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For all of you prospective MBAs about to send in those applications, we made a list and checked it twice to cover all of the little things you might have overlooked.  Check it out and make sure that you haven't left any opportunities on the table.

TESTS AND GRADES
Do all of your schools have all of your transcripts and your GMAT or GRE scores?
Have you taken the TOEFL, if necessary, and submitted your score?
Are your transcripts official?  Do they have to be?  
Are your transcripts in sealed envelopes?  Are they in English?
Have you converted your high school and college GPAs to 4.0 standards?

RECOMMENDERS
Do all of your recommenders know all of the schools you are applying for?
Have you provided an up-to-date resume and bullet points about your strongest characteristics?
Have you followed up to courteously remind them about deadlines and answer any questions they may have?
Have you coordinated any special letters of recommendation you may be receiving, and made certain they are only going to your top choice school?
Do you have a recommendation from your current, direct supervisor?  If not, have you explained why not in your optional essay?

ESSAYS
Are you sure you have answered all the essay questions?
Did you answer them at the correct word, page and character counts?
Have you fully answered every question?  Read each prompt closely and address every aspect of every question.  Leave nothing out.
Are your essays too long or too short?  Do you need to add or subtract material anywhere?
Do you need to write an optional essay explaining away grades, test scores or gaps in employment?
Have you double-checked your schools’ formatting and uploading requirements?
If you are repurposing material from one school for another, have you double-checked to make sure you did not accidentally leave in another school’s name?
Have your essays been proofread carefully?

SCHOOL RESEARCH
Have you visited every campus you possibly can?
When you visited, did you take careful notes of names, dates and places for later use?
Did you make good use of all your salient research either in your essays or elsewhere in your application?
If you were not able to visit, did you attend an ‘info session’?  Did you ask questions?  Did you take note of who was offering the info session?
Have you spoken to current and former students, received specific and revealing quotes about each of your target schools, and made use of them in your essays?

 INTERVIEWS AND VIDEO ESSAYS

Have you scheduled an interview for schools that allow you to interview, like Tuck and Kellogg?
Have you begun to practice your interview answers for basic questions like career goals and leadership experiences?
Are you familiar with the common prompts for video essay questions?  Have you thought loosely about answers?  No scripting!

RESUME
Are all the dates, times and job functions accurate and clear?
Are your descriptions of your work appropriate for b-schools?  Do they highlight leadership and accomplishments rather than job functions and experience?
Is your resume one page?
Are there any formatting inconsistencies?  Has it been proofread?
Do you need to adjust your resume for different schools to account for certain factors (like working with an alum or on a particularly relevant project)?  Have you done so?

APP REVIEW
Have you skipped over any portions of the application?  if so, return to them now.

Did you answer every short answer question with complete and satisfying detail?  Did you include all the necessary names, dates and places?

Did we miss something?  Let us know!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Twas the night before XMAS ... MBA Edition

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Hey MBAs -- did you spend most of Xmas in your room finishing your round two applications?  We feel your pain -- so we spent our holiday making you a funny video.  Enjoy!  

'Twas the night before Christmas, both silent and clear,
In a house full of transcripts and empty of cheer,
Twas no food in the fridge save a bottle of Jack,
And a half-eaten Shroom burger from the Shake Shack.
John hung up his Armani, Jane her DKNY,
They collapsed into bed with two miserable sighs.
Like their GMAT review books, all beaten and worn,
Both John and Jane wished they had never been born.
And they both thought of nothing but getting their letter
From Kellogg, or Booth, or perhaps someplace better --
Still backed up with work, they had little to say,
Warm under the sheets, they soon drifted away ...

An hour later, John sat up groaning, quite numb
Did I leave those breakevens at the office half done?
And Jane tossed and turned, her locks worn and frayed
Was my primary  recommendation waylaid?
They both stood up yawning and went to their Macbooks.
"We're both being silly.  Let's just have a quick look."
Paranoia assuaged, they both shook their heads,
But moments before they got back into bed --
Buzz buzz!  Went their iPads and laptops and phones --
A blizzard of emails, the senders unknown.
John and Jane sat straight up, as they nervously chattered
and rushed to their phones to see what was the matter.
It was Olin!  And Tuck!  And Ross!  And what's more, son,
The both of them had been admitted to Wharton!

