For over 10 years, Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC) has been helping MBA applicants around the world get into their dream schools. Stacy Sukov Blackman, founder of SBC, has an MBA from Kellogg and a Bachelor of Science from Wharton. We reached out to her to see if she’d be willing to address some questions that most MBA applicants from India have on their minds. So here she is to set the ball rolling.
MBA Crystal Ball (MCB): Pranaam Stacy-ji
Stacy: Namaste Sameer-ji, sab kushal mangal?
[Ok bhai-log and behenjis…gotta admit, that greeting part did not happen. Just added it in there to see if you were paying attention. Moving on…]
MBA Crystal Ball (MCB) on Choosing the Right Business School
With such a huge choice of business schools how can a student approach the program selection process in a structured manner?
Stacy: You should start the process by thinking about your personal criteria. Some of the factors that will influence your choice are: location, size, companies that recruit, school culture, teaching methods, strength of alumni network, reputation and admissions criteria. Once you have defined what you are looking for, you may want to look at some rankings to relatively quickly identify a handful of schools (8-10) that fit at least some of your criteria.
The next step should be conducting deeper research on those 8-10 schools, by looking at their websites, reading blogs such as my own and potentially contacting students and alumni or touring the campus. This more in depth research should help you to narrow your list down to 4-6 schools, which is a reasonable amount to apply to in a given admissions season. You should always have a range of schools on your list: 1-2 reach schools as well as others that are at varying levels of competitiveness.
MCB on MBA interviews
• If applicants have a choice, which of the following should they prefer and why?
o Alumni versus Adcom interviews
o In person versus Telephonic versus Skype
• Considering that the interview invites are sent out after Adcoms have had a chance to review the main application (essays, resume, recommendations), should the interview be viewed as a make or break milestone? Or do Adcoms go back go back to the table re-evaluate the entire application once again?
Stacy: The most important thing in an interview is to be comfortable so that you can give the absolute best interview possible. It may be slightly “better” to interview on campus, but if that will make you incredibly nervous, it’s not worth it. Interviewing with an adcomm member may make some feel intimidated; while others will be inspired. Set yourself up for success, by controlling the factors that you can control to your advantage. There are several pros and cons to each of the scenarios – off/on campus or adcomm/alum. Again, there is no “better”. Do what works for you.
In terms of the question of telephone vs. Skype – I do think that Skype generally places you at an advantage in terms of the ability to build a relationship and convey your personality. In most cases, I would vote for that over straight telephone.
For most schools that do invitation only interviews, the interview is absolutely make or break. If not invited to interview, you are out of the running and the process is over. No chance of going back. After the interview takes place, the admissions committee will revisit your file and make a final assessment with the interview notes included.
MCB on MBA essays
Going back to the basics, how would you differentiate between a ‘good’ and an ‘excellent’ essay?
Stacy: Wow – this is a broad question that is difficult to answer succinctly. I would say that a good essay is one that is well written, answers the question and nothing more or less, and does a really good job of highlighting your background, achievements or goals. This type of “good” essay is very common and chances are that good essays will not get you into a GREAT school. An excellent essay does all of this but also reveals who you are as a human being, injects some personality and humanity, shows your successes and your flaws. An excellent essay tells the “why” behind the “what”. In other words, you will not just tell that you took job x, but will explain why, and that explanation will tell us something real about you. When you tell what you did, you are bound to be like many others in the applicant pool who did the same things. When you tell why, you showcase YOU, and there is only one YOU.
MCB: There’s quite a bit of confusion about word-count in essays. Some consultants say it’s ok to spill-over by 5%-10%. Others consider it as blasphemy. What’s your take on this?
Stacy: I know for a fact that going over by 10% will not kill your chances. However, why risk it. Sometimes we are talking about 30 words. Just adhere to the word count and you will have nothing to worry about – no “what if’s”.
Awright, folks! We’re just getting warmed up. So we’ve kept the questions at a high level this time. For future discussions, we’ll try to get into more specific details. If you have any queries you’d like to ask Stacy (including ‘What does it take to get on the cover of Fortune magazine?‘ ), send them across to us or post them as comments. No ‘what are my chances‘ kinda queries here please. Let’s keep it general so everyone will benefit from the response. We’ll take the best questions and reach out to her.