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.

April 27, 2009

The 41 "Top 20" MBA Programs Averaged Ranking

This is the second of two posts on "Top 20" MBA Rankings. If you have not done so, I suggest reading the first post before reading this second post.

In what follows, I have built upon the data I collected on the 41 programs worldwide (See my previous post) that are generally identified by major ranking lists as "Top 20." While it seemed quite useful to simply collect all the data together so that I could see which programs were considered "Top 20" by the most well known ranking lists, I wanted to see what would happen if I simply determined the average ranking for each of the41 schools and so that is what I did below.


METHOD: Actually I copied this method from one used by Real Clear Politics (RCP) for looking at Polling Data. The situation is similar because the RCP averages, just like mine, do not take account for differences in the methods by which the initial calculations were made. I will not enter into the debate about the various problems with all of these publications' rankings as they all have problems. As I am no statistician, I used the following rather simple method to make my calculation:

1. Schools that were not ranked in the Top 20 on a specific list that they qualified for were given the value of 21. By assigning the value of 21, I have not weighted the value of the individual rankings.

2. I calculated average value by taking scores for all six rankings and
dividing by4 for US programs and 3 for non-US Programs as
US News and World Report only ranks US.

3. The school with the lowest total has the top average rank.

4. Schools with the same average numerical value have the same rank.

Obvious unsolved problems with my methods that I am aware of :
-Some rankings do not actually rank 20 programs.
- While US News and W World Report, FT, and EIU's each have one comprehensive list, Businessweek break-up schools into two lists, which results in it having more impact on the averaged ranking.
-I could have used FT's regional lists, but choose to use the Worldwide list.
- All schools that were not in the Top 20 were given a 21 regardless of their "real rank" on a list.

One thing I find highly problematic about "Top 20" rankings is that they are never comprehensive. This list of forty-one "Top 20"schools suffers from the same problem. Notable absences from this list include HEC Paris, USC, and SDA Bocconi. Rankings are merely "a map," but certainly not "the territory" (actual value of a degree to specific person, actual market value of the degree, actual brand value of the degree, actual measure of the educational value of the degree).

Here is the result (Click to enlarge it):
In the event that you should want to copy the rankings, here they are:

Averaged Rank for the 41 "Top 20" MBA Programs
1 Harvard Business School
1 Stanford University GSB
3 London Business School
3 University of Chicago: Booth
5 IE Business School
6 University of Pennsylvania: Wharton
8 IESE Business School
10 Dartmouth College: Tuck
11 Columbia Business School
11 MIT: Sloan
13 New York University: Stern
14 Northwestern University: Kellogg
15 University of California at Berkeley: Haas
16 Queen's Univeristy School of Business
17 ESADE Business School
17 University of Cambridge: Judge
17 University of Michigan: Ross
20 University of Western Ontario: Ivey
21 Duke University: Fuqua
22 Hong Kong UST Business School
23 University of Toronto: Rotman
25 University of Oxford: Saïd
26 Cornell University: Johnson
26 UCLA: Anderson
28 Yale School of Management
29 University of Virginia: Darden
30 Cranfield School of Management
31 Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School
32 Carnegie Mellon: Tepper
32 Indian School of Business
32 York University: Schulich
35 Indiana University: Kelley
36 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
37 Southern Methodist University (Cox)
37 University of Texas at Austin: McCombs
39 Georgetown University: McDonough
40 Henley Business School
41 University of Notre Dame: Mendoza

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. If you are looking for a highly experienced admissions consultant who is passionate about helping his clients succeed, please feel free to contact me at adammarkus@gmail.com to arrange an initial consultation. To learn more about my services, see here. Initial consultations are conducted by Skype or telephone. For clients in Tokyo, a free face-to-face consultation is possible after an initial Skype or telephone consultation. I only work with a limited number of clients per year and believe that an initial consultation is the best way to determine whether there is a good fit. Whether you use my service or another, I suggest making certain that the fit feels right to you.

