Ross EMBA Essay Questions for 2013

While applying to executive MBA programs is significantly different from applying to tradition two-year MBA programs, many top schools can still be challenging to get into, and most of them do have essay requirements. Today we take a look at the U. of Michigan (Ross) EMBA essays for 2013:

  1. What has been your most significant professional achievement? What has been your toughest professional challenge and how did you address it? (500 words)
  2. What are your long-term professional goals? How will a Ross Executive MBA help you achieve your goals? (500 words)
  3. Describe how your professional and personal experiences will contribute to the Executive MBA class and teams. (500 words)
  4. (Optional) Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (500 words)

Notice the heavy emphasis on professional stories. Yes, the admissions committee does want to know about you overall as a person, and does invite some personal stories in Question 3, but overall this is about the professional you and how a Ross EMBA can help accelerate your career. In discussing your career goals, be as clear and specific as possible, but know that you don’t need to have the next 30 years of your career perfectly mapped out. More than anything, the admissions committee wants to know that you have a realistic vision for your career and where a Ross executive MBA program can fit into those plans.

Regarding the optional essay prompt, only use this essay if you feel that you need to. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you are making excuses when you don’t need to. If you have nothing else to tell the admissions committee after answering the first three questions, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!

For more advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Financial Times MBA Rankings for 2013

The Financial Times recently released its new global business school rankings for 2013. For the first time since 2005, Harvard Business School holds the top spot, passing last year’s #1, Stanford GSB. This is teh fourth time that HBS has topped the FT rankings.

Many credit Harvard’s push to improve its diversity with the school’s return to #1 in the FT rankings. One criterion on which FT ranks business schools is diversity, and in this area HBS has made some big strides in just the past year. While 34% of Harvard’s Class of 2013 comes from overseas, 43% of the Class of 2014 are international.

Here are the Financial Times’ top 20 global MBA programs for 2013:

1. Harvard Business School
2. Stanford GSB
3. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
4. London Business School
5. Columbia Business School
7. IESE Business School
8. Hong Kong UST
9. MIT Sloan
10. Chicago Booth
11. IE Business School
12. UC Berkeley (Haas)
13. Northwestern (Kellogg)
14. Yale SOM
16. Dartmouth (Tuck)
16. Cambridge (Judge)
18. Duke (Fuqua)
19. IMD
19. NYU (Stern)

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Michigan’s Ross School of Business to Pilot Group Interviews… in China?

Recently Soojin Kwon, Director of Admissions of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, announced that the school will pilot its first ever group admissions interviews for Round 2 applicants. This is not too surprising in and of itself… For the past year Wharton has been slowly but surely rolling out its own MBA group interview process, and the early feedback has been mostly positive. We figured that other top MBA programs would announce similar new initiatives to “break out of the essay box” and get to know applicants in new ways.

What surprised us was the fact that the school’s first group interviews won’t be in Ann Arbor, or anywhere else in the United States, for that matter. Ross will pilot its first group interviews with some Round 2 applicants in… in Beijing and Shanghai! Why would Ross fly halfway across the globe to conduct such an important experiment that could dramatically impact its MBA admissions process?

This is what Soojin Kwon had to say in her blog post:

The group interview, while not a requirement for admission, is highly recommended. Candidates who are invited to interview in those cities will still be required to conduct a standard, one-on-one interview with an alumni or current student interviewer.

Adding to the intrigue, knowing that this is so new and experimental (not to mention that Ross announced it after Round 2 applications had already been submitted), why would Ross make the new interview process “highly recommended?” Normally, when a business school introduces a pilot such as this, the school will go out of its way to let applicants know that it’s optional, and that participating or not participating will not have a significant impact on their admissions chances.

So what gives? The most likely explanation is that the Ross admissions team is looking for a new, better way to evaluate China-based applicants’ English skills. Some MBA programs rely on local alumni interviewers, and others rely on Skype for overseas applicants. These all work well for the most part, but what better way to evaluate these applicants’ communication skills and English fluency than to go to where they are, sit in a room with them, and hear how well they can participate in a discussion that could go in any number of directions?

The Ross admissions team has not made much of a point about Chinese applicants’ English skills being tested in these group interviews, we can’t help but think that this is a big reason (if not THE reason) why Ross will pilot this process starting in China. It will be interesting to see if this process expands to cover more Ross applicants next year.

For more business school admissions advice, get yourself a copy of our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Is It a Bad Idea to Apply to Business School in Round 3?

News Alert! Applying to business school in Round 3 is not always a bad idea! MBA programs always go to great lengths to let applicants know that they have three rounds for a reason, and that they do indeed accept people in Round 3. Yes, the numbers do support the argument that, all things being equal (which they never are), you’re better off applying earlier, but GREAT applicants always get in to every top business school every year. And if you’re not a GREAT applicant, then should you apply? Or keep working at it until you are one?

If you are rushing to complete your applications and wonder whether you should hurry up and apply in Round 2 or wait and apply in Round 3, ask yourself: Is there anything in my power that will make me look like a much stronger candidate if I wait an extra month? If you have a significant weakness in your profile that you think could give admissions officer pause and you can improve upon or compensate for within the next month or so, then there is a very good argument to be made for waiting and applying in Round 3. Obvious examples include a low GMAT score, a weak undergraduate GPA, or a lack of certain experiences on the job. In those last two cases, you may be able to make up some ground within two or three months (by taking a college course and seeking out a new opportunity at work, respectively), although it often takes some luck for things to fall into place and for the timing to work out.

