Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope that you’re having an enjoyable holiday not only filled with delicious food but also filled with good friends and time with family. On Thanksgiving, most people hop into their cars to drive, or set away in overpriced seats in the crowded skies to join their families and celebrate while watching movies, parades, and football games. And during the day, they also express all the things they’re thankful for. But in addition to being thankful for many of the personal things above, many of us also have a lot to be thankful for professionally.
In my view, many of us should also be grateful for access to professional opportunities. And that especially true now where business is tighter than it’s been in previous years and where there are more applicants these days and the pressures to get accepted continue to mount. So we should all take a few minutes to thank those who have helped us along the way, whether they helped us make professional decisions or helped us with the graduate school application process.
Personally, I’m grateful for those ahead of me who aggressively continue to sharing information both in person and here online. So I thought I’d dedicate this post to name just a few online resources that I found interesting or that I used directly when applying. I suspect that my readers are also thankful for these resources, or at least will be thankful that I’ve shared them here in this post. My apologies in advance if I’ve left anyone off the list and to those who I didn’t discover during the application process.
- Marquis Parker, who is one of the 1st MBA Bloggers ever, and is currently the MBA blogger with the longest tenure and likely most unique visitors
- Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), the premier career development program for high potential minorities that are applying to MBA programs
- GottaMentor, an internet start-up that is changing the game for sharing information and online mentoring, and one that I’m also pretty active in
- Michelle Owuku, former MLT coach who helped me through the MBA application process
- Orlando O’niell, who set the stage for blogging at Kellogg the year before I came to campus, and currently writes very insightful posts
- Steven Windsor, another fellow blogger before me at Kellogg, who writes about the venture capital and technology space
- Dino Gane, another fellow blogger a year before me at Kellogg. For those who remember, he began with the name Managing Magic and wrote extensively about his MBA application process
- Jullien Gordon, who is in the careers blogging space and is currently working as an entrepreneur to help people change their careers and their lives
- Paragon2Pieces, who is one of the first, if not the first JD-MBA blogger out there. Either way, she paved the way for JD-MBA writers like myself to enter the space
- NotAboutJackie, who is one of the only other MLT bloggers out there
- Leland Cheung, former MBA blogger and current City Councilman, that also helped me through the application process
- Emmanuel Pleitez, political blogger who began the MBA application process with me before moving into politics and running for Congress
- HellasMBA Blog list, which is a list of bloggers and was one of my first entry points into the blogging space
- Stacy Blackman, a pioneer in the MBA admissions blogging space, and a Kellogg alum
- Linda Abraham (from Accepted.com), who has been sharing valuable information on MBA admissions for years
- ClearAdmit, who has been one of the leaders in sharing information on MBA admissions, for as long as I’ve found it relevant. I also found that Clear Admit Law Blog also has a website dedicated to law school admissions, which I found after being admitted into my program
- Keith Ferrazzi, who is a leading pioneer in the movement on sharing information with others. You might know him from his book, Never Eat Alone
I also wanted to name a couple of “honorable mentions.” Even though I didn’t leverage them during the admissions process or make use of them during my recruiting processes, these resources are definitely setting the stage in the online/ blogging world today and continue to increase the pace of sharing career and professional information.
- ClassyCareerGirl, who is blogging while getting a part-time MBA. She is an excellent resource for women in the business and consulting field. Keep an eye out for this emerging blogger.
- BeatTheGMAT, is an excellent resource not only for GMAT information, but also for aggregating admissions content. It’s a resource I’m currently partnering with to help them bring more information to more people.
- Law School Podcaster, is an excellent resource for law school. They also have a great website for MBA admissions, MBA Podcaster.
That’s because the best leaders and organizations understand the value of sharing information. They realize that more important than always working for ourselves is that we all continue to improve our community by sharing more and more information with those who need it. And that’s especially true for those who might come from families where access to information and to critical resources is limited. And in the end, my belief is that only after we start sharing more freely will be able to make use of everyone’s best talents and collectively unlock our collective potential for change.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
This post is part of my focus on answering applicant questions during the MBA and JD-MBA admissions process, something I’ve been concentrating on for the past year and a half now. In my view, there has been an increasing need for such collaboration and information sharing, not only for the MBA admissions process, but especially for the JD-MBA admissions process, given the lack of information on the programs and on the process of applying to those programs.
I recently received a question about Northwestern’s JD-MBA program. The question comes from a potential applicant that has asked about the role of the LSAT in the application process and later in the recruiting process. I also received the same question from a JD-MBA applicant who I met with on campus this past week, as he was preparing for his on campus interview at Kellogg. As such, I figured the question was worthy of posting here on my website.
See below for the reader’s question and below that for my response.
Thanks for reading.
Hope you are doing well.I have recently started thinking about applying for NWU’s JD-MBA program.
I am currently working in investment banking and have already taken my GMAT. I understand that LSAT is not required for the JD-MBA program; however, the LSAT (or lack thereof) would be a problem if I choose to pursue a career in law? More specifically, do law firms require one to submit LSAT scores as part of the application/interview process?
I also reached out to some members of the Law School Career Services and they responded to my question.
Thank you for your help.
– This mail is sent via contact form on www.JEREMYCWILSON.COM
Thanks so much for writing and for your question about the JD-MBA program. I’m glad to hear the law school has already responded to your question, and I’m happy to provide a quick follow-up as well. Since it sounds like your question was pretty technical, I suspect our answers will coincide, so I’ll keep my response brieft.
The short answer is that law firms do not ask students about their LSAT scores. This is something that the JD-MBA program has also listed on the admissions website. Instead firms tend to rely more on a number of other data points.
First, firms usually ask about data points such as law school GPA and the schools journals you’re a part of. This tends to be enough information for the firms to assess your “intellectual ability” and writing ability, without asking for your LSAT score. Secondly, law firms will also ask about a range of other things, such as extracurricular activities, leadership experiences, and work history, though these things still tend to play a much smaller role than grades at most firms. And even though that trend has been evolving over time, at most firms, grades still usually outweigh those other factors. And finally, all firms will take the interview process itself into account. Law firms, just like anywhere else you interview at, are looking to hire people that are good fits for the firm and that get along well with the current employees.
For specific reference, about 50% of JD-MBAs go into law every year (i.e. the summer prior to graduating) on average, and the the LSAT score is never brought up. And that fact is not only true of the JD-MBA program but also for the law school students at Northwestern Law. The only time its ever tends to come up is during the admissions process. But even then, it’s often the case that it you only have to put it in your application and don’t have to talk about it during you interview. In fact, I recently received a question about whether the LSAT will come up during the JD-MBA interview (different from the JD-only interview), given the test is not technically required. Please click here to read the post.
I hope this information is helpful. Good luck in the application process.
Despite the fact that many people have already applied to business school this year, the round two deadline is still just a few weeks away. As a result, I’ve been sharing interview and admissions tips over the past few weeks. In one post, I talked about how to get started and think about framing your essays. (click here to read) And in a second post, I discussed how to stand out so the admissions committee remembers you (click here to read).
Below, I’ve written a couple of additional tips to keep in mind as you’re writing your essays, this time focusing more on fit and story.
1. Discuss past experiences and future goals. Good essays not only discuss past experiences but they also tie them into their future goals. As mentioned in my previous post, admissions committees are thirsty for details of your past and really want to get to know you, so you should discuss the important events in your life. But you should also connect those events to your passions and to what you’re inspired to do in the future. Often times people tend to discuss the past experiences at the expense of future passions, but in my view including one without the other is not the best recipe for success because it leaves the story incomplete.
2. Discuss how business school fits into your career plan. Once you talk your past and discuss your vision for the future, you also want to be sure to mention why going to business school actually adds value in that process – the classes, classmates, career opportunities, professors, etc. Doing so, you should not only talk about why you want an MBA but also what an MBA from that particular program. And further you should also discuss why now rather than next year. The best essays demonstrate all three of those things and they do so in a very structured and organized manner. In fact, if you re-read your essays and all those questions are not readily apparent, it’s likely you have some editing to do before submitting.
As I mentioned in both of my previous posts, this year is shaping up to be competitive, so be sure check back here, at jeremycwilson.com, for more essay and interview tips to come.
The world of MBA admissions is demanding. Not only do you have to submit materials that prove you’re a world-class candidate, but you also have to figure out a way to stand out from the rest of the applicants and ensure that the admissions committee remembers you. Unfortunately, standing out can sometimes feel like an impossible feat, especially now, where the number of applicants have been rising by double digits and where the caliber of applicants is as good as it’s ever been.
This post comes as my second in a short response to an applicant’s question about writing business school essays. My first post (click here to read the first two tips on MBA essays) addressed the idea of how to get started. And this post speaks more about how to stand out, so that the admissions committee remembers you. Because in the end, admissions committees have to read hundreds of personal statements in any given year, thousands over their lifetimes, so they can see good essays and bad ones usually within minutes of reading, if not sooner. And often times these statements are what differentiate two candidates who are otherwise equal on paper. Here are a couple more tactics that can help ensure that your essays stand out from the rest of the pile.
