that are focused on you.  This is pretty much true always, no matter what is happening in the world around you, but at a time like this, you will seem especially myopic if you aren't engaging with society on at least some level when you share your story.  Is that fair?  Probably not, but I'm just telling you the truth.  The person reading your file follows the same people on Twitter you do and they are going to bed every night thinking "geez man, things are falling apart."  They are also reading lots of files of people wanting to use their talents to solve problems.  If you want to use your talents to make money or satisfy your own internal desires, you just won't measure up very well.  
2. You are missing the dozens (hundreds?) of ways that business can be used to solve social issues.  Profit-based business could be the solution to anything from the polar ice caps melting to kickstarting a new way of nominating presidential candidates to supplying water to third-world countries to advancing information technology in medicine.  I would wager that every person applying to b-school (at least every person that deserves to go) could dig deep and find A) an issue they care about, and B) a skill or experience they have that could potentially help address that issue in a business context.  Maybe that's not the case and if so, don't lie.  But my challenge to you, reader, is try to find that.  Make that your first challenge to yourself and then retreat back if you have to.  But start there. 
No matter what you do as it pertains to an MBA, don't just give up.  Action is what leads to changes, so keep charging ahead.  
If you are applying to MBA programs and are looking for a coach to stand beside you and help you get the best results possible, email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com
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Rejected? Dinged? 5 Tips for Reapplying to Business School [#permalink]

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New post 13 Jul 2016, 12:01
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: Rejected? Dinged? 5 Tips for Reapplying to Business School
This time of year, we get a huge number of inquiries from students gearing up for the reapplication process.  This makes sense, as this subset of students is often driven to succeed, still hurting from the sting of getting rejection letters, and aware that going at it alone all over again might not make much sense.  And truth be told, hiring a vetted admissions consultant is rarely a better investment than when you are reapplying to business school.  However, there are a few techniques and things we have discovered that can help all reapplicants, not just those who become our clients:
1.  Start doing your "ding" diligence now. The biggest mistake we see people make on the second go-round is they avoid all the schools from which they were dinged/rejected.  This across-the-board approach is way too broad, and is a poor strategy as it usually comes on the heels of an applicant not vetting reasons why they were dinged in the first place.  
Does the admissions committee provide feedback to rejected applicants?  Have you checked the website to determine this? Have you reached out to any alumni in your network?  Did you meet any students on your class visit?  I hope you kept in touch with them periodically.  What about reaching out to them?  What about and the person that interviewed you?  If you established a good rapport with your interviewer, send them a quick email to let them know about your status, asking (nicely) if they would be okay if they provided you some feedback  on your candidacy. 
Once you develop a sense for why you were rejected,  then you can determine whether or not it is realistic to apply to a particular program again. So what new ideas can you fold in to the mix?  
Keep this in mind, if you have sufficiently improved your application, admissions committees will value of your tenacity and demonstrated interest. Consider that bonus points.
2. Nearly every school can be "reapplicant friendly", so don't read too much into any abbreviated application format.  Columbia and UCLA Anderson feature reapplicant essays only, where you provide "new" information, but not a fresh application.  So surely they must be down on reapplicants, right?  Nope.  We've seen Columbia respond very favorably to reapplicants - especially those who apply very early for Early Decision (we're talking July here).  So don't read into the fact that Kellogg lets you submit a whole new application and a reapplicant essay, while UCLA doesn't.  They require different approaches for sure, but one program is not more likely to admit you than the other on those grounds alone.
3. There are many forms of "updates."  So many reapplicants get hung up on not having enough to "update" the school on - especially when they were dinged in Round 2 of one year and then apply Round 1 of the next year.  Don't sweat this.  In addition to new test scores, work promotions, new experiences (life and work), and even classes taken on the side, you also can have an updated perspective.  Better formed career goals, a better insight into the specific school, better stated themes ... it's all updated and improved.  And if they can tell you spent more time, did more research, and maybe got some assistance in improving those areas?  They will be happy, because you understand your own candidacy better and are more prepared for b-school.
4. Don't fear the overhaul.  Don't throw good money after bad. Another weird myth that seems to persist among reapplicants is that you can't dramatically change your narrative in the new application.  The idea goes something like this: they will see my application from last year and know that I changed everything.  For starters, no, they probably won't.  Admissions officers have thousands of files to read - rarely are they going to double down for one person.  But even if they did ... so what?  People can't grow?  Evolve?  Better themselves?  Improvement is not a bad thing, whether in understanding of self, writing style, or even the packaging of your story.  You do every single person a favor when you get better.  Never, ever run from improvement because you think it will somehow reflect poorly.  It's pretty much impossible. 
5. Don't panic.  The most common type of reapplicant we work with is someone who got oh-so-close and barely missed.  (Full disclosure: this is partly because of our philosophy of only working with candidates we believe we can help reach their goals, so it is self-selecting.)  The hardest thing about working with this type of student is keeping them calm.  They all want to retake the GMAT, no matter their score.  They want to take four new extension classes and join five new organizations and generally transform themselves.  Going back to #3 on this list, the best updates are usually in perspective and presentation.  In all likelihood, if you got close (getting waitlisted, interviews without an admit, etc.), it means you don't need to transform, you just need to tweak.  In almost every case, essay structure needs to be fixed (business school applicants are the worst at structure, no offense), career goals need to be better articulated (our best guess is that 95 of every 100 MBA candidates do not correctly lay out career goals and articulate the appropriateness of the degree in question) and school fit better demonstrated (more like 99 out of 100 candidates miss critical DNA elements of the schools to which they are applying, instead hitting only the shallow, basic, and easily-researched aspects).  THAT is usually the way to a new result ... NOT trying to become a new person.
We hope that everyone who reapplies this year reads this post and is helped by these rules of thumb.
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What the Stanford GSB Wants - a True Moral Compass [#permalink]

