Monthly Archives: August 2010

Chicago Booth Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

Today we take a close look at Chicago Booth’s MBA admissions essays, which have changed quite a bit since last year. It’s interesting to note that, after there was some chatter a few months ago that Booth would drop its “PowerPoint question” this year, the question lives on. We firmly believe that schools like Booth are still looking for new ways to learn more about you, and while that question hasn’t been perfect, they don’t want to give up on it since it’s still Booth’s best bet to get to know the real you before interviewing you.

Here are Chicago Booth’s essays for the Class of 2013, followed by our comments in italics:

Chicago Booth Application Essays

  1. The Admissions Committee is interested in learning more about you on both a personal and professional level. Please answer the following (maximum of 300 words for each section):

    a. Why are you pursuing a full-time MBA at this point in your life?
    b. Define your short and long term career goals post MBA.
    c. What is it about Chicago Booth that is going to help you reach your goals?
    d. RE-APPLICANTS ONLY: Upon reflection, how has your thinking regarding your future, Chicago Booth, and/or getting an MBA changed since the time of your last application?

    This question is new this year, although in many ways it’s a direct descendant of last year’s first essay question. This is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most schools ask. Note that, as important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to take part (c) seriously… What about Booth attracts you to the school? This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the school that you’re not only applying because Booth is highly ranked.

  2. Chicago Booth is a place that challenges its students to stretch and take risks that they might not take elsewhere. Tell us about a time when you took a risk and what you learned from that experience .(750 words)

    This question is also new this year. The best response here will come directly from your work experience, provide enough drama to pull the reader in, and give you an opportunity to really answer the second part of the essay prompt: What did you learn from the experience? Last year “reflection” was a big theme in Booth’s essay questions, and while this question doesn’t specifically ask for reflection, this is your chance to show the kind of self-awareness and introspection that Booth admissions officers really want to see.

  3. At Chicago Booth, we teach you HOW to think rather than what to think. With this in mind, we have provided you with “blank pages” in our application. Knowing that there is not a right or even a preferred answer allows you to demonstrate to the committee your ability to navigate ambiguity and provide information that you believe will support your candidacy for Chicago Booth.

    We have set forth the following guidelines:

    • The content is completely up to you. Acceptable file formats are PowerPoint or PDF.

    • There is a strict maximum of four pages, though you can provide fewer if you choose.

    • The document will be printed in color and added to your file for review; therefore, flash, hyperlinks, embedded videos, music, etc. will not be viewed by the committee. You are limited to text and static images to convey your points.

    • The file will be evaluated on the quality of content and ability to convey your ideas, not on technical expertise or presentation.

    • Files need to be less than 9 megabytes in order to upload. If your file is too large you may save your file as a PDF and upload your essay.

    This is the famous “PowerPoint question,” although Booth sets it up differently this year, putting much more emphasis on the “Hey, you have a blank slate here!” message than before. Here the school asks you to present yourself creatively and succinctly. Almost nothing is out of bounds, but you really must ensure that these pages add something new to your application — don’t use it to just show off professional achievements that you already cover elsewhere in your application. Be creative! The reason Booth kept this question is because, while it hasn’t worked perfectly for the school so far, it really is the admissions committee’s best chance to tease some personality out of your application. So, give them some!

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UC Berkeley (Haas) Application Deadlines for 2010-2011

The Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley has published its application deadlines for the 2010-2011 admissions season. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

Haas Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 13, 2010
Round 2: December 2, 2010
Round 3: January 20, 2011
Round 4: March 16, 2011

Like many other top business schools, Haas has moved its Round 1 deadline a bit earlier this year (by one week). However, unlike some other top schools, Haas won’t send your decision until mid-January, so you will have to have most of your Round 2 applications in order before you hear back from Haas. Most of the school’s other admissions deadlines also moved forward by a week or two, with the exception of the Round 4 deadline, which is actually about a week later than it was last year.

