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mbaMission Admissions Consultant
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The Value of Current—and Enthusiastic—Community Service [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: The Value of Current—and Enthusiastic—Community Service
MBA admissions committees try to identify applicants who are constantly active, challenging themselves in all spheres of their lives. As a result, extracurricular and community activities are not only powerful in showing an MBA candidate’s benevolence, but they also help create the impression that the applicant is steadily pursuing goals and is therefore predisposed to success.

We regularly encounter business school applicants who say, “I have been so busy professionally that I haven’t had time to volunteer, but I was really active during college.” In almost all cases, however, as candidates get further from their college years, their undergraduate experience becomes less and less relevant. Although having a record of consistent achievement throughout college and into one’s professional life is best, MBA applicants are often evaluated on a “What have you done for me lately?” basis—meaning that contemporary community service is generally more important.

MBA admissions officers know that finding time to commit to external activities can sometimes be challenging, but they still see many applicants from the most competitive fields who indeed find time to give back to others. So, if you had a rich and rewarding college experience filled with leadership, in short, keep that trend going. You have a powerful complement to your contemporary involvements, but not a substitute.

Showing enthusiasm for your volunteer work is as important as committing to the work itself. If you are slogging through your time as a volunteer, you are certainly not helping yourself or your candidacy. “Time served” is not the most important factor of your community work in the eyes of the MBA admissions committees—what is meaningful and revealing is the impact you have on others. Indeed, the spirit with which you have served your community is what will impress the committees.

As you consider your options for community involvement (and we hope you began doing so long before now), be sure to choose a cause or group about which you are passionate and to which you can commit yourself entirely. By dedicating yourself to an organization about which you are sincerely enthusiastic (just as you would do in choosing a job), you will naturally find yourself in situations that will lend themselves to quality essays and powerful recommendations.
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MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: My Supervisor Graduated from HBS—He Kn [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: My Supervisor Graduated from HBS—He Knows!
We at mbaMission know of a man now in his 70s who graduated from a virtually unknown Canadian undergraduate school in 1963 and who, with no work experience at all, applied to Harvard Business School (HBS), Wharton, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), earning acceptance at all three (though the GSB deferred his entry for one year so he could gain a little more experience first). He ultimately studied at HBS and now runs a small grain-trading business. You could not meet a nicer man, and although he is certainly wise in many respects, one thing he knows nothing about is MBA admissions. “I attended so long ago, things must have changed since then,” he says. “I did not have any work experience at all. I had studied four years of commerce, and that was it!”

Why are we telling you this? Many applicants each year tell us that their bosses, who applied to business school during far different times, have given them “sage” advice about applying and that they feel they should follow it—after all, what worked for their boss in 1966, 1976, 1986, or even 1996 must still be applicable today, right? Not quite so.

For a long time, the MBA was actually not all that desirable a degree, so the admissions process was not so competitive. To give you an idea of the MBA’s relative popularity, Duke University (Fuqua) did not even start its MBA program until 1970, but its law school was founded in 1868. Yale University was founded in 1701, but it did not offer an MBA degree until 1999. So, the MBA is a relatively new degree that has only fairly recently (as of the late 1990s) reached its current level of popularity and prestige.

What does all of this mean with regard to your boss’s advice? Although your supervisor may have gotten into one of your target schools, they likely did so years ago and therefore may not have had to contend with the steep competition you now face. Your boss may also not know anything about what the admissions process is like today and could be—however inadvertently—leading you astray. If your supervisor starts any bit of their well-intended advice with the phrase “when I applied,” you should view the coming declaration with tremendous caution.
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Enhance Your Leadership Skills with the Berkeley Haas Evening and Week [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Enhance Your Leadership Skills with the Berkeley Haas Evening and Weekend MBA Program

The Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, is likely best known for its full-time MBA program, which welcomes approximately in its incoming class each year. However, a full-time, two-year program is not necessarily the best option for all aspiring MBAs—especially those who already have extensive work experience and perhaps are responsible for leading a team. The Berkeley Haas Evening and Weekend MBA (EWMBA) program is designed for established professionals who wish to remain in their roles while enhancing their leadership skills and earning an MBA. From 2014 to 2019, the Haas EWMBA was ranked the number one part-time MBA program in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, though it now stands at  number two in the publication’s 2020 survey.

The Berkeley Haas EWMBA program is highly customizable: students can elect to take classes in the evenings or on the weekends, as best fits their schedule, and can finish their degree in two and a half or three years, though even longer options are available as needed. Students who opt to pursue their studies in the evening take core classes two nights a week (either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday), while elective courses are given Monday­ through Thursday. For the weekend option, classes are presented on Saturdays, with core courses requiring full days for the initial three semesters and electives demanding a slightly lighter workload. Each class of EWMBA students includes roughly the same number of individuals as the full-time MBA program—275 in the class that matriculated in fall 2018, for example. While the median years of work experience varies with each class, the median for the students who enrolled in 2018 was seven. Every incoming class is divided into cohorts of 70 students who take all core courses together and who are further divided into study teams of approximately five individuals for tackling the course work. The EWMBA curriculum consists of 22 units of core courses, such as “Macroeconomics,” “Leadership Communication,” and “Ethics and Responsibility in Business,” and 20 units of electives, the first of which can be taken in the summer of students’ first year.

