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mbaMission Admissions Consultant
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Monday Morning Essay Tip: Multidimensional Brainstorming, Part 1 [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Monday Morning Essay Tip: Multidimensional Brainstorming, Part 1
We always tell candidates, “You cannot turn a bad idea into a good essay.” We insist on taking our clients through a lengthy brainstorming process (which begins with a thorough questionnaire) to discover the stories that make each of them distinct. As you uncover your stories, you should consider them from as many different angles as possible. Doing so will not only help ensure that you understand the various “weapons in your arsenal,” but it will 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 fundraising efforts so that each player could afford proper equipment
  • mentoring a struggling player and seeing an improvement in his or 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 is beneficial and will help you discover multiple unique approaches to your admissions essays.
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Mission Admission: Details Matter, But… [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Mission Admission: Details Matter, But…
Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.

As MBA admissions consultants, we know firsthand the intense pressure business school candidates feel, and we sometimes wish we could convince you that small points are really just … small points. We get asked, “Should this be a comma or a semicolon?” and want to respond, “Please trust us that the admissions committee will not say, ‘Oh, I would have accepted this applicant if she had used a comma here, but she chose a semicolon, so DING!’” That said, we are certainly not telling you to ignore the small things—the overall impression your application makes will depend in part on your attention to typos, font consistency, and grammar, for example—but we are encouraging you to make smart and reasonable decisions and move on. You can be confident that your judgment on such topics will likely be sufficient.
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MBA Career Advice: Are You Inadvertently Limiting Your Post-MBA Option [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: MBA Career Advice: Are You Inadvertently Limiting Your Post-MBA Options?
In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice 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. For more information or to sign up for a free career consultation, visit www.mbacareercoaches.com.

This past Sunday, the New York Times published an article by Ben Carpenter entitled “Is Your Student Prepared for Life?”—a compelling call to action for parents and colleges to engage students more actively in career management to help solve the problems of unemployment and underemployment. You may be wondering why we are bringing this piece to your attention. After all, our readers are pre-MBAs, MBA students, and newly minted MBAs, most of whom could not possibly be old enough to be parents of college-age “kids.” So, again, what gives? Well, Carpenter is addressing an issue that affects not just college students but also students at every level and indeed almost every person—the question of “What will I do post-graduation?”

In his call to action, Carpenter writes, “Career training must start early because getting students to decide what job they want—and teaching them how to thoroughly research that job, get internships and conduct a job search for a full-time position—is not a quick or easy task.” Indeed, this is true for students in any program, but especially those in business school.

Yes, we said especially those in business school! “Why is that?” you ask. The reason is that at business school, many recruiters are hoping to determine your fate. Carpenter worries about the joblessness that can result from a college student’s lack of planning, but emerging MBAs should not have trouble finding jobs. Instead, you should worry about being sucked into the wrong job because of a lack of planning.

After laboring through the GMAT and the grueling MBA admissions process, most admitted business school students assume that they are on easy street and that everything will just fall into place once recruiting starts. Many imagine themselves enjoying a buffet of jobs, just waiting to choose the right one. Few truly understand that when that buffet arrives at their door, so too will the recruiters, badgering them to choose their “dish” right away or lose the chance to ever have it again.

Let us move past the metaphors. MBA recruiting starts early at most schools, often just a few weeks into the school year. Some MBA programs allow recruiters to extend summer internship offers to first-year students within the first 120 days of the program, and many firms select their full-time hires from their pool of summer interns, meaning that those 120 days can determine your future. Clearly, MBA recruiting happens fast. In the end, some students will find themselves wondering, “Why did I accept this offer? I came to school to get out of consulting!” Others might be thinking, “I wish I hadn’t followed the banking herd!” Some will definitely say, “I can’t wait to get started—I am on my way to my dream job!” We would never deny that reality, and in fact, we congratulate the students in that position! But if you want to avoid going through the process passively, just choosing from whichever positions are ultimately offered to you, you must first define what you want and then pursue your dream job in a disciplined manner.

