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July 15, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 3 — Your Story and Your Resume Are Essential Pre-Work

Most applicants assume that the best strategy for getting their college applications done is just to dive in and start writing essays. After all, the essays are the hardest, most time-consuming part, so if you get those knocked out, you'll be well ahead of the curve, right?

Not exactly. It is true that the essays are the hardest, most time-consuming part, but it isn't true that the "dive in and write" strategy is the best strategy.

The problem with this strategy is that it focuses on getting it done without considering whether it will also get you in! The only reason you care about getting your college applications done is because you care about getting into college. So whether a strategy will get you in always has to be considered. And the "dive in and write" strategy will not get you in.

The strategy that will get it done and get you in is the "produce a standout application" strategy, and that's the strategy we detail in our book and the strategy that is embedded in this 52 Weeks to College series.

Your To-Dos for this week are essential pre-work that you must do if you are going to produce a standout application. So dive into these instead of the essays. We'll get to the essays in due time and when we do, you'll find that there is a bonus to this strategy — not only is it the strategy that will make you more likely to get in, it is also the strategy that will make writing the essays easier!

Week 3 To-Dos

This Week and Every Week

Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.

Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

This Week

Write your story using this template. Consult these samples for guidance about what a good finished story looks like.

Create your resume. Use the universally recognized format for resumes, but include information tailored to college applications and admissions. Consult these samples for ideas about what your resume should include.

Research scholarships from outside organizations.

Tips & Tricks

Your story is your guide for completing all parts of your application.

What we’re calling “your story” distills what you want the admissions officer to know about you into a structured, succinct statement. It isn’t a classic biography or a resume in prose form; instead, it is a five-sentence story of who you are that will persuade an admissions officer to admit you. It highlights your best credentials and characteristics in terms of what matters to the admissions officer.

More specifically, it focuses on the three dimensions that admissions officers at top colleges will evaluate: (1) your academic achievements, (2) your extracurricular accomplishments (also known as “activities”), and (3) your personal qualities and character. This “3-D” evaluation can vary a bit in how it is implemented from college to college, but all three dimensions are always considered in a holistic review, and each relates to an essential aspect of your qualifications and your potential for contributing to the college. 

The story you come up with using the template will not actually be included word for word in your application; it is not a personal statement or an essay, or a piece that you will be submitting as part of the application. Rather, it is a tool that you will use to guide you as you complete all of the application components going forward. It will help you decide what information to include, what to leave out, how to order the items on your lists, what to write about in your essays, whom to choose as recommenders, how to present your activities, how to guide your recommenders, and how to present yourself in your interviews. Whew! Your five-sentence story is going to do some heavy lifting.

Your resume is your evidence of the "core four" — passion, talent, initiative, and impact.

We recommend that you create a resume that follows the universally recognized format for a resume, but that is tailored to the college application process.

When admissions officers are evaluating you on those three dimensions given above, they are looking for evidence of four things — passion, talent, initiative, and impact. We call these the "core four."        

Passion. What are you passionate about? People generally express their passions by devoting their thoughts, time, and energy to them. Admissions officers are looking for your passions both inside and outside the classroom. 

Talent. What do you do well? Your accomplishments generally announce your talents, but you want to go beyond just announcing your talents and describe how you have developed your talents. Admissions officers want to see that you are more than just a “gifted slacker.” They want to see that you challenge yourself, that you have a work ethic, and that you are striving to be the best you can be.

Initiative. What have you made happen? What have you started? What have you led? Where have you created your own opportunities? Where have you gone above and beyond? When admissions officers talk about students with initiative, they are talking about students who make things happen or who lead others. They are talking about students who start clubs or lead teams, think up and do projects on their own, seek out challenges, and generally use their efforts to create opportunities for themselves and others. You get no points for initiative when all you do is join, enroll, show up, or meet the requirements.

Impact. How have you been changed, grown, or learned from your experiences? How have others benefitted from what you have done? What have you added to your classroom, your school, your community, or the world? Admissions officers want to see that what you have done mattered to someone. That’s what impact means when it comes to applying to college.

How do you show all that in a single entry on a resume? Here’s an example:

Start with the information you need to include about a particular activity. Say you love science (passion), have a special gift for organizing groups (talent), and started the Project Sunshine Club at your school (initiative).

