An Interview With Our Own: Natalie Grinblatt Epstein

View Natalie's bio page!Curious about the life and times of our spectacular admissions consultants? Please enjoy our newest blog series in which we interview the fabulous people who make up the Accepted.com staff. Next up is…Natalie Grinblatt Epstein.

Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any graduate degrees? Where do you currently live?

Natalie: I’m a first generation immigrant who grew up in suburban Detroit surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins (we have a large family) that didn’t speak English, so I picked up Yiddish, French, and a little Hebrew along the way. My parents felt travel and community service were both extremely important to our upbringing and by the time I was 18, I put in over 1000 hours of community service for organizations ranging from the American Cancer Association to UNICEF. We also traveled to 20 different countries before I began university (that count is closer to 80 now).

I attended the University of Michigan and my closest friends and I lived in the same dorm, so we created our own sorority without having to go through pledging. We are best friends to this day.

I waived out of a lot of courses through AP and university testing, so I actually started as a sophomore, but decided to use that to explore the sciences, the arts and a lot of literature. I was active in theater groups, political action groups and I was lucky enough to be assigned on a research project that changed my world. I studied the Elizabethan period in depth and dropped pre-med having fallen in love with Shakespeare instead of Jonas Salk.

Theater enabled me to be fearless, but it didn’t lead to post-BA careers, so after spending two years in retail, I returned to Ann Arbor for my MBA.

Accepted: Can you walk us through the jobs and experiences that led you to become an admissions consultant for Accepted?

Natalie: I initially pursued the MBA for a career in CPG, but again, a research project turned my world upside down and my marketing professor/mentor suggested I implement my research at Michigan. I thought I would stay for a year, I stayed for 11. Understanding that I needed to diversify my resume, I was offered and accepted the role of Admissions Director at Cornell.

My first day was memorable: I walked in from orientation and 75% of my staff had resigned (I hadn’t even started yet), I negotiated to move Financial Aid under my charge, I discovered 10,000 “inquiries” that were still being hand entered and then automated the system. That year we broke all prior records despite being short staffed, and I created a team that I knew could navigate the most rigorous rapids.

I worked my way up at Michigan from Assistant Director, to Associate Director and finally Director managing not only admissions, but also students services, student affairs, events, marketing (now each of those has separate departments, but I was a one woman shop under the guidance of amazing mentors). I created my own roles at both Michigan and Cornell. They trusted me to make the school better, and I used intra and inter university relationships to do so. I created recruiting teams out of multiple schools to share costs and also data. It worked well for all schools who are now solidly placed in the top 15. Moreover, I volunteered for GMAC (the Graduate Management Admissions Council) for 9 years in order to strengthen those relationships. At Cornell, no one thought it possible to work together with the Fundraising offices at other schools to pipeline students. I institutionalized this at Cornell and again, it works well for all parties involved.

I loved Michigan and Cornell, but on a snowy day in Ithaca, I received a call from Arizona State University. My best friend lived in Phoenix, and I was missing the sunshine. I accomplished a lot at Cornell and felt like it was time for a move. So I did.

Soon after moving to Phoenix, I met the man who became my husband. He sent me a business plan before our first official date. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to date me or hire me. He did both. We launched a business together and then tied the knot. I became a mother instantly to two wonderful boys (my stepsons) and a technology venture.

We sold the business two years later, and I missed higher education, so I called Linda Abraham and asked her if she needed another consultant. I knew Linda because she was running chats for us that benefitted Cornell and Accepted.com, and I really enjoyed working with her. I knew she was sharp and I always want to surround myself with brilliant and positive people and Linda certainly fits that definition. I’ve been with Accepted.com ever since that phone call in 2008 and I enjoy being on the other side of the table helping clients understand the inner workings of admissions. Transparency helps everyone, and my knowledge has been a powerful tool for my clients. I also brought on two of my former admissions colleagues and have been conducting some business development for Accepted.com when I have time.

Accepted: What is your favorite book?

Natalie: My favorite readings are Shakespeare’s canon. I still love to read the history plays. Currently, I’m reading The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt (no relation), but this Harvard professor writes eloquently and I’m learning a lot about how once lost classical literature was found again and created the entire Renaissance movement.

Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about consulting?

Natalie: My favorite thing about consulting is helping others make their dreams come true. I find it so gratifying to hear, “I’ve been accepted and I couldn’t have done it without you.” It’s a great boost to my ego, but more importantly, I love to see my clients blossom and grow. Education is vital to growth and if I can help clients gain the education they deserve, I feel I’ve accomplished my vision for the future.

