Harvard Business School: Engaged Community Citizenship

Register for our upcoming webinar "Get Accepted to Harvard Business School" now!This is not about “community service” — it’s not about doing halo-worthy things in your free time. (Though neither HBS nor I will discourage that, and “engaged community citizenship” and “community service” certainly can overlap.)

Community service is an activity that you do; engaged community citizenship is a quality that you embody. Doing community service does not automatically mean you possess the quality of engaged community citizenship.

Harvard Business School explicitly seeks this quality in its applicants – announced in bold letters on its “Who are we looking for?” page.

Plaudits to HBS for the directness and clarity. Yet it’s a complex idea. Let’s see exactly what “engaged community service” means by examining each element.

Engaged: Showing up. Participating, with your heart and mind as well as your actions. When you ask questions or make a comment, it’s not just for participation brownie points; it’s thoughtful, pertinent, contributing. You share doubts and fears as well as offer solutions. You know how to listen, you do listen, and you synthesize what you hear. You check your ego at the door, knowing it’s not about you, it’s about the issue or project or process.

Community: Your organization and your team or department within it. Your social circle. Your sports team and/or religious group and/or music ensemble and/or hobby club. Your service organization. Not least, your school – including the HBS classroom. It is also your neighborhood. And your country. It’s the people around you on the subway platform. It’s every group formal or informal with which you have a connection.

Citizenship: A sense of responsibility. A sense of ownership. The values that inform and drive your engagement with your community. First and foremost, you care. About the community at large, the people within it, and, yes, yourself. You act on that caring and your actions reflect that caring. Therefore, you are ethical and honest. You are reliable and generous. In a nutshell: You can be counted on to pitch in and do the right thing for your community.

Actually, the quality of engaged community citizenship is something that any b-school adcom will value. So how do you express it effectively in your application? Use example and anecdote. For HBS, focus on it in your responses to your “Three most…” questions in the body of the app. Also, try to bring it out in your resume and your interviews. Ask your recommenders to highlight it.

If you have it – let it enhance your candidacy.

Watch the webinar of 'How to Get Accepted To Harvard Business School' today!

Cindy Tokumitsu By , author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted. She can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and develop a winning MBA admissions strategy. She is a member of the Association of International Graduate Application Consultants.

Related Resources:

• Harvard Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
• What Does Harvard Business School Want?
• Harvard Business School: The Habit of Leadership

Harvard Business School: Analytical Aptitude And Appetite

Learn How To Get Accepted to Harvard Business School!So HBS wants “analytical aptitude and appetite.” What is there to add? I mean, it’s pretty obvious. We didn’t really need HBS to say it. Yet they did say it.

Maybe it’s not as obvious as it sounds. Let’s take a look.

Analytical: This concept encompasses a range of things – quantitative methods, various tools and processes such as decision trees and FMEA, mental objectivity, an exacting attitude. Parsing the relationship between a whole and its parts. Pursuing root causes.

Aptitude: Ability, innate and/or learned.

Appetite: This is the really interesting word, because it’s open to interpretation. We can read it as meaning to enjoy, to savor, to be open to, to relish, to hunger for, to have capacity for. Here are some of its practical implications and nuances (in question form):

• Do you use objective analysis in understanding past events, planning future actions and strategies, and making decisions?
• Do you respect results and outcomes determined by analysis when they don’t jive with your preconceptions, ideologies, or preferences?
• Does your analytic mindset allow you to be comfortable with – even relish – ambiguity and uncertainty?
• Do you help your teammates understand and use analytic approaches and thinking?
• Perhaps most important, do you use language effectively as an analytic tool, e.g., when the team is facing a muddle, are you the one who can verbally separate the threads, clarify them, and guide the team to understand their relative weight and importance?

As the HBS website indicates, for HBS, analytical aptitude is not a solitary feast (regardless of how hearty the analytic appetite). You’ve got to bring your analytical chops to the table, i.e., to classroom debates and case studies, projects, etc. Therefore, you must be able not only to read and play the analytic score – but also to improvise, on the spot and with other virtuosos.

The adcom will grasp your analytic aptitude from your transcript(s), test score, and resume. But if you feel these elements don’t properly show this dimension, use other parts of the application (essay, short answers, additional info, recommendations) to amplify it.

As for showing analytical appetite:

• Your resume may reflect this quality, depending on your work.
• Invite your recommenders to discuss this quality and to provide examples.
• In your essay(s) use a story or two that demonstrates analytical appetite.

And be assured, it won’t hurt to let other programs you apply to appreciate your analytic aptitude and appetite!

Watch the webinar of 'How to Get Accepted To Harvard Business School' today!

Cindy Tokumitsu By , author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBAand Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.com, including many successful applicants to HBS.

