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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.

October 27, 2007

Behavioral Questions: MIT Sloan & Stanford GSB for Fall 2008 MBA Admissions



In this very long post (sorry it took so long for me to get it done, but I have been busy), I will look at behavioral questions in general, the behavioral essay and interview questions for MIT Sloan MBA Essays for Fall 2008, and the behavioral questions for Stanford GSB MBA Essay Questions for 2007/2008.

First, I think it helps to know something about the origin of behavioral questions. Next I will discuss the MIT interview. Finally, I will analyze the MIT and Stanford behavioral essay questions for Fall 2008 Admission.

Before reading the rest of this post, I strongly suggest downloading a copy of MIT's excellent guide to behavioral interviews, The MIT Sloan Interview Guide, because reading it first, will maximize the value of my comments below.

The behavioral essay questions that MIT and Stanford ask have their origins in behavioral interviewing. This method is not old:
“Bill Byham, CEO and founder of Development Dimensions International, originated the behavioral interviewing method in 1970.”

In fact, the STAR technique outlined in MIT’s guide was developed by Byham as THE WAY to answer behavioral questions:

Byham calls an example of past behavior a STAR, because a complete example consists of a situation or task, the specific action you took and the result of your action. The result you describe doesn't have to be positive; it could be that you learned a valuable lesson from doing something the wrong way.

In his book "Landing the Job You Want: How to Have the Best Job Interview of Your Life" (Three Rivers Press, 1997), Byham
tells candidates how to identify the skills for a job; explore their own "behavioral dimensions" (the behaviors they use every day to get things done); and recognize and present a STAR with positive impact in an interview.

In addition to the MIT SLOAN Guide, I suggest also taking a look at the slightly different guide to the Star Technique that MIT Career Services provides.

The STAR technique is really the core method you need to use for answering behavioral questions both in interviews and essays. It is simply this (taken from the MIT Sloan Guide):

• Situation: define the situation or “set the stage.”
• Task: identify the task/project performed.
• Action: describe the action you took.
• Result: summarize the outcome

Just keep in mind that you need to be introspective as well, so say what you thought. Don’t just present “the facts” but actively interpret your actions. There is really nothing overly complicated about this as long as you understand that you need to tell a DETAILED story. Pure abstractions disconnected from a concrete set of action steps are highly likely to result in a weak answer. Similarly grand actions not told in any depth are also likely to be weak.

One key to answering these questions is to provide enough detail at the micro-level: Identify specific actions that contributed to the result so as to establish a clear link between cause and effect.

Another important consideration is, like when answering any kind of question, to think very critically about what your story selection, understanding of the task, actions taken, and results say about you. Keeping in mind that the whole point of asking behavioral questions is to determine how someone acts and thinks as a basis for selecting or rejecting that person, it is obviously critical to be aware of your own message.

When it comes to behavioral interviews, first do the following:
1. Review your own application completely and isolate your key selling points/qualities as abstractions.
2. Review the types of questions you are likely to encounter by reading reports from other applicants. See here for more about that.
3. Next develop a set of stories that make the very same or similar points about you as the essays, but not the same content. These stories should cover a wide array of possible questions. I don’t suggest writing them out, just outline them using STAR.
4. Practice telling stories using STAR.
5. Don’t memorize everything, just be comfortable with telling a wide variety of possible stories so that when you are asked you come across as natural, not providing something memorized.

During the interview:
1. Make sure that you don’t just begin telling the first story that comes to you. That is natural enough, but you should avoid it at all costs because you may very well not select the right story. Instead pause for a second to think about it.

2. Presentation counts, so make sure that you are showing good eye contact, speaking clearly, showing personality, and otherwise making a good impression because all of these things are also part of your behavior.

3. Don't worry if you are unable to discuss everything you wanted to. Just focus on giving solid answers to the questions.

Please see my prior post for MIT’s complete instructions. I will analyze one question at a time. A few things to keep in mind:

1. You need to show the capacity of analyzing and acting in different ways, so while all the stories should utilize STAR, don’t tell them in the same way. Make sure you are presenting different sides to who you are by telling your stories differently.

2. If at all possible discuss different situations in these essays, not two different stories from the same situation because you are trying present as wide a spectrum of events and qualities about yourself as you can.

3. You should ask yourself “what does this essay reveal about me?” If you can’t state that clearly and unambiguously, you need to clarify your message. When asking this question, think about both what you intend the reader to think and what you might also be revealing. Control for the possibility of sending out unintended signals. One of the best ways of handling this issue is to have a very careful and intelligent reader review these essays. If you are working with an admissions consultant, they should be able to do this. Getting multiple perspectives on what you wrote will help you better understand your likely impact on an admissions reader.

