Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cambridge Judge Admissions Webinar for Japanese Applicants to be held on November 27, 2015

I was informed by a former client that three current Japanese students in the Cambridge Judge MBA program will be hosting a webinar (conducted in Japanese) for applicants on November 27, 2015.

Those who are interested in participating in this event can register here.

John Couke

Friday, October 16, 2015

Interview with a recently graduated IE MBA student

I am pleased to present here an interview with a recent graduate from the IE MBA program in Spain.

1. After you were admitted, looking back on the way you prepared for the MBA in the spring and summer, is there anything you would change? Anything you would have done more of or less of?

If I could go through the whole process again, I would make 3 changes, TOEFL, Campus visit and interview training.

I would not go to a private school for listening and reading. It’s all about training to improve those scores and the program of those schools did not work well to improve the scores.

- Campus visit
Campus visit provides us with plenty of information which helps us work on application documents and choose school to go. In addition, it helps us know which kind of perspectives on B-schools we should have before choosing schools. 

- Interview training
I would do more interview training because it is more important than I thought. Interviewers carefully check applicants’ answers and your words and behaviors in the interviews greatly affect their decision. Therefore, I strongly recommend that applicants should carefully choose what to speak in the interviews and train for them in order to deliver your idea effectively.

2. What's a typical day in the life of an MBA student in your program?
8:00                 Wake up and have breakfast
9:00 – 15:00 3 sessions, 1.5 hours each session
15:00 – 16:00 Gym
16:00 – 21:00 Group work or preparation for the next sessions
21:00 – 22:30 Dinner (cook by myself)
22:30 – 2:00 Preparation for the next sessions
2:00 – 8:00      Sleep

3. Can you write a bit about a course that you would recommend future students take?

Financial Entrepreneurship & Private Equity: 
The professor is also working as a partner of a PE and she shared her real experiences which helped me understand how PE works and make their investment decisions deeply.

“Entrepreneurial Acquisition” and “Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital”:
Those courses are about Search Fund, a kind of small PE. Fund managers of those funds are also entrepreneurs and they raise a fund, search companies to invest and increase the value of the company they invest. Only 4 B-schools in the world (HBS, GSB, IESE and IE) provide with courses about Search Fund.

M&A Boot Camp:
This course is about M&A coordinator and the professor requires us to develop real M&A project, in which I could learn a lot about real M&A process. In addition, the professor has vast network in finance and he invited some of them to students which is a great opportunities to develop network in finance especially in Europe.
The professor, Prof. Paris, likes Japanese culture and he is really helpful to Japanese students. Sometimes he invited us to a party in his house.

4. Did you have the time to get involved in any extra-curricular activities? If so, what ones and what were you doing in them?

Yes, but I did not spend much time on club activities. I was in the Japan club in IE and my role was representative of the club.

5. What were your experiences like in learning/project teams? 

IE is known as its diversity and it gave me a plenty of opportunities to work with a variety of people. Through those experience, I could improve my skill to communicate with people with a variety of sense of values and people of multiple nationality.

6. Can you share your plans post-MBA?

I’ve already started to work in a management consulting firm in Japan. I will start to look for another opportunities in industrial area a few years later.

7. Looking back, what has been most surprising to you about your MBA life, compared to your original expectations before you enrolled?

Diversity of values, careers and life. Many Japanese students go to MBA for better salary, company, position and status in society. But I could see many students from other countries who have different type of motivation. For example, one Taiwanese girl came to MBA because she wants to live her Spanish partner in London and MBA helps her find the better job in London. It was eye-opening experience and enriched my perspective of my life.

Thanks very much for the information and your time! 

John Couke

Friday, September 18, 2015

MIT Sloan 2015-16 MBA Admission Essays Analysis

What follows is my analysis of the 2015-16 MIT Sloan essay topics.

The school's own instructions: We are interested in learning more about how you work, think, and act. In your response, please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did. 

Essay 1: Tell us about a recent success you had: How did you accomplish this? Who else was involved? What hurdles did you encounter? What type of impact did this have? (500 words or fewer). 

