Applicant Question: Round 3 Application Advice On Essays and Story – #AskJeremy

What’s going on everyone. Seems like many of the MBA applicants out there have a lot more time on your hands these days now that you’ve finally turned the corner and submitted your last second round applications earlier in the week. Congratulations and be sure to take a well-deserved breather. But for some of you, the application cycle still lives. I’ve gotten a few emails from some of applicants who got a little gun shy at the last minute, others wanted to submit to a few extra schools just to be sure, and a couple of people wanted to do a little shoe shining and polish up your applications before going through with submitting.  And so that brings me to a question I recently received from a JD-MBA applicant, who wanted to get a bit of clarity on his essay strategy as well as a bit of insight on applying in the third round since he decided not to submit in round two.  See a small portion of our Q&A below.

Original Email From Applicant

“Hey Jeremy, I really enjoy your blog – thanks for taking the time to update as you do! I know you must be terribly busy with all the questions/calls you’ve been getting but I wanted to give a shot at getting your advice.

I’m not sure the precise path I’d like to take post JD/MBA – I see myself open to a few different options such as IB work, government or entrepreneurship. Sometimes I defend my uncertainty by thinking it’s naive and silly of me to even set my mind on something with all the variables and changing landscape.

How much emphasis is placed on having concrete goals post graduation? How would you advise someone handle this issue in the essays? Perhaps just focus on the most likely or suitable path given my background and leave the others out?

I’d really appreciate your thoughts and wish me luck!

Best Regards,

My Response To Original Email From Applicant

Hi (Name), I’ve begun writing my response and plan to respond shortly. You look like a potential good fit for the program. When do you plan to submit your application. Round 2?


Another Email From Applicant

“Hi Jeremy, I’m very pleased to hear from you! Unfortunately it looks like I will be submitting in R3 and perhaps reapplying early next cycle if things don’t work out. R3 must be a killer eh?

I’m still not exactly sure how to sell myself and present my goals given my 4yrs experience in finance but diverse interests as I mentioned already. I just want to make sure that I have my story straight before I apply. I’ll be waiting to hear your thoughts – thanks so much for taking the time!

Best Regards,

My Quick Response To Applicant

Hey (Name), keep your head up for round 3. I don’t think it’s an absolute impossibility, especially if you take the time to turn in a great application. Stay tuned for my response email.

My Final Response

Hi (Name),

Thanks again for your original message and for checking out my blog.  I’m glad you like the site and find my posts to be informative. Please keep checking back for new posts and articles as you navigate the application cycle.

So your situation is a tough one, and perhaps equally as tough as some people find it to apply in the third round. I hope you’re up to the challenge! I’ll start my response with a bit of high-level advice regarding your decision to apply in round three, and not two.  As I previously mentioned, it’s not at all impossible to be admitted in round three. I know a couple of people in the program now who have made it across the round three finish line. That said, these admits were doing some serious springing across that line, not jogging,  because these guys were really accomplished, and I suspect that their applications were pretty stellar. And so my broad advice to applicants is that  if you’re considering applying in two different rounds but not sure which, then shoot for the earlier of the two.  Given the sudden skyrocketing number of b-school and JD-MBA applications, on the margin, earlier is usually better.

But that’s old news now, since you’re applying in round three and since you didn’t feel ready last round. But you’re definitely doing the right thing by submitting now in round three rather than waiting. If you’re admitted, then you’ll be jumping for joy out of your seat at work come May, and you won’t have to hide the good news for long.  On the other hand, even if you’re not admitted this year, then you’ll be in a much better position to do a little sprinting in round one of next year, and Kellogg will be expecting your application.

Now, let’s talk a little strategy for your application. For one, keep in mind that the third rounds exists for a reason. And if schools didn’t want it, they simply wouldn’t take applications, like Tuck and Sloan don’t.  I suspect that this is especially true in the Kellogg JD-MBA program because the class size is small, the program has fewer applicants, and the class compositions is just as important as all the fancy class statistics and the number of consultants and bankers in the class.  In fact, my completely unverified but strikingly plausible personal opinion is that the admissions team relies so heavily on fit that they go into round three every year with VERY open mind, ready and willing to admit standout applicants who come into play.  So relax the nerves a little about round three, but also get ready to put the petal to the metal so you can stand out. It just may pay dividends.

Also,  you hit the nail on the head in your email in regards to essays. Part of standing out means putting together first-class essays … essays that both articulate a compelling story about the past, convey interesting plans for the future, and include persuasive reasons for how the dual program fits in the middle. That means the more persuasive and lively you write the better. It also means the more structured you discuss your ideas and relate them together, the better.  Now keep in mind, by structured I don’t mean 100% specific. But I would suggest that your response is logical, organized, and pretty targeted.

During rounds one and two, my impression is that most admits do this pretty well.  I’d go further to say that almost all round three admits have done this.  Unlike MBA programs that have hundreds seats to fill and dozens of those seats reserved for people who still need to do some soul searching, the JD-MBA program gives less time for that. Because we split our time between two campuses and ultimately spend less time than our classmates at each, we have to be a bit more deliberate and decisive.  So you’d do yourself a favor to show that trait in your essays, by either proving that you have a plan, or that you can come up with one quickly.  And then Kellogg can then have an easier time walking away from your application with a clear picture of who you are and why you want the dual degree, whether it’s specifically to be an I-banker, government leader, or entrepreneur, or if it serves more broad goals such as impacting your way of thinking, expanding a certain skill set, or giving you the boost you need to switch industries. There’s generally no right answer to “career choice” questions.

So try do some soul searching in the next few weeks, think deeply about what’s most appealing and what suits your background, and at some point soon take a stand on putting your career story together, coming up with something as specific as you’re comfortable with. Once you do so, use that story to synthesize an overall vision for your essay package. Then structure each essay to convey something different about that vision, while also showcasing new skills and picking new stories for elaboration. And finally, be sure to talk about how the dual degree fits into all of that.  And in the end, I suspect that you’ll be more confident about your story than you had in round two.

Hopefully that helps a bit. Good Luck!


Thursday, January 21st, 2010 Admissions, AskJeremy

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2 Comments to Applicant Question: Round 3 Application Advice On Essays and Story – #AskJeremy

January 21, 2010

I know what this reader feels like – I am in the same boat / also pushed from rd 2 to rd 3. good that “(Name)” sent his question to you, now I don’t have to do it. 😉


Jeremy C Wilson
January 21, 2010

Hey bizwiz, thanks so much for the comment. Sorry to hear that you had to push your applications back. But hopefully it will give you time to craft a better story. As always, feel free to send any questions my way if you have them. Good luck! – Jeremy

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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