4 New Ways to Display Teamwork in Application Essays

How should you convey to the adcom your ability to motivate, persuade, and empower?Teamwork, and its close cousin, leadership, are highly prized by graduate programs and universities. Haven’t worked in teams on any regular basis? Don’t worry! There are more ways than you may realize to prove your chops in this area. Consider the following 4 options:

1. No Man is an Island

Unless you’ve been living alone on an island for the last several years, you have undoubtedly participated in various groups. You may have been a member of a sports team or dance troupe, a member of a committee on either a volunteer or workplace basis, helped to organize an event, planned a triathlon, or been a tutor, Big Brother, or Big Sister. In each case, you were working with other people, even if it was only one other person, and had opportunities to display teamwork.

2. Put Your Listening Ears On

Teamwork and collaboration involve effective listening, so if you can discuss a time when you took the time to listen to others, patiently and skillfully, and how doing so eased tensions and increased collaboration, that will demonstrate your teamwork abilities.

3. Boosting Morale and Conflict Resolution

Talk about the steps you took to improve morale or motivate. If you helped to generate enthusiasm for a project when enthusiasm was flagging, or brainstormed an idea to strengthen a group or project, that’s also teamwork. If you were a member of a committee and figured out a way for two warring members of the committee to stop fighting and start working together, that would also constitute teamwork. Any time you took the initiative to get involved with other people (especially when they are difficult!) to find a better way to get things done, find a middle ground, brainstorm a new idea, it’s all teamwork.

4. Think Small

Effective teamwork can also be shown in very small groups. A client once wrote about her efforts to heal a serious rift in her family after her father passed away and siblings fought for control of the successful family business. An ugly succession fight was underway. The client’s ability to patiently coax cooperation in such an emotionally charged environment, including her “shuttle diplomacy” and active listening among family members, displayed skilled teamwork and leadership. Another client wrote about having organized a trip with a few friends, and how she dealt with a dispute between two of the participants whose bickering threatened to ruin the trip for everyone. Her effective listening, and creatively figuring out an activity that both of the “combatants” would not be able to resist, helped defuse the situation and save the trip from descending into a hellish situation for everyone. In both these situations, the “teams” were small but the stakes for those involved were high.

So do not feel stymied when asked for examples of how you have displayed teamwork – as you now see, you’ve been working in teams more often than you realize!

Learn everything you need to know about how to tackle the tricky leadership questions that the adcoms love to throw into applications and interviews.

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Can I Use Humor In My Application Essays?

Want to let your funny side show in your application essays? Here is what Linda Abraham has to say about humor in admissions:

For more application essay advice, download a free copy of our popular special report Five Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Personal Statement.

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

GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep

Bhavin-1-closeup-500x500GMAT, GRE, SAT… If one of these tests graces your future, tune in to our interview with Bhavin Parikh, CEO and founder of Magoosh, the leading online test prep company.

Listen to the recording of our conversation with Bhavin for great test prep advice and the lowdown on Magoosh.

00:02:17 – The story behind Magoosh and a word about it’s future.

00:04:10 – Why Bhavin is on a “mission to change the way people learn.”

00:06:09 – More effective than traditional test-prep: How do you know?

00:07:44 – What makes Magoosh different.

00:11:39 – The risks of self-study (Magoosh is like a gym membership).

00:14:24 – Best GMAT (and GRE) prep tips.

00:18:29 – The million dollar question: GMAT or GRE?

00:22:15 – SAT changes ahead.

00:25:43 – The Hansoo Lee Fellowship for Haas entrepreneurs.

00:27:58 – Bhavin’s stand on the debate about the value of the MBA to entrepreneurs.

00:30:18 – Last pieces of advice for applicants.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!