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New post 18 Jul 2016, 17:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: What the Stanford GSB Wants - a True Moral Compass
If you read the latest editions of our “How to Apply to Harvard Business School” and "How to Apply to Stanford GSB" guides, you already know that cultivating a real reason for applying to an elite MBA goes week beyond the school's name, rank, and prestige.  But more than any other MBA program in the world (yes, even HBS), Stanford GSB looks beyond having a great GMAT score, a summa cum laude GPA and a blue chip name as your employer.  While these are respectable measures of a person’s perceived worth, they are not good enough reasons to apply to the GSB. Why is this?  Simply put, you could someone with a mis-calibrated moral compass or worse, what your colleagues might call an "asshole" (more on the asshole test here and the true cost of being an asshole here).  That's right - more than any other school in the world, Stanford has a visceral aversion to those who define themselves by their accomplishments, as opposed to the innate values and beliefs that drive those accolades. Apparently, Stanford has their pick of the litterand they can afford to stand absolutely resolute in their aversion to those whose moral compass points true south.
Take a look at GSB’s first essay question “What matters most (to you and why)?” 

“Stanford admissions has often said that no one can tell your story is genuinely as you can.”

Not only is this prompt require you to be introspective, but it also requires you to hit on 750 or so words that overwhelmingly attest to non-professional content.  And that is just where the fun begins.  For those of you who define yourself (in this essay) by laying out a series of professional and personal professional accomplishments, you will most likely run out of meaningful things to say. When I read misguided Stanford essays, I see it all the time. The essay either becomes some type of "super resume" (AKA "shit the adcom already knows or can assume") or a meandering narrative filled with clichés and pipe dreams. Stanford admissions has often said that no one can tell your story is genuinely as you can. I suppose writing it is another matter altogether.
What Stanford wants to see is a person who genuinely discusses (maturity and thus authenticity is key here) why they did something, and what they learned from it.  

“Stanford really focuses on applicants who are actually successful because they are guided by an unwavering moral compass”

As opposed to simply how accomplished some feat or what they did to earn some type of employee of the month/year/century award.  It is not as simple as Stanford wanting "nice" people.  You certainly have to be successful, as successful as anybody applying to Harvard, for example.  It is just that Stanford really focuses on applicants who are actually successful because they are guided by an unwavering moral compass.  They want people who are successful professionally as a subset of being successful as a person. Ultimately, I believe that this is the key differentiator between what Stanford GSB wants and what HBS seeks.
Do not get me wrong, HBS definitely vets the character of the people that they are admitting.But I would say that HBS believes the ultimate proof (of what you bring to their table and future tables) is in the pudding - what have you led, what have you accomplished, and it better be good, better than the rest. Whereas Stanford GSB focuses first on the moral fabric of a person. They believe it should never tear, and the truest test of that moral fiber is by overcoming obstacles that threaten to tear apart a person's values and beliefs.
Now not everybody with excellent moral character will be eligible for a seat at Stanford GSB.

“how can anybody really be successful in life, if their values are suspect? You cannot fake your values over the long-term, and that is who we are looking for.”

I do not want to oversimplify this. But I believe that GSB would argue "how can anybody really be successful in life, if their values are suspect?  You cannot fake your values over the long-term, and that is who we are looking for." And why are they looking for this person?  Because you may have the brains and intellectual horsepower to achieve the type of goal that ultimately changes the world in a positive way. But do you actually want to do that?  Or are you just writing some bullshit in your essays, trying to convince the reader you are the second coming of Mother Teresa? 
I believe that any applicant who thinks that they can pull this off (trickery) as rather unsophisticated.  I say this because I have seen a lot of Stanford essays.  People who think they are too smart (for their own good) still try.  I've been doing admissions consulting work since 2007 and I still see it all the time.  It is really hard to fake your way through 750 words that require you to connect what you have achieved, to what you have learned, to a sense of purpose - among all the other things that GSB wants to see from you in writing. 
So what are some things you should think about when deciding to apply to Stanford?

