Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tufts Fletcher to host Tokyo Coffee Chat on July 11th

The Fletcher School at Tufts University is holding a Coffee Hour event in the Akihabara part of Tokyo on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 from 8pm to 10pm.

This is a good opportunity to meet recent alumni as well as current students ad learn more about the program and their experience there.

Registration for this event can be done here.  To see the full list of Coffee Hour events and their location, go here.

John Couke

MIT Sloan Fellows Deadlines and GMAT/GRE Requirement

The MIT Sloan Fellows program has updated their website to show the current scheduling for application deadlines and decisions.  The following information is given here on the dates and deadlines section of their admissions website:

Application Schedule:

Deadline (for non US citizens and US citizens living outside the US) - 11/15/2012
Deadline (for US citizens currently residing in the US) - 1/16/2013

Decision - to be announced before 3/31/2013

GMAT / GRE requirement:

The GMAT waiver mentioned here is not something that is new to the program for this year - however it is always worth mentioning.  To get the waiver (for the GMAT or GRE) you need to produce a transcript showing a B grade or higher in one of the following courses: calculus (or more advanced mathematics), microeconomics, or finance. Alternative courses may be considered, in this case applicants need to send additional information about the course they took.

As with all school information, please read the requirements directly at the school's own admissions website.

Lastly, the program notes the application will be available in mid-August of 2012.

John Couke

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stanford GSB 2012-13 MBA Essay Analysis

What follows is an analysis of the 2012-13 essay questions in the Stanford MBA application. There are 3 things worth noting as you read this post:

1. These are my opinions based on my experience with successful Stanford GSB admits. They are not rules meant for everyone to follow blindly.  If your essay doesn't follow one of more of these ideas below, but it still works and you like it, then great! A lot of people have no idea what to do or how to begin the process of approaching essay questions, and from them I have tried to provide some insight.
2. I consider my ideas to be more of a starting point rather than a finishing point.  You'll find more expansive (and better written) analyses of the Stanford essays online elsewhere.  But for a point in the right direction, I think this does fine.
3. Be sure to read Stanford's own advice on their essay questions, you can do so here and here. The admissions team at the GSB goes further than most programs in offering information and analysis on their own essays online. In addition they, after all, will be reading what you wrote, so their advice is of value and therefore worth considering.

Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?

Your answer to this question will serve as your introduction to the reader of your application. As with any good introduction, it should be honest, insightful and memorable. And as with any good application essay, it should hopefully help its reader feel you could fit into their school's community, and offer something positive to it.

1. There are two questions here - what and why.

a) What

The answer to the "what" part can be almost anything, so it is important that you not limit yourself when brainstorming or evaluating potential topics with someone who knows you and the application process well.  I've seen people write good essays that are based upon a wide variety of topics, so don't rule anything out as you consider your own options.  When you have narrowed down your list of topics, ask yourself two questions about each in order to narrow the list a bit further.  1) Is writing about this topic going to allow me to help my reader understand one of my key strengths or characteristics well? and 2) Is this topic going to show that I possess some characteristic that will help me get accepted to Stanford?  Both are important and I don't think you can fully evaluate your topic choice without considering each of these questions.

b) Why

What matters most to you may be the subject of your essay, but it is the "and why" part of the question that really requires introspection. If what matters most to you is to sell something to people all over the world, great, but WHY does this matter to you?  If what matters most to you is to be the best at something, then again, why? With this question your essay needs to go to a deeper level of introspection. If you are driven to do or value something, where has that drive originated from? Maybe the product you sell is nice, but can that alone explain the drive you have to sell it? Probably not.

2. Balance personal and professional, past and future

A good essay will often include personal and professional elements.  Think about it: is it possible that what matters most to you has nothing to do with your job? It is possible, although it ay cause your reader to wonder how you have shaped your career. The reverse is also true: is it possible that what matters most to you is entirely a work-related topic, that has nothing to do with your life outside of your job? Again this is possible, though I would think it is much less likely. In the same way, what matters most to you should optimally touch upon your past, and also your future.  If what matters most to you is dinner tomorrow, then it may sound like you have not considered the question deeply (unless of course you have a really creative explanation for that dinner tomorrow). If on the other hand what matters most to you started and finished in elementary school, your reader might feel they are not getting to know who you are today through reading this essay.

3.  Key strategy: show proof

No matter your choice of topic, it is important that your essay be persuasive. In order for the reader to feel like they are really getting to know who you are (i.e. in order for the reader to feel like the what and why are genuine reflections of who you are), you need to give examples of actions you have taken that show your topic to be true. These actions should also not be token ones, but rather strong ones. Imagine if someone writes that protecting the environment is what matters most to them (I am not necessarily endorsing this as a valid topic choice). It would be very helpful if they had actually done something to benefit the environment so they could put it in their essay.  Moreover, it would be extremely helpful if what they had done involved effort, rather than just donating money. How did they get involved? What did they do that shows this is what matters most to them? This is what people mean when they say "show" your passion.  Don't just say you want to help the environment, but instead show that you are helping the environment.  

Finally, I think that showing proof is especially important if your "what" isn't a thing (like your family) or an activity (like driving change to an organization) but is instead a feeling or emotion (like being competitive or not complacent).  All can possibly work as topics - but especially with the latter case, you want your essay to move beyond your thinking and to shed light on the concrete actions you have taken.

Essay 2: What do you want to do - REALLY - and why Stanford?

This essay has two easily identifiable parts: your goals, and how joining the Stanford MBA will help you position yourself to be able to achieve those goals.

