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.

August 30, 2011


I wanted to provide a brief guide to my primary posts on recommendations.

For overall advice, I would suggest beginning with 10 KEY POINTS FOR WRITING AN EFFECTIVE RECOMMENDATION: WHAT EVERY RECOMMENDER SHOULD KNOW, which provides core advice for what recommenders need to know.  Applicants can use this post to help educate recommenders.  While it is primarily focused on MBA recommendations, the overall advice provided is applicable to all sorts of graduate school recommendations.

In Further Comments on Selecting the Right Recommenders, I provide applicants with some very detailed advice on how to select the right recommenders. This post addresses the most common kinds of questions that my clients and blog readers have asked me about selecting recommenders. 

In HBS MBA Program Class of 2015 MBA Essays and Recommendations, I provide my analysis of the four questions that HBS requires recommenders to answer.  I do intend, at some point, to analyze other schools' recommendation questions. 

My guest blogger, Steve Green, prepared a post specifically focused non-MBA graduate school school recommendations, Letters of Recommendation for Academic Graduate Degree Applicants.   He also did a post on recommendations letters for MPA and MPP programs, Letters of Recommendation for Public Policy Programs.

Recommendations can be a particularly difficult part of the application process for many candidates, so I hope the above posts are helpful.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
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, which is publicly available on google docs here, and then send your completed form to adammarkus@gmail.com.  You can also send me your resume if it is convenient for you.  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. See here for why. 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.

August 26, 2011

Know Your Audience: Three Things You Should Know About Admissions Committee Members

I am pleased to introduce a new guest blogger to my site, Jessica King. Jessica and I have been working together since 2002. She brings a unique perspective to her work as an admissions consultant because she holds a degree in higher education administration from Harvard, is a professional interviewer, and has previously been a professional voice actress. Over the past year, she has assisted my clients with interview practice who were admitted to HBS, Kellogg, Stanford, Tuck, and Wharton for fall 2011. Her comprehensive service clients will be attending Columbia, Kellogg and Wharton, among others. Below, she provides a great perspective on a subject that she has true expertise in. For more about Jessica’s services, please visit http://www.king-consulting.org.
-Adam Markus

Know Your Audience: Three Things You Should Know About Admissions Committee Members
by Jessica King

Over the past nine years, I’ve had the opportunity to consider the application process from a variety of perspectives through my experience as an application consultant and work as a recruiter in the higher education sector. Additionally, during my graduate work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I spent an intensive year studying the field of higher education with professionals from top institutions around the country and I was delighted that a large number of my classmates had come to the program with backgrounds in admissions. During this time, I had the opportunity to participate in a seminar class that was focused on admissions policies and principles at selective colleges and universities. The discussions and debates that were such a vital part of this seminar, as well as those in my other classes, offered me invaluable insights into the world of admissions.  

In any form of persuasive communication, the most important factor in successfully communicating your ideas and eventually winning over your audience is presenting content in a way that is both compelling and easy to understand. In order to do this, there is one piece of advice that is likely familiar to you: know your audience. In the MBA application process, your audience is, naturally, the admissions committee (adcom).

Obviously, every member of the adcom is different, but in this post I’d like to introduce three things I’ve come to learn about adcoms in general that every MBA applicant should keep in mind when preparing his or her application.

1. It is highly unlikely they are experts in your field or specialization.
While there are a number of adcom members around the world that entered the field of admissions after having spent time in business and/or receiving an MBA, the likelihood of their having the detailed knowledge that you do in finance/supply chain management/software engineering/pharmaceutical sales is slim-to-none. This is extremely important to take into consideration when writing your essays. It is your job to present your experiences and goals in a way that is detailed and compelling, yet easily understandable for someone who does not know your field well.

2. It is entirely possible they have no business experience whatsoever.
Many adcom members are career academic administrators, some of whom are so committed to the field that they have received advanced degrees in higher education administration (like many of my classmates!). I can think of a number of adcom members at top programs who have spent their entire careers in academic administration and for whom their only knowledge of business comes from personal study or auditing MBA courses at their institution. This is important to take into consideration because their perspective of business and even the function of an MBA may be markedly different from yours (more on this in a future post). You cannot assume that the adcom shares the same assumptions and attitudes about business that you do.