“Have you even been challenged in your life? I mean really challenged. ”

  • Do you believe that your current professional path is the result of who you are as a person?  Who you are as a person (and thus what “matters most” in the end) is not necessarily a product of your professional experiences.
  • What about your future goals?  Are they big, hairy and audacious goals? Can you state that you want to create change that has a significant impact in the world. Ya, holy shit is right.
  • Okay, I will give you that your ultimate goals may be "aspirational" enough on paper. I mean anyone can state that they want to jump over the moon and solve world hunger. Right? But are your goals rooted in your truest values and beliefs?  Not only must they be rooted in your truest values and beliefs, but you have to explain how those values and beliefs were formulated. I mean, you can show a long history of these goals developing, right?  I hope so.
  • Do you have a long history of professional and personal involvement that clearly displays what you purport to be your beliefs, which are the product of your moral compass?  If you have not really been doing anything that demonstrates this, I recommend not applying.
  • If you think you are going to manufacture experiences by recently signing up for something or just showing up once a month for 10 years (for some community volunteerism), you are either a Johnny-Come-Lately or a Cathy-Cursory, and well, I recommend not applying.
  • Have you even been challenged in your life?  I mean really challenged.  I'm not talking about growing up poor or growing up with parents who did not love you enough. What I am talking about is this – have you ever had to make a freaking decision that cost you personally because you believed it was the right thing to do? I am sure many of you reading this have lost sleep over a tough decision. (That is not good enough BTW.) But have you lost friends, even family because you stuck to your moral compass?  Have you had to give up your dream job to do the "right thing"? I am not talking about being self-righteous, I am talking about having the right moral compass and sticking to that when shit hits the fan, and hits hard.
  • And of course, by sticking to your moral compass, did you ultimately achieve a greater result? Of course this could be greater self-awareness, but it also has to be something tangible. Yes, Stanford GSB has to see real results - something significant enough that most people would define it as an accomplishment.
I've helped a lot of clients get into Stanford and what I have learned is in part represented above.  I will get off my soapbox now, but this is what I believe that Stanford wants to see in its applicants because I have seen what works. They are not handing out Stanford MBA degrees like its bat day at Shea Stadium. They need to know you are going to use it in a meaningful way. So take this seriously - "Change people. Change organizations. Change the World." (That's Stanford motto BTW and if you don't know that ... well.) You should have already done the first two before applying.  The Stanford MBA will help you achieve the third, but only if you're not an asshole. Ha.
By Paul Lanzillotti, Amerasia Consulting GroupIf you would like to discuss whether or not Stanford GSB is the right school for you - please email mba@amerasiaconsulting.com or visit http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/contact to inquire about setting up a free consultation.
For an overview of our MBA Admissions Consulting services, please visit http://www.amerasiaconsulting.com/client-services.
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How to Answer the "What Other MBA Programs Are You Applying To?" Quest [#permalink]

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New post 19 Jul 2016, 21:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: How to Answer the "What Other MBA Programs Are You Applying To?" Question
Pay particular attention to the question that some b-schools ask during the interview and/or on your application:
  • What Other MBA Programs Are You Applying To?
Why would they ask this question? The reason is this:
  • B-schools are keen to know who they are competing against.  They want to see how serious you are about eventually matriculating at their school.  They want to know how applicants view the correlation between programs but also if you are using the school as a backup or safe school.
  • Note that this question is pretty much asked by MBA programs who have been burned by their "yield" in year's past.  That is, the admissions committee extends a lot of invites and only gets a handful of positive replies. 
Let's use UCLA Anderson as an illustrative example.
  • On the UCLA Anderson application, if you list that you are applying to Stanford and Haas, in addition to Anderson, the admissions committee will pretty much know you are using them as a backup.  Thus, you'll be under the gun (even more so) to prove to the Anderson adcom that you're serious about the school. 
  • If you do not make compelling reasons for "Why Anderson?", then the negative effect of your "other schools" is magnified.  That is, it becomes even more apparent that you are using UCLA Anderson as a backup.
  • A good way to test the efficacy of your case for "Why Anderson"  (on your essays) is this - if you can unplug the "UCLA Anderson" name from the essays and plug back in any other business school, the adcom knows you're not really interested, and will see right through it.
So what should you do if you answered "Stanford GSB" and " Berkeley Haas" on your application?
  • Nothing.  Just hang tight and see if you get the interview.  Answering "Stanford GSB" and "Berkeley Haas" isn't a deal breaker in the near term, but it could be in the end if you don't play your hand right.
So you got the interview, now what? 
  • During your admissions interview, if you can't get beyond a laundry list of clubs and courses that you "plan" to join at UCLA Anderson, then you playing your requiem.  Yes, every school you are applying to has a finance club, but during the interview that is not your concern.  Being able to articulate how exactly you will contribute to club X or class Y at Anderson is your challenge on interview day.  You have to be over the top on this one, especially if you listed Stanford GSB or Berkeley Haas on your application as your "other schools."
  • So a bad answer is a laundry list.  A good answer is: "Given my fundraising background with the United Way as well as my lifelong participation in club sports, I plan on joining Anderson's Challenge 4 Charity. I hope to gain a position on C4C's board as we work with Special Olympics and each Section to raise our volunteer hours and funds. I know we can retake the Golden Briefcase from USC Marshall during the C4C Olympics at Stanford."   with "pull through" issues or low acceptance rates of extended offers know that they are going to get dinged in the rankings.  They are keen to see that you are serious.
Keep in mind that the advice above is addition to:
  • Your ability to articulate clear reasons why you need an MBA, your short and longer term goals and why you need to get that MBA now as opposed to a year from now.
Finally:
  • If you do not have clear reasons for wanting to go to a particular school, the adcom will see through it.  They review thousands of applications, they have a pretty good BS detector.  On paper you might be qualified, but in reality you might be overqualified.  That is, you look like an applicant who considers themselves too good for the school in question.
If you are interested in mock interview services or any of our consulting services, please email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com. This is how we think about the process - from every angle. It's not enough to know yourself and the story you want to tell, you have to understand the challenges, obligations, and desires of your audience as well. We're here to help with all that and we do it at a higher level than anyone out there. 
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How to (Actually) Differentiate Yourself on your MBA Applications [#permalink]