Note that Haas is fairly unique in that it actually has four rounds of admissions. You can use this to your advantage — this schedule gives you the option of applying at an “off-peak” time, such as early December, when you’re probably not yet cramming on a lot of other applications. Aiming for Round 1 and Round 2 is still your best bet, although we expect that Haas gets many more Round 3 applicants than most other schools do.

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Should I Retake the GMAT?

We receive that question from a lot of business school applicants every year. Of course, the answer ultimately depends on what your current GMAT score is, but let’s make things interesting. Let’s throw out the obvious “Yes!” and “No!” scenarios and assume you scored a 680, with no particular weakness in either the quant or verbal half of the exam. You’re targeting no less than the five highest MBA programs in the rankings. While you’re comfortably in the middle-80% range for each school, you have a nagging fear that your GMAT score might contribute to a ding in a few months. What do you do?

In general, especially when you still have time, we recommend retaking the GMAT. Why? Here are three reasons:

First, business schools take your highest GMAT score. Don’t believe it? It’s what admissions officers at nearly every top MBA program have told us. Still skeptical? Ask yourself this: When U.S. News asks each business school to report its student body’s mean GMAT scores for MBA ranking purposes, which scores do you think the schools submit? Each student’s lowest score? Heck no… If you have a 660 and a 700, they’ll gladly report the latter.

So, if you are worried about taking the test again and scoring lower, you shouldn’t be. The worst you’ll do is get a lower score, which schools will ignore. If you’re still worried, you can decline to send your score to any schools the day you take the test, and later ask GMAC to send an updated score report to your target schools, after you know how you did. There’s truly no downside here.

Second, on average, test takers boost their scores by 31 points on their second GMAT sitting. None other than GMAC, the people behind the GMAT, reported this a few years ago (see page 5 in the PDF) that the average score gain from the first to second sitting is 31 points. Now, before all of you statistics buffs jump on us for not reporting the whole story, we urge you to read the whole report. Of course, that’s just an average, and your score could in fact go down. But, as GMAC notes on page 9 of the report, “The observed gains for repeat test-takers are greater than the gains one would expect solely based on measurement error.” So, even if you don’t do much additional test prep before taking the test again, on average, odds are that you will do better.

Finally, if you are applying soon, your GMAT score is one of the few things in your application that you can still change significantly. We actually think the most important idea for you to consider. Almost all of those things are in your past and can’t be changed: your undergraduate transcript, your work experience, your community involvement, etc. Assuming you will apply soon, from today going forward, the only things you still control are: your GMAT score, your essays, your letters of recommendation, maybe additional college coursework, and your admissions interview.

Yes, how you present all of those backward-looking things will significantly impact your chances (and that’s what our MBA admissions consultants do), but what would you rather do — submit a 660 GMAT score along with a terrific optional essay explaining that you really can cut it at Stanford GSB, or a 700 with no explanation needed? Very few applicants are perfect, and admissions officers accept applicants with blemishes all the time, but why have that one additional blemish (or, at least, something that’s not a strength) on your application when you still have a chance to improve on it?

The question gets more interesting as you approach the admissions deadlines. With just two weeks to go before the Round 1 deadline, do you go full steam ahead with your 670 GMAT score, or do you try to take the GMAT again while you’re cramming on your essays and closely managing your recommendation writers? (Or do you take a breath, spend some more time on getting the GMAT score you can really achieve, and apply in Round 2? We normally recommend that approach.) What about if you’re faced with that decision right before the Round 2 deadline? What about Round 3?

It’s more a complex discussion in those cases, to be sure, but if you’re still two months away from your target deadlines, the answer is clear: Your GMAT score is still one of the few things you can significantly impact before you apply… Why not make take advantage of one more chance to improve it?

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UVA (Darden) Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

The Darden School of Business at UVA has released its application essays for the 2010-2011 admissions season. Darden has one of the shorter sets of admissions essays that you’ll find among top schools. Also, Darden’s essays are pretty different than most other schools’ essays, meaning that you won’t be able to do much copying and pasting. Darden wants you to put original thought into these essays and demonstrate your fit with — and your enthusiasm for — the program.

