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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

July 12, 2017

Back on blog/update/From New Delhi to Helsinki

I have been off from blogging since March but my posts will be flying out from today.  From April to end of June I was traveling.  A bit about that. This does not have much to do with admissions advice but more to do with me.

For most of April, I was in India. This was my first time to visit.  Given that I work with many clients from India, visiting allowed me to better understand where my clients are coming from.  I started in New Delhi and had a chance to visit IIT Delhi, which is a rather big campus. Wondering around I saw ads for student organizations and was even pleased to see one I recognized.  By the way, it is very easy to get onto the IIT Delhi campus.  By comparison, I could only have my driver park in front of Sri Ram College of Commerce and just take a look as getting in seemed rather daunting. At least I can say I saw SRCC and part of the University of Delhi!  Much later on the trip I could at least get a sense of Bangalore and understood why the relative costs there have made it attractive to startups, but the traffic! I was charmed by Mumbai, in part because of its relative walkability and in part because of the architecture.  Wherever I went I was most impressed by the absolute k indness of Indians.  While I found the Golden Temple in Amritsar to be one of the most spiritual and beautiful religious sites I have been to, the greatest thing is the people themselves.

After India, my wife and I went to Greece. In addition to island hopping and Athens, we spent a couple of weeks in Greece’s second biggest city, Thessaloniki, which is a big university town with many exchange students. It seemed like the biggest number of foreigners there were actually exchange students rather than tourists. If you are looking for a great European town to hang out in and want low prices and high quality, I can highly recommend it. I was working while there in June and it was a great place to have a workaction! I have been asked about the economic situation in Greece and based on conversations I had with Greeks as well as what I observed I can state the following:

1. Nothing prevents Greek people from hanging out in cafes and going out to eat. Also, nothing prevents Greeks from being nice and genuinely kind.  Both India and Greece share one thing, countries were foreigners are likely to be treated warmly.

2. The central shopping areas seemed vibrant but it was clear that less central areas had more store vacancies. However I have seen a similar level of empty store front here in Japan as well as in the US.

3. The impact of the economy is felt mostly by the Greeks in terms of increased taxes and more limited job opportunities. Young and/or highly educated people are leaving for opportunities elsewhere but some come back because they love life in Greece.

4. The only negative impact I felt personally was a strike by ferry workers who were protesting austerity measures, which resulted in us being stuck on an island for a few extra days.  I know there was a garbage strike in Athens but that happened after we left.

5.  Since the economic crisis has been going for years, it has, I think, normalized. People can operate in crisis mode for only so long, after a while, they simply accept the new reality.

 

After six weeks in Greece, we moved onto Budapest for a week.  As I am 50% Jewish Hungarian, it was exciting to visit a town in Europe with a vibrant Jewish present.  One thing that struck me in Hungary was the level of English ability was incredibly high amongst the young people. Whatever they are doing in Hungarian schools, I wish it could be applied here in Japan.

 

Finally, my trip ended in Helsinki where my wife and I stayed with one of my INSEAD classmates.  It was “summer” in Helsinki, but it was a cold one! It was great opportunity to talk with my classmate about the impact of our education at INSEAD on our work and lives.

 

By the time I arrived back in Japan at end of last month, I had already been working with some clients for almost a month and more have been coming on board. It is now gotten busy  but I am not in travel mode but switching to blog writing mode.  So more of what you have come to expect from this blog will be coming soon.



-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

March 23, 2017

MBA Application Planning For 2018 Entry

Now that Round two results for 2017 entry are coming in, I am increasingly focused on initial consultations for MBA applicants applying for 2018 entry.  They often ask what to do now before essay season, which really begins June, commences.  Here is what I tell them:
1.  If your GMAT (or GRE equivalent) is not already at or above the average score for those admitted and you can improve it, this should be your highest priority.   Scores are going up. I highly recommend this article from Poets&Quants and its accompanying charts for understanding the role of GMAT and what kind of numbers you should be targeting.  (Note: For those who are not native or near-native level speakers, TOEFL/IELTS is likely to be more of a priority than GMAT/GRE right now.)

2.  Learn about schools! If you can do so, go visit them while they are still in session.   Visiting a few programs is really good to do if you have the time.  Even if you don’t visit, make full use of online resources, information sessions, and networking. Contact alumni and current students now, not a few days before you apply. Showing fit in order to gain admission is about knowing the program and conversations with current students and alumni are immensely helpful.

3. Work on your resume. Even if you are not sure where to apply, this is something you can do now.  See here for a resume template.

4. Do some goal brainstorming as know is the time to develop your post-MBA goals for your application.  For a very systematic process for developing goals, see my discussion of goals in this post (amongst others) on Columbia Business School.  This method for developing goals can be used for any school or not school in particular.