Essay 1: Please tell us about a time when you had an impact on a group or organization. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. (500 words or less.)
THINK WIDELY and don’t just tell big picture leadership story here, instead think about a situation where your actions lead to positive improvement in a group or organization. Don’t feel obligated to provide a work related answer to this question even though you may have developed such an answer for another school. A few questions to think about:
1. How did you add value?
2. What skills or qualities did you demonstrate in the process?
3. What does this story reveal about the way you interact with organizations or groups?

Essay 2: Please tell us about a challenging interaction you had with a person or group. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. (500 words or less.)
If Essay 1 is in primarily about the way positively impact groups or organizations, Essay 2 is clearly about the way you interact either individuals or groups. Clearly think about what “challenging” means to you. We have all had challenging situations that ended badly and that we wish we had handled better, but that is not what you should write about here. Instead focus on a difficult interaction that ultimately shows you positively. They are not asking for a failure story here, so don’t provide one.

Essay 3: Please tell us about a time when you defended your idea. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. (500 words or less.)
MIT is about the joining together of Mens et Menus (Mind and Hand), so it should come as no surprise that they ask about your ability to champion an idea. I use the word champion because defending, sounds merely reactive and ultimately you must show your ability to serve as the champion for an idea whether you were acting on the offensive or the defensive. The idea might be an abstraction (“honesty”) or a specific analysis (“My calculations were simply better because…”), but in either case be very specific about you defended the idea. Clearly this question is tailor-made for showing linkages between thoughts, interactions with others, actions, and means of communication. You need to show MIT that you have the ability to get other people to accept your ideas. This may involve a compromise, but should not involve failure. Think about what this essay reveals about your ability to work with other students at MIT Sloan.

Essay 4: Please tell us about a time when you executed a plan. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. (500 words or less.)
DO NOT WRITE ABOUT YOUR PLAN TO APPLY TO MBA PROGRAMS! Hopefully no one will do that, but I know someone will. If there is one essay in the MIT set of questions that is well suited for a big story, this one is it. You can of course tell a small story here, but if you want to write about your biggest accomplishment that involved a significant amount of planning that is great. This essay is clearly about the joining of mind (plan) and hand (implementation). Focus on the execution of the plan, not its initial conceptualization. While there are now hard and fast rules, I would try to expend at least two-thirds of your word count focused on showing how you realized your plan.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E&I) applicants only: Essay 5: Tell us about a time when you shared your talents or expertise with a group or organization. (500 words or less.)
While you should try to use STAR here as well, I think the important thing is to focus on one to three aspects of yourself that added value to a group or organization. The emphasis should be one linking these specific aspects of who you are to the outcome. Obviously many applicants will write about situations that directly involve prior experience with entrepreneurship and innovation, and it is fine to do that. On the other hand if you can showcase talents or expertise that reveal your potential to be an entrepreneur in a situation that is not obviously entrepreneurial that may very well have a greater impact on your reader.

Last year Stanford followed MIT by introducing Essay C. In the process, Stanford applicants now have the opportunity to write on their accomplishments, failures, difficulties, impact, and other characteristics without direct reference to either what matters to them most (Essay A) or their goals (Essay B). See here for my analysis of the other essays. This has made the Stanford Essay Set a more balanced set of questions. If Essay A is ultimately about what you value and B is about what you want, C is about what you can do.

Before looking at the specific questions, lets look at the instructions:

Essay C: Short Essays—Options 1-4
Answer two of the questions below. In answering both questions, tell us not only what you did, but also how you did it. Tell us the outcome, and describe how people responded. Describe only experiences that have occurred within the last three years.
If you are applying to MIT SLOAN, I think it is best if you can write the MIT essays first because this will likely help you select topics for Stanford. Having four or five behavioral essays to choose from would certainly help. The only constraint on this suggestion is that Stanford specifically requires that these experiences come from the last three years. That time constraint is important to keep in mind. If you consider that you can focus on the past and future in Essays A and B, Essay C is clearly the space to focus on the present. In C, Stanford is trying to get a sense of who you are now.

Option 1: Tell us about a time when you empowered others. (Recommended length is 1 page, double-spaced)
As a Californian, I can’t help but find something essentially regional about the wording of this question. “Empowering others” is California-speak for motivating other people or for providing them with resources that make it possible for them to take action. I can’t imagine an East Coast school asking this question. That said, this is actually a question about your ability to generate the multiplier effect that leaders are capable of. This is not the place to write about your leadership in general, but to show how you provided resources or motivations to others that allowed them to take action. Establish a clear chain of causality between your impact on others, their actions, and the outcome.