There are many other types weaknesses that are just as critical, but which may be harder to fix, at least in a short amount of time. The most common examples here are a lack of meaningful community service, a big hole in your work experience that you will have to deal with no matter what, or a serious lack of any good candidates who will write your letters of recommendation. These all take much more work (and time) to overcome, and in these cases we often advise that an applicant wait until next year before applying. When they don’t want to hear that, or have a good reason for wanting to take a shot now, we’ll advise that they aim lower in terms of the programs to which they’re applying.

If your candidacy has a significant weakness that can’t be overcome in the next months or so, you need to assess how big of a weakness it is. The bigger it is, the more we recommend waiting until next year. If it’s something that will hurt your chances, but can be fixed in two or three months, then we often recommend waiting until Round 3. These are all shades of grey — the answer is “it depends” more than anyone would like — but that’s essentially the decision tree we go through every day with our admissions consulting clients at this time of year. Just remember that, as impatient as you may be to get into a top-ranked business school, this is something that can set you up for success for the next half a century, so take the time to do it right now!

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

3 Ways to Cut Down Your Admissions Essays

Worried about essay word counts? If you’re hurrying to finish your MBA admissions essays before the Round 2 application deadlines, chances are that at least one essay is giving you trouble when it comes to meeting word length requirements. While MBA admissions officers are fairly understanding and are not out to penalize you for going over a word limit by a couple of extra sentences, adhering to word limits as closely as possible is a strong signal that you can communicate clearly and succinctly.

It’s also a matter of consideration for admissions officers: If application readers need to get a few dozen applications in a day, they will appreciate the fact that you didn’t take up any more of their time than absolutely necessary. This sort of positive karma counts in admissions!

With that in mind, here are three things to try if you’re having a hard time getting your word counts down to within 10% of a school’s stated limits:

Keep Cutting Down Your Essay by 50%
Try this: Re-write your essay as a 50%-long version of your current draft. Then, write one that’s 50% as long as that new one. Keep repeating until you’re down to just one sentence. What will be left will be the core purpose of the original passage, and you can then start building back up from there. You may find that you don’t need to go all the way down to one sentence; you will probably have already cut out enough fat after the first couple of times that you can stop, but we highly recommend trying this approach!

Verbally Tell Your Story
Without looking at your essay, verbally dictate your story into your computer or phone. Or, tell it to a friend. The key here is not to look at what you’ve already written, and instead go by memory. Then, play it back (or have your friend tell it back to you), and see what parts of the story stuck, and which ones you left out. Chances are that there will be at least a couple of details that you left out in verbally telling your story. Consider each one of these to then be on the chopping block, and go back and consider which ones you can remove from your essay to trim your word count. If it wasn’t important enough for you to remember as you told your story from memory, then odds are that an MBA admissions officer won’t remember it, either.

Eliminate a Paragraph. Now!
One seemingly scary — but sometimes very useful — editing technique is to tell yourself, “Okay, I have one minute to decide which whole paragraph in this essay has to get cut. Start chopping!” Almost certainly, every paragraph will seem like a must-have, but eventually you’ll pick the least important one. Then, go back and find what one or two ideas from that paragraph you wish you could add back in, and then find a way to succinctly work them back into the essay in another place. This technique might sound crazy, but it’s another effective way to trim the fat. It works best when you have an essay with multiple similarly-sized paragraphs… Simply cutting out a two-sentence conclusion paragraph normally won’t be enough.

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

How Flexible are MBA Admissions Essay Word Limits?

One of the most common questions we get from applicants is about word limits: How strict are they? Is there any wiggle room? While the answer itself is rather straightforward, we usually encourage applicants to stop focusing on the number, take a step back, and consider what admissions officers are really communicating when they put forward a word limit.

First, know this: Schools are not out to reject you for going over an essay word limit by a small amount. Okay, but what is a small amount? One rule of thumb that is frequently tossed around is 10%, although it’s worth noting that admissions consultants tend to promote this rule more than any admissions officer does. However, if you can stay within 10% of the word limit for an MBA application essay, you probably are okay.

Having said that, we rarely see an essay that we don’t think can get down to the word limit. This is where an extra pair of eyes can be extremely helpful; someone else can look at your essay and give you an objective point of view about which details are truly necessary and which ones can be left on the cutting room floor. But, if the limit is 500 words and you’re at 530, then your time may be better spent on things other than trying to hack another 30 words from your essay.

Now let’s think about what admissions officers are saying when they assign a word limit to an essay. In essence, they are telling you, “After reviewing thousands of applications, we’re very confident that you can thoroughly answer this question in this many words.” Even though you know yourself far better than the admissions officers do, they know the process very well, and they have heard it all. They really do want to get to know you well, but they only have so much capacity, so they need their applicants to communicate their stories as efficiently as possible.

As an applicant, if you know this and understand the challenge that admissions officers face, then that’s what will guide your decision. Questions such as “Is 525 words more okay than 535 words?” suddenly seem unimportant compared to “Is an admissions officer going to feel like I wasted her time when she’s done with my essays?” The former question is the kind of small-time issue that the uninformed applicant will ask; the latter is the kind that a smart, prepared applicant will think about.

Your business school admissions essays will work in much the same way. You do need to heed word limits, but the quality of your essay is more important than the actual length. If it does its job well, then admissions officers won’t think about the word limit nearly as much as the content. On the other hand, if they’re halfway through your essay and they’re already thinking to themselves, “When will this end?” then you know that the essay isn’t going to help you.

Again, having excellent content does not allow you to flagrantly disregard word limits. We’re saying that admissions officers, based on their considerable experience, know how long an essay needs to be to be great. A shorter essay can also be great, and so can a longer one, but one that is too long risks boring or annoying tired application readers. Why that that risk?

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

2012 in Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 69,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it!

Click here to see the complete report.