Go to a better blog!

You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

May 30, 2008

School Selection: Career Prospects

This is part of my continuing series on school selection. Beyond other considerations, such as general selection strategy, ranking, location, financing your education, academic fit, and prestige, you should select degree programs that will support your career goals. This is a huge consideration that not only involves what you can learn, but also whether the career placement services, alumni network, and market value of the degree will provide you with the right kind of support to help you obtain employment after you finish. This applies as much to doctoral programs in English Literature as it does to more career focused degrees like an MBA, LL.M, or MPA.

You should of course consider the specific ROI (Return on Investment) that you can expect from the degree based upon your goals. If possible, actually calculate your anticipated ROI. This is especially useful for comparing programs. Most programs can provide some data on starting salaries and placement of their graduates.

Next consider how a degree from the school will be perceived in your intended field. Beyond mere calculations of ROI based on objective considerations of starting salary, what is the likely value of a degree from the school to your career? A school might have an overall great reputation (see my earlier post on prestige), but how is it perceived in your field? Is a graduate degree even valued? If so, how important is where you have it from?

Consider whether companies or organizations that you want to work for recruit from the school. After all if you want to work for the UN, GE Capital, Boston Consulting Group, etc., you would most certainly best be served by going to a school with the right recruiting history. While past performance is no guarantee of future success, it is a strong indicator of the likely outcome. This also applies to academic hiring as well. If the newly minted Ph.D.'s from the top ten program in your field that you considering applying to consistently get hired by small and medium middle ranked universities in the Midwest and Southwest, your chances to get immediately hired by Harvard or Princeton are likely to be remote. Realism and a willingness to do a little research will help you understand what you can expect as a result of having a degree from the a particular program. Additionally, such research will allow you to make the strongest possible case in your statement of purpose/goals essay about why a particular program best meets your professional objectives.

The value of the career services office should also be an important consideration for some applicants. The quality of such services vary greatly between schools and within schools. Generally speaking MBA programs have their own stand alone career services office, while other graduate programs may or may not have such offices. While the services will vary, a good career services office will help you practice interviewing, maximize the effectiveness of your resume, help you find internships, set-up on-campus recruiting, facilitate off-campus recruiting, and provide professional career counseling. A career services office is an integral and key part of top MBA programs. For those applying to programs outside of their home country who intend to return to their home country, the value of a career services office may not be that significant. I know from talking to many of my former Japanese clients who attended top US graduate schools that for purposes of getting hired back in Japan, The Boston Career Forum and recruiting connected to it was much more significant to them than the career services office.

Finally, if you are really uncertain about what you want to do after you graduate (what you write in your essays is a completely different issue), I suggest applying to schools where you be able to maximize your opportunities and that will help direct you into a post-degree career. That is to say, apply to programs that will provide you with career counseling, that have an established record of job placement, and can attract a wide group of recruiters. If you need help, you better go somewhere where you can get it.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.
-Adam Markusアダム マーカス

カウンセリング コンサルティング MBA留学 ビジネススクール 米国ロースクール 米国大学法学院 大学院入学 大学院合格対策 キャリアフォーラム

May 29, 2008

U. of Virginia Darden 1st Year MBA Student Interview

Naomi Uchida, a first year MBA student at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business and my former client, was kind enough to answer my questions. Naomi has her bachelors from New York University. She subsequently worked for a Japanese bank in New York City and then a real estate investment firm in Tokyo prior to joining Darden's Class of 2009.

Adam: Darden is often referred to as the boot camp of MBA programs for its intensity. Looking at your first year schedule, I can kind of see why. So how hard has it been?

Naomi: I learned very quickly that they were not joking when they said Darden is a boot camp. First of all there is the workload. We have 3 cases a day, which means 3 cases we need to prepare for on our own prior to our learning team. Apart from the cases we need to squeeze in recruiting briefings and guest speakers in our afternoons. In the early evenings we get together in our learning team and go over the cases again. The next morning these cases get discussed in the classroom, which is an intensive and engaging environment where we get cold-called and our ideas that we worked through with our respective learning teams get challenged day in and day out. You have to be willing to work hard, because Darden will not be a 2-year vacation from your job. But I have found it to be a constant battle between sleep, getting cases done, recruiting events, and squeezing in time for yourself (workouts, social events).

Adam: Can you explain the role of the Case Method at Darden?

Naomi: Darden trains us to think and act like managers. In a case method classroom, everyone is prepared, ready to jump right into the case when class begins. We argue with each other about certain key aspects of the case, and defend our positions to our classmates who often have opposing ideas. The professors' role is to be the moderator, not the lecturer. The case method is what defines Darden, and what gives this program the intensity that is often spoken of. I have learned to explain myself very well, since they teach us that the process is more important than getting the right answer.

Adam: What was your Learning Team like?

Naomi: I am very fortunate to have ended up with an incredible group of people in my learning team. There are 6 of us: 2 international students, 2 women, and all of us have different professional backgrounds. During the first 3 quarters at Darden, we met almost every night at 7:30pm before a school day ( which typically was Sunday through Thursday). We would have done our cases on our own by then, and be ready to discuss the cases. Since we have different strengths and weaknesses, I felt that we really depended on each other at times for knowledge in certain areas such as accounting, operations, and marketing.

This is a big time commitment for all First Years. Beginning in Quarter 2 the Darden program gets even more intense, and we were spending 3 hours every night in our learning team. However, I came away feeling that I have a special bond with these 5 people, and we tried to get together once in a while in Quarter 4 for dinner.

Adam: Would you mind explaining the role of the Honor Code?

Naomi: It is because of the honor code that we have the privilege of being able to do certain things at Darden. For instance, we can leave our laptops anywhere at school and know that it will be right where we left it. It is the reason why our exams are take-home, open notes and open-book. By signing the honor code prior to beginning each exam, we pledge that the work will be our own, and that we have not exceeded the time limit (typically 5 hours).

Adam: Do you actually have any time for clubs? If so, which ones are you active in?

Naomi: To be completely honest I have not had much time for clubs for the first 3 quarters. In Quarter 4, I got elected as the Vice President of Events for the International Business Society so I have been organizing the remainder of this year's events for the club and planning next year's events (guest speakers, international food festival, etc).

Adam: Are there any common characteristics you find amongst your classmates?

Naomi: We are a very diverse crowd, but one consistent characteristic I found was that everyone is willing to help each other out. We are graded on a forced curve as First Years at Darden which puts us all in competition with each other so that we do not end up in the bottom of the forced curve. Despite that, students lead the review sessions we have prior to exams and offer the limited time that they have to give tutoring lessons to those who are struggling with the course material.

Adam: Since you did your Bachelors at NYU, I was wondering what it was like for you to now be studying in a relatively small college town.

Naomi: Living in a college town is a lot of fun. The town is defined by UVA (for e.g., the local restaurants are closed during home football games). You do not have the advantage of anonymity --whether you are at the grocery store or the driving range, you will always find someone from school there. It certainly is a world of a difference from my life at NYU--at NYU I recall going to classes, occasionally having lunch at the student center, and going home directly after classes. At Darden I am completely immersed in school, and almost everything I do has to do with Darden or UVA. I attend home football games, represent Darden and volunteer in Charlottesville, go to a professor's home for dinner….these activities also gave me a lot of opportunity to get to know my classmates.

