June 14, 2013
Harvard Business School (HBS) is taking a bold new approach to its application essays this year by offering just one question—and one that is much more open to interpretation than many applicants would probably like:
You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extracurricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?
There is no word limit for this question. We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.
Few things strike more fear into an MBA candidate’s heart than vague essay directions. Because of HBS’s lack of guidance with respect to word limits and its extremely open-ended question, knowing whether you are truly responding with information that the admissions committee wants and needs will be difficult. The committee further complicates things by specifically noting the information it will already have—transcripts, extracurricular activities, awards, etc. This may make you wonder if mentioning such information is a complete no-no and would weaken your chances for admission.
First, we would like to allay your fears to some degree and help you reframe your view of this question. Think of it as an opportunity to round out your candidacy in the admissions committee’s eyes the way you want, not within the parameters of a narrowly focused topic someone else has chosen. This is your chance to tell the school what you really feel it should know about you—what you believe makes you a worthy candidate, deserving of a spot in HBS’s next incoming class.
So now let us take a step back and think about what the non-essay portions of your application—your resume, for example—actually convey, so you can start to determine which parts of your profile need presenting or could benefit from more detail. Your resume is a map of your professional, educational and extracurricular life to date, and although it may provide a narrow window into your personal life, by and large, it does not offer profound insight into your values, emotions, challenges, important relationships and other key elements of your character and journey. An appropriate analogy might be that the admissions committee will learn about you in black and white from the other parts of your application, and this essay is what will transform your story into bright colors.
Definitely heed the school’s directions—thoroughly consider what the other elements of your application provide and identify the information that is missing that you believe is key to your candidacy. Then ask yourself whether these missing elements constitute information that is simply important to you or that will effectively enhance the admissions committee’s knowledge of you—not as a professional but as a human being. If you are grouping together a few accomplishments and searching for a theme to link them, you are on the wrong track. However, if you are thinking carefully about key moments, experiences and people in your life that are central to who you are and what you offer—and that the admissions committee could not possibly surmise from your “black and white” application—then you are likely on your way to writing a compelling essay.
Will what you are planning to write tell the admissions committee about your values—about who you are, rather than what you have accomplished or tried to accomplish? Be sure to clearly convey why you have made certain choices in your life and, most importantly, how you have conducted yourself and made those choices. For example, sharing the story of how you started over as an immigrant in your essay is profoundly more compelling than merely stating your citizenship via a drop-down menu in the application’s short-answer section. Detailing how you resigned from a nonprofit board to expose rampant chicanery on that board will convey much more than including a list of extracurriculars at the end of your resume. We do not expect that you will have these stories, but be sure to pinpoint situations and characteristics that bring “color” to your file. Remember that your goal is to reveal your personality and stand out as an individual, not by claiming specific life accomplishments, but by demonstrating perspective and values and by showing you have lived an interesting life that your classmates will appreciate and that will allow you to bring depth to class discussions.
As we have noted, the school stipulates no word limit for this essay. We expect that most applicants will write between 500 and 1,000 words and that the average will be right in the middle at roughly 750. This is not to say that there is a right word count, but this is a reasonable range you can use for guidance. If you truly feel that you have more to say that is critical and that you simply cannot fit within these parameters, then you can go longer, but we think that such cases will be rare. You will need to show some restraint and recognize that you cannot share “everything.” Writing excessively—and unnecessarily—will only reveal that you lack self-awareness and the ability to censor yourself. Keep in mind that HBS operates on the case method, in which you will be expected to identify the most important facets of a situation and be able to discuss them clearly and succinctly in a class setting. This essay could be, on some level, the admissions committee’s way of evaluating your ability to do just that—only with yourself as the subject. You do not want to send the message that you are the self-important individual who will speak inordinately in class, but instead that you are the thoughtful one who understands what is important and can pinpoint and reveal truly interesting and relevant information.
Looking for one-on-one help with your Harvard Business School application? Sign up for a free 30-minute consultation with an mbaMission Senior Consultant!
Now is the time to very seriously start preparing for the business school application process. Our Road to Business School event series in August is fast approaching and every week leading up to it we are highlighting a new MBA program. This week’s school spotlight features the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. If you are interested in a high caliber dynamic MBA program, McCombs should be at the top of your list.
You’ll have the opportunity to meet with representatives from McCombs at our upcoming Road to Business School fairs. Don’t miss your chance to meet one-on-one with admissions representatives from this highly respected program. Register today!
McCombs School of Business at University of Texas at Austin
One of the largest and most distinguished business schools in the country, the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin is dedicated to educating the business leaders of tomorrow while creating knowledge for industry and society. The McCombs Texas MBA programs include easy access to industry leaders, myriad opportunities for real-world experience, and the chance to work with a world-renowned faculty known for its groundbreaking research.
