Counselor Interview

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Vince Ricci Vince Ricci
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Vince Ricci utilizes his background in leadership development and entrepreneurship to coach highly successful MBA applicants. Vince has been recognized the Lyons Award for Service to Stanford University, where he earned his B.A. in History in 1992. In his first career as a classroom teacher and non-profit director, he won a Distinguished Teaching Award for the State of Louisiana and Non-Profit Program of the Year for the City of New Orleans. Before moving to Tokyo in 2002, Vince completed his M.A. in Digital Media Design for Learning at NYU. While living in New York, he served as Founding Technologist at Columbia University’s Center for New Media Teaching & Learning.
Vince has been a full-time admissions consultant since 2002. In 2007, he started his own business after deciding he wanted to work with only the best students aiming for the top schools. In 2014, Vince returned to AGOS as Director of Counseling. He continues to update his popular website (VincePrep.com) and YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/vinceprep).
Beyond admissions consulting, Vince has served as a part-time lecturer at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering, where he taught technical writing and presentation skills. At present, he serves as volunteer Board President of The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). AIGAC provides professional development for over 130 representatives from 16 countries, including the Brazil, Canada, China, Columbia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United States.

Hey Vince, tell us a little about yourself.

I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, a native Californian, though I feel at home in many places. I consider myself to be a lifelong educator. After graduating from Stanford, I went to New Orleans for five years to help develop and expand a well-known non-profit educational program aimed at preparing low-income teenagers for college entrance. While there, I taught middle and high school history. I stayed to see our first group of inner-city kids go off to college. Many of them were the first in their families to take this step. When it was time to pursue my graduate education, I chose New York University over Harvard and Columbia because I wanted to learn hands-on production skills as part of my MA in Digital Media Design for Learning.

Why did you decide to come to Japan and what has your experience been like so far?

My best friend at NYU was a Japanese-Colombian (nisei) film maker, who was there on a Fulbright Fellowship. After our graduation, he returned to Tokyo to become Production Manager for a major broadband contents company. About a year later, he brought me to Tokyo for an e-learning consulting project for The Monbukagakusho's Millennium Project. I immediately fell in love with the people, language, and culture of Japan and decided to make it my home.

Now, I am helping Agos expand our admissions consulting to include a small group of high-potential non-Japanese applicants aiming for the top schools. Once admitted, we can introduce these global MBA candidates to our Japanese clients so both sides get a head start on networking before arriving on campus.

And you are a admissions consultant at Agos. What do you like best about your work?

Counseling is a dream job. I get to meet inspirational people and help them craft their dreams. Above all, I believe in the power of cross-cultural experiential learning. I love helping our clients study abroad because it helps build mutual understanding. I like to think that I am doing my part for world peace, one relationship at a time.

Working and living in Tokyo since 2002, I am continually motivated by Japan's ability to weave many different influences into a unique social fabric. Now, it seems Japan needs global leaders who can collaborate across cultures. I am honored to help out in some small way.

How would you describe your admissions consulting style?

To quote one of America's top tennis coaches, “I've got your back.” During our sessions, I try to maintain the right balance between asking good questions and listening to your answers. Ultimately, I want to help you identify the best mix of stories that will maximize your chances of being interviewed, and admitted.

Second, I often say, “How can you connect with your admissions office readers on an emotional level?” My clients often struggle to tell stories on paper with the same passion they use to tell stories in person. Adding a sense of drama to your essays will help the admissions officers see your personality and imagine your classroom and club-based contributions.

What advice do you have for students who decide they want to work with you? How can they get the most out of your admissions consulting sessions?

First, please understand that I am focused on top 10 programs, which means Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, Columbia, MIT, Berkeley, Kellogg, LBS and INSEAD. If I don't think you have the GPA, GMAT/GRE, TOEFL/IELTS, work experience and non-work leadership activities to appeal to these schools, I probably won't be able to work with you. I wish I could help everyone but I need to focus on helping those for whom my critical feedback and high-level guidance can make a difference.

Second, I encourage my clients to share initial brainstorming ideas before we meet. Before spending hours writing a complete essay draft, please share your bullet points or rough outlines so I can help you select the best story mix. After we confirm the ideal contents for each essay, I encourage you to write a full draft without worrying about the word limit.

Third, I encourage you to think about the turning points in your life and career. What are the most important decisions you have made, and what did each experience teach you about your strengths and weaknesses?

Finally, revision is key. In second and third drafts, please go beyond what you did and what you achieved. Admissions office readers will only care about your story if you include clear details about what you thought, felt, and said. Most of all, what did you learn, and how did the experience change you?

Any final comments?

Aside from spending time with our nine-year-old son, my great love is music, especially the bass guitar. I enjoy getting to know a culture and its language through music. Whenever we travel around Japan (or anywhere in the world), I always keep my ears open for that one true sound, that truly transcendent story. What's yours?