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...
As we had recommended in the Essay Writing process, in a 3-week schedule, 1 week should be dedicated for rewriting the essay. Applicants depend on consultants and editors to rewrite the essay, at least to kick start the process. Ideally, avoid borrowing phrases from consultants, but include your unique voice and rewrite the essay for these ten scenarios:
1) Style Mismatch
A formal or a conversational style throughout the essay would be counterproductive. Mixing and matching the two would have a better impact. Phrases and sentences synthesized from multiple levels of consciousness - creative and routine, or widely separated writing sessions can lead to inconsistent style for the narrative. Each paragraph should look like it came from the same author. A free flowing first draft or an iterative essay writing process will prevent style mismatch. Read Winning MBA Essay Guide to learn how.
2) Flow Mismatch
It doesn’t matter whether you are using Pillaring technique or found a method of your own. A flow of a...
The Admission team knows that you can excel in core classes: finance, accounting, and statistics, but don’t rest on your laurels! Since Investment Banks are popular recruiters in Top Business Schools, applicants from Finance find a considerable representation. To improve your admission chances, you have to stand out from other Finance Professionals.
As we pointed out in our previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2), there’s a right way and a wrong way to attract the admission committee’s attention. We’ll wrap up today with the final things to avoid to make yours a successful MBA application.
Mistake #8: Not thinking through the “Why an MBA?” question
Many firms expect analysts or other junior bankers to leave for an MBA at approximately the two-year mark. Other possible options for you are to join a PE firm or hedge fund or find a job in industry. If you’re at this crossroads in your career and now is the expected time to apply to MBA programs, you will need to actively counteract any impression that your MBA is simply to “check a box” before the next level in your career.
It’s time to step...
When I began reviewing movies for Fun, I noticed that the ones that hold my attention the most used a narrative technique that I call Pillaring. The threads of the story run parallel, each one adding a sub-plot, providing new information or introducing a character through action. Good movies rarely use a background narration to describe a character or a motive. Maybe, they spell out information that offers context on the motives of the secondary characters. Martin Scorsese does that often when he mentions the quirks of a supporting character. The main character’s motivation and values are never told. Background voice of the protagonist is always a reflection of what the person is going through more than what he will do next.
If you are writing MBA Application Essays, remember you are the main character. Never spell out your motivation through words. Use actions to convey motivation and values.
Instead of writing, “Leading comes naturally to me,” you can write,
“From younger days, whenever there was a request to lead a team, I raised my hand. The fear and excitement of taking a group to a common goal meant that for a small duration of time, we get to share an...
The number of Round 2 applicants tends to be higher than Round 1 despite the admission team and consultants, including me, recommending applicants to target dream schools (first and second in the list) by round one. Before you start the application process for Round 2, here are 5 things to consider:
1) Managing Recommenders will not go as planned
Dec 31st is the end of quarter three; this means your manager will be busy traveling to meet quarterly targets or planning to take the well-deserved winter break, after finishing the tasks that are behind schedule. Your chance of getting a reflective recommendation letter in his unique voice is minimal. Get all your recommendation letters by last week of November or first week of December. If they can’t commit to your application, early enough, at least start the process by the first week of December. Meet the recommender and guide them through the narrative that you have covered and include examples that complement your story or strengthen your unique career path or value proposition.
2) Change Target School if you get rejected after Round 1 Interviews
By the second week of...
By Caryn Altman
Former Admissions Officer, Kellogg School of Management
Senior Consultant, Stacy Blackman Consulting
10 Common MBA Application Mistakes made by Finance Professionals (Mistakes 4-7)
As an MBA applicant with a background in finance, you’re no doubt wondering how to stand out from your equally impressive peers. No matter how remarkable your pedigree, the truth is that no business school wants a class filled with individuals from only one particular background.
As we pointed out last month in the first part of the Top 10 list of common MBA application mistakes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to attract the admission committee’s attention.
Let’s dive deeper into what finance professionals should avoid, and what makes for a successful MBA application.