Adam: What are your favorite MBA related blogs?

Naomi: I cannot say I have accessed MBA blogs lately (meaning after coming to Darden) to tell you the truth. But here's an interesting article written by a classmate of mine--it really sums up the life of a Darden First Year.

Adam: Anything else you would like to tell us?

Naomi: Darden is tough, and you will most likely miss your job/hometown/friends/pets when you first get here. But once your routine becomes a well-oiled machine, you realize you are surrounded by an incredible group of classmates, professors and staff who are always willing to help you. The case method, honor code, learning teams are all key components of the Darden program. However, it is the people that make the program great.

I want to thank Naomi for taking the time to answer my questions. Japanese who are considering application to Darden should most certainly visit the Japanese language Darden MBA Blog.

Question? Comments? Email me at adammarkus@gmail.com
-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング MBA留学 ダーデン

May 27, 2008

School Selection: Prestige

In this post I will consider the most nebulious school selection that can have real lifetime consequences: prestige. Beyond other considerations, such as ranking, location, financing your education, and academic fit, I always think it is worth considering the general prestige value of the degree. For some strategic advice on school selection, please read my earlier post here. To a certain extent, this is always a relative question, but it would be absurd to ignore the fact that a degree from Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, and other internationally recognized brand names carry value beyond whatever the degree is in. You might not be a snob, but the guy who is considering hiring you when you decide to change careers in ten years might be.

School snobbery is ugly, but often inescapable. It is the underside of meritocracy based on education. You may have obtained an excellent education, have a high GPA, but if you graduated from a school without prestige, your education will not be valued highly. One can make the decision to simply ignore prestige, but doing so may come at a cost. Unlike what you actually learn, the prestige value or lack of it of a degree, will always be with you and cannot be easily undone (except by obtaining a higher prestige degree). For some, prestige will never matter, but for others it will determine what sort of position they can obtain out of school and limit who will even read their resumes.

The value of a prestigious degree for hiring is obvious: It is more likely to get you an interview. The degree may not get you the job. I try to never confuse prestige with actual ability. One of worst managers I ever worked with, a perpetual job changer, was a Stanford GSB alum. There are always people who look good on paper. I know because when I was doing hiring, I invited them for interviews. Did I miss someone who was good as a result? Probably, but the organizations I was working for imposed standards on me and I followed them. That is one impact of prestige.

The networking value of prestigious varies with the culture of the school and the strength of the alumni organization, but generally speaking, the higher the prestige, the stronger the network. After all, people want to continue to associate themselves with institutions that bring them status and often avoid those that don't. It is no surprise that many of the world's most prestigious schools have alum club facilities located in major metropolitan areas, while less prestigious institutions do not.

Prestige can be location specific. There are many schools that have regional prestige by virtue of the fact that they are the best institution in a particular city, region, or even country. If you are residing in an area where the school is perceived as prestigious, you are benefiting from it, but if you are not residing there, the degree may have little or negative prestige value.

Prestige can be industry or even company specific. As with location, if you intend to work in an industry or a company where a particular school has prestige, you obtaining a benefit that may end if your career direction takes a new turn.

Prestige changes: Some schools rise and others fall in prestige. When you look at where to go, especially with newer schools and middle ranked programs, ask yourself whether the school appears to be increasing or decreasing in prestige. Obviously you want to invest in a degree at a school where the prestige is increasing.

Ask yourself: Are there any negative consequences to having a degree from this institution? Just as some schools have a prestige factor, others may carry a negative factor. Be especially careful with distance and online programs. From my perspective, if you do attend a distance or online program, go with a well-established program at a reputable university. I can't comment on the education you might get from a school with very little reputation or history, but if I were being conservative about it, I would avoid such programs.

I would never say that prestige is everything, but most certainly is a real consideration. Prestige is a matter of perception, subject to indvidual or group whim, damaging to egos, and ultimately an important part of any rational school selection process.

MAY 29th Update: I found the following in-house advertisement in the May 29th daily email bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Higher education leaders are facing increased competition for top students and faculty, as well as research grants and donations. Market research into public awareness and perception has become increasingly important for institutions in developing effective branding and recruiting strategies, and having access to the right research tools is critical. The Chronicle/Gallup Panel is the most effective way to gauge the views of the American public on a wide range of topics.

If America's primary higher education industry publication has partnered with one of America's top polling organizations to provide schools with information on the value of their brand, it is rather obvious that prestige is something to be taken seriously.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markusアダム マーカス
カウンセリング コンサルティング MBA留学 ハーバード ビジネススクール 米国ロースクール 米国大学法学院 大学院入学 大学院合格対策

May 20, 2008

Columbia Business School January Term 2009 Essays

Before analyzing Columbia Business School’s Accelerated January Term Essays for 2009, which are greatly changed from the September 2008 questions (see my earlier post), I would like to point out that the DEAN IS GONE FROM THE QUESTIONS! NO MORE OVERLAP! Well Dean R. Glenn Hubbard is still the Dean of the Columbia Business School, references to him and his ideas no longer are part of questions 2 and 3. As my clients found, writing Columbia for September 2008 admission was particularly hard because of possible overlap between questions. Columbia has now provided a much better balanced set of questions.

PLEASE NOTE: These are the questions for January 2009 admission. Click here for September 2009 admission. As Columbia's website was unclear on this issue, I emailed admissions and quickly received the following very clear and helpful reply:
"The essays from January 2009 and Fall 2009 will not necessarily be the same. The application for Fall 2009 will be available in July. You must complete the application for the period you wish to be considered. Please note Essay #1 and #5 do not change between applications."

I will post an analysis of the September 2009 term essay questions once they become available. You can find my post on who should apply for Early Decision here.

I have taken the January 2009 questions from the online application:

1. What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Recommended 750 word limit) :

Over the years, Columbia has been very consistent in the way they ask this question. At first glance, it does seem pretty routine, but if you have looked at other schools' essays, you will likely notice that something is missing from it. Compare it to NYU Stern or Chicago GSB or Wharton and you will see that there is no reference to the past. While one must certainly address one's past when answering this question, there should be no extended analysis of your career progress to date and you need not emphasize how your past experience will contribute to your future goals. Instead focus this on showing how Columbia will help you achieve your goals. Specifically explain why the January Term program is right for you. According to the Columbia website:

The Accelerated MBA is ideal for you if

  • you are an entrepreneur;
  • you want to join your family business;
  • you plan to return to your current employer;
  • you are sponsored by your company;
  • you want to remain in the same industry;
  • you have built a strong professional network in the industry of your choice.

The program is designed for those students who do not want or need an internship. The principal advantage of the 16-month program is its accelerated format, which allows members of the smaller January class to network quickly and effectively and return to the workplace sooner.

Obviously you need to make the case that you meet the special criteria for this program and that an internship is not something critical for you.