-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 MBA ランキング

April 24, 2009

Rankings For the 41 "Top 20" MBA Programs Worldwide

This is the first of two posts on "Top 20" MBA Programs. The second post can be found here.

This is the second year in a row that I decided to do a comparison of the "Top 20" MBA Rankings from
BusinessWeek, the Financial Times, US News and World Report, and The Economist Intelligence Unit. Last year, I included The Wall Street Journal, but since that their recruiter's poll has not been updated since 2007, I decided not to include this year. I also previously included Forbes, but since everyone ignores these rankings, I have as well. Since 2001, when I started working as an admissions consultant, I have yet to encounter anyone who takes Forbes into account. I am not actually convinced that most of my clients are even aware of the Forbes' rankings. Also see my fabulous ranking of MBA programs by post-MBA starting salary.


MBA Rankings are important because applicants, recruiters, students, and the schools themselves pay great attention to them. As to their basis in reality, I am not a statistician, so I can't judge their validity as measurements. I won't even try. For me the chief value in MBA rankings is that they provide lists of schools that are generally thought to be superior by enough people and institutions so that the authors of the rankings are taken somewhat seriously. Applicants take them seriously enough when selecting where to apply. B-Schools take them seriously enough to mention their rankings.

RANKINGS: Caveat Emptor!
Global and US national rankings inherently hide the local value of a particular school. It may very well be the case that a school ranks in the "Top 20," but has no name brand value in a particular market. As I have worked with an increasingly diverse client-base, I have come to realize that what may be an excellent choice for a banker in Japan, might make a lousy choice for entrepreneur in the UK. It may very well be the case that Notre Dame is a good choice for an American who wishes to work in Indiana, but what possible brand value can it provide to an Indian in Mumbai? For said hypothetical Indian, a local program in India, one without any international brand value, might be a much better choice. So while rankings are worth looking at, I do suggest that you really evaluate a school from the perspective of its value in terms of the job market(s) that you want to compete in.

If your intention is to be global and jump around the world than apply to MBA programs that have global brand value. You will likely find that a mixture of US and European programs best fit this description. In this sense, some rankings are particularly unhelpful. For instance, BusinessWeek ranks Queens University as the best non-US MBA program. I suppose if one is in Canada this is a quite a helpful thing, but I can say that the school has zero brand value here in Japan as well as in the US. Perhaps it has brand value somewhere aside from Canada, but except for Dubai, where it has a campus, I doubt it. Of course, the idea of separating the world into US and non-US programs is itself a clear sign that BW's perspective is inherently American. By contrast, what I appreciate about US News and World Report rankings is that they at least have the good sense to focus on what they can responsibility cover (US only). FT and The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) are the only MBA rankings that attempt to cover the world from a mostly global perspective (The placement of so many UK programs on the top of the EIU list is somewhat troubling). Covering the entire planet is not an easy thing to do and there are certainly times when I have looked at the EIU or FT rankings with great suspicion, but one must say their rankings are at least quite international. EIU's rankings always strike me as particularly odd because they seem to have little to do with the way my clients, regardless of nationality, rank these schools.

Initially, I started looking at "Top 20" lists because of a real issue that some of my Japanese clients have regularly faced. If you are told that your company will only sponsor you for a "Top 20" MBA program, then you will have to take these lists seriously. I always have had Japanese clients who have been under such constraints. I hope the following is somewhat helpful to them. Otherwise, I have focused on "Top 20" primarily because most of my MBA clients, regardless of their nationality, are only applying to and getting admitted to
"Top 20" programs. Needless to say, the forty schools that are accounted for here are not necessarily the best forty-one business schools in the world. The inclusion or exclusion of a school from this list in no way should be assumed to be my view about which schools actually are "Top 20."

What I have done here is simply take all the major lists and look only at the rankings for top 20 programs as ranked by
BusinessWeek, the Financial Times, US News and World Report, and The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Following this table, you see each ranking list. Note: If less than 20 programs are listed that is because less than 20 were ranked.