Option 2: Tell us about a time when you had a significant impact on a person, group or organization. (Recommended length is 1 page, double-spaced)
This is the same question as MIT SLOAN 1 except that it also includes individuals.

Option 3: Tell us about a time when you tried to reach a goal or complete a task that was challenging, difficult, or frustrating. (Recommended length is 1 page, double-spaced)
This may very well be a failure story. See my post on failure essays. It is possible that the topic of this question is the same as MIT Essay 2 above.

Option 4: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected. (Recommended length is 1 page, double-spaced)
This may very well be the same as MIT SLOAN Essay 3. Going beyond something defined, established, or expected may involve breaking the rules. It certainly may involve innovation, so it is possible that this could be on the same topic as MIT Sloan Optional Essay 5. Stanford GSB is place for those who are not traditional and are flexible in their thinking. If you are maverick, a risk-taker, or simply unconventional in your approach to adding value, this essay option is for you.

Behavioral questions are not necessarily harder than other types of questions, but they do have their own underlying logic: Past behavior is a guide to future behavior. Keep that in mind, so that Stanford and MIT see what you want them to see and believe in your future potential.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

ビジネススクール カウンセリング MITスローン コンサルティング 大学院 合格対策 エッセイ スタンフォード MBA留学

October 26, 2007

MIT Sloan MBA Essays for Fall 2008 1st of 2 posts


This is the first in a series of two posts about MIT Sloan's MBA Essays for Fall 2008. In this post, I will review the entire set of essay questions and provide analysis for the cover letter and supplemental information. The second post is here.

MIT Sloan is very direct about its core values:

Mind and Hand

The moment you step onto the MIT Sloan campus, you feel the palpable sense of energy and opportunity that is fueled by MIT's credo of mens et manus — mind and hand. At MIT, we believe that you must understand foundational topics at a deep level (mens) and be able to execute the practical application of these concepts (manus).

The concept of mens et manus percolates through the MIT culture and inspires a shared ethic. It says: let's look at the problem, invent the solution, and do something about it. Mens et Manus is the core idea that powers everything we do at MIT Sloan. Generations of students, faculty, and alumni have built their careers on it.

MIT is a school well know for transforming theory into practice and this is certainly true of its business school. In my experience those who can effectively demonstrate how and why they share this "core idea" are most likely to be accepted. (For those who can read Japanese, I suggest looking at MIT MBA留学日記 to see the daily blog of one such successful applicant who is now in his first year.)

Sloan's application process is, in fact, very much focused on determining whether you share and can contribute based on your own unique background to their "core idea." This does not mean that there is only one way to write great essays for MIT Sloan. Nor does it mean that they are only looking for one type of student. That said, I think you can say that there are some right ways and wrong ways to approach their questions.

MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Essays for Fall 2008:

Cover Letter
Prepare a cover letter (up to 500 words) seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Please comment on your career goals and those factors which influenced you to pursue an MBA education at MIT Sloan. The cover letter provides a chance for you to discuss your passions, values, and interests. Through what you write we hope to discover whether you will thrive at MIT Sloan and how you will contribute to our diverse community. Address your cover letter to Mr. Rod Garcia, Director of MBA Admissions.

If you have attended SLOAN ON THE ROAD or visited the campus, you probably heard from admissions that MIT does not ask for the sort of standard goals essays that almost all other schools ask for. Honestly this one of the things I love about this school. Admissions knows applicants are going to figure what they want to do when they go to an MBA program, so they think the question is absurd.

Based my experience seeing what happens to my clients once they graduate, I can say that MIT is absolutely right about this: Most never do what they write in their essays. This is in no way intended as a criticism of my past clients. I tell this to all my clients so that they can relax and just simply concentrate on making sure that their goals are solid without having to think that these must be their goals. Just as long they are comfortable with their goals as one possible future, that is enough.

Still goals questions are useful if you are trying to determine someone's vision and their ability to actually put together a plan (think business plan). Of course, goals essays are simply the standard sort of essay that all kinds of graduate programs require. Think of them as a formal requirement that simply has to be met.

While I have written elsewhere about goals essays (see here, here, here, and here) and recognize their importance for some degrees, for a couple years, I have been wondering why other business schools don't simply copy MIT. Actually this year, HBS did. While an applicant to HBS would certainly need to say something about their motivations, they need not write a goals essay. Like MIT, HBS has recognized the standard short-term/long-term goals essay is simply a formal exercise that can be dispensed with unless someone has something really important to write about that topic.

