Get a GRIP on Team Questions

Learn 4 tips for displaying teamwork in your application essays.

Remember that a tight GRIP = a tight team

I took away a lot of wonderful concepts, frameworks and strategies from my MBA education that led to a successful admission career. In fact, one of the most powerful lessons I learned at Michigan (now Ross) was how to lead and work effectively on teams.

Professor Noel Tichy, one of the gurus of Organizational Behavior and Leadership offered us a simple acronym that has stuck with me to this day: GRIP.  His theory was as follows:  if everyone on the team works toward a common goal that each individual fully understands and to which he/she commits; and everyone on the team understands and has the skills to carry out his/her roles and responsibilities; and everyone on the team shares information in a way that is productive; and the team has agreed to a process by which they will accomplish the goal, then the team will be effective.  In fact, our teams would periodically do a GRIP check to make certain that our GOALS, ROLES, INFORMATION and PROCESS would align to keep the projects moving forward.  When a team has only one GRIP element out of place, the team will be dysfunctional.

I use this framework with my clients when they need to describe their own teams’ successes or failures.  It helps them pinpoint what really happened to the team and not point fingers at an individual that may not have carried or had the skills to carry his/her weight because the “R” was out of alignment.  It helps them understand that by not having a process “P” in place, misunderstandings may occur.  It helps them understand the importance of working towards a common goal.  And it helps them understand the importance of transparent and effective communication “I”.

So when you are asked about teamwork, remember that a tight GRIP = a tight team and I will remember to thank Dr. Tichy for his wisdom and insight and for telling me to get a GRIP on my team.  Thank you Dr. Tichy.

Download our special report- Leadership in Admissions

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

Show Me The Money

You may get accepted. You may get rejected. Either way, you need to answer one question: "Now what?"

I’ll give you a little advice…everything is negotiable.

On a day like today, I’m doing my happy dance.  My MBA clients have been contacting me with good news from the schools to which they applied.  Several of them have multiple offers with scholarships attached, which immediately present the question:  Can they negotiate their scholarship offers?

Since most of you have yet to take your MBA negotiations class, I’ll give you a little advice…everything is negotiable.  You have an offer of admission and unless you did something egregious that the schools discover in their background research, the school will not take that offer away from you.  In fact, the schools want you to come to their programs so much that they’ve offered you scholarships, tuition discounts, or graduate assistantships to entice you away from other schools.  You are in the power position, but you have limited time to act.

If you have multiple scholarship offers, you have even more power.  So play the schools off each other.  You will need to provide proof of funding and develop a clear statement of what it would take to have you deposit and attend that school.  If school A matches school B’s offer, go back to school B and ask for more.  Many schools have some wiggle room with scholarship offers.  And the worst-case scenario is that school A will say “no” to your request and then there is no harm and no foul.

Caution: While you may be in the power position, remain likeable, respectful and courteous. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by coming off as arrogant.  And if you have deposited at a school, you have diminished your position of power.

If you need additional consultation on this matter, we are available to help you construct the communication that in the words of one of my former clients made his “investment in a very positive ROI.”

You may get accepted. You may get rejected. Either way, you need to answer one question: "Now what?"

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

Goal Setting as an Entrepreneur

Check out our Entrepreneurship 101 Page!I always ask my clients to state their long and short-term goals for me on our first meeting.  Eighty percent of the time I hear the response, “I want to be an entrepreneur.”  So I begin to peel away at the onion.

• What problem is your business going to solve?

•  Why is it different than a solution that exists today?

• Is there a market for the goods or services you plan to sell?

•  How big is that market?

•  Who is your competition?

•  Can you patent your solution?

•  What will your margins be?

•  How will you finance this business?

•  What is your expected return on investment?

•  What is the exit strategy?

You can’t just say, “I want to be an entrepreneur” and leave it at that.  You also can’t just have an idea or concept.  You need to have the skeleton of an actual business plan if you want to credibly declare yourself an entrepreneur in your MBA application.

Click here to download our free report, 'Why MBA?'.

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

Does “Holistic” Review in MBA Admissions have Holes?

Learn How to Evaluate Your Profile for Acceptance

If the candidate looks like thousands of other candidates, the adcom will accept the candidates with the highest GMAT.

A client recently asked me the following questions: In several articles, I have read about the holistic approach of admission directors to evaluate applications. I want to know how much weight they put on different aspects of application during evaluation? If the approach is so holistic, then why do so many applicants with low GMAT scores get dinged compared to applicants with high GMAT scores?

