Leveraging MBA Tours To Your Benefit

April 29, 2017  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Leveraging MBA Tours To Your Benefit It’s MBA fair season: a great opportunity for prospective MBAs to attend admissions panels and get tips on the admissions process, pick up GMAT/GRE advice, talk face-to-face with admissions directors, and figure out which schools are right for you. It also gives adcomm a chance to hear questions directly from applicants and make connections with future MBAs who may be a fit for programs. Here are 5 tips to ensure you make the most of these MBA events: Every touch point with a school reflects upon you as a candidate, be it with the Director of Admissions or the receptionist.  Smile, offer a confident hand shake, show your enthusiasm, and be professional with whomever you speak. Do your homework.  Nothing shows your interest in a particular program more than asking thoughtful questions beyond what can be found online.  Ask about an intriguing topic, campus initiatives, or an aspect of the curriculum reflecting your interests. Show genuine curiosity, rather than simply a desire for face time.  Book one-on-one sessions whenever possible.  Some programs offer a chance to reserve a time slot to meet with adcomm privately or in a small group.  Don’t miss this opportunity to make a positive impression and build a ...

Kevin, Harvard MBA

April 09, 2014  |   Testimonials   |     |   0 Comment

Kevin, Harvard MBA I am extremely happy to have worked with Shine. I am a re-applicant candidate and (after not getting a single interview in my prior attempt) I got into two of the schools I re-applied to and was interviewed/waitlisted at the third. Hillary has immense experience with the admissions process and was able to clearly point out the weaknesses in my previous applications.  I also feel very privileged to have worked closely with her personally; she is very intelligent, creative and challenging in her approach. She makes you work hard but the final product is truly worth it. Additionally, the deep thinking she challenges you to do will help you learn a lot about yourself and how to present yourself to the world. Finally, as an African applicant, I was truly pleasantly surprised at the level at which she understood me individually, my background and the things I care about. I would enthusiastically encourage any international applicants to strongly consider working with her. Overall, I greatly enjoyed working with Hillary and I know that the investment paid off! - Kevin (Johannesburg, South Africa)  

Branding yourself for business school applications

July 24, 2013  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Branding yourself for business school applications We believe that the MBA admissions process is inherently a marketing exercise.  This does not mean “spinning your story” to impress the admissions committee or telling them what you think they want to hear.  It means, presenting your authentic self in the best light possible.  It means taking a premium product (YOU) and wrapping it in beautiful packaging, showing off your true colors inside, then adding a well-written label that lets your personality shine through, so that you stand out from all of the others. And as any good marketer knows, the key to marketing success is a solid brand foundation. It’s impossible to market a brand effectively if you don’t know what it stands for.  Similarly, before jumping into the application-writing process, it’s important that you understand your own personal brand and have the same sense of understanding about yourself. You may have heard the terms “brand identity” or “brand positioning statement.”  Coming up with your personal brand is a very similar exercise.  While there are a number of meaningful elements that comprise the branding process, we recommend that you focus on these 5, and you’ll be off to a running start: Vision ...

Insights from the 2013 MBA admissions conference

July 03, 2013  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Insights from the 2013 MBA admissions conference After attending our annual AIGAC MBA admissions conference in Philly—and tweeting up a storm—I stand before you armed with insights directly from the mouths of the admissions directors who’ll be reading your future applications. In attendance were Wharton, Columbia, Tuck, NYU Stern, Yale, Cornell Johnson, Texas McCombs, UNC and others—as well as representatives from GMAC, test prep companies big and small, and fellow AIGAC consultants deliberating the hot issues of today’s admissions process. Here are a few of the highlights: We first dissected AIGAC’s annual applicant survey results, administered by Huron Consulting Group and completed by this past year’s applicant pool.  Among the takeaways:  respondents spent 70-110 hours on their applications (plus another 21-30 hours on GMAT prep)!  50% scored a 700+ on the GMAT.  And 57% used an admissions consultant last year—99% of whom would recommend that future applicants do the same. Of strong interest was the issue of candidates being asked to write their own recommendations—a definite admissions mistake.  (Our recent post “Securing the strongest MBA recommendations” tells you why, and offers our advice).  38% of survey respondents faced this very ethical dilemma last year.  Be on the lookout for ...

