Standing Out at Admissions Events

 

How to ask good questions at school fairs and information sessions?

As someone who once stood by a school table/booth or a podium answering all sorts of questions from applicants, I can’t help asking myself:  So do I remember any of those questions, any of those names or faces?

The purpose of those fairs and info sessions is to help the school staff and prospective students to get to know each other face to face, at a personal level. While there’s plenty to say about how much a prospective student might get to know the school and its people, including staff, alumni and perhaps even a couple of current students, how much the school staff or school representative might get to know a certain prospective student, remains dubious in most circumstances.

The good news is that, the outcome of such an encounter depends mostly on you, the prospective student or applicant. Yes, you do go to those events to listen and to ask questions about the school. However, depending on the quality of your questions, there’s also a fantastic opportunity for you to help the school staff remember you, in a positive way, which could go a long way for your application when it comes to be assessed.

So why did I barely remember any of the questions, or faces or names that matched the faces at a fair or an info session? I typically came back to my office with a stack of business cards and another stack of resumes, most if not all of which were recycled. It was a one-way communication, me to you, but rarely both ways, you and me, you to me. My suggestions for avoiding such a lost opportunity are:

  1. Do not walk up to me with a straight face, with the look of a serious professional from an office meeting, even though you are legitimately tired after a long day of work. Remember I might have just arrived in Tokyo the night before and I’m really tired, too and jet lagged. Your relaxed, smiling face refreshes me in this pretty loud and busy hall.
  1. Do not simply hand me your business card and your resume right away. I actually do not collect those papers and I’m accepting the ones from those ahead of you mainly as a courtesy. Say hello to me, chat and genuinely ask how I’m doing today. Give me positive feedback if I just gave a presentation by the way. Appreciation goes both ways.
  1. Do not ask generic simple questions, questions that you can find the answer to on the school’s website, such as what the ratio of international students is, or whether the school has a Japan Club. Unfortunately, lots of prospective students do ask those “dumb” questions. You don’t want to be among one of them, which guarantees a one-way communication.
  1. Moreover, do not ask me super “intelligent” questions either, questions that I would struggle to answer as well, such as what the future strategy of the school is, or how the school plans on improving its leadership program. There are always one or two people who appear intent on outsmarting the school representative. Remember it’s supposed to be a two-way communication, not a competition. I wouldn’t remember you, and if I do, it’s less likely to be in the way you want.
  1. So, ask questions that are specific, that demonstrate your research and understanding of the school and its program, and that even better, tie in your interest with the specifics of the school and program. Share your interest, succinctly, with me, and help me see how it is interesting to me and my school. If you do that, chances are I will look at your business card and resume afterwards, and remember you as one of the few outstanding/interesting prospectives that I have met on the road.

Parting message: The key is to do research before you go to any event, ask any questions. Once you’ve done your research and come up with your specific interesting/relevant questions, approach the school representative in a very friendly manner. Go for it.

Mengdan

HINTS for successfully writing the MBA essays

The business school application process can be an intimidating process with competition particularly fierce at top business schools. In general, candidates are screened based on the following;

  1. GPA and GMAT scores
  2. Personal attributes. Prior to being invited to an interview, the applicant’s “fit” with a particular program is assessed based on his/her essays and recommendation letters.  Invariably, the essays and reference letters collectively must draw attention to the skills and characteristics that business programs seek including maturity, motivation, strong work ethic and solid communication skills. A great essay will provide color to your performance and potential.

To write a strong essay, you need to understand your audience. It is imperative that you understand what the Admissions Committee is looking for.  From your admission essays, the Committee hope to better understand the following relative to other candidates:

  1. Depth of your academic and professional experiences
  2. Unique traits and interests that are not covered in other parts of the application
  3. Your commitment to the MBA program

Writing Hints:

In your essay, be passionate and sincere. Show Admissions Committee who you are and what you will bring to the program. Some hints are:

Do’s:

  1. Answer the question being asked. Many candidates gets lost as they write their essays. Instead of focusing on the question being asked, he/she rambles on and on without focus. Always come back to the question.
  2. Convey positivity and optimism.  A typical essay question is “Write about an experience that has shaped your personality.” Very often, applicants write about an unfortunate event and writes from a perspective of being the victim. AVOID this perspective. Instead, focus on what you have learned from the experience.
  3. Use active voice. Be clear and use simple sentence structure. Often, essays have word limit and every word has to count.