To best view the following table, click on it.

The rankings lists:

Rankings from November 2008. Next Rankings will be in October or November 2010.

Top 20 US
Top 30 U.S. Programs
1 University of Chicago (Booth)
2 Harvard University
3 Northwestern University (Kellogg)
4 University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
5 University of Michigan (Ross)
6 Stanford University
7 Columbia University
8 Duke University (Fuqua)
9 MIT (Sloan)
10 UC Berkeley (Haas)
11 Cornell University (Johnson)
12 Dartmouth (Tuck)
13 NYU (Stern)
14 UCLA (Anderson)
15 Indiana University (Kelley)
16 University of Virginia (Darden)
17 UNC - Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)
18 Southern Methodist (Cox)
19 Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
20 University of Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Non-U.S. Top 10 MBA Programs

1 Queen's University
2 IE Business School
4 Western Ontario (Ivey)
5 London Business School
8 Toronto (Rotman)
10 Oxford (Saîd)

April 2009
1. Harvard University
2. Stanford University
3. Northwestern University (Kellogg)
3. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
5. University of Chicago (Booth)
7. University of California–Berkeley (Haas)
8. Dartmouth College (Tuck)
9. Columbia University
10. Yale University
11. New York University (Stern)
12. Duke University (Fuqua)
13. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor (Ross)
14. University of California–Los Angeles (Anderson)
15. Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)
15. University of Virginia (Darden)
17. Cornell University (Johnson)
18. University of Texas–Austin (McCombs)
19. Georgetown University (McDonough)
20. Univ. of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)

Top Twenty Worldwide

1 University of Pennsylvania: Wharton
1 London Business School
3 Harvard Business School
4 Columbia Business School
6 Stanford University GSB
6 IE Business School
9 MIT: Sloan
10 New York University: Stern
11 University of Chicago: Booth
12 IESE Business School
13 Dartmouth College: Tuck
14 IMD
15 Indian School of Business (ISB)
16 Hong Kong UST Business School
17 University of Cambridge: Judge
18 ESADE Business School
19 Yale School of Management
20 University of Oxford: Saïd

2008 Ranking
1. IMD - International Institute for Management Development
2. IESE Business School - University of Navarra
3. Chicago, University of - Booth School of Business
4. Stanford Graduate School of Business
5. Dartmouth College--Tuck School of Business
6. California at Berkeley, University of--Haas School of Business
7. Cambridge, University of - Judge Business School
8. New York University - Leonard N Stern School of Business
9. London Business School
10. IE Business School
11. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology -- School of Business and Management
12. Harvard Business School
13. Cranfield School of Management
14. Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School
15. York University - Schulich School of Business
16. Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management
17. Pennsylvania, University of - Wharton School
18. Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT Sloan School of Management
20. Henley Business School at the University of Reading

This is the first of two posts on "Top 20" MBA Programs. The second post can be found here.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. If you are looking for a highly experienced admissions consultant who is passionate about helping his clients succeed, please feel free to contact me at adammarkus@gmail.com to arrange an initial consultation. To learn more about my services, see here. Initial consultations are conducted by Skype or telephone. For clients in Tokyo, a free face-to-face consultation is possible after an initial Skype or telephone consultation. I only work with a limited number of clients per year and believe that an initial consultation is the best way to determine whether there is a good fit. Whether you use my service or another, I suggest making certain that the fit feels right to you.

-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 MBA ランキング

April 23, 2009

Columbia Business School January Term 2010 Essays

JULY 30, 2009 NOTE: My analysis for Early and Regular Decision for Fall 2010 is now up. That post updates some of the links found below.

In this post I discuss the essay questions for admission to the Columbia School of Business January 2010 Accelerated MBA. I also discuss the reapplication essay question below. Finally, don't forget to read my concluding remarks.