I thought this was a great question and referred this client to a webinar I conducted last year entitled Reality Check. This webinar may make admissions more transparent for you. However, the answer is really quite simple:  Admissions committees do review entire applications in order to admit the best candidates and create classes that are diverse. So while an admissions committee’s approach may be holistic, the applicants themselves offer competitive application indicators.

The GMAT is one indicator that helps an admissions director determine if the candidate will succeed in the program academically.  It is also an indicator that they must report to the media for rankings.  And the higher the ranking, the more candidates want to attend that specific program.

If my client planned to look at schools whose average GMAT is 650, we wouldn’t have had the discussion. He was looking at programs whose average GMAT is over 700. What are these schools’ incentive to admit candidates with a 650 or lower?

Perhaps, the adcom is certain the candidate can succeed in the program academically, but more importantly the candidate offers something else in his or her background that is so amazing that they are willing to overlook a GMAT score well below their average.

If, however, the candidate looks like thousands of other candidates, the adcom will accept the candidates with the highest GMAT.  The consumers (students) demand it, the suppliers (faculty) demand it, and the ultimate customers (hiring companies) demand it.

So while you can’t guarantee admission to your dream school regardless of GMAT score, just as you can’t guarantee anything in life, you can position yourself strategically to stand out in the best way to the admissions committee. That is where my colleagues and I here at Accepted can help you.


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

MBA Admissions Decisions: Should You Go Full-Time or Part-Time?

Get your free guide to selecting the best MBA programs for you!

Full-time or Part-time?

When I was applying to b-school, I contemplated part-time vs. full-time, and one of my best friends, Colleen, had to make the same decision at the same time.

Ultimately, I decided to attend the full-time program at the University of Michigan. Colleen decided to attend a part-time program at the University of Michigan. We shared 60% of the same classes, 40% of the same professors and even had a class together (Michigan offered, at the time, courses where they reserved half the registrations for full-time students and half the registrations for part-time students). Since that time, they dramatically changed the full-time curriculum and it is unlikely that we would overlap now like we did then. However, I graduated two years before Colleen with a unique internship, an opportunity to begin a new career and a lot of debt. Colleen advanced quickly with the company that hired her upon our graduation from college and graduated without debt because her company sponsored her education. We both have the same degree.

Now as an consultant and as a former Admissions Director and Dean of full-time, part-time and EMBA programs, I lend you my insight and guidance from the other side of the table in this brief analysis of programs.

Full-time programs: Traditional full-time programs are the media darlings of MBA programs. A school’s reputation relies mostly on its full-time program rankings. They consume the largest portion of the school’s budget, and they rarely make revenue for a school. More than 90% of all scholarships and fellowships are dedicated to full-time students. Full-time programs are perfect for career-changers in the 23-30 year old age range that can afford the opportunity cost of leaving work to immerse themselves in education and experience. If you choose this experience, you will feel like you are an undergraduate again with clubs and activities, but the workload will be greater. You will have access to on-campus recruiting (I always recommend you conduct your own off-campus job search in parallel with on-campus recruiting), company presentations, fellowships and scholarships and a lot of fun. Full-time students prioritize the job search and school. Family often gets the short stick, but there are typically resources to support a spouse. If you are single, it’s a great opportunity to form a romantic relationship. My grad school roommate found the love of her life in our core operations course.

Part-time programs: Part-time programs are the cash cow of MBA programs and have to live in the shadow of their smaller full-time counterpart. They take very few resources, but they often share the same faculty as the full-time program. Many professors would rather teach at night or on the weekend to lighten their teaching load and dedicate their days to research. Schools will also complement the faculty with adjuncts in part-time programs. Aggregated, the part-time applicant pool is not as competitive or as diverse in terms of admissions as schools typically receive fewer applications, and they are limited to their immediate region and the industries that dominate that industry. Furthermore, schools have the capacity to serve at least as many and often more students than their full-time counterpart.

As much as schools say the quality of the full-time students and the part-time students are the same, the quality is dependent on location and how that location generates applications. Bigger cities have an easier time of attracting great applicants to their part-time program and can maintain higher quality standards, but full-time programs generate applications from around the globe and it’s much easier to pick and choose candidates for admission.

