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MBA Application

1 to 2 weeks before the deadline is a nervous time for most applicants. Rightly so. You have crossed numerous hurdles, most notably GMAT & Shortlisting the right MBA program, before starting your essays.

If you have gone through the methodology we have suggested, you might have ruthlessly listed your weaknesses. With strategic storytelling, your story will justify the weaknesses, not hide it beneath Jargons or excuses.

All the hard work on the narrative can be undone with last minute edits. I am not talking about edits on sentence structure but changes in story and motivations. Even unnecessary edits on the carefully chosen phrase can affect the flow of the narrative and eventually the cumulative impact.

In our review service, we go back and forth with the clients to uncover their weakness and then use the most relevant weakness for each school. There are no universal weaknesses that are...

After editing and reviewing over 300 Essays, I noticed a pattern for Winning MBA Essay. I wouldn't recommend that you force yourself to include the 7 Characters for all your essays, but while editing, review for the narrative structure and presences of:

1) Protagonist

Amateur writing doesn't establish the protagonist early on. In Essays, the word count is in the 250-500 range. Starting with you, and then building context necessary for the essay is the first step in your essay unless the question is about failure, setback or weaknesses. In such scenarios, context and narrative for the event should be the starting point.

Remember that your resume is the reference material for the admission team. Editing the resume to include the most prominent and relevant achievements in your life is as important as editing your essay. The resume should include achievements that demonstrate your leadership skills, communication, and expertise as an individual contributor - in that order. If you need help, choose our...

Two assumptions stand in the way of rewriting an essay. One - storytelling is a mash up of flowery phrases. Two - complex sentences and narratives with jargons are required to prove your expertise.

When you combine flowery phrases with jargon-filled complex sentences, the results can be an eyesore for a reviewer.

First Step - Simplify

While recruiting writers for F1GMAT, I ask candidates (Technologists, Consultants, Finance Professionals, Journalists, and Marketing majors) to write an article on a random subject. Specialization limits a candidate's breadth of reading and inevitably, the quality of the writing, but interestingly candidates with Journalism had the worst writing skills.

Engineers and Finance professionals rose above the initial hiccup and understood the requirement. Their first draft was mediocre and in some cases worse than the journalist, but their attitude towards learning a new skill made them easy to work with. Marketing majors were the best at writing. Memorable opening came naturally to them, but they dipped in the middle where the meat of the subject was addressed. For technologists/finance professionals, the opening and the conclusion were poor, but they dug deep into the subject at the middle. I know it is an oversimplification to categorize writing skills by profession, but the trend continued with my clients as well....

The first draft of the essay should be a free flow of your inner thoughts, beliefs, and narrative excesses (blog-like). The real work starts at the Second draft.  One common mistake that I have seen applicants make is taking the shortcut and directly writing with a tone that is similar to a second draft. They all sound the same with no uniquely identifiable attributes.

I hope you are ready with the first draft of essays with words that are double or triple the recommended limit. It doesn’t matter. The idea is to write freely and capture unique phrases that a consultant or a typical applicant might not use. If you are still not ready with the First Draft, subscribe to our Essay Review Service. We will help you shortlist the most impactful stories from your career and personal life. After that, we will guide you with narrative tips on making your essay engaging and unique.

Second Draft

The real work starts in the second draft where you have to structure the essay into:

1) A memorable opening
2) An interesting opening paragraph
3) An engaging middle
4) A concluding paragraph
5) A conclusion that captures the essence of the answer...

After a 3-minute monologue, I invited the dog to a boxing match. Hamish wagged his fake tail and barked onto the stage. My boxing gloves were filled with flour. The punches connected and covered the stage with a smog-like aftermath. I heard a clap or two from the audience. My elder brother was in the crowd and later told me that the mic was off, I talked too fast, and no one could understand the plot. Brothers are brutally honest. Being a shy kid, I didn't emote for the audience. Hamish, my friend and the dog in the rabbit vs. dog fable, would have been a better fit for the role, but my English Teacher thought it was time for me take the stage.

Any form of public performance needs courage, concentration and the resilience to accept failure. I didn't take corrective actions. I quit. I never acted again, not in a lead role.