Mistake #4:Failing to leverage your interests outside of work
While most of your peers will have similar work examples, you are the only one with your...
Applying for an MBA after your business has gone bankrupt does not have to be a weakness. Business schools appreciate innovation and entrepreneurship. The experience of starting and running your own company can be an interesting perspective you can bring to enrich the MBA program. Even the lessons learned from the failed venture can be worthwhile as well. There are some key questions on the minds of the admission boards when evaluating an entrepreneur whose business has failed.
First, they will evaluate the scope of the business (is this someone tinkering with a hobby or is this a real venture?) Then they will assess what you achieved (did you create a product that is being patented/raise funds from investors to expand the business or did the business not take off in the first place?) And finally, they will investigate why the business failed and the lessons you learned from the bankruptcy (are there holes in your skill set that you need to strengthen or did you make glaring mistakes that raise questions about your judgment?)
In fact, you can make a strong case for the need for...
If you are like thousands of other Americans who are exhausted by the election campaigns and the 'nasty' debates, take solace in the fact that there are some lessons that you can apply in your MBA application essays.
1) Address your Weakness head-on
Hillary Clinton is widely perceived as impersonal and 'dishonest.' She is aware of the perception. If you notice the debates where there are Town Hall style questions, in the end, Hillary makes it a point to repeat the name of the person who is asking the question, acknowledge their pain, and then answers the question. While answering the questions, she almost always brings in some form of 'policy detail' or her experience as 'secretary of state' into the answers. This might seem natural for any politician, but Ms. Clinton is cleverly contrasting the rhetoric-filled answers that Trump gives with 'details' - a specific strategy to impress the independent voters and millennials, who are keen on the specifics.
Before you write a draft version of the essays, listing out your weaknesses is crucial. We have shown that in Winning MBA Essay Guide. Read the Chapter, "Insead MBA Essay Tips" where we have demonstrated with an example on ...
By Caryn Altman
Former Admissions Officer, Kellogg School of Management
Senior Consultant, Stacy Blackman Consulting
This is the first part of a three-part series: Common MBA Application Mistakes made by Finance Professionals
Surprised to hear that MBA applicants from finance make up the largest percentage of the incoming classes at many of the top business schools?
I didn’t think so.
Several firms require the MBA for top-level positions, and finance industries feed heavily into the most competitive programs. At the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, for example, 45% of the Class of 2018 has previously worked in finance, followed by 36% of the entering class at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and 27% at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
While other applicants will have to work hard to demonstrate that they can handle classes such as finance, accounting, and statistics, if you hail from finance, this box...
If you have watched stand-up comedians deliver their best performances, you will notice three things: a good set-up, an amusing punch line, and a unique delivery. So what can you learn from these comedians about MBA Application essays, especially with changing essay lengths and formats?
Top performing standup comedians are good at giving an honest setup with the right information required for understanding the joke. They weed out unnecessary facts, and irrelevant background information to gain maximum attention. In essays, AdCom is your audience. They have read hundreds of essays. Now they are looking for the essay that would get their undivided attention for 15-30 minutes. If you start with how awesome you are, it is like delivering the punchline without any setup. You will be heckled in real life. Focus on the actions and the environment in which you have worked.
Edit! Edit and do more Editing!
Read the set-up and analyze each sentence. Do you need the sentence there to convey who you really are?
Punchline works in a standup comedy because it is inherently funny but more importantly it...
An average human makes 27 decisions per day, from selecting the tie, to choosing grocery, to making life-altering commitments. Decisions that demonstrate courage in leadership has one thing in common: lack of information. Decisions taken in wars are a classic example. Despite the state of the art spying devices, the go-ahead to attack or defend depends on the strength of the enemies, the capability of the team, the support from air troops, but most importantly, on your team’s courage.