Don’ts:

  1. Resist the urge to describe. Applicants often spend the better part of the essay tediously describing an experience or event. The description is only a part of the essay. Demonstrate what you have learned including perseverance, stamina and knowledge.
  1. Don’t repeat information that can be found in other parts of your application. The essays are your opportunity to demonstrate who you are. Rehashing the same information/experience only makes you one dimensional; business programs seek candidates that have depth and are multi-dimensional.
  2. Don’t try to explain weakness on your record. It is almost impossible to explain poor grades and/or test scores without sounding defensive or worse, irresponsible.  If there is a reason for an academic weakness, write in a separate short essay and avoid in the body of the essay.

As much as possible, you should craft your narrative around your achievements and experiences that have enabled you cultivate your strengths.  Use the whole essay set to “speak” to the Admissions Committee about who you are and not just disparate traits that you think the school wants to see.

Jumet

The Millennial Paradox

One thing MBA applicants (rightly) hear again and again is how important it is to really get to know your business school, but which ones do the best job of getting to know you as a prospective student? Every year, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) surveys MBA applicants on their experiences during the admissions process. Here are the most recent findings:

 http://aigac.org/for-media/application-survey/

Its worth keeping this information in mind as you determine your fit with your prospective schools, and also as you consider what you want them to know about you. What are your unique skills and experiences? What value will you add to the class? What makes you stand out among the crowd?

As you narrow down your list of schools, this is a good time to get on the mailing lists to keep up to date with any webinars, coffee chats in your city, or admissions events. The next step would be to reach out to current students and alumni to hear their first-hand experience of the programmes. Finally, if time and finances allow, visiting the school will give you insight into its culture and opportunities.

Faye

MBA school selection

People typically pursue an MBA because they are looking to improve their career opportunities. MBA programs can be compared based on attributes such as rankings, starting salaries, recruitment/ job placement opportunities, and net costs. In addition, there are other factors that potential candidates focus on such as predominant teaching methods, size of classes and location. These are all important considerations; however, you are investing time and money when you complete an MBA program. Therefore, as you start the process, focus on your objectives for getting an MBA.

Where do you begin?

Research extensively the schools you are interested in. Look at the entire two–year experience and determine if the program will give you the skills you are looking to acquire, the resources you need, and the network you want to develop.  Take a look at such attributes as quality of student life, teaching methodology, faculty orientation (research versus teaching), and size of program. Location should also be a consideration because as can be expected, schools in the financial centers can easily attract guest lecturers in the financial services while other areas may offer expertise in areas such as healthcare or luxury brand management.

Understand your profile. Many facts are considered in the admission process, including academic background, professional experience and progression, achievements, leadership potential, awards, hobbies, and test scores.  Your performance in your prior academic program and test scores help shed light on how you will thrive in the program. Another key area that is considered will be your stated goals and how you expect the program to help you achieve them.  Understanding all these areas is the starting point for developing a personal branding strategy and help you stand out among other MBA prospects.

Finally, apply to a wide range of schools. Apply to schools that have higher GPA or GMAT results – “reaches” -as well as ones that have lower ones.  The process is highly subjective and you never know what combination of attributes gets you admitted.

Jumet

 

 

 

MBA Applications: Deciding between Round 1 and 2 for International Candidates

One of the challenges with the MBA application is choosing which round or deadline to apply.  Generally, US MBA programs have up to four application rounds.  However, these rounds are mostly applicable for US applicants.  For international candidates, a different approach is necessary because there is a visa requirement that they must adhere.  Given this, most international candidates are encouraged to apply to either Round 1 or 2.

Regarding choosing between Round 1 and 2, the best advice is to self-assess one’s own background and application progress; then, select the round in which he feels most comfortable applying.  Since candidates only have one application opportunity per school each year, they should ensure that their application is at its highest potential before submitting.

To distinguish the advantages and disadvantages between these two rounds, use the following descriptions as guidance.

Round 1 Analysis

Benefit:  Since Round 1 applications are early, one of the benefits of applying in this round is that an applicant will get his results early as well.  This will provide him with the flexibility to apply to additional MBA programs in Round 2 if his results are not satisfactory.  As such, those who apply in Round 1 with unfavourable results will be able to reassess their application, strengthen any areas of weakness, and develop a stronger application for Round 2.  In essence, they will be able to pace their applications better.   Another benefit is that generally in Round 1, there are fewer people who apply.  Given this, the opportunity to stand out is stronger.

