Top Ten Tips for the MBA Behavioral Interview

If you have been invited to interview at any or all of the schools on your list, congratulations!  Now you must begin preparing for a memorable and acceptance-worthy performance.

1.       Upon receiving the invitation, schedule the interview as soon as possible. This will enable you to avoid scheduling conflicts and select the time of day when you have the most energy.

2.       Read all you can about the school. If possible, schedule a full visit prior to the interview, which often will include a tour, class observation, and conversations with current students. Additionally, talk to current or former students already in your network to gain insight on the interview process and other aspects of their MBA experience.

3.       Review your application and think through how you will coherently explain your path to this point, as well as your decision-making and most meaningful experiences at each step. You will likely have some introductory question(s), which will require a three-minute elevator-pitch response, as well as several other questions that will require you to illustrate your points regarding such things as your ability to thrive in a team-based environment, etc., with specific examples from your work experience. 

4.       Be able to thoroughly explain why the school is the perfect intersection of where you’ve been and where you want to go. Elaborate on specifics, such as courses, professors, and extracurricular activities that make sense given your past experiences, interests, and achievements, as well as future plans. Remember, though, depth is better than breadth.  We would rather you explain at length one or two specifics that really set that school apart for you, than briefly mention of 7-10 attributes.

5.       Be prepared to weave into your responses what you will be able to offer the school. Make it clear how your experiences and interests, personal and professional, will benefit the school and create a stronger, more diverse MBA class and alumni base.

6.       Think through your career successes and failures and consider what you learned from both. Especially when answering a question regarding a failure, it is vital to spend only 20 percent of the response covering the situation. The rest should be devoted to action you took to prevent similar failures going forward and what you’ve learned as a result.

7.       Determine if there are any red flags in your application materials, and, if so, craft a response that addresses the issue without making excuses.  For example, if asked about the ‘C’ you received in calculus sophomore year, make mention of those specific areas in your transcript and post-baccalaureate experience that are more indicative of your ability to compete in a rigorous academic environment.  

8.       Stay current on domestic and international news. The Economist is a good, wide-reaching source for this. You will also want to be aware of any news related to your current company, industry and desired career path as these are great topics for an interviewer to draw from.  Setting up google alerts for key phrases related to your company and industry will help.

9.       Prepare three questions for the end of the interview, which will show your knowledge of and enthusiasm for the school.

10.   Compose a hand-written thank you note on high quality stock, and snail mail it to your interviewer. In the note, thank them for their time, reiterate your interest in the school, mentioning a specific or two, and if you can, make note of something memorable you spoke about during the interview.

The Wharton Interview: Excel in the Team Based Discussion

An invitation to Wharton’s Team Based Discussion can be as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. But with preparation and the proper mind-set, it can be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your ability to think on your feet and respond under pressure. To ace the interview, consider the following tips:

1. Prepare thoroughly. After you receive the scenario, create a proposal and know it inside and out. Practice your presentation, out loud. Present in front of a mirror, or a live-audience of friends. Be sure that you feel confident about your ability to present your idea in a relaxed way, showcasing how you thought through the exercise. While, you don’t want to memorize your presentation word-for-word or sound overly rehearsed, you do want to be able to describe your idea in an articulate and conversational way. Your interview day may include other activities, such as attending a lecture and/or interacting with current and prospective students. You will want to be confident prior to arriving on campus with no need for last minute prepping.

2. Be prepared to explain and answer questions on your proposed idea. You can do this by considering what questions may arise from your proposal and writing out your responses to them. The more people you can share your idea with and collect questions from, the better. After working with an idea for a long period, it becomes harder and harder to poke holes in it. Let your friends, co-workers, or parents help you with this process.

  • To help you start, make sure that you are comfortable responding to the following.
  1. What are the beneficial outcomes of your proposal for students? For Wharton?
  2. What are the risks of your proposal?
  3. What assumptions are you making?
  4. What are the drawbacks or limitations of your idea? Why are these acceptable?
  • Be able to articulate the “why?” behind all the components of your proposal, as well as the “why not?” for other potential possibilities. This is important because (most likely) your proposal will not be selected. However, if you can find other students who have a similar “why?” as the foundation of their ideas, it will help you to collaborate with them and contribute to the discussion.

3. Prepare yourself to provide meaningful input to the discussion by continuing to be well informed of international business news. The Economist is a good, wide-reaching source for this. While there is no expectation that you will be an expert on everything, you should be conversant in current events and be able to make high-level social, political and economic observations about others’ proposals.

4. Be a team player. This cannot be stressed enough. While there is an aspect of competition to the interview, the team-based discussion is an opportunity to show your collaborative nature. Don’t try to “win” by pressuring the group to select your proposal. Instead, demonstrate how you will fit into the MBA community by being inclusive and showing leadership, humility, and adaptability. Articulate your thought process clearly, be positive about others’ ideas, continue to move the group forward by summarizing ideas, and question respectfully. Remember that the point of the exercise is to drive towards a strong team outcome; the better the team interacts together, the better all of you look individually.

5. Day-of tips:

  • Wear a business suit.
  • Feel free to bring notes, but do not read them directly or rely on them for more than a memory trigger.
  • Introduce yourself to other prospective students and work to build a friendly rapport prior to the interview.
  • Prepare three to five questions for the evaluators during the wrap-up portion of the interview.
  • As much as possible, relax and try to enjoy the experience. This could be representative of the dynamic you’ll live in for the next two years. Ensure it feels right to you.

Use Social Media to Enhance Your Graduate School Application

Last week, Kaplan Test Prep released data from their survey of over 150 business schools across the U.S. on the role of social media in the admissions process. Of the admissions officers surveyed:

  • 35 percent say they have visited applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them, up 13 percentage points from 2011
  • 33 percent of those admissions officers who’ve visited applicants’ social media profiles say that they do so “often”
  • Social media has helped and harmed applicants’ admission prospects in almost equal proportions (48 percent and 50 percent respectively)
See the full press release, including a video summary of the findings here: http://press.kaptest.com/press-releases/kaplan-test-prep-survey-growing-number-business-schools-turn-social-media-help-make-admissions-decisions 

Admissions officers who are reviewing students’ social media pages are looking to get to know the student and their background more fully. Prospective students can take advantage of this by ensuring that their social media profiles are up to date and supportive of the personal brand they’ve put forth in their applications. As such, we recommend that anyone applying to a graduate program, or an internship or residency, take at the least a cursory social media scan. Below, we have provided guidelines for doing so.

The Basics: If nothing else, confirm the following.

