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Categories : MBA Application

In January, you might have shortlisted top 10 Business Schools. Many have contacted me and sought the chances of getting into each school. If you not done it yet, use our Basic Profile Evaluation service.

GMAT, which many have yet to take, will be a crucial differentiator. I have seen brilliant applicants procrastinate till August to take the test.

650-690 becomes the borderline score that jeopardizes your chances.

1) Prepare for the GMAT

If you are not yet in a study schedule, read our GMAT study plan.

GMAT 730+ has become the safe score for most top MBA programs in the US.

If you want to see which score is safe for European and other international schools, read Top MBA - GMAT and GPA (Average and Median).

Most GMAT preparation for those who are working full-time requires routines and smart-study. For instance, in GMAT Sentence correction, you don't have to know all the rules in English grammar, focus only on these.

For those who are traveling as part of work (sales and consulting), set...

I have a deadline before 8 pm.

I have to guide over 10,000 readers on how to write freely.

Would I be able to transfer at least one valuable advice to my readers?

Am I wasting my reader's time?

Would I be just another MBA Admissions Consultant polluting the inbox with clichéd advice?

********* End of Worry Audit *************************

See - these are my thoughts and worries when I began writing the post.

An extreme technique to avoid procrastination and write freely is to do a 'worry audit' and write it down before your draft essay.

The emotional outburst is in the paper.

Now, what is the excuse?

Keep adding the worries above the 'End of Worry Audit' space if you can't address the question in the essay.

Don't stare at a blank screen.

Stare at the worry Audit.

Keep adding questions until you have nothing to worry.

MBA Application Essay Question: What is your greatest weakness?

The applicant began the story of how his father would require the brothers to fill the to-do list - right to a 30-minute interval, every night before sleep. He didn't address the essay on weakness. The story seemed interesting and was the anchor for evaluating his personality....

The opening line for Franklin D Roosevelt's Dec 1941 speech that led the United States to World War II, didn’t start in the form that we know now.

Roosevelt began his draft in a formal written format, "Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in world history, the United States of America was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by Naval and Air forces of the Empire of Japan without warning."

First drafts of essays are littered with phrases that look good on paper but don’t capture emotions to get attention or motivate the admission team to act.

The fear that most applicants have is that the opener will be clichéd or too fancy or wouldn’t get the attention of the admission team.

The fear is so strong that they stop writing or creating variations.

I encourage my clients to exaggerate the opening -  in expression or the use of ‘fancy words’ or adjectives. Facing the fear of exaggeration by writing the exaggerated version of the openers helps them understand the worst versions they can create.

So how can we go crazy and exaggerate Roosevelt’s speech?

"Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in world history <forever in history>, the United...

Categories : MBA Application

“The man - shirtless, grease all over his body with a facemask jumped on to the window, barely holding onto the bars. He scanned the room from right to left. I sat at the left corner, two feet away from the Window. We looked at each other with shock and surprise waiting to see who will start the conversation.

5 seconds passed.

Who are you?

“I heard a burglar was in the neighborhood. We were just checking.”

After completing the reasoning, he disappeared. Shocked at what had happened, I slowly opened my door and shared the bizarre conversation with my housemates.

“I think I had a chat with a burglar.”

They rushed outside our villa, to start the pursuit, but it was too late.

Do you think this really happened to me?

Believability in an essay narrative depends on the description, the movement, and the epiphany. In novels, the author has the freedom in indulging in every minute details starting from the facial expressions, the fears and insecurities of the protagonist, the events leading up to the event, and depending on the location, even the weather.


In MBA Essays, the lesser the description, the more believable it would be. The moment you use up words to describe the scene, more than what you had allocated for your worries, hope, and insecurities, the...

Storytelling is an outline of your relationship with time, world, future, and yourself. The inner conflict between your ego and the challenge put forward by the outside world is similar to the turmoil that the reviewers go through on a daily basis while reviewing your essays or pondering over their future.

Two things are common in master storytelling: interesting characters and believable life events.

Interesting Characters

Since the story is about your life journey, the essay should demonstrate why you are interesting.

Here is how you do it:

1. Differentiate Just Enough

The background information that you capture should strip out the clichés and break away from the expectation of your profile. But don’t veer too far away from what reviewers expect from an applicant from your nationality and profession.

Take the example of the cult-classic track “Hey Ya!.” The 2003 song was unlike what early 2000s pop/hip hop/rap or rock songs were. Radio stations hesitated to play the song. The André 3000 song was tough to categorize in a Genre or even interpret. But once an obscure Radio jockey gave the green signal, the song caught on and remained in Billboard Top 100 for 32 weeks.

You might not be as lucky as Outkast.

Processing fluency -- the ease with which...

Writing is not your full-time gig. It is mine. I create books, blogs, analysis, articles, newsletters, sales pitch, advertising, and rants to my wife and close friends through email in what I call, “Atul’s Weekly rants.”

You are multitasking through projects, worrying about choosing the wrong school, keeping a low profile on your MBA plan, managing the politics in your team, coordinating with recommenders, preparing for the GMAT, collecting your transcripts, developing a plan to address your profile weakness, arranging funds and writing and rewriting essays.

I know – it is tough for, you.

You can’t suddenly develop the skills to create engaging prose, but there were even greater multitaskers – Doctors, Engineers, Politicians, Administrators, and Scientists, who went on to create some of the best collection of letters, books, and journals.

All you have to do – is write freely.

I had clients, who in their first draft didn’t convey their grasp of writing ‘hooks’ and ‘page-turners.' At best, their version was average.

