January may seem like worlds away, but if you don’t get crackin’ now, then these next 6-8 weeks will come and go before you can say “MBA 2015.”
Hopefully by this point you’ve already taken your GMAT and decided on the MBA programs you’d like to attend. Now it’s time to turn your attention to the actual applications, with a heavy emphasis on those MBA essays. Yes, now. Assuming you apply to 4-6 programs, that’ll give you about 3 weeks for the first application (which is always the hardest), and then about 1-1.5 weeks for each remaining application, and a couple of weeks for the unexpected things that you can expect will happen between now and January.
It’s you versus the buzzer. Here are four things you can do now to make sure you submit your MBA Round 2 applications on time:
1. Create a detailed schedule. Make a fairly rigid schedule that allows time for drafting, writing, and editing each essay. Each one of these steps requires time, lots of time, so the key is to start early and commit to your schedule. Let your forward momentum propel you to the finish line. (P.S. Your schedule should be rigid, but you should also accept that there are always hiccups along the way; leave room for error, and as I said above, the expected unexpected.)
2. Complete one application before moving to the next. Approaching each application separately will help ensure that each is completed as a cohesive package. Writing all your goals essays and then all your achievement essays and then all your team work essays will simply confuse things and result in you losing focus. Write HBS’ essay first, conveying your unique story as it relates to Harvard. Then do Stanford‘s essays, while focusing on how your story relates to Stanford. Then move on to Wharton, Columbia, MIT, and Kellogg respectively.
3. Determine which experiences best answers each question for each school. Your essays should complement each other and the rest of your application. You won’t want to use the same experience in two of your Haas essays, but you may be able to use an experience highlighted in a short answer from Harvard’s app in one of your Kellogg essays.
4. Do NOT submit your applications right away. This applies to all your MBA applications, but particularly to the first one you complete. Here’s why: As you proceed through subsequent applications, you may discover that certain ideas that you developed in Application #4 help sharpen a point in Application #1. A week before the deadline is a good time to review your first application and clarify any points that have been further developed in later applications. If your original points seem fuzzy, then you’ll have enough time to refine them.
When the SAT was first changed to the format it’s in now, back in 2005, many schools didn’t pay any attention to the writing section; they only looked at students’ reading and math scores. Since then, there’s been a slow change, although not a universal one. It depends on what school you’re applying to, of course, but in general, gone are the days when you can just dismiss a third of the test completely.
Nowadays, it’s wise to brush up on your grammar before taking the test, because that’s what SAT writing is largely about. That’s not going to change with the 2016 redesign, either: a large chunk of the “reading and writing” section (a hybrid of today’s critical reading and writing sections) will be made up of the same types of questions that are on the SAT now. That means grammar, grammar, grammar.
Here are a few examples of the SAT’s favorite grammar topics:
1. Misplaced modifiers
3. Subject-verb agreement
4. Pronoun agreement
5. Verb tenses
6. Passive voice
That’s not exactly an ordered top six, but it’s roughly in order of importance—the test-makers love misplaced modifiers, for example—and it’s all stuff you should be familiar with before that fateful Saturday morning. If you don’t know what any one of those means, look it up!
But I’d be lying if I said grammar was the only important part. The SAT essay counts for nearly a third of your writing score, and grammar is only a piece of that puzzle. You can write an outstanding SAT essay with a number of grammar errors; it mostly just has to be long enough, include some high-level vocabulary, and have clear examples that relate back to the topic. What you learn when studying for the multiple choice part of the test can help, of course, but that knowledge alone won’t bring you to a perfect score. You’ve also got to be able to write like a madman—to put ideas down on paper fast, and work in some good examples while you’re at it. That takes practice and preparation outside the grammar. One of the most helpful things you can do is come up with a list of sources for your examples: stories from history, literature, or even pop culture that you know particularly well. Use old essay prompts to then practice coming up with examples from that pool of resources.
If you know the grammar rules, which are relatively easy to learn, given a bit of time, and you get yourself comfortable writing a 2-page, 25-minute essay with concrete examples, then you’re on your way to nailing SAT writing (time to focus on one of the other sections!).
