Category Archives: MBA Admissions Book

Advice On B-School Application Timeline From Yale SOM

I often get questions about the MBA admissions timeline from applicants, asking “what should I be doing, when? How far in advance? When should I be doing the GMAT, the essays, asking for recommendations?”

There’s no such thing as one correct one answer of course. Much depends you–how fast you work, how much you feel you need to do to feel comfortable, and how many schools you are targeting.

There are general common milestones for the months leading up to application deadline, and I’ve given a distilled sense of timeline best-practices in my book.

Further to all this, I came across a post from Yale SOM EMBA worth sharing. Note that the deadlines are for an executive MBA (later in the year, on average) and generally the terms of advice assume a smaller applicant pool. Nevertheless it is relevant in principle to address common admissions timeline questions.

By the way, if you’re in the EMBA market, Yale SOM is worth your application time. Yale University needs no introduction of course, but the business school has spent a few decades finding itself. It is now undoubtedly racing into the top tier.

With all that said, here’s Hillary Larsen, Assistant Director of Admissions, MBA for Executives talking to applicants ahead of the April 12 final deadline:

February through April

  • We would be delighted to get to know and work with you. I recommend meeting our team, current students, and alumni at events online and all around the United States so that you can make a better-informed decision about applying to Yale SOM. Explore the Yale culture and experience the benefits of our small class size.
  • You are not on your own. If you have any questions along the way, our admissions team is available to help at emba.admissions@yale.edu.

February

  • As a part of the application, you will need to designate the individual who will be signing off on your time away from the office. Now is the time to discuss the EMBA program with your employer. Make sure he or she understands that your EMBA experience will directly benefit the organization. Our students are able to apply what they learn on Fridays and Saturdays directly to their organizations the following Monday, while focusing on developing their own unique leadership attributes throughout the program.
  • Discuss this program and the time commitment it will entail with family and close friends. To perform at your best in the program, you will need the support of those around you.
  • If you haven’t taken the GMAT or GRE in the past five years, start looking at these standardized tests and decide which one you’d like to take. We have no preference. We recommend taking one of the free practice tests available to gauge your strengths and weakness and to develop a plan of study. Many of our students have taken courses to keep their preparation on track. Keep in mind that the standardized test score gives us an understanding of your current ability to process and analyze (primarily) quantitative data in a time-constrained environment. Since our students have a range of work experience from 5 to 25 years, we have different expectations of test scores. This is just one component of the application, which we review holistically.

March

  • Open the application and review the essay questions. The essays are your best opportunity to showcase who you are and what you are passionate about.
  • Consider who you would like to submit a recommendation on your behalf. We suggest asking for a recommendation early and following up with the recommender to ensure that he or she understands the application deadline. We require two recommendations as a part of a complete application.
  • If you do not already have copies of your transcripts from your undergraduate institute and any other institution from which you have earned professional or graduate degrees, request them. If your transcripts are not in English, you will need to provide a notarized English translation. Please note that you do not need official transcripts for the purposes of the application; you can upload unofficial copies.
  • If you have not recently updated your résumé, now is the time to do so. Please keep the résumé to no longer than two pages. This is your opportunity to clearly show your career acceleration and advancement.

April

  • Finalize your application! Be sure to review the entire application. You have until April 12 to take your GMAT or GRE and record your unofficial score. You must submit your application by 11:59 p.m. ET on April 12. You must also submit your application fee at that time in order for the application to be reviewed by the admissions committee.
  • Confirm with your recommenders that they will submit the review form by the final deadline.
  • Once you have submitted the application, the employer approval form will be sent to the individual you have indicated. You can check the application status page to monitor if we have received your official test scores and employer approval form.

How to Make your MBA Application Stand Out

One of the problems I have as an MBA admissions adviser–friend, coach, confidant, drill sergeant–to applicants trying to crack top-tier schools is explaining that while “good is nice and great is nicer” neither will get you into a top-tier MBA program. Only “good + special” will get you in.

Everyone knows that there are far fewer places than excellent candidates, but not everyone understands the implication of this, which is that the standard “good” profile application is more likely to fail than succeed. I do ding analyses: often there is something clear to point to, but often there is not. I’m left saying “there was no juice,” and I don’t mean this as a cop-out.