Unlike HBS, MIT specifically requires that you write a 500 essay in the form of a cover letter that will convince them why you belong at MIT Sloan. Goals in some way need to be there, but it is clearly not the focus, instead focus on your passions, values, and interests to show why you belong at Sloan. If you can answer the following questions in a convincing manner you will be on the right track:
1. Why do you fit at Sloan?
2. What motivates you and how does this relate to what you can learn at and contribute to Sloan?
3. Can you briefly state what your values are? That is to say, what are your core beliefs that are likely to leave Rod Garcia and his colleagues with a better understanding about what kind of person you are?
4. What do you want to learn at Sloan? Why? The more specific, the better.

This is not easy to get into 500 words, so don't put too much emphasis on the professional goals aspect.

Keep in mind that great cover letters result in job interviews. Assume the same about this one. How will your cover letter standout? If you don't know how to do a US style cover letter, you need to learn. Here are two good sites for that purpose:

Keep in mind that a cover letter needs to be convincing. That does not mean making it into pure marketing copy, instead you need to come across as a highly motivated person ready to fully embrace what Sloan offers.

Use the essays to tell us more about you and how you work, think, and act. For each essay, please provide a brief overview of the situation followed by a detailed description of your response. Include what you thought, felt, said, and did.

More than that, the essays are a chance for you to discuss your passions, values, interests, and goals. Emphasize those experiences that were most important and meaningful for you — which may not necessarily be those that were most outwardly prestigious. Be sincere and be specific. There is no one “right” kind of MIT Sloan student; in fact, MIT Sloan deliberately builds each class to unite varied strengths and perspectives. Tell us what particular experiences and expertise you will bring to the mix. The essay instructions and questions are included below.

We are interested in learning more about you and how you work, think, and act. For each essay, please provide a brief overview of the situation followed by a detailed description of your response.

All applicants:
Essay 1: Please tell us about a time when you had an impact on a group or organization. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. (500 words or less.)

Essay 2: Please tell us about a challenging interaction you had with a person or group. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. (500 words or less.)

Essay 3: Please tell us about a time when you defended your idea. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. (500 words or less.)

Essay 4: Please tell us about a time when you executed a plan. Describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. (500 words or less.)

Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E&I) applicants only:
Essay 5: Tell us about a time when you shared your talents or expertise with a group or organization. (500 words or less.)

There are also essays for LFM, but I don't plan to cover them. E&I is obviously extremely popular with applicants, so I will cover it. My analysis for these behavioral questions as well as the MIT interview can be found here.
In addition to these essays and the cover letter, there are actually more essays:

Supplemental Information
You may provide additional information about any of the following topics that you consider relevant. Please tell us anything that will round out our impression of you as a unique individual.

1. List the leadership activities in which you have actively participated, including your responsibilities and positions held in the organization, and dates. Provide contact name(s) and contact information for each leadership activity.

2. List your academic and/or professional awards, including the basis for your selection and the date(s) of the honor(s).

3. List your hobbies, interests, and activities, including any significant accomplishments related to them.

4. Special circumstances related to your academic program which you would like to mention (up to 500 words).

5. Whatever else you would like the Admissions Committee to know (up to 500 words).

As far as the Supplemental Information goes, as with any application, take this part seriously because it really matters. Some applicants consider such information to be an afterthought. While questions 1-3 are certainly not essays, put some solid time into providing complete information and remember to proofread your answers!

Supplemental Essay 4 is an opportunity to explain the strengths and/or weaknesses of your academic record. You don't need a high GPA to get into MIT, but they are looking for applicants who have demonstrated intellectual curiosity, so utilize this space to help convince them of that. If you have to explain a weakness feel free to do so. It is better to provide an explanation for why you had a bad GPA in your second year of university than to make Rod Garcia and his team try to guess.

Supplemental Essay 5 is NOT AN OPTIONAL ESSAY. You should instead treat this essay as the same as I wrote for HBS 3f:
What else would you like the MBA Admissions Board to understand about you?
The mother of all choice questions! Here you can write about anything that you think the Board really needs to know. While I will discuss this one in greater detail, I would say that you should avoid using this as a typical optional question like Chicago GSB's optional question. Instead use this question as another way to help HBS understand you and to become convinced that you belong there.

This is a standard balance question. What part of you that Rod Garcia really should know about is missing from or not emphasized enough elsewhere? Use this essay to give him a more complete perspective on who you are. My suggestion is to make sure you are comfortable with the content for your other essays before deciding what should be discussed here.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

ビジネススクール カウンセリング MITスローン コンサルティング 大学院 合格対策 エッセイMBA留学

Stanford GSB MBA Essay Questions for 2007/2008 & Tokyo Event

Click here for my analysis of Stanford GSB's essay questions for 2008/2009 if you want to apply for the Class of 2011.

