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MBA Application


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...

Categories : MBA Application

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...

Categories : MBA Application

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...

Categories : MBA Application

MBA Essay Pillaring Technique
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...

Categories : MBA Application

Round 2 MBA Application Best PracticesThe 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...

Categories : MBA Application

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...


MBA for Failed EntrepreneursApplying 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...

Categories : MBA Application

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 ...

Categories : MBA Application

Finance Professional MBA ApplicationBy 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...

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