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2009年7月份,我给一个老朋友(Simon FT-MBA,2010春季班)为申请MBA而写的Essay提了几点比较关键的修改建议。后来,她成功拿到Simon的Offer。再后来,她建议我做留学DIY咨询方面的工作,并向我介绍了我的第一个客户。最终,我的第一个客户也成功拿到几个TOP16商学院的面试并顺利拿到Duke Fuqua商学院MBA的录取。 本人毕业于上海复旦大学管理学院国际企业管理系,属于商科科班出身并且做过管理工作、有领导经验的人士。


留学参考:Inside The Mind Of An MBA Admissions Officer  

2016-12-13 03:36:25|  分类: DIY留学综合信息 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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留学参考:Inside The Mind Of An MBA Admissions Officer





Poor “Jane.” She was probably the most determined applicant I wasn’t able to admit. Jane was an international student with nearly perfect grades from a well-known university. Her father had attended our school, and it was her dream to follow in his footsteps. Jane decided to wait until the end of the admissions cycle, to give herself time to take the GMAT for a sixth time. And, while her score was in the right ballpark, the rest of her application fell short. Her essays were generic and suspiciously resembled those from other applicants. Her letters of recommendation offered no detail and could have been written about any applicant.

As is often the case with an applicant who has strong grades and test scores but an otherwise weak application, it all came down to the interview. Jane was very polite and was able to convey her strong desire to attend our program, but—when asked for examples demonstrating her leadership abilities—she stumbled. When questioned about her thoughts on teamwork, she said she preferred to work alone. When asked to demonstrate her impact either at work, school, or with a volunteer organization, she couldn’t answer the question. She ended the interview by assuring me she would get all As in her classes if she was admitted.

A few days later, the admissions committee met for the final time that year. We were down to seven viable candidates competing for the three remaining spots in the class. There were some strong arguments for admitting her—a female candidate with great grades and test scores would surely help our class profile. Yet ultimately, after a thoughtful debate, we offered the remaining spots to other candidates.


Although it was the right call, not admitting Jane still bothers me. Had she better understood the admissions process and made just a few changes in her strategy, she probably would have had the opportunity to attend her dream school. To learn from Jane’s mistakes, let’s take a detailed look at the admissions process from both applicant and program perspectives.

Many applicants think that the application process comprises the tactical completion of a series of tasks required for admission to business school. They also believe that—once those tasks are completed—applying to multiple schools is a simple “cut-and-paste” process. Other applicants suspect that of the numerous admissions requirements, only the quantitative elements (GMAT score and GPA) really matter. Neither hits the mark; the process is much more complex and nuanced.

The admissions process is really about storytelling. It’s about illustrating how your goals align with the strengths of your desired program. It’s about weaving together seemingly disparate components—test scores, letters of recommendation, and essays—into a compelling narrative highlighting not only your ability to succeed academically, but also your desire to be a lifetime contributor to the institution’s community.


It’s about showcasing the intangibles—ethics, interpersonal skills, selflessness, leadership potential, and emotional intelligence—required to lead in today’s complicated, global business ecosystem. The process should be an authentic glimpse at who you are and who you want to be. Most importantly, the admissions process is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the hundreds, if not thousands, of other applicants that may have similar grades and test scores.

For me, the whole process boils down to a few basic questions. The better I feel about the answers to these questions, the more likely I am to recommend admission. After reviewing the application and conducting an interview, if I still don’t know the answers to these questions (or don’t like the answers) it becomes much harder for me to recommend the student for admission to our program. Note: I said “much harder,” not “impossible.” We sometimes admit students we aren’t completely comfortable with for various reasons. However, by better understanding the process, you put yourself in a position to develop a high-quality application, which increases your odds of not only admission, but also financial aid.


So, what are the key questions I ask every time I review an application or conduct an interview?

Can Jane handle the academic rigor of our program? 

The last thing I want to do is set students up for failure by admitting them to a program when they don’t have the academic skills necessary for success. It’s very important that students are successful because successful students become engaged alumni. Engaged alumni help our program get better over time by mentoring students, providing job and internship opportunities, and sharing their professional skills with our students.

To gauge whether a student will be able to handle the rigor of our program, I typically review transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation. The perfect applicant would have a strong GPA from a well-known and academically rigorous university in a scientific, engineering, math-related, or business field. These credentials—coupled with a strong GMAT score and a letter of recommendation from a respected faculty member, confirming the student’s work ethic and ability to master new tasks quickly—would make for a very strong application. Bonus points may go to an applicant with a master’s or PhD in a related field, or to someone with extensive work experience in a field requiring the constant learning of difficult concepts (this would be ascertained from the resume and the letters of recommendation).

