5 Steps to Becoming Your Target B-School’s Valentine

Become Your Targe B-School's ValentineLooking for swoon-worthy MBA application tips that will help you capture the hearts of even the stoniest admissions committee members? Read on!

  1. Demonstrate your natural ability to succeed in the b-school classroom. Present an outstanding undergrad transcript and competitive test scores. Don’t have the stats you should? Prove your abilities by getting A’s in business-related classes or by earning certificates like the CPA. Retake the test where your score doesn’t score.
  2. Express your intentions. The admissions board may not be the father of the bride, but the members do want to make sure that you’ve got your head on straight and that you’re  heading into this “relationship” with honorable intentions. If asked, make sure you can answer the following questions: What are your short-term goals? What are your long-term goals? How have your past experiences (personal, educational, and career) led you to this point in your life? If not asked, be prepared to answer during interviews.
  3. Show that you share common values. What better way to win the hearts of the adcom than by showing that you’re all on the same page. Demonstrate that you have the leadership skills they seek, the capacity for intellectual growth they demand, and the same commitment to community and global advancement that they embrace. In other words, check out the school’s mission, and, without parroting it back, demonstrate that you have similar ideals.
  4. Prove that you’ll make them proud. You don’t want to be the lover who never meets the friends or family. You want to earn the status of an out-in-the-open committed relationship. You want your target school to say, “Look here world, we love this guy and we’re proud to have him at our school and as an alum!” Earn that status by showing the contributions you’ve made and the commitments you’ve had in the past – that you have a history, and thereby a habit, of getting the job done, getting it done well, and earning the respect and praise of those around you. You’ve stood out in the past for being an amazing leader/innovator/collaborator/something else, so there’s a good chance you’ll stand out in this next phase of your life as well.
  5. Show that you’re not just a pretty face, but that you’ve got personality to boot. Make sure that your essay supplements all the stats and data in the rest of your b-school application by illustrating some of your brilliant and likeable personality traits. A straight-A report card can’t possibly prove your integrity; but a vignette about how you caught a glitch in an invoice that favored a client and reported it despite pressure to cover it up – that shows integrity. (Letters of recommendation are another good place to display these non-measurable traits, skills, and talents.)

Here’s to winning the love you deserve!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Accepted.com

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UCLA Anderson FEMBA (Fully Employed MBA) 2013 Essay Tips


UCLA Anderson

This set of essays will elicit a well-rounded view of applicants but requires you to be succinct.  Pay attention to the tone as well as the content of the questions – there is an immediacy and directness that can be a model for the tone of your essays.  Moreover, the essays challenge you in two formats – traditional expository writing and shorter, focused presentations that reflect the influence of social media and the need to be conversant with varied communication formats.

Essay 1:
My family is unique because… (Maximum 1 page, double-spaced, 12 point font)

Good, bad, or indifferent, every family is unique in some ways.  Yet not infrequently clients tell me their family really isn’t unique; I’ve heard more than once, for example, “It’s just a typical Chinese immigrant story.”  Well, the specific circumstances, experiences, and people and comprising that story are unique, inherently!  Also you can interpret “family” as you wish – immediate relatives surely, but also extended family, even forebears.  Whatever points or people you discuss, the purpose of this essay is to illuminate you – make sure they are things that are relevant to you and that enhance your candidacy.  I suggest two to three points; one would be okay if you have a vibrant discussion about it, but there isn’t room for more than three points to be discussed with substance.

Essay 2:
Why UCLA Anderson FEMBA for these next three years? Do you plan to enhance your current career or shift into a new career? If your interests are entrepreneurial, are you already an entrepreneur or do you plan to be an entrepreneur, and if so, when and how? (Maximum 1 page, double-spaced, 12 point font)

If you are looking to enhance your current career, a good way to start this essay is to elaborate on your immediate career situation, including some goals in that role and how the MBA education will help you to achieve them.  Then move on to describe your future short- and long-term goals.  If you’re shifting into a new career, start with that career vision and how the current role plus MBA will get you there.  (The entrepreneurial question will be answered by either of these approaches as warranted.)  In describing your goals, indicate why you want to take that path and what you hope to achieve. In discussing how the program will benefit you, describe what skills and knowledge you need, and specifically how the program meets those needs.

