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The best business_schools'_admissions_secrets The best business_schools'_admissions_secrets Document Transcript

  • The BestBusinessSchools’AdmissionsSecretsCHIOMA ISIADINSO, M.ED.SOURCEBOOKS, INC®NAPERVILLE, ILLINOIS鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • © 2008 by Chioma IsiadinsoCover and internal design © 2008 by Sourcebooks, Inc.Cover photo © PunchstockSourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks,Inc.All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in anyform or by any electronic or mechanical means, including informationstorage and retrieval systems-except in the case of brief quotationsembodied in critical articles or reviews-without permission inwriting from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritativeinformation in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold withthe understanding that the publisher is not engaged in renderinglegal, accounting, or other professional service. Iflegal advice orother expert assistance is required, the services of a competentprofessional person should be sought. -From a Declaration of PrinciplesJointly Adoptedbya Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee ofPublishers andAssociationsPublished by Sourcebooks, Inc.PO Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410(630) 961-3900Fax: (630) 961-2168www.sourcebooks.comLibrary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataIsiadinso, Chioma.The best business schools admissions secrets: a former HarvardBusiness School Admissions Board member reveals the insider keysto getting in / Chioma Isiadinso.p.cm.Includes bibliographical references and index.1. Business schools--Admission. 2. Master of business administrationdegree. 3. Business education. I. Title.HFll11.I85 2008650.071 1--dc222008015091Printed and bound in the United States of America.VP10987654鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • T0Arifor bringing me constant sunshine鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CONTENTSAcknowledgments...............................................................viiForeword.............................................................................. ixIntroduction..........................................................................xiChapter One: Deciding on theMBA..................................... 1Chapter Two: Personal Brandingand theMBAApplication Process..................................... 17Chapter Three: Buildingand Selling fOur Brand................ 39Chapter Four: Admissions Full Cycle................................ 57Chapter Five: Understanding the Admissions Criteria....... 73Chapter Six: Essay Fundamentals.................................... 103Chapter Seven: The Resume and Professional Record...... 153Chapter Eight: Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewedby theMBA Board..................................... 171Chapter Nine: Transforming fOur Recommendersinto Brand Champions.............................. 191Chapter Ten: MBA Applicants Backgrounds.................. 221Chapter Eleven: MoreMBA Applicants Backgrounds.... 239Chapter Twelve: Admissions Decisions........................... 249Chapter Thirteen: Funding theMBA................................ 265Chapter Fourteen: Final Thoughts.................................... 273Application Insights.......................................................... 275MBA Resources................................................................ 307Index................................................................................. 313鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTSTHERE WERE COUNTLESS INDIVIDUALS whowere instrumental in making this book a reality.Id like to thank my husband, Obinna, for yourentrepreneurial spirit which has somehow rubbed offon me. Your ability to envision possibilities and yourunwavering support has enabled me to write this book.I happen to believe in fate and faith and I have to thank RitaRosenkranz, my agent, for believing in me and taking a stepof faith with me on this journey. I extend a heartfelt thanks toFern Reiss who provided me with the opportunity to meet mywonderful agent. I would like to also thank the publishing teamat Sourcebooks for their professionalism and commitment tothis book. A special thanks to my editor, Peter Lynch, for hisencouragement, patience, and incisive ability to help me tell thisstory in the best way possible.I am grateful to the many talented clients I have hadthe fortune to work with through my consulting practice,EXPARTUS. Your stories continue to inspire me and I amthrilled for your successes. I want to also thank all the businessschool alumni and students who volunteered to share theiressays for this book. Thank you for opening up your lives andessays. Your stories will help many future applicants gleaninsights on how to tell their stories in a compelling way. Manythanks to everyone who participated in interviews for this book:Fred Chima, Selena and Khary Cuffe, Fernando DAlessio,Recy Dunn, Jevelyn Bonner-Reed, Chris Ryan, Andrew Yang,and Rachel Zlotoff.I would also like to thank Michael and Bonnie Carter, NadjaFidelia, and Dr. Gloria Hill, for your mentorship and continued鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • viii THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSsupport. This book talks about the importance of having brandchampions and you have been a major blessing! MarielaDabbah, your editorial help was truly remarkable. Thank youf o r b e l i e v i n g i n t h i s b o o k f r o m i t s i n c e p t i o n .I would be remiss not to thank the amazing individuals I havehad the fortune to work with both at Harvard and CarnegieMellon. Particularly, Kirsten Moss, Eileen Chang, PattyDowden, Dee Leopold, (Prof) James Cash, Brenda Peyser,(Dean) Mark Wessel, Ty Walton, Barbara Brewton, ElizabethCasale, Carol Young, (Prof) Janusz Szczypula, and (Provost)Mark Kamlet. My amazing team at EXPARTUS, thank you forbeing a joy to work with.A special thanks to all my family and friends for theirpatience and for putting up with me while I raced throughcompleting my manuscript during the busiest applicationseason. Drs. Emmanuel and Maria Obiechina, you remainamazing role models. I am blessed to have you as parents andyou continue to motivate me to do the best I can. I will beforever thankful to my beloved mother-in-law, Mrs. RoseIsiadinso, for her calm spirit and help as I balanced managing ab u s i n e s s , w r i t i n g a b o o k , a n d b e i n g a n e w m o m .I am grateful for the opportunity to live my passion ofhelping people access the best education possible. For this, Iam blessed and thankful to God.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • FOREWORDIHAD ONLYAPPLIED TO one MBA program, Harvard BusinessSchool. At the time, applying to an MBA had been a lastminute idea. I had originally planned to pursue a Law degreeand a legal career in the footsteps ofone ofmy heroes, ReginaldLewis. However, a mentor ofmine challenged me to really takeinventory of the type of career to which I aspired and to reconsiderwhat was truly the best environment in which to build thenecessary skill set to ultimately reach my goals. After a painfulreassessment of what I was really seeking as a career, I came tothe determination that an MBA was the ideal preparation. Iscrambled to apply and mailed it the day of the final deadline.Fortunately, I was admitted. This was 18 years ago.The MBA application process has become increasingly morecompetitive in recent years, with schools admitting only a fractionof applicants. Yet the MBA remains a powerful educationin preparing individuals to accelerate their career growth as wellas make significant career change. In reflecting on my own businessschool application, I know that I was quite fortunate to beadmitted. I recognize that the odds of pulling off a stunt likethat today is nearly impossible and certainly not advisable.Why should anyone applying to business school read thisbook? Ifyou want to have a guide that can give you a road mapto navigate what can be a difficult and treacherous road, andyou want to increase your odds of success, then this is preciselythe book for you. The Best Business Schools Admissions Secretsremoves the guess work out of the application process and laysout necessary steps to help you shore-up your weaknesses andplay to your strengths. This book is written by an admissionsexpert who has worked for top institutions and has actually sat鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • x THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSon the admissions board evaluating candidates. Chioma understandsthe subtle and not so subtle positioning that differentiatesthose who are admitted and those who are rejected. Theinsights covered in this book will arm you with a game plan thatincreases your likelihood of success.Admissions people are looking to understand what makeseach candidate tick and they seek to understand what eachcandidate will bring to the class. At the end of the day, all youhave are the sum of the activities, experiences, and impressionsthat you have left in your wake. And when I think about whathas really influenced the trajectory of my current career, it hasbeen about developing and maintaining a reputation of courage,integrity, and leadership. Youwant to leave that type ofimpressionwith every client, colleague, and employer you encounter.A commitment to excellence should be the key "leave behind"for everyone interested in providing a memorable profile, especiallyfor the Admissions staff who will evaluate your application.H o w e v e r, b u i l d i n g y o u r b r a n d d o e s n o t e n d w i t henrollment in business school; one must continuously managehislher brand while in school and throughout ones career. Afterall, the classmates you meet in business school are forming theirimpressions of your brand and may over your career be positionedto act upon those impressions in the capacity of acompetitor, partner, and in some cases employer. In summary,your brand and reputation are really all you have at the end ofthe day-so manage them well.Michael Carter, Managing Director, Lehman Brothers Inc.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • INTRODUCTIONIHAD BEEN IN THE admissions business for three years(Carnegie Mellon) when I moved to Cambridge to take on anassistant director role at Harvard Business School. From theopen houses to information sessions to the countless phone callsthat barraged the admissions offices every day, one thing wasclear: applicants to business school were stressed out about theirapplications. Business schools, sensitive to the stress thatsurrounds the application, have made strides to create moreadmissions transparency and provide applicants with moreopportunity to "connect" with the Admissions Board. But it issafe to say that with rejection numbers still in the 80 to 90percent range, applicants recognize that they are up againstsignificant odds to earn an admission spot at their top MBAprogram. Application numbers are not slowing down either; theGraduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reportedthat two thirds ofmemberMBA programs indicated an increasein the number of applications in 2006. The GMAT currenttrend indicates a 13.70 percent increase in worldwide testvolume in January 2008 compared to the same time in 2007.The numbers are growing as well outside of the United States.GMAC reports that registration volume outside the U.S. grewby 27.58 percent in January of this year compared to the same鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Xl! THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECIUTStime last year.It is this sheer competition that drives applicant sentiment toa frenzied crescendo. In this high-stakes world, many intelligentindividuals discard common sense for myths and hearsay.The folklore surrounding admissions to elite business schools islegendary and endless. Some of them include bets that applyingin particular rounds can guarantee a favorable admissionsoutcome; others focus on the belief that recommendations fromalumni are a shoo-in versus those from recommenders who donot have a brand name degree; others center around jumpingon bandwagons that applicants believe are popular. The socialenterprise bandwagon is one such example. While on theAdmissions Board at Harvard Business School, I saw my fairshare of the awkward social enterprise tack-on that was simplyan attempt on the part of the applicant to say,"Look, I have myquota of social-conscious contributions." Admissions Boardssee right through such gimmicks quickly.Of course one cant talk about the misconceptions of businessschool admissions without encountering the issue oflegacy.Unlike undergraduate admission, where children of alumni geta slight bump, at the top MBA programs, legacy does not havemuch bearing in the admissions process. It is important forcandidates to know ahead of time that they cannot count onhaving a parent who attended Stanford or Wharton to beenough to get them admitted.One of the most popular myths surrounding MBA admissionsis the perception that there is a certain profile or formulathat leads to a coveted offer. I often hear candidates lament overthe fact that they dont come from blue chip firms likeGoldman, TPG, McKinsey, and Schlumberger. Others focuson the fact that they attended South Dakota State Universityand worry that they cant compete with the Ivy-educated applicantswho saturate the admissions pool. This perspective couldnot be further from the truth. The reality is that there isnt a鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Introduction  xiiihidden formula that guarantees acceptance to a top businessschool. Certainly, you will find a good number of Ivy-educatedcandidates from name brand firms in the applicant pool. Butyou will also find a sizeable number ofnon-Ivy-educated candidatesfrom firms that do not fall in the "usual suspect" category.The diverse backgrounds of admitted students show that thereisnt a cookie cutter profile to the selection process.But the process of selecting who gets admitted and whodoesnt is a combination of science (the numbers) and art (thebranding). The MBA Boards evaluate candidates on limitedinformation (a few pages in an application and a thirty-minuteconversation) to decide which candidates are a fit and have themost compelling stories. This is why it is very common to seetwo applicants with nearly identical backgrounds (as far as rawnumbers and work experience) apply to the same business schoolbut one receives a rejection letter while the other is admitted.The difference in outcome is usually a result of how eachcandidate marketed himself or herself. We have all heard of the750 GMAf, 3.7 GPA, Ivy-educated Wall Street superstar analystwho received interview invitations from Harvard, Stanford,Wharton, and Columbia, only to be rejected by all four schools.Clearly this candidate had the numbers, but having thenumbers isnt enough to guarantee admission. Its how you positionthe data and what that information reveals about you thatcan make or break the application outcome. Successful applicantspresent a profile that is differentiated from others withsimilar backgrounds. It is this differentiation that tips the scaleon who gets a congratulatory phone call and who doesnt.These differentiated candidates often have one thing incommon: they were memorable. I pondered what these candidateshad that gave them an edge in the application process. Itwasnt until after I left Harvard and launched my consultancyfirm EXPARTUS that it dawned on me that the successfulapplicantsto business school had figured out what many consumer鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • XlV THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSgoods companies know too well: the importance of selling onesvalue proposition to the customer. The 20 percent of applicantswho are admitted to top business schools understood that theapplication process is a marketing exercise. These successfulcandidates have a strong sense oftheir personal brand (what setsthem apart from their competition) and have been effective incommunicating their uniqueness to the Admissions Boards.PERSONAL BRANDING AS A POWERFULTOOL IN TH E ADMISSIONS PROCESSI focus The Best Business Schools Admissions Secrets on personalbranding as it relates to the admissions process. After manyyears in the admissions business, I am convinced that thegreatest mistake applicants to business schools make is that theirapplications lack a compelling brand. Most applicants pay waytoo much attention trying to "game" the system and figure outwhat the Admissions Boards want to hear instead of taking astep back to assess their own stories and to present them in anauthentic, powerful way.Developing ones personal brand requires significant introspection,something that is a make or break in the applicationprocess. Also, being extremely smart, with an 800 GMAT scoreand near-perfect GPA, isnt enough to guarantee admission toyour dream business school. The applicant pool is teeming withcandidates with precisely the same academic backgrounds.Being brainy can be a necessary but not sufficient prerequisitein the application process. Conversely, there are enoughinstances of successful candidates with academic data that arebelow the schools admission range. An interesting andcompelling brand can land candidates into their dream schools,even when their academic numbers are not exceptional.Nonetheless, this is not an excuse to ignore the academiccomponents of the application.The BestBusiness Schools Admissions Secrets will examine how鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Introduction xvapplicants can use branding techniques to achieve admissionsuccess. I will begin by discussing why a candidate would evenconsider an MBA in the first place. I will also discuss the threemain admissions criteria that candidates are evaluated on (academicability, leadership track record, and uniqueness) and willprovide specific insights on how to address each of them. I willprovide anecdotes to convey the nuanced differences that lead tosuccessful brand positioning. I will also devote a chapter to eachof the application components (essays, resume, recommendations,and interviews).Wherever applicable,I willpresent a case toillustrate how an applicant navigated the application process.The Best Business Schools Admissions Secrets will also examinethe common admissions mistakes candidates make as well asoffer practical tips to help you avoid making the same applicationerrors. Ill examine admissions outcomes and how to effectivelymanage each of them.I often hear applicants raise the issue of financing the MBA,so I have also devoted a chapter to discussing financingresources and how to go about planning to fund the businesseducation. I have also interviewed alumni of top businessschools as well as a GMAT test provider and former AdmissionsBoard member to present additional insights to help younavigate the challenging admissions terrain.The idea of individuals as personal brands is a relatively newway of thinking made popular by personal brand guru TomPeters. Personal branding is based on tried-and-true principlesof traditional marketing. Robin Fisher Roffer, author of Makea Name for Yourself, describes the power of personal brandingwhen she says, "Branding makes you an active partner infulfilling your destiny in business and life."I have written The Best Business SchoolsAdmissions Secrets notonly to help candidates gain admission to top business schoolsbut also to help them develop a clearer sense of "who they are"and "what matters to them"-their brand. Books that have been鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • XVI THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSthe most meaningful to me often have every other page markedup, highlighted, or overrun with a lot ofnotes. I encourage youto write down your thoughts as you read this book. It should bea good reference even after you have read it once, and youshould go back and revisit sections that are relevant when youbegin working on your application.While I dont expect that this book will answer every singlequestion you have about the application process, I anticipatethat it will answer the majority of the burning ones. I havewritten this book for anyone who is seriously considering anMBA and wants to maximize his or her chance of gainingadmission to a top business school. I have focused the examplesprimarily on top business schools that are based in the UnitedStates. Many of the lessons learned here can be applied to anybusiness school, however. This book will give you an insideperspective of how the nations top MBA Admissions Boardsthink and how they evaluate candidates.The BestBusiness Schools Admissions Secrets is also designed toempower you to reach for your dreams and to begin to take thenecessary steps to live a passion-filled life. It is more than simplygetting into the school ofyour dreams. It is about finding fulfillmentin your life, tapping into what matters most to you, andcharting a plan to achieve those things that bring you meaning.I believe that every individual has a God-given set of talentsand passion and when you pursue your dream, you have nochoice but to succeed. I ultimately believe that if you spendmost of your time doing what you truly enjoy, you will becomebrilliant at it and will achieve success in other areas ofyour life.Getting into your dream MBA program is one of the stepsalong the journey ofliving a passion-driven life. I wish you greatsuccess along the way.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER ONEDeciding on the MSAWANTING AN MBA IS a good thing. It suggests that youare ambitious and willing to push yourself to achieve agoal. But before starting on your application, you shouldexamine what an MBA means to you. Be clear of your motivationsand goals before embarking on the extremely challengingand expensive application process.All top business schools will expect you to address why youwant an MBA. They each will word this question differently,but what they want to understand is what your career goal isand whether an MBA is necessary to help you achieve it.Equally important to the MBA Board is understanding whetheryour career aspirations reflect your true passion or whether theyare simply the way for you to get your ticket punched. The issueoffit is also a very important one to business school AdmissionsBoards. They want to ensure that their program is right for youand that you are right for their program.The justification for an MBA will vary from one applicantto the next. The important thing is to remain true to who youare when presenting your rationale for pursuing an MBA. Inthis chapter, I will examine the four most popular reasons applicantscite for wanting to attend business school and how the鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 2 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSAdmissions Boards view these reasons. I will also review thebenefits of obtaining an MBA and the different variables thatcandidates use in selecting a business program.Applying to business school will cost you a fair chunk ofmoney. The average application fee is $200, and given theacceptance rate of 10 to 20 percent, most applicants apply tofour or more schools. In addition to the cost of the applicationfee, there is the Graduate Management Admission Test(GMAT) to think of. With average GMAT prep programscharging about $1100 to $1500 (not including one-on-onetutoring), you should expect to shell out at least $2000 just toapply to business schools. If you decide to hire an admissionsconsultant to guide you along the way, this figure can increasesignificantly. The MBA itself is a very expensive investment,with costs north of $140,000. And I havent even touched onthe opportunity cost of leaving a lucrative job and forfeiting asalary and bonus for two years. If you include the lost income,the MBA price tag can easily be more than $200,000. So beforeyou take the application plunge, make sure the MBA is necessaryto achieve your career goals.The good news is that although the MBA costs a considerableamount of money, the payoff can be substantial, with manygraduates from top programs earning twice what they used toearn prior to receiving an MBA. But the payoff isnt only monetary.Many MBAs receive other perks, such as greater careerexposure, contacts, skills, and so on. Before delving deeper intothe benefits of the MBA, which I will further examine in thischapter, lets take a look at two major admissions traps thatapplicants fall into: jumping on MBA bandwagons and applyingbecause they are unemployed.AVOID MBA BANDWAGONSThe MBA Board will be checking to make sure you are notsimply getting on the MBA bandwagon because all of your鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Deciding on the MBA 3friends are applying to business school. The MBA Board alsowants to ensure that you are not applying simply because yourfirm has a structure where employees complete a two-or threeyearanalyst program and then have to leave. Analysts andconsultants in investment banking and strategy consulting facethis issue the most. It is understood that a majority of analystsand consultants will "move on" after two to three years and asignificant number will end up pursuing their MBA degree. Butthis expectation of going for your MBA is not a strong enoughreason to convince the MBA Board that you are serious aboutthe degree. Candidates in these categories need to make a clearpitch for what their specific MBA goals are and how the particularprogram is best positioned to help them achieve theirfuture success.Be wary of jumping on career bandwagons. Someone onceasked me whether I thought she should join a private equity(PE) shop after working two years in consulting in order to geta PE stamp. My answer was that it depends on what you wishto do in the long term. If your passion is to start or lead a PEcompany, then making the leap now is fine. On the other hand,if it is simply to get a stamp, then it isnt the right path to take.MBA Boards can also see through someones ploy ofleaving a consulting or engineering job to join a nonprofitorganization right before applying to business school specificallyto get a social enterprise stamp of approval. On the otherhand, if social philanthropy is a genuine interest, then makesure you connect the dots to other evidence in your professionaland personal life to show that social enterprise isnt justa passing fancy.Quite frankly, there is no set profile or work experience thatguarantees admission to a top business school. So, at best,simply jumping on trendy bandwagons will signal to the MBABoard that you are not authentic about your career goals.Because each candidates story varies, it is important to embrace鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 4 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSyour unique circumstance and articulate how the MBA fits withyour goal and how it will transform your career.GAIN ADMISSION DESPITE A PINK SLIPAnother potentially flag-raising reason applicants give forapplying to business school is that they lost their job and havenothing better to do. Obviously this situation is likely to yieldan unfavorable outcome. Many casualties of the dot-comdisaster contributed to the unprecedented applicationvolumes seen at many leading business schools in 2001. Notsurprisingly, many of the applicants did not gain admission tobusiness school.From 2002 to 2004, many individuals received pink slips asa result of a slow economy. The 2007-2008 sub prime problemshave led to job cutbacks in positions in mortgage backed securities.Many financial services companies have announcedlayoffs and some have shut down entire mortgage businessunits. Not surprisingly, some of those receiving pink slips willview business school as a viable option.Should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation ofbeing unemployed, avoid saying that you are pursuing the MBAas a way to get back into the job market. I know, it sounds veryobvious, but I have come across this rationale enough times toknow that the obvious isnt always "obvious." Even if you dontexplicitly state this reason for why you want an MBA, if youreceive a pink slip and do not find alternative employment, theMBA Board will still likely conclude that you are seeking thedegree because you do not have anything better to do.However, unemployed candidates are not necessarilydoomed to rejection. I have worked with several unemployedcandidates through my consultancy, EXPARTUS, and despitereceiving pink slips, each was able to gain admission to eliteschools. If you are unemployed, the important thing you shouldkeep in mind is to use the time wisely to reassess your plans and鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Deciding on the MBA 5to engage in activities that reinforce your brand. Using the timeto learn a new language, to develop real skills that you truly careabout, or to engage in activities that affect peoples lives,through focused and committed volunteerism, can be justifiablereasons for how you have spent your time.For instance, if you were a varsity squash player and havealways been interested in community involvement, now that youare not working a one-hundred-hour workweek, you can join anorganization like StreetSquash to lend your skills to empowerinner-city kids through athletics. Better yet, if you are trying tomake a switch from finance to marketing, you can lead marketinginitiatives to help this organization secure funding. The briefmarketing experience you gain can provide insightful material foryour essays and reinforce your justification for the career change.TOP FOUR POPULAR REASONSFOR PURSUING AN MBAJumping on an MBA bandwagon will only hurt your admissionschance. The same goes for applying simply because you havelost your job. So what are the common rationales that areacceptable for desiring an MBA? In this section, I will go overthe four most common reasons that drive MBA applicants decisionfor business school as well as how the MBA Board feelsabout each of them.R e s p o n s e s t o w h y y o u w a n t a n M B A o f t e nf a l l i n t o f o u r c a t e g o r i e s : f i n a n c i a l r e w a r d ,i n t e l l e c t u a l c h a l l e n g e , p e r s o n a l d e v e l o p m e n t ,and professional advancement. Lets examine each anddiscuss how Admissions Boards view them.Financial RewardThere is no doubt that the return on investment of an MBA(especially for top MBA programs) is very high. A glance atcareer brochures or websites ofleading MBA programs revealsthat after graduating from business school the average starting鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 6 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSsalary for the newly minted MBA is about $100K. And thesedata do not include the bonuses that can often be in the tens ofthousands of dollars, depending on the industry. You dont haveto be a math whiz to recognize that the MBA offers significantfinancial reward that pays for itself. If this is your main reasonfor pursuing an MBA, thats fine-but I recommend keeping itto yourself. The MBA Board already recognizes that financialreward is one of the key reasons people choose to study for anMBA. Stating this reason as your main driver for an MBAcommunicates a superficiality that doesnt help your candidacy.You are better off focusing on a deeper reason like personal orprofessional fulfillment. We will get to those shortly.Intellectual ChallengeFor many candidates, the draw of the MBA is the intellectualstimulation and challenge that they will experience in theclassroom. Without a doubt, the MBA builds skills and equipsstudents with new insights to business issues. The joy oflearning new material and concepts makes the MBA attractiveto candidates who welcome the intellectual and invigoratingconversations inside and outside the classroom. Stretchingyourself intellectually is a fine rationale for why you want anMBA. However, this rationale can raise flags for the MBABoard if you have multiple graduate degrees but no workexperience; candidates with this background can be seen as "degreecollectors" or "perpetual students." Your comfort level operatingin the real world may be called into question. So, regardlessofwhat your background is, it is important to balance yourq u e s t f o r k n o w l e d g e w i t h p r a c t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e .Personal DevelopmentThe personal development justification for the MBA is oftentied to professional benefits as well. The draw for many peoplewho chose to pursue the MBA is the personal confidence andcredentials that an MBA gives them. As an MBA alumna鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Deciding on the MBA 7phrased it, "MyMBA gave me the courage to think bigger, stepfarther, and pursue my lifelong dream... " The one thing thatmost MBAs have in common is an ambitious spirit and a desireto achieve something significant-the teacher who wants tocreate charter schools across the nation, the cellist who plansto transform her national music conservatory in Bulgaria, orthe business analyst who wants to run an emerging markethedge fund. "What all these individuals have in common is adesire to have greater impact beyond where they are in their lives.The confidence that an MBA provides allows many individualsto achieve significant goals, and this remains a majordriver for many who seek a graduate business education. Onecant talk about the personal development impact of the MBAwithout addressing the incredible social network that surroundsthe MBA experience. Through lifelong friendship and diversenetworks, many MBAs are able to achieve their goals. It is nosurprise that personal development is a popular rationale givenby many applicants for why they want an MBA. This rationalemakes complete sense to the Admissions Boards.Professional AdvancementThe majority of applicants indicate that they are seeking anMBA for the career development benefits. More specifically,they say that they want the MBA to increase theirunderstanding of the business world. This is a popular andcompelling reason to give for why you want an MBA.For some candidates, an MBA is a necessary next step tojump-start a stalled career. For others, they have beenbypassed on promotions because they lack the degree. Andthen there are those applicants who are ready for a significantmanagement role but who lack some fundamental skills thatwould be necessary to succeed in the new position. Entrepreneursalso find the MBA environment to be a great value inbuilding their skill set and helping them refine their business鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 8 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSmodel, reposition their product, and learn more successfulways to scale an already successful enterprise.And of course, there are the career changers-I cant talkabout the professional development benefit of the MBAwithout discussing career changers. ManyMBA candidates canbe characterized as career changers. In fact, more than 70percent ofMBA students change their industry or function afterattending business school. If you are a career changer, youprobably see the MBA as a bridge to enable you to transitioninto a new industry or function. And indeed, that is one of themajor benefits of the MBA.However, it is not enough to say you plan to use the MBA tochange your job. You must be able to show that you have madea significant impact in your current career. It is also importantthat you present strong evidence based on your brand that youhave what it takes to make a career switch. Regardless ofwhether you will change careers or remain in your currentindustry, it is acceptable to use professional development asy o u r j u s t i f i c a t i o n f o r w h y y o u s e e k a n M B A .I will discuss career changers and branding in greater detailin the chapter on building and selling your brand.THE VALUE OFTHE MBAThe MBA is an expensive investment. Harvard Business School(HBS), for example, has a price tag of about $140,000. Add tothat the financial impact ofnot earning an income for two yearsand it is clear why many individuals shy away from pursuing theMBA in the first place. Yet, ask anyone applying to businessschool, and you are likely to hear that they believe that thereturn on their investment can be significant. The numbers fromgraduates of top business schools support this: 86 percent ofwomen and 89 percent of men surveyed in a Catalyst studyreported that they were very satisfied with their MBA careerafter attending business school.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Deciding on the MBA 9Often, the value of the MBA can be characterized as fallingwithin one of these eight benefits:1. Expanded network2. Strategic skills3. Analytical skills4. Quantitative skills5. Soft skills (leadership, communication, negotiation,agility in thinking on your feet, team management,etc.)6. Increased knowledge7. Significant salary bump8. Access to new careerThe Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)conducts a biannual survey of MBA alumni. Seventy-ninepercent ofthe alumni polled in the 2006 alumni survey indicatedthat they are positive about their decision to pursue an MBA(Source: MBA Alumni Perspective Survey, September 2006).So if you have decided that the MBA is for you and you areclear on why you want to pursue this degree and what it willoffer you in the long term, lets examine the specific influencesthat shape which MBA program a candidate chooses.DIFFERENTTYPES OF MBA PROGRAMSMBA programs have evolved over the years and now haveavailable various versions to meet the different needs of students.The most prevalentMBA options are as follows: full-time twoyearMBA, accelerated one-year to eighteen-month MBA, parttimeMBA, and executive MBA. Although this book focusesprimarily on the full-time two-year MBA program in theUnited States, I will discuss some other options in this sectionto give you a sense ofwhat each program offers and the type ofstudent for whom it is a good fit. MBA programs tend to have鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 10 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSstrict transfer policies, so do not count on being able to switchfrom a part-time MBA program to a full-time MBA program ata top business school. To avoid disappointment, you should doyour research early to ascertain the program that is the best fitbefore enrolling in business school.Two-Year MBA ProgramThe two-yearMBA program is extremely popular in the UnitedStates. The full-time MBA program is ideal for career changersfor two reasons: (1) It offers greater opportunity to step backand reflect on their experiences and goals, and (2) It providesthem with greater flexibility to take many classes in the newcareer they are pursuing. This option also offers students theopportunity to pursue an internship the summer after their firstyear to assess whether the new career is a good fit.The curriculum of two-year MBA programs providess t u d e n t s w i t h t h e o p p o r t u n i t y t o g a i n a b r o a dexposure to the different business areas as well asa c h a n c e t o d e v e l o p a s p e c i a l i z a t i o n . T h e M B Aprograms vary in how much curriculum flexibilitythey offer to the students. A program like Chicago GraduateSchool of Business (GSB) is one of the most flexible,allowing students the greatest freedom to opt out of classes andto design their own schedules. RBS, on the other hand, has oneof the more rigid curricula, requiring students to take a core setof classes their first year.Applicants who pursue the full-time two-year MBAprogram find that it is the most expensive MBA option giventhe price tag and the lack of income for two years. Some firmsoffer sponsorship for their star employees to pursue a full-timeMBA program. Find out what your companys policy is forsponsorship by speaking with your manager and by talking toindividuals you know who have gone to business school andreturned to the firm. The expectation is usually that you wouldreturn to your firm if you receive financial support from your鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Deciding on the MBA 11firm. For some individuals, this golden handcuff may be toohigh a price to pay, and they may pass on the employee sponsorshipif they already know that they prefer to work at a different firm orindustry.If you are a career changer who plans to work in strategyconsulting or in investment banking, then you should definitelypursue a full-time two-year MBA program. The availability ofa summer internship will provide you with entree into bankingor consulting, which will make you more marketable to thebanks and consulting companies.Accelerated MBA ProgramThe accelerated MBA program typically lasts for one full yearor eighteen months and can start in the summer or winter. Thistype of program usually does not offer an opportunity to workin the summer because students take a full load of courses then.This program is usually a fit for someone who is already in hisor her industry of choice but who needs to build up specificbusiness skills. Also, entrepreneurs who plan to return to afamily business will find this option attractive because of itsshortened length.Part-Time MBA ProgramThe part-time MBA program is a popular choice for individualswho want to remain in their job while developing theirbusiness skills. Many firms are supportive of employees whowish to pursue a part-time business degree because they areable to retain them. Some even offer the option to sponsor theapplicant with some stipulation on the number of years theemployee must remain at the firm. Each firm varies in terms oftheir policy on eligibility and sponsorship. You may even haveto take the GMAT and score at a certain level for youremployer to sponsor your application. It is important to findout if your firm offers tuition reimbursement and the termsassociated with it.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 12 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSThe part-time MBA option is not convenient for careerchangers for different reasons. The most prominent is theinability to "test out" a new career during the summer internship.The part-time MBA curriculum is similar to the two-yearMBA program, but the difference is that the students takefewer classes at a given time and classes are taught in theevenings and weekends. Companies looking to aggressivelyretain their best talent are forming formal relationships withbusiness schools for their top employees. Lehman is one suchexample. It has established a formal part-time MBA programwith New York University (NYU) for its star employees. Thiscustomized program has been designed to fit the employeesschedule and ensures that little disruption takes place whilethey pursue the MBA.Executive MBA ProgramOf all the MBA program types, the executive MBA has themost variation available (a combination ofweekends, evenings,onsite engagements where students congregate on campus, andonline study). Many top institutions offer an Executive MBAprogram while others offer certifications and other short-termexecutive education training. An example of the latter isHarvard Business Schools executive programs that last for afew days to several weeks that focus on developing the managerialskills of seasoned professionals.Executive MBAs often provide exceptional employees withsponsorship. Even if your firm does not have a formal sponsorshippolicy, it is worth speaking to your manager to explorewhether your firm would be able to sponsor you. Besides thefinancial sponsorship, it is also important to get your firmssupport because most executive MBA programs requirestudents to leave their jobs to be on campus for periods of time.Deciding whether an Executive MBA (EMBA) is the rightoption for you will depend on where you are in your career and鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Deciding on the MBA 13why you want the MBA. Ifyou are relatively early in yourcareer, the EMBA is not typically a good fit since it is designedfor individualswho are further along in their career and haveprofessional responsibilities and management experience that issubstantive. It is no surprise then that the majority of students inthe ExecutiveMBA programs are over thirty and have a decade ofprofessional experience. The EMBA is also ideal if you are lookingfor credentials, deepened industry knowledge, and expandedskillsets as opposed to making a major career change. Careerchangers are better served in a two-year, full-time MBA program.SELECTINGTHE RIGHT MBA PROGRAMHaving discussed the different variations ofthe MBA program,I would like to more closely examine the variables that applicantsconsider when selecting an MBA program. Here are thetop ones that influence applicants selection decisions.Length of the ProgramAs I discussed earlier, a number of variables affect your decisionof whether to pursue a full-time two-year MBA programor a part-time or executive MBA program. Is time a factor foryou? Are you trying to complete the MBA in as short a time aspossible? Is the high cost of an MBA prohibitive? Are youalready in the industry you want to be in? Can you bypass thesummer internship? If you answered yes to these questions, itmay be worth exploring MBA programs that are less than twoyears. Many of the top MBA programs in the United Stateshave one-year or accelerated MBA programs. Chicago,Kellogg, and Columbia are just a few examples that come tomind. The MBA programs outside ofthe United States are alsogood options if time is a major factor for you or if you are opento an international career. INSEAD and IMD are popularprograms in Europe that offer a full-time MBA program in lessthan two years.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 14 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSGeographic LocationIs geography of critical importance to you? Some candidatescannot imagine themselves in an urban environment; henceschools like Haas, Chicago, Columbia, and HBS will not makesense for them. On the other hand, there are applicants forwhom the small town community of schools like Darden,Tuck, and the Johnson School at Cornell University is ideal.Individuals seeking international exposure must take thegeographic location into account. Candidates planning topursue a career in Europe may want to consider programs likeIMD (Switzerland), INSEAD (France), Bocconi (Italy), andLondon Business School.Size of the ProgramThe size of the class can also playa significant role in where anapplicant chooses to apply. The small program size of Haas(University of California, Berkeley), Tuck, Yale School ofManagement, and Stanford Graduate School ofBusiness (GSB)could be a major draw for some applicants and a turn-off forothers. So decide whether you are someone who will thrive ina large environment or a smaller, more intimate one. Havingclarity on the environments you enjoy will save you the hassleof going through two years of misery in a place you hate.Teaching MethodWe cant discuss variables affecting school selection withoutaddressing the teaching methodology of the programs.Darden and HBS may be appealing to some applicants fortheir emphasis on the case study method (90 percent of theteaching is done via the case method), whereas this idea canbe terrifying for other applicants. Also, some candidatesbelieve you cannot teach finance effectively through the casemethod and would be loathe to attend a program that isprimarily case focused.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Deciding on the MBA 15Flexibility of the ProgramMBA programs differ in the range of flexibility they offer theirstudents. MBA programs like Chicago GSB are among the topprograms with significant curriculum flexibility. This level ofcurriculum option is ideal for candidates who are seeking aprogram where they can exempt out of classes they have takenbefore in order to create space to take new materials. StanfordGSBs recently transformed curriculum now offers greaterflexibility to customize the MBA program for each student.International Business ExposureSome applicants are attracted to international business. Soalthough these students may opt for an American MBA, it isimportant to them to attend a program that offers the opportunityto either study abroad or tackle an international projectthat allows them to live abroad.The Ross MBA at Michigan, Johnson MBA at Cornell,Wharton, and Kellogg are some of the programs that offersignificant international experience and exposure. At Ross,for instance, you can take a semester exchange at one of thefinest MBA programs in Europe, Australia, or Asia. StanfordGSB can be added to the list of MBA programs that have astrong international exposure since it has overhauled itscurriculum. Stanford addresses their goals to "globalize theexperience of their students" by stating: "The School willcontinue to globalize its cases and course materials, and aglobal experience will be required of each student during hisor her two years at the School. This can be fulfilled by a studytrip, an international internship, an overseas service-learningtrip, or a student exchange, such as the Schools new programwith Tsinghua Universitys School of Economics andManagement in China" (Source: Stanford Admissionswebsite).鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 16 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSBrand of the ProgramLast but not the least is the overall brand of the MBA program.There is a certain feel and culture that permeates each MBAprogram. Byvisiting the programs and attending classes, you willbe in a better position to ascertain whether a program is right foryou. TheMBA programs also have areas that they are brilliant atand are known for. I encourage all applicants to take the time tothoroughly research each MBA program to ensure that theyselect the ones that are a fit with their brand and goals. Weaddress the topic ofMBA programs as brands in the next chapter.By now, I anticipate that you have a clearer sense ofwhether theMBA is worth it for you. You also have a practical sense ofadmission traps to avoid when making the decision to apply.Furthermore, you should be aware that whatever rationale yougive to the Admissions Board for why you wish to pursue anMBA will be scrutinized. Assess your own circumstance carefullybefore deciding on your particular reason(s) for an MBA.But equally important, you will need to select the right type ofMBA program given different variables that are important toyou. I have covered the main variables that influence MBAprogram selection and I hope this information has helped you todecide whether a two-year, part-time, or executive MBAprogram is ideal for you. Taking the time to assess what you needfrom an MBA program and knowing yourself well will help youmake the appropriate decision in the long run. A $140,000misstep is too costly a mistake to make and Im glad you areinvesting in the research and assessment early in the process.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER TWOPersonal Branding and theMBA Application ProcessSO WHAT EXACTLY DOES personal branding have to do withthe admissions process? Everything! Applicants with strongand compelling brands distinguish themselves from the packand capture the attention of the Admissions Boards. But applicantsare not the only ones who have to think of themselves asbrands. MBA programs are also brands and the MBA Board ischarged with identifying the best candidates who are a fit withthe brand of each of their programs.In my ten years in the admissions industry and from myexperience running EXPARTUS, I have come to recognize thatthere is a special chemistry that admitted candidates bring to thetable: a strong and clear sense of who they are, what matters mostto them, and where they are heading in the future. What comes tomind when a board member thinks about the candidate he or shejust read about? What unique characteristics emerge that setsthat candidate apart from all the other individuals within thesame category? It is the salient attributes and unique perspectiveand experience that the candidate has that sets him or her apartin the application pool. Making sure that your unique brandstands out is critical to achieving admissions success.A brand is what differentiates a product (or person in thecase of MBA applicants) from the pack. Lets look at a few鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 18 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSstrong brand examples. "Who do you think of when you hearthe phrase "Motivational Talk Show Maven"? If you guessedOprah, youre dead on. How about "International Rock StarActivist"? Bono should immediately come to mind. OK, youmight be thinking, "Bono and Oprah have one thing incommon; they are famous people with tons of money." Thepoint is taken. However, not all famous people have brands ora strong characterization that accompanies their names.Make no mistake about it-business school application is anexercise in marketing; it requires you to be able to sell the valueyou will offer to an MBA program. Successfully marketing yourstory to an Admissions Board requires a clear understanding ofyour personal brand.WHAT EXACTLY IS A BRAND?A brand can be a product, a company, or even a person. Thepersonal branding guru, Peter Montoya, puts it this way:"Strong brands instantly communicate simple, clear feeling orideas to us about a product, company, or person" (The PersonalBranding Phenomenon, 2002, p. 5)."What attributes come to mind when you think about aproduct, person, or company? Do you have a positive or negativereaction? Or worse, are you indifferent, which can suggestthe absence of a brand?"What type of feeling or idea does your brand communicateto the MBAAdmissions Board? "What image does the AdmissionsBoard have of you after reading your application? Does itmatch with the message that you set out to convey? Understandingthe elements of successful brands will help you beginto think ofyourself as a brand as you present your story to theAdmissions Board.I will discuss four fundamental brand rules that help MBAapplicants differentiate themselves. I will also use case examplesof individuals and companies that apply these branding鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBA Application Process 19principles to illustrate how you can do the same to make yourapplication stand out.THE FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF PERSONALBRANDINGRule #1:  Be focused.Rule #2:  Be an expert.Rule #3:  Be a leader.Rule #4:  Excel and deliver results.Rule #1: Be Focused (Companies as Brands)Lets look at the case of two companies and the effect the ruleof focus has had on them.Branded companies know a secret: branding requires focus.Take the Volvo Group. Although it is a company that specializesin commercial transportation, it has successfully positionedits car in the marketplace. Today, one cant think of a Volvowithout thinking ofsecurity and safety.Youwont associate "theultimate driving machine" with a Volvo. Someone who islooking for speed or the flashiness of a sports car will opt for theBMWover a Volvo any day. But Volvo has done a great job ofdeveloping a car that consumers expect will not only last butwill protect their greatest possession, their family. It is nosurprise that Volvos 2005 annual report shows a 37 percentincrease in earnings per share.Now lets look at General Motors (GM). If I asked you totell me what type of car GM specializes in, you may be hardpressed to come up with a quick phrase that captures its essence.If you said "sporty, all-terrain, average all-American car" youwould be right-this statement describes the Corvette,Hummer (H2 SUT), and Saturn, allGM cars. But one ofGMsbiggest problems is that it doesnt own a message in the鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 20 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSconsumers mind. By diversifying so much and offering productsthat appeal to the widest customer base, the brand of thecompany has been diluted in the process. It is no wonder GMreported a third quarter earnings loss in 2006 of$115 million.Companies that try to be all things to all people are very quickto lose the attention of the consumer.The rule of focus applies to applicants to business school ina similar way. Youshould identify one or two things that you arebrilliant at and focus on using them to create value at your firm.By focusing on these core elements, you will be able to build areputation and develop a track record that establishes yourbrand. Avoid spreading yourself too thin because it only createsconfusion about what you stand for. Applicants who try to bedifferent things at the same time (innovator, change manager,operations guru, accounting whiz, and human capital champion)run the risk of creating confusion about their brand andultimately raise red flags for the Admissions Board. Pick the fewthemes that are core to your value, skill, and goals and buildyour brand on them. As an MBA applicant, you will increaseyour chances of success if you can identify key attributes orbrand elements that differentiate you from your competition. Igo into more detail on brand attributes in the chapter onbuilding and selling your personal brand.Rule #2: Be an Expert (Companies as Brands)Microsoft is a company that has leveraged its expertisesoftware-to become a multibillion-dollar company. With fewexceptions, one cant turn on any personal computer worldwidewithout having to rely on a Microsoft Office product to performbasic functions. Microsofts expertise developing "easier, faster,smarter" software has enabled it to capture significant marketshare, which translates to billions of dollars in revenue.More recently, YouTube, a company started by three young,former PayPa1 employees has revolutionized the wayinformation鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBA Application Process 21is transmitted around the world. Their tagline, "BroadcastYourself," is at the heart of their brand, providing a vehicle foranyone to get their message out to a global audience. In the space ofa few years they have transformed the way video files are shared.The recent purchase of YouTube by Coogle for more than $1billion is evidence of the power a brand can have when it focuseson its expertise and uses it to meet a need in the marketplace.Applicants to business school must identify an area that theyare brilliant at and use it to create value for their firm, team, orclients. What is a need that is not being met at your firm? Isthere a new product that can improve the revenue stream atyour company? Do you have knowledge that can help facilitatethat? Are you an athlete who has special understanding of thesports product business? For instance, you may be a marketingassociate at Nike and can draw from your experiences as anathlete to shape the development of the latest sneakers designthat is being introduced in the market. As a minority, you maybe able to offer unique insights into how your company shouldposition itself when marketing to minority communities. AChinese national with experien<:;~0Yorkingon the mainland canhelp her company navigate its expansion into China given hergeo-political awareness of the region.Even personal experiences can influence the development ofa candidates expertise. For example, you may develop an interestin pharmaceutical products because of health issues. Your ownself-study and research can position you as a resident expert in thearea of health care and pharmaceutical topics at your firm. Yourknowledge could become valuable to help your firm expand itsknowledge base in health careldrug industry deals.International experience can also be an option. Europeanapplicants have an edge in language ability compared with theirU.S. counterparts. Leveraging strong language ability, manycandidates opt for international deals where they are able to usetheir linguistic expertise when working with clients. This is the鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 22 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETScase for a Turkish woman who works in M&A in London andbecause she speaks fluent German is able to work on manyprominent German deals at her firm. The insights she gleanedworking in the United Kingdom and Germany, combined withher awareness of her home country, Turkey, bring meaningfulunderstanding of what is required to work in internationalsettings. Regardless ofyour specific experience, as an applicant,it is important to figure out where you have unique, valueaddedexpertise, which you should begin to use immediately todifferentiate yourself from your peers.Rule #3: Bea Leader (People as Brands)Branding requires a commitment to step up and stand for whatyou believe. Taking action and leading is another key tobranding. The power of branding goes beyond companies andproducts and applies to people as well. Two great examples ofindividuals who demonstrate the rule of leadership in cultivatingtheir brands are Bono and Wangari Maathai.Bono of the rock group U2 has been a leader in addressinghumanitarian problems and alleviating poverty, disease, andhunger in the poorest areas of the world. His steadfast commitmentto social justice has led to his brand as an activist rocker.By raising funds, investing his own resources and money, andbringing to the attention of the world many of the issuesplaguing Africa, his brand as an activist was born. Bono clearlyrepresents an example ofsomeone with an authentic brand whois living his passion and creating change and impact in the livesof millions. Today, Bono is viewed as the preeminent leader inadvocating for the poor.Wangari Maathai is another great example of an individualwith a powerful brand built upon the rule of leadership. Knownas the "Tree Lady," Wangari Maathai has had a distinct brandas a fearless conservationist who has refused to be cowed byKenyas former dictatorial government despite death threats鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBA Application Process 23and imprisonments. To the majority of the world, she is known asAfricas first female Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. She founded agrassroots environmental organization called The Green BeltMovement, which introduced a vision of empowerment forwomen and conservation through the planting of trees. Maathaiis clearly living her passion of improving the environment.Pursuing this vision has led to an environmental revolution thelikesofwhich had never been seen in Africa.In 2004, she receiveda Nobel Prize, but before this honor was bestowed on her, shehad already established an enduring brand as an ceo-activist.Im not suggesting that all applicants to business schoolshould become activists tomorrow. Leadership does not alwaysrequire activism. Rather, it requires commitment and a willingnessto take a risk to pursue your passion.You may be passionate about education and may want toconsider taking on leadership roles in a nonprofit educationalorganization. Denise is an applicant who had the guts to pursueher passion by changing her career before business school. Ananalyst in a Wall Street firm who was doing very well, Denisechose to turn down her third-year analyst offer to join a relativelyyoung educational organization. Her two years at thisorganization enabled her to build credibility as an educationadvocate and future leader andgeye her ample opportunity totackle significant leadership challenges. Shortly after, she wasadmitted to a top business school, where she plans to establisha strong network and broaden her skill set before runningcharter schools.Many of you may not be interested in changing your careeras Denise did. You can still demonstrate leadership in a practicaland tangible way within your firm. For instance,parlaying your analytics expertise to overhaul and lead the newtraining program at your firm may be the exact leadership rolethat works for your brand. Some of you may be like Fred, apharmaceutical engineer from an emerging market country鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 24 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSwhose leadership impact is shown through working within theestablished system in his firm. Freds impact was to seize theopportunity to partner with his firm to distribute pharmaceuticaldrugs that his firm did not want to use in hospitals andclinics in his home country. Or you may be like John, whostarted a small tutoring program in New York to empowerinner-city kids whose grades suffered as a result of the dismaleducation they were exposed to in their public schools. Whatis important is that whatever leadership role you choose tocultivate, pick one that reinforces your brand and make sureyou deliver impact with it. Authenticity is critical to thebranding process, so focus only on the things that you aretruly committed to.Rule #4: Excel and Deliver Results (People/Companyas Brands)Like her or not, Martha Stewart has established a brand as thegreat dame of home improvement. She is known for scrutinizingevery item or product associated with her brand beforeputting her seal of approval on it. Some may see this as overkill;the reality, however, is that because she has been this closelyinvolved with her products and has maintained a judicious vigilancein the quality associated with her brand, she has been ableto build a multimillion-dollar business.Although the majority of the applicants to business schoolhave not started multimillion-dollar companies, adopting aMartha Stewart-like scrutiny to the product or service youdeliver can pay dividends in the application process. Deliveringexcellence in everything you do-including the services youprovide to clients, the products you develop, or the teams youmanage-will ensure that you have a track record that will standout when you apply to business school.Although Martha Stewart has been successful in building astrong firm, she also represents a cautionary story of what鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBA Application Process 25happens when your personal actions are negative. BecauseMartha Stewart, the person, is intimately connected to hereponymous company, her conviction of perjury during herinsider trading trial had an enormous impact on her company,with stock prices plummeting. Martha Stewarts example showshow one negative action can unravel years of establishing anexcellent reputation. Applicants to business school must becareful not to make a mistake that can derail the reputation theyhave earned at their jobs. Consistently delivering quality resultswill enable you to firmly own a positive reputationlbrandamong your colleagues, superiors, and clients. After all, it isprecisely this track record of excellence that your brand championswill rely on to support your application.Applicants who show commitment to excellence andhighcaliber work have an edge over their competition. Lets lookat an example.John was a second-year analyst and was extremely committed toproducing quality work. His work ethics ofbeingthefirst in and thelastto leave the office enabled him tomanagehiswork effectively. Hissharp intellect and the high qualityofwork that he became known toproduce made him very popularamong managing directors at hisfirm, many ofwhomwouldspecifically requestfor him tobestaffedontheir deals. This reputation soon allowedJohn towork onmanyofthe high-profile deals at hisfirm and gave him unusual access tosenior leadership beyond what his peers were exposed to. Beforelong, John became known as a leader among hispeers, as manyanalysts would also seek him out to get his perspective since he hadworked on more complicated deals and could provide informationonanalytics andhow to "manage up." YOu can imagine the type ofrecommendation an applicant likeJohn wouldreceive.