Go to a better blog!

You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

December 31, 2007

Play it smart, but be real: The Limits of Self-Marketing

While I most certainly believe in the importance of effective self-marketing when applying for an MBA or actually any kind of degree, I believe more in the truth.

For obvious reasons, MBA applicants in particular are easily drawn into the traps of the pure self-marketing strategy, but this can be the case with anyone applying to any sort of graduate school program. Here are some traps to avoid:

1. Essays that are merely branded abstractions that contain no substantial details. No example will be provided just assume a story that contains few details,but frequently mentions words like teamwork, leadership, responsibility, and decision making. At the point where you are merely engaged in using keywords that are not backed by substance you can pretty much assume you are either boring or annoying your reader. God help you if that reader decides you are the guy who has done it too much. I am all in favor of using such words, just tie them to specific actions that demonstrate the label you are applying. When the brand image and the reality behind the brand image coincide the reader will not only believe you, they are more likely to endorse your candidacy.

2. Essays that impose overt business language on activities that demonstrate other strengths that an MBA program is looking for: "My decision to major in both Economics and Biology demonstrates my commitment to being a change agent." Well maybe, but it might actually be better stated as a demonstration of one's potential for thinking about a variety of complex systems in two very different academic fields, which is certainly the kind of academic potential that schools are looking for. In other words sell your experience based on your real merits. Depending on the schools essay topics, these need not be expressed within the limited confines of teamwork, leadership, and/or accomplishment, but also such categories as intellectual abilities, ethical values, and creativity.

3. Essays that brag: Are you really the greatest, the best, most important, only one could do it? Are you sure? Compared to who? Do you know them all? A little humility will make you human. Lack of it is likely to make you look like a bragging egoist. You should stress your accomplishments, but should state them in a manner that does not overplay their value.

4. Essays that lie: I am all in favor of telling the best version of a story that you can, provided it is also believable. Bad self-marketing is frequently based on lies that can be seen through. I have met many admissions officers and while not all of them were brilliant, all the good ones had finely tuned "bullshit detectors." If your essays have a seemingly tenuous relationship with reality, you are likely to be setting yourself up for a ding.

5. Essays that lack even an informal logic based on cause-effect relations or chronological sequencing: In some marketing, say TV ads for cars or children's toys, logical explanations are not important. However, if your audience is highly scrutinizing what you are selling, such a non-rational approach will not work. Instead, you must make a rational argument. Marketing is often as not about analogy, feeling, metaphor, and innuendo. And while all of these have their place in your essays and in fact can be at the heart of certain types of essays, they can also undermine your ability to clearly state what happened and the real potential demonstrated by your actions. Cause-effect relationships should not be merely implied where possible. Especially when applying to MBA schools like Stanford, MIT, and Michigan that specifically have essay questions that ask for stories related to the detailed process behind your actions, it is very important to show how these things actually connect together. As I suggested in my analysis of leadership essays (applicable for both MBA programs like HBS and public policy programs like the Kennedy School of Government), showing your actual action steps is critical. A full explanation might be impossible because of word count, but if you tell things in sequence, it usually provides that explanation.

In closing, this will be my last post of 2007. My New Year's Resolution: More and better posts in 2008! (Also I need to go on a diet...)

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
MBA留学 ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング エッセイ

December 26, 2007

To my readers

Thank you for continuing to read my blog. Sorry that I have not written more lately, but I have been focused on consulting my clients. Once things quiet down, I will have more posts. For those applying for 3rd round, 4th round, January 2009, or Fall 2009, look for a further expansion of my blog next year. For those, thinking about admissions counseling services, please learn about my services here (日本語). For those with questions about admissions issues, please see my FAQ.

If my blog has been helpful to you, I would love to know about it. I would especially like to hear from anyone who received admission after following my advice. I look forward to hearing from you.
Happy Holidays!
Adam Markus

December 15, 2007

MBA First Round Blues: Learn from Failure

Situation: You applied first round and were rejected by one or more Business Schools for Fall 2008 admission. Alternatively you applied first round, but have been put on the waitlist. In any event, your first round MBA applications have been less than a success, if not an outright failure.

This is a common enough situation that many applicants encounter. Actually the 1st rejection version of it is better than the full re-applicant version because at least this way you don't have to lose a year. The great advantage of 1st round rejection is you still have a chance to get into other schools in the 2nd or 3rd round. Of course if you applied everywhere you wanted to go in the 1st round, you will have to think about either some more schools or your re-application strategy for Fall 2009. That said, my remarks below are principally designed for those who still plan to begin in Fall 2008, but also applicable to re-applicants and anyone who needs an application self-diagnostic checklist.

Doing the same thing you did first round in the second round would be really stupid. The main thing you need to ask yourself is "WHY DID YOU FAIL?" Only if you begin to know that will you get yourself on the pathway to future success.
(Obviously things like GPA, TOEFL, and GMAT might be reasons for your failure, but there is probably not much you can do about them now unless you are still working on test preparation. If you are still doing test prep, see my comments below and also please read this post.)

Here are some suggestions designed to help you figure out the reasons why you are getting rejected.

1. Did you really know about the programs you applied to? How was that reflected in your essays? Did you merely restate obvious information about the school or did you show exactly what aspects of it will meet your academic and professional goals? Did you demonstrate a clear connection to the program? Did you even think about fit? Stating unremarkable things based simply on reading the web site or brochure is not enough, you need to show why a specific program really fits your personality and goals. If you had an interview, how effective were you at establishing fit?

2. Was there a problem with the way you expressed your desire for an MBA or your goals? I have often found this to be a major problem with many failed applications that I have seen when clients ask me to review them. Actually almost every re-applicant I have worked with had a serious problem clearly articulating their goals. If you think your goals might be the problem, read this and complete the table you can find there. Were your goals based on any research? Are they interesting?

3. Did your essays fully demonstrate your potential as a student and a professional? The way you write about who you are and what you have done is a major way that admissions evaluates this. More specifically: Could you clearly express selling points about yourself in your essays? Did you provide sufficient details about what you did combined with a sufficient explanation for why? Are your essays about you or just about what you have done? Are your essays mere extensions of bullet points on your resume or do they tell effective stories about you? Do you really understand the essay questions? How effective were in writing about such common topics as contributions, leadership, and/or failure?

4. Did you put a sufficient amount of time into writing your essays? Writing great essays usually takes time and multiple drafts. Did you write multiple drafts of your essays? Were your essays quickly written? Did a significant amount of thought go into them?

4. Did you resume (CV) present your professional, academic, and extracurricular experience effectively? A great MBA resume requires effective presentation of your past experience so that an admissions committee can gain insight into your potential to succeed in the MBA program and in your future career. A great resume is also an effective agenda setting device for an interview. Did your resume contain clear statements about your accomplishments? Did your resume honestly and effectively represent the full range of your experience?

