Admissionado Welcomes you to…FIVE MOS(T) COMMON QUEST G/JINS
THE PLAN FOR TODAY. Schools change essay questions very often. (HBS, Wharton…) So which questions always remain the same? Let’s focus on the following five: 1) The Career Goals Essay. 2) The Optional Essay. 3) The Re-applicant Essay 4) “Tell us about something you did that was great!” • (Leadership, teamwork, etc.) Studies have statistically shown that people prefer things in fives. 5) “Tell us about something you did that was bad.” • (Failure, weaknesses, etc.) In fact, the “Essay Questions” themselves don’t even matter. Ha! Cool eh? But I’m getting ahead of myself...
THE ESSENCE OF A BUSINESS SCHOOL APPLICATION. We are all here for the same reason: to get in. Georgia the Bulldog So let’s cut the crap already. What does it really take to get into a top-notch bschool? 1) Connect your past experiences to your future goals (“Career Arc.”) 2) Leadership of course (Even for “not HBS.”) 3) Work success over time (Increasing responsibility.) Getting in is hard, but this mustache is a TRUE art form. 4) International experience (esp. for int’l applicants). 5) Well-roundedness. 6) Good judgment. These are the things that you need to do in your application. Is one of em most important? Yyyyep, sure is. Numero uno.
ESSAY 1. THE ALMIGHTY CAREER GOAL Let’s talk about career goals. After all, it is BUSINESS school. No matter what else you do, if your career goals are screwy, you wont get into a top MBA program. It isnt “the essays” that are important for example—it is the career goals. The essays are important because mainly, that’s where you express your GOALS. What is a good career goal? Do Romney’s past experiences connect to his future goals? If yes, he may be elected. If not, he wont. Snap!YOU MUST CONNECT YOUR PAST EXPERIENCES TO YOUR FUTURE GOALS. An example of how it should work (real estate finance into real estate development, investment management into investment banking). An example of how it should not work (IT into non-profit, non profit into investment banking).
ESSAY 1. THE ALMIGHTY CAREER GOAL“But Jon, how could anyone expect me to know what I actually want to do in life?” Good question, I don’t actually know what I wanna do either. Never mind that, they are testing your judgment. Can you come up with a plan that makes sense? Can you come up with a plan that will yield a JOB? Do you understand what business school is, and how to use the MBA? Don’t get too personal, this is BUSINESS school. By the way, most people actually do what they say they will do, including me. Real estate. Why? Because the best apps will show off your greatest skills—and that’s what you will get paid to do upon graduation…
ESSAY 1. THE CAREER GOAL ESSAY…IN PRACTICE1) Connect your past experiences to your future goals. (Even in career changes, by the way…)2) Get good and specific with job titles, names of companies.3) Why MBA FOR YOU SPECIFICALLY, given your past, and give your future? What skills do you have now? Which ones will you need to hone given your specific goals? Do you actually NEED an MBA? (Hope so.) “But what is your career goal is to be a rasta?”4) Why this school FOR YOU SPECIFICALLY, given your unique past, and your unique future? Remember, all schools have the same classes, clubs, etc. All schools have famous professors. So forget all that. What I wanna know is…WHY THIS SCHOOL!
ESSAY 2. THE OPTIONAL ESSAY. WHAT IS IT FOR? Stomping Out (Smaller-Picture but Potentially Nasty) Weaknesses • Your choice of recommenders is not self-explanatory. • “Uh oh, he doesn’t have strong relationships at work…or You. maybe he just has poor judgment?” • A work gap. • “Uh oh, he isnt employable.” • Your GMAT is low. • “Whoops, he isnt smart.” • Your GPA is low. • “Eep! He REALLY isnt smart.” • Suspension/Expulsion/Criminal Record • “Dag, homeboys a troublemaker.” • Any other red flags… Sea of potential red flags. The optional essay is NOT the place to address major issues in your candidacy (leadership, career goals, international experience, the important stuff from slide 2…)
ESSAY 2. OPTIONAL ESSAY STRATEGY.Admissionado’s One-Two-Three Strategy for the Optional Essay.1. Sound, Honest Explanations.2. Confidence3. Keep it short.