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 26 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSIf your work isnt at the level of individuals like John, it isnever too late to begin to establish a reputation of excellence.Make the commitment today to begin operating beyond yourjob responsibility by looking for ways to fill an existing voidat your firm as well as raising the bar in the quality of workyou produce.Individuals who understand the power of personal brandingrecognize the importance of consistent commitment to excellenceand results. Producing a track record of excellence on aregular basis is one clear way to differentiate yourself from yourpeers who just do a "good job." Doing your job well is notenough. Going beyond what is expected of you and deliveringexcellent results regularly is one sure way to stand apart fromyour competition.Even the physical application needs to demonstrate thisbrand ofexcellence.The mistake that some applicants make is tounderestimate the importance of each aspect of the application.An unpolished and mistake-ridden resume can tip the scale toa rejection. That means that every aspect of the application,from GMAT score to essays, recommendations to transcript,and everything in between, should be of high quality. Never cutcorners. It is the fastest way to earn a negative brand reputation.But applicants to business school are not the only ones for whombranding matters. MBA programs are also seen as brands andapplicants often apply to them based on how they view theirbrand.MBA PROGRAMS AS BRANDSEach business school is distinctive and has a different culture orfeel to it. As such, it is critical to understand the brand of eachprogram in order to select the ones that best fit with your personalbrand.MBA candidates are not the only ones who use marketingto differentiate themselves. Even the MBA Boards are not鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBAApplication Process 27impervious to marketing. They too do their fair share ofmarketing to ensure that their programs brands areadequately communicated to their target applicants. It is nosurprise that each year, dozens of members of MBA AdmissionsBoards embark on a grueling recruitment scheduleacross the nation and the world to "market" their unique MBAprogram and convince diverse and talented prospective candidatesto apply. Whether the Admissions Boards are marketingtheir program through their annual fall open house events orthrough other means, including dynamic websites, glossybrochures, and on-campus events, their pressing goal is toattract the most talented, diverse, and accomplished individualswho are a fit with their programs brand.Some MBA programs have done a brilliant job defining andmarketing their brands. By contrast, there are those whosebrands are quite ambiguous to the customer, making it difficultfor people to articulate what the program stands for. MBAprograms that attempt to be all things to all people withouthaving a key component that they master face the possibility ofowning zero percent of the customers mindshare. (Similarly,MBA candidates who do not have a clearly articulated andcompelling brand capture zero market share in the mind of theMBA Board.) It is therefore quite usual to see MBA programsand universities as a whole invest a lot of money to conduct abrand study to refine and revamp their brand. This exerciseoften involves extensive communication with alumni, currentstudents, recruiters, and other stakeholders who are familiarwith the program.Make no mistake about it, business schools are not trying tosimply admit a prototype applicant. That is, although Columbiahas a fantastic brand as a finance program, it isnt looking toadmit all its students from finance backgrounds. Neither isKellogg trying to admit an entire class of marketing people.That would be extremely limiting and would defeat the overall鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 28 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSpurpose of a top business school: students from diversebackgrounds (both professionally and personally) interacting witheach other and learning from the different perspectives coveredin the classroom. The brand of an MBA program goes beyondthe career area it specializes in, although this is important inshaping the brand of the school. Kellogg, for instance, has astrong reputation as a marketing program but is also known forits extremely collaborative culture and emphasis on teamwork.Does that mean you cant find teamwork at Columbia? Ofcourse teamwork is a part of Columbias culture (and of mosttop business schools). But Kelloggs emphasis and devotion tothe collaborative community will always make it one of thepremier team-oriented business schools in America. Tuck isanother program that has a similar brand focus on teamworkand collaborative community.Understanding and deciphering the brand ofMBA programsisnt a simple, cut-and-dried process. It requires in-depthresearch. Applicants need to:• Speak with products of the business school, in particular,alumni, current students, MBA Boards, and faculty.• Visit the schools to get a firsthand experience of theprogram, its culture, and teaching style, not to mentionthe people who might someday become classmates.• Talk to people in the industry to understand how theprogram is perceived to better understand the programsbrand.Top MBA programs have a lot in common. They all havehigh-caliber faculty, smart students, adept Admissions Boards,dedicated career services, and active alumni. They are similar intheir value of diversity. Diversity is defined not simply bygender and ethnicity alone but includes socioeconomic backgrounds,geographic upbringing, career experiences, and鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBA Application Process 29unique perspectives. Despite these similarities, however, manytop business schools have unique and differentiated brands.Here are a few examples.Stanford Graduate School of BusinessStanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) enjoys a strongreputation of honing and developing entrepreneurship. Partly aresult of Stanfords proximity to Silicon Valley, the worldsentrepreneurial capital, or perhaps the long history ofinnovationfrom Stanford alumni and faculty alike, Stanfords brand asthe preeminent entrepreneurMBA program is long established.That said, Stanford GSB is more than an entrepreneurial MBAprogram. It has many diverse offerings, including the Center forGlobal Business and the Economy, as well as a strong cultureofsocial enterprise, as seen in its dedicated Center for SocialInnovation, Certificate in Public Management, and sizeablealumni base engaged in socially responsible businesses.The reality is that if you are looking for an MBA program thatwould stretch you intellectually as well as creatively to explorenew ventures and start your own business, Stanford GSB may bethe ideal program for you. A large number of entrepreneurs (oraspiring entrepreneurs) are likely to be attracted to StanfordGSB. However, given Stanford GSBs commitment to diversity,you will find students who have not started a business and sold itfor millions. However, what these admitted students have incommon is an entrepreneurial mind-set, affinity for innovation,out-of-the-box thinking, and disparate experiences where theytook a risk to try something new within an old guard company.It is for these reasons that Stanford students are often describedas eclectic and "free spirits."With that said, if you are looking to enter a career in generalmanagement, you will find Stanford to be a great environmentwhere you can develop general management skills acrossdifferent business areas.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 30 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSColumbia Graduate School of BusinessColumbia Business School is another great example of an MBAprogram with a powerful brand. It is known as one of theleading finance business schools in the country. Its location inNew York City, the financial capital of the world; the sizeablenumber of alumni who pursue finance-related careers; and thephenomenal faculty with excellent track records in finance andaccounting all contribute to Columbia Business Schools financebrand. I would be remiss if I stopped here, particularly givenDean Glenn Hubbards innovative changes that are pushingentrepreneurship at Columbia.Although Columbia Business School can likely succeed inattracting more entrepreneurs into its program and creating anoverall stronger perception in the marketplace of being a placeofentrepreneurship and innovation, it is unlikely that Columbiawill fundamentally shift to become an entrepreneur-onlyprogram at the expense ofits brand as one ofthe leading financeMBA programs in the nation.KelloggAnother example of a school with a strong brand is Kellogg.Kelloggs brand is significantly tied to marketing and teambasedlearning. It is rare that you hear someone talk about amarketingMBA program in the United States without Kelloggbeing at the center of the conversation. Even the name, Kellogg,is tied to the multibillion-dollar consumer products company.Although Kellogg has a dominant brand as a marketing MBAprogram, it offers much more than marketing to its "customers." Infact, Kellogg offers an extremely flexible curriculum that allowsstudents to specialize in a variety offunctional business areas, withfinance and strategy as the first and second most popular areas ofstudy, respectively.Despite this reality, the foremost thought on the minds ofmost prospective students when thinking of Kellogg is鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBA Application Process 31marketing. Even as Kellogg endeavors to educate applicantsabout its other areas of expertise, the program will likely facethe challenge of how far to deviate from its core brand.Expanding its marketing brand to include other areas of strength,such as strategy, will continue to present a tough challengeto Kellogg.Ross Business School (Michlqan)Putting ones arms around the Ross brand is somewhat challengingbecause it is anMBAprogram that isnt necessarilyknown for oneparticular area. It is accurate to describe Ross as a "wellrounded"MBA program. However, I think the better wayto categorize theRoss brand beyond being "well-rounded" is that it is truly action-oriented and has a culture ofconstant improvement. I think thesetwo elements have enabled Ross to get top rankings in recentyears. Even its motto of "Leading in Thought and Action" speaksto the brand of the program: it offers extensive opportunitiesto infuse the business education with real-life experience. TheMultidisciplinary Action Project (MAP), a required first-yearcourse offered the second half of the second semester, givesRossstudents an opportunity to "test" many of the business ideas andtheories they learned their first semester in a real-life environment.The students work on a consulting engagement to resolve abusiness challenge a real company faces. So candidates lookingfor a well-rounded program and hands-on experience for theirMBA will be attracted to Ross Business School.Harvard Business SchoolOne cant talk about an MBA program that builds its brandfundamentally on leadership without thinking ofHarvard BusinessSchool (HBS). Does that mean that HBS is the only placewhere leaders can be found? Ofcourse not! One can find a tonof leaders across the nations top MBA programs. In fact, all ofthe top schools highlight leadership as a core aspect of theirprograms. However, Harvards mission of "developing leaders鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 32 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSwho care about the well-being of society" strikes at the heartof what the program stands for.Leadership permeates the RBS experience and is not onlyabout formal roles (student leadership in organizations orcareer titles) but includes situational leadership where candidatesseize opportunities to make a difference regardless of theirrole. The structure of the curriculum, the teaching methodology(case-based learning), and the projects outside of theclassroom are all designed to challenge students to refine,rethink, confirm, and establish their perception of leadershipand transform their own unique way of leading.The previous examples are a snapshot of some of the MBAprograms that proactively manage their brands. Of course thereare other solidMBA programs not covered and I encourage eachapplicant to use the research steps described earlier in this chapterto further investigate the programs they are interested in.Now, lets focus on the MBA Board to get a betterunderstanding of who they are and how they operate in theconvoluted application process.TH E MBA ADMISSIONS BOARDThe MBA Boards role can be likened to that of a portfoliomanager. Their job is to pick the right stock that will yield thegreatest level of return to the program. Just as portfolio managersassemble diverse stocks,MBA Boards admit applicants withbackgrounds and experiences that are unique and that will enrichthe overall community. Applicants who have strong brands thatare a fit with the MBA program will have a higher chance ofbeing selected. Ultimately, the expectation is that these admittedstudents will graduate to become brand extensions of theirprogram and will continue to strengthen their alma maters brand.Understanding the MBA Board should at the very leastmake them more approachable and increase your comfort鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBA Application Process 33level when interacting with them. Also, understanding wherethey are coming from and precisely what their role is will giveyou a clearer perspective ofhow to present your application asa whole.First and foremost, the MBA Board members are human andcompassionate. They are single and married, mothers andfathers, young and old. They are passionate about their job.They are not in it for the money and often consider their rolea true labor of love. Some of them are alumni of the MBAprogram; many of them have an MBA or a graduate degree(although not everyone). The preceding description capturesmany Admissions Boards, but some programs also includestudents as members of the Admissions Board. Chicago GSB,the Johnson School at Cornell University, and Wharton are afew examples of MBA programs where second-year studentsserve on the Admissions Board. Typically, these students woulddo the first read and assess the candidate; then the applicationis evaluated a second time by an assistant or associate directorof admissions before a final outcome is determined. (Admissionspolicy variations may exist from school to school.)Each year, these talented and dedicated board membersembark on a grueling recruiting schedule (from August toNovember) after receiving marching orders to identify smart,talented candidates with excellent leadership potential andtrack records. Theyre forced to admit only a limited numberof applicants, which is further complicated by an applicationpool that is full of talented individuals who have achievedsignificant levels of success in different arenas. Because thereis no formula to weed out weak applicants, the MBA Boardinvests in carefully evaluating each candidate. Admitting adiverse class made up of different perspectives (for example,industry, country of origin, talents, gender, ethnicity, andpersonal and professional experiences) while maintaining abalance presents a significant challenge.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 34 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSTypically, each application is evaluated by at least two boardmembers. Ifboth board members votes are in agreement, thenthe application often will move forward in the process. Ofcourse, sometimes the two board members are in disagreement.In such situations, the application may be evaluated by a thirdboard member. Another option may be to bring the applicationto the Admissions Committee, where the merits of the candidatewill be discussed and a decision rendered. These meetingscan be quite spirited as board members argue passionately aboutthe candidate in question. Ultimately, the MBA AdmissionsDirector has the final say in the fate of a candidate if there isdissension among the board members. If you want your applicationto stand out, you must make sure that your essays areengaging and differentiated, allowing the Admissions Board toquickly see the value your application brings to the overall class.The admission season is long and strenuous. The MBABoard works extremely long hours during the busy season,which lasts from the end of August to the end of May. Eachweek, board members pick up bins filled with applications thatneed to be evaluated and returned within a small time window.Many board members work very late into the night, and it iseasy for many essays to begin to blur into the next when theylack originality. MBA Board members love to read applicationswhere they can really see who the candidate is and the rationaledriving the choices that person made both personally andprofessionally. (This is why applicants should pay attention tothe PGII Factor-passion, guts, impact, and insight-which Iwill further discuss in the chapter on essay fundamentals.)Board members are not spared during holidays either.November is the heart of the application season for round one,and applications often are reviewed even during holidays likeThanksgiving. Most people take vacation to spend time withtheir family during the holidays. Given a compressed admissionseason where decisions have to be made by a certain deadline,鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBA Application Process 35board members do not necessarily take time off during specialholidays. So board members have to carve out time during theirholiday to review applications. Youwant to write interesting andcaptivating essays that are worth reading, especially if someoneis giving up family time to evaluate your candidacy.Successful applications are usually the ones that have aclear and strong brand message. After reading a well-brandedapplication, the typical response from the MBA Board should besomething like, "This is the visionary engineer who solvesbusiness problems creatively" or "I just read the application ofa smart, unconventional banker who consistently focuses ondeveloping junior talent." They cant come to these conclusionsif the stories you have recounted in your applications are genericand lack focus.Ive often heard applicants say, "Im not good at marketingand promoting myself." And my answer is, "Start practicing!"If you are not comfortable selling yourself to the MBA Board,you will likely leave out compelling aspects ofyour story in yourapplication. Yes, you may find the idea of marketing yourselfartificial and contrived, but it is a necessary process to ensurethat your application is vibrant and distinctive.Although 1 am a big promoter of self-marketing andbranding, 1 dont endorse false marketing. Not only is it unethical,it will likely come back to haunt you. This book does notpromote falsifying your story or presenting a brand that doesnot authentically reflect your personal and professional life.The reason 1 am so bullish about developing your personalbrand is so that you have a realistic and up-to-date awarenessof who you are and what you have done in your life. Yourgrades and GMAT score are not going to be enough tocommunicate why you should be admitted to a particularMBAprogram. Writing essays that convey your brands distinctionwill help your application stand out to the MBA Board. It willalso enable the board member who evaluates your application鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 36 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECR.ETSto become an advocate on your behalf. The clearer and moreimpressive your brand is, the more likely he or she will be ableto argue for your application when your candidacy is discussedin an admission meeting.Ultimately, your goal is to turn the Admissions Boardmember reading your file into a brand champion. The boardmember has to "buy" your story in order to "sell" it tocolleagues or the Admissions Committee. And just as withtraditional marketing, where only products with powerful andcompelling brands stand out, MBA applicants must havedistinctive brands that capture the mindshare of the MBABoard. Self-aware candidates who can clearly articulate whothey are (their brand). and their rationale for their choices andaction will more likely capture the attention ofthe MBA Board.At the end of the day, the candidates job is to get the MBABoard to say, "Wow! Id love to meet this person."Finally, applicants have to be careful in deciding how muchface time they need to have with the Admissions Board. TheMBA programs vary drastically on their preference for facetime with candidates. Tuck, for example, has one of the mostliberal policies on this and encourages candidates to visitHanover and interact with the Admissions Board. Otherprograms may find it to be a nuisance if a candidate requests tomeet with board members during a (noninterview) visit. Also,sending lengthy emails and making multiple phone calls to theAdmissions Board can annoy the board members. It is importantto follow instructions regarding sending additional materialsto the MBA Board after the deadline. Some MBAprograms (for example, Wharton and HBS) explicitly requestthat applicants not send additional materials even if they arewait-listed. On the other hand, a program like Chicago hasbeen open to receiving additional information if it reflects anew update that isnt covered in the existing application. Typically,most programs are open to a short and polite thank you鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Personal Branding and the MBA Application Process 37card after an interview. However, a two-page letter to the MBABoard where you wax eloquent about your achievements isunlikely to have the desired results. I have been approachedmultiple times by desperate candidates who have not heard backfrom the MBA programs and in their panic plan to have analumnus of the program contact the school to find out what isholding up the interview invitation. I always advise thedistraught candidate to resist having an alumnus call and"harass" the MBA Board. Calling the MBA Board will likelybackfire and hurt the candidates chance of admission. Exercisingpatience is the best strategy in this case. At the very least,candidates should find out what each programs policy is andadhere to it. Remember that the MBA Board is short on timeand is already burdened with a very challenging workload.Annoying them ensures that they will not become advocates foryour candidacy.As long as the business school admission process remainscompetitive, applicants will continue to face significant pressureto communicate why they are unique and worthy of a covetedadmission spot. Candidates who recognize the differentiatingpower ofbranding will maintain an edge over their competitors.Ill go into more details in the next chapter on personal brandingand how applicants can use it to stand apart.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER THREEBuilding and Selling Your BrandAPERSONAL BRAND IS IMPORTANT to helping you livealife that is passion-driven and grounded in your values.By having a clear sense of your personal brand you can activelyengage in the things that matter to you, deliver results that youcan be proud of, add value to those around you (both personallyand professionally), and live a life that has meaning and impact.Building your brand will help you chart a clear path to achieveyour goals and live your passion. Beyond these benefits, however,having a powerfuland clear personal brand before you embark onthe application process can be extremely effective in bringing aboutthe admission outcome you seek.Applicantswho have a clear senseof their personal brand often emerge the most successful from theapplication process. Lets look at how to build your brand.One of the first things necessary to develop your personal brandis to identify your passion.WHAT IS YOUR PASSION?Are you living your passion both personally and professionally?Is what you do bringing you fulfillment? Is there a majordisconnect between how you see yourself and how others seeyou? Will getting an MBA enable you to achieve your vision鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 40 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSfor your life? It is important to take the time to address thesequestions; the answers will help you gauge whether you areliving a life driven by passion.The word "passion" is thrown around and used in variouscontexts in our everyday communication. But phrases like "Impassionate about baseball" or "My passion is doing the rumba"do not quite capture the essence of what I mean by passion.Passion is not a hobby or simply what you like to do for fun. Ihave a slightly different perception of passion as it relates tobusiness school application. I define passion as what givesmeaning to our life.A recent conversation I had at my favorite neighborhoodcoffee shop best illustrates the elements of a passion-filled life.I had posed this simple question, "What is your passion?" toKim, a fellow latte-indulging customer. Her face immediatelylit up, and she quipped, "Teaching and affecting the lives ofmystudents." Kim has been teaching for several years in New YorkCity elementary schools, and she is successful at what she does.She chose a teaching profession because it fit with her valuesto help kids succeed. As she described her work with her kids,it was impossible to miss the pure joy and fulfillment in hervoice. The excitement that accompanied her description ofwhat she does cannot be faked. When you are living yourpassion, your life will reflect the energy and joy that accompaniesa passion-filled life.So is what you are doing currently reflective ofyour passion?Stop for a minute to reflect on your passion.The important thingis to proactively assess whether what you do brings meaning toyou, whether it reflects your values, skills, and interests. If thatsnot the case, then it may be time for self-exploration to determinewhat matters to you and time to begin to integrate that intoyour professional and personal life. A simple way to assesswhether you are living a passion-filled life is to ask yourselfwhether you would do your job if you.were not paid for it.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Building and Selling Your Brand 41I encourage you to take a few minutes to complete thepassion survey to see how aligned your passion is to what youdo currently.EXPARTUS PASSION SURVEY(For each question, rate your response from 1-3: 1 = not really,2 = somewhat, 3 = absolutely. After completing each question,tally your scores.)Are you aware of what your greatest passion is?Is your passion connected to your personal brand?Are you livingyour passion outside of your job?Are you livingyour passion in your job?Do you enjoy your job?Do you have the right skills to liveyour passion?Would you keep working in your industry if you werentpaid for your job?Are you still being challenged bythe work you do?Does what you do have an impact on the lives of others?Are you proud of your accomplishments?Scores that range from 22-30 indicate that your job is in syncwith your passion. Scores that range from 12-21 suggest thatsome changes are in order; this may not require a careerchange, but more active investment in aligning your passionwith your career. Scores of less than 12 call for a major overhaul.Consider a thorough brand audit to assess what mattersmost to you and begin incorporating it in your life. Beopen toa career change.After completing the passion survey and determiningwhether your life is aligned with your passion, you can go a stepfurther to assess and develop your personal brand. This processrequires that you undergo a personal brand audit to identifyyour key brand themes and ultimately to distill your story into鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 42 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSa personal brand statement. Lets get started first with an auditofyour personal brand.HOWTO BUILD A COMPELLINGPERSONAL BRANDPersonal Brand AuditThe first step in building a powerful brand is undergoing apersonal brand audit (PEA). The PEA is a candid assessment ofwho you are. It includes your values, goals, skills, and passion.Included in this assessment is a review of your strengths andweaknesses, your past achievements and failures, your trackrecord, your perception of yourself, and how other peopleperceive you. After completing this audit, the next step is todistill it down to the core of what matters to you. You couldstart by picking three key values, goals, interests, andachievements. Ifyou can, try to further focus on the critical value,goal, interest, and significant track record from your life. This canbe challenging to drill down at this level because as human beingswe are complicated and have varied backgrounds, interests, values,and so forth. However, this exercise, as frustrating as it may bein the beginning, forces you to objectively look at what you aredealing with (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Then you have toapply honesty balanced with judgment in piecing together themost compelling aspects of who you are. It doesnt get any moreself-aware than that.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Building and Selling Your Brand 43A MINI PERSONAL BRAND AUDIT (PBA)In completing the PBA, be as candid and introspective as youcan. It is also extremely important to cite examples whenanswering each question. The more vivid and specific yourexamples are, the more effective they will be in enabling you topull out stories from your background that reflect your brand.PassionI am most passionate about:My work inspires me in the followingway:If I could livemy passion, I would:ValuesWhat do I value the most about myself?What do people value the most about me? (Ask colleagues,friends, family.)What three things do I cherish the most in life?Myvalues are a fit with my career in the following way:My values are misaligned with my career in the followingway:SkillsMy three strongest strengths are:My three greatest areas ofdevelopmentare (describewhat youare doing to improve them):The most significantimpact I have had on a person is:The most significantimpact I have had on a team is:The most Significant impact I have had on an organization is:GoalsMyshort-term goal is:Myreason for seeking an MBA now is:My long-term goal is:Without the MBA, it will be nearly impossible to achieve mylong-term goal because:鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 44 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSBrand ThemesIn the course of completing your PBA, you will notice somerecurrent brand themes. These themes have to be evaluatedto determine whether they reinforce your brand and whetherthey qualify as major themes (a must-have for your story) orminor themes (elements you could add to your story if thereis room).Brand themes are not just your job descriptions or obviousvariables of your story. They are consistent and recurrentelements that reflect who you are at the most meaningful level.Brand themes are not typically what you write in your resume.They are subtler than your job title and job description. Brandthemes reflect how you do what you do, the characteristics andvalues that drive your actions and choices, the distinctive andmemorable traits that people around you see in you.One can argue that brand themes can be fuzzy and"touchyfeely." A tech guy I know happens to be exceptionallycharismatic and very outgoing. He absolutely does not embody thestereotype of a reserved, nerdy tech guy.When applying tobusiness school, had he focused simply on his job role or title, hewould have been ineffective in conveying his charismatic brand.By tapping into instances that demonstrate how he operates in ateam environment and by sharing personal stories, he was able toconvey an accurate brand picture of himself: one that is dynamicand engaging instead of limited by his work role.Your job titles or roles do not constitute your brand themes.It isnt the title or label but the intrinsic and motivatingelements behind what you do and your own identity (values,passions) that make up your brand theme. So here are a fewexamples of what a brand theme is not:• Smart investment banker• Ivy-educated engineer• Top-ranked consultant• Hardworking private equity analyst鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Building and Selling Your Brand 45You will notice that these examples are generic and notdifferentiating. In other words, ifyou want to build yourapplication around being a smart banker, you pigeonhole yourselfwith the other thousand smart bankers in the applicant pool.The same goes for each of the other examples. To stand apart,you need brand themes that are differentiating. So although youare a smart banker, one ofyour key brand themes could be abridge connector. A bridge connector is someone who thrives onbringing disparate people and teams together to solve problems.They enjoy people, are well connected, and make gooduse of their social network to create positive impact whereverthey are. Bridge connectors do not hoard information or sit onthe sidelines when a problem needs to be resolved. They loveto jump in and partner with people to bring about results. Morethan that, they are gifted at working with different types ofpeople and can bring out the best in them. Being a bridgeconnector is what differentiates you from the pack. Nowhere inyour application do you explicitly state "Im a bridgeconnectingbanker!" Rather, the stories you choose to recountwhen addressing the essay questions can convey and reinforcethis bridge-connector brand, which then leads the AdmissionsBoard to draw the conclusion based on the evidence.The challenge in sharing your brand with the MBA Board isthat you need concrete examples from your personal andprofessionallife to substantiate any themes you select. One of thelaws of personal branding is focus. So with selecting your brandthemes, it is important to pick three to four that are most reflectiveof who you are and what matters to you. You may be wondering,why three or four? Because the application has a limited space,it is important to focus on the most salient themes in yourstory. Furthermore, you dont want to come off as scatteredby throwing in too many attributes and themes. Byselecting afew focused themes, you can then use the application essays toreinforce a consistent message that supports your personal brand.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 46 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSYourrecommenders also would need to be aware of the key brandthemes you are presenting so that the examples they use to illustrateyour story remain consistent with your branding strategy.At the end of the day, it is less about having the "right"themes and more about tapping into meaningful attributes andelements from your life experiences. Here are just a few examplesofbrand themes of successful applicants to business school:These themes are by no means exhaustive of potentialthemes. Brand themes are endless and are reflective of thecandidates experiences. The examples offered here are onlysnapshots ofpotential brand themes from successful applicants.These applicants were able to successfully brand their way intotop business schools not because they had perfect stories butbecause they committed to the introspection necessary to identifytheir personal brand. Articulating what mattered to themand why they had made the different choices that they made(connecting the dots of their lives) allowed the MBA Board todifferentiate them from their competition.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Building and Selling Your Brand 47PERSONAL BRAND THEMESList the four brand themes/attributes that best describe you.Make sure you cite examples to back them up.1.2.3·4·Now that you have identified your brand themes, go overthem to see if they accurately represent you. What words cometo mind as you have read through your responses? Do younotice any surprises? With branding, it is equally important thatthose around us reach the same conclusions about our brand.Ask two people who know you well (they can be colleagues,family members, or friends) whether the themes you selectedare reflective of who you are or if other themes are more relevantto your brand. If there are inconsistencies, then be willingto go deeper to determine whether you need to take steps tobetter communicate your personal brand.A major mistake applicants make is that they dont invest inenough introspection to identify their brand themes beforeembarking on their essays. As a result, many of the businessschool essays are disjointed, boring, and superficial. Letsexplore how a candidate can use a brand theme, global citizen,to sell her personal brand. The candidate doesnt even have tomention the brand theme in the actual essay. Rather, she canselect stories that depict her as a global citizen. Lets say she has鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 48 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSfive essays for her application; she can use two to three differentstories to convey her comfort level in international settings.The first could be of a key project she worked on managing aninternational team spanning two continents; this project showshow her sensitivity to the nuanced cultural differences enabledher to lead effectively. She may then wish to share a personalstory about the study abroad program she did in a remoteregion of the world and her personal "aha" cultural moment.Finally, she may wish to write about her involvement with anonprofit group that helps immigrants from different regions ofthe world adjust to their new lives in America. These examplesplus the fact that she has lived in many countries around theworld, speaks multiple languages, and has recommendationsthat reinforce her global citizen brand can etch a strongmessage about who she is in the MBA Boards mind. When youhave a clear sense ofyour brand, you become more memorableand it is easier for whoever reviews your application to summarizeyour story in a succinct, easily identifiable way.Once you have identified the themes to your story, it isimportant to distill them into a summary, the personal brandstatement, which speaks to the heart of who you are. Clearlyas human beings we are a lot more complicated than a onesentences t a t e m e n t . I l l b e t h e f i r s t t o a c k n o w l e d g e t h i s .However, given that you have thirty seconds to make a lastingimpression and the fact that the application comes down to afew minutes of review before a decision is rendered, Iencourage applicants to go through the exercise of summarizingtheir salient attributes into one sentence: their personalbrand statement.Personal Brand StatementIf you had about twenty-five words to describe yourself, whatwords would you use? Many people refer to this as your oneminuteintroduction or elevator pitch. We refer to it as your鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Building and Selling Your Brand 49personal brand statement (PBS). The PBS is important becauseit summarizes who you are in a memorable way. To improveyour chance ofwriting a focused application that reinforces thecore ofyour brand, it is important to have a clear PBS.The PBS is made up of three parts:1. Who you are2. What you have done3. Where you plan to end upHere are some PBS examples ofMBA candidates who havegained admission to top programs:• Gutsy Asian female with a passion for empowering womenwho plans to transform family business by infusing fairtradepractices• Athletic, team-driven leader with passion for investingwho plans to leverage international investing experienceto build a world-class investment management firm• Midwestern energetic female with accelerated crossfunctionalleadership roles at media company who plansto run an entertainment company focused on educationalprograms for children• African American bootstrapper with significant leadershiptrack record who plans to create and run aVC fund to helprevitalize inner-city communitiesWhy is the PBS important? The MBA Board reads thousandsof pages ofapplications and has the challenge of distilling acandidates information into a descriptive summary, the equivalentof a PBS. After wading through countless applicationpages, the Board needs to be able to point to a clear takeawayof what they think is distinctive and memorable about you.When candidates start out with a personal brand statement, it鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 50 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSserves as a road map for their application. They are able to askthemselves whether each story (essay) reinforces their personalbrand statement. Given the limited space allotment of admissionessays, a personal brand statement allows you to maintaina laser-like focus when selecting topics to write about as youposition your story. Also, by having a clear sense of your PBSbefore you complete the application, you will be able to referback to it each step of the application process to determinewhether your essays, recommendations, and even the answersyou provide in an interview reinforce your personal brand.So now that you know how important it is to complete aPBA to understand your brand, you know what brand themeslook like, and you have reviewed PBS examples, lets practice.Try summarizing your story in one sentence (your PBS),keeping in mind that although there may be different thingsthat you would like to cover, the law of focus is critical.After you have developed your PBS, continue to refine it andwork on keeping it succinct (about twenty-five words).Once you have completed this entire branding process, youare now ready to tackle the application. In a couple of chapters,I address the selection criteria used by Admissions Boards atleading business schools to evaluate candidates. But before IYOUR PERSONAL BRAND STATEMENT鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Building and Selling Your Brand 51leave this branding chapter, I want to share a few thoughts onCareer Changers.CAREER CHANGERSNo applicant is more in need of personal branding than careerchangers. Applicants in this category have to convince the MBABoard that they need an MBA and that the new career goalmakes sense given their current experience.Although MBA Boards welcome career changers to apply,the expectation is that there should be a strong connectionbetween who you are, what you have done, and what you wishto do in the future. A derivative trader, for instance, with littleto no community service experience helping nonprofit groupswho simply says that she wants the MBA so that she can run anonprofit organization is going to have an extremely difficulttime convincing the MBA Board that her goals are authentic.The immediate questions in the mind of the MBA Board are,how realistic is the goal and does the applicant have elements inher background that reinforce her identified passion ofnonprofit management?Many career services offices have come under fire in thepast few years regarding the placement statistics of graduatingstudents. It is not enough to show interest in a new career;applicants today must keep in mind that they will need to finda job in the new career at the end of their program. Thebigger the gap between your experience and future role, thetougher it is to convince recruiters to hire you in the newcareer. Career changers are likely to be rejected if their goalsare inconsistent and dont seem credible. I address the consistencyand credibility issue in greater detail in the chapter onessay fundamentals.The first step career changers should take is to find ways tobegin incorporating their passion into their lives. If you findthat there is a gap between what you want to do and what you鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 52 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSdo currently, you may be able to create credibility for your goalsby using your extracurricular activities and community serviceinvolvement to establish a track record of commitment to thenew career. Doing this will create more synergy between yourpassion and your actions.Successfully positioning yourself as a career changer requiresplanning, time, and a good dose ofpatience. Simply stating thatyou are an engineer who wishes to make a switch to finance willnot cut it. It is a huge career leap. Why does a career in financematter to you? How will you use the new career to effectchange? Career changers need to be very specific when makinga case for a new career. They have to demonstrate specificknowledge about the new career so that it is clear that it isntsimply a passing fancy. In addition, having congruence betweenyour personal life and your professional life is equally important.The following cases illustrate the importance of creatingconsistency in ones brand.Case Study: Pre-MBA Career ChangersAnn: Auditor to Real Estate EntrepreneurAnn had been working as an accountant and auditor for asomewhat obscure company and felt quite dispassionate about hercareer. She enjoyed numbers and had studied accounting at theuniversity and shortly after became a certified public accountant(CPA). After a few years as an accountant and auditor, shenoticed that despite having mastered her responsibilities andhaving received multiple promotions, she was beginning toplateau in her professional development. More than that, sherealized that as she ascended her career ladder, she wasbecoming more specialized, leaving her less excited aboutaccounting. Ann began to question what was missing. Why wasshe not excited about the prospect of another potential promotion?Why was she more interested in closing the next realestate deal for her sideline "hobby"? For the past two years,鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Building and Selling Your Brand 53Ann had been dabbling in buying real estate, but she alwaysconsidered it a hobby, not her bread and butter.After completing a brand audit, Ann realized that her truepassion was indeed real estate and that an entrepreneurial trackwas what was missing in her current role, where there waslimited room for innovation. Further reinforcement camethrough her brand audit as she began to recall early memoriestagging along with her real estate entrepreneur uncle as hemade his Saturday rounds to review his development sites.Delving deeper into what attracted her to real estate, Anndiscovered that she enjoyed the research involved in locatingthe right deal, structuring the financing, negotiating with lawyersand sellers, and managing the overall process. Ann carefully savedenough money and eventually quit her job to focus on real estatefull time.Because her passion and brand are intrinsically tied to real estate,Ann also became involved in community service organizations tohelp low-income residents access affordable housing.Ann has successfully rebranded herself as a real estateentrepreneur in a consistent and credible way. Her passion andgoals come from the heart and are clear to anyone who meets her.Her community involvement isnt simply to check off the boxon the application but is a result of what matters to her. If shedecides to apply to business school in the future, she will havethe advantage of applying with a clear and distinctive brand,which will likely lead to a successful application.Jenny and Scot: Bankers to Nonprofit ManagersNot all career changers will have the luxury ofquitting their jobsand starting a business they are passionate about. So what elsecould a career changer do to strengthen his or her application?Take]enny, an investment banker who had decided shewanted a career in nonprofit management. Her challenge is thatshe does not have community service experience and her鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 54 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSextracurricular activities boil down to some social events thatshe planned through her sorority in college. Given her lack oftrack record in volunteering for nonprofit organizations or anyrelated activities, Jennys goal of starting or managing anonprofit organization most likely will not pass the credibilitytest in the application. IfJenny applies without developing atrack record at a nonprofit group, her brand will be stronglytied to finance and it is unlikely she will be offered admission ata top-tier MBA program.Contrast Jenny with Scot. Scot, too, is a banker who wantsto run or start a nonprofit organization in the future. He hasspent most of his professional career working as an investmentbanker. However, his extracurricular involvement, both whilehe was in college and currently in his community, is stronglytied to nonprofit leadership. Scots track record of havingstarted several socially conscious organizations in college andbeyond enables him to pass the credibility test. Clearly, an MBABoard is more likely to admit Scot over Jenny because hissocially responsible interest is strongly tied to his brand and hehas solid evidence of having started organizations in this area.In fact, Scot gained admission to Harvard and Stanford GraduateBusiness School!The lesson here is: if you want to change your career andrebrand yourself, it is best to show a track record through workor outside activities. Are there skills that you currently use inyour career that are transferable to your new career? Highlightthem in your application. Are there opportunities to work parttime or as a volunteer in the new career? A consultant whodiscovered that her passion is in the restaurant business spentmost ofher weekends working in a restaurant. She didnt simplyfall back on the fact that she worked long hours. She investedthe time to gain some exposure to the new career. Some maythink this is too extreme, but it made the difference in heracceptance to her top MBA program.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Building and Selling Your Brand 55But what about after you gain admission to businessschool? Career changers still have a tough road ahead of themin transitioning to the new career. The two-year MBAprogram is ideal for a career changer because there is moretime built into the curriculum to allow for hands-on experiencein the new career.Case Study: Post-M BA Career ChangersFelix: Engineer to Investment BankerFelix was an engineer for five years and was interested inswitching to investment banking. After his first year in businessschool at a top program, he interned for a financial advisoryfirm during the summer. This experience enabled him to landa position in a small private equity group in his home country.His ties to his country coupled with a name brand institutiongave him an advantage in securing this position. His goal is tobuild up his private equity experience to develop a track recordbefore making a move into a larger, more established privateequity shop.Valerie: Nonprofit Manager to Marketing AssociateValerie is another career changer who used the MBA to land ajob at a leading firm that is her passion. She had worked in thenonprofit sector prior to attending business school. She knewfrom the minute she arrived in business school that she wantedto change careers and set out to build skills and gain experiencesthat would make her competitive in the career search.Her goal was to switch into marketing. Instead of targeting thesummer for internships, she realized that she needed marketingexperience to land a coveted internship. She joined themarketing club and began networking with classmates withmarketing backgrounds and met with marketing professionalsvisiting the school. During the winter break, instead of going ona leisure trip with friends, she secured an internship with a鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 56 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSconsumer goods company. At the company, she made sure tonetwork with key individuals in the marketing and businessdevelopment group. Her focused efforts paid off as she receiveda summer internship at the firm. When she graduated frombusiness school, she had multiple offers from the top consumergoods companies.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER FOURAdmissions Full CycleACRITICAL MISTAKE THAT MANY applicants make in theapplication process is not fully understanding the importanceof the entire admissions cycle. There are three stages tothe admissions cycle, namely, pre application, application, andpostapplication. Each of these periods is important to creatinga successful application, and ignoring one of these stages cannegatively affect your admission outcome.Businessschool application requires a fair amount oftime andresources to yield a positive outcome. It is important togiveyourself enough time when planning to apply to businessschool. Beginning to plan for the MBAtwo years before applyingto business school allows candidates to address any holes in theirstory. Applying shortly before the deadline (while it may work forsome candidates) is not optimal because it does not allow enoughtime for candidates to build up a track record or to address anypotential weaknesses in their story. Quite frankly, it is never tooearly to start preparing for the application. While you are still incollege is the ideal time to begin planning for business schooLDeciding to take quantitative business classes, acing the GMAf,and ensuring you have a fantastic leadership track record in collegeare all practical steps you can take to solidify your backgroundbefore you begin the application to business school.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 58 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSIm often asked what happens to the physical applicationonce it is submitted, and Ill answer that question in this chapter. Iwill also address the steps and process an application goes throughafter you hit the submit button, the actual evaluation process, andthe follow-up process associated with the application after it hasbeen reviewed and a decision is made.THE PREAPPLICATION PROCESSThe preapplication stage is when you can do your due diligenceto determine which MBA program is the best fit for you.During this stage, candidates can research MBA rankings,review program websites and marketing materials, attendopen house events, visit campuses, and refine their brands.What a candidate does during the preapplication period cansignificantly change his or her odds for admission to an elitebusiness school.Another important component of the preapplication periodis GMAT preparation. The GMAT material covers mathematics,grammar, and other subjects that you probably studiedmany years ago. When was the last time you were tested on asentence completion exercise? By taking a GMAT prep courseduring this period, you can increase your test performancewhen you take the exam. Ifyou are not satisfied with your score,you will still have ample time to retake the exam.In addition, starting early gives you the opportunity to takemultiple courses to strengthen your quantitative background(especially if your GPA is low or you do not have a businessbackground). I had a male client who was an engineer and whohad attended five universities before finally graduating andearned a 2.9 GPA. He was able to strengthen his academicbackground by taking two business classes and earning an A inboth of them. Taking the initiative to attend finance andaccounting courses and demonstrating that he had the intellectualaptitude and discipline to handle rigorous coursework was鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Full Cycle 59exactly what he needed to do to mitigate the low GPA. Heended up gaining admission to a top MBA program andreceived several thousand dollars in scholarships.Lack of leadership is a common reason that applicants arerejected. The preapplication period presents a great opportunityfor you to assess where you can improve your leadershiptrack record. Devoting a year or two to address those gaps canmake you more competitive in the future when you apply tobusiness schooL Early preparation for the application will alsoallow you to make a candid assessment of your personal brandto determine whether there are admission gaps that exist anddevise a plan to tackle them. For instance, realizing that yourcommunity leadership is weak will allow you enough time totake on community leadership roles and develop a track record,which will set your application in a positive light. If you havedemonstrated little leadership at work, you can use thepreapplication period to beefup your professional leadership(whether it is starting a new initiative at work or taking onleadership responsibility to manage junior team members). Thebrand assessment also can be helpful to those who are careerchangers. With a two-year head start, you can try to make a moveinto the industry in which you are interested or at least becomeinvolved on a volunteer basis in the area in which you wish totransition in the future. For candidates who lack internationalexposure, this is the perfect time to request an internationalassignment or to change jobs to gain more global experience.Lets take a closer look at the specific steps and variables thatcan guide candidates as they prepare themselves beforeembarking on the application.RankingsThe four most popular ranking entities for business schoolsare u.s. News & World Report, Business T17eek, the Wall StreetJournal, and Financial Times. My general opinion of rankings is鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 60 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSthat they are a good starting point to gain perspective on thebrands of the programs and how they are viewed by students,alumni, and recruiters. However, I caution applicants aboutusing rankings as the only determinant for their decision toapply to a particular program. The methodologies for rankingbusiness schools vary from one ranking entity to another, anda large amount of the information is subjective. Therefore, itis quite common to have a wide discrepancy between the ranksthat are conferred to each MBA program (for instance, aprogram can be ranked first and tenth by different agencies inthe same year). It is also important to remember that justbecause a program is ranked in the top ten MBA program listdoes not mean you will fit in there. You should conduct a thoroughinvestigation to ensure that the program will offer youthe right environment to grow and meet your professional andpersonal objectives.Open House EventsEach summer and fall, MBA programs embark on an extensiverecruitment schedule that includes on-campus informationsessions and open house events across the globe. These eventsare designed to introduce prospective candidates to the MBAprogram through presentations from MBA Board members,faculty, current students, and alumni. Invitations are extendedto prospective candidates living in the area where the admissionsevents take place. Prior to each event, the MBA Board sends outan invitation to individuals in their inquiry database. I recommendthat you provide your contact information to the admissionsoffice as soon as possible so that you can be invited to openhouse events held in your city. These are beneficial in that theygive you access to board members who you may not get anopportunity to engage with outside of this context. Also, forindividuals who do not have access to alumni from their MBAprogram of interest, open house events are great opportunities鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Full Cycle 61to meet with alumni and to gain perspective about the directimpact and value of the specific MBA program.Marketing MaterialsMBA programs are quite savvy with their marketing, oftencreating glossy brochures and elaborate websites to attractprospective applicants. Relying on the marketing materials ofbusiness schools without visiting the schools may only give youa superficial view of the program. For instance, some programsmay say they have a global focus, but further investigation canreveal that opportunities to pursue a global education or tostudy abroad may be severely limited. This is why you cantsimply take materials at face value without speaking with alumniand current students and visiting the schools to get a firsthandexperience ofthe program. I cant tell you how many candidatesswear that a particular program is ideal for them simply basedon the marketing materials they read. I know of a candidatewho got admitted to a school in the Midwest that she had sether mind on attending. After realizing it wasnt a good fit, shefound herself stuck because it was the only admission offer shehad in hand. Because she couldnt remain at her current job,she had to scramble to find an alternative. The result was thatshe eventually found a job in a far-flung region of the world asshe planned her reapplication strategy. The wasted time,money, and angst that she experienced could have all beenavoided had she taken the time to visit the programs she wasapplying to. You can bet on the fact that the second time aroundshe will be sure to visit every single school she plans to apply to.Campus VisitsAlthough the websites of business schools can be useful toolswhen getting started in application research, it eventuallybecomes more important to speak with individuals who areproducts of the programs to get their firsthand perspective. Acampus visit allows you to attend classes, experience the faculty鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 62 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSand their teaching styles, and interact with current students tolearn about the academic and social culture of the program. Ihave always said that the application to business school is anexercise in marketing; and as you spend more time with thestudents, faculty, and administrators of a business school, themore familiar you will be with the programs brand. In turn, themore face time you have with your "customer," the MBABoard, the more likely you are to convey your brand. There isa caveat to this: stalking the Admissions Board by camping outat the admissions office will only send the wrong message andtherefore have the opposite effect you wish to have. Limit yourvisits to a couple of trips to campus and ensure that you get fullexposure to classes, student life, and the Admissions Board(when available) during your visit.TH E APPLICATION PROCESSApplication to business school is challenging and can beextremely stressful for most candidates. The combination ofknowing that you have a 10 to 20 percent acceptance chanceand the engaging, time-consuming nature of the applicationprocess presents a fair share of anxiety for applicants. Youshould avoid skipping any steps in the application process. Forinstance, during the application cycle, passing up an opportunityto interview at programs for which interviews are an optionmay communicate to the MBA Board that you are not fullycommitted to their program. Once you have identified theMBA programs in which you are interested, the next step istackling the application.Applications vary from one MBA program to another, and itis important to review each programs application requirementsand deadlines to ensure that you fulfill each appropriately. MostleadingMBA programs have set deadlines that focus on discreterounds. To further complicate things, you will find that someprograms, such as Tuck, have an early application (priority)鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Full Cycle 63deadline that is not binding if you are admitted; on the otherhand, Columbias early decision deadline is binding and is forcandidates for whom Columbia is a first choice. To avoid anyconfusion, get the information from the business school admissionsoffice directly to ensure that you have the exact deadlinesand admission policies.MBA programs have strict policies surrounding the deadlines,so plan to start the application process early. Incompleteapplications are typically pushed to the next round and exceptionsare rarely granted even when an incomplete application isthe result of an errant recommender.Applying first or second round is preferable. There isnt afundamental difference between round one and round two, soapplicants should apply when they are ready, not because theyare trying to "game" the system. Avoid submitting your applicationin the later rounds. Many programs explicitly state thatapplicants should avoid applying in the later rounds because mostadmissions spots are taken by then. It may also become tougherfor international students to secure their visa if they apply late.There are a few candidates for whom applying later may not haveas detrimental an effect: a classic example is the nontraditionalcandidate with an excellent GMAT score and academic recordand solid track record of leadership. A candidate like this can"round out" the class and, with no academic issues, could beadmitted in a late round. Also, someone who is applying from acountry that is underrepresented in the applicant pool could getaway with a later-round application if they are solid in all threeadmission criteria. (Ill go into great detail in the next chapter onthe admission criteria used to evaluate candidates.) The operativeword here is "could." You always run the risk of being rejected ifthere are fewspots available. There are even someMBAprogramsthat have informed candidates that their application was strongbut that the lateness of their application affected their admissionbeing denied. Preparing yourself early in the pre-application stage鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 64 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECIlETSand judiciously executing the application will help you avoidany mishaps.Because Im discussing the application stage, Ill go oversome specific topics that often arise concerning the actualapplication in the following sections.The MBAApplication ComponentsThe MBA application is composed of several items, includingthe resume, recommendations, essays, transcripts, GMAT, anda completed application. Each aspect of the application isimportant and carries significant weight in the decision toadmit a candidate. The goal for applicants is to present a strongapplication across all the evaluation materials. The strongereach element of the application is the higher the chance ofbeing admitted. I will discuss each of the application componentsin later chapters. I would like to give you some insightsinto what happens to your physical application once it issubmitted and the process it goes through before an admissiondecision is rendered.What happens once I submit my application?In the past couple of years the majority of admissions officeshave moved to a paperless application. Moving to an onlineapplication model has streamlined the application process andcreated more efficiency for MBA programs. Operations teamsin the admissions offices are now able to spend less timeentering application data, thus enabling MBA Boards toquickly begin the application evaluation. Even the submissionof recommendations has become more efficient. Instead ofrelying on the postal service to deliver a recommender letter ontime, you can take the guesswork and stress out of therecommendation process by having letters submitted online. Onceyou identify who will write your recommendations, you canenter their names and email addresses, giving your recommendersaccess to the online application. The trick, however,鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Full Cycle 65is to make sure that the recommender does not submit therecommendation before you have had a chance to discuss youroverall strategy and key brand message. This has happened toa few unsuspecting candidates, so make sure to communicateto your recommenders that you plan to discuss your brandingbefore they submit their recommendations.Once