The millennial generation brought with it many new trends, one of which has been an increase in career moves. Gone are the days of working for one company for 30 years and then retiring. But should you be concerned about career flip-flopping when it comes to getting admitted to b-school or landing a job afterwards?
Business school applications are all about laying out how you have exhibited the qualities of a leader. After all, this is the quality that b-schools, in general, desire the most in their applicants. A lot of my admissions consulting clients struggle with a succinct definition of leadership. That is, one that they as the applicant can use as a succinct model.
One mistake applicants often make is to misunderstand their audience. When crafting a winning MBA application package there is much to consider, but how much thought have you given to who will actually read your essays? Who is analyzing your resume? Common sense may dictate that an essay about going to a top MBA program should be crafted for an MBA crowd, but did you know that most essay readers at the top schools never attended an MBA program and don’t have an MBA themselves? Remembering this in the application process can help you communicate your story in a much more effective way to the adcom. Read on for tips…
Today we want to talk about arguably the biggest and most common mistake we see on MBA applications, which is failing to market transferable skills. More importantly, we want to talk about how to fix that problem.
In working with clients of all age, gender, nationality, and industry, one thing we're always trying to do is identify things that connect everyone - common elements that become and remain true, regardless of differences. To be honest, there aren't many such elements. Almost everything about the MBA admissions process is a contextual exercise. You can almost never divorce a unique applicant or a specific school from your analysis. It's part of the reason this is such a difficult endeavor for people, part of the reason why so many admissions consultants do a horribly incomplete job of advising candidates, and a huge part of the reason why admissions consulting even exists. You have to do a lot of things right and you have to do them with great contextual specificity. If you confront "one size fits all" advice, typically you can sprint away from that as fast as possible.
That said, there is one universal truth that we have uncovered that seems largely overlooked by the rest of the MBA admissions landscape and that is how enormously important it is to abide by what we call the Art of Transferability.
One of the most important profile characteristics for any b-school applicant is their work history.
Unlike Law School, Medical School and just about every other terminal degree or master’s level program, business school requires students to come with some kind of work experience under their belts in order to “qualify.”
I tell my clients up front that they have to waive their right and that it is not really an option to not do so. Not waiving your right could tell the adcom that you don’t trust your recommenders. It could tell them that you are paranoid or overly anxious.
It could tell them that this applicant is a liability. What happens if he doesn’t get in? Is he going to go after his recommenders for throwing him under the bus? Is he going to create more headaches for all involved? Is the applicant going to create reputational risk for the school?
The adcom would rather just not deal with it.
I wanted to try something a bit different today when breaking down the new Ross essays, which is to post the decision tree I am going to be asking my clients to use this year.
Why would I just share this with the public, you might ask? In part because the real value of our services with Ross (unlike with some other schools) is going to be in implementation rather than in the setting of strategy - so I don't feel I am cheating my clients at all. Further, we just don't have that many clients select Ross, to be honest. This is confusing to me, as Ross is an amazing school and a true value pick ... but that's a column for a different time. Today, I want to present a really simple way to work through Ross' seemingly wide open essays. I'll be using one part common sense and one part program knowledge, but both are born out of lots of experience just being someone in this world (by "in this world" I mean working in "higher education" and with "people trying to maximize their lives and abilities"). Let's get into it.
A significant portion of my MBA admissions consulting applicants come to be with little to no extracurricular experience since their undergraduate days. While this is a problem that can be addressed, it can show a lack of proper planning over the long term. A lot of applicants don't think about the impact of their actions on their applicant competitiveness when the graduate from undergrad. To a certain extent, even I was the same way. What I like most about some of my clients is the the way some of them are way ahead of the game we call the MBA application process. Those that have been planning since day 1 to go back to b-school tend to be distinguishing yourself from your peers out of the gate and these habits show when constructing the business school application.
How should you begin to construct your candidacy? That is, how would you begin to think about where you stack up relative to an MBA programs themes -- thus showing fit with the school. As we know, the primary place to demonstrate this fit is through a school's essay questions. I have created a simple visualization that demonstrates how you would approach aligning your background with a school's specific essays. In the following graphic, I use "Wharton" as an example. However, the "career goals", "failure" and "significant accomplishment" essays illustrated below are representative of many top MBA programs (in a not necessarily specific to Wharton.)
[caption id="attachment_186" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="MBA Program Essay Map"][/caption]
So what are you looking at above?
The schools essays are represented by the colored circles and the numbers one, two and three. for this representative school, essay number one is a career goals essay. If you move from right to left, you will see that this career goals essay should incorporate the following elements -- short and long-term goals, current and past work experiences, your values/norms/beliefs, why MBA/why this program/why now? if you continue to move from right to left, you will see the elements that make up each item. For example, your values/norms/beliefs will incorporate elements of your family, personal and academic histories. Constructing this type of map visualization for each program or essay type will definitely help you think about all the elements that make up a successful candidacy.