They pranced and they shrieked, they could hardly believe it!
The yeses were coming before they could read em!
A knock at the door?  Who is that at this hour?
Twas Dee Leopold holding a bouquet of flowers!
John and Jane, I bought this for you at the bodega
To your applications, I'm quite proud to say, yeah!
Dee went down on one knee to expound on her love,
But then, crickety-crack! Came a  noise from above.
Like a flash Derrick Bolton shot right down the chimney!
He shook off the coal dust and smiled quite winningly.

I know it's a breach of our protocol, still,
I had to tell both of you how Stanford feels. 
Dee growled, "Derrick, back off -- they're HBS admits!"
Derrick smiled too sweetly.  "You think I give a shit?"
Wharton sent a new email!  To prove we're not kidding
We're offering total tuition remission!
John and Jane, quite ashamed
 begged the deans to stop fighting,
Til another surprise came at them quick as lightning.
An most irksome clanging!  Oh what could it be?
Twas John's old alarm clock,  more's the pity.
For as cruel as it sounds, yes, as cruel as it seems ...
John and Jane realized they were having a dream.
They tried to resist, they tried to remain,
But they failed and awoke with both back and heart pain.

For the rest of the morning, they moved just like zombies.
Tragic indeed are the dreams of what might have been.
John and Jane, don't you worry.  I happen to know
There's a little surprise for you waiting below!
As they scanned their inbox, it cheered them to learn
That year's Goldman bonus had just been determined!
John and Jane smiled, there was no need to fight --
B-school or no, they were doing all right.
And they both shook their heads as they said to each other --

I can't wait for January and this shit to be over.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How to come up with great essay ideas

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For many people, brainstorming great essay topics is more intimidating than actually having to write them!  Here are some tips to get you past the writer's block.

By Ben Feuer

You're a creative person -- most of the time.  But when it comes to choosing a topic for your essay, you're drawing a blank.  You have no idea what to write about -- you don't even know how to DECIDE what to write about!  Don't worry -- you've come to the right place.

Step One: Know your prompt and your word count -- and then forget them.  Ah, Zen.  Let's begin with a contradiction, shall we?  The very first thing you should do when you're trying to answer an essay question is read the prompt, word for word, out loud, at least twice.  Mouth it to yourself if you are super shy but reading aloud is better.  Notice each and every word.  Now look at the word count.  Is it a character count?  Page count?  No limit?  Will you be putting it into a form or sending it as an attachment?  Consider the context of what you're about to write.  Think about it from a reader's perspective.

Now forget all of that.  It will help you later, but for the next step it will only get in your way.

Step Two: Go to the feeling.  Fear, joy, rage -- these are powerful emotions.  And because they're powerful, we tend to avoid them on a day to day basis.  We try to make our lives ordinary.  And that's just fine.  Except when we're setting out to write essays.  Because the number one rule of essay writing is MAKE IT INTERESTING, and it's very hard to get other people excited about a topic that you don't even care about yourself!  So think about times in your life when you were frightened or elated.  Think about the hardest things you ever had to do.

Step Three: Be questioned.  The one essential tool in coming up with ideas is your brain.  Problem is, most people's brains and memories don't work well in a vacuum.  You need to have a conversation with someone who can push you, someone who can ask odd and unexpected questions, rapid fire, to throw you out of your usual patterns of thought.  You have a lot of preconceptions built up inside, and a good interrogation can help break some of them down.

Step Four: Never say no.  As you come up with ideas, your first instinct is going to be to shut yourself and others down.  No, that won't work.  Because of this, or that, or the other thing.  Reject that instinct.  Leave everything on the table.  Explore the corners and contours of your initial thought rather than throw it away.  Try to find aspects of it you didn't consider at first.  And even if you still don't think it works, write it down anyway.

Step Five:  Think like a journalist.  So now you should have a couple pages of ideas.   What do you do with this scrawled list of half-recalled stories?  Who, what, where, why, how, when.  The details of the story you're about to write might be second nature to you, or you might not have thought about them for years.  Either way, you're going to be writing for an audience that does not know anything about you.  So do them a favor and give them something to sink their teeth into.  Before you try to make your essay perfect, just tell the simple facts of the story in 200 words or so, more if you need them.  The purpose of this exercise is to let yourself (and your reader) see clearly what actually happened.  Choose AT LEAST FIVE that you think have some chance at working.