You not should try to second-guess them – instead, just be sure that you explain yourself as thoroughly as possible in your essays. It’s possible that the first reader of your application will be a first-year adcom member who’s never worked outside his/her institution. A great question to keep in the back of your mind when drafting your essays is, “Would someone with no business experience be able to easily understand the point I am trying to make?”  

2. They are trained to consider your application in a holistic manner.
Something that is often difficult for many applicants to understand – particularly those accustomed to a quantitative, test-based approach to admissions – is that the adcom’s most important concern is generally not your academic ability. Of course, the adcom wants to know whether or not you will be able to successfully complete the academic component of the MBA program; however, they have been trained to evaluate this aspect of your application very quickly and this becomes a kind of “gateway” criteria.

Once they are satisfied with your academic ability, they move on to other considerations and these are often evaluated in a very qualitative, often imprecise manner. They will evaluate qualities such as leadership, teamwork, motivation, tenacity, and potential for future success … all of which are impossible to quantify in any sort of accurate way. The different pieces of your application – the application form, resume, essay questions, recommendations and interview – offer them “pieces of the puzzle,” so to speak. As an applicant, you must first know what holistic image you want to convey to the admissions committee, then provide them with the pieces necessary for them to see that image.

This is why it is so incredibly important for you to take the time at the beginning of the applications process (now!) to determine exactly what kind of picture you want the adcom to form of you while reading your application. By first determining your selling points, you can then maximize your usage of the different parts of the application to present yourself to the adcom in the best possible way.

I welcome questions/comments about this post. Please feel free to email me at jessica AT king-consulting DOT org. To learn more about my application consulting services, please visit http://www.king-consulting.org.   

August 21, 2011

UCLA Anderson MBA Essays for Fall 2012

In what follows, I will analyze the UCLA Anderson School of Management's MBA Essays for Fall 2012 Admission. If you want to enter the Class of 2014, you will encounter a really easy set of essays to answer. 
THIS A VERY EASY ESSAY SET, IF YOU ARE AT ALL INTERESTED IN UCLA, APPLY! Assuming you are working on other schools, this one should not take particularly long. Especially if you are applying to Booth, CBS, or Stanford, this one should be particularly easy to do. In the previous two years, UCLA had a video/audio presentation as part of the application, but they have now dropped it. So much for innovative approaches to the MBA admissions process!

You can find testimonials from my some of clients admitted UCLA to here.  

I have taken the questions and instructions from UCLA's website:

We are interested in getting to know applicants on both a professional and personal level. We encourage you to be introspective, genuine, and succinct. Remember that we are more concerned with the content of your essays than their form or style.
All responses to essays must be on double-spaced pages that are uploaded in document form. Please note the word limits indicated in parentheses below.
Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. Content is more important than style of delivery. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.
1. What events or people have had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why?   (750 words)
2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)
The following essays are strictly optional. These essays are for individuals who would like to provide additional information. No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit optional essays.
1. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

The first thing you should notice about this set of questions is that it begins with a question that emphasizes personality.  It would indeed be possible to write UCLA's entire set of questions without including a standard "leadership" or "greatest work accomplishment" essay. It is worth considering what UCLA says about its admission criteria:The Admissions Committee evaluates applicants' prospects as leaders in management and their projected ability succeed in, benefit from and contribute to the UCLA Anderson MBA Program. Committee members carefully consider personal and academic background information, GMAT scores, TOEFL scores (for most international applicants), achievements, awards and honors, employment history, letters of recommendation, and college and community involvement, especially where candidates have served in leadership capacities. The Admissions Committee seeks to create a community of students who bring unique contributions from their diverse backgrounds and experiences and who will collectively enrich the educational experience.

UCLA is very focused on understanding your ability to make a contribution to their community. This very much at the center of the education they offer and how how they differentiate their program:
Student life at Anderson is exceptional, highlighted by:
I mention all of the above because I think it is quite helpful in understanding what UCLA is looking for: Highly collaborative, community-oriented individuals, who are great at networking.

1. What events or people have had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why?   (750 words)
This question is altered from a similar question that was asked last year, but certainly is consistent with UCLA's emphasis on personality.  I strongly recommend that you think very carefully about what you write here and don't just try to jam an existing essay you have for another school to try and answer this very special question.

