The Ivy League strikes again. Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management announced their new essay questions and deadlines for the class of 2015 today, leaving Dartmouth's Tuck as the last of the Ivy League b-schools to put their proverbial flag in the sand.

Cornell's application deadlines are:

Round 1 Deadline: October 17, 2012
Round 2 Deadline: November 28, 2012
Round 3 Deadline: January 30, 2013
Round 4 Deadline: March 27, 2013

The Essay questions are divided into three parts:

Part I:  Career Choice Essay (300 word maximum)

How would you characterize your career since college?

This is not your job description or complete history of your work since graduating (we already ask for that in the online portion and can see this on your resume).  You need to choose the most important elements that show your initiative, contribution, leadership and results achieved.

Part II:  Career Goal Essay (400 word maximum)

Tell us about your short and long term career goals.

Please show you have a clear direction for your goal post-MBA.  Good essays will emphasize what an applicant wants to do while at Johnson and how you will use this experience to accomplish your goal.

Part III:  Character Essay (400 word maximum for chosen question), please choose one of the following to write about:

  • A) You are the author for the book of Your Life Story.  Please write the table of contents for the book.  Note: Approach this essay with your unique style.  We value creativity and authenticity.
  • B) Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed and tell us what you learned.
  • C) What does diversity mean to you and how will you contribute to the diversity of our community at Johnson? 

 For more information, check out our Cornell Johnson essay guide

Evan Forster, founder of Forster-Thomas, provides his tips and advice on how to answer the HBS essay questions for the class of 2015.

When you've been doing this as long as I have, there's one proverb you know is always true: The more things change, the more they stay the same. And this couldn't be truer than with the new Harvard Business School essay questions.

Hidden deep within essay 1, "Tell us something you did well," is your basic accomplishment and/or leadership question (see chapters 9 and 10 of The MBA Reality Check). The choice is yours, but I'd go with leadership. This is HBS, so it's all about leadership potential. The obvious default is to find a great professional moment in your work history, but if you don't have one, don't despair. After all, you're barely 25. What did you expect? (If your answer is, "to rule the world" you're a perfect HBS candidate). What you need now is to—dare I say it—dig down deep and find a great moment in your not-so-distant past wherein you led the charge, faced a challenge, and got others to row that boat across the Delaware with you at its prow. (No white wig unless there's a drag aspect to your triumphant tale).

But if not at work, then where? Leadership is everywhere: in your family, with your friends, and in your extracurriculars (or as we like to call them at Forster-Thomas Inc, your Power-curriculars ©2012—things you do that change a community). This means anything from throwing a really great surprise bachelorette party to launching a college mentor program. The key is in the lesson you learn that you can and do apply to every part of your professional life. Remember, you need to demonstrate a strength or, as we like to call it, a super power!  

Essay 2: "Tell us about something you wish you had done better." What's behind that door, Vanna White? Well let's pull the curtain back and what do we find—yes, it's another failure or mistake question in disguise (see Chapter 13 in The MBA Reality Check). In this essay, you need to communicate a weakness, or at the risk of overdoing the metaphor, your personal Kryptonite. Again, this means digging down deep and really telling the truth about something you screwed up and what you learned from it—not how you fixed it or saved the day in the 11th hour. Remember, in this reality show, you do not get immunity. You must face the music, no holds barred. Admit the truth about yourself: something not so great; something you wish no one knew; something you would love to take back, but can't.

Does this flop come from your personal or professional life? It does not matter. (That said, it cannot be a bad grade. That's a different essay entirely—see Optional Essays in Chapter 19 of The MBA Reality Check). What matters here is that you see your weakness and change your behavior as you move forward. And when you see it and come out with it, admissions is gonna love you. They're gonna see what your good friends, lover, wife, partner, frat brothers, and teammates love about you—your ability to face the truth about you.

Finally, it's all about what you learned from this personal or professional error. How have you grown? How, when faced with subsequent similar circumstances, do you take your life/profession on now? That's what makes you an awesome leader—now and in the future.

Tip: If you're not a little worried about sharing this story with the committee, you are not HBS material. In fact, you're not top ten material—and the Tribal Council will definitely vote you off the treacherous Island of Harvard.

