Getting Into the MBA Program: mbaMission’s University of Virginia (Darden) Essay Analysis, 2014–2015
The Darden School at the University of Virginia claims to have released its MBA program application essay question for the year, but last year, it released a single essay question on its blog and then added more when the complete application was later released. Let us hope that Darden makes things simple for applicants this year and takes a “what you see is what you get” approach—keeping the required application essays to just one. We will stay on top of this and update our essay analysis as needed, if Darden happens to be up to its old tricks again!
Describe the most courageous professional decision you have made or action you have taken. What did you learn from that experience? (500 words maximum)
Darden’s use of the word “courageous” here may fluster some applicants, leading them to wonder, “At this point in my career, can I really say … Read full post
Getting Into the MBA Program: mbaMission’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) Essay Analysis, 2014–2015
The MIT Sloan School of Management bucks conventionality this admissions season and has added to the word count for its application essays—moving from a maximum of 1,000 words to 1,250. The school’s first MBA admission essay question remains the same as last year’s, but its second essay prompt presents an interesting challenge in that the admissions committee asks you to do exactly what it does not want you to do in reality: write your own recommendation letter. At least in this case, the school is allowing you to do so in the light of day. Thankfully, perhaps, Sloan has dropped its befuddling optional essay, which had invited applicants to share any additional information in any format. Candidates will be content to see clearer directives in the program’s essay questions. As always, our analysis follows…
The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative … Read full post
Getting Into the MBA Program: mbaMission’s Duke University Fuqua School of Business Essay Analysis, 2014–2015
These days, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business is a veritable maverick in that it offers applicants vast opportunities to tell their stories. In its first three very short “essays,” applicants reveal their goals. In its second “essay,” applicants create a list of what should be far more than 25 diverse accomplishments and experiences. Then, applicants choose from two essay options in order to reveal fit with the Fuqua program. As admissions committees seemingly limit more and more applicants’ flexibility, Fuqua ensures that applicants can offer all of themselves. So, Fuqua may be a little more work for some applicants, but the payoff should be there in the form of creative control!
Required Short Answer Questions Instructions: Answer all 3 of the following questions. For each short answer question, respond in 250 characters only (the equivalent of about 50 words).
- What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
- What are your long-term
Letters of recommendation are an important part of your overall application package—they provide the only outside information the admissions committee receives about you. One of the most stressful parts of the application process can be picking your recommender. The first question you should ask is who can write a valuable letter?
Like many candidates, you may believe that your recommenders must have remarkable credentials and titles to impress the admissions committee. However, what is far more important is selecting individuals who can write a personal and knowledgeable letter that discusses your talents, accomplishments, personality and potential. If senior managers at your company can only describe your work in vague and general terms, they will not help your cause, but lower-level managers who directly supervise your work, on the other hand, can often offer powerful examples of the impact you have on your company. As a result, their letters can be … Read full post
With approximately six months to go before first-round deadlines for the 2014–2015 MBA application season, many business school aspirants are considering ways they might enhance their candidacy. While candidates can take a variety of steps to accomplish this—from boosting their community and personal profiles, to pursuing additional classes, to reinvigorating relationships with potential recommenders—some even consider seeking a new position with a different firm or industry. Is this a good idea?
If you are contemplating such a move, the first thing to consider is your tenure at your current firm. If you have been with the company for less than one year, changing positions is generally unwise. MBA admissions committees tend to appreciate consistency and frown on what they perceive as opportunism. So, if you have had several positions in the past that you have held for approximately one year or less, staying put now and proving your commitment may … Read full post
We often get questions about part-time MBA programs and their value. We thought it would be good to take a look at some of the pros and cons of this MBA option.
As for the pros, the one candidates cite most frequently is that the part-time MBA has a limited opportunity cost. Unlike the full-time MBA student, the part-time MBA student does not miss out on two years of salary and still has the opportunity to earn raises and promotions while completing his/her studies. Furthermore, firm sponsorship seems to be more prevalent for part-time MBAs, so candidates who have this option can truly come out ahead, with a free education and continued earning throughout.
Beyond the financial rationale, many part-time MBA students see an academic advantage; they can learn both in the classroom and at work and can then turn theory into practice (and vice versa) in real time, … Read full post
By asking candidates to submit three essays of 250 words each, the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin, has drastically streamlined its essay questions this year compared with last year—and in concert with what many other MBA programs are doing this season. Then, the length requirement for Essay 1 alone was 800 words, and applicants had roughly 600 words for the school’s three-part Essay 2. Overall, McCombs’s questions appear to have taken a more personal tone, asking candidates to introduce themselves to the student community, explain what they can contribute to the program other than professional qualities and describe how they expect to develop during their two years in the MBA program. Gone are any explicit references to short- or long-term goals and one’s career history, so the applicant’s more internal aspects and soft skills are highlighted instead.
1. Imagine that you are at the Texas … Read full post
When preparing MBA application personal statements that require significant information about career progress (for Chicago Booth, Kellogg or Wharton, for example), many b-school applicants choose to discuss their accomplishments in chronological order. Although the simplicity of this approach makes it attractive, we encourage you to consider an alternative—showcasing more recent and thus potentially stronger accomplishments first. By choosing this latter approach, you may capture your reader’s imagination more quickly and reduce the risk of being lost amid similar candidates.
Consider the examples of a software analyst who is now a project manager, managing a budget and leading a team of 20 programmers, and of an investment banking analyst who is now in his/her third year with a company and has been sent abroad to work directly with a CFO:
The Project Manager:
Chronological: “Joining ABC Technology as a software programmer, I…”
Reverse: “Scrutinizing my plan one last time, I waited … Read full post
We at mbaMission tend to believe that asking MBA candidates about their short- and long- term goals is plainly absurd, because so many students change their goals while they are in school. Further, an MBA supposed to be about career development and exploration, right? Regardless of how we feel on the subject, though, during a time when the economy is down and many firms are cutting back on their MBA hiring, you must ensure that (if a school asks via its essay questions or in an interview) you have a compelling story about where you believe your MBA will take you. Two years ago, getting a banking job may have sounded compelling to you. Are you really capable of making that transition today? Certainly, fewer jobs are available now in the real estate world. Is this a likely next step for you during a prolonged real estate drought? Venture capital … Read full post
Many candidates choose to take a straightforward, historical approach to their business school personal statements. This can be an easy way to organize an essay, but this approach may also lead candidates to ignore possibilities for a more focused and gripping introduction. Although nothing is fundamentally wrong with taking a historical approach, under certain circumstances, an anecdotal approach can better maintain the reader’s interest. (This all comes down to execution, of course—a strong writer could effectively execute either approach.)
Example 1: Historical
“When I graduated from NYU with a finance degree, I eschewed Wall Street and pursued my own distinct path; I opened a flower shop in midtown New York, never imagining the challenges I would face as I strived to bring in new customers and locate products around the world. With time, I learned to advertise selectively (on billboards in local office buildings) and developed relationships with suppliers, … Read full post