you have submitted your application and all supplementalmaterials, your status will change to reflect that yourapplication is complete or under review. The operations staffthen prints out a copy of your application and creates a folderfor you. Applications are not reviewed until they are completeand all required materials have been received.Can I influence when my application is reviewed?The order in which applications are reviewed is random anddoes not indicate who will receive a favorable outcome. Itcomes down to when your physical application is created andwhen the MBA Board member picks up the application bin thathappens to contain your application. Let me paint a vividpicture for you to illustrate my point. The operations room isthe hub of any admissions office. It is here that the applicationsare printed, folders created, and bins (containers that boardmembers use to lug applications back and forth between theirhomes and schools) assembled. Lets say your complete applicationis printed in the beginning of the week and placed in abin, and it happens to be a week where a higher number ofapplications are printed and assembled. Even though yourapplication was printed at the beginning ofthe week, by Friday,when the MBA Board members stop in to pick up their bins,yours may be in the back, making it logistically difficult to getto. The MBA Board will grab the bins that are up front andmake their way to the back. Candidates whose folders werecreated later in the week will be in bins that are more accessible.The good news is that every application will receive the鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 66 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSnecessary and thorough evaluation regardless of when it isreviewed. It will receive the same level of scrutiny and multipleevaluations by different board members. So you see, there isntmuch a candidate can do with regard to influencing when theirapplication is evaluated. Thus, investing energy into figuringout how to influence the timing on your application review is auseless exercise. A better use of your time is to create anappealing and interesting application that will capture themindshare of the Admissions Board. Applications to schoolswith a rolling admissions policy are reviewed in the order inwhich they are received.Can I send additional materials to the admissions office?Schools vary in their policy with regard to accepting additionalmaterials after the application deadline. It is imperative that youknow what the programs policy is so that you are not surprised.A safe assumption is that the MBA program will not accept newmaterials after the deadline. A few exceptions may exist forwaitlisted candidates at some schools, but again, you should checkwith the MBA program to find out exactly what their policy isand adhere to it.What happens if myapplication is not complete at thedeadline?An email is the most common way that candidates are notifiedof their incomplete status. If your application status doesntchange from pending to complete, it is worth contacting theadmissions office. A top reason for an application remainingincomplete is a delay in the recommendations. It is yourresponsibility to touch base with all your recommenders toensure that they submitted their letters on time. Ifyou are likeme, a little on the cautious side, you may want to contact yourrecommenders at least a couple of weeks before the submissiondeadline to make sure they have everything they need andthat they submit their letters in time. Contacting admissions鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Full Cycle 67offices multiple times to inquire if they received yourrecommendation letters or any other materials is not the best wayto make a positive impact on them. Be sensitive to the AdmissionsBoards overstretched schedule and dont inundate them withcalls or emails. You are better off controlling the processby staying in touch with your recommenders and makingsure that they fulfill their commitment of submitting yourmaterials on time. Giving them more than three months towrite a recommendation for you will help you limit anyrecommendation problems that may crop up.How are applications reviewed?MBA programs vary in the specific evaluation processes that theyuse in assessing candidates. I am often asked questions regardinghow many people evaluate candidates at Harvard, how longapplications are evaluated, and the gender ofMBA Boardmembers. Those are the wrong questions to focus on becauseanswers to these questions do little to prepare you for presenting apowerful application nor do they influence the admission outcome.Here is what may be useful to know. Applications arerandomly selected for review and are not ranked based onGMKf, GPA, or any other variable. In other words, applicationsare not sorted based on GMAT scores, with candidateshaving top scores being reviewed and those having lowerscores cast aside. Applications are selected and reviewedrandomly. For schools that have students involved in admission,the students are typically involved in reviewing the applicationsduring the first reads. Applications are then passed onto a board member who does a second read. For schools wherestudents do not evaluate applications, the first read is done byan Admissions Board member and then passed on to anotherAdmissions Board member. By the second evaluation, a decisionis made to reject, wait-list, further review, or admit thestudent. Candidates in the admit pile typically are extended aninterview invitation. A few candidates may be "rescued" from鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 68 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSthe reject pile for various reasons (for example, their uniqueperspective based on their backgrounds and experiences).Those that are in the wait-list pile will be held until applicationsare reviewed from the next round to see how strong theycompare to the next batch of candidates. Some number ofcandidates will come off the wait list (this number varies fromyear to year based on how competitive the overall pool is).Applications in the "worth another review" pile will bereviewed by another board member or discussed at committeebefore their fate is determined. There are MBA programs inwhich decisions are made in the context of a committee. In thissituation, batches of applications are debated and decisionsmade after board members have had a chance to discuss, orshould I say, dissect the candidates application merits. This iswhy it is important to have a distinctive brand that the MBABoard can identify after reading your application. This makesit easier for the person who is arguing for your candidacy tomake a compelling case on your behalf.TH E POSTAPPLICATION PROCESSAfter you have submitted your application, there are a fewthings you can do to prepare yourself for business school. Forstarters, you can register for one or two business classes if youfeel you need a refresher, especially if you have not taken suchcoursework in the past. This could also be helpful if you havebeen out of school for a long time. At the very least, suchcoursework is excellent preparation to ensure that you are nottoo rusty when you begin the business degree. On the otherhand, you would be ready should the Admissions Board admityou with the condition that you take business courses.One of the issues facing applicants once they are admitted iswhen to quit their jobs. This decision warrants carefulconsideration. Heres an example that illustrates why planning yourexit strategy is important. An overly confident applicant鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Full Cycle 69believed that the admission "was in the bag" so she subsequentlyquit her job before getting an admission offer. Unfortunatelyfor her, she was denied admission by all the schools sheapplied to.A related issue to timing your departure deals with how tomanage your boss. It is important to remain sensitive whenquitting your job. A candidate I know contacted me frantic andupset after her current boss threatened to call the AdmissionsBoard at a top business school where she had applied to rescindhis recommendation supporting her candidacy. His reason? Hefelt that the candidate had not shown good faith by choosing toquit several months ahead of when he expected her to leave.Clearly, she had not managed her bosss expectations effectively,and this put her in a precarious situation.Exiting before you receive an admission offer is a risk notworth taking. It is equally important to manage the expectationsof those with whom you work. As long as you remain atthe firm, it is important to convey unrelenting commitment toyour job. Should you decide to leave, you should have an exitstrategy that you ease your boss into. Because it is importantnot to burn your bridges (you never know when you will needthat former boss again), consider offering to train yourreplacement. Of course, every situation is unique so youwill have to decide what course of action is right for you.What happens after a decision is made on an application?Once a decision is rendered on an application, it is then enteredinto the application database. The outcome is then communicatedto the applicant at the notification deadline. A huge petpeeve for the Admissions Board is when candidates call to findout their decision before the notification date. Not too longago, overeagerness to find out their admissions decisions ledseveral candidates to illegally access a database in an attempt todiscover their admission outcomes prematurely. They paid a鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 70 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSsteep price because some schools rejected them despite havingadmitted them. I understand the pressures candidates are underto find out their admission outcome especially after waitingseveral months. I feel your pain! The best thing to do after yousubmit your application is to stay busy to keep your mind off ofthe admission forums and resist checking your email obsessivelyhour after hour for the interview invitation. But, of course, thisis easier said than done.The day before the notification deadline is a crazy day forall applicants, with many camping next to their computersawaiting news of their admissions decision. These days manyadmissions directors call admitted candidates to congratulatethem prior to or shortly after the notification email has beensent. Often there is a trend in the region that dictates whoreceives calls first. International applicants who reside abroadmay get calls first given the time difference.Even after you have been admitted, keep in mind that yourapplication can be rescinded should you demonstrate poorjudgment. Remember that you are viewed as someone who willreflect positively on the brand of the MBA program. Youradmission offer can be withdrawn should anything negative orscandalous be associated with you. So exercise wisdom bothwith what you say in online chats and blogs, as well as in yourlife in general.What is the application verification process?After a candidate has received his or her admission offer, theAdmissions Board verifies the information presented in theapplication. Verification of applications isnt new. AdmissionsBoards have typically verified admitted students official transcriptsand GMAT scores. More recently, however, the MBABoards have expanded their verification to the career trackrecord of candidates and scrutinize information involvingemployment dates, history, bonuses, and salaries. Wharton has鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Full Cycle 71been doing verifications far longer than most schools but thetrend today is that all top MBA programs verify applicantsinformation at some level. The approach used by each programvaries, however. So while some use an actual verification firm,others may opt to do so themselves by making the calls to yourformer employers. Schools that do not have the bandwidth toverify every single candidate may focus on candidate informationthat seems far-fetched.Candidates should take the verification process seriously andensure that all information provided in their application is accurate;those who dont ultimately learn the hard way. I know ofinstances where admission offers were revoked due toinconsistency in the candidates information. This was the casewith a candidate who falsified his grade in one class from a B to anA. The outcome was that his admission was rescinded. He wouldhave been admitted anyway with the B grade but his dishonestycost him a spot at a top business school. Candidates are notimmune after they have been admitted either. Im aware of asituation where a candidate who was already enrolled was kickedout ofthe program after the school received a late verificationreport indicating that the candidate had provided false information.Applicants should pay close attention to information coveredin their application to ensure its accuracy. Even casual mistakescan be problematic, so be extremely careful when inputtingyour information, and if you are not sure, spend the extra timeto get the accurate information. My advice to all applicants is toresist the temptation to embellish or exaggerate your story.Falsifying your achievements, career impact, or any otherinformation for that matter can lead to your admission beingoverturned. Dont take that chance.The following words from Harvards website summarize theMBA Boards view of verification:"The School will verify application information and reservesthe right to withdraw any offer of admission already made if鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 72 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSthere is any discrepancy between the self-reported informationand information provided through verification" (RBS Admissionswebsite).FINAL THOUGHTSThe application to business school is a marathon and not asprint. It takes years of"training" and careful execution to yieldthe desired results. Taking this approach and devoting appropriatetime and resources to each stage of the process will giveyou a better shot at getting into a top institution. Given thesignificant benefits of an MBA from a top school, it is a missedopportunity to leave any part of this process to chance. Anotherfactor worth a close examination is the admissions criteria thatevery candidate is evaluated on. I discuss this at great length inthe next chapter.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER FIVEUnderstanding the Admissions CriteriaBEFORE I GO ON to discuss the specific applicationcomponents, I want to review the overall admissions criteriathat are used to evaluate candidates. There have been a lot ofquestions surrounding exactly how candidates are evaluatedand which aspects of the admissions criteria count themost when assessing a candidate. This chapter focuses onthe three admissions criteria used by the MBA Board inevaluating all candidates. I also go into details of the specificcomponents comprised within each criterion to ensure thatyou understand how the Admissions Board views them andhow you can maximize your chances of being admitted.After you understand the admissions criteria, you should beable to objectively evaluate your candidacy. This chapteralso provides suggestions of steps you can take to addressany gaps in your application.Top business schools evaluate candidates across three coreareas, namely:• Academic ability/intellectual aptitude• Leadership impact/managerial potential• Uniqueness (diverse experiences/perspectives anddifferentiated personal characteristics)鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 74 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSSome of the greatest myths surrounding the applicationprocess are related to candidates misconceptions of the admissionscriteria. I am often asked by applicants which criterion isthe most important in the application process. The shortanswer is all of them. It is important to understand how thesethree admissions categories are viewed by the MBA Board.Ideally, candidates should try to be strong in all three areas.Given an extremely competitive admissions landscape, thestronger you are across all three criteria, the better your chanceof being admitted. So, although we all know someone who wasadmitted without excelling in the three criteria, I encourageevery applicant to present his or her strongest suit and submitan application that presents a compelling case across the entireadmission criteria.Each top MBA program refers to the admissions criteria ina different way, but, ultimately, they evaluate candidates basedon these three categories. These statements taken from MBAadmissions websites illustrate this point.STANFORDThe three primary criteriafor admission to the Stanford MBAProgram are demonstrated leadership potential, intellectual vitality,andcontributions to the diversity ofthe Stanford community.HARVARDOur selection process emphasizes leadership potential, strongacademic ability, and personal qualities and characteristics.COLUMBIAThe committee values academic perjormance and seeks candidateswho demonstrate superior intellectual ability...have developed astrongfoundation and/or essential skills for their future professionalgoals...have proven themselves as both leaders and鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • team players, whoare wellrounded and interesting, and whohavedemonstrated the will and ability to actively contribute to thewellbeingoftheir community.CHICAGOThe Admissions Committee looks for people whohavedemonstratedthe ability to succeed through work experience, academic endeavors,and extracurricular orcommunityservice involvement.INSEADWeexpectintellectualcuriosity coupledwith a desire to learn andstretch yourselfin a rigorous academic programme, as well aspersonal qualities to contribute to the many activities of theInstitute.TUCKWhat makesa candidate successful? There isnoformulafor admissionto Tuck. Each decision hinges on the interplay offlve principalfactors: Demonstrated Academic Excellence, DemonstratedLeadership, Demonstrated Accomplishment, Interpersonal Skills,and Diversity ofBackground and Experience.STERNWe seek students who are confident in their ability to master therequired material and have the courage to ask challengingquestions... who have a proven track record and clear professionalgoals, both short-term and long-term...who will contribute to theStern community. Weseekstudentswith proven leadership ability,maturity, character, and strong communication skills, who will beactive participants at Stern and have a great passion for, pride in,and commitment to Stern.Understanding the Admissions Criteria 75Lets take a look at each of the three core areas.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 76 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSACADEMIC ABILITYIINTELLECTUALAPTITUDEThe curriculum at MBA programs is challenging. It is thereforeimportant that admitted candidates have the appropriate academicpreparation to handle a rigorous environment. Candidates do notneed a business degree from an undergraduate university to applyto business school. In fact, the majority ofMBA programs reportthat business majors make up only about 20 to 25 percent oftheirclass. Whats more important is that candidates show that they areintellectually sharp and have the discipline to engage andcontribute in a rigorous educational setting.Whether candidates can handle the rigor ofthe MBAprogramis assessed in two ways: their Graduate Management AdmissionTest (GMAT) scores and their college transcripts. Both of thesevariables are reviewed in the context of the candidates life:Whatopportunities have they had? Are they the first in their family togo to college? How do the GMAT and GPA overlap?Ideally, you want both the GMAT score and GPA to be verystrong. For some applicants, although the GMAT may be lowerthan the median at the school, the GPA may be significantlyhigher. The reverse can also be the case. Ifyou find yourself inthis situation, there are practical steps you can take to convincethe MBA Board that you are intelligent and able to handle achallenging program. In such circumstances, the recommendationsbecome even more critical in the selection process becausethey can add additional reinforcement of your intellectualability, curiosity, and analytical and quantitative strengths.Coursework can also alleviate academic concerns, as doesretaking the GMAT and earning a higher score. Lets take acloser look at the GMAT and your transcript.The GMATThe GMAT is the entrance exam that is required by all top,full-time two-year business schools in America. A recent trend鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 77has emerged with two top business schools (Stanford GSB andMITs Sloan Business School) giving applicants the choice tosubmit either the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) orthe GMAT. (It will be interesting to see whether otherprograms follow suit and allow candidates to submit the GREscores as a substitute for the GMAT.) The professional organizationthat oversees the GMAT is the Graduate ManagementAdmission Council (GMAC). Once a paper-and-pencil exam,the GMAT has become primarily a computer-administeredexam. It is also adaptive in nature: the computer generatesquestions based on your skill level and your performance onprevious questions.After a candidate takes the GMAT, the score is active for upto five years, so it is important to take the exam as early aspossible. The test itself is administered six days a week, with theexception of holidays. Applicants can take the exam up to fivetimes in an academic year (waiting thirty-one days betweenexams). Business schools do not penalize candidates for takingthe exam more than once. In fact, they accept the highest score(check with your school to make sure that this is still applicable).Candidates who are unhappy with their GMAT results thefirst time should definitely retake the exam. The fact thatMBAprograms accept your best GMAT score isnt license to takethe GMAT half a dozen times. Two or three times is acceptable.The fifth and sixth time may be overkill. The importantthing here is to invest in adequate preparation ahead of time toavoid having to take the exam too many times. On the otherhand, if you take it once and you are dissatisfied with yourscore, and if you think trying a second or third time cansignificantly improve your score, then that is fine. However, if yourscore doesnt improve after retaking it two to three times, Ipersonally feel it is more effective for you to focus on otherparts of the application where you may have greater control inshaping the "story."鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 78 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSTiming when to take the GMAT is vital since you have towait thirty-one days to retake the exam. Avoid taking the examtoo close to the admission deadline. I know candidates whohave scored unexpectedly poorly on the first GMAT, andbecause of the thirty-one-day waiting period, they missedapplying within the first round. Also, remember that the testitself is not cheap. Each exam cost $250, so it is to your advantageto fully prepare for the exam before taking it. You can learnmore about the GMAT by visiting www.gmac.com orwww.mba.com, where you can register for the exam.Im often asked about the ideal GMAT score an applicantneeds in order to be admissible. Unfortunately, there are manymisconceptions surrounding this subject. The truth is that thereis no magic number to guarantee admission.MBA programs often state that they do not have minimumGMAT scores or cutoff requirements for admission. Althoughthat is true, a GMAT of 300 will not earn anyone a spot at StanfordGraduate School of Business (GSB) or any top ten MBAprogram; on the other hand, a GMAT score of 800 wont guaranteea candidate admission to a top MBA program either.The best way to view the GMAT is to recognize that it is anecessary but not sufficient variable in the application. Gettinga strong score can keep you in the running for a coveted admissionspot, but a mediocre score can end your admission aspirations.Check out the websites of the MBA programs you areinterested in to find out where your GMAT score fallscompared with the median GMAT score of the entering class.If your score is significantly below that of the median, 640compared with 706, for example, you should postpone applyingand devote more time and resources to improving your score.The GMAT scores standardize the academic components byproviding a benchmark to assess different candidates coming fromvaried professional and personal backgrounds and experiences.This is especially so when candidates come from schools鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 79that the Admissions Boards are not as familiar with. Even forwell-known schools, majors and grading systems vary. As such,a 3.7 GPA at one school may be closer to a 3.4 at another schooland vice versa. The GMAT score, on the other hand, is anadmission variable that provides the MBA Board with perspectiveof how the candidate scored compared with others whotook the test. The other reason MBA Boards care about theGMAT score is that some of the ranking agencies rely on thisinformation when ranking MBA programs. The GMAT hasconsiderable weight in the application process, so give it theattention it deserves.GMAT Components and What They Mean to the AdmissionsBoardThe GMAT score is made up of three components: the AnalyticalWriting Assessment (AWA) Section, the Verbal Section,and the Quantitative Section. The AWA is made up of twoessays (one on argument analysis and the other on issueanalysis). You will be given thirty minutes for each essay. Theoverall GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800. The score representsperformance in two areas: verbal and quantitative. TheVerbal Section is made up of forty-one multiple choice questionsthat include sentence correction, critical reasoning, andreading comprehension. You will have seventy-five minutes tocomplete the Verbal Section. Like the Verbal Section, seventyfiveminutes is allotted to the Quantitative Section. This sectionis made up of thirty-seven multiple choice questions coveringdata sufficiency and problem solving (covering such topics asalgebra, geometry, and arithmetic).In addition to the raw number ascribed to each section, thereis a percentile figure associated with it. Admissions Boards payvery close attention to both of these percentile figures. So notonly is it essential to have a strong overall score and percentile,it is also important to perform strongly across both sections.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 80 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSAn applicant to business school, Chad, illustrates what a greatGMAT result looks like. He has a score of 760. Following isthe breakdown of his scores:The first thing the MBA Board will review when evaluatingthe GMAT performance is how the person fared overall. So,the first note would be that Chad scored 760 and that his scoreis higher than that of 99 percent of test takers. But they will notstop there. They will then check to make sure that there are noissues between the Verbal and Quantitative Sections. Scoringhighly in both sections is important. Chads Verbal and Quantitativebreakdowns of95 percent and 99 percent show that hisGMAT is fine-both scores are above the 90th percentile.Some people are exceptional test takers. With more than abillion people in China, and with a strong emphasis on education,Chinese applicants may find steeper competition when itcomes to the GMAT. For instance, although the overall medianGMAT of an MBA program may be 700, the median forChinese candidates may be even higher. This means that anapplicant from China with a GMAT score of 700 may beconsidered much weaker on this evaluation variable. Be sensitiveto how your profile fares in the overall GMAT pool as wellas the specific demographic group that you fall into.Besides the overall GMAT score, a candidates performancein the Verbal and Quantitative Sections is important to theevaluation of his or her application. At a minimum, candidates鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 81should arm to score above the 80 percent mark in bothsections. But what if there is a discrepancy between the two?Being weak in either the Verbal or the Quantitative Sectioncan raise red flags for the MBA Board. For instance, aninternational applicant who has a 99 percent in the QuantitativeSection and only a 60 percent in the Verbal Section will surelyface questions concerning his or her verbal abilities. Candidatesin such circumstances should plan to retake the examand improve their performance in the Verbal Section.Conversely, a nontraditional applicant whose work experienceis devoid of quantitative exposure and whose quantitativescore falls in the 66th percentile will have a tough timeconvincing the Admissions Board that he or she has a strongenough quantitative background to thrive in a business school.Such a candidate can address this issue by retaking the examand by taking quantitative classes and having a strongperformance in them.The AWA score ranges from 0 to 6 (6 being the highestscore). AWAscores of4.5 and above are considered fine. A highAWA (5.5) will rarely earn the applicant any major points.However, a low score (3.5 or lower) will raise questionsregarding a candidates writing ability. Although important, theAWAhas traditionally been the least scrutinized component ofthe GMAT at most top business schools. This is changingsomewhat as schools concerned about inconsistencies betweenapplicants writing ability and their actual essays may opt tocompare writing style of essays from the AWA with the actualadmissions essays. Anyone who chooses to use an advisory firmshould maintain the integrity of their writing: never resort tohiring writing professionals to write your admission essays. Acandidate with an AWAscore of 3 whose essays read like that ofa Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist will have a major problemexplaining the inconsistency.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 82 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSBASIC GMATTIPSStart early. Planto take the test at least a year before the deadline. Takeacouple of practice tests to see how you perform.Invest in a GMAT prep course if the score is below the medianscore of your target MBA programs.Consider taking the GMAT while you are in college. It is easierto take an exam while you are still in studying mode. The GMATscore is active for five years.Retake the exam if you are not satisfied with your score. Themajority of MBA programs accept your highest score. (Checkthe specific programs to make sure their policy doesnt change.)GMAC reports that more than 20 percent of GMAT test takersretake the exam in a given year.The GMAT range of admitted students at the MBA programshould serve as a guide. Scoring belowthis range does notautomaticallydisqualifyyour application. The strength of the rest ofyour application will be taken into account.You can take the GMAT once every thirty-one days, so planaccordingly to ensure that you dont miss your application deadline.Many test prep programs are available to help applicantsboost their scores. The most popular ones are PrincetonReview, Kaplan, Veritas, Bell Curve, and ManhattanGMAT.I strongly recommend that candidates do their due diligenceto assess which one will best provide them with the supportand preparation they need in order to nail a strong score.I encourage you to also check out my interview with AndrewYang, Managing Director of ManhattanGMAf, at the end ofthis book.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • ENGLISH LANGUAGE ASSESSMENT(TOEFLAND IELTS)International candidates who studied at institutions whereEnglish isnt the medium ofcommunication are required to takean English Assessment exam. There are two main languageexams that international students take for admission to businessschool: the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)and/or the International English Language Testing System(IELTS). TOEFL is the more common and accepted test,although some MBA programs accept the IELTS in lieu of theTOEFL. Both exams assess international candidates ability tospeak and comprehend Standard English at a college level.Because the precise requirements for exempting from this examvary from school to school, international candidates should visiteach programs website to confirm which test is required. Forinstance, at Wharton, international candidates need to take theTOEFL, whereas Chicago GSB and UCLAs Anderson Schoolaccept either the TOEFL or the IELTS.The TOEFL, the older test, has its roots as far back as the mid1960sand is more widely accepted in the United States. Thetest is offered both through a paper-based and computer-basedformat. The TOEFL scores range from °to 300, with selectiveMBAprograms requiring scores north of 250.The test is composed of four sections, namely, ListeningComprehension, Structure and Written Expression, ReadingComprehension, and Essay Writing. The result is valid for twoyears. MBA programs do not accept expired scores, so makesure your scores are valid when you apply to business school.You can also arrange to have your scores sent directly to theschool by providing the programs test code. For more informationon the TOEFL, visit www.toefl.org.Understanding the Admissions Criteria 83鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 84 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSThe TranscriptThe college transcript plays an important role in the MBAadmissions evaluation. The Admissions Board places greatweight on candidates academic track record because it revealstheir performance over a period of time. The cumulative GPAisnt the only thing that matters when assessing a candidatestranscript; the trends of the grades are examined for consistency.So for instance, someone with an overall GPA of 3.5 whohas straight-A grades in the first three years and C and D gradestheir last year can raise major flags for the MBA Board. Equallyproblematic are situations where the candidates academicperformance is like a roller coaster where they perform well inone year and poorly the second year. Transcripts with consistentlystrong grades over the course of the entire academicexperience are ideal. Ifyou are reading this book and are still incollege, then you should do everything you can to make surethat your performance is in an upward trajectory. One thing isfor sure, finishing weak is one of the hardest issues to overcomewith the Admissions Board. Therefore, MBA candidates shouldavoid having their weakest grades their last year of college. It iseasier to explain away a weak start than a weak finish.The rigor of the academic experience is also taken intoaccount when evaluating candidates transcripts. No AdmissionsBoard wants to admit a candidate who would flunk out ofbusiness school. Therefore, the college transcript is carefullyThe IELTS is a relatively new exam started in 1980. Applicantscan register for a computer-based exam on its website(www.ielts.org) or sign up to take the exam at a test center,although only a limited number of locations are available. Testscores range from 1 to 9, with scores north of 6.5 required attop business schools that accept the IELTS.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 85scrutinized to ensure that the candidate has taken a challengingacademic program and performed well. The GPA of eachcandidate provides the MBA Board with a general sense ofhowthe applicant has handled academic challenges; this is then usedto extrapolate how the applicant will perform in businessschool. A strong GPA enables the MBA Board to answer thequestion, "Can this candidate cut it academically?"But the Board goes beyond GPA. They review the majoracademic strength of the school as well. For instance, the MBABoard recognizes that some majors, such as physics or computerengineering, may typically offer fewer 4.0 GPAs than lessrigorous majors. Also, the MBA Board is aware of the significantdifferences that exist between schools when it comes tograding. Some schools are known for grade inflation; others areknown for their tough grading policy. As a result, the AdmissionsBoard is sensitive when evaluating a 3.0 GPA from aschool with little grade inflation versus a 3.7 GPA from a schoolwhere a significant population earns high grades.You demonstrate commitment to your area of study whenyou have taken challenging courses and even pursued independentstudy or honors research. However, it is equally importantnot to be too narrow. By taking courses outside of yourmajor, you can show that you are not just a physics or computergeek. This will help differentiate you from other candidates withsimilar majors. The Admissions Board can also see throughcandidates who have taken easy classes just to pad their GPAs.Applicants should educate the Admissions Boards when theyhave pursued an unusual academic program, especially if it ishighly selective and rigorous. One way you can do this is toinclude a short sentence in your resume to highlight that point.An example is being the first in your department to complete adual degree in an unusually short time frame. Ifyou are one ofthe two people from your school to be inducted into an HonorsSociety, you should also state that in your resume. Equally鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 86 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSinteresting is taking the initiative to track down a professorfrom another institution and convince her to oversee yoursenior thesis if it is in an area that isnt covered by faculty atyour school. Being willing to step beyond your academiccomfort zone can be a differentiator that can give you an edgein the admissions process. To demonstrate how importantAdmissions Boards view the academic college experience, takea look at Harvards essay question, which was introduced in thepast couple of years: "What would you like the MBA AdmissionsBoard to know about your undergraduate academic experience?"In asking this question, the interest lies in academicexperience, not the social clubs and activities the student has beeninvolved in. MBA Boards at the end of the day want to gobeyond the letters and numbers of your transcript and aim tounderstand the motivations that drive you to pursue knowledge,your thought process behind your academic decisions, and theinsights that you have gleaned that have molded you into theperson you are today.InternationalsMany top business schools invest a lot of time in visitingdifferent countries during their marketing cycle. They usethese trips to learn about the schools and companies thatemploy the applicants from that region, and as a result, they arewell-versed on the academic differences that exist among manyof the international universities. Internationals coming fromschools that do not give GPAs or class ranks do not need toworry; the MBA Board will not penalize your application forthis. Ifin doubt, check with the MBA program to find out howit wants you to handle this situation (whether to leave it blankor provide an estimation). The Admissions Board is familiarwith the grading systems at non-U.S. schools. They understandthat a first class is rare and depicts exceptional academicachievement while a third-class performance obviously raises鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 87significant concerns about a candidates academic ability. Theyalso appreciate the academic rigor of a degree in engineeringfrom a school like Imperial College in the United Kingdom orIndian Institute of Technology.Explaining Transcript InconsistenciesHealth issues (on a personal level or involving a family member)are often the reason for a candidates academic decline. Acandidate I know had a tough two semesters when her mom wasstruggling with a life-threatening illness. This resulted in a bigdip in her transcript her sophomore year. Luckily, she was ableto turn this trend around, and for the remaining two years ofcollege, her grades were consistently above a 3.5 GPA. Othercandidates have spotty transcripts because they worked full timeto support their education. Then there are situations where acandidate has low grades as a result ofnot effectively balancingacademic studies and leadership involvement. Regardless ofwhat the scenario is, candidates need to address any gaps orhiccups in their transcript. Using the optional essays to do sois the ideal strategy. The way you describe the situation can betelling. Demonstrate maturity by owning up to what happenedand avoid making excuses. But dont go to the other extreme bygroveling and overemphasizing the issue, which could cause theAdmissions Board to fixate on it.BASIC TRANSCRIPT TIPSIf your GPA is low, you should take two or more quantitativecourses and earn an A in each of them. Financial accounting,economics, calculus, and statistics are good options. MBAprograms va ry in terms of the courses they recommend, soinquire directly to the programs to identify their preference.This is most pertinent if your undergraduate degree is in a鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • nonquantitative area.Use the optional section of the application to address whyyourgrades were less than stellar in college. Make sure yourresponse reflects maturity and self-awareness. Whatever youdo, avoid blaming others and take responsibility for your weakacademic grades. Lowergrades at the start of college are easierto explain than consistently weak performance for four years.Your recommendation is another great place to convince theMBA Boardthat you have the intellectual horsepower and abilityto handle a challenging academic program. To offset a weaktranscript, recommenders can stress your exceptional analytical,quantitative, and technical skills as well as your ability tograsp new information and come up the learning curve quickly.The more specific and detailed these examples are, the moresuccessful you will be in reassuring the MBA Board that yourweak college academic performance will not dictate how youwill perform in their program. Equally important is allayinganyconcerns that the MBA Board has about your maturity, and therecommendation letters can be effective in doing this.Retakethe GMAT ifyou have low grades. This way, your GMATcan mitigate the MBA Boards concerns about your weakacademic record. It is fair to say that a combined weakacademiccollege performance and GMAT score presents a challenge thatis verydifficultto overcome in the evaluation process. What thismeans is that a candidate with a 540 GMAT and 2.9 GPA willlikely not be admitted to Columbia or any top business schoolfor that matter. On the other hand, getting that GMAT scoreabove 700 can often result in an admission offer at a top businessschool, despite a 2.9 GPA.Excellent performance in a graduate degree can sometimes helpoffset the MBA Boards negative perception of low undergraduateacademic performance. I dont advocate taking a mastersprogram solely to boost your academics. Ifthere is a graduate88 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 89program that appeals to you and will provide you with tools thatfit with your long-term goals, then by all means pursue it.However, be careful not to take a graduate program that thencalls into question whether you still need an MBA.You certainlydo not want to be pigeonholed as a degree collector. Ive beenasked often by candidates if they could apply to a top MBAprogram although they have an MBAalready from a less-selectiveinstitution. The answer is no. Hoping to apply at a later dateafter earning an MBA at another institution is not acceptable.Similarly, candidates are not able to transfer from one top MBAprogram to another. Unlike undergraduate admissions, wheretransfer opportunities exist, MBA programs do not typicallyaccommodate transfer requests. Admissions Boards are sensitiveto this. A candidate who is admitted to Kellogg and thendecides she doesnt like it will have to stick it out as opposed totransferring to Columbia.Addressing the academic component of the admissionevaluation is a necessary part of the application. But once you havescaled this academic hurdle you still need to address theremaining two admission criteria: your leadership track recordand the uniqueness criteria.LEADERSHIP IMPACT AND MANAGERIALPOTENTIALYou cannot read through the website of a top business schoolwithout coming across the word "leadership." AdmissionsBoards are all looking for leaders with a track record ofeffectingchange and improving any environment where they are.Leadership isnt limited to formal titles such as vice presidentor manager. Leadership is measured based on the level ofimpact a candidate has. This is why admitted early careercandidates, those with less than two years of work experience, can鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 90 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSstill show remarkable leadership despite very junior titles attheir job. The MBA Board wants to learn about situationswhere you initiated something that didnt exist, convinced yoursuperiors about an opportunity, created a tool or product thatimproves the way business is done at your firm, or managed aprocess, project, and person who had a fair share of challengesand delivered a successful outcome at the end.Leadership can also be seen in your knowledge arena. Forinstance, becoming a resident expert at something (above andbeyond your job responsibilities) that creates value for yourgroup or firm shows leadership. Although many candidates maynot have had formal management experience, their exposure toleading small teams can offer interesting insights about theirleadership potential. It is always important to show yourselfawareness ofyour strengths as a leader and the areas you couldfurther develop asyou grow in your management responsibilities.But equally important for a candidate is to show self-awarenessofwhy a particular leadership impact or experience is personallymeaningful. The "why" and "how" are as important, if notmore so, than the "what."The MBA Board evaluates leadership on three dimensionsthat I call "The 3 Cs of Leadership," namely:1. College leadership2. Community leadership3. Career leadershipCollege LeadershipAlthough it may be a few years since you graduated fromcollege, your college leadership is an important variable whenassessing your candidacy. In the ideal admission world, candidatesshould be strong across all three leadership areas. Frommy experience, however, most admitted candidates are strong inat least two out of three of these leadership dimensions. What鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 91Ive observed is that college leadership and career leadershipare often very strong, leaving a gap in the community leadership.The main reason for this is limited time. Many candidatesare working eighty plus hours each week, makingcommitting to community service activities on a regular basisimpossible. This is where the college leadership comes intoplay. Many candidates have an excellent track record of leadershipwhile they were in college. These candidates will haveto rely on their college leadership and career leadership trackrecord to impress the Admissions Board.But what if your college leadership is weak? Some candidateswith weak college leadership track records may have acompelling reason, such as having to self-fund their education.For some, it could be a result of partying too much in college.Regardless of why, candidates with a deficit in their collegeleadership must focus on strengthening their community andcareer leadership before applying to business school.Do keep in mind that college leadership isnt simply aboutformal titles in student organizations. Although those are fineand represent the bulk of college leadership examples candidateshave, there are many acceptable leadership examples atthe college level that are a result of someone taking initiative.An example is the student who has to work to fund her educationand sees an underutilized system or a potential market thather employer isnt capitalizing on-by stepping up to presentthis idea to her bosses and helping to implement it, she willdemonstrate a strong leadership track record.For many candidates reading this book, college was a distantexperience, so you cant do anything to change the collegeleadership (but you can focus on community and careerleadership). However, for those of you who are still in college, itis never too late to start creating leadership impact. Are you anathlete? Could you serve in a leadership role on the team? Howhave you helped your team become stronger and closer? You dont鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 92 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETShave to be the captain of the team to do this. Is there a problemthat exists that you can resolve even without a formal title? Isthere an interest you have that matters to you for which thereis no formal organization at your school? If so, dont hesitate tostart this organization. Ifyou enjoy teaching/tutoring, is therea way to move beyond your typical tutoring role to one whereyou can manage the other tutors? Perhaps the opportunity toteach a class could present itself? Mypoint here is that you needto raise your game. Dont be shy to step up and put your leadershipstake in the ground at your school. And dont fixatesimply on title but on impact-thats the true test of leadership!Community LeadershipTo strengthen your community leadership, you can join anonprofit organization and assume a leadership role in it. MostCOLLEGE LEADERSHIP EXAMPLES OFSUCCESSFUL MBA CANDIDATESStrategic director at a college credit union, where he institutednew initiatives that led to expanded services for studentsOn-campus position that gave the student experiencemanaging student employeesFounder of an art organization that gave students opportunityto showcase and express their creative talentTeacher for a freshman seminar that pushed and stretchedher students to develop new ideas and explore alternativeconclusionsPortfolio manager ofstudent fund resulting in 20 percent returnCaptain of varsity sports teamInstituting regular dinners for international students at parentshome to help create a sense of community for classmates鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 93nonprofit organizations are in great need of human resourcesand money. You can have a major impact as a volunteer. Becareful that your involvement isnt seen as trite. Simplyparticipating in an event once every few months does not qualify asstrong evidence ofleadership. Opt for tangible contributions. Aconcrete and significant leadership example could be applyingyour marketing experience to write the marketing plan andlaunching the marketing strategy for a nonprofit organization.Another example could be using your business developmentprofessional experience to help a community-based organizationestablish strong relationships with partner firms as a way tobuild revenue.Do not underestimate the power of getting involved at youralma mater. By initiating recruitment activities for your college,you can demonstrate your leadership skills by establishingrelationships, leading a team, and executing a plan. This is exactlywhat Stacy, a candidate, did. She noticed that many studentsfrom her alma mater did not pursue a career on Wall Street.Graduating from a nonselective university, top banks did notrecruit at her school. Stacy created a career support programthat educates and mentors students and alumni from heruniversity on career opportunities on Wall Street. This experiencestretched Stacys leadership abilities, as she had to attractand manage disparate alumni from varied industries. Shelearned how to sell her idea with conviction as she dealt withher schools administrators and career services personnel. Shealso honed her negotiation and communication abilitiesthrough this project. To crown her involvement, Stacy receivedan alumni award for extraordinary service.Applicants can also opt to serve on the board of a nonprofitorganization to help provide strategic leadership advice.A greatorganization that places talented young professionals on theboards of nonprofit organizations IS BoardNetUSA(www.boardnetusa.org). I dont recommend joining a nonprofit鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 94 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRITSboard simply to check the box. The Admissions Board can seethrough this. Youwant to be authentic. So if you should decideto pursue this option, make sure to select an organization thatties to something you are passionate about. And while you areon the board, it is key that you initiate activities that yield realsolutions to improve the organization.If you dont find an organization that appeals to you, thenconsider creating one. Starting an organization, even anonprofit, can enable you to build an excellent leadership trackrecord. Juan returned to his home country, and after noticingthat there was no formal internship program to employ smartcollege students during the summer, he set about creating one.Not only did this experience provide interesting content for hisessays, but more importantly, it gave him an opportunity to giveback in a meaningful way.Juan had moved to America when hewas young and had benefited from many formal internshipprograms. He wanted to give other students from his countrya similar opportunity. The passion with which he spoke of hisproject was infectious, and it was easy to see how this was alabor oflove for him. This leadership experience influenced hispositive admission outcome.I often hear candidates lament over their limited time forcommunity service. As a new mom, running a full-serviceconsulting practice, and writing this book, I recognize the timeconstraints that most professionals face. However, it isnt aboutquantity, but quality. Pick something that really speaks to yourheart and find a way to make a meaningful contribution. Anapplicant I know wanted to deepen his community involvementand chose to partner with a group of internationals whohad a mission to commit $100 a month for one year, with agoal of raising funds that would be disbursed to two selectedorganizations in his home country. It worked. He fulfilled hiscommitment, got his friends to join, and had the satisfaction ofseeing two nonprofit organizations expand and offer more鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 95services to the poor.Regardless of which path you chose to take, it is more importantthat you have one community involvement where you havehad significant impact and depth than to have a lot of activitieswith no impact. It is not enough to be a member of an organization.MBA programs are looking for leaders and want to seeevidence that you have had an impact on peoples lives and onan organization. Even if you are applying this year, it is nevertoo late to get involved in community leadership. What isimportant is making sure that whatever you choose reflects yourpassion and brand.COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP EXAMPLES OFSUCCESSFUL MBA CANDIDATESBoard leadership of a not-for-profit hospitalBusiness development and marketing volunteer for StreetSquash (aninner-city sports nonprofit organization that builds up the self-esteem ofteenagers through squash)Founder of tutoring program in an inner cityBoard leadership of the Asian Task ForceLeader of Womens Initiative for National Domestic ViolenceOrganizationSunday school teacher and accountant for churchExecutive leadership team of an international business forumPublicity Chair of a national associationFounder of first-ever scholarship program and alumni fund atalma materPresident of the Nigerian Business ForumFounder of philanthropic private equity enterpriseRaised significant money to help family member battling lifethreateningdisease鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 96 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSCareer LeadershipThe career leadership carries the most weight when evaluatinga candidates leadership experience. That is why most top MBAprograms request that students provide recommendations fromsupervisors who can attest to their professional experience andtrajectory. (Early career [EC] candidates are an exception tothis. In EC situations, the college and community leadershipare elevated in the evaluation process.)When considering career leadership, you should alwaysfocus on the actual impact you have had, not simply on yourtitle. Go beyond your job description to demonstrate yourcontribution and make sure to address why you chose to takethe leadership steps in the first place. If the leadership roleinvolves working with people, thats great. Opportunities whereyou managed a team allow you to clearly show your leadershipabilities. It isnt just about how many people you have on theteam; the important thing is that you demonstrate your insightsinto how people operate, how to motivate them, and what yourleadership strengths and developmental needs are.TheMBABoard wants to know that you have challengedyourselfand that you take initiative. They are interested in understandingyour motivations and the type of leader you are. Teamdynamics are pivotal to leadership. How do you handle conflict?How do you deal with disappointment and failures? Many of thetop business schools will demand that you address these questions.At the heart of these types of questions is a desire on the part oftheMBA Board to make sure that you are mature enough to learnfrom tough situations, have a healthy emotional intelligence, andcan work well with people regardless of the circumstance.I often hear MBA candidates complain that their jobs makeit tough to show leadership. Investment banking analysts whowork in a hyper-hierarchical environment are a good example.Lets look at a few ways an investment banking analyst candemonstrate career leadership.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 97• An investment banker who sees an opportunity to createa new training program can stand out in the applicant poolbased on her commitment to others and her ability totransfer her knowledge to improve the experience of herpeers. If the program is already established, she can seekways to improve it and could be selected to lead trainingas welL• Another example is the investment banker who seesopportunities where others see obstacle. For example, byusing his Spanish language skills and knowledge ofLatinoculture, he can add value when working on projects inLatin America, an area that the company may not havemuch exposure to.• Then there is the investment banker who raises her handto work on that tough project that seems mired in challengesor to work with the difficult managing director thateveryone avoids and is able to successfully "manage up." Acommitment to excellence and a strong track record ofdelivering impeccable results can capture the attention ofthe Admissions Board, as seen in the investment bankerwhose work experience is significantly accelerated becausehe is hand picked, as a result of having developed a reputationof excellence, to work on high-profile deals withsignificant responsibility.• Equally interesting and differentiating is the investmentbanker who steps up and operates as an associate andmanages her peers and new analysts to greater success.I think you get the point. In each of these instances, the focusis on how the person used her particular situation to achieve, asopposed to the circumstance itself. The preceding leadershipexamples are not just for investment bankers but are applicableto candidates from any industry. It is important to figure out theunique experiences you bring to the table and then capitalize on鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 98 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSthem to differentiate yourself from the pack. The following area few examples of the types of leadership track records one canhave to stand apart in the application process.So with the academic and leadership criteria out of the way,candidates are left to tackle the last of the admissions variables:their uniqueness. Unlike the other two admissions criteria, theuniqueness admissions criterion allows the greatest flexibilityfor candidates to market themselves in a powerful way.CAREER LEADERSHIP EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFULMBA CANDIDATESInitiating and leading the business development that landed thefirm a client that increased revenue by 20 percentConducting the entire valuation of the highest profiletransaction at firm worth EUR 1.1 billion due to strong analyticaltrack recordOperating in the role of an associate while still an analystBuilding a training program, hiring a team of internationalanalysts, and creating a formal analyst culture at firmCo-establishingthe leveragedfinance practice in another countryManaging the consulting team that introduced and implementedan automated management tool for clients worldwideInvesting in a struggling employee and helping that persondevelop into a confident and successful leaderCreating a utilitytool to improve the tracking system of a shippingcompanyManaging employees on an assembly line and improving efficiencyby25 percentReducing human product errors from 10 to 4 percent atpharmaceutical firm by introducing a new tracking system andtraining employees to use it鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 99UN IQUE NESS (DIVERSEEXPERlENCESfPERSPECTIVES AND DIFFERENTIATEDPERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS)The third admissions category that MBA Boards use in evaluatingcandidates is the uniqueness of your brand. Businessschools are looking for individuals who are a fit with theirbrand. And nowhere is this more evident than through yourpersonal characteristics and unique perspectives.This aspect of the evaluation is by far where applicants havethe most flexibility and influence. To a large extent, applicantsacademic history has already been formed. Their leadershiptrack record and management experience have been established.The insights that applicants offer into who they are and whythey have made the choices they have made to date can landthem a coveted admission spot in a top business school.A good way to illustrate this point is by looking at investmentbankers, a group of candidates who are overly representedin the application pool. The following fictional examplespeaks to the power of the unique perspective applicants bringto their application.Five hundred investment bankers apply to an MBAprogram. Ten percent are accepted. That means that 450investment bankers will be rejected. What is unique andinteresting about the fifty who are admitted? It is the personalcharacteristics and unique perspective that they offer thatoften sets them apart from their competition. All candidates,regardless of their industry background, should ask themselveshow they are different compared with other candidates fromsimilar backgrounds.The personal characteristics and unique perspective isdifferent for each candidate. For some applicants, they areinteresting in the fact that they are the first in their family to get acollege education. Their initiative, vision, and "bootstrapper"鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 100 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSbackground differentiates them from their competitors who havehad a lot of opportunities given to them. For other applicants, itis the innovative nature in which they approach their work thatis distinctive. Even candidates with the more unusual examples ofhaving been raised on a farm in Iowa or growing up in Alaska orChechnya can offer interesting and different viewpoints to theclass based on their diverse personal life experiences.This is an application to business school, so you shouldhighlight the different perspective and experience that youbring in the context ofhow it can add value to the class discussionsand student community. Uniqueness for its own sake isntwhat MBA programs are after. Rather, what is attentionworthyis how growing up in Mongolia and working in theUnited States in the pharmaceutical industry has influencedyour desire to return to Mongolia to open the countrys firsthealth- and nutrition-focused business (like GNC). Theunique vantage point you have of the economic landscape ofMongolia and the subtle cultural obstacles that you will needto overcome are the types of stories that will allow you topresent convincing and differentiated essays.But the reality is that most candidates do not come fromexotic backgrounds and do not have profound experiences suchas experiencing combat in Mghanistan, Iraq, or Bosnia. If youhappen to fall in one of these unusual backgrounds, great.Leverage it to show how you will offer a different viewpoint tothe MBA program. However, if you find that your backgroundis more along the beaten path, there are tangible things you cando to stand out in the pool as well.For instance, have you traveled abroad or lived in differentcountries? You can capitalize on your international experiencesand lessons learned and insights drawn from working in diverseenvironments. Are you an avid sports person and enjoy challengingyourself? You can describe your experience trainingfor the marathon or the process of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Understanding the Admissions Criteria 101and the team dynamics from that experience. How did thissituation change or shape you? Drawing lessons from thesetypes of experiences and connecting them to what you willbring to the particular business school can be appealing to theAdmissions Board.Ifyou come from a privileged background, it is important toknow how to present your experience. Be careful not to soundspoilt or entitled. Also, when recounting experiences, you arebetter off choosing things that do not play into a stereotype.For instance, if asked about a mistake you made, you are betteroff selecting an example that shows personal awareness (realizingyou are fallible), instead of one that simply shows badjudgment (crashing your parents Bentley after a night out).Here are some additional examples from candidates who havesucceeded in branding their way to their dream business schools:• Raising five siblings without parents allowed a candidateto demonstrate his initiative, management skills, andmaturity.• Health problems led a candidate to develop his knowledgeof Parma industry/health policy issues. As a result, hebecame passionate about the business side of drugdevelopment and transferred this interest into thoughtleadership at his firm.• Being raised by entrepreneurial parents gave a candidateexposure to running businesses and an appreciation for thediscipline, creativity, and innovation required to start abusiness in the future.• Witnessing her mothers domestic abuse fueled one candidatescommitment to empowering women.• A hunger for a global education led a candidate to leaveher home country, attend college in the United States, andconvince her firm to send her to Europe to gain internationalwork experience.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 102 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSSuccessful candidates do not fall within prescribed categoriesor profiles. Rather, they have understood the admissionscriteria and have successfully presented their own uniqueexperiences to show how they will create value to the MBAprogram. The good news is that most of your competition isnot perfect. They have gaps or weaknesses that they have toaddress as well. It could be weaker GMAT scores or GPAs, lackof exemplary leadership, or a vague sense of their brand (whatis distinct or unique about them). Investing time in assessingand addressing any gaps that exist in your application willstrengthen your MBA candidacy. And in no place is the brandmore telling than in the essays. The next chapter explores theMBA application essays in detail and offers insights on how totackle them effectively.