  • Ensure that your social media privacy settings reflect your preferences, but keep in mind that even private information can leak or be distributed more widely.
  • Review your pictures. Are there any that present you in a manner that would be embarrassing for an admissions officer to see? Be sure to go back and review even your oldest pictures. Remove those that you deem inappropriate, borderline, or simply not reflective of you.
  • Ensure that your LinkedIn resume is up to date, grammatically correct, and in line with what you’ve submitted to the admissions committees. Similarly, confirm that your posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are grammatically correct.
  • Confirm that none of your content could even potentially be considered racist, sexist, or containing prejudicial language. You should consistently represent yourself as someone who will add to a diverse intellectual environment. Make it clear to your friends that you should not be tagged or otherwise included in groups that don’t share this spirit.
  • Review your profiles often. Ensure that others are aware that you don’t want to be tagged in inappropriate pictures, videos, or comments.

The Upgrade: Use social media to enhance your application.

  • Consider if your pictures are showcasing your hobbies and interests beyond, but including, time spent with friends. If not, add pictures that show a broader array of “you”. This might include shots from travel, volunteer work, cultural activities, time with pets, or engaging in other hobbies that show off aspects of your personality that will bring your essays and interviews to life.
  • Ask co-workers from various points in your career to post recommendations on your LinkedIn account.
  • Ensure that your goals are consistent between your application and social media posts. Don’t post different career goals than those that appear in your application, or actively discuss pursuing full-time careers that don’t require the graduate program to which you are applying.
  • Keep your accounts up to date. Post about your current activities and events including conferences, speeches, or panels and include your reactions to the events. Share news or research articles on areas that you’re interested in. Take this opportunity to show off your writing and critical thinking skills or link to a blog containing your writing.
  • Don’t hide those things which make you different. Admissions officers want a diverse graduate population, and social media is the perfect way to show off qualities and interests that set you apart from the crowd, as well as demonstrate how you currently contribute to the diversity of your community.

While, social media should continue to be a personalized and fun outlet for you, don’t forget to consider that it may also inform admissions committees or future employers about who you are, and ultimately impact their final decision. 

The Multiple Mini Interview: Preparation and Day-of Tips for Success

Each year, an increasing number of U.S. medical schools are using the Multiple Mini Interview, an interview type focused on obtaining a deeper understanding of how a student processes information under pressure and uses critical thinking skills to derive an answer. The unique format allows prospective students multiple opportunities to make a “first impression” and reduces interviewer bias because of the recurrence of opportunities for a student to think through and address various types of questions.   

Multiple Mini Interviews typically consist of between four and ten interview stations, some with rest stations included in between. At the stations, interviewees are provided with a question prompt and a couple of minutes to think through the situation, then they’re asked to respond within a five to eight-minute period. The requested response could take various forms including collaborating with other prospective students, acting out a scenario, responding to an ethical or policy scenario, writing an essay, or providing a behavioral interview response. Whatever the format, applicants’ responses must showcase critical thinking skills, strong sense of ethics, and ability to see multiple viewpoints.

Preparation for the MMI should be focused on increasing your comfort level in reading a prompt and analyzing the question quickly so that you can articulate a thorough and comprehensive response. The MMI does not aim to assess your knowledge of specific topic areas, but rather is a format designed to extract a more genuine version of you.

We recommend you consider the following as you prepare for the interview:

  • Don’t forget the goal. As you practice your MMI responses, be sure that you’re integrating qualities into your answers that demonstrate intellectual curiosity, empathy, humility, professionalism, commitment to medicine and research, and tenacity. MMI questions are designed to reveal an authentic version of you, so as you prepare, make sure that you’re highlighting those qualities that will make you an excellent medical student and doctor.
  • Get current. Familiarize yourself with policy and ethical issues in healthcare by reading about current events. Write down key topic areas you encounter frequently and take informed positions. Practice describing your position, out loud, with an eight-minute time limit.
  • Practice your pace. If possible, participate in mock MMI interviews to get a more realistic interview experience and gather candid feedback. If you do not have someone to provide a mock interview, review sample MMI questions and record and time your responses. Critique your responses, focusing on how well you verbalized your thought process and supported your viewpoint, as well as, how adequately you made use of the time available. While this exercise may feel uncomfortable at first, it will be helpful to get used to working within the time constraints of the interview.  And viewing a recording will help you to hear/see what improvements you need to make.

On the day of the interview:

  • Read each prompt carefully and think through all aspects of the response. If the question allows you to make a counter-argument, do so, and share why you opted for the conclusion you did. If it is an ethical or values-based question, be sure to point out areas of nuance.
  • Make eye contact, look friendly, speak clearly and use every station as an opportunity to showcase your professionalism. If you start to stumble or get frustrated, take a deep breath or sip of water and compose yourself before continuing.
  • Use your time carefully; during the two minutes of preparatory time, outline your response and the general timing you’d like to abide by to make each of your key points.
  • Start fresh at each station; regardless of how well or poorly you did in the last mini interview, leave it behind and focus entirely on the prompt at hand.
  • For introverts, the MMI can be particularly challenging. Be sure to give yourself some quiet time prior to the MMI to gather your energy.

Selecting a Law School that Values Student Well-Being

When selecting a law school, prospective students have many things to consider, including rankings and prestige, program specialties, and job placement rates. Another, however, is garnering a great deal of media attention in the wake of last week’s International Mental Health Day: student wellbeing and the availability of mental health support programs.

According to the Dave Nee Foundation, depression among law students is 8-9 percent prior to matriculation, then jumps to 27 percent after one semester, 34 percent after the first year, and 40 percent after three years[i]. Two studies, conducted by the American Bar Association and Yale Law School in 2014, also showed a high percentage of law students indicating that they needed psychological assistance. In the ABA Survey, 42 percent of students reported that in the past year they needed help with a mental health or emotional problem. [ii] And in the Yale Study, 70 percent of students reported experiencing mental health challenges while in law school[iii]. These studies and others like them, have increased awareness of the mental health challenges faced by both law students and the legal profession.

A report released in August 2017, by the American Bar Association’s National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, made recommendations for sweeping reforms that stakeholders throughout the legal profession can make to improve well-being and ultimately the competence and dependability of the profession. Specifically, the task force calls upon law schools to[iv]:

  • Create best practices for assisting students experiencing psychological distress;
  • Assess law school practices and offer faculty education on promoting well-being in the classroom;
  • Empower students to help fellow students in need;
  • Include well-being topics in courses on professional responsibility;
  • Commit resources for onsite professional counselors;
  • Facilitate a confidential recovery network;
  • Provide education opportunities on well-being related topics;
  • Discourage alcohol-centered social events; and
  • Conduct anonymous surveys related to student well-being.