College and MBA educations are huge commitments, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of time. In return for your investment and hard work, you deserve to get the job that will launch a meaningful career after you graduate. We cannot offer blanket advice that will help everyone reach that point, but we do offer a free 30-minute consultation to at least start you on your way. We challenge you to define the position you seek before recruiting begins and be ready to pursue it determinedly. Your reward will be… fulfillment.
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Professor Profiles: Katherine Schipper, Duke University Fuqua School o [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Professor Profiles: Katherine Schipper, Duke University Fuqua School of Business
Many MBA applicants feel that they are purchasing a brand when they choose which business school to attend, but the educational experience itself is what is crucial to your future, and no one will affect your education more than your professors. Each Wednesday, we profile a standout professor as identified by students. Today, we focus on Katherine Schipper from the Duke University Fuqua School of Business.


Katherine Schipper (“Financial Accounting” and “Corporate Governance”) is the Thomas F. Keller Professor of Business Administration at Fuqua and usually teaches the MBA program’s core accounting course, “Financial Accounting.” Schipper was editor of the Journal of Accounting Research for many years and was a member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board from 2001 to 2006, before joining Fuqua. In 2007, Schipper was the first woman inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame. A second-year student we interviewed who had taken the course “Global Institutions and Environment” with Schipper (co-taught with a fellow professor) said, “She was outstanding. It was amazing to have professors of their caliber teaching the first class we experienced at Fuqua.” Another second year told us, “I was really nervous about accounting, but she made it very accessible, and even occasionally fun.” When asked which professor impressed her most, a second year we interviewed named Schipper, praising her rigor in the classroom: “She held every single person to an impeccably high standard and set the tone for graduate level expectations.”

For more information about the Duke University Fuqua School of Business and 15 other top-ranked business schools, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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B-School Chart of the Week: Which School Has the Highest Average Perce [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: B-School Chart of the Week: Which School Has the Highest Average Percentage of Women?
Although quantifying a school’s profile certainly does not tell you everything, it can sometimes be helpful in simplifying the many differences between the various MBA programs. Each week, we bring you a chart to help you decide which of the schools’ strengths speak to you.

The underrepresentation of women in business school has been both an enduring problem and a hotly disputed issue in recent years. The fact that far fewer women enroll in MBA programs each year than men is likely reflective of wage gaps and systemic inequalities in the business world more broadly. Multiple explanations have been posited for this gender disparity among MBAs, from divergent ethical world views between men and women to institutional discrimination that may predispose business schools to “ignore” their female students.

In any case, if you are a woman pursuing an MBA and targeting the traditionally male-dominated world of business, choosing a supportive program may be an important consideration. The number of women enrolled in business school fluctuates year-to-year, with females typically constituting slightly more than one-third of each incoming class. Averaging the figures for the top-ranked programs from 2011 to 2015, we see that UPenn Wharton comes out significantly ahead, averaging a 41.8% female representation for the past five years. In contrast, UC-Berkeley Haas stands at the bottom of our list, with women accounting for only 29.6% of each class, on average.

However, consulting the female representation percentage of a school’s most recent incoming class(es) may provide only a superficial way of gauging the program’s support of female students—though the factor is nonetheless relevant. For more detail about clubs, networking opportunities, and social programs for women and other underrepresented groups at the leading MBA programs, see our mbaMission Insider’s Guides.

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Beyond the MBA Classroom: Building Goodness at UVA Darden [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Beyond the MBA Classroom: Building Goodness at UVA Darden
When you select an MBA program, you are not just choosing your learning environment but are also making a commitment to a community. Each Thursday, we offer a window into life “beyond the MBA classroom” at a top business school.

Every spring, UVA Darden students take a day to partner with area contractors and builders to rehabilitate houses in the Charlottesville area for low-income, disabled, and elderly homeowners. The preparations for “build day” take much of the school year. Students involved with the Building Goodness Foundation select the projects, coordinate the suppliers and volunteers, collect the necessary funds, and apply for permits. In December, the organization sponsors a formal ball as a fundraiser for the event. The ball features a live auction that takes place between a cocktail hour and a sit-down dinner and dancing. A first-year blogger raved about the ball in a February 2012 post, saying it “has been hands-down one of my favorite events to date. Not only was it an incredible social event, but it was a friendly reminder that it’s not all about ‘increasing shareholder value.’”