In this entry, I discuss how to approach the Stanford GSB essays generally, provide specific advice for Essays A and B, and discuss the 9/30/07 Tokyo Outreach Event. I discuss Essay C along with MIT Sloan's essay questions here. In an another post, I will provide some additional comments about looking a the Stanford application and essays in their entirety.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Tokyo Outreach Event. I say pleasure because in all honesty, after attending admissions presentations for years, this one was great. Eric Abrams, Director of Outreach at MBA Admissions Office gave an incredibly informative and humorous presentation using the best set of Power Point slides that I have seen at any school's session. If I were to judge business schools on the basis of their ability to put together and deliver presentations that work, Stanford would rank #1 and Chicago GSB would rank #2. Sorry, if you don't care about this stuff, but hey this a blog, I go to a number of these events, have become something of a critic about them, and you can skip ahead to my essay analysis if you want. The alum panel was particularly impressive because everyone on it was able to give specific and real ways that they had benefited from Stanford GSB. They showcased, better than many alum panels I have seen, the transformative potential of an MBA, not just in terms of impact on one's career, but in terms of impact on one's personality. They also demonstrated the very openness and freethinking that is a hallmark of Stanford GSB and California more generally. As a Californian born and raised, it made me a bit homesick.

If you are thinking about Stanford GSB and have not yet attended one of their Outreach Events, I suggest doing so. If you can't attend one of their events, you most certainly should learn more about the curriculum and admissions process by reading the about the new curriculum and listening to podcasts.

Now lets, turn to the essays. Here is the entire set of questions with the very useful advice that is included with the questions:


Essay Questions for 2007/2008

Editing Your Essays

Essay Format and Instructions

Additional Information

I know that was rather long, but it contains some really great advice both about the Stanford GSB essays and about how to handle your applications.

Based on my experience as an MBA admissions consultant who has helped clients get into Stanford GSB, I can say that from what I see, the people who get in, do write their own essays and use my advice in the manner in which Stanford intends. Actually that is the way I advise and the way other great and ethical consultants do as well. Our job is help our clients fully articulate their best possible and real selves, not tell them what to write or to write their essays.
If you want to learn more about who to get application advice from and how to use the advice you receive, see my earlier posts on mentors, admissions consultants, editors, and ghostwriters.
NOT SO LONG ANYMORE. Successful Stanford essay sets used to often be 8 to 14 pages in length, but not anymore. The page count was initially reduced last year, but now is even more constrained and specified. Clearly you should follow the above guidelines as indicated.

It was the case that I would tell applicants not to write the Stanford essays first. And even now, to be honest, I still think it is not the best one to start with. In the past, the problem was the open-ended nature of Essay A and the fact that it would be somewhere around 4 and 8 pages long and that except for Essay B, there were no other questions. Since last year, this issue has been eliminated, but still there is a major obstacle because Essay A is still a difficult question. Also if you think about it, you will realize that the first set of essays you write is likely to be the most flawed, but progressively you will get better at it. Given the difficulty of getting into Stanford, it seems like a bad idea to me to give them your rawest stuff.

Essay A: What matters most to you, and why?
From my experience, successful applicants to Stanford do at least one or two other schools first. While they are doing those other schools, they have already started THINKING about Essay A. Which raises the following question:

In my experience answers to this question that result in acceptance, come from the HEART and the HEAD. Just as Stanford admissions says there is no formula and certainly no magic one way for writing a great answer to this question.

HEART: At least the admits I worked with, found what mattered most to them by looking inside of themselves and finding something essential about who they were. No one is reducible to a core single concept, a single motivation, or any other sort of singularity, but certain things do make each of us tick. Beyond the most basic things of survival, what motivates you? What do you live for? What do you care about? How do you relate to other people? Are you driven by a particular idea or issue? Where do you find meaning?

HEAD: Once you think you have identified that essential thing that matters most to you, begin analyzing it. What is its source? Why does it remain important to you?
The heart will tell what it is, but the head must explain it. From my perspective, great answers to this question combine a very strong analytical foundation-A FULL ANSWER TO WHY IS MANDATORY- and specific examples. Eric Abrams emphasized the importance of "Why?" during his presentation.

If you are having difficulty answering this question to your own satisfaction, I have few suggestions:

1. Write some other schools essays first. In the process of doing so, you may discover the answer. This has worked for a number of my clients.