The applications for Fall 2010 Early Decision and Regular Decision are not available yet. There is the possibility of the questions changing for Fall 2010 as Columbia has altered its essay set frequently for the last several years. I will post an analysis of the September 2010 term essay questions once they become available. While in this post I will discuss why January Term might be a good option, you can find my older post on who should apply for Early Decision here.

The Columbia essay set is rather small as we will see. It most certainly emphasizes why CBS best fits your goals (Essay 1), learning based on a practical experience (Essay 2), and learning from team failure (Essay 3). This is not an essay set that emphasizes personality.

I have taken the January 2010 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 straightforward and common, but if you have looked at other schools' essays, you will likely notice that something is missing from it. Compare it to 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 essay on showing how Columbia will help you achieve your goals.
It is critical that you 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. For those who don't need an internship, this is really a great program. Of course, even if you wanted an internship, in the present circumstance, those are getting harder to find. If you think that an internship is not critical to your post-MBA goals, J-term is a great program.

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. After all, you want to show them you love and need them (See my post on Early Decision for an analysis of Columbia's acceptances rate and yield in comparison to other top programs). For learning about what is hot at Columbia, I suggest taking a look at their blog: Public Offering. Also look at Hermes which provides news on the Columbia community. 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.
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,
I suggest using my GAP, SWOT, AND ROI TABLE FOR FORMULATING GRADUATE DEGREE GOALS f (see below). I think Gap, SWOT, and ROI analysis are great ways for understanding what your goals are, why you want a degree, and how you will use it. (Click here for a GMAC report on MBA ROI. )

(To best view the following table, click on it. For a word version, please email me at adammarkus@gmail.com)

How to use this table:

Step 1.
Begin by analyzing your "Present Situation." What job(s) have you held? What was/is your functional role(s)? What was/are your responsibilities?

Next, analyze your present strengths and weaknesses for succeeding in your present career. REMEMBER:WHEN YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESS DON'T ONLY THINK ABOUT WORK, THINK ABOUT OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE. In particular, some of your greatest strengths may have been demonstrated outside of work, so make sure you are accounting for them.
Strengths: What are you good at? Where do you add value? What are you praised for? What are you proud of?
Weakness: What are you bad at? What are you criticized for? What do you try to avoid due to your own limitations? What do you fear?

, analyze the environment you work in right now. What opportunities exist for your growth and success? What threats could limit your career growth?

Step 2.
Now, do the same thing in Step 1 for your "Post-Degree" future after you have earned your graduate degree. IF YOU CANNOT COMPLETE STEP 2, YOU HAVE NOT SUFFICIENTLY PLANNED FOR YOUR FUTURE and therefore you need to do more research and need to think more about it.

Step 3.
If you could complete step 2, than you should see the "Gap" between your present and your future. What skills, knowledge, and other resources do you need to close the gap between your present and future responsibilities, strengths, and opportunities?

Step 4. After completing Step 3, you now need to determine how an MBA will add value to you. It is possible that an increased salary as a result of job change will be sufficient "ROI" for the degree to justify itself, but you should show how a degree will allow you to reach your career goals. How will the degree enhance your skills and opportunities and help you overcome your weaknesses and external threats? If you can complete Step 4 than you should be ready to explain what your goals are, why you want a degree, and the relationship between your past and future career, as well as your strengths and weaknesses.

The above table will also help you answer such common interview questions as: Where do you want to work after you finish your degree? Why do you want an MBA (or other degree)? What are you strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are your goals? Thinking about these issues now will help you to develop a fully worked-out strategy for how you will best present yourself both in the application and in an interview.

Making career goals exciting requires thinking about whether your goals are compelling. Admissions committees ask applicants to write about their goals after graduate school, but can applicants actually know what will be on the cutting-edge in two or three years? While many applicants will be able to successfully apply with relatively standard goals ("I want to be a consultant because..."), communicating aspirations requires going beyond the typical.

