Today, NYU Stern released its new application deadlines and essay questions for the class of 2015.  The deadlines are:

Round 1 deadline: November 15, 2012

Round 2 deadline: January 15, 2013

Round 3 deadline: April 15, 2013

The essay questions are:

Essay 1: Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-pt font)

    a) Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?
    b) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?
    c) What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?
Essay 2: Your Two Paths (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-pt font)

The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact.

    a) Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?
    b) How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern?
    c) What factors will most determine which path you will take?
Essay 3: Personal Expression

Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

If you submit a non-written piece for Essay 3 (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit Essay 3 via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.

More info on Essay 3 can be found in our Stern essay guide.

After six years of recycling the same three essay questions, Stern has finally made some changes to its roster.  There are still only three essays, but Essay 1 has been updated somewhat (slightly different wording and order from years past), while Essay 2 is a completely new essay (and an unusual one at that).  Check back soon for our Best Practices blog on how to approach the new Stern essays. 

The Stanford Graduate School of Business has released its essay questions for the Class of 2015:

Essay one: What matters most to you, and why?

  • The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them.
  • They give us a vivid and genuine image of who you are—and they also convey how you became the person you are.
  • They do not focus merely on what you've done or accomplished. Instead, they share with us the values, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspectives.
  • They are written from the heart and address not only a person, situation, or event, but also how that person, situation, or event has influenced your life.
Essay 2: What do you want to do—REALLY—and why Stanford?

  • Use this essay to explain your view of your future, not to repeat accomplishments from your past.
  • You should address two distinct topics:
    • your career aspirations
    • and your rationale for earning your MBA at Stanford, in particular.
  • The best examples of Essay 2 express your passions or focused interests, explain why you have decided to pursue graduate education in management,  and demonstrate your desire to take advantage of the opportunities that are distinctive to the Stanford MBA Program.

Essay 3:  Answer one of the three questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years.

  • Option A: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
  • Option B: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization.
  • Option C: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.
As in past years, there is a maximum word limit--this time 1,600 words--for all of the essays combined, rather than a strict limit for each individual essay. Stanford suggests that candidates allot 750 words for essay 1, 450 words for essay 2, and 400 words for essay three. 

Check back later for our tips and advice on how to answer Stanford's essay questions. 


Right on the heels of HBS's seemingly earth-shattering announcement of their essay questions, Columbia GSB has released its essay questions and deadlines for the class of 2015.

Without further adieu, here's the skinny:

The deadlines are October 3rd, 2012 for early decision, and April 10th, 2013 for regular decision.  As in years past, Columbia GSB is using rolling admissions, meaning that they read (and make admissions decisions) as the applications come rolling in.  This means it behooves you to apply as early as possible, rather than waiting until the day of the deadline.  

As for essays, there is one short answer question and two required essays:

Short Answer Question: What is your post-MBA professional goal? (200 characters maximum)

Essay 1:

A) Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals? (Maximum 500 words)

B) Please view this video, entitled Community at Columbia. Diverse, tight-knit clusters and carefully selected learning teams are defining features of the first year at Columbia Business School. Along with more than 100 student organizations and countless events each semester, the cluster system helps to create a supportive and devoted lifelong community. Describe why you are interested in becoming a part of the Columbia community. (Maximum 250 words)  

Essay 2: 

Describe a personal experience and how it has influenced who you are today. This essay should have a personal rather than a professional focus. (Maximum 500 words)

For those playing along at home, this represents a subtle change from last year's essay questions.  The short answer is virutally identical to last year's question.  Essay 1 has been broken into two parts, the first of which is similar to last year's goals essay. The second part is brand spanking new, but looks like one of the short answers from last year.  Essay 2 is a reworded version of a question Columbia has asked for three years in a row now. 

The bottom line: Columbia seems to be taking its cue from Hollywood.  Just as the latter is doing reboots of Total Recall and Spiderman this summer (and just announced a reboot of The Mummy--for some unknown reason), all Columbia has done is repackage old material.

Be sure to check back for our analysis of how to take on the Columbia questions.     

The new Harvard Business School questions for the class of 2015 have set most of the MBA blogosphere to screaming.