I saw the Harvard MBA Admissions Director asking applicants to be genuine and the INSEAD MBA Managing Director recommending not to polish the Essay too much; hints that the edited version of the essays tends to be devoid of any personality or genuineness.

Polished vs. Genuine Essay

If I share my first attempt at acting and the subsequent realization that I was not good at it, would my narrative sound genuine?


So what is the polished version of the narrative?

As you might have experienced by now, switching styles is not easy in MBA Application Essays. We tend to overdo the blog part with self-references, slangs, or try our hand at humor. Essays have no place for any. But with recent edits in our review service, one part that has helped my clients is the Art of Pillaring. I have included a chapter on it in Winning MBA Essay Guide. The idea is to break the expected series of events. Do parallel storytelling or jumble the sequence to such a degree that you find the perfect balance in narrative and a standard essay.

Example: Project Manager Assigns a task --> I find the task challenging --> Spot talent --> Assembles a team --> Communicates the Goal --> Setbacks --> Eventually a Winning Team

Anyone who is reading a narrative about team building is expecting this sequence. Don't go crazy and do a Nolan, starting with the end or go deep into a sequence that is tough to interpret. Processing fluency impacts the first impression. The tougher it is to read your sentence or interpret the event, the harder it is to influence the admission team. The attention allocated for each candidate is limited (10 minutes). So don't force the reviewer to abandon your essay. Instead, start with an acknowledgment of your weakness.

I have found this to be the most difficult part of my job as an Editor and a Reviewer -...

Prompt 2: I turned an idea into action when I

Ross MBA Essay Tips:
The admission team wants to know whether you are a sensing or an intuitive candidate. The personality traits were popularized by the Myers-Briggs Personality tests.

A sensing personality
uses their five senses to gather information and looks at the facts before making any decisions. They are logically driven. Experience with a similar problem in the past often acts as a roadmap for future decisions. Managing resources and people require a sensing personality.

An intuitive personality is pattern and meaning driven. They look at the possibilities instead of spending too much time on past events or problems. Instead of details, the candidate is interested in abstract ideas. Innovation is often led by intuitive personality.

Another trait that is measured is your teamwork skills.

Remember that there are no right or wrong answers to the question. The admission team wants to know whether you are a sensing or an intuitive applicant. Also, do you depend on the team or do you take the initiative before approaching the team? Both create value in Management Consulting (most popular post-MBA job function at Ross).

Sample MBA Essay: Technologist (Idea to Action)

I turned an...

Ross MBA Essay Prompt 1 (Group 1): I want people to know that I

Tips: This revelation question should surprise the admission team. Ideally, include an aspect of your personality that is an antithesis to your profession traits or nationality or gender. For Finance and Technology professionals, include creativity as the theme of the questions. For humanities, including analytical skills while for Consulting and Marketing professionals – a logical or creative mind both works.

Sample MBA Essay: Finance Professional who was a former member of a rock band (100 Words)

I want people to know that I had a four-year stint as the guitarist for the Canadian rock band – “Brutus” before pursuing my full-time career as a Finance professional. There is an amazing similarity between the two professions. Salesmanship and stage presence are the obvious qualities. You can’t make the audience rock to your tunes with a fake attitude. Your act has to grab their attention. While selling financial products and services, many cut corners for a higher commission, but eventually your brand will be tarnished. I learned to play for the interest of the client– a life-lesson I picked from the lead singer of the band.

More ...

Writing about Leadership, the challenges you faced and the lessons learned can be tricky. You might not know where to start.

F1GMAT’s Kellogg MBA Essay Guide shares four leadership examples that you can use in your Essay #1 and a Sample Essay that you should read for inspiration.

For Essay 2, we demonstrate how to cite Kellogg MBA Curriculum as a growth tool. For creating an essay on how you have grown till now, use the 3-step structure and the Sample Essay as a template.

Download Kellogg MBA Essay Guide

Answering an open-ended Harvard MBA Essay question can be tricky. The Admission team has recommended that you as an applicant should not overthink or overcraft the essay. It is easier said than done. Without any outline or strategy, the free-flowing essay might not capture all the traits of your personality that would demonstrate that you are a good fit for the program.