Be informed. Columbia Admissions needs to believe you know what you are talking about. If you are changing careers, no one expects you to be an expert, but you should come across as having a clear plan based on real research into your future. If you are planning on staying in your present industry, you should be well informed not only about the companies you have worked for, but about the industry as a whole. If you are not already doing so, read industry related publications and network.

Those who are changing fields should most certainly read industry related publications in their intended field. Additionally I suggest conducting informational interviews with at least one peer level and one senior level person in that field. Conduct a peer level interview to get a good idea of what it would be like to actually work in that industry. Conduct a senior level interview to get the perspective of someone who can see the big picture and all the little details as well.

Don't know anyone in your intended field? Network! One great way to start is through LinkedIn. Another is by making use of your undergraduate alumni network and/or career center.

No matter whether you are changing fields or not, learn what is hot now and try to figure out what will be hot by the time you graduate. Now, of course, this is just a plan and chances are that what is hot in your industry or field now may very well be cold in the future. The point is to come across to Columbia Adcom as someone who is not only well informed, but has CUTTING-EDGE knowledge. In addition to Columbia's
Public Offering blog, also look at ideas@work, and The Chazen Web Journal of International Business. Some other great general sources for learning what is hot: Harvard Working Knowledge, Harvard Business Review, University of Chicago GSB's Working Papers, The University of Chicago's Capital Ideas, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Knowledge @ Wharton, and MIT Sloan Management Review.

You may also want to do a search on itunes for podcasts: My favorites are Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (from the Stanford School of Engineering, but totally relevant) Net Impact, Chicago GSB Podcast Series, and Harvard Business IdeaCast. INSEAD, IMD, LBS, and Wharton also have podcasts.

LinkedIn Answers: Also consider joining LinkedIn and make use of LinkedIn Answers. LinkedIn Answers is a great way to tap into cutting edge expertise (including my admissions advice!). Follow LinkedIn's rules and you will often be able to obtain excellent information.

Hoovers: For information about specific companies, Hoovers is just a great way to learn about key facts including competitors (a very useful way of knowing who else you might want to work for and to learn about an industry). While primarily focused on the US, Hoovers does have listings for companies worldwide.

Vault: For scope of coverage, this site is a must. Vault includes both career and admissions information. It includes both company specific and industry-wide information.

Other sources: Read magazines, websites, and books that relate to your intended field.

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 just 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 do not need to 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 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 is quite a reasonable choice. Some applicants might write on something personal and it is possible for this topic to work but if that is the case, then you should be sure 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 analysis of Wharton's failure question helpful.

Clearly, teams play an important role both in most professionals lives and at most business schools. Assessing your potential as a team leader and a team player is an important way for admissions to determine whether you will fit in their program and have the kind of predisposition to succeed professionally afterwords. 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 itself. 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. (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 read the above, it should be clear enough that this is the place to explain anything negative or potentially negative in your background. If you have no explanation for something negative, don't bother writing about it. For example if your GPA is 2.9 and you have no good explanation for why it is 2.9, don't bother writing something that looks like a lame excuse. This is more likely to hurt than help you. In the same vein, don't waste the committee's time telling them that your GMAT is a much better indicator than your GPA (the opposite is also true). They have heard it before and they will look at both scores and can draw their own conclusions without you stating the obvious. That said, if you have a good explanation for a bad GPA, you should most certainly write about it.
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.

Reapplication Essay
How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate your short-term and long-term goals. Explain how the tools of the Columbia MBA will help you to meet your goals and how you plan to participate in the Columbia community . (Recommended 750 word limit).

The period of Reapplication at Columbia is rather limited, 12 months from the time of the initial application. If apply to Columbia more than 12 months after an initial application, you should apply as a new applicant. Columbia's Reapplication Checklist can be found here. It is my understanding that If you applied for Fall 2009 admission and were rejected, you can apply as reapplicant for J-Term. The biggest difficulty you are likely to encounter might be that not much has changed since your last application, but you must demonstrate that it has. You will not be able to submit new answers to essays 1-3, but will have to use only the reapplicant essay.