The following topics will probably not work well if treated as the event or people that have had the greatest influence on shaping your character:
1. A recent accomplishment.
2. A recent leadership experience.
3. A recent world event.
4. A recent interaction with someone.
The  problem with all of the above is that they are RECENT! Unless your character has just been recently formed such answers will prove to be very unconvincing. The question would seem to require the discussion of multiple events or people. Hence this essay will likely consist of 2-4 separate stories each which establish the connection between your character and some person or event in the past.
Keep in mind that you are engaged in an after the fact rationalization of linkages between some event or people in the past and the person you are now.  Writer's block will develop if you begin worrying too much about all of the events and people that have made you who you are. If I were counseling a client on this topic,  I would start by asking, "What do you really want UCLA to know about you?"  After that has been established, the key issue is finding a way to connect that to this question.   Knowing where you end up, that is to say reverse engineering the topic, is likely to yield an effective answer in a fairly efficient manner.

The structure for each story in the essay might look as follows:
1.  Discussion of the event or person.
2.  An explanation of the event or life experience's impact on your character.
3.  Results, that is to say more recent manifestations of the impact.  It is here where you could discuss a recent accomplishment, leadership experience, or some other important tangible demonstration of the manner in which the event or life experience continues to impact you.  It is also quite possible that this event or life experience relates to your goals.
4. You should make sure that each story you tell emphasizes a particular part of your character.
It is entirely possible that if you are applying to University of Chicago, your answer to this question, will be similar to Booth Essay 2.

2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)
Rather than repeat much of what I have previously written about other versions of this question, I would suggest that you look at my analysis of Columbia 1 as it can be applied here.

A great Essay 2 will clearly answer the "Why now" aspect of the question without focusing too much on past experience. One core focus of this essay should be on how being a part of Anderson's Class of 2014, will contribute to your intended professional future. Make sure that your motivations for pursuing that future are clearly stated in this essay and perhaps explained further elsewhere in your essay set.

UCLA puts great emphasis on applicants demonstrating that they have become informed about The Anderson School, so I strongly suggest that you visit if you can, but at least attend one of their admissions events. Getting in contact with UCLA alums would also be helpful. At a minimum, learn as much as you can from their web page. You really need to convince adcom that you know what you need from UCLA for your future goals. If you have the word count do so, you may also want to address what you can contribute. The Anderson School is also very focused on entrepreneurship. If you are at all interested in entrepreneurship, pay special attention to  the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies web page.

Japanese applicants should most certainly take a look at The Japan America Business Association (JABA) page. In addition, please see LA State of Mind ~UCLA MBA留学記 2009-2011~.

1. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)
This is a nice open-ended version of the standard "anything negative" optional essay. If everything is good, you don't need to write this one. If it is not, I suggest doing so. As with other school's optional questions, do not put an obvious essay for another school here, but you can certainly write on something positive here if you think its omission will be negative for you, but before you do, ask yourself these questions:
1. If they did not ask it, do they really need to know it?
2. Will the topic I want to discuss significantly improve my overall essay set?
3. Is the topic one that would not be covered from looking at other parts of my application?
4. Is the essay likely to be read as being a specific answer for UCLA and not an obvious essay for another school?
If you can answer "Yes!" to all four questions, it might be a good topic to write about.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
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, which is publicly available on google docs here, and then send your completed form to adammarkus@gmail.com.  You can also send me your resume if it is convenient for you.  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. See here for why. 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.

カリフォルニア大学ロサンゼルス校 のビジネススクール

August 19, 2011

In Finance now? Want to be in Finance after your MBA?

I work with a very large percentage of MBA clients who are focused on having future careers in finance. In this post I briefly discuss the current financial career climate and the way admissions offices seem to be reacting to it. Then I provide some advice about what applicants can do in their MBA admissions essays to best make the case for a future career in finance.

If you have not done so, I suggest reading my previous posts on ambition and vision and employability as they relate directly to what I will be discussing below.

When Wall Street Fires, MBA Applications Go Up
I use Wall Street here symbolically to represent the entire financial industry.  Unemployed people in their twenties and thirties are more likely to pursue graduate education when the job market is bad and finance people are now seemingly in for round of badness.  With terminations coming in the summer and early fall of 2011, there should be plenty of time for people to make first and/or second round applications to US MBA programs. What this means that there is likely to an increase in applications from finance professionals at the very time when  the perceived future outlook for jobs in finance is not so great.
For the Class of 2013, HBS significantly reduced the number of those it admitted with finance backgrounds.  I assume that HBS will not be alone in wanting to not over leverage itself with people coming from a US industry that will likely need less and not people in the future.