1. Be Specific. Conventional wisdom says that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. So admissions committees will look at what you’ve done and the things you’ve accomplished, assuming it’s likely you’ll continue on a similar trajectory. As such, MBA admissions committees want to know more about your past. But the mistake most applicants make is simply telling the committee what they’ve done. Instead, admissions officers are thirsty for the details of your story, and you should be as specific as possible when you tell your story. That means avoiding giving impressions and writing generalizations when possible. And it also means spending time brainstorming the specifics of the stories you write about, so you can write with more precision once you’re ready to begin the essays.
2. Be personal. Part of being specific also means being personal – articulating what you thought, felt, said and did, and how you made your decisions. Having read a large number of essays over the years, in my view, the best essays tend to include very personal facts because those are ultimately most engaging to the reader. This is especially important for older candidates who may have taken time off before law school, so committees may want to know more about them and their unique experiences and their personal (i.e. later) decision to attend business school. It will also be useful for non-traditional candidates, where committees may be looking to understand what made you apply to business school.
As I mentioned in my previous post, this year shaping up to be competitive, so you should do your best to write the best MBA essay possible.
Be sure check back here, at jeremycwilson.com, for more essay and interview tips over the next few weeks.
Over the past few years, six-figure jobs out of business school have become harder and harder to obtain given the way the economic environment has impacted MBA recruiting. With that in mind, applicants have recently become more concerned than ever about MBA rankings. For the typical applicant, being in a higher ranked school not only impacts the way colleagues will perceive them when they graduate but more importantly the way employers will read their resumes during the recruiting process. But there’s just one problem. Given the large number of sources of MBA rankings, most of which disagree with each other and use different methodologies to rank, how do you know which rankings are correct?
Fortunately, recent times has brought some good news – the MBA job market is picking up, and students are starting to get jobs in large number again (click here to see the pace of consulting recruiting). Top programs, like Kellogg, have a lot more companies coming to campus than they did a few years ago and they’ve also starting reporting higher percentage of students with summer and full time offers. This means students across all the top schools are benefitting, which for some applicants, helps take off some of the pressure to get into a top five ranked school. On the other hand, this still doesn’t stop a lot of applicants from closely following a school’s national rankings. After all, everyone that graduates from an MBA program carries with them a school’s reputation and resulting alumni network for decades to follow.
My personal view on the topic is threefold. First, that U.S. News tends to be the most widely used source for business school rankings, and for all other program rankings. Though over the past decade or so, a lot of people have also increasingly began referencing BusinessWeek. Second, that all sources can be good data points and provide different perspectives in the market. This is especially true because most sources use different methodologies, so you can look at things such as return on investment, post MBA salary, students survey responses, rankings based on prestige, and international reputation. And finally, my experience is that most similarly-ranked schools have access to very similar job roles after business school, whether banking, consulting, marketing, general management, or anything else you can think of. Because what really matters to recruiters is not a magazine’s ranking of the school on your resume but instead the experiences (and results) on your resume, and future potential as an employee at the firm.
Because of that, my view is that fit is especially important when selecting a business school. That means understanding what school appeals to you most and has the highest number of classes you find interesting. Which students you fit in best with. Where did the energy levels inside and outside of the classroom best match your energy level? And what place will not only set you up personally to be most successful after graduation?
But it also means understanding which “program” might be best for you. Today, more students than ever are more interested in programs, such as study abroad programs, skill-based training programs, and most notably dual degree programs, such as the Northwestern JD-MBA which I’m a huge proponent of. But being in the program isn’t necessarily the same experience as being at Kellogg, nor does it draw the same reaction from recruiters. So it pays to understand the program more deeply and see if actually makes sense for you to apply.
In sum, if you want to select the ‘best’ business school for you, you should not only look at rankings but also look at fit and program options before making your final choice.
Without further discussion, here below are BusinessWeek’s 2010 MBA rankings. And below that, are links to the articles on the BusinessWeek website.
Top Ranked U.S.
1 University of Chicago (Booth)
2 Harvard University
3 University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
4 Northwestern University (Kellogg)
5 Stanford University
6 Duke University (Fuqua)
7 University of Michigan (Ross)
8 University of California – Berkeley (Haas)
9 Columbia University
10 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
11 University of Virginia (Darden)
12 Southern Methodist University (Cox)
13 Cornell University (Johnson)
14 Dartmouth College (Tuck)
15 Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)
16 University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)
17 University of California – Los Angeles (Anderson)
18 New York University (Stern)
19 Indiana University (Kelley)
20 Michigan State University (Broad)
21 Yale University
22 Emory University (Goizueta)
23 Georgia Institute of Technology
24 University of Notre Dame (Mendoza)
25 University of Texas – Austin (McCombs)
26 University of Southern California (Marshall)
27 Brigham Young University (Marriott)
28 University of Minnesota (Carlson)
29 Rice University (Jones)
30 Texas A&M University (Mays)
Click here for BusinessWeek’s interactive rankings table
Click here for BusinessWeek’s profile on Kellogg
Click here for BusinessWeek’s slide show on the programs
Click here for BusinessWeek’s article about the rankings
Click here for BusinessWeek’s ranking methodology
Looking at your background, it’s clear that you’re a competitive candidate for admissions into a top business school. You have relevant work experience and interesting experiences as a leader. You also have proof that you’re highly-motivated and a hard worker. All good traits. That said, what else can you do to stand out from the other five thousand applicants?
One of the best ways to stand out in the MBA admissions admissions cycle is writing a first-class set of essays. Essays not only give you the chance to elaborate on the things you couldn’t fit into other parts of the application, they also give you the chance to really tell your story – who you are, what obstacles you’ve overcome, the details of your professional experiences, and the things that make you stand out as an eventual leader in the business world.
What’s ironic though, is that in general, most people’s essays could still use some polish. After all, we’ve all been out of school for years and don’t spend nearly as much time writing and editing as we used to. Similarly, writing multiple essays for multiple schools can be difficult, not only because most people are busy and can’t devote as much time to write but also because the process is difficult – telling a full story to the committee, determining which stories fit best for which schools, writing in a style that’s both eloquent but also concise, and finally using your essays to say as much as possible while still making the essay readable and enjoyable. A herculean task by all measures.
Because I’ve been getting a lot of requests to help with essays recently, I thought I’d write a few “guiding” rules I like to think about as I write and review essays myself. I’ll share two of those tips with you here today, because I’ve recently edited a couple of essays where they became relevant.
1. Answer the question: One easy, but often overlooked rule of thumb for writing essays at any school is to answer the question. For some schools the essays are different than others so you have to understand not only what things you want to express to them but also how to actually answer the question. MIT’s questions, for example, are stylistically different than those of other b-schools, as they ask “…explain what you said, thought, felt and did.” When I was apply to MBA programs, an alum of the school once told me that “MIT is thirsty for the details of the story, not your impressions of the story in retrospect … Be explicit about what actually happened.” So always go back and re-read the question. Be sure of what it’s asking. And make sure that you not only answer the question but also that everything in your essay supports you answering the question. Because the worst thing you can do is answer an essay with your own agenda in mind. Admissions folks can see this a mile away, and I suspect that it’s a sure fire way not to gain acceptance into a good number of schools.
2. Headline: When possible try to set the tone of your essays by engaging your audience. Admissions committees have read thousands of personal statements and essays, so it’s important to set the tone for the statement and get the reader’s attention right away. Like any good book or New York Times article, a good opening line, whether an anecdote or a personal story, can be helpful. Just as long as it grabs the committee’s attention, while also reinforcing the topic. But also remember, just because you start the essay off in a casual or funny tone, doesn’t mean you should write the whole thing that way. Use your discretion but also remember that you’re writing an MBA essay so formality should also be a consideration.
This year shaping up to be just as competitive as the last few years, so you definitely want to do your best to land a spot at a great school. So keep these things in mind as you’re writing your essays.
Also, be sure check back here, at jeremycwilson.com, for more essay and interview tips over the next few weeks.
If you Google any prominent leader in business today, you’re guaranteed to find a story that talks about his or her large network. While this may not have always been the case, in today‟s Internet-driven global economy, leaders must figure out how to connect with millions of people around the globe to be successful. One common way people build strong networks is by going to a top business school (like Kellogg) and forming connections with hundreds of people that will be successful. Another way people do that is by working at firms where networks where networks are prioritized, such as Bain or Mckinsey. Well, a third way to do that is by joining one of the world’s up and coming business school organizations, Management Leadership for Tomorrow.
Hi Everyone: The purpose of this post is to let everyone know that the deadline for MLT’s MBA Preparation Program is approaching. The program’s mission is “to prepare minority young professionals for successful application to leading MBA programs” and I mentioned above, the program’s network is one of the strongest in the business world period.
But more than just a network, the program also provides you with valuable coaching around career options, a better understanding of the business school application and recruiting process, a better understanding of the importance of soft skills and finding the right fit for your career, and last but not least, an orientation toward service and giving back to the community.
If you’re interested in joining an up-and-coming organization with arguably the premier MBA network in the world, then be sure to apply by the October 31 deadline. And keep in mind that MLT has a rigorous screening process. The program seeks to admit people that have a track record of success in the past, that demonstrate initiative and that show potential for the future. So be sure to submit a strong application.