The report also highlighted examples of law schools that offered programming to meet the recommendations:

  • Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law: created a well-being curriculum including workshops, mindfulness and resilience courses, and meditation sessions
  • Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center: established a student-volunteer program to train students on recognizing mental health problems and referring them to assistance
  • American University Washington School of Law: implemented random “check-in” outreach, which invites students to a brief conversation with the Student Affairs office

As a prospective law student, you may be wondering how this information can help inform your school selection. First, we suggest that you keep the task force’s recommendations top of mind as you research schools. Let their advice guide you as you’re learning about the culture of a school and the student body. Ensure that the schools you are applying to are taking the lead in breaking down mental health stigma through informative discourse and are proactively assisting students to seek help when they encounter problems. Be sure to ask administrators and faculty how they are working to address student well-being challenges. Then gather students’ opinions on the efficacy of these actions. Are current students aware of existing resources, clubs, and programming the administrators mention?  If so, how are the students engaging with the programs? And are student social and networking events promoting healthy, productive behaviors or do events center around alcohol or other potentially harmful ways to reduce stress?

Your law school experience will be pivotal. Ensure that you are selecting a school that values and promotes your wellbeing now, as much as it values your job placement.

 

 


[i] http://www.daveneefoundation.org/scholarship/lawyers-and-depression/

[ii] http://www.ncbex.org/pdfviewer/?file=%2Fassets%2Fmedia_files%2FBar-Examiner%2Fissues%2F2015-December%2FBE-Dec2015-HelpingLawStudents.pdf

[iii] https://law.yale.edu/system/files/falling_through_the_cracks_120614.pdf

[iv] http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/files/lawyer-well-being-report.pdf

Unemployed and Considering Graduate School? Ensure This Time is Meaningful and Productive

If you are currently unemployed, graduate school can appear both tempting and daunting. Tempting, in that it will offer a new path forward complete with a career center. Daunting in that it may be necessary to directly address the unemployment period within the application. While unemployment should never deter you from attending graduate school, we encourage our clients to consider carefully if graduate school is the right path for them. The money and time invested must lead to an optimal path forward to be worthwhile. Though graduate school can be tempting to alleviate the pains of unemployment, if you have never considered it prior to unemployment, it might not be the right move now.

If you’ve known awhile that eventually you would pursue a graduate program, a period of unemployment may provide a beneficial time to study for entrance exams and create compelling application materials. However, admissions committees will want to see that you are using your time wisely and productively, extending yourself beyond the work on your application materials. In order to present the employment gap as a critical time of development, consider the following:

On the application itself, you should not dwell on or make excuses for the employment gap.  Rather, you will want to address it briefly, explain that it is not indicative of weakness in ability or character, has not hindered your pursuit of your goals, and you did indeed spend the time productively, gaining valuable insight. You ultimately want to show the admissions committee that you will work hard throughout the graduate program, be able to secure professional placement and that, instead of slowing you down, this obstacle has given you an opportunity to adjust course, work harder, and become better.

IQ is Important, but Don’t Forget About EQ

This summer, NYU Stern updated its MBA application to include an EQ Endorsement. Separate from the professional recommendations, Stern is asking applicants to have a friend or colleague submit a clear and compelling example of the applicant’s emotional intelligence. While, NYU is at the forefront of formalizing the request for a demonstration of emotional intelligence, admissions committees have long been interested in self-awareness, maturity, leadership, and other skills highly correlated with EQ.  Demonstrating that you have the academic prowess to succeed in an MBA program is no longer enough; it is also critical to display emotional intelligence throughout your application.

There are several current models and definitions of Emotional Intelligence. One commonly used definition is from Mayer, Salovey and Caruso’s 2008 article in American Psychologist. “Emotional Intelligence includes the ability to engage in sophisticated information processing about one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to use this information as a guide to thinking and behavior. That is, individuals high in emotional intelligence pay attention to, use, understand, and manage emotions, and these skills serve adaptive functions that potentially benefit themselves and others.”

Essentially, those with a high EQ can work successfully with others by understanding how emotions play a role in the workplace through employees’ thinking, decision-making, and conduct. This understanding helps those with EQ to have positive interactions with others, but it is much more than just building camaraderie with coworkers. Emotional intelligence is also the driving force behind persuasion and leadership, and those who are adept can facilitate difficult situations and conversations effectively and improve the motivation and performance of colleagues using these skills.

Mayer and Salovey created a developmental model of emotional intelligence, with four key components (each with four sub-components):

-        The ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others accurately.

-        The ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking.

-        The ability to understand emotions, emotional language, and the signals conveyed by emotions.

-        The ability to manage emotions so as to attain specific goals. 

Read more about the model here: http://www.theeiinstitute.com/what-is-emotional-intelligence/4-mayer-and-salovey-model-of-emotional-intelligence.html

While some people have higher EQ levels innately, it is also a skill that can be enhanced through increasing self-awareness and practice. As such, in your business school applications, you can showcase your emotional intelligence strengths, but also show self-awareness by referencing those areas that you are actively working to develop.

Take the time to weave examples of your emotional intelligence throughout your essays as well as in your recommendations. EQ-related skills are often included on the recommenders’ skills assessments so make sure that your recommenders are aware of your abilities in this arena by providing them with stories and anecdotes that they can consider when filling out the skills assessment and completing the open-ended question(s).

Some prompts to help you start thinking through specific examples that will illustrate your emotional intelligence include: 

-        Describe difficult co-worker or team dynamics and how your emotional awareness allowed you to repair these relationships and/or environments.

-        Reference times where perceiving and responding to the emotions of others helped you to drive a conversation or project forward in a different, but ultimately more effective manner.

-        Think through examples of relating to others, particularly others who are different from you, to increase teamwork or buy-in to an idea or project.

-        Think further about those times you’ve disagreed with colleagues in a rational and beneficial way, which ultimately helped you determine the best path forward.

-        Consider a time when you assisted a coworkers’ development by giving them difficult feedback or having a tough conversation.

With many corporations and recruiters showing an interest in emotional intelligence, thinking through how you can continue to develop and showcase your EQ will be a beneficial investment of time, not just for the MBA application period, but for all of your professional endeavors going forward.

 

Using Recommendations to Strategically Enhance Your MBA Application

While MBA recommendation letters typically will not make or break your admissions decision, they can reinforce the personal brand you’ve presented throughout your application. We encourage you to use recommendations strategically so that they validate and expand upon key themes already introduced.

Selecting Your Recommenders

We advise selecting recommenders who can comment on your post-graduate, professional experiences and accomplishments. Recommenders should know you well and be able to provide detailed insight into working with you, which includes assessing your professional skills and personality traits. This intimate knowledge of your abilities is significantly more important than the job title of your recommender.  The one exception is if you have a senior colleague with significant influence at the school to which you are applying who would be willing to serve as a recommender.

Select recommenders that will provide a well-rounded view of working with you, though you should elect to have each provide a slightly more nuanced focus on a character trait that you exhibit and have spoken about in your application (i.e., leadership and teamwork).

Taking a Strategic Viewpoint

As mentioned, it is critical for recommendations to validate and enhance the existing application content. As such, read through your essays and make note of traits that you are highlighting for the admissions committee, then determine which recommender would best be able to write anecdotes about you exhibiting those traits. Additionally, if you see gaps in your application, you may choose to close those gaps using the recommendation letters.