So what is an MBA applicant to do?
Assuming you plan to stay in or want to enter the financial services industry, play close attention to defining the role that you want to play in the future. Be as specific as possible and be well informed enough to be specific. Make sure that you do the following in your essays (and perhaps during interviews as well):
1. Show your vision for future career. If you make your future career sound routine, it will be perceived as routine by admissions and you will not stand out. Assume you are playing a zero sum game and the level of competition you will be facing will be very high.
2. Show how you are ideally suited for your post-MBA career. For those without prior financial industry experience, you will need to focus on your cross-functional skills. For those with such experience, focus on those parts of your experience that best show your potential for succeeding in the future.
3. Show how the school you are applying to really will best enable that future career. Don't make tautological statements like "your finance classes will enhance my finance skills."  Instead show how you specifically expect classes and other parts of the MBA program to best enable you to reach your goals.
4. Define what you want to do specifically enough, at least in the long-term, in a way that shows your passion for your career. Why this particular career and not another? On a personal level why do you want to do this sort of work?
5.  For those with prior industry experience, consider taking the following steps to show why you would be able to make a transition to the industry: Take a finance class, conduct informational interviews with professionals in the industry, and, if feasible, start geting your CFA. Frankly, I think only those have taken some concrete steps to learn about the industry should consider writing an MBA goals essay about making a transition into it right now.  I am not commenting on this from perspective of actual post-MBA employability, but simply in terms of what kinds of goals you should be presenting in your application.  As always, I focus solely on goals for purposes of admissions and not in terms of what an applicant actually does after they graduate.
6. Come across as particularly well-informed about what you want to do in the short-term after you finish your MBA.  Having a plan will help admissions see that you are someone  who is already focused enough to succeed at what might be a difficult employment process. The point is come across as better prepared than other applicants. Trust me, many will just write some kind of vague post-MBA generalities and not really seem to have any particular plan. The point is to stand out from the pack.
7. For those with post-MBA goals not focused on US who are applying to American MBA programs, make sure you help admissions understand why your goals are viable.  As I discuss in my post on employability, you can't assume that American admissions offices understand employment conditions outside of the US.

Based on working with many clients both in the industry and those who want to be in it, I view the above as best practices regardless of whether the industry's outlook is good or ill.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
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, which is publicly available on google docs here, and then send your completed form to adammarkus@gmail.com.  You can also send me your resume if it is convenient for you.  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. See here for why. 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.

ビジネススクール, MBA留学

MIT Sloan MBA Essays for Fall 2012 Admission

In this post I will discuss the Class of 2014 MBA application admissions essays for MIT Sloan. I have taken the essay topics from the online application for 2012 admission.  My analysis of LGO specific questions can be found here.

You can read testimonials from some of my clients admitted to MIT Sloan for the Classes of 2011, 2012, 2013 here.  

Before analyzing MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Essays for Fall 2012, I think it is important to take a look at MIT Sloan's core values:

Mind and Hand

MIT is 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 http://web.mit.edu/sloanjapan/101/index.html and Kaz's MIT MBA留学日記 blog. My English language interview with Kaz is here).   I also suggest looking at an interview I conducted with a member of the Class of 2011. For those interested in the LGO Program, I suggest taking a look at this blog by a member of the Class of 2012.

If you are able to, I suggest visiting campus or attending a Sloan-on-the-Road event. Click here for the full list of admissions events.

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.
All questions are taken from the website.
Cover Letter
Prepare a cover letter (up to 500 words) seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Describe your accomplishments and include an example of how you had an impact on a group or organization. Your letter should conform to standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Director of MBA Admissions.

Keep in mind that great cover letters result in job interviews. The purpose of a cover letter is accompany a resume.  In MIT's case the cover letter does not only accompany the resume (Limited to 1 page and 50 lines), but the whole MBA application.   Still, assume the point of this cover is to get you an interview!  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:

If you have attended Sloan-on-the-Road event 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 out what they want to do after they start an MBA program, so they think the question is absurd.

