Category Archives: MBA Admissions

Some great interview advice between the lines in “Harvard is my hump”

There’s a heartwarming story in today’s Philippine Star (philstar.com) by Gina Valerie Chua, who tells the story of her March HBS interview and April admission to Harvard. See the full story at this link.

Other than the feel good factor, for admissions purposes there are two takeaways. First is she beat out many apparently better candidates – as she puts it: “those NASA astronauts and genetic scientists who are dreaming of the exact same thing.” She says: “Only 900 applicants are admitted out of 10,000 from all over the world: investment bankers, UN diplomats, cancer-curing surgeons — and little old me somehow found my way through.”

I’m sure she is being modest about her own competitive profile, but the point remains. You don’t need to be a superstar. You just need to be competitive and apply well.

The second takeaway concerns reflections on the HBS interview.

Says Chua: “I remember my interview. They asked me why I insist on writing despite my career in investment banking, an anomaly in this world of perfectly drawn certainties. What I told them is the very reason you are reading this now: I wish to write about possibility. Whether we are meant to find it at home or some 9,000 miles away, there is a world waiting for us, waiting for our courage and our lack of self-restriction. We cannot help but be creators — of books, skyscrapers, wars or dynasties — and the best of who we are can only be found in the hope they leave behind.”

Idealistic waffle wouldn’t you say? Puke? Well, that’s the point. For better or worse most Adcoms like idealism. Harvard perhaps more than most. They don’t want naivete, but they do like world-changing visions. If you are not something of a dreamer at 25, you’ll never be, and they are not looking to put the HBS brand on (more) money-grabbing cynics.

And, reassuringly, they don’t penalize anomalies, nor seek a world of perfect certainties. Be yourself.

Peering into the MBA classroom is good preparation for MBA admissions

A week or so I blogged about Harvard case method and included the HBS promotional video featuring the case method. Here’s another one, this time from Darden (University of Virginia Business School).

The video “Highlights of a Darden Case Study Class” is here:

First, this shows how widespread the case method is in b-schools. In my experience, applicants think they must show their identification with the case method for Harvard, but tend to overlook it for all their other applications. For HBS it comes across as formula, unless you add a unique perspective. And there’s certainly no harm in mentioning it other places, particularly where a school has publicly featured it in their promotions.

The broader value in watching videos like this – and this blog will feature more of them over time – is they are absolutely valuable (and free!) insights into what goes on in a b-school classroom. This gives a good idea of the kind of applicant MBA Adcoms are looking for. Particularly note how much the emphasis is on discussion, communication, questioning, argument, thinking. Most of business school is not about absorbing facts or calculating answers.

FT reports on Anderson’s audio essay experience

FT.com / Business education – A word in your ear this week reports: “At the Anderson school at UCLA, applicants this year were asked to submit their essays in audio format. Although the scheme was voluntary, some 70 per cent of applicants for the class of 2011 chose to record their essays rather than submit them in a text format, says Mae Jennifer Shores, admissions director. …

“The audio clips have been useful on a number of fronts, says Ms Shores: they show how well the applicants can communicate, how well they have grasped the use of English and how they perform under pressure. Also they demonstrate how creative students can be: some added music – either commercially produced or self-generated.

“It also enabled some students to demonstrate a sense of humour. “It was a joy for us,” says Ms Shores…

“Ms Shores says the Anderson school may choose to make the audio clips compulsory next year, or alternatively it may consider using video clips instead.”

MBA Studio’s take on this:

(1) If given the option of audio or video – Take It! You don’t need to overly interpret “it was a joy for us,” to know what their preference is. Not doing it is almost a red flag.

(2) In the original article the FT reporter also suggests the audio essay is a way of nulliflying the effect of admissions consultants. That’s poor reporting. Consultants can just as easily help applicants with communication in any media.

Responsible admissions advisors advise and edit and coach, like any advisor in any field. MBA Studio, for one, would never cross the line and prepare a candidates submission for them whether written, audio, or video.