Challenge:   Conversely, the main challenge with Round 1 is that it is an early deadline.  Therefore, depending on when an candidate started his application, he may have less time to develop his goals and essays, strengthen his test scores, and request letters of recommendation.  Also, since most international MBA information sessions and events happen later in the year, this might present a dilemma for the candidate in terms of researching about a school and figuring out his “fit.”

Suggestion:  An international candidate should only apply for this round if he has strong test scores (GMAT/GRE and TOEFL), a clear sense of his goals and aspirations, and sufficient time to research about a school beforehand.    This round is also recommended for re-applicants as it will show their dedication to the school.

Round 2 Analysis

Benefit:   The main benefit of Round 2 is that an applicant is given more time to strengthen his MBA application.  This entails more time to develop his MBA goals and essays, to improve his test scores, to request letters of recommendation, and to research schools.    This extra time may be critical for many candidates as it helps to develop their competitive advantage.

Challenge:  The primary challenge with this round is that most MBA applicants (both domestic and international) will apply during this time.  Therefore, the competition is intense.  Also, given that most schools do not encourage Round 3 for international candidates, this means that applicants who apply solely in Round 2 may need to apply to more schools to increase their chances of admittance.   As such, the pacing of these various applications may be challenging.

Suggestion:  Besides having a strong application (i.e. test scores, letters of recommendation, etc.), an applicant needs to develop stories that help differentiate him from the rest of the MBA applicant pool.  This requires self-analysis and reflection.  Thus, personal branding becomes a critical part of the application even more so than in Round 1.

Posted by Lee Moua

Questions to consider when developing an MBA resume

An HR professional or Admissions Officer will spend no more than 60 seconds looking through your resume. It is therefore important that your resume be strategically and structurally composed to showcase your skills and maximize impact to the reader.

Think of the resume as a marketing tool for your personal brand that is used to entice AND engage the reader and a means for differentiating you from the competition.

To distinguish yourself, start by asking yourself and thinking through the following:

1. What one or two words best describe you?

2. What kind of leadership skills have you demonstrated and how were they measured?

3. Are you a good listener? Are you articulate? Are you comfortable expressing your opinion in a group setting?

4. What makes you different from the competition? Do you have bi-lingual capabilities? What certifications do you have?

These are just some questions to help you get going.  Please visit the following for more tips on building an effective resume.

http://www.topmba.com/blog/how-create-standout-mba-resume

http://www.vinceprep.com/blog/resumes

Posted by Jumet

Developing a Personal Brand in MBA Applications

In the competitive world of MBA applications, it is now more important than ever to stand out among other exceptional candidates. Top grades, GMAT scores and strong career growth are no longer sufficient.  Nor is being an engineer with excellent technical skills enough. Now applicants must think beyond their skills and qualifications and develop an application that reflects their personal brand. This personal brand is the key factor that differentiates them from others.

To understand what a personal brand entails, it requires a definition. To many people, a personal brand is an image a person exudes to others. In the context of the MBA application, it is the impression a person leaves with the reader. This impression is critical, as it will impact the result. Since most readers take roughly between 15 to 20 minutes to read through one application, the applicant has a short time to make a lasting impact.

Given this, for many people, the task of creating a personal brand is challenging. To ease this process, the following tips are useful.

1. Reflection

To create a strong personal brand, a person should reflect on his/her professional and personal life and identify reoccurring themes. These themes can be used to contextualize the applicant’s impression to others. For example, even though an applicant worked as an analyst, his area of focus may have been mainly in medical technology. As such, framing the application within the area of medical technology helps the reader visualize the applicant’s background and personal brand.

2. Strategy

Since people are always changing and growing from their experiences, their personal brand can change as well. Given this, it is necessary to be strategic in choosing a personal brand. This process involves an applicant to think beyond his/her own comfort zone and bubble. For example, for most system engineers, their work often requires concentration and singular execution. This profession can be isolating and individualistic. To balance out such an image, an applicant may want to choose a story in his/her MBA essay that connotes strong communication and collaboration skills.   This balanced application creates the personal brand of a well-rounded applicant.

3. Marketing

In MBA applications, marketing one’s personal brand requires tact and lexical awareness. When developing an image to the reader, the applicant should carefully construct the resume, essays, and application using vocabulary that is reflective of the personal brand he/she wants to convey. For example, if the person wants to present an image of a leader, using vocabulary such as directed, managed, and oversaw paints the picture of the brand to the reader. This tactic is important to shape and construct a meaningful personal brand.

Posted by Lee Moua