5. Did you really address any potential concerns that an admissions committee may have about your suitability as a candidate? Even though there is always an optional question available for this purpose, did you make use of it? If there was something you wanted to avoid discussing, maybe you should consider doing so.

6. How were your interviews? If you did interview, were you well-prepared? How do you judge your own performance? Did you practice enough? Are you good at interviewing? For non-native speakers: Are you good at interviewing in your own language? I believe that the only effective way to prepare for interviews is to be over-prepared: You need to appear relaxed and comfortable talking with the interviewer, to be ready to address the hardest questions, to be comfortable with your own selling points and the stories that support them, and have to have enough knowledge about the school to show a passion for it.

7. How were your recommendations? Did your recommendations honestly and effectively endorse you? Did they contain sufficient detail to help an admissions committee understand your selling points? Did your recommendations really evaluate both your strengths and weaknesses? Were your recommendations authentic or is there any possibility that an admissions would be concerned about their authorship?

8. How good was the advice you received from other people about your application(s)? In addition to yourself, who read and advised you on your essays, resume, interview(s), and/or other aspects of your application process? Alums, mentors, admissions consultants or counselors, editors, and/or ghostwriters? While I would not suggest blaming those who advised you, you may want to seek out new or additional advisers. Of course if they told you that your essays, resume, or some other aspect of your application were weak and you did not address it, they are providing good advice. Additionally if they expressed concerns about your likelihood for admission, there advice might be good (beware of those who always hedge their bets).

If you relied extensively on an editor or paid a ghostwriter and seem to be getting dinged really quickly, you have discovered the pitfalls of those highly dubious strategies. Consider writing your own stuff and discover the potential of your voice.

If you used an admissions counselor or consultant and did not get any good results and they told you that your applications were good, it is time to decide whether their advice is really effective. If your counselor has limited experience, this is pretty much an indicator that you should have gone with someone experienced. If your counselor seems exhausted or rushed, you also have a problem because this person is unlikely to be able to be devoted to helping you enough. If you purchased a counseling service and not the services of a particular counselor, I would not be surprised if you encountered someone overworked. After all, one critical difference between counselors who work for themselves and those that work for someone else is the amount they make for the work performed. Those that work for someone else make considerably less per hour and often have to work more and under higher pressure than those that work for themselves. This is not to say that highly experienced counselors employed by counseling services can't be excellent, but based on my experience there are pitfalls to such services. On the other hand if they have high quality control standards, they can be just as effective. That said, the issue will always come down to the specific advice you are being given, which means the particular person you are working with. In addition to contacting me, one good resource for finding a new counselor is through the Association of International Admissions Consultants where you find a directory of my colleagues around the world who are committed to providing high level service to their clients.

9. Was your GMAT within the school's 80% range? This is a fairly obvious issue. If your score was within the 80% range, this was not likely to have been the reason for rejection. If it was below the 80% range for one or more schools, you should consider whether you are willing to apply at school where your GMAT is within the range or whether you want to continue taking greater risk. Obviously if your score is below the 80% range, you should assume your chances for admissions are less than the stated admissions rate. I am not saying to only apply to schools where you are within the range (see my earlier post on this issue), but I would suggest taking account of the risk in terms of (1) school selection, (2) the number of programs you need to apply to, and (3) expectations for success.

10. Was your GPA equal to, above, or below the average reported GPA for the school? If it was below, this may have been a factor against you. If you score is significantly below the average GPA and your GMAT is equal to or above the average score, did you write an optional essay? Did you highlight your academic potential in some way to counter the issue of your GPA?

11. Did your TOEFL meet the school's minimum stated requirement? If your score was below the minimum, did you discuss this in the optional or some other essay to make the case for your English abilities? If you think you can improve your score, take the test again.

If your score on TOEFL is really weak, have you considered taking IELTS? Some applicants actually will do better on this test than on ibt TOEFL. It is no easy thing to prepare for a new test, but I think it might be a viable strategy for some of those who are applying to schools with late deadlines.

12. Were you realistic about school selection? I have discussed this issue in other posts, but it certainly one worth considering.

13. Were you honest about the way you presented yourself in your whole application? As a strong advocate for honesty, I have a bias for this particular approach to the process. That said, if you are getting dinged after misrepresenting one or more aspects of your experience, you might want to consider that it is the job of admissions officers to eliminate liars. They get through anyway, but not all of them. Anyway, the truth will set you free to succeed. If you have over-marketed yourself, you may also have come across as less than authentic.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
MBA留学 ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング エッセイ

December 11, 2007

MBA Application Myth: GMAT is Everything!

Yes, the GMAT matters, but some applicants focus too much energy exclusively on GMAT and don't think about the rest of the process. Of course, you maybe forced to study GMAT while simultaneously preparing your applications. This is not ideal, but it beats doing the applications as an afterthought.

Myths about the GMAT abound.
More specifically...

A. Myth: You need a 700 or higher to get into a top MBA Program. Assuming the school has an 80% that does not start at 700 and no school does, why make this assumption? Schools repeatedly state their processes are holistic and that GMAT is just one factor. Applicants focus on the GMAT score for good reason. While it is the only indicator for measuring all applicants in exactly the same way (TOEFL, see below, only applies to international applicants), the reason MBA program put such an emphasis on other aspects of this process is because it is only one factor. The 80% range for any school is a pretty good indicator of what range of score is sufficient, but clearly some are admitted both above and below that range, so overly focusing on a particular numerical target can really overly focus applicants attention on their GMAT scores both in terms of school selection and in terms of time allocation.

B. Myth: You need to get a score that is at least the average for those admitted. Look at the 80% range and as long as you are in it, your GMAT score is potentially sufficient to get in. At Stanford University GSB for example, the 80% range is from 670 to 770 with a mean of 721 and median of 730 according to Businessweek. Means and medians are just averages, but very poor indicators of how specific applicants are likely to be viewed.

C. Myth: No one gets in with a score below the 80% range. Well clearly someone does because that 20% range that is not accounted for includes people with scores below the range. For example, Stanford GSB states that the GMAT range is from 500-800. Of course, some schools may actually have a stated minimum. In such cases, it is best to simply contact admissions and see if they ever make exceptions. If they say they don't then there is no point in applying, but if they say they do than it becomes an issue of whether you want to take a chance. Yes, you have to be great overall candidate to get into Wharton with 600 or Harvard with a 650, but it can be done. In my experience, it is better to take a chance on at least one reach/dream school than to not try at all. I know it is an expensive gamble, but I guess if you think the potential pay-off is sufficient than you will conclude it is worth doing.