Admissions Straight Talk Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes so you don’t miss a single episode! *Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Relevant Links:

•  Magoosh
•  Should You Retake the GMAT?
•  How to Put Your Best Foot Forward on Test Day 
•  The Hansoo Lee Fellowship
•  7 Steps to a Successful MBA Application

Related Shows:

•  Interview with Chris Ryan of Manhattan GMAT
•  Linda Abraham on Overcoming Weaknesses
•  MBA Admissions According to an Expert
•  CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans

Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk:

Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes!     Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in Stitcher!

CommonBond Offers New Refinancing Program for Grads

CommonBond just released its new Grad Refinance Loan™, available to law school, med school, engineering, and b-school graduates.

With the new refinancing program, borrowers will receive:

•  Low fixed rates for 10- and 15-year loans.

•  A single monthly bill after the consolidation of multiple loans.

•  Personalized service from the CommonBond team.

Do you want to learn more about CommonBond and how they can help you pay for grad school? Check out our recent podcast, CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans, in which Wharton grads and co-founders of this student loan financing startup share excellent advice on how you can finance your education.

CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans

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Can You Get Accepted After Doing Something Stupid?

Check out our MBA Admissions 101 Pages!

Don’t try to hide a conviction.

The point of this article is not to tell you that you shouldn’t engage in disorderly conduct, petty theft, or other minor (or major) infractions (though you really shouldn’t…); what we want to discuss here is how you should overcome the obstacle of a criminal record when approached with the application question: “Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain.”

If you did something stupid, something deserving of a conviction or suspension, how do you prove to an admissions committee that you are worthy of their acceptance?

First, don’t try to hide a conviction. Clients often ask me if they really need to bring up their troubled past, and I tell them they do. Admissions committees (and the firms they hire) conduct background checks on applicants, and an unexplained discrepancy gives them an easy reason to reject your application or withdraw an offer of admission, so, when asked, own up to your behavior on your application.

Don’t make excuses. The biggest struggle I face when helping troubled clients is getting them to move past their tendency to justify their behavior: their writing tends to get overlong with explanations. Even very subtle self-serving statements can be read by an admissions committee as failure to take responsibility for your behavior, so leave out the excuses and directly address what you did.

Don’t go overboard addressing the infraction. The second biggest struggle I face is keeping clients from turning their applications into overblown mea culpas. A client once came to me having written two required essays and an optional essay all addressing a mistake from the past—too much! Often, a well-written response to an application’s “failure” essay question is enough.

Do show that you learned your lesson and that your past behavior won’t happen again. This step tends to be less of a struggle for clients, because usually they can show remorse, they can show the actions they took to atone for their behavior, and they can show how they matured from their experiences. Often such clients become heavily involved with their community, counseling others who tend toward their same behavior and managing to turn their failure into a success benefitting others.

Perfect execution of these suggestions certainly will increase your chances of admission, but they may not be enough to gain you acceptance to a top school. So avoid having to deal with this situation altogether: think twice and three times before you do something that you could regret for a very long time.

Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own! Click here to download our free report!

 

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Waitlisted! What Now?

Listen to the full recording of 'Waitlisted! Now What?'So, you’ve been waitlisted and you’re not sure whether to laugh or cry. You can choose to do either, neither or both, but then it is time to figure out what to do next.

Listen to the recording of our latest podcast episode to hear Linda Abraham’s six tips for waitlisted applicants. Make sure you know what to do (and what not to do!) to ensure that you are the candidate on the very top of that waitlist.

00:01:28 – Devastated about your waitlisted status? Don’t give up!

00:02:16 – Don’t be an independent thinker please.

00:03:43 – Self-evaluate and take action.

00:04:24 – Spread the good word (even if it doesn’t relate to your weaknesses).

00:05:44 – Schools like applicants who are interested in attending their program!

00:06:13 – Don’t spam the adcom.

00:06:48 – How a waitlist letter should begin and what it should include.

00:07:33 – Addressing your weaknesses without sounding weak.

Admissions Straight Talk Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes so you don’t miss a single show!

