Friday, August 31, 2012

The Value of Global Work Experience Prior to Applying for Your MBA

When I moved from Toronto to Singapore back in 2010, little did I realize the extent to which the experience would help me learn and grow. Now, as I embark on my MBA at INSEAD, I am confident that my experience of working with professionals from 14 different countries in Asia-Pacific will help me contribute to classroom discussions more holistically. Below, I share some important advantages of getting global work experience, especially prior to applying for an MBA:

  1. Working in a different set of cultures expands your leadership capabilities. While reading about different cultures is enriching, personal interaction takes this learning to a whole new level. My interactions with individuals from countries as diverse as Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea and Japan have provided me with tremendous opportunity to learn country specific business practices. I have also learned to discern when any one person’s reaction could be as a result of different cultural norms, their emotions, their personality or just their communication style. Undoubtedly, learning to lead cross-cultural teams has become an important part of leadership in global team environments today.
  2. It sends a signal to schools as well as future employers that you are willing to go beyond your comfort zone and take risks. Calculated risk taking involves comprehensive analysis (an advantage in itself), but you still might make some mistakes. I strongly believe that good leadership comes from having made lots of (hopefully little) mistakes and having learned from them.
  3. Having global work experience differentiates you. Schools value the lessons you’ve learned in a different country because they know you will add value to classroom discussions. Within most applicant pools (although it is becoming more common), not every candidate will have truly international work experience. So take (or create) the opportunity and go for it.

How to go about getting international work experience:
  1. Through your current employer:
    • Look out for opportunities within your current role to take on international projects where you get to travel or be a part of virtual international teams.
    • Look outside of your current role for international job postings or opportunities, especially the ones with a broader reach than just one country or culture.
  2. Through moving to an international city:
    • Take an extended leave of absence (if possible) from current employer and travel to an international city. Setup a few interviews beforehand or look out for teaching English opportunities or even volunteer positions.
Wishing you all the very best with your search!

Sweeny Chhabra, Forté Fellow

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Steps in Pursuing Your MBA

Greetings from Olin Business School at Wash U in St Louis! After ten days of orientation and our first full week of school, we are off to a busy, but fun-filled beginning to the school year.  Having just started classes, I can’t help but reflect the experiences which led me here.  I feel compelled to offer a few lessons that I learned along the business school application journey. I got a great deal of insight from reading blogs like these, so I hope you do too!

First, before making your decision to pursue an MBA, be honest with yourself about why this degree is important to you. There is no wrong reason (and the MBA is not for everyone), but it is crucial that you are clear on why you want an MBA and why this is the appropriate time for you.  You should start by identifying what your goals are after school (both short and long-term…your applications will ask you, so it’s a good idea to start thinking about it).  Understanding this will inherently guide you to which format is best for you, whether it be a full-time, part-time, or EMBA program and will probably also help to isolate geographically where would be best for you.  Using online tools (school websites, blogs, etc.) and talking with current students you may know will provide greater insight into which programs are a good fit for you.

Second, depending on your circumstances, I suggest discussing your options with your boss, your mentor, and potentially, some close co-workers. If you are hoping to return to the industry you currently work in, it is important to understand your options and talk to people who have had similar experiences who can help you realize how an MBA is important to achieving your goals. I spoke to people at my former company who had done full-time, part-time, or EMBA programs, as well as several people who had reached my career goals without an MBA. This gave me a clear picture on what value an MBA would add to my experience within this industry.

Finally, it is important that you are applying to schools that are the right fit for your goals. I did not attend any fairs or forums, and in retrospect, I definitely should have. I would urge you all to go to at least one to speak to admissions teams and current students to get a real feel for each school you are interested in.  In fact, the Olin Preview Weekend is coming up in October and I would highly recommend coming to visit!

Good Luck!
Leigh Hunt, Fort
é Fellow
MBA 2014, Olin Business School at Washington University

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tackling Recommendation Letters

The thought of recommendation letters brings fear to many MBA hopefuls.  You mean, there is a part of the application you can’t completely control!?  Well, yes.  But drifting to the opposite end of the spectrum and being completely hands-off could be a fatal error.  Here are three tips to help make your recommendation letters a harmonious asset to your application.  