Related Resources:

• What Does Harvard Business School Want?
Harvard Business School: The Habit of Leadership
• Harvard Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Harvard Business School: The Habit Of Leadership

Register for our upcoming live webinar on How To Get Accepted To HBS!Thank you, Harvard Business School. IMHO, that’s what applicants should think when they visit the program’s website and find “habit of leadership” on its “Who are we looking for?” admissions page.

It’s common knowledge that HBS values leadership, but with this phrase, the adcom succinctly expresses how they view leadership – dynamic, deep, intrinsic, long-term. It’s something you possess and bring to your experiences, not something that happens to describe your involvement in a few isolated incidents (i.e., the proverbial “leadership experience”). Not just HBS applicants, but all b-school applicants can benefit from reflecting on the phrase – and then determining how they embody it in their actions.

There are a gazillion excellent articles and treatises on the meaning of leadership. And most of them are valid. I’m focusing on the other word. The key to this message is habit. First, it’s active. It’s something done. It’s not something bestowed upon you (like the title Team Lead) and it’s not something ascended to (advanced to Project Manager). Whether good or bad, habits are something you do.

Second, a habit is reflexive, a part of you. You may think about it objectively in your mind, but it’s also behavior. Yet that doesn’t automatically mean it’s innate – a habit may be learned (you probably know someone who trained herself to become more patient or more decisive or less defensive). Therefore, if you aren’t a “born leader,” you can still develop the habit of leadership.

A habit knows no boundaries. You exercise the habit of leadership in school, in your family, with friends, at work, in your community. It means that when something needs doing or when you perceive an opportunity for positive impact, you shift into gear to make it happen – even if it’s hard, even if it’s not your designated role, even if you’re not sure exactly how you’ll do it. Simply, it’s what you do.

Because it’s action oriented, not title or ego oriented, the habit of leadership, ironically, may sometimes seem invisible, a hidden force. Routine and regular. Example: your friends, tired after a long day of canoeing on the Delaware River, squabble about where to go for dinner. You gently draw the group’s focus to the two most feasible options, proposed by two different members of the group; everyone starts to feel enthusiastic again. They may not consciously recognize your leadership; in fact, the person who proposed the “winning” idea might feel like the leader! (More irony: real leadership often allows others to feel like the top dog.) Of course, the opposite is also true sometimes: your leadership habit may require you to visibly assert an opposing vision or emphatically convince people to join you in taking a risk.

While this quality is something HBS explicitly seeks, any b-school adcom will value it – after all, someone with “leadership experience” isn’t necessarily a leader fundamentally, but someone with the “habit of leadership” is. All b-schools want leaders.

Having the habit of leadership is great, but it’s only helpful to the application if you express it effectively. That means – you’ve heard it from us ad infinitum – use example and anecdote. Look for opportunities to weave in the message of your habit of leadership, even in essays on other topics. Also, try to bring it out in your resume and your interviews. Ask your recommenders to highlight it. It can only enhance your application and your candidacy.

Watch the webinar of 'How to Get Accepted To Harvard Business School' today!
Cindy Tokumitsu By , 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.

Related Resources:

• Harvard Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
Life as an HBS MBA Student
• What Does Harvard Business School Want?

MBA School Visits: Start Off Right

Check out our tips for researching MBA programs.

A meaningful nugget of information can ripple to great conversation.

Last season I was often asked, “How should I act during my MBA visits?”  It’s wise to consider, because adcom members start to assess your social intelligence even at this early stage.

Having an effective “elevator pitch” will enable you to attend such visits without anxiety, show you to be socially adept, and free you to focus on listening and responding rather than thinking about what to say in those initial moments.  Aim to present a thoughtful, meaningful nugget of information to make a positive first impression and facilitate conversation.  You can use your nugget with adcom members, MBA students, and fellow applicants.  With the latter two groups, you can also follow up with “What is your industry background?” or “What are your post-MBA goals?”

Your elevator pitch should be one to two sentences only.  Its content should usually focus on present and future.  The key is to convey core information in a way that is engaging.   Here are two examples:

• Hi, I’m Mary Liu, a consultant in McKinsey’s supply chain practice.  I hope to develop and lead the next-generation of supply chain innovations in emerging markets.

• Hello, Manish Das here.  I’ve been troubleshooting Bank Paribas’ risk management applications in Eastern Europe during the global financial crisis.  Post-MBA I want to focus on developing new risk management strategies to avert such crises.

If there is something important in your past to add for a clearer picture, mention it.  E.g., a listener would probably assume Manish Das grew up in India.  What if Manish grew up in Kenya, an interesting tidbit: “Hello, Manish Das.  I grew up in Kenya.  I’ve been troubleshooting…”

Finally: practice!  Your pitch should be natural for you to say, and practicing will help you adjust it to make it so.

