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The mbaMission Blog

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2019–2020 MBA Application Deadlines Roundup  [#permalink]

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New post 31 May 2019, 09:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: 2019–2020 MBA Application Deadlines Roundup
The 20192020 MBA admissions season has officially kicked off with the release of several top business schools’ application deadlines and required essays. Among the schools to release application details this week are Michigan (Ross), Vanderbilt (Owen), and Yale SOM.

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For a complete list of 2019–2020 business school deadlines, be sure to check our Application Deadlines page. We will be updating our list as business schools release their deadlines in the coming months.

Finally, stay tuned to the mbaMission blog for our analyses of the 2019–2020 business school application essays, and be sure to download our free Insider’s Guides!
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

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University of Michigan (Ross) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020  [#permalink]

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New post 31 May 2019, 09:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: University of Michigan (Ross) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020
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In announcing the school’s application essay prompts for this season, Soojin Kwon, the director of full-time admissions at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, acknowledges that the questions posed last season were effective in coaxing information from applicants that proved useful in the evaluation process. Understandably, then, the prompts remain almost exactly the same, except for a slight tweak in one of the short-answer options. Rather than the intro phrase “I find it challenging when people,” candidates can now choose “I was challenged when,” which would indeed change the potential content and angle of their responses. Discussing a personal experience with difficulty or setback is very different from pinpointing an aspect of others’ behavior that is troublesome to deal with. Ross’s longer “official” essay again asks applicants to share and explain their short-term professional aspirations, thereby showing that they have a plan in mind and have given serious thought to why they need an MBA to achieve their goal. Our full analysis of Ross’s 2019–2020 essay prompts follows.

Part 1: Short Answer Questions

Select one prompt from each group of the three groups below. Respond to each selected prompt in 100 words or fewer (<100 words each; 300 words total).

Group 1

I want people to know that I:

I made a difference when I:

Group 2

I was humbled when:

I am out of my comfort zone when:

Group 3

I was aware that I was different when:

I was challenged when:

In a past blog post about the school’s short-answer prompts (which were new at the time), Kwon asserted, “[We want to] get to know more about you than we would in a traditional essay where you’d talk at length about one topic.” And this week, she noted, “We encourage you to share personal examples in these short answers to allow us to learn more about who you are as a person.” Clearly, the admissions committee is hoping these short answers—which we tend to think of more as mini essays—will reveal distinctive facets of applicants’ personalities in a straightforward manner, unencumbered by extraneous text. Given the mere 100-word maximum, you might be tempted to just jump in and start writing, but thinking strategically about who you are as an applicant is critical here.

We encourage you to first consider very carefully which option of each pair feels more authentic to and revelatory of who you are as an individual. Then, thoroughly and thoughtfully brainstorm to identify your strongest possible responses. You want to be able to “own” your answer—as we like to say—meaning that no other applicant could write the same thing as you do. Using the second prompt of the first group as an example (“I made a difference when I…”), writing something like “gave back to my community by volunteering with the local homeless shelter” would be far too general a response and could likely be stated by multiple applicants. Instead, something much more specific like “dedicated every Saturday morning for three years to helping cook and serve breakfast at the local homeless shelter, where I also instituted a bulk-shopping plan that saved hundreds of dollars each year on supplies” would stand out for its originality and paint a clearer picture of the candidate who wrote it with respect to their values, dedication, and fiscal creativity. We suggest that in treating this as a mini essay, you consider using a narrative approach to paint a dynamic picture of how you conduct yourself and to engage your reader with a compelling story that has a clear beginning, middle, and end. If you choose to simply discuss a trait without a narrative, you could risk bragging, and you will certainly waste an opportunity for the admissions reader to get to know you in more depth.

When you are done writing, take a look at your responses and see if they are complementary of one another. If they seem repetitive or focus on the same general idea, story, or area of your life, you will likely want to rewrite one. Your goal is to have each response reveal something new and interesting about you. Another factor to consider is everything the admissions committee will already know about you from the other portions of your application; you do not want to waste this opportunity to paint a well-rounded picture of yourself by repeating information available elsewhere in your profile.

So, to recap, strive to make sure your responses (1) genuinely reflect who you are as a candidate and are as specific to you alone as possible; (2) present a narrative that allows the reader to walk in your shoes, so to speak; (3) are complementary of each other, with each one revealing something different about you; and (4) do not discuss a part of your profile that is already well explained or represented in a different part of your application.

​Part 2: Essay

Michigan Ross is a place where people from all backgrounds with different career goals can thrive. Please share your short-term career goal. Why is this the right choice for you? (300 words)

With just 300 words, you do not have any space to waste here, so focus on presenting your answer as clearly and thoroughly as possible—and give the admissions committee what it wants! That said, this is a rare instance where we suggest giving the school a tiny amount of what it has not specifically asked for. Stating your goals in a vacuum, without any connection to where you have been, can be a little bit confusing for the reader, especially if you are a career changer. Imagine you plan to move from consumer marketing to equity research for consumer goods companies after graduating. If you were to simply state, “Post-MBA, I want to join a boutique equity research firm” as your opening sentence, your reader could be left wondering where this interest comes from. But if you were to instead write, “For the past four years, I have lived and breathed Fruity Pebbles in a way I would not have believed humanly possible. I now understand how the tiniest increase in the price of coconut oil or a ten-cent Cocoa Pebbles coupon can affect my product’s margins. As a result, I have become obsessed with the big data that drive computer goods and want to spend the next phase of my career in equity research, helping investors understand the riddle.” These are two very different answers, all because of some helpful context. From here, you can delve deeper into why equity research is right for you—how you intend to grow in your role and further develop your passion for the position.

Michigan Ross does not ask you why its program is the right one for you, but we encourage you to nevertheless note two or three specific resources at the school that would enable you to make this professional goal a reality. Remember to not just tout stereotypes but truly integrate your mention of these resources into your essay in a way that shows true professional need. We explain these concepts and how to achieve them in more detail in our mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which is available free of charge. Download your complimentary copy today!

And for a thorough exploration of Michigan Ross’s academic program/merits, social life, unique offerings, and other key characteristics, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, which is also available for free.

Optional Statement

This section should only be used to convey information not addressed elsewhere in your application, for example, completion of supplemental coursework, employment gaps, academic issues, etc. Feel free to use bullet points where appropriate.

This optional essay prompt may start out sounding like an invitation to discuss anything more you wish to share with the admissions committee, but a closer look—paying particular attention to the word “only” and the nature of the examples offered—seems to restrict the possible topics to problem areas and auxiliary elements of your profile that may not be readily conveyed elsewhere in your application. The additional directive about bullet points seems to be a not-too-veiled implication that the school wants you to focus on imparting key information rather than offering a detailed and longwinded explanation of the issue in question. This is not the time or place to share another cool story or otherwise try to impress or pander to the admissions committee. If you do not truly need to explain an issue or potentially confusing element of your candidacy (a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc.), we do not recommend that you submit an option essay; if you do have issues to clarify, keep things concise. In our free mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, including multiple examples.

The Next Step—Mastering Your Michigan Ross Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. We therefore offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the Michigan Ross Interview Primer today.
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

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MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: Harvard Business School Is for Everyon  [#permalink]

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New post 02 Jun 2019, 08:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: Harvard Business School Is for Everyone
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Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School (HBS) offers an excellent MBA program—this is largely a given, and we are not questioning that. However, what we will call into question is whether HBS (or any other school, for that matter) is right for you. Every year, we get a few calls from confused MBA aspirants who say, “I visited HBS, and I am not sure if there is a fit,” as if that indicates some sort of problem. Indeed, and this may be shocking to some, HBS is not for everyone—particularly those who do not relate well to case-based learning, those who want a lot of flexibility in their first-year curriculum, and those who would prefer a small class size (HBS’s Class of 2020 has 930 students, while the same class at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, for example, has just 291).

We hope that applicants will use this post as a jumping-off point to critically appraise their target MBA programs and determine which schools are indeed right for them. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Would I prefer to be in a larger program, or would I feel overwhelmed by a larger program’s size?
  • Would I prefer to be in a smaller program, or would that feel claustrophobic?
  • Would I prefer to be at a school with a flexible curriculum and a consistent stream of new classmates and where I could make my own academic choices early on?
  • Would I prefer to learn in a comprehensive core curriculum where I am, for a period of time, learning the same material as my classmates and where academics would provide me with a course structure?
  • Am I best suited for the case method, lecture method, or programs with strong experiential components? (And do I really understand what each entails—for example, the teamwork and public speaking that is necessary within the case method?)
  • Do my target schools match my academic objectives?
  • Do my target firms recruit at my school?
  • Are alumni well placed in my industry/post-MBA location? (Are alumni even crucial to my career?)
  • Do my target schools have facilities and an environment that appeal to me?
Again, these questions are just a start—we could pose many more, but the point is that you will get far more than a brand from your MBA studies. You will gain an education and an alumni network in return for your investment of two years and thousands of dollars. You should therefore skip the rankings, determine what is important to you, and then do your homework to identify a program that truly fits your personality, needs, and goals.
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

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Deciding How Many Business Schools to Target and Choosing a “Safe” Sch  [#permalink]

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New post 03 Jun 2019, 09:00
FROM mbaMission Blog: Deciding How Many Business Schools to Target and Choosing a “Safe” School
When candidates consider their strategies for applying to MBA programs, many have a logical question in mind: To how many business schools should I apply? The answer, of course, varies dramatically from applicant to applicant, but the golden rule is that you should only apply to an MBA program if you have enough time to polish your application to its best state. So, if you have time to “perfect” only three applications, you should focus on applying to just three schools—and not consider submitting several additional “average” applications.

