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# How do I interpret this question from NYU?

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How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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12 Jun 2013, 22:34
What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?

Is this a) show us that you know what you're doing and have thought out your future question. In other words are they putting emphasis on "best fit for your MBA experience" and just want to know that you have goals and are likely to meet them?, b) Shower us with love, we want to know how much you love Stern! question, or c) Both?
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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12 Jun 2013, 23:35
I think the approach here should be double.
1. The various ACTIONS you took to find out more - I talked to X, read Y, researched Z, visited the school, etc. etc.
2. How the specific items you learned make Stern a perfect fit for you a) professionally (in terms of helping you reach your goals) and b) personally (in terms of fit)
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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13 Jun 2013, 06:46
So they do in essence want me to flatter them? Is that part of their motivation? Like, do they want to know that I went above and beyond and spent every waking moment researching Stern and every sleeping moment dreaming about Stern? Of course this is an exaggeration for effect, but is this part of their motivation?
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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13 Jun 2013, 07:58
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Ha - no, that isn't what Jon's getting at. Yes, flattery is nice but keep it subtle. What a school is looking for is not only a candidate who is a good fit for them, but also for whom they are a good fit. In other words, they want to understand how you plan to integrate yourself into the program to not only give back and learn, but go forward and be successful. If they feel you haven't fully thought it through or that you would be better suited at another program, it's in their best interest to pass on you and take a candidate that will be a strong addition to the class. So look at fit, career placement, professors, types of learning, clubs, organizations, etc. Put them altogether for an answer.

In other words, find a way to balance why they're great for you, and why you're great for them!

Bhavik
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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13 Jun 2013, 08:15
CriticalSquare, thanks.

a) Do I have to blatantly tell them "hey guys! This is what I researched!", or can I work my way in the essay and tie it into my career goals. As in "this is what my career goals include and I feel like this/these specialization(s) give(s) me the best opportunity to meet these goals". Way more subtle. However, it can be inferred that I researched specialization and analyzed the career possibilities that it provides.

b) Do they want you to show them that you want above and beyond in researching them? All things, being equal, would 2 identical candidates, be judged differently if one of them "just" researched the specializations and how they relate to his/her career and the other one actively met with every alum in the country and interviewed them for 2 hours? (That last bit was obviously exaggeration for effect).
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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13 Jun 2013, 09:40
Hey there,

1) There is a balance to be achieved. Definitely tie it in and be subtle. You're right, you don't want to be the applicant who raises their hand uber-enthusiastically saying "look at me and all the things I read!". To your point, if you can implicitly tie the strengths of the program to the passions and goals of yourself, that is a much stronger way to do it. However, at the end of the day, you will have to use SOME specificity. Implicit is a great tactic but isn't that reliable if they miss the message. So you'd have to reference certain things you found through your research that make sense to you. Ok, so you don't have to name drop professors but stating specific classes or concentrations or internships or programs or centers (etc.) can go a long way!

2) If everything else was absolutely equal, then maybe. It isn't a definitive yes because no two applicants can ever be equal but speaking to alumni, especially in areas you are interested, shows that you went the extra mile and that you didn't take the website at face value. Websites, after all, are their marketing tools and getting to know real alum allows you to speak to real outcomes while getting to know the types of students you'll be studying with. Speaking to alumni touches upon more than just looking for facts. It gives you subjectivity and a "real" perspective on the program. A handful per school is always a good bet. Either through your personal networks or reach out to the school / admissions committee and ask if they can put you in touch with someone in a field you're interested in (students, professors, administrators, advisors, etc.).

Thoughts?

Bhavik
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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13 Jun 2013, 10:40
Thanks Bhavik,

That 2nd answer is making me rethink something that I wanted to do. I wanted to go a little bit go outside the box and address that question directly (not in the conventional- hey look at how much research I made way, don't worry!). I would have tried to make it as logical and uncontroversial as possible. My hope was to show myself as a critical thinker. However, you brought up a couple of good points and now I will think about it. I think I can somehow do both (use what I wanted to write and let them know that I talked to alumni). Do you think calling the school and asking them about the different concentrations will be good? I mean, unless I call a whole bunch of alums, it's really one person's perspective (per concentration) on one person's experience. If I call the school, maybe they are giving me one person's perspective based on their perception of the AVERAGE experience of a lot of people (experience being school and career experiences).
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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13 Jun 2013, 17:23
Let me just start by saying you're putting a lot of thought into this essay and I think that's a great thing! So actually, calling the admissions department for something like information on concentrations won't really help you. Actually, they might get slightly annoyed because, well, it's all online. The reason speaking to alumni is so important is because they have a real understanding of it. They're still ambassadors for the program so there is some inherent bias in their guidance, but they tend to be more frank than whatever an admissions dept or website could tell you. They can tell you how useful a particular class was or how to be successful with the concentration or how they found the internship process or support for their passion, etc. Some of it is redundant, they may not tell you something terribly different - but it needs to be done because it looks good. Now and again though, they tell you something critical and it might just change how you see the school entirely. Those insights shine through a good essay.