Part-time programs are perfect for the 24-35 year old career enhancer, but rarely serve the career changer. Part-timers typically do not have the same access to comprehensive career services as full-time programs because company presentations and interviews are typically held during the day. At one school for whom I worked, we dedicated one career services staff member to all of our professional programs (part-time, EMBA, on-line) serving over 1000 students and 5 career services staff to the small 200-student full-time program.

Part-time students can often get full or partial sponsorship from their company lessening the financial burden, but do not typically have access to fellowships or scholarships from the school. It typically takes students longer than 2 years to complete a part-time program and part-time students prioritize work first, school second and again, family gets the short end stick. Part-time students often feel like the stepchild of the full-time counterparts.

EMBA programs: EMBA programs are also lucrative for schools, but they typically are not as large as full-time programs, and schools charge a premium to attend an EMBA program. They are perfect for students in the 30-year-old to 42-year-old age range that have been supervising employees and that have the support of their executive management to attend a program because executives view these students as fast-trackers in their company. These programs are typically held every other weekend and offer no fellowships or scholarships because schools expect the student’s company to sponsor the student partially or completely. EMBA students typically prioritize work first, family second and school last. While EMBA students may cross from technical supervisory roles to business supervisory roles in their companies, EMBA programs do not cater to the career changer only the career enhancer. Schools take care of their EMBA students for their tuition premium. However, these students rarely interact with either the part-time or full-time students, but bond well with their cohort and the faculty.

Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One

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

Weakness, What Weakness?

SuccessIsNotI saw it.  The question was looming in an essay and hiding behind a corner in the brain and/or instruction sheet of my interviewer.

“So Natalie, tell me about your weaknesses and what you did to overcome them”? Gosh, there are so many, I don’t even know where to begin.  Ding!

What do you do when you read/hear the weakness question? Schools are assessing how well you self evaluate. Like a business problem, they want to hear your plan of action, your implementation, and your success rate.

  1. Prepare the answers in advance.
  2. Be honest. If you are let go from a position, you need to discuss the lessons learned from this negative situation and how you overcame the situation.
  3. Remain professionally focused. Don’t discuss your cousin’s attraction to arson or your mother-in-law’s conspiratorial behavior.
  4. Proactively address the issues. If you have a quantitative weakness, take courses that address the weakness (accounting, statistics). Don’t wait for the admissions committee to ask you to take a course. If you are uncomfortably shy, discuss your involvement with Toastmasters.
  5. Avoid clichés. If your weakness is that you work too hard and can’t say no, well, that is not a weakness, that is the life of an MBA.
  6. Ask for help. If you need help drafting your essay or framing your answer for your interview, is here to help you. Please contact us for assistance.

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

Tips for Tackling Team Interviews

MBA Interview

“Take a stand and support your position.”

With the emerging trend of group interviews at schools like Wharton, applicants need to understand that team interviews require a different set of skills than individual interviews.  I liken individual interviews to blind dating.  With individual interviews and blind dating, both parties are trying to figure out if they want to spend more time together. Personality, passion and concise, yet interesting stories will pique the interest of the admissions committee.   Group interviews and activities reflect the skills you will learn in an MBA case class (example of HBS case classroom).  You will be asked to take a stand and support your position.

Prior to a team/case-based interview I recommend:

  • Review the materials the school offered you prior to the interview.
  • Read Marc Consentino’s Case in Point and use the material in the book to help you build frameworks that support your theory.
  • Use friends, family and colleagues as well as our consultants at to role-play with you.

During the interview I recommend that you:

  • Participate.
  • Support your point.
  • Build on other applicants’ ideas if they support your theory.
  • Use evidence to refute (without being confrontational) other applicants’ points if they don’t support your point.
  • Don’t take over the conversation, but engage others and persuade them toward your opinion.
  • Base your comments on your expertise. (“When I was working at XYZ company, we had a similar situation…)

Both types of interviews measure skills that are equally necessary to achieve success at school.  Team interviews require critical thinking, listening, persuasion, and leadership.   Personal interviews require one-on-one presentation and interpersonal skills as well as self-awareness.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me at with any questions you have regarding interview preparation.

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

The Waiting Game: What MBA Applicants Should Do After Hitting SUBMIT

The Waiting GameWithin 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 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. Review our MBA interview database.

4.  Attend any events the school may be having (including virtual events).  Stay involved.  Show your interest.

5.  Make up for any gaps you may have in your application (quantitative skills, volunteer work).

6.  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.