Don’t stop there! You must also demonstrate impact. So you would also report that you got the school excited about alternative energy, you figured out that the school could acquire solar panels for free by encouraging people in the community to sign up for a special program offered by the local electric company, and you organized that effort. And you would explain that as a result, solar panels are now installed at your school and providing 5% of the school’s energy needs. That’s impact. Impact is about results, so make sure you expressly mention them.

Now translate that into a resume entry:

Founder and President. Project Sunshine Club. (10th grade-present)

-Organized a new school club dedicated to raising awareness about solar energy and to bringing solar energy to the school.

-Identified an opportunity through the local electric company to get solar panels for the school for free by convincing local residents to sign up for a special alternative energy program.

-Organized and led the campaign to sign up local residents.

-Signed up 1,011 local residents which resulted in the school getting an array of solar panels for free; solar energy now provides 5% of the school's electricity.

See how it works? Now do it for yourself.

Buyer beware when it comes to scholarship search services.

There's good news and bad news when it comes to scholarship searches. The bad news is that scholarship scams abound, and every year thousands of hopeful college applicants and their families get duped by them. It is so tempting to sign up for a service that "guarantees" you'll get a scholarship, but the only guarantee is that you'll never see the money you paid to this service again. Before you pay a single dollar to a scholarship search service, use this checklist to evaluate whether you are about to become a victim of a scam rather than the recipient of legitimate assistance.

The good news is that there are scholarships out there and that it is relatively easy for you to identify them for FREE thanks to the internet. Here are our two favorite scholarship search sites:

One note about these "free" services:

They are free to you, but they are for-profit enterprises. So who pays? For the most part, these sites are supported by colleges, scholarship organizations, and financial aid related companies (such as lenders). They pay these sites so that they can have access to you! They want to sell you on themselves. So once you sign up for these services, you will likely become a target of a lot of marketing including web advertisements, e-mails, and snail mail. Our advice? Just deal with the hassle factor of all this extra stuff coming your way. It is worth it to get the information you need about scholarships for free.

In other words, the easiest way to avoid being the victim of a scam is simply to do your research.

Dive in to your pre-work this week and you'll be spending your time and energy in the best way possible, because you'll be doing things that will help you get it done and get in.

 

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey College Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can read more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley, August 2013), and follow them on Twitter @IveyCollege.


About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our forthcoming book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

July 8, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 2 — Make Your Decisions about Where You Are Applying

Applying to college requires you to make some big decisions. This week you need to make some of the biggest of the big decisions. You need to decide where you are applying to college, and where, if anywhere, you are going to apply early. Read on for your full list of to-dos for the week, along with tips and tricks for getting it all done.

Week 2 To-Dos 

This Week and Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.

  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year. 

This Week

  • Finalize your college list and adjust your Master Plan to reflect the number of colleges you are applying to (the 52 Weeks Series and the Master Plan assume 10).
  • Decide where, if anywhere, to apply early.
  • Decide the order in which you are going to complete your applications and put that into your Master Plan.
  • Research the financial aid available at each college on your list. Add the financial aid applications and deadlines to the Master Plan. (The 52 Weeks series assumes that you will complete the CSS/PROFILE and FAFSA forms as well as complete 5 scholarship applications.)

Tips and Tricks

Choose 8-15 colleges based on fit, selectivity, and affordability.

All of the colleges on your list should be "good fits," meaning that they offer what you want from a college educationally and otherwise. The colleges should have a range in terms of selectivity. We suggest you balance your list in this way: 2-3 should be colleges where you have a high likelihood of admission (safeties), 4-8 should be colleges where you have a good likelihood of admission (targets or matches), and 2-4 should be colleges where you have a low likelihood of admission (reaches).  Finally, all of the colleges on your list should be affordable for you, meaning that between your family resources and the financial aid you are likely to get from the college, you can pay for it.

Don't ask "why apply early," ask "why not apply early."

There are significant benefits to applying early.

First, applying early can increase your odds for admission. How much it increases your odds depends on the college and the early options available. To get a sense of how much it might help you, research the statistics for early admission at the colleges on your list. (Here are 2013 early admission statistics for quite a few colleges.)

Second, applying early often shortens the waiting time between application and decision.

