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 Forster-Thomas offers helpful tips for MBA applicants seeking an international edge.

 By Ben Feuer


The Guardian wrote on Friday about the ever-increasing value of international experience in the admissions process.  More now than ever, business is global, and MBAs looking to get the maximum value out of their degree and their training should think about whether they are competitive on an international scale.

Are you fluent in a second language?  English may be the worldwide language of business, but Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese and Arabic can all come in very handy for MBAs.

Are you experienced at integrating into unfamiliar cultures?  I don't mean going on a fun vacation in Taiwan or backpacking across Europe with your buddies.  Have you immersed yourself in a foreign culture, forged connections, made new friends and contacts in completely alien settings?

Do you have skills that translate internationally?  Are you strong quantitatively?  Do you have a lot of experience with Excel or other computer programs that are commonly used overseas?  Do you understand the fundamentals of leadership and how to motivate people?

Mastering your core skills and honing them is the best way to be competitive nationally AND internationally -- and as businesses continue to expand their influence, these abilities will only grow more important.

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The 2014-2015 Emory, INSEAD, USC Marshall Essays and Deadlines are up on our website!  Check them out right here. 

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http://www.forsterthomas.com/essayguide/emory-goizueta_2014-2015
http://www.forsterthomas.com/essayguide/insead_2014-2015
http://www.forsterthomas.com/essayguide/uscmarshall_2014-2015 


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Duke Fuqua 2014-2015 Essay Prompts with Analysis

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Duke's essays maintain their distinctive flavor this year -- here are some tips on how to attack them.

By Ben Feuer


Required Short Answer Questions: Answer all 3 questions. For each short answer question, respond in 250 characters only (the equivalent of about 50 words).

1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA? 

2. What are your long-term goals?

These are standard goals essays.  See any of our previous posts on goals, or our book, for a sense on how to approach this. 

3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?

This question is unique to Fuqua.  Simply put, they are testing how adaptable you are to change if your goals do not work out exactly the way you want them to.  There are two great ways to answer this question.  The first way is to focus on the same long term goal, but find an alternate short term path to arrive there -- a different kind of interim position, or a different field.  The other way to approach this prompt is to create a completely new long term goal and explain how you would go about achieving that from scratch.

First Required Essay – Answer the following question – present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may only be a few words, while others may be longer. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.

1. The "Team Fuqua" spirit and community is one of the things that sets The Duke MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. When a new person joins the Admissions team, we ask that person to share with everyone in the office a list of "25 Random Things About Yourself." As an Admissions team, we already know the new hire's professional and academic background, so learning these "25 Random Things" helps us get to know someone's personality, background, special talents, and more.  In this spirit, the Admissions Committee also wants to get to know you–beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. You can share with us important life experiences, your likes/dislikes, hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Share with us your list of "25 Random Things" about YOU. 

This essay has been around for years -- frankly, it's one of our favorites here at Forster-Thomas.  We find it is often very revealing, and a lot of fun to read and to write!  The approach couldn't be simpler -- list random things about yourself.  You can and should draw from every aspect of your life, personal, professional and extracurricular -- be diverse!  You should list more than 25 initially so it is easy to cut a few.  They should vary in length and complexity -- here are two examples, one short, one long.
SHORT: my favorite food is salmon.
LONG: One time I wanted to surprise someone by jumping out of their trunk when they got back to their car, but they never opened the trunk so I was locked in there as they drove home.
Some should be funny, some should be serious -- show a range of unconnected facts about yourself.

Second Required Essay – Choose only 1 of the following 2 essay questions to answer. Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length.

When asked by your family, friends, and colleagues why you want to go to Duke, what do you tell them? Share the reasons that are most meaningful to you.

This is a why school essay with a twist -- namely, that your friends, family and colleagues are asking you why you want to go to Duke.  This means that you should spend at least some time discussing your friends and family -- what do they want for you?  What are their primary concerns as far as your development goes?  Maybe your aunt is only concerned about money.  Maybe your wife is concerned with work life balance.  Maybe your uncle is a former college quarterback and wants to know about fun athletics opportunities.  Use the essay both to demonstrate your interest in the school, and to tell Duke a bit more about the important people in your life.

The Team Fuqua community is as unique as the individuals who comprise it. Underlying our individuality are a number of shared ideas and principles that we live out in our own ways. Our students have identified and defined 6 “Team Fuqua Principles” that we feel are the guiding philosophies that make our community special. At the end of our 2 years at Fuqua, if you were to receive an award for exemplifying one of the 6 Principles listed below, which one would it be and why?  Your response should reflect the research you have done, your knowledge for Fuqua and the Daytime MBA program and experience, and the types of activities and leadership you would engage in as a Fuqua student.

