Monthly Archives: September 2010

INSEAD Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

Today we’ll dig into INSEAD’s MBA admissions essays for the coming year (you’ll need to log into the online application to access the essays). Here they are, followed by our comments and advice in italics:

INSEAD Application Essays

Job Essays

  1. Please give a detailed description of your job, including nature of work, major responsibilities; and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, number of clients/products and results achieved. (250 words)

    The goal of this essay is clear: You must succinctly help the admissions office understand exactly what you do on a day-to-day basis. As easy as it is to become consumed with your GMAT score and your extracurricular activities, at the end of the day, the most accurate predictor of your professional potential is what you have done in your career to date. Don’t be spooked by the fact that the school asks for the number of employees under your supervision and the size of the budget you manage — if you haven’t really managed a team or owned a budget yet, that’s okay. The school is just trying to understand exactly what it is you do in your present job. Also, note the emphasis on your PRESENT job. This is not a typical “career progression” essay; stick to what the question asks.

  2. Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)

    Here is where you can provide some context around your career progression up until now. Of course, doing this in 250 words is a tough job, do you will really need to stick to the highlights in terms of what you have achieved and the reasons for the moves you have made. You will have to ditch most of the flowery prose in favor of clear, easy-to-follow facts. The second part of this question is interesting in that it pretty directly hits on something that INSEAD and any other top business school wants to know — that you’re interested in pursuing an MBA to turbocharge an already successful career, not to bail out of a stagnant one. Painting the picture of a successful young professional (in not many words, of course!) will be key here.

Personal Essays

  1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors, which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (400 words)

    While the Job Essays above required you to really stick to the facts and simply summarize your resume, here is where you can start to provide more narrative. Many applicants see the word “weaknesses” and tense up, thinking, “Oh no! I need to come up with an innocuous weakness that won’t kill my candidacy!” But the admissions committee knows that no one is perfect. INSEAD truly wants to understand what you’re good at and where you need some work. The school wants to see evidence of strong self-awareness and a desire to build on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. The seemingly natural place to go from here is to explain how INSEAD can help you with these areas, although note that this is not a “Why INSEAD?” essay prompt. Keep the focus mostly on you and what you have accomplished to date.

  2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why you view them as such. (400 words)

  3. This question reminds us of Harvard’s “three most substantial accomplishments” essay prompt. Not surprisingly, our advice is pretty much the same: This gives you a great opportunity for you to spell out at least two main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. Remember, the “why” in your story is even more important than the “what,” so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. Also, don’t feel that both accomplishment need to come from your job. If you have a great achievement from outside of work — such as from your community service efforts or even from a hobby that you’re passionate about — that can also provide great material for this essay.

  4. Describe a situation taken from school, business, civil or military life, where you did not meet your personal objectives, and discuss briefly the effect. (250 words)

    Ack, a failure question! Time to run for the hills! Don’t worry — as stated above, INSEAD knows you’re not perfect. The question is how you are able to overcome your failures and grow as a result of them. INSEAD’s word choice in asking for the “effect” of your failure is odd; what the school really wants to hear is what you learned and how you improved (both as a professional and as a person) as a result. And, ideally, you can even work in an example of ho you put what you learned to use when faced with another challenge. Of course, the word count is tight, but being able to work in this example shows that you’re not just talk.

  5. Discuss your career goals. What skills do you expect to gain from studying at INSEAD and how will they contribute to your professional career. (500 words)

    Now we’re really getting into the “Why and MBA?” and “Why this school?” questions. 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 spell out why specifically INSEAD can help you achieve your goals? This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the school that you’re not only applying because INSEAD is a highly ranked program.

  6. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:

    a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What did it mean to you? (250 words)

    b) What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country? (250 words)

    Both of these essay prompts try to help the admissions committee understand you a little bit better. While it’s easy to lump these questions into the “diversity” bucket, really what the school is trying to gauge is your emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity. More than perhaps any other MBA program INSEAD truly is a melting pot of management education. You may be in study teams with people from four other continents — how well will you work with them at 3:00 AM when you have a tough final project due in six hours? A little bit of humor a humility can go a long way in answering these questions. Help the admissions committee be able to envision you sitting in a study group on INSEAD’s campuses in Fountainebleu and Singapore.

For more news and advice on getting into INSEAD and other top business schools, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!


Three Reasons to Consider an Executive MBA

We normally write about full-time and part-time MBA programs in this space, but today we want to explore Executive MBA (EMBA) programs is some detail. EMBA programs can help build management acumen, nurture leadership prowess, and erase any existing gaps in hard skills. Earning an EMBA from a leading program has the potential to shift one’s function within their organization from individual contributor or mid-level manager to company leader, poising talented professionals to move into executive leadership roles despite a sluggish economy.

Not Just for Executives
Contrary to popular belief, one does not have to be a senior executive to matriculate in an executive MBA program. Executive MBA programs are designed for people who want to be an executive, recognizing that additional education could serve them well in that career pursuit. Accordingly, the term “executive” in Executive MBA should serve as less of an admission requisite and more as a signal of one’s career goal upon degree completion.