In terms of a target number—assuming that time is not a factor and you can commit yourself to all of your applications—five or six is generally optimal. With five or six applications, you can apply to a mix of reach, competitive, and safe schools—and can thereby truly cover your bases. Of course, all applicants have their own risk profile and timing to consider, but for most candidates, applying to too few schools can increase the risk of not being admitted, while applying to too many can be overkill.

Some applicants prefer to be conservative and include a “safe school” or two in their target schools. But what constitutes a safe school? Although determining exactly what a safe school is can be difficult (given that many variables are involved, and the definition can shift depending on the candidate in question), a good place to start is with scores. If a candidate’s GMAT score and GPA are significantly higher than the target school’s averages, for example, then the school is—at first glance, at least—a “safe” choice. So, for example, if you have a 750 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA and you are applying to a school with a GMAT score middle 80% range of 620–730 and an average GPA of 3.4 for the most recent entering class, you are off to a promising start.

Next, you might consider your work experience relative to the target program. For example, many Goldman Sachs investment banking “alums” apply and are admitted to the so-called M7 schools (Stanford GSB, Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Chicago Booth, Columbia, and MIT Sloan). If you happen to be such a candidate, choosing a school outside this tier could certainly make you more competitive.

Finally, you might consider the program’s general selectivity. If you consider yourself a competitive candidate at a program that accepts approximately 18% of its applicants, applying to one with an acceptance rate closer to 30% may be a safe option. Before you start applying to any safe schools, however, ask yourself this relatively simple question: “Would I actually go if I got in?” Spending time applying to an MBA program that you would not be willing to actually attend is pointless. If you choose to apply to such a school (as some do) anyway, you will—rather ironically—find yourself with no “safety” net at all.
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University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Essay Analysis, 2019–2020  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Jun 2019, 08:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Essay Analysis, 2019–2020
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After making some small adjustments to its essay prompts last season, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania appears to have settled on questions that elicit the kind of information it is seeking from its applicants, because they have not changed for 2019–2020. Together, the prompts ask that you outline the kind of give-and-take you foresee from your engagement in the Wharton experience. Question 1 asks what Wharton can do for you, and question 2 asks—via the story of a significant achievement or other experience—what you can do for Wharton. Your greatest assets in approaching both prompts will be your knowledge of the school and the level of detail you infuse into your essays. Be knowledgeable, be authentic, and be thorough, and you should be well positioned to submit persuasive essays. Read on for more guidance on each question individually.

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

In a mere 500 words, you must discuss your career goals—giving very brief context for why they are realistic for you—and then reveal how Wharton will help you pursue these goals by demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the school offers and a well-thought-out game plan for availing yourself of these offerings. To effectively do this and write a reasoned, nuanced essay, you must first familiarize yourself with Wharton’s various resources and pinpoint those that truly pertain to you and the direction in which you hope to head. Go the extra mile in learning about the school—connect with multiple students and alumni, attend admissions events in your area, and especially, visit the campus (if at all possible). This will provide the kind of in-depth insight that will show the admissions committee you are really serious about Wharton and are confident you belong there. Simply presenting a list of classes and clubs you think sound interesting will not suffice, and absolutely avoid vague statements about how great the school is. You must reveal clear connections between your aspirations, what you need to achieve them (e.g., skills, experience[s], connections, exposure), and what Wharton in particular can provide that will enable you to fill those gaps.

Note that Wharton asks you to address only the professional aspect—not the professional and personal aspect—of your business school goals. This allows you to share your career-related stories and ambitions more fully, which in turn means you can and should use the other essay(s) to discuss non-work aspects of your life and thereby provide a more complete and well-rounded picture of yourself for the admissions committee.

In many ways, this prompt is asking for a typical MBA personal statement. We therefore encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide. This complimentary guide offers detailed advice on approaching and framing these subjects, along with multiple illustrative examples. Be sure to claim your copy today.

Essay 2: Describe an impactful experience or accomplishment that is not reflected elsewhere in your application. How will you use what you learned through that experience to contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)

The phrase “not reflected elsewhere” will likely cause some applicants a bit of anxiety, but let us reassure you—you will not be ejected from the applicant pool for taking an experience represented in a single bullet point on your resume and exploring it here in essay form. Likewise, the school will not penalize you if one of your recommenders ends up writing about the same “impactful experience” you decide to showcase in this essay, because, most likely, you will not even know what they have written about! The key here is to focus on the “impactful experience or accomplishment” itself. As long as it is not described in depth in your resume or short answers, it should pass the “not reflected elsewhere” test.

We would recommend using only the first 200 or so words of this essay to describe your chosen experience, so that you will have sufficient leeway in which to ten clearly reveal what you learned from it and how it has equipped you to contribute to the Wharton community in a meaningful way. Do your best in this limited space to “show,” or really spell out, how things unfolded—rather than just stating the accomplishment or flatly presenting the situation—to give the admissions reader some perspective on how you conduct yourself and achieve. You will then need to demonstrate both self-awareness and a thorough understanding of the Wharton MBA experience by outlining your takeaway(s) and drawing connections between what you learned and what you can subsequently bring the school as a member of its community. For example, a failed “side hustle” entrepreneurial project may have given you some valuable insights and skills you could now pass on to your classmates in a myriad of classes or clubs that revolve around entrepreneurship, or maybe it gave you an interesting new  perspective on commitment, determination, or countless other learnings. The specific knowledge you gained is not as important as conveying how you envision applying it as a student in the program.

To better familiarize yourself with the Wharton program and get an insider’s perspective on its academic program, unique offerings, social life, and other key characteristics, be sure to download a complimentary copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Additional Essay:  Required for all reapplicants. Explain how you have reflected on the previous decision about your application, and discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words)

First-time applicants may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

If you are a Wharton reapplicant, this essay is pretty straightforward. Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement, or taken on some sort of personal challenge, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Wharton wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a Wharton MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.

However, if you are not a Wharton reapplicant, pay special attention to the last line of this prompt: First-time applicants may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances.  Here is your opportunity—if needed—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GRE or GMAT score, or a gap in your work experience. If you feel you may need to submit an additional essay for such a reason, consider downloading your free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay (along with multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.

The Next Step—Mastering Your Wharton Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Interview Primer today.
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Re: The mbaMission Blog  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Jun 2019, 08:47
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Disclaimer - I am an alumnus of the MBA program at Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto and now work in recruitments and student relations for my alma mater.

Great question, but it certainly requires more context. Let me start by expressing that no two experiences can be alike regardless of nationality being a commonality. Also, Canada is a really big country which has I think 50 business schools (please double check). I represent 1, so I encourage you to hear more opinions.
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University of Virginia (Darden) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Jun 2019, 08:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: University of Virginia (Darden) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020
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After completely reworking its MBA application essay questions last season, the admissions committee at the University of Virginia’s Darden School has done just a little fine-tuning this year. Candidates must still respond to five prompts and do so within a 700-word limit, but a new query has been added, while two previous ones have been combined into a single question. As a whole, the prompts again cover applicants’ personal, educational, and career objectives while touching on aspects of Darden’s particular character and ethos—notably, its learning teams, vast international reach, and (now) diversity. In this analysis, we offer our best essay advice for all of the school’s 2019–2020 questions.

Leadership: Darden strives to identify and cultivate responsible leaders who follow their purpose. Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact. (200 words)

Darden’s first essay prompt is an interesting hybrid of two questions it posed last season, one about leadership style and the other about impact. This new presentation cleverly touches on both, the assumption likely being that when you brought about the meaningful result in question, you did so while in a leadership position or at least when acting in a leadership capacity. Therefore, by describing what you achieved and how you did so, you will naturally also reveal information about your leadership style.

At mbaMission, we love when admissions committees request examples, because they invite essays that use a narrative structure, and we believe such essays tend to be not only more revelatory but also more interesting to read (always good when trying to make an impression on someone who reads literally thousands of essays each year!). For example, you might start by launching directly into your story: “Although I had never led a committee that spanned three departments before, I found myself….” In a Darden FAQs blog post, an admissions representative advises, “Our basic advice is to show don’t tell—examples are always best” but also cautions applicants to “not be so broad as to preclude self-reflection and meaningful insight. We are interested in getting to know how you think, how you approach working with others, your sense of self-awareness and your willingness to be self-reflective.”

Because Darden wants to know about your “impact,” you will have to clearly show the results of your actions, but the admissions committee also wants to understand that the decisions you made and steps you took clearly paid off and that a project, company, organization, individual, or product experienced some kind of change as a result. In other words, in addition to explaining what was achieved and why it was significant, you must illustrate the values, thought process, and initiatives that made it possible. Also, make note of the words “responsible” and “purpose” in this prompt and keep them in mind as you brainstorm ideas for this mini essay. Qualities related to these concepts would be good ones to highlight if they are truly part of your authentic story.