Sigh. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The new HBS questions are still asking what the old ones did—just in shiny new words. And, because of my age, I’ve seen this happen a number of times: from six, to four, to now two questions with a possible third one required to be answered in 24 hours or less should you make it to the interview (or, as I like to call it, “the final round”—does anybody else see the similarity to the G4 Network's American Ninja Warrior show?). Harvard has whittled their process down to two tough but great thought-provoking questions about how you see yourself, the ability to think on your feet in a high-pressure interview, and an insightful, memorable, sound byte-style post-interview essay.

Here’s the truth: This new essay strategy is tough. But it’s not different. All it means is that, once again, you have to have a strong candidacy. When taking on HBS, just as with every other school, don’t think in terms of essays, think in terms of your whole candidacy—the entire “who you are.” That’s how you take this on, and take it on powerfully. To quote Talking Heads: “Same as it ever was.” And, now more than ever, you need to take that candidacy on as soon as possible. Whether you plan to be part of the graduating class of 2015, 2016, et al, think in terms of your entire candidacy, not just the essays. To be powerful, you still have to:

  1. Have a great resume
  2. Be the first to raise your hand and take on projects at work
  3. Take on extracurriculars
  4. Face the essays…which I will talk about in next week’s blog.

It’s a candidacy as a whole.

The whole HBS frenzy is about essays, but your whole MBA candidacy is not really about essays, and it never has been. The frenzy is, at its core, a conversation about fear. Dealing with fear—your own fear about being accepted—in life, or at HBS, or at any business school. Taking this on is to be able to embrace challenge. And you must take on the challenge of approaching HBS, or any candidacy, powerfully.

So, how do you take it on powerfully?

First, take a deep breath and be the leader you are. This is about dancing in the moment—which leaders have to do all the time. The unexpected comes at you, and you have to hone your skills to be able respond to anything, at any time, under any conditions. How do you do this? Like an American Ninja Warrior. A ninja is strong, agile, fast, and skilled, but the winning element is his focus. That’s what enables him to be powerful and to not allow fear to dictate his responses. The same goes for yours, if what you want is to take on an HBS, a Stanford, or any top-level candidacy.

Hence, all this hullaballoo about the HBS questions is much ado about nothing—just a different path to the same result: being part of an amazing community of likeminded visionaries/leaders who will change an industry, community, country, or the whole damn planet. That’s all I care about and that’s all you should care about. If you take on your candidacy in this way, it will not matter what they throw at you, or the changes they make.

--Evan Forster (Auntie Evan)

It's the OMG heard 'round the world: Today, Harvard Business School released its deadlines and essay questions for the Class of 2015, ushering in big changes to its MBA admissions policies. 

The most obvious difference from years past is that there are now only two required essays (as opposed to the four HBS asked last year). But there's also an additional essay question that those who are invited to interview must complete within 24 hours of their interview.  

The two required essays are:

  • Tell us something you've done well (400 words)
  • Tell us something you wish you had done better (400 words)

Yup, that's it. Now if only those questions were as easy to answer as they were to come up with...

In her May 22nd blog, Dee Leopold, the head of admissions at HBS, explained the school now views admissions in three stages: Introduce Yourself (application, GMAT/GPA, recs, essays), Tell Us More (the interview, which as in years past will be mandatory for all admitted applicants), and Have The Last Word, in which candidates are asked to "do a written reflection on the interview experience which will be submitted via the online application system."

Details on what the post-interview essay question will be are still fuzzy, but it will likely ask candidates to discuss something they did not have the chance to address during the interview.

A final (albeit less significant) shake-up is that the Round 1 deadline has been moved from early October to September 24, 2012.  That gives procrastinators one less week to do what they do best.  But luckily for them, the Round 2 and 3 deadlines remain more or less the same as last year.

For complete information on the HBS essays and deadlines, see the HBS page of our Essay Guide. And check back soon for our Best Practices Blog on how to answer the new HBS essays.


Guest Post by Maria Ahmed, Editor at

As the business world grows ever more connected internationally, the new, global version of the MBA is gaining popularity.

These are typically part-time MBA programs, delivered through a mixture of online learning with classmates spread out across nearly every time zone, and regular residencies in different cities around the world where you meet face-to-face.

If you want to embark on one of these programs, you’ll need to show evidence that you're an internationally-minded candidate with a thirst for discovering the world!

The key attraction of these programs is the network you’ll build. Since they’re mostly part-time, your classmates are working and can give you immediate introductions, all-important insider gossip, and hiring information from their employers.