Having seen what happens to my clients once they graduate, I can say that MIT is often right about this: Many 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 absolutely must be their real goals. Just as long they are comfortable with their goals as one possible future and can be convincing both on paper and in an interview, 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, a goals essay is simply the standard sort of essay that all kinds of graduate programs require. For other schools, think of them as a formal requirement that simply has to be met.

MIT specifically requires that you write a 500-word essay in the form of a cover letter that will convince them why you belong at MIT Sloan. 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 do you want to learn at Sloan? Why? The more specific, the better.
3. What motivates you and how does this relate to what you can learn at and contribute to Sloan?
4. Can you briefly state what your values are? That is to say, what are your core beliefs that are likely to provide Rod Garcia and his colleagues with a better understanding about what kind of person you are?

You will notice that I have specifically not included post-MBA career goals in the above questions.  That is because your cover letter should not focus on such goals.  It should focus on why you want to go to Sloan.  Your goals should, if stated at all, be only part of an answer for why you want to go to Sloan. They should not be the central or primary topic. As I discussed above, MIT really is not primarily interested in your goals.  They are judging you based on what you have done as indicator of what you are likely to be capable of in the future. They are also judging you on your ability to effectively explain why you you belong at MIT Sloan.

In the process of answering these questions, you need to briefly tell a story about you had impact on a group or organization. My suggestion is to use that story as way of expressing something very important about you in terms of your values and fit for MIT Sloan. I would not suggest making this example the principle topic of the cover letter, it is just one topic. The words "include an example" clearly indicate that this is just topic that you should address in your cover letter.

These topics are not easy to get into 500 words, so you really need to think very carefully about the most important things you want Rod and his colleagues to know about you.

I think it is critical that you really are well-informed about Sloan, so in addition to making full use of standard admissions information, please take a look at MIT Sloan Management Review and listen to the MIT Sloan Management School of Management Podcast (available on iTunes).

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. Please limit the experiences you discuss to those which have occurred in the past three years.
In each of the essays please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.

This distinctive style of question that MIT asks is based on an interview method that I will discuss below. 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. In addition to the MIT SLOAN Guide, I suggest also taking a look at the  guide to the Star Technique that MIT Career Services provides.

The behavioral essay questions that MIT (and now Stanford) ask have their origins in behavioral interviewing. “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 career services guide was developed by Byham as THE WAY to answer behavioral questions:

The STAR technique is really the core method you need to use for answering behavioral questions in MIT essays. It is simply this:

• 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 write what you thought as well as what you did. 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. Identify specific actions that contributed to the result so as to establish a clear link between cause and effect.

As when answering any kind of question, another important consideration is to think very critically about what your story selection, understanding of the task, actions taken, and results say about you. Keep 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.

MIT Sloan 
specifically requires that these experiences come from the last three years. This time constraint is important to remember. Also keep in mind:

1. You need to show the capacity for analyzing and acting in different ways, so, while all three essays 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 answer that clearly, 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.

Depending on your selection of topics for Essays 1-3, you will be likely writing at least one, if not more, leadership focused essays. I have developed the following grid to help you outline leadership stories. The categories this grid employs may go beyond any particular school's essay requirements. Filling it out completely will help you write about your leadership in a way that will convince admissions of your leadership potential.

How to use the grid:
1. Decide on a specific story.
2. Identify the most significant things you did in the situation- these are you action steps.
3. For each action step identify:
  • What skills or qualities you demonstrated to complete this step
  • The strengths you demonstrated to complete this step
  • The kind of leadership you demonstrated
  • What you still need to learn about leadership
4. Think about the results and identify how they relate to your action steps. So at minimum, you should be able to state the impact on others and/or yourself.

5. After completing the chart you will see that some aspects of your action steps may be repeated. If there is a total duplication and nothing new is shown, either you need to redefine the action step or you may decide not to focus on it very much.

6. Once you think you have two to four fully worked-out action steps, write your first draft.

7. Next, start re-writing. Eliminate duplicate points made between action steps. Make choices about what parts of each action to step to highlight. Given that there are usually word limits, you will have to make some decisions about what to include.

Simply providing a description of your actions, is not enough. Think about what it signifies about you. Think about what your actions reveal about your leadership potential.

