Friday, August 30, 2013

Chicago Booth on Extracurricular Activities

I strongly encourage anyone interested in the MBA application process to read this entry called Demonstrating Community Contribution which was posted recently in Booth Insider: the Chicago Booth full-time MBA admissions blog. It's about the value of extracurricular activities to your application to business school.

For more reading on the importance and value of your personal interests when it comes to applying for your MBA, please read my article titled the Role of Balance in your MBA Application.

John Couke

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Wharton Events in Tokyo: September 7th and October 2nd, 2013

I have learned from a former client that Wharton alums and 2nd years are going to have an informal info session in September, followed by the official information session in October in Tokyo. Details follow (and note at the bottom that a reservation in advance is now required for the alum event due to the popularity of the session.)


Date & time : Sat, Sep. 7th 2:00pm-4:00pm (1:30受付開始)
Venue : Conference Square M plus 1F Success (Mitsubishi Bldg. 10th fl.2-5-2 Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Tel.03-3282-7777)

今年度の公式説明会は、102日(水)にコンファレンススクウェアMプラス(東京駅 丸の内南口徒歩2)にて実施予致します。下記AdmissoinHPからRegister頂きますよう、何卒宜しくお願い致します。
Date & time : Wednesday, Oct. 2nd 7:00pm-8:45 pm
Venue : Conference Square M plus (Mitsubishi Bldg. 10th fl.2-5-2 Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Tel.03-3282-7777)



Note: the alums have decided to take reservations






John Couke

Thursday, August 15, 2013

EMBA-Global Asia Program Event in Tokyo on September 12, 2013

I was just informed that staff members representing Columbia Business School and the University of Hong Kong will be in Tokyo and hosting an event on the EMBA-Global Asia program on Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 19:00 at Tokyo Kaikan.

Registration and details can be found here.

John Couke

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Harvard 2013-14 MBA Essay Analysis

Here is my advice on approaching Harvard's essay question for those aiming to enter their MBA program in the fall of 2014. 

First the essay question:

You’re applying to Harvard Business School.  We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you.   What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

And the school's own comments:

There is no word limit for this question.  We think you know what guidance we're going to give here. Don't overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don't know your world can understand.

And here is my own analysis and advice, broken down into 4 sections:

1. You really should write this.

You're applying to spend two years of your life at this program. There must be something you can write that will help their admissions staff understand you a bit better.  

2. Follow their instructions.  

We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you.   What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

I think it is pretty clear that this is not the space for you to give a summary of your accomplishments at work and outside work, as this content will have been covered in other application elements. 

3. Don't give them answers to someone else's questions.

I imagine that 750 words on "what matters most to you and why" would be a pretty bad idea.

4.  The key is to provide some insight into you.

Clearly a persuasive answer will go beyond the other application elements you have provided, and so will involve a stronger degree of self-reflection in order to teach the reader something about who you are. What follows are four options, ordered in a very subjective way: from least appealing to most appealing. 

Option: write about why you need an MBA, how you'll contribute to their program, or why you are choosing to apply to Harvard in particular.

These options fit the question, as they're not in the list of information you've already provided them. However, for most why MBA detail is tied to the goals story, something they'll get information about. Detailing your contribution to the program might only be a simple extrapolation on detail already provided in the resume (my experience doing A will help me to run the A club..). Finally, I don't think Harvard really needs to assess your desire to go to Harvard - this school has a tremendous yield and so isn't overly concerned with weeding out those intent on enrolling in other schools.

Option: connect one or more experiences and show how they follow a particular theme.

You could focus on a personal characteristic you have, how you developed it and how it relates to successful experiences in your working and personal life. You could write about how the choice of your post-undergraduate employer or the choice to change departments or even companies fits a particular theme related to your background or future. Alternatively, you could show how your experiences have prepared you to achieve your goals. Be careful: just lumping together experiences without a lot of thought will seem shallow, especially if the connections are weak or underwhelming to begin with.

Option: tell the story behind an accomplishment or a failure.

Don't write only what you did, but also how you did it, and how you learned from the experience.  Consider the failure option, as failures aren't in the resume and might not be in any other application element. Leaders make bold decisions and take big risks, and so leaders necessarily fail sometimes. Be careful: without self-reflection and a clear sense of how you developed from the experience, this will just be a story and that might not be enough. 

Option: give the "why" behind something you're particularly passionate about, and how you've benefitted from the experience.

Obviously the approach to the HBS essay will vary from one applicant to the next, but of the three options I've listed here this one to me has the most potential to really "draw back the curtain" and reveal something about yourself to HBS admissions. The resume only lists what you've done, not why you've done it, especially for the extra curricular activities. This last option, of the three, has in my opinion the most potential to be interesting and insightful.

