Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where and what did you study as a student?
Cindy: I studied at SUNY Buffalo, focusing on art history, criticism, and literature. These are all topics that involve the analysis of presentation, and the relationship between form and content – elements that prove consistently germane to my work with Accepted. Regardless of admissions trends and the evolution of the process as it becomes permeated by technology, these elements endure; they are at the heart of the process.
Accepted: What’s your favorite non-school/non-work book?
Cindy: It’s a tie, both novels: Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain and Joseph Roth’s Radetzky March. The latter is not a perfect novel, but it is so humane and so deeply evocative of a place and time that it really changed my perspective and understanding. The former is just so packed with compelling themes, ideas, story lines, and characters, that I felt totally gripped by an amazing vortex the whole time I was reading it. Like being tossed on a raging sea by surprise, and finishing was like landing on a new shore; “Wow, where am I…?”
Accepted: Can you talk about the road that led you to becoming an admissions consultant for Accepted? What jobs and experiences led you to this point?
Cindy: There are 3 main threads of prior experience that cohere into this ideal job.
First, many, many years ago, I taught English in Japan. This experience taught me to understand each person’s learning style and learning needs, and to help non-native English speakers become more natural with the language, so they could express themselves.
Second, I worked for a niche business publisher for six-plus years first as an acquisitions editor and then as editorial director. This experience familiarized me with business. It also taught me to understand a target audience and develop products that met their needs. Publishing is a collaborative effort ultimately, and it also made me a sensitive and astute collaborator, as I was the link between our authors and our marketing and finance teams (in some ways resembling my role at Accepted as link between the client/applicant and the adcom readers).
Third, and not least, I worked for many years as an independent writer, editor, and project manager. I worked a lot on marketing, finance, and education materials. Among other things, it enhanced my ability to take raw content and out of it fashion an effective story, case, or presentation for a given audience. The breadth of content and diversity of people I have worked with is quite amazing, and this breadth helps me see each type of content and each person more clearly – more so than if I had been immersed in one specialization only – the relative perspective is valuable.
Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about consulting?
Cindy: No surprise here – the endless learning, plus the amazing people I meet. People who not only impress me, but, often, move me with their life experiences, their tenacity, and their courage.
Accepted: What sorts of applicants do you mostly work with?
Cindy: I work with applicants to all types of programs: MBA and other business/finance program, law, med, and other various grad programs. The bulk of the work in recent years is with MBA and EMBA applicants.
Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips?
1. As you work on your application, keep laser focused on making it answer one core question: Why will the adcom admit you over other well qualified applicants from similar backgrounds?
2. You’ve probably heard it before, but my 15+ years of experience have shown it to be consistently true: To differentiate yourself, it’s not a matter of having the most dramatic story, the most unusual experience, the rarest demographic – it’s what you have to say about your experience, whatever it is. I’ve read outstanding, compelling, unforgettable (dare I say sometimes hilarious) essays written about something as seemingly mundane as playing weekend basketball with one’s buddies, and as plebian as growing up in a “typical” Omaha family – the applicants got into top-5 MBA and law programs. It’s a matter of the person, the individual, who’s doing the telling. Show your perspective, your character, your synthesis of experience. Have, and express, a point of view.
3. Clarify your motivations, whatever you’re discussing – whether describing your goals or actions you took. Your motivations are what make the admissions readers care about you and your candidacy.