Courage in Leadership (Example for MBA Application Essay)
An applicant was leading a campaign for a dying brand (less than 1% market share). The nostalgia associated with the brand was strong. Social Media users often shared how much they loved having the cereal when they were young, and to what extent they would go to get a taste of their favorite spherical cereal pieces. Unfortunately, the demand dipped in mid-2005 and never recovered. The company was forced to reduce production, and that limited the availability. The campaign was not just about keeping the brand alive. The applicant had to make recommendations on optimal production volumes based on the response of the...
World limits for your MBA essays is a topic that is quite confusing. Here are some pointers that might be useful for you.
1) + or - 10%
Keep your essays 10% higher or lower than the word limit provided. But be very careful not to fall short by 10% in more than two essays. In some cases, essays will have page limit instead of the word limit. Stick to the page limit mentioned in the essay. Do not try to manipulate with line and paragraph spacing, margins, indentation or alignment.
The myth surrounding the word limit is that when your essay exceeds the word limit, the texts would be cut off. In some online applications there exist such systems but in the majority of them, the admission team is the judge. They are experienced enough to understand whether you have gone over the limit. A 20-25% over the word-limit shows two things: you cannot make your point succinctly, and you do not respect the admission officer’s time.
The admission officers are liberal towards the recommenders. So if you cannot include some of your EXTRA strengths in your essays due to the word limit, remind your recommenders to incorporate it in their letter with specific examples to showcase your strengths.
2) Writing standards
Space between Sentences: one
Space between Paragraphs: one line or no line-space...
Transcripts verify your academic performance, and recommendation letter affirms your competency at work, but your involvement with non-profit through volunteering and your entrepreneurial initiatives need much more than a certificate of participation, or a ‘single line’ in a resume.
Why do Business Schools consider Extracurricular to be an important part of MBA Application? Learn more.
Firstly, schools would prefer candidates who are well rounded and has a life outside work. Your past involvement in extra-curricular activities is an indicator of the non-profit and start-up organizations that you respect and value. It also demonstrates the skills that you have leveraged for the community. More importantly, schools would like to know how you would contribute in the campus outside class work. Student clubs are an integral part of the learning environment, and schools would rather have a candidate who can actively contribute in one of the clubs than someone who is good academically, but has very little involvement outside of class...
When Harvard Business School started the first MBA program in 1908, Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Theory on Scientific Management was finding fame with the four-step principles in General Management:
• Converting Information to Rules for completing tasks
• Using a scientific approach to train workers
• Monitoring workers to follow the scientific approach
• Dividing the works of Managers and Workers so that Managers plan and workers perform the tasks.
Modern Management practitioners might cringe at the use of the word ‘Worker’ and would find it impossible to follow a simple four-step process.
MBAs now are more than a person who manages ‘workers’. They should be specialists, generalists and most importantly a master persuader to direct the team towards project/company goals. That is how leadership has taken precedence in MBA lexicon. Unfortunately, students tend to exaggerate their managerial roles as leadership initiative, and quite often the admission team assumes the transgression as an exaggeration.
We can’t blame the applicants.
Schools hardly mention the difference between leadership and Managerial roles when they give guidelines for writing an essay.
Manager vs. Leader (Know the difference for your MBA...
When applicants ask us what is the one thing that forces the reviewer to pay 100% attention to the essays, we say, “It’s a balance of Emotion, Action, and Words.” Without the right emotional investment in your story, the MBA admission team is less likely to be impressed by your achievements. Without narrating the actions you took, and the actions you withstood, your talents lie hidden beneath the jargons of a 1-page resume. Without the right words, you will fail to communicate your unique candidacy.
Emotion is everything in an essay. We are not talking about the over sentimental account of how your dog died, and how that led to your non-profit initiative. Business School will reject the recommendation letter like essays that are to the point but like thousands of other essays - bland. They already have a tough time differentiating two applicants from IT background with a 3.2 GPA and a 720 GMAT. Don’t confuse them further with your clichéd phrases. Take the risk, and capture emotions in equal measure when you describe the actions you took.
A statement about your values or life lessons will be looked with...