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Essays

What do both National and Local Scholarships frequently require?  ESSAYS!

Scholarship Essays must not only be interesting and well-written, but must address the specific nature of the scholarship itself, and answer in a clear, decisive way any question that may be asked in the scholarship application.  Sometimes these questions are very explicit: “Why do you deserve this scholarship?”  To be quite frank, even less direct questions, like “What does being a Polish-American mean to you?” or “What is the most important lesson you have learned as a high school student?” or “How do you think your education has prepared you to enter the field of engineering?” all require you to answer: “Why do you deserve this scholarship?”  Persuasion is the goal of scholarship essays.  Remember: even though there may be fewer applicants for a specific scholarship than for your favorite college, frequently there is only ONE winner.

Some tips to make that ONE winner YOU:

  • Use very specific examples from your life experience (this may help you with your SAT writing section as well!)
  • Adhere to the length requirements of the essay – your 500-word essay might be great, but will lose out when the word requirement is 1000 – or 250!
  • Learn about the organization that sponsors the scholarship, and not just the basics.  You want to appeal specifically to the attitude of the organization.  Read the website, get in touch with employees, or, even better, last year’s winner.
  • Make sure your style of writing matches the style of the essay question.  Some organizations ask light, informal, or even humorous questions, and others are deeply earnest and serious.  Don’t mix them up!
  • Even if you write one hundred scholarship essays, don’t send out a single one without proofreading and asking a teacher or mentor to read it first.
  • Don’t expect to do double-duty with your scholarship essays and win over the deciding committee; they’ll know if you just swapped a sentence or two from your college personal statement!
  • Don’t lose out because you didn’t submit a neat, organized, attractive application!

Writing scholarship essays may seem like a daunting task, especially with the busy lives of most students, but remember this: the more essays you write, the easier it becomes.  Practice will not only improve your writing, but improve your chances at winning the scholarship you need to afford college.

Posted on July 27, 2009 by Manhattan Review

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Making a Compelling Application

When your application arrives at your favorite college, the officers are not deciding whether to accept or reject you, but rather your application. Therefore, you need to make your application reflect your abilities, personality, background, interests, and past performance.

Don’t Hesitate – Starting Early Pays Off

Don’t wait until senior year to download the applications you need.  Ideally, you will begin familiarizing yourself with your college applications and their requirements during the spring of your junior year.  You will need time to carefully gather the necessary information and compile lists of activities and honors.  If you can begin writing your essays over the summer, you will save plenty of time; just make sure to ask the admissions offices whether or not they plan on changing the essays in the fall.  

Submitting your application as early as possible is always beneficial.  Close to the deadline date, admissions officers must read close to 100 applications a day, but early in the season, they read only a handful a day.  If the admissions officer has more time to consider your application in a thoughtful way, your chances are greatly improved.  Also, an early submission suggests that you are quite serious about your interest in the school, even when you do not select Early Action or another similar option.

Extracurricular Activities and Your Application

You cannot fool college admissions officers by presenting an extremely long list of extracurricular activities in your application.  While it is true that colleges want to make sure that you are doing something worthwhile in your spare time, it is not necessary to be a member of 20 different clubs, sports, or organizations.  However, if you spend 20 hours a week at one particular activity, and you have become the mainstay of that organization, that’s impressive. 

Extracurricular activity lists should demonstrate:

  1. Dedication and Loyalty
  2. Well-Roundedness
  3. Social Awareness and Sophistication
  4. Leadership Capacity

First Jobs and Student Resumes

As a high school student, it is not expected that you will have a lengthy resume.  However, having a job in high school can impress admissions officers.  It is a good idea include the number of hours per week you normally work at your job, and any leadership positions that you’ve held.  Your job doesn’t need to be unusual, but your dedication is what matters.  Some schools permit additional recommendation letters from job supervisors, and a glowing report of your maturity, work ethic, and problem-solving skills can be a real boon.

Look after your applications! If you apply online, always save a copy of your essays on your hard drive, and also a backup copy on CD or other removable drive.  Take your time, and do your best to present yourself in the best light possible.

Rejection letters are common. Top business schools are competitive and as increasing numbers of applications roll in, increasing numbers of rejection letters also flow out. But if you are among those who are rejected, the opportunity to reapply remains.