When judging reapplicants Columbia makes it perfectly clear what they are expecting. See here for their criteria.

Clearly this essay gives you the opportunity to:
1. Showcase what has changed since your last application that now makes you a better candidate.
2. Refine your goals. I think it is reasonable that they may have altered since your last application, but if the change is extreme, you had better explain why.
3. Make a better case for why Columbia is right for you.
For more about reapplication, please see here.

CONCLUSION: Columbia Loves to Be Loved
One thing that is consistent about Columbia Business School is that they want to know that there school is your first choice. If you have an alumni interview you can be expected to be asked about that very directly. See here for my advice on Columbia interviews. One real advantage in applying for January Term is that it is incredibly easy to justify that Columbia is your first choice because it is quite possible that it will be your only option if you are only applying to top US MBA programs. Other options would be INSEAD or IMD, which also have January starts, but Columbia Adcom does not worry about losing admitted students to those two. They do worry about HBS, Wharton, Stanford,and Chicago, but chances are, this is not a concern for them when dealing with a J-term applicant. Still, even if you apply for J-term, you need to show Columbia why you are a perfect fit for their program.

If you have not yet done significant Columbia related networking, you had better do so. See my earlier post on the value of networking here.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.
If you are looking for a highly experienced admissions consultant who is passionate about helping his clients succeed, please feel free to contact me at adammarkus@gmail.com to arrange an initial consultation. To learn more about my services, see here. Initial consultations are conducted by Skype or telephone. For clients in Tokyo, a free face-to-face consultation is possible after an initial Skype or telephone consultation. I only work with a limited number of clients per year and believe that an initial consultation is the best way to determine whether there is a good fit. Whether you use my service or another, I suggest making certain that the fit feels right to you.

-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

April 21, 2009

Steve Green: Preparing a Fulbright Application

In this post, Steve discusses what goes into making a great Fulbright application. 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.




The Fulbright Grant is the most prestigious scholarship program offered by the US Government. You can find general information about the program here. 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. Although this post mostly contains specific references to the Fulbright application for US students, the suggestions here certainly apply to anyone around the world who is planning to apply for a Fulbright Grant. As the Fulbright rules are country-specific, be sure to download the appropriate application materials and refer to those while reading this post. You can find the link to your country's Fulbright program here.

There are four categories of Fulbright Grants, but I am going to focus on the ones 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 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 you will need to do for graduate school applications, so people who work on Fulbright first, even if they don’t get it, at least have the opportunity to prepare something that is extremely similar to a graduate school application months ahead of actual grad school application deadlines.

For the perspective and advice of successful applicants read issues of the Fulbright Grant 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: 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. For example, the list of the Japanese Grantees for 2008 includes no one working in the physical or life sciences. Grants were awarded to graduate students in American and comparative literature, philosophy, educational sociology, but also in business topics such as corporate governance and innovation, among many other fields. Not surprisingly, several Japanese doing work on topics related to US-Japan political and economic relations also received Fulbright grants. Be sure to check out the list of previous grant recipients in your own country to get an idea of the diverse topics recognized by the Fulbright committee.


Most of the remainder of this post provides advice on how to approach specific sections of the application. Numbered references below refer to the US sample pdf application (available here) , which I downloaded on April 19, 2009. Please be sure to check the application documents you download to make sure they are the most recent and correct forms. Please confirm whether there are any differences between my numbered references and the actual numbers next to each section on the application you download.

Be aware that there are other documents you will need to download, including, but not limited to, separate forms for Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statement (US Forms 5 and 6, respectively) reference letters and foreign- or English language abilities.

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.

FOR US APPLICATIONS PLEASE NOTE: Forms 1-4 download as one 4-page document. The Statement of Purpose and the Personal Statement are separate forms (Forms 5 and 6, respectively.)

