Advice From Past MBA Applicants (To Those About To Apply)

June 30, 2016  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Advice From Past MBA Applicants (To Those About To Apply) For the last few years, we've asked our clients who just completed the MBA application process to answer the following question: What is one piece of advice you’d offer to future applicants?  Here is what they wanted to say to you. (Notice some common themes?) Take some time to dig deep and really reflect on your career experience and why you want to go back school.  This will better prepare you for both the essay questions and the interviews. Talk to recent applicants. As many as possible. Talk to current students as much as you can before, during and after the application process. Create a business school plan well in advance and target Round 1 if at all possible. Try to visit each school’s campus before applying and speak to as many current students/alumni as you can. Start earlier than you think is early. Things take longer than you think. Plan ahead of time. Work hard at getting to know each program you are applying to. Really get to know students who are attending these programs because they are the ones who will be able to speak the most candidly and honestly about what the school has ...

How Are the GMAT and GRE Relevant to Business School Success?

November 11, 2015  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

How Are the GMAT and GRE Relevant to Business School Success? The following guest blog post was written by Brian Prestia of Reason GMAT: For many prospective business school applicants, their first encounter with the GMAT or GRE comes as a bit of a shock.  The predominant reaction is:  What the heck does this stuff have to do with business school anyway?  Geometry, rate questions, correcting grammatical errors…how can this be the measure of potential success in business school? The Real Nature of the GMAT and GRE What most people don’t realize is that the GMAT and GRE are really reasoning tests -– they give business schools a view into applicants logical reasoning, problem solving, and analytical abilities. Sure, a firm grasp of the quantitative and verbal foundation of these questions helps, but that’s not all it takes. And a less-than-perfect grasp of the foundation can often be overcome by good, old-fashioned reasoning and smart problem solving. Business schools know that incoming students are going to be inundated with lots and lots of new information. They are not looking for students who can memorize and regurgitate that information; they are looking for people who can think critically and solve problems creatively. The GMAT and GRE are designed to reward those kinds of skills and punish ...

Resources for MBA Applicants: 2015

November 02, 2015  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Resources for MBA Applicants: 2015 In addition to sharing our own advice with you, each year, we like to share our past clients' recommendations of the resources they found most helpful in applying to business school. Whether you're gathering information about your target b-schools, preparing for the GMAT, or looking for the best approaches to a particular essay question, our most recent client alumni recommended the following resources: GMAT/GRE Prep To help increase their test scores by those precious points, our clients reported that they took advantage of the following publications, websites, practice tests, private tutors, and prep classes: Veritas Prep Manhattan Prep Kaplan Princeton Review Dominate the GMAT Advantage Testing Beat The GMAT GMAT Club   GMAT Hacks Khan Academy The Official Guide to GMAT Review by GMAC   Game Plan for the GMAT by Brandon Royal School & Admissions ...

What To Do After Submitting Round 1 Applications

October 06, 2015  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

What To Do After Submitting Round 1 Applications If you are one of the business school candidates who was driven enough to apply in Round 1, then it's time to give yourself a pat on the back. Though you might be wondering what you're supposed to do now. Here are a few ways to keep yourself productively occupied: Move on to Round 2 Keep moving forward and begin working on the next round of applications. Taking advantage of this extra time will allow you to really think through each question, work slowly, and avoid the last minute scramble. Worst case, you are accepted into your first round schools and don't ever have to submit them.  Yet if there’s one thing we learned in business school, it’s the benefit of preserving option value. And you will not have enough time to wait for first round results and then develop a polished set of second round applications. Keep your options open, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Learn From the Past Year after year, applicants pull the plug last minute on submitting their applications in Round 1 because they hadn't "nailed it" quite yet--either because they were struggling with a particularly tough question, or because they were overly-optimistic in the time involved to develop a strong, polished application. Use those lessons to get a jump start ...

Personal Branding for Your MBA Applications

August 03, 2015  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Personal Branding for Your MBA Applications We believe that the MBA admissions process is inherently a marketing exercise, plain and simple.  To be clear, 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 process, it’s important that you understand your own personal brand and have the same sense of clarity about yourself. You may have heard the marketing terms “brand identity” or “brand positioning statement.”  Branding a human is a very similar exercise.  While there are a number of relevant elements that can comprise one's personal brand, if you focus on these five, you’ll be off to a running start: Vision ...