It is not uncommon that following rejection from a top business school many candidates consider reapplying. Reapplication is not for everyone, nor does every school particularly encourage it, but if you have been rejected, especially on your first application, you should consider it. This consideration involves self-evaluation, contacting the school’s admission committee, inquiring into their general philosophy on reapplication and/or their particular recommendations or evaluation of your application. Reapplication should make you more knowledgeable about your experience in relation to your chosen school’s expectations and concretely improve your application.

Our Recommendations

Initial rejection may also give you the opportunity to reevaluate why and where you would like to be and what fits best for you. Once you have reached your decision to reapply, the following guidelines will assist you in improving your success rate:

· Make your application stronger. Whether this means improving your GMAT score, your international experience, professional experience, essays, recommendations or other application component, it is of little use to apply simply with the same previous application.

· Cater to the particular school. Find out what the particular admissions committee looks for out of reapplications and follow their recommendations. This should save you both time and money.

· Seek out an evaluation of your first application. You must gain a better understanding of what was missing in your application in order to improve your chances for admission. Some schools offer advice in the form of a letter and other schools by an in-person meeting. USC’s Marshall School offers deny counseling every September. The school emphasizes the need to look at their class profile in order to better understand what they are looking for in order to improve your chances.

· Pay attention to each school’s reapplication procedure. Know what each school wants when reapplying. For example, Kellogg requires an additional essay with the same application. They specifically want to know how you feel you have qualitatively improved your candidacy, and will refer to your first application (kept for two years) when judging the merits of your reapplication. Marshall, which does not discourage reapplication, requires a shorter updated version of the application, but is still looking for the same fit for incoming students.

· Reapplication should not be a makeover. Avoid completely changing your argument for admission. Rather, you should present yourself in light of the new knowledge and experience you have gained as a concrete reason for reconsideration. Also, by now you should have a good idea of what particular aspects of your application needed improvement and can make your case from that.

You are more likely to be successful in your attempt at getting into school if you follow a few simple rules in the process. Through honesty, self-knowledge of goals, desires, and abilities, a readiness for the school itself, and a realistic understanding of those reading your application you will be more likely to succeed in gaining acceptance to the school of your desire.

1: Honesty

In your application you will be asked intimate questions about personal motivation and what draws you in a particular direction. Try to answer these with as much truthfulness as possible. Admissions officers can often detect falsehood, so show your genuine reasons and motivations without disguise. Being yourself makes all the difference.

2: Matching Yourself

Admissions officers don’t just look at whether or not you have a great academic and professional background, your recommendations, and your interviews. They are also keen on finding candidates that would fit in well with their school. So look into not only ranking and GMAT medians, but also what kinds of students attend a particular program, what their backgrounds and goals are and how those match up with yours. Finding a school with likeminded people will contribute to both the success of your application and your future career path.

3: Determining Goals and Motivations

Defining your goals and motivations needs to happen well before you step onto campus for classes. You need to know where you want your MBA to take you. The process of figuring out your own goals and motivations will enable you to create focused, thoughtful, and clear applications that will make sense to admissions officers. Admissions consultants are often helpful in assisting candidates in the process of self-evaluation. Meeting with people who are further along in career paths that interest you may also prove helpful in determining your own path.

4: Don’t apply before you’re prepared to

It is better that you submit a clear, concise, well-thought out application rather than submitting a rushed application in the early rounds. Sending in an application that shows you at your best (the best GMAT you can achieve, the best recommendations you can have, the best essay statements you can compose) is most likely to be successful one, regardless of the round in which it is submitted.

5: Realistic Understanding of the Admissions Officials

Many people think admissions staff are extremely scrutinizing and perfectionists; in other words, machines with little understanding of the possibility for human error or mistakes. In fact, admissions officers are more likely to pay attention to interesting applications from a human perspective. So do not hesitate to show your true self to the readers of your application.

Posted on March 3, 2009 by Manhattan Review

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SPECIFIC APPLICATION COMPONENTS

Essays

Business schools often ask candidates several essay questions. Generally, schools ask about the applicant’s professional goals and experiences, achievements and/or leadership roles, impact, ethical dilemmas faced, specific events/role models that led you to where you are and where you want to be, and disappointment and how it was handled.