This question seems to be a typical accomplishment story. However, you need to make sure that your accomplishment story contains the following things:

- the involvement of others
- at least one hurdle (challenge/difficulty/obstacle) faced along the way
- the resulting impact of this accomplishment on something and/or someone
- details about what you thought, felt, said and did

Note that the example can be personal or professional. In terms of selecting a topic, again the story you choose should contain all of these elements. In addition, to that, I’d also encourage you to consider choosing a story where your role was central, and one where the impact on a person or organisation is strong and clear. 

I’d also encourage you to choose a recent episode. In the past the instructions for MIT Sloan essays used to include the direction that you limit your story to one that has occurred within the past 3 years. This requirement is now gone, however I would encourage applicants to still consider a recent story. The reason for this is in the “thought, felt, said, did” details asked for.

The approach MIT takes to outlining their expectations of your essay is different from other schools. No other MBA program asks for the specifics about what you thought, felt, said and did within the context of a particular story. The reason why? I used to attend MIT information sessions, and whenever I did, I always heard that “we can evaluate your potential to contribute as a global leader based on the way you handled a recent episode”. In other words, by offering a detailed (and recent) example of how you dealt with others, how you communicated your ideas, how you reacted to difficulty, and how you managed to make an accomplishment, you are giving your reader a window into how you act, and act with others. They are then evaluating your potential to be successful in the future (and of course fit in well in their program) based on this.

Here’s some tips on organising that initial draft.

Begin by summarising the accomplishment. Not everyone will tell you to do this but I feel it is a good way to kick off your story. So offer a 1-sentence summary of the accomplishment and it’s impact. 

The next steps I would take is the organize your story use MIT’s own STAR model - advice they give / have given on how to tell a story (particularly for behavioral interview questions, but also for storytelling in general):

S - situation
T - task
A - action
R - result

This is a logical way to tell a story, and an easy way to organise your draft. After you have gone through these steps, add one more paragraph emphasising the learning or takeaway of this story for you. How did you develop from this experience? What did you learn? I think that a bit of reflection at the end of a story is a good thing, and shows your capability to grow from your experiences. 

Once you have finished these steps and have arrived at a first draft, read it. It doesn’t matter how long it is. I think that a first draft that is 800-1,200 words is perfectly acceptable. Cutting volume and achieving their word limitation will come later. As you read it, ensure that the details (what did you think, feel, say and do?) are coming through. The reader should be able to observe how you deal with situations and others through these details. 

Finishing this essay will involve making some tough choices about what contents need to stay and what can be cut. I’d encourage you to reach out and get help on this. A third party, objective perspective is crucial to a real understanding of just how successfully you are conveying what you intend to.

Optional: The Admissions Committee invites you to share anything else you would like us to know about you, in any format. 

An essay will likely be the most popular format, but don't let that stop you from trying something a bit more creative as long as it helps you to get across whatever message you are aiming for here.

In terms of that message, start by asking yourself if there are any weaknesses or other such things you feel may need to be explained here, such as a relatively low GPA across the undergraduate degree or during one year of university. If you do this, try to emphasize the positive. You could, for instance, describe what were doing at the time (a leadership role in an extra-curricular? working to pay off tuition? both?) and how the learning from the activity was relevant and important to you.

Other than that, look to your response to the essay above and anything you’ve already decided to put in this optional essay and ask yourself if you've offered a good balance between work and non-work examples. If you haven't, and for instance have emphasized professional experience, then consider introducing your extra-curricular activities here. MIT leans towards recent examples, and that's always good advice to follow, but the question here does offer a lot more freedom, so something from more than three years ago could be considered a topic as long as you detail the takeaway or impact or whatever makes the experience still relevant today.   

Finally, some may use this optional essay as an opportunity to detail the specific reasons they feel MIT offers the best fit for them, given their past and their future. If this is the route you have chosen, read my article on demonstrating fit with an MBA program to ensure your examples are as concise as possible.

If you do go with an essay to answer this question it appears there is no word limit - so use 500 words (their limit on other essays) as your rough guideline maximum here, while noting that shorter may in fact be better. MIT optional essays used to be about 250 words - so obviously conciseness is valued. This is not a hard-and-fast rule - I’ve read great essays that were longer - but is certainly worth considering.