The sense of community at Haas is integrated into the EWMBA curriculum in the form of three programs: WE Launch, the weekend-long mandatory student orientation; WE Innovate, a two-day retreat typically hosted in Napa Valley in which students apply what they have learned from their initial core courses; and WE Lead, an opportunity just before graduation intended for reflection and celebration. Haas’s global focus is evident in its learning opportunities outside the country, which include participating in an international exchange after completing one’s core courses, seminars in international business, and the International Business Development (IBD) program, which is touted on the Haas website as the school’s “signature international MBA experience.” The IBD program connects students with real companies and consists of classroom teamwork and a two-week visit to the client company’s country.

Combining a demanding job with part-time MBA studies can be challenging, but the effort involved can confer notable advantages—not only in the professional doors an MBA typically opens and the leadership skills gained but also in the relationships established with classmates and faculty members. If you are considering applying to a part-time MBA program, sign up for a free 30-minute consultation with one of our Senior Consultants to get valuable information on starting your journey.
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Dealing with Long Underlines in GMAT Sentence Correction Questions [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Dealing with Long Underlines in GMAT Sentence Correction Questions
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.

Many of the more “standard” (and lower-level) Sentence Correction (SC) questions have easier-to-identify “splits,” or differences in the answer choices. For instance, answers A and B might use the word “have,” while C, D, and E use the word “has,” indicating a relatively easy-to-spot singular versus plural issue.

Sentences with longer underlines, however, are more likely to be testing such global issues as Structure, Meaning, Modifiers, and Parallelism. In these questions, large chunks of the sentence move around, the fundamental sentence structure changes, and so on. In one GMATPrep problem, for example, answer A includes the text “the brain growing in mice when placed” while answer B says “mice whose brains grow when they are placed.” This is not just a simple switch of a single word—something more complicated is happening. Take a look at this article for the full example.

To have a chance at answering these correctly, we may need to modify our standard approach to SC. In GMATPrep’s Lake Baikal problem, the entire sentence is underlined, and the answers seem to be changing completely around. Where do we even start? Click the link to try the problem and learn more about how to tackle these types of SCs. Here is another one discussing an organization called Project SETI.

When you are done with this, try this third one: FCC rates. Here, only about two-thirds of the sentence is underlined, but the sentence is unusually long.

When you are starting to feel more comfortable with those, I have an exercise for you. Pull up some long-underline Official Guide questions that you have previously completed. Cover up the original sentence and look only at the answers (in other words, if the entire sentence is not underlined, then you are going to do this exercise without actually reading the full sentence!).

Based on the differences that you see, try to articulate all of the issues that are being tested and eliminate as many answers as you can. (Note: You will not always be able to eliminate all four wrong answers; sometimes the non-underlined portion of the sentence contains some crucial information!) When you are done, look at the full thing and review the explanation to see how close you got and whether you missed anything.
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How to Quit Your Job: Best Practices for Communicating Your Decision t [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: How to Quit Your Job: Best Practices for Communicating Your Decision to Leave  
In this blog series, our mbaMission Career Coaches offer invaluable advice and industry-related news to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. To schedule a free half-hour consultation with one of our mbaMission Career Coaches, click here.

Whether you are quitting your job to attend an MBA program or accept another job opportunity, being thoughtful about the best time and way to resign is critical for maintaining a positive reputation in the marketplace. 

Here are a few questions to consider before communicating your resignation:  

  • What is your goal for the conversation?
  • Who is the right person to inform of your decision? What type of relationship do you have with that person, and what will be their likely reaction?  
  • What is the right time and place to communicate your decision?
  • What are your primary concerns about communicating your resignation?
  • What are the company norms in terms of resignations? 
  • Is there anything that could convince you to stay?  
When engaging in the actual in-person conversation (or via phone/video conference call if your boss is not at your location), we recommend taking the following approach:

  • Be direct, but focus on the positives of your experience at the firm. Try to be specific about how you grew and what you learned during your tenure at the company. Show gratitude by thanking your boss for the opportunity and their support. 
  • Explain why you are leaving, and indicate it was a tough decision. Share what you value in the new opportunity, which is ideally something that your current company cannot match.
  • Preserve goodwill. Focus on your boss’s desire to have a smooth transition by asking about their key concerns and offering solutions including helping to find a replacement, training the replacement, staying through an upcoming crunch period, being available for questions after you have left, and crafting a transition plan. If you are leaving to attend business school, offer to serve as a brand ambassador for your former employer. 
  • Agree upon an end date. Consider when you want/need to leave as well as what makes sense for your projects. Be prepared that following this conversation, your employer might ask you to pack up your things and leave immediately and might cut off your electronic access to company documents.
  • Find out about specific company policies or notifications that are required to terminate your employment, and understand the details of your employee benefits. 
  • Express a desire to stay in touch with your boss and other colleagues. It is a small world, and you never know who could be helpful to you in the future. If you have not done so already, connect with your boss and colleagues on LinkedIn.
Finally, accept that your boss is likely to be disappointed and you are unlikely to change that, so focus on what you do control. Be kind, appreciative, and thoughtful while making your departure as smooth as possible.