Here are Darden’s essays for the 2010-2011 admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:

Darden MBA Application Essays

  1. The Darden MBA program expects students to actively participate in learning teams, the classroom, and the broader community. Please share one or two examples from your past experience that best illustrate(s) how you will contribute to this highly engaging and hands-on learning environment. (500 words)

    This question is new this year, although it’s loosely descended from last year’s Essay #2, which asked what you will contribute to an MBA program. This new version is actually very focused compared to most MBA admissions essay questions: Darden doesn’t wallflowers, but rather active participants… Give them specific reasons to believe you are one of the latter. Ideally you can spell out at least one really good example using the “Situation-Action-Result” method outlined in Your MBA Game Plan. (One really good example beats two okay ones, hands-down.)

    Also, you only have 500 words, but this question is your best chance to demonstrate a measure of fit with Darden… Again, words are precious here, and the majority of your response will need to focus on you, but you need to give the admissions team at least some reasons to believe that you “get” the Darden community and understand what they’re looking for when they talk about valuing active contributors.

  2. Please discuss how a global event that has taken place in the past two years has impacted the way you think about leadership broadly and personally. (500 words)

    This question is a revision of last year’s Essay #1, which asked “How have the changes in the global economy over the last 18 months affected you and your plan for the future?” We didn’t particularly like this question, since it tended to steer applicants towards talking about “big picture” issues instead of talking about themselves. Plus, built into the question was the assumption that everyone HAD been affected by the rocky economic climate, while in fact many applicants’ plans hadn’t changes at all. This left many strong applicants scrambling to generate an impressive-sounding story when they didn’t necessarily have one.

    So, we’re glad they changed the question, although the risk of an applicant focusing too much on “big picture” global issues — that don’t really shed any light on who they are and what they hope to achieve in life — still remains. The key here is to especially focus on the last few words, which put the emphasis on on YOU. If the global issue you want to discuss is rising energy prices and your alarm over what you think is a lack of a coherent national energy policy for your country, don’t just stop there. Bring it back to a time you witnessed a similar challenge at work, and how you took the steps needed to make sure your team wasn’t only making short-sited decisions. That’s the type of story that can turn a potentially murky response into a winner.

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NYU (Stern) Admissions Deadlines for 2010-2011

NYU’s Stern School of Business has published its MBA admissions deadlines for the coming year. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

NYU Stern Application Deadlines
Round 1: November 15, 2010
Round 2: January 15, 2011
Round 3: March 15, 2011

Stern’s deadlines have not changed at all since last year. Note that, unlike many other top business schools, Stern has kept its Round 1 admissions deadline in the middle of November. The good news for you is that, if you’re applying to Stern along with a few other schools in Round 1, this gives you a chance to get those ones done in October, catch your breath, and then give your Stern application your undivided attention.

However, Stern won’t notify Round 1 applicants until as late as February 15, 2011, so you will probably have to make choices about your Round 2 applications before you hear back from Stern.

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Tuck MBA Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

Today we take a close look at Dartmouth’s admissions essay topics for the 2010-2011 application season. You’ll see that some of the questions have changed a bit vs. last year’s essays, although Tuck still hits on the same themes. That suggests that the school still feels that these themes (e.g., leadership and overcoming adversity) work well for the school in terms of finding applicants who are good Tuck material.

Note that Tuck does not have specific word limits for its essays, but the school does provide some rough guidance: “Although there is no restriction on the length of your response, most applicants use, on average, 500 words for each essay.”

Here are Tuck’s essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays

  1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA program for you? (If you are applying for a joint or dual degree, please explain how the additional degree will contribute to those goals.)

    This is the common “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most schools ask. Tuck takes the concept of “fit” very seriously when evaluating candidates — maybe more so than any other top school, given its small class size and remote location — so be sure that you can present a compelling argument for why Tuck in particular is the right place for you to earn your MBA. If your answer has everything to do with you and nothing to do with Tuck, then you probably have more work to do in researching the school.

  2. Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?