Closing Thoughts: Mind and Hand

In closing, let me remind readers of the MIT slogan "MInd and Hand". In doing so I am not proposing that this theme be digested and then pasted all over your essays, nor am I saying that "because MIT is looking for this kind of thing, you need to write about it no matter what your background is".  In fact I often propose the opposite - rather than writing what you think they're looking for you're always better off representing what makes you exceptional on its own terms. Having said this, the concept of Mind and Hand is the ability to bring practical application to learned things, and to me, this defines what it takes to be successful not only during the MBA, but also in applying the experience to challenges you'll face in the future. Read here for an interesting (if slightly older) take on this, and go here for a deeper reading on this topic.

John Couke

Friday, September 11, 2015

MBA Interview Workshop held in Tokyo during October 2015 - sign up now!

Interview preparation is a very, very important part of the MBA application process. I am happy to announce that I will be co-hosting an interactive MBA Interview Workshop with my colleague Adam Markus during the month of October.

The workshop is titled Proactive Interview Preparation and Active Listening and we will hold this on Sunday, October 11th, 3:00pm-6:00pm.

Location: E4TG     
Isshin Building 5F, 2-11-7 Yaesu Chuo-ku, Tokyo 
東京都中央区八重洲  2-11-7 一新ビル 5

Proactive Interview Preparation:
In the first part of the workshop, we will describe and practice (in groups and with instructors) a method of interview preparation that many applicants have used to gain admission to the world’s top MBA programs. 

Our objective is that you become better at preparing for MBA interviews, by focusing on your own stories and key points and practicing those, rather than working from a script. At its core, proactive interview preparation is based on thinking about your message, no matter what the question. You don’t know what you will be asked, but you do know your message. Being ready for the unexpected is thus incorporated into the very method itself because you don’t focus on preparing for answering specific questions, but rather for knowing things you want to discuss about yourself. 

For more about proactive interview preparation, see

Active Listening:
We will then focus on enhancing your ability to listen and engage with others during an interview. While it is important to know what you want to say, it is equally important to focus on having a conversation during an interview. Based on our experience, interviewees don’t always actively listen enough. Sometimes they just focus on speaking and speaking too much at once. By focusing as much as on what the other person is saying as on what you want to say, you can better connect with an interviewer, which is critical for making a positive impression. For some kinds of interviews, such as Wharton’s Group Interview, active listening is critical because you have to engage with other members of your interview group. 

After a brief introduction, there will be active listening group exercises monitored by both instructors.

16,200 yen paid in advance by bank transfer
19,000 yen if paid in cash on the day of the event. (all prices are inclusive of 8% sales tax)

Prepayment is mandatory and is due by October 5th. If we cannot confirm your payment by the due date, you will need to pay in cash on the day of the event. 

Recording: We encourage you to audio record the workshop. To protect your personal information please do not reveal anything about yourself that you would be uncomfortable having recorded by others. Therefore changing the name of your company, clients, etc. is highly advised during participatory parts of the workshop. 

To make a reservation and arrange for payment, please email John Couke at

John Couke

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Michigan Ross MBA Event in Tokyo on August 21 2015

I was given the following information about an upcoming Michigan Ross MBA event in Tokyo to pass on to my readership. The message follows below!

John Couke

Michigan Ross 入学審査官による学校説明会 8/21開催 
来る821日(金)、University of Michigan Ross School of BusinessAdmissions OfficeによるFull-time MBAの公式説明会を開催いたしますのでご紹介させてください。

#1 in Top Leadership Development Programs by Leadership Excellence
#8 in Full-time MBA Ranking by Business Week
#1 in Top Schools for Sustainability by Business Week
#1 in Ranking of Best Graduate Programs for Entrepreneurship by Princeton Review
#4 for Management, #5 for Marketing, #6 for International Business in US News MBA Rankings
#3 for Corporate Strategy, #5 for CSR / Ethics in Financial Times MBA Rankings

在校生は優秀かつ協力的であり、Globalなネットワークを広げられる素晴らしい環境です。また、Ann Arborは非常に治安のよい街で、パートナーズクラブや教育施設も充実しており、ご家族でいらっしゃる方々も安心して生活することができます。今回の説明会ではAdmission Officerに加え卒業生・在校生も多数参加予定ですので、是非ともこの機会にRossの魅力を感じていただき、ネットワーキングしていただければと思います。

Ross School of Business Tokyo Information Session
場所:六本木アカデミーヒルズ スカイスタジオ


Friday, July 31, 2015

IMD MBA Event in Tokyo on August 27, 2015

It was recently brought to my attention that the IMD will be hosting a Discovery Event in Tokyo on August 27, 2015. Registration and more information can be found here.

