21 09, 2014

Successful MBA Sample Essays That Got Applicants Into HBS & Wharton

By | 2017-04-17T17:05:54+00:00 September 21st, 2014|College Admissions, Darden, EMBA, Fuqua, GMAT, GRE, Harvard, HBS, IE, INSEAD, Ivy League, Kellogg, LBS, MBA, MBA Admissions, MBA Essays, MIT Sloan, Ross, vanderbuilt, Wharton|1 Comment


Last year HBS had a 12% accept rate with over 9,000 applicants.  The other top MBA programs in the U.S. – Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia and MIT Sloan, just to name a few had similar tight competition.  We’ve already discussed the necessary GMAT score ranges and interview skills needed in other blog posts that give you a chance at the top.  The question here then is, what makes an applicant’s MBA essay successful, and what can you do to raise yourself among the best?”

The answer to that question is to start by looking at some very successful essays.  What does a good essay look like?  The best resource I’ve found to pass on to the curious, is this resource here:

65 Successful Harvard Business School Application Essays


BUT, read with caution because even though I believe this book will help you better understand how to differentiate between a good essay and a bad one (and thereby help you honestly assess where you fall) it doesn’t do much for helping you tell your story, your background, or your professional vision.  And, believe me, the ad com has read this book too, so if your essays sound too similar in structure or content to what’s in the book…let’s just say the word “ding” comes to the forefront of my mind.

So, what can you do?  How can you make your MBA essays successful and land you a place at the top?  HBS of course changed their requirements this year, and only asks applicants for one personal statement and are completely open in what they’re asking (read: pressure!), however other MBA programs are still asking the standard, traditional questions:

“What are your short and long-terms goals?” “Why a Columbia MBA?” (or Wharton, Stanford, NYU Stern, LBS, INSEAD), “What are Your Greatest Strengths and Weaknesses? “What Matters to You Most and Why?” and, of course, the “Optional Essay” (which should never be optional – did you hear that… make it optional and you’re passing up a great opportunity to tell the committee even more about you.  You’re trying to stand out from 9,000 other applicants…I’d take that opportunity.

So, what do the successful MBA essays have in common that catapulted their authors into the Top Ten?

1. GOOD WRITING:  This can’t be more stressed.  Having solid experience isn’t enough, you must be able to structure your experience and narrative in a way that makes a clear and strong argument for why you would be a valuable addition to the MBA class.  That’s what you’re really answering in every question —  “This is what I’ve done, and this is why I am valuable.”

2. Let Them See Your Process:  The ad com doesn’t just want to see a static goal, they want to understand the process of how you got there.  Your decision making process.  How you make and are making the hard career choices in your life and why.

That’s much more revealing about you as an applicant than just a passive, simple statement that says, “I want to be _____ when I graduate.”  Show them your decision-making process and why your goals truly make sense.

3. Be Realistic: The best essays are the ones where the applicants have realistic long-term goals.  This doesn’t mean your goals can’t be BIG, but it does mean that if they are big, that you already have something in your background (experience at a Fortune 500 company, a degree from an Ivy League school, patents under your name if you’re perhaps an entrepreneur).  SOMETHING that shows your long-term vision has a foundation that makes it at least seem possible.

Lay out your course of action, your road map, that shows how you plan to get where you want to go. Too far-fetched with absolutely nothing to back it up = Dinged.

4. Ask for Help: There are a lot of MBA admissions firms out there now, and people are using them; your competition for that elusive HBS “Admitted” 12% is using them.  Make sure you either have the confidence in your own writing skills to put your best foot forward on paper, and if you don’t, get help.  The top consultants never rewrite your essays for you, but provide detailed comments and suggestions to help you get your own essays back on track.

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the MBA admissions firm MBA IVY LEAGUE, out of Manhattan.  Like more information?  Please contact me for a free phone consultation today:  www.MBAIvyLeague.com]

15 09, 2014


By | 2017-04-17T17:05:54+00:00 September 15th, 2014|College Admissions, EMBA, GMAT, Harvard, HBS, MBA, MBA Admissions|0 Comments

You’ve had the big name internships, you’ve worked for a few years at a Fortune 500 company, most likely in a large city and now have that under your belt, and you have very strong and solid ambition for your future with specific, actual short and long-term goals.  Add a GMAT score that breaks 710, and even better 720, and you are certainly in the running.  So, what are you chances of really getting in to a top MBA program, if you have all of the above?