1)  Share Your Goals

Share with your recommender your short and long term goals, as well as reasons that business school is the next best step for you.  To get more specific, detail how your work with them fits into or reflects your goals. This helps your recommender to see your “full story” and to better express their experiences with you in light of that story.  Additionally, give them specifics about the school they are writing to and how that school’s qualities fit with your goals.  The more you clue them into this information (which you should have already researched anyway) the more their recommendations will flow with your essays and application as a whole.

2) Set Them Up For Success

Try to meet each recommender for lunch, coffee or at least a short meeting.  I supplied each with a small packet of information and later sent them digital copies of everything in that folder. Packets might include:

- Written outline of why you are targeting the school for which they are recommending you.  (See point #1)

- Bullet points of your "Top 10 Work Highlights" for inspiration of examples to flesh out the recommendation.

- General examples of recommendation letters (There are great examples in Richard Montauk’s book How To Get Into The Top MBA Programs).

- Reminders of deadlines and any website details needed.

 3) Give Thanks

You’ll find plenty of differing opinions about recommender thank you notes.  In my book, it’s always better to be thoughtful and appreciative.  After all, your recommenders took time out of their busy schedules to focus on your MBA goals.  Whether it is a handwritten note of gratitude or a small gift, I say yes to thank yous.  Wait until after your recommendation letters are completed, though.  I dropped a bottle of wine and a thank you note off at each of my recommenders’ desks about a week after they turned in my recommendation.  And be sure to keep in touch with them on your application status and decisions. 

Best of luck!
Tricia Felice, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Friday, August 24, 2012

Advice on Preparing for the GMAT

With the MBA application season closing in, many applicants are preparing to sit for their GMAT soon. The pressure to obtain a high score for entering a top notch B school is evident. The last thing you want is to reason why your palms are all sweaty and your mind is in a daze.

How can you be better prepared for GMAT? Here are some tips that helped me beat the GMAT.

1. WHEN?
- Even before you start studying for your GMAT, book your test date! Once you have a date in mind, you will automatically roll your sleeves up, plan better, and work for it.

2. HOW?
- First and foremost, you have got to set the bar and think of the score you would like to get. Get hold of all the books and study material that would help you achieve your dream score, and eventually your dream school. Also, join online forums like GMAT Club and Beat the GMAT. Here, you will be able to find decent practice questions, test strategy, and GMAT updates by fellow test takers.

3. Practice is the key when it comes to GMAT. Practice as much as you can and aim to give at least 5-6 mock tests before your actual test. This will enable you to mark your grey areas so you can work on them. Practicing also helps you manage GMAT’s infamous time constraints.

4. Do not give more weight to either Quant or Verbal. Treat them as equals and give them the attention that they deserve. Remember messing up in one section can reduce your entire score!

5. Relax and keep calm
- No matter what happens during your test, do not lose faith in yourself. Eat well and get adequate sleep. Do not touch your books a day before the test. Just keep a cool head and give your test.

“Don't live down to expectations.  Go out there and do something remarkable.” - Wendy Wasserstein

All the best! Enjoy the experience.
Urvashi Marda, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is 2 years too soon? What to do 18-24 months before planned enrollment

Two years in advance seems too early to start thinking about MBA programs, but there is so much to do that it really requires a two-year lead. While the process can be done in less time, you will feel less rushed and less stressed if you start early.

First, I recommend making a timeline of key dates of all the important steps. Its fine if the dates change but the guide will help keep you on track.

Eighteen to twenty-four months before you plan to enroll, you should aim to get the GMAT out of the way. You don’t want to be studying for it on top of completing your applications, which in and of itself is like a full-time job. Whether you take a class (like I did) or study on your own, try to allow at least a few months to prepare for the test, while you don’t have the distraction of also filling out applications. Definitely do as many practice tests as you can, especially to get used to having to concentrate for 4 hours and to become familiar with the types of questions and the format. Don’t underestimate the amount of preparation required.