Third, even if you don't get admitted in the early round, applying early still benefits you. If you get denied, then you can move on to focusing on other colleges on your list. If you get deferred, then you get a second chance at admission and you can keep adding to your application. 

With all these benefits, you can understand why we suggest you focus less on the "why" and more on the "why not" when making your decision about where, if anywhere, to apply early. The "why nots" are about the restrictions that applying early will impose on you. The restrictions concern when you must apply, how many colleges you may apply to early, whether you must commit to attending the college if accepted, and what information you will have about financial aid at the time you must make your commitment. Research the restrictions imposed by the colleges on your list. If you can live with them, then by all means apply early! 

Take time to educate yourself about financial aid.

Financial aid is a complicated business and requires you to expend some time if you are really going to understand what options are available to you. At a minimum, you need to know:

  • your eligibility for financial aid (international students should pay close attention, because much of the financial aid available is restricted to U.S. citizens);
  • the "net price" of the colleges on your list (the net price is the cost of attendance minus the need-based financial aid you would be likely to receive; click here to download a list of the websites of individual colleges' net price calculators;
  • what merit-based financial aid might be available to you at the colleges on your list, and;
  • what the financial aid applications and deadlines are for each college.

You also need to know whether the ability to pay is a factor in admissions, although figuring this out is a bit tricky because you have to be conversant in "admissions speak" to decode the information that colleges give you. In admissions speak, colleges that consider your ability to pay as a factor in admissions will describe themselves as having "need aware" or "need sensitive" admissions policies, while colleges that do not consider your ability to pay as a factor in admissions will describe themselves as having "need blind" admissions policies. If a college does not explicitly state that it is need blind, assume that your ability to pay will be a factor in admissions.

Don't procrastinate when it comes to making your big decisions.

In our experience, lots of applicants hem and haw when it comes to making these big decisions, and that's a big mistake. Procrastinators lose out in multiple ways.

First, they lose out because rushed decision making is never good decision making.

Second, they lose out because they can't take advantage of the opportunities that arise only after the decision is made. You can't apply early to your top choice college if you don't decide it is your top choice college until after the deadline has passed.

Third, delaying your big decisions deprives you of valuable time you could be spending preparing your standout applications, either because you dither the summer away reflecting on your big decisions or because you spend time working on applications to colleges that don't end up on your final list.  

Bottom line: this week is your chance to concentrate on the big decisions related to your college list. Dig in and get your decisions made so you can "work smarter, not harder!" (One of the 7 Ivey Strategies that you'll become intimately familiar with over the course of the next year!)

 

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey College Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can read more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley, August 2013), and follow them on Twitter @IveyCollege.


About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our forthcoming book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application, 52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

July 7, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: School-Hosted Blogs

As the summer progresses and applicants begin researching their target schools in more depth, we would like to highlight a valuable research tool: school-hosted blogs.  The last few years have seen a significant increase in the number of MBA student blogs hosted by schools’ admissions offices, as well as in admissions offices’ use of blogs to keep applicants informed of deadlines, admissions policies and events.  Both types of blogs are useful throughout the admissions cycle; the factual information in the admissions office blogs is helpful in understanding and planning for the application process, while the student blogs offer valuable insights into student life, culture and academics.

Below we’ve provided links to some of the active blogs hosted by the leading MBA programs.

Admissions Office Blogs:

Harvard Business School Director’s Blog
http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/blog.html

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business
http://berkeleyhaasmba.wordpress.com/

Wharton MBA Admissions
http://engage.wharton.upenn.edu/MBA/blogs/mbaadmissions_blog/default.aspx

Stanford MBA Admission Blog
http://www.stanford.edu/group/mba/blog/

Chicago MBA Admissions Blog
http://blogs.chicagobooth.edu/boothinsider

School-Hosted Student Blogs:

London Business School
http://blog.students.london.edu/

Fuqua Daytime MBA Student Blog
http://blogs.fuqua.duke.edu/duke-mba/#.UfJyYhaPCZY

Wharton Student Diaries
http://engage.wharton.upenn.edu/MBA/blogs/studentdiarists/

Yale SOM Community Blog
http://blogs.som.yale.edu/index.php

Finally, the Tuck School of Business  offers a blog for which both students and admissions officers contribute.  In addition, the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee at Chicago Booth maintains a blog written by students but offering advice and information on the admissions process at the school.

