Monthly Archives: September 2011

NYU Stern Admissions Essays for 2011-2012

The Stern School of Business at NYU has released its MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

NYU Stern Application Deadlines
Round 1: November 15, 2011
Round 2: January 15, 2012
Round 3: March 15, 2012

These deadlines are identical to last year’s. Note that, unlike many other top business schools, Stern has kept its Round 1 admissions deadline firmly in the middle of November. The good news for you is that, if you’re applying to Stern along with a few other schools in Round 1, this gives you a chance to get those ones done in October, catch your breath, and then give your Stern application your undivided attention. The downside is that Stern won’t notify Round 1 applicants until as late as February 15, 2011, so you will have to make choices about your Round 2 applications (which mostly have January deadlines) before you receive your final decision from Stern.

NYU Stern Application Essays

  1. Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Answer the following (750 words):

    (a) What choices have you made that led you to your current position?
    (b) Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life?
    (c) What is your career goal upon graduation from NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal?

    This question carries over from last year with only the slightest tweak in wording. What we think makes this question unique vs. other schools’ “Why an MBA?” questions is Stern’s emphasis on the choices you’ve made up until now. Be sure to answer that part of the question — you shouldn’t simply write about what you’ve done up until now, but also explain why you did those things and made those choices. Stern provides some useful admissions tips on its essay page, including podcasts to help you clarify your story. These are great resources for any Stern applicant.
  2. We take great care to shape the Stern community with individuals who possess both intellectual and interpersonal strengths. We seek individuals who are highly intelligent, collaborative and committed to flourishing as Stern leaders. Please answer the following questions (500 words):

    (a) What is your personal experience with the Stern community? Tell us what actions you have taken to learn about us.
    (b) Describe what most excites you about Stern from both an academic and extracurricular perspective.
    (c) How do you anticipate making your mark on the Stern community? Be specific about the roles you will take on and the impact you hope to achieve.

    This question also carries over unchanged from the 2010-2011 application season. Over the past several years this this question has evolved into a “Convince us that you’re passionate about Stern” essay prompt. Note the emphasis on specifics — don’t describe your knowledge of Stern in generalities or just copy language from the school’s web site. What do you know about NYU Stern that convinces you that it’s right right school for you, and that you’re the ideal Stern student? And how will you convince the admissions committee? Looking at this kind of essay question early in the process will hopefully provide the impetus you need to really do your homework.
  3. Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

    Stern has used this question for years, meaning that the admissions team must feel that it’s doing its job in terms of helping them get to know candidates. Like Booth (and previously Anderson before it got rid of its video question), Stern seeks new ways to learn about what makes you unique. The admissions office really does want to get to know the real you. Stern’s admissions officers are almost begging you to stand out here, which is a reminder about how you can make their job easier by helping them remember the real you. One other note: Just because this question allows you to use any medium, that doesn’t mean that you need to submit something other than the written word. If that’s your best medium, use it. “Being memorable” means more than just sending them something outrageous; the most effective submissions really are the ones that leave admissions officers feeling like they know you better. Finally, while this essay prompt truly is wide open in terms of what you can submit, note that there are a few parameters (e.g., nothing perishable!) that you nee to observe.
  4. (Optional) Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE and/or TOEFL or any other relevant information.

    As we always advise our clients when it comes to optional essays, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!

Want to stay on top of news from Stern and other top-ranked MBA programs? Be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays for 2011-2012

The UCLA Anderson School of Management recently released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2012. At first glance, there are not a lot of changes this, but what’s most interesting is something that Anderson dropped from its application this year! Let’s dig in:

UCLA Anderson Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 26, 2011
Round 2: January 11, 2012
Round 3: April 18, 2012

All three of Anderson’s admissions rounds have been pushed back by close to a week. Keep in mind that, if you apply to Anderson in Round 1, you may not receive your final decision until late January, meaning that you won’t know where you stand with Anderson before most other top business schools’ Round 2 deadlines come and go.

Also, note how late UCLA Anderson’s Round 3 deadline is compared to most other top MBA programs final deadlines. Anderson previously expressed that it does not want to miss out on strong applicants who may choose an international program such as LBS simply because that school still accepts applications as late as April. This is a smart move for Anderson. For you, it means that Round 3 is certainly still an option for you if you come into the MBA admissions process relatively late in the game.