Have you been admitted to business school? If so, do you want to get a head start on defining your career goals? Do you need help preparing for job interviews or learning how to effectively network with your target employers? Or maybe you want to be a top performer in your current role but are unsure how to maximize your potential. Let an mbaMission Career Coach help via a free 30-minute consultation!
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Oxford University (Saïd Business School) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020 [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Oxford University (Saïd Business School) Essay Analysis, 2019–2020

Over the years, we have seen the top business schools slowly scaling back the length—and in some cases, the scope—of their required application essays, but the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford may be setting a new record of sorts with its minimalist approach this season. The program is now requiring applicants to provide just a single essay with their application materials rather than two, as it did last year, and one of only 250 words, at that. On the plus side, perhaps, the prompt gives candidates the leeway to share whatever additional information they believe the admissions committee should have in evaluating them, so they are not restricted by a specific topic. Read on for our guidance on approaching Oxford Saïd’s single essay question for 2019–2020, as well as its essays for 1+1 MBA candidates and reapplicants.

Is there anything not covered in the application form that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about you? (Maximum 250 words)

If you are not paying close attention as you read through Oxford Saïd’s application information (though of course, you are, right?), you might accidentally dismiss this question as a standard optional essay prompt. The wording may understandably give some applicants this initial impression, though the prompt is presented with a slightly different wording on the school’s application requirements page: “Tell us something that is not covered in your application which you would like the Admissions Committee to know about you.” The version in the application is almost verbatim what we have seen from other schools as an add-on essay invitation, but in this case, the essay is required, so this is not a mistake you want to make. Perhaps Saïd is hoping to check candidates’ attention to detail with this query? 

If you have a problem or issue in your candidacy, this would be the right place to address it, given that the school does not offer a typical, separate optional essay opportunity with which to do so. However, this is an essay that all applicants must submit, so if your profile is free of questionable components, you must still provide some key additional information here for the school to use in deciding whether to include you in its next incoming class. You will therefore need to determine what is most important for the admissions committee to know to evaluate you thoroughly and fairly, whether that is the story behind a seemingly unfavorable or deleterious part of your application or whether it is one about a significant learning experience or impressive accomplishment (or something else altogether). As always, take time to consider everything the admissions committee will already be able to learn about you from the other parts of your application, from your statistics and resume to your recommenders’ contributions. The goal here is to round out that information in a positive way that pushes your candidacy forward in the direction of acceptance.

Even though this piece is not optional, we still recommend downloading a free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide. It might help you in determining whether you need to write this essay on a problem area/issue or not (or perhaps which one, if your candidacy somehow includes multiple questionable elements), and if so, the advice and many examples within will direct you in how to do so most effectively.

If you are applying under the 1+1 scheme you also need to submit the following essay:

Explain why you see the 1+1 MBA as particularly beneficial for you and how it fits with your career and personal development aims (maximum 250 words). 

For this essay, Saïd provides a very straightforward prompt. Oxford has created an innovative two-year program through which you can earn two master’s degrees simultaneously. But the school has a simple request first—explain why you want/need that non-MBA master’s degree. If you hope to participate in this program, you will need to help the school understand exactly why and how it will affect your career. With a mere 250 words in which to detail precisely how this particular program will contribute to your management education and where you will apply that learning, you have no room to be vague. You must clearly demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship between the dual-degree program and the achievement of your goals. Your underlying message needs to be readily comprehensible: “I will complete X degree, which will benefit me by manifesting in Y part of my career.”

Re-applicants will need to submit and additional essay: What improvements have you made in your candidacy since you last applied to the Oxford MBA? (Maximum 250 words) 

Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement, or accepted some sort of personal challenge, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Saïd 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 Saïd 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.

In addition to its essay questions, Saïd asks candidates to respond to five career goals questions. Although you are not expected to craft full essay-length responses to these queries and should in fact focus on clearly and concisely providing the information the school seeks, we thought we would offer some insight into what we believe the school is hoping to extract via these questions.

-Describe below your immediate plan after graduating from the MBA:

This prompt is rather straightforward, and we imagine you do infact have a goal in mind for your post-graduate career, particularly given that Saïd’s program is just one year long, meaning you will have less time to explore and pursue multiple options than you would in a two-year program. Just be direct and succinct in detailing your intentions. If your choice seems like a clear or even obvious one based on your past, you should not need to provide much explanation or context for it, because your resume will provide sufficient backstory. If you are planning to change careers while at Saïd, however, be sure to include some basic explanation as to why you have selected this post-MBA goal and why it is a feasible and fitting one for you.

-How does your preferred sector in your preferred location recruit MBA talent and what do they look for in a candidate? Describe the research you have done so far.