Once you have the GMAT under your belt and are comfortable with your score, it’s important to start narrowing down your list of desired schools. There are a lot of factors to consider – size of class, location, flexibility of the schedule and required classes, percent female and/or international, specializations offered, alumni network, employers and recruiting companies, etc. Start talking to students you know in various programs. If you don’t know anyone at a particular school of interest, ask friends and colleagues for introductions. Use LinkedIn as a resource. Read the rankings (but don’t get too caught up in the numbers as it is most important to find the best fit for you). I suggest US News & World Report and Business Week. Look at employer reports, which are usually available on each school’s website to see what companies recruit on campus and how many students they hire. Since you still have 18-24 months left at your current job, actively seek out more leadership roles and responsibility. Make sure your resume is up to date.

There is also a level of self-reflection involved. Think about what you want to accomplish and why you want an MBA. You will need to articulate your goals in your essays so it’s important to know what you hope to get out of the experience.

Start cutting down the list to a reasonable number of schools for serious consideration and visits, which I suggest take place 12-18 months in advance of admission (and about which I will provide more advice in my next post).

Best of Luck!
Beth Lovisa, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Stern School of Business at NYU

MBA Admissions A-Z: E is for Essay

Next up in our MBA Admissions A-Z series is E for Essay, a topic on which we could very easily write an entire book. (Hey – we DID write an entire book. Scroll down for details.)
Here we are going to focus on 4 critical MBA admission essay mistakes. Make sure that your essays DON’T include any of these:
1.    Buzzwords
Try this on for size: “I plan on penetrating the B2C e-commerce bubble by starting my own synergistic company. Additionally, I want to lead empowering seminars about diversity awareness in the workplace for the human resources space.”
Unfortunately, creating an MBA application essay isn’t as simple as piecing together a string of keywords. Many applicants think that if they include industry buzzwords in their essays, then they’ll come off sounding like experts in the field. Recipe for success? More like recipe for disaster. Buzzwords don’t make you look smart; they make you look unoriginal. (Of course, you can use a few buzzwords when absolutely necessary. Just make sure they clarify and inform as opposed to confuse and obscure.)
2.    Grandiose Statements
Don’t merely discuss a value or belief; illustrate it. “I want to give back to my community.” Okay, thanks for the info…now tell me something else: HOW? Or WHY? When have you lived this value in the past? How do you plan on focusing your energy on helping your community in the future? Furthermore, why do you feel a calling to contribute to your community? Give me some details here!
Maybe this is what you meant: “When I was suddenly orphaned at 16 years old, my local church bent over backwards to help revive me and my twin brother after the paralyzing tragedy. The community members went beyond simply feeding and clothing us, by caring for us and loving us in the absence of our parents. Their boundless kindness inspired me to found my not-for-profit organization; it helps teenage orphans keep their heads above water after tragedy strikes by supplying material as well as emotional support.”
3.    Whining
Complaining about your application blemishes only draws attention to them. If you aren’t happy with your GPA, then take responsibility for your low grades, and if relevant, provide context that explains why you did poorly…and then move on. If possible, portray your liabilities as assets by discussing the ways in which you’ve grown from your experiences, or  point to times when you excelled in similar circumstances. But please, keep the tone mature. Nobody likes a crybaby.
4.    Typos
This is one of the most common MBA essay mistakes, and yet is also one of the easiest errors to fix. Rule of thumb: Don’t hit “Submit” until you’ve edited and proofread your application essays. For the best results, read your essay aloud so you can identify errors with your eyes, as well as your ears. And remember, the only thing better than one set of eyes and ears, are multiple sets. Have your mom, best friend, neighbor, co-worker, or editor help you identify and then fix all spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and stylistic blunders.
MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools will lead you through the MBA admissions process beginning to end and includes lots of advice on how to approach the MBA essay writing process with examples. Download the first chapter for free now!
By Linda Abraham, founder and president of and author of MBA Admission for SmartiesThis article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

