Confronting The College Application’s Scariest Word


You’ve been invited to a Halloween party. You know there’ll be plenty of interesting people there and the food and drink will be top notch. The invitation is appropriately spooky; it’s even been sent through the mail, with a fall-themed stamp and envelope – the McPhersons really know how to do things! It’ll be from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. – a good time for a party, just after the young trick-or-treaters are finished and before the older kids really get down to TP-ing the high school principal’s house.

You’re all ready to RSVP when you see the words that send a chill through you, like a stake through a vampire’s heart: “Costumes optional.” Suddenly, you feel clammy and nervous. Maybe you have something to do that night after all. The upholstery needs shampooing. You need to have your wisdom teeth out. It’ll probably be hailing.

Your anxiety comes not so much from the idea of wearing a costume, which, truth be told, you’d rather not, but from the fact that it’s up to you whether or not to wear one. If you go all in and show up as Cap’n Jack Sparrow or Cruella DeVille, will you be laughing it up with Leatherface and the Bride of Frankenstein or will you be batting your heavily made-up eyes at Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan from down the street? If you decide adults dressing up in masks is too juvenile, will you end up being cold-shouldered by the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Wicked Witch of the West?
Imagine, then, the fear inspired in every high school senior by the word “optional” on a college application. You don’t need an interview–it’s “optional.” You may submit your Subject Test scores, but they’re “optional.” There’s one more short essay, but it’s…”optional.”

Paranoia mixes with anxiety as you try to parse the meaning of the word. What’s behind it? What does the school mean by “optional”? It’s OK not to do it, but will I somehow be punished for not doing it? If I do it, will I look foolish, even though I’m being honest and doing my best to complete the application? If I don’t do it, will that count against me, even subliminally? Will the admission people think I’m not really going to be a good student because I only did the required pieces? Will they think I’m a brown-noser because I did the optional stuff?

And what about all my competitors? If I’m the only one who doesn’t do the “optional” piece, I’ll really look terrible. But maybe a lot of them won’t do it; then I should be OK. But what if no one does the “optional” piece and it’s just me? And anyway, how much effort do I need to put into an “optional” part of the application? The “prisoner’s dilemma” at work here can drive applicants, parents and college counselors mad.

The easy answer is to assume everything that’s “optional” is really “required.” If an interview is “optional,” then practice your handshake and eye contact. If an essay is “optional,” get cracking. There’s nothing wrong with doing the extra work and you don’t have too much to lose. For example, many if not most, “optional” interviews are non-evaluative and therefore don’t really count. They’re provided as much to keep alumni connected to the institution as they are to get a look at you. Even so, why not have the conversation? You don’t really have much to lose. Same for the test scores and essay(s), although I’d say keep the bad scores to yourself and report only the good ones if you can.

But as hosts of this party, colleges should consider taking “optional” out of the equation. It just causes a lot of unnecessary panic. Are admission officers going to pay attention or not? If so, then there’s an advantage to those who do the optional work. If not, then why ask for it? Right now, applicants just worry themselves into a lather trying to decide what to do. And if you declare an essay topic to be “optional,” perhaps it should be less substantial than this example:

Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you’d like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had to help us understand you better-perhaps related to a community you belong to or your family or cultural background-we encourage you to do so. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke.

If I don’t address this topic, am I less likely to be understood and appreciated? (To add insult to possible injury, applicants are limited to describing their perspective in 250 words or less.)

To be fair, Duke also has an optional topic that can rightly be treated as such:

Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes gender identity and sexual orientation. If you would like to share with us more about either, and have not done so elsewhere in the application, we invite you to do so here. (Also 250 words.)

Admission officers say they truly don’t favor the doer over the avoider, but it’s only human nature to give an advantage to the doers, however subtle or even unconscious that may be. If my invitation says “costumes required,” at least I know I won’t be embarrassed if I show up in full gear and I can choose not to go at all if I don’t like to dress up. And the stakes aren’t that high. But for college applicants, the pressure is already high enough. Eliminating “optional” where possible from applications’ vocabulary would make them at least slightly less gloomy.

Don’t Overlook These Three Important Sections of Your Common Application


Will it require more effort from students to enhance these sections of their applications?

When students sit down to begin working on their college applications, most are intensely focused on just a single aspect of the process: the college essay. After all, top grades and test scores alone are never enough to gain admission into the nation’s more selective colleges and universities. It’s the essay that helps students distinguish themselves, right? While it’s true that stellar essays are critically important to colleges that evaluate their applicants holistically, there are three additional components of the Common Application that provide exceptional opportunities for students to stand out. Will it require more effort from students to enhance these sections of their applications? You betcha. But when thousands upon thousands of students are vying for a limited number of seats, it’s worth it.

1. Activities Page: Club Descriptions

For every club listed on the Activities page of the Common App, students are required to write an overall description of their involvement. This commonly includes leadership positions/titles, one’s role within the organization, and/or a brief overview of the club’s purpose. But here’s the catch. You only have 150 characters (approximately 20 words) to accomplish this task. Given these constraints, most students end up providing middling, nonspecific descriptions of their clubs—perhaps believing that (a) activity descriptions are an unimportant piece of the Common App, and/or (b) 150 characters isn’t enough room to creatively capture one’s commitment to a club. Think again! When reading applications for Bennington, Barnard, and Connecticut College, I always appreciated the student who took the time to write pithy, detailed, or entertaining descriptions. Tell me—which summary for “Hospital Volunteer” below impresses you more?