Bhavik
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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13 Jun 2013, 18:45
Thanks Bhavik,

If something motivates me I ALWAYS put in a lot of thought (sometimes too much). I have a very obsessive and analytical personality. (And yes, this will be in the essay in conventional and unconventional ways). The essay may not be to the liking of the admissions people, but it'll not be because it was not well thought out.

Of course the admissions people might not have information that I'm looking for, but I don't know why they wouldn't. Going back to a guidance counselor in High School and office that dealt with this in Baruch (my alma mater) there were people there to help. Do they not have people to talk to about concentrations? Seems like it's unlikely, to use a business term, it's a competitive disadvantage if they don't.
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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13 Jun 2013, 22:20
Another question. How much can an essay mitigate a weakness like experience?
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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14 Jun 2013, 06:38
Hi there,

Hah - I love the spirit!

Ok - this is going to be a slightly longer answer so bear with me. If I lose you at any point, just let me know!

Let's first bifurcate between table stakes and differentiators. Table stakes consists of your basic research. Every applicant (when I say every I mean the applicants who actually have a shot at the program and who you'll be competing against) will have done this. So knowing the concentrations offered, some professors' names, class listings, etc. Being able to reference a little bit here is expected but won't necessarily show you to be incredibly different.

So no, don't go for X number per concentration. Besides, if you hit 9 names you're not going to be able to use them all in an essay anyway. It'll be seen as pure, classless name dropping. Not to mention, 9 names, first and last = 18 words (word limits, eh?). Therefore, it's more important for you to find a handful of folks that can speak to all of the experience. An alum or two that can speak to concentrations and careers, a professor or two that can speak to class style and opportunities outside the classroom, and a student or two to talk about culture and the dirty little secrets. You could knock all these off your list with 1 really good conversation but for the purposes of conveying your enthusiasm, it's best to speak to a few. Then you get a collection of sound bytes and you can pick which ones you want to use. Also, if anyone really loves you, they might drop the adcom a note (yes, this happens) and that goes in your file!

To your last question - a poor essay can keep out someone with exceptional experience. However, an exceptional essay cannot get someone in who has poor experience. I'm not saying yours is poor (I don't know what it is) but the point is your experience needs to stand on its own. A great essay and a well articulated vision can help a little bit but if you have 1 year of PMO experience, an essay won't be your golden ticket.

Ok - that's my response for now (phew).

What do you think?

Bhavik
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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14 Jun 2013, 07:22
Bhavik,

Thanks so much for the help! I absolutely love reading about perspectives I have never thought of. You bring up a lot of points I never even considered. I guess I can contact the admissions office and ask them if they know someone I can talk to (I only know one Stern alum/student, but I don't really talk to her anymore).

That last bit is discouraging to say the least. I don't have little quantity of experience. In July I will have 5 years under my belt. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, I also don't have great quality of experience. I work in a non-sexy media industry (not finance, engineering, consulting), I'm not a manager. I was really hoping to DEMONSTRATE in my essays my potential in the business world rather than try to impress them with a title or an industry. I'm hoping that I can get an admissions officer that might think in unconventional ways and won't be affected by the biases of conventional thinking (i.e. you don't have managerial experience and don't work in a sexy industry that means you are less likely to succeed in the business world). Consider the fact that they probably want their applicant to be unconventional him/herself. I don't think anyone has ever had more than a limited success in the business world by thinking like everyone else. Wouldn't you agree?

At the end of the day, I have only a couple of years of GMAT eligibility left. I can hope that I get promoted to manager or find a fancy finance job in that time. I can apply to a school that I'm not interested in. Or I can swing for the fences and give it a shot, without really risking anything. I guess if I get rejected, I will have to come up with a different essay next time and come up with a way I "improved myself as a candidate". But you know what? I'll worry about that if I get rejected at the time it'll decide to reapply. If I don't send them anything, I will probably waste my GMAT (not an ideal score but who knows if I ever do better?), I'll possibly have to change my essay regardless (though, I could probably write something similar, but I could probably write something similar even if I reapply, or maybe it would be a sign that it wasn't good enough to begin with). So in essence most of what I'm losing is the short thought process of telling them how I "improved myself since I last applied". So yeah, I probably shouldn't get discouraged and go for it...
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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14 Jun 2013, 08:43
Ok - I owe you an apology. I didn't communicate the point about experience very well. I didn't mean to discourage you so let me try to rephrase it.

My point in saying it wouldn't help wasn't that it wouldn't help you communicate your value, just rather at an aggregate level if your experience wasn't very good, no amount of essay PR would fix that. That is not to say, however, you can't use your essays to exude the uniqueness and impact of your work experience. OF COURSE you can do that. That's the whole point - even for people with the more conventional experiences such as consulting. There are thousands of consultants applying - if it weren't for the essays and resumes, they'd never know how to differentiate, right?