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New post 21 Jul 2016, 09:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: How to (Actually) Differentiate Yourself on your MBA Applications
Time to break out an annual PSA here.  I'm talking all alarms ringing, sirens, whatever it takes to get your attention.  By "you" I mean: anyone applying to business school.  You need to stop doing something immediately.  Here it is: STOP TRYING TO "DIFFERENTIATE" YOURSELF.  Or at least, stop doing it without a professional by your side.  Let's dive into the 4 Rules of Differentiation before someone gets hurt. 
Rule #1 - Do not "differentiate yourself" with a panicked career change. Throwing a Hail Mary at the last second is not a good idea.  Trying to scramble to a cooler or sexier or "more noble" company is not going to make you stand out as a candidate - it's going to make you look directionless or (worse) fake.  Now, some people change jobs (even right before applying) and that is fine, as long as there is a logical reason for it - ranging from "I hate my current job and may walk into traffic unless I leave it" to "this is a unique opportunity that I have to take."  However, don't change just to change under some faulty logic that they are going to see "Adam Hoff, SpaceX" rather than "Adam Hoff, J.P. Morgan" and start doing backflips.  If there is no logical reason to go work at SpaceX, then don't go work there.  They look at your whole resume - and mainly to see what skills you have, not what brands you racked up - so it's not like changing the "current employer" line is going to change the formula for who you are. This is all risk, no reward.  Would you do anything else in your life that is "all risk, no reward"?  I am guessing not. 
Rule #2 - Listing a hard job to get as your short-term goal is not "differentiating."  If you only read one rule, read this one.  Please!  Read it again. Done?  Read it again.  Okay, you get the point.  I have heard many, many times the past two years the idea from candidates that they want to pick post-MBA job X or Y because it will help "differentiate" them.  In basically every case, the job in question is somewhere between "insanely hard" and "impossible" to get after graduating from business school.  I'm talking hedge funds, VC, luxury retail, etc.  I've even heard the quote, "What I really want to do is work in management consulting so I can really see what works and what doesn't and build towards my dream of starting company Z - but I feel like everyone puts management consulting so I want to find something else."  Well, yeah, everyone puts it because management consulting firms hire lots of MBA grads.  And they do that because they need talent and energy to feed an "up or out" machine - and the reason that grads take those jobs is because they can indeed learn what works and what doesn't as they make some good money and build towards the next step.  It's a win for both parties ... so if that is what you want to do and it makes sense, why fight it?  Either way, the worst thing to do is list a job you pretty much can't get, all in some misguided attempt to stand out.  You will stand out all right -for your cratering effect on their employment stats.  Insta-ding. 
Rule #3 - The "quick and easy" place to differentiate is in the WHY of your long-term career goal.  I have probably written more about MBA career goals than any subject on earth, so I won't belabor the point now, except to say that you can use your long-term goal to share parts of yourself that are deeply held, introspective, and unique.  That's how you differentiate yourself.  Not "hey, look at how I left Goldman to go work at an oil company for no reason" and not "all these other guys may want to take the slam dunk of management consulting, but I want a c-suite job at Prada!" - no, it's "what I want to do for the rest of my life is X, and the reason is [something that is unique and specific and deeply personal to you.]  That is how you do it.  If you need a mental shifting device, try this: most admissions officers would much rather read a great novel or watch a great TV show than hear a business pitch or dial up a TED Talk.  Don't try to stand out ("differentiate") with your ambition, win them with your humanity.   
Rule #4 - The real, pure way to differentiate yourself is to do the app right.  Do you know how many people submit truly great apps?  No joke, my guess from what I've seen is about 1% of the applicant pool.  I'm talking about: 1) a strong baseline profile (3.3 and above, 700 and above, solid impact in the workplace), 2) a really good resume (a sales document that advertises that impact in different contexts), 3) essays that are easy to read, 4) essays that are structured correctly, 5) essays with thesis statements, 6) essays that are introspective (see Rule #3), and 7) essays that nail the DNA of the school in question.  If you check all seven boxes, you just differentiated yourself.  Rather than searching for some magic bullet, just do a really good job.  If you had to read dozens of files each day and only a few were really good, you'd be pumped when you read the handful that were.  I know it's boring and self-serving to lay this out for you, but that doesn't make the advice any less true, so there you have it. 
If you need help differentiating yourself in a way that does good rather than harm to your app, email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com or contact us online at www.amerasiaconsulting.com/contact.  You aren't going to hear buzz words or lame gimmicks, just a breakdown of the hard, steady work required for a great app.  Permalink
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Round 1 MBA Deadlines Are Earlier Than You Think [#permalink]