So who is leveraging the EMBA degree to position themselves as viable candidates for executive leadership roles? According to the EMBA Council, a global degreed executive education advocacy organization, the average Executive MBA students is 36.3 years and possesses 12.7 years of work experience prior to enrollment. More specifically, business school admissions officials have reported the majority of EMBA applicants tend to fall into one of four distinct groups.

A Springboard to the Corner Office
The first EMBA applicant group is composed of senior executives being groomed for CEO positions, for whom an EMBA can help to fill in skill gaps and credentials to smoothly transition into a leadership position when the option of returning to school is simply not practical. The second group, director-level professionals in their late 30s, often view the advanced degree as critical to distinguishing oneself from numerous employees vying for limited corporate leadership positions.

Senior managers working in a single corporate function, such as finance or operations, comprise the third EMBA applicant cohort, for whom the degree cultivates and hones skills outside of their specialty areas. Lastly, senior managers who have plateaued in their positions and are seeking to assume a wider range of management responsibilities can benefit from the diversified skill set associated with the EMBA curriculum.

Educating Yourself More Is Always a Smart Bet
Pursuing an EMBA could represent a practical means of gaining the necessary competitive edge management professionals need to transition into the c-level suite for employees that are happy with their current organizations, and likewise, whose employers values their corporate contribution. While the EMBA degree has historically been underutilized among professionals looking to achieve accelerated career potential, awareness of and changing attitudes about the Executive MBA can serve to cultivate increased acceptance of the degree and help professionals reach their career objectives despite a slow economic recovery.

Thinking about pursing an MBA or an EMBA? Be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

UCLA Anderson Application Essays for 2010-2011

Here are UCLA Anderson’s MBA admissions essays for the 2010-2011 admissions season. Note that Anderson has changed its essays pretty extensively this year. And, the school’s famous “video essay,” which is optional, returns for 2010-2011. Pay special attention to our advice regarding the video response, below.

Here are the school’s essay topics (for new applicants) for the coming season, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays

Required Essays

  1. What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why? (750 words)

    This question is new, although it’s only subtly different from last year’s first essay prompt. Here, the UCLA admissions committee is trying to dig deep into who you are and what makes you tick. We actually prefer last year’s wording, since this year’s version seems to put extra emphasis on a single event, which may create some pressure in applicants’ minds to come up with a dramatic single incident. In reality, the “or life experience” part of this year’s question still leaves it open-ended enough that you shouldn’t feel the need to focus on one single point in time. Try to answer this question with your personal development in mind. Your tendency will be to tie it right back to your career and why you’re pursuing an MBA, but consider this input from the admissions office: “Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. Content is more important than style of delivery. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.”

  2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)

    This question carries over unchanged from last year, and should be approached the same as most other “Career Goals” / “Why an MBA?” essays. Note that the “Why an MBA?” component is very important, but you absolutely MUST demonstrate in this essay a knowledge of and a passion for UCLA Anderson. One way any school protects its admissions yield is by ferreting out those who don’t show enough enthusiasm for the program. Failing to answer the “how will UCLA Anderson help you achieve you goals” part of the question is a sure way to get ferreted out by the admissions committee.

Optional Essays

  1. You may respond to the following question via written essay, audio or video clip: What is something people will find surprising about you?
    It’s easy to get too worked up over this video response, but we do recommend that our clients take advantage of it, despite the point that Anderson makes about not giving preference to those who submit one. Why? It’s simply easier for an admissions officer to envision you at the school if he or she can see your face and feel at least some connection with the real you. We think you should prepare well and make sure you deliver your answer smoothly, but a more impromptu-sounding response will sound warmer and more authentic than an overly scripted response. Lastly, have fun with this! Your response doesn’t need to be funny or wacky, but brightening the admissions committee’s day always helps.

  2. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

    Only use this question as necessary. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any.

For more news and advice on getting into Anderson and other top MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

London Business School Application Deadlines for 2010-2011

Today we look at London Business School’s deadlines for the 2010-2011 admissions season. Here are the deadlines, followed by our comments in italics:

London Business School Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 6, 2010
Round 2: January 5, 2011
Round 3: March 2, 2011
Round 4: April 20, 2011

Among top business schools, LBS has one of the longer admissions cycles, accepting applications for nearly seven months out of the year. Although the school has four rounds of deadlines (vs. the more normal three), you should still aim for Round 1 or Round 2. Great applicants can certainly still get into London Business School in the last two rounds, but if you’re ready, there’s no reason to wait and risk finding yourself in a situation where LBS doesn’t have enough open seats to accommodate you.

For more news and advice on getting into LBS and other top MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

NYU Stern Application Essays for 2010-2011

Today we dig into Stern’s application essays for the coming admissions season.

You will see that Stern’s essays haven’t really since last year. Still, our advice has evolved slightly, so read our comments closely. Stern looks extra hard for applicants who can prove that they really are passionate about the program.

Our comments follow each question in italics:

NYU Stern Admissions Essays

  1. Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Describe the following (750 words):

    (a) What choices have you made that led you to your current position?