The resources available at CBS and Columbia University are vast, so figure out specifically what you want from the school. The program is flexible, so identify your needs from Columbia as specifically as possible. Also keep in mind that CBS recently changed its core curriculum.

Making a clear case why your goals are best achieved at CBS should be at the core of the essay. To make sure that they can see that, be very specific about what you need to learn at CBS to achieve your goals. I suggest reviewing some of the full course descriptions that you can find on their website. If you are having problems clearly articulating your goals, read this. After all, you want to show them you love and need them (See my earlier post on Columbia for why it needs to be loved)! If your goals are hot, that will making this essay even better. For learning about what is hot at Columbia, I suggest taking a look at their blog: Public Offering. You may also want to write about taking a Master Class, so see the next question. Japanese applicants should most certainly visit http://columbiamba.jimdo.com/index.php.

2. Master Classes are the epitome of bridging the gap between theory and practice at Columbia Business School. View link below. Please provide an example from your own life in which practical experience taught you more than theory alone. (Recommended 500 word limit)

Before doing anything, watch the Master Class video. If, at the end of the video, you are not highly motivated by what you have seen, don't apply to Columbia and reconsider whether you really want an MBA. From my perspective, the video does an excellent job of selling Columbia, of differentiating it from other top schools (see the HBS Case Study video for an interesting contrast), and of informing the viewer about exactly what practice is. The message is clear: Columbia will teach you how to do business, go elsewhere (HBS for case studies and Chicago GSB for lectures, perhaps) if you primarily want to learn business theory.

At first glance, some might find this essay question difficult, but actually it is rather simple:
1. Pick an experience in your own life where you learned more from practice than theory.
2. State what the theory was.
3. Show how practice was a better teacher.
4. Describe what you learned.
5. Describe the outcome. This is not stated, but the proof of practice is in the result.
6. Keep in mind that you need not talk about the video or the Master Classes when answering this question. It is, of course, worth mentioning the Master Classes in Essay 1. You can view the Master Class Course Descriptions on the Columbia website.

Given that essay three is about team failure, I suggest you select an accomplishment for essay two and most likely not a team story. It might be personal or professional. Obviously it should only be academic if the point is to show how you had to go beyond theory. Many applicants will probably write on a professional accomplishment story where they had to think and act outside of the box. This quite a reasonable choice. Some applicants might write on something personal and it is possible for this to work, but if that is the case, be very confident that what you learned and what the story reveals about you are both very significant.

3. Please provide an example of a team failure of which you've been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently? (Recommended 500 word limit)

This question combines two common topics, failure and teams.

I think the reason that Business Schools ask about failure is because they want to see that you have the ability to learn from errors and/or problems. Some readers will find reviewing my earlier post on failure questions helpful.

Clearly teams play an important role both in most professionals lives and most certainly at most Business Schools. For admissions, assessing your potential as a team leader and a team player is an important way for them to determine whether you will fit in their program and have the kind of predisposition to succeed professionally afterwards. It is quite a change for Columbia to be asking about teamwork ability per se, but as you look at Columbia's curriculum you will see that teamwork plays an important part in the classroom.

I think it is important that we read what is written here very closely as it will help you see that there are multiple correct ways to answer this question.

First, keep in mind that you may not necessarily have been the cause of the failure because it just simply says you are a part of a team that failed. Therefore the team will be one where you are the team leader or a team member.

Second, given that they are asking specifically about a team failure, your failure should be one where the team itself was at fault. This might seem like an obvious point, but many weak answers to this question will focus on a failure and then focus on the team as at best a secondary consideration. Make sure that your essay is one where the team aspect of the story is strong.

Third, the team could be a failure in one of two ways. One option is that the team could simply have failed to complete its external objectives due to a problem or problems relating to the composition, actions, and/or dynamics of the team. For example, a team fails to create a new business model due to the fact that the team leader cannot effectively manage the diverse perspectives of her team members. Another is that the team could have succeeded at its external objectives, but you might perceive it as failure due to a problem with the team. For instance, you successfully led a team to complete a project, but by the end of the project, the team members complain that you did not effectively share project responsibilities. In either case, the basic structure for this essay would most likely be:

1. Clearly state what kind of team you were on.
2. Clearly state your role on the team.
3. Explain how the team failed.
4. Explain what you learned from the failure.
5. Explain what you would do differently if you were in the same situation.

Fourth, when you think about what you learned and what you would do differently think deeply about it because you will be revealing the depth of your thinking (perhaps your EQ) about teams. Assume that the reason Columbia is asking this question is because they are looking for more students who will be effective team leaders and team players.

4. Describe for us your greatest passion in life. (Recommended 250 word limit)

Passion is about emotion, it is about motivation. It is not necessarily rational and hence is in contrast to the very rational questions that make up the rest of the CBS application. In past years, I have seen successful essays on this topic on a variety of subjects, but the only common thing was that no one wrote about work. For those who write about work in Questions 2 and 3, Question 4 is the main place in the essay set to write at length about something other than work. Whether it is your committed involvement in an organization, an issue that you care deeply about, or a hobby/interest that you have long been engaged, provide Columbia with some further insight into who you are as a person through this essay. If you have chosen to discuss a non-professional topic in Question 2, I think it is possible to write about a professional topic here, but be really certain that you are focused on passion. Whatever it is that you do write about, passion, has to be there.

5. (Optional) Is there any further information that you wish to provide to the Admissions Committee? (Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.)

As with other school's optional questions, do not put an obvious essay for another school here. If you have negative issues of concern, see my post on the Chicago optional question. You can certainly write on something positive here if you think its omission will be negative for you, but before you do, ask yourself these questions:
1. If they did not ask it, do they really need to know it?
2. Will the topic I want to discuss significantly improve my overall essay set?
3. Is the topic one that would not be covered from looking at other parts of my application?
4. Is the essay likely to be read as being a specific answer for Columbia and not an obvious essay for another school?

If you can answer "Yes!" to all four questions, it might be a good topic to write about, but my suggestion is to keep it brief so as to be consistent with the length for the other essays, ideally around 100-500 words.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

MBA留学 ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング コロンビア・ビジネス・スクール エッセイ

May 17, 2008

Quick Review: HBS MBA Questions for Fall 2009 Admission

NOTE: I HAVE NOW PREPARED A COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF THE HBS ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR FALL 2009 ADMISSION: Overall Strategy 1 2 3-1 3-2 3-3 3-4. Feel free to read the read post below, but I suggest you read my full analysis as the remarks below were merely tentative.

In honor of my client admitted to HBS 3rd round for 2008 who still reads my blog even though he does not need to, I wanted to give my immediate impression of the HBS questions that 2009 applicants will now start asking him about.

My full analysis of the HBS MBA Questions for Fall 2009 Admission will come out by mid-June, but in the meantime, here is my quick UPPERCASE take on them. See my Fall 2008 analysis for the questions that have not changed.


1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)


2. What have you learned from a mistake? (400-word limit)


3. Please respond to two of the following (400-word limit each):

FOUR instead of SIX questions to choose from. Unlike in past years, there is no question that specifically uses the word "leadership." That said, you better be able to show it.