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

July 1, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Addressing Unemployment or Gaps in Employment

Given the emphasis that schools place on a candidate’s work experience, it is important to be proactive in addressing gaps in employment.  When applying to business school, many candidates worry about how the adcom might perceive gaps in employment.  We would like to take some time to discuss strategies for addressing this issue.

It’s not unheard of for an MBA candidate to have a gap in employment, and this will not necessarily make a negative impact on someone’s candidacy.  Gaps might be due to anything from lay-offs to periods of travel.  As a rule of thumb, applicants should explain gaps in employment that are three months or longer in an optional essay or, if instructed, on their data forms.  The adcom will not want to play detective with vague dates on an applicant’s résumé or large chunks of unaccounted for time.  As the adcom will simply want to know what an applicant was doing during a period of unemployment, applicants should show that they made productive use of this time.  It is important for applicants to be open and clear about extended gaps to show that they were not simply spending the time to look for full-time employment.

Addressing current unemployment in applications, however, requires a different strategy than simply discussing past gaps in employment history.  Candidates applying to business school who are not currently employed are in a trickier situation, as business schools view themselves as career accelerators rather than career jump-starters.  The task is not impossible, though, and given the current state of the economy, more candidates are applying to business school during a period of unemployment.  As with addressing gaps in employment, these applicants should not evade discussions centering on this issue.  On the other hand, they should not present unemployment as the reason for applying to business school nor should they suggest that they aren’t presently looking for work due to the need to devote time to their MBA applications (a major red flag).

In addressing unemployment, applicants should show that they are doing their best to find something temporary or engaging in volunteer work.  Ideally, applicants would show that they are doing something in line with their stated professional goals, like attending conferences or working to secure an internship in a field they want to explore.  Whatever the case, applicants should be honest and appear proactive.

As every applicant is unique, we encourage our readers to contact Clear Admit directly if they need guidance on tackling a gap in employment or current unemployment situation.  Send us your résumé and sign up for a free one-on-one session with one of our counselors.

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

July 1, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 1 — A Week-by-Week Plan for Applying to College Successfully and Sanely

Applying to college is a complex and difficult project. You know that. Your parents know that. Your teachers and college counselors know that. Admissions officers know that. In other words, everyone involved in the process knows that.

In fact, knowing that is exactly what might make you feel a bit overwhelmed. That's understandable because the truth is that you don’t have all that much experience managing complex and difficult projects, let alone projects as high stakes as applying to college. So what are you going to do?

The grown-up thing to do is to take on the challenge. You’ve been preparing for this for the last 16 or 17 years. You are ready. You can do it. You really can.

Of course, you can do it better if you take advantage of the resources that are out there to help you. Like your parents, teachers, and college counselors. Like admissions officers. Like websites, apps, and books. Like this series.

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our forthcoming book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application, 52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges.

Each week, we’ll post your list of to-dos for the week, along with some tips and tricks for getting those to-dos done. Your job? Come back weekly and work the plan. If you do, you’ll have more success and less stress in the process. Guaranteed.

Ready to get started? Then below you’ll find your to-do’s for this week, along with the promised tips and tricks.

Week 1 To-Dos

This Week and Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year. 

This Week

  • Download the Master Plan. It will give you a big picture overview of what you’ll be doing over the next year. For now, just look it over and get a general sense of what will be expected from you each month. In a few weeks, you’ll be tweaking the Master Plan to fit your own situation.
  • Choose your calendar and put all the “non-college stuff” on it. You must use a calendar this year, because in order to get everything done, you are going to have to grab free hours whenever you have them. You need to know when you can focus on the college application process and when you are going to be preoccupied by school or life. So even if you haven't really used a calendar before, commit to using a calendar this year, whether paper or electronic or whatever method works for you. Start by putting all the key dates related to the non-college stuff on your calendar right now.
  • Set up your filing system and file all the stuff you have already collected in it. An avalanche of information is the nature of the college application beast. You have to have a system for managing it. Once you’ve set up your system, gather up everything you already have related to the college application process, sort it and file it. That goes for everything – including your electronic stuff!
  • Order your copy of How to Prepare a Standout College Application. The 52 Weeks to College series assumes that you will have access to this resource and will refer you to it often. (Note that the publication date for the book is August 23, just under two months away. In the meantime, anything you need from the book, like the Master Plan, will be included here.) 