I went through MLT in 2009 and I thoroughly enjoyed the process, along with the vast majority of those in my class. I also attended one of the sessions last year, as a guest panel speaker. Click here to read more about that event.
And to learn more about MLT in general, see a few of the links I’ve shared with you below.
- MLT Homepage: Click Here
- MLT On CNN’s Black In America: Click Here
- MLT Leadership Team: Click Here
- CNN Article on MLT in 2007: Click Here
- CNN Article on MLT in 2009: Click Here
Are you convinced about MLT yet?
If so, click here to begin your application. Good luck!
Have you ever gotten nervous before an important interview because you didn’t know how you’d respond to a curveball question you thought the interviewer might ask? I have. Well, even if you weren’t nervous beforehand, have you ever been asked a curveball question during an interview and stumbled as you tried to come up with a response? We’ve all been in that situation too. In most cases, it not only pays to think about as many of those questions as possible before an interview but also to figure out strategies to discuss your strengths and weaknesses before the interview ever begins.
That’s because getting nervous in interviews and sometimes stumbling over difficult questions is perfectly normal. And it’s also something that happens to the best of us. After all, you’ve been putting in hours of hard work applying to business school, and getting an interview question that throws you off your game and interferes with your chances of winning admission to the school of your dreams is risky.
In interviews, I like to take the approach of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, where the Master Sun says that “every battle is won before it is ever fought. In a recent question, a reader of my site is doing just that, and he/she sent me an email about the possibility of a question during his/her Kellogg interview. Specifically, the reader asked about his/her chances of being questioned on their GMAT and LSAT scores during the interview.
See below for the original email, and below that for my response. As always, I’ll state up front that I’m not currently a member of the admissions committee, so despite my experience with interviews and applications, my response holds no formal authority.
I hope this e-mail finds you well and that your year at Kellogg is off to a great start.
I have a quick question for you regarding the NU/Kellogg admissions process. (XYZ) is applying to the Northwestern JD/MBA program and is wondering whether he/she will be asked about his/her LSAT score during the interview. For context, his/her LSAT score is (x) and his GMAT score and GPA are (x). In your experience, does the LSAT (or GMAT) score come up during the admissions interview?
Thanks in advance for any insight you might be able to provide.
Nice to hear form you and what a great question! But before I answer, I’ll state up front that I’m not a member of the admissions committee, so my response holds no formal authority. But otherwise, I’ll give you a few facts and then also provide you with a basic framework on how to think about this question (in three ways) in the context of your interview. Also, I’ll plan to keep my email short/quick in the essence of time, but feel free to respond directly if you want or need more information.
1. Conceptually, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you applied to the JD-MBA program, not only to Kellogg or only to the Law School. As such, the possibility of being asked questions about either school are not out of the realm of possibility. That means questions related to Kellogg admissions, such as GMAT score, leadership experience, and management experiences are all “fair game”, so (XYZ) should be ready to discuss those to the extent they’re relevant to his/her background. Similarly, questions related to law school admissions, such as grade history, LSAT score, and writing and reasoning ability are also “fair game” so he/she may want to prepare answers for those questions as well.
2. From a program perspective, the JD-MBA program is run through Kellogg, not through the law school. As a result, the admissions process is also run through Kellogg, and the application and interview processes for JD-MBAs resembles that of Kellogg. So every year, JD-MBAs apply in the Kellogg MBA application system, which means they interview with admissions committee members or with Kellogg alumni in hopes to gain acceptance. While those Kellogg alum could be JD-MBAs, it’s not a prerequisite.
For JD-MBA applicants, this tends to mean two things. First, it means that some interviewers may be less very familiar with the JD-MBA program, so applicants have to navigate that part of the interview accordingly. Sometimes that could imply really explaining the program to the interviewees in more depth and at other times, it could mean spending less time doing that, depending on the context. But second, it also means that because (name) is applying to business school (i.e. Kellogg) getting questioned more like an MBA student still might not preclude law school questions, where the interviewer may want to know the “why did he/she apply to the JD-MBA program” question, rather than to Kellogg alone. And in that scenario, any subset of law school questions could arise.
3. Broadly speaking, I’d suggest thinking about this like any other interview. First, think about what’s important in an MBA interview (versus an application itself), including, but not limited to, experiential questions, academic questions, and leadership questions. Next, consider the odds of receiving any given question, related to business and law, in a 45 minute interview where time and information are limited and where the interviewer wants to surface only the most important information. Next, given those odds, think about the tradeoffs of preparing for any given question, which not only includes the LSAT and the GMAT, but also community service, leadership, and work experiences. And finally, think about that in context of the bigger picture, and think about what is most important to get across in the interview – holes in the application, glaring strengths, information not on the application and fit – and be sure to prepare to discuss those as well.
In my own experience, I didn’t get the LSAT question, and odds are that (name) won’t get the question either. On the other hand, like anything else, there are never any guarantees, and if the interviewer is a JD-MBA (knows program), admissions committee member (knows Kellogg well), or an MBA who knows about the program, they could always decide to probe on anything. Similarly, given it’s a Kellogg interview, the “why” questions could become important and so any array of law school questions should probably be considered fair game, so it might make sense to think about a response just in case.
Personally, I was ready for just about every question the interviewer could have possibly asked. And that was the case not only for my Kellogg interview but for all my interviews at every school, because I wanted to be sure that I could discuss any point eloquently and thoughtfully. But in my case, that makes sense. After all, I am currently in law school which trains students to become lawyers.
I hope this helps.
Writing essays for business school is a daunting task. Applicants usually find it difficult to decide what story they want to tell the committee and as a result they have a tough time bringing all the details of their essays together. That’s because some applicants are unhappy in their current jobs. These people invest a lot of time discussing the job they want after business school, but neglect talking about what they want to do in the long term. Another group of applicants is more idealistic. They are strongly compelled by their long term goals, but in the meantime don’t articulate actionable steps to achieve them. In my experience speaking with hundreds of applicants, many of them tend to fall into one of these categories. That was confirmed in a couple of recent phone conversations I had last week with applicants who will be applying to business school this fall.
Just last week I spoke with two business school applicants. One was like the first person I mentioned above. He didn’t like his current job and was focused on working in a very specific role after school. The other was just the opposite, focused on what he wanted to do ten years from now and willing to do anything he could to get there, no matter what industry or function.
In a sense, I could relate to both of them. On one hand, I’ve been in jobs I didn’t like and felt like I had to maintain a laser focus on making my next move, so at the time I didn’t spend as much time thinking about my long term my career path. On the other hand, I’ve also come to find the value in keeping the bigger picture in mind, especially when more opportunities become available. Today, I tend to spend most of time thinking about things from that perspective.
But specifically in terms of business school application, both the short and long term are important. Without a long term plan, you’ll miss trends, be more likely to follow the crowd, won’t adapt to changing economic circumstances like today’s economy, and may not head down the path that makes the most sense for you. On the other hand, without short-term goals, you may never even make it to the long term, because competition for post-MBA jobs is still and applications for business school are higher than ever. So being focused will give you an advantage.
Ultimately, both of my conversations ended on this idea of short-term goals. That’s because admissions committees, at times, tend to be more interested in seeing those stated clearly in applications. And that’s especially true today, where the job market is contracted, and the committee will want to ensure that students can get jobs immediately after school in the slumping economy. On the other hand, admissions committees are at times also more likely to give deference to an applicant’s long-term goals. That’s both because many young professionals can’t articulate what they’ll be doing tens years from now, and also because even when they can most still end up changing their minds anyhow.
During my discussions, I talked about a couple of things with the applicants, and specifically discussed how to address these short term career options in their essays. The list below isn’t exhaustive but it’s a short recap of what I recall discussing about in both of my calls. I hope the information is helpful.
1. Play to your strengths. Applicants should leverage things they have experience in and the things they do best, and then they should discuss how they will continue doing those things going forward. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a generalist at heart, and I always think it makes sense to try new things and get as broad experience as possible. On the other hand, focusing on your strengths will show you have a unique skill set to bring to the table and will differentiate you as a candidate. Keep in mind, part of playing to your strengths means being explicit with details and discussing how those strengths will allow you to add specific value. One, this will prove that your experience was one of substance, and second, organizations always want to add someone who will add value to their community.
2. Do (and discuss) things to reinforce your image. Applicants should also take part in activities that reinforce their image and make them a better fit for their short-term goals. This means taking part in activities that enhance their story and help you develop the image they want to convey. For example, if you want to be a project manager, then volunteering on community based projects would be useful. Similarly, if you want to enter the media space or be seen as a technology person, starting a website or helping an organization start one will demonstrate interest and experience. There’s not much science behind it, but people should consider getting involved in activities that are correlated to their short-term goals as a way to not only show interest but also to build skills. And during the interview, be sure to discuss it.