1. Your Goals

You should be able to describe both short-term and long-term goals in this essay. I would define a good short-term goal as the best possible thing you can do with the combination of a Stanford MBA and the experience you will bring to the program. Most good long-term goals I have seen in the past involve a mix of three things: 1) they are big, 2) they are global and 3) they impact on other people or society in a positive way. Every year people ask me what the REALLY part means and why it is so emphasized in the question. I give a two part answer:  

a) If you have big, crazy goals, Stanford wants to hear about them.  Don't hide what you are really and truly interested in impacting in the future.
b) If all you are going to explain is that you want the MBA to transition to a typical post-MBA field, like consulting or banking, you probably need to give a bit more detail in terms of why this goal is attractive to you.

2. Why Stanford

This to me is one of the most straightforward questions a school can ask in their application.  It is important that you demonstrate how you feel a strong fit with the GSB using concrete examples. See my previous post on fit for several possible categories of examples.

Essay 3: Answer one of the three questions below.  Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it.  What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years.

Many schools are reducing the overall number or volume of essays required this season, and Stanford is not an exception, as they have eliminated one essay from this section - in the past applicants had to answer two, but now they only need to answer one. This makes the topic choice more important. Consider the balance of your overall essay set when deciding which essay will work best for you. If, for instance, your essay have empathized more personal than professional examples, then perhaps a work-related story here would balance your essay set nicely.  But in each ace - building a team, improving an organization, or going beyond what was defined or established - there is an opportunity to use either a personal or a professional story.

The three year requirement is not new, but this year the school emphasizes this requirement in each question prompt. So don't describe a situation that occurred too far back in the past!  A more recent story will help the reader to understand how you think and act now - rather than how you used to think and act.

Option A: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

Here let me define and elaborate upon two parts of the question: "built or developed a team" and "performance exceeded expectations".  First, note that you do not need to have been the official leader of the team. You should however have contributed to the team, by helping to define or rework the roles of members, bringing members together or otherwise helping the group get from point A to B. Was your contribution training, motivation, or the development of a mission statement that others could rally around? Be clear as to what exactly you contributed, and how this had a concrete impact on the team's ability. 

Next, you should define how exactly this team exceeded expectations. If numbers or dates are involved then this is straightforward, as the team may have beaten a budget or achieved something well in advance of a target date. But what if the expectations were vague to begin with? What if the expected outcome was not clear? In this and other cases, it is important in your essay that you show a) the initial expectations on the team (or project being managed by the team) and b) how the eventual outcome went beyond that. 

Option B: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization.

If someone identifies and pursue an opportunity, they are taking initiative. Initiative is when you decide to do something, and you devote your energy to accomplishing it. In some cases the eventual outcome may not be clear, but taking risk is often part of taking initiative. Have you done this before? Note that it does not have to end in success (though a success story may be more effective than a failure story). But it should be an experience that you initiated, through one of your ideas, and then pursued, by involving or convincing others. Don't forget to state clearly the impact of the improvement you made on the organization. How were those around you affected, and is this impact still being felt?

Option C: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.

A truly excellent response to this essay is, to me, part creativity and part initiative. Both are involved in the process of going beyond what is established. Have you ever created a new way to solve an existing problem? This could fit here. Otherwise, have you ever created something new, or changed the way something was done? Any of these could work. They key here is to show that you have experience doing more than just taking orders, or fulfilling the responsibilities that have been handed to you. 

Additional Information

The application offers a section where you may write about other things that you did not have space to include in the application.  Instructions and examples of what may be included are available here

Overall Comments about the Essay Set

1. Stanford offers a guideline as to how to use your word count (limited to 1,600) across your three essays.  They suggest (only as a starting point they stress): Essay 1 - 750 words, Essay 2 - 450 words, Essay 3 - 400 words.  But this is not hard and fast and as your stories evolve for each question, you may find you have more word count allotted to Essay 1 at the expense (for instance) of Essay 3.  This is natural.  

2. If you are applying to multiple programs, this is not a great one to start with. The questions are unique, and for most Stanford is a top-choice destination.  Given this, it is best to start your essay writing process (and development) on other schools.  Over time your writing will likely improve in both focus and detail, and so only after working through a few other applications should you start in on these questions.

3. This is an essay set.  As with all schools, Stanford will read your essay as a set. Make sure your own voice is consistent and natural throughout the whole thing.  

John Couke

MIT Sloan Releases 2012-13 Application Deadlines and Essays

MIT Sloan has announced their deadlines and essay prompts for students applying to the 2-year full-time MBA program starting in the fall of 2013.


Round 1:
Deadline - 10/24/2012
Decision - 1/29/2013

Round 2:
Deadline - 12/27/2012
Decision - 4/2/2013

Application are due by 3pm ET on each deadline date.

Please review all information directly at the school's website

Note as well that a) as usual MIT Sloan only offers R1 and R2 deadlines, and b) this year they have pushed up the R2 deadline from the normal early January cluster to just 2 days after Christmas.


MIT has in the past required a cover letter and 3 essays. This year, as several programs have also done, they have lessened the amount of writing and now only the cover letter and 2 essays are required.

The following instructions and questions are taken directly from the MIT Sloan admissions instructions page.  

Cover Letter:

Please prepare a cover letter (up to 500 words) seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA program. Your letter should describe your accomplishments, address any extenuating circumstances that may apply to your application, and conform to standard business correspondence. Your letter should be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions.