Step six:  Get feedback.  Now that your ideas are fleshed out and legible, go back to your reader.  Ask him or her which of the ideas seems most promising.  Chase down any leads he or she suggests.  Maybe explore this person more, or this side of the story more.

Step seven: Repeat as needed.   People don't like this step much, but it's often necessary.  New parts of your life, new questions you haven't heard.  There is ALWAYS something you haven't considered.  Maybe whatever it is is about to be your next awesome essay topic.

I know this can look kind of overwhelming.  Whatever happens, don't get discouraged.  Take things one step at a time.  Trust me, the process works, we've been doing it for years.  With a little faith and a little honesty, you'll soon have a big menu of ideas to choose from.

 

Need help? Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MPA or MBA: Choose in 30 Seconds

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If you're trying to choose between an MPA and an MBA quickly, this is the post for you!

No muss, no fuss.  Here are the most important factors to consider when choosing between the MPA and the MBA.

STUDIES
MBAs focus on economics, finance and marketing, aiming for jobs in the private sector or hedging their bets between private and non-profit.  
MPAs negotiate and face trade-offs, seek grants, and learn to manage policy and human resources, focusing on public sector or socially conscious business.

COST AND VALUE OF DEGREE
MBAs are elite, expensive, and highly competitive.  They are widely available.  They are financed via family money, earnings or loans.  They are somewhat flexible, allowing non-profit, for-profit, and entrepreneurial career paths.
MPAs are less common, more niche, but also more affordable.  They are financed via loans, tuition forgiveness, and financial aid.  They are highly flexible, allowing non-profit, public sector, and for-profit career paths.
Both degrees learn operations management, project managment, and leadership.

LIKELY JOB PLACEMENT
MBAs go into marketing, management, finance, consulting, and entrepreneurship.
MPAs go into urban planning, research and budget analysis, government, and national security.

WHERE TO GO
For an MBA, consider Wharton, HBS, Stanford, Kellogg, or NYU Stern.  
For an MPA/MPP, consider Johns Hopkins SAIS, Columbia SIPA, Harvard KSG, or Indiana Bloomington.

HYBRID APPROACHES
Stern offers a Social Innovation and Impact specialization which can overlap with MPA needs, and HBS offers a dual degree at the Kennedy School, which can be paired with other degrees.  Georgetown offers an MSFS/MBA for foreign focus.  Tufts' Fletcher school offers a well-regarded MIB 2-year degree with good job placement options.

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A great educational consultant doesn’t do the work for you. He (or she) pushes you—like a tough athletic coach—to go from good to GREAT in all aspects of your candidacy.



By Evan Forster

Lebron James has undeniable natural talent. He couldn’t be less than “good” at basketball if he shot the ball from his couch with his other hand wrapped around a Pringles tube. But if you want to be Major League, you need someone outside your own mind and body to push you to a new level.

Sammy’s application to MIT Sloan’s MBA program is an excellent example. I enjoyed Sammy’s optional personal expression essay. It was clever, well-produced, and bold. And yet it was missing something crucial.

MIT Sloan’s optional essay allows the applicant to create something original, something that reveals his or her personality.  Sammy made a video, a clever takeoff of Apple’s “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” commercials, explaining that he was no typical finance guy in the way that Macs aren’t typical computers. In making good points about who Sammy is, it did exactly what that essay is supposed to do, no more and no less.  AND THAT WAS THE WHOLE PROBLEM.

At Forster-Thomas, we refer to the upper echelon of elite schools as the Major Leagues of Admissions—Harvard College, Columbia Medical School, Haas B-School, Stanford Law, USC Film.  We do that for a reason.  It takes something special to make it to the major leagues.  Talent is a given.  Most people applying to those schools have talent.  Effort matters—a lot—but not all effort is created equal.  Some effort is wasted on things that don’t count.  That’s why major leaguers need COACHES.  You know, that guy on the sidelines in a suit or uniform (or in the case of Bill Belichick, a grungy hoodie) screaming at you to slide or bunt or whatever it is you do in baseball.  You need someone to take your clever essay ideas, your interesting interview responses and your competent resume from “effective” and “polished” to “authentic” and “compelling.” 