In terms of the nuts and bolts, I love brainstorming ideas with my clients and preparing them for interviews. I believe I have the greatest impact in helping my clients shape their stories both in their application and in person.

Accepted: What sorts of applicants do you mostly work with?

Natalie: Given my business school background, I work mostly with MBAs and EMBAs, but I also work with high school students (because I did work with undergraduates at Michigan), PhDs (because I did work with the PhDs at Cornell), MF or MFEs (because I had experience reviewing those candidates files as well) and MPH or EMPH because they are similar to MBA candidates and I have a personal interest and read a lot about healthcare. I also work with a variety of dual degree candidates because I’ve had that experience as well.

Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips?

Natalie:

1. Keep it simple (many clients want to cram everything into an essay and it doesn’t work).

2. Show your multi-dimensionality. For example, I love Columbia Business School’s question, “What would your cluster be surprised to learn about you?” Surprise them. Many clients think this is business only, but as an admissions director, I loved reading about other things that motivated my candidates: athletics, cooking, unique travel; musical instruments; standup comedy (Twitter’s CEO, a fellow Michigan graduate, spent many years as a standup comic). Don’t be a one trick pony.

3. Use relationships you have to put in a good word for you (not too many or that becomes desperate, but a shout out coming from a faculty member, student or alum will gain the attention of the admissions director).

4. I know you asked for three, but I have 5 suggestions: Seek the help you need (consulting, tutoring, editing, proof-reading, resume-writing, interview rehearsals).

5. Finally, don’t wait until the last minute. Applying to school takes time, introspection, and a realistic outlook. Cast the net widely and you will land softly and in the right place for you.

Learn more about Natalie and how she can help you get accepted!

See how Accepted can help you succeed!Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

MBA Interview Prep: How to Ace Your Interviews [Free Guide]
• MBA Admissions Consulting and Editing Services
MBA Admissions According to an Expert [Podcast]

I’m About to Make Your Day…

Download Your Free Guide to Crafting a Killer Admissions Resume

Does your opening line catch the reader’s attention?

…by giving my essay a catchy opening line that doesn’t turn you away or bore you to tears.

See, I could have started this tip post with “Today I am going to tell you how to create a compelling essay opening,” but you probably would have skipped over something as drab as that. How about these?

It is the art of philosophical car washing that got me thinking about pursuing an MBA.

or

There are numerous ways to make a banana split cry.

…now THOSE are essays or personal statements I’d like to read!

Yes, you want an engaging opening for your admissions essay or personal statement, but you also want to make sure to avoid anything obvious or chock full of clichés.

A good essay opening is one that:

• …sets the tone. A serious essay should be introduced by a serious opening line. If an intro sentence makes you chuckle, on the other hand, then you can assume the essay itself it humorous as well.

• …raises intrigue. Your essay’s opening line should encourage questioning or engender curiosity. Like for our first example above, “What is philosophical car washing?” or “What is the art form of this activity like?” or, as per our second example above, “Huh?” And that’s okay too!

• …surprising, shocking, or suspenseful. Causing your reader to flinch, raise an eyebrow in surprise, jump with shock, or furrow her forehead from suspense is a good thing. That reader will want to read on.

Grab your readers’ attention so they will read your essay because they want to and not because they have to.

NOTE: If you can’t think of a catchy opening, but know what you plan on writing, feel free to write your essay first and add a catchy hook at the beginning of the essay once you’re done, or sometime along the way.

Download your free Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes! Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Application
• From Example to Exemplary – A Free Guide
• Writing The MBA Application Essay

Get To Know Accepted!

As the dynamic and thoughtful community at Accepted continues to grow, we’d like to take a moment to thank you for your engagement and to introduce ourselves to those of you who may not know what we are all about.

Keep up the great conversation in the comments section! We love hearing from you.

See how Accepted can help you succeed!

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• Get to know our admissions consultants
Download a free admissions guide
Check out the Admissions Straight Talk Podcast

Tips For Answering Common Application Essay Prompts

Find out how to do it right by downloading our special report, Ivy League and Common Application Tips: How to Get Accepted!

Give yourself time to think about the information you are conveying and what it reveals about you.

If you are beginning your senior year of high school, this is the prime time to write your Common Application essay. The sooner you get started, the better. If possible, use the summer to focus your efforts on writing your essay. There are over 500 Common Application members in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. All these institutions have a common commitment to a holistic approach to the admissions process. This commitment means they look at more than just your test scores and GPA. They also give significant weight to your essay responses.