What I mean is–putting it another way–the applicant has provided reasons for Adcom not to reject them, covering all bases, saying the right things, but has not given Adcom a compelling reason to say yes.

Easier said than done. What if there is no specialness (distinctiveness) there? “I haven’t done anything that special,” they will say. “I have not won Olympic medals; never hot-air ballooned over the Atlantic; not pulled anyone from a burning car …”

I won’t kid you, it’s great if you’ve done something memorable like this. But there are two types of specialness. Specialness of what you have achieved AND specialness of who you are. Not everyone has the first type in their bag, but everyone can have the second.

Here are examples of the second type:

1. Distinctiveness of insight, self-reflection, and self-understanding. Unfortunately (but fortunately for you, dear reader) it appears these days that it takes a special person to be willing to reflect on their life path, their roles, their identity, their motivations. But this is exactly what Adcom wants of you. That’s why they ask complex, motivational questions. The quality of genuine self-reflection is so unique among 20-something-year-olds (and so highly correlated with real leadership ability) that if you can do it right, you’ll be special just for this.

Note: doing it right means being open and honest, but also circumspect, professional, to-the-point, and focused on the essay question, using practical examples and stories. It does not mean wallowing self-indulgently as if for your local Agony Aunt magazine column.

2. Distinctiveness of communication. Writing and (in the interview) speaking is the basis of your interaction with Adcom. Words are your tools. You do not need to be a fancy creative-writing major to write a wonderful MBA admissions essay, but there are basic tools of storytelling and essay building that make a piece of text stand out. Be aware how much turgid, repetitive prose your Adcom reader has to wade through. Getting your point across in a bright, clear, and organized way will make you stand out. (Much more about the how of this is in my MBA Admissions Strategy book.)

3. Distinctiveness of direction and goals. You can’t change your past. You should present it in the best light, but for better or worse, it is set. Your future is ahead of you. It can be anything–you can make any claim, within reason. It is a “free hit ” in the sense that you are pretty much invited to distinguish yourself from the crowd through the extent of your ambition, and the relevance, interest, and worthiness of your career path.

 

MBA Studio is 10!

It is 10 years since MBA Studio was founded. It started more by chance than design, as seems to happen in this industry. I had worked on a few applications, including my own, and found I was good at it (and successful.) This was due to my media-editor background, my strategic marketing training, and my b-school cultural immersion. Anyway, quite early on I realized I was saying things to clients that had not been written down. So I wrote a book (MBA Admissions Strategy) which, happily, was snapped up by the first publisher I sent it to (McGraw Hill) and has since become a best-seller, now in 2nd edition.

On the back of the book, and gratifyingly also often by word of mouth, the client side of the business grew strongly and I was quickly forced in to a decision that has defined MBA Studio ever since: Do I adopt a flotilla of sub-consultants and spend my time managing them? Or do I stay a hands-on practicing MBA admissions advisor? I chose the latter because I was far more motivated by the intellectual and strategic challenge (and fun!) of crafting a savvy application that finds the way to pick the lock of the admissions gates and get a person admitted to an elite school, sometimes beyond even their own expectations. There is nothing better than getting the “wow, I’m in!” email, knowing I’ve meaningfully improved someone’s entire career and life prospects. (Full disclosure: I do of course have marketing and administrative support staff.)

So it’s been 10 years, and here’s to the next 10. As a point of demarcation, I’ve decided to implement some changes in service provision. Where MBA Studio used to handle all aspects of the application, as defined by the book, the focus going forward will be on the essays and allied asynchronous services. This is a business decision. Full-service provision for a one-consultant operation is inherently “lumpy” – I have to leave big spaces of time to fully serve clients who sign up in August for a large menu of services that they may use sporadically, or not at all, or in a January rush! This means every year I’ve been turning clients away. With an essay focus I’ll be able to work more consistently, and for more clients.

In another adjustment, the free essay review is withdrawn. There is simply no longer time to do them. In its place are sample reviews which demonstrate what’s on offer (see Services tab.)