As we just noted, Saïd’s MBA program is only one year long, and that year will be packed with academic pursuits and social opportunities, in addition to your job search responsibilities. The school wants to know that you have already dedicated significant time to making sure the path you have chosen is one you are ready and properly equipped to pursue (or at least that you will be equipped for by the end of your MBA experience). Moreover, showing that you have thoroughly considered and researched your options will reassure the admissions committee that you are a thoughtful, resourceful, and reasoned individual who takes serious things seriously—in short, that you are a determined candidate who is ready for the rigors of a top MBA program and the professional challenges that follow.

-Reflecting on your answer above, how do you meet these requirements?

The goal of this prompt is to uncover the skills, characteristics, and experience you already possess that make you a good fit for the professional plans you have made. We will assume that if you have truly done the proper research on the industry and region you have selected, then you have subsequently discovered the qualities in yourself that make you confident your chosen path is right for you. Simply outline these qualities for the admissions committee so that it can likewise be assured that you can achieve your stated goals.

-What do you plan to do between now and starting your MBA to prepare and maximise your chances of success?

As with its question about the research you have already done into your intended path, the school wants to know that you will be an active partner in your professional pursuits. Saïd is not interested in accepting individuals who feel that attending class is the full extent of their responsibility while at business school and that the career department will simply make the “job part” happen for them. You need to demonstrate that you are someone who goes after what they want and are willing to put in the work required to achieve it. Brainstorm about options you have to learn more about the job, industry, and/or company you are targeting or to prepare yourself for it—such as job shadowing, night classes, or reading specific websites or books—and detail these possibilities for your admissions reader.

-Should you not be successful in securing your first choice of role, what is your alternative?

Yet again, Saïd is asking for evidence that you are a motivated and resourceful person who is ready and willing to do everything necessary to move toward your goals. Demonstrating that you have thoroughly considered and identified an appropriate Plan B will let the school know that you are serious about your aspirations and are therefore a candidate in which it can have confidence. Your best option here is to outline an option that is equally fitting and attainable for you as your original plan, which will show that you are consistent in your interests and will still be well positioned to pursue and achieve your professional ambition.

Business schools outside the United States are increasingly popular among MBA hopefuls, and we at mbaMission are proud to offer our latest publications: Program Primers for international b-schools. In these snapshots we discuss core curriculums, elective courses, locations, school facilities, rankings, and more. Click here to download your free copy of the Saïd Business School Program Primer.
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Carnegie Mellon University Tepper Essay Analysis, 2019–2020 [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Carnegie Mellon University Tepper Essay Analysis, 2019–2020

After switching up its application essay approach last year and offering candidates three prompts from which to choose, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business has reverted back this season to posing just a single essay question that all its applicants must respond to. Candidates have up to 500 words with which to answer the school’s query, up from just 350 before, and must explain what they will bring to the Tepper community that will allow them to make an impact on it. Applicants who feel that this somewhat brief essay is not sufficient to fully convey their candidacy to the admissions committee can take advantage of the optional essay, which is sufficiently broad to accommodate discussions about more than just problem areas in one’s profile (if executed effectively). Our full analysis of Tepper’s essay prompts for 2019–2020 follows.

Required Essay: At Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School, we value our community and it is important for each person to contribute to its success. What difference will you make as a member of the MBA class at the Tepper School? (Maximum 350-500 words.)

To know how you would be able to contribute at Tepper, you must first understand the community and environment you will be contributing to, so—if you have not already done so—you must research the school in depth before attempting to craft this essay. This means moving beyond the program’s website, viewbook, and related marketing materials and making 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 Tepper program truly entails, paired with a profound knowledge of how it works, is key in identifying what is unique about you viewed against this backdrop—and will help highlight what you can bring to the mix and how. 

Pay special attention to the aspects of and areas at Tepper that speak to you personally in some way, and consider social events/clubs and professional development opportunities along with course work and academic offerings. Business school is meant to be a comprehensive environment and experience that enriches students in ways not just related directly to business, and perhaps your best potential for contribution lies in one of these areas. If you are an avid quant wizard, you could of course help your fellow students with class work and projects. If you have a depth of knowledge or years of experience in a particular area, whether through your job or in a personal capacity (such as being a dedicated wine aficionado), you could serve as a kind of subject matter expert for those around you in the program or even a valuable component in someone’s recruiting network. If you are particularly funny, creative, or athletic, you may be the ideal fit to lead an extracurricular group or play a significant role in a nonacademic project or event.

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. You have as much as 500 words for this submission, which is rather substantial these days, so take care not to ramble or become repetitious. And truly focus on those elements of your personality that are most relevant to the context here: the Tepper experience. Avoid simply trying to fit in as much information as possible about yourself in hoping of stumbling on the “right” answers and instead clearly present and illustrate your most fitting qualities and show a direct connection between them and specific aspects of the MBA program. Authenticity and enthusiasm are the keys to your success with this essay.