3. Understand the context of your surroundings. You should do the best you can to surround yourself with people that have common interests and similar values. These might be people you want to work with, or people who want to work you. If you can find people at your career stage and have similar career goals you can leverage each other’s resources and work together. For example, if you want to enter the consulting industry, working together to research firms and practice cases is key. Similarly, if you can find people that are older than you, then maybe they’ll eventually serve as a mentor, and if you can find younger people, then you can do the same. In the end, the more information you can obtain and the more people you can work with, the better off you will be and as a result the better off your applications and interviews will be.
4. Create an angle. In every circumstance, you want your resume/ application reviewer to walk away with a very clear picture of who you are. So do your best to convey not only why you’re a good fit for an organization but also the things that make you unique and suggest that you would have real impact right away (i.e in the short-term). And this idea of impact is especially true for people who are really good fits, because good fits tend to be the most common types of applicants to jobs and business schools – good fits in terms of grades, prescribed career path, and academic history. But often times, there’s only a baseline of intelligence needed to do well in a professional environments, depending on the nature of the job or the industry that you’re in, so those who stand out, often do so because they have unique experiences and bring different perspective to the table. But even if you can’t point to that any measurable impact, creating an angle will still usually tend to make you more memorable.
5. Give details. And last but not least, it’s important to provide details. That’s because details evince that you’ve done your research, prove that you have not only the relevant experiences to contribute, but also the substantive understanding of the job role at hand. So be sure to give details of your experiences, not your impressions, and when possible take that further by discussing insights that your experience has given you and how those insights will also be helpful. In the end, being explicit about how details played out in the past and how you will specifically contribute in the future will help you stand out from the crowd.
Taking the time to write a detailed recommendation is easier said than done. Writing a good one will take at least a couple of hours, though it’s more likely that it will take longer if the writer invests time to make it good. The person has to get to know you and your resume in more detail, think about your accomplishments both professionally and personally, reflect on your career trajectory as an employee and eventually as an employee with an MBA, and then put all of that together to come up with something insightful and hopefully compelling. Like I said, easier said than done. So if that’s true, how should you approach someone who you really want to write it for you, especially if they do not have much time?
It’s finally that time again. Summer is in full swing; we’re already in the last week of July; and people are finally starting to get serious about business school applications, especially those who intend to submit round one applications in October. I remember this time for me two years ago – I had just began studying for the GMAT, had drafts for a few of my essays, and was thinking about how I could help my recommenders write good letters without taking too much of their time. It felt like a lot of things were going on at the same time.
Well, it sounds like many MBA applicants are feeling the same thing now. And I recently received a question from one of my readers about this very topic – how to get an MBA recommendation in the midst of everything else going on too. The reader’s question was short and simple, asking for ways to approach a busy recommender. I’ll note that there’s a lot of information about the topic online already. So instead of writing a laundry list of items you could get online anyway, I thought I’d provide a few specific tips that you may not have thought about. Hopefully it is helpful.
See below for the question, and below that for my response.
I was wondering if you could provide a bit of information on MBA recommendations. Specifically what is the best way to approach my writer to ensure I get the best recommendation possible. My recommender is busy, but I really want to be sure that he writes it for me if possible. But I’m finding that process hard to manage giving everything else I’m worry about as well.
Thank you in advance.
MY RESPONSE TO AN EMAIL
Thanks for reading my site and for sending your question. Your question comes at a good time, as I’ve recently received a couple of emails on this topic and because now is a great time to start thinking about your recommendation strategy.
Conventional wisdom suggests that your letters of recommendation are one of the least important parts of your applications, taking a back seat to essays, resume, GMAT, the data form, and the interview. While it’s true that the other parts are important, in my view, the recommendation is still an important piece, not only of the application but also your story as an applicant.. It provides a different and unbiased perspective on the application. It can provide color on things you didn’t have time to expand on due to limited space. It can confirm or negate assumptions that the admissions committee may be making about your application. And it can tell if someone really thinks highly of you, by how much time and thought they put into your letter.
But asking someone to take the time and energy to do that is no easy task. In fact, for most people, asking often feels like an inconvenience if you’re asking for multiple schools, and even worse if you’re applying to schools that require a lot of work.
As such, here are a few ways that for some people tend to ease the process, which hopefully will ensure that your boss is more likely write your recommendation and also write a good one.
1. Ask someone who knows you well. This is the tip you hear from every source out there, but it’s still definitely true. These people tend to be more willing to take the time to write thorough, detailed letters. And they also know more about you so will help round out your application. This is especially for important for dual degree programs, such as a JD-MBA, where the committee may be looking for more nuanced responses that address multiple skill sets. People who know you well are better equipped to provide this perspective.
2. Ask in person. It usually makes sense to ask someone in person if you can. That way you can tell them a compelling story about why you’re deciding to apply, you can get a response right away rather than wait, and you can gage their reaction and level of organization, which might help you understand how much you’ll have to steer them along. Further, you’ll have the chance to communicate how important it is to you, which will ensure they understand the importance of the letter.
3. Highlight why you picked them. When you ask a person to write a letter, it makes sense to tell them why you are asking them specifically. It will likely make them feel flattered, and more importantly, it will also give them information on what you had in mind when you wanted them to write. That should give them some initial direction and provide some food for thought before they actually begin writing your letter.
4. Provide an outline. You should make it easy on your writer by providing an outline. Doing this will ensure they don’t have to spend too much time thinking about the basics and that they don’t have to go through old files and performance reviews to get caught up. On the other hand, be sure you don’t make the outline too long, or unorganized, since most writers will want to go through multiple pages to get started.
5. Do small things to make it easier for them. In addition to giving your writer an outline, you should also consider writing some background info on the specific school, provide them with all the links and passwords, alert them periodically to the upcoming deadlines, and maybe offer to walk them through the question beforehand. You should also put everything in one document and one email. Helped them get organized and by doing all the small things for them.
6. Give the writer a chance to say no. It’s always good to give your potential recommender a chance to easily say “no.” Not only are you not likely to get a good letter from someone who doesn’t want to write it anyways but also sometimes things do come up. But in most cases, if you ask someone who knows you well, they probably won’t decline, so you shouldn’t have much to worry about. But it is always smart to consider having a few other possible recommenders in mind just in case you need to find a substitute later on.
For responses to more recent questions, see the #AskJeremy segment
The business and legal industries are radically changing. Today it’s impossible to escape complex legal issues as a CEO in business. Similarly, if you’re a leading corporate lawyer, you consistently run into firm and client business issues, especially in today’s environment. How can an employee who’s been in the industry for years keep up? And even if they can, would they be better off being trained in both business and law? While some students know early that they want both degrees, others decide to make a career change later in their careers. And then there’s a third group that comes to the conclusion during their first year of law school.
I recently received an email about someone in that very position. They are interested in attending Northwestern Law and asked about transferring from Northwestern Law into the JD-MBA program. If you’ve done a few Google searches, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not a topic that has a whole lot of public information, and in my view one where the answer is highly dependent on the specific person.
Nonetheless, I’ll provide a few of my thoughts here, and also present you with how I might think about the decision if I were in your shoes. But I’ll also preface that given the lack of information, I won’t make many assertions and unfortunately can’t provide many data-driven answers.
See below for the question and below that for my response.
Thanks for the blog. I was wondering how feasible it is to transfer from the NU JD program into the JD/MBA program. I spoke to admissions, but they did not seem to provide a very clear answer. Do you know if JD transfers to the JD/MBA program are common?
Thanks so much for visiting my site and for sending your question. I’ll preface my response by saying that, as I alluded to in my intro paragraph, this is definitely a tricky topic, which is likely why the response from admissions may have “seemed” a bit unclear to you. Not only is it a topic without much concrete information to begin with, but it’s also one that’s turns out to be more convoluted than you might think.
As you’ve probably already noticed here on Northwestern’s website, the JD-MBA program, unlike Northwestern Law School, does not accept transfers from other schools. I suspect there are a number of reasons for that, one being that the JD-MBA program is considered a real joint “program,” not two disjointed graduate school programs. As such, it has a handpicked class that gets to know each other well during the first year, the students are afforded the opportunity to strategically take certain electives in the fall that you would likely not take at another school, and we go through the same recruiting process together for our shortened and more intense first summer.
On the other hand, as you deduced, there is no “formal” policy against transferring from the law school to the JD-MBA program. So why the unclear answer from admissions? Probably because the process is unclear, and also because transfers are not typical in the program. One reason may be because transfers are not typical to MBA programs generally, which is the program you’d be in at the start of your second year upon transferring. And if you’ve taken the time to look at our site, the JD-MBA application process at Northwestern is managed out of Kellogg.
Another reason, which is much less concrete, is that admissions has always been somewhat of a “black box” anyways. And that’s not just at Northwestern, but it’s the case at most top schools, especially business schools. That’s because admissions has to balance determining the composition of a class, aligning competitive test scores and GPAs, looking at things like diversity of background and country of origin, read your personal story and assess fit to the program, and in the end make sure all of that fits together every year. And for Northwestern, this is true not only of Kellogg but the JD-MBA admits must fit the same way at the law school and in the JD-MBA “program” specifically. A herculean task by all measures, and one that can’t be described in a simple email or phone chat.