*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Relevant Links:

•  MBA Waitlist Advice 101
•  Med School Waitlist Advice 101
•  Grad School Waitlist Advice 101
•  College Waitlist Advice 101 
•  The Nine Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make on an MBA Waitlistan ebook
•  The Nine Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make on a Med School Waitlistan ebook
•  The Nine Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make on a Law School Waitlist, an ebook

Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk:

Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes!     Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in Stitcher!

How to Write Waitlist Update Letters

You are so close to acceptance, but still not quite there! Get the guidance you need to get that offer of admission.

Continue fighting for that acceptance!

The application process is not over for waitlisted applicants. You’ve still got a chance of getting into your dream school, so now’s not the time to slack off, and it’s certainly not the time to give up. Continue fighting for that acceptance!

Your waitlist updates (you write those) and letters of support (other people write these) should focus on three areas:

1) Your growing list of qualifications. You want to prove to the adcoms that while you were a responsible, accomplished, impressive candidate before, now you are even more so. Discuss recent initiatives you’ve taken—in the workplace and in your community—and developments or advances you’ve made in your career or academics.

2) Steps you’ve taken to ameliorate shortcomings. Figure out what weaknesses were revealed in your application and/or interview and work to improve them. Be able to discuss specific changes you’ve made in your life—education and career—that make you a stronger candidate.

3) How you fit with the school. You were born to attend this school and this school was created just for you. Your fit is as perfect as a cozy glove on a cold hand.

Waitlist Update Writing Step-By-Step:

1) Begin your letter by briefly thanking the school for considering your application. Don’t talk about your disappointment; instead focus on how the school’s philosophy and approach fit your educational goals.

2) Discuss your recent accomplishments. Choose achievements that you did not address in your application and try and tie them back to key themes in your essays. These could include a recent promotion, freshly minted A’s, a new leadership role in a project or organization, a recent volunteer experience, initiatives you’ve taken in your department, business, or club, additional work responsibilities, etc.

3) Talk about the measures you’ve taken to ameliorate your weaknesses, if necessary. Focus on the action you’ve taken rather than on the actual shortcoming. For example, if you have/had weak communication skills, discuss how you enrolled in Toastmasters and how the experience has influenced and inspired you.

4) If you are sure that upon acceptance you would attend, inform the school of your commitment.

Above all, stay positive as your letter will reflect your attitude. Adcoms do not want to read a bitter and angry letter, nor will they want that writer in their classrooms.

A couple of caveats:

• Don’t waste your reader’s time by repeating material already in your application.

• Don’t write if the school states explicitly that it doesn’t want to hear from you.

Help! I'm on the waitlist!

For more information on how to transform your waitlist status into an acceptance, check out one of Accepted’s popular waitlist ebooks:

• The Nine Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make on an MBA Waitlist

• The Nine Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make on a Med School Waitlist

• The Nine Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make on a Law School Waitlist

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4 Tips for Writing about Last Minute Extracurricular Activities

Learn how to demonstrate leadership in your admissions essays!

It’s possible that you’ve been involved in extracurricular activities without even realizing it.

You want to write about all your fantastic non-school and non-work endeavors so that you really stand out from your competition, but when you start to think about it…you draw a blank. There must be SOMETHING you can show for how you use your free time, but what?

Have you found yourself in a last minute lurch looking for extracurricular activities? Note the following:

1. Better Late than Never.

If you don’t have any extracurricular activities to speak of, then I suggest you find something interesting to do and start NOW. You may ask: “Isn’t it better to try and bypass the subject of extracurriculars entirely rather than highlight the fact that I’ve only gotten involved in an activity for the sake of my application? Won’t that seem phony?” While involvement in an extracurricular activity for just a few months is less impressive than long-term participation, it’s still better than presenting no participation at all. You can keep kicking yourself, over and over again, wishing that you had thought of this earlier and gotten involved in some activity years ago, but now’s not the time to harp on regrets; now is the time to act. Get out there and do something.