The team at the Duke Cross Continent MBA describe it as an opportunity to build a “culturally-diverse peer network across the globe.” Duke’s Cross Continent MBA is delivered over 16 months in Dubai, New Delhi, St. Petersburg, Shanghai/Kunshan, and Fuqua’s home campus in Durham, North Carolina.

Duke University is something of a pioneer among US institutions in its global coverage, but several European and Asian business schools offer similar programs, for example:

Chinese University Hong Kong partners with four business schools worldwide and its OneMBA takes students to Hong Kong, São Paulo, Rotterdam, Monterrey (Mexico) and Chapel Hill (North Carolina)

The Manchester Business School Global MBA takes place in Manchester, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Miami and Sao Paulo.

Bradford University School of Management offers an EMBA that is delivered in the UK, Dubai and Manila, the Philippines.

So, if you’re applying to one of these programs, how can you show that you’re the type of person who would thrive, and also bring value to the class?

  1. Highlight your travels, whether for work, vacation or something in between like a gap year spent working and backpacking. In particular, highlight any internships, exchanges or voluntary work you have done abroad. It shows that you can handle diverse work environments and want to do more than lie on the beach.
  2. List your languages, even if you’re not fluent. Explain when and why you picked them up. Even if you learned basic Thai on your gap year travels, it shows you’re willing to make the effort.
  3. Include examples from your professional life. If you’ve ever worked abroad or worked with team members in different countries, explain what the project was, your role in it, and the outcome. Show that you’re aware of both the challenges and opportunities that the globalized workplace offers.
  4. If you’re active on LinkedIn or Twitter or have a blog, connect to people and groups worldwide and interact with them through your questions, comments, and posts. You’ll demonstrate that you can find common ground and build relationships with people from very different cultures than your own.
  5. Show that you’re a connector. Give examples of occasions when you’ve used your personal or professional network to connect people successfully, whether in your own country or abroad. Much of the appeal of a global MBA is in the class members themselves. Business schools want to see that you’ll bring value to the class.
  6. Give examples from around the world. When you’re writing about a company you find interesting or would like to work for, or a business leader who inspires you, draw examples from around the world, not just your own country or the US. Check out the European, Asian and Americas editions of the Wall Street Journal for exhaustive reporting on business, finance and movers and shakers in those regions.

About the author: Maria Ahmed is Editor at – a professional network for business students that helps you make connections before, during and after your MBA. On BusinessBecause you’ll find useful information on MBA rankingsMBA jobs, MBA distance learning, and fresh daily editorial such as the Why MBA series.  

Listen up, Peter Cottontail, it’s Spring—a time of revitalization. Starting over. Starting fresh. So let’s get hippity-hoppity (Yeah, I said it) with your b-school candidacy and plow a new trail, create an innovative project, and commit to making a difference through your extracurriculars (or, as we call them at Forster-Thomas, “Power-curriculars”).

But whatever you’ve decided you’re going to do—whether it’s launching a microlending organization in Guatemala or a new mentoring program for at-risk teens, becoming a Big Brother or Sister, or helping yourself and everyone around you lose weight, the only way it’s ever going to happen is if you put a date on it.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s great that you’re coming up with all those ideas, but no matter how ambitious your plans, if you don’t put a date on them, none of them will come to pass. Trust me on this. I’ve seen it happen too many times to count.

I heard Lori swear that she and her friends were going to lose 20 pounds each. Fred went on and on about how he was going to organize a reunion for his high school basketball league, and Cosmo was convinced he was going to launch a holiday food drive in his old neighborhood. Let’s just put it this way: Lori’s boyfriend still can’t fit a ring on it, there never was a reunion for Fred’s basketball league, and nobody ever helped Cosmo collect a single can, let alone a hill, of beans.

Why? Because none of them put a date on it. Putting a date, or “the when” on something, makes it real—not just for you, but for everyone. You can’t get a team or group to commit to an event if you don’t tell them when the event is. They can’t make plans to be there, they can’t fit it into their schedules, and frankly, they don’t really see it as something that’s ever going to happen, so they never rally around your cause. In the absence of a date, it’s just a fantasy. Not only will you be unable to organize your life around it, but nobody else will be able to, either.