And one last reason that it’s difficult to measure success (i.e. “feasibility”), because there’s not much good data out there. For one, it’s hard to say how many people actually apply to transfer every year. People certainly do, but I suspect a number of applicants don’t disclose to students that they apply, both (i) because of the complicated nature of the process and (ii) because of the competitive nature of getting admitted to Kellogg. So it’s impossible to tell you how many people apply every year, and I also can’t estimate any number that might come to Northwestern Law with the hope to come to the JD-MBA program. My hunch is that the latter number is not that big.
But perhaps more importantly than the pure numbers, is the probability that many transfer candidates don’t submit their best applications. That’s because to apply to business school as a 1L is a hard task. Taking the GMAT, writing your essays, interviewing, and worrying about your application are hard enough on their own, let alone balancing that with being a 1L, which has long been considered the hardest year in any graduate school.
Similarly, the application process to business school tends to be more difficult because the application is so different. Law school admissions have long stressed grades, writing ability, and the LSAT. On the other hand, business schools tend to emphasize things like quantitative skills, leadership qualities, and management experiences. So they look for different things in the application, and as a result, it’s likely many law students don’t submit the right information in their applications.
Further, there’s also the challenge that most candidates have that the biggest qualification for top business schools is strong work experience, and at a school like Kellogg it’s usually either prestigious or very interesting experience. And that’s in addition to managing teams, leading high impact projects and having strong sense of where you want to take your career, something many law student don’t bring to the application process because their focus was different and are often a tad younger.
As a result of everything I just described above, I’ll reiterate that law students likely don’t always submit the best applications, so this should not necessarily discourage you from applying if you do come to Northwestern Law. Instead, remember that people have applied to transfer from Northwestern Law and have gotten in before. And so a low acceptance rate may not be as relevant to someone who really does fit the MBA profile and has significant experience. If you have the experience, credentials, and a good application, but for some reason never knew about the program, then in year’s where there’s space, they will probably consider your application.
In sum, transferring into any program that has all these requirements would seem to be a convoluted process, and a nearly impossible process to quickly explain to a “potential” applicant to the program. Ultimately, you’ll have to really asses your desire to obtain both a law degree and business degree, and balance that with the risk of not getting into Kellogg and only obtaining a law degree only. On the other hand, if you decide the risk is not worth it and wait to apply to the JD-MBA program, that ‘s also risky, because the JD-MBA class is small and getting the program is competitive. And in the end, it’s just a balancing test of sorts, and a decision that only you can make.
So take your time to think about it. Collect as much information as you can. Talk to students in all of the respective programs. And try to speak with admissions, who will know more than any other source. And after that, all you can do is use that information to formulate a plan. And that plan should be one that makes the most sense for you in terms of fit and interests.
And in the end, no matter what you decide (MBA, JD/MBA, or JD application), your success will likely hinge on your ability to not only prove you have what it takes to get in (intelligence, scores, experience, etc.) but also on writing the right type of application for each school and in the process evincing why you would be a good addition to the class.
I hope this helps. Best of luck whatever you decide!
Hey everyone, I hope you had a great 4th of July weekend. This will be a pretty quick post, but I wanted to write to tell you about a recent MBA graduate I know named Kaneisha Grayson. Kaneisha is a recent graduate from the dual MBA/MPP program at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School, and she just launched a new MBA admissions coaching site called The Art of Applying. To jumpstart her new venture, Kaneisha is hosting a free webinar for up-and-coming MBA applicants, where she’ll not only provide tips for applying but also share her story with the audience. So I wanted to pass along a bit of information about the webinar.
I personally hope to join the call this Thursday and will probably do so from my office here in Chicago. Blogger extraordinaire Marquis Parker also plans to attend the call. Click here to check out his post about Kaneisha.
I hope that some of you will join as well. It sounds like it will be a great opportunity for those of you applying to b-school this fall or who plan to apply down the line. Here is a bit of info about the call and about Kaneisha.
Title: “B-School Despite the Odds”
Date: Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 5:15 PT
URL for Webinar: http://theartofapplying.com/2010/07/b-school-odds-webinar/
Event Registration: Click Here To Register
“Hello from Los Angeles! I’m Kaneisha Grayson, a 2010 graduate from Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. I recently received a grant from Harvard to found a coaching business. I specialize in working with what I call “interesting people,” applicants who have ambitious goals for where they want to attend school but whose grades, test scores, and/or work experience do not accurately reflect their best abilities. I help people tell their story so that schools can look past the numbers and see how phenomenal of a person and student the applicant will be. I’m a writer, storyteller, and coach rather than just an “admissions consultant”. My priority is to be as helpful and relevant as I can be in aiding people in achieving their educational and professional goals.”
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be accepted into a top MBA program? Or what about just seeing what one of these programs has to offer? Maybe meet a few professors, drop by for a class or two, and chat with a few current students. Well if you have dreamed about doing any of this, now is your chance. And no matter which category you fit in, on Friday May 14 you can come to Kellogg and get a “Sneak Peek” at the Kellogg experience.
In my view, events like these are almost always worthwhile. Not only did I attend a number of admit weekends last year, but I also made a good number of visits before applying and went to as many formal events and receptions as possible. I sat in on dozens of classes. I met hundreds of applicants and current students. And I spoke extensively with admissions team members, faculty, and community members. In the end, I think these events can help you validate final school decisions, and they also provide a natural and easy venue to really meet a lot of other applicants and future applicants. Like I’ve said many times before, the MBA world can be very small sometimes.
My good friend [and fellow Kellogg blogger] Orlando, shares some of the same sentiments, and last week he also share a blog post about the event. I haven’t spoken to him today yet, but I suspect he’ll be there. Also if you do decide to come, please keep an eye out for me and be sure to say hello if you see me.
For reference, here is the official Kellogg blurb about the event. And below that is a link where you can register.
“The admissions office of the Kellogg School of Management in partnership with the Africa Business Club (ABC), Black Management Association (BMA) and Hispanic Business Students Association (HBSA) are excited to host minority prospective students for a special campus visit event. We know that you will be very busy over the coming months with various campus visits, prospective student events, GMAT and business school applications so we’d like to give you an early opportunity to learn about Kellogg. At this event, you will have an opportunity to visit campus, meet Kellogg students and professors, sit in on a class, tour the Jacobs Center and learn about the application process.”
In terms of logistics, the time of the event is from 9am to 7pm and will be held on May 14th, 2010. See the links below for specific information. We look forward to seeing you there.
Only months after seeing the worst of the financial crisis and watching professionals flock back to business and law school, it seems as though people are paying more attention to school rankings than ever before. Even though many still maintain that fit is the most important factor when applying to grad school, it’s undeniable that applicants are shining a bigger spotlight on rankings than usual. While dozens of websites and magazines come out with their version the annual rankings, U.S. News has long been considered the gold standard. And just last week, we finally learned which schools struck gold in 2011.
Last Friday, the U.S. News released its 2011 B-School and Law School rankings. It’s no surprise that as usual, there was very little change at the top of both lists, a fact which was also confirmed by the leaked rankings days before. In the end, my opinion is that these new rankings don’t really change much, because I personally think that there are a lot more things to consider when choosing a school than the school’s ranking. However, most people do factor ranking into their analysis, so it is interesting to see how things shake up from year to year. As such, below I’ve listed the top 15 ranked MBA programs for 2011. You can also click here to see the full list on US News website and click here to see how U.S. News came up with its rankings (i.e. methodology).
1. Harvard Business School
1. Stanford Graduate School of Business
3. MIT Sloan
4. Kellogg / Northwestern
5. Chicago / Booth
5. Wharton / Penn
7. Tuck / Dartmouth
7. Haas / Berkeley
9. Columbia Business School
9. NYU / Stern
11. Yale SOM
12. Ross / Michigan
13. Darden / UVA
14. Fuqua / Duke
15. Anderson / UCLA
Have you ever been at an event and seen someone you really wanted to chat with for some reason or another but didn’t. Perhaps someone you recognized from high school or college; or someone you knew had the insight you needed for work or class; or maybe just someone you thought was interesting, but you never quite found the moment or the courage to go introduce yourself. Well, the good news is that it’s completely normal and that it’s probably happened to all of us. But here’s an interesting question. What if after leaving you found out that the other person was hoping to get the chance to chat with you too?
My question arises having just attended Kellogg’s admit reception last week. It was a two-hour event, organized by Kellogg admissions and hosted by the Chicago offices of Deloitte Consulting here in Chicago. Overall, it was certainly an interesting mix and a good number of people, some who I recognized from previous events and many others who I met for the first time. I always enjoy going to these types of events, as they’re usually a good way to meet new people, which is something I personally enjoy.
The event started at 6:30pm and took place on a Thursday. I walked in with one of my JD-MBA classmates. We were a few minutes late, so I was pretty excited to finally make it to the event. As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I scanned the room to see who was around. Gazing from left to right, I saw a sign-in table to my left, the table of appetizers directly in front of me, and to my right, that’s where the lions share of people were standing, over by the bar. “Can I get you a drink?” was the first thing I heard upon entering the doorway to the room. I figured it was probably going to be an interesting night.