UCLA Anderson Application Essays

  1. What events or people have had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why? (750 words)

    This question has been slightly reworded from last year. With this essay, the admissions committee is trying to dig deep into who you are and what makes you tick. We prefer this new wording, since last year’s version seemed to put extra emphasis on a single event, which may have created some pressure in applicants’ minds to come up with a dramatic single incident. In reality, in may be multiple events or people that together shaped you the most, and this this question reflects that. Try to answer this question with your personal development in mind. You may want to tie it right back to your career and why you’re pursuing an MBA, but consider this input from the admissions office: “Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. Content is more important than style of delivery. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.”
  2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)

    This question carries over unchanged from last year, and should be approached the same as most other “Career Goals” / “Why an MBA?” essays. Note that the “Why an MBA?” component is very important, but you absolutely MUST demonstrate in this essay a knowledge of and a passion for UCLA Anderson. One way any school protects its admissions yield is by ferreting out those who don’t show enough enthusiasm for the program. Failing to answer the second part part of the question — how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals — is a sure way to get ferreted out by the admissions committee.
  3. (Optional Essay) Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)

    As we always advise our clients when it comes to optional essays, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!

Finally, we should note that UCLA Anderson has apparently dropped the audio/video question that had been a part of its application for the past there years. When a school drops an essay question, that normally means that it’s not doing its job — i.e., it doesn’t help the admissions committee get to know applicants better and separate out the great applicants from the rest of the pack. Perhaps that was what happened here. Could the school have been concerned that this unusual essay was actually discouraging potential applicants from applying? Or, could someone have raised questions about how admissions can be race- or gender-blind when applicants submit video responses? We don’t know for sure, but it’s an interesting development given that one of the chief complaints we hear from MBA admissions officers these days is that the essays they read tend to sound too similar to one another. We thought the audio/video question was a novel way to try to overcome this problem.

To learn more about Anderson and other top-ranked MBA programs, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Michigan MBA Application Essays for 2011-2012

The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2014. After making big changes to its essays last year, Ross has only made small tweaks this time around. We’ll dig into the school’s essays and deadlines below, followed by our comments, in italics:

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 10, 2011
Round 2: January 4, 2012
Round 3: March 1, 2012

Virtually no changes since last year. Note that, unlike some other top-ranked MBA programs, Ross does not notify Round 1 applicants before the end of December (notifications are released by January 13). So, if you apply to Ross in Round 1, you will need to pull the trigger on Round 2 applications in early January before you know where you stand with Ross.

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays

  1. Introduce yourself to your future Ross classmates in 100 words or less.

    This question essentially carries over from last year, although Ross tweaked the phrasing this year to include the “… to you future Ross classmates” part. Think of this essay as the quintessential “elevator pitch.” You have just four to six sentences to highlight what the admissions committee absolutely must know about you. This is not an exercise is seeing how much information you can cram into 100 words. Instead, your challenge is to distill down your candidacy to no more than a couple of key points that 1) demonstrate your fit with Ross and 2) help you stand out vs. the competition. Note that, although the new wording this year changes the audience from the Ross admissions committee to your future classmates, your goal remains the same here. This essay will be a super-summary of the rest of your application, so don’t be bothered if some of the content here overlaps a bit with what’s in your other essays.
  2. Describe your career goals. How will an MBA from Ross help you to achieve those goals? What is your vision for how you can make a unique contribution to the Ross community? (500 words)

    This is another question that carries over from last year with some changes. In this case, the entire third sentence is new. Remember to keep your response realistic and to demonstrate that you understand what a Ross MBA will and won’t do for you as a young professional. Note that many similar questions start with “Describe your career progress to date,” but this essay is only forward-looking. Still, any discussion of your career goals will likely include at least some background on what you’ve learned and accomplished. So, while you shouldn’t dwell on the past, you should plan on succinctly discussing what you’ve done until now as a way to “set the stage” for your career plans.