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER SIXEssay FundamentalsHAVING COVERED THE THREE main admissions criteriaused to evaluate MBA candidates, I would like to turn thefocus to the different components that make up the application. Thefirst is the MBA essays. MBA Boards have historically stressedthe power of the admissions essays in the application process.Unlike any other aspect of the application, the essays are theone area where candidates have the most control in representingthemselves. After all, undergraduate grades are alreadypredetermined, and there is a limit to how far a GMAT scorecan change (it would be unlikely for someone who scoresconsistently at 500 to jump to 750).With the exception of meeting the applicant for an interview,the essays are the best way to reveal each candidatesbrand. Essays are blank canvases that provide candidates withan incredible opportunity to create a Picasso. In my admissionsexperience at Harvard and Carnegie Mellon, I haveobserved numerous instances where one candidates applicationstands apart from others with identical backgroundsbased simply on the treatment of the essay topics and the typeof information the essays reveal about the candidates brand.These successful candidates understand that presenting theirexperiences in the form of stories allows them to paint a鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 104 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSvibrant picture of themselves, as opposed to simply statingfacts in a dry way.Applicants to business school must be comfortable goinginto depth when describing who they are and what matters tothem. It is impossible to submit a powerful applicationwithout revealing personal aspects of who you are. That said,applicants need to be wise about the personal stories theyshare with the Admissions Board. Not all personal experiencesare appropriate to discuss in your application. A good litmustest to determine whether a subject is worth including in yourstory is to ask yourself what it reveals about you as a futurebusiness leader. Raising your five siblings shows maturity and"management" ability. But you would be hard pressed to makea compelling case that overcoming a rough breakup with yourfirst love reveals something meaningful about your leadership.The essays for business school are a test of applicants judgment.Make sure that whatever personal insights and examplesyou provide do not raise red flags about you. A sure wayto guarantee that your application gets dinged is by exhibitingpoor judgment.Unlike other graduate programs where the standardizedscores drive the admission outcome, to a large extent, businessschools essays can significantly influence the admission decision.So applicants who are serious about being admitted to acompetitive business school should ensure that their essays arewell written and embody a strong personal brand.MSA ESSAY OVERVIEWTime is a major factor in presenting a winning application, sostart early. The average number of essays at top businessschools is four. Therefore, you should allocate enough timeto tackle each essay thoroughly. To be safe, give yourself atleast four months to complete two to three applications. Ifyou are going to apply to more schools, then you should鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 105consider applying in two different rounds (three applicationsduring the first round and two applications or more duringthe second round) to better manage the process. With admissionto top schools becoming more competitive, more candidatesar e ap p ly in g to a g r eater n u mb er o f p r o g r ams toincrease their chances of gaining admission to at least oneschool. A greater number of applications means that you willneed to budget even more time to ensure that you can giveeach application the attention necessary to yield the resultsyou seek.Getting started on the essays can be daunting for manyapplicants. So take a deep breath and exhale. The MBA Boarddoes not expect you to write like a Pulitzer Prize-winningjournalist. You are not tested on how creative or excellent awriter you are. The main emphasis is on how substantive yourleadership impact and managerial potential are, whether youhave taken advantage of opportunities available to you, andyour awareness of the drivers behind your personal andprofessional decisions and success.That said, you should not present a shoddy essay full ofgrammatical and spelling mistakes. Make sure that you reviseyour essays as many times as needed to produce well-writtenfinished products. It is generally a good idea to have someoneyou know who is a great writer, for instance, an English major,read through your essays to catch any writing errors.Before tackling the MBA essays, you should go through abrand audit to identify the most compelling parts of yourstory. You should also go through a brainstorming exercise toorganize your experiences. Successful essays require a fairshare of introspection. We encourage applicants to adopt abrainstorming model we refer to as SOARS (Situation,Obstacle, Action, Results, and So What). Investing time inframing your questions in this format will allow you to teaseapart your story in a coherent and tangible way, making it鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 106 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSpossible for you to focus on the more compelling examples inyour story. Once you have completed the SOARS model, youwill be ready to begin writing the essays. Always do an outlinebefore tackling an essay. An outline is important because itallows you to tease apart the important parts of the event.When writing an outline, you should always aim to flesh outthese key points:1. What is the situation you wish to discuss?2. What was challenging, difficult, or unusual about itthat is worth mentioning?3. What steps did you take to address or resolve the issue?How did you do it? What role did you play?4. What was the outcome ofyour involvement? Why didyou make the decisions you made or take the actionsyou took? It is important to stress specifics of theresult. If it is quantifiable, then dont fail to show thebefore-and-after outcome you were able to create as aresult of your involvement.5. So what! Be clear on why anyone reading the storyshould care about it. What was meaningful about thisexperience? What did you learn about yourself? Whydoes it matter to you? This is where you reveal yourinsights and self-awareness to the MBA Board.Candidates to business school are not limited to followingthis outline. If another process works for you to effectivelyoutline your essays, then thats great and you should use it.Whats important is that you take the time to assess whetherthe story you have selected is compelling enough to feature inyour application. Using the SOARS model to brainstorm essaytopics will quickly reveal to you whether the story is strongenough or whether it lacks substance. The other point I wish tomake about using the SOARS outline for your essays is that you鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 107are not limited to using it chronologically. Its a tool that helpsyou with brainstorming but should not become confining; thatis, you should not feel bound to structure all your essayschronologically. Youcan vary the sequence to support whatevercreative approach you wish to pursue.Lets take a few minutes to complete the SOARS Modelbelow. Feel free to come back to it to refine the story asdifferent ideas come to you.CHARACTERISTICS OF WINNING ESSAYSWith establishing a process to outline the essays out of the way,lets review what makes for winning essays. While there isnt aformula to gain admission to business school, there are certainlyvariables or ingredients that distinguish applications that areadmitted from those that are rejected. I will examine those variablesclosely in the next section.EXPARTUS SOARS MODEL鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 108 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSThe PGII FactorA common question from MBA candidates is, "What sets apartwinning essays from bland and ineffective ones?" Havingevaluated thousands of MBA essays at Harvard, at CarnegieMellon, and through my consulting practice, EXPARTUS, Ihave identified the fundamental ingredients that successfulessays embody. These winning essays have what I call the PGIIFactor. They include:1. Passion2. Guts3. Impact4. InsightEssay questions that embody these four ingredients create asolid and powerful backdrop from which the MBA Board canassess you. Lets take a closer look at each ingredient.1. PassionAs you are preparing for your essays, ask yourself whether youhave clearly identified your passion. Take a few minutes tocomplete the passion survey from the earlier chapter. Keep inmind that if your essays do not convey your passion, there is agood chance that they will be bland and boring, thus increasingthe likelihood that they will put the MBA Board to sleep. Do yousimply do your job, or do you bring great enthusiasm and energyto everything you do both at work and beyond? Your attitudereflects your passion. Think about what difference you have hadin your company, in the organizations you have been involved in,in your community. Your essay has to convey your passion forwhat you do (whether in your work:, your personal life,orcommunity); your long-term goals have to connect with whatyou say matters to you. Connecting these pieces to why you arepursuing an MBA is a very important part of the application process.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 1092. GutsYou cant talk about winning essays without seeing clearevidence of guts and courage to take personal and professionalrisks. Having guts is not about unplanned, haphazard stunts.MBA Boards are an extremely savvybunch and can see throughgimmicks masked to appear like courage and risk taking.Take two people (Bob and Don) who apply to businessschool. Both of them have a successful career in the financeindustry, and their academic backgrounds are equally strong.Bob has been with the same finance firm for five years. Hisessay has few examples showcasing his stepping up and havinga significant impact beyond what a typical associate does at thefirm. Can you imagine how many "Bobs" are in the applicantpool? The Bobs of the applicant pool have made it easy for theMBA Board to deny them admission.Contrast this with Don, who has chosen to leave his firm tostart a real estate company, which is his passion. Even if Donsbusiness folds, the MBA Board isnt as focused on the failure ofthe business as they are in what motivated Don to leave a safejob to start a business and the lessons he learned through theprocess. The MBA Board is also interested in learning theimpact Dons business had on others. Most important, theAdmissions Board wants to learn how his entrepreneurialventure has developed his leadership and managerial potential.His maturity and growth will very well set him apart fromother talented candidates vying for a spot in the competitiveadmission pool.I am not advocating that the only way to show guts isthrough an entrepreneurial endeavor. If you are an entrepreneur,by all means, go for it. However, for the majority of theapplicants, you can demonstrate your risk taking within yourfirm by stepping up and going above and beyond yourprescribed role. For instance, as a financial analyst, you mayrealize that your firm falls short in its training and professional鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 110 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSdevelopment of new analysts, so you volunteer to start ananalyst training and mentoring program (if none exists) or tooverhaul the existing one. If you are in Equity Research, forinstance, and you have a lean group, you could raise your handto cover more industries above and beyond what is expected ofyou. Perhaps you are in the strategy group at your firm and youdisagree with the firms plan to shut down a business unit andsee it as a missed opportunity. So you take the initiative toconduct a thorough analysis, and identify how a counterapproach can add value to your firm. You have the guts topresent an alternative plan, present data to back up yourthoughts, and deliver a convincing argument to your seniormanagement. Behind the scenes, you build bridges and get keypeople to champion the idea. Your idea not to shut down thegroup is accepted. The outcome? The group ends up being amajor money maker for your firm.So what if you are an engineer? You could demonstrateyour guts by volunteering to lead a system improvementproject that involves other departments. Or you could initiatea new safety mechanism that improves the wayan assemblyline operates.Other ways candidates can show guts is by being willing toexplore a different business environment. The Americanconsultant who opts for an international project in Singaporewill get a broadened perspective that can make him morecompetitive when it comes time to apply to business school. Iknow a candidate working in the United States who pushed tobe transferred to a European country to work because she knewit would push her outside her comfort level. Im not advocatingthat everyone jump ship for an international assignment; this isan option for applicants for whom such a move is in line withtheir brand and goals.Even a simple step of leaving a lucrative consulting career,for example, to become a soccer coach at your alma mater can鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 111reflect a gutsy move on your part. But you have to show howthis move fits into your longer-term goal. And of course, it alsohas to fit with your passion for athletics. Ifyour long-term goalis to work for companies like Nike or the U.S. Soccer Federationon the business side, you can make a compelling case forthe tie-in with sports and your career move to coaching. Youshould be careful, however, if you are simply making a move toimpress the MBA Board. In the event that the admission doesntpan out, you have to be comfortable living with your decision.So whatever decision you take, make sure you choose roles thatyou are passionate about and that fit with your long-term goals.Demonstrating guts is about:• Raising your hand to take on additional responsibility• Seizing an opportunity to affect change• Having the confidence to speak up and sell your ideas• Taking a path that is untried and different3. ImpactA major mistake MBA candidates make with their essays isfailing to quantify their impact. Impact simply comes down toyour track record. What was your specific role in bringingabout change or improving a process or product? Note thatimpact isnt limited to organizations; it also expands topeople-taking the intern trying to navigate a large bureaucraticorganization under your wing, helping the co-workerwho is having a tough time grasping how to read and interpretbalance sheets, mentoring the consultant whom everyoneviews as the weakest link on the engagement team and who isabout to quit as a result of his or her frustrations. These are allindividuals that many of us have encountered at some point inour career. The question is what role we chose to play: did weengage someone and make a difference to improve his situationwhen we saw him struggling, or did we simply focus on our鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 112 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSown individual success? These types of experiences make forvery interesting essays.The opposite mistake that candidates make relating toimpact is exaggerating their role. MBA Boards can deducewhen the truth is being stretched, and this is a major turn-off,which will adversely affect your admission outcome. So tellthe story with specific details of your involvement but shyaway from stretching your account in attempts to make youressay sound impressive.4. InsightThe law ofwriting winning essays in the application process isto show dont tell. Its not enough to tell the MBA Board howgreat your accomplishments are, but you must show them howyou have accomplished something and what you learned fromthe experience. Awareness is king in the admissions process.What you have done is important, but equally important is whyyou have done the things you have done and how you do whatyou do that is unique to you.Be committed to showing the MBA Board why the thingsyou have done matter to you. Simply stating that you have leadershipand management abilities is not enough. What kind ofleader are you? What is your managerial style, and how do yourely on it to bring out the best in the people you lead? Are youa leader who leads in front? Perhaps you are charismatic in yourleadership style. Are you more of a "quiet" leader who leadsfrom behind? You need to have a clear sense of your style andhave stories to back it up to reinforce your point. It is yourselfawareness that sets you apart from all the other applicants who,at a first glance, have the same background.The Power of the Six CsIn addition to the PGII Factor, successful essays tend to havethe following six attributes:鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 113• Captivating• Credible• Compelling• Consistent• Clear• ConciseWhen writing your essay, you should always ensure that youressays embody these six characteristics.CaptivatingThe essaysmust capture the attention of the Admissions Board.It is said that it takes thirty seconds to make an impression(good or bad), and once someone makes up their mind aboutyou, it takes much more time and effort to reverse that impression.The MBA application should be approached from thismind-set as well. The application as a whole and the essays inparticular are your opportunity to say, "Hi, my name is Vanessa,and you need to pay close attention to my story." A captivatingessaywill make the MBA Board sit up and remember your storymany applications later.Remember that the MBA Board has several thousand essaysto read and limited time to make their recommendations. Soyour essay should be anything but bland. The last thing youwant is to put the board members to sleep when they read youressays. Let your personality come through. Dont be afraid totake some risks (tempered with judgment) by allowing thedifferent aspects of your personality (brand) to come through.Youwant the MBA Board to identify with you when they readyour application. So, simply said, the essays need to beengaging, interesting, and personable.While captivating essays are important, you have to also behonest. There is no room to stretch the truth in an attempt tobe interesting. Fabricated stories are grounds for automatic鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 114 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSrejection. Given the climate of corporate malfeasance and casesof falsified applications, MBA Boards are extremely sensitive tohonesty and authenticity.CredibleCandidates should always ask themselves whether their story isbelievable. Given your background, is it reasonable to expectthat you will achieve what you outline as your career goals?Avoid grandiose and unrealistic goals. Essays need to maintaina balance: while your vision has to be big enough to warrant anMBA to achieve it, it still has to be achievable. For instance,saying that you will be the Donald Trump of Africa but havinglittle evidence of real estate passion will leave the MBA Boardskeptical of your ambitions.Some career changers fail the credibility test by pickingfuture careers that are a big leap from their current role. Ifyouare an information technology (IT) manager, you will have atough time convincing an Admissions Board that you willbecome a brand manager at Proctor & Gamble. This doesntmean that you cant make major career changes after you graduatefrom business school. In fact, most graduates of MBAprograms are career changers. The challenge is that at theapplication stage, you have to show that your goals are realistic.Ifyou select a new career you wish to pursue, make sure you canshow that there are some ties from your background, interests,and experiences that make it believable.CompellingYour essay needs to convey a compelling rationale for why youwant an MBA. You need to be convincing. "What is your longtermvision!goal, and is the MBA necessary to achieve it? Be surethat you have thoroughly examined why you want the MBA andhow the degree will help you succeed in your career. If yourcareer ambition is simply a small incremental step, it is unlikely鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 115that the MBA Board will give you a spot to go into a middlemanagement role when there are candidates who are looking touse the MBA to have trans formative impact and change.ConsistentEssays that are consistent reinforce the brand of the candidate.In the chapter on selling your personal brand I discussedthe importance of doing a brand audit and identifying thebrand themes, which are the basis for the essays. By identifyingkey brand themes to your story, you can write essaysthat build on each other in a way that reinforces your overallbrand message. This is an area where applicants err: theywrite essays without a unifying story (theme) behind them.The unfortunate outcome is that their application is unmemorable,making it challenging for the MBA Board to advocatefor their candidacy.ClearWith limited time, Admissions Boards need to be able to ascertainthe main thrust of each story. Essays that lack clarity areproblematic because the board members will be unable toextricate the brand message of the candidate. To ensure that youressay is clear, make sure you address the who, what, when, how,why, and so what (impact). By getting to the point and usingthis format, you can eliminate unnecessary aspects of the story,enabling you to present a clear picture of who you are in youressays. After reading your essays, who you are should jump offthe pages. Also, you should ensure that you have answered thequestion being asked in the most straightforward and direct waypossible. A case in point is the question about describing yourdefining leadership experience and addressing your strengthsand weaknesses. Many candidates address the first part of thequestion and ignore the second part about their strengths andweaknesses (especially the latter). Make sure you have answered鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 116 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRHSall the questions fully and write with as many specific examplesas possible to ensure clarity ofyour story.ConciseThe issue of conciseness is related to clarity. Get to the pointquickly so the reader can get a clear message ofyour story. Imoften asked whether the MBA Board cares about word countand how far off one can deviate from the limits. My advice isto always adhere to the essay word or page limits. At a basiclevel, it is a sign of your ability to follow instruction. At adeeper level, it reflects your sense of equity. (Why should youhave an edge over candidates who followed the instruction andstayed within the prescribed limit?) In my experience, I havefound that in most cases, less is more. Rambling essays oressays that are lengthy rarely engender positive feelings fromthe overworked Admissions Board. This is why it is importantto start essays using an outline as opposed to "a brain dump,"where you start off writing anything and everything that comesto mind. And of course, I cant stress enough the importance ofrevisions. I knew an applicant who submitted twenty-pluspages for his first essay to Stanford Graduate School of Business(GSB). Suffice it to say, he didnt gain admission. Extraessays and supplemental documents such as newspaper articles,CDs, and portfolios are inappropriate unless the school specificallyrequests them.ESSAY TYPES AND STRATEGIES TOTACKLETHEMIn this next section, I address the various essays covered in theMBA application and provide suggestions on how to deal withthem. I have also included actual examples of essays used byapplicants. I recognize that some essay topics may overlapacross multiple categories but for the purpose of this book, I鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 117have broken the essays into four groups.The four essay categories are:1. Career essays2. Impact essays3. Who you are essays4. Miscellaneous essaysThe Career EssayAlthough all the admissions essays are important, it is rareto bomb the career essay and still get admitted. Failureto nail your career essay is likely to yield an unfavorableadmission outcome. The career essay category asks candidatesto discuss their professional decisions and experiences todate, to explain why they want an MBA and why this is theright time for them to pursue it, and to indicate why they areinterested in the particular MBA program in the first place.Some MBA programs word their career essay broadly (Whatis your career vision and why is this choice meaningful toyou?-Harvard Business School [RBS]) while others are veryspecific (What are your short-term and long-term career goals?How will Columbia Business School help you achieve thesegoals?Columbia). It is important to note that cut-and-paste jobsare not the most efficient way to succeed in the admissionsprocess. If a question is asking specifically for your short-termand long-term goals, do not simply recycle the career visionessay; it will be obvious to the MBA Board that you copiedan essay from another school. Im not advocating writingfive separate career essays for your five applications. But itis important to pay attention to how the question is wordedand even when you use original content from a previousapplication, take the time to give it a fresh touch so that itanswers the specific question being asked.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 118 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSYour particular industry or sector doesnt matter. What isvital is showing that you have thought through your careergoals and the steps you anticipate will be necessary to achievethem. Candidates need to be very specific when addressing theircareer essays. There is little room for vague and broad careergoals. Generic career goals only signal to the AdmissionsBoards that you are either unsure about what you want to do orthat you do not know enough about the professed career path.In either case, you make it easy for the MBA Board to discountyour application. So be as specific as you can when addressingyour career goals. A statement such as, "I will become a generalmanager after business school" is too vague. But saying, "I wishto join a rotational leadership program in an apparel companylike Gap after business school, and long term, I plan to becomethe president of a retail company in South America" is a veryspecific and clear career goal. There is a caveat to this, however.Schools that ask for your career vision as opposed to your shorttermand long-term career goals tend to be more open to broadstatements like "I plan to return to Latin America to helpchange the pharmaceutical industry." Harvard Business Schoolis one such example that doesnt penalize candidates for notspecifically outlining the steps they will take to achieve theirprofessional objectives.Furthermore, all candidates need to make a strong case forwhy a particular MBA program is the best fit for them giventhe set of experiences they have had to date. This is where manycandidates fail. The temptation to copy and paste paragraphsfrom previous essays is often too strong to resist. Avoid fallinginto this trap. Take the time to understand the nuanced differentiationor brand of each MBA program before tailoring yourrationale for an MBA accordingly. Campus visits, sitting in onclasses, and speaking with alumni and current students will helpyou zero in on exactly why a particularMBA program is a fit foryou. I know a candidate who had applied to multiple schools鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 119and visited the programs only after gaining admission. To herhorror, she realized she didnt fit in at the programs where shewas admitted. She was forced to decline her admission offer andradically transform her professional experience with hopes ofreapplying the following year.The issue of timing is also a factor here, so be ready toaddress why now is the right time for you to pursue the MBA.Even if the question of "why now" doesnt come up, it is wiseto explain your thought process regarding why you feel you areready for the MBA and why this is the ideal time for you toenroll as opposed to a few years from now.Another important element to keep in mind when thinkingof the career essay is demonstrating awareness of the industryyou plan to pursue. This issue is most pertinent for careerchangers. The more knowledgeable you are about the industryand how the MBA will equip you with the skills to succeed, themore likely your story is to be believed. It is also useful to showhow the skills you have built from prior professional experiencewill be relevant in your career after business school.Finally, no career essay will be complete without showingthat you have been successful to date in your present career.The idea is that if you have been extraordinarily successfulwhere you work currently, there is a good chance you will besuccessful in a new career. One of the biggest problems candidatesface in the application process is making the case that theywill be successful in a vibrant career after business school whenthey have worked at a few mundane jobs and have lacklusterimpact and track record. Should you find yourself in a situationlike this, it is critical to hold off on applying to business schooland focus on "rebranding" yourself to build a more compellingprofessional track record. Doing so will reduce the likelihoodthat your application will be rejected!It is unlikely to have a winning application if you dont nailthe career essays. So although all the essays are important, I鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 120 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSencourage you to devote extra time to make sure your careeressay is spot on.Here are the questions on the MBA Boards minds whenreading your career essay:1.  Who is this candidate?2.  What has she achieved?3.  Is it compelling?4.  Is she on an upward trajectory where she is takingon more responsibility and creating more impact, orhas her career stalled?5.  What are her career decisions, what steps has shetaken, and is there a logical connection to her goals?6.  Is she a good fit for our program?7.  What will she contribute to our program?8.  Is she mature, and will she be able to operate in ateam environment?9.  Does her career goal make sense, and will she bemarketable after business school?10. Are her aspirations transformative, and will an MBAhelp her achieve her goals?11. Does getting the MBA now make sense: did sheleave applying to business school too late, or is sheapplying too early and needs more work experience?Answers to these questions will help the MBA Board determinewhether to admit or reject the candidate.Lets review a sample career essay and examine what makesit effective.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 121Sample Career Essay:Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Describethe following:(a) What choices have you made that led you to your currentposition?(b) Why pursuean MBA at thispoint in your life?(c) What isyour career goalupon graduation from NYUStern? What isyour long-term career goal?"Sassy, sexy, and stylish" is howBaby Phat describes theirbrand. I would also add "profitable" as the brand produced salesof$18M and profits of$4M in its first year. It is this recent successof "Baby Phat" and my contribution to it which in part haveledme to change my career direction from finance to marketing.I began my retail finance career at New YOrk and Company, aleading women sapparel company. As Store FinancialAnalystwithinits real estate group, I learned to assess andforecast the performance ofpotential newstores and recommend which ones to open. I laterpursuedgreater responsibility, in managingprofitability company-wide, as aSenior Financial Analystat Coty. Initially responsible for seven brands,I nowoversee the budgetingprocessfor ourentire portfolio of25 brands.It wasthroughmy workwith Coty: marketing teams that I realizedthat my true passion lay in marketing. For example, during oneproject I providedfinancial and profit scenarios to our marketingdirector toaidin a decision whethertopursue a re-launch ofthe"Coolwater" fragrance ortodesign a newbrand. I created a model thatillustrated the cost and profit implications of redesigning the productpackage and collaborated with the marketing staff to determine therequired levels ofadvertising support. As a result, instead ofthe costlycreation ofa new brand, wedecided to reignite interest in thismaturebrandand "Coohuaters" sales rankingrosefrom 30th to 15th. Thoughmy work assisted in the decision, it was the strength and creativity ofthe marketing whichultimately ledto thissuccess. Thisproject showed鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 122 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSme the powerofmarketing to revive a product at the end of its lifecycle and inspire a newgeneration ofcustomers: I wascaptivated!After the engaging "Coolwater" project, I asked to work with themarketing team onprovidingbudget guidelines for the launch ofthe"Baby Phat" fragrance. After studying past launch spendingforcomparable products, I discovered ourmarketing team initially tendsto overspend toachieve brandawareness through nationaladvertising.Later, when customers need more purchasing incentives by, forexample, offering free gifts," the team is likely to underestimate itscost ofgoods sold expenses. When presented with my analysis, themarketing team corrected their budget allocation and, as a result,"Baby Phat" gainedmomentum at the launch with minimal waste offunds and an efficient use ofits promotional arsenal.With the realization that my true passion lies not in finance butin marketing, I nowfeel a sense ofurgency in my desire to make thetransition to begin my career in thisfield. As a career changer, I willneed to immerse myself in the subject and I believe that the SternMBA provides ampleopportunity to do so, not onlythrough classroominstruction, but also, as importantly, through a real-world setting.Post MBA, I would like to work in brand management for aconsumerpackaged goods company. As brandmanager, I aim togrow abrandand develop a comprehensive marketing plan whichappreciatesboth financial and creative concerns. This experience wouldprovide me with some ofthe requisite skillsto achieve my long-termgoal ofmanaging a diverse portfolio ofproducts. I am confident Iwouldenjoy synthesizing disparate information, asin the "Coolwater"analysis, tomolda brandthrough strategies including line extensions,package innovations, andproduct positioning. I believe my experiencein thefragrance industry, in addition toanMBA education, willserveto benefitmy new career path.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 123AssessmentThis applicant is a career changer who plans to go from financeto marketing. The first thing to his advantage is that he hasworked in interesting industries (apparel and fragrance). Hiswork in finance has exposed him to other functional areas suchas marketing. And because he plans to switch careers intomarketing, it provides authenticity to his career goals. He doesa good job of showing examples of the work he has done,balancing his specific roles and contributions. He shows hiscareer progression by describing how he started out runninganalyses and performance forecasts to managing his newcompanys profitability. When it comes to addressing his careergoal, he doesnt equivocate. He states specifically that he wantsto become a brand manager of a consumer packaged goodscompany. Because he shows awareness ofwhat marketing entailsby describing projects he worked on with the marketing team athis company, the reader is able to believe his career aspirations.This is a career changer who has passed the credibility test.TIPS ON HANDLING CAREER ESSAYSAnswer the question directly. State exactly what yourgoals/vision are up front. Then help the reader to understandwhyyou have these aspirations.Avoid regurgitating your resume. Instead of mainly highlightingwhat you have done, take the time to explainwhyyou made thedecisions you made, the key achievements, and how the experienceshave brought you closer to your career ambitions.Be very specific when stating your career goals. Spell out theindustry, the role,and even the regionyou wish to work. Ifthere isa company you have identified that fits your goals, highlight it.Provide evidence to support your career goals. Make sure yourwork experience and life in general backs up your career goals.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 124 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSSome Recent Career Essay QuestionsFuqua: Why are you interested in the Duke MBA and how willit help you achieve your goals? Please also discuss your careerpath, including your short and long term professional goals.Yale: Please describe your short and long term goals and howyour previous experience and an MBA will help you achievethese goals.Darden: What matters to you most, both personally andprofessionally, and how does an MBA relate to these priorities?Haas: What are your short-term and long-term career goals?How do your professional experiences relate to these goals?Whydo you want an MBA from Berkeley at this point in your career?Wharton: Describe your career progress to date and your futureshort-term and long-term career goals. How do you expect aWharton MBA to help you achieve these goals, and why is nowthe best time for you to join our program?Of all the MBA essays this is the one that least lends itself tocreativity.Demonstrate your knowledge of the industry, including itsgrowth, opportunities, and challenges, and how you plan tomake a contribution.Make it clear why you need the MBA: show how the goal youhave is significant, requiring an MBA to get there.Address why each particular MBA program is the right fit foryou. Beveryspecific and avoid generalities.Balance talking about what you will get from the program withwhat you will contribute to it.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 125Stanford: What are your aspirations? How will your educationat Stanford help you achieve them?The Impact EssayYouwill be hard-pressed to complete an MBA application withoutaddressing your professional impact. There are specific essaysthatask you to describe your impact. Examples of such essaysincludethe following:What are your greatest accomplishments, and whatdid you learn from these experiences? Describe an impact youhad on a person, team, or organization. When did you tacklea situation that was problematic, and how did you tum thingsaround? When have you used innovation to solve a problem?Earlier in this book I discussed the ingredients of successfulessays: passion, guts, impact, and insight. Besides the specificimpact essays that you will face in the application process, youshould always aim to describe the impact you have had indifferent situations in all your essays (whenever applicable).Sample Impact EssayDescribe your impactona person, team, or organization.After moving to Houston, I was shocked tofind no platform formentoringand developingjunior employees, particularly collegehires. The pervasive hierarchical system placed little value oninvesting in junior talent, leading to dismalretention history.Upon inquiry to create a program for developing junior talent, Iwasrepeatedly told - "It cannot bedone! Many before you havetried for years." I decided to try anyway.Months ofdeadlocked negotiations followed. I started seeing whyothers hadquit: thebureaucracy was unyielding! Keeping my teammotivatedwasalso provingto be challenging. Finally, we convincedNXOs CEOtomeetwith HR andmy team. As wesatat hisdesk, I drew fromevery debating experience topersuade themand quellanyfears oflosing鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 126 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETStheirinvestmentgivenourlow retention rate. Eventually, wewonthem over. we also negotiated funding, making the employeedevelopment program the only fullyfunded employee club at NXo.Within weeks, NXO had 400+ members. we oversaw the firstcross-site mentoringprogramfor all members, initiatedpartnershipswith communityservice organizations, and held networkingevents. The retention rate is also up 20%.I consider building the employee development programsignificant because I successfully led a team and navigated theseemingly insurmountable bureaucracy to invest in junior talentat NXO Corporation.AssessmentThis essay is refreshing in that it isnt your typical work-relatedaccomplishment. This applicants brand themes are innovator,tenacious, and empowerer. The story he shares shows how hecreates a program that didnt exist because he saw a need thatwasnt being met (lack of systematic mentorship of new talent).Despite little support, his persistence pays off and he is ableto build an employee organization that has created a cohesivecommunity among new employees. He does a good job also ofshowing the impact he had instead of telling you what he haddone. It is always a good idea to tell a story that shows whatyou achieved rather than simply stating that you are great atnegotiation or innovation. Such statements come off as trite tothe MBA Board. Always show the reader what you did and themotivations to do it rather than stating the obvious.Another Sample Impact EssayIn discussing Columbia Business School, Dean R. Glenn Hubbardremarked, "we have established the mind-set that entrepreneurship鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 127is about everythingyou do." Please discuss a time in your own lifewhenyou have identifiedand captured an opportunity.In June 2007, I turned a bigproblem into a big opportunity. Oneofmy biggest clients wasgoing through a futures delivery cycle andwas exposed to very high overnight market risk. Having lost severalhundred thousand dollars overnight, he was threatening to take hisbusiness awayfrom myfirm. His point wasperftctly understandable:Iftheprime broker isnotified ofhispositions at 11p.m., whyshould hehave to wait until 7a.m. the next morningtofind out?His argumentmadeperfect sense andI assured my client that I wouldfind a solution.I took it upon myself to conduct very thorough research; howeverthe results were discouraging. This procedure took abouteight hours tocomplete and the same timeline was present at every single competitor.I had to come up with an innovativeplan to change such a widely usedprocedure for the first time and I had to convince management thatit was absolutely necessary. After countless informationalconferencecalls, I came up with a proposal on howto avoid this risk. I suggestedthat wemodifythe existingsoftware andstaffan employee in ourChicago office overnightto coordinate trades with our 1Okyo office.Now that I had the plan, I needed to get it implemented andthis was the challenging part. As a new associate in the firm, I didnot have the authority to hire a new employee, or hand out newresponsibilities to our team in 10kyo. I strategically chose to approachmy managers managersince he hadthe authorityto implementmyidea. Given his experience at ourfirm he knew the right people andintroduced me to the global head offutures. Mike D, who had over30 years of experience with the futures business, directed a lot ofquestions tome testingmy knowledge oftheproduct but I hadalreadydone my due diligence. I knew all the answers regarding the timespenton each step along the way, the systems used, and the cost/benefitimplications of the plan. By the end of this long discussion, Mike wasintriguedand wanted to check thefeasibility ofmy plan by talking to鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 128 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETShis team leaders. I not only persuaded my supervisors, but alsoimpressed them with my complete vision from idea to execution.I made a substantial impact because I leveraged my connectionsacross thefirm, which I havesuccessfully built overtheyearsandforthefirst time on Wall Street addressed the delivery risk with aglobal approach. I wasproud to inform my clientthat I delivered theresults that I hadpromised and effected change. The newprocedurenot only helps my clientsave approximately $1.2MM per year butalso gives myfirm a competitive edge.AssessmentThe value of an essay like this is that the leadership impactfocuses on seeking out opportunities to create value for theclient. This candidate could have given up when she realizedthere were obstacles in the way and that what her client neededhadnt been done before. Instead, she rolls up her sleeves,creatively identifies a solution, and then lobbies the decisionmakers to buy her idea. She demonstrates strong emotionalintelligence, tenacity, and ability to creatively solve problems.The fact that her solution led to a new procedure at her firmthat helps her clients save money to the tune of over a milliondollars is an added boon.TIPS ON HANDLING THE IMPACT ESSAYBe sure to show the challenge that was involved in achievingthe impact. The obstacle could be getting something off theground; selling/communicating an idea to a skeptical boss;managing people who are resistant to a vision; coming up witha novel business solution to a clients problem; or simplyconvincing your team to take a different approach to a problem.When tackling an impact essay, be sure to be as specific aspossible in describing your impact and your actual involvement.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 129Do a lot of soul-searching to make sure you select the bestrepresentative example. What you may consider great impact maycome across as not that impressive. The circumstances surroundingthe situation are important. For example, if you are aninvestment banker with an annual salary and bonus of over Siook,you may want to rethink whether contributing $5000 to yourbrothers education is the best example ofyour leadership impact.The achievement has to transcend your own personal gain. Sothe impact you had should have a positive effect on yourcolleagues, customers, or the organization.Some Recent Impact Essay QuestionsMichigan: Describe your most significant professionalaccomplishment. Elaborate on the leadership skills you displayed,and the impact you had on your organization.Wharton: Where in your background would we find evidence ofyour leadership capacity and/or potential?Stanford: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what wasdefined, established, or expected.Haas: Give us an example of a situation in which you displayedleadership.HBS: What are your three most substantial accomplishmentsand why do you view them as such?The "Who You Are" Essay"Who you are" essays are designed to help the MBA Boardunderstand you in a three-dimensional sense. It allows them toget a sense of your values and passions-what makes you tick.They want to gauge your ability to handle adversity, overcomechallenge, and bounce back in the face of failure. Ultimately, the鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 130 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSquestion on the MBA Boards mind is whether you are self-aware(whether its dealing with your developmental areas and strengthsor its connecting the dots together from your experiences).When tackling these types of essays, be willing to reveal yourcharacter and the type of student and alumnus you will become.These types of essays require candidates to reveal a deeperlevel of insight and information that isnt covered in theirresume. An example is how growing up as the oldest childexposed you to responsibility at an early age, shaping yourleadership style and your propensity for stepping up to lead fromthe front. Another candidate who grew up in a home ofentrepreneurs can share insights about why she gravitates toinnovation and comes up with creative solutions in her career. Bothexamples are valid backgrounds that reveal the context that hasshaped the candidates lives. It is less about what your experiencesare and more about your awareness of how they haveshaped who you are in a personal and professional sense.Being willing to open up and share stories that present yourpersonal side is the surest way to show the MBA Board who youare. But remember: judgment is key.There is a balance betweentelling the Admissions Board about hardships that have shapedyour character and offloading detailed personal informationthat may not have much bearing on the application. I once readan application where the candidate described getting over herboyfriend breaking up with her as one of her greatestaccomplishments. This may be a struggle that the candidateexperienced, but it is certainly not appropriate to write about thistopic for a business school application. At best, it calls intoquestion your judgment.Youshould also watch out for details that are red flags to theMBA Board. For instance, saying that you are highly impatientor prefer working on projects solo do little to endear you to theAdmissions Board because teamwork is at the heart of businessschool education. Also, essays that push blame to others instead鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 131of taking responsibility for a breakdown of a process or projectreflect poorly on the candidate."Who you are" essays can be further divided into twogroups: self-assessment essays and values and influence essays."Who YouAre" Essay One: The Self-Assessment EssayWhat sets you apart from other people? What are yourstrengths and weaknesses? What type of leader are you? Whatattribute has influenced your success? These types of essayquestions are designed to see how self-aware you are. Thepurpose isnt to identify perfect candidates. However, theseessays are tricky in that they require you to provide an honestassessment of yourself. For instance, the MBA Board wants toknow how self-aware you are of your weakness or developmentalarea. The MBA Board relies on these types of essays togauge whether you have a balanced perspective of yourself. Amajor red flag for the MBA Board is when there is a discrepancybetween how you describe yourself and how your recommendersdescribe you. For instance, if you say you are conscientiousand thrive in fast-paced, pressure situations and yourrecommenders say you are highly disorganized and need todevelop your ability to handle pressure, you have a problem. Behonest with your assessment and make sure your recommendersare on the same page.Equally important is selecting real weaknesses that you areworking to improve. Dont insult the MBA Boards intelligenceby choosing topics that come off as superficial, for example,saying you need to become less of a perfectionist. Heres anauthentic example: "I have a propensity to overanalyze things.This comes from my natural tendency to be less of a risk taker.Doing intense assessment enables me to mitigate the risk andgives me a comfort level to pursue a new direction. The falloutof this weakness is that there are a lot of business situationswhere there isnt enough time to do intense research and I have鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 132 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSto become more comfortable with making decisions withoutgathering all the data Id like...." You get my point. This is areal weakness; the person understands that it can inhibit hisprogress as a business leader. What would strengthen thisexample is going a step further to describe how the weakness isbeing addressed. Lets look at an actual self-assessment essay.Sample Self-Assessment EssayHARVARD ESSAY: Provide a candid assessment ofyour strengthsand weaknesses.Maturity, adaptability, andleadership aremy core strengths. WhenI wasten, myparents leftAfrica toworkin SaudiArabia. Living withlittle supervision in a boarding school in Africafor 5 yearshelped mematurequickly. At eighteen, I became responsiblefor myyoungersiblingswho continually looked tomefor guidance and direction aswe all triedto adaptto life in the US. Currently, I supervise people that are twicemy age, some ofwhomhaveover20years ofexperience in pharmaceuticalproduction. My maturity has enabled me to successfully lead andmanage these experienced lineemployees while earning their respect.Living in 4 different continents hasaffirdedme many opportunitiesto adaptto different cultures, people, and waysofthinking. Overthe past 3 years, I have had 7 differentjob functions in 2 differentcompanies. I haveworkedunderdifferentmanagementstyles, andin different regions of the country. In each position, I have quicklyadapted successfully tonew hierarchies, situations, and environments.Throughout my life, I have shown an affinity for leadership.In high school and college, I took onseveral leadership roles. In myprofessional career, I haveaddressed challenging situations at work,leading several teams to success. At Pharma Co A, for example, I leda campaign to endthe waste ofexpiringdrugs. I also created and ledasuccessful human errormanagementcampaign. Recently, I initiated asimilarplan at my new company, Pharma Co B.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 133My twomain weaknesses areincomplete business knowledge andmylearning tobalance relationships with line employees andmaking toughbusiness decisions. 10become a successfulpharmaceutical business leader,I must get a bettergrip onmarketing, finance, and strategy. But asalinemanager, I must learn tokeep adequate emotional distance betweenmeand the employees undermy watch. While at PharmaCoA, I oncehesitated before reporting an operator who onmore thanone occasionfell asleep on thejob (his mistake, hadI not discovered it, wouldhave costthecompany $750,000). In hindsight, thiswasa veryexpensive mistakewhich if not addressed could havecaused thefactory toshut down. Butbecause I hadbefriended a numberofthe lineoperators, it was, atfirst, atough call toreport him.As I takeonmore management responsibility,I must learn to better balance my investment in the employees andkeeping a business productive andsuccessful.AssessmentThis essay is written by an engineer and is less creative in itsstyle. It is a matter of fact essay, representative ofthe candidatespersonality. He provides specific examples when laying out hisstrengths and weaknesses. He does a good job setting the tone forhis experience raising his siblings. One doesnt get a sense thathe is looking for sympathy or brownie points. Rather, he usesthe experience to show his maturity and strong leadership andmanagement abilities, which are anchored in a series of personalexperiences from his family situation. His weaknesses comeacross as authentic. As an engineer, he conveys the practicalbusiness skills that he lacks, which is more a function ofhis roleas opposed to his personal weakness. Had he stopped there, hewould have missed an opportunity to show the MBA Board aglimpse into who he is and his awareness of his developmentalneeds. Bydescribing how he struggled with balancing managingpeople and holding them accountable and then citing a specificexample to drive home his point, he presents an interesting essay鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 134 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSthat shows depth of character. He could have also shared anotherdevelopmental weakness instead of selecting one about havingincomplete business knowledge.Some Recent Self-Assessment Essay Questions:Darden: Please choose one phrase that describes you from theset below and support your statement using concrete examples.Professionally I am: (a) involved globally, b) committed todiversity, c) socially responsible.Kellogg: Each of our applicants is unique. Describe how yourbackground, values, academics, activities and/or leadership skillwill enhance the experience of other Kellogg students.Be candid about your strengths and make sure you havesubstantial evidence to back them up.On the weakness side, use real weaknesses, not something tritesuch as, "I work too hard" or "I need to delegate better."Make sure that the essays you write reinforce the main brandmessage you want to convey about yourself. For instance, if yourbrand is a perpetual optimist, your weakness could be that youneed to temper your optimism because you may fail to devoteenough time anticipating downsides and potential problems whenworking on projects. And of course the value of a weakness is totell a story where it occurred and then acknowledge your awarenessofthe weakness and show how you turned things around.Be comfortable in your own skin. This is an important variable insuccessful candidates. You want to show that you have a goodunderstanding of why you have made the decisions you havemade and have the capability to learn from mistakes as well.TIPS ON HANDLING THE SELF-ASSESSMENT ESSAY鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 135Wharton: Tell us about a situation in which you were anoutsider. What did you learn from the experience?Wharton: Describe a failure or setback that you have experienced.What role did you play, and what did you learn aboutyourself?RBS: Discuss a defining experience in your leadershipdevelopment. How did this experience highlight yourstrengths and weaknesses?"Who You Are" Essay Two: The Values and Influence EssaySimilar to the self-assessment essay, the values and influenceessay probes what matters to you as it relates to your beliefs,philosophies, and influences. These essays cover such topicsas the following: Who are your role models? Whatexperiences have influenced your development as a leader?Which business leaders do you admire and why? Describe asituation that has had a transformational impact on who youare. What matters most to you and why? When were you anoutsider? Describe a situation when you experienced cultureshock.These types of essay questions are trying to understand theexperiences that have shaped who you are, your value system,and the people who have shaped your life and worldview. Thevalues and influence essays also aim to ascertain what type ofa business leader you aspire to become. Dont just focus onwhat or who. Take the time to express why you feel the wayyou do. The MBA Board wants to know that you have veryclearly defined values and awareness around the forces thathave shaped you personally and professionally. This givesthem a clearer picture of who you are as a person beyondyour accolades and job titles.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 136 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSSample values and Influence EssayEach of our applicants is unique. Describe how your background,values, academics, activities, and/or leadership skillswill enhance theexperiences of otherstudents.There are four distinct attributes of my personality that haveguided my life: guts, creativity, leadership, andpassion. I plantobring these attributes toXprogram to enrich my classmateslivesandanticipate a two-year periodfull ofgrowth and development.Growingup in suburban Detroit, I came tounderstand there were4 major religions in our community: Christianity, Judaism, Islam,and University ofMichigan Football. As myfriends donned the colorsofmaize and blue, and made plans ofwho was going to live withwhom, my college dreams expanded far beyond the boundaries ofmybackyard. I wanteda differentexperience. X University presented theopportunity to stretch myself, gain new experiences, and make newfriends. In college, I selected Engineering Psychology, a majorfew hadheard ofbecause it combined the liberal arts discipline ofpsychologywith the mathematical and analyticalfoundation of engineeringallowing me to blend my analytical right brain nature with mycreative, expressive left brainspirit. A universityexperience farfrom home, an unusualmajorin the engineering school, a semesterabroad in Spain living with an extended Spanish family, and manyadventurous tripsand outdoor expeditions reinforced my beliefin theimportance of taking the right risks and pushing myself outside of mycomfort zone. I plan toshare thisfree-spiritand lessons gleanedfrommany of these experiences with my classmates at X program.As a child, I had an active imagination and loved peiforming inshows and dance recitals. I sought interestingand creative ways toentertain myself. I pursuedjazz and ballet for 11 years andfoundcreative outlets in college through X Universitys Hip Hop DanceTroupe peiformances. My work at X firm is exciting because ofthe鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 137creative brands I get to work with. I rely on my creativity to createnew and innovative product lines. X MBA program is a dynamicenvironment that attracts driven, committed, and creative individualsfrom a wide array ofprofessionaland personal experiences. I love thatabout X program and it is precisely why Im convinced that it isthe perfect program fir me. I lookfirward to starting a dance clubfirX program students. I am excited to share my creative backgroundand experiences with otherX program students and teach them howbusiness challenges are best tackled through creative solutions andinnovative thinking.I have always thrived in leadership situations, whether in [ormalsettings at work or in less[ormal settings in the outdoors. As anoutdoor enthusiast, I amfaced with numerous situations that stretchmy leadership and teach me new skills. I have enjoyedsharing manyofthese lessons with others. Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario,Canada, provided a uxmderful opportunity to lead youths on canoetrips. I spent many ofmy summers motivating and leading 10-16year oldsthrough difficult, and sometimes dangerous situations.The wilderness ofthe park was the perfect backdrop to encouragekids to empower themselves through these outdoor excursionswhile developing their reliance on their team. The external factorsofweather and wildlife constantly impose new and various challenges.I embraced the challenge, led responsibly, and[ound gratificationin my ability to competently execute the objective. These lessonshave taught me the importance of team work, being able to laugh atadversity, have fun, and take a negative and make it a positive. Theseelements are very analogous to the circumstancesone encounters ona regular basis in business. I look firward to joining the Outdoor andService clubwhere I would leadand coordinate the trips servicingthe first year student community through team building outdooradventures. In my professional life, I have learned not to be boundby my early career status and that being a leader is not about title.Ive learned that leadership is about being gutsy, taking risks,influencing teams, and creating opportunities. During my work on鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 138 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSdeveloping Xfirms candy line, I have had experiences to leadteamsofgraphic designers and candy developers, while creating newopportunities for healthier product innovations. I will bring mystrong sense ofleadership to theX program community.During my college experience, I wasfortunate to develop mymain passion towards children byvolunteering at a daycare forunderprivilege children that wasrun by theX universitycommunity.Playing activities and reading stories with the children helped mekeep my own life in perspective. It was there that I realized that myfuture career wouldsomehow impactchildrens lives. U70rking at Xfirm, Ive had a very tangible impacton the livesofkidsand the lessonsIve learned will enrich my MBA classroom conversations. I wish tocontinue my involvement with children through various volunteerorganizations at X MBA program.It is these four distinct attributes that have made me the person Iam today and will help me enrich the learning experiences ofmyfellowX MBA programstudents.AssessmentThis candidate is very outgoing, people-driven, and comfortable inher own skin. Showing your point instead of simply stating it is alsoimportant in an essay like this. She does a good job of that when shesays:Growing up in suburban Detroit, I came to understand therewere 4majorreligions in ourcommunity: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, andUniversity of Michigan Football. As my friends donned the colorsof maize and blue, and madeplansofwhowasgoing tolive with whom,my college dreams expandedfar beyond theboundaries ofmy backyard.She could have simply stated, "Pushing myself outsidetraditional boundaries is a value that matters to me." Instead she鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 139shows it by using the preceding illustration. The use ofthe fourreligions in Detroit shows her sense of humor, which is done ingood taste. Candidates always need to be careful when usinghumor so that it doesnt backfire. She does a good job ofshowing how the choices she has made were driven by hernatural curiosity and desire to stretch herself instead of playingit safe (whether moving to the East Coast instead of going to UofM like all her friends, or selecting her major, which combinespsychology and engineering). Even her industry, entertainment/media, is unique. One gets a sense that she brings passionto anything she does, whether its working with young peoplethrough the outdoor adventure programs or a day care forunderprivileged kids.Finally, by describing her commitment to dance (elevenyears of dancing ballet and jazz and performing with the HipHop Dance Troupe), she shows her creativity and discipline,traits that would be attractive to the MBA Board. The essay isa bit on the long side, but overall, she does a good job ofbringing in different things that she does that matter to herwithout simply listing them. She manages to inject her spunkypersonality in her essay, ensuring that she doesnt come off as abland candidate.TIPS ON HANDLING THE VALUES ANDINFLUENCE ESSAYThe trick to writing a values essay is to make sure it doesntcome across as cliched. Remember, all 5000 applicants to thatMBA program will also answer the same question. Can youimagine how the board members eyes would roll when theyread the 255th essay in a row about how I value making a differencein society or my family is the most important thing in mylife?With these essays, it is important to try to take a fresh angle鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • to the story. Stay away from the beaten path unless you feel itabsolutely is essential to who you are.When writing the role model essay, also avoid choosing clichedresponses such as "My grandparents [or parents] have shapedmy values to become who I am today" (a lot of people willchoose the same example). If you must choose this, then offera unique and interesting angle. For example, instead of thetypical story of parents who worked hard and made it, a differenttake is a story of multiple failures and a persistent spirit thathas shaped your worldview. Dont manufacture a story ifit isntpart ofyour experience, but I caution you to avoid choosing thefirst "usual suspect" story that comes to mind. Devote enoughtime to select a topic that truly represents a differentiated andunique insight into who you are as a person.When it comes to essays that ask for a business leader youadmire, dont be afraid to select a lesser-known, but accomplished,business leader. Yes, you may admire Jack Welsh, BillGates, or Meg Whitman. However, are there other businessleaders who you identify more closely with who are not asprominent? A young woman whose brand was retail entrepreneurshipc h o s e t o f o c u s o n a w i d o w w h o w a s t h r u s t i n t orunning her husbands retail business after his untimely death.The business started with a few million dollars in revenue, andshe grew the revenue to more than a billion dollars. Byeschewing the more prominent business leaders, this applicantfocused on a less famous but extremely successful businessleader who connected to her retail brand. Her story wasrefreshing and gave her an opportunity to share new informationwith the MBA Board that set her apart from applicants whowere mired in cliched stories. The size of the role modelsachievement isnt as important as articulating what you admireabout the person. So dont feel that you have to only chooseindividuals who have achieved enormous financial success.140 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 141Tackling the "who you are" essay requires incredible focus. It istempting to try to dump everything into the story. Given limitedword counts, you can ace this essay when you have done a thoroughbrand audit and can hone in on three to four brandthemes that reflect what matters to you. You will often hearAdmissions Board members say at information sessions thatyour essays should reflect who you are. Nowhere is this mostpertinent than in essays that ask you to describe who you areand what matters to you. This Stanford essay is one ofthe mostchallenging application essays out there. It requires the deepestlevel of introspection, and candidates cannot hide behind anyprops. It is as bare and open as it gets. Most applicants strugglewith this essay because they havent invested enough time intothe self-assessment necessary to unveil the core elements ofwho they are, and nor have they identified the appropriatespecific stories to paint a vivid picture of who they are-theirbrand. Be willing to take a risk and share stories that honestlyrepresent your brand.Some Recent Values and Influence Essay Questions:Stanford: What matters to you most and why?Columbia: Please tell us about what you feel most passionatein life.Haas: If you could have dinner with one individual in the past,present, or future, who would it be and why?Chicago: If you could step into someone elses shoes for a day,who would it be and why?The Miscellaneous EssayThe miscellaneous essay category is the fourth type of essaythat candidates encounter in the application process. These鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 142 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSessays are broad in terms of specific topics they cover. TheMBA Board may want you to weigh in on a political situationto assess how you develop an argument and provide evidenceto back it up. On the other hand, these essays could also bepersonalized, providing you with a chance to speak toanything else in your story that is compelling that you wereunable to address in other application essays. You can also usethese types of essays to explain any gaps in your work experience,academic weaknesses, or potential questions that theAdmissions Board may have about your candidacy. Topicscovered by miscellaneous essays can touch on a global issue,what you do with your spare time, or anything else you wishto cover in your application. Heres an example of a miscellaneousessay that asks candidates to address how they spenttheir time in college.Sample Miscellaneous EssayHARVARD ESSAY: Teu us aboutyour undergraduate academicexperience.I wasone of three African-American females in my class at asmall England boarding school andelected toattendthe UniversityofPennsylvaniabecause its large, urban, diverse atmosphere representedthe opposite ofmy high school environment. At PennsAnnenberg Schoolfor Communication, I customized my communication major to focuson Latin-American and Afro-American cultures, theformer ofwhich Istudied duringa semester-abroadprogram in Oaxaca, Mexico. Forbothcultures, I focused on history with special emphasis on various forms ofexpression, includingfolk music andliterature. Onerepresentative classfrommycourse ofstudy was"Without Struggle, "aseminar thatrequiredcompletion offaculty-guided research. My project focused on the benefitsand disadvantages ofDubois House-Penn sAfro-American-tbemed鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 143college house-s-for which I designed a survey, analyzed therawdata, anddrew conclusions. This experience gave me thestrongfOundation to excelin "Basic Communication Research-A Quantitative Data AnalysisCourse. " These twoclasses combined togiveme theconfidence toserve asa teaching assistantfOr "WithoutStruggle" mysenioryear. Asa TA,myleadership style evolvedfrom simply providing my opinion tolearning toencourage students todraw theirown conclusions.During college, I did notproperly manageacademics, extracurricularactivities, and employment, spending disproportionate amountsoftime onthe latter twoat the expense ofthe others. Unfortunately, mygrades in some quantitative courses reflect only my misbalanced studyschedule, not my true academic fervor. Recalling howI harnessed mystudy abroad experience to achieve Spanish fluency, I chose apostundergraduate employment that wouldyield fluency in another[oreign subject: finance. After graduation I joined Goldman Sachs asa Sales Trader and learned aboutstock market supply and demandinreal-time; further, I developed sharp quantitativeskills bymonitoringthe financial markets. Now, as an Equity Research team analyst, Ibuild valuation models by evaluatingfinancial statements and I amthe leadassociate for eBay andAmazon, stocks that respectively tradeover 20 million and 6 million shares daily. I supplemented thiscomprehension by excelling in a course, "Financial StatementAnalysis, " thispast summer. During this time I also maintainedmyvolunteer and leadership responsibilities, effectively demonstrating mymaturity and improved ability to multi-task, juggling real-worldduties with scholastic commitment. I will utilize both of these personalqualities to balance leadership positions and academic achievement atRBS, without ever sacrificing one[or the other.AssessmentThis essay is written by a candidate who was concerned abouther academic track record. She had to strike a fair balance鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 144 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSbetween describing her academic experience and providingevidence that she has the analytical and intellectual rigor tohandle a challenging MBA curriculum. She begins the essayby demonstrating her resilient spirit as one of three studentsof color in an unfamiliar environment. She then introducesexamples of her quantitative and analytical skills bydescribing her data analysis course in college, the financialstatement analysis course after college, and her career in ablue chip firm, Goldman, where her day-to-day role involvesits fair share of quantitative and analytical computations. Ilike the fact that she owns up to her "failure" in college fornot balancing her time well. However, what is important tohighlight here is that she strikes a great note between owningher mistake and not groveling. By introducing her work experiencein sales and trading and equity research at a blue chipfirm, she is effective in providing additional evidence thatshows that she is in her element working in an analyticalenvironment. Finally, she proactively takes a finance course anddoes well to reassure the MBA Board that she has what ittakes to handle quantitative coursework.Lets look at another example of a miscellaneous essay, thistime one that deals with a candidate who is reapplying to businessschool.Another Sample Miscellaneous EssayI wish the Admissions Committee had asked me: Why I chose toreapply to Kellogg.While I was disappointed that I did not receive an admission,my drive and commitment did not deter me from applying to theclass of 2006. The reapplication process allowed me a period ofreflection enabling me to take a step back to reassess my life.Furthermore, it provided me with an opportunity tofocus on my set鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • goal. At work I have taken on additional responsibilities bymanaging more people, along with centers, which now focus onretail chain strategy. Within the community, I have become moreactively involved in a womens empowerment group. I have alsoincreased my GMAT score by 80 points and in the spring of nextyear, I plan to build an alternate transcript by taking accounting,calculus and statistics courses.One key reason I am reapplying to Kellogg is the outstandingprogram in entrepreneurship. In 1965, my grandmother becamethefirst sole distributor ofthe Guinness brand ofliquors in Africa and myfather is a leading African entrepreneur. There is no telling to howgreat a businesswoman my grandmother could have become had shehad the proper[ormal business school education. As an adult, I observemy fathers business prowess and though admirable, would befar superiorhad he had[ormal businessschool education. I am reapplying toKellogg not to become a moderately successful entrepreneur or tobecome a good business person. I am reapplying to Kellogg for theopportunity to learn how to become a thought leader, an innovatorand a superbly successful business person. I am reapplying to Kelloggto major in entrepreneurship and International businessand to havethe opportunity to take advantage of the Kaizer InstituteofEntrepreneurial Studies.My first interaction with the Kellogg culture was at theprospective students information session in November 2002. I alsointeracted with Kellogg students during the planned trip for DeanJain in Africa. During my on campus visit in October 2003, I hadthe opportunity to attend Professor Andersons New Product andServices class and Professor Christine Nordbielms Big Picturelecture. Both classes showcased Kelloggs first-class educationalstandards as both professorswere insightful, challenged the statusquoand pushed us the students to think strategically and out ofthebox. Also during my trip, I had multiple interactions with students,and members of the administration. The culture of excellence andcollegiality I observed during these interactions were exceptionalEssay Fundamentals 145鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 146 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSand I feel that Kellogg was truly an environment that embracesteamwork, unique attributes and openness to new ideas. Upon myreturn home from Evanston, I took a look at my experiences and it isunequivocally clear to me that the Kellogg School ofManagement isa perfectfit for my personal andprofessional growth. And this iswhyI am reapplying to the Kellogg School ofManagement, Class of2006.AssessmentThis essay does a good job setting up the expectations of theAdmissions Board. The applicant immediately outlines what isdifferent with her application the second time around byshowing that her GMAT has gone up and that her work experienceh a s e x p a n d e d , t h u s i n c re a s i n g t h e l i k e l i h o o d t h a t t h eboard member reading her application would take her reapplicationb i d s e r i o u s l y. S h e t h e n f o l l o w s u p b y t a l k i n g a b o u tcoursework she plans to take. Although this is fine, ideally, itwould have even been more compelling had she taken theclasses already and had excellent grades to report.Every candidate to business school has to make the caseabout what he or she finds attractive about the particular MBAprogram. As a result, Admissions Boards read these essays overand over again, a Groundhogs Day experience. The challenge,however, is keeping the essay fresh and connecting it to yourunique background. This essay does precisely this. She connectsher personal life (her grandmothers and fathers entrepreneurbackgrounds) to how she hopes to develop into a better entrepreneurat Kellogg. She also shows that she understands whatthe program offers by describing specifics of her campus visit,particularly attending classes. The only additional feedback Iwould give her is to highlight insights she developed from theclasses that she can compare to her professional experienceworking in Africa.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Essay Fundamentals 147The reapplication essay is an important essay because it givesyou a chance to make a case ofwhat is different, and with morethan 80 percent of applicants being rejected, it is only reasonableto expect that some would reapply at a future date.Dont underestimate the importance of the miscellaneousessay, even if it is allocated only 250 words.When crafting a question, make sure it is appropriate anddoesnt raise any red flags about your candidacy.Use the optional essay or craft your own essay question toaddress a gap in your story. For example, if you are a reapplicant,you may wish to use this essay to address why you arereapplying and what is different about your application thesecond time around. If you are applying very early in yourcareer, you may want to use this essay to show why now isthe ideal time for you to pursue your MBA.TIPS ON HANDLING THE MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYSome Recent Miscellaneous Essay QuestionsHBS: What else would you like the MBAAdmissions Board tounderstand about you?Yale: Please develop a question/topic ofyour choice and answer itin essay form.Haas: What steps have you taken to learn about the BerkeleyMBA program, and what factors influenced your decision toapply?COM MaN ESSAY MISTAKESI have compiled missteps that applicants often make whenwriting their MBA essays. As you tackle your essays, always ask鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 148 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSyourself whether you are falling into one ofthese traps. Avoidingthese essay errors can improve your admission chance.1.  Engaging in Essay Brain Dump: Writing your essayswithout first doing an outline will ensure that youcreate disjointed and ineffective essays. Use theSOARS model to frame up the outline before tacklingany essay.2.  Being Bland and Generic: Failure to nail down yourmarketing will increase your chances of producingboring and undifferentiated essays.Do a brand auditto understand your overall positioning. I can oftentell when an essay is written without a clear brandmessage: they are boring and dont communicate amessage about the applicant.3.  Being Selfish: Focusing too much on "I" can makeyou come across as arrogant; balance your individualaccomplishment with your team involvement.4.  Going Back Too Far: Selecting accomplishmentsfrom a long time ago, for instance, during highschool, especially after you have been working forseven years, may not come across as compelling; ifyou must go back that far, it is important to make surethe example is significant and has special meaning inshaping who you have become as a leader.5.  Using Cliches, Sermonizing, and Stating theObvious: The MBA Board knows what conventionalwisdom says. They care about what you personallythink or believe.6.  Overusing Quotes: There is a place for quotes in theessays, but think long and hard before using upprecious words to quote some Greek philosopher orbusiness leader. The MBA Board is interested inyour original thoughts, not those of a dead poet.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 7.       Not Answering the Question: If the question asks forleadership impact, be sure to tell a story that clearlydepicts you as a leader. If the question asks for weaknesses,give examples of real weaknesses. Dont skirtaround the issue. Youwill only annoy the AdmissionsBoard ifyou do.8.    Being Unmemorable: Choose vivid stories thatresonate with the Admissions Board. Unusualstories or a different take on a common topic canbe interesting and capture the mindshare of theAdmissions Board.9.    Not Pacing Yourself Strategically: Dont try to domultiple essays for different schools at once. Tacklethe essays one school at a time and complete thembefore working on another schools essays. Similarly,you should not underestimate how much timeand work are needed to assemble a strong application.Give yourself at least four months to completethe essays and add another month or two whenfactoring in other parts of the application(including managing recommenders, campus visits,interviews and so on).10.    Using Humor Inappropriately: Dont be funny for thesake of being funny. Always exercise good judgmentwith your essays. Recounting the antics that you andyour friends found funny will not win you any friendson the MBA Board. Subtle humor is more effective.11.    Being Too Rigid: This is the opposite of the inappropriatehumor mistake. It is important to open upand share personal (appropriate) stories that give theMBA Board insight into who you are and whatmatters to you. Focusing all your essays on yourprofessional life misses the chance to show the fullrange ofyour personality, character, and motivations.Essay Fundamentals 149鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 150 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS12.    Trying to Be Creative for the Sake of Being Creative:Sometimes, less is best. Artificial essays with whistlesand bells can backfire. Im not against beingcreative but make sure that your creativity fits withthe brand of the school and that it comes off wellinstead of appearing gimmicky.13.    Being Repetitive: It is important to bring updifferent stories to show the breadth and depth ofyour personality, experience, and perspective. Usingthe same example over and over again will suggestthat you have a limited experience base.14.    Not Understanding the Programs Brand: Take thetime to understand the brand of the school and whatthat means for your essays. Kellogg, for example, isa program that is significantly tied to teamwork, soessays that ask about leadership impact should showteam partnership instead of focusing on your "loneranger"leadership exploits.15.  Having Too Many People "Weigh-In" on YourEssays: Beware the too-many-cooks phenomenon.Its helpful to get feedback from someone who knowsyou very well, especially if that person is a goodwriter. But its another thing to have your twentyfriends, former colleagues, and that relative whohappened to graduate from the same business schoola decade ago review your essays. At the very least,you will get a hodgepodge of feedback that will yielda disjointed set of essays.16.    Doing a Drive-By Application: Dont be in a rush tocomplete your application. Rather, focus onproducing excellent applications. The best applicationsare a result ofintense introspection, focus, andmultiple revisions.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Applying good judgment when it comes to all your essayswill help you get closer to your admission goals. Good judgmentmeans not being stubborn and insisting that you will writethe essay about the speech you gave to five people that was the"best speech this side of the hemisphere." Just because youthink the world of something you did does not mean that it isessay-worthy. If you cant point to the tangible impact youractions achieved, you may have to think twice before selectingthat topic for your essay.FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE MBA ESSAYSOne thing you probably picked up from reading these sampleessaysis that there are different writing styles and that the topicscan vary quite broadly. Two candidates can write about a personalaccomplishment of buying a house for their parent, and onepersons essay soars while the other persons essay falls flat. Thedifference is in the positioning ofthe story. Approach yourapplication by writing heartfelt and insightful essays that take theAdmissions Board into a deeper awareness of your motivationsand what you care about. This approach will make your applicationstand apart. Youneed to use good judgment when selectingyour admission essay topics. The same applies to the treatmentof each essay. Your decision to write about how your relationshipwith your fiancee is your greatest accomplishment needs to beseen through the business school lens. How does that tie intowho you are as a leader? "Whatever example you choose, makesure it fosters your story that you are a leader and someone whocan get things achieved with and through other people.It is also important to "own" your story. It cant be manufactured.The essays that grab the attention of the AdmissionsBoard can be a very simple achievement, written in astraightforward style with little creativity and poetry. These essaysare successful because they give the Admissions Board a glimpseinto the heart of a candidate. No matter what your life experiencesEssay Fundamentals 151鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 152 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSare, make sure you devote enough time to introspection beforetackling the admissions essays. Doing so can be the differencebetween a congratulatory phone call from the director ofadmissions and the depressing email informing you that youhave been denied admission.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER SEVENThe Resume and Professional RecordTHE RESUME IS ANOTHER important part ofthe application.It is often one of the first things that the Admissions Boardlooks at in your application packet. Think of it as a snapshot ofyour work, your life journey, and what stands out about you. Itreveals to the MBA Board your professional and educationalaccomplishments, as well as any interesting and unusual thingsyou have done or are currently involved in.Most top MBA programs require a resume, so plan to updateyours early in the process and invest enough time in it to ensurethat it adequately reflects your brand. Unfortunately, manyapplicants do not pay enough attention to their resume, thusmissing an opportunity to sell themselves to the MBA Board.Candidates often question how much work experience isnecessary to apply to business school. Deciding how muchinformation to include on the resume can also be tricky. Thosewith more years of experience wonder if they should submittheir seven-page curriculum vitae (CV) that covers every jobthey have ever held. On the other hand, candidates with limitedwork experience worry that they dont have enough informationto highlight in their resumes. Although the average number ofyears of work experience is four to five years, there is no setrequirement. Seasoned and early career candidates are both鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 154 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSadmitted to the nations top business schools. Regardless ofwhere you fall on the age and work experience continuum, thekey is to make sure that your career is on an upward trajectoryand that you can make a compelling case for why you need anMBA now. Ideally, you should keep your resume to one to twopages, unless the school requests a more comprehensive curricularvita. Be as succinct as possible and focus on the mostimportant impact and contributions you had rather thanincluding ten bullets of each responsibility you had in a particularjob. Using active verbs and eliminating any redundancieswill help you create a focused resume.The resume for business school is different from theresume an individual uses to search for a job. Unlike jobresumes, application resumes should contain limited jargonand acronyms (the person reviewing your application may notknow the intricacies of your industry). Also, you do not needto include a reference, summary, or objective section. Theyonly use up precious space. The MBA application in generalcalls for brevity and the resume in particular needs to be shortand to the point as it typically gets only a few seconds to aboutfive minutes of the MBA Boards attention. I recognize thatproducing a succinct resume poses its share of challenge toMBA applicants. Ill focus the next section on the criticalcomponents of the resume.THE FOUR COMPONENTS OFTHE RESUMEDetermining what to include in your resume can be difficultfor many applicants. Many who struggle with this issue end upincluding everything they can think of, which does nothing tostrengthen their application. Some candidates make the oppositemistake: they make the resume too short and leave outinteresting and unique things about themselves-things thatcan differentiate them from their competition and instead focuson solely the academic and career aspects of their resume.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • I will discuss the key things to include in the resume. Forstarters, the resume for business school should have four maincomponents: professional experience, education, activities(leadership), and interests/other.The Professional Experience SectionThe professional experience section is about achievements youhave had in your career and your roles, not simply regurgitatingyour job description. It is important to communicate yourprofessional career progress by emphasizing the quantifiableaspects ofyour job.The types of questions you should be thinking of whencreating your resume for your business school application are:Did I get an early promotion? Was I the only analyst from mygroup invited to work on a high-value, complicated deal? DidI have an unusual opportunity to manage groups ofpeople, evenpeers? Did I initiate something that has now become the standardat my firm? Have I had opportunities to lead and workacross functional roles? Have I led diverse or global teams?Have I been able to create value at my firm? These questionsare designed to help you focus on the tangible contributionsyou have had at your firms.MBA candidates are challenged with the amount of detailthey should cover in the professional experience section.Prioritization is key in this process. Anticipate that you will haveabout four to five bullets at most for each job, so think long andhard about the most important achievements you wish to highlightand ascertain whether they reinforce your personal brand.A rule of thumb is that the further removed you are from theposition, the fewer bullets you allot to it. Another useful tool insaving space is to provide a sampling of deals or projects youhave worked on instead of devoting extensive space to everymajor project you have worked on. So for instance, an investmentbanker can select three to four major deals she has workedThe Resume and Professional Record 155鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 156 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSon to show diversity of industries and breadth of experienceinstead of every single deal she has worked on.The professional experience section should be in reversechronology, with the most current job first. If you work for alesser-known company, consider including a sentence thatdescribes what the firm does, its market size, and what makesit compelling.You should indicate your job title and show whether yourrole has grown over time. You should also make it easy for theMBA Board to follow your progress. Make sure the informationofyour tenure-your years at the job-is clear and easily identifiable.Ensure that the dates are easy to see.Internships are valuable work experience that should not beignored; in fact, they can be critical for early career candidateswith limited work experience. That said, however, the longeryou have worked, the less important it is to provide detailedinformation on every internship you have held in your life. Youwill need to make trade-offs on what specific information tofocus on and what information to minimize. Experiences thatreinforce your personal brand should be highlighted (especiallyif you have strong examples of leadership and impact), ratherthan roles that do not reinforce your brand message.For college students, the work experience section is evenmore important because you have to make a strong case withlimited experience that you have the potential to "hold yourown" in a business school. You should highlight your internshipsand show what you were able to do besides doing whatmay be considered grunt work. This section of the resume iswhere you can show your maturity and initiative. If, forinstance, you worked during your school year, you should definitelyhighlight the work you did and the value you created. Ifyou were involved in an entrepreneurial venture, you shouldmake sure that you communicate the size of the business, theachievement, and your role so the Admissions Board can gauge鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • whether you have enough professional insight to be admitted.The good news is that there is no age or work limit, so insteadof focusing on the quantity of years of experience, show theimpact and quality of contribution you had in the time youhave worked.The Education SectionThe education section typically comes after the professionalwork experience section. The exception to this applies to applicantswho are still in college or who have less than a year ofwork experience. The first point you need to convey in theeducation section is where you went to school and your graduationyear. It is worth including that you graduated early ifthat was your situation. It is also important to highlight yourmajor, class rank, GPA, and any dual, double, or specializeddegrees that you pursued. You should also mention any graduatedegrees you have earned, as well as business courseworkyou have taken (especially if you did not take business classesin college). The education section is also where you discussyour awards, for instance, being on the Deans List or anyscholarships and honors awards you received. If you receivedany unique and highly selective awards or honors, you shouldquantify this to help the Admissions Board understand itsselectivity. Youshould also include your study abroad programin this section.Some additional points related to your GPA: The GPA youreference on your resume should match up to that on your officialtranscript. Inconsistencies, especially when the GPA onyour resume is higher than your official GPA, raise questionsabout your integrity.Research papers published in professional journals should bementioned in this section as well. For example, someone whosehonors thesis is selected for presentation at a national professionalassociation should highlight this achievement.The Resume and Professional Record 157鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 158 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSIfyou transferred from one school to another, it is importantthat your resume reflect this change. Im often asked whetheran applicant is obligated to include the schools attended ifhe orshe didnt graduate from there. The simple answer is yes. Youdont want to misrepresent yourself. So, if you left school aftera semester or two and transferred to another school, you shouldinclude this information. Many MBA programs ask for all theschools you have attended, so not providing this informationcan come back to haunt you.Other unique situations that are worth mentioning in theeducation section of your resume can be self-financing youreducation or being the first in your family to graduate fromcollege.The Activities SectionThe activities part of your resume is also very important. Whenyou are thinking of your activities,you should think primarily inthe context of leadership: does it highlight your leadership attribute,character, or achievement? Remember the 3 Cs discussedearlier. You should keep them in mind when addressing the resumein general and the activities section in particular. Showinga track record ofconsistent leadership not only in your career butin your· community involvement and during your college yearsplaces you on a different level compared to your competition.The activities section allows you to communicate how youare different from each candidate in your category who worksin the same industry/firm. Are you involved in extracurricularactivities that matter to you? Pick the ones that reinforce yourbrand message and where you had the greatest impact. Youwillbe limited by space, so be selective on how far back you wish togo. The longer you have worked, the less far back you shouldgo. A professional with ten years of experience should not go asfar back as high school to highlight the summer Habit forHumanity project he worked on. It will raise flags about the鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • absence of more recent community involvement. Your collegeactivities are acceptable.MBA Boards are interested in candidates who have a lifeoutside ofwork and who are more than academic geniuses. Thereality for many applicants is that they will have strong leadershipactivities while in college but these often taper off oncethey start working, especially for those in the financial servicesand consulting industries. Even if you are no longer involved ina particular activity, if you had significant impact during yourcollege years, you should highlight this in the activities section.Quality is also more important than quantity, so focus on theactivities that mean the most to you rather than having alaundry list of peripheral involvement.Applicants should go beyond listing their activities. Theyneed to provide information that communicates the depth andscope of their involvement. Stay away from activities whereyour only involvement is as a member. Focus on those whereyou demonstrated leadership and impact. Applicants to businessschool often have a lot of leadership activities duringcollege. Many of them showcase their leadership through activitiessuch as managing the student investment portfolio, leadingnew initiatives through student senate, or supervising morethan 100 students as resident assistants.Leadership roles can also come from athletics. For instance,you may have been the captain of your soccer team. Did theteams ranking improve? Did you institute any initiative toimprove teamwork and training regimens? Highlight yourinfluence through this formal leadership role. Not all activitiesinclude formal leadership titles, however. So even if you werenot the captain of your team, playing on a varsity sports teamis an accomplishment to be proud of. You can highlight thingssuch as the number of games played, team rank, any awards youreceived that set you apart (for instance, being ranked fifth inthe nation among female doubles tennis players).The Resume and Professional Record 159鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 160 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSActivities can also come from your community involvement.The duration of your involvement is important (highlightingcontinuity and commitment), but if you do not have a historyof long-term participation, you can offset this by focusing onyour impact. Some of the exceptional leadership activities thatI have come across over the years have been achieved in thespan of less than a year. "Whether you choose to serve on theleadership board of a nonprofit organization, you start anorganization to help immigrants assimilate into a new society,or you volunteer in an organization that does social good, theimportant point to convey in the activities section is the quantifiablecontributions you have made and why it matters to youin the first place.The Interests/Other SectionSimilar to the activities section, your interests/other section alsoallows you to stand apart from your competition. There are noideal profiles in this section. The important point to convey isthat you are interesting and have a different point of view orperspective you can offer to the MBA class. One of the mainadmissions evaluation criteria is uniqueness. This informationcan cover aspects of your brand that differentiate you fromother candidates. For instance, are you internationally minded?If you are, you can show your commitment to internationalbusiness by highlighting your multilingual abilities (especially ifyou have achieved fluency in them). Honesty is very important,so avoid exaggerating your skills. Ifyou are conversant but notfluent in a language, then say exactly that.If you have quirky and interesting things in your brand, byall means capitalize on them in this section. Think about whatthe interest you profile says about you. Ask yourself whether itsets you apart or reinforces a stereotype that already exists aboutyou. A simple example ofthis can be seen in the case of an engineerwho is passionate about salsa dancing. His commitment鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • comes through his four years as a dance instructor. The stereotypeof the smart but bland technical individual goes out thewindow when you envision him gyrating to pulsating merenguemusic. Why is this important? It shows that this applicant notonly has a life outside of work but is highly adaptable and canconnect with different people.Traveling is an interest that falls in the usual suspect category.Ifyou choose to discuss traveling as an interest of yours,make sure you go beyond, "I like to travel and see new cities."This is a major cliche and gets you zero bonus points. A betterway to convey this could be leading a trek to a remote area thatisnt your usual hot spot. Ifyour travelled to your interest in aparticular region and you decided to work there, then it is worthmentioning. Heres an example of this:AVID TRAVELER: Trip to Costa Ricaduring college breakled to discovery ofem-tourism and influenced decision toworkinCosta Rica for a year after graduatingfrom college.There are other interesting things about your backgroundthat you may wish to address in the interests/other section ofyour resume. A few examples are captured here:• Growing up in an interesting region, especially one wherethere are ongoing global political issues (for example,Sudan, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Bosnia, Mghanistan, Nepal)• Unusual upbringing can also be interesting to feature inthe interests/other section: growing up in a blue collarfamily in the Midwest; being the first in your family toattend college; raising your younger siblings because offamily issues; living in different countries; growing up ona farm or an Indian reservation• Running multicountry marathons in cities that have aspecial meaning to youThe Resume and Professional Record 161t鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 162 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSSkills, awards, and certifications are also important elementsto flag in the interests/other section of the resume. Similar toother parts of the resume, you have to determine whether theinformation you are highlighting will resonate with the brandof the school. Schools that are highly technical will likelyappreciate your technical achievements in mastering programminglanguages or in building a complicated system network morethan schools that are not.If you are a financial analyst, having passed all three levelsof the chartered financial analyst (CFA) exams is an importantaccomplishment to share in your resume. The same thingapplies to other certifications, whether the CPA for accountantsor the Series 7 and 66 exams to sell securities.Ifyou have received awards for something you do outside ofwork this is also the appropriate area to mention it. Forexample, I knew a banker who happened to be very dynamicand was selected to be a national spokesperson to promote positiveand educational achievements for teenagers. These typesof eclectic achievements are worth mentioning in your resume.A consultant interested in teenage empowerment can highlighther experience launching the first-ever teenage-focused televisionprogramming in her country. If she received an award forher work, then that is even more compelling.If you are not sure what should make it into the resumeand what should be cut out, start by writing down everythingand then cut down drastically anything that doesnt reinforceyour brand, showcase your leadership, or differentiate youfrom others. Dont be shy about getting feedback fromalumni from the MBA programs you are interested in withwhom you work or getting the opinion of a professionaladmissions consultant.But beyond the four resume components, candidates to businessschool are often at a loss regarding how narrow or broadthey should keep their resume. This issue goes to the heart of鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • the next section-deciding between breadth and depth whenpositioning the resume.POSITIONING THE RESUME: BREADTH VS.DEPTHI am often asked whether it is better to have worked for onecompany or in the same industry in similar roles (depth)versus having multiple positions in different industries and/orroles (breadth). The simple answer is that it depends on eachcandidates particular situation. There are admitted candidateswho worked at the same firm and in the same functionalarea for several years. These individuals backgrounds showcasetheir depth of experience and commitment to theirindustry. The challenge for applicants with significant depthis to show that they have not stagnated at the same companyor job. It is important to show that your responsibility andcontribution has grown even though you have remained atthe same firm. An investment banker who worked three yearsas an analyst and then gets promoted to associate withresponsibility for managing analysts is an example of a candidatewith depth of experience.Equally admissible are candidates with breadth ofworkexperience. These candidates have resumes that reflect different jobpositions. Sometimes the roles can be different in terms offunctionor in terms of industry. An example of a candidate withbreadth of work experience is the accountant who worked forErnest and Young, then joined the Peace Corps after a coupleofyears, and then decided to work for a foundation. The challengethat a candidate with breadth of experience faces ismaking sure that the story is cogent, that is, that the resumeconnects the different roles in a way that makes sense to theMBA Board. Candidates from professional backgrounds with alot of breadth have to show that their career path has been wellplanned and isnt haphazard and random.The Resume and Professional Record 163鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 164 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSRegardless of where you fall on the breadth/depthcontinuum, make sure that your work experiences focus onyour brand, demonstrate that you have developed new skillseven within a focused role, and that you have had an impacton the organizations, teams, and individuals you have workedwith. But more than that, candidates should show that thechoices they have made in their career make sense and showlogical progression.The focus should be on the most compelling things aboutyou. Remember that the resume is an extension of your brand.Make sure it is consistent with the rest ofyour application. Areyour brand attributes and themes represented in your resume?When the Admissions Board reads your resume, it shouldconfirm the conclusion they have already drawn of who you are.The sample resume that follows provides a picture of what awinning resume looks like. (Because this candidate has starteda nonprofit organization, he felt a need to include VolunteerExperience as a separate section, which is fine.)SAMPLE RESUMEJohn Johnson555 Sandy LakeAve, NY, NY 10000jjohnson@expartus.com; (212) 555-5555PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCECOTY PRESTIGE NewYork, NY 2003-2007Senior Financial Analyst-Financial Planning andAnalysis GroupManaged sixteen brand P&Ls totaling $105MM in sales, generatingprofits Of$lOMM annuallywith $53MM marketing budget.Collaborated with marketingand sales teams to buildannual companybudget and forecasts. Determined profit impact fromchanges in revenueand advertising/promotional expenseforecasts.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Provided marketing team product launch budget guidelinesafter analyzing historical expenses of new campaigns.Enabled senior marketing directors to fund new programs afterconducting actual-to-budget variance analyses.Led meetings with U.S. and global marketing teams to ensureuse of promotional inventory to generate sales.NEW YORK& COMPANY New York, NY 2001-2003Financial Analyst-Store Finance&Real Estate DepartmentAnalyzed return on investment and financial viability of buildingnew stores to assist in company brand expansion. Assessedcost-benefits of downsizing/remodeling stores to maximizeindividual store productivity.Assisted in reorganizing divisional field sales by geography togain cost efficiencies.Evaluated retail environment and sales trends to forecast storeperformance and aggressively control expenditures.Recommended closing of30 stores that led to $3 million savings.MERRI LL LYNCH New York, NY 1999-2001Compliance Associate-Global Securities Research andEconomicsGroupEnforced compliance with SEC laws and regulations as liaisonbetweenanalyst researchteams and investment banking counsel.Edited research reports to remove restricted insider informationunder highly time-sensitive conditions.VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCETOP HONORS, INC (a not-for-profit organization that providesfree tutoring to low-achieving students)New York, NY 2002-2006Co-Founderand ChiefOperating OfficerBuilt budget model to determine financial needs and securedfunding from Citigroup and Columbia University. ManagedThe Resume and Professional Record 165鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 166 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSCOMMON RESUME MISTAKES1.  Jargon-filled: A resume for admission to businessschool is very different from a resume for an applicationfor a job. Unlike work resumes, which are fullof industry terms, resumes for an MBA applicationeffective use of resources to operate weekly sessions underbudget.Fostered relationships with schools to ensure consistentstudent enrollment levels. Educated 120+ children sinceinception.Developed and executed guerilla marketing campaign to tripletutor volunteer staffing in first 2 years. (Recent student scoresresulted in 44 percent improvement.)EDUCATIONNATIONAL TAIWAN NORMAL UNIVERSITY,Taipei, Taiwan 1997-1998Certificate ofStudy, Mandarin Chinese language programUNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA,Philadelphia PA 1993-1997Bachelor ofArtsdual majors in communications andeconomicsAwards: Time-Warner, Inc. Community Leadership Award andScholarship· Taiwan Ministry Scholarship for one year studyabroadActivities: Marketing coordinator for Penn Health Services·English department writing tutorOTHERLanguages: Proficiency in Mandarin Chinese and CantoneseSoftware:Excel(advanced), VisualBasic programming,HyperionJEssbase,MS Office鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • need to be short, jargon-free, and clear. Avoidacronyms that have little meaning to people outsideyour industry.2.  Empty Adjectives: Superfluous language withouttangible numbers to back it up offers little insightinto exactly what you have achieved professionally.Also, speaking in generalities does not reveal youractual impact. Winning resumes always quantify thechange you brought about or the impact you had.3.  One-dimensional: MBA Boards are looking forcandidates who are multidimensional. Dont hesitate toput that quirky hobby or organization you have beenvolunteering for in your resume. Being smart or workingat a blue chip firm isnt enough to land a covetedadmission spot. Use the resume to represent what elseyou have done with your time outside of work.4.  Jumping Around: Leaving your job in less than twoyears can be a red flag to the Admissions Board.Obviously this advice is helpful only if you are planningto make the jump. For those of you who havealready left your firm after a brief stint, look for asubtle place in your application to address this issue.But equally important is to connect the dots to showthat the next move was a strategic decision that fitswithin your overall career goals.5. Dishonesty: This goes without saying, but I cantstress the importance of not inflating your involvementand impact enough. The MBA Board can seethrough any attempts to "pad" your story. Also, dontbe tempted to leave out positions where you workedfor a brief period. Hiding the truth has a way ofcoming back to bite you when you least expect it!6.  Too Lengthy, Rambling, and Cluttered: A five-pageCVis not acceptable for an MBA application (unlessThe Resume and Professional Record 167鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 168 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSthe school explicitly says its OK). A busy boardmember does not want to spend hours pouringthrough your CY: Keep your resume to one to twopages and focus on the impact and results youdelivered. Avoid manipulating the font size to try to jameverything into the resume. Anything smaller than a10-point font is difficult for the reader to read. Leavelots ofwhite space to make the resume attractive andinviting. At the end of the day, a cluttered resume isless inviting to read.7.  Mistake-Ridden: A shoddy resume will reflectnegatively on your brand. Avoid spelling mistakes andgrammatical errors. Make sure your numbers areaccurate so that you dont have to explain yourselfwhen the school verifies your application after youhave been admitted. Inconsistencies in your storycan be reason for an admission offer to be rescinded.8.  Untailored: Every school is different. For instance,when applying to MIT Sloan, a school with a stronginnovation and technical brand, you may be wellserved to include information about the highly technicalcourses you took in college or the technicalproject you managed during your internship. On theother hand, it may be more compelling to use thelimited space to address the marketing projects youworked on if you are applying to Kellogg orMichigan, programs with strong marketing brands.9.  Failure to Educate: Ifyou have an unusual industry,firm, or role, make sure you provide a short descriptionunder the professional employment section toeducate the reader about your experience andimpact. This will help the MBA Board understandthat your company isnt a hole-in-the-wall and thatyour impact was significant. This is particularly鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • important for internationals whose companies maynot be as well known in the United States.10.  Boring: Although the resume is not an essay, itneeds to be interesting and well written to capturethe attention of the Admissions Board. Make sureyou use active descriptors and avoid using passivesentences. Action verbs are the best way to describeyour expenences.11.  Poor Judgment: In an attempt to make the resumestand out, never resort to gimmicky or cute tricks:they are likely to fail! Stick to the facts and keep theentire resume professional. Your email address shouldavoid things that call to question your maturity,such as "spunkychic@gmail.com" or any otherinappropriate email addresses. Save those for yourfriends only. Your resume will stand out based on themerit ofyour work rigor, initiative, and impact.Now that you are armed with a solid resume, you are nowready for your audition. The resume summarizes your story andan interview allows you to expound on it. Next to the essays,your interview is your next best chance to "sell" yourself.The Resume and Professional Record 169鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER EIGHTInterviews: How Interviews AreViewed by the MBA BoardYOur admission interview is both evaluative andinformative: it is not only an opportunity forus to learn more about you, but alsoforyou to learn more about Stanford.THE PRECEDING QUOTE FROM the website of StanfordGraduate School of Business (GSB) captures the essenceof admissions interviews at top business schools. An interviewis a two-way conversation in which you are given a chance toassess the MBAprogram to see if it fits your brand; in turn, theinterviewer uses the meeting to determine whether you are agood fit for the MBA program.Youhave to put your best foot forward and sell your uniqueness.Lets look at a quick example. Susan has an average GMATscore, but her leadership across college, community, and careeris significant. She also has glowing recommendations that offsether GMAT score. In an interview, she is articulate, dynamic,and likable. She knows exactly why she wants an MBA and isable to convey precisely why the particular program fits hergoals. During the forty-five-minute conversation, she is able tocommunicate what is distinctive about her and win over herinterviewer. Suffice it to say,she is admitted to her dream school鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 172 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSdespite having a GMAT score that is below the median of theentering class.Candidates like Susan understand that the interview doesmatter. It doesnt make sense to spend all that time on yourapplication and then drop the ball when it comes to the interview.MBA Boards use the interview to assess a candidate. Evenwhen the interviews are by invitation only, 30 to 60 percent ofcandidates who are interviewed receive an admission offer(depending on the school). So you should view the interview asa practical step that brings you closer to your admission goal.An interview allows the MBA Board to verify the authenticityofyour "story." Its also a way for the MBA Board to learnanything about you (positive or negative) that didnt comethrough in your application. The main value of the interviewis that it can actually sway an admission decision when theMBA Board is on the fence about a candidate. So dontunderestimate the importance of the interview and take the time toprepare appropriately.Most admission interviews at top business schools are basedon your resume. An exception to this is Harvard BusinessSchool (HBS), which reviews the entire application of eachcandidate and generates follow-up interview questions basedon the actual application.Top business schools place a high premium on the interviewand it is important for applicants to fully understand each MBAprograms interview process and policy.INTERVIEW POLICIESInterviews at MBA programs are either open (any applicant cansign up) or by invitation only. Interviews usually last thirty toforty-five minutes, so there is little opportunity to ramble orwaste time chatting. Make sure you keep your responses shortand to the point. A recent trend in admission shows manyMBAprograms moving toward interviewing more of the class (HBS鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 173and Stanford GSB are examples of programs that interviewtheir entire admitted class).MBA programs like Columbia GSBinterview a large portion ofthe class, but not all admittedcandidates are interviewed. Also popular is a move from openinterviews to invitation-only interviews, demonstrated byschools like Chicago GSB. However, there are still a few topMBA programs that maintain an open interview policy (forinstance, Tuck and Kellogg). To be safe, visit each schoolswebsite to confirm their interview policy because they canchange from one year to the next.Regardless of whether a program has an open or invitationonlyinterview policy, you should take the time to prepare for aninterview. I will discuss the preparation steps candidates need totake later in this chapter.Invitation-Only Interview PolicyPrograms that have an invitation-only interview policy invitecandidates in whom they are interested for an interview. Theseinterviews are typically conducted on campus (by boardmembers or current students), in your city of residence (byalumni and board members), or over the phone. Most interviewsfocus on your resume, with the exception of an interviewwith Harvard. The design of the questions allows theinterviewers to understand the decisions you have made, yourselfawareness, the impact you have had in the workplace, andthe way you do what you do that is uniquely you. An invitationto interview is welcome news to any candidate, but it isnt aguaranteed admission. Therefore, you should view the interviewinvitation as an opportunity to "sell" your story in person to theMBA Board. Preparing thoroughly and nailing the interviewcan result in the admission outcome you seek.Open Interview PolicyFor an open interview, you should make arrangements to visit theschool as soon as possibleto take advantage of this opportunity. Its鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 174 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSlikely that your interview will be conducted by a current studentwho serves as an admission ambassador. Because an open interviewtypically involves a review of your resume, you should beprepared to walk your interviewer through your resume andprovide him or her with insights into the career choices you havemade and the impact you had in each position. Equally importantis using the interview to revealyour personality and the activitiesand organizations you are involved in outside of work thatmake you an interesting individual. I caution applicants to neverpass on the interview, even if the school states that it is optional.Ignoring the interview will likely suggest that you are not seriousabout the school, which makes it easy for the Admissions Boardto discount your application.But when you interview, you should take every opportunityto impress on the MBA program that you are a great fit and willmake a strong contribution to the class. Think of every interactionwith the MBA program as a "mini" interview. Beforeyour interview, you may wish to attend an information sessionor student happy hour to learn more about the program.Believeit or not, you are still being evaluated even when you areout of the interview setting. Outliers will always stand out. Soindividuals who happen to be extremely articulate, dynamic, orhave unique backgrounds will be remembered from the pack.Also memorable are candidates who are selfish (ask multiplequestions during an open house event), ask inappropriate questions,or seem pushy or arrogant. Even when you are interactingwith current students, you are still being evaluated. Aformer colleague from a top MBA program recounted how aprospective student he had interviewed attended a studenthappy hour and got drunk, danced on the table, and braggedabout how he had the interview in the bag. Suffice it to say he didntget the congratulatory admission call. Finally, the proliferationof technology has made it possible for many candidates tointeract with each other in online communities. Rest assured鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 175that the Admissions Board is reading the blogs andcommunication exchanges in these sites. So be very carefulwhat you share. It can come back to haunt you!WHO SHOULD INTERVIEW MElANDWHERE SHOULD I INTERVIEW?Im often asked whether there is a difference between oncampusand off-campus interviews. From an evaluation standpoint,there is little difference. Candidates who reside abroadmay find it cost-prohibitive to travel to campus for an interviewon short notice given expensive travel costs. They may opt to beinterviewed by an alumnus (or a board member if this option isavailable) in their city or over the phone. All of these interviewmodes are weighed the same. With that said, given the option,I personally would prefer to interview with a board memberover an alumnus or student.In addition, if you know that you express yourself better inperson, then you should choose a face-to-face meeting insteadof a phone interview. The extra money spent for your travelexpenses will be worth it if the outcome is an admission offer toyour dream school. A phone interview may be a bit morechallenging because the interviewer does not have the benefit ofseeing your nonverbal gestures to "fill in" communication. Ifyou opt for the phone interview, make sure you speak clearly,get to the point quickly, and avoid interruptions.Even ifyou choose to interview in your city, you still need toinvestigate the school closely by making a visit. There is nosubstitute for sitting in class and observing the teachingmethod, quality of faculty instruction, and interactions betweenstudents to better assess whether the program is right for you.A pet peeve of the Admissions Board is interviewing a candidatewho resides in the same city as the MBA program andfinding out that he has not taken the time to attend a class.Dont give the MBA Board a chance to question your judgment.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 176 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSAnother point worth discussing about interviews is thatcurrent students can be protective of their program and, insome instances, may be inclined to act as "gatekeepers." Beaware of this, and dont take offense if you encounter a studentinterviewer who seems unusually tough. Focus on conveyingyour brand, achievements, and the specific value you wouldbring to the program. Stay optimistic and hold your groundwhen faced with a difficult and belligerent student interviewer.So, regardless ofwhether you end up with a "save the world"alumnus, an overzealous student, or a jaded board member,remain calm and make sure you communicate your personalbrand effectively.WHAT DO INTERVIEWS ASSESS?Without a doubt, the interview is a critical part of the evaluationprocess. Understanding what exactly the interview evaluatescan help candidates prepare and ace the interview.Following are the key variables being assessed in interviews forbusiness schools.LikeabilityYes, interviewers want to know that you are someone they canimagine sitting with in class. Ifthey sense any sign of arrogance,awkwardness, or personality issues, they are likely to pass onyour candidacy. It doesnt mean that everyone has to fit into acookie cutter mode. So be yourself, but know that the interviewerwants to admit individuals who come across as positive,inviting, and personable. A member of Mensa who isuncommunicative may be denied admission if he or she comes offas arrogant or as a bookworm with little personality.IntelligenceIntelligence is important. The interviewer will check to see ifyou grasp things quickly. He or she may spend a good amount鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 177of time asking clarifying questions about your academicexperience. Ifyour GPA is lower than average, be prepared tospeak to the rigor of the coursework and own up to why thegrades are not exceptional. You may also be asked about yourGMAT score, so be comfortable speaking about it regardlessofwhether it is in the high percentile or lower than average. Howyou address this question is key. Ifyour score is low, you dontwant to seem defensive by trying to justify it. Instead, focus onthe positives to your story, such as the quantitative courses youtook, the A grades you earned, a strong GPA, and rigorousanalytical work experience. Conversely, if your score is in thetop 95th percentile, dont gloat either. Candidates may also facequestions about trends in the business world, or may be askedan open-ended question that forces them to analyze a businesssituation. Heres an illustration: "Describe in a couple ofminutes a trend you see in your industry and tell me how youwould go about capturing the market opportunity." What theBoard is looking for is to understand how you think, whetheryou are sharp on your feet, and if you have a sophisticatedawareness of issues going on in the business world.Rigor and Impact of the JobYour work experience will receive significant scrutiny in mostinterviews. Interviewers usually focus on specific questionsabout your career that are designed to reveal what yourspecific role was and the size of the impact you had in eachposition. Be ready to discuss your exact role and the resultsyou generated. Make sure to quantify your impact wheneverpossible. When answering career impact questions, be carefulnot to sound arrogant.LeadershipLeadership is a very important aspect of the interview. Thethree Cs of leadership (college, community, and careerleadership) are evaluated during the interview. Remember that鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 178 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSleadership is not only about title. Its about initiative, innovation,influence, and thought expertise. As noted previously,show the impact you had in each position. Use vivid examplesto illustrate your points instead of rattling off lists ofleadershiproles; focus on the most compelling examples and tell short butdirect stories to connect the dots between each experience.Communication AbilityCommunication ability is very important, especially for MBAprograms that are primarily case based. Whether English isyour first, second, or third language, the interviewer will scrutinizeyour communication skills. Practicing prior to the interviewwill allow you to communicate your thoughts in aconscientious and logical way. If you are verbose, it behoovesyou to really practice a succinct delivery. Ifyou come across asunfocused or, worse, as an incompetent speaker, you jeopardizeyour admission chances. Nervous candidates can also get intotrouble by talking too much and not answering the interviewquestions. One candidate who was very bubbly rambled somuch during her interview for a top program that her intervieweronly managed to ask her a few questions during theentire interview. The candidate came across as flighty and wasdenied admission to the MBA program.Personal and Professional MaturityThe maturity question is a big one. In an interview, be preparedto express the thoughtfulness that has gone into the decisionsyou have made professionally and personally. Even if you havegaps in your story (for example, a lower-than-average GPA,limited community leadership, even loss ofyour job), how yourespond to the question will communicate your maturity.Candidates who are just starting their careers are also undersignificant scrutiny when it comes to maturity. They have toconvey that they have thought through their career goals andhave a sound rationale for why they want their MBA now.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 179Self-AwarenessMBA candidates who meet all three admissions criteria can stillbe denied admission. Such cases are often the result of a lackof fit or an interview that didnt go well. Its one thing to have astellar packaged story, but how you stand up to the face-to-faceevaluation of an interview can determine your admission outcome.A perfect package that doesnt represent who you are will quicklyunravel in the interview. Candidates who have all the necessaryattributes but lack insight into their goals and the decisions theyhave made (including the decision to pursue an MBA) will alsostruggle during the interview. On the other hand, a candidate whomay not be exceptional on paper can use the interview to tip hisor her admission decision to a positive outcome by demonstratingextraordinary insight and self-awareness. Just as with essays,in which insight is as important as what you have achieved, theself-awareness that you exhibit in an interview is critical indifferentiating you from your competition.Team DynamicsAswith likeability,you should anticipate that the interviewer willwant to assess how you operate in group settings. Be ready totalk about your team projects and how you function in groups.