In April 2014, several hundred Darden students made improvements to a dozen homes in the Charlottesville area. A first year commented in a Charlottesville Newsplex article that month, “A day like today, we all come out in force and do as much as we can to help out [with] little projects around the house,” adding, “To meet some of the people in the community and do something for someone else, it’s a good feeling.”

For in-depth descriptions of social and community activities at UVA Darden and 15 other top MBA programs, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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Diamonds in the Rough: New York Consulting Experience at Fordham [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Diamonds in the Rough: New York Consulting Experience at Fordham
MBA applicants can get carried away with rankings. In this series, we profile amazing programs at business schools that are typically ranked outside the top 15.

With a classroom size averaging just 35 students or fewer, numerous academic concentrations, and the additional choice of “designations” (which allow for a more focused specialization), Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business offers a highly tailored MBA experience. Perhaps one of the most significant advantages of the program is its access to career resources throughout New York City—notably, through its MBA Consulting Program. The school’s Web site states that since the Consulting Program’s inception in 1992, more than 700 MBA students have worked on more than 200 projects for more than 80 corporate and nonprofit clients in the greater New York City metropolitan area. Each term, students may collaborate in teams led by a faculty advisor to gain hands-on experience consulting in various functional roles, including analyzing consumer market data, supply chain optimization, and overseeing a product launch. In 2013, students worked with such clients as Argington, GE Capital, Knowledgent, and Standard Media Index. Other past clients have included Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bayer, JPMorgan Chase, Polo Ralph Lauren, the New York Yankees, Mercedes-Benz, Radisson Hotels, Standard & Poor’s, and the American Red Cross.
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Friday Factoid: Launch a Business at Chicago Booth [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Friday Factoid: Launch a Business at Chicago Booth
Again we pose the rhetorical question: Chicago Booth is just a finance school, right? Wrong. In the past, we have discussed the strengths of the school’s marketing program, to the surprise of some. Likewise, we feel that not enough applicants are aware of Chicago Booth’s robust “hands-on” entrepreneurial offerings, available through its Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship. Where to begin?

Chicago Booth’s practical academic programs extend into the field of entrepreneurship with the school’s “New Venture and Small Enterprise Lab.” Herein, students work for up to ten hours per week for an entire quarter within a host firm or take on a dedicated project in a class designed to train those who intend to ultimately join start-ups or consult to them. In addition, the Polsky Center sponsors the annual Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge (NVC). a business plan competition that in 2013 awarded $200,000 to students in the form of cash, legal services, and professional consulting for their winning business plans. Since 1996, the center has helped launch more than 90 companies that, in turn, have raised $300M in capital in spaces as diverse as payment solutions, flexible solar panels, food preparation, and children’s toys.

Further, entrepreneurially minded Chicago Booth students can apply for funding from the Hyde Park Angels (HPA), a group of former Chicago Booth Executive MBA students who make investments of between $250,000 and $1M in start-ups. Although the HPA is an arms-length organization and does not source investments exclusively from Chicago Booth, it maintains a connection to the Polsky Center, which supports the HPA’s mission. So, students hoping to get in front of the HPA’s investment committee will have a built-in networking advantage. Further, the HPA offers students the opportunity to intern as associates and gain venture capital experience while pursuing their MBA at Chicago Booth.

Believe it or not, we are just scratching the surface here. Again, Chicago Booth is most definitely not “just a finance school.”

For more information on Chicago Booth and 15 other leading MBA programs, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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Monday Morning Essay Tip: Multidimensional Brainstorming, Part 2 [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Monday Morning Essay Tip: Multidimensional Brainstorming, Part 2
Many MBA candidates—whether they are working 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, showing your distinct impact on the deal is what is vital. Remember that you are the central character, not the deal. As we have discussed before (Monday Morning Essay Tip: Conflict is Compelling), a straightforward story about how you dutifully completed your work and steadily supported others as a deal became a reality is not likely to 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 that 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 are just a few questions to get you started, but the point remains: do not simply offer any deal, but instead provide insight into your deal.
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Mission Admission: Look for Personalized Recommendations [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Mission Admission: Look for Personalized Recommendations
Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.