1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?

2. Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization.

3.What area of the world are you most curious about and why?

4.What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

Please note
: My comments above are subject to alteration after I think more completely about the new questions. Of course I am happy that I don't have as much work on my Harvard essay analysis this year!

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.
-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
カウンセリング コンサルティング エッセイMBA留学 ハーバード

May 15, 2008

School Selection: Academic Fit

Whether you are in the process of deciding where to go or are deciding where to attend, academic fit is an important part of school selection. For some strategic advice on school selection, please read my earlier post here. Beyond other considerations, such as ranking, location, financing your education, academic fit should be key consideration for all applicants.

How difficult is the program?
Don't associate difficulty with admission with difficulty of the program itself, though the two are often correlated. Some degree programs are just easier to get through regardless of their ranking or other positive features. Below, I consider this issue in regards to MBA, LL.M., Ph.D., Masters, and the relationship between difficulty and ranking.

MBA: INSEAD, Harvard Business School, and Darden, which at least based on what my previous clients have told me, seem particularly hard. Given the real variation in curriculum, this is partially a function of fit. Be honest with yourself and realistic about what you want to do. For example, HBS is great for some, but a disaster waiting to happen for some of its admits who will be invited not to return after the first year (maybe they can come back in a year or two, maybe not). Those not invited to directly return for the second year of HBS likely would have survived elsewhere, but due to weak communication skills, an inability to have anything useful to say in class, or weak quantitative skills, their two-year path to management greatness has been sidetracked, perhaps permanently.

An LL.M. at Harvard Law School
also seems quite hard comparatively because international LL.M. students are not given extra time to complete their exams like they are at many other Masters of Law programs in the US. While most who are admitted to HLS are likely to go and do well (My clients admitted to HLS have consistently been some of the smartest legal minds I have encountered), it is at least worth keeping this mind. When selecting where do your Masters of Law, as with degree programs, ask current students and alums to get a sense of how difficult the program is.

Ph.D. programs:
The rates of attrition in Ph.D. programs are high, so really think seriously about whether you should be applying for a Ph.D. or a masters program. Inside Higher Ed has a very good recent article on Ph.D. attrition rates.

Ranking does not necessarily tell you how difficult a program will be to get a degree from. Especially keep in mind that some mid-ranked graduate programs in the humanities and social sciences may often have more stringent requirements for obtaining a Masters than their higher ranked rivals. Often such mid-ranked programs have a reputation for providing the kind of master’s level training that gets their graduates into better Ph.D. programs.

Make sure that the faculty, classes, and other resources will support you and motivate you.
Are the program content and teaching methods used compatible with you? Think about what you want to learn and really look deeply into the program to see that it really will be focused on what you want to study. In some disciplines, teaching methods are more consistent, but in others, such as MBA, there is huge variation in what is acceptable. Do an honest self-assessment of what kind of learner you are in order to determine what will work best for you. For more about learning style, see here.

What are the faculty like? See my earlier post on how to learn about faculty.

What is the quality of the school's research infrastructure (libraries, research centers, and/or laboratories) for your intended field of study? Especially for those planning on doing intensive research, ask yourself whether the school is really equipped to meet your research agenda. Those applying for degrees in the sciences most obviously pay especially close attention to this issue.

To what extent will leading people in my intended field of study come to the school to deliver talks or hold short courses? One thing that often sets a top program apart is the frequency of visits by leading people in your field.

What kind of educational exchange options are there? If educational exchange is something that you are looking for, obviously you need to consider this issue. Many of my past MBA clients have reported wonderful experiences doing exchange programs.

Ask yourself whether you will be sufficiently prepared when you start the program.
If you think there is a gap between what you know and what you need to know when the program commences, ask yourself whether you can fill the gap. Even if you have obtained admission, ask yourself this question. Many admits will be covering those gaps in the summer before school starts and you should as well. If you are in the application phase, put together a plan for how you will cover any prerequisite gaps and decide whether your application needs to address this issue.

Fit with fellow students
One of the best reasons to visit a school or at least to interact with alums is determine whether you like them. To a greater or lesser extent, your fellow students will impact your graduate experience both in and out of the classroom. Make sure that you feel good about the alums and current students you encounter. Regardless of attempts to diversify, all institutions have a tendency to attract certain kinds of people, so just make sure you are left with the feeling that you would want to be friends with the alums and current students you encounter. Consider what it will be like to be in classrooms, engaged in discussions, in groups, and asking for help from the students in your program.

Trust No Single Perspective
Finally, when looking into these issues, don't simply accept one perspective on the school. You should never let your decision to apply or attend be based simply on the judgment of one other person. Ask around, look around, and ultimately trust no one but yourself to make the decision.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
カウンセリング コンサルティング MBA留学 ハーバード ビジネススクール 米国ロースクール 米国大学法学院 大学院入学 大学院

May 14, 2008

On LBS Attendance Event Monitoring

My blog was recently referred to in the Businessweek Forums regarding the issue of LBS monitoring who attends their admissions events. Here is my slightly modified reply that I posted on the forum:

I stand completely by my posting regarding LBS monitoring (See here and here). All the emails I quote are real. I deal regularly with admisions officers (hence I have interviews with a few of them on my blog) and would in no way misrepresent the facts. As I also mentioned on my blog, Georgetown is doing the same thing.
I don't believe that all schools are monitoring who attends their events, but clearly both Georgetown and LBS are. I am not sure what software they are using to do this or whether it is even the same software, but given the quick response, I doubt that this is being done manually. As to how it might impact admissions decisions, I would say it is a marginal consideration, but since it can only potentially help to attend, I would advise applicants to do so.
As I stated in my Georgetown post, I was told by adcom offcers previously when asked that they don't monitor, but things change, especially if technology enables it. As is clear from my two LBS posts, I found the whole thing rather creepy and invasive, but that is because I believe in a right to privacy, something that increasingly seems to be eroding in both the US and UK. If anyone else knows of schools other than Georgetown and LBS that engage in this sort of monitoring, please let me know as I will certainly be willing to document it on my blog.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
カウンセリング コンサルティング エッセイMBA留学

May 12, 2008

Boosting Ones Chances for MBA Admission

Planning to apply for 2009 MBA admission? Or maybe 2010? Or 2011 or later? Have you wondered what you can do now to improve your chances for admission? Even for those thinking about 2009, it might be possible to take one or more of the following suggestions for improving your chances to get into B-school.

1. Amount of work experience: While top programs typically want a minimum of two years of experience, HBS and Stanford are trending younger. The quality rather the years of work experience is the issue. So apply when you are ready and don't feel obligated to wait till you have three to five years of experience. Keep in mind that it really the quality rather than the quantity that programs like LBS, Wharton, Kellogg, and Chicago GSB are looking for.

2. Kinds of work experience you should obtain:
-Evidence of leadership potential. One critical consideration is whether your work shows evidence of leadership potential. You should make efforts to lead projects, initiate specific proposals, and/or take other actions that will show this. Potential can be demonstrated by both large and small things, but it should be there.