Whatever you do, make sure it reveals something about you - your unique characteristics, your passions or interests, or how your experiences have contributed to a direction you're taking that you're passionate about continuing.

John Couke

Friday, August 2, 2013

Interview with Mary Miller on the EMBA-Global (Asia) Program offered by Columbia, HKU and London Business School

I am pleased to present the following interview with Mary Miller, Program Director of the EMBA-Global Asia program offered by Columbia Business School, HKU Business School and London Business School.  

Career Impact

1. Have any of your students attempted a career change (changing their function, or even moving to a new company) after completing the program?

Yes, many of our students don’t wait to graduate before they change positions in their current company, accepted a new position with a different company or started their own business.  EMBA-Global Asia gives students confidence in their ability to take on new challenges and opportunities in addition to the support, knowledge and skills to do so.  While our program is still young, it is difficult to keep track of all the employment changes that happen during and after the program. These individuals are truly global citizens who are talented and sought after by international companies.


2. What kind of TOEFL or IELTS score are you hoping to see? Is there a minimum for either test?

An important component of the program is the lively discussions that occur in and out of the classroom, so English fluency is critical to get the most out of the program.  However, we have no minimum score for either test.  All of our candidates are interviewed, so this offers an additional opportunity to demonstrate their English language ability. If we think candidates need to improve their English language skills, we encourage them to obtain this in various ways prior to the beginning of the program.

3. In some countries like Japan only very senior employees get management experience. How do you factor this in when weighing the managerial experience of applicants to the program? 

We are aware that the countries have different business practices and we think it is important to have diversity in the classroom.  An individual’s management experience is important, but so is his or her attitude and reasons for pursuing an EMBA degree.  Even a candidate without a lot of management experience can be a leader and have much to share and contribute.

4. I assume that company support makes it easier for students in the program to manage the scheduling and travel. However is company support a necessary component of an application?

We want students to get the most out of the program and think it is important for them to have the support of their employer in terms of time out of the office, and so this is required.  While financial support by the company is also encouraged, it is not required.  When a company gives a candidate time away from the office, this demonstrates a commitment to the individual’s professional development and is a very positive influence.

5. The academic background of applicants is mentioned on the admissions website - how important is the undergraduate GPA? What can applicants do if their GPA is relatively low (for instance below 3.0 on a 4.0 scale)?

While the academic background is important, the GPA is also the only aspect of the application that can’t be changed.  Most people have matured 5+ years after they were undergraduates.  They are business managers and leaders and we’ve found that their attitude and commitment is a critical component to their success in the classroom.  That said, it is always helpful to prepare for the rigors of the course work by reviewing material that may have been forgotten or not used for a long time. We have a pre-MBA online course that we encourage candidates to complete once they are admitted. They can do this at their own pace and this helps them determine areas where they may need to expend extra effort.

6. What range of GMAT scores are represented in the current class?

The GMAT seems to be the requirement that causes the most anxiety for applicants. We have no minimum score and only ask that candidates do their best.  Many EMBA programs don’t require the GMAT, but we do.  One of the unique features of the EMBA-Global Asia program is that our students take electives courses with students in other MBA programs at all the three schools (CBS, LBS and HKU).  We hold all students to the same high standard.  While applicants don’t like taking the GMAT as part of the admission process, after they are admitted they are proud of their accomplishment and are glad that it was required.  As you might expect with such a diverse group of candidates, the scores also vary widely.

The EMBA-Global Experience

7. Is all learning conducted in the classroom? A lot of people have the impression that EMBA programs mix short bursts of in-class learning with online-based assignments. How about your program?

All courses are taught in the classroom with lively discussion and interaction, but learning takes place in and out of the classroom.  What is so wonderful about EMBA programs is that you learn something in the class that you can apply the next day in at work. Students learn from each other all the time – in and out of the classroom. Since our students come from all over the world and work in teams across time zones outside of class, a lot of team projects and assignments are completed using a variety of tools – email, Skype, video-conferencing. 

8. Can you give an example as to how students can grow their network by meeting students from other programs in elective courses? From what programs are these students coming from?

This is one of the unique aspects of the program. In July, three CBS faculty members (one being Dean Hubbard) taught an elective course in Hong Kong at HKU.  The class included some EMBA-Global Asia students, but full-time and other executive MBA students from CBS and LBS also enrolled.  It was amazing how easily they connected with each other, and by the end of the week they all had new friends and colleagues.

Thank you Mary for your time!

John Couke