Essay 3:
Part One: Describe to the Faculty Committee what you will bring to the learning in the classroom in your 30 second “elevator pitch.” (100 words or less) Part Two: List your top three accomplishments (Professional, Educational or Personal) (35 word maximum per accomplishment) (Maximum 1 page, double-spaced, 12 point font for both parts)

Look at these two parts as a whole; you’ll select and convey telling, distinctive, differentiating points in each.  For Part One, look at yourself from your prospective professors’ and classmates’ eyes: what about you would be most meaningful and engaging?  There is no formula; it will vary by person.  But AVOID generic blabber – root your message in specific details, experiences, accomplishments.  The points can come from any area of your life, but at least some should refer to your professional role/experience.  The advice for Part Two is the same as for Part One, with a focus on specific accomplishments.

Essay 4 (OPTIONAL)

Are there any additional circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (Maximum 1 page, double-spaced, 12 point font)

If any of these scenarios apply to you, please address specifically:

  • If commuting by plane, please detail your commute plans.
  • If you are not currently employed full time, please explain your employment situation right now and your career search plan to be employed by the beginning of the program.
  • If you are currently enrolled in another MBA program, please clarify your status in that program (standing, % complete, etc.), and explain your reason for wanting to begin UCLA Anderson.
  • If you were on academic probation or had failing grades, please address.

If you have a criminal history, please address.

This question’s wording indicates that you should use the optional essay to clarify points in the application that warrant explanation – it may be a “neutral” point like recommender selection, or it may be to explain a problem such as a bad grade.  Of course, the bullets points should be discussed if they apply.  Your content may be positive too!  For example, you would want to inform the adcom if you just enrolled in a microeconomics course (note the school and exact course name).

Essay 5 (Reapplicants Only)

If you are re-applying, please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (Maximum 1 page, double-spaced, 12 point font)

“Progress” and “enhanced candidacy” naturally cover promotions, awards, and big new projects.  Don’t have those?  No problem!  Other developments are also highly relevant and interesting (maybe more interesting): perhaps you’re encountering a new type of market, client, or geographic region.  If so, what are you learning and how will it benefit your goals?  Maybe you’re facing a new, tough challenge – a dysfunctional team, a conflict between your manager and the manager whose project you’re currently involved in.  Narrate the challenge and summarize the resulting “stretch” learning.  In describing refined career goals, discuss how they have evolved since the prior application (if they have).  Last, bring fresh insight about Anderson vis-à-vis your goals; don’t just rehash your previous points.

Remaining Deadlines:

March 31, 2013; decision by May 31, 2013

April 30, 2013; decision by June 28, 2013

Cindy TokumitsuBy , co-author of The Finance Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions Success, and author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last thirteen years with Accepted.

A Proposal for a Better MBA Application

MBA Application essay

“Provide a window into the real you.”

Let’s start with a few basic assumptions:

  • Admissions committee members are professionals, dedicated gate-keepers striving to attract and fashion the best, most diverse class they can.
  • The purpose of application essays is to:
    • Provide a window into the real you.
    • Add value to the other elements of the application.
    • Demonstrate communications ability.

A bit of background: I have worked with applicants to college, business school, medical school, law school, and a variety of graduate specialties since 1994. Of the major professional school application processes, the medical school application process is by far the most demanding. The law school process is the easiest and most focused on grades and test score.  The MBA process is my favorite because I feel that it requires a reasonable amount of effort from the applicant and is still holistic.

The widespread shrinking of MBA applications this year is making the process less holistic and that saddens me.  As an Accepted.com consultant recently emailed me: “This shift of HBS to only 2 essays is killing me since I feel [my client is] leaving so much out!”

I admire the commitment to constantly improve reflected in Harvard Admissions Director Dee Leopold’s May 22 blog post where she announced this year’s app and wrote:

“Our process is the product of an admissions team that is always in design/development mode. All throughout the year we meet and dream up ways that will make it easier for you to feel “understood” and undertake assessment steps that map to what we do here in the classroom and what you will do in your careers. We’re always trying to tweak and improve, and this is what we’ve come up with for the Class of 2015.”

I fear however that applicants, especially those not invited to interview at HBS or those struggling with less room in most MBA applications, are feeling “less understood.” After all, HBS is giving more words to the recommenders than to the applicant in its initial application. It’s like saying, “I really want to understand you, but don’t talk too much.”