John Couke

Monday, July 27, 2015

Research MBA Programs using my Links

MBA applicants need to thoroughly research all programs to which they tend to apply so that they can, in the essay and interview, give specific examples that show the strong fit they feel with each program. Demonstrating fit with a given program is important to getting that all-important offer. You can read more about fit here, but the purpose of this posting is to give you some resources that will kick-start your school research.

I have been collecting articles on MBA programs (as well as LLM and other grad programs) for years, and when I come across a resource I find interesting I bookmark it using This website has undergone some transformations over the years but remains at its essence a useful social bookmarking resource.

As you begin (or continue) researching schools, I encourage you to put my social bookmarks to good use. They're searchable, and using the right keywords will help you get to what you are looking for quickly.

The starting page of my bookmarks can be found here.
Here is the listing of all sites tagged "MBA".

You can also combine keywords to refine your search. Here are two examples:

A search of my bookmarks for "MBA", Harvard", "admissions" and "interview" is here. Substitute in Harvard for another school and you'll get links related to their interviews as well. Replace interview with essay and you'll get links related to that.

A search for "MBA" "admissions" and "recommendation letters" will take you here.

I encourage you to look around and see what useful information you can dig up on any program to which you are applying.

John Couke

Friday, July 3, 2015

Interview with a current MBA student at UCSD Rady

I am pleased to offer the following interview with a current student at the UCSD Rady School of Management.

1. After you were admitted, looking back on the way you prepared for the MBA in the spring and summer, is there anything you would change? Anything you would have done more of or less of?

Since I was admitted in June, I did not have the time to prepare myself for the program. However, if I had, I would have start reading some finance related books as it is my concentration in the program.

2. What's a typical day in the life of an MBA student in your program?

I have been doing an internship since November, so I work part-time normally in the morning. Then I go to the student lounge and study, and attend the class. Between the classes we occasionally have group meetings.

3. Can you write a bit about a course that you would recommend future students take?

We just finished taking most of the core classes, and all the students have to take these classes. I have only taken two electives so far, and I really enjoyed both of them: Investments and Advanced Communication.

4. Have you had the time to get involved in any extra-curricular activities? If so, what ones and what are you doing in them?

Yes, I have been taking ballet classes on campus. In terms of school related activities, I have been selected as a Student Ambassador and am the VP of Finance in our Life Science Club.

5. What have your experiences been like in learning/project teams? 

The experience varies depending on the team. I have been very lucky in that my teammates are co-operative and we are good friends outside the class. But I was on one particular team where two of the other members did not feel comfortable communicating in English. It was a relatively hard experience because they struggled to explain what they wanted to say and hesitated to give more in-depth details about some conclusions.

6. Can you share your plans for the summer?

I will continue my internship that I have been doing since last November. At the same time, I might enroll in accounting or CFA classes.

7. Looking back, what has been most surprising to you about your MBA life, compared to your original expectations before you enrolled?

The MBA life started off much tougher than I had expected. Especially because I had to start my summer internship search from the fall quarter, everyday passed by very quickly and there was not enough time to do everything I wanted to do each day. Thus, time management and appropriate prioritization are definitely the keys for going through the program successfully. Needless to say, networking is very important, and so it is highly effective to target what sort of professionals and communities you are trying to get connected to right away.

Thanks for taking time out of the busy program to respond to my questions! 

John Couke

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dartmouth Tuck MBA Event in Tokyo on July 11 2015

I heard from a former client that Dartmouth Tuck MBA students and alumni will be hosting an informal event in Tokyo on Saturday, July 11, 2015. Read on here (in Japanese only) for more details and information.