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New post 22 Jul 2016, 00:01
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: Round 1 MBA Deadlines Are Earlier Than You Think
Normally, once the fireworks go off on the 4th of July, that's our signal to start digging into the apps in earnest, as "October" Round 1 deadlines are a few months away.  However, in recent years, the deadlines keep getting earlier and earlier.  I know I had to really reset my own calendar given these changes, so I figured I'd do a public service and list them out here, calling special attention to the front-loaded nature of the deadlines. In order (U.S.) Sept 7 - Harvard 
Sept 13 - Duke Early Action 
Sept 14 - Yale SOM
Sept 15 - MIT
Sept 21 - Stanford GSB
Sept 21 - Kellogg
Sept 22 - Chicago Booth
Sept 27 - Wharton 
Sept 29 - Haas
Oct 3 - Ross
Oct 4 - Darden
Oct 5 - Columbia Early Decision 
Oct 5 - Tuck Early Action 
Oct 6 - UCLA Anderson
Oct 11 - Texas 
Oct 13 - Duke (Rd 1)
Oct 15 - NYU Stern

In order (International): Sept 9 - Oxford 
Sept 9 - Cambridge 
Sept 16 - INSEAD 
Oct 4 - IESE
Oct 21 - INSEAD (Sept intake)
Key Takeaways: Power Schools Are All Early For years, HBS has been driving their deadline earlier and earlier and others have followed suit.  For someone gunning for the top programs stateside, they are looking at a very early submission window.  HBS, MIT, GSB, Kellogg, Booth, and Wharton are all in September now.  Even Columbia is misleading because most ED candidates try to get the app in well before the deadline. 
Utilize Round 2To maintain your sanity, consider staggering things a bit.  It's my firm belief that Columbia (if you are going to do ED), GSB, and MIT are really the only schools that with enough benefit to Round 1 to really make that push.  Most schools are totally neutral between Round 1 and Round 2.  Some - HBS, the EU schools - can even give you a little edge if you wait, in my experience.  I wrote about the sneaky Round 2 advantage here.   
Consider Your Life I used to be a pretty big advocate for keeping all your apps in lockstep with each other - meaning applying all in the same round. My thinking was that you could shrink the process down a bit, you could group your deadlines and interviews and decisions, and basically just keep thinks straight more easily.  However, the only thing worse than this dragging on is killing yourself to hit all these brutally early deadlines.  It might actually make more sense to spread things out.  If you want to apply to GSB, MIT, HBS, and Booth, maybe you hit the first two in Round 1 and the second two in Round 2.  
Above and beyond all else, there is no rule that says you have to sprint for these early deadlines if it doesn't make sense for you.  Consider all the factors and make the best decision for you.  But whatever you do, take stock soon, because these Round 1 deadlines are coming up awfully fast.  
If you are interested in help for Round 1, email us ASAP at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.  If you can be talked into Round 2, still email us, but just know we will give you a nice discount to pump the breaks and step out of mad dash.
 

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MBA Candidate Differentiation: Do NOT Try This at Home [#permalink]