Setting Your Recommenders Up for Success

Most importantly, provide each recommender with enough time to meet your request. We suggest that you allot two months between making the request and the submission date.

Provide a portfolio of information to each recommender that includes the following information:

  • School names, recommendation questions, and submission date(s)
  • Method for recommendation submission (e.g., online via link)
  • Background information and your future career goals
  • Sample recommendation letter (customized)
  • Illustrative anecdotes from your work together (customized)

The sample recommendation letter and illustrative stories that you provide should be unique for each recommender and should highlight the qualities you are wanting the recommender to expand upon. These inputs will allow you to subtly influence the recommenders’ output and will ensure that the recommendations include concrete and varied examples that reinforce your existing application content.

The timely provision of this portfolio of information will reinforce to your recommenders that you appreciate their time and are serious about your applications. It will also provide much needed direction that will allow them to allocate their time wisely in support of your efforts.  

After the recommender has submitted the recommendations, be sure to thank him/her for spending time in support of your application.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have a great relationship with my college advisor, would it be appropriate to use her as a recommender?

For entry into business school, it is best to use professional references who can speak to your work experience and skills acquired.

What if I don’t feel comfortable telling my direct supervisor that I am submitting applications to business school?

While it is preferable to have a recommendation from a direct supervisor, it may not always be an option and schools are understanding of this fact. Do attempt to have a former boss, professional colleague who is superior to you on an org chart, or someone who knows you in a more professional context write a recommendation. In some cases, this could include someone from a volunteer activity where you demonstrate teamwork and leadership skills.

How many recommendations is it appropriate to ask a recommender to write?

While this depends on how strong your relationship is with the recommender, our general rule of thumb is to ask a recommender for no more than three recommendations per round. This prevents the recommender from having to meet a burdensome number of back-to-back deadlines.

Is it necessary to get specific recommendations written for each school?

While ideally you will get your recommenders to address each recommendation topic directly, it may be necessary for him/her to write a single recommendation that addresses all the questions from your prospective schools together. Many schools have similar or shared questions for recommenders making this feasible. 

Medical School Interviews 101

The medical school interview is a critical and exciting opportunity, as the outcome will be the most influential factor in your admission success.  It is your chance to showcase your personality, drive, and commitment to a medical career as well as those characteristics that will benefit your medical school class and future patients.

Scheduling the Interview

Most medical schools have rolling admissions, so we recommend scheduling your interview as early as possible in the interview season, which runs from the fall to the spring.  Before solidifying your travel plans, you should contact nearby schools where you have applied to let them know you have an interview in the area and when your interview is scheduled.  This serves the dual purpose of letting the other school know that you are ‘in demand’ while also showcasing a strong interest in their program.

What the Interviewers are Looking for

Most medical schools will offer prospective students one or two 30-minute interviews with faculty members or students.  The interviewers are looking to assess your interpersonal traits, your commitment to and aptitude for medicine, your potential contributions to the school and your class, discuss and resolve any red flags and finally ensure that your interview is consistent with your application.

med school traits.jpg

Interview Types

The Multiple Mini Interview: While this type of interview has been used mainly in Canada, it is growing in popularity within the United States. This interview format consists of multiple “stations” through which each applicant rotates.  At each station, you are given a scenario, asked to role-play, or asked to do a team exercise.  You are provided a couple of minutes to read each exercise and prepare, then you must have a discussion with the interviewers in the room or perform the team task. 

The scenarios are designed to evaluate your values by presenting a dilemma to which you must respond.  Be sure to carefully consider the various sides of the dilemma and to address them all. Role playing exercises test your communication skills and team tasks test your communication skills and ability to work others.  Some stations may be clinically based while others are not. 

The Traditional One-on-One Interview: This interview is the most common.  Each interviewer has his/her own style of interviewing to which you should respond appropriately.  Most commonly, in an “Open File” interview, the interviewer will have access to your submission materials. However, it is important not to assume that your interviewer knows anything about you as he/she may not have had time to review your file. In a “Closed File” interview, the interviewer will have limited access to your application.  These interviews, therefore, offer a greater opportunity to drive the discussion content. 

The Group Interview: This situation involves several interviewers and interviewees.  The objective is to see how you interact with and respond to others. Be sure to listen attentively to everyone’s answers and showcase your ability to be a team player. 

The Panel Interview: Typically, the panel includes multiple interviewers with just one interviewee.

Apply Point’s Tips for Success

  • Take responsibility for the interview content, by creating and driving your own agenda. 
    • Outline the key points and experiences you would like to discuss within the interview.  Take responsibility for bringing up these points, even if they are present in your application.  To do this, review all your application materials, and highlight your most relevant stories and experiences.
    • Speak about any recent accomplishments or events not included in your application.  Continue to improve your candidacy even after you’ve submitted your application.
    • Be proactive about bringing up red flags or weaknesses in your application.  Address these head-on during the interview because they will inevitably come up within the admission committee discussions.  Rather than make excuses, talk about what you’ve learned and/or how you will combat weaknesses going forward.
  • Think about and practice telling your story aloud.  This will help you feel more comfortable connecting the dots between various aspects of your life when asked to elaborate. 
    • Give complete answers and use segues to transition to other related topics you want to discuss.  For example, if you are asked why you selected a particular internship, explain not only the why, but also include the when and the what.
    • Keep the conversation moving; don’t talk any longer than three to five minutes on a given topic.
  • Research the school where you are interviewing as well as the interviewers.
    • Provide specific reasons why the program appeals to you and practice speaking to why you would be a great fit.
    • Be conversational and demonstrate intellectual curiosity with good questions, but don’t interview the interviewer. Be sure that your questions at the interview’s conclusion showcase your interest in the school.
  • Voice your appreciation for the interview’s time and the opportunity to interview.
    • At the end of the interview, thank your interviewer, reiterate why you have a superior fit with this medical school and let him/her know that you would be honored to matriculate.
    • Send hand-written thank you notes.  The note should be short, but should include interview highlights, repeat your interest in the school, and thank the interviewer for his/her time. 

Two Additional Law Schools to Accept GRE as Alternative to LSAT

Two additional law schools, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center, have joined Harvard Law School and University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in accepting the GRE for law school admissions. Georgetown will accept the GRE score as an alternative for the LSAT, for those wishing to matriculate in 2018, while Northwestern will accept the scores for students applying to the 2019 entering class.

Both schools conducted studies to determine the ability of the GRE to predict a student’s success within law school. Northwestern’s study was performed in conjunction with ETS, the administrator for the GRE, and found the GRE to be a strong predictor of success for first year Northwestern law students. Georgetown ran an independent study analyzing over ten-years of students’ academic performance and test scores and found that the GRE scores were equal to LSAT scores as predictors of academic success within the Law School.