John Couke

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Some Changes are Coming to the GMAT in July 2015

Very recently announced two new features that will have some affect on GMAT test takers effective as of July 19, 2015. Here are the changes which you can read from the source here:

(1) Cancelled scores will no longer appear on the score report. Note: this change is retroactive, meaning that all previously affected scores will be erased too.

(2) The time required to wait in-between GMAT attempts will be reduced from 31-days to 16-days.

There are other, smaller changes, again read the article yourself, but these two are the ones that will have the greatest impact on test takers I believe.

Just how big will the impact be? I would guess that test takers will be much more likely to cancel scores now. I don't necessarily think that is a good thing. I can see some test takers targeting 700+ who will elect to cancel a 670. I would not necessarily advise that course of action. What if the 670 turns out to be your best score? You can still only take the test 5 times from the 12-month period following your first test. It would be a shame to cancel a 550, cancel a 580, cancel a 600, cancel a 670, and then be forced to keep a 610 because it is your 5th test of that period.

550 (cxl)
580 (cxl)
600 (cxl)
670 (cxl)
610 (keep?)


I suppose the quicker time in-between retakes benefits those who decide late to apply at all. Now thy may have an extra attempt or two to put together a score. So this may cause a slight uptick in application volume. I am sure schools will be happy with that.

So the final verdict: use your new found powers wisely!

John Couke

Friday, June 19, 2015

Invitation to an Exclusive MBA Networking Event in Tokyo on July 3, 2015

I am pleased to forward the following message from Damon Mackey of regarding an upcoming MBA networking event to be held in Tokyo on July 3, 2015.

John Couke

Please accept this special invitation to's most exclusive event of the year. to be held on July 3, 2015 starting at 7pm. Most of you have been to or heard of the Worldwide MBA Event that brings 150 to 300 MBAs or the MBA Seminars held at organizations that value MBAs but this is very different.  

This is a chance for just 10 MBAs to be selected to:

- Hear the Keynote from and chance to meet Yosuke Yagi, Executive Officer & VP of HR at LIXIL (One of Japan’s fastest globally growing organizations), as he speaks on global HR from his experience leading General Electric's world renowned HR and growing LIXIL into a global organization in just 3 years.

- Cultivate best-practices in a truly high-impact exchange and grow meaningful contacts.

- Be privy to priority opportunities.

- Special Talk from Ariel Daniel a recent Hitotsubashi ICS MBA Graduate, hired at LIXIL to give you the inside scoop on what its like to work at this fast growth organization.

- 30 Top-tier organization’s HR executives( from Baxter, Red Bull, Ferring Pharmaceutical, Dale Carnegie, Coca Cola, PwC and more).
- Other high caliber MBAs / Masters.

While enjoying:
- Full gourmet cocktail foods served and drink included.
- The idea-sharing activity to exchange best-practices with top MBAs and select HR executives.

Quick entry form to get in at MBAs will be selected after careful review but I will personally get back to each and everyone of you.

All of the finalists will receive a subsidized ticket to get in for below cost. (40% off). You  will also have the chance to be chosen as the 2015 “MBA of the year” by

Priority information on carefully selected organizations offering exceptional opportunities for MBAs/Masters. These are not sponsored by organizations but chosen by as special priority opportunities just for those present on the day including Marketing and FP&A positions at LIXIL, Leadership program at MAERSK and more.

Click on the form above or here:  We made it as easy as possible to apply.  Hope that you can join us for this special high value exchange.  There will be special priority given to 1 or 2 MBAs with interest in the "Global Marketing Manager" position and "PR & Branding" position at LIXIL as I think it would be an amazing opportunity to get introduced to the organization. CONNECT. SHARE. GROW.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

MBA Admissions Essay Event: Friday June 26 2015

I will be co-hosting an MBA admissions event with my colleague Eiki Satori at Affinity on Friday, June 26, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. The event is free and you can register here. Please consider it should you have the time and inclination.

The topic will be the Columbia MBA essay set for the 2015-16 admissions season. It's a good one, as applicants need to choose carefully what to write about and (importantly) demonstrate a strong fit with the program. It also features 4 essays, including the optional one, and so is a good essay set for discussing overall balance. You can find the Columbia essays here.