Of course, no applicant is perfect. If you have lower grades, or decent grades in a nontechnical field, I’m going to look more heavily at your GMAT score—particularly the quantitative section—than I would if you had a 3.8 GPA in computer engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If your overall GPA is low but your grades improved over time, that’s better than the other way around. In that case, it demonstrates a more recent pattern of academic success. If your undergraduate grades are low but you have been successful taking courses more recently, that can help assure me you will be academically successful. Also, the longer you have been out of school, the more your professional experience and letters of recommendation outweigh your grades. However, if you are hoping to join our program straight out of your undergraduate studies, your grades are going to be weighted heavily, since I don’t have a lot of other information (e.g., work experience) to guide my decision.

Jane hit this one out of the park. She had excellent grades from a great university in a technical field. In addition, she had a very strong GMAT score, particularly in the quantitative section. I have absolutely no doubt that she will be successful in her classes.

Are Jane’s career goals well outlined, and do they correspond with the strengths of our program? 

Again, my goal is to admit students who are going to be successful both in the program and beyond. Those who come in focused and interested in an area that aligns with our school’s strengths are likely to have a great experience, making the program better for their classmates and leaving with an excellent job offer (or, quite preferably, several offers). Those lacking focus are more likely to struggle academically and not connect with classmates, alumni, and potential employers.

Jane’s application left me with more questions than answers in this area. She talked about wanting to work in the United States for a few years before returning home to join the family business. She didn’t say what she wanted to do, and she didn’t tie it back to our program. I definitely have some concerns here.

Can Jane communicate effectively, both orally and in writing? 

Communication skills are of critical importance, both during the program and beyond. Being able to cogently articulate an argument, clearly document findings and recommendations, and develop a high-impact presentation are requirements for success in any MBA program. More importantly, these skills are required by employers everywhere. According to a recent study conducted by Bloomberg Businessweek,excellent communication skills are among the least common but most desired skills across all industries.

To gauge communication skills, I review the essays and personal statement, of course. But, I also consider all communications the applicant has had with our team. Sending a terse or unclear email to a student worker or administrative professional is a red flag for me. So are essays or personal statements that contain multiple spelling and grammar mistakes. The biggest red flag of all is an essay that does not appear to have been written by the applicant.

While her basic understanding of the English language was good, Jane was not a great communicator. After reading her essays (which I’m not positive she wrote herself—more on this later), I don’t feel I understand who she is and where she’s going. During the interview, she was stiff and had difficulty answering some basic questions. More concerns.


Does Jane demonstrate leadership skills or potential? 

This is probably one of the most important questions I ask when reviewing an application. As we’ve already discussed, MBA programs are designed to help those who wish to lead organizations. Good leaders are so important, yet so rare. My goal is to identify and prioritize the admission of those who can demonstrate that they are already good leaders, or those who can show they have the desire and potential to become good leaders.

So, where do I look for evidence of leadership skills or potential? The personal statement and essays are important. In these, I’m looking for evidence that you have made a positive impact on the organizations and companies with which you’ve been affiliated. I’m not expecting a twenty-two-year-old to have run a major corporation, but I would like to see that you’ve been active in student organizations. In the essays, I’m also looking for information about your leadership style. Writing about your thought process as you faced a tough problem, or how you brought people with differing beliefs together, can be a positive differentiator. Finally, I’m looking for examples of how you intend to enhance the student learning community. Mentioning your desire to participate in or lead specific clubs, or talking about starting a new one, demonstrates your intent to lead as a student.

Leadership was not a strong point for Jane. Her application failed to highlight any relevant experiences, and during the interview she confirmed she doesn’t enjoy working in groups, and was not involved in any extracurricular activities as an undergraduate student.

Does Jane conduct herself honorably and ethically? 

Sadly, it’s not hard to think of numerous examples of unethical leaders destroying companies, defrauding investors, and harming their customers. MBA programs tend to place graduates in leadership positions, and I see it as a moral obligation to verify that those I am considering for admission to our program have a solid understanding of the importance of ethical behavior.

To answer the question of whether I believe the applicant will behave ethically, I utilize every aspect of the application. I look at the essays and letters of recommendation to see if the applicant has ever been placed in a difficult ethical situation and learn what his or her response was. I also carefully review the essays to verify that they were actually written by the applicant. On occasion, I’ve phoned a recommender to get additional details about some information depicted in a letter of recommendation. Every now and then, I’ve come across a made-up letter of recommendation (either the supposed recommender or company doesn’t exist) and this always, always, always leads to an immediate denial of admission, regardless of the applicant’s other qualifications.

The best advice I can give is to demonstrate your understanding of the importance of ethics in business school and beyond. Talk about difficult situations you’ve faced, and walk the reader through your thought process, the actions you took, and the results.