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New post 22 Jul 2016, 11:01
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: MBA Candidate Differentiation: Do NOT Try This at Home
Time to go full PSA here.  I'm talking all alarms ringing, sirens, whatever it takes to get your attention.  By "you" I mean: anyone applying to business school.  You need to stop doing something immediately.  Here it is: Stop trying to "differentiate" yourself.  Or at least, stop doing it without a professional by your side.  Let's dive into the 4 Rules of Differentiation before someone gets hurt. 
Rule #1 - Do not "differentiate yourself" with a panicked career change.  Throwing a Hail Mary at the last second is not a good idea.  Trying to scramble to a cooler or sexier or "more noble" company is not going to make you stand out as a candidate - it's going to make you look directionless or (worse) fake.  Now, some people change jobs (even right before applying) and that is fine, as long as there is a logical reason for it - ranging from "I hate my current job and may walk into traffic unless I leave it" to "this is a unique opportunity that I have to take."  However, don't change just to change under some faulty logic that they are going to see "Adam Hoff, SpaceX" rather than "Adam Hoff, J.P. Morgan" and start doing backflips.  If there is no logical reason to go work at SpaceX, then don't go work there.  They look at your whole resume - and mainly to see what skills you have, not what brands you racked up - so it's not like changing the "current employer" line is going to change the formula for who you are. This is all risk, no reward.  Would you do anything else in your life that is "all risk, no reward"?  I am guessing not. 
Rule #2 - Listing a hard job to get as your short-term goal is not "differentiating."  If you only read one rule, read this one.  Please!  Read it again. Done?  Read it again.  Okay, you get the point.  I have heard many, many times this year the idea from candidates that they want to pick post-MBA job X or Y because it will help "differentiate" them.  In basically every case, the job in question is somewhere between "insanely hard" and "impossible" to get after graduating from business school.  I'm talking hedge funds, VC, luxury retail, etc.  I've even heard the quote, "What I really want to do is work in management consulting so I can really see what works and what doesn't and build towards my dream of starting company Z - but I feel like everyone puts management consulting so I want to find something else."  Well, yeah, everyone puts it because management consulting firms hire lots of MBA grads.  And they do that because they need talent and energy to feed an "up or out" machine - and the reason that grads take those jobs is because they can indeed learn what works and what doesn't as they make some good money and build towards the next step.  It's a win for both parties ... so if that is what you want to do and it makes sense, why fight it?  Either way, the worst thing to do is list a job you pretty much can't get, all in some misguided attempt to stand out.  You will stand out alright -for your cratering effect on their employment stats.  Insta-ding. 
Rule #3 - The "quick and easy" place to differentiate is in the WHY of your long-term career goal.  I have probably written more about MBA career goals than any subject on earth, so I won't belabor the point now, except to say that you can use your long-term goal to share parts of yourself that are deeply held, introspective, and unique.  That's how you differentiate yourself.  Not "hey, look at how I left Goldman to go work at an oil company for no reason" and not "all these other guys may want to take the slam dunk of management consulting, but I want a c-suite job at Prada!" - no, it's "what I want to do for the rest of my life is X, and the reason is [something that is unique and specific to you.]  That is how you do it.  If you need a mental shifting device, try this: most admissions officers would much rather read a great novel or watch a great TV show than hear a business pitch or dial up a TED Talk.  Don't try to stand out ("differentiate") with your ambition, win them with your humanity.  
Rule #4 - The real, pure way to differentiate yourself is to do the app right.Do you know how many people submit truly great apps?  No joke, my guess from what I've seen is about 1% of the applicant pool.  I'm talking about: 1) a strong baseline profile (3.3 and above, 700 and above, solid impact in the workplace), 2) a really good resume (a sales document that advertises that impact in different contexts), 3) essays that are easy to read, 4) essays that are structured correctly, 5) essays with thesis statements, 6) essays that are introspective (see Rule #3), and 7) essays that nail the DNA of the school in question.  If you check all seven boxes, you just differentiated yourself.  Rather than searching for some magic bullet, just do a really good job.  If you had to read dozens of files each day and only a few were really good, you'd be pumped when you read the handful that were.  I know, it's boring, but there you have it. 
If you need help differentiating yourself in a way that does good rather than harm to your app, email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.  You aren't going to hear buzz words or lame gimmicks, just a breakdown of the hard, steady work required for a great app. 

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The MBA Round 2 Advantage [#permalink]