D. Myth: A high GMAT will get you into a top program. One of the saddest things I have seen is otherwise highly qualified applicants overestimate the value of the GMAT. Actually given the relatively high rate of 700 plus GMAT scores among applicants to top programs, it is merely one factor. In fact top programs like Stanford, Wharton, HBS, and Chicago are likely to be less concerned with GMAT for good or bad than with the overall strengths of an applicant.

So clearly the final Myth that relies upon one or more of the above is that "I should select schools based primarily on my GMAT score." Based on the above, I obviously think this is a very poor idea. School selection should be based on multiple factors including but not limited to cost, starting salaries for graduates, location, TOEFL score, and suitability based on academic and professional goals. Be realistic, but also try to get exactly what you want. As I wrote in a previous post, I don't like the idea of back-up schools. That said, you need to determine how much risk you are willing to take and what is your minimally acceptable ROI on the degree.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions, I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
MBA留学 ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング

Myths of the Application Process: I'm not unique just by being me

Image the following hypothetical situation: You are in a selection process involving 10,000 candidates and only 10% will be accepted. In order to differentiate yourself from the other 9999 candidates, you begin collecting reports on them. After all if you have to market yourself and be viewed as unique you better know who your competition is.

Clearly this is absurd. Yet I think it reflects the actual mentality of many applicants who spend time worrying about their competition instead of simply focusing their time on writing the best essays they can. They buy into the myth that they are not unique just being themselves.

Like admissions officers, I share the assumption (One that is cultural, philosophical, or perhaps even theological) that each person is unique. Regardless of whether you are applying to an MBA, LL.M., Masters, or Ph.D. you need to able to express your best self through your application. Your best self is the distilled version of yourself that you communicate in the essays, resume, and other parts of the application. Hopefully it is also that part of you that your recommenders discuss.

MBA programs in particular make this assumption about you being unique in the very way they form questions. See below and my posts on NYU Stern, University of Chicago GSB, and on contribution questions at Kellogg, Duke, McCombs, Babson, and London Business School for my examination of some of the specific ways in which particular schools ask about this.

Some applicants become so concerned about appearing unique that it paralyzes them when they try to write. Other applicants have no problem writing, but what they write consists either of extreme exaggerations or outright lies. In either case, the root problem is often one or more of the following false assumptions:
1. I am not a superstar therefore I am not unique.
2. Compared to other people I am not unique.
3. My GPA/GMAT is/are not that high so I can I be concerned unique?
4. My work as a....is really routine and have no specifically great accomplishments.
5. I have no experience having formal management responsibility, so my leadership skills can't demonstrate why I am unique.
6. My hobbies are routine.
7. I have never done anything important.

The above are assumptions that I have encountered over the years from clients. In order to overcome these assumptions, I make the following argument:
"What makes someone unique is their own particular story. Your own particular experience and your ability to reflect upon it and identify specific ways you have demonstrated potential for success in your graduate program and afterwards is what is most important. Don't worry about being special, just tell your own story and in the process we will figure out how to effectively interpret that story for the admissions committee. The devil is always in the details initially. After that we work on branding."

Take it on faith that you will be unique if you tell your own story and also effectively analyze that story. For instance with MBA questions they are always asking "why" not just "what or how."

Sometimes this is stated very directly: INSEAD asks applicants to "Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why
you view them as such." In this essay as in the similar HBS question, the reason why you view the accomplishment as substantial is at least as important as what the accomplishment is. Accomplishments can be substantial for yourself and/or for others. Some of the most unique accomplishments will in fact be those that may have little significance for anyone but the applicant. In such circumstances the "why" part of the question is really critical in order to show why this accomplishment is a highpoint in the applicant's life.

Columbia Business School asks applicants to"Please tell us about what you feel most passionate in life. " This is really a great question because any applicant should be able to answer it (By the way, if you feel passionate about nothing, you don't need an MBA, you need mental counseling!). This question provides a great opportunity to help the admissions office under you as a person. While some good judgment is required here, talking about a hobby or activity or one's family would be quite appropriate. While good judgment is always required for selecting the topic, the important thing is not only the "what," but the "why."

So for those in the midst of this process, I say don't worry about the other applicants, just focus on yourself and reveal your best self through your applications.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
MBA留学 LLM留学 大学院留学 ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング エッセイ

December 06, 2007

Myths of the Application Process: The Admissions Office

This is the first post in a series on myths of the application process.

I am tired. More specifically, I tired of hearing the same myths regarding the application process year after year. These myths misinform applicants, fill them with fear, contribute to some applicants not applying, and to others not trying to get into their dream school.

The myths surrounding the MBA application process are particularly pernicious, so in the series that I will be posting I will be referencing the MBA process for the most part.

Actually, since I started in 2001, I think it has all gotten worse in a way because the amount of noise out there only increases as more online venues exist for rumors and misinformation to circulate. In this post, I will address one of the most persistent rumors about the MBA application process, but first I would like to emphasize one thing:

Of course, if the answer can be found on their website, don't waste the admissions officers' time asking unnecessary questions. That said, any decent school will answer your questions about their internal processes. There is nothing mystical about these processes. Which leads to...
Myth Number One: The Admissions Office Has Secret Practices
Any accredited school's admissions office will be following a set of standardized practices for the handling of applications. These processes, like that of any bureaucratic organization, have to be sufficiently transparent to meet legal and regulatory requirements. While potentially subject to outside influence from professors, development offices, powerful alums, and other key stakeholders, admissions committees often pride themselves on being fair. They are not perfect because they are composed of individuals, but they are not secret cabals either. Like any organization, they will make exceptions to their general practices from to time to time, but only at the margins. Hence the websites, brochures, and other information they provide about their admissions processes is really quite accurate. Therefore if you want to know whether they will consider a GMAT submitted a week after the application was sent or any other such question, simply ask. Try finding the answer on the website first, but if that does not work, contact them. Part of their job is to answer your questions.

While schools vary greatly in their degree of openness and level of customer service, most will answer questions. And unless an inquirer is simply asking questions that can be easily answered through reviewing the admissions materials, it is safe to assume one will receive a response. If you don't receive a response by email, try calling. If you are treated rudely ask yourself whether you want to go to the school. I especially would be concerned about an MBA program that lacked the customer service skills to appropriately field the inquiries of potential students (customers).

While I have been very critical of less than transparent processes used by most Law Schools regarding Master of Law (LL.M.) admissions, especially when it comes to MBA and JD programs, admissions offices are very transparent. In fact those applying to other kinds of graduate programs (with the exception of healthcare degrees) are at a relative disadvantage compared to MBA and JD applicants in terms of the availability of good data upon which to make application decisions.