Crafting an MBA-Caliber Resume

June 29, 2015  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Crafting an MBA-Caliber Resume What exactly are the top MBA programs looking for in a resume? Can it be two pages? Should I include an executive summary? How should it be formatted? Relax. These details won’t be the determining factor of whether you are accepted. However, a compelling, polished resume makes a positive first impression and sets the stage for the rest of your application. The following tips will get you off on the right foot: Format There are no requirements on style, so just use your best judgment. The key is to make it neat, professional well-organized, consistent, and easy to navigate. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with Times New Roman font. Traditional as it is, it’s gold standard for a resume. 10-point is the smallest you should go. Leave some white space around your margins, entries, and section breaks. It gives your content breathing room and avoids a cluttered appearance. The rule of thumb, among admissions officers and corporate recruiters alike, is one resume page per 10 years of work experience. That means, if you’re a typical full-time MBA candidate, your resume should be no more than one page. Enough said. Layout Don’t waste valuable real estate on an executive summary. ...

Advice for Future MBA Applicants (From Our Clients Who Just Survived the Process)

May 13, 2015  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Advice for Future MBA Applicants (From Our Clients Who Just Survived the Process) We recently asked our latest group of clients: What is one piece of advice you’d offer to future MBAs? Here are the responses we received.  (Notice some common themes...?) Prepare early and plan ahead with the application timeline Work hard at getting to know each program you are applying to. Really get to know students who are attending these programs because they are the ones who will be able to speak the most candidly and honestly about what the school has to offer. Begin studying for the GMAT at least 10-12 months before you want to begin your applications (which should be started 3 months before the deadline). I would also recommend polishing/finishing your resume during this time period. With a decent score knocked out of the way along with a completed resume, the applicant can truly concentrate on putting together a coherent and tailored application to each school. Start early and talk to as many people as possible (colleagues, friends, alumni, current students). That really helped me to shape my story. Start early, drafting takes longer than you think. (And don’t get married during R1.) Research each school thoroughly. Visit the schools before applying if you can. It’s easier ...

Advice for the AWA and IR Sections of the GMAT

April 01, 2015  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Advice for the AWA and IR Sections of the GMAT The following guest blog post was written by Rich Carriero of NextStep Test Prep: Analytical Writing Assessment As you likely know, The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay is the first section of the GMAT. The task is for you to read and analyze a short argument and then critique it on the basis of its use of logic and data. One of the most important things to remember is that you must not take sides. Rather, consider your position like that of a professor grading a term paper: you are not so much concerned with the inherent truth or falsehood of the writer’s position as you are with how well constructed, supported and reasoned you find the argument to be. Planning the essay begins with dissecting the stimulus. You must determine what is the author’s conclusion, what evidence does the author use to support this conclusion and what are the gaps are between the evidence and conclusion--the assumptions. There are many types of assumptions but they can generally be divided into unproven premises the author is taking for granted and potential outside factors the author is ignoring. Dealing with your assumptions will be the meat of your essay. For example, your stimulus ...

MBA Waitlist Strategy

March 18, 2015  |   Blog   |     |   1 Comment

MBA Waitlist Strategy You've turned in an excellent MBA application.  Unfortunately, the news was disappointing: you've been waitlisted. Being on the waitlist can feel like a rejection, but don't be discouraged. All hope is not lost. A spot on the waitlist means the admissions committee liked something they saw in you; this is positive feedback!  And every year, business schools admit people from their waitlists.  Here's how you can best position yourself for a spot in the class. Follow The Instructions Take a close look at the waitlist correspondence you received. First and foremost, respond in a timely manner to accept or decline your waitlist spot.  Second, know what the admissions committee's policy is on additional communications or submissions.  Some admissions committees are very open to hearing from you and/or receiving additional materials throughout the waitlist period, while others explicitly say not to contact them. Always follow their instructions. If They Will Accept Additional Submissions... Begin by writing a brief, enthusiastic letter confirming your interest in attending the program.  Passion goes a long way in standing out from other waitlist candidates.  Second, provide any updates since you applied that add value to your profile. Did you receive a promotion at work? Have you just passed your CFA ...