If your supervisor is writing your business school recommendation and you are having trouble ensuring that he/she is putting the proper thought and effort into your letter, you are not alone. Because of this asymmetry of power, a junior employee can only do so much to compel his/her supervisor to commit the necessary time and write thoughtfully. So, before you designate your supervisor as a recommender, you must first understand how committed this person really is to helping you with your business school candidacy. In particular, your recommender needs to understand that using a single template to create identical letters for multiple business schools is not okay and that each letter must be personalized and each MBA program’s questions must be answered using specific examples.

If your recommender intends to simply write a single letter and force it to “fit” the school’s questions, or to attach a standard letter to the end of the school’s recommendation form (for example, including it in the question “Is there anything else that you think the committee should know about the candidate?”), then he/she is not really helping you. In fact, this kind of approach could actually hurt you! By neglecting to put the proper time and effort into your letter, your recommender is sending a very clear message to the admissions committee: “I don’t really care about this candidate.”

If you cannot convince your recommender to write a personalized letter or to respond to your target school’s individual questions using specific examples, you will need to look elsewhere. A well-written personalized letter from an interested party is always far better than a poorly written letter from your supervisor.
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MBA Career Advice: Give the Connection a Future [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: MBA Career Advice: Give the Connection a Future
In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice 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. For more information or to sign up for a free career consultation, visit www.mbacareercoaches.com.

You met Bob at a networking event. The two of you talked for ten minutes about Ethiopian food and perfecting your golf swing. The night ended. You said goodbye and went home, not knowing how to contact him. Or—potentially even worse—you got his card but did not create any context for follow-up. The evening ended as a nice conversation, and Bob is not going to become a member of your network.

That is because you did not give the connection a future. Part of successful networking means staying in the present moment and making the most of it; it means listening to others; it means being yourself and making a meaningful connection. But all of that will be for naught if you do not then add some of the great people you meet to the web of connections that make up your network. And you will not be able to add them to your network unless the connection survives beyond first contact.

Creating a future for any connection is very easy. You need to get someone’s contact information, but that alone is not enough. You also need a reason and their permission to follow up. You should take the initiative to keep the connection alive. Here are three simple ways to create a future for any new connection:

  • Ask for something. Keep your request small, simple, and relevant to what you have discussed. You cannot ask someone you just met to give you a job, but you can ask someone to give you the name of their golf coach. You can ask that person to introduce you to the maître d’ at that restaurant she just told you she loves. You can ask someone to forward you the article he mentioned. End your conversation with a simple ask: “Would it be okay if I email you? I’d love to get that article you spoke about.”
  • Offer something. Again, keep it simple and relevant to what you have discussed. “I will email you and forward that article I was talking about.” “I have compiled my top ten travel tips for Tanzania, so I will shoot them to you in an email next week.” “I would love to connect you with my friend who is starting a new business. I think you two would have a lot to discuss.”
  • Create a joint venture. “I would love to continue our conversation about pay for performance. I think we have a lot to learn from each other. I will email you next week.” “Let’s have lunch next week, and we can compare notes on sushi restaurants in town.” Here the conversation stays on equal footing. The communication involves no real ask or offer, just an invitation to continue.
As with all relationships, do not force things. If throughout the conversation, you cannot think of a single tangible ask, offering, or joint venture to give your connection a future that seems natural, then just be blunt. “I would really love to stay in touch. Would you mind if I reach out to you in the next few weeks?” And then follow up in whatever way seems natural at the time. Be sure to follow through!
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Professor Profiles: Paul Marshall, Harvard Business School [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Professor Profiles: Paul Marshall, Harvard Business School
Many MBA applicants feel that they are purchasing a brand when they choose which business school to attend, but the educational experience itself is what is crucial to your future, and no one will affect your education more than your professors. Each Wednesday, we profile a standout professor as identified by students. Today, we focus on Paul Marshall from Harvard Business School (HBS).