Because a contribution essay such as this has similarities to a “why our school?” essay, and because “why our school?” is often an element of a classic personal statement, we encourage you to download a free copy of our Personal Statement Guide, which offers further guidance on preparing for and writing such a submission and includes multiple illustrative examples.

Optional Essay: Use this essay to convey important information that you may not have otherwise been able to convey. This may include unexplained resume gaps, context for recommender selection, etc. If you are a re-applicant, explain how your candidacy has strengthened since your last application.

Tepper’s optional essay prompt is somewhat broad in the sense that it does not demand that you discuss only problem areas in your candidacy. That said, the second line of the prompt does seem to imply that the admissions committee expects the essay to be used in this way. If an element of your profile would benefit from further explanation—such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT or GRE score, or a legal or disciplinary issue—this is your opportunity to address it and answer any related questions an admissions officer might have. We caution you against simply trying to fill this space because you fear that not doing so would somehow count against you, and do not interpret this as a blank-slate invitation to dump every bit of remaining information about yourself that you feel the school is lacking or to offer a few anecdotes you were unable to use in your required essay. Although no word limit is stipulated, be mindful that by submitting a second essay, you are making a claim on an (undoubtedly very busy) admissions representative’s time, so you be sure that what you have written is worth the additional resources and effort. For more guidance, see our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice (along with multiple examples) on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay.

If you are a 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. Tepper 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 Tepper 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.
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Professor Profiles: Sanjay Sood, UCLA Anderson School of Management [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Professor Profiles: Sanjay Sood, UCLA Anderson School of Management

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 Sanjay Sood from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Sanjay Sood is a professor of marketing and behavioral decision making and the faculty director of UCLA Anderson’s Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment, and Sports, which he helped develop. Sood focuses on marketing management, brand management, advertising, and consumer behavior, and he is a strong believer in incorporating the real business world in the classroom experience. Indeed, he often welcomes executives from such companies as Google and MGM Resorts International as speakers, and he takes students on field trips to other companies. One second-year student we interviewed said Sood brings “a lot of practical experience to the classroom” and uses connections from his work with Procter & Gamble to enhance his classes.

Sood received his PhD in marketing from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in 1999 and was later recognized as a Marketing Science Institute Young Marketing Scholar in 2003. In 2010, Sood was selected by his fellow faculty members to receive the school’s Niedorf “Decade” Teaching Award, which is presented to professors who exhibit “exemplary teaching over a period of seven to ten years.” Five years earlier, he received a Citibank Teaching Award, which was also determined by his fellow faculty members.

For more information about UCLA Anderson and 16 other top-ranked business schools, check out our free mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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How to Lead with and Contextualize Your Goals in MBA Application Essay [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: How to Lead with and Contextualize Your Goals in MBA Application Essays
When business school candidates read an essay prompt, they often interpret it quite literally. For example, when a school asks applicants a multipart question such as “What will you contribute to our school’s community, and how will being part of it help you extend your professional vision?,” many applicants assume they must answer the subquestions in the exact order in which they are asked. However, this is not true. Such questions are actually quite flexible, and sometimes, you can better engage your reader by pursuing your own structure.

We have found that for overrepresented candidates with unique professional goals, one strategy that can be quite helpful is leading with goals instead of professional history. After all, “typical” experience is not as captivating as unusual (but realistic!) ambitions. So, the technologist who plans to open a boutique hotel or the investment banker who aspires to start a competitive windsurfing circuit can use these bold goals to stand out from the start.

We must emphasize, however, that such candidates need to have and portray a compelling connection to their goals, and we do not suggest that overrepresented candidates strive to imagine or create “wild” goals just to catch an admissions committee’s attention. However, if you have a profound connection to an uncommon aspiration, then responding to a school’s questions in a different order and ensuring that your goals are front and center could make a difference.

Another trend we have noticed is that when tailoring their essays to specific schools, many candidates do not go far enough to demonstrate a clear and understandable connection between themselves and their target programs. Offering school-specific information is good, but you must go beyond merely mentioning the particular resource(s) that appeal to you—you must add context for your claims.

What is the difference between a mere mention and providing context?

Mention:

“With a focus on entrepreneurship, I will participate in Columbia’s Entrepreneurial Sounding Board process. Further, I am attracted to classes such as ‘Small Business Finance,’ ‘Real Estate Marketing,’ and ‘Introduction to Mergers.’ I also plan to join the…”

Context:

“With clear plans to launch my start-up immediately after graduating from Columbia Business School, I look forward to testing my ideas through the Entrepreneurial Sounding Board; I find this opportunity to meet with faculty and gain critical feedback and mentoring invaluable as I strive to refine my business plan and learn more about how to source investments…”

In the first example, the candidate shows an awareness of the Entrepreneurial Sounding Board but does not provide the context necessary for the reader to fully understand how they will use this resource; therefore, the mention is entirely superficial. As a result, it is unconvincing, impersonal, and easily forgettable. The applicant has seemingly not taken the time to reflect on this resource and how they would use it to progress toward their stated goals. The candidate then goes on to list the classes they plan to take and essentially succeeds in little more than cataloging resources rather than offering a reasoned consideration of how the school’s offerings are necessary.