5.  Enhancing your community engagement/extracurricular profile.  While I don’t, for the most part, recommend starting a new activity that you have no previous connections with, it is still early enough to enhance something you do. For example, by taking a leadership position or project management role in an organization or activity you have already been involved with. One criterion for admission to MBA programs relates to such activities, so if feasible, enhancing your role in such an activity can be useful.  While it looks kind of unimpressive to suddenly start something new that you have no previous connection to, now is a good time to enhance what you already do.
6.  Take on new responsibilities, roles, and/or projects at work.  It is always good to find new ways to enhance your professional experience through taking on something new.  Showing a record of doing so is important for MBA application and recent professional accomplishments are always welcome. There is still time to potentially make some before application deadlines, so look for such opportunities.

7. Enhance your academic profile.  If your GMAT is already done and is as high as you will get it and your academic profile is not so strong because of your GPA, there is still time to take HBX CORe, MBA Math, or even an online course.  Again, if y0u are done with GMAT, I think this is something to think about BUT IT IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR GMAT! I think HBS CORe, in particular, is one that applicants who need to showcase business related quant skills that are not indicated by their academics, should consider. Needless to say, this is especially good if you are applying to HBS because HBX CORe was developed for HBS admits who need to work on these skills prior to entering the program. 

8. Figure out who to use for your recommendations.  For more about that, see here and here.

9.  If you need to provide English language test scores (TOEFL, IELTS), get this out of the way as soon as possible. Some applicants leave this to the last minute and end up with bad scores for no good reason. Applicants with real limits on their English ability probably don’t need to be told the above but I have worked with some applicants from Europe, Latin America, and India (yes, for some schools like Berkeley, you will need to take TOEFL) who leave this to the last minute.  Take it seriously and do it early. No reason for surprises or a score that does not show the full range of your English ability.

10. Prioritize the above.  It is easy for me to make all these suggestions but I don’t expect anyone to do all of them in the next few months so focus on what you think is most important.






-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

March 06, 2017

Interview Preparation: There is no one way to do it.

One thing I have learned over the last 15 plus years of coaching applicants on MBA, scholarship, and other admissions interviews is that there is no one way to prepare.  What works for one applicant, does not necessarily work for another. People not only have different learning styles, they have different psychologies. If you are preparing for interviews, you need to find the kind of preparation that works best for you. As a coach, my job is to adapt to the needs of my client but always be focused on the core task of enabling better interview performance. Whether you work with coach or prepare on your own, you need to find what will work best for you. 

 

INTERVIEW STRESS:  THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

 

THE GOOD: For some people, stress is energizing force that gets them operating at their best. They can go with the flow and love the intensity of interaction in a good interview. They love debate and dialogue under pressure, so being asked hard questions, experiencing multiple follow-up questions, or even being challenged are totally fine with them.  Some applicants positively need to be pushed in this way in order to expand their interview skills. Mock interviews that are designed to be at least as hard if not harder than the real interview tend to work best with such people.

 

 

THE BAD: However, for others, stress can impair or paralyze their interview performance.  For someone who feels nervous, can’t think clearly,  gets stuck or even paralyzed, interviewing is a less than pleasant activity.  While language ability can impact performance, I worked with intermediate English level Japanese clients who had excellent communication and interview skills because they were comfortable with being interviewed and felt no undue stress and I have worked with Ivy League educated Americans who were severely impacted by it.  Stress-related psychological issues can short circuit underlying skills or knowledge and undermine performance.  If interviewing does this to you, you need to seek outside help.  Some people benefit from mindfulness or meditation training, others may need to seek professional psychological advice.  I would personally suggest taking a look at Mindfulne ss-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) because this method has extensive data to back up its efficacy and can have positive benefits for a lifetime.

 

 

THE UGLY is an admissions coach who makes a stressed out client even more stressed during practice; Giving such a person a stressful interview is an act of cruelty and off-task because it does not improve their performance. Instead, it further erodes confidence and may increase anxiety, nervous behavior, and even reduce the performance level.  Sometimes it is not obvious that a client will be stressed out because it is the first interview training session. While I try to identify potential problems in this regard by providing a  survey of interview experience (I discuss this in detail in this post I wrote for another blog) to my clients, some clients don’t complete this form and even if they do, it is not 100% guaranteed to catch problems. But once I identify that someone is experiencing extreme stress, I take a time out and change tactics.

 

 

MOCK INTERVIEWS ARE NOT FOR EVERYBODY!