After downloading the right version of the application for the country you are from, look it over while you read the following. As mentioned above, you need to go your country's Fulbright site to get that document. You can find your country's site here.

BEFORE YOU START THE APPLICATION take to heart the words of the Delphic Oracle of Ancient Greece who advised Socrates, “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, part 33 of the US application requires an abstract of your study proposal in enough space for about 250 words.

You will not provide concise, believable information if you do not already have detailed answers to the questions above. Keep in mind that you will have to write a longer essay describing your goals elsewhere.

Next, make a resume or CV. 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.

  2. The process of creating a professional resume/CV will focus your mind.

  3. Much of the information required for application is the same kind of information found on a professional CV or resume (US Forms 1-4 parts 29-31 and 37-41) so you will have an easy time transferring the information from your resume/CV to the application, and your information will be in professional language.

Question: “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, 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 identified by the Fulbright commission of your country.

Before you begin writing this essay consult with colleagues or your academic or graduate adviser. 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 (part 30 for Japanese applicants).


Form 6 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.


The selection committee is trying to read between the lines of your personal statement (Form 6) to assess whether the person described therein is likely to succeed at the project detailed in the statement of grant purpose (Form 5). 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.

REMEMBER! You must write all essays within the space provided.


Fulbright requires three references. All three 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.


Even if you have not completed your essays, 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. (If these references include the same people you will ask for graduate school references, then now would be a great time to mention ask them kindly to do so later this year when grad school applications become available.)

THE APPLICATION: Miscellaneous advice

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 scholarship programs.


The Fulbright application requires time and thoughtful preparation. Even before you have the application in front of you or 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

  • 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.

  • 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


For questions regarding this post, please contact write comments.

To learn more about my graduate admissions consulting services, please click here.
- H. Steven ("Steve") Green, グリーン・ハロルド・スティーブン

日米教育委員会 日米協会 JASCジャパン 日米学生会議 フルブライト レジュメ 履歴書 大学院留学 大学院入学 大学院 カウンセリング コンサルティング 推薦 推薦文

April 19, 2009

Admissions Advice: Mentor, Consultant, Editor or Ghostwriter?

In 2007, I did a series of posts on this topic. At this point, I wanted to offer a revised version of this series as a single long post. While much of the original series of posts remains, I thought that this would be a good time to revise and extend my remarks.

In this post, I will analyze the pros and cons of obtaining advice from mentors, admissions consultants, editors, and ghostwriters, for purpose of admission to MBA, LL.M., and other types of graduate programs. I will not include the names of any specific admissions consultants, editors, or ghostwriters here. This is not due to any ignorance or laziness on my part, but rather the fact that I am not advocating or criticizing the use of any specific service because (1) I can't fairly attest to the efficacy of all major service providers and (2) I am not interested in being sued for libel.

What kind of admissions advice are you looking for? I think it is important to think very carefully about the types of advisers available when selecting what is best for you. The right advice from the right adviser(s) will facilitate your acceptance in to an MBA, LL.M., or other graduate program, while the wrong advice might very well result in the need to reapply.
Every year, I find myself helping applicants overcome bad advice. The source might have been that of their friends, their mentors, alumni from the school they intend to apply to, something they read on an online forum, and, all too often that from other admissions consultants. In some cases, the advice they previously received was bad enough to contribute to them get dinged everywhere without an interview. Other times, it just contributes to their initial drafts being substandard. In any case, I don't primarily blame the advisers, especially the unpaid ones, because advice need not be taken.

Unless you believe that all medical doctors make correct medical judgments, that all economists can forecast the future, and that professional advice is, in general, more of a science than art, you should approach all advice skeptically (including mine). If you lack such skepticism, click here and start reading because you need Nassim Nicholas Taleb's help before I can do anything for you. Assuming you do realize the limits of advice, I offer you the following rule for taking it:
While these two rules cannot guarantee admission into the graduate program of your dreams, they carry much greater lifetime value.