  • I perform community service at Mass General, including paper deliveries and children’s crafts.
  • It’s never a dull moment at Mass General. From delivering morning papers to creating crafts with the children, I love serving as a teen volunteer.

2. College Supplements: Optional Essays

Let me be direct about this: “optional essays” should not be considered optional. Do students technically have the ability to leave these essays blank and still submit their applications? Sure they do! Is this a wise decision? Absolutely not. Curious to see some examples of optional essays? Take a look at the questions below.

  • Why do YOU want to go to college? We know it is an excellent path to a career, but we want to hear more specifically about what you are hoping to gain from your time in college. Tell us about yourself and your experiences that have led to this decision. (George Mason University)
  • What do you do? Why do you do it? (Lafayette College)
  • In 300 words or less, help us understand what aspects of Northwestern appeal most to you, and how you’ll make use of specific resources and opportunities here. (Northwestern University)

Students who elect not to complete these optional questions are essentially telling colleges: I’m really not that into you. Admissions officers often reason that students with a genuine desire to attend their college will want show their sincerity and excitement for that school by taking the time to draft a thoughtful essay. While this rationale seems logical, I admit it’s a tad unfair that some colleges call these essays “optional” if they actually place a significant amount of weight on those responses. But from the college perspective, it would be unfortunate if a terrific student chose not to apply simply because they didn’t have the desire/time/energy to complete the optional essay. Colleges don’t want to discourage students from applying, but they can (and do) value those who take the extra step to answer those additional prompts.

3. College Supplements: Required Essays

As an admissions officer who has evaluated thousands of applications, I can’t tell you the number of times I felt wildly impressed after reading a main Common Application essay, only to be let down after reviewing a bland and generic supplemental response. Students often place so much emphasis on the main personal statement, they can lose steam when it’s time to tackle supplemental essay questions.

When Georgia Tech asks “beyond rankings, location, and athletics, why are you interested in attending Georgia Tech,” how will you respond if you are primarily attracted to their strong reputation, vibrant urban setting, and infectious school spirit? The single most important step students can take to prepare for school-specific questions is to research!

Go online; read up on the school’s philosophy and mission; check out details pertaining to your prospective major; find specific class titles that interest you; locate a study abroad program that excites you; identify academic opportunities that are unique to that school; determine which clubs on campus you’d most like to join; take a virtual tour (if one’s available); scan the student newspaper online for hot issues on campus; and talk to current students (or alumni) if possible. Then, after you’ve conducted your research, take the next step and show an authentic connection between the school and you. How do those facts fit with the sort of person you are and the type of college experience you desire?

Much of the Common Application is common. Every student who applies must submit biographical information, a family background, and an educational history. It’s the personal aspects of the application—including the Activities page and the supplemental essays — that will allow you to shine. Best of luck!

Show Emotional IQ, Leadership in MBA Applications


Show emotional intelligence by describing emotionally charged professional situations you successfully navigated, experts say

Stories of overcoming adversity and achieving success in difficult circumstances are excellent fodder for an MBA application.

MBA admissions experts and students say the reason these stories of challenge and resilience are so important is because they provide proof that a b-school applicant possesses two traits vital for business success: emotional intelligence and leadership potential.

Why MBA Programs Value Emotional IQ

Emotional intelligence is how you pick up on, evaluate and regulate emotions, which includes empathy and self-awareness. And experts say this is crucial for future executives, since it allows them to motivate and mobilize a team to work toward a common purpose.

While the majority of MBA admissions committees look for emotional intelligence and leadership traits in prospective students, a few schools – such as the Yale School of Management – have previously experimented with adding an emotional intelligence assessment as part of the admissions process.

[Highlight the qualities that MBA admissions officers look for during interviews.]

New York University’s Stern School of Business also recently added a required emotional intelligence recommendation to its application. Applicants must now submit an EQ endorsement from someone who knows them well and can describe a moment where they displayed emotional intelligence.

Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA admissions and program innovation at Stern, says the school added this admissions requirement because it believes emotional intelligence is what separates mediocre business executives from exceptional ones. Gallogly says a business venture cannot thrive unless the individual in charge not only has a good idea but also knows how to execute that idea.

“If that person does not have the emotional intelligence to sell that idea, to drive that idea, to move it through organizations to effect change, ultimately they’re not going to be successful in business,” he says.

Stern hopes to identify and recruit the aspiring executives with the most emotional intelligence. “So for us,” says Gallogly, “we look at IQ plus EQ as the equation of what we’re looking for in students, and this is something we’ve been looking for since time began at Stern.”

[Learn about MBA recommendations that made a positive impression.]

How to Show Emotional Intelligence

To highlight emotional intelligence, Sean Killeen, an MBA student at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, says he pulled from his experience assisting the New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery with rebuilding New York homes destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Throughout the MBA admissions process, Killeen emphasized the challenge of reassuring and supporting homeowners who were skeptical that the government would answer their requests for help.