The second example better explains exactly how the candidate will use the resource mentioned; the applicant has clearly done the necessary research on the school and truly grasps how Columbia Business School will satisfy his/her academic and professional needs. Because the latter example is more informed and serious minded, the admissions reader can be certain that the candidate has a set path and a clear plan to achieve specific goals.
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Columbia Business School’s Financial Studies Program and Increasingly [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Columbia Business School’s Financial Studies Program and Increasingly Flexible Curriculum

Already well known as a finance powerhouse, Columbia Business School (CBS) stepped up its finance game in 2010 with the establishment of the Program for Financial Studies. This umbrella initiative connects faculty who approach financial studies from a variety of disciplines with students, alumni, and external organizations. The program’s main goals are to support research, to enhance the CBS finance curriculum and related resources, and to create opportunities for the exchange of ideas between CBS students and faculty and members of the external finance community. The program’s case studies include “The Norwegian Government Pension Fund: The Divestiture of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.” and ”

The structure of CBS’s core curriculum has also evolved—the school’s first year was at one time very rigid, and all first-year students took all core courses with their cluster unless they were able to pass an exemption exam. Students complained, however, that this inflexible system meant they could take only one elective course their first year, which could put them at a disadvantage when competing for summer internships. For example, previously, a CBS student who accepted a summer internship at a bank may have completed only one finance elective by the end of their first year, but that student’s counterparts on the internship from other schools may have taken two or three—thus potentially putting the CBS student at a disadvantage with regard to being considered for a full-time job at the end of the internship. So, after an intense process of research and evaluation, CBS launched a more flexible core curriculum in 2008.

Five years later, in 2013, CBS implemented further changes to its core curriculum, including an increased emphasis on cross-disciplinary thinking, in addition to even more flexibility. The revamped core courses also make greater use of online teaching tools in an attempt to “free up more classroom time for deeper dives and discussions,” as a 2013 Poets&Quants article explains. In the second term of the first year, students can pick three full-term electives and three half-term electives, replacing the school’s previous “flex-core” configuration and allowing students to better prepare for summer internships. In addition, students may take exemption exams in areas in which they are already proficient, thereby accessing the option to replace core courses with electives. This revised curriculum was developed in response to student feedback that a full term was not needed to cover the “core” elements in certain courses, and the change has given students significantly more flexibility in the first year.

CBS has thereby attempted to find a middle ground where students learn what the school considers fundamentals while having the latitude to specialize, and anecdotally, students have responded favorably.

For a thorough exploration of what CBS and 16 other top U.S. business schools have to offer, please check out our free mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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All About Critical Reasoning Questions on the GMAT (Part 1) [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: All About Critical Reasoning Questions on the GMAT (Part 1)
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.

Which type of Critical Reasoning (CR) question drives you crazy? Boldface? Find the Assumption? Inference?

The Critical Reasoning Process

Before you dive into individual question types, knowing the overall CR process is critical. Here are a few key notes:

  • There are four major* and five minor question subtypes, and each one has its own particular technique details. We will talk about the four major types in this post; check back next week for more information on the five minor types.
  • Your job is to learn the overall process/strategy for CR as well as the techniques specific to each question subtype.
*Note: Major types show up more frequently than minor types.

To master CR, you should be able to answer the following questions about each question type:

  • How do I recognize this question type?
  • What kind of information should I expect to find in the argument, based on this question type? What kind of information is going to be the most important?
  • What is the goal for this question type? What characteristics must the correct answer have?
  • What kinds of traps will be set for me? What are the common wrong answer types for this question type?
The Assumption Family

Assumption Family questions always involve a conclusion. This group consists of five subtypes overall. Here are the three major ones in this category:

Find the Assumption: What does the other assume is true when drawing the conclusion? Want to try another?

Strengthen the Conclusion: What new information would help to make the conclusion a little more likely to be true?

Weaken the Conclusion: What new information would help to make the conclusion a little less likely to be true?

The Evidence Family

Evidence Family questions really do not have conclusions (never “big” conclusions, like the Assumption arguments, and usually no conclusions at all).

This group consists of two subtypes overall, but only Inference questions are a major type:

Inference: Given the information in the argument, which answer choice must be true?

Spend some time mastering those four major types, as well as the overall CR process.
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Should My MBA Admissions Consultant Have Graduated from My Target Scho [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Should My MBA Admissions Consultant Have Graduated from My Target School?

What does a nonprofit manager who graduated from Harvard Business School (HBS) in 2004 and studied ethics and leadership have in common with an investment banker applying to HBS in 2019 to study finance and global business? Virtually nothing.

At mbaMission, applicants often ask us if they should work with a consultant who earned their MBA from the same program they wish to attend, and our answer is always an emphatic No. Allow us to explain.

First, no two applicants, students, or graduates of a specific MBA program are alike. Every individual will have a different experience from that of their fellow MBAs because each one has a unique perspective, background, style, skill set, range of personal and professional goals, diversity of classmates, and so on. One person’s experience two decades ago will therefore be totally unlike someone else’s experience today. Simply having attended the same MBA program does not confer significant commonality.