Finally, given that admissions offices may have very limited December and January schedules, I would try to get in all your questions either before or after the Winter holiday season.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
MBA留学, LLM留学, 大学院留学

November 21, 2007

RSM International Full-Time MBA Essay Questions for Fall 2008 Admission

This post analyzes the essay questions for Fall 2008 Admission to RSM Erasmus University's International Full-Time MBA Program. In doing so, I will make reference to the Information Session and Masterclass that I attended in Tokyo on November 13, 2007. Depending on what chart you look at RSM ranks 18th (Wall Street Journal Recruiter's Poll), 30th (Financial Times), and 46th (Economist Intelligence Unit), and receives an honorable mention, but is unranked in Businessweek (but they only rank the top ten internationally). You might ask why I am blogging about RSM's essays, when I have yet to cover higher ranked European Programs like INSEAD, IMD, SDA Bocconi, and London Business School. Actually, I have partially covered LBS already and will finish analyzing their questions, after I stop feeling like they are watching me :) , but there are a few reasons why I wanted to cover RSM.

First, I wanted to cover a mid-ranked program that has a very solid ROI. Consider this, the typical RSM graduate forgoes a mean of $39,031 and afterwards the mean base salary for most recent graduates is $114,480 (data taken from Businessweek). To me that signifies a serious improvement in one's career opportunities. Whatever one thinks of the Wall Street Journal's Recruiter's Poll, the very fact that RSM ranks 18th internationally (everywhere but US programs) is a good indicator of the market value of the degree.

Second, London Business School, INSEAD, HEC, Cambridge, RSM, Oxford, and SDA Bocconi are the European MBA Programs I have the most experience with (actually basically in that order). I have helped clients get into other programs in Europe, but those are the schools I know best. Therefore I think RSM is a good place to start.

Third, I attended the RSM Information Session last week, so I want to get my thoughts down before I forget them.

Let's take a look at RSM's essay questions. I took them from the online application:

Please respond fully but concisely to this question, ensuring it does NOT exceed 500 words. The essays form an integral role in the application and selection procedure. Before you begin preparing your essays, you are requested to conduct a thorough self-assessment. The essays are meant to present a unique picture of you. The Admissions Committee is interested to learn about you, what your values are and the distinctive qualities that make you an interesting candidate for our MBA Program.
REQUIRED ESSAY 1 How do you see your career developing and how will earning the RSM Erasmus University MBA help you achieve your goals?
At RSM we value total diversity. How does that apply to you?

Describe the most difficult decision you have made and its personal effect on you.
Please feel free to supply any additional information that you believe would be helpful to the Admissions Committee in making the final decision on your application.

Based on the Information Session and Master Class I attended, I think it is particularly important to pay attention to the directions "
to conduct a thorough self-assessment" because RSM is school where there is a great deal of attention paid to self-development. In fact, the Masterclass by Dr. Bill Collins (you can watch a video of him on the RSM website), focused on issues very much related to personal career development. His interactive presentation, "Finding a Fit: Psychological Contracts and Organization Fit," was actually about some ways of thinking about managing ones career. The presentation was actually an excerpt from RSM's First Term Core Course, "Organizational Behavior."

Another core part of the RSM curriculum that is focused on personal development is the Personal Leadership Development (PLD):

Our one-year Personal Leadership Development programme , which runs concurrent to the other courses in the programme, is designed to develop in you the skills necessary for effective leadership in international business.
At times confronting and demanding, this course demands you to engage in the intense process of personal behavioural change. Through workshops, group work, discussions and case studies, you will examine and reflect on both your ability to manage people, and your ability to manage yourself.

Given RSM's focus on self-development, it is clearly very important that your essays reveal your own openness to such an approach. If you are less interested in such an approach to management education, RSM is probably not a good choice for you.

REQUIRED ESSAY 1 How do you see your career developing and how will earning the RSM Erasmus University MBA help you achieve your goals?
This a standard goals essay. Obviously to discuss the development of your career, you need to discuss it up to this point, but given the length limits, you should emphasize why an MBA from RSM will contribute to your goals. Given that this does need to be a highly evaluative response, I suggest using my goals analysis table to clarify what your goals are and how an MBA from RSM will help you achieve them.

The emphasis of this essay is clearly on the future, so while you will certainly need to reference your past experience in order to explain how you see your career, you should focus your essay on your goals and how RSM will help you achieve them.

Finally, in her presentation, Dianne Bevelander,
the Executive Director of MBA Programmes, specifically made the point that the mission of RSM is to educate business leaders who support sustainability, not people who simply want to make money. Actually I am not sure why she found this necessary to say or what it was supposed to be in contrast to because no ever I have worked with wrote in their application that their goal was to become rich. Anyway, given the strong way she phrased it, all applicants would do well to consider the relationship of their goals to sustainable enterprise. See RSM's "about us" statement.

REQUIRED ESSAY 2 At RSM we value total diversity. How does that apply to you?
It can't be emphasized enough that RSM does really value total diversity. Just look at the class profile. At the Tokyo event, Diane Bevelander also discussed that this diversity also extended to the faculty.

Clearly, you need to be a part of this diversity. In other words, you need to contribute to it. Which is to say, this is a contribution question. Please read my analysis of such questions, here.

I suggest focusing on some specific ways that you will contribute to RSM. In particular, think about what personal qualities and experiences that you have that are likely to be helpful to other students.

Finally, I think it is very important to understand the critical role diversity plays in the expected outcome of an RSM MBA education:
Students emerge from the programme with the personal skills to connect, inspire, motivate and leverage powerful networks across diversity – a defining quality of successful business leadership.

Therefore you want to think about how your personal skills will contribute to this educational outcome both for yourself and your fellow students.

Describe the most difficult decision you have made and its personal effect on you. According to the RSM ERASMUS UNIVERSITY INTERNATIONAL FULL-TIME MBA Brochure:
We recognize that there are three elements to successful management- first, the capacity to think critically, conceptually, and creatively: second, the ability to make informed decisions and third, the capacity to interact successfully with other people.

If you think about about the second element, it applies directly to this question. The structure of an essay like this is not actually very different from that of an ethical dilemma or failure or possibly a leadership essay:
1. Explain what the decision was and why it was the most difficult for you to make.
2. Explain what you did. Remember to analyze, not just describe what you did.
3. Explain its impact on you. Keep in mind the word "personal." Specifically, think how this decision effected your viewpoint and/or your life. What did you learn? How have you applied what you learned since that time?

