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To me, the jury is still out on MBA admissions consultants.  The trend has been the industry’s friend however.

  • I know that several members of top 25 admissions committees have reached out to MBA admissions consulting companies over the last few seasons.
  • These admissions committees have shown that they are willing to collaborate with these consulting firms in order to help steer more students their way, with respect to the application process.

Here is a link to UCLA Anderson’s take on the industry I found while searching around on the intertubes.

UCLA Anderson seems to be a bit cautious on their blog.

I think I may have just discovered the next generation of the UPS Store; Earth Class Mail.

However:

  • ECM takes your mail and scans it so that you can view it online!
  • You can then view the mail online and decide to have ECM personnel open it (and scan contents), forward it to another address or trash it.
  • How cool is that for the busy consultant?

Limitations:

  • ECM is only in a limited number of major cities. This limits your ability to pick your mail up if you choose.
  • Most of these locations are P.O. Boxes.  FedEx and UPS won’t deliver to P.O. Boxes.
  • The service is fairly expensive for a limited number of mail items.

Conclusion:

  • This is worth a try if I ever find myself traveling again for an extended time.
  • I wonder how long until the UPS Store catches on?

A random thought; I hope I get an invite to Daytum.com‘s private beta.

  • This site mimicks my belief in how reporting dashboard’s should look.
  • I would love to throw my data in to the mix and see how effectively I communicate my results based on a balanced scorecard approach (quality, production, customer service and financial performance). 

As my colleages may be able to tell, I am a huge fan of simple, concise and clear communication.  

  • I sincerely believe that communicating is something that everyone does but not necessarily well.  

At an organizational level, I believe that passive communication kills organizations and conversations for that matter. 

  • This is something I try to get across to my own colleagues.  
  • I hope I serve as the example.🙂

I would encourage those of you reading this post  to also check out:

I think this could also serve as inspiration for:

  • The Chicago Booth PPT (Powerpoint) essay.
  • My Christmas cards this year.  How cool would it be to send out an annual report to your family as your Christmas or Holiday card?  
  • Pretty cool, if you ask me.  But then again, no one is asking me.

Chicago Booth asks an interesting question this year:

“Slide Presentation: We have asked for a great deal of information throughout this application and now invite you tell us about yourself. (four Powerpoint slides)”

Below are some really, really good links on how to start visualizing Chicago’s PPT essay question.

I have pulled relevant points from the attached links; in summary:

  1. Adcoms have to read through 1000’s of apps. They want to know how you communicate, they want to see you demonstrate if they could have learned just as much about you but in less words. 
  2. It is much harder to include less than include more. In good PPT presentation design, we want to encourage “less.” We want to discourage “more.” 
  3. Writing a lot takes less time, than really thinking about your message and designing it in as simple a message as possible. 
  4. “I would’ve written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.” [often credited to Twain] 

For a greater understanding of what is driving the design philosophy behind these slides:

  • For those who have not heard, it is worth picking up a copy of “Beyond Bullets“.  
  • This type of very visual communication, from the school of “less is more”, is growing a huge fanbase.  It is basically what drives the approach you should be taking with the Chicago PPT essay.
  • Beyond Bullets relies on a Pyramid method of communicating, which incidentally, is the best way to approach shorter essays.  
  • Please see my post on communicating via the Pyramid Principle.

Some MBA programs have students sign a statement saying that they received no outside help on their application.

Why does the admissions committee ask this?

  • The admissions committee asks this as they want to make sure that each applicants work is their own and that integrity is maintained within the application process.

However this question is limited in its efficacy.

Let me put it another way:

  • If you ask your best friend with an MBA to help read over your essays, does that constitute outside help?

So will they know if I received outside help?

  • The chance is minimal if it exists at all.

Can they force an admissions consultant to admit if they helped a certain client?

  • No, not without a subpoena or court-ordered discovery process.
  • This would require the school to sue the admissions consultant.
  • Schools are not in the business of suing admissions consultants.

Again, I am not an attorney.  I don’t even play one on TV.  So take this advice with a grain of salt.  However, I have never seen this happen, where an adcom attempts to discover if help was used.