In Sammy’s case, his optional personal expression essay was missing that one, teeny-tiny, indispensable ingredient: HEART. While the Forster-Thomas crew enjoyed and nodded at the video when we saw it, a day later, none of us could recall a thing about Sammy—other than the fact that he’s not a PC.  And that is a BIG, BIG problem. If I don’t remember Sammy, neither will the adcoms.

While Sammy had worked with us on his applications to other schools, he did MIT Sloan on his own.  Imagine if he had had someone there to push him, to make him sweat the small stuff.  Imagine, if instead of a perfect Mac, we saw a guy who showed off two amazing things about himself like his academic ability and a great club he led. And then imagine Sammy stops. He looks down, and then back up at the camera and says, “Wait. I don’t wanna put anyone else down—not PC or anyone.” And then he reveals something not so great—like his struggle organizing thoughts, a truth about his insecurity about transitioning from law to business. And then he asks MIT for help giving him the life his really wants. And maybe he cuts to this part when he’s “backstage,” setting everything up. See?  It not only takes it past the clever “Mac/PC” commercial, but it humanizes him. Now MIT doesn’t just like Sammy. MIT remembers Sammy. We all do.  

That’s what a strong, experienced, savvy educational consultant does. He or she takes you from D-League to Major League—by helping you find and express your HEART, not just your resume.  Odds are, Sammy considered doing something personal and warm—but rejected the idea. Without someone to give him permission to get real, he backed off because admissions is scary. The more your put yourself on the line, the harder it is if you get rejected.

You may be Superman, but you have Kryptonite buried somewhere in your candidacy, and it will suck all the power out of it if you let it.  We all have a blind spot—you, me, everybody.  We all need a coach to be great.

I have a confession to make: I have a bit of an ego.  That is why it is extra hard for me to admit what I’m about to admit: I’m not a Mac.  I’m not slick, or polished.  I wake up every day and ask myself, “Was I a phony yesterday? Does anyone really care what I have to say today?"

That fear is not “slick” or “polished”—it’s just the truth.  My media consultant, Hank, otherwise known as my personal pain-in-the ass, is my secret weapon that never lets me merely be good. He helps me be great. That’s why I hire him.  And that’s why you should hire us, or another educational consultant that is the right fit for your personality and needs.

You worked hard to give yourself a shot at a top program or school.  Why settle for second best in your candidacy and your applications, the final and most telling stage of the entire process?  That’s why you need a GREAT educational consultant.  The good news is, I have a couple suggestions about where to start looking.  HECA, IECA ... I'm looking at you!

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When it comes to getting into a top filmmaking MFA like USC, not all materials are created equal.  What can you do to make your application stand out?

Considered by many to be the #1 film school in America and possibly the world, USC is famous for having housed George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, all of whom continue to support their Alma Mater.   So what does it take to join their hallowed ranks?  Well, first, you have to get into the school -- no mean feat, as top film schools have become more selective every year, with USC's hovering at a measly 9 percent.

Of course, USC's deadline of November 15th is already past for this year, but there's still the spring, not to mention next year, and getting your portfolio in shape is a long-term kind of project.

The most important component of your application is going to be your creative portfolio.  Simply put, if it's great, you're in.  Here are the required elements for the 2014-2015 USC Film and Television MFA, and how to make each of them stand out from the pack.

1.  Cinematic Arts Personal Statement (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section): The personal statement will be read by the Film & Television Production Admission Committee as a measure of creativity, self-awareness and vision. We are looking for a sense of you as a unique individual and how your distinctive experiences, characteristics, background, values and/or views of the world have shaped who you are and what you want to say as a creative filmmaker. We want to know about the kind of stories you want to tell. Bear in mind that enthusiasm for watching films, descriptions of your favorite films and the involvement in the filmmaking process is common in most candidates. As a result, we encourage that you focus on your individuality. Note that there is no standard format or correct answer. (1,000 words or less).

USC's expectations in a personal statement are exceptionally clearly laid out here.  They do NOT want to hear about all the cool productions you've been a part of.  They do not want to know that you hung out with Krysten Ritter at a bar one time.  They want to know your story -- your personal, human narrative -- that led you to this point of applying to film school.

Does that mean you 'can't talk' about film?  Of course not!  How would you wind up applying to film school without having film be a major component of your life?  That would be weird!  The point is, that can't be the 'only' thing going on in your life.  They want to know what raw material, what attitudes and experiences, you're going to be drawing upon when you tell your stories.  So tell them a story -- the kind that only you can tell -- yours!