(Are you a leader who steps up immediately, or do you lead frombehind?) The important point here is to show that you are not asolo player. Even if your job has limited group interaction, look forwaysto introduce how you have sought out that type ofinteraction(even if it is outside of your job) to reassure the interviewer thatyou are comfortable when operating in team environments.Composure and PresenceThe interview reveals information about who you are in person.It can confirm the brand you presented in your application, or itmay completely call it into question. This is why it is importantto present an authentic brand in your application. Also, beaware ofhow you come across in face-to-face interactions. The鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 180 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSfollowing story reinforces this point. A candidate was reviewed,and the consensus was that she was aWOW("walks on water")candidate. But after the interview, her interviewer expressedsurprise at how extremely laid back and almost disengaged sheseemed when compared with the vibrant individual who cameacross on paper. Interestingly, and fortunately, therecommendations the candidate provided were strong enoughto influence her being admitted. Had her recommendations beenaverage, she may not have been admitted. Make sure you areexcited, engaging, and interesting during your interview. Tryto infuse energy when you interview, even if you have a laidback personality. Im not advocating being fake. Feigning anoutgoing personality when you are an introvert is not wise. Butits important, even while being laid back, to show that you canbe engaged in a dynamic classroom environment.Fit and Knowledge of the ProgramThe interviewer will often grill applicants to make sure thatthey have thought through exactly why they want admissioninto the MBA program. The more clarity you have about whatyou need to achieve your long-term goals and the more you areable to connect this with the MBA program, the stronger yourcase will be for why the program is a fit for you. Candidateswho have not visited the campus or sat in on a class leavethemselves open to questions about their commitment to theprogram. Take the time to research the program extensivelybefore interviewing so that you can articulate precisely why theprogram is ideal for you. Be ready to talk not only about whatthe program will give you but also about what you willcontribute to the program if admitted. Some MBA programsgo to the length of asking you about the actions you took toresearch their program. "What steps have you taken to learnabout the Berkeley MBA program, and what factors haveinfluenced your decision to apply" (Source: Haas website).鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 181HOWTO APPROACH AND PREPARE FORTH E INTERVIEWFollowing are some tasks that will help you prepare for theinterview ahead of time.Jazz UpYour ResumeRemember that the business school resume is less about jobdescription and industry jargon and more about your potentialas a leader and business manager. Therefore, you should createa resume (ideally one to two pages) with detailed evidenceofhow you have managed people and developed new products ortransformed a process, and finally, show the impact that you havehad professionally and beyond. The chapter on the resume reviewsthe specific details necessary to create an excellent resume.Talk to Products of the ProgramsMost companies have employees who are alumni from topMBA programs. Dont be afraid to invite them for lunch ordrinks to learn about their MBA experiences and the subsequentimpact on their careers. Current students can be a hugeasset in helping you prepare for the interview as well. Finally,even fellow prospective students can be helpful by sharing theirinterview experience. (Online communities like BusinessWeek.com can give you a sense of the types of interview questionscandidates are facing.) I will add one caveat to this: doexercise wisdom when listening to other applicants, becausesome may be eager to psych-out their competition and everythingthey share may not be accurate. I once had a flusteredclient call me at 11:45 p.m. in a panic. A fellow applicant whohad interviewed on the same day had gotten in her head bymaking her doubt her responses and her overall interviewperformance. It took a few minutes of reminding her of herstrengths and what she had to offer before she realized she hadbeen manipulated by the other applicant.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 182 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSKnow Your Story and Sell Your Personal BrandReread your application to ensure that you remember all thefacets ofyour story. Make sure the following four themes comethrough as you present your story: passion, guts, impact, andinsight. Share with the interviewer tangible examples of impactyou have had-demonstrate self-awareness not simply bytalking about what you have done but by focusing on why youhave made the choices you have made and the lessons you havelearned along the way. It is also important to demonstrate thatyou are confident enough to take a risk (that you have guts) andstep up to a challenge instead of simply executing on your jobdescription. Finally, come with great energy and share yourpassion with the interviewer.Experience the MBA Program FirsthandThroughout this book I have stressed the importance of visitingthe MBA program you desire to join. Attending classes givesyou a firm handle on the MBA programs unique positioningand value proposition. This credible vantage point will enableyou to speak authentically about your specific interests and whatyou will do while in business school. Ideally, you should havealready visited the campus and attended classes prior toapplying to the MBA program. The interview visit then ends upbeing a "confirmation" as opposed to a first-time visit whereyou are still gathering facts about the program.Dress Appropriately and Pay Attention to the NonverbalsBe conservative when it comes to your interview attire, and gowith neutral colors such as black, blue, and gray suits. Femalecandidates may wear a skirt or pantsuit. Some candidates haveasked me about the freedom to express themselves. My responseis usually something along the lines of, "This time next year doyou want to be entering your dream school or do you want to begoing through a reapplication process?" Given the level ofcompetition involved in applying to a top business school, I鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 183would not take any unnecessary risks. When it comes to interviewattire, I recommend playing it safe. Ifyou are a creative typeand thats a key aspect of your brand, then limit your creativeexpression more to the accessoriesyou wear for the interview (forexample, choose a tie or scarf in a tasteful color instead ofa flashyred suit). Youwant your interviewer to focus on your leadershipcontributions, not on your fashion-forward style.Practice, Practice, PracticeI cant stress enough the importance ofpracticing for the interview.Have someone you know pose interview questions to youand time yourself. Solicit feedback after the mock interview toidentify areas where you need to improve, and be willing toaddress any feedback you receive. Some people assume they areexcellent interviewees and therefore fail to prepare for theinterview. This can be a grave mistake. Regardless of whether youconsider yourself a "natural" or you dread the interview, youshould prepare for it. As with anything in life, the more practiceyou have the better. Candidates often tell me that theyperform better after their first interview. Youmay want to interviewfirst at MBA programs where you have an increasedchance of being admitted (your safety program) than at stretchschools where your admission chances are slim. The moreexperience you have with interviewing, the more likely you are toimprove your interviewing skills.Go into the Interview Well RestedAvoid going to work on the day you have an interview. If youabsolutely have to go into the office, then do yourself a favorand set up the interview in the morning. Then return to theoffice in the afternoon. I cant tell you how many times Iveheard of applicants who went into work on the same day oftheirinterview and encountered an extremely stressful day. Beingfrazzled before the interview is avoidable, so give yourself everyadvantage possible by going into the interview well rested.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 184 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSFUNDAMENTAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONSI have compiled a list ofpopular interview questions that candidatesfor business schools will likely encounter. I have brokenthem into five categories. I recognize that some questions canfall into multiple categories, but for the sake of simplicity, I havethem organized in one group. These questions do not purportto be exhaustive in the interview question domain. It is more acollection of fundamental questions that every candidate shouldbe ready to face regardless of his or her unique circumstanceand experience. Use these questions as a starting point but Iencourage you to also look closely at your own story to assesswhether there are gaps or flags that are likely to solicit inquiryin an interview.1. General• Walk me through your resume.• What will you do if you dont get into business school?• What will you contribute to our MBA program?• What do you think will be your biggest challenge at ourprogram?• Why did you select the recommenders?• What programs did you apply to?• What is your first-choice school?• Why should we admit you given the steep competition?• Why are you interested in our program?• Is there anything else you wish to tell me aboutyourself?• What do you want to be known for in life?• What else do you wish I had asked you about yourcandidacy?2. Professional• What are your short- and long-term career goals?• Why do you want an MBA?鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 185• Describe your career decisions to date and highlight yourgreatest impact.• Why did you select the firms where you have worked?• How has your leadership style evolved over your career?• How would your supervisor (colleagues) describe you?• What do you think your boss would say are your biggestweaknesses (strengths)?• When did you work in a team and what impact or role didyou have?• What was your most exciting project at your firm?• Describe your international experience.• Describe a professional failure you have had and what youdid to overcome it.• In your career, when have you made a mistake? What didyou learn from it?• What drives you to seek new challenges and opportunities?In your career, when did you take an unusual path ormake a decision that was not popular?• Tell me about a time when you created a product orprocess that added value to your firm.• When have you worked in a difficult team and how didyou overcome the challenge?• What do you believe constitutes a great manager and areyou one?• What do you like or dislike about your job?3. Personal• Tell me about yourself.• What motivates you to succeed?• Who do you admire the most and why?• How would your former classmates describe you?• What three adjectives best describe who you are?• What would you change about yourself and why?• How do you handle change?鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 186 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS• What is your favorite book, and what do you find interestingabout it?• What has been your biggest self-discovery?• What is the challenge youve sought that scared you themost?• What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?• What are your strengths and weaknesses?• Ifyou could live anywhere in the world besides where youlive currently, where would it be and why?• Ifyou could be a superhero, which one would you be andwhat would you do with your special powers?• What talent do you wish you had and why?• Describe an ethical dilemma you faced and how youaddressed it.4. Extracurricular• What do you do for fun and how do you spend your freetime?• What leadership impact have you had outside of work?• What community service organizations are you involvedin, and how have you created value there?• What clubs do you plan to join ifyou are admitted?• How do you lead differently in your career versus in yourcommunity?5. Education• Describe your academic experience in college.• Why did you choose your major/school?• How did you perform academically?• Which awards did you receive?• What decisions do you regret making during college?• Ifyou could change one thing about your education, whatwould it be and why?鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 187COMMON INTERVIEW MISTAKES TO AVOID1. Dont be disrespectful to the receptionist orstudents. Every encounter you have with someoneaffiliated with the MBA program is a potentialinterview.2. Dont try to dominate the interview. This is guaranteedto backfire. Let the interviewer cover all his orher questions.3. Dont talk too much or ramble. Be concise and to thepoint.4. Dont be too forward, and dont ask the interviewerpersonal questions.5. Dont be too informal. Address the interviewer asMs. or Mr. unless they specifically invite you to referto them differently.6. Dont forget to bring water to drink. Your mouthmay get dry as a result of nervousness so beprepared.7. Dont interrupt the interviewer. Even if you havean unreasonable interviewer, youll get no bonuspoints for antagonizing him or her. Calmly wait foran opportunity to assert your points and brandmessage.8. Dont use slang or informal communication, even ifthe interviewer does. (Remember, you are the onebeing interviewed.)9. Dont communicate insecurity and lack of confidenceby giving a weak handshake and unsteady eyecontact.10. Dont come off as unfriendly. Smile when appropriate.No one likes a sourpuss.11. Dont be late for the interview. Aim to be there atleast fifteen minutes early.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 188 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS12. Dont dress inappropriately. Ill-fitting and outlandishattiresend the wrong message aboutyou and your brand.13. Dont be negative, and never complain or criticizesomeone you worked with or your company. Dittofor other MBA programs. Do not criticize anothercompetitor program. It sends the wrong messageabout you.14. Dont worry too much about the interview. Focus onbeing yourself.INTERVIEW REMINDERSThe admission interview is not optional; you should alwaysinterview if the school offers you the chance.The interview is a marketing exercise, so go prepared to sellyourself/your brand.Knowthe MBAprogram thoroughly and communicate what youwill bring to the program.Dress appropriately-a well-tailored suit is key even if your jobhas a casual dress policy.Be prepared for the interview; invest time to nail down yourresponses to two to three minutes so that you dont run out oftime. If the interviewer asks follow-up questions, then that isyour cue to drill deeper in your response.The physical resume speaks to your brand, so make sure it isupdated and reflects your main leadership impact; dont forgetto use quality paper and eliminate errors.Wrap up the interview with an intelligent question or two aboutthe MBA program. (Program websites, press releases, andfaculty knowledge papers present interesting information aboutnew trends and activities at an MBA program.)Always follow up with a thank you card or email, which shouldbe sent the day of the interview.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 189SOME FINAL TIPS ON THE INTERVIEWKnow your story (brand), and make sure you dont leave theinterview without communicating key points of why you areunique and interesting: your value proposition. Ensure that youcommunicate specifically why you fit into the program andwhat you will bring to enrich the student community. Itspossible to face an ineffective interviewer. Regardless of whointerviews you or whether they ask you productive questions,you have to be prepared to lead the conversation back to majorpoints that reinforce why you are a great fit for their program.Being clear on the four or so brand themes you wish to coverand having specific short stories to reinforce them will help youleave the interviewer with a strong sense ofwho you are.But the interview isnt enough to help you close the deal.The MBA Board will be looking for a third-party validation ofyour story (your essays, resume, and interview) before theyadmit you. Lets spend some time in the next chapter reviewingeverything you need to know about the recommendation tomake it a winner!鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER NINETransforming Your Recommenders intoBrand ChampionsIHAVE READ NUMEROUS RECOMMENDATIONS in theten years I have been in admissions and academia. The onefundamental difference between excellent recommendations andmediocre ones is that the former are written by individuals whoare champions ofthe candidate, have worked closely with them,and have a clear understanding of the unique value they offerpersonally and professionally.Building a powerful brand in the marketplace, whether atwork or in your personal life, requires that you have brandchampions who are invested in you. These brand championsare committed to helping you refine your brand and arephenomenal marketing agents of your brand.So who are brand champions? They are individuals who areinterested in your professional and personal success. Theyunderstand what you stand for, your passion and values, andyour skills, accomplishments, and goals for your future. Mostimportant, these individuals are committed to seeing yousucceed, are willing to speak up on your behalf to promote yourcareer, and are quick to bring you on board for projects withhigh visibility and importance.Not all recommenders are brand champions. In other words,just because someone writes a recommendation letter on your鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 192 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSbehalf does not mean that they understand who you are, whatmatters most to you, and how you envision the MBA to helpyou achieve your life goals. I have read many recommendationsthat have had damning consequences on a candidates admissionoutcome. Choose wisely and make sure whoever you selectis truly an avid supporter.Im often asked whether the recommendation is important inthe evaluation process. The simple answer is absolutely! Therecommendation gives the MBA Board a chance to hear fromsomeone who knows you very well to see ifhe concurs with thestory you have shared about yourself in the application. Arecommendation letter that is negative or off-track from thestory you told in your application at best communicates to theMBA Board that you lack wisdom and at worst provides athirdparty justification to reject you.THE POWER OF BRAND CHAMPIONSMost MBA programs require two recommendation letters aspart of the application process. Harvard and Stanford GraduateSchool of Business (GSB) are an exception to this, with bothprograms requiring three recommendations. Ideally, therecommendations need to come from supervisors who canattest to your business experience, managerial potential, andleadership. The exception is Stanford, which requires that oneof the three recommendations come from a peer.Because the essays are composed of self-reported accounts,your recommendations are a sure way for the MBA Board toverify the authenticity ofyour story. All things being equal, therecommendation that stands out can be the deal clincher. Forinstance, the MBA Board may be on the fence about admittinga candidate, but a powerful recommendation that articulateshow the candidate is unique, compelling, and a fit to theschools brand can tip the decision to her favor. Therecommendation adds a rich texture to your story by providing鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 193insights (backed by specific examples) of how you have donewhat you have done instead of simply stopping at the achievementsalone. Effective recommendations also educate theAdmissions Board of the context in which the candidate works.By learning whats unique about the company, your role oryour impact, the Admissions Board is in a better position toevaluate your story.This is why it is critical to cultivate relationships early withindividuals who can become your brand champion. Manyapplicants to business school ignore this important step untila few months before they start applying to business school. Ihad a client once whose entire business school applicationalmost crumbled because of her failure to developrelationships with her former bosses. It required somescrambling to track down and reconnect with formersupervisors. You can imagine the panic that this applicant feltat the realization that she didnt have adequate professionalsto write recommendations for her. Luckily, we were able todo significant damage control and she applied in a laterround. Although anyone can find someone to write arecommendation letter for them, cultivating relationshipswith superiors and colleagues (both in the professional andthe community context) can be challenging and requirescareful strategy. At the end of the day, recommendations thatstand out typically come from individuals who are championsof a candidates brand.I have also reviewed many rejected candidates applications,and more often than not, the recommendations are average atbest and weak in most instances. Because the competition forbusiness school admission is so tough, it is important for candidatesto manage their recommenders and to select the rightpeople to champion their applications.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 194 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSFIVE CRITICAL STEPS IN DEVELOPINGBRAND CHAMPIONS1. Know Your BrandBe clear about your personal brand. Youshould be able to articulateyour brand in one sentence, your personal brand statement(PBS). What you value, your skills and track record, andyour passions and goals are all encompassed in this statement.Remember, if this isnt clear in your own mind, then most likelythe people you work with have the wrong brand attached toyou. Here are two examples of a PBS for a career changer:A hard-workingBoeing engineer"An innovative engineer with a passion for creating businessefficiency who plans to turn business problems into solutions throughconsulting"The first PBS is limiting and pegs you as an engineer ratherthan someone who plans to transition into consulting. Thesecond PBS is more robust and positions you as a careerchanger. You will want to make sure that your recommendersunderstand that you are evolving into a different career,consulting, and that you enjoy solving business problems, notjust executing tactical engineering systems.2. Choose the Right Brand ChampionFor starters, ideal brand champions need to be in positions ofpower. That doesnt mean that your peers and subordinatesshouldnt be aware ofyour brand. They should!Everyoneyou comein contact with, both professionally and otherwise, should be ableto perceive a consistent message from you about your brand. Butfor the purpose ofthe MBA application, your focus should be onsuperiors, particularly supervisors who can provide tangible anddetailed information about you that reinforces your brand.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 195However, you shouldnt simply go for title alone. Avoidusingthe CEO or managing director of your firm who can barelyremember your name because their recommendations will offerlimited details about your managerial potential and unique,differentiating personal attributes. Rather, it is important tohave a relationship with the person that goes beyond interactingwith them a couple of times a year. When it comes to selectinga recommender, ask yourself the following questions:• How does this person feel about me?• Have I worked closely with her on a project?• Has she complimented me based on the results Iproduced?• What types of evaluation has she given me in the past?• Did she go out of her way to assist or support me in somecapacity? (The more people have gone out of their way toshow a commitment to you, the more likely they are tobecome a fans.)A clear indication of whether someone is supportive can beseen in the case of a managing director who specifically requeststhat you work on her deals and invites you to client meetings.The more exposure she has to your work other than the gruntwork that everyone else at your level is involved in, the morecompelling a case she can make about your brand and uniquevalue. Assuming that there has been enough regular contactwith her and that she has indicated that she does care aboutyour professional success, it is then important to make sure thatyou keep her abreast ofyour achievements and goals. Suchindividuals make ideal brand champions.3. Regularly Communicate Your BrandSeize every opportunity to make your brand champions aware ofwhat you are involved in. Update them on your key achievements鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 196 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSand plans and solicit feedback from them. A young man I knowis brilliant at marketing his brand to his brand champions. Hetold me that he sends an email quarterly report to his "Board ofDirectors," the name he uses to describe everyone in his networkhe considers brand champions. The purpose of these quarterlyreports is to inform them of his professional and personal lifedevelopments. Although the bulk of his work experience was ininvestment banking, that does not stop him from successfullypositioning his brand as an inner-city investor. His communityinvolvement and career change has been primarily in venturecapital, with a focus on distressed communities. This is what hestresses in his communication. Every three months I receive anemail from him giving me an update about his activities, and theyalways reinforce his brand as a "spiritually grounded, inner-citycommunity investor."Obviously, email communication isnt enough. Face-to-facecommunication is even more powerful. So set up meetings withindividuals you have identified as brand champions and begin todiscuss your brand and vision with them before asking them fora recommendation to business school. Waiting two monthsbefore admission deadlines is leaving it too late.4. Demonstrate the Value ofYour BrandThe fastest way to develop brand champions is to establish atrack record of excellence. At your job, you should aim toperform at the highest level possible, regardless of how minuteor grand the project is. Your performance of excellence willprecede you and begin to get you brand equity. Here is how itworks: You are an analyst in the general pool, but you developsignificant knowledge in a particular area that most of yourpeers do not have. You get selected to work on a deal thatallows you to draw from that knowledge base, and yourperformance on the project is without reproach (you work late,you produce results with little to no mistakes). Soon, senior鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 197leadership begins to request for you when they are working onimportant deals. By working on these types of deals, you getmore visibility and experience. Your reputation grows and thecycle continues. Ive used investment banking to illustrate thispoint, but the same principle applies to any industry and position.The takeaway is that regardless of your job, title, orindustry, you should make sure you produce excellent results.Your impact should contribute to the bottom line of thecompany or your group. You have to walk a fine line betweencoming across as arrogant and self-promoting and being confidentin your accomplishments and not being afraid to raiseyour hand to take on more challenges.5. Take ActionWhat do you do if you realize that you do not have brandchampions? All hope is not lost. First, take stock of all the potentialbrand champions that you already have in your network: yourformer bosses, clients, even other managers you have workedwith on projects in the past. Once you have developed your list,the next step is to prioritize it. Select five people you wish todevelop a stronger relationship with, then design a plan ofhowto approach them. This is the tricky part. It will require timeand a good dose ofpatience. You need to be subtle about it. Donot approach them immediately to ask for recommendations.Youneed to capitalize on what you have in common. Ifyou arestill working with the person, begin to seek opportunities towork on projects together where he or she will be able toobserve your work up close. By working with your potentialbrand champion on a project and producing excellent results,you will increase your chances of this person becoming youravid supporter. You should seize every opportunity to shareyour brand when interacting with your brand champion. Forexample, if you are a career changer and you are engaged in avolunteer capacity for the new career, you should discuss your鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 198 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSinvolvement outside of work to help your brand championbetter understand your brand.If you are no longer at the same firm, then touch base tosimply find out how your former bosses are doing and to bringthem up to speed on your progress. Under no circumstanceshould you request a recommendation the first time you contactsomeone you have been out of touch with. It is impolite, and italso is likely to yield a weak recommendation. Ideally, giveyourself a year to reconnect with individuals who will write yourrecommendations. The more time you have to develop theserelationships prior to the application, the better.QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORESELECTING RECOM MENDERSDo they understand your brand, and are they avid fans?Do they have an MBA? If not, do they understand the value ofan MBA?Have they written recommendation letters before? Are theygood writers? Have the people they recommended gainedadmission to top business schools?Are they open to your providing them with information aboutyour brand, accomplishments, and rationale for an MBA?Dothey have time to write an excellent recommendation letter?Are they supportive of your school choice? (I once spoke to arecommender who was writing a letter for a candidate to Xbusinessschool, and he told me he thought the candidate was a fitfor Ybusiness school and that he didnt see him at Xbusinessschool. Yet here he was, writing a recommendation for him forX business school. Clearly his recommendation would not bethe most compelling.)Do they have enough in-depth interaction with you to provideevidence of your leadership?鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 199Are they senior enough in title to have a broad perspective ofwhat your role is and how it fits into the company?Are they optimists? You dont want anyone approaching yourrecommendation from a "half empty" perspective.Are they punctual? Avoid procrastinators who have a reputationof not delivering quality work at deadlines.Ifyou answer no to anyone ofthese questions, you should thinklong and hard about whether the recommender is right for you.THE RECOMMENDATIONTIME FACTORTiming is very important in selecting a brand champion towrite your recommendation. Give yourself a year to eighteenmonths to begin cultivating relationships with key people whowill become your brand champions.I had a client who really understood the importance ofhaving brand champions. He has actively identified peoplewithin and outside of his firm whom he respects and keeps intouch with regularly. He is known to put in a call or email whenhe needs advice on simple as well as major career decisions.Over time, these people have grown invested in him and havebecome accustomed to receiving updates from him that reinforcehis brand. His ability to get the CEO of his billion-dollarprivate equity fund to write an insightful, humorous, andglowing recommendation represents the time and investmenthe made up front. And I would hazard a guess that thisrecommendation contributed in some measure to his admission to atop MBA program despite a lower than 600 GMAT score.I have also witnessed firsthand how not having brand championscan threaten ones admission. Another client of mine didnot have brand champions behind her when she began theapplication process. She had a boss who was not particularlysupportive of her professional development, let alone her鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 200 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSpursuit of an MBA. Further complicating matters, she had notkept in touch with previous supervisors with whom she had agreat rapport. So when she began her application to businessschool, she felt awkward tracking these people down after fouryears had gone by to say, "Hey, remember me, we did greatwork a few years ago and I need a wow recommendation fromyou." After serious scrambling and an aggressive recommendationstrategy that involved a three-month accelerated relationshipbuilding, and after one recommender dropped out as aresult of a car accident, she was able to eventually findrecommenders who supported her application. The result wasadmission offers from three out of four top MBA programs.Although she was lucky (or experienced divine intervention),I wouldnt recommend this approach because it brings unduestrain to an already stressful process and the outcome couldhave been quite different.CHOOSING THE RIGHT MIX OF RECOM-MENDERSSo you have developed close relationships with individuals whoare invested in your success. How do you narrow it down to thetwo or three individuals who will write your letters ofrecommendation for business school? I address the differentbackgrounds ofindividuals who typically write recommendationsfor candidates. Ultimately, you will have to decide what the idealrecommendation mix is for you given your unique situation.Recommendations from SupervisorsOne ofyour recommenders must be someone who has supervisedyour work and can speak to your leadership and managerialpotential. If you cannot use your current supervisor(because you have worked at the firm for only a few monthsor because he is generally unsupportive about businessschool), then consider using a previous supervisor. However,鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 201know that the Admissions Board will be curious why youdidnt use a direct supervisor. The additional informationsection of the application is a good place to address yourchoice of recommender.The second recommendation ought to come from yourprofessional life as well. It could be from the same firm or froma different firm. The important thing is to balance the perspectivebeing offered to demonstrate the depth ofyour character aswell as the breadth of experience and impact that you have hadin the organization. For example, whereas one recommendationmay stress your interaction with clients and your confidence,maturity, and performance outside the firm, your otherrecommendation may go into greater detail to show your workimpact, analytical and quantitative acumen, and direct involvementon projects that resulted in success. There isnt one setformula. Whats key is showing the different sides of who youare instead of a skewed, one-dimensional perspective.Im often asked about the specific examples the recommendersshould use. Make sure that the recommenders do notuse the exact four examples that you described in your essays.Not only will this make for a boring and redundantrecommendation, it will raise flags that you have limitedexperience. You should have some of the recommenders reinforcestories you have highlighted in your essays, but they can add greater"color" and detail to the story. They should also provide freshexamples that you have not covered in your essays (which reinforceyour personal brand) to present a rich and convincingrecommendation instead of a regurgitation of your essays.Recommendations from Alumni of the MBA ProgramIm often asked whether alumni recommendations are important.The simple answer is yes and no. Yes, if they know yourwork from a close vantage point and can attest to the significantimpact that you have had. The other situation in which alumni鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 202 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSrecommendations are preferred is when candidates come fromcompanies where little is known about them. In such instances,it is helpful to have a recommendation from an alumnus of theMBA program who can attest to the rigor and quality of thecandidates experience.But this is not a license to hunt down alumni from top MBAprograms for the sole purpose of writing a recommendation ifyou have not worked with them in the past. If you use alumnirecommenders, opt for those who know your work the best andcan back up any assertions they make about your candidacy withdetailed examples. If the alumnus doesnt know you very well,then it is not worth using him for a recommendation.Recommendations from Community Service<Outside of Work)Equally important is your extracurricular involvement, especiallyif you have a strong track record of leadership andservice. Asdiscussed earlier, MBA Boards judge leadership notonly in terms of college and career experiences but also interms of community involvement. For example, if you serveon the board of directors of a nonprofit group and you havemanaged to develop a strong relationship with your chairperson,you may be better off having him write a recommendationfor you instead of using three recommendations fromthe same job or from your professional life. Also, if youplayed a varsity sport during college and held leadership positionson the team, consider asking your coach to write arecommendation letter on your behalf. This is especiallymeaningful if you use this third recommendation as asupporting letter that provides another perspective of yourleadership and personal characteristics. Many schools likeWharton, which requires two recommendations, areamenable to a third "supporting" recommendation if it trulyadds another dimension to your story.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 203Recommendations from Professors and CollegeAdministratorsIm not usually a fan of professor recommendations,especially if the only point they can make is discussingyour intelligence. Unless you did something unique withlarge impact while you were a student, you should shy awayfrom professor recommendations. Of course, early careercandidates are the exception to this. Even in such cases,however, professor recommendations should speak to yourleadership, how you have taken initiative, and your maturity.Your transcript and GMAT score are enough data points toreinforce how smart you are. The Admissions Board wantsto learn more about who you are as a future business leader,so the professor or college administrator should provideinformation that reinforces this point. Examples that can attestto your leadership potential are your involvement in startinga student organization or in transforming the experience ofthe student body by lobbying for and changing a campus-widepolicy.Recommendations from Clients or Business AssociatesIndividuals who work in family businesses or who arefounders of their own company will have some unique challengeswhen deciding on who to use for their recommendations.It isnt ideal to use your dad or a family member if youcan avoid it. In any case, if you find yourself in the entrepreneurialsituation where either you are the boss or a familymember is in charge, you should use individuals who arefamiliar with your leadership, management experience, andimpact. These individuals often can be clients or businessassociates such as your banker, attorney, or accountant. It willbe important to manage the process carefully because theymay not have extensive experience writing recommendationletters for business school.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 204 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSRegardless of who you select to write your recommendations,the goal always is to make sure they reinforce your brandby showing the scope and impact ofyour experiences. One sureway to differentiate yourself from the pack is to demonstratenot only your ambition and commitment to your career but alsoyour investment in others success. The MBA Board is lookingfor well-rounded candidates, and recommendations can reinforcethe notion that you are multidimensional.THE APPLICANT BACKGROUND INRELATION TOTHE RECOMMENDATIONSIve discussed the different types of individuals who can writerecommendation letters. Now lets look at the different MBAcandidate backgrounds and the potential barriers they facewhen it comes to the recommendations.The Consultant and the Investment BankerConsultants and investment bankers applying to businessschool make up a significant portion of the applicant pool.This means that the competition for candidates with thisbackground is particularly fierce. Individuals writing yourrecommendation will most likely be writing recommendationsfor others as well. To a large extent, the skill set thatwill be highlighted includes your intellectual horsepower andability to quickly grasp complicated materials, analytical andquantitative skills, decision-making and problem-solvingskills, judgment, verbal and written communication skills,and confidence.Beyond confirming your intelligence and analytical skills,recommenders for consultants and investment bankers needto address your emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills,flexibility in dealing with ambiguity, team dynamics, confidenceand maturity in dealing with clients and superiors,creativity, and so much more. It isnt enough to talk about how鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 205smart a candidate is because it is already a foregone conclusion,given a solid academic track record, GMAT score, andblue chip firm. The focus should be on your personal characteristicsand the impact you have had that is beyond your jobdescription. Given that most recommenders will have goodthings to say about their candidates, it becomes even moreimportant to describe not only the "what" ofyour backgroundbut the "how" of what you have done.As far as recommenders for investment bankers, I recommendusing vice presidents (vps) and higher. It is not that associatescant speak to the quality of your work and accomplishments,but they are too close in position to you. All things beingequal, with two analysts with strong recommendations,one from an associate and the other from a VP, theMBA Board would likely tip the scale for the VP recommendationover the associate. The caveat to this is that the VP needsto know your work very well and should be a brand champion.At the end ofthe day, a lacklusterVP recommendation is worsethan a stellar associate recommendation.Ifyou are a consultant, you should consider a supervisor anda senior-titled client who have worked with you extensively. Arecommendation from a partner who knows you well becauseof leadership initiatives you have taken on a project or acrossthe firm would be of value in setting you apart from yourcompetition. The operative phrase is one "who knows youwell." It isnt useful to have recommendations from highlyranked individuals if they dont know you well.The EngineerEngineers are attractive to business schools because they oftenhave project management and hands-on managerial experiencesupervising employees. This is particularly the case forthose who have been line managers. The challenge for engineersis that their recommenders may not always be as savvy鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 206 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSas those coming from consulting or investment banking industries.Therefore, to be on the safe side, candidates from engineeringbackgrounds have to vet the writing skills of theirrecommenders. Although I never promote writing your ownrecommendation letters, unlike consultants and bankingprofessionals, who are adept in the nuances of the recommendationletters, it is important to sit down with the engineerrecommender and provide key information about yourachievements and your brand.The Nontraditional CandidateLike engineers, applicants from nonprofit organizations, military,government, and artistic backgrounds need to be proactiveto ensure that their recommenders understand what isexpected of them and the purpose of the recommendationletters. For many applicants from this category, this may be thefirst recommendation letter for business school that yourrecommender is writing, so give your recommenders enoughinformation about you, your accomplishments, and mostimportant, why you want the MBA to ensure that they understandyour brand and, in turn, write a glowing letter of recommendation.S i m i l a r t o e n g i n e e r r e c o m m e n d a t i o n s , t h o s ecoming from the nontraditional backgrounds require specialcare. Make sure to invest enough time setting the expectationsand vetting the positioning and information your recommenderintends to use for your defense.So far, I have focused the first part of this chapter on macroissues facing the recommendations. In the next section, Illexamine the actual recommendation, including the actualrecommendation rating (grid) and questions. Ill also provideinsights into what the MBA Board is truly looking for in eachof the questions covered. And of course before wrapping up Illgo through the common recommendation mistakes applicantsto business school should avoid.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 207TACKLING THE RECOMMENDATIONQUESTIONSIt goes without saying, but recommenders should make surethey answer every question that is asked in the recommendationform. There is no room for cutting corners by writing one letterof recommendation and using it for different schools. Becauseeach school words their questions differently and the specificinformation being asked varies, it is important to make sureyour recommender fully answers each question while citingvivid examples to illustrate the point. Quantifying the impactthe applicant had is more important than using superlativedescriptors that come off as trite. Make sure you refresh yourrecommenders memory by providing him with concrete examplesof your leadership and impact at your firm.Be mindful of the recommenders time. It is unrealistic toask recommenders to write more than five recommendationletters. Think of the law of diminishing returns. If you overburdenyour recommenders, they are more inclined to writegeneric letters that they tailor to the different schools instead ofspending a significant amount of time on each recommendation.To be safe, if you must apply to more than five schools,you may want to target a couple of additional individuals towrite recommendations for you. This would allow you to focusyour star recommenders on the MBA programs that you carethe most about.Recommendation forms typically have a set of questionsthat ask recommenders to rate the candidate. This grid is animportant part of the recommendation and recommendersshould give it adequate consideration when completing it. Yourrecommenders should give a realistic evaluation of you. But itshould also be tempered with sound judgment. A balancedrating is essential. What do I mean by that? Certainly highlightinga candidates excellent qualities is important. However,鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 208 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSrecommenders should be able to also identify areas where thecandidate can improve.The reverse can also be a problem. In the course ofmy timein the admissions business I have seen too many recommendershurt a candidates chance of admission by going to the otherextreme and "underselling" the candidate. Recommendersshould not view recommendations as performance reviews.Unlike performance reviews that tend to be more critical andhave more of an improvement focus, recommenders should notlose sight that the recommendation should be a tool to "sell" acandidate, not hurt him in the application process.Im often asked by applicants how the grid is interpreted bythe Admissions Board. The MBA Board is likely to be skepticalif the candidate is ranked in the highest category across everysingle characteristic. The view is "if the candidate is truly thatexceptional, does she need an MBA?" On the other hand, rankingsthat are below average can raise red flags. Therefore, theright approach when filling out the grid is to take a measuredstance. If the candidate is truly exceptional, the recommendershould rate the applicant in the very top of the grid forcharacteristics where he or she shines and lower in areas that needimprovement. Some international recommendations can beconservative when ranking a candidate. The same goes for someindustries. The good news is that the Admissions Board recognizesthese types of differences.Following is an example of a recommendation grid. Thisexample is only an illustration to show how someone can berated from "good" to "outstanding," reflecting where the candidateis strong and where improvement is needed. Candidateswho are ranked average in some areas but outstanding in otherareas can be admitted to top schools. The more important questionsare what areas they received an average rating in, why, andwhat they are doing to address their developmental needs. Inthe end, there isnt a set formula.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 209SAMPLE RECOMMENDATION RATING GRIDNo Infor- Below Average Good Excellent Outstandingmation AverageLeadership TrackRecordMotivationMaturity[IearnworkOral Communi-cationWritten Commu-nicationSelf-AwarenessGlobal Perspec-iveInterpersonalDynamicsIntelligenceAnalytical SkillsQuantitativeSkillsInnovation andCreativitySense of HumorXXXXXXXXXXXXXX鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 210 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSCommon Recommendation Questions and AdmissionsInsightsEach recommendation question is designed to reveal a candidatesprofessional experience and character. The admissionsgoal, ultimately, is to understand who the person is in a fullydimensional way.Ive categorized the recommendation questions into the"usual suspect" categories and identified the insight the MBABoard is interested in gleaning from each question.RECOMMENDATION QUESTIONSRecommendation Questions Admissions InsightsRelationship with Candidate The point of this question is to assess:How well you really know the candidateand whether you have enough interactionto provide an objective opinionThe length of time and the capacity inwhich you have worked together (forexample, direct supervisor, mentor)The typical interaction you have had withthe candidate and how the candidatecompares with his or her peersHighlights of distinction and achievements,such as career growth and promotionsLeadership, Teamwork, andInterpersonal DynamicsAddressing team dynamics ofthe candidate:Is the candidate an individual contributor,or does he or she thrive in teamsituations?Does the candidate work well with others(including peers, superiors, andsubordinates)?鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 211Recommendation Questions Admissions InsightsUnique Personal Character-isticsDoes the applicant focus only on how toget ahead?Does the candidate manage peer orsubordinate relationships well?What type of a leader is the applicant?Is this someone who motivates andinspires others?Is this someone who has the ability todrive the vision of an organization orproject?Does the candidate have natural leadershipabilities? How so?Is the candidate comfortable leading frombehind, or is he or she always pushing tobe in front?Is this a respected leader?Is the candidate evolving from being amember of a team to stepping up tomore leadership roles?Is the applicant becoming the "go toperson" on his or her team?How well does the candidate handleconflict?Does the candidate think and act quicklyon his or her feet?This is the "why should we admit thiscandidate" question. The MBA Board islooking for the unique or special attributesthat the candidate will bring to theclass.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 212 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSRecommendation Questions Admissions InsightsCandidates StrengthsIt is important to address why a particularschool should admit this candidate.Given what you know about the candidate,how would he or she fit with theMBAprogram? Does this applicant havea clear career focus and a natural curiosityto learn and stretch himself or herself forthe next level?Are there specific personal characteristicst h a t t h e c a n d i d a te h a s t h a t a reextraordinary? What specific examples backthem up? Ultimately, the MBA Board wantscandidates who can help shape the MBAprogram for the better.This section offers a great opportunity todiscuss two or three main attributes/strengths that the candidate has. Itshould support the attributes that thecandidate has identified in the essays.This third-party endorsement is verypowerful in conveying what makes thecandidate special and why the MBABoard should admit him or her. The MBABoard is looking for specific examples toback up the core strengths you highlight.It is critical! The examples should be insync with the school and the candidatespersonal brand.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Recommendation Questions Admissions InsightsCandidates WeaknessesIntellectual AbilityTo remain credible, these need to be realweaknesses. A candidate is not perfect,and the MBA Board wants to know thatthere are areas being developed.Weaknesses that are flag raisers aremajor interpersonal skills issues, such asarrogance, shyness, insensitivity toothers, "does not suffer fools," teamdynamics issues, and communicationweaknesses.MBA Boards are loathe to see strengthsdisguised as weaknesses or clichedanswers.Recommenders should always providespecific examples and indicate whetherthe candidate is open to feedback/criticismThe MBA Board is looking to understandthe candidates ability to handle ar i g o ro u s c u r r i c u l u m . T h e y h a v ereviewed the candidates GMAT, GPA,and transcripts with a fine-tooth combbut will rely heavily on your feedback onthe candidates intellectual abilities,particularly if you can provide specificexamples of the applicants intellectualhorsepower and quantitative contributionsat the firm.Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 213鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 214 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSRecommendation Questions Admissions InsightsEthical IssuesThe Admissions Board wants to understandt h e r i g o r s o f t h e p r o f e s s i o n a lcontext where the candidate has worked.It is important to provide specific examplest o s h o w c a s e h o w t h e c a n d i d a t edemonstrated superior analysis orprovided an innovative solution to achallenging business problem.Relevant skills include natural curiosityand an ability to think outside the box,adeptness with quantitative and analyticalprojects, and thought leadership (whichalso shows intelligence and intellectualcuriosity) .Given the corporate scandals of the pastfew years and the publics skepticism ofbusiness, many MBA programs areconcerned about the level of integrity andethics that their candidates bring to theirprograms. As such, there is a strongfocus on candidates ethical behavior andtrustworthiness.Be ready to comment on instances orexamples that illustrate that the candidatehas a very high moral code of ethics.Always use specific examples to illustrateyour point.Feel free to share this "cheat sheet" with your recommendersonce you have them on board to write recommendations for鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 215you. It will help them to glean some understanding of what isexpected of them and the ulterior motives behind the set ofrecommendation questions they have to address.I end this chapter with the major mistakes applicants makewhen it comes to the recommendations. Knowing what thelandmines are and avoiding them will bring you a step closer toyour MBA goals of acceptance to an elite institution.COMMON RECOMMENDATION MISTAKESTO AVOIDShow Dont TellOften recommendations are too general and full of fluff. Theytell you that the candidate is brilliant and use a lot of adjectivesbut have very little substance to back up the assertions. If, forexample, the recommender says that John is an exceptionalleader, it is critical to describe instances when john has steppedup to lead, how he has led, and what impact he has had on histeam and the organization. The rule here is to show and notsimply to tell. A good way to assess if the point is worth makingis to add the phrases, "for example" or "in the followinginstance." If a vivid example does not come to mind to back upthe point, or if the example that comes to mind doesntstrongly reinforce the message being communicated, it shouldbe discarded.Beware the Contradiction FactorThe recommendation is an authentic yardstick by which anapplicants story is measured. So consider what happens inthe mind of the MBA Board when an applicant positionsherself as someone who will start and run a business and therecommender states that the applicant is comfortable only inestablished organizations. Other examples have to do withindustry consistency. It doesnt help a candidates case when鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 216 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETShe says that he is passionate about the health care industryand his recommender says that he will likely end up in a realestate industry as a developer or in some other industry thathas nothing to do with the story the applicant has told abouthimself. This is a popular mistake that I observed while onthe MBA Admissions Board at Harvard. Mistakes like thesecould have been avoided had the candidate spent the timenecessary to educate his recommender on exactly what hisposition was. Take the time to make sure your recommendersunderstand your goals and are supportive of them.Recommendation BiasRecommendations vary according to region and industry. Forexample, recommenders from certain countries tend to be bythe-book, blunt, and straight to the point. Their evaluation maybe more focused on the areas of improvement and thereforemay sometimes miss an opportunity to highlight the positivesthat the candidate brings. Sitting down with your recommenderprior to his writing a recommendation for you and discussingany concerns you have as well as what you believe sets you apartwill help ensure that your recommendation is balanced. Theindustry background of recommenders can sometimes influencethe recommendation. If you happen to have a nontraditionalbackground and your recommender has little experiencewriting an MBA recommendation, it is worth sitting down withhim beforehand.Beware the Bland RecommendationBland recommendations lack spontaneity and seem too moldedand coached. A quick way for recommenders to check if therecommendation is bland is to ask themselves, "If I remove thecandidates name from the recommendation, could thisrecommendation apply to any other person?" If so, yourrecommendation could very well lack distinction and will do littleto endear you to the MBA Board. Ultimately, knowing the brand鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transforming Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 217of the candidate will enable the recommender to move beyondthe typical vanilla recommendation and produce a wowrecommendation that supports your brand.Recommendation OwnershipDont fall into the trap of writing your own recommendation.I know this is a common request from recommenders whoeither are too busy or are uncomfortable writing a recommendation.It is unethical to write your own recommendation, andthe Admissions Board can tell that you did so because it will besimilar to your essays. Even putting one recommendation nextto the other will be obvious that they were written by the sameperson. Dont risk it.Ifyour recommender asks you to write the recommendationand they will sign it, as tempting as that may sound, I stronglysuggest you decline tactfully. Point out to them that you willmake the process as easy and streamlined as possible byproviding content to remind them of the detailed projects andimpact you had. You can even sit down with them to flesh outyour story and the positioning of your recommendations. Ifthey still insist that you should write the recommendation yourself,you should take this as evidence that they are not investedin you. You may have to find a different person if yourrecommender absolutely refuses to write the recommendation. Apractical way to avoid this situation is to give your recommendersenough of a head start that they can devote the necessarytime to your recommendation. Also, selecting the rightpeople who are invested in your success and not overburdeningthem by having them support your eight applications will makeit more manageable for them.Damning RecommendationsThere are many ways a recommendation can have a damningeffect on the candidate. The most popular is the recommendationthat is too short, lacks examples, and is poorly written. For鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 218 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSwhatever reason (be it a lack of writing ability or lacklustercommitment to the candidate), these recommendations call intoquestion the candidates judgment.Rushed recommendations also have detrimental consequencesbecause they tend to have spelling and grammaticalerrors, and in some instances, the wrong school name. Andthen there is the recommendation that offers back-handedcompliments. These also have a negative impact on theadmission outcome. Examples such as, "Wesley is very drivenand likes to get things done effectively, but this means thathe may sometimes step on the toes of individuals who operateat a slower pace" will absolutely mark him as a selfish andimpatient person.Finally, there is the recommendation that intentionally sabotagesthe candidates admission chances. "Jaime is extremelyintelligent but has difficulty expressing his thoughts in an articulateand clear manner making it difficult for those who workwith him to benefit from his intellect. I have given him feedbackto take communication classes and expect he will improve afterhe does so." Why is this a huge no-no? For starters, businessschool in general and leadership in particular demand thatindividuals communicate in a reasonable way in order to lead ormanage a project or people. Saying up front that the candidateis a lousy communicator raises an alarm in the mind of theboard member evaluating the application. At the end ofthe day,MBA programs want to admit individuals who can engage inmeaningful discussions with their classmates.Applicants should also beware of that friend who is too eagerto write your recommendation. You may assume "its in thebag" and may not manage the recommendation as closely andeffectively as you would if the writer were not your friend. Butit is precisely this hands-off approach that may come back tohaunt you. Make sure the recommender is not jealous of youraspirations and achievements.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Transfonning Your Recommenders into Brand Champions 219I dont think you should go for an MBA.Im kind of busy at this time.Dont you think you are reaching too high?Why dont you write the recommendation?I dont need any input from you; Im an expert at this.TOP FIVE THINGS A RECOMMENDER SAYS THATSHOULD MAKE YOU DITCH HIM OR HERThis chapter has examined the role recommendation lettershave in the admission evaluation. Select your recommenderscarefully because the person you choose can determine theoutcome of your admission. Take the time to think carefullyabout whom to select for this critical role. Chicago GSB putsit aptly when it states that: "Whomever you choose to writeyour recommendation make sure they know you well and canoffer specific examples of your performance and contributionsto the organization. Avoid choosing people simply based ontheir title or status. We are more concerned with content andsubstance than reputation." Take the time to begin to developthe relationships with individuals in your profession andcommunity to win them over as brand champions. And it isnttoo late to start today.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER TENMBA Applicants BackgroundsEACH APPLICANT TO BUSINESS school is evaluated on hisor her academic ability, leadership track record, anduniqueness. Keep in mind that each candidate represents aunique background. As a candidate, you should considerwhether you are a rare gem in the applicant pool (formerEskimo school teacher) or whether you easily fall into a "usualsuspect" category. Also bear in mind that each applicant hasstrengths and biases he or she will encounter in the applicationprocess. Being aware of this ahead of time can help youstrategize and decide on what points to emphasize in yourapplication. At the end of the day, you should always bethinking of additional insight or differentiation you can bringto your story to stand out. This section reviews the perceptionsassociated with different candidates professional backgroundsand offers suggestions of what they can do to turn itto their advantage.THE USUAL SUSPECTSApplicants considered usual suspects are primarily consultants,bankers, accountants, and engineers. These applicants are heavilyrepresented in the applicant pool.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 222 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS1. The ConsultantConsultants come with different types of experience, withstrategy consulting as one of the more popular areas. Also,some consultants specialize in industry (financial, retail, orinformation technology [IT] consulting, for example). Someexamples of firms from which candidates with a consultingbackground apply are: McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Booz AllenHamilton, Accenture, and Cap Gemini. There are alsoconsultants who have worked for financial services companiesas well as Fortune 500 companies (such as American Expressand GE) in an internal consulting role.Valuable Consultant Skill SetConsultants are credited for having the following skill set:• Business savvy• Strategic thinking• Analytical thinking• Excellent communication skills• Problem-solving skills• Emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills• Project management skillsConsultant DetractorsThe large number of consultants in the pool increases thecompetition because they are, in a way, competing against eachother. Here are the detractors associated with candidates fromconsulting backgrounds:• Talkative and can be seen as arrogant• Viewed as idea people but sometimes lack operational andimplementation skills• Question whether they are the ones driving their career visioninstead of simply following a well-laid plan鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBAApplicants Backgrounds 223• Skepticism as to whether they need an MBA. (If you areplanning to remain in consulting, the MBA Board mayquestion why you want the MBA. Are you simply gettingyour ticket punched?)What to Do• Demonstrate your comfort level taking a path less traveled.It could be a decision you made professionally thatwasnt popular or something you did in your communityor in college. The important thing is to show the breadthand "richness" of who you are beyond being a smart, savvyprofessional who is great at analyzing and creating businesssolutions for clients.• Show that you can go beyond developing great ideas;speak to experiences youve had in which you were able tomanage people to implement an idea.• Show that you are the one driving your future and decisionsrather than sitting back on your laurels.• Similar to the previous point, consultants need to showthat they have a clear rationale for why they want anMBA and not because all their partners have one orbecause everyone around them gets one after a few yearsof experience.2. The BankerIm being very broad in applying the "banker" label to includeapplicants working in investment management, private equity,venture capital, research, sales and trading, and investmentbanking. In any case, these candidates are overrepresented inthe applicant pool at elite MBA programs.