    (b) Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life?

    (c) What is your career goal upon graduation from the NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal?

    This question carries over unchanged from last year. What we think makes this question unique vs. other school’s “Why an MBA?” questions is Stern’s emphasis on the choices you’ve made up until now. Be sure to answer that part of the question — don’t simply write about what you’ve done up until now, but also explain why you did those things and made those choices. Stern provides some useful admissions tips on its essay page, including podcasts to help you clarify your story. These are great resources for any Stern applicant.

  2. We take great care to shape the Stern community with individuals who possess both intellectual and interpersonal strengths. We seek individuals who are highly intelligent, collaborative, and committed to flourishing as Stern leaders. Please answer the following questions (500 words):

    (a) What is your personal experience with the Stern community? Tell us what actions you have taken to learn about us.

    (b) Describe what most excites you about Stern from both an academic and extracurricular perspective.

    (c) How do you anticipate making your mark on the Stern community? Be specific about the roles you will take on and the impact you hope to achieve.

    This question is also unchanged. Stern has removed the part of last year’s question that asked about the toughest piece of feedback you’ve ever received, and as a result this question has evolved to hit the question of “Convince us that you’re passionate about Stern” more directly. Note the emphasis on specifics — don’t speak in generalities or just copy language from the school’s web site. What do you know about NYU Stern that convinces you that it’s right right school for you, and that you’re the ideal Stern student? And how will you convince the admissions committee? Looking at this kind of essay question early in the process will hopefully provide the impetus you need to really do your homework.

  3. Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

    This famous “creativity question” is also unchanged. Like Booth and Anderson, Stern seeks new ways to learn about what makes you unique. The admissions office really does want to get to know the real you. Stern’s admissions officers are almost begging you to stand out here, which is a reminder about how you can make their job easier by helping them remember the real you. One other note: Just because this question allows you to use any medium, that doesn’t mean that you need to submit something other than the written word. If that’s your best medium, use it. “Being memorable” means more than just sending them something outrageous; the most effective submissions really are the ones that leave admissions officers feeling like they know you better.

For more news and advice on getting into Stern and other top MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

How to Get the Most out of MBA Fairs

It’s MBA fair time again. If you’re like many applicants, this will be the first time you’ve ever come face-to-face with official representatives from your dream MBA programs.

Wow, high stakes, right? Don’t ask a dumb question, or else you’ll never get into your dream school. Right? Of course not.

The reality is that truly the best way you can help yourself at these events is by asking thoughtful questions to learn things that you really want to know. It’s always nice to strike up a deep conversation with a a school representative, but remember that they’re going to meet possibly hundreds of applicants at the event, then probably have to grab their bags and jet off to the next city to do it all over again. And again and again. So, instead of trying to hit a home run with a question, go with some legitimate questions in mind, ask the right questions of the right people (e.g., a recent alum or current student may be better equipped to talk about what the school experience is like for students’ spouses), and be respectful of admissions representatives’ time.

Note that the foot traffic at these events always has interesting ebbs and flows. One minute a table may be swarmed with applicants, while the next minute it could be empty. If you really want to engage an admissions officer in a ten-minute conversation, pick your spots and do it while the table isn’t overly crowded. Early in an event is often a good time to do it, before the place gets too crowded. You can also wait until the end of the event, although sometimes admissions representatives are trying to hurry up and pack and head off to the airport. Admissions officers always appreciate when an applicant is sensitive to the challenges of manning these fair booths.

In terms of what NOT to do, the folks at QS wrote a nice list of rules & etiquette for MBA fairs earlier this year (it was actually written for EMBA fairs, but the advice still applies for full-time MBA program fairs). And, an unfortunate applicant who bombarded some Fuqua representatives last year provided a template for what not to do at these events.

For more news on all of the top business schools, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Cornell (Johnson) MBA Application Deadlines for 2010-2011

Today we take a look at the MBA admissions deadlines for Cornell’s Johnson School. You’ll notice that Johnson’s deadlines have only changed slightly vs. last year. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

Cornell (Johnson) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 5, 2010
Round 2: November 9, 2010
Round 3: January 4, 2011
Round 4: March 22, 2011

Note that, like Haas, Johnson actually has four main admissions rounds for its full-time MBA program. With the typical three-round program, conventional wisdom dictates that you should only apply in Round 1 or Round 2. (While our advice re: Round 3 is a little more nuanced than that, it’s a good rule of thumb to follow.) If you’re not ready to apply in Round 1, then push back to Round 2, but the decision to push back to Round 3 is always a tougher one.

In the case of a school like Johnson, Round 4 is the new Round 3… If you’re not ready to apply by the Round 2 deadline, then there is no problem with applying in Round 3. Beyond that, however, Johnson’s class starts to fill up, and your odds of admissions success could be significantly lower in Round 4. Also, note that Johnson’s Round 2 deadline in November falls between most other schools’ Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines. Many savvy applicants therefore get their October applications done, take a breath, and them come right back and complete their Cornell applications in time for the Round 2 deadline in November.

For more news and advice on getting into Johnson and other top MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!