2. Stanford admissions repeatedly emphasizes that there is no one right answer. Some applicants become paralyzed because they want THE RIGHT MESSAGE. In his audio interview, Derrick Bolton, Assistant Dean & Director, MBA Admissions Office argues against the idea that the application process is a marketing exercise, but rather he thinks of it as an accounting exercise. You need to fully account for who you are and what you have done, but should not try to overly sell yourself to Stanford because that is simply at odds with the way in which the school selects candidates. Therefore don't focus on finding THE RIGHT MESSAGE, instead be honest and give an answer that is real.

3. The answer may be real, but is it a good one? If you are not sure, look critically at Stanford GSB's mission statement:
Our mission is to create ideas that deepen and advance our understanding of management and with those ideas to develop innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who change the world.
Does what matters most to you fit within this mission? Think about this statement in the widest possible way. In his presentation, Eric Abrams emphasized that fit is a very important consideration at Stanford GSB. Given the small class size and the highly collaborative nature of the program, admissions will only be doing its job right if they select students who fit into Stanford GSB's mission.

4. If you are having some more fundamental difficulties with this question, one book I suggest taking a look at is Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. This classic is worth a look for anyone who is thinking about what their life is about. Frankl makes us think about meaning from the most extreme of perspectives, inside a concentration camp, and in the process helps us to understand that meaning itself is deeply tied to our own survival. If you need to engage in some self-reflection, Frankl’s book is one place to start. I might also suggest reading Plato or doing some mediation, but in my experience those take more time and Frankl's book has the advantage of being short, very cheap, available at many libraries, and has been translated from the original German into twenty-two languages.
Essay B: What are your aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them?
As a Stanford MBA student, you will be assigned a team of advisors who will guide both your academic experience and your personal development. Your team will include a faculty advisor, a career counselor, and a leadership coach.
Use Essay B to help you prepare for your first conversations with these mentors.

Commenting on Essay B, Eric Abrams said to think beyond goals, he suggested thinking of aspirations in terms of the following question: "What do you hope to become?" Given the amount of personal attention you will receive, how will you leverage that attention and your opportunities at Stanford GSB to become as Abrams said, "your best self."

THIS IS A FUTURE DIRECTED QUESTION. Unlike some other "Why MBA" questions, Stanford is not asking about the past. You will write about that in the other essays. Instead focus not just on your goals, but on your mission. How will you make a difference on this earth and how can Stanford GSB help you do that? You need to be ambitious.

Consider using the GAP, ROI, and SWOT Goals analysis methodSWOT than on standard goals. S(trengths) and W(eaknesses) are about assessing your own strengths and weaknesses in order to identify where you need to grow. O(pportunities) and T(hreats) are about understanding your relationship to the world around you. What opportunities do you see in your future and how will Stanford help prepare you for them? Also consider, possible threats to your mission that a Stanford GSB education can help you overcome.
Click here for my analysis.
Additional Information
You should follow Stanford GSB's directions on this. This is the same as Chicago GSB's optional question.
Putting it all together.
Next week, I will provide advice on seeing the application holistically, which is the way Stanford GSB looks at all applications.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

スタンフォード ビジネススクール カウンセリング
コンサルティング 大学院 合格対策 エッセイMBA留学

日本語! First Post in Japanese!

私のブログでMBAやLLMといった海外大学院合格のための情報や意見などを公開しています。また、大学院選びから、エッセイ・レジュメ添削や推薦文、面接の準備など個人カウンセリングサービスもしています。 僕のリファレンスはwww.linkedin.com/in/adammarkusで見られます。 他に趣味で書いているポエムや、政治、法学などについての話題を主に載せているブログがありますので、そちらも見てください。

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

October 17, 2007

I Guess Columbia Business School is Not Checking Attendance

I just received the following:

Dear Adam,

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for spending a few hours with our wonderful group of Columbia Business School alumni and with me at our recent reception in Tokyo. It was such a pleasure meeting all of you.

It is very rewarding to travel and meet such bright and talented professionals from all over the globe. I enjoyed the opportunity to share with you the excitement of the Columbia Business School MBA program and experience, and our alumni were thrilled to convey their own personal experiences both on and beyond the Columbia MBA program. I am most excited and proud to be a member of the Columbia Business School community.

I would also like to share with you that we have recently updated our MBA program Class Profile and posted it online for easy download: http://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/mba/admissions.

I hope that we will be hearing from many of you in the near future. If we can be of any assistance during the application and admissions process, please don't hesitate to contact our office at (212) 854-1961 or via email: apply@gsb.columbia.edu. We look forward to receiving and reviewing your application. Have a wonderful Fall!