OPTIONAL ESSAY 4 Please feel free to supply any additional information that you believe would be helpful to the Admissions Committee in making the final decision on your application.
This is not really optional from my perspective. Unlike school's that use the optional essay for only reporting on something that needs to be explained, this is a space for also talking about something positive. In fact, even if you have to talk about something negative, say GPA, you should most certainly use part of this space to discuss an aspect of who you are that you were unable to cover elsewhere.

A note of caution: Assuming you are applying to other programs, make certain that whatever you put here does not look like the obvious answer to a question posed by another school.

I always treat optional questions of this type as balance essays, that is to say, you should use the answer here to balance out what you covered elsewhere by emphasizing another aspect of who you are. This question is thus similar to HBS 3f. and Wharton 4.2.

Finally, as is generally the case, you should try to have a good balance of personal, academic, and professional content in your essays so that RSM admissions can understand who you are and ideally see why you fit at RSM.

Question? Comments? Email me at adammarkus@gmail.com
-Adam Markus
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November 14, 2007

LBS is monitoring who attends their events Part 2

As I reported in an earlier post, I had received an email on November 3rd from the London Business School Stating that I had not attended their event:
Dear Adam,
Thank you for your interest in the Full-time MBA Programme.
Our records show that you weren't able to attend our recent Information Session. We're sorry to have missed this opportunity to meet you....

This may made realize that LBS is watching who attends their events and using software to track it. It made me wonder whether they were factoring into their admissions decisions.

This was the email I sent to sent to LBS on November 3rd:
Dear Ms. Blundell,
In reference to your email, the only event I registered for was on October 9th in Tokyo. I attended that event and my name was properly checked-off at that time. What is the following in reference to? Will my supposed failure to attend your event (not sure which) be held against me? Do you take event attendance into account when reviewing applications?
Thank you for your attention to this matter:
Adam Markus

I received the following reply on November 12th:
Dear Adam
Thank you for your confirmation that you attended the recent London Business School event. Please accept our apologies for the error that occurred in recording the attendance list. Please be assured that this error has now been amended and future follow ups will include you as having attended the session.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need further information.
Best regards

It was sent by Caroline Chukwuma, Information Officer from the MBAInfo@london.edu account. I replied on the 13th:
Dear Ms. Chukwuma,
Thank you for your correction. I was wondering whether you take such event attendance into account when making admissions decisions. Should I attend more events?

Less than an hour later on the 14th, I received the following reply:
Dear Adam
Thank you for your email and for your interest in London Business School.
It will certainly not hurt your application if you visit the School on a few occasion to find more about the community.
Best regards,

You can draw your own conclusions from this response, but it seems to me if you really want to attend LBS, even if you are already really well informed about the school, you better attend their official admissions events and, if possible, visit the school. London Business School is Watching!

-Adam Markus
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November 11, 2007

Duke Fuqua MBA Essays for Fall 2008 Entry

In this post, I will analyze Duke University 's Fuqua School of Business MBA Essays for Fall 2008 Entry.

Take a close look at the Fuqua's website including the video Higher and Higher which you can find here. The video will give a general sense what Fuqua takes pride in and an idea of some the core characteristics of the school that you need to understand. You should also look at the video Community Service Day because it relates directly to Fuqua's slogan "We Educate Thoughtful Business Leaders Worldwide." You want to show to Fuqua that you have the potential to be a thoughtful business leader.

First let's look at the essay topics as well as the complete instructions:
Two short essay answer questions and two long essays must be completed before submitting your application. Prepare your essays carefully. The Admissions Committee considers your responses to the following questions important in the selection process. Please respond fully and concisely using 1.5 line spacing.

For the short answer questions, please restrict your response to a single page each. For the long essay questions, please select only one question to answer from the three choices given for the first question, and then you must answer the second question. There is no restriction on the length of your response for the two long essay questions. Applicants typically use between 500 and 750 words for long essays one and two.

Candidates who applied to Fuqua between September 2006 and April 2007 are considered reapplicants. Reapplicants are asked to complete the Reapplicant Essay in addition to the Applicant Essays.

All applicants have the opportunity to submit an optional essay to explain any extenuating circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware.

Applicant Essays
Short Essays - Answer both short essay questions.
  1. Why are you interested in The Duke MBA and how will it help you achieve your goals? Please also discuss your career path, including your short and long-term professional goals. If you are interested in the Health Sector Management concentration or a joint degree program, please address in this essay.
  2. How will your background, values, and non-work activities enhance the experience of other Duke MBA students and add value to Fuqua's diverse culture?

Long Essays - For essay 1, please answer only one of the three essay options provided. All applicants should answer question 2.

  1. Please respond fully and concisely to one of the following three essay topics. Clearly identify which question you have selected.
    1. Describe an example of where you were challenged to lead in a team-oriented context. What was the challenge you faced, how did you address it, and what takeaways or lessons learned have you successfully applied in other leadership situations?
    2. Describe a situation in which your ability to perform ethically was challenged. What was the issue, how did you handle it, and what did you learn from it?
    3. Describe a significant leadership failure in your life. What did you learn from this failure? How has it impacted who you are today and the kind of leader you would like to be?
  2. How has your personal history and family background influenced your intellectual and personal development? What unique personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? Note: The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally.
When presented with this set of two short essays and two long essays, it is certainly worth remembering that you are presenting a set of essays that will be read in their totality. IN PARTICULAR, KEEP IN MIND THAT YOU CAN ADD ADDITIONAL SUPPORT IN THE LONG ESSAYS TO WHAT YOU WRITE IN THE SHORT ESSAYS. Especially Short Essay 2 and Long Essay 2 allow for this.
Short Essay 1. Why are you interested in The Duke MBA and how will it help you achieve your goals? Please also discuss your career path, including your short and long-term professional goals. If you are interested in the Health Sector Management concentration or a joint degree program, please address in this essay.

You should at minimum provide a very direct answer to Duke's question:
1. Clearly state how a Duke MBA will help you achieve your short-term goal(s).
2. Clearly state how a Duke MBA will help you achieve your long-term goal(s).
3. Briefly discuss your career path, but given the length of this essay, don't overemphasize it. This essay should be focused on the future, not the past. Simply explain why now is the right time to pursue an MBA making brief analytical reference to to your career path.
Ideally you should really dig into the Duke MBA program to figure out what parts of it really attract you. They know you want an MBA, but why a Duke MBA? Convince them that your goals are best met by attending Fuqua.

Short Essay 2. How will your background, values, and non-work activities enhance the experience of other Duke MBA students and add value to Fuqua's diverse culture?
I have already analyzed this question in my previous post on contribution questions.