2.  Writing Sample (choose one) (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section):
An outline for a four-minute film that contains no dialogue. It can be fiction or non-fiction. The story has to be communicated visually. (No more than two pages).

One important principle in screenwriting is the ability to limit one's writing to what one can see and hear, present tense.  This prompt tests your ability to tell simple visual stories.

You could almost think about this as a picture book project -- give yourself a short, limited story to tell, and don't push yourself to be new or original, just focus on being clear, direct and specific.  Originality grows out of limitation and specificity.

Listen up, post-MTV generation -- this is not, or at least should not be, an exercise in fast cutting and showmanship.  No one cares that you know what a dolly shot is, and there should not be any camera angles.  Instead, your sentences should correspond to shots, and your paragraphs to scenes.  Think of something evolving step by step.  Include detail.  Slow the pace.

A dialogue scene between two people. Provide a one-paragraph introduction describing the two characters in screenplay format. (No more than three pages).

There is a principle in dramatic writing known as a 'fulcrum' -- the idea that every scene is a miniature conflict, and that it resolves (in one way or another) at the fulcrum, or climax of the scene.  It's imperative that the scene COULD have gone either way, but it WOUND UP going XYZ direction.

Whether or not you agree with the idea that every scene functions in this manner, for THIS assignment and this scene, you should write in this manner.  It will give you a framework, an objective to reach, and quickly -- don't waste time with introductions and setting the stage.  Get to the meat!

Describe a concept for a feature-length movie, fiction or documentary, which you would like to develop. (No more than two pages).

Concepts, or treatments, should be written in present tense format, just like screenplays.  They should be limited to what we see and hear.  

The other distinctive and important aspect of writing concepts is that they must be segmented, IE broken down into acts and sequences.  This not only helps your reader to understand the order of events, it also helps YOU to understand them.

Another challenge of concepts is deciding what to include and what to leave out.  The most important things to include are key characters, including descriptions, and important locations and plot transitions, which typically grow out of characters.

3.  Visual Sample (Choose one) (Please submit under the "Media Section"). 
Please submit only one of the two visual samples. It is essential that you specify what role(s) you have played in your visual sample.

Video Option: Create a brief narrative video in which you had a major creative role. The video can be live-action or animation, fiction or documentary, but it should reflect your aesthetic tastes and intellectual and emotional interests. (No longer than five minutes.) Please submit only ONE video. Multiple submissions WILL NOT be reviewed.

Photo Option: Prepare a series of eight photographs you have taken which, when viewed in a specific sequence, portray a unique and original character or which tell a simple narrative story. Please upload the photos in order of sequence (1-8). Also, include a one-page narrative about the character being portrayed in the photos. The images may either be black-and-white or in color. Please also upload the required one page narrative into the "media" section of the application.

You see that phrase, "specify your role"?  There is a very good reason USC is asking you to do that.  This material is being used to assess your abilities, not whether you were peripherally connected to something famous or interesting.  Don't waste this submission on attempts at name dropping or self promotion!

Another important warning here -- less is better.  USC helps you out with that by limiting the duration of your video to 5 minutes.  You can make a remarkable short film in five minutes or less.  Many people have.  Heck, you can make a great short film in 30 seconds -- just watch the super bowl ads if you don't believe me!  Show your ability to tell a story with pictures, and take advantage of your time limitations.  Embrace them rather than struggling against them.

 Don't get too bogged down in technical details like production value.  If your sample looks amazing or stars that kid from that show, hey, that's nice, but its ultimately beside the point.  USC wants to see that you have the raw materials and capabilities to be a storyteller, so that they can then mold you into their KIND of storyteller.  Particuarly a visual storyteller, someone who knows how an image can send a message.

So, there you are!  Everything you need to craft an awesome portfolio!  If you have more questions, of course, you can always ask me -- happy submitting!


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Are you struggling mightily to finish an essay for a particular prompt or school?  Sometimes the problem is not where you wound up, it's where you started.

There comes a moment in every writer's life (usually fairly early on) when she is forced to step back, assess her work with a cold, dispassionate eye, and say, calmly and confidently, "This is crap."  This is usually a bittersweet moment, coming as it does after hours (days?) of staring at a screen, fighting to make the words on the page suck less.