Tips and Tricks

Use a single calendar.

Don’t have separate calendars for school, personal, and college applications. That is a sure recipe for disaster in the form of double or triple booking yourself and missing deadlines. You can use either paper or electronic versions.  For most students, electronic is the way to go because you always have your cell phones on you, and your cell phones have calendars on them.  

Set up a Gmail or other free email account that you use exclusively for applying to college.

Setting up a dedicated email address offers two advantages. First, you can create a professional, appropriately serious email identity that is worthy of an applicant to a top U.S. college, and you can still have whatever email identity you want for other purposes. Second, by setting up a separete email accout you have also set up an automatic “filing” system for your college related emails, because those are the ONLY emails that will come to this email address (so long as you maintain the discipline of using that address only for this purpose). 

Set up three identical filing systems.

One of the problems with figuring out your filing system is that the information will come in many forms — snail mail, email, voicemail, notes, internet research, hard copy brochures and folders. Not only do you have to figure out how to store all this various information, you also have to figure out how to retrieve it when you need it.

For most students, the easiest way to go is to have three storage locations that all have the same file structure – set up one storage system in email, set up another storage location either on a hard drive on your computer or in the cloud, and set up a third in old-fashioned paper file folders. To get you started, we've compiled a basic list of files you should set up in each storage location. 

Once you've set up those organizational tools for yourself, you'll be all set to tackle the rest of the series.

 

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley, August 2013), and follow them on Twitter @IveyCollege.

 

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our forthcoming book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

June 23, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Visiting the Campus

As many applicants are finding out at this time of year, conducting thorough research on MBA programs is an essential step in formulating a list of target schools and crafting convincing essays.  Surfing the web and speaking with friends and mentors are great starting points in identifying programs of interest.  However, to really get a feel for a school and determine whether it’s a good fit for one’s goals and personality, applicants need to dig deeper and gain some firsthand experience with the program and the people.  Visiting the campus is a great way to gather this kind of information, and it can also be advantageous in the application process.  Although most formal campus visit programs will not start until the fall (when classes are in session), we’d like to offer a few “head start” pointers for getting as much mileage as possible out of a trip to your target program.

1) Make yourself known.  Putting forth the effort to travel to a school is a signal of interest in the program that the adcom loves to see, however, you need to let them know that you’ve made the trip.  It is possible to communicate this in your essays and interview, but the simplest route is often to register for a visit through the admissions office.  Not only will most schools arrange for you to sit in on a class and have lunch with current students, but many will also make a note of your visit and include it in your file.  Be sure to take advantage of all that the admissions office offers in this regard; even if you have friends on campus, it’s wise to speak to as many people as possible.

2) Think it through.  Before arriving on campus, you should think carefully about the sort of information you hope to take away from your visit.  Whether your inquiries cover something as broad as the night life or as narrow as the syllabus of a particular course, your trip will be much more informative if you come prepared with a sense of the details you hope to glean from information sessions and conversations.  Further, it’s a great idea to reach out to members of the community before you arrive; if there’s a club about which you are particularly curious, for instance, you could contact one of its leaders and arrange a conversation over coffee on the day of your visit.

3) Put your best foot forward.  Even though your conduct and interactions won’t be on the record in the way that they would be when interviewing on campus, it’s important that you be aware of the impression you’re making.  Because spending time on campus is a great way to forge ongoing contacts with students who could become allies for you in the admissions process, you’ll naturally want to put your best foot forward.

We hope that these simple tips will set applicants on the path toward a positive and productive stay on campus.  For more tailored guidance on application strategy and school selection, feel free to contact us for a free initial consultation or check out the school-specific information in the Clear Admit School Guides.

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

June 23, 2014

Should I Submit Supporting Materials for a Required Disclosure Addendum?

I am writing an addendum for a disciplinary probation proceeding.  The infraction was described by the judicial proceeding as: “used outside sources on an assignment without proper attribution.” The assignment was to “imagine myself as a curator for an art exhibit,” and to record myself giving a tour in which I should discuss certain paintings – their form, style, origins, etc.

The intent was not to deceive, but rather I was careless in completing an unfamiliar assignment. I described this using those words and wrote briefly about how I learned to bring a much greater degree of scrutiny to my work.  