"We are interested in learning more about how you work, think, and act. For each essay, please provide a brief overview of the situation followed by a detailed description of your response. Please limit the experiences you discuss to those which have occurred in the past three years. In each of the essays, please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did."

Essay 1: Please describe a time when you had to convince a person or a group of your idea. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

Essay 2: Please describe a time when you overcame a personal setback. (500 words or fewer, limited to one page)

In addition, the application itself offers a supplemental essay:

The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us or your future classmates to know about you. This may be in written or multimedia format. Please do not use Flash Media Player, and include a URL where it can be accessed online. Written essays should be 300 words or fewer.

As always, do confirm all information directly with the program via their official admissions pages.

John Couke

Sunday, June 24, 2012

New MIT Sloan Fellows Japanese Website

There is a new online resource for Japanese applicants to the popular MIT Sloan Fellows program.  It contains profile information on the 13 current Japanese students in the program, and also details their experience navigating the admissions process, from scheduling to recommendation letters, the essays and interview preparation.  

Currently only the 2012 graduating class is featured, but it appears other years may be added in the future. 

Visit the site here.

John Couke

Kellogg Announces 2012-13 Application Deadlines

The Kellogg School of Management has announced its deadlines for applying to their MBA program starting in the fall of 2013. Please note there are different deadlines for one part of the application, depending on where you intend to interview.

Round 1:
Application Part 1 (with Off-Campus Interview) Deadline: 9/19/2012
Application Part 1 (with On-Campus Interview) Deadline: 10/16/2012
Application Part 2 Deadline: 10/16/2012
Interview Scheduled and Completed by: 12/1/2012
Decision: 12/17/2012

Round 2:

Application Part 1 (with Off-Campus Interview) Deadline: 12/4/2012
Application Part 1 (with On-Campus Interview) Deadline: 1/3/2013
Application Part 2 Deadline: 1/3/2013
Interview Scheduled and Completed by: 3/2/2013
Decision: 3/21/2013

Round 3:
Application Part 1 (with Off-Campus Interview) Deadline: 4/3/2013
Application Part 1 (with On-Campus Interview) Deadline: 4/10/2013
Application Part 2 Deadline: 4/10/2013
Interview Scheduled and Completed by: 4/26/2013
Decision: 5/15/2013

This information is publicly available and should be confirmed att the Kellogg admissions website.

John Couke

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cornell Johnson 2012-13 MBA Application Deadlines and Essay Questions

A member of the admissions team at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell let me know the program has released its deadlines and essay topics for applicants aiming to enter their program in the fall of 2013.


Round 1:
Deadline - 10/17/2012
Notification - 12/19/2012

Round 2:
Deadline - 11/28/2012
Notification - 2/20/2013

Round 3:
Deadline - 1/30/2013
Notification - 4/3/2013

Round 4:
Deadline - 3/27/2013
Notification - 4/24/2013

Essay Questions:

Part I: Career Choice Essay (300 word maximum)
How would you characterize your career since college?

Part II: Career Goal Essay (400 word maximum)
Tell us about your short and long term career goals.

Part III: Character Essay (400 word maximum for chosen question), please choose one of the following to write about:

a. You're the author for the book Your Life Story. Please write the table of contents for the book. Note: Approach this essay with your unique style. We value creativity and authenticity.

b. Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed and tell us what you learned.

c. What does diversity mean to you and how will you contribute to the diversity of our community at Johnson?

Finally, the school notes their application will go live at the beginning of July. For more information on the deadlines and essays and to verify all information please visit the school's online admissions pages.  Also, here is the entry from the Cornell Admissions Blog announcing this information, and also offering some tips, particularly on the first two essay prompts. If you are interested in applying to Cornell, I encourage you to read this blog regularly. 

John Couke

Thursday, June 21, 2012

MBA Essay Writing Tips

Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you begin the process of developing your MBA essays.

1. Make a plan before you start writing

Goals essays need careful consideration before you begin typing because of the linkage that needs to be present between sections.  An essay that asks for (1) your background or introduction, (2) why MBA, (3) your career goals and (4) why you like their program is asking for four sections that require close linkage between them. Planning this linkage in advance will, for instance, help you to clearly understand which elements of your background should be included, or what parts of their MBA you may emphasize to show the best fit. Leadership teamwork, failure and other such essays require a different approach.  First, what episode will you share?  Next, what parts need to be included, and in what order?  You should consider these things before you start writing.  

2. Always be specific (give an example here that uses the word various in the negative example) and tell a good story

If you haven't done so already, remove the word "various" from your vocabulary for the entirety of the application season, because this word is not useful in your resume, essays or interview.  Instead of writing about the various things you aim to do in the future, show you have thought through the topic by detailing those future challenges in detail. Clear goals makes it easier to figure out clear reasons for an MBA, which will help you when you need to give clear examples of why a school's MBA is a good place for you to study.

In terms of the story essays (leadership, teamwork etc) one of the easiest ways to judge whether it is effective or not is to simply asking someone if the story is interesting. A story about your leadership or teamwork experience should, at the most basic level, be interesting.  If it isn't it is boring to read and the reader isn't likely to be interested in meeting you or getting to know you better.  

3. Use "I" - talk about yourself as your essays are about you

Don't make the mistake of over-emphasizing your company, department, division or team. It is important that you be able to write about yourself.  If your accomplishments tend to be team-based, think hard about the specific contributions you have made to those teams.  It is in writing about these details that you own strengths, skills and even personality can be revealed. 