McCombs is dedicated to developing influential business leaders and is committed to providing students with a well-rounded knowledge base relevant to the current business atmosphere. With a world-renowned faculty that boasts groundbreaking research, easy access to industry leaders, a myriad of opportunities for real-world experience, and the prime location of Austin, Texas, the Texas MBA creates knowledge that has critical significance for industry and society. McCombs offers an engaged and purposeful community of faculty, staff, students and alumni, where great minds come together to inspire change and make a difference in the world.
One’s level of Emotional Intelligence (EI), sometimes referred to and measured as an Emotional Quotient (EQ), not to be confused with one’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ), is gaining more and more importance in the minds of psychologists, sociologists, human resource professionals, and, now, business school admissions officers – at least at Yale anyway. The Yale School of Management will begin testing its 2013 MBA cohort on their ability to both manage and understand emotions, according to a recent article. The testing is being initiated with the expressed intention of one day including such EI evaluations in the admissions process at the school. From the article:
“It is our goal to more closely tie the Leadership Development Program and admissions process together,” writes Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean and director of admissions, in an e-mail. “We feel it would be a natural complement to the more quantitative elements of the admissions process (test scores, previous academic performance) and would help us gain a fuller sense of our students’ leadership abilities, but we are still evaluating the best way to integrate it into future admissions cycles.”
Interestingly, according to the Wall Street Journal, Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business has been using a 206-item online questionnaire for the last three years it calls the Personal Characteristics Inventory to further assess its applicants. As per the WSJ article, applicants are bifurcated into “recommended” and “not recommended” categories. Being placed in one category or the other does not ensure acceptance or declination, respectively. In fact, the senior associate director of MBA admissions at Mendoza claims the inventory is used primarily to “identify diamonds in the rough.”
Yale and Notre Dame are not alone. Dartmouth and MIT’s b-schools have and continue to incorporate some aspect of EQ testing in candidate and/or student assessment and the University of Ottowa have studied the EQ of their med school applicants. Yet, a leading theorist on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, cautions that business school may well be interpreting EI inappropriately if they are selecting for it. Since EQ can be increased over time, experience, and training, “It should be the task of the business school itself to help people develop strength in emotional intelligence,” says Goleman in the WSJ article.
Misperceived or not, EQ metrics appear to be gaining ground in the b-school admissions process. If you are interested in learning more about your emotional intelligence quotient, tests abound. And, may this be a warning: caffeine has been called the “silent killer of emotional intelligence.” So, if it’s Yale you want, perhaps consider cutting java out of your life.
Still trying to formulate your list of target b-schools? This week we are spotlighting another top-notch program located in sunny California that is bound to make its way into your top ten: UCLA Anderson School of Management. If you are searching for a historically renowned program positioned in the heart of Southern California, Anderson might just be the program for you.
You’ll have the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Anderson School of Management at our upcoming Road to Business School fairs. Don’t miss your chance to meet one-on-one with admissions representatives from this highly respected program. Register today!
UCLA Anderson School of Management
Founded in the depth of the Great Depression, UCLA Anderson School of Management now ranks among the top-tier business schools in the world. An award-winning faculty renowned for research and teaching, highly selective admissions, successful alumni and world-class facilities combine to provide an extraordinary learning environment in the heart of Southern California.
UCLA Anderson represents a select group of diverse and talented individuals from more than 50 countries around the world and a network of more than 37,000 accomplished and accessible alumni. The school is strategically located in Los Angeles, the business hub of the West Coast and the gateway to South America and the Pacific Rim. The same entrepreneurial spirit that first drew people to the promise of the “City of Angels” provides the driving force behind the most diverse city in the US in its employment base, number of citizenships represented, languages spoken and cultural opportunities. As part of the Anderson program, students will not just witness the excellence that is there now, but will have a daily stake in building on it.
Summer is fast approaching, which means that now is the time to very seriously start preparing for the business school application process. Kaplan plans to do our part to help you get a taste of what is out there leading up to our Road to Business School event series in August by highlighting a new MBA program each week. This week’s school spotlight features The Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.
You’ll have the opportunity to meet with representatives from The Fisher College of Business at our upcoming Road to Business School fairs. Don’t miss your chance to meet one-on-one with admissions representatives from this highly respected program. Register today!
Fisher College of Business - The Ohio State University
The Fisher College of Business MBA program prepares every student for an extraordinary career through an action-based, business management education, hands-on learning opportunities, and international experiences. Each student receives personal attention, and benefits from an unparalleled network of resources—including our distinguished faculty, strong business connections, proven career management office, and extensive alumni network.