To make it easier for you to write the essay, F1GMAT has created the 2017-18 Harvard MBA Essay Guide.

Through the Essay Guide, we demonstrate:

1) How to highlight your extroversion and passion
2) Your capability as a decision maker
3) Your active learning skills
4) Your communication skills

Explicitly demonstrating your four traits would be ineffective. You should know how to use positioning in your essays. We have included:

1) Six Positioning examples
2) Two Sample Essays
3) A detailed analysis of Harvard MBA Curriculum

Download Harvard MBA Essay Guide (2018 Entering Class)

Before you go into why extracurricular is important for essays, understand which school you are applying. For Finance focused schools - Booth/Wharton, measuring your skills in Finance is straightforward. They have to evaluate your professional progress to measure competency. Recommendation letters and resume give hints on professional achievements. Transcripts demonstrate your aptitude for the post-MBA job function. But rarely does an MBA candidate achieve extraordinary feat by doing the basic minimum for a job. Accepting such applicants can decrease the cumulative brand value of the school. That is where extra-curricular comes into play.

Extracurricular = Balanced Personality

If you are good with numbers, statistical analysis and developing financial models, but work poorly in a team, then selecting you for the latest Booth MBA class, and eventually to one of the top Employers - Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, or Deutsche Bank, might go against Booth’s career service team. In a high-pressure environment like Investment Banking, where sales and marketing are equally important as preparing Financial Products, a single-tracked personality would not climb the career ladder swiftly. They will be pigeonholed into one technical expertise. And that is not good for the school when...

One thing that INSEAD MBA Managing Director shared in a recent interview with me was that he discourages any editing of essays that destroys the original voice of the applicants.

In his words, "with thousands of essays reviewed every year, the MBA Admission Committee can tell to the point as to which top consultant has edited the essay."

Wow! I thought.

I didn't contest his point of view as when we edit, that is the exact idea I convey to our clients - "Our editing will maintain your original voice"

Bland Narrative

But there is a genuine challenge that I see with essays written by technologists, bankers, and consultants. The phrasing is too..how you say it - bland. The uniqueness of their personality is never captured. But the moment I talk to the person on the phone, the personality always shines through.

On a few occasions, when I felt that the applicant is sticking to some pre-conceived notion of writing an essay and creating a cookie-cutter narrative, I...

Categories : MBA Application

MBA Application Video TipsMBA Video Essay had some degree of success in the admission sphere over the past three years with the advent and growth of internet video as a popular viewing medium. Kellogg MBA Admissions team popularized the Video Essay where students get 1-2 minutes to prepare for the question and 2-3 minutes to record their answer in video format. For INSEAD, the recording time is as low as 60 seconds. Most schools offer a platform where you can practice the Video Essay multiple times with just once chance to record the answer. Use the time wisely. Practice for pacing the answer and covering the core of the question in the first 30 seconds.

We have compiled the eight Best Practices for creating awesome MBA Application Video Essays:

1) Use a Good Camera

Most laptops have a 3 Megapixel to a 5-megapixel inbuilt camera. But if you have watched some of the regular contributors in YouTube, what differentiates them from the amateurs is the quality of the video. You can borrow these cameras but here is our pick:

Top 3 video camera for MBA Application Video...

Categories : MBA Application

MBA Application Essay Review Best PracticesFor MBA Applicants around the world, one thing that bothers them the most is the review process for Essays. Most applicants review their essays for grammar and structural errors but then pass the essays to friends, colleagues, partners, parents, or experts for a detailed review. What most applicants fail to do is to define the best practices for reviewing the essays. Here are 4 Best Practices for Reviewing MBA Application Essays.

1) Describe Context

When you write an MBA Application essay, the context is clear to you. You have read several sample essays and best practices on writing MBA Application Essays before start writing your first draft. Unfortunately, unless you are asking an MBA Admissions Consultant to review your essays, the knowledge of context would be missing. Give a little bit of background about the School and the MBA program that you are trying to get in.

What is the school known for:  Consulting, Finance,...