The Minto Mind Principle or Pyramid Principle was a common method of communicating information when I worked in consulting.

  • It is a great way to structure your argument (or essay) in order to make sure you provide supporting evidence for the claims you make in your essay.

When I review my clients’ initial drafts of their essays, a weakness I immediately see if failure to support their arguments.

  • Remember, every “statement of fact” must be supported by evidence.  Otherwise, it is boilerplate or worse yet, vacuous in the mind of the admissions committee.

This principle can also be used effectively to structure shorter MBA essays.

  • When I say shorter essays, I mean essays of approximately 400 words or less.
  • These essays require that the applicant get to the point sooner than later.

Additionally, with shorter essays, there is less need for what I call “rounding the bases.”

  • That is, there is less need for making the essay applicable to the school in question.
  • Focus on the question and less on your fit with the program with shorter essays.

The main parts of a Pyramid are:

  1. Answer: Presents the summary conclusion or recommendations of the author
  2. Key Line: Supports the answer with reasons or steps and usually answer the questions How? or Why?
  3. Supporting Ideas – Provide justification or explanation for the element of the Key Line which they support.

This is the approach I take and this is what I help my clients with.  I guess all those years spent in management consulting did amount to something.

With respect to visiting the programs to which you are applying:

  • Make sure you schedule a classroom visit through the admissions office. A student will lead you around and make introductions for you.
  • Make sure you stop by the admissions office to introduce yourself.
  • Have a couple of canned questions ready.
  • Make sure you have the name(s) of the person(s) you want to speak to.  Most likely there is a receptionist in the office directing traffic.
  • Make the convo brief (as you just dropped by), just make sure they put your face with your app.
  • Just say some stuff like “just wanted to stop by and tell you how much I have enjoyed my class visit with Joe Blow and in Prof. Bobby Sue’s Organizational Behavior class” or “I am actively following your posts on the Bweek forums (for example)”.
  • Tell them that you are applying R1/R2/R3 and that you applying because of X, Y and Z.  This is your chance to drop some indepth knowledge about their program in order to impress them while briefly stating how it pertains to your experiences.
  • You are basically setting up a 2nd encounter if they come out to your home city for a tour event.  Then you go to the tour event again and reintroduce yourself and say you met them before in their respective admissions office.
  • Do not try and plan 2 school visits in one day.
  • Wear business casual, no excessive jewelry (dark pants and a blue or white shirt for males).

So you’ve had the axe swung on you during your initial attempt at business school applications.  While it’s tough, you need to get back on your MBA application horse and solicit feedback from the admissions committee.  This is the first step in successfully getting in the subsequent year.

Assess your feedback efforts through this questioning framework:

  1. What programs did you apply to and for what rounds?  How well did you fit the median profile?
  2. What schools were you accepted?  Rejected by all?  Admitted by some?
  3. Were you waitlisted and the rejected?  How did you follow up after you were rejected?  Did you try and appeal any of the decisions?  Had you applied to the program in years prior?
  4. Do you seek out advice from each of the schools that rejected you?  What did they say?  How long was the feedback session?  In phone, email or in person?  Did you know the person giving you the feedback?  What questions did you ask?  Did you have the questions handy and essays reread?  Was the person generally positive or negative sounding?  Did they neglect to give you any feedback?
  5. In what month did you solicit the feedback?  After May and before September? Timing is everything as adcoms will be swamped.
  6. Did you implement their specific advice into this year’s application?  What was the specific advice?  What does each website
  7. Was there a consistent theme among the schools?  What was the theme?
  8. Did you work with an admissions consultant?  For all schools?  What company?
  9. Gut check: What do you think are the reasons for your rejection are?