This brings me to the tale of Henri, a Frenchman living in London. A very fine Frenchman, I might add. A steamy baguette, if you will. It was January of 2010, and he was doing his ever-amour-ing best to bolster his extracurricular prowess (Yes, just his extracurricular prowess, you slimebags). The prior summer, he had spent several weeks in Cambodia, where he stumbled upon a non-profit arts organization for poor and orphaned children. It’s a place with little funding, limited art supplies, and no ability to hire the Jeff Koonses of the world. Henri wanted to change all of that. So he came up with an idea: “Let’s do an art show in London. We’ll fly the students’ artwork in, invite all the twenty-something finance MBA-bound people we know to help us, and make sure the school gets the funding it needs to put its students on the map.”

Faaabulous, right? Wrong. Everybody seemed to love the idea, but no one actually called him back a second time, or committed any time, money, or logistical help to the project. When I explained to him that it wasn’t “real” because nobody knew how, where, or when the event was taking place, he sang the same song that Lori, Fred, Cosmo, and everyone else sings: “Once I get everybody on board, then I’ll decide when it’s going to happen.”

Oh, sister-mother. That’s when I demanded that Henri set a date. It was January, and frankly, three months’ prep time, as far as I’m concerned, is always enough. Out of thin air, I declared, “March 31st will be the date of this event!” Just giving a date to it gave the whole event the key ingredient it was missing—the when.

And despite the fact that Henri was in complete fear, he took a chance, calling and emailing his contacts back with the specific date. Like the everlasting light of the eight days of Chanukah, a miraculous thing happened: There was a domino effect. The friends and colleagues who were available around that time began to come up with potential locations, sponsors, supplies, and more manpower. And those who were not, did not. No biggie.

Creating the date made the whole thing real. And while the event didn’t take place until sometime in the middle of April, it took place. And Jeff Koons is actually considering going to teach a class in Cambodia. Ok, maybe not. But at least the possibility is out there. Beat that. Without a date, you never will.

So, all you Spring chickens chirping to get into a top b-school, if you do one thing this hippity-hoppity season, stop pussyfooting around and commit to it—put a date on it. The Easter Bunny does. So should you.

Auntie Evan

David Thomas explains why being yourself really is the best approach to an admissions interview—no matter who your interviewer is.  

Andrew called my cell phone at an uncharacteristic hour, with an even more surprising nervousness in his voice. This tall, confident trader—a lacrosse star at his Little Ivy and a standout professional at his big securities firm—had just been assigned his interviewer for Wharton. "I googled him, and he's a pretty important guy; he's gotta be in his fifties at least," Andrew said. "How am I going to hold my own? He'll eat me alive."

I chuckled, because I've heard this fear a thousand times. Alumni interviewers come in every shape and size, age and experience level. Some schools try to match you with someone similar, others give you a list of people to choose from, and others simply assign an interviewer to you.

While you never know what your interviewer will be like until you're seated in front of her, I've noticed some definite trends. In general, I prefer my candidates to get older interviewers, not younger—the closer in age your interviewer is, the more likely he will see you as competition. He's more likely to test you, screw with your head, challenge you on your answers, play cat and mouse. You know, pull out the measuring stick. Older interviewers, on the other hand, are more likely to want to get to know you. I told Andrew he's more likely to be offered a drink by this seasoned alum than drawn and quartered.

Of course, that answer spun Andrew off onto another fear: "Is getting offered a drink some kind of test? I mean, if I accept it, I'm a partier, and if I decline it, I'm being rude!"

I told Andrew to trust those sharp interpersonal skills that had gotten him so far in his career already. "As soon as you walk in, while you're taking off your overcoat and adjusting to your chair, make some small talk: 'Have you been doing this long?' 'How about those Yankees?' Whatever usually works for you. Does he just grunt or dive into an answer? If he sits ramrod straight and his desk looks like Martha Stewart herself organized it, then play it a little cooler. If he props his feet up and doesn't even glance at your resume, adjust accordingly"

No matter what, however, be yourself, I cautioned Andrew. Calibrating your style is not the same thing as pandering to the audience.

A couple of weeks later, Andrew called me to report on the interview. "David, man, I'm so glad we had that talk, or that interview would have freaked me out!"

Turns out that the interviewer hardly asked a single question about Andrew's leadership experiences or five-year plan. After asking some questions about why Andrew wanted an MBA and why he was attracted to Wharton, the guy launched into a story about how much he loved his own time there—especially some of the "girls" he'd gone out with.

"Then he started peppering me with questions about, know, basically how much I got laid." I almost burst out laughing. "I mean, he wasn't creepy about it, it was more like locker-room talk, like we were old buds. If you hadn't kind of told me something like that might happen, I would have thought he was trying to trap me or something."