Diversity: Diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community. Read University of Virginia’s Diversity & Inclusion Vision Statement. Share a time in which you engaged with a perspective, identity, community, or experience that was different from your own and how it impacted your worldview. (200 words)

In business school—as in life in general—you will encounter people who think differently from you, operate according to different values, and react differently to the same stimuli. And success in an endeavor often involves considering and incorporating others’ input and standpoints. Via this essay, Darden hopes to learn how you view, approach, and react to such differences. Once enrolled in the school’s MBA program, you will be surrounded every day by people who are unlike you in a multitude of ways, and you will need to work in tandem with and alongside these individuals when analyzing case studies, completing group projects, and participating in other activities both inside and outside the classroom. The school is clearly seeking evidence that you are capable of listening, reflecting, learning, and growing and that you are open and receptive to things beyond your usual frame of reference. And by asking you to share a time when a novel “perspective, identity, community, or experience” changed you in some fundamental way, Darden is requesting actual evidence of this open-mindedness in action.

To craft an effective essay response, consider using a narrative approach to describe a kind of “before and after” situation or “lightbulb moment” in which your takeaways from the experience influenced your subsequent thoughts, values, and/or actions. Perhaps you were exposed to something completely new that resonated with you and thereafter became a fundamental part of your mores or a routine practice in your life. Or maybe an experience challenged one of your existing beliefs and altered your opinion or stance in a significant way. Keep in mind, however, that the admissions committee is much more interested in your willingness and capacity to learn and grow than in the specific kind of change you experienced.

Darden Worldwide – Travel: The Batten Foundation Worldwide Scholarship provides all Darden students in our full-time MBA program with an opportunity to participate in a Darden Worldwide Course. If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to travel, and why? (50 words)

First, we want to make sure you fully understand what this essay prompt is revealing. At our recent mbaMission annual conference, held this year on Darden grounds, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Dawna Clarke explained to us that because of this generous Batten scholarship, every single Darden student can now afford to participate in an international course at some point during their two years in the program. Business school is an experience rife with opportunities, and Darden wants to make sure no barriers stand in the way of its students taking advantage of this one—the chance to study abroad and explore new horizons. While this essay prompt had an air of the hypothetical last year, this year it is very much grounded in reality. So really plumb your interests and identify a location that truly excites you—then write about it!

In just a few sentences, you can show your adventurous or intellectual side by pinpointing a country that sincerely appeals to you and reveals something interesting about you. But avoid writing a travelogue! Just clearly (and succinctly) explain why and how your choice will enhance both your education and others’.

(Note that that paragraph is exactly 50 words long!)

Learning Team: Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you – personally, professionally, or both? (100 words)

Before you start writing, we suggest you do some background work on what a learning team is and how it functions. At Darden, learning teams are carefully selected groups of five to six students, assembled with the intent of creating an eclectic mix of personalities and backgrounds. This group meets in the evenings, Sunday through Thursday, to tackle the next day’s case work together (and if you are not familiar with the case method, now is the time to do your homework on it as well!). Learning teams are a core element of the Darden experience, in part because some cases are so voluminous that students must take a divide-and-conquer approach and teach one another the material. In short, learning teams are intense and complex, requiring strong teamwork skills and contributions but capable of providing support and camaraderie as students work their way through Darden’s notoriously challenging first year. For your essay response to be successful and compelling, you will need to show that you have something to offer your future teammates.

So, in a mere 100 words, you must reveal that you have a perspective, attribute, or background that will better enable your learning team to function. We are advocates of using anecdotes to reveal this kind of information and suggest you consider focusing on a single experience that demonstrates your positive team attributes and can represent how you would function on your learning team. This does not mean that you must describe a clichéd team experience to prove you are a team player. The key is simply to show you bring something of value to the table in this context—perhaps you are a great debater and can clearly see and elucidate multiple sides to a story, or you have particular experience with and insight into geopolitics, or you are naturally intellectually curious and have amassed a broad range of basic knowledge. Within reason, the trait does not matter! Establish that you have a skill or attribute that would be advantageous to Darden’s learning team experience, and you will send a compelling message.

To learn more about Darden’s learning teams and other characteristic elements of its MBA program, download a free copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Administration.

What is your short-term, post-MBA career goal and why? (150 words)

At our aforementioned annual conference, Dawna shared with us that one of her favorite expressions is “You don’t know what you don’t know” and that she keeps this maxim in mind when considering Darden applicants’ career goals. MBA students encounter an incredible (and often surprising) number and breadth of professional opportunities while in business school, and given her extensive admissions background, she knows only too well that candidates can and do change their minds and trajectories along the way. That said, Darden wants to know that you have given this aspect of your MBA experience very serious thought, have thoroughly researched your options, and are approaching business school with a strong sense of purpose—that you have a fitting and attainable goal in mind and can articulate it clearly.

Note that the admissions committee is asking only about your short-term goal, which is often a pretty practical one, compared with applicants’ typically more idealistic long-term goals. So, first make sure that the path you have chosen is a sensible one for you. Ask yourself, “Will a Darden MBA help me get from where I am now to where I want to be?” If, for example, you are a journalist and have dreams of working at a hedge fund after you graduate, the admissions committee will probably not respond very positively to your plan, because hedge funds tend to be the domain of math PhDs and seasoned finance professionals. The school wants to feel that you will be able to achieve your aspirations after completing its program, so you want to avoid goals that could sound farfetched. Instead, as a journalist, you would need to identify a far more realistic path, but one that is true to who you are. Being ambitious is great, but the goal you present must be connected to reality, and to demonstrate that connection, you will have to spell out why your objective is a reasonable one for you. Establishing briefly that you have the skills and knowledge to enter your target field will make that logical connection for your admissions reader, reassuring them that you can be a happy and productive graduate.

One’s short-term goal is a common topic in a traditional personal statement, so we encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. This complimentary guide offers detailed advice on approaching and framing these subjects, along with multiple illustrative examples. Be sure to claim your copy today.

The Next Step—Mastering Your UVA Darden Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of The UVA Darden Interview Primer today.
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Northwestern University (Kellogg) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Jun 2019, 09:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: Northwestern University (Kellogg) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020
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For this application season, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has kept is first essay question the same but updated the second to focus on applicants’ guiding principles rather than (past and future) growth. Interestingly, both of Kellogg’s essays now center on “value(s),” but in very different ways, according to two separate definitions of the term. In this way, Kellogg’s questions seem to address two key aspects of business today, and candidates will need to demonstrate their awareness of both and potential to fulfill them. For more guidance on how to interpret and approach Kellogg’s essay prompts for 2019–2020, read on.

Required Essay 1: Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value.  Tell us about a time you have demonstrated leadership and created lasting value. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

This is a fairly straightforward essay prompt, and we recommend responding in an equally straightforward manner. Launch directly into the story of your leadership experience, and detail the specific actions you took in directing others to achieve some kind of enduring result. The key here is to show you shared a valuable experience with colleagues, extracted the most from your team members, and attained a desired outcome. Although we often note that not all great leadership stories necessarily have to end in success, Kellogg’s request for evidence of “lasting value” certainly implies that the school wants to hear about a situation that had a positive, if not victorious, resolution. You will need to convey not only your role in spearheading a group to achieve what you did but also how that achievement has persisted.

Note that Kellogg does not specify that the experience you share must be related to your workplace or career. Leadership does not need to have an official title attached to it, and it can be expressed in a community service or even family life setting just as much as in a workplace, so explore all the different areas of your life for possible stories. We recommend using a narrative approach to present your story, but be sure to also share the thought process and motivation(s) behind your actions. This way, the admissions committee will take away both a clear picture of what you accomplished and the aspects of your character that inspired you and helped enable your success.

That said, the school acknowledges within the prompt that even endeavors that have a positive result are rarely smooth sailing from beginning to end—hence the question about challenges faced. A mistake applicants often make in writing this kind of essay is presenting a strong narrative in which they are incredible leaders, and then near the end, making a brief (and typically disjointed) reference to a hardship or conflict encountered along the way, meant to fulfill the “challenges” element of the essay query. To be effective and believable, your ups and downs must be woven intrinsically into your narrative, rather than simply acknowledged at the end. Clearly explaining how you approached and prevailed over the challenge at hand is crucial, so go beyond simply describing the roadblock itself and ensure that you detail your response and the inner workings of your decision making at that point.

Lastly, do not forget or neglect to explain what you learned from the experience—Kellogg specifically asks you to do so! And keep in mind that for your takeaways to be “meaningful,” they have to be profoundly connected to your narrative. The admissions reader should be able to easily understand the connection between the situation you describe and your subsequent learnings.

Required Essay 2: Values are what guide you in your life and work. What values are important to you and how have they influenced you? (450 words)

Kellogg offers another very straightforward essay question here, so not a lot of interpretation is needed. On its admissions FAQ page, the school lists “values and motivations” among the elements it seeks in candidates, so a frank query on the topic only makes sense. Kellogg wants to know how your values influence your decisions and actions, and in particular, which ones tend to guide you most often or intensely. Simply stating that you embrace certain values is easy, so the admissions committee is understandably asking for illustrations of this phenomenon to better gauge this for itself. Having an idea of how you tend to incorporate your core beliefs into your life will help the school better envision how you might fit into its classrooms and the business world after you graduate.