MBA Interview Recap

February 02, 2015  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

MBA Interview Recap By now, you should have heard from most of the business schools you applied to in Round 2 to find out if you’ve been invited to interview. If you’re lucky enough to be interviewing over the next few weeks, you won’t want to miss our recent blog posts covering MBA interviews, including whether you should interview on campus, what to ask your interviewers, and MBA interviews 101. To begin wrapping your head around the Dos and Don’ts, here are a few items to keep in mind as you prepare: Remember the basics of interviewing: dress to impress, make eye contact, speak slowly and concisely, and smile. Bring hard copies of your resume. Business cards are not necessary. Be friendly, positive, and courteous to EVERYONE you meet: student ambassadors, interviewers, and the receptionist. Be prepared to interview with someone other than who you were expecting. Know your own story inside and out. It should be consistent with what you wrote in your application. Listen to the question. Answer exactly as it was asked. A good framework to set up your examples is: situation, actions, results, takeaways. Demonstrate your passion for the school. If you’re not accepted anywhere else, it may quickly become your top choice. Avoid asking ...

Respect the Data Form

November 24, 2014  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Respect the Data Form When beginning an MBA application, many candidates jump right into the essay portion, without much consideration of the part one of the application (what we like to call the “data form”). What they often find out the hard way is that the data form takes a substantial amount of time, and they are left scrambling at the last minute to finish it. The data form is more than simply filling out your basic information. There are often challenging short answers buried within it, such as “What was your most significant accomplishment?” or “What are your immediate post-MBA goals?” These are questions are to be taken as seriously as the full length essays. For this reason, we recommend tackling the data form (or at least reviewing it thoroughly) before diving headfirst into essay-writing. It will ensure you’re being strategic about your content for the entire application package, and that you don’t waste precious essay real estate on topics that you’ll already be telling them in your short answers. (Note: pay attention to whether the short answers have character limits vs. word limits. You’d be surprised how many people miss this in their initial drafts.) Thus, give the data form your full attention and a few days to complete. ...

What To Ask Your Interviewer

November 06, 2014  |   Blog   |     |   1 Comment

What To Ask Your Interviewer Pop Quiz:  When your MBA interview wraps up, and your interviewer asks, “Now, do you have any questions for me?” the correct answer is_______? Hopefully your response was, without any hesitancy, “YES.” The best way to demonstrate your interest in an MBA program is to ask thoughtful questions when given the chance at the end.  (Everyone likes to feel that someone’s interested in them, right?).  So how do you navigate this point of the interview and make a good impression? Think Positive Frame your questions in a positive light. Regardless of where this program falls on your wish list, at this point, you're still marketing yourself. (And this program may turn out to be your only option!)  So don’t put the interviewer on the defensive or express any hesitations you may have.  Questions like, “I am very excited by the tech concentration; can you tell me more about XX aspects of it?” will go farther than implying that you're still sizing up whether the tech program works for you. Think Passion Admissions officers want to feel that, if they extend an offer to you, you will be eager to accept.  Show them how much ...

MBA Interviews 101

October 29, 2014  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

MBA Interviews 101 Congrats, you've been invited to interview by one of your target business schools!  This is your first glimpse of positive feedback on your applications and should certainly make you feel good.  Though it's important to keep your head in the game.  The application process is not over, and an interview is definitely not a done deal. Most of you are already familiar with the basics of interviewing: dressing to impress, making eye contact, bringing hard copies of your resume, and showing interest in the organization. But are you familiar with what MBA admissions officers specifically are looking for?  Here are four tips to help you seal the deal: Show Your Likability When a business school interviews you, above all, they’re looking to assess your fit.  Beyond your impressive application, are you socially functional?  Can you play nicely in the sandbox with others?  Will you thrive there and make friends?  (One top business school’s directive to its interviewers: “No jerks or weenies.”)   So, smile warmly.  Build a connection.  Give examples that showcase your positive interactions with others.  And show them that you know the difference between confidence and arrogance. Do Your ...

