Saturday, April 25, 2009

Start Working on Your Application Early

The first round of application is on October, and although business schools have not yet published the deadlines and essay topics for this year, you should definitely think about starting to work on your application even now, 5 months earlier, especially if you intend to create more than one application (which is highly recommended).

But what can you do until the essays are published?

Actually quite a lot. The planning of your application can be started right away. This stage include research of business schools, startegy definition, and topic selection for general essays.
(free consulting session)

After you have a clear strategy, you can then start writing drafts of essays. There are two strategies you can take: writing essays based on the 2008 essay questions, or you can work on a generic application.

The Generic Application
I did a full analysis of the 2008 essay questions, and basically there are 5 essay questions that appear frequently (with wording variations): Career Goals + Why MBA, Achievements, Personal Characteristics (Leadership / Team play), Failure, Contribution to school

You can work on any of the essays, keeping in mind your business school selection. The school specific questions you may leave for last. When the actual essay questions are published, you are guaranteed to have at least half of the work done, and all you will have left to do is tailor the essays for each of the schools, and answer any specific essay questions that was left unanswered.

Here is a full version of the generic 5 essay questions. All question were specially hand picked from actual applications. The reason for choosing the exact phrasing used here, is that answering these questions will be the easiest to tailor to more specific essay quesions:

Career Goals+Why MBA: Describe your career progress to date, including your current job, and your future short-term and long-term career goals. How do you expect an MBA from ??? to help you achieve these goals, and why is now the best time for you to join our program?

Contribution to school: What will you be able to contribute that would make you a unique and valuable addition to the ??? MBA class?

Achievements: What are your two-three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?

Failure: Describe a setback or a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself?

Strengths and Weaknesses (leadership+teamplay): Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. Where in your background would we find evidence of your leadership capacity and/or potential?

Generic Recommendations
Same method applies for recommendations as well. There are 5 basic generic recommendation questions: Context, Strengths, Weaknesses/Feedback, Interpersonal Skills, Leadership Potential. Once you work with your recommenders on those 5 questions, your referee will have little work to adapt the answers to the specific questions of your application.

Context of relationship: Please comment on the context of your interaction with the applicant. How long have you known the applicant and in what connection? If applicable, briefly describe the applicant's role in your organization. What is your overall impression of the applicant?

Strengths/Ranking/Impact: What do you consider to be the candidate's major strengths? How would you rank this applicant compared to his/her peer group? How is the candidate’s impact on your organization different from that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles?

Interpersonal Skills: Describe the candidate as a person. Comment on his/her ability to establish and maintain relationships, sensitivity to others, self-confidence, attitude etc. Specifically comment on the candidate's behavior or skills in a group setting/team environment

Weaknesses/Feedback: Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response. What do you consider to be the applicant’s major weaknesses or areas for improvement?

Leadership Potential: Comment on the candidate's potential for senior management? Do you see him/her as a future leader? What will this individual be doing in 10 years? Why? How will the MBA degree contribute to the candidate’s career development?

Schedule a Free Consulting Session with IMPACTMBA, and we can start working on the strategy and generic application.

1 comment:

Alex said...

My name is Alex Gladstone and I'm in the INSEAD J'10 promotion.
I know that many people who come to this blog are at least slightly concerned with the INSEAD language requirements. For those of you from the US and Canada, I'm going to guess that your second or third language is probably Spanish.

If you do need certification in Spanish you basically have 3 options. The first is to fly to France and take the language test in Fontainebleau with FL&C language school, but I wouldn't suggest that unless you are already pretty close to fluent.

The second option is to study independently or with a school familiar with the DELE exam, but this is fairly difficult since the DELE exam is only given twice per year. Regardless of whether you are in a January or July start and when you might get your acceptance letter, you will be in a situation where you'll only have one shot to take the test. The DELE takes a very long time to return your results (up to two months?) so while you wait you'll have to keep studying hard in case your fallback is to take the FL&C test instead.

The third and IMHO the best option is to take classes with to prepare for the FIDESCU D.I.E. (I know its a terrible acronym for an exam but don't worry) which is also accepted at INSEAD. Tradfax is the first (and right now the only) school and _exam_center_ in North America that is associated with FIDESCU.

Tradfax is physically in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Its run by Francis Guinazu who has been teaching Spanish, Portuguese, and English as a foreign language for over 25 years. He'll assess your skills and if necessary set you up with an intensive course of study (say, 8 hr/week or so) to help prepare you for the exam, and you can do it in person via skype or even by phone. You can take the test with tradfax directly rather than having to fly to Spain or elsewhere.

I'm plugging him because I personally used their services and went from a very basic level of Spanish to the required level in just a few months while working a full-time job by using their intensive course.

Check them out at
And good luck to you all!