1. Please respond fully and concisely to one of the following three essay topics. Clearly identify which question you have selected
All three of these questions, each in their own way focus on the theme of leadership. Note the request to respond concisely, which means don't write much more than about 10% over the 750, they recommend as typical. Try to limit yourself to about 825 words maximum.

a.Describe an example of where you were challenged to lead in a team-oriented context. What was the challenge you faced, how did you address it, and what takeaways or lessons learned have you successfully applied in other leadership situations?
Please see my post about leadership questions because much of what I suggest there applies here, especially in terms of how to structure your essay. Also see my analysis of MIT's essay questions 1 and 2.

b. Describe a situation in which your ability to perform ethically was challenged. What was the issue, how did you handle it, and what did you learn from it?
The structure of this essay is actually stated in the question:
1. Clearly state what the ethical issue was. Provide sufficient context for doing so, but really begin with the issue so that your reader will understand it clearly. If you are having difficulty understanding what ethical issues are, I suggest taking a look at at the Institute for Global Ethics. Also see Business Ethics Research - Knowledge@Wharton.
Another good site to look at is CasePlace.org, which I discussed in an earlier post.
2. Describe how you handled it. You may want to structure your answer using the method I provide for answering leadership questions. By the way if you think, I am emphasizing the idea that this is a leadership question, you are right.
3. State what you learned. As with failure essays, the learning aspect is very important. The most concrete demonstration of learning is application to another situation, so if that is possible to include, I would do so.

Keep in mind that Fuqua itself experienced a scandal in 2007 involving 34 MBA students (all members of the Class of 2008) who cheated on an exam, the largest such episode ever in the history of Duke University. Therefore if you write on ethics, you should certainly show that you have achieved an understanding of ethical issues consistent with the Fuqua Honor Code.

C. Describe a significant leadership failure in your life. What did you learn from this failure? How has it impacted who you are today and the kind of leader you would like to be?
Beyond being about failure, this essay is about the development of your leadership skills and leadership self-image from the past to the future. That said, this is partially a standard failure question except that the failure must relate to your leadership. As with other failure questions what you learned is critical. Additionally, how you applied this lesson afterwards is something you should must certainly explain in detail. Beyond that lesson, think about the future and the kind of leader you want to be. I suggest reviewing my analysis of both leadership and failure questions.

2. How has your personal history and family background influenced your intellectual and personal development? What unique personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? Note: The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally.
I have already analyzed this question in my previous post on contribution questions.

All applicants have the opportunity to submit an optional essay to explain any extenuating circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware.
Extenuating circumstances would be things like not being able to use your direct supervisor as a recommender, gaps in your employment record, and/or a weak GPA, TOEFL, and/or GMAT. This essay is thus no different from Chicago GSB's Optional Essay.

Question? Comments? Email me at adammarkus@gmail.com
-Adam Markus
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November 10, 2007

Fewer Women at European MBA Programs

Female applicants applying to European programs should take a look at Why Women Refrain From Pursuing MBAs. The article, from the November 9th Wall Street Journal discusses specifically why there are relatively low percentages of women in most MBA programs in Europe, especially the top ones:

Theories abound to explain why more women aren't seeking a credential that could boost their careers and earning power. Some business-school experts believe European schools struggle even more than M.B.A. programs in the U.S. to bring the numbers up because many businesses on the Continent are perceived as less friendly to women executives than American firms....

Whatever the underlying causes, the result is apparent: Female M.B.A. enrollment in European business schools is stuck stubbornly between 25% and 30%, said Jeanette Purcell, chief executive of the Association of M.B.A.s, an international body based in London whose members include about 130 business schools world-wide. The University of Cambridge's Judge Business School says the figure is even lower for Europe's elite B-schools, at 23%. In the U.S., women's representation in M.B.A. programs long has hovered around 30%.

Clearly the US is not much better than Europe in this regard. For female applicants, whether you want to apply to schools in the US or Europe, I think this is good news, at least in terms of your chances for admission. With all these programs scrambling for qualified applicants, you are in a buyer's market. Given the prejudice that women are likely to face at throughout their lives, at least when it comes to MBA admission, they have the advantage of being in demand.

Question? Comments? Email me at adammarkus@gmail.com
-Adam Markus
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November 07, 2007

MBA Application Interview Strategy

In this post I will provide some general advice for preparing for interviews. The methods I outline are the ones I use with my clients.


I have a very simple and effective method for interview preparation: Over-preparation. The best way to do well in any interview is be prepared for an interview that will be harder than the actual interview. I write this based on my experience. Since 2001, I have been told by grateful clients that my practice interviews were harder than the real thing and as a result they could confidently handle the real thing. I think any highly experienced graduate admissions consultant should be able to provide this kind of practice to their clients. If you don't use an admissions consultant to help you prepare, find someone, a mentor perhaps, who can help you. Whoever you seek advice from, getting actual critical feedback from person who understands the MBA admissions process is critical.

Just as critical is your own preparation (see below for the methods I suggest). The amount of practice (with someone else and alone) you require will really depend on three variables:

1. Your English ability. For international applicants with low intermediate to high intermediate level ability, expect to focus a significant amount of your time on practicing to speak.

2. Your comfort with interviews. Some people are just really good at interviewing and others are not. If you know that you are weak in the this area, you will really need to practice with another person who can judge your performance.

3. The difficulty of the interview. Some schools simply have difficult interviews (HBS for example), while others do not (Duke for example), so take that into account. A great way to determine the difficulty of a particular school's interviews is to read reports written by applicants (See my earlier post regarding where to find interview reports).

Many applicants wait until days before an interview to prepare, but actually your interview preparations should ideally begin at least a month before you start interviewing. Why so long? Because you have a lot to do:

Interview Strategy FormulationIt is absolutely critical that you have an overall strategy for determining what you want to say about yourself. Just as with your essays, you need to formulate your self-marketing strategy for your interviews. Obviously what you put in your application should be consistent with and supported by your interview. However writing essays and talking for 30 minutes or more are simply not the same.

Don't worry about the questions, worry about your message!While you should use the Accepted and Clear Admit sites to learn about the questions, an overemphasis on simply preparing answers to the questions that other applicants were asked is not the main thing you should be doing. Instead, decide what you want to say about yourself. One way of doing that is prepare an outline like the following:

Strengths/Contributions/Future Potential
1. One of my key strengths is X. A story that demonstrates this strength is... Another story that does is... This strength will be a contribution at your school because... This strength will contribute to my future goals because...
2. Another of my key strengths is Y. A story that demonstrates this strength is... Another story that does is... This strength will be a contribution at your school because... This strength will contribute to my future goals because...
3. Another of my key strengths is Z. A story that demonstrates this strength is... Another story that does is.. This strength will be a contribution at your school because... This strength will contribute to my future goals because...