So, yes, definitely use your essays to communicate your difference. With that said, let me delve into what you wrote in a little more detail (and hopefully at the end of it I take away the discouragement I accidentally conveyed earlier!).

Firstly, not being in a traditional field can work to your advantage. It is off the beaten path and therein you have a competitive advantage. You get to write about experiences that stand out and that an investment banker or consultant couldn't touch. No matter how unsexy you think your industry is, you're not the best judge of it. Think of the applicant pool at an aggregate level and you'll soon realize different is good!

Secondly, leadership. Leadership does not mean being a manager. If that were the case, most consultants would have ZERO chance because most are analysts, consultants, or senior consultants. They may have led full fledged engagements with multiple member teams but most haven't. Leadership is a nebulous term that can apply to many different scenarios. Yes - think unconventionally and advocate that! That's thought leadership, after all, isn't it? If you can speak to leading an initiative, or spearheading a particular component of work, that isn't any worse or better leadership experience than being a manager of a department. It is not confined to titles and you are absolutely correct to look for ways to demonstrate this capability in unique ways. Do not rely simply on potential though. You will need to show instances where you demonstrated some of the particulars you're banking on but advocating potential is important.

Lastly - YES! Go for it. 5 years of experience will give you a good selection of things to pull from to write your essays. I don't know what exactly you did for work but everyone always has a few great experiences to speak to. It's a good number of years to have and you're in a good spot to apply. Not to mention, if you're able to communicate the key themes through the application (recommendations and resume included in addition to essays) that will take a good application to great. Don't think too much about reapplication. If it comes to that, so be it. Your focus should be on converting on this try though, and nothing else for the time being.

Please don't get discouraged - that was simply not my intention. The level of thought you're giving this and how you're going about it is testament enough to the fact you belong in the race. Now it just comes down to execution and finishing in the top of the pack.

Make sense?

Bhavik
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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14 Jun 2013, 09:04
Bhavik,

First of all, the only person that owes anyone anything is me owing you a debt of gratitude for taking your time to help me.

Second, leadership is a tough one. I have gone through a huge change in my life within less than a year (more like 6 months if anything). This is something I will definitely highlight in one of my essays. I used to be a completely insecure, neurotic nervous Nelly that engaged it self defeating behavior. Not someone who thought of himself as a leader or would want to undertake a leadership role. So, the period of time I COULD have realistically taken on a leadership role is like 6-9 months. Quite frankly anything before is irrelevant as I'm a different person. I will attempt to demonstrate leadership skills through demonstrating my ability to formulate a strategy. Of course, demonstrating people skills (that I believe I have, but what I believe is irrelevant) would be a lot harder.
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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14 Jun 2013, 10:40
I know that the 3rd (optional) essay can explain some weakness of mine and give circumstances behind it. Anyway I can write a 3rd essay telling them the circumstances behind my lack of leadership experience and try to convince them that the skills and abilities that I demonstrated in my other essays demonstrate those leadership abilities without having actual leadership abilities I can highlight. If you think that's a possibility, is there any way that I can make sure that they read this essay last? I'd also prefer to have an order for the other 2, but that's not nearly as important, but if I can have them read all 3 in an order I'd prefer that would be great.
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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14 Jun 2013, 11:18
You're too kind. I'm happy to help!

1) The good thing about the essays is you don't need to give a time frame. So if you want to write about a great leadership experience from the last 6 - 9 months, at no point will you have to say "but before that, well, let me tell you, it wasn't pretty!". That's not how it works and that works in your favor. So you have to demonstrate themes in various ways across your application. Honestly, you'd be surprised where you can find people skills and what proxies can be used.

As for order, there's no way to ensure the order they read the essays. Each essay should stand alone. It shouldn't carry over themes from the other essay or feed the next. They should, together, address all the themes you want to convey but should not overlap. Otherwise, you're wasting space. They could just get your application and shuffle it. 98% of the time, however, they start with the resume. You can count on that!

I hope that helps - let me know if any of that was confusing!

Bhavik
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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14 Jun 2013, 12:03
Bhavik,

Is there any way we can continue this via e-mail? I don't want my essay ideas to become public knowledge and then if I do have some good ideas, someone might use them and dilute them. That may seem paranoid but I already have 1 follower (that's a joke).
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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14 Jun 2013, 12:51
In the e-mail I'll give you all of the context and also my idea for an essay. I do have a feeling you'll send me back to the drawing board. I do have one essay done that's pretty conventional and good IMO. However, I really bypassed by experience and it was more about other things in my life, what I'm hoping to accomplish in my career etc.
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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14 Jun 2013, 16:05
Of course! I'll PM you now.
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Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU? [#permalink]

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17 Sep 2013, 07:52
I learned a lot from your suggestions to gain help, many people find very helpful for their needs. Thanks for sharing.
Re: How do I interpret this question from NYU?   [#permalink] 17 Sep 2013, 07:52
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