4. Try to show what is good, special or unique about you

At the end of the day, your essay is an advertisement of whatever it is that sets you apart from other and makes you an interesting person. Doing so will help you convince a schools admissions team that you are worth meeting in person, and that you can contribute to your classmates.  The function of every essay you write, no matter the topic, is to reveal something about you. Never forget that an essay is a part of an application to a business school. This is an essay to convince someone you belong in their business school (not an entry to a creative writing contest) this means you should be showing your strengths, your need for an MBA, and the transferable skills you can use in the MBA or in your future.

5. Extracurricular activities can often make for better topics than work-related stories

This is because what you choose to do in your free time says a lot more about you and what you are interested in that the projects you are involved in at work.  This does not mean that you should avoid professional topics and only choose personal ones!  Instead, for most a balanced approach, combining professional and personal topics in the essays will work best.

6. Don't pay too much attention to the length of the first draft

An essay may need to eventually be 500 words, 400 or even 200 words - but don't let this affect your work on initial drafts.  Don't write 200 pages - i.e. be focused - but at the same time, emphasize in initial drafts getting all the part of the story across.  Choosing what is most necessary and what can be omitted comes later.

7. Be honest

Anyone who tells you that in order "to get into XYZ Business School" you must write about "ABC" might not judge your own stories fairly.  When answering essay questions, use your own experiences, development, and interests, rather than trying to craft yourself into something you are not.  So - don't say that you are committed to environmental issues unless you have a great example of activity that shows this commitment clearly!  Anything other than this and you are running the risk of not sounding believable.  

8. Answer all parts of the question

As you work on goals essays, you'll notice that many schools ask for essentially the same thing, but with minor difference between each.  Example:

School A - Describe your career background and goals and how taking an MBA program will help you achieve your goals. 
School B - Describe your career background and goals and how taking our MBA program now will help you achieve your goals.

Notice how school A is asking "why MBA?" while School B is instead asking "why our MBA?" and also "why now?".  In both cases it would make sense to offer detail as to how the particular school is best suited to you - but the key here is to make sure you don't skip parts.  Submitting a version of the essay you have written for School A to School B, for instance, would be risky as the readers at School B might notice that you neglected to answer certain parts of the question.

9. Don't let someone edit your essay until your voice is gone.

Your writing should be reflective of you, not someone else. Heavy-handed editing that changes the style, structure or event content of your essays isn't a good idea.  So don't let someone do this!  But..

10. Get the opinion of others who will be honest and (preferably) have experience in admissions and know what they're doing.

It is important to get the advice of others in order to be able to make a compelling and competitive application for b-school. There are any reasons why, but the main one to consider is that as both the writer and the subject matter, you (i.e. the applicant) are too close to the material.  Can you look at your essays and objectively see whether or not they are impactful or interesting? Probably not. That's where a second opinion makes sense.  Be sure to choose that person carefully!

John Couke

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wharton Essays for the 2012-13 Application Season

The Wharton School has announced their admissions essays for the upcoming season.  The school notes that first-time applicants and reapplicants are required to complete the same set of essay questions:

Required Question:
How will Wharton MBA help you achieve your professional objectives? (400 words)

Respond to 2 of the Following 3 Questions:
1. Select a Wharton MBA course, co-curricular opportunity or extra-curricular engagement that you are interested in. Tell us why you chose this activity and how it connects to your interests. (500 words)

2. Imagine your work obligations for the afternoon were cancelled and you found yourself "work free" for three hours, what would you do? (500 words)

3. "Knowledge for Action draws upon the great qualities that have always been evident at Wharton: rigorous research, dynamic thinking, and thoughtful leadership." - Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School

Tell us about a time when you put knowledge into action. (500 words)
Additional Question for Reapplicants:
All reapplicants to Wharton are required to complete the Optional Essay. Please use this space to explain how you have reflected on the previous decision on your application and to discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). You may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

Optional Section for all Applicants:

If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)

As always, do verify all information directly at their admissions website

John Couke

Yale Releases Application Essays for the 2012-13 Application Season

The Yale School of Management has announced via their admissions blog the essay prompts for those applying to the entering class of 2013. This year’s application includes 4 required essays.  

First-time Applicant Essays:

1. What prompted your decision to get an MBA?  When did you realize that this was a step you wanted – or needed – to take? (150 words maximum)

2. Describe a difficult professional decision you had to make.  What were the consequences, and what, if anything, did you learn?  Would you make the same decision again? (300 words maximum)

3. The Yale School of Management provides a leadership education characterized by broad-minded and intellectually curious students with diverse backgrounds, a distinctive integrated curriculum, connections to one of the great research universities in the world, and the broad reach of an innovative and expanding global network of top business schools.  What will you contribute to the Yale SOM community, and how will being part of it help you extend your professional vision? (300 words maximum)

4. What do you consider to be your most significant accomplishment?  Why? (300 words maximum)

Reapplicant Essays:

Reapplicants must answer 3 essays.  They are questions 1 and 4 from above, and in addition, this essay:

What steps have you taken to improve your candidacy since your last application? (300 words maximum).

As always, do verify all information directly at the website for Yale SOM admissions

John Couke

Monday, June 18, 2012

LLM Applicants: 5 Things to do this Summer

I haven't been posting much about LLM applicants on this blog, mostly because this time of year all the admissions news is about deadline and essay topic releases for MBA programs.  But this doesn't mean that LLM applicants shouldn't be busy themselves (apart from work of course).  Here are 

1. Get a high TOEFL score.

TOEFL is a requirement for most programs, and in many cases the minimum is 100.  Some programs may accept strong applicants with a 98 or 99, but others won't.  Knowing which school does and which doesn't is not a necessity now - what you should instead be doing is putting your efforts into achieving as high a TOEFL score as possible to benefit your LLM application.

