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Category Archives: MBA Admissions Consulting

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.


A random thought; I hope I get an invite to‘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.

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.

A significant portion of my MBA admissions consulting applicants come to be with little to no extracurricular experience since their undergraduate days.  While this is a problem that can be addressed, it can show a lack of proper planning over the long term.  A lot of applicants don’t think about the impact of their actions on their applicant competitiveness when the graduate from undergrad.  To a certain extent, even I was the same way.

What I like most about some of my clients is the the way some of them are way ahead of the game we call the MBA application process.  Those that have been planning since day 1 to go back to b-school tend to be distinguishing yourself from your peers out of the gate and these habits show when constructing the business school application.

This is what I tell those who have graduated and are planning to apply to business school in a few years:

  • Make sure you find a mentor at your employer.  This does not have to be formal but it always helps when someone can show you the ropes.  This person should be senior and be respected in the office.
  • This mentor will also be able to make introductions for you around the org.  This will help when it comes to recommendation time.
  • Adcoms will consider your tenure and the ratio of leadership experience to overall experience at your work.  Work to maximize this so that you can write about it eventually in your essays.
  • Make sure you are asking for leadership responsibility.  It does not matter if it is leading the charge with organizing the company holiday party or asking for more work when on a project.  It’s called managing your manager and it works wonders when its time for a promotion.   Do this and more opportunities will arise.  You may get to pick and chose your project work…..
  • Stepping up also helps with respect to your eventual recommendation when your manager is asked for how well you rank against your peer group.
  • Seek out those in the organization who have MBAs.  Get to know them.  Eventually, ask them to lunch and get to know how they liked their MBA experience.
  • Get involved with extracurriculars at work.  Assume a leadership role as well as I have alluded to above.
  • See what pre-MBA mentoring programs are available to you.  I know UCLA Anderson has the Riordan programs.  This is a great way to gain exposure.
  • Join several other organization types:
  • Toastmasters International –
  • A young professionals organization in your city – these orgs have social and business elements that will help you network.
  • – look for groups on meetup that have business or philanthropic goals that align with your interests.
  • As you get within a year of applying, go to open houses and MBA tours.  Get your name and face out there.  Adcoms have an uncanny way of remembering who you are.