PhD Applicants: Show, Don’t Tell

Show the adcom your strenths, don't just state them.When I was Admissions Director at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, I asked my colleague and friend, Dr. Robert Bloomfield, who led our Ph.D. program, “What characteristics do you seek in the Ph.D. candidates you invite to interview?”  Rob’s answer sounded oddly familiar.  A few weeks earlier, I had asked my brother Mark, who led U.C.L.A. Anderson’s Ph.D. program, the same question.  In fact, as I began to ask faculty in various departments and schools what they sought in their doctoral candidates, the answers were always the same: intelligence, unquenchable curiosity, subject matter passion, persistent stamina, criticism-seeking, ethical, self-aware individuals who offer a well-written Statement of Purpose (SOP) and a solid academic foundation for their area of study.

While I am not an accountant, a few years back, I was reviewing information in FASRI and ran across an article Rob Bloomfield wrote that I always kept in the back on my mind when helping my Ph.D. and MFE clients outline their SOPs. The outline is great, but what really sticks out for me and works for any essay are five simple words, “Show me. Don’t tell me.”  Maybe its because I love theatre and these words are a simplification of a line from writer/playwright/physician Anton Chekhov, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

As an admissions director, “Show me. Don’t tell me” was my way of seeking evidence to support my applicants’ assertions of greatness, passion, achievement and even failure.  Who knew Chekhov would help guide my clients into the best undergraduate and graduate programs in the world?  Rob Bloomfield knew.

Offering examples, gives the reader the opportunity to understand the subject matter from your perspective and evaluate your claims: a responsibility the admissions committee must assume.  So when you sit down to write your statement of purpose, essays or conduct an interview, rather than stating that you have subject matter passion, show that you have subject matter passion by describing recent readings, experiences and outcomes.  For example, I could state that I have a passion for puzzles or I could explain that on Sunday, I solved the New York Times crossword in 40 minutes, a 4X4 Rubik’s cube in 10 minutes, and a complex logic puzzle in 5 minutes and watched my Netflix obsession The Bletchley Circle.

In other words, “Show me. Don’t tell me.”

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

 

Related Resources:

Plotting Your Way to A PhD: 6 Topics in PhD Admissions
6 Tips for Getting Started on Your Essays
How to Prove Character Traits in Your Application Essays

What MBA Applicants Should Do After Submitting Their Application

Conduct more research on your intended goal in anticipation of an interview invitation

Within twelve hours I heard the same question from three clients, so I suppose this question may be on the minds of more than three, “now that I’ve submitted my applications, what should I do?”  The following are a list of suggestions:

  1. Continue to learn about each school by speaking with faculty, alumni and students.  The more information you have the better.  Be conscious of their limited time, so be thoughtful with the questions you ask. In addition, you may wind up with an unsolicited endorsement of your candidacy.
  2. Conduct more research on your intended goal in anticipation of an MBA interview invitation.  If instance, your intended goal is consulting, read The McKinsey Way or BCG on Strategy.  If you are an up and coming entrepreneur, Back of the Napkin or anything by Peter Drucker or Guy Kawasaki.  If you are transitioning into marketing, check out Communities Dominate Brands or Marketing Strategy: A decision-focused approach.
  3. Attend any events the school may be having (including virtual events).  Stay involved.  Show your interest.
  4. Make up for any gaps you may have in your application (quantitative skills, volunteer work).
  5. Create new opportunities to add revenue, decrease costs, increase efficiency, increase market share, increase shareholder value, increase safety, increase satisfaction (customer or employee) at work.
  6. Use your leadership skills with any opportunity you can imagine.
  7. If you haven’t been doing so yet, begin reading business press.  You need to understand the jargon, the acumen, and what drives business today.
  8. Now sit back and relax.  Schools receive the largest number of apps in the second round and if they use student readers, the students are on vacation until sometime in January leaving a big bottleneck in the review process.  Learn to be patient.  A must-have in this process.

If you have additional questions or concerns about applications, please contact Accepted.com.  My colleagues and I are available to consult with you.

Do you know the 10 commandments of MBA interviews?

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

 

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How to Ace Your Interviews – Download the free guide!
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MBA Student Interviews

Are You Growth Minded? Mastering Kellogg’s Changing Brand

Episode 2 in our Big Brand Theory Series for MBA applicants: Northwestern Kellogg.