The four schools that have opened their admissions process to include the GRE did so in an effort to diversify the applicant pool, as well as to reflect the evolving and multi-disciplinary nature of law. “Georgetown Law is committed to attracting the best and the brightest students of all backgrounds,” said Dean William M. Treanor. “We believe this change will make the admissions process more accessible to students who have great potential to make a mark here at Georgetown Law and in successful legal careers, but who might find the LSAT to be a barrier for whatever reason.”

The GRE is offered more frequently throughout the year and in numerous locations, and is often taken by students considering other graduate level educational options. By accepting the GRE, these law schools are helping to alleviate the financial burden of taking multiple tests for students thinking about different paths. Additionally, it may help to recruit students from “non-typical” law school backgrounds, including in-demand STEM students, international students, as well as those from a wider range of socio-economic backgrounds. When Harvard Law School started the pilot GRE program, then-Dean Martha Minow said, “For many students, preparing for and taking both the GRE and the LSAT is unaffordable. All students benefit when we can diversify our community in terms of academic background, country of origin, and financial circumstances. Also, given the promise of the revolutions in biology, computer science, and engineering, law needs students with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds.  For these students, international students, multidisciplinary scholars, and joint-degree students, the GRE is a familiar and accessible test, and using it is a great way to reach candidates not only for law school, but for tackling the issues and opportunities society will be facing.”

The ABA held a hearing in July to consider specifying what test(s) are valid for law school admissions, which would change current language requiring merely “a valid and reliable admission test.”  While this could impact the ability for schools to accept the GRE as an admissions test alternative, a decision is unlikely to come in the short term. In the meantime, it appears likely that additional law schools will follow the path of these four and include the GRE as an accepted part of the admissions process.  

While the limited number of law schools accepting the GRE might make the LSAT a safer choice for current prospective law students, the broader lessons and values that these law schools are espousing are worth considering when putting together a law school application. Applicants should consider highlighting STEM minors or academic courses, unusual career or internship experiences, or other unique qualities that might add value and interest within the school’s student body.

MBA School Selection: Important Considerations When Building Your School List

According to the 2017 AIGAC MBA Applicants Survey, 39 percent of MBA Applicants reported that their admissions consultant advised them to apply to a school they would have otherwise never considered.

At Apply Point, we work closely with our clients to create a school list that is both compatible with their interests and goals and also sound in terms of acceptance likelihood. We know we’ve succeeded when an applicant has the luxury of choice between multiple programs at the end of the admissions cycle. While there are numerous factors to consider when finalizing school selection, we believe the following three criteria are the most important.

Rankings/Prestige

While we discourage clients from judging schools on rankings alone, US News & World Report’s list of Best Business Schools, for example, is still important to consider when gaining an in-depth understanding of how potential employers will view your investment. Many rankings are also based on algorithms that incorporate various factors of interest to students such as quality assessments, placement success, and student selectivity.

Geography/Network

The second, and perhaps somewhat surprising aspect to consider when putting together a school list is geography. Place will play a crucial role in your ability to network. Thus, we often encourage students who know they want to end up in a certain location to consider the top MBA programs in that city, or within the geographic region. Similarly, if your goals are related to a certain industry, it can be invaluable to attend a school near one of the industry’s hubs.

Career Placement

The last, but perhaps most critical component, is to develop a thorough understanding of which companies are recruiting and hiring employees from the MBA programs you are interested in. We suggest prospective students gain a thorough knowledge of the information contained in each school’s career placement report and also engage with the school’s counselors in the career center to learn more. It can also be helpful to look for student clubs or associations within a business school relevant to your goals (e.g., Finance Club, Luxury Goods Club, Marketing Club), as they will often host events connecting potential employers with interested students, as well as providing other resources.

During the school selection period of the application process, we encourage prospective students to keep an open mind and fully explore the many options that exist. Speaking with professors, career placement professionals, current students, alumni, and admissions directors at different programs is a wonderful way to start.  Your personal MBA rankings may not look exactly like those in US News and World Report or Financial Times. And that is just fine.

Prospective Law Students: The Pros and Cons of Submitting an Early Decision Application

At Apply Point, we often receive questions from prospective students on the utility of applying to a law school through Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA). ED is a binding agreement between the law school and a student. In this agreement, a student agrees not to submit ED applications to other programs and, in the case of an acceptance, must withdraw any outstanding applications or not attend law school that year. Conversely, EA or non-binding early programs, do not require a commitment from the applicant, but do provide an accelerated timeline for the receipt of a decision. Before you finalize your application game plan, it is important to consider the pros and cons of ED, a tempting option, as your likelihood of acceptance can be significantly higher.

So, what are the advantages of Early Decision?

Because ED is a yield protection round (everyone admitted must attend), admissions directors can be more forgiving of slight weaknesses. It must be noted, however, that the typical acceptance rate bump will not likely hold true for programs that offer generous scholarships along with binding acceptance, such as the George Washington University Law School’s Binding Presidential Merit Scholarship Program or the Emory University Law School’s Merit Scholarship.

Additionally, ED applicants often receive notification of their acceptance or rejection early, which allows them to continue in the application process with other schools. Students who are not accepted or rejected, early, move into the wider pool of applicants.

and the disadvantages?

While the yield protection aspect of ED is advantageous to applicants when it comes to admissions likelihood, in most cases, applicants are at a disadvantage when being considered for merit-based scholarships. The school simply doesn’t have to do anything to sweeten the deal when the decision is binding. It is also important to note that, on Yale Law’s ‘Ask Asha’ Blog, the Assistant Director of Admissions noted that she considers ED commitments made at other schools. So, students who may have received an acceptance from Yale will not have the opportunity for consideration after applying ED to a different program.

Apply Points’ Take:

We generally do not recommend applying to a law school ED unless an applicant is sure they would attend, regardless of merit-based aid or other opportunities.

 

The GMAT V. The GRE: Which Test is Best for You?

For the past two years, respondents to the AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey have reported that the standardized test is the most challenging component of the MBA application. While there is no way to completely defray the stress associated with the GMAT or GRE (the top 50 business schools accept both), it is helpful to think critically about which one will provide you the best opportunity for success.

At Apply Point, we generally make the following recommendations:

You might prefer the GMAT if:

  • Your strengths are quantitative, analytical
  • You are adept at interpreting data presented in charts, tables, and text to solve problems
  • You know that you want to attend an MBA, or business-related program, such as a MS Finance.

You might prefer the GRE if:

  • Your strengths are verbal, writing
  • You want to keep your graduate school options open. The GRE is accepted at most graduate programs, including a couple of law schools.

In Kaplan’s 2016 Survey of Business School Admissions Officers, 26 percent of admissions officers reported that those submitting a GMAT score have an admissions advantage over those who submit a GRE score. However, 73 percent said that neither exam has an advantage. In 2014, Harvard Business School’s Admission Director shared that the school looks carefully at the score components in combination with the student’s transcript and resume. As such, prospective students should use the test strategically to fill in any “gaps” or answer open questions that may stem from their transcript and/or work experience. For example, an applicant with an undergraduate degree and work experience in finance may need to bolster their application with strong verbal scores, while a communications major will want to demonstrate his/her ability to handle the rigors of the quantitative coursework in the MBA by providing a strong quantitative score on the GMAT/GRE.