The interview did get back on track—Andrew got to tell his favorite leadership story we had whittled down to a tight narrative—but the tension had gone. He spoke with the easy confidence Andrew had when he first walked into my office eight months earlier—the same confidence that got me to say "yes, I want you as a Forster-Thomas client"—instead of the nervous nelly he had become after getting the interview. Once he relaxed, Andrew got to shine, flash his hundred-watt smile, even make a little fun of himself when answering a question about his weaknesses. And Andrew got the proverbial fat envelope from Wharton as well.

Be yourself. That's much more attractive than twisting yourself into a Stepford candidate—plus, chances are, you're not a great actor. You'll be fooling no one but yourself, and stripping yourself of all the individual quirks and traits that make you memorable.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to Win the Admissions Waiting Game

Going crazy while you wait to hear back from the schools you applied to? Essay Coach Justin Marshall has just the medicine you need.

There's always a huge sense of joy and accomplishment the moment you submit your last application to your last school. The dreaded application process is over! Time to go out and celebrate with a few drinks and a few friends! (For the record, I believe the former is more important than the latter, but that's me).

Just one word of advice: Brace yourself for the next day. Even if you don't drink, you're going to feel something akin to a hangover. That's because the joy of completing your applications invariably gives way to the hardest part of the application process: the waiting game.

I know all too well how difficult the waiting game is.  I experienced it firsthand years ago when I applied to MFA programs. Every day seems to last an eternity.  Your body begins to ooze adrenaline every time you merely glance at your inbox. And it gets worse with each passing day.

If pharmaceutical companies could find a pill for ARAS (Application Response Anxiety Syndrome), I guarantee it would sell like hot cakes. But until such a pill is available, you're just going to have to cope with the waiting game. Here's how:

First, realize why the waiting game is so hard: You have no power. You were in the driver's seat of your candidacy for many weeks (if not months), and now you're a blindfolded passenger. Your fate is in the hands of others. Is it terrifying? You betcha. So acknowledge that you are powerless, and allow yourself to be nervous.  Bottling up your feelings won't help.

Next, replace your sense of powerlessness with action.
Rather than focusing on the one thing you can't control, throw yourself into something you can. If you are a runner, start training for a half-marathon. If you've always wanted to learn how to play guitar, start taking weekly lessons.  Whatever it is, set yourself manageable goals and stay focused on them. If you think you don't have any time, think again---you managed to complete your grad-school application, didn't you? Now all that essay writing time is free time.  Even if it's tough to work in a cooking class after work, the peace of mind you receive from achieving something (instead of waiting for something) makes it well worth the effort.

Finally: The best way to stop feeling helpless is to help others. So join a non-profit organization, or increase your participation in one you're already a member of. Yes, I know this one sounds obnoxiously "shiny happy people." But it works. And it has an added, strategic benefit: If you don't get in to the school of your dreams, you're already adding or enhancing an extracurricular activity that will make your candidacy that much more powerful next year.

The waiting game is almost never any fun. But once you realize that you're the one who gets to set the rules, you'll find that it's a game you can win. 

Forster-Thomas Editor and Essay Coach Kirsten Guenther provides her tips on how to answer Tuck’s MBA essays.

Essay #1: Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA program for you? (If you are applying for a joint or dual degree, please explain how the additional degree will contribute to those goals.)

Fess up. You’re taking your Harvard goals essay and tweaking it. And that’s okay—as long as you Tuck it rather than tweak it.

As an editor, I have worked on hundreds of goals essays, and I can tell you that the most effective goals essays are specific and to the point. You’ve always been the class clown? It’s great that you want your personality to shine through, but that’s also why you’ve ended up with 800 words and pulling your hair trying to cut it down to 500. It can be tough to decide what to cut and what to keep.

It’s simple: keep the action. Keep the parts that outline your intentions, how you’re going to accomplish your goals, what you’ve done thus far, and why Tuck is a vital part of the plan. It’s important to know that a trip to Afghanistan helped shape your mission in life, but it’s not important to know that you sat in seat 14D on the plane ride over.