The first thing I did was head over to the sign in table. I figured that would not only allow me to grab my name tag and sign in but also to chat for a few minutes with the admissions team. I’ve gotten to know a few of them over the past year or so at these types of events, since I originally applied last year as a JD-MBA, so I enjoy chatting with them when I can. I also figured that I might some good information about which of the JD-MBAs would be showing up that night, since I had heard from a lot of them earlier in the day.
So I quickly chatted with one or two members of the admissions team and talked about the upcoming admit weekend in late April. I took a look at the list to see which JD-MBAs would likely not be coming out and I concurrently scanned the room to see who was around. And after leaving the check-in table quickly found my way to a few good conversations. The first who actually turned out to be a 2009 alum who worked in marketing in Chicago. I actually saw her in the elevator right up in front of me on the way up to the event, so knew I’d eventually catch up with her. I also ran into an MLT Fellow and a friend who I met in New York City a few weeks back. I enjoyed engaging in conversations and seeing where people where from and what other schools they were considering. Although for some people doing this may be a bit less natural, having food, being admitted to the same school, and having a bar usually helps to mitigate that.
At some point, I finally made my way over to the bar for a glass of wine, but I spent more of my time and energy chatting with people nearby. I did this for about 30 or 45 minutes before we had to head into the adjacent room where Kellogg had set up a 5-person panel of alumni to talk about their experiences. Most people grabbed a drink from the bar on the way into the room and took a seat to see the panel session. Taking my glass of wine with me into the other room as well, I decided to sit at a table where I didn’t know anyone at the time.
The panel was facilitated by Director of Admissions, Beth Flye and led by a panel member who was a partner at Deloitte, and an older Kellogg alum. It was pretty typical panel, though instead of fielding many questions, Kellogg threw them a few underhand softball questions for most of the time. And by the time, they opened it up for Q&A, I think most people were ready to mingle again.
One thing that interested me just before the event ended was that I ran into my friend that I’d met in New York City a second time that night. And he was looking for finance information about Kellogg, specifically alum in the private equity industry. I was surprised he hadn’t bumped into anyone that night, because I found a number of them in the room, including the person I spoke to five minutes before form Madison Dearborn. Although people like to call Kellogg a marketing school, Kellogg usually has more finance majors than marketing, so it tends to attract a lot of people just like this. So I shared the information I found with him, as did a Kellogg professor who was at the event.
And that tends to be my usual mentality at these types of events. Find a way to help someone. Give information, show concern, and connect them with someone else. Because in the end, everyone wins. Someone finds the information they need, and more generally, more connections you established, which pave the way for making new ones and learning new information. It’s also a lot more fun.
In my view, every meeting or conference can be a game changer. You can change the game for someone else, or someone else can change the game for you. In today’s age, where there’s increased pressure to work longer hours in a bad economy and where internet is king, it can be easy to sit back, send emails, and rely on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to make connections. Don’t get me wrong, those can be very useful tools that connect you globally, all across the world. But at the same the Internet connections can’t replace real connections. And while for some people doing that is harder than it is for others, that’s still no reason to stay home. Try doing a bit of research before the event, and think about other ways to help you connect. And when all else fails, ask someone if you can get them a drink. At events like this, most people won’t turn you down.
In my view, nothing is more important for any organization than making the right people decisions. That’s not only true for business, banks, and law firms, but also for graduate schools, including law schools. Most schools go about this differently because different schools value different pieces of the application and so they look for different things from applicants. Ideally, most schools hope that all admits would eventually choose to attend, but realistically they know only some of them will. And that’s why schools have admitted student weekends.
Shortly after I was admitted to Northwestern Law, I came out to Chicago for Day at Northwestern Law (DANL), which is the law school’s version of “Admit Weekend.” When I originally was accepted to various business school and law school programs, I decided it would be beneficial to visit all the campus before actually making my final decision on attending business school. The rewards from visiting schools were numerous. I saw people who might be in my class the next year, met a large number of people, learned more about the individual programs, and ultimately found comfort in my final decision.
In the end, I’m quite happy with my choice to come here to the Northwestern JD-MBA program. It’s been an interesting and challenging experience so far at the law school and it sounds like my time at Kellogg will be just as fun. But I have found the two environments to be quite different. And that difference is also evident in the admissions process.
As it turns out, in law school, the yield rates (i.e. number [those who accept offers] / [total number of offers]) are much lower than business school rate. So there are more people at those weekends that may not be in your class. This has more to do with the application process than anything else. In law school, applicant tend to apply to far more schools. That’s because the applications are more standard, need less personalized information, are often shorter, and even cost less money. So applicants can crank out more applications and usually end up with more choices as a result, which means more schools get “NOs” from students.
As such, it seems as though for some law students, the admit weekends may be pretty important. While some students pick law schools entirely based on ranking, many get comfortable with a certain range of rankings, and after that look more at program, fit, and culture, some of which weigh that more highly than ranking. For the latter group, and hopefully to convince some in the former group, schools have events like DANL.
DANL 2010 just kicked off on Friday. They had a pretty interesting day of events, met alumni, met other admits, and had a few sessions during the day. As part of that, a few students came to my Con Law and Property classes. They also took part in a dinner at a local restaurant “Zoo Life” and came to the annual year end show, put on by a group of law students.
Today, they have a jam-packed schedule since it’s the weekend, where more students can help. Schools usually jam as much into the schedule as possible, and it begins bright and early before 9am. Though it will be interesting to see how many admits make the 9am deadline considering I saw a number of them out pretty late the first night.
These sorts of events are a good way for Northwestern, and all schools, to do some recruiting and increase yield. Given the volume of admits and events though, it’s indeed a group process to make that happen. Conventional human capital theory says that recruitment is most effective as a team sport. As soon as you have one teammate, then the workload splits 50-50. With two teammates, it’s 33-33-33. Then 25-25-25-25. And so on. This is especially important when in admissions recruitment and at events like DANL, where you want to hit a critical mass, reach out to more and more people, give everyone a chances to ask questions and uncover information, and have someone there with experiences in everything NU Law.
I’m personally here helping out this weekend too. I’m doing what I can to help speak to the JD-MBA admits and other admits who want to discuss careers issues. In fact, I’m helping at a careers table today during the fair in just a bit. I personally had a lot of fun at my admit weekends (mostly MBA schools), and I even had a blast going back to DAK (Kellogg admit weekend) this year as a law student. So I guess this is my way of giving back.
Peer support is pretty big at Northwestern, so giving back is pretty easy. And when you have one person who wants to get involved, that mentality often cascades throughout the school, or at least through the club, and in the end you may end up with a lot of people who want to pitch in and help. And at that point, you go from 25-25-25-25, to 1-1-1 … which is ideal. It’s the whole idea that a team working together can accomplish a lot more than the sum of its individual capabilities.
In this case, we can share more information, and help people make more informed choices about coming to Northwestern Law next year. After all, the more committed students we have here the better off we are. We can improve our events, curriculum, and networks, and we can bring the students and alumni more opportunities. In the end, those things are better for everyone.
But as for DANL. We’ve only made it one day so far, so still have a bit more work to do to pull that off. In fact, I have to leave now to help at the activities fair. I’m part of the Careers Committee here and given the economic environment, I suspect we’ll have a good number of admits with questions about recruiting. After that, I plan to sit on a JD-MBA panel. I’ll fill you in on how everything turns out.
What if I told you that your stellar professional record, strong academic training, or even esteemed Ivy League school had nothing to do with whether you ended up landing a job? Or conversely, that your glaring lack of experience and the inconsistency on your resume wouldn’t disqualify you? That it all came down to one shot. And the ball was in your court? Well, in this case, that one shot happens to be at law school and it happens to be tomorrow.
I recently received a question from one of my readers. He was notified about his upcoming interview at Northwestern Law School. He was originally placed on the waitlist, but just found out that he now has an interview this week. In fact, it’s tomorrow! I didn’t get much information on his profile, but given he was waitlisted here, I suspect he’s probably pretty qualified. As I may have suggested above, this doesn’t actually mean that his profile is no longer relevant. Instead it was more of an analogy, that the interview is critical and may be the deciding factor in the decision. So now, it will be up to him to close the deal. Take a look below for his question, and for my response. I tried to keep my response brief, so I could send the sooner rather than later.
HIS ORIGINAL MESSAGE
I have an interview for the JD program on (day), (month) (day). I am currently on the waitlist and am looking forward to it. Do you have any suggestions on how I can approach it. Or on how I can maximize my visit?
Thanks so much for the note and for reading my blog. I’m glad that you find the information helpful. As I mentioned, I’m going to keep this response brief given the unfortunate late timing of our discussion. Also, given that I don’t know much about you or your profile, most of this advice will be general, though I’ll try to tailor some of it to Northwestern and to a waitlisted application. I’ll also note that I’m not on the admissions team at NU Law nor did I interview there to get in. As a JD-MBA candidate, I applied and interviewed through Kellogg. And although the law school looked over my application and ultimately had a say in the decision, I did not sit with them for an interview.