    This question is new this year, and replaces another leadership question. Interestingly, last year’s question was more specific and contained more clues as to what exactly Tuck looks for in its applicants. As we noted last year, the previous question was maybe a bit ambitious in terms of how much an applicant could cover in about 500 words. Still, the advice we gave last year remains mostly the same: Keep your response focused on one single situation, what action you took, and what the results were. Note the last part of the question, about what you learned about yourself. What exactly happened is very important, but so is evidence of self-reflection. Ideally you can show that you learned something about yourself, such as a shortcoming or lack of experience, that you were able to act on and improve. That’s the richest type of response one can give here.

  3. What is the greatest challenge or hurdle you have overcome, either personally or professionally, and how did you manage to do so?

    This question is also new, and replaces one about the toughest criticism you ever received. While this question is certainly different, in many respects it addresses the same core attribute that Tuck wants to see in its applicants: The ability to objectively take a challenge and setback and turn it into something positive, coming out better in the end. It’s interesting that Tuck had gotten away from the “toughest feedback” or “biggest failure” questions, since those tend to be very revealing. This question is subtly different, but there are many responses that could work for a “failure” question that could still work well here. In fact, writing a response about overcoming a failure or weakness will usually more powerful than answering with “My biggest challenge was completing a marathon.” While that’s impressive, it’s far less revealing than a story about a time when you had to make a more fundamental change to who you are as a person and as a leader.

  4. Tuck seeks candidates of various backgrounds who can bring new perspectives to our community. How will your unique personal history, values, and/or life experiences contribute to the culture at Tuck?

    This is a good chance to specifically highlight any strengths or themes that may need more emphasis in your application. Everything in your background is fair game here: your work experience, your personal life, and your hobbies all make you unique. Don’t just think of “diversity” in terms of race or national origin!

  5. (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.

    As always, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. More generally, if you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it’s okay to skip this essay!

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Chicago Booth Names Sunil Kumar New Dean

Recently the University of Chicago Booth School of Business announced that Stanford GSB’s Sunil Kumar will assume the role of Dean at the school. Kumar’s appointment ends a search that began seven months ago, after Edward A. Snyder announced in December that he would leave the school at the end of the academic year after serving nearly two full five-year terms at the head of the school.

Kumar, who is currently the Fred H. Merrill Professor of Operations, Information and Technology at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, will begin his five-year term at Booth starting January 1, 2011. He brings with him an extensive resume of thought leadership in the operations management space. Kumar also is familiar with the role of leading an MBA program, currently serving as Stanford GSB’s Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Over the past decade Booth has certainly spread its wings beyond hardcore quant and finance to gain a more well-rounded reputation among applicants and leaders at other schools. Appointing an “ops guy” like Kumar suggests that the school is comfortable with how far its reputation has come recently, and doesn’t feel a need to go any farther than it already has. Ten years ago, we wonder if the school, which has been interested in broadening its branding beyond the stereotype of hardcore quant-types, would have made this same appointment. That’s not to say that Kumar’s leadership will put a damper on the school’s other departments — everything we’ve seen about him suggests that he’s a well-rounded leader who happens to have a PhD in Electrical Engineering — but it’s an interesting signal about what the search committee thinks the school needs more right now.

“I am excited to become dean of Chicago Booth,” Kumar said in a released statement. “I share the school’s passion for the pursuit of ideas that hold up under careful scrutiny. I look forward to helping strengthen and enhance Booth’s outstanding research environment and its rigorous, discipline-based approach to business education. I am eager to get to know the faculty, students, alumni, and staff of the school, and to engage with the business community in the city of Chicago.”

No doubt about it, Kumar has some large shoes to fill. Snyder’s tenure at Booth was arguably the most successful run by any business school leader over the past decade: In 2008 alumnus David Booth donated $300 million, a staggering sum that led to the school changing its name from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business to Chicago Booth. The school also opened its new state-of-the-art Harper Center, which has significantly improved the quality of life for the student body. And, Chicago Booth’s global footprint has also grown significantly over the past decade, with a new campus in London and a planned campus expansions in Singapore. It’s hard to argue that any dean has had more of an impact on his or her school over the past ten years than Snyder had.

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