7.  Use your leadership skills with any opportunity you can imagine.

8.  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.

9. 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  My colleagues and I are available to consult with you.

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

Athletic Appeal in Admissions

Athletic Appeal

“You don’t have to be an Olympian to demonstrate tenacity and drive.”

Long before Gabby Douglas flew through her floor exercise and Michael Phelps dominated the pool, admissions directors have been impressed by athletes. From stories about the perfect basket, goal, spike or serve, athletes have wonderful stories that display their endurance, strength, leadership and team skills.

Fascinated by the applicant who used his marathon run as a metaphor for his life, the golfer who detailed her pursuit of the sweet spot, the rower who discussed the harmony of her crew team and the cricket player that detailed his team’s comeback against his arch-rivals, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for athletic achievements.

While over the years I have seen my share of professional, college, high school and Olympic athletes, none impressed me more than a candidate who became an accidental athlete. Diagnosed with morbid obesity and type II diabetes at the age of 16, Sarah had to address her illness immediately or face death. She altered her diet from junk food junkie to vegan.  She bought a pair of sneakers and tossed out her television. She limited her computer time to homework, college applications and journaling her transformation. Then she stepped outside.  Heckled by kids on her block, she took 15 steps.  Out of breath, she returned to the safety of her home.  The next day, she took 20 steps.  By the end of the month, she walked a mile and by the end of the year, she ran 5 miles.  At age 25, Sarah has no signs of diabetes. She runs daily and has completed three triathlons. She is now training for her first iron man.

Sarah’s story resonated with me so much because she demonstrated that you don’t have to be an Olympian to demonstrate tenacity and drive.  You can be an average person that does something extraordinary. Go for the gold when you shoot for the basket, kick in a goal, spike a set-up, or serve a ball, and you will have a fantastic essay with enormous appeal for your applications. Moreover, you’ll have a great story to relay to your grandchildren many years from now.

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


The Business of Medicine and the Supreme Court Decision on Healthcare

Business of Healthcare

An opportunity to manage the business of healthcare.

As I listen to the landmark Supreme Court decision on healthcare, I can’t help but think about the ramifications of healthcare reform and its impact on medical professionals.  Personally, I’m elated because I know that my kids will be covered until age 26 and that my husband and I won’t lose our healthcare coverage due to pre-existing conditions.  But the complications of reform also offer an opportunity for healthcare professionals to understand and manage the business of healthcare – one of the few areas in this economy that has displayed steady growth.

When I was a newly minted admissions officer, I met an ER physician who wanted to gain admission into the Ross MBA program.  At the time, I thought the request was odd, but I admitted him into our program.  Throughout his MBA, he was able to apply what he learned and turned around one of the busiest and slowest ERs into one of most efficient and lucrative ERs.  When I moved to Cornell, I thought of Dr. T. as I helped Cornell launch its MD/MBA program.

As hospitals and medical groups promote clinicians and researchers into administrative positions, these medical professionals need to understand finance, strategy, marketing, and operations.  They need to know how to hire, train, and develop their staff.  They need to know when to invest in R&D and when to invest in capital (human and otherwise).  And they most certainly need to know how to manage their budgets.

Medical schools, dental schools and nursing schools do not offer these important skills in their curriculum.  To meet these needs, many public health programs and business schools have developed MHSA (Masters of Health Services Administration) and EMBA (Executive Masters in Business Administration) programs built specifically for mid-career medical professionals who are moving into administrative roles.  Programs such as Harvard’s MS in HCM (Healthcare Management), Cornell’s AMBA (Accelerated MBA), Dartmouth’s MHCDS (Master of Health Care Delivery Science), University of Texas’ HMEMBA (Health Management Executive MBA), and University of Tennessee’s PEMBA (Physician’s Executive MBA) are designed specifically for the mid-career physician or dentist.  However, most EMBA programs will accommodate a medical practitioner’s busy schedule as noted in this neurosurgeon’s story about his Duke EMBA experience on the Poets and Quants website.

As a result of this type of business training, we have seen medical organizations that provide top-notch medicine and healthy bottom lines.  From the Ritz Carlton-influenced Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield, Michigan to the extremely personalized services at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the business of medicine is changing.

We’re here to help you understand the nuances of a business healthcare education.  To learn more about our services for healthcare professionals please contact us at

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