Tag Archives: profiling

Making messages stick: an MBA Studio ‘bible’ gets some airtime

As a follower of many blogs in the MBA admissions ‘space’ I know, as you probably know, that they are of mixed quality. But the musings of AIGAC-accredited MBA admissions consultants is generally good, and I find we are of one mind on most important matters. So no surprise that today’s post is a hearty agreement with Linda who recently recommended the book Made to Stick (Random House, New York, 2007) by Chip and Dan Heath, on her Accepted blog.

made-to-stickI read the Made to Stick hot-off-the-press two years ago, and have integrated every aspect of it into MBA Studio’s client offerings ever since. It’s not the only resource I use of course (and my own MBA Admissions Strategy, which predates it, has many of the same principles.) But Made to Stick is unsurpassed in focusing on one single thing: getting a message across. Formulating it so that the reader reads it, understands it, remembers it.

So, as I have said consistently to MBA Studio clients and whomever else would listen: this is the single best “non-MBA” guidebook for MBA applicants. Be aware that it won’t help with the key aspects of determining who you are and what your key value points and application platform are — what you want to communicate in the first place (as revealed and coached through MBA Studio’s signature “Profiling” process.) Nor will it help with the specifics of how to manage and beat business-school-specific expectations in essays and interviews and reco’s. But as a book about how to communicate a message, it can’t be beaten, and is justifiably a worldwide bestseller.

The Heath brothers have distilled what makes a message “stick” into six principles, which they communicate in a (sticky) acronym, SUCCESs (sic). That is Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories. Chapter by chapter they show how to simplify a message to its essence; grab attention via its unexpected elements, use concrete rather than abstract intelligence; enhance credibility via various proof channels; and achieve emotional connections with the reader. Telling stories that matter, and telling them well, is the key to much of this.

Made to Stick has a blog by the way. Unfortunately two years and counting after the book was published, it’s only occasionally active.

Harvard Business School essays (2009-10) add a cover letter just like MIT Sloan’s

Harvard has released their new essay questions, and deadlines for 2009-10, adding a cover letter essay (optional) which MIT Sloan’s has as a standard request for years. Still only four essays are required for HBS, and the first two compulsory questions remain the same:

1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600)
2. What have you learned from a mistake? (400)

For essays essays 3 and 4, applicants now have five topics to choose from (up from four) two of which are new. One , a cover letter “introducing yourself to the Admissions Board,” is equivalent to the MIT Sloan signature essay.

This is no surprise. Cover letters are deeply difficult to get right because they require acute balance between brevity and detail. They test your ability to extract and communicate what is really important – demonstrating a key management skill.

The other new question: “Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision,” is familiar ground in admissions, and something well covered in MBA Studio’s profiling process that focuses on your key life transitions (why?) and prepares you for questions like this in your essays and interview.

The full set of options for HBS essays 3 & 4 are:

Please respond to two of the following (400-word limit each):
1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?
2. Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization.
3. Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision.
4. Write a cover letter to your application introducing yourself to the Admissions Board.
5. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

The deadlines are (all 5pm EST) R1: October 1, 2009; R2: January 19, 2010; R3: April 8, 2010


More World MBA Tour legacy, 18 principles of MBA admissions which I still stand by

The last piece moving resources off the old MBA Studio site, and into the land of blogs and permalinks. It’s from a talk I gave on the World MBA Tour in 2003 – proving, if nothing else, how long I’ve been around doing MBA admissions consulting πŸ™‚ . Seriously, from year to year, the basic insights into what works in getting admitted to elite schools changes little, so this worth a little reprise (click here for pps show.)