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New post 28 Jul 2016, 23:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: The MBA Round 2 Advantage
It's the time of year where I start having the "Round 2 conversation" a lot with individual clients, so I thought I'd once again take it out wide.  Basically, the idea is that Round 2 might be offering a slight advantage, based on theories of market inefficiencies and so forth.  For years, I would say the prevailing belief is that Round 1 is the best round in which to apply to business and while there is no hard-core evidence to suggest otherwise, some common sense and deduction may point to a different result.  So let's quickly run this down. Why You Hear So Much Hype About Round 1Let's start with understanding where the "Round 1" drumbeat comes from.  If it's not actually the superior round, why does it seem so (and in such a convincing way)?  Well, for starters, the schools are out there banging that drum.  I don't blame them for this at all, but candidates need to understand that when admissions officers are standing in front of a group of people in May or July or August and talking about applications, they pretty much have one "most important job" at that point - get those people to become applicants.  I've worked in an admissions office in my lifetime and I've been to the conferences (oh have I) and so I know this world - nobody who works in admissions is immune to the "top-down" pressures of the numbers game.  Every year a mandate slithers down from the Board of the university down to the deans down to the individual offices and it goes like this: "More of the good stuff, less of the bad."  For admissions that often means a higher yield rate (more people saying yes to you), lower acceptance (therefore more selective), higher average GMAT and GPA, and, yes, more applications.  Indeed, the applications are the key to a lot of the math, certainly for acceptance rate.  If apps go up and # of admitted stays constant, voila, your acceptance rate is lower, you are more selective, and everyone is happy.  So when you hear an admissions officer say "Round 1 is the best round to apply" ... and it's before Rond 1's deadline ... be sure to take it with a grain of salt.  Because I would bet my favorite shirt that if you went to that same info session in November, they will say that Round 2 is the best round to apply.  Because it's the next one where they can get your application.  Before these admissions officers can build a class and become curators and gatekeepers, they have to sell and they have to get apps in the door.  Just remember that and don't bite too hard on the "yes, yes, Round 1!" talk.  
Candidates also increase this sensation.This is because many of the most Type A, driven, neurotic, passionate, and otherwise on-the-ball people are all out in front, starting early, cranking away, etc.  And those are often the same people on message boards, talking at cocktail parties, and otherwise fanning the flames.  So this is often a feedback loop of everyone telling each other (and therefore themselves) that something is true. 
There are also a handful of places where it is indeed beneficial. I would include Columbia ED, Tuck Early Action, Stanford, and MIT, all for different reasons, which we can explain if you become a client (not to be withholding but because this blog post is already going to be way longer than I intended).  Because there are a few places where it can help a bit to apply in the earliest round, the partial, situational truth can sometimes explode into a universal truth. 
Why Round 2 Might Offer a Slight AdvantageFor years I have felt strongly that other than the handful of schools where early application windows do seem to matter, there is no real difference between Round 1 and Round 2.  I mostly still feel that way, but it's shifting every so slightly ... in favor of Round 2, believe it or not. 
1. Fewer elite candidates competing with you.  I can't prove this.  Repeat: I can't prove this.  But my own anecdotal evidence for many years running is that more "elite" applicants swarm Round 1.  So deduction might indicate that you can stand out a bit more in Round 2.  And note that at many schools, Round 2 features a higher raw number of apps, so you actually get this nice dynamic (for you, the elite candidate) where readers are sifting through more weak candidates to get to each great one.  This creates more of an emotional response to the good ones - an "oh, sweet, finally a great applicant" feel. 
2. Better access to the elite consultants.  I know for me personally, I am already pretty much full for Round 1, yet again.  Every year it seems I fill up earlier and earlier and so do all the top people.  There is still two months to go before many deadlines and in many cases, if you are reaching out now to the top people, it's way too late.  Whereas with Round 2 it is way harder to fill up.  Part of this is simple math - there is about an eight-month lead up to Round 1, whereas all of the Round 2 "buying and selling" in the admissions consulting world is jammed into about a month or two.  Plus, as indicated above, it is my belief that there are fewer hard-chargers in the Round 2 pool, so therefore less people looking to spend top dollar to really increase their chances.  All of this can really open up pathways for someone willing to wait a beat, let the crowds swarm past them, and then go have their pick.  (Also, you can usually get sweet deals if you call around now and sign up for Round 2.)
3. Display of confidence.  I have seen more HBS clients of mine get in during Round 2 the last few years, honestly, and I think it's in part because it shows a really assured attitude.  It's almost "I don't need to scramble around like a maniac for your increasingly, insanely early deadline.  I'll lay back.  I'm good."  And I truly believe that confidence gets rewarded.  Again, I can't prove it, so I'm not going to tell all of my HBS clients to NOT apply Round 1 ... but I truly think they might have a slightly better chance if they wait. 
4. Ability to tinker with the formula.  Each year, schools seem more interested in changing their essays around and being "creative."  We have them pretty well pegged and we know what they are up to for the most part, but you can still learn from what happens in Round 1 ... and then apply it to Round 2 work.  Why not give yourself a glance at how things are shaking out?  If I gave you a race car and told you to tackle the Brickyard at Indy or the Circuit de Monaco in Monte Carlo, would you rather just go for it or watch someone else do it first?  
All told, we're not talking about a radical shift here, but if you really add up all the pros and cons of Round 1 vs. Round 2 ... it might actually be Round 2 that comes out ahead.  

If you are looking for help with Round 2, be sure to email us at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.  Even if you are looking to stick with the tried and true of racing for Round 1, we can surely help ... but you had better move fast!

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Advice for MBA Reapplicants [#permalink]