-Cultivate teamwork/team leadership skills: put yourself into as many team situations as possible. Even when you are not the leader, show initiative and take on extra responsibilities. By doing so, you will create the kind of track record and develop the kind of experience that shows your ability to thrive in team centered work that is usually a core part of MBA programs.

-Add value beyond what your employer expects: Cultivate your creativity and initiative through your work. Give 110%.

The above actions will result in a stronger resume, better recommendations, and better stories for your essays and interviews.

3. Academic knowledge. If you have not done so, take college level courses in Micro/Macro Economics, Statistics, and Accounting. Take the courses from a major traditional university with online/distance/evening extension program. While it is not necessary to take such courses prior to entering an MBA, by doing so, you will by at great advantage over those who have to struggle with the basics. If your GPA is not great, work hard to get high grades in these courses as proof of your academic potential.

4. Get involved in something outside of work. Volunteer experience is one such option. Another is playing a leadership role in a social organization such as sports club. Another is showing commitment to hobby (martial arts, your jazz band, whatever). Schools want students are balanced and actually do something outside of work.

5. Improve your English or 2nd/3rd language ability. If English is your second language and you are not yet a very advanced level speaker, work on improving it. For everyone else, study another foreign language. If you are thinking about schools like INSEAD, it is ideal, at minimum to come in with competence in a second or perhaps third language.

Especially for those thinking about application in 2010 or later, now is the time to boost your chances for admission by improving yourself both personally and professionally.

For those focused on 2009 admission, think about the one thing you would still like to improve in your background and in addition to GMAT and TOEFL preparation, try and focus on it. I know this is much easier said than done.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
カウンセリング コンサルティング エッセイMBA留学

May 11, 2008

Chicago GSB Reap Advice

As is usual for Chicago GSB admissions, they have provided some great advice, this time on the topic of reapplication. If you plan to reapply to Chicago GSB or are just looking for general reapplication advice, I suggest reading GSB's "Making a Fresh Start."

I especially liked the following very useful advice that is really applicable for any applicant:

Show us why you're different. Each year thousands of students apply to business school and yet many qualified candidates are not offered admission. With MBA admissions growing more and more competitive each year, it's really important to stand out in the crowd by attempting to differentiate yourself from those of a similar profile. Tell us about your challenges, interesting achievements, unique perspectives and stories.

Showing admissions why you are unique is something that all applicants should really focus on. For more about, please see my earlier post on being unique. For more about reapplication, please see my previous post.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
カウンセリング コンサルティング エッセイMBA留学 シカゴ

May 10, 2008

MBA Reapplication: Why were you dinged? Now what?

Was your admissions game plan for Fall 2008 a failure?

For those, who have yet to apply, do you want to understand some of the common pitfalls you should avoid?

Below are the typical reasons for rejection(stated as questions) and some of my suggestions for developing a new strategy for future applications (mostly stated as questions). I base the following on my experience helping reapplicants successfully obtain admission at such schools as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago GSB, Kellogg, and MIT.

1. Were you realistic? If there was one overall reason for failure that I would point to, it would be lack of realism about the process. Usually this involves ignoring one or more important facts:
-Specifically ignoring the rate of admission, average GMAT and/or TOEFL/IELTS test scores, and GPA required of those admitted are all highly likely to result in applying to schools that an applicant has very little chance to enter. See below for more about this.
-Age. I don't blame applicants for this one entirely because B-schools often have an all inclusive message about who they admit that is not quite the real case. This is especially true in regards to age where it is very clear that programs can't say they will not let in older applicants, but actually they usually don't. For example, applying to Stanford GSB or HBS after the age of 30 might be worth trying, but your chances for admission (compared to the average rate of admission) are not great. For those over 30, look at average age and age range when considering where to apply. Try to ask admissions privately about this issue, you might get a straight answer or not. (See my interview with Kirt Wood from RSM who gave a very clear answer on this issue.) Applying to any top program once you are in your mid-thirties may very well be a complete exercise in frustration and once you are past 35, the chances for admission at many top programs appear to be slim. For those in and/or approaching their mid-thirties or older who want a full-time MBA experience, I think programs such as the Sloan programs at LBS, MIT, and Stanford as well as USC IBEAR are all very suitable. An EMBA is always an option.
-Last minute applications: Developing great applications takes time, doing them at the last minute is one of the easiest ways to increase your chances for rejection because it is highly likely that your essays were not well written, sufficiently strategic in the way they marketed you, and, possibly, not even proofread.
-Lack of substantial research into the programs being applied for. If you did not make full use of each schools' web-based information, did not attend admissions events, did not visit campus, and/or did not communicate with alumni or current students, you probably did not know enough about the schools you applied to make an effective case for why you fit at them.
-Did not obtain sufficient and/or effective advice on your applications and application strategy from mentors and/or admissions experts (see below).
One thing I have found about successful reapplicants is that are highly realistic. Reality is a harsh teacher, but one you cannot afford to avoid.

2. Did you really know about the programs you applied to? How was that reflected in your essays? Did you merely restate obvious information about the school or did you show exactly what aspects of it will meet your academic and professional goals? Did you demonstrate a clear connection to the program? Did you even think about fit? Stating unremarkable things based simply on reading the web site or brochure is not enough, you need to show why a specific program really fits your personality and goals. If you had an interview, how effective were you at establishing fit?

3. Was there a problem with the way you expressed your desire for an MBA or your goals?Actually almost every re-applicant I have worked with had a serious problem clearly articulating their goals. If you think your goals might be the problem, read this and complete the table you can find there. Were your goals based on any research? Were they interesting?

4. Did your essays fully demonstrate your potential as a student and a professional? The way you write about who you are and what you have done is a major way that admissions evaluates this. More specifically: Could you clearly express selling points about yourself in your essays? Did you provide sufficient details about what you did combined with a sufficient explanation for why? Are your essays about you or just about what you have done? Are your essays mere extensions of bullet points on your resume or do they tell effective stories about you? Do you really understand the essay questions? How effective were in writing about such common topics as contributions, leadership, and/or failure?

5. Did you put a sufficient amount of time into writing your essays? Writing great essays usually takes time and multiple drafts. Did you write multiple drafts of your essays? Were your essays quickly written? Did a significant amount of thought go into them?

6. Did your resume (CV) present your professional, academic, and extracurricular experience effectively? A great MBA resume requires effective presentation of your past experience so that an admissions committee can gain insight into your potential to succeed in the MBA program and in your future career. A great resume is also an effective agenda setting device for an interview. Did your resume contain clear statements about your accomplishments? Did your resume honestly and effectively represent the full range of your experience? Did your resume showcase your potential as a manager, businessperson, and/or leader?

7. Did you really address any potential concerns that an admissions committee may have about your suitability as a candidate? Even though there is always an optional question available for this purpose, did you make use of it? If there was something you wanted to avoid discussing, maybe you should consider doing so.

