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Admissions Tips

Browse our weekly admissions tips, or choose the category most relevant to you: researching, planning, applying, deciding.


Admissions Tip: Avoiding Common Pitfalls, Part II

pitfallLast week we offered some advice to help applicants avoid common pitfalls in writing their essays for the Round 2 deadlines.  This week we’d like to offer some more advice.  Although these tips might not apply to everyone or to every school, these are some good basic strategies to employ.  For personalized advice about your applications, contact Clear Admit directly.

1.    Think strategically when delving into anecdotes that are highly personal.
  While breaking up with your college sweetheart may have had some impact on who you are today, you’ll want to be careful about using personal matters as the basis for an essay.  While there are certainly exceptions, we find that examples from the professional sphere or from extracurricular activities typically make for stronger, and more compelling, essays, as they speak to the things that the admissions committee cares the most about, including qualities and skills that relate to professional success. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Avoiding Common Pitfalls, Part I

avoid pitfallToday we would like to offer a handful of essay pointers in brief in order to help applicants avoid common pitfalls as they gear up for the Round Two deadlines.  While we should caution that every applicant is unique and that some of these tips may not apply to everyone, we wanted our readers to have an introduction to some of the basic strategies they should be employing.  As always, contact Clear Admit directly for more tailored advice to your candidacy.

1.    Remember your reader. 
In application essays and résumés, applicants often get caught in the technicalities of their work, losing their reader in jargon.  Keep it simple in order to make your discussion easy for your non-specialist audience to understand.  Such clarity will help the reader to appreciate the nature and significance of your work. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Plan of Attack

plan-of-attackWith November underway, Round Two deadlines for a number of programs are just around the corner.  As most applicants are targeting multiple schools and still working to narrow down their school selection, we wanted to take some time today to stress the importance of taking a deep breath and a step back and formulating a timeline for the coming weeks.  Establishing a set of incremental goals with regard to essay composition and recommender management at this point in the season will help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed and ensure that your aims are realistic.

One of our most important pointers pertains to the process of writing essays.  The urge to make progress on multiple fronts leads many applicants to work on essays for several schools in parallel, an approach that can be problematic.  One reason for this is that when one spends time immersed in three sets of essays at once, it’s easy to lose sight of the full picture he or she is presenting to any one school.  While it’s important to be oneself in the application process, it’s also crucial that an applicant tailor his or her materials to each school, a process that is made harder when constantly going back and forth among responses for various programs.  Another issue is that it’s easy to waste time implementing the same edits across documents for multiple schools, or to lose track of what one has changed in which essay.  For these reasons, we generally recommend focusing one’s full essay-writing attention on one program at a time. Continue reading…

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Perfecting the Virtual MBA Admissions Interview

shelly heinrichClear Admit’s own site and many others are filled with advice on how to apply to an MBA program, write an effective essay or choose a strong personal reference. Participating in an MBA admissions panel or fair can also help you strengthen these components of your application. Less discussed—but increasingly more important these days—is how to prepare for a virtual MBA admissions interview.

Shelly Heinrich, Director of MBA Admissions at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, recommends visiting the campus for an in-person interview if at all possible, as do admissions staff at many schools. “There is no better impression made than one that is done in person,” she says. “Additionally, the more you visit a campus and interact with staff, students and alumni, the more informed you will be about the program and the better choice you will make on where to enroll.” Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: The Long Essay

Long EssayEssay content you’ve polished for one school often serves as a great starting point for the next application, but as we’ve often said, customizing this text for the school in question is key.  One particular challenge we see applicants struggle with each year is effectively expanding a short essay they’ve written for one program in responding to a question on the same topic but with a longer limit.  With this in mind, we’d like to offer some pointers on converting condensed comments to more extensive remarks.

1) Expand in proportion.  When taking an existing response as a starting point for crafting a longer document, one good rule of thumb is to build upon each subject to more or less the same extent.  While elaborating on your work to date might involve less time and work than the more research-intensive “why School X” discussion, it’s generally prudent to maintain balance among subjects and provide all of the major pieces of information a school requests in equal measure. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: The Comparison Trap

comparisonWe wanted to take some time today to discuss a frequently made mistake in the application process.  In their desire to make their case to their target MBA programs, many applicants devote sentences and even paragraphs to explaining why the school in question is their “first choice” and arguing its superiority over other schools.