For each X, Y, Z insert a keyword describing your strength. Connect keywords to specific stories. If possible find more than one story that demonstrates the keyword. Next think how this strength could be a contribution when you are student. Next think how this strength will contribute to your goals. By using this method, you will have prepared answers to such common questions as "What are your strengths" and "How will you contribute to our school." Additionally you will be ready to show how your past experience will help you achieve your goals. Additionally when asked questions which are less direct about your strengths, you will already have keywords and stories ready for those questions you can't predict.

1. One of my weaknesses is X. A story that demonstrates this is... Another story that does is... I want to overcome this weakness by... This weakness resulted in failure when...
2. Another of my weaknesses is Y. A story that demonstrates this is... Another story that does is... I want to overcome this weakness by... This weakness resulted in failure when...
3. Another of my weaknesses is Z. A story that demonstrates this is... Another story that does is... I want to overcome this weakness by... This weakness resulted in failure when...

As with strengths you should have at least three keywords. Here you be preparing answers to the very common questions that are asked about weakness, but in addition you will need to think about how the MBA program and/or some other aspect of yourself will make it possible for you to overcome this weakness. Weaknesses should be real and not abstract. You should have clear stories that demonstrate your weaknesses, something many applicants initially have a problem with. Additionally knowing how a program will help you overcome your weakness will explain why you want to attend that school. Finally, SOME, BUT NOT All weaknesses make for great failure stories, another very common topic for interviews.

Leadership and Teamwork Skills/Potential
All applicants should have keywords and supporting stories describing their leadership and teamwork skills and potential. Given the very common nature of questions related to both leadership and teamwork, you should also be prepared for the following:
1. My definition of leadership/teamwork is... because... I demonstrated this kind of leadership by...
2. One leader I really admire is... because... I am similar/want to be like this person because...
3. I think I am a good team member because...

Have enough keywords and stories
If you have enough keyword and stories you will have a solid basis for answering the great range of questions that you are likely to be asked about yourself.

Questions you should be ready to answer
In addition to having keywords and stories, there are certain questions that you should be ready to answer because they are commonly asked in interviews.
Goals/Why MBA?/ Why this school?
You should have outlined answers to the following:
1. I want an MBA now because...
2. I want an MBA from your school because...
3. Your school is my first choice because...
4. After my MBA, I will...
5. My goals are...
6. If I was not able to attend an MBA program next year, I would...

Ethical Dilemma QuestionsAnother very common question relates to ethical dilemmas. Be ready. Have a story or two ready. If you are having a difficulty formulating ethical dilemma questions, please take a look at the Institute for Global Ethics. Also see Business Ethics Research - Knowledge@Wharton.

Questions for the interviewer

You should be ready to ask questions to your interviewer. What you ask should be governed by the following considerations:
1. Is the answer to the question obvious? If so, don't ask the question.
2. Is the answer to the question really relevant to you? If not, don't ask it. General questions that have no specific connection to you are probably not worth asking.
3. Will the interviewer be able to answer the question? In general avoid asking interviewers questions that they are not really able to answer. Asking an alum who graduated five years ago about what is new at the school would be one such bad question.

When formulating questions it is obviously important to consider who you will be interviewing with because what you ask an alum is not the same as what you ask an admissions officer or current student.

Tell stories that show the range of your experience
Keep in mind that you should use stories from different parts of your life. Don't overemphasize one specific situation. Instead tell stories that showcase the range of your experience.

Keep it simple and don't recite from memory
Regardless of how complex the topic might be, when you tell a story, keep it simple enough for your listener to follow. The human brain can only absorb a limited amount of information, so when you tell a story make sure that it is something that can be easily followed and delivered very briefly.

For that reason (and others), memorizing long stories and reciting them to be avoided because it will likely result in your interviewer being unable to absorb your story. If the story takes too long to recite, the may also become bored or annoyed. Additionally memorized answers from a non-native speaker of English are a sign that the interviewee's English skills might be weak.

Don't write a script, just a very brief outline
Unless your English speaking ability is very weak, I would strongly recommend that you don't write scripts of your answers, instead prepare a very brief outline and practice speaking. Tell the stories repeatedly so that are comfortable doing so, but since you want to come across as polished, but natural, don't memorize it.

Use an audio and/or video recorder
For many people, except for watching yourself on video, nothing is worse than listening to your own voice. However as painful as it maybe, doing so will help you identify weakness in your answers and overall performance. Therefore record and analyze yourself. You are your most harsh critic.

Relax and be confident
I know this part can be hard, but the more relaxed and confident you are, the more likely you are to have a good interview. Creating the right impression is as critical as what you actually say. Make your interviewer feel your enthusiasm.

Practice for specific interviews
Finally, don't just practice for any interview, practice for specific interviews. While you may initially need to think about overall strategy, you should focus much of your practice on specific interviews. If you have mock interviews, make sure they are school specific because a very important aspect of the interview really is about you showing your connection and fit to the school.

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

November 06, 2007

Dartmouth Tuck MBA Essay Questions for 2007-08

Below I analyze the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth MBA Application Essay Questions for 2007–08 and discuss the Tokyo Reception I attended on 11/2/07.

I attended the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth's November 2nd Tokyo Reception. It had some unusual features.

First, it was held on the very same evening as the MBA World Tour, which required me to visit the MBA World Tour quickly in order to make it to the Tuck event. That really was no problem because my main objective at the World Tour was to get some brochures. Of course, for some applicants this must have been a more difficult decision. That said, anyone really interested in going to Tuck should attend one of their receptions.

Second, the number of those allowed to attend was extremely limited (maybe to about 40 or so, sorry I did not count the number of chairs that had been set-up). Actually, they could have allowed more reservations, because about half the chairs were empty.

Third, the reception was just that initially. It was held at the New Otani, one of Tokyo's most famous hotels. They served a cold and hot buffet that was delicious. The presentation did not actually begin till about 7:30, 30 minutes after the official start time. This was nice because it gave everyone a chance to chat, eat, and drink (no alcohol).

The admissions officer's presentation was brief and delivered without the use of Power Point! Yes, Tuck is the only school that as far as I know does not use Power Point. This was fine for me, but maybe hard for those whose native language is not English (that said, if you can't follow the admissions officer's presentation, you really need to think whether your English skills are strong enough to apply). After about fifteen minutes, she invited four alums up to the stage and started asking them questions. The audience also asked questions. This lasted for about forty-five minutes, I guess. Following that, there was plenty of time to talk, eat, and drink.

I mention the above apparently mundane events, not because I want to bore you, but because the event itself says something about Tuck.