Erin Skelly, a graduate admissions counselor at IvyWise, says applicants can show their emotional intelligence by giving “personal anecdotes or examples in an interview, demonstrating self-awareness via the personal statement or essay or indirectly by asking a reference to specifically discuss these skills in the letter of recommendation.”

She says they can’t just say they have these skills – “an applicant should always have specific examples showing these skills in action.”

[Learn why college majors rarely tip the scales in MBA admissions.]

How MBA Admissions Officers Define Leadership

Beyond emotional intelligence, leadership is another key trait prospective b-school applicants need to demonstrate. MBA admissions officers say the best measure of candidates’ leadership potential is whether they have consistently made a significant, positive impact on organizations where they worked.

Whitney Kestner, director of admissions at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, says one way she assesses applicants’ leadership potential is by looking at their resumes. She likes to see evidence that they have progressively increased their level of responsibility at work.

But Lara Lemley, a student at Pepperdine University’s George L. Graziadio School of Business and Management, notes that leadership examples can come from other life experiences. An active community service volunteer, Lemley highlighted service leadership in her MBA application.

“I think community service is definitely a critical component to the application process because it shows you believe in something, like you don’t only believe in yourself but you believe in something outside of yourself and you want to work towards making that better,” she says.

Many experts say they also see leadership potential in applicants who set ambitious goals, demonstrate follow-through on their promises and take responsibility for their mistakes. For the latter quality, experts advise applicants to describe the lessons they’ve learned from their failures rather than make excuses or cast blame on others for failures in their careers.

“We care a lot about your approach to commitments, your follow-through on commitments,” says Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean of admissions at the Yale School of Management.

“Actually, our essay is about your biggest commitment,” he says, “and we definitely want to get a sense of not just what you’re committed to but how you demonstrate that commitment and how you follow-through on those things you claim to be committed to.”

DelMonico notes that it’s also vital for MBA applicants to demonstrate that they have an “appetite for leadership,” meaning that they are willing to volunteer for challenging leadership positions. Ideally, he says, applicants not only raise their hands for leadership positions but are also repeatedly chosen for these positions, which indicates that they command respect.


MBA Application Deadlines – 2017/2018



The 2017-18 application season is around the corner. So if you are planning to apply to business school this Fall, you must start the engines now. Some schools have already released their essay questions and deadlines, while some have only released application deadlines and will soon will rolling out their essay questions deadlines .

The following schools have released their application deadlines for the 2017-18 admissions cycle:

  1. Harvard 

Round 1
Application Deadline: September 6, 2017

Decision Release: December 12, 2017

 Round 2
Application Deadline: January 3, 2018

Decision Release: March 21, 2018

 Round 3

Application Deadline: April 2, 2018

Decision Release: May 9, 2018

  1. Wharton 

Round 1
Application Deadline: September 19, 2017
Interview Invitation: October 31, 2017
Decision Release: December 14, 2017

Round 2
Application Deadline: January 3, 2018
Interview Invitation: February 8, 2018
Decision Release: March 30, 2018

Round 3
Application Deadline: March 27, 2018
Interview Invitation: April 12, 2018
Decision Release: May 10, 2018

To be considered for a round, applicants must submit their application by 5:00PM Eastern Time on the day of the deadline.

3.       Stanford

Round 1
Application Deadline: September 19, 2017
Notification Date: December 14, 2017

Round 2
Application Deadline: January 10, 2018
Notification Date: March 29, 2018

Round 3
Application Deadline: April 4, 2018
Notification Date: Mid May 2018

For more information on applying, visit the Stanford GSB MBA Admissions website.

  1. Columbia 

August Entry
Early Decision Deadline: October 4, 2017
Merit Fellowship Consideration Deadline: January 5, 2018
Regular Decision Deadline: April 11, 2018

Application Deadline: October 4, 2017

Students may enroll in either August or January. The CBS admissions website notes that the paths are identical in terms of competitiveness of admissions, academic rigor, and student resources, but they differ in terms of timing and the opportunity to complete a summer internship.

The August entry has two review periods- early decision and regular decision. Because CBS uses a rolling admissions process, it is always to your advantage to apply well before the deadline.

For more information, applicants can visit the Columbia Business School MBA Admissions website.

  1. Yale 

Round 1
Application Deadline: September 13, 2017
Decision release: December 6, 2017

Round 2
Application deadline: January 4, 2018
Decision release: March 27, 2018

Round 3
Application deadline: April 18, 2018
Decision release: May 17, 2018

  1. NYU Stern 

Round 1
Application Deadline: October 15, 2017
Initial Notification: January 1, 2018

Round 2
Application Deadline: January 15, 2018
Initial Notification: April 1, 2018

Round 3
Application Deadline: March 15, 2018

Initial Notification: June 1, 2018

International applicants are encouraged to apply earlier in the application cycle to facilitate visa arrangements and to have priority consideration for off-site interviews, if desired.