Resources for MBA Applicants: 2014

October 01, 2014  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Resources for MBA Applicants: 2014 In addition to providing our own advice through the Shine blog, presentations, and private MBA admissions consulting services, each year we like to share the outside resources that our past clients found helpful on their journeys to business school. Whether you’re looking to supplement your GMAT prep, learn more about your target schools, or find new ideas on tackling a tough essay question, the Shine MBA Class of 2016 recommended that you check out the following: GMAT/GRE Prep To increase their test scores, our clients this past year took advantage of private tutors in their area, as well as the following prep courses: Manhattan Prep Veritas Prep Kaplan Princeton Review Dominate the GMAT Advantage Testing For practice exams, The Official Guide to GMAT Review by GMAC has actual GMAT questions from previous tests with answers and detailed explanations. Additionally, they recommended Beat The GMAT and GMAT Club for online forums, links and tools. School/Admissions Insights As always, they recommended the school's own websites, blogs and social media pages as your first resource. Use these pages to learn about the characteristics of ...

Resume FAQs for MBA Applications

August 20, 2014  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Resume FAQs for MBA Applications Applying for business school means crafting an outstanding resume that exhibits your talent, clarifies your work experience, and shows off your leadership roles, all while convincing them that you can handle the rigors of a top MBA program. Whew! While schools are not going to reject you for minor details, like whether you list your work experience before your education, there are some legitimate dos and don’ts. Here are some responses to some of our commonly asked questions:   How much time must I spend finessing this? It’s just the resume. Your resume makes the first impression in your application. In that moment, admissions officers develop a crucial first sense of who you are, what you do, what you've done, and how much value you added along the way. They get a glimpse into your organization skills (does it have a logical flow?), your attention to detail (is your punctuation consistent?), and your ability to communicate with someone outside your industry (is it written in Greek?)—all of which goes into their assessment of whether you’d fit in well to the business school environment. How long should my resume be? The rule is: one resume page for every 10 years of work experience. For the typical MBA applicant, this means your ...

Spotlight on UCLA Anderson School of Management

July 15, 2014  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Spotlight on UCLA Anderson School of Management   Recently, I got to spend some quality time at UCLA Anderson School of Management with Associate Director of Admissions Jessica Chung. On a sunny day in Los Angeles (is there any other?), I got to take a closer look at what makes UCLA’s MBA program so fantastic.   Did You Know? Anderson offers lots of flexibility after revising their curriculum several years ago. They now offer more tracks and specializations to provide more structure for students who wish to gain depth and expertise in particular industries/functions. Given its close proximity to Hollywood, UCLA is an obviously excellent choice for those interested in entertainment and media, and it is well known for that strength. However, it’s an equally great school for those interested in finance, entrepreneurship and technology. The career paths that students pursue most are technology, finance, and consulting, and recruiters from major firms in New York and the east coast come to UCLA for all-star talent. Much like its counterparts to the east, the city of Los Angeles is home every industry imaginable—including world-class finance and asset management firms, as well as biotechnology, alternative energy and emerging tech. Just 10 minutes away from campus is ...

Emily, Harvard MBA

March 06, 2014  |   Testimonials   |     |   0 Comment

Emily, Harvard MBA I highly recommend Shine to anyone who is applying to business school. At Shine, you’ll work exclusively with the company’s founder, Hillary Schubach, whose insight into MBA admissions process is unparalleled. Hillary not only improved my resume immeasurably, but also provided thoughtful, school-specific feedback on each of my essays. Hillary’s guidance throughout the process made me a much stronger applicant than I otherwise would have been, and I’m incredibly appreciative for all her help! - Emily (New York, NY)

MBA applicant survey (win $500!)

March 06, 2014  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

MBA applicant survey (win $500!) Calling all recent business school applicants (2013/2014): As a member of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), we hope you will participate in an industry-wide survey to hear your feedback on the MBA application process.  AIGAC will be sharing the anonymous results with admissions officers of the top schools  to help them better meet the needs of today’s applicants—and to help the admissions consulting community better serve our clients. To thank you, you'll be eligible to win a $500 cash prize--and you will provide invaluable perspectives that will help shape the future of MBA admissions. Make your voices heard! The survey should take 10 minutes to complete and can be accessed by clicking this link: http://bit.ly/1neJdUx. Responses are due by March 31. (If you are interested in reading the results of last year’s survey, click here.) On behalf of AIGAC, we truly appreciate you taking this time to help us improve the MBA admissions process.