MBA Admissions A-Z: D is for Distinctive Writing

We’ve touched upon ways in which to highlight your uniqueness in “Be Yourself” (B in our MBA Admissions A-Z series). There we talked about the importance of expressing what you’re truly passionate about rather than simply enumerating those things that you think the adcom want to hear. Writing about your passions, as well as your dreams and aspirations (see “A is for Aspiration“), are good ways to showcase your individuality in your MBA application, but if your writing style falls short, then your message will get lost.
So how do you ensure that your application essay doesn’t just contain the right distinctive content, but that the language and style are distinctive as well?
The following 3 MBA essay writing tips will help you accomplish your goal of highlighting your distinctive self through the lens of distinctive writing techniques:
  1. Be strong. Instead of relying on weak, empty verbs, use muscular, impactful language. Don’t say “I like to travel,” but “My passion for exploration landed me in 24 countries on 5 continents, in the span of 4 years.” Also, steer clear of “to be” verbs. “I plan on revamping the clothing manufacturing industry” is much more powerful  than “I want to be a textile importer.”
  2. Be specific. Instead of presenting boring, drab statements about your accomplishments, be specific, using numbers to quantify and qualify the impact of your achievements. The more detailed you are, the more your writing will stand out. Don’t write “I led a team of interns last summer,” but “Last summer, when I was only a Jr. Accounts Manager, I led a team of 16 interns in a nation-wide marketing competition. The publicity gained from our first-place win brought 24 new accounts to our young company.” (The above example about traveling around the world also demonstrates this point.)
  3. Be personable. The adcom readers are people. That’s right – living, breathing human beings. Try and infuse your writing with your personality so that when the readers review your essay, they enter an engaging conversational reading experience. Read your essay aloud. Now, does it sound like a robot reeling off critical data, or does it sound like YOU, speaking human-to-human about those important things, large and small, that make you tick? Obviously the latter will gain the attention of the adcoms and will do a better job of introducing them to the person behind the essay.
Funny how distinct, extraordinary writing can be very similar to your everyday, ordinary speaking!
(P.S. Notice how I didn’t say “Be personal.” You are mistaken if you think that offering personal information is the ticket to distinction. No one wants to know about your messy divorce or your life-long goal to lose those last nagging 6 pounds.)
Looking for more advice on how to make your application essays stand out? View our on-demand webinar, The Roadmap to Bold and Brilliant Essays, now!
By Linda Abraham, founder and president of and author of MBA Admission for SmartiesThis article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of

MBA Admissions A-Z: C is for Community Service

Fortunately or unfortunately, community service has virtually become a requirement if you’re seeking a spot in a top b-school class. The good news here is that if you haven’t been involved in community service until this point, you now have additional motivation: Your MBA application is begging for you to step up, pitch in, and assume a leadership role in your community.
Below you will find helpful answers to three of the most commonly asked questions about community service:

1.  Why do schools care about community service?
Elite business schools are quite open about their mission: to train leaders for the world. They want to see evidence of leadership. They want to see indications of initiative and caring beyond the immediate needs of your job. Community service presents an excellent opportunity for young professionals to show all that plus the organizational, motivational, and communications mojo leaders need. Furthermore, schools want active participants in both their own student and alumni communities. Since they believe that past behavior predicts future behavior, if you’ve been passive in the past, they have no reason to assume you will be active in the future. You need to provide the proof.

2.  If I haven’t done community service until this point, won’t the adcoms see through my last-minute efforts as an admissions ploy? Don’t they want us to serve the community out of the goodness of our hearts and not simply to look good on an application?
Yes, the adcoms want community service to come from an innate desire to serve your community, but last-minute community service is still better than no community service at all. There’s no way to hide the fact that you only recently joined your church’s adult literacy outreach program; so you need to focus on how this new experience has suddenly enriched your life, and how it has motivated you to start your own adult literacy program in another underserved community across town. Or you can talk about how your new volunteering stint had helped shaped your goals by adding a volunteerism angle to your long-term vision.