These essays give the adcom a well-rounded view of you – not just what you’ve done but how you think and respond. Moreover, they require you to communicate some complex thoughts and experiences in few words. For the four short essays especially, don’t waste words on conventional introductory and concluding paragraphs. Jump right into your point or story, and use straightforward sentences that avoid wordy constructions (“had the opportunity to,” “was able to”); don’t feel shy using straightforward declarative sentences. Added benefit: you come across as more confident. Once you’ve sketched your ideas for all the essays, step back and look at how all these facets add up as a whole, to see if you should adjust any content to avoid redundancy.
1. Why are you applying to the HEC MBA Program now? What is the professional objective that will guide your career choice after your MBA, and how will the HEC MBA contribute to the achievement of this objective? (500 Words Maximum)
This is a traditional goals question with a couple of twists. First, the “why now” part should be explicitly addressed, even if it seems obvious. Second, the “professional objective” is essentially your long-term career vision, and the question assumes that this vision or goal will drive your preceding steps, so present your short-term goal in that context, i.e., how it will be a prelude to your ultimate professional objective. Otherwise, as always with this type of goals question, connect the dots. Let the reader see that your goals grow organically from your experience and are achievable given your past experience and an MBA from HEC.
2. What do you consider your most significant life achievement? (250 Words Maximum)
Most significant life achievement – few work accomplishments rise to this level. Not that you can’t use a work story, but if, for example, you state that boosting your organization’s bottom-line is your greatest life achievement, the adcom might wonder about your values. If you can say that the accomplishment, while boosting the bottom line, also saved jobs or lessened negative environmental impacts, however, that’s different. For some people, this story will be personal – I think of clients who have persevered through challenging medical diagnoses for example; for others, it will involve impact at work or outside of work.
Structure: simply narrate the story, and at the end, clarify why you deem it most significant.
3. Leadership and ethics are inevitably intertwined in the business world. Describe a situation in which you have dealt with these issues and how they have influenced you (250 Words max)
Again, keep the structure simple: tell the story, and end with a brief discussion of how the experience has influenced you. It may seem like a challenge to identify an experience that encompasses both leadership and ethics. However, addressing an ethics challenge will almost inherently require leadership (often informal), whether on your part or someone else’s. When you explain how it influenced you, don’t just state generalities; give a specific example.
4. Imagine a life entirely different from the one you now lead, what would it be? (250 Words Maximum)
This essay is an opportunity to show a different side of yourself. Describe an imagined life that reflects something meaningful to you. Make it vivid, show your passion. Note that the question does NOT ask what you would do if not your current life/role; it just asks you to “imagine a life.” Use that openness to express your imagination, passion, and interest vividly. In doing so, however, do not make it abstract. Weave in and employ your knowledge and experience, e.g., if you love ballet and are an avid ballet-goer; you could build your imagined life in a way that uses your knowledge of and passion for dance. The reader would learn something interesting about you – and your prospective contribution to the social context of the program.
5. Please choose from one of the following essays: (250 Words max)
a) What monument or site would you advise a first-time visitor to your country or city to discover, and why?
b) Certain books, movies or plays have had an international success that you believe to be undeserved. Choose an example and analyse it.
c) What figure do you most admire and why? You may choose from any field (arts, literature, politics, business, etc).
All of these options are equally good – choose the one that resonates the most with you; the one that you want to answer. It’s another opportunity to showcase your interests and passions. The “why” part is key: avoid platitudes, be specific and present focused, fresh insights.
6. Is there any additional information you would like to share with us? (900 words max)
This question invites you to explain anything that needs explaining (e.g., gap in employment, choice of recommender if not direct supervisor, a bad grade, etc.) as well as to present new material that will enhance your application. If you choose to do the latter, make sure it’s a point that is essential for a clear and full picture of your candidacy. They give you a lot of words to work with; don’t think that you have to use all 900!
|Application Deadline||Decision Date|
|15th August 2014||19th September 2014|
|15th September 2014||17th October 2014|
|15th October 2014||14th November 2014|
|15th November 2014||19th December 2014|
|15th December 2014||9th January 2015|
|1st January 2015||5th February 2015|
|1st February 2015||6th March 2015|
|1st March 2015||3rd April 2015|
|1st April 2015||11th May 2015|
|1st May 2015||5th June 2015|
|1st June 2015||3rd July 2015|
|1st July 2015||24th July 2015|
By Cindy Tokumitsu, author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBA and Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.com.