So as someone who is seeing what’s being left out in this year’s MBA applications and who also has perspective from other admissions processes and 18 years of experience seeing different applications and essays, here’s my suggestion for next year’s MBA application.

MBA Application Requirements.

      • Undergrad transcript from accredited institutions
      • TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE if applicant did not graduate from a college or university where English is the language of instruction.
      • GMAT or GRE
      • Job and activity history. In addition, applicants to choose the three most significant jobs or activities and indicate why they consider these experiences noteworthy. (150 words maximum for each experience)
      • 4 Required Essay Questions:
  1. What do you want to do after business school? How did you develop this goal? How will attending our school help you do it? (500 words)
  2. Please tell us about a time when you demonstrated Quality X (Could be leadership, teamwork, humility, communications, initiative, innovation. Choose the attribute your school values most.) What did you learn? (300 words)
  3. Tell us about a time when you experienced a setback or failure. What happened? What did you do, feel, and learn? (300 words)
  4. If you have a free day to do anything you want, how do you spend it? (300 words)
      • Optional Information: Please provide context for information contained in your application that you feel needs explanation. If you don’t have anything to explain, don’t write anything. (Maximum 250 words.)

These questions would produce a holistic picture of an applicant.  #4, however, could be any question that elicits non-professional information from a candidate like Duke’s “25 Things.” Or even more off-beat: “If you were to bury 5 things in a time capsule to be found in 100 years, what would they be and why these items?” You get the idea.

Some schools have what I call a “signature question,” a question that is unique to that institution, like Stanford #1 or NYU Stern #3. If your school has a signature question and you want to keep it, substitute it for any one of 2-4

      • 2 Letters of Recommendation. (1 must be from a professional context and from a supervisor; the second can be from a significant, but non-professional commitment.)
      • Interview, by invitation only. I believe that Wharton’s team interview is a great addition to one-on-one interviews since so much work both in business school and beyond is done in teams. Many businesses also require a team interview as part of their hiring process.  Obviously adding the team interview requires a serious manpower and logistical investment.

Some of you will probably read this proposal and think, “Ah, she just wants more essays so she can make more money.” My motives are irrelevant to the merit of my proposal. They can be noble or nefarious, selfish or altruistic. They simply don’t matter. Ultimately, either my proposal improves the application process and gets admissions offices the information they need to create the ever-improving classes they like to brag about, or it doesn’t. And there are still plenty of schools with more demanding applications than I am proposing above.

Here’s to an ever-improving MBA application.

Linda Abraham By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com, co-founder and past president of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and author of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

This article first appeared on Poets and Quants.

Should You Apply to B-School Round 3 or Next Year?

"it depends..."

“It depends…”

You didn’t think we’d give you a clear cut yes or no answer did you? 😀

The answer, as is often case in MBA admissions, is…it depends.

The chances of gaining acceptance decrease as the rounds progress. That means that acceptance rates during R3 are generally lower than during R1 and R2. Similarly, grants and scholarships are harder to come by later in the admissions game.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply. Your chances of acceptance = 0 if you don’t apply. They are >0 if you do apply.

Here are four cases in which you SHOULD apply R3:

  1. If you really have your heart set on joining the b-school class of 2015, then you should definitely apply R3 (or even R4 if your target program offers that option). Again, you’ll have ZERO chance of getting in if you don’t apply.
  2. If you are a truly exceptional candidate – stats-wise, diversity-wise, experience-wise, etc. – then you should apply R3/R4. Not everyone is rejected (or there wouldn’t be such a thing as late rounds) and if anyone is going to get in, it’s going to be those applicants with extremely impressive profiles.
  3. If you don’t mind spending the extra money, time, and energy to apply now, get rejected, and then apply again during R1 of the next application season, then you really don’t have much to lose going for it this year. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to get feedback (that is, if you’re unlucky enough to get dinged), then that feedback will prove extremely valuable when you reapply next year.
  4. You applied R1 and were rejected at all programs. You understand that you simply aimed too high and are now ready to apply to less competitive programs.