April 24, 2013
Summer is fast approaching, which means that now is the time to very seriously start preparing for the business school application process. Kaplan plans to do our part to help you get a taste of what is out there leading up to our Road to Business School event series in August by highlighting a new MBA program each week. This week’s school spotlight features The Foster School of Business at the University of Washington.
You’ll have the opportunity to meet with representatives from The Foster School at our upcoming Road to Business School fairs. Don’t miss your chance to meet one-on-one with admissions representatives from this highly respected program. Register today!
The Foster School of Business at the University of Washington
The Foster School of Business at the University of Washington exists to inspire and develop the next generation of management leadership. The MBA program knows that well-run organizations have the power to change the world and that is why they offer exceptional individuals an opportunity to first create change within themselves. They value strategic thinking, intelligent risk-taking and leading by example. Students work at Foster. Students play at Foster. Students engage the world at Foster. At the Foster School of Business they think differently and make a difference. It’s the Washington Way.
April 16, 2013
To support my efforts here, I get daily alerts from Google spiders who hunt for news about, or otherwise concerning, MBAs and the GMAT. Every now and then one of these alerts will contain a snippet of information from the interwebs that subsequently does its job and inspires a post. One such link led me to this CNBC article about a new start-up called Hourly Nerd.
Hourly Nerd is a by-product of Harvard Business School’s FIELD curriculum—a fairly recent addition to HBS pedagogy and one I have written about before here and here. Soon-to-be Harvard MBAs started Hourly Nerd with the intention of matching money-starved students with time-and-money-starved businesses. The model actually reminds me of one used by crowdSPRING: a service that matches those in need of graphic design services with those who can provide them, all at a below-market price. For the record, I like the model.
When reading the aforementioned article, I could not help but be reminded of one of the most critical lessons I took away from my time in b-school. I learned this from the incredible people at The Idea Village, an entrepreneurial champion and incubator proudly based in New Orleans, Louisiana. I did a lot of work with The Idea Village; specifically, I worked as a consultant to several of their clients across a range of projects.
When smart, driven people take on short-term, limited-scope projects the expectation is that they will be able to walk in, grab all the information needed via a quick conversation, get the project done independently in only a handful of hours, and present the deliverable to an endlessly-grateful client.
Of course, this is not how things work. It always takes longer and is always more work than initially conceived by either party. Granted, this reality check is not knowledge privileged only to experts nor can it only be derived through extensive experience in the field. What often does go unnoticed or unconsidered by even the most seasoned among us, however, is the toll the outside consultant will exact on the client beyond monetary compensation.
It is easy for the consultant to feel almost as if they are doing the client a favor. What the consultant fails to realize is that every second spent by the client on this project with the consultant costs that client time and money—both resources that would have definitely been expended elsewhere and likely will be anyway.
Similarly, a paying client is often under the illusion that since someone has been hired to complete a project, the client’s major responsibilities begin and end with cutting a check. Not so. Consultants require much, much more. Not only must the scope of the project be articulated, agreed upon, and often changed throughout its course—a very demanding task, to be sure—but also the consultant must be made to understand all the soft stuff that surrounds the project. Examples of the soft include: the company culture; the history of the project to date; why the client is moving on the project now as opposed to before or after now; what can vs. what should vs. what will be done with the deliverable after the consultant finishes; overall and specific expectations of a completed project… the list goes on.
In short, the disruption caused by the consultant must be considered, respected, and taken into account. Yes, a consultant is hired to do a job and the contract is entered into voluntarily by both parties. It is unavoidable that resources must be allocated and expended—money and otherwise—to ensure the job gets done right. However, empathy for the client by the consultant can and will go a long way, both in terms of quality of process and quality of the deliverable.
Any experiences out there on this point? I’d love to hear from you.
Choosing the schools that will hit your short list of b-school targets is a tough task. Kaplan plans to do our part to help you get a taste of what is out there. Leading up to our Road to Business School event series in August, we’ll introduce you to a new program each week. This week’s school spotlight features Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, located in the heart of Baltimore, MD. By considering JHCBS, not only will you get a world class education, but you’ll be able to satisfy your craving for amazing crab cakes in one of the East Coast’s largest cities.
You’ll have the opportunity to meet with representatives from Johns Hopkins at our upcoming Road to Business School fairs. Don’t miss your chance to meet one-on-one with admissions representatives from an incredibly innovative and highly regarded program. Register today!
Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School is dedicated to producing innovative leaders with broad, interdisciplinary knowledge and continuing the Johns Hopkins tradition of bringing innovative business management programs to the ever-changing workplace. The program is committed to educating humanistic business leaders and entrepreneurs who can transform business and in the process help society thrive.
The Carey Business School’s offerings include a full-time Global MBA, Executive and Flexible MBAs and Masters Degrees in Enterprise Risk Management, Marketing, Financial Business, Real Estate and Infrastructure, and Health Care Management.