Perhaps at the most basic level, Kellogg wants to know that you understand how values come into play in “life and work.” This final phrase seems to open the door to stories from your personal life or from your career, with no particular emphasis on either, so consider all your options to identify the most fitting and revealing one. Although in theory, describing a situation from your personal or community activities would provide a nice balance if you chose a professional story for the school’s first essay (and vice versa), what is more critical is sharing the experiences that best convey the concepts you wish to highlight. Given the 450-word maximum for this essay, you should skip or at least minimize any preamble and dive into your response, clearly identifying your selected core values and describing specific situations that illustrate them in action. Your ultimate goal is to clearly illustrate for the admissions committee how you have been (and are) guided by your fundamental beliefs.

Believe us when we say that Kellogg does not have a set list of values that it expects applicants to demonstrate and that by not choosing the “right” ones, you will not be accepted to the school. As always, focus on simply being authentic and sincere and letting your true character show through. That said, we would encourage you to learn what you can about the values Kellogg students tend to display or that would likely be compatible with the Kellogg community. Contact students and alumni to get a sense of what these might be, and if you identify one or two that match some of your own, those might prove strong fodder for your essay. To clarify, we are not saying that you should claim values that are not naturally yours in a misguided attempt to impress the admissions committee, but simply consider highlighting ones that appear to be mutual.

Certain applicants will respond to additional questions:

  • [b][b]1Y applicants: Please discuss your post-MBA career goal, the current experience you will leverage to support the transition, and the Kellogg 1Y opportunities that will help you reach this goal. (250 words)[/b][/b] 
  • [b][b]JD-MBA applicants: Please discuss your post-JD-MBA career goals and why the JD-MBA Program is the right program to help you reach those goals. (250 words)[/b][/b] 
  • MMM applicants: The five core values of the MMM Program are curiosity, creativity, empathy, open-mindedness and a learning mindset. Describe a situation in which you demonstrated one of these values. Why is this value an important part of the MMM experience for you? (250 words)
Kellogg has added some notable depth and specificity to these essay prompts this year, providing a separate one for each special program. If you are applying to one of these options, you should be ready to demonstrate a great deal of intentionality. After all, you are committing to a specialized path that may require additional time and cost. With a limit of just 250 words, you have no choice but to cut to the chase. Applicants to the 1Y and JD/MBA programs must outline how the degree is necessary to achieve their particular desired outcomes and then tie those goals specifically to the Kellogg program they are targeting and its associated resources. This essay is essentially another opportunity to explain your distinct need to attend Kellogg, only here, you can focus on showcasing the non-MBA portion of your intended degree. In many ways, these prompts are asking for a typical (if brief) MBA personal statement, so we encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide. This complimentary guide offers detailed advice on approaching and framing these topics, along with multiple illustrative examples. Be sure to claim your copy today.

MMM applicants are, curiously, asked to discuss values yet again, only this time, the school presents the specific ones it wants candidates to choose from. Obviously, if you are applying to this program, you will need to plan out your response to this essay in conjunction with Essay 2 to ensure you do not repeat any choices or illustrative stories.

Re-applicants: Since your previous application, what steps have you taken to strengthen your candidacy? (250 word limit)

Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement, or taken on some sort of personal challenge, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Kellogg wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a Kellogg MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.

All applicants have the opportunity to provide explanations or clarification in Additional Information. Use this section if you think the person reviewing your application might have a few questions about one or more of your responses. This could include:

  • Unexplained gaps in work experience
  • Academic, GMAT or GRE performance
  • Extenuating circumstances that we should be aware of when reviewing your application
Kellogg may have rephrased and reformatted this prompt this year, but our advice for approaching it remains the same. However tempted you might be, this is not the place to paste in a strong essay you wrote for another school or to offer a few anecdotes that you were unable to incorporate into any of your other essays. Instead, this is your opportunity, if needed, to address any questions an admissions officer might have about your candidacy. We encourage you to download our free mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, along with multiple sample essays, to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.

Required Video Essay: The video essay provides you with an additional opportunity to demonstrate what you will bring to our vibrant Kellogg community — in an interactive way. You will respond to several short video essay questions. The questions are designed to bring to life the person we have learned about on paper.

  • [b][b]After submitting your application and payment, you will be able to access the video essay through your application status page. The first question will ask you to introduce yourself to the admissions committee. Then, you’ll have an opportunity to describe your plans for the future and how Kellogg will help you on that journey. The remaining questions will be randomly generated and similar to interview questions.[/b][/b] 
  • [b][b]There are practice questions that you may complete as many times as you like to get comfortable with the format and technology. The practice questions and experience will simulate the actual video essay experience, so this is meant to be a useful tool to help you feel prepared.[/b][/b] 
  • [b][b]We encourage you to practice so you are comfortable with the format once it is time to complete the official questions. You will not have an opportunity to re-do the answer to the official video essay questions.[/b][/b] 
  • [b][b]You will have 20 seconds to think about the question and up to one minute to give your response.[/b][/b] 
  • We estimate the video essays will take 20-25 minutes to complete — which includes time for set-up and answering all the practice questions. You will need an internet connected computer with a webcam, microphone and an updated version of Adobe Flash in order to complete the video essay.
In a Q&A with several admissions representatives at our 2019 mbaMission annual conference, Kellogg’s Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Kate Smith explained that the school’s video component sprang from the admissions committee’s desire to actually see and hear the applicants they were evaluating. Given that Kellogg’s interviews are conducted by alumni, the video is the committee’s only “live” interaction with candidates. Keep this in mind as you tackle this segment of the application, and make being authentic and natural your primary goal. Kellogg is not looking for the next viral TED Talk presenter or late-night TV host. They just want to get to know you as a unique individual who may one day join its community.

So, start by taking a deep breath. We understand that these video essays can make you feel like you are being put on the spot, but Kellogg is really not trying to scare you. The admissions committee simply wants a more dynamic representation of your personality than a written essay can provide. You cannot answer any of the school’s video questions incorrectly, so do not concern yourself with trying to give the “right” answer. Just respond to each query honestly, as smoothly as you can (despite any nervousness you may be feeling), and be yourself. Thankfully, Kellogg provides some hints as to the nature of some of the questions you will encounter in the application’s video segment, so you do not have to go in totally blind.

The “introduction” question will be about a topic you know very well—you! You can think of this question as an “icebreaker,” like you might encounter when meeting someone for the first time at a party or other event. Similar questions to what you might ask each other in the process of getting acquainted are what you can very likely expect from Kellogg. Examples we can imagine are “What is your favorite book and why?,” “If you unexpectedly had 24 work-free hours, how would you spend them?,” and “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?” Although we are going to assume that you already know yourself pretty well, these types of queries sometimes require a moment or two of thought before a clear answer can be offered. So take some time to imagine potential questions (you can even Google “icebreaker questions” to find lists of examples) and practice delving into your personality in this way. Who knows, you might even learn something new about yourself in the process!

You will also need to briefly discuss your anticipated professional path and why Kellogg is the right program for you, so you must truly understand why you are choosing it for your MBA. By that, we do not mean that you should create and memorize a laundry list of reasons. Instead, you must have a comprehensive knowledge of the school’s resources and be able to clearly and concisely express which ones are of particular importance and significance to you—and why. Then, when recording your video, you will need to convey this information in a sincere and compelling way. That will not happen if you are listing facts you have simply committed to memory! (For a thorough exploration of Kellogg’s academic program, unique offerings, social life, and other key characteristics, be sure to download a free copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Kellogg School of Management.)

You cannot expect for sure that you will be asked to describe a challenge, but do not dismiss this possibility altogether. Kellogg says that some of the questions posed will be “similar to interview questions,” and queries about past challenges are most definitely common in MBA interviews! You may wish to download a free copy of the mbaMission Interview Guide, which, in addition to advice on preparing for and mastering the interview process, includes several pages of common interview questions that could be helpful in approaching your Kellogg video essays.

One minute is not very long, so run through several practice sessions—perhaps in front of a mirror—to get a sense of how quickly those 60 seconds will pass when you are in front of the camera. Although you can prepare as much as you want, you get only one chance at the recording. If you stumble while answering or ultimately are unhappy with your answer, unfortunately, you cannot do anything about it. You will not be able to rerecord your responses or try again another time. This may make you nervous, but we encourage you to view the situation a little differently. Kellogg wants to get to know the authentic you through these video essays. If you fumble for words or lose your train of thought, just laugh or shrug and continue with your response. Accepting a mistake with a sense of humor and grace will give the admissions committee a more positive and natural impression of your personality than rigid scripting and overpreparation ever could.

The Next Step—Mastering Your Kellogg Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And to help you develop this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers! Download your free copy of the Northwestern Kellogg Interview Primer today.
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mbaMission Offers Free In-Person Consultations in New York and San Fra  [#permalink]

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New post 08 Jun 2019, 09:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: mbaMission Offers Free In-Person Consultations in New York and San Francisco!
Are you a business school applicant in need of some guidance from an admissions advisor? If so, then we want to meet you for a free in-person consultation! In the coming weeks, mbaMission will be hosting FREE in-person, one-on-one consultations* in the following cities:

  • New York, New York: Tuesday, June 11, 2019; and Wednesday, June 12, 2019
  • San Francisco, California: Monday, June 10, 2019
If you are a b-school applicant living in the New York City area, be sure to join us for a Choosing the Right B-School presentation in NYC on Tuesday, June 11 at 7 p.m. ET. Click here to register for this free event!