Communicating with the admissions office

April 03, 2013  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Communicating with the admissions office You have a question about your upcoming MBA application deadline, so you write up a quick email to the admissions office and hit send.  No problem, right?   Wrong. The email itself may be perfectly innocuous… or it may just have cost you in the admissions process.  Let’s break it down so you can determine when and how it is most appropriate to communicate with the admissions office. Everything is considered It is fair to assume that every piece of correspondence you have with admissions will be added to your application file.  I’ll let that sink in for a moment.  Every piece of correspondence.  Phone conversations are captured, emails are filed, social media posts are copied, front desk chats are noted. If you contact admissions too frequently, they may perceive you as needy, unconfident, entitled.  If your style is too casual, they may question your maturity, or how you will handle yourself during job recruiting.  If your correspondence is full of spelling and grammatical mistakes, they’ll be concerned about your communication skills, your proficiency. Ask yourself: does the contact you’re about to make reflect the level of professionalism that the rest of your application does?  That ...

After you’ve hit “submit”

February 20, 2013  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

After you’ve hit “submit” Often, we receive questions from MBA candidates who have completed their applications and are now wondering what to do with their time.  Is it OK to quit my job now and travel?  I was offered a new job; should I take it even though I may be leaving for business school in six months?  My company has taken a down turn; should I leave and just spend my time volunteering?  I may go into finance; should I take the CFA exam before beginning school? There’s no wrong answer here.  Here are a few tips to help you make the best decision for you: Are you certain that you’re going to business school next year? If you’re still waiting for an admissions decision, don’t quit your day job just yet!  As you know, you can’t be certain of being accepted to any top business school, even if you’re deserving, and even if you’ve been invited to interview. If you end up on the waitlist, you’ll want to show the admissions committee that you’re continuing to progress in your career.  And if you end up being rejected, it will be much harder for you to find ...

Resources for MBA applicants

February 06, 2013  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Resources for MBA applicants In addition to the insights that we provide through our blog, speaking engagements, and 1x1 MBA admissions consulting services, each year we always like to take stock of the additional resources that our clients found valuable in preparing their applications.  Whether you’re focused on nailing your GMAT or preparing for that final interview, here are some of our clients’ personal recommendations for future MBA candidates: GMAT Preparation Kaplan Manhattan GMAT Veritas Prep Princeton Review "The Official Guide to GMAT Review," by GMAC Beat The GMAT blog Admissions/School Insights Shine blog (Illuminations) School websites, admissions office blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, campus visits “How To Get Into The Top MBA Programs” by Richard Montauk “65 Successful Harvard Business School Application Essays,” by Dan Erck Beat The GMAT blog Business Week MBA articles GMAT Club “Calling All Applicants” threads Clear Admit blog Admissionado (formerly Precision Essay) newsletter MBAadmission.com blog Alumni/Student Conversations School admissions offices LinkedIn Interview Prep Shine blog (Illuminations) Clear Admit interview reports [For more information about preparatory resources or general MBA admissions consulting, please contact: ...

Mike, Dartmouth Tuck MBA

January 30, 2013  |   Testimonials   |     |   0 Comment

Mike, Dartmouth Tuck MBA Hillary is an extremely talented, honest, creative, and caring person. Through the homework exercise and in-person meetings, she truly got to know who I am as a person, which made a huge impact when she reviewed my essays and resume. Instead of just proofreading and watching the word count, Hillary helped me get the best out of my stories and experiences and helped me to put my best foot forward in the admissions process. Whenever I had questions about any aspect of the application process, she was always quick to respond and made me feel like I was her only client. I am so thankful to have worked with Hillary, and I will be attending my first choice, Tuck, next year. For anyone applying to any MBA program, I would strongly recommend working with Shine. - Mike (New York, NY)

Should I apply to business school in round three?