Now integrate this feedback into the subsequent applications:

  1. How are you a stronger candidate? What has substantially changed year over year?  Professionally and personally?  Tough for R3 and then next year’s R1.
  2. Why did you reapply and why to this school?  What have you learned from the rejection experience?  How did it make you more determined to succeed?
  3. How much overlap is there between essays?  Have they substantially changed? In what ways?
  4. Did the school offer you the chance to only re-write on essay?  You should rewrite them all.
  5. Did you use new recommenders or recommendations that can address to your recent strengths?
  6. Did you emphasize the new project work on the resume?
  7. Did you take additional classes if you have academic deficiencies?  Re-take GMAT?
  8. What is your story during the interviews as to what has improved year over year?  What specific reasons do you have to tell about being a stronger candidate?

Good luck.

From a recent client: What can I do to get off the waitlist and into Kellogg and Wharton?

  1. Communicate to the school that you are indeed serious about attending their school and that it is your first choice.
    1. By communicating them you increasingly more likely to move up the waitlist (if schools rank the waitlist), get off the waitlist and matriculate.
      1. This is what I am here to help you with.
    2. If are indeed the caliber of student that the school wants to eventually accept, you need to show that you have been progressing across your candidacy but especially in any area of weakness.
    3. Communicate this to the admissions office in one or two notices at the most (as new information may become available on your part).
  2. Remember not all admissions offices will appreciate updates.
    1. Call the office to find out how they would like additional information only after you have referenced their website and application instructions.
    2. Some schools do not want updates.  Some schools want updates only after a certain date.
    3. Do not constantly call the admissions office as well.  Show enthusiasm.  Be polite.
  3. Any new information should bolster your positioning.
    1. That is, it shows that you are progressing as a leader and manager; that you are increasing your role, your visibility and your responsibilities.
    2. This evidenced by promotions, awards and new leadership responsibilities.  Search your application for any part that is weaker than the rest.  Address that area with your update.
    3. Make sure that if the adcom has requested specific information, you send that as well.
  4. Put that into a short letter, I recommend no more than one or two pages, and send it to the adcom.
    1. Be sure to reiterate your reasons concerning what you would contribute to the program, that you are a good fit and you most definitely want to attend.
    2. Make sure you include your contact information as well.
      1. When the adcom goes to the bullpen, they want to make sure you are ready to go.
      2. Do not make them hunt you down, they won’t.
    3. My view on additional recommendations is that they are good if the person is connected to the school and/or again knows you in a professional intimate setting.
      1. If the person knows you and is a significant donor, that works as well.
      2. Pick a recommender who can bolster your weaknesses.

What does the waitlist mean?

  1. It does not mean “no,” not even close.
    1. It means you are competitive and you meet a base level of qualifications,
    2. However, you may be too close in profile to others that apply or have a deficiency in one aspect of your profile.
  2. Wait-listed generally means that you will be admitted if someone who was admitted goes elsewhere.
    1. This churn will happen.
  3. The waitlist acts as a buffer and is used, by the adcom, to manage this situation.
    1. Check the US News or Businessweek rankings to see how many students actually accept (“yield”).
    2. If the % of students electing to go else where is high, then this is good news for you.

What are the mechanics of the waitlist?

  1. Schools need to manage their “yield” as it impacts their rankings in widely published magazines.
    1. Having a low “yield” causes a school to fall in the rankings.  Obviously the adcom does not want this.
    2. Often this means that the strongest candidates to a school will actually get waitlisted as they are possibly using the school as a backup.
    3. If you listed stronger schools on your application as “other programs you are applying to” this may increase your chances of getting waitlisted.
  2. What stinks about the waitlist is that you may be notified close to the actual start date of class.
    1. That gives you less of a timeline to make important arrangements concerning your arrival at school.
    2. It is important to note the “ripple effect”.  That is, the higher a school is ranked (HBS, Stanford, Wharton), the more likely candidates on their waitlist will chose to accept.
    3. When these candidates accept, they deny their acceptance at lesser ranked schools.
    4. Then, the ripple continues and those on the waitlist at the lesser ranked school get off the waitlist and are accepted.
    5. This continues and finally you find yourself having to make a decision only a few days or weeks before the first day of class.
  3. Further complicating the waitlist process is that adcoms may not know what the actual composition of their entering class is going to be.
    1. If they have gaps in bankers or IT professionals (for instance), they may elect to tap the waitlist to fill deficiencies in the make-up of the class.