3.  Do I need traditional community service experience, like working in a soup kitchen or joining Big Brother/Big Sister?
Of course not! Since when has an element of the MBA application asked you to be common or traditional in any way? Community service comes in all shapes and sizes and is certainly not limited to the obvious. Maybe you started a community crocheting group that meets once a week to crochet hats for Ukrainian orphans. Maybe you bring your nine-year-old autistic nephew to a special needs yoga class twice a week, and have been doing so since he was four. And if you work in a soup kitchen, or better yet, manage a soup kitchen, then that’s great too. The best community service is the community service you do because it means something to you.

Are you worried that you don’t have enough community service experience to highlight in your MBA application? Learn how to ameliorate this profile weakness, as well as other potential deal-breakers, when you follow the professional tips in
MBA Application Weaknesses 101.

This article originally appeared on the
Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of

How to Make a Great First Impression with MBA Admissions Reps

Victor Cheng is an interesting personality in business pop culture.  He is a highly successful consultant-turned-entrepreneur and can often be found soapboxing somewhere on television or writing for and/or contributing to myriad publications.  The guy works hard and is very good at what he does, but one thing Mr. Cheng knows is that hard, quality work is just not good enough.  He knows that in order to be given the opportunity to show a company like McKinsey what you can do, you’re going to have to convince them that you can do it.
In an article about making a good impression during an interview with a top consulting firm, Victor lays out seven questions that every interviewer (including himself) is asking themselves for the duration of the meeting either explicitly or implicitly:
  1. The personality question: “Do I like this kid?”
  2. The professionalism question: “Can I put this guy in front of a client?” [dress, manners, language].
  3. The organization question: “Can she put forth a clear plan?”
  4. The analytical question: “Does he understand how to use numbers?”
  5. The insight question: “Does he get the main point?”
  6. The synthesis question: “Can she tie it all together?”
  7. The enjoyment question: “Will he burn out?”
While it is true that Victor Cheng lists these questions with something specific in mind (interviewing for a job at a major consulting firm), the list can be easily and safely generalized to any professional interview. 

In fact, the individual smiling and/or scowling at you across the table at your 
business school admissions interview will hold a list of questions in their mind closely derivative of the one above.  Furthermore, many readers will be attending the Road to Business School events. Admissions officers at these events will remember or forget you based on first impressions.
Here are some concrete steps you can take to prepare to make a great first impression and get the most out of Road to Business School events:
Get to know the MBA: You may have one or more friends or mentors who have been through the MBA process. Their perspective is valuable, and if you haven’t tapped into it yet, that’s worth doing as soon as you’re getting serious about a business degree. 
Get to know business schools:  Speaking with admissions staff at your top schools can help you understand their perspectives on the business world and find points of commonality for your application. You might already have a laser target on a very small number of business schools. I’m not going to try to talk you out of that perspective, which may be well informed. Regardless, try speaking with some programs about which you’re less knowledgeable. As always, avoid asking overly obvious questions, or making inquiries that are answerable through a simple web search. This process can help you refine your pitch to business schools and can also help you clarify your career goals and aspirations.

Don’t forget to talk a little bit about yourself: It’s amusing that prospective MBAs, who have a reputation at times for egocentrism, tend to speak to admissions officers at networking events such as Road to Business School without mentioning themselves.  You won’t be able to conduct an interview at a networking event, and if you appear eager to try to do so, you’ll come off as unpolished; but mentioning a little bit about yourself and why you want an MBA goes a long way. It makes you more interesting and helps admissions officers help you.
Your business school application is what gets you in the door.  The qualitative (essays, letters of recommendation, type of work experience) and quantitative (GMAT score, undergraduate GPA, years of work experience) information contained therein will speak for you.  But it is up to you to bring it home in the interview.  Kaplan’s Road to Business School events will put our students in from of admissions officers from top universities.  This is your chance to make a great first impression!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Preparing for the Forté Forums - Part 2

The 2012 Forté Forums get underway tonight in Chicago. Last week, I shared tips from our webinar panelists on preparing for the forums. Don’t forget to spend a few minutes listening to our webinar, Preparing for the Forté Forums. The panel featured Joanne Legler, Associate Director of Admissions at The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and five women who are beginning their MBA programs in the next month. They shared their insights and tips on navigating an MBA recruiting event.
Here are some additional tips shared during the webinar:

1.       Talk with other attendees. Some of them may be your future classmates. If not, you’ll be expanding your network. -- Tricia Felice, MBA 2014, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Forté Fellow

2.      Have a clear understanding of what you hope to gain from the forum or fair. -- Stephanie Cadieux, MBA 2014, The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern

3.      After the fair, make a list of what you learned from each school and rank them according to your preferences. -- Joanne Legler, Associate Director of Admissions,  University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Arrion Rathsack, Manager of Sponsor Relations and Programs, Forté Foundation

Friday, August 17, 2012

MBA Admissions A-Z: B is for Be Yourself!

One of the most common application mistakes applicants make is that they write what they think the adcom readers want to hear, and not about what the applicants actually think is important.  But friends, family, forums, and frequent flyers are always telling you to write something extraordinary, right? How are you supposed to relate your true essence to the adcom if you’re working so hard to come up with wild and crazy experiences to cram into your essays?

Yes, your application should be filled with vivid details of those extraordinary experiences in your life, but that goal shouldn’t distract you from your mission of writing about who you are and what you’re passionate about.

I’m not going to lie – if you are an internationally acclaimed harpist who has also climbed Mt. Everest three times, then you’d have a much easier time choosing the experiences you want to highlight in your essays. But few of us can claim such accomplishments; so what do you do if you really are just an Asian engineer whose claim to fame is that you hold the office-wide record for taking apart a computer and putting it back together?

Here’s the key: What makes an experience extraordinary is not merely how rare it is, but how much impact it has had on you and on others.

For starters, you can talk about your passion of breaking things down to their individual parts and then re-constructing them, and how this process invokes a deep understanding of how the final product equals the sum of its parts; or you can talk about how you find the details of electro-engineering majestic or beautiful and how these characteristics have motivated you to start your own business of recycling old computers – taking them apart and building new, greater, and grander devices from them.
Adcom readers aren’t ONLY interested in the yodelers and the underwater algae botanists. They’re interested in people who have passions and aspirations and who are looking to find a business school that will help them materialize their dreams and impact our universe.

If you’re never climbed Mt. Everest or have never heard the pluck of a harp string, don’t worry. Just be yourself and write about what’s important to you. THAT is what the admissions board wants to hear.

Are you looking for more advice on how to create an application that stands out while remaining true to yourself? View valuable essay content-related resources in
Topics for Your MBA Essay 101!
By Linda Abraham, founder and president of and author of MBA Admission for Smarties.

This article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of

Thursday, August 16, 2012

MBA Admissions A-Z: A is for Aspirations

Get ready for 26 fantastic tips!