January 30, 2013  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Should I apply to business school in round three? For most candidates, the answer is no.  However, under certain circumstances, it makes perfect sense to submit a 3rd round application.  Here are some ways to gauge whether you should apply this late in the game, or whether you'd be better off waiting until the 1st round next fall. First, the pros of submitting an application in round 3: If accepted, you get to attend business school this coming fall. Now the cons: Most of the spots in the class have been given away by this point.  For this reason alone, you’ll have a much tougher time getting in than you would otherwise. If you are not accepted, and you decide to apply again in the fall, now you’re not just a typical candidate, you’re a reapplicant.  This puts the onus on you to improve your candidacy in a significant way over the next six months.  If you were rejected once, submitting the same set of qualifications/stories will not yield a different result. People are accepted though in round 3, right?  Yes they are. The candidates with the best shots at 3rd round admission include: Those with a compelling story ...

Gratitude during the MBA admissions process

November 21, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Gratitude during the MBA admissions process With Thanksgiving upon us, this seems a perfect time to think about all of the people who have helped you in the MBA admissions process thus far. Very often, in the throes of essay writing and interview prep, we get lost in your own heads.  We’re sleep-deprived, focused on our own deliverables, balancing full-time jobs on top of it all.  Perhaps we’ve even felt the heartbreak of receiving disappointing news from one of our dream schools. We’re likely not thinking about too many other people right now. However, it’s never too early, or too late, to show your appreciation to those who have given their time and support to you through the admissions process. First and foremost, your recommenders.  They’ve spent hours upon hours hearing your story, preparing their write-ups, glowing about you, and doing everything within their power to help you get accepted to business school.  Secondly, your friends and family.  The ones who’ve diligently proofread your essays, encouraged you to aim high, listened to you complain, and missed spending time with you as you holed up with your computer.  Thirdly, all of the alumni, students, and faculty members you may ...

I’ve submitted my round one MBA applications, now what?

October 24, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

I’ve submitted my round one MBA applications, now what? Congratulations!  If you’re one of the motivated few to get your business school applications in early, you may be wondering what to do with yourself next.  Here are a few suggestions: Apply to 2nd round schools You’ve already got great momentum from all of your hard work in the 1st round; why not continue moving forward?  Worst case scenario, you develop an additional set of applications and end up with the fantastic news that you’ve “wasted your time” because you were accepted to your 1st round schools.  Best case scenario, you use these next few months wisely to write outstanding applications and create options for yourself--rather than scrambling at the last minute, if 1st round decisions don’t go your way. Prepare for interviews You may not know yet whether you have been invited to interview at your 1st round schools, but once you are, those interview dates come up quickly.  A great use of your time would be to begin preparing your responses to the long list of commonly-asked questions—which can be found through independent research or by working with an MBA admissions consultant. Mock interviews are also great confidence-builders, whether conducted ...

Mastering part one of your MBA application

October 03, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Mastering part one of your MBA application Did you finally finish writing your business school essays--excited that you were at the “end” of your MBA application--only to discover that Part One was actually chock full of enough short-answer questions and mini-essays to put you into a deep depression. Fortunately, you discovered this before the day your application was due.  And fortunately you had enough guidance to do yourself justice on this portion of the application, rather than detract from the value of the beautiful set of essays you’d just poured your heart into creating for Part Two. Here are a few tips to make Part One of your application as strong as possible: Characters vs. Words First the basics: follow the instructions.  We’ve seen plenty of people share with us their 250 word answers to a question calling for 250 characters.  Read the question carefully.  Determine whether “characters” includes or excludes spaces.  Test your theory by filling the data form with Xs, cutting and pasting it onto a MS Word document, and then running your character counter. Resume Redundancy If you’ve already done an outstanding job with your resume, there’s no reason that you can’t repeat the same language ...

Networking and the MBA admissions process

September 26, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Networking and the MBA admissions process Does networking with the staff, students or alumni of your target business schools help you in the admissions process?   The answer is, it depends why you’re networking. If you’re interested in meeting school affiliates to help sway the admissions committee, you’re likely wasting your time.  Derrick Bolton, assistant dean and director of Stanford GSB Admissions, has indicated that those types of unofficial recommendations really hold no weight.  Given the many thousands of alumni they have, if every one of them reached out to the admissions office to “put in a good word” for a candidate… Let’s just say we wouldn’t encourage the practice. So how can networking with members of the school community benefit you?  By giving you insight and information that you can use in your application.  What better way to understand the culture of an MBA program than to talk with its current students.  If you’re interested in a professional club on campus, its president would be a great resource to help you understand the type of programming the club offers and the ways you could get involved.  Talking with local alumni can give you a great sense of a school’s ...