During your free in-person consultation, your admissions advisor will answer all your most pressing MBA application questions, including the following:

  • What are my chances of being admitted?
  • How can I differentiate myself from so many other applicants?
  • What is the best way to showcase my accomplishments or mitigate my weaknesses?
To sign up for a free in-person consultation in any of these cities, please fill out the form located on our Free Consultation submission page at www.mbamission.com/consult. We will reply to you within one business day with a link to schedule your appointment.

We look forward to getting to know some of this season’s best and brightest business school applicants!

*This offer is valid only for those applicants who have not already had an mbaMission free 30-minute consultation. Please note that all mbaMission consultant appointments are booked in Eastern Time. After booking, if you would like to confirm the local time of your appointment, please contact denise@mbamission.com.
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Dartmouth College (Tuck) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020  [#permalink]

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New post 08 Jun 2019, 10:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: Dartmouth College (Tuck) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020
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Although the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College has made some tweaks to its MBA application essay questions this season, the information its candidates are expected to provide remains largely the same. Instead of four short-answer questions and two 500-word essays, applicants must provide three 300-word essays. The school’s first essay prompt broadly covers candidates’ need for an MBA, and specifically a Tuck MBA, though it no longer directly asks for defined career goals. Essay 2 addresses applicants’ individuality, and for the third essay, candidates must discuss a time when they helped facilitate another’s success. Clearly, Tuck is interested in identifying individuals who will be ambitious, cooperative, and supportive members of its community. Read on for our more detailed essay analysis of Tuck’s prompts for 2019–2020. . .

Essay 1: Tuck students can articulate how the distinctive Tuck MBA will advance their aspirations. Why are you pursuing an MBA and why Tuck? (300 words)

With this essay prompt, Tuck is basically still asking for much of the same information it requested via the short-answer questions it posed last year, only candidates now have 300 words to work with instead of 250 and a more cohesive format. Also, the school no longer specifically requests short- and long-term goals, leaving the decision of how to frame their career aspirations up to the applicant. The natural assumption is that if you have reached a point in your professional journey where you believe an MBA is necessary to move forward, you must have a goal in mind that you are working toward—even if that goal is still fairly nebulous or malleable at this point.

To address the “why Tuck?” element of this prompt, you will need to indicate which of the school’s resources and/or what aspect of its program as a whole will be most helpful to you in your pursuits, and this requires more than a pandering summarization or a stark list of offerings. This means you must move beyond the Tuck website, viewbook, and related marketing materials and make direct contact with students, alumni, and even school representatives. Attend an admissions event in your area, if available, and schedule a campus visit and sit in on a class. This kind of firsthand observation of what and who the Tuck program truly entails, paired with a profound knowledge of how it works, is key in identifying and then articulating your need for a Tuck MBA in particular. For this reason, we at mbaMission always strongly encourage candidates to visit the schools they are targeting, and we believe Luke Anthony Peña, Tuck’s executive director of admissions and financial aid, alluded to this important step when the questions were released for this season, by saying, “Moving our round one deadline back two weeks provides several additional days for aspiring Tuck students to visit campus and interview before finalizing round one applications” (italics ours). Truly motivated applicants will take the hint and schedule a visit before submitting their essays. By thoroughly doing your research on the school and drawing a clear picture for your admissions reader of how the particular offerings you have identified relate directly to your needs and how you intend to apply them, chances are high that you will submit a truly effective essay.

Because this prompt encompasses some of the most elemental components of a traditional personal statement essay, we encourage you to download a free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide. This document provides in-depth guidance on how to consider and respond to these sorts of questions, along with numerous illustrative examples. Please feel free to claim your complimentary copy today.

And for a thorough exploration of Dartmouth Tuck’s academic program, unique resources, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, standout professors, and other key features, download your free copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Tuck School of Business.

Essay 2: Tuck students recognize how their individuality adds to the fabric of Tuck. Tell us who you are. (300 words)

Last season, when this prompt was Tuck’s Essay 1 question, the admissions committee asked applicants to also explain how they would contribute to the school. Now the emphasis is clearly more on sharing their character and personality, and given this year’s smaller word allotment, narrowing the scope of the query makes sense. However, we would argue that the prompt’s first line, which notes that Tuckies “recognize how their individuality adds to the [school’s] fabric,” still hints that candidates are expected to understand and be able to articulate how they fit with (and could therefore theoretically contribute to) the school’s community—they just do not need to be as specific and detailed in conveying this as before. But more on this point in a moment.

First, we suggest you grab some paper and make an old-fashioned list of your key characteristics, values, and interests. Do not concern yourself with trying to single out the “right” ones but rather the ones most representative of who you are. A good brainstorming tactic is to imagine meeting someone for the first time at a party or other event and the process of getting acquainted. What kind of information would you want to know about this person, and what facts about yourself would you be most eager to share, as a way of conveying who you are and making a connection? Take some time to delve into your personality in this way. At the same time, keep in mind what the admissions committee will already know about you from the other portions of your application, to avoid wasting an opportunity to share something new, and try to identify stories that provide context and color to your claims, rather than just stating them outright. For example, rather than a declaration like “I tend to be a very altruistic person and enjoy giving back to my community by being a reading tutor,” you might say something more like, “Tuesday nights have become my favorite night of the week, because that is when I tutor local elementary students in reading, and the way their eyes light up when they learn a new word or finish another book never fails to inspire and gratify me.” Giving your claims sufficient context and a bit of “life” in this way allows the admissions committee to more fully understand and appreciate them.

The broad scope of this essay prompt allows you a great amount of freedom to choose and share the information you believe is most important for the admissions committee to know about you. In addition to truly focusing on the elements of your personality that you feel are most distinct and revelatory of who you are as an individual, give some thought to which of your characteristics mesh best with the Dartmouth Tuck experience. (We strongly encourage you to click through and read the school’s admissions criteria in detail, if you have not already done so.) Avoid simply trying to fit in as much information as possible about yourself in hopes of stumbling on the “right” answers and instead clearly present and illustrate your most fitting qualities. Authenticity and enthusiasm are the keys to your success with this essay.

Essay 3: Tuck students invest generously in one another’s success even when it is not convenient or easy. Share an example of how you helped someone else succeed. (300 words)

In last year’s version of this prompt, the school began by describing Tuck students as “nice.” Although this reference has been removed, we are of course confident that this has not changed, and in its place the admissions committee has added a qualifier that its students remain committed to helping others even when doing so is difficult in some way. The only other significant change is that applicants have fewer words with which to respond, meaning that you will need to dive into your story immediately so that you have sufficient space in which to fully explain what you did to facilitate the success.

This essay prompt aligns perfectly with Tuck’s long-held belief in teamwork and community spirit. By illustrating with this essay that you have a natural interest in helping others reach their goals and have successfully done so, you will demonstrate for the admissions committee that you possess the qualities it is seeking in its next class of students. In addition, stepping up proactively to assist someone in an endeavor that is important to them shows an instinct for leadership, which is valued by all MBA programs.

Because this is a fairly straightforward essay prompt, we recommend responding in an equally straightforward manner. Beyond simply sharing a story of having supported, assisted, and/or encouraged another on their path to success, you will need to share the motivation(s) and thought processes that led you to want to do so in the first place. With just 300 words for this essay, you will need to clearly but succinctly convey the situation as you originally found it, your inspiration to contribute, the actions you then took, the outcome, and, ideally, what you learned from the experience (though this last element should be somewhat brief). The addition of the qualifier “even when it is not convenient or easy” suggests to us that stories in which the path to the desired outcome was not entirely direct or smooth may resonate slightly better with the admissions committee. Also, in a June 2018 Tuck news article, Peña commented, “Tuck is a distinctly collaborative community so being able to challenge others tactfully and thoughtfully is important” (emphasis ours). With this in mind, if you are deciding between two or more instances you could discuss for this essay, consider going with one in which your help was perhaps not requested or immediately accepted—one in which you needed to diplomatically negotiate your offer of input and assistance.

Note that Dartmouth Tuck does not specify from which realm of your life—professional, personal, or community related—the story you choose to share here must come. This means you can plumb the entirety of your experiences for the one you believe best fulfills what the school wants to see and about which you feel most strongly. Also consider that although the prompt says “someone else,” this could potentially apply to a pair or small group, if presented effectively. Perhaps, for example, you helped a duo of small business owners with a marketing issue or supported a small musical group or athletic team in some capacity. In any case, absolutely avoid bragging about your role or suggesting that the party you aided could never have succeeded without you. The school is looking for evidence that you not only have a natural inclination to invest in and bolster others but you also have the capacity and skills to do so effectively and are mature enough to grow from the experience yourself.

Do not try to include several different experiences (perhaps for fear of offering the “wrong” one) and instead focus just on one that you describe in detail. Let the narrative unfold naturally, making sure that the basics are all clearly presented. What the school wants to know is that the incident you are showcasing was truly significant for you and had a meaningful impact, so let that be your guide.

