Category Archives: MBA Admissions

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.


Some Harvard puffery, but good insight into what HBS looks for

Harvard Business School has a promotional video up at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/academics/

The video can also been seen here.

It’s an ad for HBS of course, highlighting its main point of distinction: the case method, which, according to HBS creates “special moments that pull everything we have learned into focus. When theory, practice, experience and talent all come to one sharp point — a decision.” And so on.

For the MBA admissions applicant this is a worthwhile watch for a few reasons

1. It is good insight into how b-schools work and think. It is good background on the culture and attitudes at play, including overall assumptions and ethics, and therefore what would be expected of the next class too.

2. It is good insight into the dynamics of the business school classroom, and the requirements of individual and group-based learning. The applicant positioned well to work in this way, is well positioned to be admitted.

3. It is good insight into the case method of teaching. HBS is “ground zero” of the case method, but actually almost every school uses cases to a significant degree, so it is useful for understanding all schools.

By the way, the case method has been under a bit of scrutiny, and voices have been raised that Harvard did not adequately prepare its graduates to assess risk / business failure (the credit crunch and fallout). See example stories in Forbes and Bloomberg News. But, to me it doesn’t look like HBS did worse than anywhere else …

Note also how HBS focuses on its distinctive marker – the case method – in branding and advertising itself. Same principles apply to MBA applicants.