Second, someone’s firsthand knowledge of an MBA program becomes increasingly remote the more time has passed since they graduated. Schools regularly shift their philosophies, update their curricula, add and remove offerings and resources, and yes, even revise how they evaluate and select applicants. Although someone who graduated from a specific school can often provide interesting insight into the MBA experience there by sharing stories of their time in the program, their ability to offer a current applicant meaningful insight into what the school is like today is limited.

Third, admissions consultants work with a single client on as many schools as that client wants to apply to, and candidates almost always target more than one school. Yet each consultant has attended only one institution, of course. Working with a graduate of every school an applicant is interested in would simply not be feasible.

Finally—and perhaps most importantly—the admissions committees do not make decisions about whether or not to accept an applicant based on how well that individual knows their school. Although illustrating one’s fit with a program is certainly important in the admissions process, what is more important is demonstrating one’s strengths, capacity for self-reflection, accomplishments, and character. The focus of an application should always be on the candidate, not the school.

So, when you are selecting the mbaMission Senior Consultant with whom you would like to collaborate on your applications, focus on identifying one you feel you can trust and open up to. Our job is to help you present the best version of yourself we can to the admissions committees, and how comfortable you feel with your consultant is therefore vastly more important than where that consultant went to business school.
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MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: The Admissions Committee Wants a “Type [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: The Admissions Committee Wants a “Type”
Many business school applicants believe that MBA admissions committees have distilled their criteria for selecting candidates over the years and have in mind a specific “type” of individual they want. For example, within this world of stereotypes, applicants believe that Harvard Business School (HBS) is looking only for leaders, Kellogg is looking only for marketing students, Chicago Booth is looking only for finance students, and even that MIT Sloan is looking only for “eggheads.” Of course, these stereotypes—like most stereotypes—are inaccurate. Chicago Booth wants far more than one-dimensional finance students in its classes, and it provides far more than just finance to its MBA students (including, to the surprise of many, an excellent marketing program). HBS is not a school just for “generals”; among the approximately 950 students in each of its classes, HBS has a wide variety of personalities, including some excellent foot soldiers. So, at mbaMission, we constantly strive to educate MBA candidates about these misconceptions, which can sink applications if applicants pander to them.

By way of example, imagine that you have worked in operations at a widget manufacturer. You have profound experience managing and motivating dozens of different types of people, at different levels, throughout your career, in both good economic times and bad. Even though your exposure to finance has been minimal, you erroneously determine that you need to be a “finance guy” to get into NYU Stern. So you tell your best, but nonetheless weak, finance stories, and now you are competing against elite finance candidates who have far more impressive stories in comparison. What if you had told your unique operations/management stories instead and stood out from the other applicants, rather than trying to compete in the school’s most overrepresented pool?

We think that attempting to defy stereotypes and truly being yourself—trying to stand out from all others and not be easily categorized—is only natural. Of course, for those of you who are still not convinced, allow us to share a quote from Stanford’s former director and assistant dean of MBA admissions, Derrick Bolton, who wrote on the school’s admissions website, “Because we want to discover who you are, resist the urge to ‘package’ yourself in order to come across in a way you think Stanford wants. Such attempts simply blur our understanding of who you are and what you can accomplish. We want to hear your genuine voice throughout the essays that you write, and this is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams.”

Makes sense, right?
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Finding Suitable Recommendation Writers and Ensuring Their Punctuality [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Finding Suitable Recommendation Writers and Ensuring Their Punctuality
Letters of recommendation are an important part of your overall application package—they provide the only outside information the admissions committee receives about you. One of the most stressful parts of the application process can be picking your recommender. The first question you should ask is who can write a valuable letter on my behalf?

Like many candidates, you may believe that your recommenders must have remarkable credentials and titles to impress the admissions committee. However, what is far more important is selecting individuals who can write a personal and knowledgeable letter that discusses your talents, accomplishments, personality, and potential. If senior managers at your company can only describe your work in vague and general terms, they will not help your cause. Lower-level managers who directly supervise your work, on the other hand, can often offer powerful examples of the impact you have had on your company. As a result, their letters can be far more effective.

Nonetheless, not everyone who knows you and your capabilities well will make a good recommender. For starters, you should of course feel confident that your potential recommender likes you and will write a positive letter on your behalf. As you contemplate your choices, try to gather some intelligence on your potential recommenders. Have they written letters for anyone else? Are they generous with their time with regard to employee feedback and review sessions? Will they devote the effort and time necessary to write a letter that will really shine? (See also our blog post on choosing “safe” recommenders.)

If your prospective MBA program asks for two letters of recommendation, you should generally approach two of your recent supervisors, with one ideally being your current supervisor. Your letters will have added credibility if they are written by individuals who are senior to you, because your recommenders are in evaluative positions and will not have anything to lose by critically appraising your candidacy.