My question:

The Dean of Students for my college offered to write me a brief letter of character discussing how the incident unfolded since before any judicial measures were taken by the professor I immediately brought the assignment to him and said: "this is what I did -- did I screw up?" We have a close relationship.  The point would be to impart that this was not a question of character, but a moment of carelessness which is no longer an issue -- he is willing to attest to that.

Should I include this with my addendum and attach it to the section that asks me to disclose disciplinary action, or do I leave it out and just attach my explanation.

And here we always thought it was obvious how to put yourself in the shoes of an art curator. ;)

That's not to triviliaze the charges or the proceedings. They are serious things, and because they are serious things, I think it's a great idea to attach his letter if he's willing to write it.

You're not required to include a letter like that for your disclosure addendum, but what a nice bonus that your Dean of Students has volunteered to write you one. Everything you say in your disclosure has to be accurate, as I can tell you already know, but it can help to have a third, authoritative party with some knowledge about you and the incident validate that your one lapse in judgment won't be an ongoing problem.

If he weren't saying supportive things, it wouldn't help you to include the letter, but in this instance, it sounds like a good thing for you, and something an admissions officer might value.

Good luck to you! Hope it all works out.

 

Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. You can find more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions. Join the conversation here in the blog comments and on Twitter and Facebook, or email us a new question for the blog.

June 16, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: How to Write a Résumé that Will Get You In | Admissions Tip

Your résumé is not only an important component of your MBA application, it’s also a great place to start when crafting your overall positioning strategy.  This document forces one to distill a candidacy into a concise summary, focusing on key aspects and themes.  With that in mind, here are a few simple tips to get you started:

1) First things first.  Because you’re applying to graduate school, it makes sense to lead this document with a section detailing your academic history.  This is also the format that many business schools’ career offices instruct students to use when applying for internships or full-time jobs post-graduation.

2) Keep it simple.  While you’ll certainly want to describe your professional responsibilities and achievements in some detail, remember that this document needs to fit on a single page, with very few exceptions.  Rather than overwhelming the reader with information, try to identify three or four discrete projects or accomplishments to complement a few concise statements about your day to day responsibilities in each position.  Remember that it’s also important to be as specific as possible about the impact you’ve had on your organization by quantifying the results of your efforts.

3) Round it out.  Don’t discount the importance of your interests and outside activities.  Schools like applicants who are well rounded and demonstrate a track record of involvement outside of work and the classroom, so formal extracurricular activities are a logical category to include.  At the same time, information about your less structured interests and hobbies is also relevant, as these details can lend some more color to your candidacy and help the adcom get to know you better.  Remember to be as specific as possible; many business school applicants are interested in “travel” or “film,” so specifying a region you especially enjoy visiting or your favorite movie genre will be the key to setting yourself apart.

We hope that these general guidelines serve as a good starting point for Class of 2017 applicants in translating their experiences and achievements into this brief but important document.  For more tailored guidance, contact us to speak with one of our counselors about your background.  You can also read the Clear Admit Résumé Guide for a complete step-by-step “instruction manual” for crafting your résumé (available for download in our publications shop).

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

June 9, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Crafting Strong Essays – The Rewards of Reflection

With several of the leading schools having already released their essay questions for this admissions season, we’re sure that quite a number of early birds are eager to get a jump on the process in order to complete as many applications as possible by Round 1.  As applicants find themselves brainstorming for essay topics, we wanted to offer a few tips on presenting yourself and your experiences as advantageously as possible.

1) Take time to reflect.  Before diving in and beginning work on a draft of any one essay, it’s often fruitful to think carefully about all of the stories and accomplishments at one’s disposal.  These can include experiences from the professional realm, formal outside activities, college clubs and even more casual hobbies and interests.  A comprehensive, reflective approach should enable you to arrive at the essay topics that are most impressive and in line with your overall positioning.

2) Establish balance.  It is crucial that your essays work together to present a consistent and compelling picture of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you bring to the table; the adcom is looking for students who are interesting, well-rounded, and likely to make a contribution to the school both in and out of the classroom.  In selecting topics for your essays from your list of possibilities, remember that it’s ideal to have a balance of stories covering your full career and to introduce your interests and involvements outside of work.