Authentic Engagement: We care and we take action. We each make a difference to Team Fuqua by being ourselves and engaging in and supporting activities about which we are passionate.
Supportive Ambition: We support each other to achieve great things, because your success is my success. The Success of each individual member of Team Fuqua makes the whole of Team Fuqua better.
Collective Diversity: We embrace all of our classmates because individuality is better and stronger together.
Impactful Stewardship: We are leaders who focus on solutions to improve our communities both now and in the future. We aren’t satisfied with just maintaining the status quo.
Loyal Community: We are a family who looks out for each other. Team Fuqua support you when you need it the most.
Uncompromising Integrity: We internalize and live the honor code in the classroom and beyond. We conduct ourselves with integrity within Fuqua, within Duke, and within all communicates of which we are a part. 

First, choose one (and only one!) of the six principles listed below.  Pick the principle that you feel you best embody.  Use about 2/3rds of a page to tell a few stories about previous experiences and accomplishments you have had that highlight why you represent this quality.  Then use the rest of the essay to talk about what you plan to do and take advantage of at Fuqua that will allow you to win this award, using the usual "why school" principles to guide your decisions on what to include.  An essay like this is all about your ability to 'give back' to the school, its clubs and programs -- and in order to explain how you would give back, you have to understand some of what the clubs and programs would actually need from you.  Be specific!
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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Most indebted MBAs 2014

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US News published a short list today of the top ten MBA programs ... in terms of student debt.  Probably not the ranking you want to reach the summit of.

Fuqua, Darden, Sloan, Ross and Johnson occupy the top five slots.  All are top 20 ranked b-schools nationally.  The only low-ranked school with a high debt load is the anonymous USF Masagung school.

Overall, what is perhaps most striking about the list are the size of the numbers involved, with AVERAGE student debt topping $100,000 at all three of the top ranked programs -- this for a two-year graduate degreee, no less.  Those numbers suggest that students are shouldering nearly all of the cost of the degree themselves, and are financing their degrees almost completely through debt.

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Monday, September 01, 2014

The no frills essay

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How is a big-box discount store like an application to a competitive school?  Read on and find out.

By Ben Feuer


In an intriguing profile, Businessweek analyzed the success of Costco, a company that pays well above industry average to its employees while charging much less than average for products.  How is this achieved?  The article goes on to describe a no frills approach from top to bottom at the company, with all the focus on delivering mission critical products to the consumer.  For a mature industry like brick and mortar retail, this is a great idea, focusing on what people care about the most -- quality and price.

Believe it or not, this is directly relevant to your job as an applicant to college, business school, medical school or law school -- you, too, can benefit from a 'no frills' approach, if you apply it to your essay writing.

So what is a no-frills essay, and why is it a good thing?  A no-frills essay focuses on the story or incident it is describing.  Like a great piece of reporting, the no frills essay gives all the necessary information to understand what happened in the story, and why it is important -- and nothing more.  This is much harder than it sounds.  It is depressingly easy to pontificate, generalize and speculate in essays, filling the word count without adding to the content.  Here are some powerful tricks that can help you trim the fat.

Are you describing simple things simply?  Think about your job.  I don't mean your title, your function, or the 8 million sub-headings and tasks it entails.  I mean the core, elevator pitch version of your job.  Do you make businesses run more efficiently?  Do you evaluate deals, judging them as good or bad for a company?  These functions are easy to understand, and described simply -- much better than company valuation in a mid-market private equity hedge bla bla bla, or operational efficiencies derived from careful analytics oh God please kill me now.  Think about it this way -- do you want to sound like a boring drone?  Of course not.  So simplify.

What are you talking about?  When did the event you are discussing begin?  When did it end?  Who was involved?  What were their names?  Why is it important that we hear about this story?  What did you think at the time, and what do you think now that it is all over?  These basic questions are so often ignored in essays.  Don't fall into that trap.

Get to the point -- now.  Does your first sentence have a date, place and a simple description of what is taking place in the essay?  If the answer is no, you're doing it wrong.  Don't open with a quote.  Don't ease us into the story.  Don't generalize before you start.  Remember.  No frills.  Now apply this to every sentence, everywhere.  Done.

The next essay you write -- make it a Costco essay and not a Gucci.  A no frills approach will make them love you in the end.

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