8. How were your interviews? If you did interview, were you well-prepared? How do you judge your own performance? Did you practice enough? Are you good at interviewing? For non-native speakers: Are you good at interviewing in your own language? I believe that the only effective way to prepare for interviews is to be over-prepared: You need to appear relaxed and comfortable talking with the interviewer, to be ready to address the hardest questions, to be comfortable with your own selling points and the stories that support them, and have to have enough knowledge about the school to show a passion for it. If you were dinged from one or more schools that offered you an invitation to interview, chances are great that you really need to work on your interview skills. If you know that you are particularly weak interviewing, consider applying to at least some schools were the interviews are not considered very hard (read interview reports).

9. How were your recommendations? Did your recommendations honestly and effectively endorse you? Did they contain sufficient detail to help an admissions committee understand your selling points? Did your recommendations really evaluate both your strengths and weaknesses? Were your recommendations authentic or is there any possibility that an admissions would be concerned about their authorship?

10. How good was the advice you received from other people about your application(s)? In addition to yourself, who read and advised you on your essays, resume, interview(s), and/or other aspects of your application process? Alums, mentors, admissions consultants or counselors, editors, and/or ghostwriters? While I would not suggest blaming those who advised you, you may want to seek out new or additional advisers. Of course if they told you that your essays, resume, or some other aspect of your application were weak and you did not address it, they were providing good advice. Additionally if they expressed concerns about your likelihood for admission, their advice might be good (beware of those who always hedge their bets).

If you relied extensively on an editor or paid a ghostwriter and seem to be getting dinged quickly, you have discovered the pitfalls of those highly dubious strategies. Consider writing your own stuff, getting an ethical and professional admissions consultant to advise you, and discovering the potential of your voice.

If you used an admissions counselor or consultant and did not get any good results and they told you that your applications were good, find someone else.
If your counselor had limited experience, this is pretty much an indicator that you should have gone with someone experienced. If your counselor seemed exhausted or rushed, you also have a problem because this person is unlikely to be able to be devoted to helping you enough. If you purchased a counseling service and not the services of a particular counselor, I would not be surprised if you encountered someone overworked. After all, one critical difference between consultants who work for themselves and those that work for someone else is the amount they make for the work performed. Those that work for someone else make considerably less per hour and often have to work more and under higher pressure than those that work for themselves. Regardless of whether you use an individual consultant or a service, the issue will always come down to the specific advice you are being given, which means the particular person you are working with. In addition to contacting me, one good resource for finding a new counselor is through the Association of International Admissions Consultants where you can find a directory of my colleagues (including my guest blogger, Steve Green) around the world who are committed to providing high level service to their clients.

11. Was your GMAT within the school's 80% range? Was your GMAT below average? Obviously if your score was below the 80% range, you should assume your chances for admissions were less than the stated admissions rate. If it was was within the range, but significantly below the average score, you should assume that it was a contributing factor to your results. I am not saying to apply only to schools where you are within the range (see my earlier post on this issue), but I would suggest taking account of the risk in terms of (1) school selection, (2) the number of programs you need to apply to, and (3) expectations for success. As far as reapplication goes, studying GMAT is almost always necessary for those with less than a 700 GMAT. If your GMAT was 700 or higher and you were rejected, GMAT was almost certainly not your main problem.

12. Was your GPA equal to, above, or below the average reported GPA for the school? If it was below, this may have been a factor against you. If you GPA is significantly below the average GPA and your GMAT is equal to or above the average score, did you write an optional essay? Did you highlight your academic potential in some way to counter the issue of your GPA?

13. Did your TOEFL meet the school's minimum stated requirement? If your score was below the minimum, did you discuss this in the optional or some other essay to make the case for your English abilities? At this stage, you need to improve your score for Fall 2009 admission. If your score on TOEFL is really weak, have you considered taking IELTS? Some applicants actually will do better on this test than on ibt TOEFL. It is not easy to prepare for a new test, you might really want to try it out and see which test is better for you.

14. Were you realistic about school selection? I think you need to look at the portfolio of schools you applied to and ask yourself the following questions:
-Did I apply to programs with low rates of admission?
-Did I apply to enough programs?
-Did I apply to a wide enough range of programs?
See my posts on ranking such as "The 98" for some strategies for selecting schools.

15. Were you honest about the way you presented yourself in your whole application? As a strong advocate for honesty, I have a bias for this particular approach to the process. If you are getting dinged after misrepresenting one or more aspects of your experience, you might want to consider that it is the job of admissions officers to eliminate liars. Liars get through anyway, but not all of them. If you have over-marketed yourself, you may also have come across as less than authentic.

I know that getting rejected is no fun, but if you are committed to the process, I think you can make your next round of applications a success.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
カウンセリング コンサルティング エッセイMBA留学

May 09, 2008

Open Access at Harvard Law School

Inside Higher Ed (the single best source of US Higher Education News in my opinion) has just published the following:

The law faculty at Harvard University on Wednesday announced plans to create an open access repository of all work that the professors publish. Faculty members will also be able to publish the works on their own Web sites and disseminate the works broadly for purposes other than profit. The law school’s move follows a similar policy adopted in February by the arts and sciences faculty at Harvard.

For those thinking about applying for Master of Law programs, this will be a great additional resource to access when preparing your academic goals. For those applying to Harvard's LL.M. program (see here for my analysis of the application for Fall 2009 admission), soon you will be able to easily access faculty research to help you determine who you might want to reference when answering the following application essay question:
"Academic interests: Please describe the areas of your academic interest, including a list of three to five courses in which you are most interested. If you are interested in pursuing the concentration in international finance, tax, human rights, or corporate law and governance, or in the six-credit LL.M. Thesis option, please so indicate. (Note: Please limit your response to no more than 200 words.)"

For those applying to University of Chicago and other Law schools you can get access to faculty research by visiting http://www.ssrn.com/. For more LL.M. links, see my LL.M. Resources list on left column of my blog.

Question? Comments? Email me at adammarkus@gmail.com
-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

ハーバード 米国ロースクール 米国大学法学院 大学院入学 カウンセリング コンサルティング 合格対策 合格率 エッサイ LLM留学

May 08, 2008


(English Translation Follows)

こちらは私が使用し、GMAT対策または学校選定&戦略作成に役立てたものです。書き込みがある場合もありますが十分使用に耐えます。Amazonのマーケットプレイスで御注文下さい。また、Adam Markus氏経由でのご連絡も可能です。その場合は、お気軽にadammarkus@gmail.comへ英語でご連絡ください。

Kaplan GMAT 800: 2007 - 2008
How to Get into the Top MBA Programs
The Wall Street Journal Guide To The Top Business Schools 2006
The Ultimate Math Refresher for the Gre, Gmat & Sat
中学3年分の数学が基礎からわかる本 (アスカビジネス)

English Summary: One of my clients here in Tokyo wants to sell her books. She was admitted to Chicago GSB and Dartmouth Tuck and does not need them. You can read her testimonial regarding my services here. If you are interested in buying any of these books from her, you can visit the amazon.co.jp site or contact me at adammarkus@gmail.com.