3) Keep it relevant.  While it’s important that you have a wide range of stories to tell and positive characteristics to convey, there are a few things that you shouldn’t mention in your essays.  In terms of chronology, remember that you are applying to graduate school and that the adcom is primarily interested in your experiences since the time you began college.  There are of course some exceptions to this (such as questions that ask you to recap your life story or discuss what matters most to you), but as a general rule it’s best to avoid writing at length about your high school accomplishments or your upbringing, as this can make an applicant sound immature or stuck in the past.  Other topics of which you should steer clear are those that are potentially sensitive or emotionally charged, such as politics and religion.

4) Show, don’t tell.  Keep in mind that a given adcom reader often spends only 15 or 20 minutes on each application.  As a result, it is imperative that you make an impression and give the reader a clear sense of who you are and what you’ve done.  Specific anecdotes and vivid details make a much greater impact than general claims and broad summaries.  Be sure to quantify your impact, fully explain your actions, and provide illustrative examples to produce a set of engaging essays.

Happy writing!  Stay tuned to this blog throughout the summer for additional essay-specific tips and guidelines.  Feel free to contact us for a free initial consult on your candidacy and to speak with one of our admissions counselors on how to best approach your target schools’ essay topics.

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

June 2, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Selecting Your Recommenders

Since many of our readers are just beginning the business school application process, we wanted to offer some basic tips on a critical variable in the MBA admissions equation: recommender selection.

When choosing your recommenders, remember that it can be seen as a test of judgment – selecting a recommender whose letter is ineffective or who appears dubious about your qualifications may raise doubts about your ability to judge your interactions with others or to select the right person for a job.  In order for your letters to be as effective as possible, you should look for several qualities in a recommender.  First, your recommenders should have greater seniority than you unless the school specifically asks for a peer recommendation.  The adcom gives greater weight to statements made by your superiors rather than by a peer because a peer is assumed to be essentially a friend and therefore predisposed to write a positive recommendation.

As we discuss in greater depth with our clients, the most persuasive recommendation letters are those which contain specific examples and anecdotes.  Because of this, you should select recommenders who are very familiar with your work and with whom you interact(ed) on a regular basis.  This usually means that you should choose current or former direct supervisors, rather than someone whose title you think will impress the adcom.  Choosing a recommender based on their name or title can imply that you put an undue emphasis on such qualities instead of thinking about who would be the best person for the job.  In addition to picking people who know you well, you should also pick recommenders with whom you have a positive relationship, since if they like and respect you, their letters are likely to be much more positive and persuasive.

When deciding amongst your current and former supervisors or mentors, there are several factors to consider.  First, the people you select should be able to provide the adcom with a fairly comprehensive and up-to-date perspective on your professional experiences.  Often, it makes sense to ask your current supervisor and a supervisor from the job you held immediately prior to your current position.  If you find that it works best to choose two recommenders from the same employer, you should make sure that they can talk about different aspects of your experiences so as to provide letters that are complementary rather than repetitive.  In such a case, you should talk to each recommender about the anecdotes and traits each of them would like to cover.  Alternatively, if you decide to choose a recommender with whom you worked some time ago, you should choose a person with whom you have maintained a strong relationship so that they can speak positively to your continued professional development as well as to your past accomplishments.

Ideally, you would also choose recommenders who can write well and who are receptive to input.  Strong writing skills are obviously important because an articulate letter is more effective than an inarticulate one.  In addition, an openness to input is important so that your recommenders can build upon and reinforce the general message of your candidacy.

These tips should offer a good starting point for readers who are beginning to think about recommendations.  For those candidates looking for more guidance, we direct you to the Clear Admit Recommendation Guide.  After years of one-on-one work with clients in coaching their recommenders in producing the most supportive endorsements possible, we’ve made our MBA recommendation best practices available to the applicant pool at large.  The Clear Admit Recommendation Guide will teach you to strategically select the best possible recommenders, help them understand the characteristics of a strong recommendation, and exert some influence over the content of their comments to arrive at complementary documents that reinforce the strengths of your candidacy and alleviate its weaknesses.  This 23-page PDF file, which includes a set of guidelines you can print and share with your recommenders, a list of frequently asked questions and two full sample recommendations, is available for immediate download.  Buy this guide

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

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