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 224 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSValuable Banker Skill Set• Analytical sharpness• Quantitative strength• Savvy and polish• Adept at working on challenging projectsBanker Detractors• Type A and impatient• Too self-motivated, not necessarily team players• Limited management experience• Number crunchers who execute but may not understandthe business decisions behind the numbers• Worker bee• Not balanced-no life outside workWhat to Do• Show team mind-set: balance showing your individualinvolvement and impact with working behind the scenesand helping others become successful. It is important thatyour story is mixed with "we" and "I" instead of only yourown involvement.• Be sure to convey how your impact at work transcends thefinancial analysis that you did.• Dont underestimate the power of initiative and comingup with creative ideas and seeing them to fruition.• Seek opportunities to lead recruiting and traininginitiatives.• Step up to fill a void when the opportunity presents itself.(Dont simply get your job done.)鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBAApplicants Backgrounds 2253. The AccountantAccountants are also seen as "usual suspect" candidates tobusiness school. They are often represented in large numbers inthe application pool.Valuable Accountant Skill Set• Great with numbers• Highly detailed• Organized• DependableAccountant Detractors• Tactical (not strategic)• Not engaging, with nonstellar interpersonal skills• Work can be boring• Narrow skill set• Lack creativity• Executor, not driver ofvisionWhat to Do• Show an understanding and interest in the bigger picture.• Demonstrate that you understand business decisionsbeyond the spreadsheets (how the numbers drive the decisionsa business is making).• Show your understanding of other functional areas; seekcross-functional projects to broaden perspective and skillset.• Tell engaging stories. Make sure that all your essays arenot simply describing financial reviews and reconcilingmonthly statements.• Show your personality with appropriate humor and flair.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 226 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS4. The EngineerThere are a lot of engineers in the applicant pool. They areviewed as a close cousin to accountants. Their roles are oftentechnical. However, many of them are represented in variedindustries. Asa result, it is not unusual to see engineering candidatesfrom pharmaceuticals, start-up ventures, technology companies,and even NASA.Valuable Engineer Skill Set• Strong with numbers• Technically advanced• Project management exposure• Doers: implementation experienceEngineer Detractors• Poor communication skills• Rigid• Executors, not strategic or big-picture thinkers• Poor interpersonal skillsWhat to Do• Demonstrate that you have vision and that you can come upwith an idea, sell it to people, and rally people behind a goal.• Show personality besides being smart and great at yourjob. Show that you have a life outside work that is dynamicand interesting.• Show that you are flexible, can go with the flow, and arenot limited by only one approach or idea.• Make sure you demonstrate your real need for the MBAto get you closer to your career goals.• Stress your interpersonal and people-related skills andexpenence.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBAApplicants Backgrounds 227NONTRADITIONAL CAN DIDATESA growing number of nontraditional candidates (NTCs) arerecognizing the value of an MBA. Individuals from nonprofitorganizations, military personnel, artists, government workers,and early career applicants fall in the NTC category. NTCsare sought by top MBA programs because of the diversity ofrich experiences and perspectives they offer in the class.Admitted candidates from this background usually have threequalities in common: (1) they have an exceptional leadershiptrack record, (2) they have done an outstanding job buildinga strong case for why they need an MBA, and (3) they typicallyhave a lot of passion for the work they do. But despite thestrengths that they bring, NTCs have major hurdles in theapplication process: they need to convince the MBA Boardthat they have a rigorous background and relevant or transferableskills and that the MBA makes sense given their longtermgoals.1. The Nonprofit ManagerOne typically does not associate people who "do good" withsigning up for the MBA. However, this is a growing phenomenonas more individuals from socially responsible backgroundsrecognize that the practical skills taught in businessschools are tools that can galvanize their nonprofit organizations.I anticipate that this trend will continue as the linesbetween sectors blur. Applicants from nonprofit backgroundsprovide a different perspective that can enrich the diversity ofthe student body. But before landing that coveted admission,they will need to show that they have a clearly mapped-outplan for which an MBA is an integral bridge to its accomplishment.Showing intellectual strength and solid managerialaccomplishment will help nonprofit candidates mitigateany concerns the MBA Board may have about their candidacy.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 228 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSValuable Nonprofit Skill Set• A history of operational experience• Very passionate about industry• Strong interpersonal skills• Strong communicatorNonprofit Detractors• Weak quantitative skills• Weak analytical skills• Question the rigor of their work experience• Question why they want an MBAWhat to Do• Make sure your academic (GMAT and GPA) data pointsare sound. Take a class or two in finance or accounting andearn strong grades. Aim for a GMAT score north of 700to make academics a non-issue.• Present a crystal-clear vision of your goals and outline howthe MBA will help you achieve them.• Dont assume the MBA Board can see the connections andrelevance of your work experience and your businessschool goals. Be proactive in marketing the transferableskills you have.• Demonstrate that your work experience is rigorous andthat you can keep up intellectually with your classmateswho come from more traditional backgrounds.2. The Military CandidateA conversation between two Harvard students captures theperception of military students. Mike: "Im concerned about鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBAApplicants Backgrounds 229how I will do in this class. Its not easy jumping in to make mypoint in section. I worry about making intelligent commentson the case." Sam: "I know what you mean. Can you imaginewhat Joe, the Navy SEAL in our class, thinks when hes inclass-This isa piece ofcake. Ill take many cold calls in section overanother mission in Fallujah!" Military candidates have been inremarkably challenging situations and have had their leadershipabilities tested numerous times. The challenge for themisnt showing that they have leadership experience but that theycan adapt to a nonmilitary environment.Valuable Military Skill Set• Excellent leadership track record• Excellent team experience• Strong communication skills• Solid interpersonal skillsMilitary Detractors• Can be rigid and hierarchical• Tough time adapting to civilian world• Disconnect between goals and experience• Unclear that the MBA is vital for the career goalWhat to Do• Show that you can be flexible.• Pick essay topics that show different aspects of who youare beyond your experience in the military.• Demonstrate awareness and understanding of the civilianbusiness environment.• Nail the rationale for why you want an MBA and what itwill help you achieve professionally. An example can be鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 230 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETStying your reconstruction work in war-torn regions withyour interest in running an infrastructure developmentcompany in the emerging markets. Drawing parallels withyour current experience and your future goals can helpyou create credibility.• Share stories that show the lighter, softer side of yourpersonality.3. The ArtistArtists can be performers or managers of artist organizations.They may want to empower future artists by growing the artslobby organization they started from a regional business to anational one. They may also be performers in a music conservatorybut would like to transition to the business side ofmanaging one. Perhaps they are recording artists with somerecording success but want to manage other artists and want tostart their own label. Even those in the business side of the artscan make a compelling case for why they need an MBA. A casein point is someone who works for Christies managing theirSouth Asian auctions, and plans to create his own businesstargeting the region. Whatever the case, artists will need toshow that they have a clear career plan and that there is a businessopportunity on which they plan to capitalize. As an artist,even if you are a career changer and want to enter a newindustry, it is critical to show that you have achieved somesuccess in your current career.Valuable Artist Skill Set• Passionate• Creative• Interesting and different perspective• Engaging and dynamic鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBAApplicants Backgrounds 231Artist Detractors• Question whether the MBA is necessary for their goals• Skepticism about transitioning to new career (if careerchanger)• Weak quantitative skills• Weak analytical skills• Question rigor of their experienceWhat to Do• Take the GMAT early and nail a very strong score (higherthan 700, ideally). Take business courses and earn As inthem.• Make sure your vision is clear and map out exactly thesteps you plan to take to achieve your career goals.• Demonstrate that you need the MBA given your goals.• Share stories from your experiences that show awarenessof the business environment and connect the dots fromyour track record to show compelling impact.• Show that you are more than an interesting and passionatecandidate. It is important to show your serious side anddemonstrate clarity of vision for your future.4. The Public Sector (Government) CandidateTalented individuals who work in the public sector and want tofind innovative strategies to tackle public issues can make astrong case for their need of a business education. StanfordGraduate School of Business has been at the forefront ofproviding leadership to individuals from the public sectorthrough its Certificate in Public Management and the PublicManagement Program. But Stanford isnt alone in this commitment.Many top MBA programs look to attract public sector鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 232 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETScandidates to their programs. Whether you work for theEnvironmental Protection Agency or serve as the assistant to theprime minister of a country, you can make a cogent argumentthat developing business skills through an MBA will help you bemore successful in your public sector role. Because many issueshave a private and public sector connection, you should highlightyour awareness of the complexity of business issues facingthe public sector today and how global business training canhelp equip you with the requisite skills to handle them.Valuable Government Skill Set• Different perspective• Insights into the interplay between business and politics• Management experience• Great team dynamics and experienceGovernment Detractors• Experience may not be seen as rigorous enough• Perspective may be too narrowly defined and may lackbroader business insights• May not have solid quantitative background• Unclear whether the MBA is a fit given backgroundWhat to Do• Dont assume the MBA Board will connect all the dots ofyour story. Take the time to connect the dots for them.Focus on the relevant skills you have and how they translateto business.• Demonstrate that you have a rigorous background(whether through your academic preparation or workexperience).鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBAApplicants Backgrounds 233• Youwill need to pay particular attention to your justificationfor why you need an MBA. Make sure that yourrationale justifies why you need an MBA in the first place.5. The Early Career CandidateTwelve years ago you would be hard-pressed to find manycollege seniors in an MBA class,let alone MBA programs boldlydeclaring that they are seeking candidates who are early in theircareer (less than two years ofwork experience). For the past fewyears, many MBA programs have begun to court candidateswho are very early in their career. Harvard and Stanfords MBAprograms were two of the first to take this position. Many otherprograms have also expanded their marketing to college seniorsand individuals who have less than two years of professionalexperience. Even as I write this book, Harvard Business Schoolhas announced the launch ofits 2+2 program (admitting collegejuniors who then work for two years after earning theirundergraduate degrees before taking up their admission offer).Employers havent been shy about coming on board with thisprogram either.Although many schools have become open to younger applicants,the reality is that only a portion of the class will be representedin this demographic group. The average age of an MBAentering class at most top MBA programs will likely remainbetween twenty-six and twenty-eight years old.The important message is that early career (EC) applicantswho are great leaders, have an excellent track record ofmaking an impact, and demonstrate professional and personalmaturity should consider applying to business school wheneverthey feel ready.EC candidates, like every other applicant to business school,have to make a compelling case for why they need the MBA.For EC candidates, there is even greater pressure to make this鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 234 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETScase. The questions every MBA Board member will have are,"Why you are applying now? What is the hurry?" Therefore,if you happen to fall in this category, you do need to demonstratethat you have thoroughly reviewed your career goals,have enough meaningful experience to bring to the classroom,and can show that the MBA is a critical next step for you toachieve your career success.Valuable Early Career Skill Set• Clarity of career focus• Excellent leadership background• Driven• Push the status quo, innovative• Inquisitive and naturally curiousEarly Career Detractors• Too much in a hurry• Overly confident• Lack of relevant experience• Emotional intelligence and maturity can be a problemWhat to Do• Take the GMAT and have very strong scores (at leastwithin the range of the programs median score).• Have an excellent academic track record, which includesa strong GPA as well as some business courses.• Demonstrate exceptional evidence ofleadership in college.The laundry list of club membership absolutely will notcut it. Because you will have limited work experience, youshould be able to demonstrate that you are a "natural"leader with real involvement and results you can point to.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBAApplicants Backgrounds 235If you have managed classmates on projects or worked inroles in which you have been given managerial responsibility,then highlight that experience. For instance, if youmanaged the student union at your college, this examplecan showcase your managerial potential.• Maturity is an important trait for all candidates, but is evenmore critical for an EC candidate because you need to beable to fit in among classmates who are much older andhave more work experience.• Show laser-like focus when it comes to career goals.Career goals that are ambiguous or general will not cut it.Avoid this by making sure that you leave the boardmember with an iron-clad perception that you aregrounded and have a clear but obtainable goal thatabsolutely warrants an MBA degree.• Select your recommenders wisely.Although you can likelyget away with one recommendation from one professor,having all academic recommendations that stress howsmart you are will not work. You need to show yourbusiness potential, so look for a recommender who hasobserved you in a professional situation, whether in aninternship or a nonacademic leadership capacity. Studentdeans can offer strong recommendations if they can talkabout how you have impacted the institution through yourstudent leadership roles.6. The Entrepreneurial CandidateEntrepreneurs are attracted to the MBA for the practical skillsthey can gain, access to a broader network, and the opportunityto refine and develop their business ideas.MBA programs in turnare attracted to entrepreneurs for the interesting businessexperience they add to the class as well as their natural tendency tothink outside the box when tackling business issues. If you are鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 236 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSrunning your own business or working for a family business andwish to pursue an MBA, you should take a few moments to gleanhow your profile is viewed by the MBA Board.Valuable Entrepreneur Skill Set• Highly creative• Passionate• Dogged commitment to their business• Interesting entrepreneurial work experience and lessonslearnedEntrepreneur Detractors• Quantitative and analytical gaps• Question whether they can sit through an entire MBAprogram• Question whether the MBA is necessary for their careergoals• Question whether the MBA is an escape plan in the faceof a failed ventureWhat to Do• Show that the MBA isnt a passing fancy, that it is a calculateddecision that will help you grow your business orstart another business in the future.• Select the right program so there isnt any question aboutfit. There are MBA programs that are more inclinedtowards entrepreneurship (for example, MIT Sloan) andentrepreneurs should select programs that embraceentrepreneurs. You may also opt for programs that areaccelerated or begin inJanuary instead ofthe usual fall start asthey are more geared toward entrepreneurs.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBAApplicants Backgrounds 237•  Demonstrate that the business you started was substantialso the MBA Board takes you seriously. Starting at-shirtbusiness in high school and selling a handful doesnt brandyou as an entrepreneur.•  Even if the venture failed, it is important to share lessonslearned, what you would do differently, and articulate howa formal background in business can help you launch asuccessful enterprise in the future.JOINT OR DUAL DEGREE PROGRAMSWhen it comes to dual degree programs, confusion has existedfor a long time regarding the application process, requirements,and deadlines. Fortunately, most MBAprograms have streamlinedtheir dual degree processes and have created more clarityand information about them. When applying to a joint or dualdegree program, it is your responsibility to convince the AdmissionsBoards for both programs that you truly require bothdegrees and have the background to enrich their programs. Ifyou decide to apply to a joint or dual degree program, here area few items to keep in mind:1. Be clear on exactly why you need both degrees. Why is thedegree necessary for your career? Address why taking a fewclasses from the second program isnt enough to meetyour goals.2. Recognize that every program is different. Know bothprograms very well and invest in the applications; dontassume one or the other is "in the bag."3. Make sure you meet the deadlines of each program. It isusually the case that you will need to apply to both programsseparately as well as submit a dual degree application, whichoften entails additional essays.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 238 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSFINAL THOUG HTSThere is no such thing as a perfect profile. Every candidate hasto overcome potential detractors, and it is to their advantage tounderstand how the Admissions Board views their profile inorder to strategically overcome any hidden bias to their story.Becoming aware of the hidden biases to your profile empowersyou to proactively address them so that you cast your applicationin the most powerful light possible.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER ELEVENMore MBA Applicants BackgroundsTHIS CHAPTER COVERS WOMEN, minorities, andinternational candidates. You may be wondering why there is aseparate chapter devoted to these three groups. As I grappledwith this question, I kept returning to my observations of theunique issues some individuals in these three groups face. As aresult, I have attempted to provide some useful perspectives forcandidates who fall in one of these three categories.WOMENWomen at top MBA programs make up only 30 to 39 percent ofthe class compared with the nations leading medical and lawschools, which are usually composed ofnearly 50 percent femalestudents. MBA programs such as Stanford Graduate School ofBusiness and Wharton have some of the highest percentages offemale students (38 and 37 percent for the class of2009,respectively). The reasons fewer women apply to business schoolsvary. Here are some of the common reasons given for why fewerwomen apply and enroll at leadingMBA programs:1. Lack of enough female role models in business2. The perception that MBA programs and business ingeneral are cutthroat and Machiavellian鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 240 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS3.  Concerns about quantitative skills4. Skepticism surrounding the value of the MBA, especiallywhen considering balancing professional andpersonal life goals5. The age factor: unlike other graduate programs wherefemale candidates typically enroll right after college,most applicants to business school apply after workinga few years. This may create friction between choosinga career and deciding to begin a family. (Choosing thelatter option may keep many would-be female candidatesfrom applying.)The dearth of female MBAs has been a topic of recentdiscussions and concern among deans at top MBA programs.As a result, many of these programs are embarking on moreaggressive marketing efforts to attract a greater number ofwomen to their programs. It is indeed this same issue that haspartly affected the push for early career initiatives at someleading business schools with hopes of "reaching" more brightfemale candidates.Catalyst, a research and advisory organization, authored alandmark paper, "Women and the MBA: Gateway to Opportunity,"in 2002 that revealed a disproportionate number of womenwere pursuing graduate business education. Organizations suchas the Forte Foundation (www.fortefoundation.org) are fillingthis need. The mission of the Forte Foundation is to "increasethe number of women business owners and business leaders andto support their careers through business education andnetworks." The Forte Foundation, created in November 2001,has members that include individual women, business schools,nonprofit organizations, and large corporations. Today,top MBAprograms partner with the Forte Foundation to market theirprograms to prospective female candidates. I highly recommendthe Forte Foundation to female candidates because it offers鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • More MBAApplicants Backgrounds 241unparalleled information about business schools from a womansperspective. The endless resources-a network of talentedwomen, thoughtful leadership articles, female mentors, podcastsfeaturing accomplished women who provide career advice,admissions events, and, not least, financial support-empowerfemale candidates and help alleviate worries and obstacles thatmake applying to business school a challenge for them.The MBA has become much more diverse today. Gone arethe days when MBAs were perceived as hard-charging men inpinstripe suits whose sole goal in life was to close the next financialdeal. More recently, the message is getting out that MBAscan be socially conscious entrepreneurs or individuals who aretransforming the way government operates. In addition, theincreasing push for diversity at MBA programs, more activefemale alumni networks, and growing sensitivity in corporateAmerica regarding work-life balance and telecommutingoptions make this a great time for anyone to pursue an MBA,especially women.Harvard Business School has even created a weeklong executivedevelopment program known as"ANew Path: Setting NewProfessional Directions" to help women wishing to return to theworkforce update their business skills and reassess their careerpath (www.exed.hbs.edulprograms/pathlobjectives.html).MBA Boards across top business schools have responded tothis scarcity of female applicants by adopting more aggressiverecruiting and marketing efforts to attract female candidates toapply.A few examples ofsuch efforts are open house marketingevents held by the MBA Boards that target women applicants.At these events, female alumni and students serve on panels andaddress candidates questions while sharing their experiencesand perspectives as women and the value of the MBA on theircareer. Female student associations at top MBA programs tendto be active and often partner with MBA Boards on marketinginitiatives and planning admitted students weekends to鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 242 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSstrengthen the yield of admitted female students. I stronglyencourage all female candidates to participate in these openhouse events as well as attend the Forte Foundation events.They are excellent opportunities to learn about the MBAprogram from a womans perspective, but more than that, itgives you a chance to make connections with individuals whoare closest to the programs.MINORITIESMinority students represent between 10 and 25 percent of theenrolled students at top MBA programs. Expanding the ethnicdiversity of their program is important to most MBA programs.And like the female-only open house marketing events thattarget women candidates, MBA Boards offer minority openhouse events to provide a forum for candidates from minoritybackgrounds to learn about their programs.Current students and alumni from minority backgroundsalso partner with the MBA Board on their recruitment and yieldevents. In many of these programs, annual alumni conferencesattract a significant amount of prospective minority studentswho use this opportunity to assess whether the program is a fitfor them. For prospective minority students on the fence, theseconferences can be instrumental in their decision to apply tothe MBA in general and the business school program in particular.Whartons Whitney Young Conference (www.wmyconference.c o m ) a n d H a r v a r d s N a y l o r F i t z h u g h C o n f e r e n c e(www.hbsaasu.com) are two examples of the largest minorityconferences at top business schools.There are also organizations that provide resources andsupport to minority candidates. The Diversity PipelineAlliance, the MBA Consortium, and Management Leadershipfor Tomorrow are a few examples of such programs.Diversity Pipeline Alliance: The Diversity Pipeline Alliance(the "Pipeline") is a network ofnational organizations that share鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • More MBAApplicants Backgrounds 243the common goal of preparing students and professionals ofcolor for leadership and management in the twenty-firstcentury workforce.The MBA Consortium: The Consortium for Graduate Studyin Management is a leading organization for promoting diversityin American business. Started in the mid-1960s, it providesan annual competition that awards merit-based, full-tuitionfellowships to Americas best and brightest diverse candidates.With more than 5000 alumni, fellowship recipients are givenaccess to a robust network.Management Leadership for TOmorrow: MLT (www.mI4t.org)is another great resource for prospective applicants. Started bya Harvard MBA, John Rice, MLT focuses on introducingminorities to business careers and education by providing oneon-one mentoring, boot camps, and a network from the applicationprocess to post graduation career support.Another good support group for minorities is the RobertToigo Foundation (RTF) (www.toigofoundation.org). whichprovides a combination of scholarship, mentorship, andtraining as well as a robust career network for minorities interestedin the financial services industry.INTERNATIONALSInternational students make up 20 to 40 percent of MBAprograms in the United States, and as many as seventycountries are represented in many instances. Internationalcandidates clearly add to the diversity ofMBA programs, andno area has seen as much activity as the international recruitmentefforts launched by admissions offices at many topMBA programs.Today, reviewing the MBA websites, it is quite common tosee an extensive list of countries on the admissions travelschedule. Not only are MBA Boards visiting a variety of countriesto "sell" their brand to prospective candidates, they are鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 244 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSalso adding interview schedules instead of relying only onalumni. New YorkUniversity Stern Business School is one suchprogram that sends MBA Board members to China and othercountries to interview prospective candidates. Wharton andKellogg have been leaders in recruiting prospective candidatesin Africa in addition to other regions across the globe.International centers are also becoming quite popular asoffshoots of the MBA program, enabling schools to establishinfrastructure abroad to develop intellectual capital for facultyas well as to establish relationships and partnerships instrategic countries.Alumni returning to their home countries are proving apowerful force in providing networking opportunities for eachother and admissions support for MBA candidates. Alumniclubs exist in a variety of countries around the world. Ifyou findthat candidates from your country are underrepresented or thatthere is no alumni association there, this could be one initiativeyou can help bring attention to after you are admitted.Despite the focus international candidates are receiving fromMBA Boards at leading business schools, international candidatesface several challenges worth exploring. Topping this listis the visa issue facing internationals who reside outside theUnited States. Post-September 2001, U.S. immigration lawshave tightened, making it more challenging for internationalstudents to receive visas in a short time frame. Therefore,international candidates are encouraged to apply in the earlierrounds to ensure that they have enough time to obtain the visa.Most visa consulate offices require evidence that the candidatecan fund his or her education. Before going in for your visainterview, you should make sure you are armed with allsupporting materials to minimize the chance ofyour visa applicationbeing denied.Beyond the visa issue, another concern that internationalcandidates face is securing work permits for employment in the鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • More MBA Applicants Backgrounds 245United States. International students are entitled to one yearof practical training in their area of study. Most internationalstudents take advantage of this option after graduating. Duringtheir year-long "practical training" they are able to have theircompany file for their H-1 B working permits.The economic downturn of the early 2000s has posed somechallenges for securing employment after business school.Recent international MBAs have not been exempt from thestruggles that the classes of 2001-2003 faced. In some casescompanies that were open to hiring international students hiredfewer graduates, making it difficult for internationals to secureemployment in the United States. This trend has led someinternational candidates to opt for MBA programs outside theUnited States because of the greater flexibility they offer:shorter program length (one year to eighteen months) and openpolicies for granting work permits. Popular MBA programssuch as INSEAD, IMD, and London Business School draw thelargest numbers of internationals abroad. U.S. MBA programswill continue to compete with international MBA programs,which often offer language components that make them attractiveto international applicants. MBA Boards will have tocontinue to aggressively market to international talent throughproactive marketing and bringing the admissions informationto international students home countries.While MBA programs continue to be challenged inattracting top international talent to the United States, it isntan invitation to international applicants to become complacentwhen applying to business school. As of October 2007, theGraduate Management Admissions Council reported a significantincrease (22.84 percent) in the number of test takers outside theUnited States compared with those who took the test in October2006. These data suggest that more applicants, particularlyinternationals, are taking the GMAT and this increase will likelyresult in steeper competition this admission cycle.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 246 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSOn the evaluation front, many questions have been askedabout how MBA Boards view international candidates in theapplication process. A common misconception is that MBABoards have different admissions criteria for internationalcandidates compared with U.S. citizens. This is far from thetruth. Both groups of candidates are evaluated based on thesame admissions criteria described in earlier chapters. Thatsaid, an area where I have observed a slight gap among internationalcandidates is related to extracurricular involvement. Inthe United States, there is a strong culture of communityservice and extracurricular activities. Take the college application,for instance. High school students in the United Stateslearn early that they need more than a perfect SAT score andGPA to be admitted to their top schools. Hence, they becomesavvy about building their extracurricular activities and a trackrecord of leadership. Furthermore, American colleges offerample opportunities to do internships and participate in studentleadership and community service. With an emphasis on beingwell-rounded individuals, the average candidate in America hasextensive opportunities to develop a strong leadership andcommunity service track record.This is not to suggest that these opportunities are nonexistentfor internationals. However, international candidateshave to be more aggressive when identifying opportunities toimpact and lead in their communities. In situations in whichthe opportunities are absent, you should look into creating anorganization from scratch, giving you a great opportunity toshowcase your entrepreneurial leadership. I once worked withan international candidate who was reapplying to businessschool. He had created a brand-new community organizationto help university students get placed for internships in hishome country. I suspect that this leadership involvement ispartly why he was admitted to a top MBA program the secondtime around.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • More MBAApplicants Backgrounds 247Obtaining recommendation letters is another area in whichinternational candidates should pay careful attention. Ivenoticed that international recommenders are not always asknowledgeable about how to "market" candidates. You shouldpay careful attention to selecting the right recommender ifyou are an international candidate. Make sure the writingability of your recommender is up to par and that he or shehas a good command of the English language. Remember,you are being assessed on your management potential andleadership, so remind your recommenders to stress thesepoints and not simply state that you are a hard worker andextremely intelligent.Finally, funding the education is an issue that internationalstudents grapple with. Unlike many graduate programs, whichdo not offer loans to international students, many of the U.S.MBA programs have relationships with lending institutions,making it possible for international candidates to qualify forloans. CitiAssist (www.citiassist.com) or comparable lendingagencies offer international candidates loans to cover their businessschool expenses. I cover more on financial aid in thechapter on funding the MBA.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER TWELVEAdmissions DecisionsAITER MANY MONTHS INVESTING in the application, thelong-awaited decision day has arrived. Decision day, oraptly, D day, is a day that is full of angst for MBA candidates.The wait has been long and candidates have given everythingthey can to earn a spot at their dream school. Rumors have notbeen in short supply in popular online chat rooms, either. Thisday is particularly abuzz with final salutations and last-minuteencouragements. The clock strikes at the prescribed time andthe results pour in.For about 10 to 20 percent of applicants, the news ispositive. Congratulatory phone calls from MBA admissionsdirectors such as Derrick Bolton, Rosemarie Martinelli, andDee Leopold bring good news to anxious candidates. Formany, however, the admission outcome is disappointing.These applicants receive the conciliatory email informingthem that they are great candidates but an overly competitiveyear and exceptional applicant pool made it impossible toadmit them. I will use this chapter to discuss the differentadmission decision outcomes and offer suggestions on howto manage each situation.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 250 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSADMITTED, NOW WHAT?Once the euphoria of the good news has cleared, you will havesome practical tasks to attend to in preparation for this newchapter of your life.The first order of business is to follow up with your brandchampions (recommenders) to inform them of the admissiondecision and to thank them for their role in making your applicationsuccessful. (Youshould have already sent a thank you giftafter completing your application.)After you have visited the schools, it is a good idea to pick upprogram paraphernalia such as t-shirts or baseball hats as asmall token of thanks to your recommenders. On the otherhand, you may prefer to simply take them out to lunch or fordrinks to celebrate. The important message here is to conveyyour gratitude for their time and commitment to your success.It is important to maintain a long-term outlook on your relationshipwith these brand champions. Staying in touch withthem while you are in business school and beyond is to youradvantage. After all, you may need them again in the future.Deciding on which MBA program to enroll in requiresthoughtful analysis and research. Often friends and family havestrong and conflicting opinions ofwhere you should enroll. Butthe decision is ultimately yours (unless you have a partner, inwhich case both ofyou will need to make the decision together).As a first step in deciding which MBA program you willattend, jot down the pros and cons of each program. Then visitthe programs you are considering for their admitted studentsweekend events.One note of caution about these events is that all the schoolsare going to have their best faceon and will have a full-court pressto impress and sell you on their program. Therefore, you willneed to dig a bit deeper to make sure that your questions areanswered and that the program really offers what it says it does.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Decisions 251Once you have made your decision and have paid yourdeposit, you are ready to tackle the prematriculation process.You will likely be inundated with emails and packets that canquickly become overwhelming. Although it can be tempting toput off going through the materials you receive, take the timeSOME TOPICS TO EXPLORE DURINGADMITIED STUDENTS WEEKENDHow comfortable are you with the teaching method at theschool? Attending multiple classes during your visit will giveyou perspective that should confirm or raise flags regardingwhether the teaching method is appropriate for you. The currentstudents can also attest to the value and detractors of theteaching method. The faculty can contribute to the quality ofyour education, so do not hesitate to find out whether thefaculty are accessible to the students and if opportunities existto work with them on cases and projects outside the classroom.Social life is very important. Take your significant other if youhave one to explore the culture ofthe program outside the classroom.How integrated are partners in the overall fabric of thesocial life? What are things that could be improved upon in thisarea, and what is currently being done? What social activitiesdo students participate in, and do they appeal to you?Career services and support have become more important asthe economy has gone through downturns in the recent years.Research the level of commitment the career services teamgives to students. Talking to students and the career servicesstaffwill give you some perspective in this area. Payclose attentionto employment statistics of recent graduates. This informationis accessible from the career services office.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 252 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSto review them carefully to avoid missing any key deadlines. Ihave identified the major prematriculation topics, although thislist is certainly not exhaustive and there may be other issues thatyou need to address based on your particular situation.Prematriculation PreparationThe prematriculation process can last for several months untilyour program begins. Devote the time to ensure that you attendto all matters dealing with this process.Financial AidMake sure you have all the required financial aid formscompleted and submitted on time. Now that you are an"insider," you may also be able to identify additional fundingopportunities that were not advertised on the programswebsite. Do not be bashful about contacting the financial aidstaff to inquire about further opportunities for scholarships. Ifyou do this, however, it is important to do so tastefully withoutbeing annoying. The next chapter covers financial aid informationin greater detail.HousingWhere you will live can have a tremendous impact on yourMBA experience, so choose wisely. Is your program a residentialcampus? If not, how important is it for you to live close tocampus? What about roommates? The MBA experience is notsolely in the classroom. In fact, many of the exciting and interestingexperiences will take place after classes.Do enough introspectionto decide what matters to you and what kind of experienceyou wish to have before you select your housing.Since my husband attended business school and we lived bothon campus and off, I can offer my personal opinion based onboth experiences. On-campus is all about convenience, and youare truly in the mix of things. Off-campus gives you a bit more鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Decisions 253space (if that is what you seek) and can mean that your experienceis expanded to the broader community instead of focusedon the MBA nucleus ofyour program. In either case, be proactive.Finding great accommodations is challenging at best andnear impossible if you are in a metropolitan city, so start earlyto sort out your housing situation. Many programs provideoncampus housing based on a lottery system, so plan to take careofyour housing as soon as you can and dont leave it to the lastminute because you can lose out on your lottery if you miss thedeadline. Roommates can also pose their set of problems if youdont select carefully. Some friendships do not survive after thefriends have lived together: just because you get along with yourfriend doesnt always mean you will enjoy living with him orher. If your friend is a certified slob and you cant stand to seea plate in the kitchen sink, you may want to think twice beforerooming together. It is not unusual to see two friends who cameto business school as best friends graduate and end up notspeaking to each other after living together. Whatever youdecide to do with your housing decision, think long and hardabout what your options are and what works for you to ensurea pleasant living experience.Academic PreparationRegardless of whether your admission is conditional onacademic study, it is to your advantage to brush up on yourquantitative and analytical skills by taking a course or at the veryleast reading through a well-written text on statistics,accounting, and financial analysis. This is particularly useful forindividuals who have been out of school for more than fiveyears. Many MBA programs require incoming students tocomplete a prematriculation "mini course" offered by theprogram. These can be in the form of math boot camps orintensive English language programs. The advantage of theseprograms is that you will have a chance to get to know a small鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 254 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSgroup ofyour classmates before the semester starts. ManyMBAprograms also require their entering class to complete a seriesof analytic and career assessments. These are required and cantake time to complete, so although you may be inclined toprocrastinate, set aside enough time so that you dont jeopardizeyour admission by not completing the assessment.Career PreparationEveryone, particularly career changers, should considerspending some time thinking about what it is they wish tostudy and their career goals. ManyMBA programs use CareerLeader, a great tool for self-assessment and career guidance.You may also choose to arrange informational meetings withalumni from your MBA program or professionals in theindustry in which you wish to work. Consider spending acouple of months during the summer before you start businessschool working in the role or industry you plan to moveinto after the MBA. A former client of mine who was a bankerbut wanted to explore consulting left his job to work for aconsulting company in a new geographic location. It was asixmonth stint, but it gave him exposure to a new industrybeyond the summer internship and also allowed him toexplore a new region (which he discovered he loved). Thisexperience allowed him to confirm that consulting was theright career for him even before he began his MBA. Investingin working in a new career for a couple of months before youbegin business school can give you a bit of a boost when itcomes to securing a job. Such positions may be unpaid butwill pay dividends when you begin your job search. Besides,you cant underestimate the value of hitting the groundrunning. Regardless of your decision, be sensitive to how youexit from your firm. If you plan to explore another careeropportunity before starting your MBA, do give your employerample notice before you leave your job. And please, aim to鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Decisions 255wrap up all outstanding projects to the best of your ability. Itis always wise to leave your bridges intact for the future.Securing a VisaFor international students outside the United States, begin yourvisa application process as early as possible (once you receiveyour admission notice), as the process has become morecomplicated and involves more time. Even before you receiveyour admission offer, you should have all documents ready forthe embassy or consulate office.Have Fun!Finally, allow time to relax. You may wish to travel to seefriends and family or to spend some time on a passion that youhave been neglecting. Also, there is ample opportunity to meetyour soon-to-be classmates through the prematriculation sitesand informal get-togethers in your city of residence. Some ofyour closest friendships may be established during one of thesetrips before the program formally begins. An applicant I knowused the summer before starting his MBA to finally earn hispilots license.CON DITIONAL ADMISSIONWhat if you are admitted conditionally? Conditional admissiontypically has two stipulations: (1) improving quantitativebackground and (2) developing English language skills.Some MBA programs provide summer or prematriculationprograms. These programs often cover English languagedevelopment and analytical and quantitative preparation. In othercases, the admission is conditional on the student taking coursesfrom a university in his or her home city.Whatever the case, it is important to view this admissionpositively. After all, the MBA Board would not have admitted鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 256 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSyou ifit did not think you had the ability to handle its program.The additional coursework is to provide you with an opportunityto strengthen any gaps and to empower you to succeedwhen the program begins. Interestingly enough, much of thefeedback I have received on this, especially programs sponsoredby the MBA, has been good. To paraphrase one students view,"The prematriculation program was wonderful as it gave me achance to meet many of my classmates and form a close bondwith them before classes began. It was like starting a programwith more than twenty friends."One point to underscore regarding conditional admission isto make sure that you have read the fine print on your admissionletter. The responsibility is on you to fulfill the conditionson which your admission is made. You dont want an oversightto cost you a spot at your dream school.DEFERRED ADMISSIONMost top MBA programs prefer that candidates apply onlywhen they are ready, and the majority of them do not grantdeferrals except under extenuating circumstances. Contact eachof the MBA programs to find out exactly what their policy ison deferred admission. Some examples ofwhat the MBA Boardconsiders extenuating circumstances include:• When an illness precludes you from enrolling (you willneed medical records from your doctor to attest to this)• When you are the primary caretaker of an immediatefamily member who is struggling with a serious healthproblem• When you are in the military and have been deployed tocombat or assignment• When you are a college senior whom the MBA Boardfeels will be better served if you gained professionalexperience鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Decisions 257Unfortunately, at many programs, once-in-a-lifetimecareer opportunities, although noteworthy achievements, arerarely deemed acceptable reasons to grant a deferral. Beaware that the MBA Board reserves the right to make thefinal call on who they will offer deferred admission to. Ifyourrequest for a deferral is declined and you choose to reapply inthe future, you need to be aware that having been admittedpreviously does not guarantee you will be readmitted in thefuture. Admission is always based on the makeup of the classand the rigor of the applicant pool. So, if a deferral is notgranted, think through your decision carefully before passingup your admission offer. Be sure that the new opportunity isworth it! I have firsthand experience during my time onHarvards Admissions Board seeing candidates who did notget in the second time around (even though they wereadmitted in the past).WAIT LISTWe have all heard of the wait list wasteland and the many mythsswirling around this application outcome. I suspect that to somedegree, the myths that surround the wait list are a result of theheterogeneity ofMBA programs policies. Each MBA programdeals with their wait lists differently, so it is critical to find outthe specifics of each programs policy. Contact the MBAprogram and maintain communication with the MBA Boardmember designated to manage the wait list.I dealt with the wait list during my time at Harvard, and Isaw up close the angst and stress candidates experience whileawaiting their admission outcome. The truth with the wait listis that it is hard to crack exactly why you were placed on thatlist. After all, your application was seen as certainly"admissible" but there is something that didnt quite push itinto the admitted pile. A major reason is the sheer quality ofthe applicant pool. With so many talented candidates applying鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 258 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSto business school, sometimes strong is not considered strongenough given the competition. In other cases, you may haveapplied in a year when many people with nearly identicalbackgrounds applied. It can also be a result of numbers, be ita GPA or GMAT score. An applicant I know was placed onthe wait list of a top MBA program and after I read herapplication, which was very strong, it occurred to me that herAchilles heel was her GMAT score. It was several standarddeviations from the norm. She had retaken the exam and haddone quite well but unfortunately the new score was not takeninto consideration because the MBA program did not acceptadditional information after the deadline. Her application wasultimately rejected. It is therefore important to apply to MBAprograms when you have the absolute strongest applicationyou possibly can assemble.If you find yourself in the unenviable position of beingwait-listed, here are some practical steps you can take tomanage the process:1. Immediately express your interest in remaining on thewait list via an email to the wait list manager.2. Inquire about the policy, size of the wait list, andtiming for the decisions (if this has not been clarifiedby the wait list manager).3. For programs open to receiving additional information,consider sending new and relevant informationto bolster your case. A higher GMAT score, apromotion at work with additional managementresponsibility, and an award in your community foryour volunteer involvement are all good examples ofvalid information that you can send to the MBABoard. The challenge, however, is that each MBAprogram has a different wait list policy, so make sureyou know precisely whats acceptable and whats not.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Decisions 259For instance, Wharton explicitly requests that youdo not send additional information, whereas you cansend compelling new information to Kellogg. Thesepolicies can change from one year to the next, so callto confirm the programs current wait list policy.Unfortunately, the percentage of applicants admitted fromthe wait list is low, so it is in your best interest to keep yourother options open. The bird in hand theory applies here. Itis not unusual to see situations in which fewer than ten peopleare admitted from a 200-plus wait list. Do you accept theoffer of admission while you wait to hear back from yourpreferred program where you are wait-listed? It is a delicatebalancing act. Ideally, you should try to get an extensionbefore you make your decision. In the meantime, you shouldfind out whether there is anything else you can offer tobolster your case where you are wait-listed. Obviously, if it isMay and you have been on the wait list for a while, you mayhave to accept that it is highly unlikely that you will get offthe wait list.If this is the only MBA program to which you applied, or ifall your results from other programs were unfavorable, make itclear to the MBA Board that its program is your top choice andthat you are willing to remain on the wait list to the last dayand will enroll at the last minute if an admission offer isextended to you.What happens if you are denied admission after being on thewait list? The next section will provide you with some optionsyou may want to consider.DENIED ADMISSIONFirst ofall, if the admission decision is a denial, it is important tokeep in mind that this is not the end ofthe world. After you havegotten over the initial disappointment, you should examine what鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 260 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSyour application lacked. There are a variety of reasons a candidatedoes not gain admission. The key ones are:1. The candidate did not apply to realistic programs,but rather applied only to schools in which he or shehad very little chance of gaining admission.2. The candidate applied too early or too late in his orher career.3. The candidate was not a fit for the program to whichhe or she applied.4. The candidate was strong, but the overall applicationpool happened to have exceptionally strong candidates,raising the admission stake.5. The candidates brand was unclear or lacked focus.6. The candidate failed to make a compelling case forwhy he or she needs the MBA.7. The candidates application lacked self-awareness.8. The candidates application had fundamental flagsaround judgment or interpersonal issues.9. The candidates application lacked strong evidenceof leadership or community involvement.10. The candidates application raised concerns regardingacademic preparation and intellectual strength.11. The candidates recommendations had a damningeffect.12. The candidate rushed the application and did notspend enough time on it.13. The candidate bombed the interview.Take a step back and evaluate your application in its entirety.Better yet, have someone you respect and who knows you verywell review your application and provide you with feedback.Current students or alumni of the program are usually effectivein giving useful feedback.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Decisions 261Understanding what went wrong with the application cancome from feedback from the MBA Board. MBA programs varyin their policies on providing feedback. For instance, whereasHarvard Business School offers feedback only to college seniorsprograms such as Tuck, Wharton, and Anderson offer feedbackand even encourage applicants to apply again in the future.Feedback sessions are typicallyoffered at the end of theadmissions cycle, during the summer. Given the volume ofreapplicants, I recommend that you sign up as soon as feedbackspots become available since they fill up quickly. Also, becausethe feedback from the MBA Board can be particularly helpful,taking this extra step can playa major role in your reapplicationshould you choose to reapply.There are many programs thatdo not provide feedback to applicants whose applications weredenied, so you may also wish to have an independent consultantevaluate your old application and provide you with strategic stepsyou can pursue to increase your admission outcome in the future.REAPPLICATIONAfter reassessing your application (whether through MBABoard feedback, admissions consulting evaluation, orselfreflection), you will be in a better position to decide whetheryou should reapply in the future.The chance of a different admission outcome the next timearound depends on what the issue was the first time. Academicgaps are much easier to address by retaking the GMAT andearning excellent grades in quantitative business courses. Weakleadership or community involvement can be addressed byspending a couple of years building a track record in this areabefore reapplying. However, issues of fit are more challengingbecause they reflect incongruity between your brand and that ofthe MBA program.MBA programs do not publish percentages of reapplicantsaccepted, but anecdotal evidence indicates that several鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 262 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSreapplicants gain admission the second time around. Thatsaid, applying more than two times to an MBA program isoverdoing it. The second declined admission may suggestthat there isnt a fit between you and the MBA programyouracademic numbers may be too low compared with yourcompetition or you are looking to pursue a health care careerand the program doesnt have health care offerings. Thereare many other MBA programs where you will be successful,and it is worth expanding the list of MBA programs to giveyourself the best shot at being admitted.PRACTICAL STEPS FOR REAPPLICANTS TOTAKE TO IMPROVE THEIR APPLICATIONDo your homework and make sure you know the MBAprogram inside out. Dont apply without visiting the programand attending a class. (This is a common mistake applicantsmake.)Be very specific when discussing whyyou want to be acceptedto a particular MBA program and how it will enhance yourcareer trajectory. Demonstrate a clear fit between you and theMBA program.Beef up your career and community leadership and make sureyou have tangible examples of the impact you have made sinceyour previous application.Simply reapplying with the same "goods" will likely yield anunfavorable outcome. Be willing to take major action. It maymean changing your job, taking on significant responsibility atwork, or doing an international project.Increase yourGMAT score Significantly bytaking a class if necessaryand make sure your score is at least withinthe median score ofadmitted students. Takebusiness or quantitative classes andearn As in them to show your intellectual aptitude. Good options鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Admissions Decisions 263are introduction courses in finance, microeconomics andmacroeconomics, statistics, and accounting.Cultivate relationships with individuals who will become yourbrand champions and make sure that they are on board andcommitted to writing glowing recommendation letters for you.Tactfully request to see your recommendations from previousrecommenders if they are open to sharing them with you.Invest time in clarifying your brand and be proactive to makesure your application reflects a powerful brand that is in syncwith the MBAprogram.Apply early to avoid running into a situation in which fewadmissionspots remain.This cant be overstressed: visit the campus and attenddifferent open house events and information sessions givenby the school to make sure you fully understand the programand its brand.Areapplication is not an invitation to suspend your judgment.Some application situations are lost causes. If after retaking theGMATyour score remains below 500, you may have to rethinkyour school list. Just because a candidate believes he or shebelongs to a particular program does not mean he or she will beadmitted. I know of a candidate who applied four times to a topMBA program and even after his fourth rejection remainedoptimistic that he would eventually gain admission. This is clearlydelusional and not a good example of persistence. I dont thinkthere is anything wrong with reapplying once to your dreamschool, especially if you didnt spend much time on yourapplication the first time through.At the same time, Ive evaluated applications where it wasapparent that there wasnt anything the candidate could do tochange the admission outcome. It may be a fundamental fitissue. Or it could come down to being overqualified for the鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 264 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSMBA. Therefore, objective evaluation and honest introspectionwill help you ascertain whether a reapplication is worth thetrouble. The following example illustrates this point. I got a callfrom a business associate who wanted me to evaluate a friendsapplication. He was an Asian male with exceptional academicand GMAT scores, he had great evidence of leadership, and hehad worked at three blue chip firms. After reading his essays(he happened to be a very good writer) and entire application,it was clear to me that he was in that category of applicants thathad all the "goods" but couldnt make a convincing case for whyhe needed the MBA. His application was strong enough thathe was interviewed by Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton, andall three schools rejected his application. This is one of thehardest situations to overcome as a reapplicant. In his case hecouldnt improve his GMAT score or change jobs to get moreleadership experience. He already had met these requirements.It simply came down to whether the MBA Board believed thathe needed the MBA or whether he was simply getting his ticketstamped. Waiting too long to apply to business school can resultin a rejected application.FINAL THOUGHTSHopefully by the time you have made it to this point of thebook, you have already gleaned enough insights to ensure thatyou avoid the landmines that surround the entire applicationprocess. Ive touched on the less-favorable potential outcomesas well to help applicants navigate effectively should they findthemselves in an unenviable situation of a wait list or deniedadmission. Applying the suggestions I highlight in this sectionshould help to increase their odds of a favorable outcome in thefuture. Once you are armed with an admission offer, anotherset of anxieties may take front stage: figuring out how to fundyour education. I examine the subject of funding the MBA inthe next chapter.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER THIRTEENFunding the MSABUSINESS SCHOOLS BELIEVE IT is the responsibility of theapplicant to meet the financial burden for their education.With that said, many MBA programs attempt to softenthe financial blow to applicants by offering scholarships,loans, and loan forgiveness programs. There is no questionthat the MBA is an expensive investment. This large financialcost can dissuade many applicants from applying to businessschool. On the other hand, some applicants pay too littleattention to how they will fund the MBA. Members of thislatter group tend to focus primarily on the uphill applicationprocess with little attention to funding the MBA, at least untilthey have an admission offer in hand. A tardy response to thefinancing of the MBA may cost you tens of thousands ofscholarship dollars.This chapter attempts to make the funding process moretransparent. Strong evidence exists to support the investment inthe MBA. However, it is not a license to charge everythingwithout limits. Funding your MBA requires practical planningand discipline to achieve your education dreams. I will discussthe overall cost of the MBA and funding sources. Ill alsoprovide suggestions of how candidates should go aboutpreparing themselves to fund their MBA.