Enjoy your school visits!

Download your free copy of Navigating the MBA Maze!
Cindy Tokumitsu By , 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.
Related Resources:

• 6 Top Tips for Visiting Schools
• How To Pay an Effective “Virtual” School Visit
Tips for Researching MBA Programs

The MBA Family: A Roundup and Overview

Not Sure which MBA program is right for you?  Download a free guide!At its core, the MBA is a graduate program in business administration for professionals who seek knowledge, skills, a credential, and/or a network to advance in business and to maximize their business performance.  While “MBA” makes many people automatically think of a two-year, full-time program, in recent years the variations on the MBA theme have multiplied, in order to meet changing and diversifying needs and interests of students and organizations.  Here’s a roundup of the main MBA options that are currently available, and their benefits and drawbacks.

Full-Time MBA Programs: This is a two-year, full-time program with an internship in the summer.  It targets business (and sometimes other) professionals with roughly 3-8 years of experience.  Obtaining a new position post-MBA is often a major focus of students, and recruiting by potential employers is a significant benefit of attending a full-time MBA.

Pros: close and sustained interaction with other full-time students, ideal for career changers, internship opportunity, strong recruiting.

Cons: significant opportunity cost, time away from industries that are undergoing rapid change.

Part-Time MBA Programs: Ideal for people who don’t want to leave their company or industry for any significant period or who can’t afford to stop working. Such programs target people who are employed full time, under the premise that students’ ongoing work will inform classroom discussion and projects. Part-time MBA students trend a little older than full-time MBA students.  While these programs have traditionally served local students, increasingly they are offering varied structures and online components to attract distance students.  They do not generally offer access to recruiters.  Often admission is less competitive than for the same school’s full-time program, enabling part-time students to obtain a “brand” they may not qualify for otherwise.

Pros: can continue to work/earn, apply learning in real time, access to top-tier programs.

Cons: take longer, no internship, usually no recruiting, it can be grueling to work and study simultaneously.

One-Year MBA Programs:  Of course, most European full-time MBA programs are one-year.  Some top US MBA programs, e.g., Cornell’s Johnson and Northwestern’s Kellogg, have offered one-year options for a while, and others are joining the fray as demand for such programs grows.  Often these one-year programs have special requirements, such as some prior business education or an advanced degree.  They are ideal for people who don’t need an internship and who have a strong base of experience; not usually the best path for career changers.

Pros: the intensity of a full-time program with less opportunity cost, usually regular recruiting, ability to quickly rejoin a fast-moving industry.

Cons: no conventional internship, less time to network with students and faculty.

Executive MBA Programs:  EMBAs are part-time programs targeting seasoned managers and entrepreneurs, typically people from mid-thirties to late forties (depending on the program) whose rise to senior manager level is imminent or who are already in senior management.  There is range within this category in terms of desired/required length of experience.  While coursework covers the same topics as regular MBA programs, it’s developed and presented with the higher level perspective.  A great benefit of EMBAs is the chance to network and form relationships with peers from a variety of industries and functions at a career phase when a fresh perspective is quite valuable but sometimes hard to obtain.  These programs don’t target career changers, but are increasingly used by and open to them, even though most EMBA programs don’t offer formal recruiting.

Pros: can apply learning immediately at work, breadth of exposure at a pivotal professional moment, valuable credential.

Cons: challenge of school plus demanding career and personal/family responsibilities, usually no formal recruiting for career changers.

Specialized MBA Programs: These programs offer the MBA course with focus on a specific industry or function; there are such options among both regular and executive MBA programs.  They vary in their formats and approaches.  Boston University’s Public & Nonprofit MBA is an example of a two-year specialized MBA; UC Irvine’s Health Care Executive MBA (HCEMBA) is an example of a specialized EMBA.  A relatively new one-year specialized MBA is Cornell Johnson’s Tech MBA.

Pros: intensive focus on area of interest with coursework adapted accordingly, network of colleagues with related experience and goals.

Cons: missing out on the diverse perspectives from other industries/sectors that can refresh and invigorate your thinking.

While you can’t apply to two different types of MBA programs at the same school in the same admissions cycle, you can do so in different cycles.  And you can apply to different types of programs at different schools at the same time.  For example, if someone is between regular and executive MBA in terms of age or length of experience, he could apply to some regular MBAs that trend older and some exec MBAs that trend younger.  Or someone may apply to full-time MBA programs but also apply to a part-time program nearby as an acceptable back-up.

Please do keep in mind, and address in your application, the nuances of the type of MBA as well as the particular program!

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs
Cindy Tokumitsu By , 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.

Related Resources:

MBA Action Plan: 6 Steps for the 6 Months Before You Apply
Tips for Applying to Part-time MBA Programs
• Ace the EMBA