For most people, mock interviews help them build up confidence for the real interview, while for others mocks are a source of anxiety that may not be indicative of how the person performs in an actual interview.  I have worked with clients who experience real stress when doing mocks but report no difficulties with the real interview. If you are the kind of person who has done well at real interviews but feels uncomfortable with mock interviews, don’t feel the need to practice this way, at least initially.   I have written elsewhere about working with an applicant who was admitted to HBS but who had extreme issues with mock interviewing. My solution in such situations is not to increase someone’s stress but to find alternative ways to prepare. If mock interviews increase your stress and undermine your performance, you need alternatives.  Beyond self-preparation, which is critical for any applicant, two things I suggest instead of or in addition to mock interviewing:

 

Open question by question preparation.  Simply by not creating the atmosphere of a mock but rather by treating a session as a place to test out and refine one answer at a time, I find that almost any client can improve on their content and enhance performance. By removing “the reality” of the interview and even the roles of interviewee and interviewer, this tends to reduce anxiety and allow for on-task performance enhancing training. If you are working with an admissions coach or consultant who can’t or seems unable to do this, find someone else. If you are asking a friend or family member to prep with you, ask them to do this way if you are finding mock interviewing unhelpful. Mastering your content and feeling comfortable with it is a core objective of interview training and you don’t need a mock to do that.

 

Focus on storytelling. In some situations, I will not even ask a question but instead simply listen to and provide feedback on possible stories that can be used to cover various types of questions.  Removing the asking of a question is itself another way to reduce stress.  For applicants who just want to test out stories, regardless of whether they benefit from mock interviewing or not,  focusing on just telling stories can be an effective way to review and refine them.  The process for this consists of listing to the story, providing feedback on the story, having the client tell the story again, and then refining it further in order to get the timing and focus right for addressing different kinds of questions.  This kind of prep is not only useful for those who have stress but for any client working on refining a story.  It is something I use especially for handling behavioral interview questions (For more about BIs, see my post on MIT interviews).

 

Realistic Mock Interviewing

Finally, as far as mock interviewing goes, I try to provide realistic mock interviews based on what I know about the questions that are typically asked by a particular school and, in some cases, what I know about a particular interviewer.  Excepting for some (and it is too many though not most) sadistic and/or unprofessional alumni interviewers who are badly trained (if at all) by the schools that they incompetently represent, most interviewers are friendly or neutral and not overly aggressive. There are exceptions to this. For example, ISB interviewers tend to be consistently aggressive and are clearly told to do that.  That said, most admission officer, alumni, and student interviewers are not so aggressive.  Even HBS admissions interviewers, who may ask many follow-up questions, can’t be said to be overly aggressive and they are typically friendly or neutral, not hostile.  Don’t equate being asked a hard question with an unfriendly interviewer. Some people make that mistake. Having your plans questioned (“Can you really do that?” “What if your plan fails?” “What is your Plan B if you are not admitted?”) is something you need to be prepared for but being asked about this is not inherently hostile as the interviewer may be trying to gauge your realism, the depth of planning, and/or your ability to think about alternatives.  When I am working with a client who finds mock interviewing challenging but wants to do it, I will gradually increase the difficulty to simulate what they are likely to experience.  This increase might happen in a single session or over multiple sessions. As long as doing so does not undermine performance, I will increase the difficulty. The point is to find the sweet spot for such clients so that they improve their performance.  Of course, if I know in advance that a particular interviewer will be difficult (it happens sometimes bec ause of information I and/or my client may have about the interviewer), I will help clients adjust accordingly. The objective is always to focus on practice that enhances performance and generate the one desired outcome: Admission.

 

 



 

 



-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

February 16, 2017

MIT Interview Essay Question

IF YOU ARE INVITED FOR AN MBA INTERVIEW AT MIT SLOAN

Those invited to interview will be asked to answer the following question: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words or fewer).  Details for submitting your essay will be included in the interview invitation.

MIT used this question last year in a longer format which may have involved multiple examples. In this case, those fortunate enough to be called for an interview will only need to write about a single topic.

We can break this into a number of possible topics that relate to MIT Sloan's mission, which I will break into three categories:

 

1. Describe a time when you were principled.  While this might simply mean discussing a time when you were ethical in terms of a decision or action you took, it could also relate to a situation when you convinced others (a boss, a colleague, a team, an organization, etc.) based on the position you held.  Being principled might mean ethical, but also relates to one’s professional ideas or even perceptions of the world. To be principled means to stand up for what you believe in.

 

2. Describe a time when you were innovative.  Think of situations were you were creative, original, or otherwise made a positive impact by doing something new. Maybe you were innovative in your approach to solving a problem, but this could be about many possible topics.  For example, describing a time when you improved something, invented something, established a new best practice, or formulated a new idea.

