Tag Archives: MBA Adcom

Digging Deep for MBA Admissions Value – Take Karate for Example

I’m often, … no correction, always telling MBA applicants to extract the full MBA admissions value from what they have in their bio, and what they have done. Doing this is the only way to present as more valuable than the next applicant to the business school in question; that is, the only way to get admitted in a competitive system.

Easier said than done of course. So the question comes back: How do I do that? And this is a fair-enough question.

How to do it, as I’ve written at greater length in my book, has to do with (a) understand the full dimensions of MBA admissions value associated with what you have done and/or achieved; (b) understanding what is valuable to Adcoms, which is to say what is valuable in the b-school environment and in MBA careers, and (c) being able to connect “a” to “b” in a clear and compelling way.

That’s the theory. Here’s an example. (Note: nothing works in MBA admissions communications as well as an example.)

Let’s say you have been involved in JKA karate for much of your early life, achieved your “black belt” at the age of 18, were reasonably successful in competitions during high school and college, but now just keep your hand in at the dojo as a part-time instructor. Is it valuable or not?

Of course it’s valuable. Karate is a recognized development activity. It takes youth through a structured and disciplined and group-oriented series of challenges. Also, no question that having spent this much of your life on the activity, it has to get some airtime in your application.

More pertinently, which parts are valuable? What do you say? Is it valuable to say you can fight people and easily knock them down. Of course not. That’s a red flag. Is it valuable to say you can defend yourself in any situation? That’s not going to hurt your application, but it won’t help. Adcom doesn’t rate people on whether they can physically defend themselves — it’s not something that counts at business school or with the careers office or recruiters or in the business world for MBA graduates.

The value is in the discipline you learned, in the experience of setbacks and perseverance; in participating well with competitors and competition; in learning to manage adversity; in being part of a structured environment, and in learning to structure and manage your time (e.g. going to the dojo 5x a week on top of everything else.)

There may also be value to be had in the psychic development karate offers: exposure to alternative (oriental) philosophy, mindfulness, inner peace and self-reliance, and so on. If you are now a coach or trainer or mentor of the next generation, there is obvious admissions value in that.

There may be more. The point is, there is lots to say that points to a valid admissions “value claim” for you as a person and professional going forward. Once unearthed, you choose which parts to emphasize, and you move onto the next value activity, approaching it in the same way.

 

To be, or not to be, an MBA applicant in Round Three?

As readers of this blog site and its wider resources will know, I most value information from the horse’s mouth. When it comes to admissions, if this or that “expert” says it, it’s like-yeah-whatever; if an elite Adcom says it, it’s worth listening to.

We are in round 3 of the class-of-2013 MBA admissions cycle. On the current topical question of should you or shouldn’t you waste your time and money on R3 apps, here’s what the HBS Admissions Director has to say:

“As the Class of 2013 application season rounds the corner toward the finish line, you may be asking yourself whether it’s worth your time and money to submit an application. Is it too much of a long shot?

“You may be surprised to learn that we ask ourselves the same question every year. Should there even be a round 3? Why can’t we just wrap the class up in two rounds? Answer: even though we could – we always conclude that we like Round 3 enough to keep it as an option.

“Although we have admitted about 90% of the class by this time, we always – ALWAYS – see enough interesting Round 3 applicants to want to do it again.

“I know you wish I could define “interesting” with pinpoint accuracy but I can’t. Sometimes it’s work experience, sometimes it’s an undergraduate school we wish we had more students from, sometimes it’s a compelling recommendation and sometimes it’s just ‘something’.

“I will say that it’s always that we have absolutely no doubts about a candidate’s leadership talent, character or academic capabilities – the same hurdle we have for the earlier rounds…

“Don’t apply to HBS in Round 3 if:

  • You are an international candidate and have serious concerns about the likelihood of getting a visa in a timely manner.
  • You really want to come in September, 2012 and are hoping to be granted a postponement.
  • You are counting on getting on-campus housing.
  • You are using this as a “trial” application and are hoping for feedback on this application to increase your chances of success next year.”

Postscript: You may say, “what do they have to lose? – of course they would advise me to apply anytime!” and you’d be right there. Round 1 and Round 2 remain undoubtedly a better time to apply to most elite MBA programs, including the Harvard MBA. But if you’re faced with the reality of R3, and you’re objectively special for one reason or another, it’s you vs. the waitlist — so the door is not yet closed.

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.