Keep in mind your essays help round out the picture of who you are and what is important to you. They also provide insight into the sort of student you might be in college. Regardless of which essay prompt you address, it is essential to give yourself time to think about the information you are conveying and what specifically it reveals about you. It is also important to invest the energy to revise your responses. Each rendition of your essay should work to clarify your intentions while projecting something meaningful about yourself. Your goal is to tell the admission committees something that is not already conveyed elsewhere in your application.

In addition to the main Common Application essay, many of these schools require additional supplemental essay responses. Those are the subjects of other blog posts.

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Describe your unique background, identity, interest, or talent and explain in detail what it reveals about your values. Why is it so meaningful to you? This is an opportunity to talk about various topics that are unique to you—cultural heritage, burning interests, outstanding talents, sense of identity, or unusual circumstances. Then discuss how this information/revelation/reflection/experience/talent/interest plays out in who you are and the way you look at the world. What motivates you? In short, why is the information you selected significant to you and how is it central to the way you view yourself? How does the meaningful information you shared help to prepare you for your future?

The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

How do you deal with adversity and what does that say about you? Clearly describe the specific failure you experienced. Discuss what you learned from the experience and how it affects you in your day-to-day life as well as its impact on your way of thinking. Don’t focus on the setback itself; rather emphasize what you learned about yourself and how that changed your perspective or behavior. Maybe you learned that hard work pays off? Or that balance is important in your life? Or that you want to make different decisions in the future? As you reflect on this experience remember your goal in this response is to demonstrate resilience.

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Recount a time when you stood up for something. Explain what created the conflict that motivated you to take action. Discuss why this so meaningful to you. What do your actions reveal about you? Then think about whether or not you would make the same decision again and why. Make sure you clearly communicate your values and beliefs. What did you learn from this experience?

Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

Clearly articulate the problem. Remember the scale is not a factor, it is important to focus on why it is significant to you. This could be an issue on a personal level, in a local community, or with worldwide impact. Did you learn anything in particular about yourself as you reflect on this problem? Consider what your concerns about this problem reveal about the kind of person you are or hope to be. Discuss what you did or what you might do to find a solution. The essence of this question relates to your values, character, creativity and sense of identity. It also examines how you problem-solve and your ability to conceive solutions. Your response demonstrates a number of personal characteristics—What is important to you? How do you process the world around you? What are some of your perceptions and assumptions? To what extent do you actively engage issues? How do you overcome challenges? Can you come up with creative/effective/unique solutions to problems?

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

This prompt asks how you gained independence and became more self-aware. Provide a rich context as you detail your selected accomplishment or event and then focus on how it demonstrates a significant transition in your life. Why was this event so important to you? Take it a step further and discuss how this new phase or different status can serve as a foundation in the future.

If none of the essay prompts immediately jump out at you, give yourself some time to reflect on your life experiences. Talk with your parents and teachers about your ideas. Eventually you will discover a topic that excites you and reveals something significant about you. The subject of your essay doesn’t have to be completely novel. However, it should reflect your unique perspective while clearly communicating your best self. Think about what is important to you and why. This is your opportunity to differentiate yourself from other applicants.  Remember, all the Common Application member schools are interested in learning more about you through your essays!

Find out what you can do NOW to make applying to college go as smoothly as possible!

Marie Todd By Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.

Related Resources:

• The Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes
College Application Tips for Parents
• 4 Ways to Show How You’ll Contribute in the Future

Record-Setting Donation For Harvard Engineering School

Click here for more info about Harvard Business School.Billionaire hedge-fund manager John Paulson has donated $400 million to Harvard for its engineering school—the largest donation in the university’s history. The engineering school will be renamed the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. According to the university, the gift will be used to fund research, teaching, financial aid, and faculty development at the school of engineering.

Paulson is an alumnus of Harvard Business School who has made billions operating Paulson & Co, his hedge fund.

Harvard is the world’s richest university, with an endowment of $36.4 billion. The university is two years into a 5-year, $6.5 billion fundraising campaign, that has already brought in significant gifts (totaling over $5 billion by the end of 2014).

Admissions Resume GuideAccepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy

Related Resources:

The Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes
Harvard’s School of Public Health Receives $350 Million Gift from Hong Kong Group
• UCLA Anderson Bags $100 Million Gift