Good!  Allow me to say that the above makes you an ideal competitive Ivy League and Top Ten MBA candidate…on paper.  Your job is to now enhance that paper any way you can, so you stand out even more among the hundreds of other highly competitive MBA & EMBA candidates who have the exact same credentials.

In other words, you’ve made it through the gate by acquiring the above, but now you have to be offered a chance to sit down.

The best way to do this?  I’ll break it down into four sections below:

1. Your Resume:  Make sure your resume looks tight and clean.  You want a resume that looks simple, solid, straightforward and professional.  ideally it should fit on one page, unless you’ve had over 7 years work experience.

Applicants worry a lot about their job descriptions on their resume and spend much too much time playing around and changing little words that don’t matter.  What matters is how your resume looks. Ad coms can tell immediately if an applicant is a serious contender by just glancing at the resume, alone.

Is it easy to read?  Is it structured in a clean, lean way? Are you using “action verbs” that make your resume sound driven and energized versus passive, and are you showing responsibility within your descriptions -including # of employees you manage, if any, and the general level of financials that pass through your department or deals.  Remember, numbers show responsibility clearer than anything else.

2. Your Essays:  This is your chance to shine, and by that I mean “out shine” the man or woman sitting next to you who is also competing for your spot.  Use the essays to show what makes you different.  To show your level of responsibility, to show how you solve problems, are creative, and can work around challenge on the job.

If you’re having difficulty thinking of the right experience to write about, choose an experience that brings up a lot of EMOTION.  That emotion, good or bad, is going to come through in your writing as powerful, and powerful is exactly the type of essay that is going to be remembered and set you apart.

3. Your Rec Letters:  Choose your recommenders wisely.  You want someone who knows you well, and is, ideally, in a higher, more supervising position than you.  Some recommenders will ask you to lay out some guidelines of what you would like them to talk about in the letter, while others will prefer to write the letters solely on their own.  The bottom line is, try to briefly familiarize them with your goals, so they can speak to the fact that they understand “why” you want your MBA at this particular time.

4. Your Interview:  The interview is also your chance to shine, and demonstrate your confidence and security in speaking about your future.  The strongest interviews are those where applicants fully realize they are choosing the school via the interview just as much as the school is choosing them.  There’s an equality to the best interviews, and a flow that demonstrates  again, confidence, and an ability to make the other comfortable and have an engaging conversation.

Put these four points together, and speak confidently about your background, goals, and experience demonstrating that you know your industry and what it takes to get to the top, and you’ll be on your way.

[I’m a former Harvard interviewer and a Harvard graduate, and currently run the MBA admissions firm MBA IVY LEAGUE, out of Manhattan.  For more information, go to:   www.MBAIvyLeague.com]

9 09, 2014


By | 2017-04-17T17:05:55+00:00 September 9th, 2014|College Admissions, EMBA, GMAT, Harvard, HBS, MBA, MBA Admissions|1 Comment

Now that MBA deadlines are either finished (for Round 1) or approaching soon enough (Round 2), I thought a great topic for today’s post would be the most frequent question I get from my MBA students and clients:  “How important is the interview, and what can I expect?”

Usually, this is asked with some degree of trepidation, as most people don’t like going into a situation blind where the person on the other end seemingly has all the control in terms of your future.

To quell some fears though, here are some very valuable tips regarding the MBA (and EMBA) interview, and what it’s all about:

1. They really do just want to get to know you –  MBA admission officers sort through hundreds and hundreds of applicants.  They really do just want to be able to put a face with a name, to understand just a little bit more about you, to gain a sense (and an opinion) about how you carry yourself, your level of confidence, the way you enter a room,  carry a conversation, make someone else feel comfortable talking to you, and your ability to demonstrate that you have thought everything through and can thereby easily articulate your goals.

