One of the most contentious components of a business school application is the part where you detail your involvement in activities outside of work. Every year, hopeful b-school applicants face down the ghost of a busy career, one which often haunts them with the fact they have had very little time to do anything other than drive work results in their job since they graduated. But how much does it really matter to the admissions committees whether or not you are engaged in your community?
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…
MIT Sloan is one of "those" schools - the ones that seem to slip into the nooks and crannies of the admissions process. People don't talk about Sloan as much as its elite counterparts. Nobody immediately thinks about it in terms of being a top 5 program until you start digging and realize, whoa, this program is insanely good.
In the past, we have chalked this up to its unique end-of-October deadline and equally unique two-round admissions process. We even went as far as to say that we would bet on the application quality at Sloan is far lower than on other top business school programs. Candidates would not even even start on their Sloan apps until after the October 3-16 gauntlet of deadlines and then they race to finish because they fear waiting until the "last" round. Simply put, a lot of applicants have viewed Sloan as an after thought, and we've done our share of walking clients back from making mistakes associated with that mindset. Well, all of that has changed.
I've updated Amerasia's list of best tips and best practices for submitting your MBA application online. So hopefully this prevents many of you from not getting caught with your pants down just hours to go before the application deadline!
In fact, I always tell my clients to start their online MBA application at the very beginning of the application process because it can help you understand what you are in for. Most people think that HBS does not have a "goals" essay. Technically, they are correct. But they do have a 500 character goal statement on the actual online form. They also want you to rank your extracurricular equities in order of importance. And if you read the language on the application carefully, it seems as though they only want you to fill out activities that occur during your undergraduate career. To make it that much more difficult, Harvard only provides you a few hundred characters (not words) of precious application UI to do so. By the way, this does include characters like spaces. Surprise! But not a good surprise if you waited until the 11th hour to open up and start reviewing the online application. There are many other instances of these types of requirements – MBA app hoops you have to jump through – when you were least expecting.
But since this blog post is about what you can and should do before finally pressing "submit", I do not want to revisit what you should have done. Let us focus on what you can do right now.
Today, we are going to be breaking down the failure essay and the biggest reasons why everyone blows it. This is particularly relevant to the season, as we begin to take on our usual batch of INSEAD clients (for both January and September intakes) and that schools asks a very tricky little failure question. We have a very specific approach to the accomplishment part of that essay that transforms run-of-the-mill answers into INSEAD-worthy submissions, but we're going to keep that locked in the vault. The failure essay though ... we owe some thoughts to the masses, just as a public service.
As a follow up to my earlier post today (regarding the video HBS references in their essay prompt), I wanted to unleash a marathon of HBS Case Method videos that I found during my research. So grab some popcorn and sit back - this is sure to beat the Game of Thrones marathon you had planned for tonight (but not really.) Ha.
Tuck released its new essays and they feature no changes to Essay 1, the removal of one word from Essay 2, and the cutting of their old Essay 3 (on setback/failure).
No doubt everyone in this space will be analyzing those changes today (I am too), but my guess is they will come to incorrect conclusions in many cases. There are a lot of reasons why people make incorrect determinations when analyzing changes, but much of it can be attributed to cognitive bias - everything from recency bias to bounded rationality to confirmation bias. We tend to read things in one way and our flow of assumptions follows that set path. I will explain what I mean with the context of each questions - but just be forewarned that this blog post serves two functions: an analysis of Tuck's questions, but also an attempt to figure out why people trip up and make errors in interpretation.
Unlike Columbia and Stanford, HBS did not make any changes to its essay from last year. As explained by Dee Leopold in her blog, they were quite simply happy with the content that this prompted generated. Those handful of people who have spoken to me on consult calls this year know that I predicted HBS would keep this essay and that it would be for this reason - I had a feeling this experiment worked well. This is because I watched the MASSIVE (all caps are necessary here) gulf between good and bad use of this space, among candidates.
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