Be Careful Not to Start Every Sentence in Your Essay or Personal Statement with “I”

Admissions committees want to learn about you, but be careful that it does not sound like bragging. There is a fine line between confidence and overconfidence or cockiness. A narrative about some experience you have dad might make your application stand out, but be careful not to inflate the importance of what you have done. Be honest as well as modest. 

 This post is excerpted from 101 Tips on Getting Into Medical School by Jennifer C. Welch, who has served as the Director of Admissions at SUNY Upstate Medical School since 2001.


Cornell Johnson 2011 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips


This Cornell Johnson 2011 MBA Application tip post is one of a series of posts providing MBA application and essay advice for applicants to top MBA programs around the world. You can access the entire series at My tips for answering Johnson‘s essay questions are in blue below.

Cornell Johnson 2011 MBA Essay Questions

The essay portion of your application gives you the opportunity to candidly demonstrate your attributes and your compatibility with our rich and vibrant program. We require three essays and provide the option for completing an additional (fourth) essay. All re-applicants must complete an additional essay regarding improvements in their applications. Please observe the 400 word limit for each essay.

Essays Required for All Applicants:

1) Describe your greatest professional achievement and how you added value to your organization. (400 word limit) 

Your greatest achievement needs to have had impact — saving money, raising revenue, increasing prestige, adding clients/customers, or contributing to the achievement of some organizational goal.

As you answer this question, keep in mind Johnson‘s general management, team, and project orientation. I am not saying that sitting in a lab in isolation and elegantly solving a long-standing mathematical problem won’t help you at all. But I suspect that working with multiple stakeholders on a marketing plan that resulted in gang-buster sales would have more punch.

2) What career do you plan to pursue upon completion of an MBA degree and why? How will the Johnson School help you achieve this goal? (400 word limit) 

Goals question. Try to choose an achievement for #1 that can be a cornerstone of your future career, demonstrate your talent for it, or at least relate to it. Doing so will save you precious words when answering the “why” of this question. You still need to discuss your reasons for your goals, but if #1 partially answers the question or provides context, then most of #2 can focus on what you want to do and why you want to attend Cornell Johnson.

3) You are the author for the book of Your Life Story. Please write the table of contents for the book.
Note: Approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity. (400 word limit)

Have a little fun with the question. You can reveal something about your youth, influential experiences or people, challenges, hobbies, interests, passions… It’s Your Life Story. 

Essay Required for All Re-applicants: How did you strengthen your application since you last applied to the Johnson School?(400 word limit)

This is the key question for all MBA re-applicants. Why are you a better applicant now than you were when they rejected you last time?

Optional Essay: Complete this essay if you would like to add additional details regarding your candidacy. For instance, if you believe one or more aspects of your application (e.g., undergraduate record or test scores) do not accurately reflect your potential for success at the Johnson School. (400 word limit)

Given how little Johnson requests, I encourage you to write the optional essay. Just make sure you are submitting an informative optional essay that complements the required essays and adds to the reader’s knowledge of you and your qualifications.  If you do not have something to explain, this optional would be a great place to explore in depth a non-professional interest or commitment of yours.

If you would like help with your Johnson, application, please consider’s MBA admissions consulting and essay editing and specifically our Cornell Johnson School Packages.

REMINDER: Cornell Johnson’s Stacey Thomas will be Accepted’s guests at an admissions chat on October 21st at 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET/ 5:00 PM GMT.

Cornell Johnson 2011 MBA Application Deadlines

Round Application Notification
Round 1 October 5, 2010 December 21, 2010
Round 2 November 9, 2010 February 15, 2011
Round 3 January 4, 2011 March 22, 2011
Round 4 March 22, 2011 April 21, 2011


*Submission of your application must occur by midnight on the application deadline to receive consideration in a specific round.

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of

Columbia University’s Application: Tips to Compel

When I was a high school student, my parents agreed that I could apply to any colleges I wanted, with the exception of those in California and New York City.  Consequently, I didn’t set foot on Columbia’s campus until more than a decade later.  Among both fellow Ivies and its New York City brethren, Columbia stands out.