Here are four tips to keep in mind when writing a goals essay:

  1. Use sign posts. Let the reader know where you were, when your realization took place and what you were doing when you made the decision to pursue your goal. Throughout the essay continue to use signposts to organize it.
  2. Research Tuck. I cannot stress this enough. They want people who are excited to be there. Learn about the classes, who teaches them, and what clubs you will join if admitted.  If you’re an amazing badminton player and they don’t have a badminton club, talk about starting one. What will you contribute to Tuck?
  3. It’s not just about how Tuck will help you reach your goal but how you will contribute to Tuck. Yes, Tuck’s Center for Leadership will be a good place for you to hone your leadership skills, but what will you bring? How will you help others become great leaders?
  4. Short-term goals are important. They are your plan to achieve your long-term goal. Your plan for achieving your goal is equally important to what that goal is. You want to convey to Tuck that this is not a pipe dream but a well thought out plan that you are passionate about.

Essay #2: Discuss your most meaningful leadership experience. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience? (500 words)

“Easy— I’ll just turn one of my HBS accomplishments into a leadership essay.” Um…No.

Before you even think about doing that, you need to understand the difference between “Leadership” and an “Accomplishment.” As Auntie Evan says in The MBA Reality Check, leadership is when you have two or more people in the bed; an accomplishment, you can take care of with your right (or left) hand, for the same desired results.

Tuck is interested in leaders—professionally, personally and in the community.  So when you’re brainstorming ideas for your leadership essay, challenge yourself to come up with some examples of times you’ve acted in a leadership position in your personal life and in the community, as well as professionally.

Also, read the question. Remember that the question asks what your most meaningful leadership experience is. It asks for strengths and weaknesses. The question is NOT, “Tell us about a time you were an ideal leader.” You are allowed to talk about a time you failed as a leader and what you learned from it.

From an editor’s perspective, my advice with this essay is to write 700-800 words on your first pass, then spend time trimming the fat to arrive at, say, 525 words. With Tuck you’re allowed to go over word count 10%. But don’t go crazy with this and DO NOT go over 10%.

In all of these essays, always remember that you want to write more rather than less for your first draft. If you write 500 words, you’ll find through the editing process that you only have 400 words of real, useable content.

Essay 3: Describe a circumstance in your life in which you faced adversity, failure, or setback. What actions did you take as a result and what did you learn from this experience?

Failure, adversity or setback. These are three different things.

If you choose “Failure”, for the love of God, please make sure it’s an actual failure. I’m sure you’ve read Auntie Evan’s book, so you know that getting a “B” in 8th grade Algebra is not a failure—no matter how much you wanted an A.  Make sure you write about an actual failure, please.

Adversity is a challenge. A setback is when an expectation isn’t met.  Either one can be in a professional or personal context. It’s important to remember that no matter which you pick, what matters most is the take away. What’s important is how you handled the failure, adversity or setback—how you responded and acted, how that experience shaped who you are today, the way you act in your present life, and the way you plan to act in the future.

I was hired to write a play about a hedge fund, and so I am working at one now for research—I can tell you from experience that on the trading floor, uncontrollable setbacks happen, and what’s important is how these traders and analysts react to them. The story is in your reaction to the events.

Essay 4: Tuck seeks candidates of various backgrounds who can bring new perspectives to our community. How will your unique personal history, values, and/or life experiences contribute to the culture at Tuck?

Start with a value. A motto you live by. Something you learned as a child that helped shape your perspective and how you live your life. Dig deep and really think about how you choose to live your life, and why that is. Give examples of this.

Find places you live your life—both formal and informal—and then bring that to Tuck. Let’s say literacy is really important to you because of something you learned when you were younger, and so you’ve mentored children over the years. You can use this experience to describe how you’ll start a literacy club at Tuck or a charity that will help kids who don’t have the opportunity to learn how to read.

The important thing is to make connections between your past experiences and your future plans for involvement and participation in the Tuck community, whether inside or outside the classroom.

Essay 5 (Optional): Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere that may be helpful in reviewing your application (e.g., unusual choice of evaluators, weaknesses in academic performance, unexplained job gaps or changes, etc.). Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application.

As is true of optional essays for most other schools, no new information should be present in this essay if you decide to write one. I don’t want to hear about how you were kidnapped in Brazil and thrown in a potato sack. If you find yourself writing new information, then you haven’t done your job on the other essays. The optional essay is not a “P.S.” or “Oh, by the way…”. It is a place to provide important context to aspects of your candidacy that the admissions committee already knows about because of its inclusion elsewhere in your application.

See our Tuck 2011-2012 MBA Essay Guide for more information.