Your essay is terrible

September 13, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Your essay is terrible There I’ve said it.  You’re trying to get off too easy with your choice of essay topics. Be careful not to underestimate the caliber of your competition. They’re using every inch of essay real estate to sell themselves and fight for their precious spots in the class.  They’re showing themselves as future leaders, future managers, people who inspire change, who impact their organizations, and who initiate new ways of doing and thinking.  They step up when the opportunity calls, they persuade others, they get chosen as team captains.  They excel above and beyond their peers. What are you writing about?  Something you wish had gone differently (passive)…or a time when you screwed up and can own it--and have learned from it since (active)?  General impressions of your experiences (nice)…or a vivid story about a specific example that has impacted you well beyond that moment in time (meaningful)? Here are a few indicators that your essay might be terrible: A failure that isn’t really a failure Missed opportunities are less compelling than admitting a true error in judgment. Consider picking a single story as your example.  Explain what you did and why, show ...

Developing an MBA application with impact

August 14, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Developing an MBA application with impact Essays get the lion’s share of the attention when it comes to business school applications.   They're the scariest beast to tackle, and they take the most time.  You might even believe that they hold the most weight, though they actually do not.  An MBA application is truly a package deal:  resume, data form, essays, recommendations, transcripts, test scores, interviews—the admissions committee has it all in front of them, and it all matters.  Your grand vision should be the combined impact of all of those items, not just the essays.   With plenty of blog posts to choose from about writing strong essays, here are a few thoughts on the rest of the application: Resume First, the resume.  Take the time to make it the strongest possible reflection of all of your professional and academic accomplishments.  Use this opportunity to highlight your extracurricular activities, community involvement, certifications and memberships, special skills, and even your personal interests.  Feel free to read our earlier blog post on what makes a strong MBA resume.  The point is, you’ve got valuable real estate in the resume to communicate items that you can’t otherwise fit into your ...

Overcoming MBA essay writer’s block

July 31, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Overcoming MBA essay writer’s block It’s time to start outlining your business school essays, and your mind is a blank.  What do I wish I had done better?  What matters most to me and why?  What has fundamentally transformed the way I think?  Where should you begin? Here are a few tips to jumpstart your writer’s engine and get those creative juices flowing: Ask your friends and family Get the input of people close to you. What is their perception of what makes you tick?  How would they describe your values, attributes, and opportunities for improvement?  What are you doing when they see your eyes light up the most? You’d be surprised how an outsider’s input can inspire a seedling of an idea that ultimately blossoms into your best essay. Find creative inspiration Go to the local book store and flip through one of those “essays that worked for the top business schools” books.  There are plenty of them.  You might be moved by the unique approaches others have taken to an otherwise straight-forward question.  Think outside the box.  There’s no rule that says your essays should be conservative (and dare I say boring)  in tone.  The admissions committee loves ...

Securing the Strongest MBA Recommendations

June 26, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Securing the Strongest MBA Recommendations Did you know that one of the most common MBA application mistakes is making a poor choice of recommenders? Who are the right ones to choose?  Follow these guidelines to ensure that you’ve selected well, and that your recommendations work to your advantage in the admissions process, not detract from your candidacy. They know you really, really well The admissions committee favors recommendations from someone who you reported to in some capacity (formally or informally) and who has firsthand experience of your work style, attributes, strengths/weaknesses, and potential.  By far, your best recommenders are those who can speak about you in intimate detail, and can highlight their commentary with specific examples and anecdotes from their direct experience with you.  Candidates often fail by asking their CEO for a recommendation, which ends up being positive yet devoid of intimate details.  Titles don't impress, content does. They will do the writing themselves Writing recommendations for a business school candidate is a lot of work.  You may come across recommenders who tell you that they're happy to sign the form if you'll do the writing for them. If you do, thank that person generously, and then ...