OK, so generally, it’s rare that anyone is 100% prepared for an interview, mostly because that’s impossible. So the good news is that there’s usually no need to stress memorizing every detail or stay up all night over-preparing, as it often doesn’t do much good if you invest too much time in areas that never come up. That approach also tends to make interviews sound a bit too formulaic. The bad news is more obvious; that you probably won’t have time to know all the answers, or even most of them, and at points you may not feel prepared. But in my experience that’s OK, because it’s more importantly that you think critically about the issues and provide a thoughtful and authentic response, in place of memorized responses, especially given the short time period left.
To that end, I thought I’d write a couple of things that I like to think about when prepping for an interview. From a 30,000 foot-view, I typically tend to look at four things: research, your application, interview flow, and questions.
1. Research. Research. Research. My opinion is that in any interview, you have to know the organization you’re interviewing for stone cold. You’ll want to know the ins and outs, and not only about the organization but also its industry, top competitors, thought leaders, and future prospects. And you should also be prepared to demonstrate that knowledge by talking about it analytically, not just factually. In your case, that’s Northwestern Law. So you might consider researching programs, people, events, clinics, culture, and recent program changes, and try to uncover all the things that make Northwestern Law stand out, and how that compares to other schools. Find out the nuances that make it unique, both from the perspective of the school (i.e. age, experience, etc) and also why those nuances are important to you specifically.
2. Know Your Application In light of the last sentence, you should also be crystal clear on how all of that comes back to you and your application. Because in the end, Northwestern wants people who want to be there. So it’s often beneficial to remember what your essays said, and be prepared to discuss both the big picture a well as the details. Doing so, it’s often helpful to think about why you said that in your application, and where those decisions stemmed from. Conversely, some interviewers like to see that an applicant has also formulated concrete goals going forward, and demonstrated that they’ve thought about a time frame to achieve them. Sound like a lot of information? That’s because it is. And as such, I often think it’s a good idea to stay on the high-impact issues, unless the interviewer walks you down a different path. High impact issues can often be critical in shorter interviews because time is limited, the stakes are high, and in many cases those issues add deep value to your candidacy. And that’s why it’s important to know your application, both weakness and strengths, so you can invest time appropriately.
3. Interview Flow. On the other hand, I wouldn’t suggest being too robotic in that approach. After all, it’s possible that you and the interview may view “critical” quite differently. But more importantly, in my personal experience, sometimes there’s also a lot of merit in the ebb and flow of a good conversation. And I suspect that in some cases, good conversation will feel more natural, may help you initiate a stronger connection, and ultimately may lead to other important issues. So in the end, you’ll have to feel your way through carefully and think a lot about the “interview flow.” For the most part, it should be natural, but you also may want to pay attention to the details. For example, you have to be sure to listen closely to details, and clarify questions if needed. You should also feel free to take the lead if an important issue arises. Reading the interviewer, you may want to expand on an important point in the discussion, or introduce a new issue that might need addressed. Further, it’s possible the interviewer may want to discuss a singular issue, and talk about substantive issues for 5, 10, or even 20 minutes. Northwestern Law likes older candidates for this very reason. Because older more mature candidates should be able to adapt, and because they suspect an older candidate has more experience to draw from and can talk longer about difficult topics. So it’s up to you to do this, and the flow of the conversation can play a big part.
4. Questions. Last but not least, don’t forget about the questions! This should be an obvious point, but candidates in all types of interviews surprising tend to struggle. And in my opinion, this part is critical. It not only shows that you’re prepared, interested, and that you’re listening but it also shows the level of research you’ve done beforehand and illustrates a bit about your decision-making skills, which are inherent in the actual questions you ask. And my personal opinion is that an interviewer will form opinions based on your questions. Generally, the cardinal rule for school interviews is that you should ask too many questions you can find on the website or that you could have asked a student on way to the admissions office. Which leads me to my final though. Consider the audience. If you want to know about specific career placement rates or stats about where alumni live now, it’s possible that the career center or alumni themselves might be a better resource. So be sure to ask questions that your interviewer will have been exposed to and also enjoy answering.
I’m not surprised that MBA applicants are feeling a little more nervous than usual. Given the uncertain economic times, many experts don’t even know what to expect in the admissions cycle, let alone inexperienced applicants. It doesn’t help that some applicants still rely heavily on too few schools, so the odds are stacked against them. Others have been superstars since graduation, but now fear the prospects of failing. And for a third group, job insecurity reigns. These applicants work at unstable firms and fear being laid off, so they feel the pressure to get in. These and other applicants should strive for nearly perfect applications. That not only includes good scores and a well-written application at fit schools, but it also includes a career roadmap and a compelling story to tell the committee. At least that’s what John Rice came to discuss at MLT’s kick-off seminar in Houston.
At long last, the newest class of MLT’s MBA Prep Program was finally welcomed in person at the 2010 kick-off event. The event took place at Rice University, and the good news was that I was able to get a sneak peak at this year’s new class. Even though I haven’t even finished my first class at Kellogg yet, MLT asked me to volunteer at the event. And I’m sure glad they asked. For one, it allows me to contribute to the MLT community, which is something that’s been on my mind a lot these days, even as a first year law student. It also give me the chance to meet and help current fellows, to re-connect with alumni and with the awesome MLT team, and also gives a chance to become part of a movement that’s much larger than myself.
And so all of that began late Thursday night when my flighted finally landed in Houston around midnight. Interestingly enough is that fact that a current MLT fellow was also in my SuperShuttle, and so that we chatted on the way to the hotel MLT reserved. Like a large number of fellows, she was from New York and also very nice. Arriving at the hotel sometime around 1:00am, I unpacked a few things, took care of a few dozen emails, and prepped for a couple of phone calls and a meeting I had the next morning. Time flew by, and before I knew it, I was hopping in a cab to head over to the conference.
Shortly after entering the building, I joined the current fellows in a session about “MBA, leadership, and success.” As I walked in, a tsunami of laughter went across the room. I suspected that everyone was probably having a good time. Gazing around the auditorium, I noticed the room was jam-packed with over 200 fellows, all intensely concentrating on the guest speaker. I noticed right away that the crowd of fellows was incredibly diverse. It was especially good to see that there was a good mix of women in the room, something I suspect that MLT is keeping in mind. Before entering the room I figured everyone would all be a lot younger than me, but boy was I wrong. Not only did I come to find that the average age was something similar to mine, but I also found a number of students that were older than me, and others who were in my class back at Stanford, including my really good friend Khalilah Karim. (Any current fellows who stumble on this post should definitely take a few minutes to meet her!)
And not only did I catch up with her for a bit, but I also spoke to a number of fellows on Friday. Working with Michael Pages, a friend from my MLT fellowship class (2009), we spoke with a good number of people at lunch, between sessions, and later that night until the wee hours of the morning. Working with a bigger group of MLT alum on Saturday, we discussed application myths and took part in a Q&A, as part of an organized panel. Our approach was to structure part of the initial discussion and then let everyone pick topics based on interests. The session was highly energized, non-stop, and went well.
But more than a single energizing panel, the conference was the combination of lots of interesting sessions led by alumni, staff, and guest speakers, many of which were compelling, especially to the new fellows. Similar to my year, almost every session was informative and interesting, and collectively the sessions began to foster ties between having goals in business and concurrently having goals that improve the community, where that topic pinnacled during John Rice’s session about passion on Friday.
It’s no surprise that the highlight of these weekends often tends to be John Rice’s session, “Defining your passion.” It’s funny, inspiring, insightful, and participatory. John did a similar session my year, which was a big hit, and it seemed like it went over pretty well this year. “Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep in this session” he began, as his session took place right after lunch. And after reeling in a quick laugh from the audience, he moved on to substance and gave a crash course on figuring out your passion and integrating that into your story and essays.
“To have the best chances at admission, you need to have a road map” Rice said. “And to be truly great, your passion has to be part of that road map.” In layman’s terms, applicants should think about passions, goals and other personal issues that are often left out of MBA applications. What an insight for the new class! This isn’t what many us first hear about MBA applications. I sure didn’t. But John emphasized the idea and then illustrated it in a real-time activity in front of the class, keeping the session interactive as possible. In the end, the session was more refined, fun, and compelling than I even remember from my year.
Sitting in the session this weekend also made me think about my conference two years ago and about meeting my cohort for the first time. My group was lucky enough to connect fairly early, which is something I relayed to the new class this weekend. And although a few people in my cohort transitioned slower than others, somewhere along the way we all really jelled. We brainstormed ideas, shared personal stories, provided feedback on career thoughts, and learned from each other in a way that helped us to really grow, both as applicants and personally.
And in the end, we not only became a cohort that worked well together, but also a group that had a stake in each other’s success. And still do. And that’s one of my biggest takeaways from being a fellow—that there’s power in having a small team of people where everyone has a the same specific interests, similar common goals, and everyone is on the same page. And in some sense, I suspect that’s part of why I was excited to head back this weekend, to see that connection again.
And after day one of the session I began thinking. What if all MLT alumni decided to come back? And what if everyone started going to all the big MLT events? And not for the sake of networking or to enhance career opportunities, but instead to work together on bigger issues that impact broader global communities. And what if they worked just as well together, or even better, than my cohort did? Sounds impractical? Maybe. But definitely not a bad idea. Because the best leaders understand that there’s power in teams, that sharing common values harnesses even greater potential, and that having both together can lead to profound impact.