Above all, an applicant should take the test they feel most comfortable with and are most likely to succeed on. Taking a diagnostic exam of each is a good place to start.

The Medical School Application’s Work and Activities Section: Key Tips to Consider Before You Begin Drafting

Crafting a compelling Work and Activities Section is an important priority for any medical school applicant. It will allow you provide depth on your most meaningful experiences and communicate how a particular research position, teaching opportunity, or clinical exposure inspired your interest in the study of medicine. It will also give you the chance to show through anecdotes such characteristics as intellectual curiosity, adaptability, empathy, as well as your aptitude in critical and creative thinking, or your ability to thrive in a collaborative environment.   

The AMCAS application allows for a total of 15 entries, with three designated as “most meaningful.”  While all of the entries allow for a 700-character (including spaces) description of the activity, the three most meaningful entries include an additional requirement of 1,325 characters (including spaces) where you can provide further context on the perspective you gained and lessons you learned.

Key tips to consider before you begin drafting:

·       Take advantage of all 15 entries, considering the various experiences you have had that influenced your decision to apply to medical school. To start, brainstorm and write them all down in chronological order, limiting yourself to college or post-graduate experiences. This section is purposely broad and can include activities from a multitude of categories (listed below). If you find that you do not have 15, carefully consider even one-day community service events that had a particular impact on you. Keep in mind that while not all experiences will be equally meaningful, several experiences are probably still worth sharing if they influenced your path in some way.

·       After brainstorming all the potential activities, make note of the 15 most relevant, making sure to span a diverse array of categories. Pay particular attention, however, to clinical activities, research, and community service.

·       When selecting your three most meaningful experiences, highlight first those that demonstrate a commitment to medicine and service to others. After that, consider work/activities that are unique and, therefore, will help differentiate you to the admissions committee.

·       When you describe your work/activities, be sure to clearly articulate what you did and what the outcome(s) of your participation included. In your descriptions, highlight also the qualities that you used or developed through your involvement, noting your academic/intellectual growth, maturity, sound judgment, and compassion, as well as ability interact well with others. It is also important to include, where possible, the impact of the activity on your decision to apply to medical school.

·       After writing your descriptions, read them aloud, and edit. Confirm that you are within the allotted number of characters. Such a stringent character limitation emphasizes the importance of tight, clear language and perfect grammar.

The Work and Activities section gives the medical school admissions committee a summary of all those experiences that ultimately inspired your interest in and commitment to a rigorous, yet rewarding career path. Thus, it is vital to ensure each word moves your candidacy forward in a compelling way.

MBA Application Submission: Is There an Optimal Deadline?

When considering the most beneficial timing for your MBA application submission, keep in mind your school preferences, financial need, and the amount of time you can devote to crafting the most compelling application. We’ve examined the pros and cons of the various admission rounds and provided the U.S. News and World Report’s Top 15 ranked schools and their application deadlines below.

Rolling Admissions: Only a few top-tier MBA programs offer rolling admissions, including Columbia University and UCLA. This means they provide admittance decisions to students as the admission committee reviews the application, rather than sending out a batch of decisions on a pre-determined date.

Apply Point Recommendation: Prospective students interested in a school with rolling admissions should submit their application as early as possible. Seats in the incoming class are continuously being filled.  However, it is critical to ensure that you have taken the necessary time to develop the most compelling content possible. Rushing it could result in a lower quality application.

Early Action / Decision: While some programs offer non-binding Early Action application rounds, such as Dartmouth, other schools such as Columbia and Duke offer a binding early application round. The binding programs will ask a prospective student, upon acceptance, to withdraw any outstanding applications, and submit a commitment letter to the school.

If a prospective student is fully committed to attending a particular MBA program, regardless of outside opportunities, financial or otherwise, it can be extremely beneficial to apply in the early decision round.  This is because admissions likelihood is significantly higher. Schools look favorably on commitments to their program, which also help to increase a school’s yield.

It is important to remember that both binding and non-binding early applications are due at the beginning of the admissions cycle. Thus, prospective students will need to plan accordingly to finalize their applications for submission. Additionally, for binding early decision programs, merit-based scholarships are less likely.

Apply Point Recommendation: We generally recommend our prospective students keep their options open by applying in a first or second round rather than taking advantage of the binding early decision programs. But, if the prospective student is 100 percent committed to attending a particular program for personal or professional reasons, and they are comfortable forgoing any scholarship money, the binding early decision may be a good match.  

First Round / Second Round: These two rounds, in general, are created equal. Submission by a prospective student within either of these rounds will allow an applicant to be considered for merit-based financial assistance. Additionally, a good proportion of the incoming class seats are still available.

Apply Point Recommendation: If a prospective student is ready to submit the best version of his/her application prior to the first-round deadline, we would recommend submitting in the first round. If this isn’t the case, we will always counsel applicants to take additional time to submit a stronger application.

Third Round: This is usually the last round prior to the close of the admissions period. It is generally the most competitive round as there are fewer seats available. Depending upon the school, this round may also leave students unavailable for consideration for merit-based financial awards.

Apply Point Recommendation: There are very few cases where we would recommend applying at this point in the admissions cycle. It puts the applicant at a disadvantage. However, if the prospective student is unable to submit in rounds one or two, they have a very compelling application, and they have no need for financial support, they may still be successful.

Every prospective student has a unique situation that should be considered when determining what round to put forth his/her application to an MBA program. Thus, advance planning and an awareness of all the deadline options is crucial when crafting a winning application strategy.

Prospective Law School Students: Do You Need a Break?

Prospective law students often wonder if they should take time off between finishing their undergraduate work and applying to law school. While there is no one size fits all answer, the trend shows that many law schools are expecting and even rewarding students who take at least a brief interlude prior to starting school. Within the class of 2019, the majority of matriculants among the most competitive law schools did report a gap prior to starting law school; among the top ten ranked law schools by U.S. News and World Report, the percentages of incoming classes showed that between 60 and 80 percent of incoming students took at least one year off. Harvard and Yale were among the highest percentages at 80 and 82 percent respectively.

While, it isn’t necessary for all students to take a gap year, it can be a beneficial use of time for the following types of applicants:

-        Those with a general interest in the study of law, but without experience in the day-to-day operations of a law firm and/or those who do not yet feel comfortable selecting a career path within the legal industry

-        Those who have a passion they would like to pursue, who can spend some time in the field to confirm law school is the right next step to help them achieve their goals

-        Those who need to enhance the competitiveness of their application with additional experiences and insight into their future goals

-        Those who may benefit from a year of earnings prior to taking on the financial burden of law school

-        Those interested in working at a firm post- law school, as prior work experience can be looked upon quite favorably by hiring managers

For prospective students who do wish to take a gap year, there are many jobs and activities that may improve their resume, provide clarity, and ultimately bolster their candidacy in the application process. We’ve listed a few ideas below:

-        Management consulting/investment banking: If a future applicant has a passion for business and hope to work in corporate law, they can increase their understanding of the work by spending time at a consulting or investment banking group.