How to get into the top business schools from China

June 20, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

How to get into the top business schools from China As applications to the top business schools in the US continue to increase from China, schools are forced to make difficult admissions decisions amidst this highly competitive applicant pool.  Here are four tips for Chinese applicants to ensure excellence in the application process and differentiate yourselves from others. Brand yourself Many applicants from China are academically qualified for the top schools and offer high GPAs, GMAT, and TOEFL scores.  The key for the Chinese applicant is to differentiate yourself by all of the unique experiences you bring to the table: professional, extracurricular, and personal. Share your passions, hobbies and activities.  Let them see your special skills and strengths.  Show off your personality, creativity and distinguishing attributes.  Find your personal brand, know your differentiation from others, and let it shine through in your essays. Showcase your experience Because test scores are so elevated among Chinese applicants, the admissions committees also will be eager to learn the details of your work experiences and how you uniquely excelled in those roles.  For both your resume and your essays, take great care to think through each position you’ve held (professional or otherwise!) and highlight your ownable accomplishments, ...

Tim, NYU Stern MBA

June 01, 2012  |   Testimonials   |     |   0 Comment

Tim, NYU Stern MBA Hillary was a great help guiding me through the stressful MBA admissions process.  She helped me with each step, from school selection to framing my experiences into essays to the interview process.  Her knowledgeable advice helped me feel more confident throughout.  Most importantly, I got into my top choice NYU, among other top-tier schools like Chicago Booth and Yale! - Tim (Brooklyn, NY)

Writing a resume worthy of a top MBA application

May 29, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Writing a resume worthy of a top MBA application If only the top MBA programs would provide resume examples.  What are they looking for??  One page or two?  Executive summary or not?  Education above or below professional experience?  Can I trust the MBA resume template I found online? Will a top MBA program reject you because you chose to list your professional experience below your education?  Certainly not.  However, I can share a few tips from my experience at Harvard Business School that may impact your resume choices. As a first-year HBS student, to be considered for on-campus recruiting, every student’s resume must be constructed in an identical format.  It evens the playing field for students, and prospective employers can count on HBS to deliver a consistent set of polished resumes for consideration.  Do I have a copy of that template?  I sure do—and will share its takeaways with you--though of course, it requires great content above all.  Still, with these five key pointers, you’ll be well on your way to writing a resume that already makes you look like you’re a first-year student at a top business school. Format You just can’t go wrong with Times New Roman.  For a business ...

Spotlight on CU’s Leeds School of Business

May 22, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Spotlight on CU’s Leeds School of Business With our home base in Denver,  I meet a lot of MBA candidates who are considering our local business schools.  So I was pleased for the chance to talk with Jen Smith, head of admissions at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado – Boulder, to gain insight into the unique aspects of this MBA program. Did you know: CU Leeds is known for its outstanding program in corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability.  With a dual degree option in environmental studies, and a strong partnership with nearby organizations like the National Renewable Energy Lab, this track is one of the primary draws—and a popular elective set among students of all disciplines. Among Leeds’ other strengths are its finance and entrepreneurship programs.  This year, a team of Leeds students won the premier International Venture Capital International Competition (VCIC), beating out finalist teams including Wharton, Michigan, Berkeley, Cornell, and Oxford.  Since 2000, Leeds teams have won eight VCIC regional competitions and placed in the top four in the international finals. For those pursing a marketing career, particularly in natural/organic consumer products, Leeds is the ...

Spotlight on Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business

May 15, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Spotlight on Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business Last week, I was  lucky enough to spend some quality time at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business with admissions team members Kelly Wilson, Hilary Prokop, and Kristen Bautz.  On a perfect sunny Washington DC morning, I got a firsthand look at what makes this program so special. Did you know: Georgetown is a true general management program, and offers complete flexibility in defining one’s curriculum.  With no majors, and the freedom to select any combination of second year electives, the program is equally ideal for students pursuing traditional and non-traditional career paths. Georgetown is a great fit for students who understand that business is about the impact on both society and the bottom line.  Grounded in the university’s Jesuit heritage, the MBA program values principled leadership and an appreciation of diversity, tolerance, and ethics. These same values have also fostered a warm and caring culture at McDonough.  The small class size and tight-knit community leads its students to be frequently found sharing recruiting insights with one another, running study sessions for classmates, and helping each other succeed. Beyond its location in Washington DC, Georgetown’s new curriculum places even greater emphasis on the global aspect of ...