According to a second-year HBS student we interviewed, Paul Marshall’s “The Entrepreneurial Manager in a Turnaround Environment” course (with Senior Lecturer J. Bruce Harreld) is always oversubscribed, and the course description indicates that it is designed for students who are interested in becoming “turnaround professionals,” being president or CEO of a company, joining a start-up, or starting a search fund. The second-year student added that the primary reason for the course’s popularity, though, is Marshall himself, who has twice received the HBS Faculty Award from the RC (required curriculum, or first year) class (in 1998 and 1999). In 2008, Marshall was named an honorary professor at Xiamen University in Xiamen, China.

Marshall has also been a practitioner, having served as chairman and CEO of Rochester Shoe Tree Company, Inc., managing the company during a four-year turnaround and executing a major reorganization effort and a system to reduce costs. Students find his course so enjoyable because, according to one second year with whom we spoke, Marshall “tells it like it is.” The first half of the course is very numbers intensive, but the second half introduces cases that focus on issues of strategy and people leadership in turnaround situations. Marshall has also served as course head for the RC class “The Entrepreneurial Manager” and taught the EC (elective curriculum, or second year) course “Running and Growing the Small Company.” In 2011, Marshall won both the Charles M. Williams Award for Excellence in Teaching and the title of Outstanding Professor of the Year, awarded by the HBS Class of 2011.

For more information about Harvard Business School and 15 other top-ranked business schools, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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B-School Chart of the Week: August 2014 Social Currency Ranking [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: B-School Chart of the Week: August 2014 Social Currency Ranking
Rankings come in all shapes and sizes, but can any ranking truly capture social cachet? For a different perspective on the value of an MBA, we turn to the New York Times society pages, where the editors profile promising couples. Each month, we dedicate one B-School Chart of the Week to tallying how alumni from top-ranked business schools are advancing their social currency ranking.

With 42 MBA mentions in 188 New York Times wedding announcements for the month of August, business school students and alumni continue to hold their own in the city’s society pages. So far in 2014, 195 of 897—or approximately 22%—of the publication’s wedding announcements have featured MBAs. This total is up slightly from the tally this time last year (August 2013), when the aggregate was 175 of 848, or roughly 20%.

Wharton and Columbia Business School (CBS) are tied for the greatest number of such mentions, with 31 each for the year, besting their respective figures for this point in 2013. While Harvard Business School (HBS) maintains its position in third place, its tally thus far for 2014 is considerably behind its aggregate August 2013 total.

Included among the notable mentions this past month were the marriages of alumni from two top-ranked French MBA programs: that of HEC Paris graduate Austin Lin to Dr. Vivian Tsai and that of INSEAD (Fontainebleau) graduate Saed Shonnar to Leila Taha.

MIT Sloan—which had yet to be mentioned this year—burst onto the scene in August, with five newlyweds featured: second-year student Paul Campbell wedded Genève Bergeron, alumnus Avi Kaufman married Shira Kurtz, alumni Awilda Mendez and Steven Hancock were married, and Kristel Adler married UVA Darden alumnus John Cote.

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Beyond the MBA Classroom: No Shave November at UC-Berkeley Haas [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Beyond the MBA Classroom: No Shave November at UC-Berkeley Haas
When you select an MBA program, you are not just choosing your learning environment but are also making a commitment to a community. Each Thursday, we offer a window into life “beyond the MBA classroom” at a top business school.

Each year, UC-Berkeley Haas students commit to staying unkempt for an entire month. In support of the MBA Challenge for Charity—a nonprofit organization that coordinates local charity fundraisers with nine business schools on the West Coast—MBA students pledge not to shave for the duration of November. According to a December 2012 post on the Berkeley MBA Students blog, at the end of the 30 days, “students auction their faces, heads, chests and other body parts to be shaved in a way the highest bidder wants and wear that hairstyle for the next 24 hours … going to class, doing career treks and interviews.”

