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.

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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Wharton JD/MBA Student Interview with Craig Carter

Download free: Navigating the MBA MazeThis interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs (or in this case, a top JD/MBA program). And now for a follow up interview with Craig Carter, a second-year student at UPenn’s joint JD/MBA program. (We first met Craig last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)

Accepted: How’s your JD/MBA program going so far? Last we spoke, you had just completed your first year and had been involved only in the law school component of the program. How has your impression of the program changed now that you’ve had more exposure to Wharton?

Craig: The program is going great! Unfortunately, time is flying by too fast. In a couple months, my JD/MBA cohort will have completed the first two years.

My impression of the program has been enhanced through the Wharton experience. Business school and law school are two completely different environments and learning experiences. Business school is largely a team-based project oriented education. Whereas, law school is more individualized theoretical learning. The joint-program provides a complementary training that can only be appreciated after experiencing both schools.

Accepted: What was your favorite thing about Wharton? Least favorite?

Craig: My favorite thing is definitely the endless amount of opportunities to pursue – from clubs and conferences to the entrepreneurship center and leadership treks. There is definitely a place for each individual to develop and thrive in their chosen field or area of interest.

My least favorite thing is the size, which is a bit of a gift and a curse. There are about 850 people in each MBA class. The large size is my least favorite because it’s impossible for me to get to know each classmate as well as I would like. On the others hand, the size and scale creates more opportunities for networking, more diversity of experience in the classroom, and a broader alumni network to leverage.

Accepted: Are you feeling any sort of pull towards either law or business? Is there one field that’s drawing you in more than the other?

Craig: I am definitely feeling the pull toward business. The law is interesting, complex, and necessary; however, I will pursue a career in business. I entered the program intending to begin my career in business, but I have certainly gained a greater appreciation for the legal field after these first two years.

Accepted: Do you have an internship lined up yet for this year? If so, what is it and what role did Wharton play in helping you secure that position?

Craig: I will spend the summer in New York interning in J.P. Morgan’s M&A group. Wharton played a huge role facilitating the recruitment process. Between the career management office and the finance club, each student is completely prepared to secure an internship and succeed thereafter.

Accepted: What is your favorite class so far?

Craig: My favorite business school class was a dynamic marketing simulation. The course focused on issues such as the selection of which businesses and segments to compete in, how to allocate resources across businesses, segments, and elements of the marketing mix, as well as other significant strategic issues facing today’s managers in a dynamic competitive environment.

Accepted: With your dual curriculum, do you find you have time for extracurricular activities or for simply hanging out? Can you talk about how you manage the juggling act?

Craig: The dual curriculum does allow for extracurriculars and a lot of fun. However, it is quite a challenge to maintain a presence in both schools. On the social side, there is plenty of time to hang out with friends. At Wharton, people go out every night – who said Monday night can’t be just like Friday night? Law school is a little less aggressive about the party scene, but law students still know how to have some fun.

Accepted: Which clubs are you involved in on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?

Craig: I am involved in many clubs – affinity, professional, and athletic – at both schools. At Wharton, I am primarily involved with the Black MBA Association, the Finance Club, and Basketball Club. At the law school, I am in the Black Law Student Association, serve on the student government, and represent the student body on the faculty committee.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school or law school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages and Law School Admissions Services. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Wharton see:

• Wharton 2014 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips

• Wharton Executive MBA 2014 Essay Tips

• What’s Right with Wharton (and How to Get In), a free webinar

• CommonBond: How Two Wharton Grads Revolutionized Student Loans

Thank you Craig for sharing your story with us!

Want to start a business? Partner in a law firm? Go into private equity? Run a media and entertainment company? How about all of the above?

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5 Million to Share: The 43North Competition

Want to know more? Listen to the full episode!Do you have a great business idea but need 1 million dollars to get yourself started? Meet Peter Burakowski, Senior Marketing Manager at 43North.

Listen to the recording of our fascinating conversation with Peter to find out why 43North is going to give away $5 million dollars to eleven promising entrepreneurs and what you need to do if you want to be one of the winners.

00:01:43 – About 43North (and why you really want to win).

00:10:06 – Who can apply.