ESSAY 2. OPTIONAL ESSAY STRATEGY.Part 1. Sound, Honest Explanations.• What actually happened? You are explaining it, perhaps even “making excuses.” And at first, that is juuuust fine.• Own it. If you made a mistake, come out and say so. If you regret your choices, admit that too.• If you have NO excuse, you can say that too. After all, you were young (right?) “Have you been stealing stock images, boy?!” Remember folks, admitting mistakes is a sign of maturity. Nobody expects you to be perfect. If you are perfect, you’re not looking at yourself hard enough…
ESSAY 2. OPTIONAL ESSAY STRATEGY.Part 2. Confidence.• “This may look bad, but here is proof that it’s actually not.” • Ping, pong, pang.• “Yes it was a mistake, but in the grand scheme of things I am actually GLAD I made it.” • Ping, pong, pang.• “I’m not ashamed, I have nothing to be ashamed of. While I am disappointed in some decisions I made a few years ago, today my record speaks for itself.” “You know what? Howbout we do this--go out there and win this one for Sheena Easton.” • Ping, pong, pang. And the best way to keep both Part 1 (own it) and Part 2 (be confident) in check is to crush this thing in as FEW words as possible. Two sentences, four—NEVER use the entire limit.
ONE MORE OPTIONAL ITEM WORTH MENTIONING…(QUICK, ONLY GRATUITOUS PLUG FOR JON’S COMPANY) Admissionado has done nearly 12,000 MBA applications in five years. Last year, well over 50% of our client base was international. All our MBA consultants attended top-ten programs in the US and live in the US or Europe, and are native speakers. My co-Founder Raj Patil has a Hollywood background—and it takes BOTH a business perspective, and as we have hopefully shown, a MARKETING and ENTERTAINMENT approach as well. I have trained all our guys personally—and Raj and I look at EVERYTHING before it goes out the door. When there is a second MBA (all Deluxe packages), I do the work personally… By the way, look out for our NEW name, and NEW brand—Admissionado—in the weeks to come. Nothing has changed, only how badass the website looks…
ESSAY 3. THE REAPPLICATION ESSAYThere are many reasons why your reapp is worthwhile: Time, Energy, Effort. You have already invested so much of it. While it stings to do it all again, you will be BETTER at it. Ever lose all your work the night before your paper was due? This time it will go quicker. A better application. This time you will be smart, and you will SOLVE the problems you faced earlier. You have learned lessons, and tasted defeat. Sometimes, in both MBA apps and suntan lotion, you just have to “reapply. “ Also, this time you’ll be more realistic. Finally, now you have an interesting BRAND. You have something to write about. You have the gift now of an instant ANGLE in your application. The “how have I improved my background” story has LEGS!
ESSAY 3. THE REAPPLICATION ESSAY…EXPLAINED.(YOUR PLAN OF ATTACK IS SIMPLE.) Just tell the schools how you’ve improved since last year. Done. But don’t just take our word for it: Dean at Booth: “Do not rely on last year’s application to provide us with that information. Ask your recommenders to update their letters. Avoid regurgitating information you used last year...” Dean at HBS: “I will never understand people who simply submit much of the same materials, after being dinged.” We like to talk about the Admissionado Reapplication Bible…
ESSAY 3. LET’S GET SPECIFIC:CAREER GOALS FOR REAPPSCan I change my career goals? Absolutely you can. You would be well-advised to do so, most likely. But you have to do so…strategically of course. That is, what is the CONNECTION between the old goals and the new ones? Banking into PE. Real estate management into RE investment. Don’t forget typical career goal stuff (connecting your past and future.) How about adding in a dose of REALITY. That is, perhaps last year your goals made sense but they weren’t that realistic. And now they are. Investment Banking into Commercial, entrepreneurship into product management etc. All these approaches will lead to a MUCH more credible career goal your second time around.