Let’s begin with defining your MBA goals and aspirations.
What is the Difference between a Goal and an Aspiration?
  • A goal is something that you plan to do or accomplish in a particular timeframe. One way to look at it is this: Industry + Function + Timeframe = Goal. Example: “Immediately upon earning my MBA I plan to become a consultant at a top strategy consulting firm. Five to ten years after achieving my degree I hope to move up to a principal or partner position.”
  • An aspiration (or vision) is broader both in impact and timeframe. Example: “As a manger, principal, and partner at a major consulting firm, I envision developing an enhanced form of consulting where clients rely on us to be proactive – to prevent and foresee problems, and not just solve them after they occur; inform them of opportunities, and not just explore those they may have uncovered. In addition, I would like my consulting experience and business acumen to benefit Favorite Cause X. My management skills and my proactive approach would allow Organization Y, where I have volunteered for the last two years, to make the most of its scarce resources and have a far greater impact on Favorite Cause X.”
For the goal, you want to highlight what you plan on doing and when you plan on doing it. For the aspiration, your focus is usually less sharp and geared more to the long term with a dash of motivation included. What impact or benefit will accomplishing this goal have on you, on your chosen industry, or on the world around you? Is there a non-professional or community element to your aspirations?
A Parable to Further Illustrate the Difference between Goals and Aspirations
Once upon a time in the Middle Ages there were three stone masons, all chipping away at the same large rock. A passerby saw the sweat of their brow and asked what they were working so hard on.
  • “I am cutting this stone,” said the first, rather bitter man.
  • “I am building a parapet,” said the second man, who was less distraught but still exhausted and unsatisfied from his job.
  • The third stone mason, who was as sweaty and as hard-working as the first two, looked up at the passerby, and with a radiant smile answered, “I am building a magnificent cathedral to glorify our Creator for centuries to come!”
The immediate task for each of these three men was the same: to cut stones to particular sizes and shapes. The first mason is simply doing a job. The second mason has a goal. The third mason, however, has vision or aspiration. He isn’t simply earning his daily bread or finishing a construction task; he is building a structure that will have a lasting impact on the world by bringing beauty and glory and godliness into the lives of all future generations. Now that is an aspiration.
Your aspiration doesn’t have to be nearly as grand, but I think the parable illustrates the difference. And if you do have grand dreams, aspirations, or visions for your future and are asked about your long-term goals, aspirations, or visions, don’t be afraid to share them.
Now You Know What They Are. So What?
Goals and aspirations are critical in the MBA admission process. They serve at least four vital functions:
  1. They guide you in choosing where to apply. Clear well-defined goals and long-term aspirations should be among the major factors determining where you apply.
  2. The overwhelming majority of applications have an MBA goals essay. Many ask about “vision” or “aspirations.” You need to know what’s driving your decision to pursue an MBA if you want to answer these questions well. They are also frequently asked in interviews. Wishy washy non-answers can kill an application.
  3. Show fit. Schools want happy students attending and happy alumni out in the working, earning, and donating world. People who know what they want and end up doing it, are happier customers. They belong. They fit. Admissions offices look to your goals as one essential element in that elusive “fit” factor.
  4. Prepare you to hit the ground running. Recruiting and career planning usually start before you arrive on campus. Internship events start within weeks of the start of classes. If you don’t have a clear idea of where you are headed, you flounder in the internship recruiting process.
So before you plunk down US$200K in out-of-pocket and opportunity costs and spend two years at a top business school, think about where you want to end up. As Stephen Covey recommends, “Begin with the end in mind.”  

Aspirations are a great place to start MBA Admissions: A-Z.

Determining your vision or aspiration is no easy feat, and it can be done only after you’ve defined your goals. Learn how to do it right when you view
The Art of a Gripping MBA Goals Essay, a FREE on-demand webinar that addresses the what, the how, and the why of MBA goals and aspirations.
By Linda Abraham, founder and president of and author of MBA Admission for Smarties.

This article originally appeared on the
Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of

Monday, August 13, 2012

Preparing for the Forté Forums

The 2012 Forté Forums begin in a week. Within a supportive and collaborative environment, the Forté Forums are great way to begin exploring the MBA program opportunities available to you at Top-Tier programs.

You might be thinking, “What exactly happens at a Forté Forum and how should I prepare?” Last week, I hosted a panel moderated by Joanne Legler, Associate Director of Admissions at The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and five women who are beginning their MBA programs in the next month. They shared their insights and tips on navigating an MBA recruiting event, whether it be a Forté Forum, The MBA Tour, QS Top MBA Tour, or Kaplan’s Road to Business School (and I should add there are many other regional and national fairs as well.)
Here are some tips shared during the webinar:
1.       Ask questions about information you aren't able to easily find on the website, i.e. school’s culture. -- Shaw-chin Chiu, MBA 2014, The Fuqua School of Business at Duke, Forté Fellow
2.      Dress appropriately. It keeps you confident, no such thing as being over dressed. -- Adeola Taiwo, MBA 2014, McCombs School of Business at Texas, Forté Fellow
3.      Don’t forget to smile and just be yourself. The schools want good candidates as much as you want a good school--so it is mutual. -- Sweeny Chhabra, MBA 2013, INSEAD, Forté Fellow
Later this week, I’ll share some additional insights from our other panelists on questions to ask, what to wear and bring to the forums, and some final tips.
In the meantime, take some time to listen to the complete webinar online:
Arrion Rathsack, Manager of Sponsor Relations and Programs, Forté Foundation