2. Even Short-Term Involvement Can Transform You.

Participation in a non-school and non-work activities, even if just for a limited period of time, will elevate your flat, one-dimensional admissions profile into something more vibrant, colorful, and interesting. Now’s your chance to transform yourself from a pile of grades and scores into a real, live human being – one who pursues his or her interests and passions outside of the work and school arenas.

3. Your Application Efforts May be Delayed or Extended.

Another reason why you should jump right into an extracurricular activity, even though you may feel like it’s too last minute, is because you don’t know for certain the outcome of your application effort. You may, for one reason or another, decide to push off applying until the next year; you may get waitlisted; you may get dinged from all your top choice schools and decide to reapply next year – whatever the case may be, this could be the beginning of what turns out to be an entire year of extracurricular involvement.

4. Hobbies are Good for YOU!

Forget for a minute that you’re applying to school (if that’s possible) and think about what’s actually good for you. It’s not healthy to site at work for 18+ hours a day only to go home and crash on the couch because you’re too tired to make it to bed. Forget the application process – you should find something to do non-work (and non-school and non-other-obligations) related because it will enrich your life and make you a happier person.

Also, it’s possible that you’ve been involved in extracurricular activities without even realizing it. Mine your experiences to uncover unique experiences that could be considered “extracurricular.” You don’t need clear-cut activities like “Acted as president of the chess club” or “Volunteered in local soup kitchen”; consider non-traditional or non-altruistic activities, like singing in a choir, participating in a weekly fiction writing circle with friends, helping your hyperactive triplet cousin do homework catch-up once a week since forever ago.

These are all completely valid ways of breaking from work, and it won’t be hard to illustrate your passions and interests in these activities, not to mention the leadership skills your developed and the other ways in which you grew and learned from them.

Take home message: It’s NEVER too late to get involved in some meaningful, interesting, and fun extracurricular activity!

Learn everything you need to know about how to tackle the tricky leadership questions that the adcoms love to throw into applications and interviews.

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Interview Tip: Prepare Questions

Learn how to use sample essays to create exemplary essays of your own!

An interview is a two-way street.

Usually when applicants prepare for their admissions interviews, they spend their time trying to figure out what questions will be asked and how they can best answer them. This is important and a good idea. But it’s not the only step to prepping for an admissions interview.

An interview is a two-way street.

Your interviewer will ask you questions and listen your answers, and then will turn the asking over to you. When your interviewer says, “Do you have any questions?” you don’t want to shut the interview down by saying, “Nope, I’m set” but want to keep the flow of the conversation going by taking the reins of the interview into your hands and asking some questions of your own.

There are two things you can do before your interview to help you come up with intelligent questions:

1) Familiarize yourself with the program’s website and other literature. Never ask a question that can be answered easily online.

2) Review your application. Your questions should be specific to your unique situation – your skills, interests, and goals. Questions about the faculty or clubs, for example, should relate to your own education, career, and goals.

Since your goal should be to come up with questions that are specific to your situation, I can’t give you a list of must-ask questions without knowing who YOU are. But here are a few sample questions that you can review and tweak so that the questions are more appropriate for YOU:

• How difficult is it to enroll in a popular class like XYZ? (Insert a class that appeals to you. Not a required course.)

• Do recruiters from XYZ (a company or a particular field that interests you) visit the school? How do students get interviews with recruiters?

• Are business plan competitions (or something else that’s relevant to you) open to all students, or are there certain requirements to qualify?

If you are interviewing with school alum or a second-year student, then you should ask questions about their experiences, for example:

• Who were some of your favorite professors? Favorite classes?

• What is/was a typical day like for you?

• Are there clubs or activities that you would recommend for someone interested in XYZ? What clubs are you involved in? How important do you think it is to be involved in extracurricular activities?

• If you could change anything about your experience at this program, what would it be?

You get the idea. You want to come up with questions that personalize you and that show you have an interest in your interviewer’s experience (if relevant). Be specific, show that you’ve done your research, and most importantly, relax!

Good luck and let us know how we can further help you prepare for your interviews!

Click here to download our free report!

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