The goal of the essay is to fill in the picture that the admissions committee has of the applicant. The essays should be seen as your opportunity to show, explain, and support your candidacy. In the essay portion, the admissions committee wants to get to know you better and understand why you want an MBA, why now, and why at their particular school. Also, they want to know how an MBA is going to help you achieve your goal in both the short and the long term, as well as what you uniquely have to offer. For some applicants answers to these questions are clear; for others, they require greater introspection. Regardless of whether your answers to these questions come easily or with difficulty, you must be sure that your essays answer these questions. This is one of the foremost concerns of admissions committee and it may seem elementary—but you must ANSWER THE QUESTIONS. They ask the particular questions they ask for a reason, and they want answers to those questions, not to other ones. Your answers should be precise, clear, and straightforward, even if you employ creative styles in your answers. Do not leave them guessing.

Optional essays are an opportunity for you to provide additional information about yourself. You can explain pitfalls, gaps, hardships, or highlight items that have not been properly illuminated in other areas of the application.

Once you have decided on where to apply you are ready to begin attacking the essay portion.

· Create a list of different experiences you’d like to cover in the essay section. You may consider categorizing these according to leadership, team experiences, and growing/learning experiences.

· Read over all essays, required and optional, for a given school. Determine which experiences you’d like to cover in which essays or if any experiences are best left out as a result of being difficult to match with a particular school.

· Outline Essays. Your outlines should include a thesis, supporting points and specific examples.

· Write freely. Do not concern yourself yet with whether or not a particular point is helpful or harmful, just write.

· Edit. This will most likely be an ongoing process. Admissions committees want to see well-edited, clear, concise prose—this may require the help of a trusted friend or seeking out an admissions consultant. The committees read your essays several times so even minor mistakes are likely to be noticed.

Posted on November 10, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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The addition of a presentation component in the University of Chicago’s graduate application also acknowledges Microsoft’s PowerPoint as an essential tool for today’s tech-savvy, business world. “No one in business today could pretend to be facile in business communications without PowerPoint,” said a declarative Clarke L. Caywood, associate professor of integrated marketing at Northwestern University in an interview with The Chicago Tribune. “It’s like being able to read.”

First created in 1984 at Forethought, a small software company in the Silicon Valley, the visual aid program was originally titled Presenter. In 1987, Presenter was acquired by Microsoft, where it quickly became known as PowerPoint. Now PowerPoint is an internationally recognized program, with 500 million registered copies creating an estimated 30 million presentations a day, but despite PowerPoint’s obvious popularity in the corporate world at large, until Chicago’s recent addition PowerPoint hasn’t been utilized in MBA graduate applications.

Surveying other top B schools recently to see if they too are eagerly adding the presentation element to their own graduate applications, surprisingly, many are doggedly sticking to the essay question. Brent Chrite, associate dean and director of the MBA program at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, recently told The Arizona Daily Star, “[the PowerPoint presentation’s] an innovative and interesting idea. It’s just not clear to me how that format lets you capture the [applicant’s] depth of insight that’s important to us.” A recent email from the admissions committee at Dartmouth College’s Tuck [SCHOOL OF BUSINESS] shares a similar, albeit frank response to the PowerPoint-presentations-in-future-applications query, “We do not require and do not envision requiring a powerpoint.”

Countering this, Martinelli asserts that today’s business environment consistently demands brief yet informative communication. MBA applicants should then readily reflect their capacity to work under these constraints, and a PowerPoint presentation is the best means of judging that quality. “Whether it be e-mail, PowerPoint or a two-minute elevator speech, successful businesspeople need to learn how to express their full ideas in very restrictive formats. We feel the new application requirement represents this very common challenge,” said Martinelli in an interview with EditorsChoice.

Perhaps, as Martinelli told BusinessWeek, there is a “buzz in the market,” and more B schools in future MBA graduate applications will eventually adopt the PowerPoint presentation as a valid form of an applicant’s disposition and achievements. For now, though, many B schools are concerning themselves with enhancing their essay questions. Many top B schools now have more contemporary essay queries like Harvard’s, “How have you experienced culture shock?” and the University of California, Berkley’s Haas {SCHOOL OF BUSINESS}’s, “If you could have dinner with one individual in the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?” that provoke more personal responses.