2. Get English transcripts from your university and determine your GPA.

Your academic background is one of the most important elements of your LLM application, so it is worth your while to know as early as possible how yours may rank when compared to your competition.  Calculate your GPA for your undergraduate degree as well as your law school degree and share it with your counselor to evaluate if there are any strengths to be emphasized, or weaknesses to be considered.

3. Wait for deadlines to come out.

This should be mid-August to mid-September for the vast majority of top US programs.  Deadline information is often accessible either via the LSAC application site or the LLM program's own pages directly. I encourage all applicants to verify information directly with the latter - i.e. the school's official website.  While awaiting deadlines, consider starting the last two items on this list.

4.  Research schools.

It never hurts to take a look into what programs offer what kinds of unique academic opportunities.  While the core programs may not seem to be different from one school to the next, the reality is that LLM programs are quite different from each other in several ways both inside and outside the classroom.  The websites are only starting points - and some programs don't offer reams of information online.  Talk to alumni and aim to reach out to current students finishing up their program to learn more.

5.  Start thinking about who your referees might be and what you may wish to write about in your essays.  

It never hurts to reach out to your university zemi professor if you intend to ask them to write a recommendation letter on your behalf. In terms of the essays, don't be concerned that this year's applications questions haven't been released - they don't change much form year to year. So while I wouldn't recommend that you draft and finalize your essays based on last year's app, reviewing the previous year's questions isn't a bad idea. 

John Couke

Yale SOM Announced 2012-13 Application Season Deadlines

The Yale School of Management has announced their application deadlines for those applying for their MBA program starting in the fall of 2013.

Round 1:
Deadline - 10/4/2012
Decision - 12/13/2012

Round 2:
Deadline - 1/8/2013
Decision - 3/28/2013

Round 3:
Deadline - 4/18/2013
Decision - 5/16/2013

Do confirm all information directly at the school's admissions website.

John Couke

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hitotsubashi University, Peking University and Seoul National University combine to form the BEST Alliance

Hitotsubashi University (Japan), the Guanghua School of Management of Peking University (China) and the College of Business Administration and Graduate School of Business at Seoul National University (South Korea) have recently aligned to form the BEST Alliance.  

This alliance offers two primary benefits to students in each program.  First, it will allow students to complete a double degree while studying at two of the institutions, spending the first year at their home institution, and then taking a year at a second program (only 6-months in the case of SNU).  At the end, students will have earned an MBA from both of the institutions they learned at.  The second benefit is that students of each program will be able to complete a one-term exchange with one of the other programs.

For more information on this unique alliance between three leading Asian MBA programs, visit this page summarizing recent media coverage of the alliance or the official website of the BEST Alliance.

John Couke

Friday, June 15, 2012

NYU Stern Releases 2012-13 Application Season Deadlines and Essay Topics

NYU Stern has released both deadlines and essay topics for applicants aiming to enter its full-time MBA program in the fall of 2013.

Round 1:
Deadline: 11/15/2012
Initial Notification: 2/15/2013

Round 2:
Deadline: 1/15/2013
Initial Notification: 4/1/2013

Round 3:
Deadline: 3/15/2013
Initial Notification: 6/1/2013

Some notes from NYU's admissions site:

- Round 1 offers priority consideration for merit scholarships and off-site interviews.
- Initial notification means invitation to interview, a waitlist offer, or a denial of admission.
- International applicants are encouraged to apply by the 11/15 deadline, although they may also apply in both rounds 2 and 3.

As always, do confirm all information directly at the NYU Stern Full-time MBA Admissions Site.

Here are the essay topics for the NYU Stern full-time MBA this year. The questions can be found on this page at the NYU Stern website.  Essay 2 is new for this year.  It is always interesting to read information published by the school itself as to why they make such changes, as it may give some hints as to what they are looking for.  Read NYU Stern's press release on the new essay here.  You may also wish to review my own postings on MBA essay goals and also finding and determining fit with MBA programs, as both appear to be relevant to this new question.

Essay 1. Professional Aspirations
(750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

(a) Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
(b) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience? 
(c) What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

Essay 2. Your Two Paths
(500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact. 

(a) Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?
(b) How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?
(c) What factors will most determine which path you will take?

Essay 3. Personal Expression
Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.
If you submit a non-written piece for Essay 3 (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit Essay 3 via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.

Please note the following guidelines and restrictions:
  • Your submission becomes the property of NYU Stern and cannot be returned for any reason.
  • If you submit a written essay, it should be 500 words maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font. If you submit a video or audio file, it should be five minutes maximum.
  • If you prepare a multimedia submission, you may mail a CD, DVD or USB flash drive to the Admissions Office. These are the only acceptable methods of submission. Please do not submit an internet link to any websites or to a video hosting service such as YouTube.
  • The Admissions Committee reserves the right to request an alternate Essay 3 if we are unable to view your submission.
  • Do not submit anything perishable (e.g. food), or any item that has been worn (e.g. clothing).
  • Mailed materials must be postmarked by the application deadline date. Please follow our mail and labeling instructions. 

Please note that mailed Essay 3 packages are subject to size restrictions. Submissions that exceed the stated size restrictions will not be accepted for review by the Admissions Committee. Please see the table below for the maximum package size guidelines:

Packaging Type
Dimensions: Metric
Dimensions: Non-metric
36cm x 31cm x 8cm
14” x 12” x 3”
Cylindrical tube
8cm x 91cm
3” x 36”
Triangular tube
97cm x 16cm x 16 cm x 16 cm
38” x 6” x 6” x 6”

Essay 4. Additional Information (optional)
Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE and/or TOEFL or any other relevant information.