John Couke

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Stanford MBA Events in Tokyo on July 27 and 28, 2015

Representatives of the Stanford MBA program will be hosting an Information Session in Tokyo on July 27, 2015. They will also be hosting an Information Session titled Women's Perspectives the next day on July 28, 2015. The latter will feature female graduates of the program, and is for any prospective applicant who wishes to attend.

More information on both events can be found here (search for the Japan events). Registration is available here for the July 27 event and here for the July 28 event.

John Couke

Friday, June 5, 2015

Brainstorming Contents for the Additional Section of your Resume

(This posting is intended primarily for MBA applicants looking to add interesting contents to the additional section of the resume they'll use in their admissions package, although it should be of general interest to a range of applicants to other programs, as well as those interested in building their resume in general. I've reposted it because a lot of MBA applicants are - or should shortly - begin building their resume for their application.)

I live in Japan, where in some cases people place a stronger emphasis on their career and the company they work for, at the expense of developing strong extra-curricular activities. The work-life balance suffers as a result, and when it comes to the MBA application process, often this means a lot of people with great professional activities, but not a lot to show for outside of work.  This can be a disadvantage.

Why is it important to show extra-curricular activities in your MBA application?

There are many reasons.  One is that this is an effective way to tell a little bit about what you value or find important. After all, if you didn't like the activity or feel you could benefit from it in some way, you wouldn't do it. So your choices here say something about you.

Another reason is that your job, colleagues, clients, responsibilities and accomplishments gained at work won't come with you to b-school.  You'll instead go yourself. And who is this person? Well, once you strip away the career, and everything related to it, what is left over? That is you - at least the non-professional you - and this should be defined at least in some way in your MBA applications.

The final thing to keep in mind is that an imbalanced application - full of work stuff but offering no insight beyond work - can leave you at a serious disadvantage.  No matter how successful you have been, someone else also applying may have achieved the same pinnacle of success, but with interesting extra-curricular activities. This doesn't mean you shouldn't apply - it might not even be true - but it should motivate you to at least consider what activities you can mention. 

What should I do?

From my experience, the longer the list of extra-curricular examples you put in front of someone, the better the chances they'll find something they do outside of work is worthy of inclusion in the additional section of their resume, or in an application essay.  Let's make that list now, and then we can come up with some parameters for evaluating each possible item in order to choose only the strongest and most interesting contents.

The List

1. Volunteer Work

This is ideal if you have such experience.  Two varieties to consider when brainstorming:

a) standard, roll-up-the-sleeves volunteer work
b) volunteer work done through your company

I am mentioning point b) here because many people just consider it work.  But if you have done volunteer work that was organized by your company, it is still volunteer work! So it can be listed.

Note: it is best to avoid listing experiences where all you are doing is contributing money.  

2. Sports

a) team sports can show teamwork

Teamwork is a valuable skill that you will utilize repeatedly in your MBA program.  This is the value in emphasizing your participation in a weekly pick-up basketball game each weekend. Soccer, futsal, baseball - participation in any of these things shows - or at least hints - at the presence of someone who works well in a team. Take the activity to another level if you can - maybe you started-up these pick-up games, and now a lot of people attend regularly, or maybe you are the captain.

b) individual sports or athletic exercise are ok too (like running)

Devotion to a higher goal can also make for an appealing story, even if you are the only one involved. If you run regularly to train for marathons or triathlons, this can be emphasized too.  If applicable, list off the marathons you finished - whether you were in first or last doesn't matter. 

3. Music

If you take clarinet lessons at a school, put it in your resume.  It may not show an accomplishment (although if you have ever performed in front of an audience then you've got one) but it does show an interest that could become an interesting talking point (Why did you decide to start to do this? What is it that you like about playing this instrument?)

4. Cultural Activities

There are numerous examples of things that can count as "cultural activities". The obvious ones include holding black belts in judo or karate, or studying tea ceremony or flower arrangement. Many people here in Japan have such experiences, but don't immediately think of them when putting together their resume.  hence the value of carefully taking stock of your experiences as you draft your resume. These experience can add color to your resume, and so can be included.  