CEIBS (China Europe International Business School, pronounced “Seebs”), located in Shanghai, is the longest-running MBA program in China, boasting the largest MBA alumni pool in China and over 10,000 alumni around the world. Ranked by the Financial Times 2nd in China (behind HKUST) and 17th in the world, the program focuses on endowing students with a global business perspective plus a local Chinese cultural understanding. The curriculum places a great emphasis on understanding international business and how to apply these skills in China, in particular on endowing students with soft skills like interpersonal communication, strategy development, and an integrated management perspective that allows graduates to solve challenging business problems across functional business lines. Program graduates seem to do quite well: the average salary for graduates in the past 3 years is over $127,000.
CEIBS’s essay questions can cause some anxiety because of the choices applicants have for questions 2 and 3.
My comments and advice are in blue below:
1. Discuss your post-MBA career aspirations and explain how you plan to achieve them. (300 words) *
This is a straightforward career goal question. You need to demonstrate that your goals fit the range of outcomes for the CEIBS program: if your expectations are not aligned, the admissions committee cannot accept you since you will graduate unhappy – and possibly unemployed!
The second part of the question about how you plan to achieve these goals is also critical: you must demonstrate your insight into the skills and knowledge you will gain from the CEIBS program and also your understanding of the network, pavement pounding, and ladder climbing that you will need to do to reach your goals.
2. For question 2(a) and 2(b), you only need to answer one of the two questions.
2(a). CEIBS is situated in Shanghai – a truly global city, and the economic center of the world’s fastest growing economy. Given its unique location, how do you anticipate that Shanghai will differentiate your MBA experience and contribute to your goals? (400 words) *
Applicants excited to learn in Shanghai will do well to answer this question since their passion will be reflected in their response. CEIBS’s location in Shanghai allows it to offer experiential learning programs with many companies that have corporate offices in the city. CEIBS also hosts many local companies for on-campus presentations and recruiting; professors are experts in the Chinese economy, finance, and politics; and important personages are able to speak on campus because of its location. Demonstrate not only your knowledge of these rich offerings but also how they will help you reach your learning and career goals.
2(b). Discuss a situation where you have demonstrated significant leadership ability. (400 words) *
This is a nice straightforward leadership question. Applicants who choose to answer this question should discuss a situation in which they summoned exceptional contributions from others to overcome challenging obstacles and produce extraordinary results. Given CEIBS’s focus on international business and China context, if you have a choice of a situation that took place in Asia – or required an understanding of cultural differences with team members from/in Asia, that might be the ideal anecdote to share.
3. For question 3(a) and 3(b), you only need to answer one of the two questions.
3(a). Many would argue that entrepreneurship is not necessarily a state of being, but a state of mind. Describe an entrepreneurial experience where you went against the grain or conventional way of thinking, to discover and create new value. (400 words). *
The premise of this essay is that entrepreneurship is a state of mind: it isn’t necessarily just starting a business but may also describe a situation in which you introduce something that didn’t exist before. People with entrepreneurial mindsets start new business streams in their current companies, they see opportunities and they seize them. Applicants who have an experience in which they thought outside of the box to generate value will do well to share those anecdotes here.
3(b). Identify up to 3 trends, big or small, that you see unfolding in the next decade. Discuss how the(se) trend(s) will affect you and how you plan to deal with them both on campus and in the future. (400 words) *
Look into your crystal ball – and/or read what global pundits are predicting – and choose three trends that will affect you professionally and/or personally. A strong answer to this question will not only discuss the trend but will try to determine the ways in which it will affect how consumers use products, how those products are distributed, and how the CEIBS curriculum and extracurricular programming will help prepare the applicant to thrive in these changing environments. This essay may also draw on past experiences in which you recognized and capitalized on an emerging trend.