If you are unable to submit a recommendation from your current supervisor, you must explain your reason in Essay 4.

If you are a re-applicant from last year, please explain how your candidacy has improved since your last application.

Uploading Formats
You may upload documents into the online application in the following formats: word, excel, PDF, .txt, .rft and .wpd.

Once again, do confirm all information directly on the school's own admissions pages.  This information can change from time to time, and so it is important that you access the topics from the school's own site.

John Couke

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Campus Visit to CEIBS in Shanghai China

On May 31st of this year I had the pleasure of visiting the Shanghai campus of the CEIBS MBA to meet with Steven Ji, the Senior MBA Admissions Manager at CEIBS. Steven was kind enough to answer my questions and give me a tour of the facilities. It was a great opportunity to see the school firsthand and learn a bit more about the experience there.  What follows is a collection of my thoughts and impressions after having had the time to reflect on this visit.


There are 200 students per year in the program, and the international student percentage is about 40%, for those entering in 2011, which is equal to or slightly higher than the percentage of international students in the majority of US-based MBA programs. It didn't take long while walking around the campus to see diverse groups of students meeting informally in common areas or working on group projects in dedicated group project meeting rooms, and from what I saw, the school certainly has an international feel to it. Read more about the class profile here.

The program's core strength lies in its "China Depth, Global Breadth" approach to teaching business. It excels in the area of business in China, and so is ideal for anyone serious about pursuing opportunities in China or working with Chinese businesses in the future. Moreover, CEIBS attracts 800 domestic business leaders every year to its executive program which is taught in both English and Chinese, another good example of the reach the school enjoys in China-based business.  

Campus Location and Growth:

The campus is a 10-minute taxi ride from Pudong, the main financial district of Shanghai.  The school is also growing: the school is doubling the size of this campus and the first rollout of this is set to occur in 2013.  Here are some photos available online, and I have added 1-2 of my own photos to this posting.  The campus incidentally was designed by I.M. Pei, who is known for having designed the pyramid structure at the Louvre. 

My impression of the campus was that it is functional and works well to house busy students coming and going from classes.  A lot of the ground level hallways and walking spaces are outside which reminded me of a US campus.  The majority of housing is on-campus, and while small it seemed adequate.  My own apartment during the MBA at Hitotsubashi in Tokyo was small too - though I was rarely there, so it didn't matter much.


Admissions encourages prospective students to visit the campus, and it seems they carefully interview the vast majority of applicants to the program. This is one reason why they do not require the TOEFL as a part of the admissions process, making it one of the very few that do not require this test (MIT Sloan, IMD and the Rotterdam School of Management are a few others that come to mind).  In terms of enrolled students from Japan, the program typically has 1-2 enrolling each year, and there are 3 Japanese students in the 2012 entering class.


The CEIBS MBA was founded in 1994 and its mission is to educate responsible leaders versed in "China Depth, Global Breadth". My impression was that by focusing on this mission, and especially the "China Depth" part, CEIBS has successfully differentiated itself from other programs, and offers unique value to those for whom China-related business will be important in the future.

For more Reading (in Japanese only):

Satoko Okamoto, a CEIBS graduate, wrote a book on the experience, which I am translating roughly as "The True Face of the Chinese Elite from the MBA Program in Shanghai".  The book is available here at and is in Japanese only. 

If you are thinking of applying to CEIBS, or want to learn more about my impressions during my visit, feel free to email me with any questions!

John Couke

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

UC Berkeley Haas Releases Deadlines for the 2012-13 Application Season

The UC Berkeley Haas School of Business has released the application deadlines for their MBA program starting in the fall of 2013:

Round 1:
Deadline - 10/17/2012
Decision - 1/10/2013

Round 2:
Deadline - 11/29/2012
Decision - 2/21/2013

Round 3:
Deadline - 1/16/2013
Decision - 4/11/2013

Round 4:
Deadline - 3/12/2013
Decision - 5/16/2013

As always, please confirm all information directly at Berkeley's admissions website.

John Couke

Wharton Released Round 1 and 2 Deadlines for the 2012-13 Application Season

The Wharton School has updated its admissions website to include the dates of its round 1 and round 2 deadlines for students aim to enroll in the program in the fall of 2013.

Round 1:
Deadline - 10/1/2012
Decision - 12/20/2012

Round 2:
Deadline - 1/3/2013
Decision - 3/26/2013

Round 3:
Deadline - March 2013
Decision - May 2013

It appears specific deadlines for round 3 will be provided at a later date.

Completed applications are due by 5pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) on the day of the deadline. Both first-time and international applicants are strongly encouraged to apply in the first 2 rounds.

To confirm this information and read further, visit the MBA admissions pages at the website for the Wharton MBA Program.

John Couke

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stanford GSB Releases Deadlines for the 2012-13 Application Season

Stanford GSB has released their deadlines for applying to join the program in the fall of 2013. The deadlines are posted below and can be confirmed within the GSB's official admissions website.

Round 1:
Deadline: 10/3/2012
Result: 12/12/2012

Round 2:
Deadline: 1/9/2013
Result: 3/27/2013

Round 3:
Deadline: 4/3/2013
Result: 5/15/2013

The application and letters of reference are due by 5pm (pacific time) on each application deadline date.