And for the second time in my life, I left the an MLT Kick-Off Seminar with inspiration and a competing need to get back to work. But this time not on applications or in the office. Now, I have to finish up my second semester of law school.
But either way, I still sort of know how the MLT’ers feel, and I encourage the fellows to join forces as you head through the year of MLT together. Good luck!
Many of us fantasize about the day we’ll finally get into business school. We daydream in anticipation of the good news. Of that magical ring on your I-phone or G1. Of the thrill of seeing an incoming call with an area code that couldn’t be anyone else but the school. Of the excitement you feel when the Dean congratulates you on an application well done. For some, it’s finally a way to scale the career ladder. For others it allows a leap of faith to a new field or validation of success in your career. No matter where you fit, it feels good to get the call. But what do you do if you don’t get that call?
For anyone experiencing this, I suspect that the answer is not easy and that it’s rarely the same. This is especially true if you’ve interviewed at the program and thought you submitted a flawless application. So what now? Do you accept a seat at your safety school? Do you scramble to apply in the next round? Do you stick it out another year at work, in a job you were quite happy to be leaving? And what about this year, where for many, making it for another twelve months isn’t guaranteed? or isn’t even an option?
Over the last 72 hours, I’ve gotten a number of emails, IMs, and calls from friends regarding this very topic. Some of the calls were filled with good news, others were not admitted, and another group of applicants have been placed on the waitlist. For many of these folks, Kellogg and Booth have stolen the spotlight, as both schools are currently at the height of decision season. Kellogg has been dishing out decisions over the past week or two, and Booth sent most of its letters out just today.
I’ve been thinking a bit about those who are thinking about what to do next. I suspect that many of you, those who are more seasoned, will pick up the pieces more quickly. You know yourselves and are used to adapting along the way. But for others, likely a larger part of the population, perhaps things are a bit less certain. Unfortunately, I’m not writing this post with any magic formulas. After all, there aren’t many words to cheer up an applicant after a year’s worth of hard work feels for naught. But I’m writing to facilitate discussion about the issue, share a few thoughts, and also share a few resources I’ve come across.
And while inspiring words in emotional times can often empower us to leap tall buildings in a single bound, in this case. most people who’ve contacted me were in search of something more practical. Some advice to help them unpack the unsettling moment. Or perhaps help making a decision for the future. In one example, a friend only got into a safety school but also don’t have bright prospects at work, so they aren’t sure what to decide. In a second example, where a highly accomplished friend did not get into the two schools he applied to. In a third example, I’m planning to chat with someone tomorrow afternoon. This applicant was placed on a waitlist and recently sent me a note to enlist my ideas.
My general piece of advice, is don’t let the situation get you down. Admissions can seem like a black box and many decisions may not make sense to the applicant, as decisions are made holistically and are relative to the rest of the applications and profiles in the class, all things you can’t see. So in many cases you can’t point to a single part of the application that kept you out. And waitlist wise, it’s an even bigger toss up. Perhaps it’s as simple as too many people from your employer or industry applied? Conversely, I personally tend to empathize with those with black marks on their resumes. That scenario can be a tough, not only because it’s hard to overcome, but also because it’s ambiguous to navigate along the way. Best of luck if you’re in this situation.
No matter where you fit, below, I’ve pointed out a couple of web posts that I found interesting. Some are more practical. Others less practical. And all of them a subtle reminder to do your best to bounce back, maintain focus, and figure out what’s next. The first four are blog posts from HBR and the last is a longer article from WSJ.
1. Learning To Deal With Rejection: Last fall, I read a blog post from leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith about dealing with rejection. In one part Goldsmith said “I rarely encounter self-confidence problems in my work with CEOs and potential CEOs. It is almost impossible to make it to the top level in a multi-billion-dollar corporation if you do not believe in yourself.” On the other hand, he also talks about up-and-coming leaders like students, and says “I am frequently asked to speak at business schools about the topic, and I have noticed that students in my seminars often want to talk about it.” Marshall goes on to give pretty good advice about not being perfect and taking the next steps. (Click here)
2. Bouncing Back From Career Setbacks: A year earlier, Goldsmith wrote a similar post, as the economy just began to hit take a few hits. He mentions that “Bill Gates relishes the lessons of failure so much that he purposefully hires people who have failed” and also talks about how to avoid dwelling on situations. (Click here)
3. There’s Value In Not Winning: More recently, I read a blog post from HBS leadership expert Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Here, she discusses the idea of having big winning streaks and the value of finally not winning. Her article revolves around Toyota, but it’s an inspiring piece that discusses motivation and humility after failure. (Click here)
4. Find A New Way To Get There: Just one week after, Kanter wrote a different post about making change in hard times. She says “A wise mentor once explained his strategy for getting things done when faced with an impregnable organizational fortress. He likened it to a medieval castle that doesn’t want you inside and doesn’t want change.” Though she compares the castle to a career, I thought about the castle like business school as I read. The moral of her story is to take action and to think about alternative plans. (Click here)
5. Success Can Follow College Rejection: And last but not least is a more typical article. Written in the Wall Street Journal, this article points out how common it is to be disappointed with school decisions. And that anyone who gets a rejection letter is in pretty good company, joining the ranks of Nobel laureates, billionaires, philanthropists, presidents, and other business, law, and political leaders. As you might suspect, the article highlights Warren Buffet’s rejection form HBS and how that changed his life … for the better. (Click here)
Whether or not you like the articles above, their main takeaway is good. That rejection, whether from a school or another part of your life, isn’t uncommon and sometimes, it’s not even your fault. So the best idea is to use times of rejection as opportunities to learn. And for a small number, these opportunities can even become defining moments which teach you about yourself and help you to assess your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.
That’s because the best leaders not only do well in good times, but they also thrive in hard times. Whether titans of industry or super-leaders in the community, they learn to cope with disappointment and become comfortable with failure, understanding that you can win at everything and that it’s important to learn from experience. And over time, they develop the ability not only to navigate challenging experiences but also the ability to leverage those experiences to gain motivation and expertise to accomplish more than they could have ever done before.
Best of luck everyone in making your next decisions.
Many years ago when I was in grade school, I remember learning that quid pro quo meant “this for that.” When I first learned it, I didn’t think I’d actually end up in law school where the phrase is used more regularly. But I did end up here, and in fact, I just heard the phrase today in my employment law class when we discussed a work-related retaliation case. Similarly, in my contracts class last semester, we used the phrase to actually define a contract, where one party exchanges an item of value for something that the other party values (law students also know this as “consideration”). But my usage here in this post is just a tad bit different, because it’s not academic and it’s more similar to giving than it is to a mere exchange.
Last night, I spoke with admit to the JD-MBA program. The admit originally contacted me through my website, after which we connected at Northwestern during Admit Weekend. Yesterday, I chatted with him on the phone to answer a few of his questions about the program, and somehow our planned 20-30 minute conversation went well over an hour. And during the call, we not only discussed factual information about the schools and the program, but I also tried to share more nuanced information that you can’t always pull down from websites or find on forums or newsletters — perspectives of my classmates, opinions from people I’ve recently spoken with, recruiting in today’s market, and other intangible parts of being here.
For many people, I suspect this may have been a bit burdensome. After all, we’re coming up on the end of the semester, and our final Legal Writing (CLR) paper is due in just a couple of days. And for me, that’s in addition to two projects that are due this week and a two day trip I’m taking out of town tomorrow night in the middle of it all. But as we were chatting, those things really didn’t matter. I spent more time thinking about the fact that I enjoy sharing information with others, especially about the program, and I spent more time reflecting back at how two of the then-2nd year JD-MBA students (now 3rd year JD-MBAs) spent significant time on my calls and emails a year ago when I was accepted. I’m sure they were busy too, but I never knew it. Instead, they always talked as long as I needed and answered whatever questions I had, which was really helpful. And for a second, giving back here felt a bit like quid pro quo.
But not the typical kind of quid pro quo that you might find in a contract where you’re entitled to something in return, or in a negotiation where you analyze the outcome to see who got the best value. Instead I’m thinking about something more generous and altruistic in nature, which probably takes us away from the real “quid pro quo” and more into the realm of paying it forward, or better yet, simply giving or giving back to your community.
Because in the end, most people can’t do everything on their own, but instead could often use a hand getting there, especially when it comes to finding more information. I’m sure you can think of a time when you needed a hand (or a piece of information) but didn’t have one. I sure can. But just imagine–what if everyone did give a hand? And what if everyone openly shared what they knew? Maybe over time, the mentality would be contagious. It could affect everyone around you, maybe even cascade through all your social networks and eventually take off and impact masses and masses of people. I think they call this the network effect. But even if it didn’t, giving back is still more fun and more fulfilling anyways and over time I think it always makes a difference. I’m glad I had the chance to take the call. Hopefully the information was helpful. And hopefully we’ll see him here again next year.
That’s my take on sharing information. What’s your take?