It's the time of year where I start having the "Round 2 conversation" a lot with individual clients. Basically, the idea is that Round 2 might be offering a slight advantage, based on theories of market inefficiencies and so forth. For years, the prevailing belief is that Round 1 is the best round to apply to business school. While there is no hard-core evidence to suggest otherwise, some common sense may point to a different result.
The MBA has always been the stalwart of business education. A terminal degree from the start, once achieving the MBA, graduates have always been able to call it quits on their formal education. While the prevailing arc of the MBA curriculum has remained fairly consistent over time, there have been some interesting changes over the years, which has resulted in a new world MBA bearing only a modicum of similarity to the degrees that came before it.
We have established that MBA networking should begin well before business school and that some schools have better networking than others. What we haven’t really covered yet, are the nuts and bolts of networking and how you go about doing it effectively. Below is a baker’s dozen tips for building a network which will pay dividends as you apply to business school, as you attend business school and as you dive into your post MBA career…
Despite the name “waitlist,” there are several things you can do besides simply wait for your dream school to call. From a strategic standpoint, sitting in a state of limbo gives you the opportunity to improve your profile or status as a candidate, and such improvements can and should be communicated to the admissions committees.
This time of year, many applicants find themselves stuck in the waitlist process at one or more schools, which can be a very slow and painful waiting period. Not only are you competing for fewer and fewer seats, you are doing so against everyone on the waitlist all the way back from round one as well as any fresh, new applicants from the final rounds.
When you charge people thousands of dollars to help them with their MBA applications, you had better be sure to look in every nook and cranny for an advantage.
We pride ourselves on doing just that and that mentality has allowed us to come up with incredibly helpful strategies for our clients. Everything from "structure your essays like a Hollywood screenwriter" to "finish your energy strong with a simple shift in body language" to "add an alternate short-term career goal to your first paragraph on your first Columbia essay" has come from a dogged determination and willingness to constantly find advantages. Obviously, most of those advantages are not for public consumption as it would neither be fair to our clients or terribly bright to reveal every "state secret" we have. That said, there are some tricks and methods that we find ourselves talking about so often on initial consultation calls that we figure no harm can come from letting the whole world know about it.
Today we've got one of those tricks, which we fondly call "demo-lition derby."
The latest MBA rankings from The Economist are out and people are understandably freaking out about some of the odd placements that you can find in their list. Poets and Quants has already done an impeccable job running all this down, so I am not going to try to repeat all the great work John Byrne already did. But you should definitely check out the P&Q piece on it. What I want to talk about is why I am happy P&Q ran that extensive post on those rankings (rather than dismissing them) and, indeed, why I am happy these Economist rankings even exist.
I just saw a whole lot of MBA essays over the past few months and now that Round 1 is (mostly) finished, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to jot down the most common mistake I saw for each of the most common essays I worked on with clients. Round 2 clients can get a leg up by simply avoiding these traps.
Normally, once the fireworks go off on the 4th of July, that's our signal to start digging into the apps in earnest, as "October" Round 1 deadlines are a few months away. However, in recent years, the deadlines keep getting earlier and earlier. I know I had to really reset my own calendar given these changes, so I figured I'd do a public service and list them out here, calling special attention to the front-loaded nature of the deadlines.
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.
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, wow, this program is insanely good. Most importantly, because of its unique end-of-October deadline and equally unique two-round admissions process, we would wager that application quality on Sloan apps is far lower than on other top programs (which is a *massive* problem if you want to be admitted there). Candidates often don't 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. Indeed, since today is October 4th, it's something of a "last call" for Sloan interest. If you want to be serious about getting into MIT, you had better get started - and that includes bringing on a consultant.
Well, we wanted to get a quick analysis up and let all those applying to Chicago Booth that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
This year's essay questions are different, but essentially the same.
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.