As always, do confirm this information for yourself at Stanford's Application Deadlines page on their MBA admissions website.

John Couke

Sunday, June 10, 2012

MBA Essay Goals

Good MBA Essay goals:

- are a logical progression of your experience and the MBA you'll get

The short-term goal should be achievable given your experience and the MBA you are aiming for.  At the same time, any mid-term or long-term goals should be well-though out and connected to success achieved with your short-term goals.

- show you at your best

What is your potential, given your current level of experience and the MBA to which you are applying? This should be seen through your goals. If you can and want to position yourself to be running a company that is changing the world, then this should be in your goals.

- confirm your passion

What kind of impact are you really passionate about having on the world? This should come through in your goals.

- are easy to explain/understand

You don't want to have to spend 2 pages or 5 minutes detailing what your goals mean, or why they are important.  Good goals, with a bit of explanation, should be clear and impressive.

- are strategic

This is perhaps the most important thing to remember. The goals you put in your application are not a promise, nor are they your father's wish or the instructions from your boss. They are instead a portrait of your potential, an advertisement of what you are positioning yourself to become, an introduction to who you are now and will be in the future that puts you in the best possible light and maximizes your chances of getting admitted to a top MBA program.

John Couke

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to Find and Show Fit with an MBA Program

What is fit? Fit, defined simply, is the linkage between what an MBA program has to offer, and what strengths/abilities/experiences you need in order to position yourself to achieve your goals. MBA programs are quite different from each other. Those that feel the experience at ABC school is going to essentially be the same as the experience at XYZ school are not looking at programs deeply enough. Schools differ on many levels, many of which we will explore in this article. One of the most important things an applicant needs to do is figure out which programs really suit their needs, and once they have found such a program, demonstrate this fit in their application and interview. This works on many levels.

1) It will help you find the right program for you.

This should be self-evident.  If you are going to spend 1 or 2 years of your life at an MBA, and develop skills and a network that will last for many years beyond that, you want to be sure you are in the best possible program - for you.  As noted earlier, not all programs are created equally.

2) It will help you craft a strong application demonstrating why it is best for you.

This is important. In your application to an MBA, you need to demonstrate why their school is the best choice for you. This works on many levels.  First, if you can demonstrate in your application that there is good fit between what the school offers and what you are looking for, you give the appearance of being a safe choice.  In other words, if the school offers you a seat, you are likely to take it - because you have shown you value their school.  Schools are protective of their yield (the percentage of offers made that are accepted by applicants), as a high yield can lead to increased prestige and even higher rankings too. In addition, demonstrating fit in your application makes you a safe choice because it shows the chances are high that you will be a happy student once enrolled (because you'll be getting what you wanted), as well as a happy alum once you leave the program. Failing to demonstrate fit in your application makes you a bit of a wild card: if they admit you, will you choose to enroll, will you be happy there? What if it turns out this program is not what you were looking for or what you really need? This would not benefit you, or the school.  

Given the importance of having a strong fit with a program, it is no wonder that one of the most typical and most important questions you need to answer in essays (and definitely in interviews) is: Why do you want to attend this school?

The list that follows below includes some characteristics of MBA programs that demonstrate how programs differ from each other, and can be used for research, or even towards making clear examples of fit in your essays and interview. It is not exhaustive, but it does serve well as a good starting point.

The Courses

Obviously this is a good initial place to look when considering programs. What do you want to learn, and in particular, in which areas do you hope to be able to do deep dives?  Exploring lists of electives is a good way of seeing which programs offer the education you are looking for.  Moreover, how are the courses organized? If you want to go into HR management post-MBA, it might be wise to study organizational behavior before your internship. Is this possible? What for the banker aiming to go into consulting?  Obviously the MBA offers the typical basket of skills, but will one program make you choose between important electives, where another might allow you to take both? As you consider the ideal courses for you, and even their timing or availability, some programs will rise to the top, while others might eliminate themselves from contention.

Other Academic Opportunities

This section is necessarily broad, because there are so many possibilities to consider.  Here are just two: 
a) Capstone (experiential) programs: are they offered, and if so in the industry or even with a company that will add value to your experience?
b) Overseas trips or study experiences: can you build networks in the places you need to? How much choice do you have in choosing where you might study, and what you might do there?

Clubs and Extra-Curricular Opportunities

What personal goals have you established for your MBA experience? Do you want to be in a place where not only you but your entire family can benefit from the international experience? All programs have some variety of Partners Clubs or events for family members, but further research will help you to find the programs that are ideal for you. What else is important to you? If you desire to be in an Asian Marketing Club, a South American Business Club, or to even create a new club, you'll find quickly that not all programs are created equally.

The Professors

Who will be teaching the programs you wish to attend? Some professors offer benefits over others, such as industry or region-specific experience, a network in a certain field or a research interest in a particular and focused area.  As such, this area of your MBA experience should definitely not be overlooked.

The Characteristics of the Program

Do you value teamwork, or hands-on learning? Again, not all programs are created equal.  Are you interested in learning via case studies or lectures from professors? The difference in the experience here is substantial. Are grades given to project teams, or individual members? How is in-class participation graded?  Are courses graded on curves, with only (for instance) a fixed number of As offered to students? This will define, in many ways, the amount of competition or collaboration between yourself and your classmates. 

The School's Reputation

By this I don't just mean "is the program known for its strength in marketing or finance".  This is of course important, but in addition, does the school have a reputation for helping students change careers? Has its graduates been successful gaining employment in certain industries or functions, or in certain parts of the world? What companies come to recruit on campus? Is the brand or name-recognition of the program high in your own country? If so, it may help to open valuable doors for you. 