Though certainly understandable, this is actually not a very productive exercise.  Let’s consider a few reasons why from the schools’ point of view:

Tell me something I don’t know.
  A popular strategy – and not always bad one – for applicants seeking to demonstrate their fit with one school above any other is to study its website to understand the program’s self-determined selling points, and then profess an interest in those.  The thing that essay writers don’t always consider is that while a school’s distinguishing characteristics might be the factors that set it apart from others, this is not necessarily what the admissions committee wants to read about in an applicant’s essays.  The very admissions officer reading your file spends months every year pushing this marketing message out to prospective students.  Members of Harvard’s and Darden’s admissions staff know all about the merits of the case method, Kellogg and Duke’s admissions committees are already up to their ears in team orientation, and Stanford and Yale could not be more aware of the benefits of a small class size.  This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t touch briefly on these key points (the schools highlight these for a reason), only to suggest that to put together a really compelling application, it’s important to push beyond high-level differentiators and immediate association and demonstrate that you’ve learned about the program on a deeper level.  In making room for this level of detail within a restrictive word limit, cutting other schools out of the picture is a great starting point. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Interviewing the Interviewer

Interview QuestionWe’ve been offering a good deal of advice lately on how to conduct oneself and prepare responses to MBA interview questions.  Today we’d like to highlight the importance of thinking about what you might ask. Virtually all business school interviewers conclude their discussion by offering the applicant a chance to ask some questions about the program.  While it might be tempting to claim that you’ve already learned all you need to know about the school, this is actually a great opportunity to gain additional insight, show your enthusiasm about a specific element of the curriculum or community, and demonstrate that you appreciate the opportunity to learn from your interviewer’s experiences.

Here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind while thinking about what you might ask:

1. Focus on the positive.  Now is not the time to conduct due diligence or express skepticism about a school’s academic program or career resources.  You’re still marketing yourself to the adcom at this stage of the process, so you’ll want to project enthusiasm and demonstrate a desire to become more familiar with a program’s merits and your potential fit. Continue reading…

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UNC Kenan-Flagler Publishes New MBA Application Guide for Prospective Applicants

MBA ApplicationMBA@UNC, the online MBA program at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, has just released a new MBA application guide designed to aid prospective applicants in the admissions process. Though produced by Kenan-Flagler, the guide was designed to serve as a resource for students applying to any business school.

Through a series of online articles, MBA@UNC has compiled best practices along with tips and advice for preparing the strongest possible MBA application. Articles in the series delve into topics ranging from choosing between the GMAT and the GRE to how to secure strong letters of recommendation. You’ll also find posts devoted to strengthening your resume, writing compelling essays and acing the interview. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: MBA Interview Prep

MBA-interviewWith interview invitations from a number of programs already on their way out to Round One applicants, we wanted to offer some more advice on this element of the admissions process.  Last week we posted some very basic etiquette information that will help candidates ensure that everything is in order on the big day.  Today, we turn our attention to some steps one can take to prepare for the interview itself.

1) Know what to expect. This might go without saying, but interview types and duration vary across programs.  For instance, nearly all invited Stanford applicants interview with alumni, while on-campus Wharton interviews are conducted by second-year students and admissions staff.  Candidates for Columbia admission participate in an informative resume-based chat, while HBS and MIT interviewers have in-depth knowledge of the applicant’s entire file.  Thinking carefully about the format of the interview and the person conducting it will influence the sort of questions you might come prepared to ask and help you arrive at a mindset conducive to success. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: MBA Interview Etiquette

Interview 2With interviews imminent for Round One applicants, we wanted to turn our attention to this important step in the admissions process and share a few very basic pointers on interview etiquette.  Though the content of your application materials and comments during the interview are of paramount importance, it’s also crucial to put one’s best foot forward and make a positive initial impression.  Here are a few guidelines for interviewing applicants to keep in mind:

1) Dress the part.  Unless meeting with an alum who explicitly specifies a more casual dress code, assume that business attire is appropriate.  We recommend that applicants dress conservatively, opting for a dark suit (pants or skirts are both fine for women) and a blue or white shirt.  Steer clear of flashy brand gear and loud ties, and go easy on makeup and fragrances; you want to be remembered for what you say and who you are, not what you wore. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Essay Basics

EssayWe often stress that, to present oneself effectively in one’s application essays, it is critical to think carefully about what a given question is asking and what this might indicate about a specific school’s admissions priorities.  Of course, it’s also imperative to communicate clearly and appropriately regardless of the target program or particular inquiry.  Today, we’re going back to basics and offering a few broadly applicable tips on tone and style to keep in mind when drafting essays and other written materials for your applications.

1. Be Professional.  While a number of schools ask fun questions and most urge applicants to be themselves rather than submitting “overly polished” materials, it’s important to remember that this is a graduate school application and you should approach your essays with a degree of formality.  You do want your unique narrative voice to come through, but even professional writers know to vary their tone based on their audience.  As such, you should avoid using slang and conversational speech patterns in your writing. Continue reading…

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