29 Nov 2005
Terrell Owens Gives HBS Interviewers Something to Talk About
The Philadelphia Eagles' Terrell Owens ("TO") has not only been all over the news lately, but, according to several of our clients, he's also being mentioned in the Harvard Business School interview. Alumni are asking questions along the lines of, "Would you have hired him?" and "How would you have
handled and motivated him if you were in Eagles management?"
For those of you who don't follow football – let's just say it's a long story. In a nutshell, the interviewers' question is about team players and group dynamics.
It's certainly not worth reading up on something like Owens' history if you don't already know it as part of your admissions interview preparation. It is completely
worthwhile, though, to prepare yourself by understanding the role of interviews in b-school admissions, who you will be talking to, and what they will want to know.
Call or email us if you want interview coaching. These interviews are too important to leave to chance.
21 Nov 2005
Your Written Voice Can Help You Stand Out from the Crowd
One of the reasons that business school application volume dropped over the past few years was a perception that the MBA job market was poor. That situation has completely turned around. Grads from top programs are receiving multiple job offers and six-figure compensation packages. This is likely to lead to another upswing in b-school application volume – which will mean that business school applicants once again will need to think about making their applications stand out from the crowd.
Your essays are your best tool for making your application packet individual and memorable. Of course, part of what makes your essays memorable is the content you put in them. By writing about your experiences, interests, and values, you give the admissions committee a vivid idea of you as a person, not just a collection of test scores, GPAs, and job titles.
The way you write your essays can help you stand out from the crowd, too.
These are a few simple tricks that can help make your essays come alive for your readers:
– use the active voice
(i.e, "I put the book on the table" instead of
"the book had been placed on the table by me.")
– vary sentence length
– use simple, short, specific words
17 Nov 2005
Who's Doing All this Blogging, Anyway? II (Applicant Blogs)
Earlier this week we talked about the 'who' and 'why' of student and admissions staff blogs. Today we'll take on a touchier subject: applicant blogs.
There are hundreds, probably thousands, of blogs being kept by people who are at some stage of the college, graduate, or professional school admissions process. It's probably not possible (and certainly not fair) to generalize about the motives of the people who write them. We do think it's reasonable and necessary, though, to make some general comments about the hazards of getting admissions information and advice from applicant blogs, especially since some people who ought to know better are encouraging applicants to do just that.
We noted in our last post that it's always helpful to try to understand who's speaking to you. In the case of applicant blogs, the answer to that question is: college and graduate school applicants – NOT students, NOT staff, NOT faculty.
That makes a big difference in the kind of admissions information you can reliably get from applicant blogs.
MBA2008 is probably a reliable source on his or her difficulty in finding the time to write all the different essays needed to apply to several business schools, or on how exciting it is to get an interview invitation, or on what questions they were asked at the interview. He or she is not, however, a good source of information on why they were or were not admitted to the school. They're the applicant, not an admissions committee member. Even if they got feedback on an unsuccessful application, they can't really know what it was that led the admissions committee to turn them down. (We're picking on MBA applicants here because MBA applicant blogs are especially full of questionable 'wisdom' about GMAT scores, essay topics, work experience, etc.)
Applicant blogs are a great way to connect with other people who are going through a similar school selection and application process, and to compare notes along the way. They are not, however, a good source of admissions information or advice. They only know one side of the admissions process, and it's not the side that decisions are being made on. Be wary of any applicant blogger who
too heartily endorses any commercial service. When you find a blogger who does that, chances are you've also found a ringer...
14 Nov 2005
Who's Doing All This Blogging, Anyway?
In our last post we talked about blogs written by students and admissions offices. That got us thinking – who's doing all this blogging on campus, and why?
The answer to the 'who' question is pretty simple. Students are writing student blogs, and admissions office staff are writing admissions office blogs – assuming that everyone is who he or she says he is. (Impostors should not be a big concern with staff blogs, since any college or university would presumably pull the plug on a Web site that was using its name fraudulently. They are, actually, conceivably a problem with applicant blogs – we'll blog about that more on another day.)
The answer to the 'why' question is a bit more complex. For one thing, it should really be broken down into two questions: Why do these bloggers blog? And, Why do colleges and universities host and/or promote these blogs?
Well, people write blogs for all kinds of reasons. We'll limit ourselves to mentioning the ones that are most relevant to college and graduate school admissions.
Students blog, in part, because they like their school and want to share their experiences and impressions with other students. It's something like being a campus ambassador, in cyber space. And student blogs are a way of finding out what life and classes really are like at various schools.
Admissions staff, on the other hand, are blogging as part of their job. Blogging is a way to 'reach out' to prospective students, to de-mystify and de-stress admissions, and to put a human face on the admissions process. Schools host and promote student and staff blogs for much the same reason. These blogs are a way to tell prospective students why they should be interested in school X, and to explain what happens when they apply.
What does all this mean for you, as an applicant? As with any piece of communication, you should try to understand who is speaking to you, and why. Student and staff blogs are part of college and university marketing activities. Sure, they're a nice part of marketing – and, we think, often a genuine service to prospective applicants. But they are written for a reason, and that reason is get the right kind of person to think about applying to and attending school X. That's something to keep in the back of your mind if you're getting information about schools and admissions from blogs.
8 Nov 2005
Admissions Blogs Worth a Visit
Blogs and message boards have become an increasingly popular way for people to share information about college and graduate school selection and application strategies.
Many schools now post links to blogs maintained by current students, faculty, and admissions officers.
Others have message boards where potential students can ask
questions about programs and admissions. Some of the noteworthy ones we're aware of are:
Business School Admissions
MBA Admissions Blog!
Wharton student2student Message Board
GSB Full Time MBA Discussion Forum
Chris Boehm's Blog – Chris Boehm works in the admissions office of
Albright College, a 4-year liberal arts college located in Reading, Pennsylvania. He blogs
about reading application essays, hosting campus visits, finding the applicants
who are right for Albright College, and more.
Case Western Reserve University
Undergraduate Admission Blog - maintained by the
admissions staff of Case Western Reserve University.
McGann's Factors – Matt McGann is Assistant Director of Admissions at
the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT). He blogs
about different aspects of the selection process –
why he always wears a necktie to work the day class
selection begins. Other MIT sites
worth checking out are the blog maintained by
Admissions Officer and Communications Manager for MIT's
Office of Admissions; by
Bryan G. Nance,
MIT's Director of Minority Recruitment; and
Money@MIT, a blog about financial aid and financing higher education by Daniel Barkowitz,
Director of Student Financial Aid.
Beloit College Student
The Dickinson College Blog – a community blog
open to posts from students, faculty, and staff of Dickinson College
in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Law School Admissions
The JD Admissions Blog
of Harvard Law School
Medical School Admissions
Student Doctor Network –
lots of links to med and pre-med student blogs and discussion boards.
3 Nov 2005
About This Blog
At All Star Essays we understand that your admission essays are important to you – but we also understand that essays are not the only part of the admissions process you have to worry about. That is why, after some prodding, we've decided to add this blog
to our resources section.
This blog is where we will talk about those other things: school selection, application deadlines, standardized tests, résumés, recommendations, etc.
Of course we'll say something about essays when the occasion arises. However, most of the posts to this blog will be about other aspects of college and graduate school admissions.
We hope the information and advice that you find here is useful to you. Check in now and then to see what we're writing about (we plan to add a post once or twice a week). If you've got an idea about something you think we should blog about, email us.