The integration of a strong campus center (the vast majority of students live on campus for four years) with the accessibility of the city as well as Columbia’s commitment to its core curriculum give this college a feeling that is unique from others.  With so many distinguishing features, you should be able to convey to the admissions committee your interest in Columbia.  For applicants to the Fu School of Engineering, there is also a question which asks about the roots of that interest.   In both cases, take a sentence or two to relate your own experience to the strengths of the college.   If you are struggling with this question, consider attending one of Columbia’s evening programs which are held throughout the country.

The questions about your interests, which ask you to list books, concerts, media that you have enjoyed over the past year are looking for fairly straightforward responses.  The commitment to the arts, which is a large component of the Columbia College Core Curriculum, is evident from the application question about concerts and art exhibits.  As an academically engaged student, there should be plenty of media and arts which have captured your attention in the past year.  Share both the mundane and the more interesting.  If you have a strong interest in a subject area, chances are your reading interests at least peripherally relate.

Columbia is a member of the Common Application, and does offer an early decision program for students who are confident that Columbia is their first choice.

Interview with QS TopMBA Connect recently interviewed Liz Fitt from QS TopMBA Connect.

QS TopMBA Connect enables individual meetings between MBA applicants and admissions directors around the world. This weekend TopMBA connect will be in New York City and Washington, D.C. followed by Europe, Asia, and the Middle East (through December). You can connect with QS TopMBA Connect online to set up your meeting. What is your role with Connect 1-2-1?

Lizz Fitt: I am the Operations and Marketing Manager for TopMBA Connect 1-2-1 What is Connect 1-2-1?

Lizz Fitt: TopMBA Connect 1-2-1 is an exclusive event providing those who would like to go to business school with a quick and easy way of gathering all the information they need to make well informed decisions on where to apply. The events consist of a personally tailored schedule of 30 minute one-to-one sessions between candidates and Admissions Directors that we put together for each attendee. What is the primary benefit to applicants of Connect 1-2-1?

Lizz Fitt: It’s a chance to find out all about what these schools can offer you, while making a good impression on the Admissions Directors and gaining inside tips on what makes a successful application. The upshot of which is, for many candidates a place on a program that is the perfect fit for them. I have many examples of happy candidates who have successfully applied to schools they met at Connect 1-2-1 events around the world. How do you recommend MBA applicants prepare for their Connect 1-2-1 meetings?

Lizz Fitt: Because we pre-match you, according to the admissions criteria of the schools and your own requirements, you know exactly who you will be meeting with before the event. So, in order to make the most of this, it is important that you’ve done at least basic research on each school you will see on the day –It would be a shame to only ask questions you can find the answers to on the web, so use your research to formulate questions that will really be of use to you in developing a shortlist of schools to which you would like to apply. Personally I feel that it is ideal to enter into Connect 1-2-1 events with a view to exploring exactly what each school has to offer you, while having a clear perspective on why you want to do an MBA – some questions to consider are: What do you intend to do with your MBA once you graduate? What do you have to offer these business schools in terms of experience, expertise, your own achievements? (Really sell yourself, they are looking for the best) And what can each school offer that makes them stand out from the rest for you?


By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of

Interview with ZoomInterviews interviewed ZoomInterviews’ founders Alon Karmiel and Misha Medvedev. ZoomInterviews provides interview preparation videos to help you prepare for your MBA interview. How did you come to start ZoomInterviews?

Alon: The inspiration for came primarily from my personal experience during the admissions process. While other parts of the application were quite clear, what to expect in the admissions interview remained a mystery.  My first interview with Wharton wasn’t very successful. So following this experience and knowing what to then expect during the interview, I invested  a significant amount of time preparing for my new upcoming interviews. All of the remaining interviews went very well and I was accepted to a number of top business schools including Chicago Booth, from which I graduated. It was during the preparation process when I realized how crucial it was for applicants to know what to expect and how to perform well during their admissions interview. What do you see as the primary benefit of watching the ZoomInterviews videos?

