Paul Lanzillotti

What the Stanford GSB Wants - a True Moral Compass

What the Stanford GSB Wants - a True Moral Compass

If you read our editions of our “How to Apply to Harvard Business School” and "How to Apply to Stanford GSB" guides, you already know that cultivating a real reason for applying to an elite MBA goes week beyond the school's name, rank, and prestige.  But more than any other MBA program in the world (yes, even HBS), GSB looks beyond having a great GMAT score, a summa cum laude GPA and a blue chip name as your employer.  While these are respectable measures of a person’s perceived worth, they are not good enough reasons to apply to GSB. 

Why is this?

Simply put, you could someone with a mis-calibrated moral compass or worse, what your colleagues might call an "asshole" (more on the asshole test here and the true cost of being an asshole here).  That's right - more than any other school in the world, Stanford has a visceral aversion to those who define themselves by their accomplishments, as opposed to the innate values and beliefs that drive those accolades. Apparently, Stanford has their pick of the litter and they can afford to stand absolutely resolute in their aversion to those whose moral compass points true south.

5 Tips for Applying to MIT Sloan in 2016/2017

5 Tips for Applying to MIT Sloan in 2016/2017

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.

Constructing Your Candidacy - A Visualization

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.)

MBA Program Essay Map

MBA Program Essay Map

[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 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.

Writing Business School Essays: Grabbing the Reader’s Attention

 Writing Business School Essays: Grabbing the Reader’s Attention

One of my admissions consulting clients wrote me about his essays.  He wanted to know what was the right way to “Grab the reader’s attention in the first few sentences with engaging content.”

My high-level advice: