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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.

March 31, 2012

There is no waitlist strategy for Wharton

For my overall suggestions on being waitlisted, see "Waitlisted? Now What?"

Well, Wharton's MBA results have come out for R2. As is usual, I have had clients both admitted and waitlisted there after interview.  It is natural to want to do something about being waitlisted, but with Wharton, there really is nothing to do.  Effectively, there is no strategy because there is no significant way to impact the process. At least not through any normal methods.

I discuss this issue in my main blog post on being waitlisted:

"Also, keep in mind that some schools, simply do not accept any additional materials.  Wharton, for example, has the following policy:
"Candidates can expect to remain on the waitlist until the following round of decisions are released. There is no rank order to the waitlist. We are unable to offer feedback to candidates while they remain on the list. We are also unable to accept additional materials for inclusion in a waitlisted applicant's file. This policy is designed to create an admissions process that is fair and equitable for all candidates."
On their Admissions Blog, Wharton reiterates this policy.  See here for example.  If you are waitlisted at Wharton, the only thing to really do is just wait."

In my main post on waitlisting, I do provide some advice for how to handle the wait and how to understand it. So, even for those only waitlisted at Wharton, I would suggest taking a look at it.

Based on my experience being on the Wharton waitlist is not a hopeless situation.  Fortunately those who are admitted to Wharton are frequently admitted to other top business schools (I have never had a client choose Wharton over HBS or Stanford, though I am sure someone has.) and hence spaces open up every year for those on the Wharton waitlist.

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

March 19, 2012

Rule #1: Ask the admissions office!

I frequently get questions from my clients that I can't answer. These are usually not questions about essays, recommendation content, interview preparation, what should go in a resume, or  usually even how usually how to fill out an application form. The questions that I can't answer usually involve the specific administrative policies of schools.  Sometimes I can easily find the answer on a school's website, but sometimes the answer can only be obtained from contacting admissions. While some MBA, LL.M., and other graduate programs provide extensive advice on the website, others simply don't.

When it comes to issues of application requirements, deadlines,  whether the stated GMAT, GRE, and/or TOEFL minimums are strictly enforced, whether a school will take a late official test score report, deferral policies, etc.  I may have an answer or may not.  If I do have an answer to such administrative questions, it is always because I can back it up with an official source. I don't even trust my own past experience in many instances because policies change. This is not just to protect myself from being wrong, but because I know I will best serve my clients sometimes by saying, "I don't know the answer to this question, but admissions will be able to provide to you. Please contact them."

One of the most extreme policy changes that I know of occurred when Oxford Said MBA program changed its TOEFL and IELTS requirement policy for admission in 2010.  The prior English requirement was not stringent or necessarily stringently enforced.  Suddenly for admission for fall 2010 and subsequently, applicants had to have the same high TOEFL or IELTS score required for admission to HBS: 109. Keep in mind that the UK's most prestigious and difficult to enter MBA program, London Business School, regularly admits applicants with a 100 TOEFL. As a result, the number of Japanese admitted to Said dropped significantly.  Here in Japan, Oxford had been a popular 2nd choice school for top European MBA focused applicants and a first choice school for some applicants, suddenly became out of reach.  The amount of misinformation  at the time was significant with one of my own clients even refusing to believe that this policy would be enforced because colleagues from his company in past years had always been admitted and because some Japanese admissions counselor told him it would not be a problem, which it was.
His test score was nowhere near the required level and he went elsewhere. Given that university-wide policies change, that admissions directors change, and that the rules of any organization change, past precedent is not always a sufficient guarantee.

When it is possible to ask admissions, I say ask. Like when buying any expensive thing, you should be an informed customer. After all, a graduate degree is likely to be one of the most expensive things you will ever purchase.

Contacting admissions:  I think if your question is relatively simple and not very specific to you, one of the easiest things to do is call the admissions office.   Sometimes they can provide an immediate answer to your question.  It is also fine to just send an email.  With email, I suggest you keep the email short and to the point and state it in the form of questions. Simple, short, polite, and clear communications are best.  If you have a personal and/or complex issue, you should certainly still try to explain it as clearly and simply as possible.  If you feel like you received a response from someone who did not understand, try to follow-up. It is certainly the case that the first person to respond to an inquiry might be the least qualified person in the office, so you may have to work your way up the organizational pyramid.  It is also a perfectly reasonable thing to ask questions at information sessions, either during the Q&A or privately usually at the end of the event.

Frankly, some admissions offices are friendlier than others. Just as some admissions offices will be better managed than others. School ranking does not necessarily correlate well with the quality and kindness of the response you receive, so don't be surprised if the admissions office at a high ranking school has worse customer service than one a lower ranking program.

Some applicants will no doubt worry about their contact with admissions being tracked or having some sort of bearing on applications. Unless one does something rude, this is nothing to worry about. In fact, it can be helpful to have such interactions, especially with smaller and/or friendlier admissions offices.  Depending on the interactions, just as with campus visits and off-campus information sessions, your questions to admissions may even become a small topic discussion in an essay ("I was really impressed with how Ms. Johnson actively explained your program would...").  The more standard the question, the less likely the admissions office will even consider tracking it.  Some programs do even extensive tracking of all potential applicant interaction, while others don't.  Such tracking does not necessarily correlate well with admission results.

Finally, always keep in mind that admissions officers have two primary functions:
1. They are gatekeepers who select applicants for admission.
2. They are marketers and salespeople of their programs who need to try and make sure that they get the best possible applicants to fill up all the seats in their program.
Applicants have a tendency to focus only on the first function and put admissions officers up on some kind of pedestal as judges.  Knock them off them off the pedestal!  To better understand admissions officers, see here (Though this piece is focused on US admissions officers, it applies more widely). Assume that admissions offices are happy to answer all reasonable questions about their policies because this will help to facilitate the potential admission of qualified candidates to their program.

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

March 08, 2012


As part of a series of general posts on MBA admissions strategy, I present the following extreme position.  Those looking for a sweet and friendly view of the business school admissions process that emphasizes collaboration will surely be disappointed. Here, I will offer a view of the MBA admissions process that is cynical, aggressive, and, I think, realistic.

Blogs, online communities, MBA admissions sites, MBA Tours, your GMAT class, and even your fellow applicants may create the illusion that you are part of a community when you apply. This is a lie. Ultimately you are either admitted or rejected. Every other applicant to a program you are applying to is in competition with you because they all have the possibility to take your potential seat.  There are only winners or losers in this process. Just as with a lifeboat, you either live because you have a seat or you drown. There is no middle ground. At the end of the day, even a waitlist that does not convert into an admit is a loss.  One can't get half admitted. I think keeping this fundamental fact in mind is important, especially when it comes to such issues as time allocation, information gathering, and information sharing.

Beware of "The Noise"
"The Noise" takes many forms.  Sites like GMAT Club, which often contain good information, are also filled with crap: Rumor, the pathetic wailing of losers who submitted bad applications,  shallow articles in newspapers and magazines, unethical and unprofessional applicant profile analysis by admissions consultants having the most scant information about the applicant, and other garbage found online.  The problem with The Noise is that it can become a time suck. Instead of preparing essays, practicing interviews, and/or networking with alumni and students, some applicants get sucked into The Noise.  Another problem with The Noise is that can actually misinform applicants by providing misleading information.  My suggestion is to certainly look at sites like GMAT Club, but be aware of the limitations of such information.

Taking advice from other applicants?
There are many good reasons to take advice from alumni and current students.  They have gone through the admissions process and succeeded.  Whatever they did worked for them, though of course, whether it will work for you is not so obvious. Still, they are not your competitors and probably are acting in good faith in terms of providing you with their best advice.  On the other hand, taking advice from other applicants, whether in the form of taking seriously what some guy has written in an online forum, having your essays reviewed by another applicant, or basing your application related decisions on second-hand information, is potentially a very high risk. Aside from the fact that what might apply to one applicant might not apply to you, I think it would be a mistake to assume that such advice is without vested interest (whether conscious or not).  In other words, other applicants might not really have your best interests at the top of their own agenda.  Be as cooperative as you like with other applicants, but focus on your own interests because this is a process that rewards individuals, not groups.

Other applicants are competitors but not ones you can directly defeat
Unlike most zero sum games where you are directly competing against others, the admissions process is an indirect zero sum game.  You are competing against other applicants, but you can't directly defeat enough of them to guarantee that you are offered admission.  Therefore there is no reason to think about them very specifically.  You can't impact other applicants essays, GMAT scores, backgrounds, interview performance, so there is no point in dwelling on them.  All you can do is submit the best application you can and prepare for an interview as effectively as possible. Some applicants worry about their competition instead of focusing on themselves.  Some even make extremely foolish direct comparisons between themselves and other applicants from their country or industry: "I'm one of the few Japanese applicants who really understands American culture!"  or  "Unlike most financial professionals, I am highly ethical and cooperative." Since you can't really know who your competition is, such comments make the applicant look rude, ignorant, overly agressive, and/or egotistical.  Every year since 2001, I have stopped applicants from making such comments in their essays and during interview preparation.

Share information only if it can't be used against you
I love the admissions reports I can get from Clear Admit, Accepted, and GMAT Club, but I would never advise anyone to submit such a report until after they have been admitted or rejected because it is not in their interest to do so.  I am happy that there are so many kind and generous people who think there is no consequence to providing such information to their competitors, but at least very indirectly there is. And I am not just discussing online reports, but also providing information to your friends who are applying at the same time as you are. Just get into a waitlist situation and you will quickly see that helping one other applicant with her interview is impacting your chance for admission. She may have been your sorority sister and your study partner in economics classes, but now she is a barrier to your admission. I often get interview reports from my clients, but I don't use them until after my clients' admissions results are in. It would unethical to do otherwise. When I do a mock interview, the questions I ask are based on reports that my own clients sent me from prior admissions cycles and the lovely content that naive applicants put up on the internet.  If you are not already familiar with the concept of being a free rider, I suggest you become one until your admissions results are in.  Once you are admitted, feel free to put up all the anonymous interview reports you want and share your experience with applicants.  Winners have earned bragging rights.

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

March 05, 2012

The Application You Is Only One Version of You

Now that my attention is beginning to turn to clients at the beginning rather than the end of the admissions process, I have decided to begin a new series of posts covering some core foundational application strategies. I thought I would begin with a seemingly obvious, but often ignored strategic consideration:
I think applicants often forget this point when writing essays, resumes, or even selecting who they will use for a recommendation.  Some applicants become so carried away with an opportunity to tell their story that they forget to consider that not everything they could say about themselves is worth writing in an application and actually only those things that will get them admitted are worth writing.  One's greatest failure might have involved a love affair at age 15, but this would not make for an effective answer to an MBA program's essay topic related to failure.  Affairs of the heart are best left outside of the admissions process. Similarly getting drunk with clients in order to generate great sales results might be very true, but no sane person would write on their resume, "Engage in heavy social drinking 3-6 times a week in order to generate leads and results that contributed to over $20 million in sales for FY2011."  It might very well be the case such social drinking actually fulfills a core business function, but you simply can't it. Instead the resume will read "Engage in extensive daily discussions with clients and leads resulting in over $20 million in sales for FY2011." The drinking example reveals one very important thing: It is all about the interpretation.

And in fact, the importance of differentiating between the real you and the application you is one of interpretation. NO graduate school application can possibly capture the full real you. An application will only present a slice of you.  Some applications give you the chance to present more slices (More essays, longer resumes, more application form content), others less.  Some applications give you extreme freedom in choosing what to present (More open-ended essay questions), other less so. The point is that regardless of what questions you are asked to answer and/or what information you need are asked to provide, you need to control the interpretation.

Some will consider this an invitation to lie, but that is not what I am suggesting.  The story of one's life is not objective, it is subjective and its meaning is either something you provide to it or one what that your reader (essays) or listener (interviews) will naturally provide. Successful communication always involves controlling the interpretation.  The significance of what you do is something you need to explain, not something you can leave to chance. One set of facts can be presented in a number of ways, but my suggestion is that you look for a way that highlights aspects of yourself that align with the program you are applying to.

Getting the Right Slices: What are MBA Programs Looking for in Applicants?
At the strategic level, I identify four core aspects that MBA programs look for in applicants.  You need to understand this categories in general and also in relationship to the programs you are applying to.  You need to consider how you will demonstrate each of these categories in your applications and interviews.
1. Academic Potential is the applicant's perceived ability to perform well in the academic program. This is measured by GPA, GMAT, difficulty of courses indicated on the transcript, school reputation, demonstrated academic/intellectual accomplishments, analytically challenging work, possibly recommendations, and essay content related to academic/intellectual accomplishments/analytical work/problem solving. Beyond an application, it is surely measured by an applicant's performance in an interview. 
2. Leadership Potential is the applicant's perceived capacity to lead people, organizations, projects, and innovation both during and after the MBA program.  It can be a stand in for the perceived overall effectiveness of the applicant as a manager and businessperson. It is a highly contested category with much more flexibility to it than those who simply perceive leadership as telling others what to do within the context of an organization.  It is measured by your past leadership experiences (Professional, but also academic and extracurricular) as detailed in your resume, application form, essays, and recommendations and as discussed in an interview.  
3. Community Engagement is the applicant's perceived capacity to engage in activities of a voluntary, interpersonal, philanthropic, social, cultural, athletic, political, and/or altruistic nature. This community engagement category can be a way to measure the philanthropic potential, networking skills, uniqueness, perceived ethical/social sensitivity of the applicant.  If one were to be cynical, it could be said that this category favors do-gooders over those with a total focus on their professional careers, but it also measures those who have a  real capacity for working with others from those who prefer to spend their time alone. It is a category that makes some suspect that the admissions criteria for business schools is a bit soft headed, but given the rhetorical importance of companies needing to demonstrate their philanthropic, socially conscious, and or community spirit, it would be reasonable to expect that the future potential leaders of such companies have shown an understanding and capacity for community engagement. It is measured by engagement in activities as detailed in your resume, application form, essays, and recommendations and as discussed in an interview. For some applicants, community engagement is something they seem to have endless supplies of, while for other applicants, they will have very little to discuss. If you are six months or more away from an application due date, it is not too late to add something in this area, but sudden new activities don't impress all that much. Ideally, if you are one year or more from making application, now is a good time to engage in such activities if you have not done so. Remember that community activities can happen inside the office. Volunteering to organize an annual party, leading your department's green initiative, participating in a company sports team are all possible ways to show community engagement.  
4. Personality Qualities and Experiences is at times a stated category. For example, Stanford fits personality into the "Personal Qualities and Contributions" category (See here).  Whereas HBS, does not clearly mention it. (Their categories are "A Habit of Leadership, Capacity for Intellectual Growth, and Engaged Community Citizenship.")  Kellogg includes personality in its criteria through personal character, interpersonal skills, and motivation. Unlike the first three categories, which are covered pretty consistently, the personality category is communicated in many possible ways.  In the case of HBS, it does not come out as a category per se, but is certainly a core consideration:
"The true common characteristics of our students are demonstrated leadership potential and a capacity to thrive in a rigorous academic environment.
Indeed, to create the most stimulating environment possible for all students, we consciously select a diverse student body, one that not only reflects a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities, but also a wide range of personal interests and professional ambitions."
In order to get that diversity, something all top MBA programs want, each applicant's unique qualities and experiences comes into play.  This category can immensely difficult to pin down, but is it includes so many possible things.  Here is a list, by no means comprehensive, of what fits into this category: 
1. Demonstrated creativity in professional, extracurricular, or academic life. Artists, poets, writers, and inventors all fit into this category
2. Extensive international experience. This involves living, working, traveling and/or studying in more than one country.  It might involve spending a year traveling, being raised in three countries, study abroad, mastery of two or more languages, and working as an expat.
3. Mastery of artistic, athletic, scientific, academic disciplines resulting in outstanding personal accomplishments. Those with patents, professional musicians, captains of winning sports teams, Olympic medal holders, and public poets all fit into this category.
4. Unusual professional experiences that would give the applicant the possibility to make unique contributions in class. Concert violinists who also day trade, working a corporate job and running a start-up on the side, film directors, chefs, actors, and professional athletes all fit into this category.
5. Overcoming extreme personal, professional, academic, economic, political, social and/or physical obstacles.  If you have overcome poverty, personal misfortune,  sexism, homophobia, racism, physical disability, and other obstacles that reveal the strength of your character, they will likely be ways to distinguish yourself in the application process.
6. Being first at something. As long as it is not trivial if you are the founder of something, the youngest at something, the first to do something, it is likely to be a great topic for an essay or at least a bullet point on a resume.
7. Risk taking as demonstrated by professional career choices, personal acts of heroism, and/or participation in high risk sporting activities:  Air Force Rangers, extreme sports enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs all fit into this category.
8. Demonstrated passion and commitment to a cause, an intellectual pursuit, athletics, or hobbies.  If you can made a real commitment to something in terms of your time over multiple years, it is likely to be a good topic.
9. Unusual personal background that makes the applicant standout within a pool where white male American finance professionals, Indian IT guys, and management consultants are typically over-represented.
10. An interesting, engaging, and/or original perspective. Easier said than done.  One needs to distinguish between simply writing an effective set of essays and actually being a highly engaging personality.  Not everyone has the capacity to be such a personality and, in fact, it is not necessary to be a highly engaging  personality to gain admission into a top MBA program.  While applicants should certainly aspire to do this in their essays and interviews, some people are great writers, wonderful story tellers, and super communicators and others are not.  
Assume that you need to cover all four categories above in each application you submit, but the mix will be different depending on the application. The art of putting together a great application is knowing how you can distinguish yourself in relationship to each of these categories, how you can compensate for any weaknesses, and how you can create an effective total portrait of yourself based on these categories.  Don't worry if you are not strong in each of these categories as it is quite possible to be admitted to any top program without being perfect. The point is to provide your readers and interviewer with a clear set of selling points about yourself that fit within their own criteria for why an applicant should be admitted. 