  1. Emory Goizueta 

Round 1
Application Deadline: October 6, 2017
Notification Date: December 1, 2017
Deposit Due: December 22, 2017

Round 2
Application Deadline: November 17, 2017
Notification Date: January 26, 2018
Deposit Due: February 23, 2018 (International & One-Year) / April 18, 2018 (Domestic)

Round 3
Application Deadline: January 3, 2018
Notification Date: March 9, 2018 (Domestic) / March 16, 2018 (International)
Deposit Due: March 30, 2018 (One-Year) / April 18, 2018 (Two-Year)

Round 4
Application Deadline: March 9, 2018
Notification Date: Rolling (One-Year) / May 4, 2018 (Two-Year)
Deposit Due: Upon Notification (One-Year) / May 15, 2018 (Two-Year)

For more information about applying for the Emory MBA, visit the Goizueta admissions website.

  1. Dartmouth / Tuck 

Tuck conducts its admissions process in four stages: an early action round with an October deadline. The school encourages all applicants to visit the campus in Hanover, NH and schedule an in-person interview.

Early Action Round
Applications Due: October 4, 2017
Applicant-initiated Interview Complete: October 31, 2017
Admissions Decision: December 15, 2017

November Round
Applications Due: November 1, 2017
Applicant-initiated Interview Complete: November 10, 2017
Admissions Decision: February 9, 2018

January Round
Applications Due: January 3, 2018
Applicant-initiated Interview Complete: January 31, 2018
Admissions Decision: March 10, 2018

April Round
Applications Due: April 4, 2018
Applicant-initiated Interview Complete: April 4, 2018
Admissions Decision: May 11, 2018

First Round Consortium
Applications Due: October 15, 2017
Applicant-initiated Interview Complete: October 31, 2017
Admissions Decision: December 15, 2017

Second Round Consortium
Applications Due: January 5, 2018
Applicant-initiated Interview Complete: January 31 , 2018
Admissions Decision: May 9, 2018

  1. CMU Tepper 

Round 1

Application due: October 4, 2017
Application Decision released: December 13, 2017

 Round 2 

Application due: January 4, 2018
Application Decision released: March 14, 2018

 Round 3 

Application due: March 9, 2018
Application Decision released: May 9, 2018


Round 4 (part-time only)

Application due: April 20, 2018
Application Decision released: May 23, 2018

International applicants are encouraged to apply no later than Round 2 (January 4, 2017) to ensure adequate time for the student visa process.

For Consortium applicants: If you apply by The Consortium Round 1 deadline of October 15, you will receive an admissions decision from the Tepper School by December 14. If you apply by The Consortium Round 2 deadline of January 5, you will receive an admissions decision from the Tepper School by March 15.

  1. UCLA Anderson 

Round 1
Application Deadline: Oct. 6, 2017
Application Decision Release Date: Dec. 15, 2017

Round 2
Application Deadline: Jan. 5, 2018
Application Decision Release Date: March 29, 2018

Round 3
Application Deadline: April 12, 2018
Application Decision Release Date: May 24, 2018

  1. Michigan / Ross 

 Round 1

Application Due: October 2, 2017

Application Decision Released: December 15, 2017

Round 2 
Application Due: January 2, 2018
Application Decision Released: March 15, 2018

Round 3 
Application Due: March 19, 2018
Application Decision Released: May 11, 2018

  1. Notre Dame / Mendoza 

Early Round
Application Deadline: September 19, 2017
Application Decision Notification: November 3, 2017
Deposit Due: December 3, 2017

Round 1
Application Deadline: October 17, 2017
Application Decision Notification: December 15, 2017
1st Deposit Due: January 15, 2018
2nd Deposit Due: February 15, 2018

Round 2
Application Deadline: January 9, 2018
Application Decision Notification: March 9, 2018
1st Deposit Due: April 9, 2018
2nd Deposit Due: May 9, 2018

Round 3
Application Deadline: February 20, 2018
Application Decision Notification: April 6, 2018
1st Deposit Due: May 6, 2018
2nd Deposit Due: May 15, 2018

Round 4 (on a space-available basis)
Application Deadline: March 17, 2018
Application Decision Notification: May 4, 2018
Deposit Due: ASAP

  1. UC Berkeley Haas 

Round 1

Application due: September 21, 2017
Application Decision released: December 14, 2017

Round 2

Application due: January 4, 2018
Application Decision released: March 22, 2018

Round 3

Application due: April 5, 2018
Application Decision released: May 10, 2018

For more information, please visit the Berkeley MBA admissions website.

  1. Chicago Booth MBA Application Deadlines

 Round 1

 Application Deadline: September 21, 2017

Decision Notification Date: December 7, 2017

Round 2

Application Deadline: January 3, 2018

Decision Notification Date:  March 15, 2018

Round 3

Application Deadline: April 3, 2018

Decision Notification Date: May 17, 2018

  1. ISB 

Cycle 1
Application Deadline: October 15, 2017
Offer Date: December 05, 2017

Cycle 2
Application Deadline: January 15, 2018
Offer Date: March 5, 2018

  1. Cambridge Judge  

The Judge website notes that the online application for those targeting a September 2018 intake will open on July 1, 2017.

Round 1
Application Deadline: September 8, 2017

Round 2
Application Deadline: October 27, 2017

Round 3
Application Deadline: January 5, 2018

Round 4
Application Deadline: March 9, 2018

Round 5
Application Deadline: May 4, 2018

The Cambridge MBA admissions team has yet to post decision dates for the upcoming application season. Please visit the Judge Business School admissions website for more details.