-アダム マーカス, Adam Markus


Services Available for Graduate Admissions Consultants

I have noticed a recent upswing in the number of my readers who access my website from other admissions consulting businesses located here in Japan.


The more readers I can provide with solid information on MBA and other graduate programs, the better. I am happy to share my expertise not only with applicants, but those who attempt to advise them.

Additionally, as I am a highly experienced manager and trainer of admissions consultants, I would welcome any inquiries from other admissions consulting businesses looking to improve the abilities of their staff or overall service. I can provide consulting to cover any of the following areas:
1. Training of consultants.
2. Hiring strategies.
3. Structuring consulting services to best meet the needs of clients and the logistical and financial requirements of an admissions consulting business.
4. Curriculum development for both training counselors and for use with clients.
5. For services that provide consulting in languages other English, I can provide a variety of perspectives and solutions to maximize your results.
6. Marketing and sales related considerations.
7. I am also available for meetings and seminars.

Given that another season of admissions is at an end, now is the perfect time to begin to further expand your graduate consulting business so that your team can reach its full potential. I would welcome any opportunity to serve as a partner in that endeavor. I can offer a price structure to meet your specific needs. Please email me at adammarkus@gmail.com if you are interested in discussing this further. Thank you again for your continued support of my blog and I hope to hear from you.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

May 07, 2008

How Important Are Extracurricular Activities for MBA Applicants?

Imagine the following scenario: You are filling out your MBA applications to Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, LBS, INSEAD, or any other MBA program, and you are asked to list your post-undergraduate extracurricular activities. You scratch your head, you break into a cold sweat, and wonder whether watching every episode of LOST, reading two science fiction novels a week, or giving blood once a year counts as an extracurricular activity. You begin to panic. What should you do?

I don't believe in lying and writing "NA" (Not Applicable) is an option I hope you can avoid. I have worked with applicants who try to add something completely new even during the year that they are applying and that is rarely effective. Instead try to find something with at least a year or more of activity before the date of your application. Over the years, I have found the following types of activities to be very effective for MBA applications (to get a sense of how they might be used, see my earlier post on MBA contribution essays):
-A volunteer activity related to your post-MBA goals
-A volunteer activity that allows for the development of leadership and/or teamwork experience
-A volunteer activity that puts you in contact with people who are quite different from you in terms of nationality, income level, and/or educational background
-An international volunteer or social activity
-Active involvement in an alumni organization
-A hobby that you are highly committed to that demonstrates something positive about your personality. Scuba diving, for example, is perfectly acceptable, as it reveals someone who is willing to take risks to explore the unknown. Watching TV is not because it reveals nothing positive about you.
-Active participation in a sports team
-A creative pursuit that leads to your book, film, poem, photograph etc. being published (even online publishing counts)
-Studying a foreign language that will relate to your post-MBA goals or personal goals

While it might be too late to start something completely new if you plan to apply for Fall 2009, it is not too late to do something that will add to an existing activity. For instance, if you are a member of an organization, volunteer to organize an activity or least participate in one. If you take pictures consider entering amateur contests such as those on Flickr.

If you are not planning to apply until Fall 2010 or later, you have time. In that case, find something outside of work to focus on. Whatever you select, I suggest you pick something that you are interested in and can be passionate about in your essays and interviews. Now go study GMAT!

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.

-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

ビジネススクール カウンセリング コンサルティング 大学院 合格対策 エッセイ MBA留学

May 05, 2008


H. Steven Green on the Fulbright

In Steve’s second post, he has provided a comprehensive guide to the Fulbright. Steve is a past recipient of Japan’s equivalent of the Fulbright, the Monbukagakusho Dissertation Research Fellowship that is awarded by the Japanese government scholarship to facilitate two years of research, which he conducted at the Faculty of Law, The University of Tokyo. In the following, Steve has really done an incredible job of putting together the key information that we have successfully used to help clients obtain America’s most prestigious scholarship.

-Adam Markus, アダム マーカス



In this post I provide advice for how to prepare a strong Fulbright scholarship application package. I’ve included specific information about application procedures and essay writing as well as comments for Japanese applicants who can link here for more details about the Fulbright Program.

There are four categories of Fulbright Grants, but this post is focused on those for graduate students. The other three categories are research (for scholars at universities and non-profit research institutions), journalist (including all media), and doctoral dissertation research (for PhD students enrolled outside the United States),.

Successful Fulbright candidates are those who prepare early and thoroughly, know exactly what their goals are, and know how to define them in detailed terms relevant for the task at hand. Many of the tasks will be similar to what applicants will need to do for graduate school applications, so those who work on Fulbright first, even if they don’t get it, at least have the opportunity to put together an applications months before they will have do it for graduate school. For the perspective and advice of successful applicants read issues of Applicant Newsletter.


In general: The Fulbright Program strives to contribute to the development of potential future leaders who will improve understanding between the United States and any other particular nation. You will need to make the case in your application essay and interview that you will be both an excellent scholar and a leader in forging bilateral ties between the United States and another country.  Review the history and goals of the Fulbright program before deciding whether it fits your needs.

In particular: First, the Fulbright Program primarily awards those working in the social sciences, fine arts and humanities. So if your academic or professional specialization is in one of the many fields in these three disciplines, then you may wish to consider applying. In fact, the list of the Japanese Grantees for 2007 http://www.fulbright.jp/eng/ong/j_list07.html#gs includes no one working in the physical or life sciences. Among the 42 awardees are 11 people working in topics that are not usually considered part of the traditional social sciences (e.g. sociology, political science, economics), fine arts or humanities. These include five recipients in public health and one each in accounting, architecture, business & management, education, forestry & natural resources management, and hospital administration. The other grants went to people working in comparative literature, international relations, history, law and linguistics, among other disciplines.

I recommend that you look in detail at the list of 2007 Fulbright Grantees in your home country to review the affiliation, status and research topic of successful applicants.


As of May 4th Japan time the 2008 Fulbright application form was not available. Therefore, I have used the pdf version from 2005 because it is the only one I could find on the web (Just do a Google search on “pdfapp05”). When the 2008 form becomes available I will update the post at that time, however I suspect the categories of the form will not change. In the remainder of this post I discuss strategies for parts #1-27, of the Fulbright application. The other forms are for academic transcripts, language tests and references.

Following a one-page application cover sheet, the first three pages of the application form request detailed information about your professional and academic goals as well as a short summary of your future plans.

First, if you have not already done so, then go to the official Fulbright website for your country and begin reviewing the application guidelines. The US Fulbright site is here, and the Fulbright Japan site is here.

The application requires many documents to be submitted together by a particular deadline, which varies according to country. Find out when the application form itself is available and plan to obtain it as soon as possible.

Second, as the Delphic Oracle of Ancient Greece said, “Know thyself!” Answer the following questions about yourself:

  • What are my specific research and professional goals? How does the one relate to the other, specifically?

  • What are my greatest strengths that will allow me to fulfill my goals? What accomplishments demonstrate these goals?

The application requires precise plans and concise language. For example, the application requires you to describe your future plans (#13) in enough space for 4-5 typed lines and provides only a bit more space for an abstract of your proposal.* You will not provide concise, believable information if you do not already have detailed answers to the questions above.