You are more than your application and more than any interview, but it is on the basis of those two things that you will be admitted or rejected.  Great applicants with lousy applications get rejected all the time. I know because I help such applicants then submit great applications!  Applicants with significant problems in the four categories I mentioned above can gain admission to great programs by submitting great applications. I know this too because I help applicants with one or more significant problems in their objective background gain admission to programs where they are statistical outriders.

Some might think that I am suggesting that you present yourself falsely, but that is not at all the case. I recommend that applicants honestly discuss the best part of themselves, honestly addressing any objective problems that they can't avoid mentioning (That low grade in your transcript, the 11 months when you were not working, the reason you quit a job after 3 months, etc.), and not make any deceptive claims. You should  never provide deceptive information that will get your application rejected or your admission revoked.  On the other hand, don't volunteer information that is unnecessary to provide and unhelpful to you. Don't dwell on failures when you are not asked to.  Don't worry about trivial facts that can't be easily checked. Do interprete the past in way that is to your advantage and is believable.  Also, always consider that anything you submit in an application needs to be believable and that if asked about it in any interview you have to sound convincing.

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

March 02, 2012

The Darden MBA Admissions Interview

Steve Green has taken on the unique challenge of providing advice for Darden's "one question" interview. Darden has been doing it this way for years.  Steve's graduate work in political science was conducted at the University of Virginia, so he is someone particularly familiar with the culture of Mr. Jefferson's University. (If you don't know what I am talking about, you should!) Information about Steve's interview counseling services can be found here. Steve and I have been working together since 2001. Many of my clients do interview preparation with him for Darden and all other top MBA programs. A full-time professor, Steve exclusively focuses on MBA interview preparation. 

Remember that UVA takes its honor code seriously, so this is not an interview to practice truth stretching, but one to engage deeply in truth telling. As in any interview, it is all in the way you interprete yourself. 

The Darden MBA Admissions Interview

Have you ever felt constrained by the standard Q&A format of an MBA interview? Have you ever wished you could be given the time to tell an interviewer your life story?  If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, then the Darden admissions interview may be for you.

According to publicly available reports, Darden bundles a half-dozen interview questions into one covering statement that directs interviewees to tell their story.

  • In a nutshell, Darden’s single question is “Tell me about yourself.”
In at least one case, this extended version of the same question was asked:  
“I am here for you to tell me your story. Just tell me about yourself. In the process you can cover college, anything before college if relevant, your resume, why MBA and why Darden.”