Two days before Kellogg’s Dean Sally Blount announced Kellogg’s motto change from “Think Bravely” to “Inspiring Growth,” I received an email and video link in my inbox from my education hero, Sal Khan about why he will never tell his son that he is smart.

His Khan Academy disrupted the education paradigm and made me a super fan years ago when my then, 10-year-old son ran into my arms, but not for a hug…no, he wanted my computer so he could earn badges. At first I thought he was planning to play a game. I limited his computer use to 15 minutes and then watched him open up the Khan Academy site and whiz through math problems that were two grades ahead of his own (earning his badges along the way). I didn’t take the computer away until dinnertime.

His love for the Khan Academy reminded me of Dr. Carol Dweck’s research on motivation, success and the growth mindset. I had read her work a few years before my son fell in love with the Khan Academy. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which I highly recommend if you are applying to Kellogg, she compares and contrasts growth-oriented minds and fixed minds

The growth mindset is something to behold, and I watched it unfold over the years as my son solved my husband’s 5X5X5 Rubik’s cube, conquered my father in chess, and created “inventions” that he thought would make my life easier. I love the way his mind works. Thank you, Sal Khan and Thank you, Carol Dweck.

However, as a former admission dean and director, I often wondered when I would see Dr. Dweck’s concepts flourish in business schools. While I think several schools filter applicants for growth mindsets and challenge their students to stretch themselves, Kellogg’s new brand strategy was the first time I’ve seen Dr. Dweck’s approach become the very essence of the school.

Just as the growth mindset is dynamic and constantly seeks challenges and change, Kellogg has also reinvented itself many times over. I don’t think people will ever get over the fact that Kellogg is a marketing giant. However, since Dean Blount’s arrival, they’ve moved from “Team-Oriented” to “Think Bravely” to “Inspiring Growth” in the span of just a few years. These moves are reflected in their essay prompts, in their video essays, and in their interviews. You as an applicant need to respond to this change and address the filters Kellogg has added to its admissions process.

When working with clients applying to Kellogg, I always discuss my clients’ greatest challenges; then I push and push and push, until we discover something that they were initially afraid to reveal. If you are doing this yourself, realize that this inquiry means going deep within your psyche to figure out if you truly have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset (and I always recommend reading Dr. Dweck’s research. See link to her book above).

If at the end of our meetings my clients realize that they are not happy stretching, taking risks, and testing themselves, I ask them to rethink their school choice. Yes, Kellogg students are team-oriented; yes, Kellogg students are bright; yes, Kellogg students are personable, but Dean Blount got it right: Kellogg students are intellectually curious. They are resourceful. They challenge themselves to go beyond what they think are their limits. They have a growth mindset, and Kellogg inspires that growth.

For you the Kellogg motto means showing that you have the mindset to benefit from and contribute to Kellogg’s community dedicated to growth. As you apply to Kellogg demonstrate that you share Kellogg’s commitment to growth as an individual and as a future leader of your community and the business world.

(Look for Next Week’s Episode in the Big Brand Theory: Does Stanford Really Change the World?)

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs - A Guide to Selecting the Right One!

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

 

Related Resources:

Kellogg 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
Leadership in Admissions

• What Does “At The Very Center of Business” Mean for CBS Applicants? 

What Does “At The Very Center of Business” Mean for CBS Applicants?

Want to learn the secret to getting accepted to Columbia Business School?Episode 1 in our Big Brand Theory Series for MBA applicants: Columbia Business School’s motto.

Columbia Business School Essay 2 asks you to watch a short video entitled, “The Center” and then use it to answer the question, “How will you take advantage of being ‘at the very center of business’?” The video and the essay question are Columbia’s attempts to regain its brand and market share.

Over the years, Columbia strayed from its core strength: its geographic location and the access that the school offers its students. As a reaction to New York’s financial industry shrinkage and then, a drop in applications, they began pitching teams, clusters, and close-knit communities. I’m sorry, but those words do not even begin to describe Columbia.

CBS is just like New York: historical, large, gritty, and filled with surprises. It doesn’t coddle its students, and its students don’t expect to be coddled. They are smart, resourceful, and assertive.

So what does it mean to be at the very center of business? Well, you have the usual suspects: access to corporate world headquarters, brown bags with executives, subway rides to everything. But I ask you, where else can you have an accidental meeting at a cultural event with the Morgan Stanley’s CEO, James Gorman, or award winning entertainer and entrepreneur Dr. Dre?