* You will have to write a longer essay describing your goals elsewhere.

Next, make a resume or CV (See my previous post). I am actually going to repeat some of the advice I give in that post with specific reference to Fulbright. Based on my experience as well as that of successful clients with whom I’ve worked, a professional resume/CV is invaluable.

The value of a resume/CV to your Fulbright application is threefold.

  1. The resume/CV provides you the means to make an excellent first impression on the selection committee. It neatly presents key information about your relevant background and it demonstrates your professionalism.

  2. The process of creating a professional resume/CV will focus your mind. Making a resume/CV is an excellent way to inventory your past experiences.

  3. Provides you with an accessible source for content for many of the categories in the application itself. In fact, much of the information required for application parts #1-27 (parts #14-23, in particular) is the same kind of information found on a professional CV or resume. You will have an easy time transferring the information from your resume/CV to the application, and your information will be in professional language.

Well, if I have to include much of the same information on the application as on the resume/CV, then why bother making the latter?”

Fair question. I can think of three good reasons to do so. First, as noted, the exercise itself will prepare you to make a precise, proper Fulbright application. Second, you can include more information on the resume/CV than on the application, so the resume provides a fuller view of your background. In particular, seeing your accomplishments and experience on a resume/CV reveals the “upward” pattern of your career/academic progress, from fewer accomplishments to more. In this way, the reader sees your professional growth. Third, the application actually provides space (in part #30) for you to include your resume/CV anyway! (And here’s a bonus reason: If you are applying for a Fulbright then odds are good that you are applying for other sources of funding as well. You should submit a resume/CV to all of these sources, so making one now saves you valuable time later!)

In conclusion, the utility of a resume/CV cannot be underestimated. As noted, a resume/CV should show the development of your academic and professional background as a progression of accomplishments over time. In this way it also helps you to write your statement of grant purpose and personal statement essays.


Here you demonstrate in detail what and how your research will contribute to your discipline. A contribution includes an addition to your field’s overall knowledge that also enhances understanding between the US and another nation.

ACCEPTED AREAS OF RESEARCH: Make sure your proposed project will contribute to one of the designated project areas. For Japanese applicants, there are five project areas: The United States, Pacific Rim Relations, Critical Issues of Contemporary Society, and Education.

Before you begin writing this essay consult with colleagues or your academic or graduate advisor. Ask them if your project idea is feasible and solicit their advice on how to strengthen it. But remember your audience: Avoid academic or professional jargon. The selection committee includes people of different backgrounds so it is unlikely that all of them, or even any of them, will understand your field’s specialized language. (This advice also applies to graduate school and other scholarship essays!)

You should provide detailed answers to each of the following six questions, reproduced here from Applicant Newsletter No. 9:

1. With whom do you propose to work?
2. What do you propose to do? What is exciting, new or unique about your project? What contribution will the project make to the Fulbright objective of promoting cross-cultural interaction and mutual understanding?
3. When will you carry out your study or research? Include a timeline.
4. Where do you propose to conduct your study or research? Why is it important to go abroad to carry out your project?
5. Why do you want to do it? What is important or significant about the project?
6. How will you carry out your work? All students should discuss methodology and goals in their statements. How will it help further your academic or professional development?


Given enough time and money almost any project is feasible. Your essay should account for resources, relevant to your project, of your host nation and host institution, as well as the time frame and funding of the grant. Where appropriate you should demonstrate you have already taken enough steps to setting up parts of your research. For example, explain; how your language skills are sufficient, that you have satisfied the relevant authority’s ethics requirements pursuant to any type of research involving human participants, that you have obtained permission, if needed, from local officials, etc. Any factor that could raise doubts about the likelihood of completing your project should be accounted for in this essay.

REMEMBER! You must write this essay within the space provided, which is approximately one A4 (8.5 x 11) piece of paper


The PS allows you to highlight the person-behind-the-project in no more than a single page. Show in detail what has made you successful in the past and will facilitate the success of your proposed project. In particular, you should be able to demonstrate that: you can think and plan to achieve goals; prioritize and follow-through on your objectives; learn from your mistakes; you have leadership and communication skills. IT IS CRITICAL THAT THE WHAT YOU WRITE ABOUT IN THIS ESSAY FULLY SUPPORTS YOUR STUDY PLAN. YOU NEED TO HELP THE FULBRIGHT COMMITTEE UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR SPECIFIC BACKGROUND WILL SUPPORT YOUR RESEARCH PLANS.

The selection committee is trying to read between the lines of your PS to assess whether the person described therein is likely to succeed at the project detailed in the SOG. The key to a good personal statement is to show, not merely state, your strengths in other endeavors. Rather than assert your creativity, for example, reveal it through a detailed example of a time when you were creative.

And, REMEMBER! The PS can be no more than one page long.


Note that instructions from your own country’s Fulbright office may request specific information for this space. Otherwise, as the instructions state, here is where you can include your resume or CV.


Fulbright requires three references. All 3 of your references should be from people able to judge the merits of your proposed project as well as your ability to complete it. For graduate student applicants this would obviously include your main advisor and other professors in your field at your institution or at another one.

The Fulbright letter of reference form contains two pages. One is for the actual letter, and one contains a list of criteria on which the recommender should rate you according to an adjacent scale. Among the criteria, the following are worth keeping in mind as they demonstrate the Fulbright’s seriousness in seeking qualified future scholars and leaders: “knowledge of field,” “seriousness of purpose,” “potential for significant future contribution in field,” “resourcefulness and initiative,” and “leadership qualities.”

Be sure to ask people who can accurately judge you on these criteria.

CONTACT YOUR INTENDED REFERENCES NOW! Even if you have not completed the SOG, you should contact potential references in order to let them know an official request will be coming soon. It is a basic courtesy to give the writer sufficient time to do so. It is also prudent to contact them so that you can discuss your project with them now, even if you have only begun to think about it.

THE APPLICATION: Miscellaneous advice

#36 OTHER SCHOLARSHIPS: Here you are asked to list other scholarships, or fellowships for which you may be applying. You should be honest and provide this information. First, it reveals something about your competitiveness in as much as, if you have a strong application package, then you probably are applying to other


The Fulbright application requires time and thoughtful preparation. Even before you have the application in front of you on your computer screen, you should do the following now:

  • Make your resume or CV

  • Contact references to let them know you will humbly be requesting their assistance

  • Solicit feedback on your proposed study from people in your field

  • Begin writing outlines and/or drafts of your essays: Even if your ideas are only in the embryonic stage, organizing them in essay format will hasten their development

  • Make the completion of your Fulbright application a top priority in your life: Prepare to replace your free time activities with working on your application

  • Fulbright award winners whom I’ve known come from different academic and professional backgrounds, but all have one important thing in common: They all started the Fulbright application process early and they devoted as much time as it took to complete the best application they possibly could.


For questions regarding this post, please contact me at h.steven.green@gmail.com.
- H. Steven ("Steve") Green, グリーン・ハロルド・スティーブン

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