Sometimes the revelation comes in a more public (but equally upsetting) context -- you show it to your mom, or your best friend, and that doe-eyed, pitying look comes over her face -- oh, sugar, really?  That old story about the lawnmower again?  I hated that when you wrote about it for COLLEGE!

Look, I'm not going to sugarcoat it because it's kind of my job not to.  You wasted a bunch of time.  In your defense, it probably wasn't your fault.  But still, you might as well have spent that time listening to "All About That Bass" on repeat.  Because that's a thing people do.  Anyway, what's done is done.  The question is, what do you do now?

There is a simple way of doing triage when your essay is on life support -- vital signs that can tell you if your idea needs CPR or a shallow grave.

1.  Does it have juice?  Is there any actual emotional resonance to the idea for you?  Do you care about the subject matter, the people involved, the revelations?  Even with the most technical and business-minded essays, this is still a vital component, and if it isn't there for you, it certainly won't be there for anybody else.

2.  Is it honest and revealing?  Did you wind up contorting a few too many facts to make yourself look good?  Are you making a big deal of something that -- really, truly -- wasn't that important?  Are you showing the committee who you are, or who you want them to think you are?  And if you are applying some spin, is it at least convincingly backed up by evidence?

3.  Does it answer the question?  This is a simple one, but important nevertheless.  You'd be amazed at how many essays take on a life of their own independent of the prompt they are supposed to be answering!  So before you sink more hours into your magnum opus, be sure it is actually giving the school what they asked for!

If your answer to more than two of these questions is no, it's time to start over with a brand new brainstorm.  If you don't know how to do a brainstorm -- well, we'd be delighted to help.  But you can't start the future until you let go of the past.  Yoda said that.  I think.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Law School: A buyer's market?

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True, applications are trending downward.  But for those of you who really want to be lawyers, this might be good news.

We here at Forster Thomas have been tracking law school trends for quite some time.  As most people know by now, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of applicants to law school, leading some programs to shrink and a few to disappear entirely.  But for those of you who actually WANT to be lawyers (as opposed to those of you who just saw it as 'the thing to do'), this might actually be good news.  Why?  Because if you apply to law school this year, you are entering a buyer's market.  Schools are slashing tuition and cutting deals with cost-conscious students -- an extremely appealing prospect if, like most students, you look at the size of the debts incurred and get a little light-headed.

But there's more to it than that.  Big law firms are competing harder and harder for top students, offering bonuses of as much as $100,000, depending on experience.  Even the normally cynical Above the Law called the bonus news 'exciting.  And in certain, truly exceptional cases, such as the case of a Boies Schiller associate who put in an average of 10 hours every day, including weekends, for months on end, the bonuses got much, much bigger ... as high as $350,000.  Note -- Forster-Thomas does not endorse working 70 hour weeks.

The facts are clear enough -- while this might not be an ideal time to be at the bottom of the law school pyramid, or even in the middle, for students graduating at the top of their class or for students graduating from T14 law schools, this is an excellent time to be entering the job market.


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When it comes to getting into a top film MFA like NYU Tisch, not all materials are created equal.  What can you do to make your application stand out?

NYU Tisch is a top five film school in America, producing graduates like James Franco, Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone, along with many recent independent and studio filmmakers.   So what does it take to join their hallowed ranks?  Well, first, you have to get into the school -- no mean feat, as top film schools have become more selective every year, with Tisch's hovering at around 15 percent.

The most important component of your application is going to be your creative portfolio.  Simply put, if it's great, you're in.  Here are the required elements for the 2014-2015 Tisch MFA in filmmaking.

  1. Visual Submission: a sample or samples of your work presented visually. Material done in collaboration with other artists is acceptable provided you were the major creative force (i.e., director, producer, writer, camera operator or editor) and you explain in detail the exact nature of your contribution. Choose ONE of the following formats (i.e., do not combine video and photography):

    Video: The submission can contain one or more selections as long as the total running time does not exceed 30 minutes.  Video footage of staged plays or theatre performances are not acceptable. Please be clear about your specific contributions to the video sample. You may upload up to ten minutes of video on to the media page within Slideroom. If the total running time of your video sample exceeds ten minutes,  a link to your work must be provided on the media page. Please test your video prior to submission.  If you are submitting a link, please be sure no downloads or passwords are required.