According to the public reports you should expect:
  • to be given 20-30 minutes for your story (though the whole interview itself may last longer should you talk for a long time and follow up questions are saved until the end of your monologue.)
  • to be interrupted sometimes with follow-up questions.
  • to be interviewed by a current student, possibly with an adcom member present (unless, of course, you have arranged on an off-campus interview with an alumnus.)
  • the interview to be blind (i.e. the interviewer will not have seen your resume.)
  • a relaxed atmosphere:  Darden interviewers seem genuinely interested in hearing applicants’ personal histories, from what I’ve seen in reports.
  • to be given the chance to ask questions about Darden to the interviewer.
Based on what the reports say, Darden really seems to want to get to know the person “behind” the application- the person who wrote the application essays and earned the test scores that inspired Darden to extend an interview invitation.  

Considering that most interviewers are students, and the fact that they are allowing interviewees the freedom to talk so much about their lives, suggests they consider this the best way to select for people who would be the most interesting future classmates.  

You don’t need to have a unique, “made for Hollywood” life story.  
You do need to be able to talk about your life in the most interesting way possible, with special attention, of course, to what has led you to want an MBA from Darden.  Obviously, this interview format places a premium on excellent communication skills. Also, given the role of the honor code at UVA, if your story comes across as too good to be true, you will be in trouble.

How should you prepare for the Darden interview?  
The good news is you already have prepared for it!  Through the writing of many MBA admissions essays (presumably you have applied to more schools than just Darden) you have already told a lot of your life story, albeit in a piecemeal manner.  By now, it is highly likely that you have written about: both personal and professional accomplishments; your strengths and weaknesses; setbacks, and what you learned from them; why you want an MBA and what are your career goals.  If you have already had an admissions interview, then you may have taken someone through your resume, as well.

To tell your story you should
Cover all these topics but ground them in the personal experiences that shaped your values and created the strengths that have led to your success.  

Advice for how to structure your story:
The guidelines below assume a chronological answer to the Darden question.  At least one successful report describes just such an answer that began in the interviewee’s childhood.  The public reports suggest Darden wants people to discuss their whole lives, and the most logical, though not the only, way is chronologically.  The advantage of this format is it allows you to show your development over time, with the story culminating in why you want a Darden MBA.  However, you do not necessarily need to follow a strict chronology.  If you want to bring a lot of attention to your career goals, for example, and believe they define who you are now more than anything else, you could begin with them.  Even in that case, though, you’ll need to take the listener “back in time” a bit to show how you came to reach these goals.

  1. Begin your monologue by saying clearly who you are.  State up to 3 key points about yourself, including your guiding value(s) and core strengths. These strengths should not be limited to one field, e.g. finance, but the skill that allows you to succeed in particular fields, e.g. analytical thinking.  
  2. Explain the experiences that forged these values and strengths.  Darden allows you to describe events in your childhood and/or teenage years, as these are the periods in our lives when many of our core values, and even, in some instances, the foundations for our core strengths, are formed.  However, don’t devote more time than necessary to talking about your pre-college years.
  3. Develop your story arc with these core values and strengths. Illustrate how they were enhanced and even challenged by experiences in college and how, as an adult, you have applied them in your professional and personal life.   
  4. Illustrate your story arc with accomplishments that are on your resume. Emphasize turning points and setbacks, from which you learned something important that defines who you are now.
  5. Describe the experience(s) that gave form to your career goals and convinced you needed an MBA. This experience, by definition, would be a turning point in your life.  Discuss what about it made you realize you cannot achieve your career goal with out an MBA.
  6. Explain how you discovered that the Darden MBA is the best choice for you.
  • Your audience wants to know whether or not you would make an interesting classmate.  Avoid jargon, and do not sound boastful or give the impression you have never made mistakes.
  • Your interviewer may interrupt your story with follow-up questions about particular points in it.  Do not be unnerved if this happens.  Take it as a positive sign of interest in your story.  After all, it is only natural to want more details about someone’s experiences.  According to reports it is common, and, frankly, it probably makes the session more interesting for everyone involved.   
Look at the Darden interview as an opportunity.  
Most of us love to talk about ourselves, if given the chance.  But, unless and until you become as famous as Bill Gates or J.K. Rowling, your detailed, personal story probably will never be the main interest of an audience of strangers.  So, Darden gives you a rare chance to show someone just how fascinating you are. Make the interviewer believe in you!

For questions regarding this post, please contact me at h.steven.green@gmail.com. To learn more about my MBA admissions interview counseling services, please click here.
- H. Steven ("Steve") Green
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