Finally, thinking and writing about leadership is an important part of preparing for interviews because you can be certain that you will have to talk about leadership. So, you might find that the parts of the outline you jettison now will become valuable when you will want to have alternative stories for your MIT interview.

Essay 1: Please describe a time when you went beyond what was defined, expected, established, or popular. (500 words or less, limited to one page)

I have to say that I love this question. Going beyond something defined, expected, established, or popular may involve breaking the rules. MIT  is a place for those who are not traditional and are flexible in their thinking. If you are a maverick, a risk-taker, or simply unconventional in your approach to adding value, this essay option is for you. Show how you alter the very rules of something that you have been a part of and have a positive impact as a result. Leadership is often tested most profoundly in situations where one has to go against "common sense," organizational tradition, and/or the interests of others. In one way or another show how you possess the courage to act in the face of opposition.

Essay 2: Please describe a time when you convinced an individual or group to accept one of your ideas. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)
 I consider this question very close to the heart of MIT as the subject matter really is about a very practical aspect of ideas: Convincing others to take your ideas seriously.  The idea might be large or small, those who are convinced might be an individual or a group.  A group might be a team, it might be a client, it might be your friends, it might be senior management of your organization. What you want to do is explain what the idea was and then how you convinced the individual or group to accept it.
Provide a simple, clear, and concise explanation of the idea. Keep in mind that discussing the idea in too much detail is likely to interfere with focusing on the key point: Your ability to convince others about an idea.  Focus on the methods you use:  Did you convince others based solely on logic?  Did you appeal to them emotionally?
KEY QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF: Why was it hard to convince them?  If it was not hard to convince them, this essay will likely be very ineffective because it will be a poor test of your ability to convince other people.

Essay 3: Please describe a time when you had to make a decision without having all the information you needed. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

This question is new for this year. It is really a great question as it directly links to one of the core requirements of effective leadership: The ability to make decisions with incomplete information.  Except for a literally delusional control freak, I assume everyone has been in situations where they had to make educated guesses, intuitive leaps, bets, or even random decisions.  Most complex situations in life involve having less than perfect information, so this question is quite wide open and lends itself well to professional, academic, personal, and extracurricular topics.

Bad answers are likely to involve a failure to clearly identify what information was missing,  a failure to explain why that information was important for making a decision, a failure to explain the significance of the decision that needed to be made, or failure to explain your thought process for making the decision.

Make sure that your essay does the following:

1. Clearly identifies what critical information was missing and explain how that information would have made making a decision easier.
2. Explains the significance of the decision that needed to be made.
3. Explains what factors went into your decision.
4. Explains your thought process.
5. Explains external impacts (what other people said/did) on your decision.
6. Explains the result of your decision.

Supplemental Information
You may use this section to address whatever else you want the Admissions Committee to know. (250 words or less, limited to one page)
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. Unless absolutely necessary, you should avoid using all of this space to discuss something negative. Instead use this question as another way to help MIT understand you and to become convinced that you belong there. I suggest reviewing MIT's admission criteria to help you determine what topic you should write about here.

This essay is an opportunity to explain the strengths and/or weaknesses of your academic background. 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 why. While you can use this space to explain something negative, the wording is such that I would try and use at least part of this space to write about something positive.

Given that MIT does not require the TOEFL, it is safe to assume that receives many applications from those with limited English speaking and listening skills since many international applicants can obtain a much better GMAT than iBT TOEFL score. If you have a strong iBT TOEFL, I suggest submitting it so that Rod and his team know you have strong speaking and listening skills. Especially anyone with at least 105 and a 25 in each section should submit their TOEFL score. While such a submission is optional, I think it can only help you.

MIT accepts both tests.  The disadvantage of taking GRE is that MIT does not use ETS's official concordance table and does not seem to have an actual guide for what constitutes a good GRE score.  I asked about this subject at the Tokyo Event in August 2010 and got the impression that they fully accept and are in no way biased against those who take GRE, but was told that there is no concordance table, so it is really clear what sort of GRE score they want, aside from the obvious- a high one!

My analysis of MIT interviews can be found here.  

-Adam Markus
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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, which is publicly available on google docs here, and then send your completed form to adammarkus@gmail.com.  You can also send me your resume if it is convenient for you.  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. See here for why. 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.

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