4. (Optional) Is there any other information that you believe would be helpful to the MBA Admission Committee in evaluating your application?(200 words). Re-applicants are suggested to describe the progress you have made since your previous application.
If you feel that the above essays provide a full picture of your experiences, then there is no need to write anything here. However, I never like to leave space unfilled. Assess the answers you provide in the required essays and identify an area of your background that you weren’t able to include elsewhere: your intercultural ability, your success in an extracurricular activity – particularly since the application form only allows you to list the names of the activities you have taken part in with no description of your roles in them – or an explanation of decisions you have made in your career path are just some of the many interesting facets of your background you can share here. I encourage you to use this space fully.
Keep in mind that CEIBS does not request a copy of your current CV/resume in the application. The only area of the application where an applicant may describe his work experience is in the Work Experience section, which requests data about dates of employment and salary and allows 40 words each for 4 responsibilities to describe each position (that’s approximately 160 words to describe each role). This is actually a fine amount of space; just be sure to use it to describe your work and impact. Don’t make the mistake of simply filling in some general responsibilities and losing the opportunity to share details about your initiatives and impacts.
If you would like professional guidance with your CEIBS MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, and interview coaching for the CEIBS application.
Application for entry into the MBA2017 is round based. The MBA Admissions Office will process applications according to the below dates. The final application deadline for admission is Mar. 23, 2015.
Nov. 5, 2014
Dec. 10, 2014
Jan. 14, 2015
Mar. 11, 2015
Mar. 23, 2015
Apr. 29, 2015
By Jennifer Bloom who has been helping applicants to the top MBA programs draft their resumes, application forms, letters of recommendation, and essays for 15 years. She is happy to serve as your personal coach and hand-holder throughout the entire process. There’s no time like the present to begin!
This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Alex Dea, second-year student at UNC Kenan-Flagler.
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What was your most recent pre-MBA job?
Alex: I was born and raised in Rochester, New York, and went to Boston College in Chestnut Hill, to study business and theology. Upon graduation from BC, I joined Deloitte Consulting and spent three years in the Boston office. At Deloitte, I advised clients on how to use digital technology to transform their business strategy and operations. After three years at Deloitte, I moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in August 2013 to attend the University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler).
Accepted: Why did you choose UNC Kenan-Flagler? How would you say it was the best fit program for you? Which other schools had you considered?
Alex: First and foremost, it was the people and the culture. I visited UNC and spoke to a handful of students, faculty and administrators and walked away feeling like these were the people I would want to work with and support. Furthermore, they seemed like people who wanted and were willing to support me. People at UNC Kenan-Flagler understand that a “rising tide lifts all boats,” and when someone achieves success it can be good for everyone.
Secondly, it was the leadership opportunities. I came to business school because I wanted to accelerate my development in becoming the leader I thought I was capable of becoming and was very impressed on the leadership development opportunities at UNC Kenan-Flagler.
Lastly, it was the curriculum. UNC has a robust core curriculum that I knew would allow me to hone some development areas in my business toolkit while allowing me to get depth in some of my areas of interest, such as Entrepreneurship and Marketing.
One of the things that was most important to me was finding a school where students both own and invest in the community. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve always taken pride in the communities and organizations I’ve associated myself with and have invested time and energy into those communities and I wanted to go somewhere that empowered people to do just that.
As such, I really looked at schools that seemed to have strong student-driven and community-like feel. This attracted me to UNC Kenan-Flagler, UC Berkeley (Haas) and Duke University (Fuqua). All of the programs I applied to are top-notch programs with great people. While I’m very happy at UNC, I have nothing but respect and admiration with all of these schools to the point where I still stay in touch with many of the individuals I met at those respective schools. This has come in handy, especially for some of my recruiting efforts and business school activities and pursuits. You never know when a connection you make can come in handy!
Accepted: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Alex: I think very highly of my fellow classmates, administrators, faculty and staff at UNC Kenan-Flagler. I think we can do a better job of sharing the talents, skills and gifts that we collectively possess with the outside world.
One of the nice things about being at Kenan-Flagler is it’s a very feedback-driven environment. I’ve shared some of these insights with some administrators within the program and they’ve been very receptive to my ideas and even shared some of the things they were doing to improve upon this. Sure enough, there were initiatives underway to work on this and even found opportunities for me assist in the process.