Optional Essay: Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere (e.g., atypical choice of evaluators, factors affecting academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application. (300 words)

You may be tempted to take advantage of this optional essay as an opportunity to share an additional compelling story or to highlight a part of your profile that you fear might be overlooked or undervalued, but we strongly encourage you to resist this temptation. Submit an optional essay here only if your candidacy truly needs it. Consider what the school says about this essay in a Tuck 360 blog post: “If you give us an extra five paragraphs to read and it’s not necessary, we will question your judgment or your ability to express yourself succinctly elsewhere.” You really cannot get much clearer than that! So again, only if your profile has a noticeable gap of some kind or an issue that would might raise a red flag or elicit questions on the part of an admissions officer—such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT/GRE score, a gap in your work experience, an arrest, etc.—should you take this opportunity to provide additional information. Download a free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on deciding whether to take advantage of the optional essay as well as on how to do so effectively (with multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.

Reapplicant Essay: (To be completed by all reapplicants) How have you strengthened your candidacy since you last applied? Please reflect on how you have grown personally and professionally. (300 words)  

Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement, or taken on some sort of personal challenge, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Tuck wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a Tuck MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.

The Next Step—Mastering Your Dartmouth Tuck Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And to help you develop this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers! Download your free copy of the Dartmouth Tuck Interview Primer today.
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Consider a Part-Time MBA—or an MBA Program in Europe!  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Jun 2019, 08:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: Consider a Part-Time MBA—or an MBA Program in Europe!
We at mbaMission often receive questions about part-time MBA programs, so we thought we should offer a look at some of the pros and cons of this option.

As for the pros, the one that business school candidates cite most frequently is that the part-time MBA involves a limited opportunity cost. Unlike a full-time MBA student, a part-time one does not miss out on two years of salary (and, in some cases, retirement savings) and can still earn raises and promotions while completing his/her studies. Furthermore, firm sponsorship seems to be more prevalent for part-time MBAs, so candidates who have this option can truly come out ahead, with a free education and continued earning throughout. Beyond the financial rationale, many part-time MBA students see an academic advantage; they can learn both in the classroom and at work and can then turn theory into practice (and vice versa) in real time, on an ongoing basis. Of course, a cynic might add that another pro is that part-time MBA programs are generally less selective. So, a candidate who may have had difficulty getting accepted to a traditional two-year program may have a better chance of gaining admission to a well-regarded school in its part-time program instead.

As for the cons, many part-time MBA candidates feel that the comparative lack of structure means that networking opportunities within the class are limited. While one part-time student could complete a school’s MBA program in two years, another might complete it in five. As a result, with candidates progressing through the program at such different paces, students will not likely see each other regularly in the same classes or at social events. In addition, in a traditional MBA environment, academics always come first; in a part-time environment, work typically comes first, and academics must come second or even third, after family. In other words, the full-time program generally involves greater intensity with regard to the classroom experience, given that it is the focal point of students’ lives. Another thing to consider is that some MBA programs do not offer their “star” faculty to part-time students—something that candidates should definitely ask about before enrolling—and offer limited access to on-grounds recruiting.

Of course, we are not trying to offer a definitive “answer” or present a bias for a particular kind of program; we are simply sharing some objective facts for candidates to consider as they make informed choices for themselves.

MBA candidates looking to broaden their business school choices could also consider European programs. Although many applicants who are competing for places at the top U.S. business schools are well aware of the strengths of the MBA programs at INSEAD and London Business School, even more options are available beyond these two, including IESEESADEOxford (Said), and Cambridge (Judge). These four schools in particular have been aggressively playing “catch-up” with their better-known brethren by raising funds and dedicating them to scholarships and to enhancing their global brands. Other candidates may also be aware that IMD offers a boutique MBA program with remarkable international diversity, highly regarded academics, and a strong reputation with international employers.

So, numerous options are available, and each can be explored on its own academic merit. But is earning your MBA in Europe, in itself, a good choice for you? For many applicants, the key issue is where they would like to be after completing their education. If you hope to work in Europe, these schools clearly offer an advantage over all but the top five or six U.S. schools—Harvard Business School, for example, can probably open as many doors in Europe as INSEAD can. However, if you hope to work in the States, the European schools will not provide the pipeline of opportunities that a top-ranked American school could, particularly for candidates who are targeting a niche industry or a company that is not a well-known international brand.

Still, beyond the employment picture, studying abroad offers intrinsic value. Spending two years in London, Fontainebleau, or Lausanne could certainly be its own reward.

For more information on various international business schools, including INSEAD, Cambridge Judge, and IMD, check out our free mbaMission Program Primers.
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Professor Profiles: Sankaran Venkataraman, the University of Virginia   [#permalink]

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New post 11 Jun 2019, 08:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: Professor Profiles: Sankaran Venkataraman, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business
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Many MBA applicants feel that they are purchasing a brand when they choose a business school. However, the educational experience you will have is what is crucial to your future, and no one will affect your education more than your professors. Today, we focus on Sankaran Venkataraman from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

Sankaran Venkataraman—who is known around the campus of the University of Virginia’s (UVA’s) Darden School of Business as simply “Venkat”—is an internationally recognized expert on entrepreneurship. He is the MasterCard Professor of Business Administration at Darden and the senior associate dean for faculty and research. He has edited the Journal of Business Venturing and consulted with the U.S. Department of Commerce on promoting entrepreneurship globally. He is also a coauthor of The Innovation Journey (Oxford University Press, 2008) and coeditor of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Regions Around the World: Theory, Evidence and Implications (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2008). Venkat earned one of Darden’s awards for outstanding faculty in 2008 and is generally considered one of the school’s most popular professors. In 2010, Venkat earned the Academy of Management’s Decade Award for a paper published ten years earlier that was judged to have had the greatest impact on scholarship in the fields of management and organizations.

For more information about UVA Darden and 16 other top-ranked business schools, check out our free mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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University of Chicago (Booth) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Jun 2019, 08:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: University of Chicago (Booth) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020
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When releasing its MBA application essay prompts for this year, the admissions committee at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business noted that after completely recasting its questions last season, it received “responses [that] disclosed amazing insights into our applicants’ professional aspirations as well as personal interests.” So why change them, right?  Again, candidates must respond to two short, direct essay questions that, interestingly, have stipulated minimum—rather than maximum—word counts. In the past, when Chicago Booth required only one essay, we often suggested 1,000 words as a guide; now with two essays, we propose keeping your responses to 500–600 words each. Approximately double the minimum seems to be a reasonable high-end target, though you will not be rejected from the applicant pool for going even higher. That said, we would recommend 1,000 words per essay as the absolute upper limit, and only in exceedingly rare cases.

Returning to the prompts, the school’s first essay is a very traditional career essay, in which you will need to reveal that your MBA is a well-thought-out professional imperative and that Chicago Booth is the clear bridge to your future. In the second essay, you have an opportunity to turn inward and share more personal aspects of your character and journey. With the two pieces together, you should be able to provide the admissions committee with a well-rounded picture of yourself. Our more in-depth essay advice follows…

Essay 1: How will the Booth MBA help you achieve your immediate and long-term post-MBA career goals? (250 word minimum)

If this essay prompt seems rather simplistic and straightforward, that is because it is. Chicago Booth is requesting very fundamental—yet incredibly important—information and really just wants you to provide it so the school can understand your motivation for pursuing an MBA from its program and where you expect to go in your career afterward. Be as specific as possible in your description of where you see yourself after graduation and several years down the line, from the industry and role to any additional details about which you currently feel confident (perhaps specific companies or responsibilities that appeal to you in particular). Explain what has brought you to this point in your professional life, not only your career progression to date but also what has inspired you to earn an advanced degree as a vital tool in moving forward. And ideally, take the extra step of noting which of the program’s resources you believe will be most helpful to you in your pursuits. To be effective, this needs to be more than a passing mention, so do your research on the school and draw a clear picture for your admissions reader as to how and why the particular offerings you have identified relate directly to your needs and how you intend to apply them.

This essay includes many of the most elemental components of a traditional personal statement essay. We therefore encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, in which we provide much more in-depth guidance on how to consider and respond to these sorts of questions, along with numerous illustrative examples. Please feel free to download your complimentary copy today.

And for a thorough exploration of the Chicago Booth academic program, unique offerings, social life, and other key characteristics and resources, download a free copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Essay 2: Chicago Booth immerses you in a choice-rich environment. How have your interests, leadership experiences, and other passions influenced the choices in your life? (250 word minimum)

Although Chicago Booth asks about your “interests, leadership experiences, and other passions,” the admissions committee does not expect you to check all of these figurative boxes. Instead of focusing on each of these aspects and trying to formulate a response that would fit one, invert your approach by taking a step back from the question and reflecting on how you have arrived at where you are today, both personally and professionally. What has led you to this point in your life and/or career? What has been your primary motivation? In considering your path to date with this mind-set, you should be able to easily identify inflection points that fall within the scope of the “interests, leadership experiences, and other passions” that have shaped you.