Getting off the MBA waitlist

April 24, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Getting off the MBA waitlist You’ve put in your full effort, delivered an outstanding MBA application, and the disappointing decision comes back: waitlisted.  You feel like you might as well have been rejected. Don’t despair.  It’s NOT a hopeless cause.  Every year, at nearly every top business school, people are taken off the waitlist and given that long-awaited admit letter.  The waitlist spot means they already like you and would welcome you in the class, given unlimited room.  Here’s how to position yourself best for those precious last spots at the school of your dreams. Listen to your admissions committee While many admissions committees welcome additional submissions to support your candidacy, others explicitly state that they do not.  Respect their wishes, and carefully read their instructions before you begin any waitlist campaign.  You’ve come this far; you don’t want to do anything now that could potentially harm your candidacy. Let them know how much they mean to you First, write a brief letter confirming that the school remains your clear first choice, and if admitted, you would definitely attend.  (Assuming that’s true.  If it isn’t, consider letting the waitlist spot go to another candidate.)  Add any support points ...

Writing Like a Future MBA

September 05, 2011  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Writing Like a Future MBA When you think of common business school application mistakes, I’ll bet some of the famed horror stories come to mind: the wrong-school typo, the too-personal essay topic, the inappropriate Facebook photo… What about writing ability? Not the baseline question of whether you can put an English sentence together—but the little things. The ones that aren’t deal breakers in and of themselves, but that pick away at the reader’s nerves. Things that distract the reader from the points you’re trying to make, and that make the experience of reading your application a less pleasant one than it could have been. And without meaning to, that slowly but surely begin to separate a weaker writer from other candidates in contention Before you finalize your resume or get too deep into essay writing, I wanted to share some of the more common writing-related issues I see on candidates’ applications year after year. May these suggestions help you to come out of the gate with your best foot forward: Active voice Always use active voice (“I did X”) rather than passive voice (“X happened to me”). Take credit for the choices you’ve made—particularly when they generated a ...

The Road To Be Traveled

October 25, 2010  |   Blog   |     |   1 Comment

The Road To Be Traveled The dreaded “career essay" What are your career aspirations and why?   Why do you want your MBA (at our school)? It’s causing you angst to no end.  Of course you don’t know 100% what you’re going to do after you graduate.  Even if you think you do, you probably don’t.  There’s a whole professional world out there to explore...isn’t that part of why you’re going to business school? Let me take the pressure off you:  the admissions committee knows this too.  And the good news is, no one will ever withhold your diploma in the end--cross-referencing your career plans with your application essays, making sure you stuck to your plan.  Unfortunately though,  in the admissions process, there’s nothing less attractive than someone who doesn’t have a clear sense of direction.  “Soul searchers” are sadly not a recognized attribute of future business leaders.  So, you just need to take a leap of faith based on everything you know today—and make the best case for your chance to explore tomorrow at the schools of your choice. Where to start Think down the road, maybe 7-10 years. Whose role could ...

What To Write About

September 10, 2010  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

What To Write About For my first ever blog entry (which I'd been putting off because I didn't know what to write about), I thought it only fitting to write about...what to write about. It's the concern I've heard most this week from the business school candidates I work with privately.  "I can't think of any good leadership examples!"  "I don't have any time outside of work for extracurriculars!"  "I can't think of a time when I really, well, failed." Let it come I conduct a number of speaking engagements, and I often begin my presentation with a section entitled: First and foremost... Slide #1 then goes a little something like this:  BREATHE.  It may not be hilarity, but it's one of the best pieces of advice I can offer.  A creative mind needs some breathing room - and the best ideas likely won't come while staring stressfully at your computer screen. Plant some seeds and sit with them for a while.  Carry a small pad with you and capture ideas while you're driving to work, out walking the dog, or laying at the pool.   Pick your mom's brain while cleaning up dishes after family dinner. ...