The School's Mission

What does the program exist to do? What kind of leaders are they aiming to create? Does this agree with what you want to do in the future, how you see the world, or how you aim to change yourself? 

Atmosphere / Culture and Other Students

This is why it is important to a) visit campus and b) talk with alumni of the program. Because without doing both, it is hard for you to truly envision whether this school is where you want to spend the next 1 or 2 years of your life.  How do students interact with each other in class, on campus, and in social events?  All schools attempt to forge bonds amongst members of their student body - but not all bonds are created equal.  In terms of the other students in the program, this is on one hand very obvious, and on the other difficult to figure out.  You may be able to access demographics of previous classes, but you won't know more about your own classmates until you actually choose a program.  

The Location of the Program

This is not about the weather.  Rather, what opportunities does the program have regular access to?  The proximity of a few top Californian MBAs to Silicon Valley is one obvious example, although it should be noted this entrepreneurial region is visited by MBAs from all over the US (let alone other countries too).  What kind of opportunities are you looking for in your MBA, and beyond? If your goal is to land a job in a top Canadian company, than Rotman, Ivey or Schulich might inch closer to the top of your list.  If learning Spanish or French as a third language is of value to you, programs in Spain or France might work better.  If, on the other hand, your goal is to become a specialist in Asian business, a program in China, Singapore, or even Japan might fit best.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list - there are certainly more places to look. The point here is that what you need most might not be the same as others - so find the program that fits you best, and then give specific evidence of this fit in your application essays and during the interview.

More reading (from admissions counselors):

More reading (from schools):

John Couke

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stanford MBA Essays for Fall 2013 Entering Class Released

The Stanford Graduate School of Business has released their essay questions for applicants aiming to enter the program in the fall of 2013.  On their admissions essay page, Stanford directs applicants to answer 3 essays, one less than the previous year.

Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?

Essay 2: What do you want to do - REALLY - and why Stanford?

Essay 3: Answer one of the three questions below.  Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it.  What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years.

Option A: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
Option B: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization.
Option C: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.

The answers for all the essay questions cannot exceed 1,600 words in total.  The school offers a guideline as to how to use your space:

Essay 1: 750 words
Essay 2: 450 words
Essay 3: 400 words

Note however that these are only guidelines, not word limits per essay imposed by the school.

There is also an Additional Information section to the application. Detailed instruction are posted on Stanford's admissions essay page.

As always, do confirm all application elements directly with the school itself. Here is Stanford's main admissions page and here is their essay page.  Doing so is especially fruitful in the case of Stanford, as the school offers lots of information and commentary about their essay prompts, and how applicants may choose to approach writing them.  So do take the time to read the pages at Stanford's admissions site as you consider what topics and strategies might work best for you.

Quick thoughts:

1) Less word count and one less essay means less space overall to tell your story - so choosing topics will be of utmost importance.
2) In the past, Stanford asked for two different essays in part 3, allotting approximately 300 words to each. Clearly, they prefer one essay that is more developed and deeper as per their essay prompt.
3) By adding the phrase "in the last three years" to each essay question in essay 3, the school probably hopes no one will accidentally give a story that is much older.  Revealing a more recent experience better allows you to reveal who you are now - so don't make the mistake of writing about something that you did well in the past in Essay 3.

I will write a more thorough report later in the season.

John Couke

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Harvard Business School to Visit Tokyo on June 10 2012

There will be a Harvard Business School General Outreach Event in Tokyo on Sunday June 10 2012 from 10am to 12noon. Registration is currently open, but will close early on June 7. Details and registration available here.

John Couke

Rotterdam School of Management to Visit Tokyo on June 26 2012

Representatives from the Rotterdam School of Management will be in Tokyo on Tuesday, June 26 2012 for 1-2-1 Informational Discussions. As the title implies, this is an opportunity to meet 1 on 1 with an RSM staff member for an informational interview.  The signup form is available here.

A resume is needed in advance (see the signup form on their website for more details) and as the RSM website notes, this is "a pre-application interview to discuss your profile and MBA aspirations". What this means is that the potential applicant should be ready to talk about what they are looking for in an MBA, possible career goals post-MBA, and, of course, anything of interest related to their education, work or life they may have chosen to put on their resume.

John Couke

Friday, June 1, 2012

Columbia Business School Releases 2012-13 MBA Application Essays

Columbia Business School has released its essays for the 2012-13 application season.  These essay prompts can be found on the school's admissions website.  Essay 1B asks applicants to view a video about the CBS community, this video can be found here. Note as well that a few sample answers of their short answer question are available at their admissions page too.

Short Answer Question:

What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (200 characters maximum)

Essay 1:

A. Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals? (Maximum 500 words)
B. Please view this video, entitled Community at Columbia. Diverse, tight-knit clusters and carefully selected learning teams are defining features of the first year at Columbia Business School. Along with more than 100 student organizations and countless events each semester, the cluster system helps to create a supportive and devoted lifelong community. Describe why you are interested in becoming a part of the Columbia community. (Maximum 250 words)

Essay 2:

Describe a personal experience and how it has influenced who you are today. This essay should have a personal rather than a professional focus. (Maximum 500 words)

Optional Essay:

An optional fourth essay will allow you to discuss any issues that do not fall within the purview of the required essays.

As always, be sure to refer directly to the school's admissions website for up-to-date information on these essay topics and other elements of their application.

John Couke