Accepted: Can you share some advice to incoming first year students, to help make their adjustment to b-school easier? What do you wish you would’ve known early on in your first year?
Alex: I think two critical concepts to business school are developing priorities and understanding opportunity cost. Business school can feel like an endless “all you can eat buffet.” There are so many great opportunities and experiences at top MBA programs – it really is overwhelming!
Developing your priorities will help you figure out which opportunities to pursue and which to ignore. You can’t do everything, but you can do a lot. Secondly, understanding opportunity cost will help you make those tough decisions. Inevitably, you’ll be given the choice to do either X or Y, both being really great options. Understanding what you give up in return for what you get is critical to evaluating opportunities that come your way, and can help you make those tough decisions. (Note: this is an ongoing process throughout your two years!)
Accepted: Where did you intern this past summer? What role did UNC play in helping you secure that position?
Alex: This past summer I interned at Salesforce.com out in San Francisco, CA. I worked on a Product Marketing team for the Salesforce1 Platform and enjoyed learning the ins and outs of life as a Product Marketer and experiencing first-hand what it’s like to work at the world’s most innovative company (as deemed by Forbes).
While I went off-campus to recruit for this position, I got some help from a UNC Kenan-Flagler Alum who worked at Salesforce and was able to give me great insight into the people, culture and business of Salesforce. Furthermore, I relied on the Alumni network at UNC Kenan-Flagler for almost every company I applied to during the recruiting process. Whether it was getting insight into the company culture, understanding what interviewers were looking for or getting honest insights about career decisions the Kenan-Flagler Alumni network played a huge role in the process.
Furthermore, the UNC Kenan-Flagler Career Management Center (CMC) was instrumental in my recruiting process. Since I did not go through the traditional on-campus recruiting channels the CMC was very helpful in connecting me to Alums but also providing me coaching and feedback as to how to handle particular situations that occurred in the recruiting process. For instance, I had the fortunate problem of getting multiple offers with quickly expiring deadlines while I was still interviewing for a role that I wanted. The CMC staff was provided great guidance in how I needed to handle that situation while maintaining professional and positive relationships with all the companies and recruiters that were involved.
Accepted: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the MBA admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?
Alex: My biggest challenge was that I was initially waitlisted at every school that I applied to. This was a tough pill to swallow, but after recognizing that I didn’t have time to sit idle I needed to take action and I needed help doing so. I was very fortunate in that I have a great network of current and former MBA students who were very familiar with the admissions process.
I’m someone who is comfortable networking and building relationships with others so I reached out to a handful of people who I thought could provide thoughtful guidance. These people were really helpful in being supportive about my situation while providing me with actionable insight on what I could do to move from the waitlist pile to the accept pile. In certain cases, they were able to directly connect me to admissions officers who gave me honest and direct guidance on what I could do to improve my odds of admission.
In the end things ended up working out, and while it was stressful it was a reminder that it’s not always but what happens, but rather, how you respond to what happens. Despite facing an uphill and daunting battle, I managed to get off the waitlist and attend a Top MBA Program of my choice.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? What have you gained from the experience? What do you hope others will learn?
Alex: Over the years, people have given me feedback that I give great guidance and advice and communicate effectively. Additionally, I’ve always wanted to write but thought I wasn’t a real “writer” so I shied away from doing anything.
Business school is about taking risks and stretching yourself, as such, I decided to take this feedback and run with it by creating a blog to share my thoughts and experiences on my MBA experience. I’ve met some incredible people and built great relationships through this experience. These people, have not only helped me learn, but have made a difference in my career. I wanted to combine all of this and share all of the knowledge, stories, experiences and thoughts so that others could learn and benefit from what I’ve gained.
So far, it’s been a very positive experience and something that I’ve enjoyed. Not only have I met great people, but I’ve also been able to reconnect with old colleagues/friends who have seen some of my work. Overall, it’s been a great learning experience and something I’ve truly enjoyed.
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages.
You can read more about Alex’s journey by checking out his blog, A Digital Mentor. Thank you Alex for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!