MBA essays

Stephen Covey's 4 Pillars of Leadership: The Definition of Leadership You Want in B-school

Stephen Covey's 4 Pillars of Leadership: The Definition of Leadership You Want in B-school

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.

How to Personalize Your Interest in an MBA Program

How to Personalize Your Interest in an MBA Program

The simplest and most important thing you can do to improve your Why School X portion of career goals essay is to personalize any and all content.  

What do I mean by "personalize?"  Simple: make anything you write about the school specific to you, your experience, your desires, or what you require from a program.  Never just state absolutes, generalities, or even known truths and facts - always make them personally-held viewpoints. Examples are the best way to understand this (after the jump): 

Don't be Redundant, and Whatever you do, Don't Repeat Yourself

Don't be Redundant, and Whatever you do, Don't Repeat Yourself

With the trend towards shorter essays, There has been a phenomenon in the applications which can only be described as “redundancy.”  Shortening the essays has resulted in more questions and even mini-essays or micro-essays within the application itself, where often applicants end up repeating information about themselves that is found elsewhere in the application.

MBA Application Advice: Quantitative vs. Qualitative Impact

MBA Application Advice: Quantitative vs. Qualitative Impact

When it comes to conveying your marketing message to the admissions committees at top business schools, it is important to relate your various profile characteristics in a meaningful way.Often, applicants are naturally very good at doing this in either a quantitative or qualitative way, but it’s actually important to do both.

Recommend Reading for MBA Applicants: "The Obstacle is the Way" by Ryan Holiday

Recommend Reading for MBA Applicants: "The Obstacle is the Way" by Ryan Holiday

Partly because I've been reading some great books lately and partly because I want a break from writing about essays, I am starting something new - offering "recommended reading" to MBA applicants.

Now, please understand that I know you are busy.  You are working, applying, and trying to live your life - possibly even still wrestling the GMAT to the ground.  It's probably not the ideal time to be picking up books, right?  On the contrary!  You are at a unique point in your life right now - shifting between what was previous and what is next.  You are probably still fully engaged with work (as you should be, as the typical upcoming Round 1 applicant still has a full year of work to go), but there is part of you that is stepping outside the day-to-day rat race and thinking about the big picture.  "Now" is one big incubation period.  If you are taking your apps seriously and working with a great consultant/coach, you are going to be thinking stuff in a way that might start to become pretty illuminating.  I've long felt that applying to graduate school *should* be an arduous process - not just in terms of nuts and bolts, but in terms of personal introspection.  It's a golden opportunity to learn something about yourself and to improve as a person. 

Why Elite MBA Candidates Fail the "Failure Essay"

Why Elite MBA Candidates Fail the "Failure Essay"

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. 

Personalizing Your Interest in an MBA Program

Time for a quick blog post that comes from what I'm seeing each day, which is really rigid, hard-to-read Why School X sections.  I give the same note to every single client so now I'm giving it to everybody: the simplest and most important thing you can do to improve your Why School X portion of career goals essay is to personalize any and all content.  

What do I mean by "personalize?"  Simple: make anything you write about the school specific to you, your experience, your desires, or what you require from a program.  Never just state absolutes, generalities, or even known truths and facts - always make them personally-held viewpoints.  Examples are the best way to understand this (after the jump): 

MBA Candidates: Knives Down!

MBA Candidates: Knives Down!

PSA time. 

To all MBA Candidates out there, especially those of you racing to hit the HBS deadline on September 9th ... please, for the love, know when to set your essay down, put your hands in the air, and say "time."  I borrow from Top Chef and call it "put your knives down!"  It's that moment in the show when the buzzer has sounded and they have no choice but to put the chef's knife down, put their hands in the air, and accept that their dish is finished.  In our situation, there isn't a buzzer (yet), but we can still use the principle.  In fact, one of the great ironies of the Top Chef "quick fire" challenge that gave me this expression is that some of the best dishes on that show come because there IS a buzzer - it keeps the contestants from noodling and tweaking and, basically, ruining a great plate of food.  So ... how can we use this for our MBA apps? 

Fuel for the Wharton 2014-15 Essays

Fuel for the Wharton 2014-15 Essays

It's time to cover Wharton, as it looks like I've locked myself into a pattern of covering every school's set of essays. The common response to Wharton's new essay set (one of which is required, one is optional) is "another case of schools shrinking this essays!" This is technically true, as the total words went from either 1,000 to 900 (if you use the Optional) or from 1,000 to 500 (if you don't). However, the next leap is almost always "as schools continue to try to make things easier for applicants." I'm sorry, I simply don't buy that line of reasoning. Almost everyone who truly knows admissions knows that fewer words makes things harder, not easier. This is because it requires confidence and clarity to approach such a task, it requires concise and structured writing to execute it, and it makes it far less likely that you will "accidentally" come up with something great, just by virtue of spewing out words. Now, it might be a byproduct of the essay shrinking that it's easier on the readers or that a few people might (mistakenly) think it's easier to apply, but I highly doubt that is the intent.

Quick Thoughts on the HBS Essay

Quick Thoughts on the HBS Essay

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.