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 266 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSTHE MBA COSTTwo years in business school will cost you a hefty amount ofmoney. Youwill need to cover the cost of tuition, room, board,transportation, books, medical insurance, special trips, andother miscellaneous fees associated with a business education.A few years ago, an MBA at Harvard Business School wouldcost you about $110,000 for room, board, fees, and tuition.Today, the cost is upward of $146,000 for a single student and$185,200 for a married student with a child. The total cost ofthe MBA for a single student residing on campus at StanfordGraduate School of Business (GSB) is $143,898. Thesenumbers, although staggering, are consistent across top MBAprograms in the United States.Schools in large cities are not the only ones that have todeal with the high MBA cost. Even programs in small towns,such as Tuck, Cornell, and Darden, have an equally high pricetag for their business school. Tucks sample MBA fees illustratethis point.TUITION AND COSTSTuition and Costs for Academic Year 2007-2008 r07 r08Tuition: $42,990 $42,990Books and supplies: $3,200 $3,200Room and board: $11,100 $9,725Miscellaneous and health expenses: $12,910 $10.350Technologyfee and notebook computer: N/A $2,535Total: $70,200 $68,800鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Funding the MBA 267The MBA costs can increase significantly for students whodo not create and live within their budget. Some students feelthat the MBA is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and use thisrationale to justify why they need to participate in every trek(fun trip) around the world with their classmates. The cost ofthese exotic jaunts can be more than $20,000, adding to thedebt students take on when they graduate from their MBAprograms.At a glance the tab for an MBA will leave many applicantswith their heads spinning. The good news is that the MBA is aninvestment in ones career for the long term. In 2005, themedian starting salary at Stanford was $100,000 post businessschool. These high salaries are not unique to Stanford. Tuck,for instance, cites its median and mean starting salary as$100,000 in 2006. These career statistics demonstrate that thereturn on the MBA investment does pay for itself over time.FUNDING SOURCESThere are five main ways to fund the MBA. Many candidatesrely on several combinations of these.Company SponsorshipsSome companies offer to cover their employees education. Inexchange the employees return to the firm to work for a fewyears after their MBA. This offer is usually extended to staremployees who a company wishes to retain. Some consultingcompanies are amenable to company sponsorships. Even if yourfirm doesnt typically offer sponsorship opportunities, if youhave consistently received top evaluations and have brandchampions at your firm, dont be shy about proposing thisoption if you intend to return to your industry.LoansLoans are the most common option for funding the MBA. Youwill need to know what your credit score is because the loan鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 268 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSinterest rate will be based on your credit score and history.Lenders determine loan rates based on the three different creditscores: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. It is important toknow what your score is for all three. Fair Isaac and Co (FICO)tracks credit histories and scores of all three agencies. Applicantsshould order a copy of all three scores by going to www.myfico.com. Lending agencies use payment history, how much you owe,how long you have had the credit, how much new debt you havetaken on, and the types ofcredit you have to determine your creditscore. You can save a lot of money by cleaning up your creditprior to applying for a loan to fund your MBA.There are different types ofloans available to MBAcandidates.1. The Federal Loan Programs (Stafford and PerkinsLoans) are available only to U.S. citizens and permanentresidents. The Stafford Loan (www.staffordloan.com) provides the best rates to students. Thereare two types of Stafford Loans: subsidized (needbasedawards that defer payment until you completeyour program) and unsubsidized (non-need-basedwith payments required while you attend businessschool). The Perkins Loan (www.perkinsloans.com)provides low-interest loans to offset the cost of graduateeducation. Another popular loan program is theGraduate Plus Loan (www.gradloans.com), which is afederally sponsored program available to U.S. andpermanent residents and eligible non-citizens with agood credit history.2. Private MBAloan programs are open to internationalcandidates. These loans are designed by the MBAprograms and the bank with the candidate in mind.Two popular ones are the CitiAssist Loans offered atprograms such as Harvard Business School,Columbia, and Cornell and the National Education鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Funding the MBA 269Loan Network (Nelnet) offered at programs such asStanford GSB.3. Loan forgiveness programs: MBA programs havecreated loan forgiveness programs to reduce thefinancial burden of the MBA on applicants who pursuecareers in the nonprofit or public sectors. MBAprograms such as Harvard Business School havecreated a loan forgiveness program for graduates insocial enterprise. Stanford GSB is piloting a programfor internationals who choose to work in developingcountries after business school. Fuqua has a generousloan assistance program that offers financial awardsto alumni who work in nonprofit and governmentorganizations. Other top MBA programs offer similarloan forgiveness programs, so take the time to researchwhat each specific program offers.University AwardsThese scholarships are often merit-based but can be need-basedas well. Many top programs offer awards to students to helpoffset the cost of the MBA education. Stanford GSB, forinstance, offers five students $25,000 each in the form of SiebelScholarships after their first year based on exceptional leadershipand academic achievements. In the case of Chicago GSB,awards are given to students through scholarships that rangebetween $15,000 and $25,000 each year. Tuck offers scholarshipsthat start as little as $3000 and go up to a full scholarshipfor applicants based on merit and need. Cornells Park Fellowshipis usually in the tens of thousands of dollars. All top MBAprograms have some form of award available to incomingstudents, so take the time to find out what your target programsoffer, the requirements, and the deadlines so that you can applyin time for them.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 270 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSSpecial Target AwardsThese are scholarships that are offered to particulardemographic groups. Some MBA programs offer a limitednumber of Forte Fellowships to women applicants. TheToigo Foundation offers scholarships to minority candidatesstudying at Toigo partner schools. Another popularfellowship is the Consortium Fellowship, which is forunderrepresented minority candidates applying to MBAprograms that are members of the MBA Consortium. Specificcompanies are also involved in offering fellowships andscholarships to incoming business school students. Bankssuch as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and CSFB providefellowships to MBA candidates. Even Fortune 500corporations offer scholarships to candidates with industryexperience and interest. The point here is that while it is hardto find financial coverage for the MBA, investing in thoroughresearch will help you identify resources that can makefunding your MBA possible.Personal SavingsApplicants to business school have an expected familycontribution (EFC) that they need to make toward covering thecost of their education. Applicants need to start a couple of yearsbefore applying to business school to savemoney and cut downon their expenses. MBA financial aid officers expect that youwill contribute sizably to your MBA costs.I cant stress enough the importance of hustling to findscholarships and financial sponsorship. Unfortunately, you cantalways count on every single award being on the MBA programwebsites and catalogs. You will have to be a bit of a detectiveand will need to dig discretely to find out if there are otherscholarships available that are under the radar.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Funding the MBA 271MATERIALS REQUIRED FORFINANCIAL AID APPLICATIONAn application to the MBA program submitted in time for thefinancial aid deadlines (verify each MBA programs deadlineahead of time)A completed FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)form (www.fafsa.com)The financial aid forms for the MBAprogramYour most recent federal tax returnsEvidence of salary (pay stubs)Documentation of assets and bank statementsConfirm with the financial aid office at your MBAprogram as towhether they require other forms or documentationPREPARING YOURSELF FINANCIALLY TOFUND YOUR MBAApplicants are expected to have some savings that they willuse to offset the cost of their MBA. The reality for manycandidates, however, is that this isnt always the case. If youare already in the application stage, then you will need tofocus your strategy on finding as much "free" money as youcan to help you bear the financial burden. But dont expectthe financial aid office to throw loads of money at you. If, onthe other hand, you are still thinking of applying in thefuture, there are steps you can take today to prepare youfinancially.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 272 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSGood Credit History: Your credit history drives the interest ratesthat you will receive on loans. Devote time to establishing goodcredit. If you have poor credit, take the time to clean up yourcredit history. Someone I know had a horrible credit history (560credit score), and after devoting a couple ofyears to cleaning uphis credit, his score jumped higher than 700. Strong creditscores can be the difference in tens of thousands of dollarssaved on lower interest payments.Build a Cash Reserve: Planning early gives you the opportunityto save money toward your MBA. Loans and scholarships arenot the only way to fund your degree.Establish Relationships with Co-Signers: This is particularlyuseful for international students whose interest rates can bereduced several percentage points when they have a co-signerfor their loan rather than applying for the loan on their own.Invest time up front to research private scholarships and fellowships.Many private organizations set aside awards that often gounused because people didnt apply for them.KEY STEPS TO PREPARE FOR FUNDING YOUR MBAWorrying about funding the MBA should not preclude youfrom applying to your dream school. It is an investment in yourfuture and a worthwhile one at that. Getting in is the hardestpart. Once you are admitted, you will find various outlets toexplore to finance your MBA. Diligence, planning, and a littlebit of ingenuity can go a long way in helping you securefinancing to offset the cost of the business education.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • CHAPTER FOURTEENFinal ThoughtsIROPE THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONSSECRETS has dispelled your concerns about the application andhas made the process more transparent and hopefully less stressful.I have given you a glimpse into how the Admissions Boards at topbusiness schools perceive candidates. Ive also shared with youspecific and practical tips on how you can avoid making mistakesthat can cost you admission into your desired MBA program. Butmost important, I have harped on the importance of seeing yourselfas a brand and managing your brand successfullyin the applicationprocess. Regardless of whether you decide to pursue anMBA or not, I encourage you to invest in your personal brand.Practical takeaways from this book include the following:1. You are a brand! Invest in conducting a brand auditand begin today to manage your personal brand. Notonly will it help you land admission into a top businessschool, but it will also help you liveyour life in a meaningful,focused way. Dont forget to live your life withpassion, guts, impact, and insight.2 . K n o w t h e b r a n d s o f t h e M B A p r o g r a m s a n dresearch them to ensure a fit with the programs youend up selecting.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 274 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS3. The essays are critical to gaining admission to elitebusiness schools. Successful applications havewellexecuted essays that have the following sixcharacteristics: compelling, captivating, consistent,credible, concise, and clear.4. Brand champions can make or break an admission, sochoose wisely and invest in cultivating recommenderswho will become raving fans.5. Dont underestimate the importance of the interview;it is your chance to make a strong impression on theAdmissions Board. Preparation and practice willenable you to sell your brand successfully to theAdmissions Board.6. Understand the three admissions criteria: leadership,academics, and unique brand differentiation. Knowwhat your strengths are and where you fall short.Commit to plugging the holes in your candidacy,whether it is gaining more leadership experience,taking business classes, retaking the GMAT, or simplydeveloping your personal brand to become anappealing candidate.The good news is that you dont have to be a rock star to getadmitted to your dream school. Getting in involves doing yourresearch, tailoring your story to fit the programs brand, andcapitalizing on your unique brand differentiation. Embraceyour brand, give yourself enough time to market your story,and do it right the first time. I wish all ofyou well as you brandyour way to success!鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • APPLICATION INSIGHTSNYU (Stern) MBA PerspectiveFERNANDO DALESSIO (STERN, 2006)Prior to MBA Career Path:Investment Banker (JPMorgan & HSBC).Post-MBA Career Path:Investment Banker (U.S. focused - advising family business andPE shops).How many years of work experience did you have priorto the MBA:Seven years.What was your greatest concern applying to businessschool and how did you address it:I had heard from friends who had attended business school thatit is a race to get a job and that a good part of the experience isabout recruiting. I was concerned about whether I had toomuch experience (I always felt the more years of experience,the more you can get out of the program but when visitingschools, I noticed I was on the older side). I realized that timingis a big deal and if I could do it all over again, I would haveapplied three years earlier.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 276 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSWhy did you select your MBAprogram:I applied to a few schools and my focus was on programs thatwere strong in general management and finance. I also wanteda program that had a good environment for student activities.Location was also important to me since I wanted to stay closeto or remain in New York City. Most importantly, given myseven years experience, I wanted to make the most out of graduateeducation by taking the majority ofmy second-year classeswith part-time students, and NYU Stern is known to have oneof the top part-time MBA programs in the country.What was the most interesting part ofyour MBA program:At Stern, you have the choice to exempt out ofclasses and sincemy undergraduate degree was in Economics, I was able toexempt out of two required Economics courses and take aproficiency exam to exempt out of Statistics. I appreciated the factthat you could specialize in up to 3 majors and I pursued aFinance, Management, and Entrepreneurship major. But mostimportantly for me, I wanted a firm foundation in finance andentrepreneurship as well as interaction with experiencedprofessionals, and I got a solid training in this area at Stern.How did you find the academic part of your program:It was challenging. There were different teaching methodologiesused and some professors used the case-based method and othersrelied on lectures or a combination. I liked having both sincesome courses were suited for cases while others were better forthe lectures. I appreciated the diversity of teaching approachesat Stern.How did you find the social part of your program:The social life at Stern was very active. But I kept a low profilesince I was married and didnt party as hard as some of myclassmates. Being in New York City is definitely a great advantage.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Application Insights 277What was your job search like:I adopted a focused approach from the very beginning. I haddone M&A for seven years so I wanted to complement myexperience with new skills. I wanted a firm with strongrestructuring background or financial sponsors exposure and Ijoined a firm that offered both after business school. In addition, Ikept my options open and applied to a couple of consultingpositions as well.How did the MBA prepare you for your career:Stern has a great program that helps career switchers. Once youare admitted to Stern, you have a lot of support. For example,there are programs that prepare students for a new career byproviding them access to professionals from the industry. Theschool offers various workshops and one-on-one preparationto help students prepare for cases and mock interviews. I wasespecially impressed with how collaborative students were witheach other and it was common for second-year students to helpfirst-year students.What advice do you have for applicants to maximizetheir application:Know why you want the MBA. It is important to be wellprepared.Before you apply you should visit the schools and talkto students and alumni to make sure it is a fit. You should alsostudy hard to make sure you nail the GMAT and get a solidscore so you can check that box and move on to more challengingaspects of the application. If the GMAT is weak, youhave already taken yourself out of the game before it starts.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
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  • Stanford MSA PerspectiveRECY DUNN (STANFORD GSB, 2004)Prior to MBA Career Path:I was an SEO intern at Merrill and worked at energy companiesTexaco (Chevron) and Amoco (BP) as an analyst in sales andtrading (energy); a year into it, I had an epiphany that I didntwant to be a trader. While interviewing for new opportunities,I had a layover in NYC, and in conversation with some friends,I joked about how it would be great to work at SEO (anonprofit). I called and they said come in to interview. A fewweeks later they offered me a job. I quit my trading job, sold mycar on a Friday, flew to NYC Saturday, and began workMonday morning. It was a huge pay cut but I enjoyed the work:it brought joy and meaning to my life.Post-Career Path:I did an internship at Wells Fargo after my first year in businessschool and realized I hated the big company experience. Iaccepted the fact that my passion was education. How do youmake money doing what you love? I joined Platform Learning,a for-profit company with an education mission. Then I spenttwo years completing the Broad Residency at Urban Education鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 280 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSwith a placement in DC Public Schools. I currently work in ageneral management role as an advisor to the DeputySuperintendent in Prince Georges County, Maryland.How many years of work experience did you haveprior to the MBA:Five years.What was your greatest concern applying to businessschool:How to tell my story in a way that would help me gain admission.I felt I didnt have functional knowledge in a particularbusiness area plus I worried about my undergrad transcript.Since I didnt have the typical banker, consultant, or GMcorporate exposure I knew I had to focus on pitching mystory effectively.Why did you select your MBA program:I chose Stanford GSB because of its reputation as an excellentgeneral management program. I was also drawn to its programofferings and the truly collaborative environment whereclassmates committed to working together.Whatwas the most interesting part of your MBA program:The education was top notch. I was amazed at how much accesswe had to faculty, flexibility to work with them on new andinteresting research. I also appreciated the exposure to the businessexecutives who came to speak at the school. I found GSBto be flexible allowing me to pursue a joint degree program witha Masters in Education.What surprised you the most about your program:I was impressed with the number of opportunities and clubson campus; there was something for everybody. Being a part ofrugby club, marketing club, and Black Business StudentAssociation, I enjoyed the diversity of options that was available.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Application Insights 281My takeaway was realizing that management is more thanaccounting and finance; I learned the importance of organizationalbehavior and the role of interpersonal dynamics andsofter skills when leading with impact.What was your job search like:The Director of Stanford Career Services was an alumnuswhich says a lot about the schools investment in its studentscareers. My job search was more nontraditional since I waslooking for an education position so I had to do a little moreground work. But Career Services gave me access to tons ofalumni and training to prepare me for interviews. They evenhad consultants come in to help students who didnt knowexactly what they wanted to do career-wise.What advice do you have for applicants:Apply early, dont be afraid to let the Board know who you are.So many people just try to simply explain their resume. Bewilling to let your guard down and definitely introspect. Focuson essays and paint a picture for the admissions committee sothey get a sense ofwhere you were, what you were doing, whatyou were feeling. And finally, have a clear vision of what youwant to do in the future.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
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  • MBA Admissions Board PerspectiveJ EVELYN BONNER-REED, Former AssociateDirector of Admissions at Kellogg (HAAS, 1998)When should candidates begin planning theirapplication for business school:Their senior year in college: they should take the GMATwhilethey are still in studying mode (especially since their peers willbe working on their LSAT/MCAT exams). The GMAT scoreis valid for five years, so taking it their senior year allows candidatesto focus on the other aspects oftheir application once theyare ready to apply to business school.What key qualities stand out in applicants who are admitted:Balanced individuals who put energy into their academics,work, and extracurricular activities. A trend towards pushingyourself and not settling is important. Ifyou are a history major,why didnt you challenge yourself by taking quantitativecourses? Ifyou start off as a member in clubs, what stopped youfrom moving into leadership roles? Ifyou took the GMAT onceand your score is okay, why did you not try to improve it? MBABoards do not like to see candidates taking the GMAT twentytimes but it is okay to retake the GMAT once or twice. These鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 284 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSare the types of questions on the minds ofMBA Boards.What is the most important part of the application:The whole package is important but the essays are criticalbecause the applicant has total control over them and canconstantly revise them unlike other parts of the application. Ina pool of similar looking candidates, they can be the differentiatingfactor that persuades the reader to admit you. Additionally,you can use them to explain gaps in your background (ifyou have low grades or employment gaps, you can address theseissues in a mature manner).What steps can career changers take before applyingto an MBA program:They can do informational interviews for the new career tounderstand skills they will need and make sure its a fit. Theyshould also highlight skills they have that are transferable to thenew career. Some admissions people may be uncomfortable ifits too big a career jump or if the candidate has unrealisticexpectations of what it might take to successfully switch careers.What are the most common admissions mistakes youhave seen applicants make:Applicants worry too much about what the Admission Boardwants to hear instead of representing themselves. Applying totoo many schools can lead to application burnout. Anothermistake is not doing the research before you apply, resulting ina missed opportunity to convey specifics about the school.What advice do you have about selecting recommenders:Choose someone who knows your work very well: a manager orprofessional mentor who has worked at the company and knowsyou. You can also use a client. The first time they hear you areapplying shouldnt be when you are sitting with them to ask fora recommendation letter.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Application Insights 285What characteristics are found in excellentrecommendations:They are succinct, yet detailed with real examples. If it is toolong, you lose the readers interest.How important is age and number of years of workexperience:Having two to three years is helpful (you can contribute toclassroom discussion); but too much work experience makes itharder to switch careers. The bottom line is whenever you thinkyou are ready for business schooL You may have to determinewhether a full-time, part-time, or executive MBA is mostappropriate.How do Admissions Boards view reapplicants:It depends on why you were denied admission in the first place.If it is anything but environmental fit, you have as good a shotas anyone else when you reapply. If its a fit issue, there isnothing you can do about it. Candidates should consider fit notonly in terms of the different two-year MBA programs butshould assess whether they would be best served in a differenttype of program such as an executive or part-time MBAprogram. You should request feedback from the school aboutyour candidacy when its offered! Unfortunately, most schoolsdo not offer this service.What should applicants do toaddress weak scores or GPA:Whatever you do, you cant have both. The GMAT or theGPA has to be at least in the median ballpark for the school.If one is below average you can point to the other to showyour academic competency. Also candidates can take specificcourses at local colleges and universities to address anyacademic deficiency.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 286 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSWhat advice do you have for wait-listed candidates:Find out how the program likes to handle wait-listed candidatesand follow the requirements. Some schools allow for candidatesto submit additional information about their candidacy whileothers want you to just wait.What should candidates do to nail the interview:Practice!!! Some people have been at their jobs for a few yearsand havent interviewed for a while. Practice and prepare as if youwere going into a job interview. Share work and life experienceexamples and do your research on each school beforehand.What should rejected candidates do to improve theirapplication next time:Step back, evaluate why you didnt get in at all, do a feedbacksession if offered, and potentially reapply to the program. Youshould also expand your school choice list. Have somethingdifferent to bring to the table (e.g. higher GMAT score, newcourse work with strong grades if your GPA is low, and earn apromotion or more responsibility at work if you were stagnatingin your current role).You have an MSA.What did you value about your MSA:Learning the language of business. My undergrad was inEngineering so the MBA opened my eyes to areas I knew littleabout (Marketing, Finance, etc.). I grew up in the Midwest withlittle to no international experience so I wasmost impressed withthe level ofinternational exposure I found in business school. Fromliving in the International House with international students fromall over the world, to trips around the world with classmates, todoing an exchange program at London Business School. MyMBA was truly global and opened a whole new world to me.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Columbia MBA PerspectiveFRED CHIMA (COLUMBIA GRADUATESCHOOL OF BUSINESS, 2004)Prior to MBA Career Path:Worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the Assurance and BusinessAdvisory Group starting as Associate and later promotedto Manager.Post-MBA Career Path:Spent my summer after my first year in business school inBanking at Citigroup (London). After graduating I joined CreditSuisse First Boston in NYC in the Investment Banking Group.How many years of work experience did you have priorto the MBA:Four and a half years.What was your greatest concern applying to businessschool:Experience wasnt a concern since I felt I had enough experience.I was concerned about financing the MBA. I felt it was abig investment. I also wondered whether the MBA would getme from point A to point B. After careful research, I felt鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 288 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETScomfortable with the investment. Speaking to alumni who hadgone to Columbia and made the jump to finance reassured methat my goal was realistic and feasible.Why did you select your MBAprogram:I wanted a program that was recognized internationally since Iwas an international student. I also wanted a program with anexcellent reputation in finance and technical depth. Furthermore,geographic location was important to me: I wasnt interestedin being outside of the Northeast. For these reasonsColumbia was a good fit.What was the most interesting part ofyour MBAprogram:Coming into the program, I underestimated the depth of diversityof my class. I mean diversity in terms of experiencelbackground,not just ethnicity. My class was incredibly diverse:former entertainers, a rancher, bankers, etc. And everyone hasthe same goal. You make friends with classmates from all overthe world. The program puts you through quite a bit ofchange.How did you find the academic part of your program:Coming from a solid accounting background, as a CPA, I feltthat the first year wasnt as challenging. I could have exemptedmore classes but I wanted to take all the classes to make sure Iwasnt missing out on anything. My second year was awesome.I got to pick the classes I was interested in: I like finance butmy passion really is the intersection of politics and business soI took 3-4 classes from the School of International and PublicAffairs (SIPA).How did you find the social part of your program:It was at first challenging (international students go throughthis I believe). MBA programs attract certain personalities(mostly socially aggressive and type A personalities) and if youarent like that it may be hard initially. Over time, however,鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Application Insights 289everyone adapts. Business schools push you to adapt.Internationals may need a bit of adapting initially. After asemester youll find your stride.What was your job search like:I found it very distracting. I knew I wanted a career change. Iwas initially confused about how I would make my careertransition from accounting to finance. I attended all thepresentations in banking which by the way was a big mistake (youlose focus); I didnt know if I wanted to be in NYC or pursue aninternational role. As a career changer, I needed to pound thepavements, especially in a tough economy, where many analystswere returning to old firms/industry, making it more competitive.I got my internship from interviewing through the CareerServices Office. For my full-time role, it was through a connectionI made while in business school.How did the MBA prepare you for your career:From a people/soft skills perspective it was invaluable.Banking has two legs: how good are you technically and howgood are you in getting along with people. The softer stuff iswhat I learned a lot about, the intangibles, how a team works,managing up and down, and becoming comfortable being inunfamiliar environments. Technically, I felt it was a brush upof my skills instead of giving me new skills necessarily. I mayhave survived without an MBA my first year in an Associaterole but would I have survived beyond the first year? Notnecessarily. Asyou move into a more senior role, yourresponsibility goes beyond basic accounting and finance skills andfocuses more on looking at business in a holistic way. This isa skill set I got from Columbia! The cases, projects tend tolook at things from an overall perspective. You think back tocases you did, the challenges the protagonists faced and thesolutions they came up with. Another benefit of the MBA isthat it builds ones confidence. You have classmates with鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 290 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSstrong opinions. Even if you are quiet you learn how to defendyour ideas and when in banking ifyou encounter people whoare type A, you can hold your own. The MBA gives you credibilityin your profession.What advice do you have for applicants to maximizetheir application:First of all, think about what you want to get out of theprogram. It will help you focus on the schools to apply to. Idont believe you should apply to ten schools. Once you identifythe programs, dig in, talk to the alumni and admissionspeople. It doesnt guarantee admission, but invest into themknowing you. Dont worry about financing the program. Getover the concerns about money. International students receiveloans so you should view the MBA as an investment.For career changers, you should talk to as many people inthe career of interest. They will give you a lot of perspectivesthat will help you understand how to go about making thecareer switch. Even if you are an international student, dont beshy. You should assert yourself. Just because you are fromanother culture doesnt mean you cant speak up. Be introspective,and assess what you bring to the table. I had a CPA, experiencefrom a top Accounting firm. I also knew what I wantedto do-M&A. I met with Associates and found out what they doin the M&A groups at their firms. By learning exactly what skillswere needed and specifics of the role, I was able to effectivelymarket myself by capitalizing on my experience and myunderstanding of the career I planned to follow after businessschool. It paid off.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Harvard MBA PerspectivesI<HARY CUFFE (HBS, 2007) & SELENACUFFE (HBS, 2003)Prior to MBA Career Path:Khary: Analyst in Asset Backed Securities Group (Prudential);Investment Associate (Seedco)S e l e n a : B u s i n e s s D e v e l o p m e n t ( U n i t e d A i r l i n e s )Post-MBA Career Path:Khary: Baby Care Brand Management (P&G); Wine Importation(Heritage Link Brands)Selena: Food & Beverage Brand Management (P&G), Councilon International Educational Exchange (CIEE); Wine Importation(Heritage Link Brands)How many years of work experience did you have priorto the MBA:Khary & Selena: Four years.Did you meetat business school:Khary: I met my wife as a prospective student during one ofmyvisits to Harvard.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 292 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSWhat was your greatest concern applying to business school:Khary: Picking the right school and getting admitted.Selena: Cost was a concern for me. I wondered whether it wasa worthwhile investment financially. I also was concerned abouthow I would fund my education. Finally, I also wondered aboutthe GMAT before taking it but it turned out not to be an issue.Why did you select your MBA program:Khary: As a minority, I wanted a program that had good diversityand a strong brand reputation. Harvard had both. I was alsoattracted to the learning model at Harvard and found the entireacademic experience engaging.Selena: When I visited HBS, it immediately felt like a fit.During the class discussion, I found myself wanting to join in.What was the most interesting part of your MBA program:Khary: For me it was the people I met, the variety of interests,and the opportunity to do a joint degree.Selena: The Treks exposed me to places I may not have exploredin my life. For example, meeting members of parliament indifferent countries and engaging in dialogue with them about thefuture of their country and how business fit into their vision wasinteresting. During a subsequent trip to South Africa, I learnedthat despite South Africa~ $3 billion wine industry, blacksownedless than 2 percent. And there were no distribution channels fortheir wines to the U.S. Subsequently I began to explore how tobring their wine to the U.S. As a result, in 2007 we launchedHeritage Link Brands in the U.S. market to do just that!What surprised you the most about your MBA program:Khary: The caliber of classmates is remarkable. You cant helpbut wonder whether you can compete at that level. I certainly鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Application Insights 293consider myself a confident person but surrounded by rockstars, it has you stepping up your game!Selena: I was surprised by how easygoing and approachablethe professors were. Interacting with Harvard professors feltlike sitting down with a friend over coffee. This is the caseeven after business school. The relationship with your professorsis long lasting.How did you find the academic part of your program:Khary: I found it to be great. While it was challenging, I felt itwas immediately applicable. I have been able to apply a lot oflessons I learned in business school to our company, HeritageLink Brands.Selena: I found it to be challenging but not too stressful. I enjoyedit. It pushed my limits but I never felt I was out ofmy element.How did you find the social part of your program:Khary: It was great. There were always a ton of activities to do.Student groups were very active and engaged.Selena: It was very robust. There were more things to do thanyou could do in a day, week, or semester! It was complete funand there is something for everyone regardless ofyour interests.How did the MBAprepare you for your career:Khary: From a technical standpoint, I didnt feel the MBA wasas relevant. From a professional network standpoint as well asdeveloping soft skills, it was absolutely helpful.Selena: Business School gave me courage to become anentrepreneur. Two classes,The Entrepreneurial Manager andEntrepreneurial Marketing, for instance, provided the frameworksfor how to build a business from start to finish.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 294 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSWhat advice do you have for applicants to maximizetheir application:Khary: Visit the school, not during prospective students daybut when there isnt a special event going on so you can get the"real" sense of the school. Once you decide you will apply, gethelp. Use a consultant or organization like Managing Leadersfor Tomorrow (MLT). Talk to students from the school. Andfinally, with your app, be yourself.Selena: I am a firm believer in getting students who are at theschool to look over your application. They have insight into theculture of the program. Having said that, use judgment. Iwouldnt share the application with everybody either.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Fuqua MBA PerspectiveCH RIS RYAN (FUQUA [DU I<EJ, 2000)Prior to MBA Career Path:High-school TeacherPost-M BA Career Path:Consultant, Education Company Executive, Independent FilmProducerHow many years of work experience did you have priorto the MBA:Six years.What was your greatest concern applying to businessschool and how did you address it:I was concerned more about getting in and less about what Iwould do afterwards, as I thought I had that figured out. Withregard to getting into school, I was worried that my nontraditionalcareer path to that point would hamper my chances.Why did you select your MBA program:I had known about and liked Duke as a university for a longtime (I almost went there for undergrad). So when I started鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 296 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSlooking at business schools, Fuqua was definitely on my list.Around that time, I met another teacher who was a year aheadof me in the process. He went to Fuqua and was very pleasedwith the program. When I went for the campus interview, I wasstruck by the atmosphere of the place-it felt both serious andwelcoming, both focused and warm. At that point I had a strongsense that Fuqua was the place for me.What was the most interesting part of your MBA program:My classmates, hands down. They brought an amazing diversityof experiences and backgrounds to the school. At graduation,I remember feeling that there was still so much more tolearn about my classmates-but the two years were up.What surprised you the most about your program:What surprised me the most was how important extracurricularactivities would be for me and for the bulk of students.During school, I devoted a great deal of time to video production,of all things! For many years, Fuqua has had a club called"Fuquavision" that puts together "Saturday Night Live"-stylevideos and shows them regularly to the entire school on Fridaynights. Asyou can imagine, putting together a nearly hour-long program of videos every six weeks is very difficult andtimeconsuming (especially while trying to meet the otherobligations of school), but it was also very enjoyable. Even moreimportant, it gave me a chance to develop my skills and interestsin filmmaking (since then, I have been an executiveproducer on a film featured at the Sundance Film Festival, andI continue to write and develop projects). This aspect of businessschool was ironic for me, since I had even considered goingto film school instead of business school.How did you find the academic part of your program:Both practical and interesting. I really enjoyed learning allsorts of material I had never studied before, both for its own鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Application Insights 297sake and for its real-world utility, which was generally obvious.I found most of the professors not only excellent thinkers butalso inspiring teachers. True, there were a few who were lessthan scintillating in the classroom (I imagine thats true atevery school), but I was very happy to see that the administrationtook student concerns very seriously. As our classsrepresentative to the Curriculum Committee, I was pleasedto be part of the schools efforts to make the curriculum andteaching even better.How did you find the social part of your program:Outstanding. The dean when I was there, Rex Adams, used toput it this way: "No jerks and no weenies." Dont get mewrong-1 probably qualify as a weenie, or at least a geek or anerd. That said, what Rex was getting at was the collaborativeculture, the "team Fuqua" ethos that really does pervade theschool. Im sure every major business school is fun and has itsshare of happy hours, etc. But one thing I loved about Fuquathat I think is unique or at least rare is that the single biggestsocial convener is a year-long charity effort on behalf ofNorthCarolina Special Olympics-and not just raising money forthem, but interacting with the athletes and building bridges toand within the surrounding community. Thats pretty cool.What was your job search like:I came in focused on management consulting as an initial careerstep into business. As a consultant friend had put it to me, a fewyears as a consultant can act as a kind of "residency" after businessschool (as if after medical school). There were many otheraspects of the consulting path that appealed to me as well. Withthe immense help of Fuquas Career Services Office and manysecond-years (including my teacher friend), I got summer offersfrom McKinsey, BCG, and Bain and spent the summer withMcKinsey. At the end of the summer, McKinsey made me afull-time offer, which I accepted.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 298 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSHow did the MBAprepare you for your career:It helped me in several ways:1. Developing leadership. Asa high-school teacher, I wasused to directing the activities of students. However, Ihad only limited opportunities to exercise leadershipamong my peers. Fuqua gave me a chance to do justthat.2. Developing discipline among chaos. Since businessschool is so intense and "multifarious," so to speak, itis a great lab in which to figure out how to prioritize amultitude of commitments of differing types.3. Developing specific knowledge/skills. As a consultant,a film producer, and an executive at a small, growingcompany, I have frequently drawn on specific ideas andtechniques I learned or exercised in business school,from Excel modeling to negotiating contracts.What advice do you have for applicants to maximizetheir application:Tough one! I think its very important to figure outWHYyouwant to go to business school. Its not like, say,dental school: forone thing, you dont need a license to practice business, and alsoevery business-school class contains a variety of folks withdifferent dreams and goals for their career. So you must go intothe application process with a strong sense ofwhat you want togo and do.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Kellogg M SA PerspectiveRACHEL ZLOTOFF (KELLOGG, 2007)Prior to MBA Career Experience:I was a Coordinator at Nickelodeon Consumer Product Dept forthree years (first in the apparellhome furnishing division and laterin the packaged goods department). I was promoted to a managerposition and had the responsibility ofmanaging one person.Post-MBA Career Experience:I did an internship at a consumer goods company in New Yorkafter my first year. I then concentrated on the Big Threeconsumer product companies and fortunately landed a job withone of them, Kraft.How many years of work experience did you have priorto the MBA:Two and a half years.What was your greatest concern when applying tobusiness school:As an early career applicant, I worried that I may not beadmitted due to limited work experience. Therefore, I appliedto more schools than most (seven programs) to increase my鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 300 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSodds of being admitted. But despite that, I set a realisticexpectation for myself: if! didnt get admitted, I had plans toreapply the following year. My application strategy was to showthat my career experience was substantive despite working onlya few years. It worked since I was admitted to five of the sevenschools, including my first choice, Kellogg.Why did you select the MBA programs you applied to:I selected my programs based on their reputation as top schools,plus I focused on programs that had a collaborative environment.The culture of the program was a huge deciding factor for me.What was the most interesting part of your IVI BA program:I was most impressed by the opportunities offered at myprogram and the people that I met. They were the most interestingpeople I have had the fortune to work with. Their backgrounds,intelligence, and incredible achievements were allinspiring. I was constantly challenged each day.What surprised you the most about your program:My greatest surprise was how truly collaborative my classmateswere. For example, not having a banking or accountingbackground, finance and accounting were not easy subjects for me.Classmates from these industries would sit with me and dedicatetime to teach me these subjects outside of classes and theywouldnt leave till I got it. Their dedication was unprecedented.Even the professors were accessible and easily approachable.They felt like friends and many of them came to ourTG happyhour events.How did you find the social part of your program:I found the overall Kellogg community to be very close andthere is more than enough opportunity to connect with yourclassmates. The real challenge is learning how to balance all thesocial activities with the academic demands.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Application Insights 301How was your job search at Kellogg:Kellogg attracted top marketing companies and I had a lot ofoptions when it came to recruiting. I interviewed with differentmarketing companies and focused my search geographically toChicago and NYc. I chose Kraft for its marketing quality andgeneral management scope plus its exceptional, best in classtraining. I was looking for a position that would give me solidtraining and enable me to build skills that are transferableoutside of Marketing. I also found the Career ManagementCenter to be excellent. The career counselors were accessibleand highly supportive. So was the Kellogg Career Networkwhich gave students access to hundreds of companies. EveryoneI knew graduated with a job, most with multiple offers. Kelloggcareer opportunities were vast. Ifyou wanted a job in nonprofit,banking, or consulting, you were able to find companies fromthese different sectors/industries recruiting.How did you find the academic part of your MBAandhow did the MBAprepare you for your career:One of the main reasons I wanted an MBA was to build up myanalytical abilities especially in terms of using data to drivestrategic decision. Today, in my new job, I am working onseveral strategic projects and am able to draw directly from mybusiness education to come up with new ideas. I also havereached out to my former professors to discuss business issues,even my marketing binders have been great reference points.What advice do you have for applicants to maximizetheir application:Because networking is so important, make sure the MBAprogram is a good fit for you. Talk to as many people aspossible to learn about their experiences; do not simply useschool rankings to select an MBA program.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
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  • GMAT PerspectiveANDREW YANG (MANAGING DIRECTOR,MANHATTANGMAT)What is ManhattanGMATs unique approach:ManhattanGMAT pays its instructors four times more thanKaplan or Princeton Review ($100/hr vs. $20-$25/hr), andrequires a 99th percentile score (760+, as opposed to a 680) aswell as prior teaching experience. Byhiring and retaining superiorinstructors, we are able to offer a more aggressive, ambitiouscurriculum that focuses on the actual content of theGMAT rather than test-taking methodologies.Are you limited to NewYork or do you offer yourservices outside of NewYork:We have centers in New York,Boston, Chicago, San Francisco/Bay Area, Los Angeles/Orange County, and Washington DC,a n d o u r o n l i n e c o u r s e s a r e a v a i l a b l e w o r l d w i d e .What advice do you have for applicants who areplanning to take the GMAT:The GMAT is a skill test that presumes your ability to recognizewhat is being tested. Your skill level will rise with practice鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 304 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSand exposure, as will your familiarity with the tested concepts.Be ready to work hard and immerse yourself in the ideas andlanguage of the GMAT; and youll get better.When do you recommend taking a GMAT prep course:Several months before you plan on taking the test, which wouldideally be several months before you intend to apply to businessschool.When are tutors helpful:Tutors are helpful if you have very specific testing issues thatrequire personalized attention, or if theres a particular type ofproblem that you cant untangle on your own.How much time do you recommend for applicants toinvest in preparing for the GMAT:Three months is a sufficient time frame for most people tore-remember the math and grammar that theyve forgottenand simultaneously raise their skill level and familiarity withthe GMAT.What are the 3 biggest GMAT mistakes that you have seen:1. Focusing on results, not process. Many students thinkthat they understand a problem because they got theright answer, but they arent actually able to solve asimilar problem or a harder one that tests the sameconcepts in a different way.2. Focusing on quantity, not quality. This is a similar point,but many students feel that more is better-i.e. the moreproblems that they do or practice tests that they take,the better off theyll be. Its much more helpful to yourscore to dissect and understand a handful of OfficialGuide problems than to do a large number of themwithout truly developing your understanding.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • Application Insights 3053. Underestimating the stress of the testing experience.The GMAT is more stressful than most people anticipatebecause of the nature of the testing environmentand imposed time constraints (most studentsstruggle to finish on time). The best way to alleviatethis is to occasionally simulate the stress of the testingenvironment when one practices, and to build up asensitivity to solving groups of problems within timelimits (i.e. learn what completing 37 or 41 questionsin 75 minutes "feels" like and youll be less affectedby the stress).How many times do you recommend taking the GMAT:Ideally, once would be enough! But most people should expectto take it twice, particularly as theres no downside to doing so.If I have a GMATscore of 500 is there still hope forme to bring myscore up:Ofcourse! The GMAT is definitely a test that one can improveon, often quite dramatically, with diligence and the rightapproach.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
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  • MBA RESOURCESACOLLECTION OF RESOURCES HAS been compiled tohelp answer additional questions you may have about thebusiness school application.COMMUNITY LEADERSHIPHere are some great websites to link up with socially responsibleorganizations and explore ways to contribute your leadershipin your community:VolunteerMatch (www.volunteennatch.org)BoardNetUSA (www.boardnetusa.org)Smart Volunteer (www.smartvolunteer.org)Idealist.org (www.idealist.org)Change.org (www.change.org)WOMEN AND MINORITIESForte Foundation (www.fortefoundation.org) is an organizationthat promotes women in business. It provides a variety ofresources to women considering a business career and education.Female applicants to business school who are members ofthe organization receive mentorship support, career advice, and鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 308 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSaccess to women business leaders, and they attend admissionsevents where they can meet board members and receivescholarships to fund their MBA.The National Association of Women MBAs (www.mbawomen. org) is dedicated to empowering women MBAs andhelping them to take on leadership positions in corporate Americaand to enhance the diversity of the nations workforce.The National Society ofHispanic MBAs (www.nshmba.org)is an organization that fosters Hispanic leadership throughgraduate management education and professional development.NSHMBAworks to prepare Hispanics for leadership positionsthroughout the United States so that they can provide thecultural awareness and sensitivity vital in the management ofthe nations diverse workforce.The National Black MBA Association (www.nbmbaa.org)is an association that is dedicated to developing partnerships thatresult in the creation of intellectual and economicwealthin the blackcommunity.In partnership with more than 400 of the countrys topbusinessorganizations,the association has inroads into awide rangeofindustries as well as the public and private sector.GENERAL MBA SITESMBA.com (www.mba.com) is a great website that everyapplicant to business school ought to visit. It includes informationabout assessing the value of the MBA to deciding whichschools are the best fit for you. It also provides informationabout the GMAT, including the registration process, sampleGMAT exams, and business school resource information.BUSINESSWEEK.com (www.businessweek.com) providesan online community for applicants applying to business school.Applicants are able to read interview transcripts from AdmissionsBoard members at leading MBA programs as well as participatein virtual chats where they can ask questions directly to the boardmembers. Another major draw for applicants is that they can鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBA Resources 309interact with each other through forums and discussion boards.CurrentMBA students also write about their MBA experiences.MBAPodcaster (www.mbapodcaster.com) has expanded thewayinformation is communicated to prospectiveMBAcandidates.Instead of the traditional online chats,MBAPodcaster usesaudio and video services to bring the most current admissionsinformation to business school applicants. MBA Podcaster includesinterviews and discussionswith authorities in the MBA arena,including business school deans, admissions directors, admissionsconsultants, corporate recruiters, current students, and alumni.Topicsinclude everything from a behind-the-scenes viewof theadmission process to post-MBA job opportunities and currentmarket trends. Each in-depth show discusses a particular topic ofinterest to an MBA applicant and interviews relevant experts tohelp make the application process more efficient and successful.The moderator/host leads the discussionand draws conclusionstohelp the listening audience plan effectivelyfor their pursuit of anMBA.The company was founded injanuary 2006 by Leila Pirnia,an entertainment executive and graduate from MassachusettsInstitute of Technology.MBAPodcaster is dedicated to providinglisteners with accurate and unbiased information.MBA Zone (www.mbazone.com) was founded by BrendaMizgorski, a Wharton MBA, nearly ten years ago. This site wasone of the first online communities for MBA applicants withinformation covering the application process, life as an MBAstudent, and life after business school.Vault (www.vault.com) was started by MBAs who saw amarket opportunity that wasnt being filled and jumped on it.They have successfully built an online community and anextensive collection of information, books, and other productscovering a variety ofcareers and universities. This site is helpfulfor applicants who want to learn more about different careersand what a typical day is like in that industry. Vault also offersa database of available jobs for its members.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 310 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETSThe MBA Tour (www.thembatour.com) is an independentand high-quality information source regarding MBA admissions.Its events emphasize personal interaction between prospectiveMBA students, business school admissions representatives,alumni, and other like-minded education enthusiasts.Established in 1993, it has built a strong reputation basedon representing top business schools from North America,Europe, Asia, and South America.INTERNATIONAL STUDENTSIntemationalStudent.com (www.internationalstudents.com)covers information on getting visas, securing financing for aneducation as an international student, and other internationalrelated topics.EducationUSA (www.educationusa.com) is a globalnetwork of more than 450 advising centers supported by theBureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S.Department of State.SCHOLARSHIPS AND FELLOWSHIPSThe Consortium Fellowship (www.cgsm.org) providesfinancial funding to minority candidates from MBA programsthat are members of the consortium organization.The Robert Toigo Foundation Fellowship (www.toigofoundation. org) provides financial funding, mentorship, andsupport to minority MBA candidates interested in a career inthe financial services industry.LOAN RESOURCESGradLoans.com (www.gradloans.com)Gate (www.gateloan.com)CitiAssist (www.citiassist.com)FastWeb (www.fastweb.com)鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • MBA Resources 311GMAT PREP PROGRAMSThe Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is a requiredexam that all top business schools use to assess candidatesacademic aptitude. Following is a list of the differentGMAT prep companies. You should research each of them todetermine the ideal program to help you prepare for thisimportant exam.ManhattanGMAT (www.manhattangmat.com)The Princeton Review (www.princetonreview.com)Kaplan (www.kaplan.com)BellCurves (www.bellcurves.com)Manhattan Review (www.manhattanreview.com)In addition, the GMAT Club (www.GMATc1ub.com)is anonline community for aspiring MBAs to improve theirGMAT scores, access admissions experts through onlinechats, and receive tips on the application through blogs andother resources.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
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  • Aacademic ability/intellectualaptitude, 84-89see also GMATacademic background!experience,58,85-87academic record. see GPA;transcriptacceptance, 250-55admission offer. see acceptanceadmissions, criteria for. seecriteria for admissionadmissionsboard. seeMBABoardadmissions cycle, 62-72admissions decisions, 70, 71,250-61alumni, 181,201-2applicantsearly career candidates, 96,203,233-35entrepreneurial candidates,203,235-37international candidates, 8384,86-87,243-47,310minority candidates, 242-43,308,310nontraditional candidates,206,227-37traditional candidates, 204-6,221-26women candidates, 239-42,270, 307-8applicationadditionalmaterials,36, 66, 259components of, 64deadlines, importance of, 63electronic submission,advantage of, 64essay questions (see essays)incomplete status, 66order of review, 65-66physical appearance of, 26preapplication process, 58-62and resume (see resume)review of, 34, 67-68rounds, 63, 105time needed for, 57, 149timing of, 119verification process, 70-72Bbackgrounds, applicant.see applicantsbrainstorming for essays, 105-7brand, 18-26brand ofMBA programs, 16, 26-32brand, personalauthenticity in, 24brand audit, 42-43, 273brand themes, 43-48and career changers, 51-56communicating, 195-96consistency in, 52demonstrating value of,196-97and distinctive applications,35-36in essay questions, 45excellence in, 24-26focus in, 45INDEX鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • fundamental rules of, 19-26importance of examples, 45leadership in, 22-24and negative actions, 25passion in, 22-23, 39-41and self-awareness, 35selling during interview, 182statement, 48-50,194uniqueness, 99see also brandbrand audit, 42-43,273brand champions, 191, 194-99,274see also recommendationsCcampusvisits, 61-62, 175, 182,251candidates. see applicantscareer changers, 8, 10, 11, 12,51-56,114,119,121-23,194collegeacademic performance during,84-89,157,177involvement with aftergraduation, 93leadership during, 90-92recommendations from, 203college students, 156, 157,233community activities, 158-59,160,202,246,307conditional admission, 255-56consistency, 51, 52consultants, 3, 204-5, 222-23credibility, 51,114,119criteria for admissionacademic ability/intellectualaptitude, 76-89core areas, 73-75leadership track record, 89-98uniqueness, 99-101curriculum, flexibility of, 10, 15Ddeferred admission, 256-57diversity, 28-29, 33, 239, 241,242-43dual degree programs, 237Eearly career (EC) candidates, 96,203,233-35employment. see experience,workengineers, 205-6, 226English Language Assessment,83-84entrepreneurs, 29, 203,235-37essaysaddressing fit in, 118addressing transcriptinconsistencies in, 87addressing weaknesses in,131-32brainstorming for, 105-7and brand audit, 105and brands, 103and brand themes, 45, 47-48career essays, 117-24common mistakes, 148-51compared to AWA, 81credibility in, 114emphasis of, 105honesty in, 113-14impact essays, 124-29importance of individualizing,117314 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • judgment in, 104, 130, 149,151miscellaneous, 141-47outline for, 106overview, 104-7personal stories in, 104, 130PGII factor in, 108-12red flags in, 130, 131samples, 121-23self-awareness in, 129, 131"who are you" essays, 129-41winning characteristics, 107-16examsEnglish Language Assessment,83-84GMAT; 2, 58, 77-82, 88, 177,303-5,311GRE, 77prep programs, 82, 311experience, academic, 58, 85-87experience, international, 15, 21-22experience, personal, 21-22experience, practical, 6experience,work, 153-54, 155-57see also internshipsFfamily business, candidates from,203,236-37financing an MBAcost ofMBA, 2, 8,10,266-67financial aid, 252, 271Forte Fellowships, 270for international candidates,247loans, 267-69, 310preparation for, 272resources for, 310savings, 270, 271, 272scholarships, 252,269sponsorships, 10-11, 12,267Toigo Foundation, 270fit, 1, 118-19,273focus in branding, 19-20,45Forte Foundation, 240-41, 242,270, 307-8GGMAT (Graduate ManagementAdmission Test), 2,58,77-82,88,177,303-5,311GPA, 157, 177see also transcriptGRE (Graduate Record Examination),77IIELTS, 83, 84impact, 89-90, 92, 95, 96,111-12intellectual aptitude/academicability, 84-89see also GMATinternational candidates, 83-84,86-87,243-47,310international experience, 15,21-22international programs, 13, 14,245internships, 10, 11, 156interviewsaddressing academicexperiencein, 177common mistakes, 187-88dressing for, 182-83focuson resume, 172, 173, 174Index 315鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • fundamental questions, 184-86importance of, 171-72,274need for energy in, 180on-campusvs.off-campus, 175policies, 173-74preparing for, 181-83selling brand during, 182by students, 176variables assessed by, 176-80Jjobexperience, 153-54, 155-57resignation from, 68-69, 254-55joint degree programs, 237judgment, 104, 130, 149, 151, 169Llanguage ability, 21-22,83-84leadershipaddressingin interview, 177-78and admissions, 89-98in career, 96-98in college, 90-92in community, 91, 92-95highlighted in resume, 158,159-60impact of, 89-90, 92, 95, 96importance of in branding,22-24improving track record, 59in junior positions, 89-90in knowledge arena, 90of nontraditional candidates,227programs for, 31-32MManagement Leadership forTomorrow (MLT), 243marketingapplication as, 18by MBA programs, 26-27, 61programs for, 30-31of self, 35materials, additional, 36,66,259MBAcost of, 2, 8, 10,266-67financing (see financing anMBA)general resources, 308-10reasons for pursuing, 5-8types of programs (seeprograms)value of, 8-9wrong reasons for pursuing,2-3MBABoard, 32-37,261,283-85*The MBA Consortium, 243minority candidates, 242-43,308,310Oonline resources, 181,307-11Ppassion, 22-23, 39-41,108PBA(personal brand audit), 41-43,273PBS (personal brand statement),48-50, 194PGII Factor, 34, 108-12postapplication process, 68-72preapplication process, 58-62programs316 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • 2 + 2 program, 233accelerated, 11, 13as brands, 26-32choosing after admission,250-51dual degree programs, 237for entrepreneurship, 29executive, 12-13for finance, 30for hands-on experience, 31importance of researching,16,28international, 13, 14,245for leadership, 31-32for marketing, 30-31marketing by, 26-27, 61open house events, 60-61part-time, 11-12rankings, 59-60selection of, 13-16two-year, 10-11Rrankings, 59-60rating grid, 208, 209reapplication, 261-64recommendationsand advantage of electronicapplication, 64and career leadership, 96common mistakes, 215-19common questions, 209-14and discrepancy with self-description, 131for early career candidates,203,235focus of, 203, 204-5importance of, 192-93importance of discussing, 65and incomplete applications,66for international candidates,247need for balance, 207-8rating grid for, 208-9recommenders, 191-92, 194-203,206,219,274 (seealso brand champions)and relationship withsuperiors, 193for specific candidate back-grounds, 203-6as verification, 192and weak academicperformance, 76, 88rejection, 259-61resignation from job, 68-69,254-55resumeacademic experience in, 85-86activities section, 158-60breadth vs. depth, 163-64chronology in, 156common mistakes, 166-69community activity in, 158-59, 160detail in, 155education section, 157-58GPAin, 157interests/other section, 160-62internships in, 156interviews focus on, 172, 173,174Index 317鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • for job vs. application, 154,181judgment in, 169leadership in, 158, 159-60professional experiencesection, 155-57sample, 164-66uniqueness in, 158, 160-62Sself-awareness, 35, 101, 112, 129,131,179students, college. see collegestudentsstudents, MBA, 181,275-81,287-301Ttests. see exams;GMATTOEFL, 83Robert Toigo Foundation, 243,270,310transcript, 84-89see also GPAUunemployment, 4-5uniqueness, 99-101, 158,160-62Vverification of applications, 70-n,192visas, 244, 255visiting, 61-62,175,182,251Wwait list, 257-59websites, 181, 307-11women, 239-42, 270, 307-8work experience, 153-54, 155-57work permits, 244-45writing ability, 81, 206318 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS SECRETS鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/
  • ABOUT THE AUTHORChioma Isiadinso is the founder and CEOof EXPARTUS (www.expartus.com), aglobal admissions consulting and personalbranding company that prepares applicantsto gain admission to elite schools. Chiomahas more than ten years of admissionsexperience and is a former AdmissionsBoard member at Harvard Business Schooland former Director of AdmissionsatCarnegie Mellon University School ofPublic Policy and Management.Chioma is a national speaker on the subject of admissionsand personal branding. Chioma has been interviewed on CNBCsPower Lunch and featured in the New YOrk Times, BlackEnterprise, and Investors Business Daily. She has also publishedadmissions articles for magazines like Hispanic Magazine andProfessional Womens Magazine. She is the recipient of TheNetwork Journals 2007 40 Under 40 leadership award.Chioma earned her Master of Education degree from theUniversity of Pittsburgh and graduated from Hobart and WilliamSmith Colleges with a degree in Psychology. Chioma lives inNew York City with her husband and son.鸳鸳相抱 ChaseDream 论坛首发 http://forum.chasedream.com/