Beyond the few example listed above, there are many other things that can count as cultural activities, such as helping out in your local community summer matsuri (festival). What seems like normal life to you may be interesting or unique to others.

5. International Experience

This can be broken into two sections: living abroad, and traveling abroad.

a) Living abroad. If you have lived abroad, this is worth mentioning in the additional section of the resume. Unless of course it is because of your own working experience or university / post-university educational experience, and then in that case you do not need to mention it in the additional section because it will be in the professional experience or education section.

Note however that those with such overseas experience may have also afforded themselves the time to get involved in extra-curricular or extra-employment activities, and those from working experience can go in the additional section if there is little else to put there. I usually recommend people to include extra-curricular activities earned at school to include them in the same section of the education section that describes those experiences.  

b) Traveling abroad. This can work if it involved some degree of time, like studying English in Australia for two months at an English school. In this case you would not put it ion the education section (because you did not earn a degree from the studies) but you can certainly list it in the additional section. This can also work if you have been to a lot of places.  I've met people that have traveled through 30-40 countries, which is more than most. This kind of experience certainly shows dedication to international travel directly, and may also show some degree of cultural awareness, at least indirectly.

6. Memberships in Associations or Organizations

Especially good if you actually contribute something towards their organizations.  Nonetheless, make a list and when necessary or not entirely understandable, describe the nature of the organization or association to which you belong.

7. Certifications

This is for those who hold some kind of engineering or securities license, or the ability to sell real estate, or something else which allows you to do something.  

8. Academic Publications, Patents, and Presentations

The first word here demonstrates pretty clearly what you're demonstrating: academic experience and ability. This is less important for an MBA application than you may think (separate tests are administered to test these things, and besides you've also got a neat and tidy GPA to summarize all 4 years) but if the content is impressive and (importunely) something you are passionate about talking about, then it may be worthy for inclusion - especially if you have little else to draw upon.

9. Awards

If you have won anything, put it in. Be clear about what you won, when you won it, and the selection criteria.  

10. Fluency in a Third or Fourth Language

This is especially true if the application doesn't ask (though honestly most typically do).  It's not necessary to note in an MBA resume that you speak English, or your native Japanese.  But if you've got a third language ability there that is more than just conversational, and the application doesn't call for this detail, consider it as additional section content.

11. Hobbies

I have intentionally placed this low on the list. For many, their "hobbies" will have already appeared above, as in sports or music.  But beyond this, don't underestimate the value of exploring deeply your hobbies.  Maybe you took a ceramics class with your wife recently - and made stuff you use in your home.  Maybe you then took another lesson, and made more stuff.  This isn't ideal content - but for those with no content, it is content. So keep going to ceramics class, and put it on your resume.

12. Academic Interests

Be careful here, because writing about "reading books" is far from ideal. But, if in your spare time, you have become something of an expert in 14th century Japanese history, then this could be worthy of inclusion, especially if you can discuss the topic coherently and having something worthwhile to say. If, on the other hand, this interest has made you active in some type of group where people gather to study such things, I'd think it better for you to mention membership in this group instead, as that demonstrates more practice building people skills than reading can.

13. Sponsorship

If you have nothing to put in your additional section, and are company-sponsored for your MBA, then this can go in the additional section. I usually recommend it be placed elsewhere, but it is certainly flexible enough in nature to go here too.

Qualifiers to Determine Which Items are Best

Now that you have been able to come up with a long list of possible items, you'll probably recognize pretty quickly that some items have more potential than others. How to ultimately choose? Put each idea you generated to the test using the following 5 criteria. 

a) Is it interesting? This is pretty straight forward I think. Can it be used to add color to an interview? If so great. 

b) Is it active or passive? Doing something is always going to be better than getting something, all other things being equal.  Volunteering time to accomplish something looks better than receiving recognition for donating money, for instance.

c) How committed are you to the activity? It should be something you have devoted time to.  One game of basketball isn't enough to merit inclusion in your resume.  However, if you have played twice per month for 1 year, then it is enough to put in the resume. Along the same lines, a dedicated interest in some activity that started yesterday might not seem very convincing either.