Columbia wants its students to embrace New York and at the same time not allow the abundance of everything to intimidate them.  Years ago, I watched a Columbia Business School PowerPoint presentation. The closing slide displayed a world map. The Columbia campus was superimposed on a big red apple that spread over half the Atlantic Ocean and an arrow pointing to the apple as the “Center of the World.” I keep that image in my mind as I offer my Accepted.com clients my best rendition of the song, New York, New York, “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” (High kicks and all. Fortunately they can’t see me when I do it)

As a former admissions dean and director, I would expect to see an answer to that essay that would enable me to identify (and admit) people who thrive in the hustle bustle of New York.  I would want my applicants to capture the energy of the city that never sleeps. At the same time, I would filter out students who would be intimidated by New York. I would want my students to love their NYC experience: rats, roaches and all.

And now I need an Accepted.com consultant to help me edit this blog down to 250 words or less.

(Look for next week’s episode of the Big Brand Theory: Kellogg – Are you Growth Minded?)

Free on-demand webinar: Get Accepted to Columbia Business School!

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , who when she’s not listening to old Frank Sinatra songs about New York, consults with Accepted.com clients and reminisces about her Admission Director days.

 

Related Resources:

• Columbia Business School 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
How to Get Accepted to Columbia Business School
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MBA Scholarships: How Do I Apply and What Should I Emphasize?

Which b-schools offer the most scholarships?

Scholarship dollars are designated by a donor for specific reasons.

While each school has its own unique scholarship offerings (merit only, merit and need, need only), they do so for a variety of reasons.  Similar to admissions, a director will consider your academic indicators, your work experience, your extra-curricular activities, your goals and your community service.  They also consider socio-economic factors for need-based and outstanding accomplishments for merit-need-based scholarships.

Merit-based general scholarships give the schools an opportunity to attract a candidate that they may not have the opportunity to enroll without the scholarship.  For schools with deep pockets, it helps the admissions office attract and maintain individuals that without the scholarship, the school could easily lose to other schools.  It also helps some schools fill their enrollment requirements.  Regardless, scholarships enable the admissions director to create his or her mosaic.

In addition to general scholarships, each school may also have specialized scholarships.   Those scholarships often will be given to students that diversify the population through their goals or their backgrounds.  In addition to school scholarships, outside organizations may partner with the school to offer scholarships or offer scholarships autonomously. Many organizations offer scholarships for students with disabilities (National MS Society, Setoma, SBA), women (Forte, AAUW) under-represented minorities (Consortium, Tiogo, American Association of Indian Affairs, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, NSHMBA, NBMBA, Pfizer, Hispanic College Fund, and international students (Fulbright).  Specialized scholarships can be found on a national level (GFAO, Peace Corps, GI Bill, Fisher House), state level (New York State Scholarship Fund) and local level (Shanghai municipal scholarship) as well as through charitable and religious organizations.

Each school also has scholarship dollars that are designated by a corporate donor, alumnus or friend of the school for specific reasons.  Ernst and Young gave one school for whom I worked an endowment to distribute to candidates with accounting backgrounds, and another school for whom I worked had an alumnus who offered the school a fund designated for incoming Brazilian student scholarships.

I had the most difficulty distributing scholarships to local students with very specific backgrounds.  For example at one school, an alumnus gave us a generous fund to offer scholarships to students with accounting backgrounds from a specific county in the state in which the alumnus grew up.  The county was quite small and we rarely had applicants that applied to our school from that county with accounting backgrounds.  We couldn’t distribute that scholarship for several years in a row and when we did find a candidate that matched the criteria, that candidate received the scholarship regardless of need or merit.

Your best sources for scholarships are Fastweb.org, Scholarships.com, and the school you plan to attend.  However, check with each school’s scholarship policy before applying for admission.  Some schools may have you write an essay or check a box to show interest in scholarships.  Others distribute scholarships based on your admissions application and you don’t need to indicate an interest in scholarship at all.

Regardless of how you piece together your school funding, don’t pay for a scholarship search.  The information is free on the Internet or through your school’s admissions and/or financial aid office. Also, keep in mind that you must complete the FAFSA for U.S. scholarships and loans or the international equivalent through your country’s ministry of education.  And if you have multiple offers with scholarships, you have some negotiating power. If you need additional information, please contact me.


Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.