    The addition of the last sentence (about making a contribution to the Ross community) does mean that you may need to take a fairly dramatic left turn in the course of your essay in order to work in this message. Given that this question related to your career goals, we interpret the “contribution to the Ross community” question to be about how you’ll contribute over the next 50 years, not during your two years in Ann Arbor. The obvious answers involve being a donor, helping out as an alumni interviewer, or a getting involved with your local alumni club… What else do you have to offer?
  3. Describe a time in your career when you were frustrated or disappointed. What did you learn from that experience? (500 words)

    This question is a verbatim repeat from last year’s third question. This new question gets at the “emotional intelligence” that we hear admissions officers talk about wanting to see in applicants. While this isn’t explicitly a “failure” essay, an example of a time when you failed is fair game here. Other possibilities are a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker or a time when you had a hard time winning others over to your way of thinking. These would all make for good demonstrations of how you have dealt with adversity. And remember that the second half of this question is the most critical: What did you learn from this rough patch in your career? (And, how did it make you a better person or more successful professional later on?) That is really what Ross admissions officers most want to know.
  4. Select one of the following questions:

    – What are you most passionate about? (300 words)
    – Describe a personal challenge or obstacle and why you view it as such. How have you dealt with it? What have you learned from it? (300 words)

    The first question carries over from last year, although in last year’s application it also included “… and why?” Perhaps Ross decided this was a little too “Stanford-ish,” and dropped it for that reason! Regardless, this question requires an honest response about something that truly moves you. And, even if they dropped the “Why” part, you still need to answer that. You can be passionate about anything, but what really makes great responses stand out is when the “Why” part is memorable, believable, and contains specifics about how you have acted on that passion. Are you passionate about bicycling? Great. Now explain why, using specific examples… All in 300 words!

    The second question is new this year. It’s an interesting addition in that Ross already asks about a time when you were frustrated or disappointed in your career. However, note that this question asks about a personal challenge, so keep the focus on something other than a professional challenge. As always, the most interesting part is what you learned from the experience, and — ideally — how you put that lesson to use down the road. The Ross admissions committee here wants to see introspection, maturity, and evidence of personal growth here.
  5. Optional question: Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (500 words)

    As always, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. More generally, if you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it’s okay to skip this essay!

To learn more about Ross and other top-ranked MBA programs, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays for 2011-2012

The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth recently published its application deadlines and admissions essay topics for the Class of 2014. You may notice that Tuck’s questions have changed very little since last year, suggesting that the school’s current batch of essay topics works well for the admissions committee. By “works well,” we mean that the essays help admissions officers get to know applicants better, and helps them separate out the great candidates from the merely good ones.

Also, note that Tuck does not have hard word limits for its essays, but the school does provide some rough guidance: “Although there is no formal restriction on the length of your response, most applicants use, on average, 500 words for each essay and you should work hard to try to keep your answers around that length.”

Here are Tuck’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Deadlines
Early Action round: October 12, 2011
November round: November 9, 2011
January round: January 4, 2012
April round: April 2, 2012

These deadlines are virtually identical to last year’s deadlines. Note that Tuck is one of the few top business schools to offer an Early Action admissions option. “Early Action” means that the decision is non-binding, although if you are admitted you will need to send in a $4,000 deposit by January 20, or else you will give up your seat. If Tuck is your top choice, or at least a very strong 2nd or 3rd choice, Early Action is a great way to signal your enthusiasm for the school.

Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays

  1. Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA program for you? (If you are applying for a joint or dual degree, please explain how the additional degree will contribute to those goals.)

    This is the fairly standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that most schools ask, and it carries over unchanged from last year. Tuck takes the concept of “fit” very seriously when evaluating candidates — maybe more so than any other top school, given its small class size and remote location — so be sure that you can present a compelling argument for why Tuck in particular is the right place for you to earn your MBA. If your answer has everything to do with you and nothing to do with Tuck, then you probably have more work to do in researching the school.
  2. Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?

    This question also remains the same since last year. As the essay prompt states, you should keep your response focused on one single situation, what action you took, and what the results were (“Situation-Action-Result,” or “SAR” as we call it at Veritas Prep). Note the second part of the question, about what you learned about yourself. What exactly happened is very important, but so is evidence of self-reflection. Ideally you can show that you learned something about yourself, such as a shortcoming or lack of experience, that you were able to act on and improve. That’s the richest type of response one can give here.
  3. Describe a circumstance in your life in which you faced adversity, failure, or setback. What actions did you take as a result and what did you learn from this experience?

    This question is new this year, although it’s not radically different from the question in replaces (that question asked, “What is the greatest challenge or hurdle you have overcome?”). While this question’s wording is new, in many respects it addresses the same core attribute that Tuck wants to see in its applicants: The ability to objectively take a challenge and setback and turn it into something positive, coming out better in the end. It’s interesting that Tuck had previously gotten away from the “failure” theme with this question, but now returns to it. Regardless, you shouldn’t be afraid to write about a failure or shortcoming. In fact, writing a response about overcoming a failure or weakness will usually more powerful than answering with “My biggest challenge was completing a marathon.” While that’s impressive, it’s far less revealing than a story about a time when you had to make a more fundamental change to who you are as a person and as a leader.
  4. Tuck seeks candidates of various backgrounds who can bring new perspectives to our community. How will your unique personal history, values, and/or life experiences contribute to the culture at Tuck?