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 ...

MBA Tours: what, why, when (and how to use them to your advantage)

May 09, 2013  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

MBA Tours: what, why, when (and how to use them to your advantage) It’s MBA tour season again. And along with it comes our advice for using these events to your benefit in the admissions process. First, the what MBA tours, or fairs, are like job fairs for business school candidates.  Traveling city to city, they offer a great opportunity for you to attend panels, accumulate admissions and GMAT advice, speak 1×1 with admissions officers from your target schools, pick up brochures, and evaluate which programs are the best fits for you. In addition, it gives the admissions officers a chance to hear questions directly from the front lines, and make connections with prospective applicants. Why bother? I can just do my school research online, can’t I?  Yes, and you absolutely should.  However, attending an MBA fair can expose you to programs you may not have considered.  It enables you to hear diverse panelist perspectives on topics that will help you in the admissions process. And it gives you the unique chance to get your questions answered firsthand, demonstrate your passion for your target programs, and make a favorable impression on the admissions representatives well before you even apply. (And they will remember you.) How ...

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: ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

International MBA insights

July 10, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

International MBA insights How much do you know about the top European business schools? At our 2012 AIGAC conference in Spain last week, we asked admissions directors from several top European business schools to tell us “three great things” about their MBA programs. Not surprisingly, every one of them highlighted the tremendous diversity of their student populations.  The number of nationalities represented, by both students and faculty, is incomparable at these programs – and makes for a truly global experience.  Programs like IESE and INSEAD also offer campuses on multiple continents, and many also offer exchange programs and partnerships with US business schools. Here are the other two “great things” they described: Cambridge Judge “The people and Cambridge,” says Conrad Chua, head of  MBA Recruitment & Admissions.  Judge is a highly collaborative program, and with such a small class size, anonymity is not an option.  Every student is active and involved, including their participation in 3 major team projects.  As for Cambridge, the university environment emanates excellence, and Judge values students showing potential to be inspired and make a difference in the world. ESADE “Personalization and Creapolis,” according to Christina Sassot, Director of Admissions.  After nine months, ESADE students can decide whether they’d like to finish in 12, 15 ...

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, ...

Upcoming MBA Admissions Fairs: Making the Most of Them

June 05, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Upcoming MBA Admissions Fairs: Making the Most of Them It’s MBA admissions fair season: a great opportunity for MBA candidates to attend admissions panels in your city, pick up GMAT tips, talk 1x1 with admissions officers from your target schools, and evaluate which programs are the best fit for you. In addition, it gives the admissions officers a chance to hear questions directly from the frontlines, and make connections with prospective applicants. Here are 5 tips to ensure you make the most of these MBA events: Remember that every touch point with the school reflects upon you as a candidate, be it with the head 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 like coming armed with thoughtful questions, beyond what can be found on the website.  Ask about a topic that intrigues you, an aspect of the curriculum, campus initiatives.  Show your sincere curiosity about the MBA program, rather than simply a desire for face time.  Book 1x1 sessions when possible.  Some schools offer a chance to reserve a time slot to meet with the admissions team privately or in a small group.  ...

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 ...

The Months Before Applying To Business School

May 01, 2012  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

The Months Before Applying To Business School So, you are planning to apply to business school this fall. Anxiously, you’re awaiting the release of the essay questions you’ll have to answer, possibly studying for the GMAT as we speak, and likely feeling a bit hopeless that there isn’t more you can do NOW.  The good news is, there is.  If you make the most of this waiting period over the next few months, you’ll not only be ahead of the game, you may strengthen your candidacy as well. Resume There’s no need to wait to update your resume.  Certainly leave room underneath your current position for additional updates, but your past positions won’t be changing.  Take the time now to think through all of your professional accomplishments, roles and responsibilities.  Remind yourself of all of your community and leadership positions, your hobbies and personal interests, your activities and committees.  It’s actually the ideal way to kick off the brainstorming needed for your applications. Recommenders Identify your target recommenders and approach them now to ask them if they’d be willing to write your recommendations.  Look at past applications to familiarize yourself with the types of questions asked, ...