As application deadlines approach, many candidates find themselves immersed in stress—busy juggling multiple essays and revising their resume. Often in the midst of all this, an alarming question suddenly springs to mind: What if my recommenders do not get their letters done by the deadline?

In our opinion, the easiest way to ensure that your recommenders complete their letters on time is to present them with your own deadline—one that is a bit earlier than the school’s—when you first ask them to provide a recommendation for you. If the application to your school of choice is due on January 15, for example, tell your recommenders that you are submitting on January 8. Incidentally, submitting your application early can be good for your sanity as well. By setting this advanced deadline, you can put some additional pressure on your recommenders on the 8th if they have not yet finished the letters, so you should still be able to submit by the school’s official deadline.

Most people work to deadlines. Alleviate unnecessary stress by setting your recommenders’ deadlines one week early, and “enjoy” the application process a little bit more.
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Professor Profiles: Terry Taylor, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business  [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Professor Profiles: Terry Taylor, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business 

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 Terry Taylor from the Haas School of Business at the University of California (UC), Berkeley.

After stints at Columbia Business School and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Terry Taylor joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business in 2007, where he is currently the Milton W. Terrill Chaired Professor of Business Administration. Considering that Taylor, who has a PhD from Stanford in management science and engineering, is often named in student blogs and online student chats as a favorite among the school’s aspiring MBAs, he not surprisingly won the Earl F. Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2009 and again in 2011. He was also named the fifth most popular professor at a top U.S. business school by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2011.

Taylor’s academic interests include the economics of operations management and supply chain management. His “Operations Management” course looks at operational issues confronted by manufacturing and service companies. In addition to reportedly having a well-organized curriculum and classes—which a second year we interviewed said include “no down time”—Taylor can make technical subjects very interesting, sometimes even using references to Seinfeld episodes to illuminate concepts. A second year told mbaMission, “He’s pretty young and has a style that mixes high energy with a dry sense of humor.”

For more information on the defining characteristics of the MBA program at UC Berkeley Haas or one of 16 other top business schools, check out our free mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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Innovative Opportunities at the University of California’s Business Sc [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Innovative Opportunities at the University of California’s Business Schools

Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California (UC), Irvine

Thanks to its proximity to the Tech Coast, the Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California (UC), Irvine, offers significant opportunities for students with an eye toward innovative business. Indeed, an emphasis on innovation and business pioneering is built directly into what Merage calls its “visionary curriculum,” supplementing conventional business disciplines with four core, cross-disciplinary areas: strategic innovation, information technology, analytic decision making, and collaborative execution.

In addition, several of Merage’s special course offerings and programs showcase the school’s commitment to putting students in contact with the rapidly shifting face of business. The “EDGE” course, for example, offers the opportunity to gain cutting-edge insight into the relationship between business trends, globalization, and technology. Similarly, through the school’s MBA Applied Consulting Project, students gain hands-on experience with current business practices by working directly with locally based global companies over a ten-week period. Merage students can also participate each year in the university-wide New Venture Competition, whose winners collectively claim up to $75K in funding for their proposed start-up ventures.


UC Davis Graduate School of Management

At the UC Davis Graduate School of Management—under the same university umbrella but approximately an eight-hour drive from the Merage School of Business—the full-time MBA program focuses on preparing students to become innovative leaders. Leadership is woven into the curriculum in the form of core courses, a ten-week management capstone course, and the Leadership Fellows Program, which, in partnership with recruiting firm Korn Ferry, offers students leadership assessment using the UC Davis MBA Leadership Competency Model, coaching, and a Personal Leadership Development Plan.
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All About Critical Reasoning Questions on the GMAT (Part 2) [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: All About Critical Reasoning Questions on the GMAT (Part 2)
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.

In Part 1 of this article, we talked about the overall process for solving Critical Reasoning (CR) problems and reviewed the four major CR question types (the ones that show up most often on the test).

Now let’s take a look at the five minor types.

The Assumption Family

Assumption Family questions always involve a conclusion. This group consists of five subtypes, two of which are minor types:

Flaw: This is the “flip” of Find the Assumption. The author assumes something, but that thing might not be true. What is the flaw in the author’s reasoning?

Evaluate the Argument: What information would help to determine whether the conclusion is more or less likely to be valid?

The Evidence Family

Evidence Family questions really do not have conclusions (never “big” conclusions, like the Assumption arguments, and usually no conclusions at all). This group consists of two subtypes overall, but only one of these is a minor type:

Explain a Discrepancy: The argument contains some surprising information or outcome. Which answer choice provides some new information that clears up this surprising situation?

The Structure Family

Like Assumption questions, Structure questions do involve conclusions. The answer choices are usually in more “abstract” form, discussing characteristics of pieces of the argument. Both question types here are minor types.

Describe the Role: These are also known as boldface. The boldface portion plays what kind of role in the overall argument?

Describe the Argument: These are a variant of the boldface question, and they are so rare that I do not have an article for you. If you are really worried about these, you can take a look at our CR Strategy guide—but my best advice for you is not to worry about these.

Now what? Soon, we will talk about overall CR study strategies based on your scoring goals.
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