2. MBA interviewers are looking for professionalism –  Especially at the top schools like HBS, Booth, Kellogg, Columbia, Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan and NYU.    You have already turned in your resume and your application – now, they are looking to see if you truly match your experience in person: if you are a professional that they would be more than pleased to have as a graduate of their program; if they feel you will fit in to their program’s environment and their world.

3. They will most likely also ask you about your latest project at work, what your work culture is like, why an MBA now, and what your “Plan B” is in your career should all your plans fail  – All of this though is mainly to simply see if you have thought out your trajectory.  To really gage if an MBA degree is truly a strategic course of action that has clear benefits to your personally stated goals, or if it is something you are just doing because you want to change course to something and don’t really know what else to do at this time in your career (i.e. not a good answer).

4. And, finally, they want to see how you close a meeting.  In the interview and in life, always leave on a strong note –  Ideally, you wan to leave the interviewer feeling solid about the time they’ve spent with you.  To leave them with the impression that it was a pleasure to get to know you and who you are.  You do this, once again, by projecting confidence:  confidence in your goals, confidence in your plans, confidence in your trajectory.

All these things combined will add up to one great interview, and if your resume, essays, and test scores can back all of that up?  Well, you’ll be on your way towards exactly where you want to go.

[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate.  I currently run the MBA admissions firm MBA IVY LEAGUE, out of Manhattan. I also offer free interview prep for all of my official clients. Take a look at my website, and contact me today!  www. MBAIvyLeague.com ]

11 08, 2014

How to Create a Great MBA Application!

By | 2017-04-17T17:05:55+00:00 August 11th, 2014|College Admissions, EMBA, GMAT, Harvard, HBS, MBA, MBA Admissions, Uncategorized|0 Comments


As a former Harvard interviewer and Harvard grad, I thought I would  answer some of my clients’ most frequently asked questions, regarding How to Create a Great MBA Application!


TIP 1Focus on your professional experience

Though obvious to some, it is not obvious to others, which is why I’ll state it as my Number 1 point: MBA programs want to hear about your professional experience.

So, whereas on your undergraduate college applications, it was important to show how well-rounded you were, and how you participated in all kinds of activities and things, when applying to an MBA program admissions committees are looking for PROFESSIONAL FOCUS in almost every question.

They want to hear about your work, your professional life, your level of responsibility, the number of people you manage, the level of finances you or your department handles, your goals, your future, and your long-term career interests… all how they relate to you professionally.

So, keep the fact that you “also play saxophone” out of it, unless you are planning on starting an entrepreneurial saxophone-related business. If that’s the case, they love that, and you should mention it.

TIP 2Demonstrate Vision

Schools want to see that you’re not just applying for an MBA because it’s simply “what people do” in order to advance to the next level in your job. They want to see that you have an overall future plan in place — 5, 10, 20 years down the road. A plan that makes sense in terms of getting your MBA now.

And, “now” is a key word, and one that you will see mentioned on to a lot of the MBA application essay prompts: “Why do you want to get your MBA now?” “Why is now the time to pursue your degree as opposed to next year?”

Most people overlook this little, tiny word when writing their essays, and doing so will cut your chances of getting in. Really.  I know.  Don’t disregard it.

It’s important.

Schools want to see how “NOW” fits perfectly into your overall plan. How “NOW” is absolutely the right move to take for your future goals to come to pass. How “NOW” has been well-thought out, is completely rational, and makes perfect professional sense.

Schools then want to see that you have placed that “now” in the context of your future professional dreams. Again, it doesn’t matter if they eventually come to pass, or not (I hope they do). What matters is that you demonstrate that you have vision, and a concrete plan, and that by walking out that plan, by walking down the professional path you have laid out for yourself, your dream goal, project, or entrepreneurial venture, or career is a very real possibility.

So, again, focus on your professional experience, make sure you answer the question “Why now?” and demonstrate future vision.

I am always happy to answer additional questions or provide further MBA or EMBA consulting advice. You are welcome to contact me through my website:http://www.MBAIvyLeague.com

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