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 ...

Meghan, UVA Darden MBA

March 22, 2012  |   Featured,Testimonials   |     |   0 Comment

Meghan, UVA Darden MBA I could not be happier that I chose to work with Shine. I decided to use a consultant because I was applying to business schools while working full time, and I knew that having an additional set of eyes on my work would save me some stress. However, my experience with Shine was much fuller; Hillary helped me take my applications to the next level and maximize my potential. Having someone as experienced and professional as Hillary on my team was a godsend, and I know that my applications were much stronger because of Hillary’s guidance and feedback. - Meghan (New York, NY)

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 ...

Seth, Duke Fuqua MBA

August 10, 2011  |   Testimonials   |     |   0 Comment

Seth, Duke Fuqua MBA Working with Hillary was a very beneficial experience for me.  She was accessible, knowledgeable, and a pleasure to work with. Through working with Hillary, I was able to better craft my bschool "story" and I am confident that her guidance resulted in my bschool acceptance. -Seth (Brooklyn, NY)  

Robert, Texas McCombs MBA

August 10, 2011  |   Testimonials   |     |   0 Comment

Robert, Texas McCombs MBA The MBA application landscape has become so competitive that just being a good candidate is no longer enough.  Hillary's insight and experience were instrumental in helping me market myself and build my personal brand.  She not only taught me how to put together the strongest application possible, she was able to help me determine which schools were the best fit for me personally (I recommend keeping an open mind, you might be surprised.)  Hillary takes the luck and guesswork out of the application process, and I highly recommend her to anyone who is serious about attending a top business school. -Robert, (Houston, TX)

Audrey, Georgetown McDonough MBA

August 10, 2011  |   Testimonials   |     |   0 Comment

Audrey, Georgetown McDonough MBA I came to Shine MBA admissions towards the end of my MBA application process, and I regret not using their services sooner. The essay editing was detailed and thoughtful, and the suggestions for improvements did not try to stifle my voice as a writer or alter my goals for pursuing an MBA. In addition, the phone consultations proved extremely valuable because I could brainstorm effectively with my consultant Hillary, while also receiving sound advice on putting my best face forward, interviewing with schools, and the final decision making process. I am very grateful for the help I received during such an anxiety ridden and stressful period of time. -Audrey (San Francisco, CA)

When To Re-Take The GMAT

August 05, 2011  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

When To Re-Take The GMAT Raise your hands if you’ve ever second-guessed whether your GMAT score is good enough. Now, keep your hands raised if you’ve scored over 720 and wondered the same thing.  Thought so.  Hands down please. There are very few applicants who haven’t at least wondered, if not worried, whether their candidacy is at risk due to their GMAT score. Here are a few considerations to help you make this assessment for yourselves: There’s no such thing as a deal breaker Those that have attended one of my "How To Get Into The Top Business Schools" presentations can tell you that this is a dominant theme. Other than an ethical violation, there really is no one element that would take an otherwise qualified candidate out of the running. My favorite example comes from the Harvard MBA Class of 2013 profile. The GMAT range of students in the incoming class is 490-790.  490!!!  Is this a good target GMAT score for anyone applying to HBS?  No, no it is not. It does however prove that if you’re an extraordinary candidate, you are going to get your chance.  (On a ...

Mio, MIT Sloan MBA

July 05, 2011  |   Testimonials   |     |   0 Comment

Mio, MIT Sloan MBA Hillary’s commitment to the quality of the output was sincere. Especially when reviewing my resume, she taught me how to envision who I am and how I came here on a piece of paper. As for essays, she wouldn’t pass off any points where I could better demonstrate my personal brand. She also provided ample knowledge regarding my career goals and school choices. Her candid feedback and appropriate questioning helped me to reflect what I want to achieve in my career and stay true to my voice. I was very fortunate to work with Shine and be admitted to my first choice school, MIT Sloan. Thank you Hillary for all your support! - Mio (Princeton, NJ)