    Or


    Photography
    (Stills): no more than 10 prints on any subject, black and white or color, with or without commentary. The photographs may also be a presentation of work in other media, such as painting, illustration, sculpture, set design, costume design, etc. (Still images and scans uploaded to tischfilmandtv.slideroom.com should be a minimum of 72 dpi).
You see that phrase, "major creative force"?  That should be your mantra here -- love it, live by it.  This material is being used to assess your abilities, not whether you were peripherally connected to something famous or interesting.  Don't waste this submission on attempts at name dropping or self promotion!

Another important warning here -- ONLY SUBMIT YOUR ABSOLUTE STRONGEST WORK.  This might sound obvious, but you'd be amazed how often people are seduced into thinking more is better. It's not.  Less is better.  You can make a remarkable short film in five minutes or less.  Many people have.  Heck, you can make a great short film in 30 seconds -- just watch the super bowl ads if you don't believe me!  Show your ability to tell a story with pictures, and take advantage of your time limitations.  Embrace them rather than struggling against them.

 Don't get too bogged down in technical details like production value.  If your sample looks amazing or stars that kid from that show, hey, that's nice, but its ultimately beside the point.  Tisch wants to see that you have the raw materials and capabilities to be a storyteller, so that they can then mold you into their KIND of storyteller.  Particuarly a visual storyteller, someone who knows how an image can send a message.

2.  A story synopsis for a four-minute silent film. Only exterior settings should be used, without description of camera angles. There should be a visual story line and characters, but no voice-over, dialogue, or music.  No more than three double spaced pages describing only what we can see designed to play as a four-minute movie.

One important principle in screenwriting is the ability to limit one's writing to what one can see and hear, present tense.  That skill is what is being tested by this prompt.  Simple pictorial storytelling.

You could almost think about this as a picture book project -- give yourself a short, limited story to tell, and don't push yourself to be new or original, just focus on being clear, direct and specific.  Originality grows out of limitation and specificity.

Listen up, post-MTV generation -- this is not, or at least should not be, an exercise in fast cutting and showmanship.  No one cares that you know what a dolly shot is, and there should not be any camera angles.  Instead, your sentences should correspond to shots, and your paragraphs to scenes.  Think of something evolving step by step.  Include detail.  Slow the pace.

3.  A dialogue scene between two people. Write an interesting conversation that reveals something about the two characters.  You can give a one sentence description of each character, but please only essential details.  No back story. A maximum of two pages, in screenwriting format.

There is a principle in dramatic writing known as a 'fulcrum' -- the idea that every scene is a miniature conflict, and that it resolves (in one way or another) at the fulcrum, or climax of the scene.  It's imperative that the scene COULD have gone either way, but it WOUND UP going XYZ direction.

Whether or not you agree with the idea that every scene functions in this manner, for THIS assignment and this scene, you should write in this manner.  It will give you a framework, an objective to reach, and quickly -- don't waste time with introductions and setting the stage.  Get to the meat!

4.   Describe one concept for a feature-length script, narrative, or documentary that you would like to develop. No more than one page, typed, double-spaced.

Concepts, or treatments, should be written in present tense format, just like screenplays.  They should be limited to what we see and hear.  

The other distinctive and important aspect of writing concepts is that they must be segmented, IE broken down into acts and sequences.  This not only helps your reader to understand the order of events, it also helps YOU to understand them.

Another challenge of concepts is deciding what to include and what to leave out.  The most important things to include are key characters, including descriptions, and important locations and plot transitions, which typically grow out of characters.

A personal statement.

 The personal statement is easy to overlook -- after exhausting yourself trying to come up with amazing creative samples, who has the energy to devote to explaining one's personal background and motivations?  You do, that's who.  You do.  

The thing that you are forgetting is that YOU are a character.  YOU have an important story to tell, and it's yours, the path you took to arrive at NYU's door.  There should be twists and turns, surprising revelations.  Exciting and dramatic insights.  And of course, there should be strong and plausible reasons why this, of all things, is what you have chosen to dedicate your life to.

 You might be thinking, yeah, but my life is really not that exciting of a story to tell.  I beg to differ.  You just have to learn to look at it like a screenwriter does.  Start pulling out the little conflicts and conversations inherent to each life and teasing them into longer pieces.  You'll have yourself a rich story in no time.

And that's about it!  If you have more questions, of course, you can always ask me -- happy submitting!