  1. INSEAD  for the September 2018 intake (Class of July 2019).

Round 1

Application due:  September 20, 2017
Application Decision released: November 24, 2017

Round 2

Application due: November 29, 2017
Application Decision released: February 16, 2018

Round 3

Application due: January 24, 2018
Application Decision released: April 6, 2018

Round 4

Application due: March 7, 2018
Application Decision released: May 18, 2018

Competition for each of the rounds is equal, but the earlier you gain admission, the more time you have to secure financing and arrange logistics. The online application form typically opens two months before each application deadline.

For more information, please visit the INSEAD MBA admissions website.

MBA Entrepreneurs: China’s MBAs Are Launching Disruptive Technology Startups



Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business provides a platform for MBAs looking to take the leap into entrepreneurship

China is a huge market for tech-savvy entrepreneurs. But breaking into business in China is tough. Knowing the language, the culture, and having a close network of contacts is key.

Before business school, Felicia Guo found running her own art gallery a challenge. She was on her own, managing employees and travelling frequently between China and her native Indonesia.

She decided to pursue the 14-month, full-time MBA program at Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB). There, she met her two current business partners, launched a new contemporary Chinese art gallery in Beijing, and co-founded an online platform for art collectors and investors.

“CKGSB was crucial for me in expanding to Beijing,” she says. “Running an art gallery, you need to know about more than art itself. Now, when I go to meetings with people from other industries, I know what they’re talking about—the MBA broadened my knowledge and gave me a different perspective.”

CKGSB has a history of supporting successful tech entrepreneurs—the school lists Alibaba founder Jack Ma among its elite alumni.

In August this year, CKGSB’s most successful MBA entrepreneur today, Cindy Mi, raised $200 million at a $1.5 billion valuation for her disruptive educational technology—edtech—company VIPKID, which matches Chinese students with North American tutors.

VIPKID has attracted investment from Tencent Holdings, Kobe Bryant’s Bryant & Stibel, and Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital. Cindy has signed up more than 20,000 teachers and 200,000 students to her platform to date.

After completing her MBA, she developed her startup in CKGSB’s Chuang Community, an incubator founded by CKGSB associate dean Liu Jing and a group of CKGSB alumni in 2015.

It was the power of CKGSB’s 10,000-strong alumni network—the school’s CEO and chairman-level alumni collectively lead one fifth of China’s most valuable brands—which drew UK entrepreneur Rory Bate-Williams to an MBA in China.

A serial entrepreneur, Rory’s startup exploits include e-commerce platforms, messaging apps, and mobile payment solutions. His latest London-based tech venture is a money-saving, energy-focused platform which auto-switches its users to the best fixed electricity and gas tariffs in the market.

Although Rory returned to the UK after his MBA, his close links to China remain.

“CKGSB opens doors for you,” he says. “Whenever I need help in China, I reach out to the school and I’m connected to relevant alumni almost immediately.”

Serbian entrepreneur Boris Nikolic came up with the idea for his clean technology—cleantech—startup during his MBA at CKGSB. Through an international MBA exchange at Michigan Ross in the US, he got the opportunity to develop the business out of Harvard’s Innovation Lab.

His startup—RENW—provides software connecting energy providers and consumers, to help providers stay ahead of consumer needs, and help consumers keep costs low.

“I chose China for my MBA because, 20 years from now, when I look back, I know I will be in a better position to understand world affairs,” Boris explains.

“The CKGSB MBA helped me discover the dream that I wanted to pursue,” he continues. “If it was not for the program’s entrepreneurial edge, I would not have founded my startup as it is.”

Credit: Businessbecause

Which MBA Programs Should Be On Your List?


Outside the Wharton School on the University of Pennsylvania campus

Many students who are applying to business school know they want to go to a top school, but don’t know how to come up with a target list. You might have an idea from rankings, which are a place to see the names of schools, but I’ll say it right here: It’s not useful to just go through the rankings list and pick the top 4 or 5. You can be more thoughtful than that. But how do you begin?

10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Start Your List of Schools

Here are 10 things you can do right now to figure out which school should be on your long list. Unless you absolutely hate a school because of its location, or you think everyone you’ve ever met from that school is a weenie, keep an open mind about schools you simply want to research. It doesn’t mean you have to apply, or if you get in, go. But it helps you clarify your thinking.

Ask trusted friends

Ideally, you want to ask friends who know what they are talking about, who have applied, rather than those who are just reading rumors on the internet. Work colleagues, alumni of your undergraduate school all might have some insights from their own experiences.

Think of people you know and admire who hold an MBA

Ask them why they chose that school and how it helped them become who they are.

Look up people in your target field and see where they went to business school

LinkedIn has a variety of free ways you can search to figure that out (just make sure you put in “MBA” a search parameter). Or find the profiles of executives at companies you like and deconstruct their career paths.

Pick a school, any school, and look at their employment reports

It’s worth it to wander around the career section of a school’s website See who recruits at the school, check out top employers, dig into the actual names of companies that employ students. Also, LinkedIn can help you here – especially if you know the right tricks.