For in-depth descriptions of social and community activities at UC-Berkeley Haas and 15 other top MBA programs, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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Diamonds in the Rough: One-Year MBA in Sustainability at Duquesne [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Diamonds in the Rough: One-Year MBA in Sustainability at Duquesne
MBA applicants can get carried away with rankings. In this series, we profile amazing programs at business schools that are typically ranked outside the top 15.

Appealing to professionals at all stages of their careers, Duquesne University’s Palumbo Donahue School of Business offers an accelerated, 12-month MBA degree with an “integrated” focus on sustainability and the environment. With core course work centered on four foundational areas—social, economic, environmental, and ethical—students gain exposure to the basic problems and frameworks of sustainable development beyond conventional notions of “green” business. In addition, the program includes global study trips, in which students travel abroad to examine global sustainability practices firsthand; two required sustainability consulting projects with sponsoring nonprofit or governmental organizations; and a capstone practicum course that challenges students to develop strategy and management skills.
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Friday Factoid: Acclimating to the Cold at Dartmouth Tuck [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Friday Factoid: Acclimating to the Cold at Dartmouth Tuck
The thought of spending the winters in Hanover, New Hampshire—home of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business—may send shivers down your spine. But those who tough it out and embrace the cold can discover some rewarding winter experiences, such as ice hockey and downhill skiing. From beginners to seasoned veterans, roughly 150 students participate each year in ice hockey games organized by the Tuck Hockey Club. Never played? Not to worry—teams are organized by skill level, so you can find a team of hockey players who will not care if you trip over the blueline (that is ice hockey lingo—you will learn). And those who are not quite ready to play hockey can always get in the game by cheering on their classmates! Meanwhile, the Dartmouth Ski and Boarding Club takes advantage of the Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme, New Hampshire, and organizes trips beyond campus as well. The club’s major event is the 600-person Tuck Winter Carnival, held at the Skiway each year. With the theme “Carnival of Thrones,” the 2014 event welcomed aspiring MBAs from 15 business schools, sending teams of 12–40 students each, to participate in the weekend events, which—in addition to the annual downhill ski races at nearby Whaleback Mountain—included an ice sculpture competition, a polar bear swim, a downhill snowshoe race, men’s and women’s squash tournaments, and a chili cook-off. Among the club’s other annual activities are ice skating, an ’80s Ski Bash, a hot-dog eating contest, and a party at a nearby club. At Tuck, you just might be too busy working up a sweat to fret about the cold.

For more information on Dartmouth Tuck or 15 other leading MBA programs, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.
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Monday Morning Essay Tip: Take Ownership of Your Goals [#permalink]
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FROM mbaMission Blog: Monday Morning Essay Tip: Take Ownership of Your Goals
When MBA admissions officers read your application, they want to feel inspired by your personal statement; they want to know that you have a strong sense of purpose and will work energetically to attain your objectives. So you must ensure that you are not presenting generic or shallow goals. Although this problem is not industry specific, it occurs most often with candidates who propose careers in investment banking or consulting but do not have a true understanding of what these positions entail.

For example, a candidate cannot merely state,

“In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become an investment banking associate. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president, and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”

This hypothetical candidate does not express any passion for his/her proposed course, does not show any understanding of the demands of the positions and does not explain the value he/she could bring to the firm. To avoid these kinds of shortcomings, conduct this simple test when writing your personal statement: if you can easily substitute another job title into your career goals and the sentence still makes perfect sense (“In the short term, when I graduate from Wharton, I want to become a consultant. After three years, I will be promoted to vice president and then in the long term, I will become a managing director.”), you know you have a serious problem on your hands and need to put more work into your essay.

To effectively convey your goals, you need to truly own them. This means personalizing them, determining and presenting why you expect to be a success in the proposed position, and explaining why an opportunity exists for you to contribute. For example, a former forestry engineer could make a strong argument for joining an environmental impact consulting firm. (Note: This candidate would still need to explain why he/she would want to join one.) Similarly, a financial analyst in the corporate finance department at Yahoo! could connect his/her goals to tech investment banking. Although the connection need not be so direct (especially for candidates seeking to change careers), relating your past experiences and/or your skills to your future path is still extremely important. This approach will add depth to your essay and ensure that the admissions committee takes you seriously.
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