Best regards,
Linda B. Meehan

Linda B. Meehan
Assistant Dean for Admissions
and Financial Aid

I did not attend the event. Actually after the Georgetown episode, I decided to see what response I would get as a no-show to the Columbia presentation. The above is what I got. If you want to make an impact on Linda Meehan, I suggest talking to her. Clearly they are not monitoring the attendance too closely. I think that is fine.

Personally, I think there is something strange about the above letter, why if I am being written to personally, am I being considered as part of a group? If I was an applicant, I wouldn't be evaluated that way, would I? Makes me wonder...

Comments, Questions, Corrections: Email me at adammarkus@gmal.com

-Adam Markus
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October 12, 2007

Application Review and Feedback Service

Based on inquiries I have received from readers of this blog, I will be offering an Application Review and Feedback Service in addition to my standard comprehensive service. This more limited service is designed for those who are seeking an assessment of their completed essays, resume, and the rest of the application. It is ideal for those with a limited budget and/or those seeking a second opinion. It is also useful for anyone looking for an assessment of an application that did not result in admission.

As with all services I offer, this is NOT an editing service. It is a service focused on providing you with feedback on your content and for providing some suggestions about how to improve your essays, resume, and other parts of your application. I will provide you with a holistic analysis of your application as well as some suggestions for improving it. Compared to my comprehensive service, the amount of positive suggestions I can make is much more limited because I will know significantly less about you than I would with clients who go through the whole counseling process with me. See http://adammarkus.com for additional details regards my individual consulting services.

Both my comprehensive and review/feedback service are for those applying for an MBA, LL.M, Ph.D., or other graduate degree.

If you want to learn more about the services I offer, please feel free to email me at adammarkus@gmail.com.
-Adam Markus
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MBA留学 LLM留学 大学院留学

October 06, 2007

LL.M. Acceptance Rate Table Revised

I have now obtained complete information from UCLA and Michigan, Ann Arbor, as well as additions/corrections from New York University and Vanderbilt. While I thank all four schools for their assistance, I want to especially thank UCLA and Michigan, Ann Arbor for providing the complete data necessary for LL.M. applicants to make informed decisions based on knowing their actual chance for admission. I hope that other schools will follow.

One thing that has been very interesting for me was to see the relative value of my predictive model based on looking at J.D. yield rates. As you can see my model effectively predicted the LL.M. acceptance rate close to the actual rate at UCLA, but underestimated the actual rate at Michigan by 7%.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE. For the excel file, email me adammarkus@gmail.com)
At least for those admitted for this Fall, the yield rates at UCLA are almost the same for the J.D. and LL.M. programs with it being slightly easier to enter into the LL.M program. In the case of Michigan there is greater variation and it is significantly easier to get into LL.M program. Approximately 1 in 5 applicants are admitted to UCLA's LL.M. program and 1 in 3 to Michigan's. We can also conclude that at least for these two schools, the US News and World Report's ranking is not a very good predicator of difficulty of admission because Michigan ranks 8th and UCLA ranks 15th, but the former is significantly easier to enter.

One thing to keep in mind is that I am using data for the most recent year reported. Given the overall limited nature of the LL.M. data set, I have reported whatever numbers I could find. Ideally, I would be looking at one set of data for the same year, while I am comparing the most recent year reported even if it is different. I also made the decision to use this year's data for UCLA and Michigan because those numbers are the best guide for this year's applicants.

I will continue to try and obtain better information from other schools and report back on any progress that I make.

-Adam Markus
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コロンビア, ハーバード, シカゴ, スタンフォード, 米国ロースクール、米国大学法学院, 大学院入学, カウンセリング, コンサルティング, 合格対策, LLM留学

LL.M. Program Admissions Data Updates

Please see my earlier post before reading this one.
Updates are being made to this entry in reverse chronological order (a blog within a blog?). I have now updated my table on LL.M. admissions rates.

I will be using this post to provide additional admissions data that I receive from LL.M. programs. Once I have obtained sufficient responses, I will create a new LL.M. admissions table. I am posting this information in the order that I am receiving it from schools. Quotes are from the emails I received.

NOTE: At this time, I am only reporting on helpful responses. I have already received a few unsigned, unhelpful bureaucratic responses, but I will go through the process of finding the right person to talk to before mentioning such responses.

Update on October 6, 2007
I have now received complete data from UCLA and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. I thank both schools for providing this information.