    This is your chance to specifically highlight any strengths or themes that may need more emphasis in your application. Everything in your background is fair game here: your work experience, your personal life, and your hobbies all make you unique. Don’t only think of “diversity” in terms of race or national origin!
  5. Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.

    As we always advise our clients when it comes to optional essays, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. If you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it is entirely okay to skip this essay!

To learn more about Tuck and other top-ranked MBA programs, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

MIT Sloan Admissions Essays for 2011-2012

MIT Sloan has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. There are some small changes to the essays this year, although not many, and Sloan’s cover letter returns. This cover letter is still unique among other top MBA programs’ application essays; apparently its still works well enough that Sloan wants to keep it around.

Here are MIT Sloan’s deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

MIT Sloan Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 25, 2011
Round 2: January 10, 2012

MIT Sloan’s Round 1 deadline is virtually unchanged from last year, but its Round 2 deadline moved back by about a week. Note that Round 1 applicants may not receive their decision from Sloan until early February (although Sloan says it will send earlier notifications to applicants who are denied admission without an interview), so you may not know the status of your Sloan application until most other school’s Round 2 deadlines have passed.

Also, remember that Sloan only has two main admissions rounds, so there’s no “Round 3 or not Round 3?” dilemma with Sloan. Although Round 2 is Sloan’s final round, don’t assume that applying in Round 2 is as bad as applying in Round 3 anywhere else. If you need the extra two months to get your application in order, then take that time to improve your chances.


MIT Sloan Cover Letter
Prepare a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Describe your accomplishments and include an example of how you had an impact on a group or organization. Your letter should conform to standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Director of MBA Admissions. (500 words)

While this isn’t an essay in the traditional sense, the cover letter is a rite of passage of MIT Sloan applicants every year. Over the past couple of years the prompt has evolved slightly to place more emphasis on your “impact on an organization.” This wording was introduced a couple of years ago, and remains the same this time around. Given that the wording has not changed in a while, it’s safe to assume that this phrasing has been working well for the Sloan admissions team. In other words, assume that they’re looking for a lot of evidence of impact in your cover letter!

MIT Sloan Application Essays

  1. Please describe a time when you went beyond what was defined, expected, established, or popular. (500 words)

    This question carries over unchanged from last year. Once again, Sloan must have liked what it saw in applicants’ responses. Just as the cover letter prompt has evolved to place more emphasis on impact, this change suggests that Sloan is really looking closely for evidence of how you have gone beyond your regular job description to make a positive impact on those around you. We consider this as one of the key ingredients of leadership, and Sloan clearly wants to see more of it in its applicants.
  2. Please describe a time when you convinced an individual or group to accept one of your ideas. (500 words)

    This question was new last year, and it is yet another example of how Sloan is really looking for leaders in its applicant pool. If you just read that last sentence and thought, “Oh no, I’ve never managed anyone or been a team lead,” that’s okay. That’s not how Sloan (or any top MBA program) defines leadership. One practical definition of leadership is the ability to positively influence others, and Sloan directly asks for an example of that ability with this question. Even if your example feels fairly mundane (such as an engineer convincing other engineers to pursue a certain technical solution), you will be successful if you can show real skill maturity in HOW you go it done.
  3. Please describe a time when you had to make a decision without having all the information you needed. (500 words)

    This question is new this year, and it gets at another dimension that admissions officers look for in applicants: analytical ability. If you just read that and thought, “numbers and spreadsheets,” think again. It really means having the ability to take a pile of information — whether it’s numbers, words, charts, or anything else — and being able to pull out key insights, even though you probably won’t be able to answer every question that you have. This is an especially hot topic among MBA admissions officers these days, as witnessed by GMAC’s addition of the new Integrated Reasoning section to the GMAT next year. When thinking about your past experiences, don’t feel a need to make your story a quantitatively-slanted one, although we do recommend that you try to make it a work-related story. What was the situation? What questions did you ask? What answers were you not able to get? Despite the lack of key info, how did you make your decision? What was the outcome, and what did you learn from it? Plan on answering all of these questions in this essay.

To learn more about Sloan and other top-ranked business schools, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!