d) How recent is it? Taking saxophone lessons in 2009 will always be better than a local soccer participation award earned in 1994. The former is simply more telling about who you are today - while the latter is describing someone who has changed a lot since that time. Generally speaking, activities from high school and earlier should not be included in the resume for business school if at all possible.  (note: unless you are really young, but even so it had better be a major activity)

e) (for Japanese applicants to b-school in particular!)  International experience. If choosing between two extra-curricular activities, one that has something to do with interacting with foreign cultures might be best. So if you are stuck between describing your love of local onsens, which you've been to 6 times, and your love of climbing mountains in Nepal, which you've also done 6 times, I might recommend the Nepal experience.  Not only is it more international, but it is also more significant, and might also show you in an "active", rather than "passive" way as well. 

When in doubt, or when brainstorming, you should include everything. Later on you can cut out the things that aren't as good when trimming your resume down to one page.

John Couke

Monday, May 18, 2015

2015-16 MBA Admissions Deadlines and Essays: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, MIT, Wharton and Columbia

Thinking of submitting an MBA application later this fall? Top schools are releasing their deadlines and essay prompts earlier than ever, and even though we are only in mid-May, there's a lot of information out there:

MBA admissions deadlines:

Harvard, Stanford, MIT Sloan, Wharton, Columbia J-term, Yale

MBA admissions essay questions:

Harvard, Stanford, MIT Sloan, Columbia

This year, Harvard's deadline is September 9th. Time to get started on that application!

John Couke

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Interview with current INSEAD MBA Student

I am pleased to offer the following interview with a current student at INSEAD.

1. After you were admitted, looking back on the way you prepared for the MBA in the spring and summer, is there anything you would change? Anything you would have done more of or less of?

I could have been more open to other options including options outside MBA, although I believe INSEAD is a great choice for me. What really matters should be life after MBA and MBA should not be the only option for most people to move you forward. 

2. What's a typical day in the life of an MBA student in your program?

It depends on periods. For the first four months, students spend time in attending core courses, working with a study group in the daytime, and having parties (doing networking) at night. On weekends, most people travel together to countries nearby (across Asia and Europe). The schedule is really intense during these periods. After that, class schedule becomes more relaxing and students become more serious about life after INSEAD. Some people spend time in starting up their own companies and testing their business, while others spend time on networking for careers and interview preparation. Since we have huge diversity, it completely depends on each student.

3. Can you write a bit about a course that you would recommend future students take?

“Creative Thinking” is the course I personally loved most. There are design students coming from Art Center in California and we develop new product and service ideas together. Please note that this elective is one of few electives only held in the Singapore campus. “Identifying New Business Model” is the also fantastic elective that teaches how to brainstorm/select new ideas from scratch and how to test those ideas. INSEAD is strong in entrepreneurship and students here can take a bunch of great courses that leads them to real entrepreneurship.

4. Have you had the time to get involved in any extra-curricular activities? If so, what ones and what are you doing in them?

There are a lot of things going on, for example I started a consulting project for a social enterprise in Singapore in a team of four students from the consulting club. We discussed their problems with the CEO and conducted some surveys to identify growth opportunities for them. Recently, I am more focusing on getting a job after INSEAD.

5. What have your experiences been like in learning/project teams? 

At INSEAD, a study group for the first four months is assigned from the school and the nationalities and career backgrounds in each team are all different. It is really a valuable experience: some teams would face difficulty in managing team activities because of the diversity and learn a lot from such experiences. In my case, all four other team members are super nice and helpful, and it was always fun to work with them. 

6. Can you share your plans for the summer?

I am just finishing off my MBA (since it is a 10-month program) and might have a summer vacation before going back to the world of business.

7. Looking back, what has been most surprising to you about your MBA life, compared to your original expectations before you enrolled?

Diversity. It was quite difficult to imagine how life goes with friends from over 70 countries. When you talk in a small group, most of time you realise that the nationalities and backgrounds are all different. Since all students understand we are quite different in nature, all of them respect each other and their culture. This is really an amazing culture of INSEAD. 

Thanks for your time and answers to my questions! 

John Couke