ESSAY 4. TELL US ABOUT SOMETHING COOL YOU DID.Okay enough already. Let’s talk about Michael Jackson.How many MJ songs can you name? Dunno but…The answer is…most likely “his greatest hits.”The Significance of Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits• It actually doesn’t matter what questions adcoms ask you, When you’re down and out, and there seems no whether in applications or interviews. hope at all…” think Greatest Hits!• All that DOES matter is that you tell your best stories. If you have 5 AMAZING stories to tell in the past 3-5 years, you must tell ALL of them. I don’t care what the questions asked happen to be.• That work can start now. Start your lists today my friends. A simple Excel chart takes 20 minutes …
ESSAY 4. IGNORE ESSAY QUESTIONS!INSTEAD, FOCUS ON… GREATEST HITS!Honestly? Essay questions don’t REALLY matter. And this essay’s a gimme. • The entire game is predicated on your putting your best foot forward. You have four stories that MUST be told. I put to everyone on the call that the “tell us something good” question is a gift from God. Why? Why is six afraid of • You can literally tell any story you want. seven? Because seven “eight” nine! • At HBS, of course focus on leadership. • But at all other schools, you can/will mold your answer to simply cover the 1 of your 2, 3, 4, or 5 stories you havent yet covered. • Don’t let the wording of topic of any one question force you to use your seventh or eighth best story in an app… • The same is actually true with interviews. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…
ESSAY 5. HOW TO TREAT FAILURES/WEAKNESSES. Step One: do NOT try to avoid the issue. Instead, own it. o Do NOT make up some lame pseudo-failure. “One time I tried too hard to do too much, and in the end it didn’t work. I am too much of a perfectionist,” etc. Adcoms will see through these tactics. A sign of maturity is to indicate that you KNOW your weaknesses, and to own up to your failures. What’s next? Pick failures that highlight your strengths. (Bold eh?) o An example. Let’s say that a strength of yours is leadership. Well, a reasonable weakness might be that you focus on the big In the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes, picture, so sometimes you make careless mistakes. That Charleton Heston’s character had a might be a story worth mining eh? weakness for the ape, Dr. Zira. o Another example. Let’s say that a strength of yours is the ability to communicate—to connect with people. So a likely weakness might be that you’re too soft. You are a pushover, too eager to say “yes” and afraid of even the occasional fight. And some disagreements, some conflicts will ALWAYS come with the territory as a good leader.• So you get the idea—pick weaknesses /failures that make your strengths seem even STRONGER.
ESSAY 5. FAILURES ESSAY, STRUCTURALLY SPEAKING. Part One: Lay out the bellyflop. o Set the stage. o I thought I had it together, until WHAP. o I belly-flopped. o SELL us on how big a failure this was. (It’ll only mean you had responsibility, and the trust of your bosses...) Part Two: Reflect. You get the idea, eh. PS—that poor water… o Maybe you learned your own lessons in your own head? o Maybe you had the benefit of someone else helping you reflect. o But gosh, you learned that lesson. Part Three: Similar situation…revisited. o The next time you were faced with the situation, you crushed it.
IN CONCLUSION… Honestly folks, we talked about the HARDEST essay questions today. This may make you think that there is more to it—that the “overall strategy” for essay questions differs, is complicated, etc. But if you’re not writing the optional essay or the reapp, in fact there are only two CRITICAL lessons to remember from today. 1) Connect your past experiences to your future goals. 2) Tell your greatest hits, at all costs. 3) (Maybe a third point about judgment, weaknesses, lame jokes, etc.) Don’t believe the hype gang. Most of this stuff is common sense. Use your brains, don’t take shortcuts, and EXECUTE. As always, we’re here to answer questions. Let’s take some NOW… Flavor Flav Jon Frank
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