Unfortunately for Jane, she did not receive his advice. During her interview, I noticed a disconnect between her speaking skills and her essays; while her essays contained a lot of big words and complex ideas, she preferred very brief answers during the interview. Furthermore, when I asked about some of the content in her essays, she had a hard time relaying some of the information she supposedly wrote. I’m now very suspicious that she did not write her own essays, which is a huge red flag. This not only makes me question her ethics, but also makes me wonder if she will be able to succeed in her writing-intensive coursework.

Will Jane be a good team member? Would I want to work with her? 

Like communication skills, the ability to be an effective team member is a critical success factor both in business school and in the “real world.” I would much rather have someone in my program who has lower grades or test scores but has exceptional interpersonal skills and an orientation toward teamwork than the other way around.

It’s pretty easy to spot good team players. They tend to use we more than I in their essays and during their interviews. Their recommenders highlight their team-oriented nature and offer examples illustrating their ability to function in a highly collaborative environment. Some applicants bring to the interview a portfolio of group projects on which they have worked.

Jane underwhelmed in this area as well. In her essays, she said she prefers working alone to teamwork. None of her letters of recommendation indicate that she’s a team player. That’s a problem because most of our coursework is done in teams. Furthermore, most of our employers want to hire future leaders with exceptional interpersonal skills and a strong desire to work in teams.


Will Jane be employable by graduation? Would I hire her? 

Applicants may have excellent grades, test scores, and other credentials, but if they aren’t likely to be employable by graduation, it’s hard to get excited about admitting them. What does employable mean? It means having the technical skills—such as an understanding of marketing, accounting, or finance—coupled with the intangibles needed for success in today’s interconnected and increasingly complex global workforce. These intangible qualities include interpersonal, leadership, and communication skills; work ethic; maturity; ability to work on multicultural teams; and a strong ethical compass.

I look at all components of the application to gauge employability. The quantitative elements (e.g., grades and test scores) help me understand the applicant’s ability to be successful in a competitive environment, while the essays and personal statement highlight communication skills, thought processes, and the ability to make a persuasive argument. Letters of recommendation, particularly from previous or current employers, help me better understand the applicant’s personality, work ethic, and ability to thrive in a professional environment. In the interview, I try to determine drive and motivation and consider whether I believe the applicant will be impressive to future employers.

For Jane, this was another tough one. For certain roles, she may be a great fit. She has an engineering background and speaks three languages, so I’m sure she will find a job somewhere. And yet, will the employers who typically recruit our MBA students be interested in her for a high-level management role? Maybe, but probably not.

Does Jane specifically want to attend our school? Will she stay involved beyond graduation?

I would much rather admit a student with lesser quantitative qualifications but a great desire to attend our program than the other way around. I can usually tell from the essays and definitely from the interview whether applicants are passionate about my school or if they see it as just another MBA program they will attend if the price is right.

Why do I care if a student is passionate about our program? Passion is infectious. In my experience, those who are excited about attending our program usually earn better grades, work harder, get more involved with extracurricular activities, and have a better experience than students who pick their program based on rankings, cost, or which one gave them the largest scholarship. They are also much more likely to stay involved as alumni and give back to the program.

After a while it gets pretty easy to tell the difference between an applicant who has tailored their application specifically for our program and one who has cut-and-pasted the name of our school into the appropriate places in essays and personal statements. The distinction becomes even clearer when an applicant submits essays with the wrong school name. As you can probably imagine, this is a huge turnoff. While I have sometimes had to admit people who have made it clear that we weren’t their first choice, these folks usually don’t get our best scholarship offer. We try to save our top awards for those who are qualified and sincerely want to be a part of our community.

There’s no question that Jane wanted to attend our program. She spent time in both her essays and interview talking about how her dad went to our school and how her dream is to follow him there. Although we like passion for our program, we are more concerned with whether applicants are likely to stay involved beyond graduation. Will they open pipelines at their future employer to recruit at our school? Will they host recruiting events abroad for prospective students in their home country? Will they help mentor future students? Again, nothing in Jane’s application or interview tells me she’s in this for the long haul.

Had our decision been based solely on her grades and test scores, Jane probably would have been admitted; however, after a more holistic review, her application became much less competitive. Of the three applicants we admitted instead of Jane, none had a higher GMAT score, but all had better essays and letters of recommendation and performed better in the interview. Over the years, I’ve repeatedly seen these subtle, often overlooked aspects of an application serve as the qualifying factor between success and failure—both in the application process, and in the pursuit of a degree once admitted.



Brian Precious has managed the admissions, recruiting, and marketing teams at three major MBA programs — Oregon State University, Purdue University, and, his alma mater, the University of Illinois. Brian’s passion for business school education stems from his own experiences as a student in the Illinois MBA program from 2004-2006. During that time, he gained the skills required to change careers, had the opportunity to start a company, travel the world, and make some of the most enduring friendships of his life. Get In, Get Connected, Get Hired is his first book. 







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