As both the alums and the admissions officer emphasized Tuck is about being part of a community. The Tuck Reception I attended reflected that. They intentionally hosted a small scale event that would give everyone in the room a chance to mingle and to easily have a chance to talk with the admissions officers and alums. If someone was not comfortable in that cocktail party(albeit without alcohol) environment, they have no business applying to Tuck. Each person counts and each person will need to participate. After the presentation, one admissions officer made the rounds circulating among the participants while the other, the presenter, took questions at the front of the room. This communicated at least to me, the same message of "friendly community" that had been made by the admissions officer: students, their families, faculty, and staff at Tuck are all part of one community.

Not using Power Point is also a very interesting tactic because it eliminates a formal barrier between the presenter and the audience. Additionally people who are part of the same community don't need to make presentations to each other, they talk to each other. The admissions officer was just doing that. Those looking for a more formal or impersonal approach can find that elsewhere, but not at Tuck.

Anyone applying to Tuck, should most certainly watch the video series "Applying to Tuck: The Inside Scoop" with Dawna Clarke, the Director of Admissions. I will reference Ms. Clarke's advice below.

If you are really interested in attending Tuck, I strongly suggest making a real effort to visit or at least to attend a reception. This will be a great way to meet with admissions officers in a very friendly environment. It is also an amazing way to network with the alum at the event and afterwards. At the Tokyo reception, we were actually provided with a list of alums who would be happy to communicate with potential applicants. In "Tips on Applying," Ms. Clarke emphasizes the importance of getting in touch with Tuck alum. She in fact, specifically says that mentioning that you met with alum is something you should do both in your essays and interviews. She also mentioned that she considers notes from alum as being in an applicant's favor.

Essay Questions for 2007–08
Let's take a look at the essay questions. I took the questions from the pdf.

Please respond fully but concisely to the following essay questions. Compose each of your answers offline in separate document files and upload them individually in the appropriate spaces below. Although there is no restriction on the length of your response, most applicants use, on average, 500 words for each essay. There are no right or wrong answers.
Please double-space your responses.
I don't suggest writing much more than 500 unless you really need to. That said, admissions will not be counting the words, so anything in the range of 450-600 is safe.

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 a very standard version of the Why MBA essay question. See my Chicago Essay 1 analysis as it applies here. Keep in mind the real importance of the second part of the question. Tuck's program is small, according to Businessweek, there are 500 students in the full-time program. According to the Tuck Class of 2008 Profile, the target class is 240. For the Fall 2007 Class, Tuck admitted 19% of 2584 applicants who applied, the yield was 51% (admitted who attend), so making the case that you really belong is critical.

2. Tuck defines leadership as “inspiring others to strive and enabling them to accomplish great things.” We believe great things and great leadership can be accomplished in pursuit of business and societal goals. Describe a time when you exercised such leadership. Discuss the challenges you faced and the results you achieved. What characteristics helped you to be effective, and what areas do you feel you need to develop in order to be a better leader?
Please see my analysis of leadership essays. Keep in mind that according to Dawna Clarke in "Tuck's holistic admissions process" video, leadership ability and/or demonstrated potential is one of three key common characteristics of Tuck students (see my analysis of question 4 for the other two). You should most certainly provide a full answer to this question, one demonstrating that you really understand your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

3. Discuss the most difficult constructive criticism or feedback you have received. How did you address it? What have you learned from it?
It is possible to write this based on the topic used for a standard failure essay (see my analysis of that here), but that is only one possibility. The basic structure for this essay is clear enough:
1. Briefly describe the situation where you received constructive criticism or feedback. Who did you receive it from and why? Why was it the most difficult? Explaining why is the most important part of this section of the essay.
2. Specifically state your response to the constructive criticism or feedback. This might take the form of a brief summary of your action steps or description of your change in attitude.
3. Explain what you learned. Often the best ways to help your reader understand this is to provide them with a different situation where you applied what you learned.

In addition to the standard reasons for asking this question- a test of ability to show how you learn from feedback, a test of your ability to honestly assess your own limitations, and a test of your ability to think critically about your past actions- this question makes particular sense for a program like Tuck where learning in a community is critical. The structure of the first year program including mandatory study groups of 5-6 students in the Fall and Winter terms, the Cohen Leadership Development Program, and the intensely community-focused nature of the environment certainly requires that all students be open to receiving and issuing positive, but critical feedback.

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?
Please see my analysis of contribution questions like this one. Keep in mind that in addition to leadership, the two other common characteristics of Tuck students that Ms. Clarke mentions are teamwork skills and communication/interpersonal skills. So if you have not effectively covered those two categories in the other essay, you should address them in one way or another here. Keep in mind that this essay is not just a way for admissions to understand some important aspects of who you are, it is also a place for them to see whether you know enough about Tuck to provide effective examples of the way you would contribute.

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.
Like the optional question for Chicago GSB and Wharton, this is primarily a place for explaining something potentially negative. Under no circumstances include an essay clearly written for another school.

Question? Comments? Email me at adammarkus@gmail.com
-Adam Markus
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November 03, 2007

LBS is monitoring who attends their events, but..

For the rest of the story, see Part 2.

oday, I received the following email from the London Business School:
"Dear Adam,
Thank you for your interest in the Full-time MBA Programme.
Our records show that you weren't able to attend our recent Information Session. We're sorry to have missed this opportunity to meet you...."

The only event I registered for was on October 9, 2007 and I attended. When I attended the event, they checked my name off their list. Since the above email does not specify what event I did not attend, I can't be certain that they missed me at the event that I did attend. In any case, as with what I reported about Georgetown back in September, LBS is watching.

I suppose this makes sense too, because LBS is after all in the UK, a country filled with closed circuit video cameras monitoring the public, supposedly to stop crime, but apparently with no actual impact. Like Orwell's big brother in 1984, the UK is watching you and so is the London Business School. Maybe some people like being monitored, but I don't.

This sort of monitoring certainly sends the wrong message to applicants, hard working people, who can't always leave work early to attend a weekday event. Admissions can learn through the applications they receive and the interviews they conduct whether an applicant really fits their school, so I can't imagine the advantage of counting heads at events.

Worse still, if you are going to count heads, be accurate about it. At least I am not an applicant, so I don't have to worry that my supposed "no-show" will be held against me. Hopefully this tool is not actually being used as part of the admissions process as seems to be the case with Georgetown. Still I think the whole thing is intrusive and leaves me with a very bad impression.

At least they could have included something like the following: "If you have received this email in error, please don't worry as attendance at events is not being monitored for purposes of admissions decisions."

I am sending an email to LBS, to see how they respond. Once I get a response, if I get one, I will post it. UPDATE: I received a response.

If you have any similar experiences, please let me know about them by sending email to adammarkus@gmail.com. I am happy to report them here and like my Georgetown post, they will likely rank high in search engine results.

-Adam Markus
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