October has arrived. If you are considering applying for an MBA program in the fall of 2009, now is a good time to begin the process. It’s certainly not too late. You’ll still be likely to be ready to apply in rounds 1 or 2, which offer a pretty good chance of acceptance.

Order of Attack

1. GMAT PREPARATION

Preparation can last anywhere from 1-6 months, but 2 months usually is an adequate prep period. Though study can be done individually, taking a course or seeking out private tutoring provides disciplined structure and guidance for your study.

2. GMAT

Take the GMAT as soon as you feel ready. If you take it by end of October, you should have the needed time to retake the GMAT (including an additional 1 month prep) if your score is not what you desired.

3. RESEARCH SCHOOLS

During preparation, look into different MBA programs. Look at them from as many angles as possible, including ranking, conversations with current students and alumni, correspondence with admissions officers and visits to campuses. Ultimately, select a range of schools you’d like to apply to. The most important criteria to use in determining where to apply is: What places are best suited to your personality, professional and academic history and goals? There are a variety of recommendations as to how many schools to apply to. Some say as few as 3, others as many as 8 or 10. Ultimately, you want to have some options, so lean toward more rather than less, and be sure to include safety schools. You may consider seeking advise from an admissions consultant to determine where it might be best to apply.

4. RECOMMENDATIONS

Ask for recommendations as early as possible, giving each recommender ample time to complete the forms on time.

5. APPROACH APPLICATIONS

The entire process and especially the application involve a great deal of self-evaluation. In this stage it will be most important that you recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and determine how you will express these in your applications. This will also be important in your interview. It is generally recommended that the application show your true self. There is no need to conceal mistakes; the incorporation of constructive explanations for faults, mistakes, or minuses will allow the admissions committee to develop a clear perception of who you really are. Admissions officers especially dislike fakeness and falsehood in applications.

Essays too require evaluation and most importantly they require time, time not only to write, but time to think as well. It is recommended that you spend between 50 and 100 hours on your essays, depending on the number of schools you apply to. Admissions advisors recommend that you devote your energy in particular to making sure each application explains why you want to attend particular programs.

6. INTERVIEW (Should occur as early as possible)

Interviews require preparation. Reviewing your application and practicing interviewing skills with a friend or co-worker is useful. Also, some individuals try to interview as early as possible at a local school and use this interview to test their skills, as well as to inform themselves of answers or approaches that seem to work, and those that do not. And, as your parents or friends have said to you time and again, be yourself and relax.

Posted on October 16, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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Let’s face it — writing about yourself is difficult.

Just like a marketing manager launching a product or an attorney preparing a case, you, as your own representative, need to build a coherent, compelling and unique profile which is substantiated by real-life examples and supported by your actual experiences.

Here is some of our advice on what you should do to avoid common mistakes:

1.) Do not make repeated broad statements about how qualified a candidate you are. Remember your inner qualities should shine through your past successes and/or the way you have dealt with challenges in your life. Take a hard look at your own resume and think through both professional and personal anecdotes you may have to add more color to your essays.

2.) Do not describe your experience without accentuating your strengths that could be of main interest to the school you are applying for. Your essays are to focus on your key strengths which make you stand out from the crowd applying to the very same school. If you are particularly good at dealing with people, demonstrate those soft skills through describing the situations in which you have successfully resolved conflicts and/or promoted cooperation. The level of a person’s analytical skills is usually self-evident in a person’s resume and GMAT scores. However, maybe you also pride yourself on your thoroughness and great judgment. Then build a case that a combination of your analytical skills, thoroughness and great judgment has made you a consistent out-performer. Examples of your maturity level, adaptability, intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness to constructive criticism and a strong sense of self-improvement should be emphasized throughout your write-up.

3.) Do not use direct quotes from famous people or school literature. Schools are interested in getting to know you as a person and your perspectives on leadership, teamwork, innovation and global issues, not what others think. So unless there is a direct relationship between the quotes and the points you would like to make in your essays, avoid using them. However, if the quote serves a good introduction or transition in your write-up and makes your essays more interesting, then keep it in.

4.) Do not make simple mistakes in grammar, formatting, and the cutting and pasting of school/program names. Proof read them at least 3 times over a period. Alert yourself of the consequences of those mindless mistakes – a waste of your application fee and all the preparation effort, a bad image, and a rejection.

Posted on November 1, 2007 by Manhattan Review

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