Alon: Delivery means a lot in the admissions process and in the business world in general. Through the interview business schools will derive conclusions about an applicant’s ability to manage business related conversations and present him/herself in a positive, structured and succinct way. It is also very important to establish a good fit with the school. ZoomInterviews provides applicants with an insider’s view to the interview room. Through watching our videos applicants will be able to see how admissions interviews are conducted and how establishing a fit with an institution is important  for making a strong positive impression. Our  mock interviews are researched in-depth and simulate what could happen in the real interview. This translates into an opportunity for applicants to learn from top MBA students and alumni with significant interviewing experience.

Misha: There are hundreds of various online resources and tools dedicated to MBA admissions interviews and interview preparation in general. After doing some research and browsing through dozens of those websites, MBA applicants might get a pretty good idea of what they have to say. But it’s only through watching other successful MBA students and alumni that applicants can actually see how they should craft their message in the most effective way. Watching videos provides applicants with an exceptional opportunity to compare different behavioral models, analyze the performance of different candidates and develop their own strategy, one that reflects their unique personality. Looking through a continuous stream of our clients’ feedback, we also realized that what applicants value the most is the ability to compare their personal interviewing skills with others. This either gives them extra confidence about their readiness for interview day or serves as a signal to polish certain areas that need to be improved. So it’s a win-win situation really and many applicants realize that. How do you recommend that applicants prepare for their MBA interviews – in addition to watching ZoomInterviews?

Alon: It is very important to be prepared for the interview and there are several key elements in the preparation process: 

– Research what the most frequently asked interview questions are for a given school. Almost all schools will ask you to talk about your background, why an MBA, why in this specific school and why now. They also will ask you to talk about your leadership and team work experience to be sure that you have leadership potential and can be a good team member during your MBA program and beyond. You must be prepared to answer these core questions. You can find a complete suite of admissions FAQs on our website

– Learn what the interviewing format of each school is and who your interviewer will be (student, admissions officer or alum). The style of the interview will vary depending on the type of interviewer you get. For instance, interviews with alumni usually will be longer and less formal. You will need to adjust to these differences in the interviewing style. 

– Prepare in advance 5-7 stories which exemplify your achievements, leadership and teamwork experiences and can be used for answering a variety of behavioral questions.  These usually start out as “Can you tell me about a time when…” or “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated…” Make sure to structure your answers to emphasize your actions and the results of those actions.  We recommend using the SOAR framework (Situation, Obstacle/Opportunity, Action and Result).

Research your target schools, their teaching methods, culture, values and what they are looking for in the applicants.  Become familiar with the characteristics schools universally look for in all candidates (e.g. high GMAT scores, solid work experience) and characteristics that are unique strengths to you. You should tailor your answers to demonstrate fit with your target schools.

 – Prepare 2-3 intelligent questions to be asked at the end in of the interview. Your questions should not be obvious, but at the same time not too complicated, so that even the interviewer will not know the answers. Your questions should show that you did your homework about the school and are genuinely interested in the program.  This is a subtle way to impress your interviewer without trying to coming across as trying too hard.

Misha: So you’ve done your research, you crafted your story, you’ve watched the interviews videos, you learned about  your schools… now, what’s next? Practice, practice, and more practice. That’s exactly what will bring you to the next level and will make you stand out during your admissions interviews. Many applicants find it useful to arrange mock practice interviews with their friends or with experienced MBA admissions consultants. It’s important not to misjudge your own performance, so anything from practicing in front of a mirror to Skype-ing with a friend or, even better, doing a mock interview with a professional admissions consultant, will benefit a lot here. What do you think is the overarching purpose of an admissions interview?

Alon: We believe that in the interviewing process business schools want to see that applicants’ paper applications are aligned with reality and that the applicant is a good fit with the school. Business schools want to be sure that they accept mature and socially adaptable individuals whose communication style and past behaviors will allow them to be successful in their studies and in the recruiting process. Interviewers also want to market their schools and have a chance to answer any questions which applicants may have.

Misha: Applicants can convey their candidacy through different aspects of their application, such as test scores, essays and their carefully chosen letters of recommendation, but it’s really in the admissions interview where schools have an opportunity to see how your personality shines through and if you will be a good fit for the school. It’s also your opportunity to show them why you’re a great fit for their program.

Accepted’s Interview Resources:

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of