You should know that no specific interest, leadership experience, or passion is either “right” or “wrong.” What will make your response powerful is identifying the actual influences in your life and writing about them with sincerity. And you must go beyond simply stating an interest/experience/passion—to truly convey authenticity, you will need to present your experiences in a narrative form. By giving your essay a voice and allowing your reader to visualize how your influences manifest, you will be on the road to a sincere essay.

Although you are not restricted by a set maximum length, we nevertheless suggest skipping a long introduction and launching directly into your narrative. Immersing the admissions reader in your story right away is a good way to capture their attention. If you have a single, very strong core narrative, you might start by sharing the emergence of your passion in your first paragraph(s) and then describing its manifestation in the later one(s). For example, if you were a particularly outdoorsy youth and are now a leader in your position as a product developer at The North Face, this approach could reveal a clear cause and effect. If, however, you have a portfolio of formative experiences, you might strive to reveal this cause-and-effect relationship between passion and manifestation two or even three times within your essay. The permutations are many, but our point is that your best chance of standing out comes from revealing how a particular aspect of your life (or more than one) blossomed over time into something more and has helped create the person you are today.

Optional Question: Is there any unclear information in your application that needs further explanation? (300 word maximum)

Chicago Booth’s optional essay prompt is a little quirky in that the admissions committee uses the word “unclear,” which to us sounds like a more direct way of saying, “Don’t share additional information just to ‘sell’ your candidacy, but use this space only to address a problem area.” So let us be especially clear: however tempted you may be, do not use this space to simply share a strong essay you wrote for another school or offer a few anecdotes you were unable to share in your required essays. This is your opportunity to address—if you need to—any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a low GMAT or GRE score, a poor grade or overall GPA, or a gap in your work experience. For more guidance, we encourage you to download your free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay, with multiple examples, to help you mitigate any problem areas in your application.

Reapplicant Question: Upon reflection, how has your perspective regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application? (300 word maximum)

With this essay question, Chicago Booth is testing your resolve and your reasoning. We surmise that the school wants to be certain you are not just stubbornly following a path and trying to “finish what you started,” so to speak, but that you have truly reassessed your needs in the aftermath of your unfortunate rejection. We recommend that you discuss your subsequent growth and development as they pertain to additional personal and professional discovery, which validates your need for an MBA. In the interim, some of your interests or goals may have changed—that is not a bad thing, and the admissions committee will not automatically assume that you are “wishy-washy,” unless you give them good reason to do so. Just be sure that any of your goals that have changed still logically connect to your overall story and desire for an MBA. Your aspirations—new or original—need to represent a compelling progression of the growth you have achieved in the past year.  

The Next Step—Mastering Your Chicago Booth Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the Chicago Booth School of Business Interview Primer today.
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MBA Annual Base Salaries at an All-Time High, GMAC Survey Reveals  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Jun 2019, 11:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: MBA Annual Base Salaries at an All-Time High, GMAC Survey Reveals
The median annual base starting salary for recently hired MBAs at U.S.-based companies has reached a record high of $115K, a new survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reveals. The GMAC 2019 Corporate Recruiters Survey, which features responses from more than 1,200 employers in 45 countries, reports that the median salary is the highest on record after having hovered in the $100K–$110K range for the past several years.

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Among the participating U.S.-based companies, freshly hired MBAs received the highest salaries in the consulting industry ($135K), followed by the finance/accounting industry ($125K). Companies based in Europe reported a median starting salary of $95K for MBAs, while companies in the Asia-Pacific region offered a median of $45K. For new hires with bachelor’s degrees in the United States, the median annual starting salary was notably lower than that of MBAs, at approximately $55K.
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Avoiding Getting Multiple GMAT Questions Wrong in a Row  [#permalink]

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New post 14 Jun 2019, 09:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: Avoiding Getting Multiple GMAT Questions Wrong in a Row
With regard to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. Manhattan Prep’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

“How do I make sure I don’t get more than two, three, or four questions wrong in a row?”

Students ask this all the time—they have heard that GMAT scoring penalizes us for getting a lot of questions wrong in a row.

This is true, to some extent. The GMAT test writers prioritize steady performance over the length of the entire test, so they have built safeguards into the algorithm to ensure that if, for example, we spend too much time early on, we will get penalized for running out of time at the end.

So… how do I avoid getting multiple questions wrong in a row?

People will say something like, “I am pretty sure I got the last two wrong—I just outright guessed on the last one. Now, how do I make sure I get the next one right?”

You cannot. You can never “make sure” that you get any particular question right. If you could… well, then you would not need any help, right? Nobody on the planet, not even the best test takers, can guarantee that they are going to answer any particular question correctly.

What do I do when I know I have just gotten a couple of questions wrong?

You are going to hate my answer: you ignore it. Do not even think about it in the first place.

You likely hate that answer because you feel that you have no control—and you are right. We cannot control this at all. That is why we should not waste a single second thinking about it. Try the question in front of you for some reasonable amount of time. If you just cannot do it in the expected time frame, find a way to make a guess and move on.

Spending more time (more than the rough average) does not actually increase the chances that you will get something right!

But then, how do I get better?

Expect that you are not going to be able to answer everything.

Know how to make an educated guess wherever possible.

Acknowledge when a problem just is not going your way, and, when needed, make a random guess without wasting a single second longer.

Change your response to the thought “I have to get this one right.” Have you already read this article: But I studied this – I should know how to do it!? If so, then you will remember that we talk about changing your response to the “but!” feeling. (If not, go read the article right now.)

The same thing applies here. When you find yourself thinking, “Oh, I need to get this one right!,” change your reaction. Instead of spending extra time and stressing yourself out, tell yourself, “I cannot guarantee anything. If I can do this one in regular time, great. If not, I will guess without losing time on it and move on.”
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MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: I Love Your School So Much I Cannot St  [#permalink]

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New post 15 Jun 2019, 09:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: I Love Your School So Much I Cannot Stop Writing About It
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Although admissions officers want to know that you are interested in their school, they do not want to read your repeated professions of love for it. Some candidates mistakenly believe that in their essays, they must constantly repeat enthusiastic statements about how they will improve their skills at their target school, regardless of whether the school asks for such information.

For instance, consider the following sample (hypothetical) response to the essay question “What achievement are you most proud of and why?”

“In starting ABC Distributors, I learned a great deal about entrepreneurship, and I hope to formalize this knowledge at the XYZ School of Management. Only with XYZ’s vast entrepreneurial resources and profound alumni connections will I be able to take my next venture to a higher level. At XYZ, I will grow my business skills and potential.”

We can identify numerous problems with this submission—including that the statements are cloying and have no real substance. However, the most egregious issue is that the school never asked applicants to discuss how the program would affect their abilities. Thus, the “Why our school?” component is just empty pandering.

As you write your essays, always focus on answering the essay questions as they are written—do not try to anticipate or respond to unasked questions. So, if your target school does not explicitly request that you address the question “Why our school?,” do not look for ways to sneakily answer that question in your essay(s).

Of course, if the school does ask for this information, then certainly do your research and provide it. Again, the key is to always respond to the school’s question and give the admissions committee the information it wants.
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Multidimensional Brainstorming for Your MBA Application Essays  [#permalink]

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New post 17 Jun 2019, 09:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: Multidimensional Brainstorming for Your MBA Application Essays
We at mbaMission often tell candidates, “You cannot turn a bad idea into a good essay.” We insist on taking our clients through a lengthy brainstorming process—starting with a thorough questionnaire—to discover the stories that make them distinct. As you uncover your stories, consider each one from as many different angles as possible. Doing so will not only help ensure you understand the various “weapons in your arsenal” but also provide you with maximum flexibility, considering that MBA admissions committees ask questions that vary dramatically from school to school.

For example, an experience coaching a baseball team at an underfunded high school may have multiple dimensions, such as the following:

  • Creatively motivating an underachieving team and changing attitudes, despite losses
  • Initiating and leading fund-raising efforts so that each player could afford proper equipment
  • Mentoring a struggling player and seeing an improvement in his/her on-field performance
  • Helping a player deal with a family issue off the field
  • Recruiting other coaches and then working to improve a team’s on-field performance
These are just a few of the stories that could be gleaned through brainstorming, proving that considering your experiences from various angles can help you discover multiple unique approaches to your essays.

In addition, many MBA candidates—whether they work as bankers or lawyers, in internal corporate finance or corporate strategy—feel they must tell a “deal story” in their application essays. Although discussing a deal can be a good idea, what is vital is showing your distinct impact on the deal in question—you are the central character, not the deal. A straightforward story about how you dutifully completed your work and steadily supported others as a deal became a reality will not likely be very compelling. Further, the important thing is that the admissions committee experience your personality, not your spreadsheets.