Categories : MBA Application

I noticed one common trait between my 8-month son and an average web reader. Both have an attention span of 8 seconds. This is a 2-second drop from the 2000 trend when an average web user was not bombarded with desktop notifications or the buzzing of mobile phones every other minute. We were in the much calmer Nokia phone era with little novelty attached to entering the web. What was worse - the dial-up connection made the act of connecting to the internet a painful ritual.

Fast forward to a 100 Mbps world and you see the MBA Admission team with volume goals constantly distracted with a bombardment of social media, and email alerts, screaming; “look at me.” Even if the admission team switch off their phone while reading your essays, the 100th essay with phrases like “My dream is to,” “I have always wanted,” “With the HBS MBA program, I hope to”,  zone them out to a happy place, vowing to come back only when your words grab her attention. Just because it is the MBA Admission team’s job to shortlist interesting candidates does not mean they have to read all the sentences recycled in the essay. A quick scan will reveal whether your essay is worth reading.

The Anti-Writing Strategy

When we write for the blog, the mandatory subheading, bullet points, tables, and images ensure that when you scan for information, at least one of the elements in the page will...

Top 31 MBA Programs + Analysis of 24 Industries (United States)

We analyze the MBA Curriculum, Class Profile, Total Cost and Post-MBA Salary of Top 31 MBA programs in the US.

+ Industry Trends

+ Future of Aerospace, Agriculture, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Automobile, Clean Tech, Education, Energy, Fashion, Financial Services, Insurance, FinTech, Government, Healthcare, Life Sciences, Military, Manufacturing, Maritime, Media/Advertising, Technology, Tourism, Trade, Transportation and Logistics, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR).

Pages: 327


"I have not reviewed many books for MBA Admission consulting companies but doing it now to give all applicants a brief idea on what the book covers. The book includes 31 top MBA programs - almost all the top schools you have heard or considering for your MBA application. Each chapter is categorized by US States where there is at least one top MBA program. So you have California and Massachusetts with the most number of MBA programs and several states with one top program (Washington, Minnesota, Washington D.C., Connecticut, Virginia, and Maryland) and other states with two to three MBA programs. The book focuses on four aspects of an MBA program - curriculum, cost, class profile and post-MBA salary. For me, the breakdown of the cost and post-MBA industry was useful to make my decision on selecting the top 5 programs for 2017-18. It is a fascinating read in an industry where consultants overprice for their expertise. I recently bought a 30-page guide for $49. Compared to the obvious observation in that book, the 300+ page, MBA in US - the Ultimate guide is a goldmine of information and analysis." - Verified Purchase (21st June 2017)

"I bought the ultimate guide after a friend recommended it for me. The guide covers a lot of ground on the history of each prominent US states and goes into the reasons why a certain industry emerged from each state. In addition to the analysis of the economy, trends and expected changes in the next 5 years, the book features top MBA programs in each state with an extensive study of its curriculum. Ultimate guide is an essential reference book for MBA Applicants if they want to shortlist MBA programs based on value and cost, and not just ranking. " - Verified Purchase (14th June 2017)

"Should be a required reading before applying for an MBA. School events and MBA Tours are PR events disguised as a Q&A. On the contrary, the book is an unbiased analysis of each Top MBA program in the US supported by a large dataset and historical context on each industry. The guide builds a case for indstries that are likely to emerge as favourite for MBA graduates. Thorough and a valuable book." - Verified Purchase (15th June 2017)

"What I liked: The breadth of the information. Some of my favorite nonfiction books have taken the same approach as the ultimate guide have - cover background information in-depth. In the book, the author uses parallel threads to demonstrate the history of the state and the rise of industries. Will make you think how schools thrive based on the policy set by the state. California's obsession with Technology has revolutionized how we do Business and changed post-MBA trends. Many MBA applicants will be consulting or doing marketing for a Technology company. That is one key finding from the book. The latest development in AI, FinTech, and Automation is an additional context that I found valuable in the book.

Very informative. I would recommend that you read the book at least once in chronological order before using Table of Contents." - Verified Purchase (2nd July 2017)

Download How to Choose the Best MBA in US: The Ultimate Guide
(2018 Entering Class)

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