Go to in-person events.

Because it is summertime when I am writing this, going to class is usually not an option. But every business school goes on international and national road trips. These incredibly worthwhile presentations include a mix of admissions officers, current students, alumni, and sometimes senior faculty. The best way to get a seat is to get on the school mailing list so they can email you details of all upcoming events. Let me say that again in italics: The best way to get a seat is to get on the school mailing list so they can email you details of all upcoming events. Note: you will not get dinged from a school if you register to a big event and cannot make it.

Read through school websites.

Not just the overall marketing material and student voices, which are helpful, but look at the academics. Look at courses, concentrations, special research centers, and initiatives. Many schools have special centers for entrepreneurship and social innovation; but what about real estate, health care, luxury goods, data analytics, or global operations?

Look at the school profiles.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a school profile gives the demographics and breakdown of an entering class. Importantly, you’ll find the average (and hopefully range of) grades, scores, years of work experience, geographic breakdown, previous industry, and more fun statistics to see if you are in the ball park for that school. Be realistic, but don’t consider these numbers gospel. In the case of GPAs, for example, schools are more interested in the quality of your transcript as well as the absolute number.

Look at all-in costs and probabilities of financial aid.

Combine this with their work on current costs of business school, and you might add or subtract some schools.

Look at a map.

Even in this global world, location does matter. But do keep an open mind. Most schools are right near major airports, so you can explore and interview without too much trouble. Still, location tends to have a visceral pull, especially if a spouse or significant other are coming along for the ride. (And yes, ask for their input.)

Look at rankings.

Of course, they matter. But be smart about them. They are imperfect, and they shouldn’t drive your entire decision. Or you will drive yourself crazy, and life is so much better than that. A

Credit: Quants

30 Tips For Your MBA Admissions Success



Fortune may favor the brave, but when applying to business school it is careful planning and meaningful self-reflection that win the day.

With round-one deadlines for the world’s top MBA programs less than six months away, this is the time to put together a plan for admissions success. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover:

• Introspection about your personal and professional goals

• Research to identify the schools that match your objectives

• Study for the GMAT or GRE, and any courses that boost your academic record

• Outstanding professional performance to strengthen letters of recommendation

• Purposeful community engagement and genuine leadership opportunities

• Outreach to b-school students and alumni combined with campus visits

That’s quite a to-do list, but MBA admissions success doesn’t just happen — you create it. And that means accepting all the challenges that are involved, and not just pursuing the ones you like.

(Photo by Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)

You don’t have to go to business to make a success of your life, but this is your chance to shape your own path, and not rely on somebody else’s. To more accurately quote business philosopher Jim Rohn, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.”

So where do you get started? Pursuing the theme of insightful quotes, I asked my colleagues at Fortuna Admissions for their advice, based on years of insider experience working in the admissions offices of the world’s top business schools.

Here are their 30 tips for MBA admissions success.

Self-Awareness And Defining Your Personal And Professional Goals

1. “Be your authentic self in your application. The most engaging candidates strip away the pretence, and don’t try to fit into a mould.” – Judith Silverman Hodara, Wharton

2. “Start with good questions — they are the best way to find great answers. Business schools want to know more about you than just your resume. They want to get a sense of what makes you tick. What do you want from your career? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What have you learned about yourself from times you have excelled and times you have failed? Don’t skimp on introspection—or waste the gift of choice.” – Caroline Diarte Edwards, INSEAD

3. “Spend time talking to many people in careers that seem interesting to you so that by the time you apply, you have a much better sense of your post-MBA plans. If you’re looking to make a career transition, consider speaking to people at your current company in positions that you’d like to go into after your MBA since they could be great resources that are highly accessible.” – Dina Glasofer, NYU Stern

4. “When talking about your long-term goals, think big. You will inspire the reader with your plans to change the world, not with your goal of retiring at 50. Find the thread that links your past decisions with your future goals. Make sure your story makes sense with a clear vision of where you want to go.” – Heidi Hillis, Stanford GSB

Selecting And Researching Your Target Schools

5. “Don’t settle for the ordinary — by definition a stretch school is within reach and by stretching yourself you will improve your reach. Believe in yourself, so that the admissions office can believe in you.” – Julie Ferguson, Chicago Booth

6. “Look beyond MBA rankings. List the factors most important to you and talk to students and alumni to help assess the fit.” – Dina Glasofer, NYU Stern

7. “Don’t settle for general statements about the school. Repeating well-known facts proves nothing. Identify and be able to explain your personal passion for the school.” – Karen Ponte, London Business School

Mastering The GMAT

8. “If you’re going through hell on data sufficiency or critical reasoning, keep going. You may have to fight the GMAT battle more than once to win it.” – Judith Silverman Hodara, Wharton

9. “Improving your GMAT score by 100 points is achieved in 10 point increments. Test success is the sum of small efforts practiced day in and day out.” – Cassandra Pittman, Columbia Business School

Personal Branding

10. “Think like a marketer — define and design your brand. What’s your unique expertise and contribution to the MBA program? Leverage that in each part of the application.” – Katherine Johnson, Harvard Business School