 

3. Describe a time when you showed leadership. Think of situations when you actively lead as a thought leader, team leader, supervisor, decider, and/or convincer.  Leadership takes many forms.  Leadership is no easy thing. Nor is it obvious. The worst possible thing is to conceive of leadership as simple formal responsibility or a title because this conveys nothing about the person in that position. While some applicants will have held formal leadership positions, many will not. Formal leadership positions are great to write about if they involve the applicant actually having a significant impact, making a difficult decision, being a visionary, showing creativity, or otherwise going beyond their formal responsibility, but the same is true for those showing leadership without having a formal title.  If you are having difficulty really understanding leadership, find out what kind of leader you are by taking this quiz based on Lewin's classic framework. I think leadership is more complicated than Lewin's framework, but this quiz is a great way to get you started thinking about yourself, a key part of answering any leadership essay question effectively.

 

Ideally it would be great to have a story that combines all three of the above aspects, but don't worry if it does not. For example, if you find your story focuses on being principled rather than innovative, I would not necessarily abandon that story. The point is to give MIT an understanding of you as a person sufficient for them to understand why you fit at MIT Sloan.

 

Finally, given that this essay is being asked as part of your interview, assume that whatever you write about you may need to elaborate on in detail in the interviews. I could be wrong about this, but until I  read something from MIT admissions indicating otherwise or subsequently get interview reports from my clients or elsewhere indicating otherwise, I assuming that this essay is a part of the interview process.  Therefore only write about a topic that you will be comfortable discussing in detail.

 

Best of luck with your application to the Class of 2019!  If you do get to write on the interview invite essay, be sure to read my post on interviewing at MIT Sloan.

 



-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

January 31, 2017

MBA Admissions Interviewing: Understanding Prior Interview Experience

Please see my guest blog post for Service2School on “MBA Admissions Interviewing: Understanding Prior Interview Experience.”



-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

January 29, 2017

Brief thoughts on recent HBS MBA admissions interviews

In this post, I discuss HBS MBA admissions interviews. My long prior post on that topic is here. This post builds on what is in that post so I suggest reviewing it first.
For my detailed suggestions on overall interview preparation, please see:
-MBA Application Interview Strategy
-Further Comments on MBA Admissions Interviews 
-General Characteristics of Admissions Officers, Students, and Alumni Interviewers
-Recovering from a bad answer during an MBA admissions interview
-10 Ways to Blow an MBA Admissions Interview
-When to start MBA interview practice? How to prepare?
You can also find my school specific interview posts in the Interview Section of my Key Posts page.


The primary focus of HBS MBA Round 1 Class of 2019 interviews has been on the applicant's professional experience. The was also true of Class of 2018 interviews (2016 entrance). While other subjects do come up, based on reports, I have seen, the vast majority of questions in almost all interviews in the last two years were on professional experience and knowledge. You still have to prep for the full range of questions, but a great deal of attention should focus on your work experience, your industry, and your company. They want to see your ability to discuss and explain your industry and company beyond your own role.  The HBS interview content is quite distinct from what you would in a typical MBA interviewer. This is an interview that is used to determine your fitness to be an effective participant in the class and hence the focus is content related to how you could contribute your experience in class discussions.
Some people will read the above and think this just means being prepared to discuss their own work but they would be missing my point.  You need to be able to do the following for all of your employers:

1. Explain the nature of the business.

2. Explain the industry overall and the competition.

3. Explain key concepts related to your industry and role/function.

In other words, you should be able to explain your work in a way that would parallel how you might use your knowledge in class at HBS.

Recent interviews do focus both the applicant's own experience as well and you have to be prepared for answering questions about anything you have done that is accounted for in the application.  So you need to be able to switch between micro/personal level and big picture questions.

Your goals are likely to be asked about but don't be surprised if you are not asked about why MBA or why HBS. You might be but there is a good chance, you will not be asked that.  So you have to prep for it.

You can expect a few questions related to your academic and personal background so you have to be prepared to handle a full range of questions. But don't be surprised if you only get a few questions in this area.

If you are a non-native English speaker, chances are high you will be an interview situation where the number of questions asked is extremely high (maybe not so much of a deep dive at all) because they are testing your English ability: In particular, your fluency. They want to make sure you can handle the HBS classroom.  Still, HBS is famous for going in relatively deep with follow-up questions, so you have to be prepared for that as well.

HBS does not seem to be asking applicants about the interview or application process in the interviews I have reports on, which is something they were doing for a while. So while I still suggest being prepared for that topic, it seems like it is not coming up, at least very much.

Finally, keep in mind that while I have just stated the above trends, they can always change. And this why it is important to prepare for the full range of questions that HBS asks.

For information about how I can help you prepare for interviews, see here. My client results and testimonials can be found here.









-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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