-        Policy analysis/research: With an interest in constitutional or immigration law, working directly in this space can provide them experience with relevant stakeholders, as well as the eventual ability to speak to their future goals more specifically within their law school application. It may also help them more strategically select law school programs that will best position them to do the work they love.

-        Non-profit work: If they have identified an interest in public interest law or just in gaining professional skills quickly, working for a non-profit organization could be a sound next step. Typically, nonprofits have lean workforces and, as a result, even recent college graduates are asked to work outside their comfort zone to acquire new skills. Further, it is important to note that some organizations like Teach for America have relationships and scholarship programs with select law schools.

-        Paralegal/legal assistant/legal administrator: For those interested in learning more about working within a law firm, this type of experience will broaden a candidate’s understanding of the day-to-day life of a lawyer and will also likely show meaningful commitment to both law schools and future legal recruiters.

While it isn’t necessary to take a gap-year between undergraduate and law school, if you do, it is of vital importance to spend your time thoughtfully and productively.  It may seem appealing, in those months after college, to solely focus on LSAT and application preparations.  But remember, admissions committees will be looking very closely. Meaningful and productive work will help you to construct a narrative that will bolster your story as an applicant and positively contribute to the dynamic of your law school class.  

MBA School Selection: What are the Alumni Saying?

While there are many considerations that go into forming a comprehensive list of well-fitting, potential schools—including prestige and career placement—one that can be easily overlooked is the “alumni factor.”  In the 2017 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey, 45 percent of respondents listed ‘access to a strong network’ as a factor in applying to an MBA program this year, though just 32 percent of respondents listed the alumni network as the factor with the most influence on their specific school choice[i]. It is important to note that, while you are matriculated at a school for two years, the strength of an institution’s alumni commitment can have a long-lasting impact on your professional life. Alumni can provide critical information, advice, and access to industries and employers long after graduation day. Thus, we have isolated a couple of rankings that provide a more in-depth view of the alumni network experience and perspective.

Alumni Networks. The Economist surveys current and recently graduated MBAs in order to create an amalgamated “potential to network” score. This includes an equal weighting of the ratio of MBA alumni to current full-time MBA students, number of overseas alumni chapters, and a student rating of alumni network effectiveness. This score comprises ten percent of their overall MBA ranking[ii].

Alumni Recommendations. The Financial Times surveys MBAs three years post-graduation and asks them to select three MBA programs that they would recruit from[iii]. While this component comprises only two percent of their overall ranking, we feel that looking specifically at this variable can provide valuable insight into how recent MBA graduates view their programs as well as the programs attended by their peers in terms of workforce readiness.

While some schools are named on both lists (Insead, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, NYU, Harvard, London Business School, and University of Chicago), there is some variation between the two lists. For potential MBA applicants, careful consideration of the strength of the alumni network from the point of view of both current students as well as recent alumni may help you to create a broader, yet strategic list of prospective schools for visiting and exploring.

Key considerations when determining if an alumni network may be beneficial for you:

  1. The size and activity-level of the organization overall, but also how active the chapters are in regions/cities where you are interested in living post-graduation
  2. The number of alumni working at employers you are interested in, as well as in industries that you are pursuing
  3. The relationship between the school and alumni. For example, the school’s career-services support for alumni
  4. The number of alumni who continue to participate in events over time

Researching a school’s alumni network online, looking beneath overall rankings, reviewing LinkedIn groups and members, and reaching out to a school’s alumni group directly can provide you with valuable information that may serve you well as you start to narrow down your list of prospective schools.


[i] http://aigac.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2017-aigac-presentation-final-jun-2017.pdf

[ii] http://www.economist.com/whichmba/full-time-mba-ranking

[iii] http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/global-mba-ranking-2017

Set Yourself Apart with a Compelling Medical School Personal Statement

     The medical school personal statement presents a critical opportunity for you to bring your voice to the admissions committee and provide them with deeper insight into how your most meaningful experiences have inspired your commitment to the study of medicine. Part memoir and part strategic communication, the brainstorming and drafting aspects of the personal statement process can be as personally fulfilling as they are productive. We can’t wait to help you get started.

Brainstorming

·       Start with a white board or a blank notepad and think about your key experiences to date. Don’t limit yourself to strictly “medically related” experiences. Consider all those parts of your life that have been formative to your personality and development -- college courses, meaningful conversations with professors or mentors, sports, clubs, books or research are all great topics at this juncture. Write them down including any details that may eventually bring complexity, sophistication, and nuance to your story.

·       In looking at your list, highlight your top two or three formative experiences. Keep in mind that, ideally, these experiences should be both recent and unique. You want to demonstrate maturity as you elaborate on your decision to apply to medical school. While a childhood dream is sweet, the perspective you’ve gained as an adult is far more meaningful to the admissions committee.

·       Finally, write down your personal mission statement. Why are you interested in pursuing medical school? What draws you to this career? Make this as specific as possible and avoid clichés. Ask yourself, is it clear from my mission statement how medical school, rather than another graduate program is necessary for me to achieve my goal?  

Organize and write

·       Think through the best structure for organizing your formative experiences and future goals and create an outline. In looking through your most formative experiences, what are the common threads? Are there qualities that clearly come across in each of the stories? How are these linked to your future as a medical school student? Once you go through this exercise, it will be easier to identify the key themes and stories you will use to ‘anchor’ the narrative. You want to be sure to keep your statement cohesive and focused throughout.

·       Create the first draft by filling in your outline, which will entail showing the reader through specific anecdote and story why you want to go to medical school as well the skills and traits you possess that will allow you to succeed there. Remember, you want to avoid making general statements and claims about your skills and abilities. Don’t tell them, show them.

Read, revise, step-away and repeat

·       Read your personal statement aloud. How does it sound? Where did you find yourself stumbling on the words? Smooth those sections out so they read clearly. Give yourself a break, and then follow this practice again. We also suggest seeking out seasoned editors who can review your work.  

·       Does your statement present the best version of you? Is “your voice” present? Would a reader be able to pick up on the fact that you’re intellectually curious…a critical and creative thinker…an individual who can thrive in collaborative environments and meaningfully connect and empathize with those around you, who can think under pressure, who has an ability and eventual desire to innovate and lead in an ever-evolving field? If not, refine your personal stories to shine light on at least some of those aspects of your personality that will be relevant to medical school.

Clean up and finalize

·       Do a final review of your essay for grammatical or spelling errors.