And here are six reasons why you should wait until next year:

  1. You don’t have the time to create flawless essays before the R3 buzzer. It’s much better to wait until you can submit something closer to perfect than to rush and send in a sloppy essay early.
  2. You plan on retaking the GMAT. If you’re not happy with your current GMAT results, then you should wait until you can apply with that higher (hopefully) score.
  3. You won’t be able to secure the best recommendations by the R3/R4 deadline. It’s better to wait for the ideal recommenders than to go with less-impressive ones early.
  4. You need more time to bulk up your work experience and personal profiles.
  5. You’re fuzzy as to why you want an MBA or your reasons for choosing particular schools. Get clarity, and then apply – preferably round 1.
  6. You are an international applicant and may have trouble getting the necessary visa and financing.

If you need further help making this decision, please contact us for more advice.


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Toronto Rotman 2013 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips


Rotman MBA

“One of the leading business schools in Canada.”

The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business is one of the leading business schools in Canada. Known for its design approach to MBA education and strong emphasis on problem solving, Rotman’s program is growing in size and renown.

Essays Questions:

1. What is your post-MBA career goal and why do you think this career would be a good match? How will the Rotman MBA help you to achieve your goal? (Please limit your answer to 500 words.)

This is a classic, straight-forward MBA goals question, with a little twist. What do you want to do with your MBA (what do you want to do after your MBA?) and why is Rotman the best school to help you achieve your goal (the right route)?

Define your goal in terms of the function you want to perform and the industry you want to work in. You may also want to specify geographic location, if it’s an important part of your goal. You don’t have to specific the company you want to work for, but you can say you want to work for companies like X.

The twist in this question is that Rotman wants to know how you chose this goal. What appeals to you about this path? How do you know it’s right for you?

Finally, how will the Rotman’s program and approach to business education help you achieve your goals? Focus on the distinctive aspects of Rotman in your response.

A possible structure for your essay: Start your response with an anecdote about an achievement that illustrates your goal’s appeal to you. Then provide the reasons this event or experience is important to you, describe your goal and then detail how Rotman will help you attain it.

For more ideas on responding to this and other MBA goals question, please see MBA Goals: A-Z

2. Tell us about a time when you had to overcome an obstacle and describe the outcome.  (Please limit your answer to 250 words.)

This is a fairly short essay and a straight-forward one at that. I recommend an obstacle that you have overcome and that you handled well.  Discuss the situation you faced, the challenges it presented, and how you responded.  Finally what was the result? What did you learn from the experience.  If possible, be anecdotal in telling the story and avoid cliches when analyzing what you learned.

3. Video essay: The Rotman School is introducing a new video essay component as a pilot project in our admissions process this year. You will be asked two questions, both questions are designed to be answered without any advanced preparation and will allow us to get to know you, your personality, interests, passions, and talents much better than we could in a written essay. Click the following link to start the video essay (this will only take a few minutes to complete): www.kiratalent.com/interview/rotman2013

This is totally new and quite innovative. To prepare, you need to practice for the experience of talking to a video camera with no feedback from another human being. Having created videos for Accepted, I found the experience very unnatural.  

Until the questions become known, practice answering “What do you do for fun? What are your passions, interests, and hobbies?” This is an example given in the BW article about the Rotman interview. Time your responses and train yourself to answer in no more than 90 seconds.

4. Optional Essay: Is there anything that you think the Admissions Committee should know which you feel has not been covered by the rest of the application? If you believe your credentials and essays represent you fairly, do not feel obligated to answer this question.

Use this essay to provide context for information that doesn’t present your abilities accurately.   For example, if you worked significant hour during college and your GPA took a hit, that’s something to share with the Admissions Committee. Or if you were sick the semester that your GPA was only a 2.0, but you averaged a 3.5 the rest of college, that information is important for the Admissions Committee to know. For more suggestions, please see The Optional Question: To Be or not To Be.


Please be aware that admission to Rotman is highly competitive and the class may become full before the final application deadline date. Therefore, while the final deadline date in the annual application cycle is June 1, it is highly recommended that applicants submit their completed applications as early as possible within the application cycle for the best chance of being admitted.

Deadline Admission decision by
Round 1: October 9, 2012
Round 2: January 7, 2013
Round 3: March 4, 2013*
Round 4: April 29, 2013
Round 5: June 1, 2013**
December 14, 2012
March 8, 2013
May 10, 2013
June 14, 2013
June 30, 2013

*Round 4 is the final deadline for international applicants, but we strongly encourage you to apply by Round 3 to ensure adequate processing time for study permits and loans.

**Round 5 is the final deadline for domestic applicants.

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.

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