11. “As you look to set yourself apart, consider the lens that has influenced your worldview—and then find ways to project that understanding of yourself into your application.” – Brittany Maschal, Wharton

12. “Every school wants diversity – think how could your professional background, upbringing, nationality, age, future ambitions or interests add a unique dimension to your MBA class.” – Melissa Jones, INSEAD


13. “Be specific – demonstrate your value with objective evidence, don’t just ask the reader to take your word for it.”  – Jodi Keating, Wharton

14. “Tone back the technical language and take it back to basics, highlighting the skills relevant to the role and ones the school will be looking for.” – Nicola Sandford, INSEAD

15. “There is probably someone applying to your target school with the exact same job title as you. Your resume needs to show exactly why you are better at that job.” – Jodi Keating, Wharton

Application Essays

16. “Telling a story that illustrates the type of person you are has far more impact than telling the reader what kind of person you are.  Show, don’t tell.” – Heather Lamb Friedman, Harvard Business School

17. “In your essays, go for the why, not the what. The resume tells what you did, it is up to the essays to explain what motivated you.” – Heidi Hillis, Stanford GSB

18. “Don’t just cut and paste essays from one school to another. Each application should feel like it was written specifically for that school, including concrete examples and specific school offerings rather than generalized statements.” – Dina Glasofer, NYU Stern

19. “Focus on depth over breadth! Talk in a non-technical manner when explaining your career — your file reader may come from a different background to you.” - Nonie Mackie, INSEAD

20. “Show self awareness. When talking about your weaknesses, be honest. A strength disguised as a weakness could very well backfire. Remember that you need to show that you still have something to learn.” – Michel Belden, Wharton


21. “Go for quality not quantity. It’s better to get deeply involved in one thing you’re really passionate about, than to start four new activities simultaneously.” – Emma Bond, London Business School

22. “Devote your time and energy to something that supports your personal purpose in life. Don’t just get involved because it’s an admissions criterion. Do it because it genuinely resonates with who you are, your values, and your sense of purpose.” – Catherine Tuttle, Duke Fuqua

23. “Don’t underestimate the importance of your passions outside of work. The 10 years spent training as a ballerina shows dedication and drive, and can help you dance your way to the top of the applicant pile.” – Melissa Jones, INSEAD

Letters Of Recommendation

24. “Work on developing a relationship with your recommenders now so that when you ask them for a recommendation they are inclined to do so.” – Michel Belden, Wharton

25. “Don’t assume that your recommenders know what they are doing. Details, depth and insight add value; generalisations and do not. Help them to help you.” – Caroline Diarte Edwards, INSEAD


26. “There is a misconception that schools are looking for perfect candidates, when in fact schools are looking for candidates with the right fit.” – Malvina Miller Complainville, Harvard Business School

27. “Practice, practice, practice! Have great examples to hand and a clear story, ensuring you tell the interviewer what you did do, not what you would do.” – Nicola Sandford, INSEAD

28. “Prepare your key selling points and stories ahead of time, and go into the room feeling confident that they wanted you there, and enthusiastic about the prospect of joining the school’s community.” – Malvina Miller Complainville, Harvard Business School

Staying On track

29. “Focus on what you can do, rather than what you cannot undo. A brand-new start is not an option, so put your energy into a brand-new ending.” – Brittany Maschal, Wharton

30. “When tackling the most challenging areas of your MBA application, get up early in the morning and be sure to complete these first!” – Nonie Mackie, INSEAD

It is clear from the insider experience of my colleagues, and decisions they made to admit certain candidates and reject others, that successful and unsuccessful applicants do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to achieve their goals. So what is to stop you?


Writing tips for the new MBA admissions essays

With MBA admissions essay requirements rapidly changing as schools and universities overhaul their MBA applications, one thing has become incredibly clear: the essay just isn’t what it used to be.

With MBA admissions essay requirements rapidly changing as schools and universities overhaul their MBA applications, one thing has become incredibly clear: the essay just isn’t what it used to be.

So how are MBA applications changing?

Some schools have added new components to their MBA application – like the Kellogg School of Management’s new mandatory video essay – or removed, reduced, or made optional portions of the essay segment. Why the new formats and new lengths? Soojin Kwon, director of admissions at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, told US News & World Report: “So many people were spending a lot of time on the essays and probably not as much time thinking about the other things…the whole purpose of the essay and the interview is to just get a better understanding of where they’re coming from and where they want to go to. And I don’t need to read 1,000 words, 2,000 words, to understand that.”

So how does an applicant get these new changes to work to his or her advantage? The prospect of a shorter essay – or one in a completely different format – can be daunting. But with the right attitude and approach, these new MBA admissions essays can actually provide a significant advantage.

In her blog, Kwon wrote that “our total maximum word count has been reduced by 450 words, and hopefully you’ll be able to use that found time to craft the most compelling essays possible.”

How does the MBA applicant adapt?