00:11:21 – Why retail and hospitality are excluded.

00:12:25 – The 43North application process.

00:14:30 – What are the judges looking for?

00:16:33 – Setting up shop in Buffalo.

00: 21:49 – How many applicants are vying for the gold?

00:23:37 – About the judges. (Will you be one of them?)

00:27:32 – Mentorship and community.

00:31:03 – A lot more than a t-shirt: what happens to the semi-finalists.

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:

•  43North
•  Which Universities Contribute the Most to VC-Backed Entrepreneurship?
•  MBA Admissions Special Reports
•  Grad School Admissions Special Reports
•  Med School Admissions Special Reports
•  Law School Admissions Special Reports

Related Shows:

•  MBAs Across America: The Coolest HBS Internship
•  Which Schools are Good for PE/VC and VC-Backed Entrepreneurship
•  Business, Law and Beyond: An Interview with John Engelman
•  Dr. Douglas Stayman Shares the Scoop on Cornell Tech NYC
•  Jeff Reid on Entrepreneurship
•  CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans

Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk:

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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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Pew Study Shows Grad Degrees Pay Off!

Learn how to evaluate your profile, skills, and experiences to determine if, when, and where you should apply to graduate school.

A graduate education can be a fantastic investment, or burdensome expense.

According to a Pew study, earnings of college grads with no further education have increased 13% since 1984, while earnings of those with advanced degrees have risen 23% in that same time period. For those with professional and doctorate degrees, the numbers jump even higher, to 34%.

This data, however, doesn’t take into account the following two things: 1) These increases don’t reflect the unemployment rate – that is, they only show a pay increase for those graduates who have found work; 2) They don’t take household income into consideration – the higher the socioeconomic status, the greater the chance is that marriage and childbearing has been delayed (i.e. fewer dependents) and the greater the chance for greater gains.

Let’s take a look at monthly household income for a moment: The median adjusted monthly household income of college graduates has gone up $1,300 since 1984. For households headed by someone with an advanced degree, that inflation-adjusted amount is $1,500, and for those with professional or doctorate degrees, it’s skyrocketed to $3,400. For those who have not completed a bachelor’s degree, monthly household income has decreased since 1984.

Here are two additional points:

•   The study doesn’t show that higher education has caused financial gain, just the association between the two.

•   Since 1984, the percentage of college grads who’ve gone on to complete an advanced degree has only gone up 1% (from 26% in 1984 to 27% in 2009). This amount is statistically insignificant and goes against the belief that a weak economy pushes people into higher education.

My Thoughts

While I’m always glad to see evidence that a graduate education pays off, I’m concerned about two omissions in this report.

1. This research doesn’t reflect the increased cost of graduate education since 1984.

2. By talking in terms of averages and aggregates, this research doesn’t reflect the uneven benefits of graduate and professional education. The STEM fields in general are booming. The job market for humanities and law grads has basically crashed.

Before plunking down those tuition dollars or even starting the application process, it behooves you to pursue your dreams with an eye on the top and bottom line and a few of the lines in between. What is your education going to cost you? What are the likely financial benefits?

A graduate education can be a fantastic investment, or burdensome expense. Do the homework and research necessary before spending your hard earned cash or assuming thousands of dollars in debt. You want to arrive on campus with confidence that the return on your tuition dollar and time will be more fantastic than the cost.

Download your free copy of GET YOUR GAME ON: Preparing for Your Grad School Application

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

2015 Best Law Schools by U.S. News

Ready for this year’s U.S. News best law school rankings? Let’s jump right in!

Download your free copy of The Law School Admissions Guide!2015 Best Law Schools

1. Yale

2. Harvard

3. Stanford

4. Columbia

4. Chicago

6. NYU

7. UPenn

8. UVA

9. UC Berkeley

10. Duke 2015

Best Part-Time Law Schools

1. Georgetown

2. George Washington University

3. Fordham University

4. George Mason University

5. Loyola Marymount University

6. University Connecticut

7. Lewis & Clark College – Northwestern

7. Southern Methodist University – Dedman

7. University of Maryland – Carey

10. Temple University – Beasley

10. University of Houston

The Law School Admissions Guide: 8 Tips for Success

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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

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