A little nudge and guidance on ‘storytelling’ tips can do wonders for the applicant’s writing style.

Clients who went on to create memorable 2nd drafts absorbed everything I said. There is a point in the Essay Review and Consulting service where I and...

Categories : MBA Application

“I was responsible for contributing revenues of over $1 million for my project in 2015-16.”

$1 million is not an awe-inspiring number when you are measuring IMPACT and competing with other applicants

“And..?”, I asked.

“Well, my contribution encouraged the Founders to raise Series B Funding.”

Now that is a real IMPACT.

Contextualizing your achievement is a big part of creating the IMPACT table.

Most individual contribution, when converted to dollars, will be less than $1 million. Understanding your competitor’s data can help frame your uniqueness. If you are among the few individual contributors that would raise revenues of over $1 million – a number we have seen in professionals from Sales & Marketing, use them strategically at paragraphs where the reviewer is completely engaged.

IMPACT should be consistent in recommendation letter as well, but the tone and context should be slightly different.  For help with Recommendation Letter editing, subscribe to our service.

In essays, if your narrative is based on your individual contribution and the team’s impact, the supervisor can offer additional context...

Categories : MBA Application

There is a big misconception about storytelling for MBA Essays. In at least one iteration, I edit and remove unnecessary scenery. Any phrases that take the attention away from the main character to "describe the room," always need a rewrite. Great Gatsby, regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century did that. But the narrative only dragged when Fitzgerald tried to infuse more mystery to Gatsby's character. We have come a long way in understanding what storytelling is. The influx of streaming services and movies with parallel & reverse chronology has given us the cognitive capacity to predict ending.

When an essay reviewer is reading essays, she is predicting the structure. To break the predictive nature of the narrative, break the attention of the reviewer through interesting segue that takes the attention of the reviewer away from you, just enough, but not far enough that the reviewer loses their train of thoughts or investment into your story.

How much contextualizing is required to keep the admission team's interest in your story?

This is tricky. An independent eye can help you overcome 'creation biases.' Our baby always looks cuter to us than the rest of the world. The more we have invested in writing an essay, the more unlikely we would allow an independent reviewer to cut our world into pieces. The beloved phrases that looked...

Why Stern MBA essay should encapsulate all the key features without making the essay a summary of the Brochure. You have to offer context and explain how each program has a direct impact on your post-MBA goals.

Stern MBA Core + 25 Specialization + Doing Business in (DBi) + Stern Consulting Corps (SCC) + Stern Signature Projects + Social Impact Internship Fund (SIIF) + Global Programs + Leadership Development -> Post-MBA Goals (Job Function, Job Industry, and Leadership)

Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (498 Words)

What are your short and long-term career goals?

How will the MBA help you achieve them?

(500 Words Maximum)

When my friends struggled with Math in Grade 8, I was looking forward to my next assignment. Numbers fascinated me. The journey towards a solution was filled with turns and missteps, but each step demonstrated my capability. I learned to persist. People exaggerate in conversation and writing, but math is about Integrity. It is when you can’t hide the truth from yourself. My search for truth led me to Goldman Sachs as an Analyst. If I continue in my current role, I would be an associate by next year, but miss...

The first long-form essay requires applicants to write 25 Random things about themselves.

Tip #1: Length of each item

When you are writing random things about yourself, follow the list form with sentences varying in 10 to 20 words. Even though the admission team encourages using only a few words if the reveal is self-explanatory, we would recommend, a format like:

<unique achievement/event> <additional context><what you felt>

25 Random Things Example

I went to the last Formula 1 race at Indianapolis. It is true - you can only experience sports in its truest form at a Stadium among real fans.

Sample Short-term Goals Essay – Technology to Consulting (100 Words)


Schools measure your preparedness and research by analyzing how you quote the curriculum. The ‘Why MBA’ question needs a few lines dedicated to the specificity of the program. Here are a few pointers worth considering before you include curriculum details:

1) Curriculum Structure

General Management programs – Harvard, Stanford, Darden, and Haas, have continued the tradition of building the foundational knowledge in the core courses with the coverage of traditional management topics – Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Leadership and Strategy, followed by 2nd year specialization either in the form of concentrations, specialization, themes or tracks.

In concentrations, the admission team has divided the electives into broader categories so that the candidates will have a structure in 2nd year when they choose the electives. Most General Management MBA programs will give the option to pick electives without specialization. Stanford has General Management as an Area of interest. If you want a leadership role post-MBA, taking a group of courses with strong General Management focus would be ideal. For career switchers, interested in a job function, choosing specialization is mandatory. 


Categories : MBA Application

Booth's mystery trips are particularly interesting. The destination is not revealed beforehand. Students sign up for the trip and join other Boothies (2nd year and 1st year) whom they have never met, at the Chicago O’Hare Airport. One such trip involved traveling to the former Soviet Union, and getting surprised by a mock kidnap, or taking a cruise ship from Baltic to Tallinn. The permutation and combinations of experiences in the Mystery Trips are many.

While evaluating Top MBA programs for my book: How to Choose the Best MBA in US - The Ultimate Guide, I noticed a pattern. Every program had some form of travel and global experiential learning integrated into the curriculum. Despite the importance of travel in MBA, most applicants don't include travel experiences in the Essay. Many don't have such experience as part of work, but almost all the applicants have at least one trip under their credit. Although they don't consider the travel as important, any experience that demonstrates that you are comfortable with traveling and experiencing a new culture is worth considering for your Essay. If you had several work trips, don't hesitate to summarize the experiences in the Essay when the question involves showing your ability to get out of the comfort zone....

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....

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