This year, if you make it to the HBS interview, you will encounter Question 3, "The Last Word," as Dean Leopold refers to it (I like to call this one Survivor: HBS, The Final Round).

Should you make it this far, just think talk radio. Nothing is more difficult than having to figure out the "underlying issue" in 8 minutes or less when Uncle David and I host Job Talk. So, what do you do? Well, you can't prepare for this one since the topic of the essay is the interview, and until you've had it, you won't know what was said.

What I can tell you is that you need to be authentic. Real. Ask yourself what you really wished you could've told that interviewer. What do you truly think needed expanding? Or what burning question did you have—after you walked out. We all get 'em. Hindsight is 20/20. This is your opportunity to show your ability to dance in the moment and zero in on the underlying issue—just like we have to do with our callers. So, be your own radio talk show host and, no matter what, say what you are thinking. Identify the elephant in the room during the interview and go for it. It's not a time to be careful. Ultimately this is about taking a huge risk. Doug Flutie, throw that Hail Mary pass!

For more information about the HBS essay questions and deadlines, see our HBS essay guide.

Yale's School of Management has announced the essay questions and deadlines for the MBA class of 2015. The deadlines are October 4th, 2012 for Round 1, January 8th, 2013 for Round 2, and April 18th, 2013 for Round 3 (aka, the slacker-procrastination round). 

This year’s application contains four essay questions. The first question has a maximum response length of 150 words; the other three have maximum response lengths of 300 words. Applicants must respond to all four questions. The questions are:

  1. What prompted your decision to get an MBA? When did you realize that this was a step you wanted – or needed – to take? (150 words maximum)
  2. Describe a difficult professional decision you had to make. What were the consequences, and what, if anything, did you learn? Would you make the same decision again? (300 words maximum)
  3. The Yale School of Management provides a leadership education characterized by broad-minded and intellectually curious students with diverse backgrounds, a distinctive integrated curriculum, connections to one of the great research universities in the world, and the broad reach of an innovative and expanding global network of top business schools. What will you contribute to the Yale SOM community, and how will being part of it help you extend your professional vision? (300 words maximum)
  4. What do you consider to be your most significant accomplishment?  Why? (300 words maximum)

If you are a reapplicant, you must answer three essay questions: Question 1., Question 4., and then a response to the question “What steps have you taken to improve your candidacy since your last application? (300 words maximum).”

Yale SOM's actual application has yet to go live, so hang in there, eager beavers. For the rest of you, check out more info in our Yale SOM Essay Guide.  


The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton MBA program has announced the essay questions and (most) deadlines for the Class of 2015.

The deadlines are October 1st for Round 1, January 3rd for Round 2, and "March, 2013" for Round 3, suggesting that perhaps it was intern week at the Wharton admissions website. No doubt someone will soon post an update; until then, put a large red circle around the month of March. 

Wharton's new essay questions are as follows:

Required Question:

How will the Wharton MBA help you achieve your professional objectives? (400 words)

Respond to 2 of the following 3 Questions:

  1. Select a Wharton MBA course, co-curricular opportunity or extra-curricular engagement that you are interested in. Tell us why you chose this activity and how it connects to your interests. (500 words)
  2. Imagine your work obligations for the afternoon were cancelled and you found yourself "work free" for three hours, what would you do? (500 words)
  3. "Knowledge for Action draws upon the great qualities that have always been evident at Wharton: rigorous research, dynamic thinking, and thoughtful leadership." - Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School.  Tell us about a time when you put knowledge into action. (500 words)

There is also an additional essay for reapplicants, as well as an optional essay, which can be found on our Essay Guide for Wharton

While Wharton has kept the same format they used for last year's essays (one required goals essay, folllowed by a choose-2-of-3 prompt), the actual questions are all different this year.  At first glance, the most unusual new question is the one that asks candidates to state what they would do if they had the afternoon off work; hopefully Wharton admissions are bracing themselves for a slew of essays about beer and naps.

Check back soon for our Best Practices Blog on how to answer the Wharton essay questions for 2012-2013.   

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.