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New post 01 Aug 2016, 11:02
FROM Amerasia MBA Blog: Advice for MBA Reapplicants
The following are five pieces of advice that can help anyone who is going through the MBA application process for a second time.  Finding the energy, passion, and confidence to embark upon any kind of repeat journey can be tough, so we hope this proves helpful and gives you a little wind at your back. Every year, we get a huge number of inquiries from students gearing up for the reapplication process.  This makes sense, as this subset of students is often driven to succeed, still hurting from the sting of getting rejection letters, and aware that going at it alone all over again might not make much sense.  And truth be told, hiring a vetted admissions consultant is rarely a better investment than when you are reapplying to business school.  However, there are a few techniques and things we have discovered that can help all reapplicants, not just those who become our clients:
1.  Start doing your "ding" diligence now. The biggest mistake we see people make on the second go-round is they avoid all the schools from which they were dinged/rejected.  This across-the-board approach is way too broad, and is a poor strategy as it usually comes on the heels of an applicant not vetting reasons why they were dinged in the first place.  
Does the admissions committee provide feedback to rejected applicants?  Have you checked the website to determine this? Have you reached out to any alumni in your network?  Did you meet any students on your class visit?  I hope you kept in touch with them periodically.  What about reaching out to them?  What about and the person that interviewed you?  If you established a good rapport with your interviewer, send them a quick email to let them know about your status, asking (nicely) if they would be okay if they provided you some feedback  on your candidacy. 
Once you develop a sense for why you were rejected,  then you can determine whether or not it is realistic to apply to a particular program again. So what new ideas can you fold in to the mix?  
Keep this in mind, if you have sufficiently improved your application, admissions committees will value of your tenacity and demonstrated interest. Consider that bonus points.
2. Nearly every school can be "reapplicant friendly", so don't read too much into any abbreviated application format.  Columbia and UCLA Anderson feature reapplicant essays only, where you provide "new" information, but not a fresh application.  So surely they must be down on reapplicants, right?  Nope.  We've seen Columbia respond very favorably to reapplicants - especially those who apply very early for Early Decision (we're talking July here).  So don't read into the fact that Kellogg lets you submit a whole new application and a reapplicant essay, while Columbia doesn't.  They require different approaches for sure, but one program is not more likely to admit you than the other on those grounds alone.
3. There are many forms of "updates."  So many reapplicants get hung up on not having enough to "update" the school on - especially when they were dinged in Round 2 of one year and then apply Round 1* of the next year.  Don't sweat this.  In addition to new test scores, work promotions, new experiences (life and work), and even classes taken on the side, you also can have an updated perspective.  Better formed career goals, a better insight into the specific school, better stated themes ... it's all updated and improved.  And if they can tell you spent more time, did more research, and maybe got some assistance in improving those areas?  They will be happy, because you understand your own candidacy better and are more prepared for b-school.
(*NOTE: The best practice for a reapplicant is to wait until Round 2 the next year so they can create the maximum amount of distance from the previous/unsuccessful submission and allow for updates to emerge.  But even if that doesn't happen, you can still move your own candidacy forward with the above ideas.)
4. Don't fear the overhaul.  Don't throw good money after bad. Another weird myth that seems to persist among reapplicants is that you can't dramatically change your narrative in the new application.  The idea goes something like this: they will see my application from last year and know that I changed everything.  For starters, no, they probably won't.  Admissions officers have thousands of files to read - rarely are they going to double down for one person.  But even if they did ... so what?  People can't grow?  Evolve?  Better themselves?  Improvement is not a bad thing, whether in understanding of self, writing style, or even the packaging of your story.  You do every single person a favor when you get better.  Never, ever run from improvement because you think it will somehow reflect poorly.  It's pretty much impossible. 
5. Don't panic.  The most common type of reapplicant we work with is someone who got oh-so-close and barely missed.  (Full disclosure: this is partly because of our philosophy of only working with candidates we believe we can help reach their goals, so it is self-selecting.)  The hardest thing about working with this type of student is keeping them calm.  They all want to retake the GMAT, no matter their score.  They want to take four new extension classes and join five new organizations and generally transform themselves.  Going back to #3 on this list, the best updates are usually in perspective and presentation.  In all likelihood, if you got close (getting waitlisted, interviews without an admit, etc.), it means you don't need to transform, you just need to tweak.  In almost every case, essay structure needs to be fixed (business school applicants are the worst at structure, no offense), career goals need to be better articulated (our best guess is that 95 of every 100 MBA candidates do not correctly lay out career goals and articulate the appropriateness of the degree in question) and school fit better demonstrated (more like 99 out of 100 candidates miss critical DNA elements of the schools to which they are applying, instead hitting only the shallow, basic, and easily-researched aspects).  THAT is usually the way to a new result ... NOT trying to become a new person.
We hope that everyone who reapplies this year reads this post and is helped by these rules of thumb.

If you are interested in a free initial consultation, please email mba@amerasiaconsulting.com.  Our boutique approach pairs you with a consultant capable of walking you through the above steps and perfecting your application.
Finally, make sure to download our free How to Apply guides.

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ForumBlogs - GMAT Club’s latest feature blends timely Blog entries with forum discussions. Now GMAT Club Forums incorporate all relevant information from Student, Admissions blogs, Twitter, and other sources in one place. You no longer have to check and follow dozens of blogs, just subscribe to the relevant topics and forums on GMAT club or follow the posters and you will get email notifications when something new is posted. Add your blog to the list! and be featured to over 300,000 unique monthly visitors

_________________


Paul Lanzillotti | Founder| About | mba@amerasiaconsulting.com | 877.866.9251

Schedule a Consultation | Twitter | Blog

Download "How To Apply" Guides | INSEAD | Columbia | Harvard | Wharton

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