·       For AMCAS submissions, you are given only 5300 characters (including spaces) to tell your story. Be aware of this restriction as you embark on the editing process.

Unconventional Applicants to MBA Programs Must Consider Abilities in Innovation, Leadership, and Teamwork

To be tardy to Professor Barton Hamilton’s Managerial Economics class at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis means you will be serenading your fellow classmates with song.  One could choose as simple a tune as ‘Happy Birthday’ or, for alumni David Logan, former tenor at the Des Moines Metro Opera, ‘Nessun Dorma’ from Puccini’s Turandot, may be the more compelling crowd-pleaser.   

While unlikely Logan encountered stage fright if ever a few moments late to Hamilton’s class, students from seemingly unconventional backgrounds seeking their MBA’s, like Logan, often face uncertainty when trying to set themselves apart in the MBA application process. Business schools pride themselves on building diverse classes with students coming from a wide array of industries and educational backgrounds, but exactly how should the musician, teacher, graphic designer, and architect translate their experiences and abilities for admissions committees that employ a specific set of criteria when gauging prospective students’ potential? The key is to consider one’s ability to innovate, to lead, and to learn from and inspire fellow teammates.

Innovation: When considering your ability to innovate, think about meaningful, post-baccalaureate professional experiences when you employed critical thinking to introduce change, to develop imaginative solutions, and/or to evaluate risk. You don’t have to be a patent holder, tech entrepreneur, or engineer to capitalize on your ability to innovate in your business school application.  You could have done something as simple as made small, yet impactful improvements to a project management tool or have taken a novel approach in prospecting new clients.  Just be sure to show admissions committees your potential through story, rather than relying on claims of your success.  Specific anecdotes are always far more memorable than general statements about your beliefs or achievements.  

Leadership: Don’t worry if you haven’t yet managed a team on a regular basis.  When it comes to articulating your leadership potential, think about meaningful projects when you exercised a leadership role, which can show the reader your abilities in a convincing and memorable way.  What were the group dynamics?  What about the successes, failures, and lessons learned from the project? Can you think about a specific example when you demonstrated initiative?  What caused you to initiate certain actions and what were the results? What about a time that you provided feedback and a positive outcome resulted? 

Teamwork: Long before you take your first course, the student affairs team at the business school you choose will be dissecting your next incoming class in order to construct small study groups of four or five students who ideally will complement one another’s strengths, skill-sets, and experiences. Once you matriculate, you will have no choice, but to spend many sleepless nights with this group completing core curriculum projects. As your ability to thrive in a team setting is vital, both in business school and beyond, it is important to think about meaningful experiences you can incorporate into your application, which will show the reader a time when you translated a strategy into action for your team, encountered a significant obstacle in getting people to take action, or did something unexpected to build trust among team members. 

On the day Logan did rush into class a few moments too late, unsuspecting classmates experienced one of the greatest joys of business school: observing and learning from one another’s unique gifts in an environment committed to creative thinking and camaraderie.

Top Ten Things To Consider When Applying To An EMBA Program Part II: The Interview, Work Experience, and Essays

Executive MBA programs have never been looking for just good students.  They are trying to find leaders who will continue their positive trajectory of success after the program is complete. They are striving to build a class comprised of students with a diverse variety of talents, qualities, attitudes and backgrounds. 

So, what does this mean for your application?  Let’s examine each piece of the puzzle.

Interview

 The interview is arguably one of the most important parts of the business school application.  Not only must you look an admissions officer in the eye to discuss the contents of the paper application you’ve been refining for months, but you must also convince them of your strong communication abilities and the value you will bring into the classroom. 

--Prepare:

·      Go through commonly asked interview questions and practice your responses.  Taking it a step further by setting up mock interviews with admissions consultants or colleagues is also helpful.  A mock interview can stimulate the real thing because you will be forced to think on your feet and respond under pressure.

·      Most likely, one of the first questions is going to be open-ended.  Develop a three-minute elevator pitch that describes your background, strengths and professional story that doesn’t ‘read’ your resume.  

--Handle Weaknesses and Failures Effectively:

·      When discussing weaknesses, be honest and focus on skills instead of personality traits.  This is crucial as personality traits are usually considered permanent, while skills can be refined and improved.  

·      Questions regarding failure can be unpleasant, but they are inevitable.  The key is to emphasize what you learned from the failure and how you have become a more insightful leader because of these lessons.

--Be Precise:

·      Be specific about why business school is the perfect intersection of where you have been and where you want to go.  It is absolutely vital to be precise, not only when responding to questions regarding your short and long-term career goals, but also when responding to questions regarding the specific program to which you are applying.  Do extensive research by talking to students and members of the faculty.  Visit the school, sit-in on classes and, on interview day, come with questions that show your high level of interest in the program.

·      When asked questions about specific instances when you made an impact, it is important to give context by explaining the situation.  Then, you will be able to discuss the actions you took, which led to the end result.  Think of these responses as a three-step process – Situation, Action, Result.  

Work Experience and Scope of Professional Responsibilities

The quality and quantity of an applicant’s work experience is key when determining top management potential, so a polished resume is an absolute must.  Incoming EMBA students have an average of 13 years of post-baccalaureate work experience, with an average of 8 in a management role.

--Construct a powerful, yet precise resume:

·      Provide hard numbers that exhibit the results you’ve achieved and the impact you’ve made.  Don’t rely on a job description to communicate the value you’ve created, especially in the areas of leadership, innovation and teamwork.

·      Show your progression in responsibility and ensure your career goals are achievable in light of your background.  Emphasize the experiences that are in-line with your career goals and de-emphasize those that are not.

·      Business schools want diversity in work experience.  Don’t get discouraged if you are in the non-profit or creative sectors.  Just be sure to exhibit, from past experiences, your leadership skills and business potential.

Essays:

Another application staple, the essays, are often cited by admissions directors to be the most important part of the application.  They play a critical role in painting a picture of your potential by telling your personal and professional story and setting the stage for the other application components.  A well-written essay examines the value you can bring in terms of leadership, innovation and teamwork, your fit with a particular program, and how you stand out overall.

--Show, don’t tell:

One of the most important things to remember, when composing your essays, is the importance of specifics when painting a compelling picture for the reader.  Show the reader your leadership and innovation potential by describing, in depth, a situation, where they can see for themselves.  Your description should be thorough enough that you won’t have to state the obvious.  

--Don’t be afraid to discuss failure: 

Failure and weaknesses make for compelling applicants because it communicates sincerity and shows the admissions committee how you learn from your mistakes.  It is also a good idea to connect your development opportunities with the schools strengths.  How can the program you are applying to help you refine these particular areas of weakness?             

The application process may seem daunting, but the rigorous admissions standards applied will lead to an unparalleled EMBA experience, a classroom where each seat is taken by a talented leader who is more than merely a test score and a transcript.