2006-2007: Applied: 634 Admitted: 203 Enrolled:50

2007-2008: Applied: 697 Admitted: 157 Enrolled: 48

NOTE: "Last year was our first year of our newly expanded program and we had 50 students. Previous years typically had 10-12 students."

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor:

2005-2006: Applied:542 Admitted:207 Enrolled: 43

2006-2007: Applied: 585 Admitted: 191 Enrolled: 34

2007-2008: Applied: 522 Admitted: 180 Enrolled:46

Update on October 2nd: UCLA
I have received a very positive response from UCLA. UCLA has provided me with data for Fall 2007: 687 applications and 48 attending.

Update on September 29th
1. I received email today from the University of Michigan:
It will not be possible to respond to this request within the
five-day period accorded by the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. However, under Section 5 (2) (d) of the Act, the University is permitted to extend the deadline for not more than 10 business days. The University will respond to your request on or before October 12, 2007.

Therefore I expect that I will have good data for Michigan. by the 12th.

2. I contacted the media offices at UCLA and UCB, but have received nothing concrete yet. UPDATED: SEE UCLA RESPONSE ABOVE.

3. Based on my sitemeter data, I know this blog has been looked at by some of the schools I contacted that have yet to reply to me. Of course, it could have been anyone from those schools, but the timing and extent of the visit to my site is highly coincidental.

"Last year we received over 2,000 applications for approximately 425 open seats in the LL.M. program." I will eliminate the 40 from the Singapore campus in my next table.

"Vanderbilt has 26 LLM students this year (one was missing from the photo)."

Provided an immediately helpful response. They have a formal FOIA process. I anticipate receiving data from them soon.

-Adam Markus
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コロンビア, ハーバード, シカゴ, スタンフォード, 米国ロースクール、米国大学法学院, 大学院入学, カウンセリング, コンサルティング, 合格対策, 合格率, LLM留学

October 05, 2007

The value of an MBA and the admissions process

As readers to my blog may have gathered, I am fairly neutral about the value of an MBA. See here for example. I think it is great and valuable to some and a waste of time and money for others. Honestly to hold any other opinion would reduce my effectiveness as a counselor because I don't assume the value of the degree until an applicant has clearly made a strong argument for it. By remaining relatively objective, I can best help my clients clarify and explain their own reasoning both in their essays and interviews.

For international applicants, when you read articles like the one mentioned below, ask yourself if what is described actually represents conditions in your country. I know of far too many successful past clients to believe that the MBA is no longer valuable, even one obtained from a school that is not top ten.

Thus when I read articles like B-school Confidential: MBAs May Be Obsolete, I can see both the strengths and weaknesses of the argument. The author states that:
[T]he competition to get into a top-tier b-school [is] fierce. So much so that you probably need a consultant to help you get in. Wondering how effective those consultants are at gaming the system? So effective that schools are publicly saying they're trying to change the application process in order to undermine the effectiveness of application coaches.

However, she does not specify what the schools are doing. As far as I can see, schools are not doing a thing differently than in the past. The funny thing about this is that there are perfectly good ways to eliminate unethical practices:

1. Eliminate essays completely and replace them with an oral and/or written examination under the auspices of GMAC. This would eliminate ghostwriting. Conduct a school specific interview for those who have passed the initial round.

2. Standardize recommendations and require two through a common GMAC controlled process. This would reduce the burden on recommenders who find themselves needing to write between 4 and 8 separate recs for an applicant, all of which ask slightly different questions using different formats.

3. Some schools are already verifying recs for accepted applicants, so why not standardize this as well?

4. Eliminate all phone interviews unless they are conducted in a testing center so as to eliminate the possibility that the interviewee is using notes.

5. Record all interviews not conducted by admissions officers. Review said interviews to guarantee that alumni interviews are being conducted in English and that the alum's or student interviewer's comments about the applicant accurately reflect the actual interview.

As to the kind of counseling I do, none of the above would have significant impact on it except that I would read less essays and do more interview practice. Coaching on how to tell effective stories, how to articulate goals, how to select programs, and how to effectively present yourself, the core things any ethical graduate admission consultant does, would not be impacted. If I do my job right, which is the way I do it, no admissions officer will detect anything wrong because there is nothing illegitimate taking place. Effective coaching is all about making someone be the best that they can, but not about making someone into something they are not.

Write Comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com
-Adam Markus
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October 04, 2007

Chicago GSB's 10 Things to Consider Before Sending Your Application

If you are planning to apply to The University of Chicago GSB'S MBA for Fall 2008, I suggest reading the GSB's "Admissions Insider: Top 10 List of Things to Consider Before You Submit Your Application." This is a very useful checklist of things to do before you apply.
--Adam Markus
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