Avi Gordon, is the author of MBA Admissions Strategy: from Profile Building to Essay Writing. In his opinion, the most important things for an MBA applicant to remember while writing an essay or MBA cover letter–especially in one that is short, and therefore in which every word must be made to have the maximum impact – are as follows:

The Dos

•    DO remember to check spelling and grammar
•    DO actually respond to the question
•    DO write several drafts of each essay
•    DO tell stories from actual work experience
•    DO make sure that you accurately express your motivations and overall fit for the program

The Don’ts

•    DON’T praise the school (they know they’re good)
•    DON’T repeat items on your résumé
•    DON’T denigrate anyone or any organization
•    DON’T whine about life’s obstacles or blame others
•    DON’T state the obvious — if you are talking about water you needn’t add that it is also wet

Remember: keep your MBA cover letter and admissions essays unique

Jia Ma is IMBA marketing and admissions director at Beijing’s School of Economics and Management. He reflects that, “candidates always impress me most by [delivering] quick and genuine answers with great wisdom or humor.” The essay is one of the best opportunities for an MBA applicant to truly showcase character and distinguish him or herself as a valuable candidate.

That’s why it’s important to avoid uniform MBA cover letters and MBA admissions essays, despite the temptation to re-use them – particularly when other aspects of the MBA application process, such as GMAT preparation, appear to demand more time and attention.

“Standardized letters sent out to different schools are really obvious,” says Dirk Buyens, academic dean at Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School. “They show a lack of dedication.” Essay space is not for reiterating information easily gleaned elsewhere in your MBA application; it is for highlighting the fit between the MBA applicant and the school. Be sure to craft each MBA cover letter and essay with the school and program you are applying to in mind.

Most importantly, says Lynn Thornber, marketing and development coordinator at Durham Business School, “A failure to properly address the question asked is probably one of the most common mistakes, along with too much embellishment.” Since space is at a premium, now more than ever it is necessary to practice succinct and thoughtful expression.


A dean of MBA admissions who has been reading applications for 15 years says the biggest mistake you can make is easily avoidable


A business school application has a number of components that you must nail in order to earn a school’s acceptance. But with so many different places to potentially screw up, the whole process can be nerve-racking.

Luckily, the worst thing you can do is easy to avoid.

“I think the worst thing you can do on an application is simply not have done your homework and not be prepared,” Isser Gallogly, associate dean of MBA Admissions New York University’s Stern School of Business, told Business Insider.

An important part of that homework is ensuring you’re absolutely sure you want to get an MBA.

“Business school is an endeavor not to take lightly … Some people apply when they know they don’t really enjoy what they’re doing,” Gallogly, who has 15 years of experience in MBA admissions at Stern, said.

“Generally, if you take some time for self-reflection — looking at your core characteristics, your skills, where you’d like to head professionally, doing research on future industries, research on the school, and a lot of self-reflection — it tends creates a much stronger application,” Gallogly said. “You know who you are, you know where you want to go, and you know how this fits into your plan.”

Isser Gallogly

Credit: BI

Mom helps her quadriplegic son pursue his MBA and receives a surprise at his graduation

Mom helps her quadriplegic son pursue his MBA and receives a surprise at his graduation

A California mom who helped her quadriplegic son pursue his Master of Business Administration degree received a surprise at his graduation ceremony last weekend — an honorary degree of her own. (Image source: KTLA-TV screenshot)

A California mom who helped her quadriplegic son pursue his Master of Business Administration degree received a surprise at his graduation ceremony last weekend — an honorary degree of her own.

According to ABC News, Marty O’Connor, 29, was paralyzed in 2012 after falling down a flight of stairs. After spending almost two years working on his physical recovery, he wanted to pursue a new challenge.

“After a certain point I realized that physical therapy wasn’t going to be the end all answer,” O’Connor told ABC News. “I was ready to take on another mental challenge.”

Before his accident, O’Connor worked in sales. So he decided to enroll at Chapman University, in Orange, California, for his master’s degree. But due to his injury, Marty O’Connor was unable to take notes or even raise his hand in class. So his mom, Judy O’Connor, a retired elementary school teacher, stepped in to help him.

She attended all of her son’s classes with him, took notes for him, and raised her hand when he had a question in class during his entire two-year MBA program.

“I did it willingly,” Judy O’Connor told ABC. “When a spinal cord injury happens, you want to swoop in and make everything better and you can’t.”

“This was something that I could do for my son and I was really happy that I was able to help him in that way,” she said.

Judy O’Connor said her son underwent a “total transformation” during his time at Chapman and he excelled at his studies.

Earlier this year, when Marty O’Connor was granted the university’s outstanding graduate student award, he asked Chapman University President Daniele Struppa for a favor — to surprise his hardworking mother with an honorary degree at his graduation.

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Back to school, and back to work  Marty O’Connor resets career with   after accident


 “When Marty came to me asking if Chapman could present an honorary degree to his mom – and to keep it a surprise – there was no hesitation to make this happen,” Struppa told ABC News. “The provost, the dean and the faculty Senate immediately approved my request. The dedication from both Marty and his mother in his pursuit for a Master’s in Business Administration is nothing short of admirable. We were more than happy to make this happen.”

At the graduation ceremony last weekend, Judy O’Connor received the degree — and a standing ovation.

“I was so touched that my son would do that,” she said. “It was therapeutic for me to do what I did.”

According to ABC News, Marty O’Connor will soon begin a job as the head of corporate sponsorships for DIVERTcity, a youth sports startup.