Ask yourself the following questions to ensure your story is truly about you:

  • What did you do that was beyond expectations for your role? Did you grow into additional responsibilities at a crucial time?
  • Did any particular interactions take place in which you used your personality to change the dynamic, thereby ensuring the deal’s progress or success?
  • Did you need to take a principled stand at any moment or speak out on behalf of a needful party?
  • Did you help others overcome any corporate or international cultural barriers?
These questions can get you started, but the point remains: do not simply offer any deal; instead, provide insight into your deal.
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Re: The mbaMission Blog  [#permalink]

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New post 17 Jun 2019, 11:10
Please, help me to find out what I can do in my situation.
I've got low GPA (2.3) and score 650 - GMAT. Besides, I have 3 years of experience in Real Estate in Russia.
Please, tell me where I could study Finance if it is possible with my scores. Thank you in advance.
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Hands-On Finance Opportunities at Michigan Ross and UCLA Anderson  [#permalink]

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New post 18 Jun 2019, 09:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: Hands-On Finance Opportunities at Michigan Ross and UCLA Anderson
You may not realize that students at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan do not have to travel all that far to get hands-on Wall Street experience. Through the John R. and Georgene M. Tozzi Electronic Business and Finance Center (known as simply the Tozzi Center), students can find themselves “on” Wall Street without ever having to leave Ann Arbor. Housed in a 5,800-square-foot facility on campus, the Tozzi Center boasts a state-of-the-art mock trading floor as well as a flexible and wireless electronic classroom and an e-lab seminar room. The latest financial tools—including live news wires, trading systems, and data and research services—can be found at the center. The space has been designed to look and feel like the real thing, so do not be surprised if you hear “Sell, Sell, Sell!” when you walk by students in action.

Many acknowledge UCLA Anderson’s unique connections to the media and entertainment industry. However, far fewer MBA aspirants are aware of the tremendous opportunities Anderson provides to students interested in investment management. Established in 1987, the Anderson Student Asset Management (ASAM) program (formerly the Student Investment Fund) is a fellowship that provides up to 20 students with a hands-on opportunity to apply what they have learned thus far about investment theory. Students must apply for the opportunity to manage the portfolio, currently worth approximately $1M, for five academic quarters. ASAM Fellows engage in investment strategy, asset allocation, and security analysis, and they explore both value and growth approaches to investment as well as fixed income investments. Fellows get together weekly during the academic year and visit investment professionals throughout the fellowship to learn about different investment philosophies. Those interested in a career in investment management should give UCLA Anderson a closer look.

For more information on Michigan Ross, UCLA Anderson, or 15 other leading MBA programs, check out our free mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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Stanford Graduate School of Business Essay Analysis, 2019–2020  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Jun 2019, 12:01
FROM mbaMission Blog: Stanford Graduate School of Business Essay Analysis, 2019–2020
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At the beginning of every MBA application season, we at mbaMission ask ourselves the same question for all the top programs: “Are they going to change their essay questions this year or not?” We now have our answer for the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), and it is “yes and no.” Although the school has not altered the core prompts for its two central essays, it has revisited the accompanying text and made minor adjustments to its counsel—though we cannot say we see any momentous revisions in those messages. The big change this year is the addition of an Optional Short-Answer Question, which gives applicants the opportunity to share some of their most significant accomplishments and experiences. We suspect the school has provided this outlet for (likely quant-minded) candidates who might have otherwise felt compelled to shoehorn such information into their “what matters most?” essay, thereby freeing them to speak more from the heart in that submission, without fear that the admissions committee will somehow overlook what they believe are key “selling points” in their profile. In our full MBA essay analysis that follows, we provide more insight into the GSB’s two required questions as well as this added element and how it can complement the school’s other application essays this season.

Essay A: What matters most to you, and why?

For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you’ve identified what matters most to you, help us understand why. You might consider, for example, what makes this so important to you? What people, insights, or experiences have shaped your perspectives?

When candidates ask us, “What should I write for what matters most to me?,” we offer some pretty simple guidance: start brainstorming for this essay by asking yourself that very question. What does matter most to you? This might seem like obvious advice, of course, but many applicants get flustered by the question, believing that an actual “right” answer exists that they must provide to satisfy the admissions committee. As a result, they never pause to actually consider their sincere responses, which are typically the most compelling. The GSB itself notes on its essay page, “There is no ‘right answer’ to these questions—the best answer is the one that is truest for you.”

We therefore encourage you to contemplate this question in depth and push yourself to explore the psychological and philosophical motivations behind your goals and achievements—behind who you are today. We cannot emphasize this enough: do not make a snap decision about the content of this essay. Once you have identified what you believe is an appropriate theme, discuss your idea(s) with those with whom you are closest and whose input you respect. Doing so can help validate deeply personal and authentic themes, leading to an essay that truly stands out.

Once you have fully examined your options and identified your main themes, do not simply provide a handful of supporting anecdotes—or worse, recycle the stories you used in a similar essay for another school. A strong essay response to this question will involve a true exploration of the themes you have chosen and reveal a thorough analysis of decisions, motives, and successes/failures, with a constant emphasis on how you conduct yourself. If you are merely telling stories and trying to tie in your preconceived conclusions, you are probably forcing a theme on your reader rather than genuinely analyzing your experiences, and any experienced admissions reader will see right through this. In short, be sure to fully consider and identify your most authentic answer(s), outline your essay accordingly, and then infuse your writing with your personality, thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Stanford encourages you to give special attention to why the subject you have chosen to write about is the most important to you. This “why” element should be clear in your essay—it should be implied by what you are discussing and sharing. If you need to explicitly declare, “And what matters most to me is…,” your essay is not making a strong enough point on its own. A well-constructed essay that is infused with your values and motivation and that clearly conveys why you made certain decisions should effectively and implicitly reveal the “why” behind your chosen topic—and will almost always make a stronger point.

One final note is that you can write about a popular theme as long as you truly own the experience. However, the odds are very low that you could write on a theme that the Stanford GSB’s admissions committee has never read about before. You can discuss whatever you truly care about in your essay, but you absolutely must support your topic with a wealth of experience that shows how you have uniquely lived it. Therefore, for example, you cannot successfully write about “making a difference” if you have volunteered only occasionally, but if you have truly had a significant impact on someone’s life, then the topic is no longer a cliché—it is true to who you genuinely are. So, focus less on trying to choose the “right” subject for your essay and more on identifying one that is personal and authentic to you. If you write powerfully about your topic and connect it directly to your experiences and values, your essay should be a winner.

For even more targeted advice about how to approach this multidecade mainstay question for the Stanford GSB—and to see multiple sample essays for inspiration—download your free copy of our new guide, “What Matters?” and “What More?”: A Guide to the Stanford GSB and HBS Personal Essays.

Essay 2: Why Stanford?

Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them. If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.

As we noted earlier, on the school’s application essays page, the Stanford GSB admissions committee stresses that it has no “right” answer in mind for its essay questions and wants applicants to share their story in their “genuine voice.” It does not have a preferred job or industry in mind that it is waiting to hear you say you plan to enter. It really just wants to understand your personal vision and why you feel a Stanford MBA (or MSx) in particular is necessary to facilitate this vision. If you try to present yourself as someone or something you are not, you will ultimately undermine your candidacy. Trust the admissions committee (and us) on this one!

The “why our school?” topic is a common element of a typical personal statement, so we encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. It explains ways of approaching this subject effectively and offers several sample essays as guides. Click here to access your complimentary copy today.

And for a thorough exploration of the Stanford GSB’s academic program, unique offerings, social life, and other key characteristics, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which is also available for free.

Optional Short-Answer Question:

Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others? You are welcome to share up to three examples. (Up to 1500 characters, approximately 250 words, for each example)

We know from experience that when asked to write an essay that is more personal than professional or that focuses on a “why” rather than a “what,” some applicants—and particularly those with strong quant backgrounds or mind-sets—get extremely concerned that the admissions committee will not understand or recognize how successful they have been in their career or life to date. Perhaps they feel their greatest strengths are demonstrated by their accomplishments and therefore believe that not highlighting these for the admissions committee will mean certain rejection. This is simply not true, but we understand that this can be a difficult truth to accept. We suspect that many past Stanford GSB candidates simply could not resist talking more about their achievements in Essay A than about their values, personal interests, beliefs, and emotions—ultimately depriving the admissions committee of the information it truly wanted. The addition of these optional mini essays now provides an outlet for such applicants and their success stories, which will likely prove a win-win. Candidates can focus on the more personal aspects of their profile in their first essay, as the GSB wants, and can then highlight their standout skills and triumphs here (if they wish), providing still more data on which the admissions committee can base its final decision.  

First, keep in mind that this is an optional element of your application. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity only if you feel you have a story (or stories) that the admissions committee must have to consider your candidacy fully and fairly. Just because you can submit additional information here does not mean that you must (i.e., you will not be penalized for not doing so!), and if you are essentially asking the already overtaxed admissions readers to do additional work on your application, you need to make sure that extra effort is worthwhile. Similarly, although the school states that you may discuss three impact situations, sharing just one or two is absolutely acceptable. They key is to focus on conveying stories that are truly significant and revelatory of who you are, what you can do, and/or what kind of effect you have had on others, not just on filling every available space on the application.

Despite your limited word count here, do your best to “show,” or really spell out, how things unfolded—rather than just stating the accomplishment or flatly presenting the situation—to give the admissions reader some perspective on how you conduct yourself and achieve. And because the school wants to know about “your impact,” you will obviously have to convey the results of your actions. The GSB wants to understand that the decisions you made and steps you took clearly paid off and that a project, company, organization, individual, or product subsequently experienced a positive change. Finally, do not gloss over the “why” factor here, and be sure to delineate the reason the outcome was so meaningful.

The Next Step—Mastering Your Stanford GSB Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of the Stanford GSB Interview Primer today.
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