Please keep in mind, that the above visualization is merely an example. For example, if you are constructing a career goals essay, some schools do not want you to delve into any sort of personal leaf system or values. They simply want you to state your short and long-term goals. This is why you have to read each essay prompt very carefully. Reference the following career goals example:
Haas asks this --
What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? How will an MBA from Berkeley help you achieve these specific career goals? (1000 word maximum)
Meanwhile, Wharton asks this --
What are your professional objectives? (300 words)
So what is the deal? The first thing to notice is the difference in word count, along with the relative complexity of each question. Haas wants you to delve into your background, your values/norms/beliefs and how they have taken shape at your workplace, both past and present. They also want you to sell them on your knowledge of the school in this essay. This is a lot of information from one essay. If you stop and think about it, this is why it is a 1000 word essay. I would personally suggest using 500 words of it to describe your goals, 250 words to describe how your professional experiences provide a meaningful and even personal justification for pursuing these goals, and the remaining 250 words to sell Berkeley on how you fit the program. That is, the last 250 words should be dedicated to demonstrating what you bring to the table, using the school's programs and courses as a conduit.
On the other hand, Wharton just wants you to get to the point. This is a simple exercise in stating your long and then short-term goals (or vice versa.) So it makes sense that this type of very direct question prompt would only require 300 words. You do not need to overtly sell Wharton on what you know about the school or how bad you want to go there. Keep in mind that your choice of relevant career goals covertly sells the Wharton admissions committee on whether or not you are a fit (or even have a clue as to what the school can do for you.)
Overall, this type of brainstorming and mapping should be one of the first steps you engage in as an applicant applying to business school. Your map does not have to be as complicated as the above. Maybe you write it on the back of an envelope or maybe you construct PowerPoint, nonetheless it is a very valuable exercise.
If you need help constructing your candidacy and applying to business school – either comprehensively or just stress testing your essays to make sure they hit the mark – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your complimentary consultation. The arms race for consulting help usually starts in April for Round 1 of the next year, but the best value is probably right now. You can get more distance from the field by doing your homework early and the quality of your preliminary work will make a huge difference when it comes time to hit submit.
As an MBA admissions consultant, I have worked with a number of clients over the past 5 years. Invariably, the most common question I receive is "What are my chances of getting in?" Answering this question qualitatively requires years of admissions consulting experience with dozens and dozens of clients. Doing the question justice and providing the client with meaning insight requires several hours of examination. Even then, as the applicant matures and the application process begins, the applicant's "chances" can change remarkably.
However, there has to be some way of getting into the analytics of how MBA admissions committees view their applicant pool. I mean, Wharton is not going to take an applicant with a 480 GMAT, there is just no way. There has to be a range, cut-offs and some way to statistically examine applicant pools.
I searched high and low on the WWW for such a tool. I could find none in the GMAT/MBA space. What I found were mostly models that analyzed a few criteria from an applicant's POV. That is, these models looked at things like:
- In what type of setting should the school reside? Urban, Suburban, Rural?
- What time of female or international representation should be present?
- What climate should the school reside in?
While these factors are important in the decision-making process, they do not necessarily view things from the admissions committee perspective.
With this in mind, I when out and created a model that analyzes an applicant's prospects of entering the top 25 U.S. business school programs from an admissions committee view. I developed this tool for Veritas Prep as part of my MBA admissions consulting responsibilities.
The explanation from the Veritas Prep website does a great job of explaining what function the tool serves:
"This tool was created to generate an optimal range of business schools for you. By "optimal," we mean that these are the highest-ranked schools to which you have a reasonable chance of getting accepted. While no model is perfect, especially in beta, you can use the range of schools at the bottom of this page as a way to start narrowing your choice of MBA programs."
"Please don’t take the model too seriously. Since it only utilizes a subset of data, it cannot be considered a comprehensive tool for all situations and applicant profiles. The admissions process is highly subjective, and no one model can serve as an "oracle" or "magic eight ball.""
Click here to access the Veritas Prep Business School Selector.
As an MBA admissions consultant I often have to take a step back with my clients. Over the years I have learned a lot from my clients and have come to realize that the definitions of proper interview dress or attire varies by region, country and even culture.
This is the deal, and I dissuade anyone from thinking anything to the contrary:
- Wear a dark colored suit (Grey, Black, Charcoal) with a white or light blue shirt.
- Wear a tie that has as little design or pattern in it at possible. Solid colored ties are good.
- Wear shoes that are polished with dark socks. By shoes I mean dress shoes with dark laces, not “comfort” shoes, timberlands or Uggs. By dark I mean dark blue or black.
- Do not wear anything that is tight-fitting or shows body parts excessively. This is an interview not a club.
- Cut the tags off your clothing. Nothing says Men’s Wearhouse $199 special than tags still sewn onto the sleeve of a jacket. Don’t laugh too much, I have seen this as an MBA admissions interviewer. It tells me the applicant is clueless at worst or knows a good sale when he sees one at best.
- Get a shave and a haircut……shower.
I taught the GMAT for about 3 years. In that time, I had the pleasure of teaching over 250 students. Along the way, I also had the privilege of helping a select few craft their admissions packages. Based on my experience and in order of importance, I present the following 8 factors I consider critical to getting into a top b-school:
- GMAT Score
- Application Essays
- Work Experience
- Extracurricular Activities
- Applicant Submission Round