One thing that always scares me is when I hear about mentors, admissions consultants, test prep instructors, alumni, or supervisors who insist on their absolute authority. Such individuals, whatever there value might be should be treated with extreme caution.

Examples of Admissions Advisers Gone Bad:

1. The adviser with a chip on his or her shoulder: One of my clients had a supervisor who insisted that a lower ranked program was better than a higher one and that my client need not apply to such higher ranked programs. This particular supervisor had a degree from a program that was even lower ranked than one they were recommending. My client took my advice and applied to high ranking programs and was admitted to them. If your adviser seems jealous or otherwise seems to suggest radically reducing your options based on nothing in particular, you need to make figure out how to effectively ignore him or her.

2. Admissions Commanders: I know of admissions consultants who absolutely insist on their perspective and simply command rather advise their clients. The problem is that this usually rests on the assumption that the counselor knows more about the client than the client knows about himself/herself. Such an approach is unlikely to result in the client producing the kind of inspired self-portrait (YOUR STORY) that I believe all humans are capable of. I am optimistic enough to assume that we all have stories worth telling.

3. The Controller: "MY WAY IS THE WAY." The controller might be your supervisor, your professor, an alumni, a test prep teacher, an admissions consultant, or your mentor (sempai). They will simply try to control what an applicant does. In their own area of expertise, their advice might be quite good, but outside of that, it can frequently be inaccurate, dated, or otherwise lacking in accuracy. If the Controller is a paid service provider (admissions consultant or test prep instructor), greed rather a mere desire to dominate others might be their core motivation.

Of course, bad advice does not usually take such malicious forms. Usually, the adviser is well meaning, just not well informed. Which leads to my next topic.


A Sad Story
In Fall 1988, during my senior undergraduate year, I decided to apply to for PhD programs in Political Science. As I was graduating in three instead of the usual four years, I was 20 years old at that time. I sought advice from two of my professors, both were tenured, one had his PhD from Harvard and the other from Princeton. They supported me, wrote recommendations (that I later used successfully in 1990), but provided me with little guidance on the admissions process. I simply followed the application instructions and made a horrible mess of the whole thing. As this was long before online applications, I filled my own out in my handwriting (A kind of childlike scribble best not seen). I was dinged everywhere. :(

A Happy Story
As I mentioned in a previous post, when I applied to graduate school in 1990, I was fortunate to have an excellent mentor, a PhD student at the University of Chicago, who remains to this day one of my closest friends. I was lucky because he understood the admissions process and the relative difficulty for obtaining admission at a time when the US Economy was weak and many people were applying to graduate school (Kind of like now, but not as awful.). His advice was timely and practical and helped me succeed at getting admitted to PhD programs in Political Science.

There are two differences between my happy and sad stories.

The first has to do with me.
When I applied at age 20, I was completely immature and totally lacked a real sense of the process or its relative difficulty. Two years later (Still immature in many respects, but less so than previously), I understood what the application process really involved and was able to make the right decisions. I put an immense amount of time and effort into winning the admissions game.

The second has to do with my advisers.
My team of 1988 mentors simply consisted of two professors. While they were great professors who were recognized in their fields and wrote me very good recommendations, they were totally ineffective admissions advisers:
(1) Their advice was not based on actual contemporary knowledge of the admissions process. Since both taught primarily undergraduates and were part of departments that did not have graduate programs, they did not actually know the process because that had finished their graduate work decades earlier.
(2) They did not give me practical advice beyond simply following the application instructions. I never got the impression from them that it was particularly hard to apply to graduate school.
(3) They were too busy to be really involved with my process and I was not aggressive enough to really get their full support.
Maybe I did not ask the right questions, but they certainly did not seem to be particularly proactive.

My 1990 team was different. I talked with my former professors about academic issues, but as far as the practical issue of applying goes, I had a new mentor, who:
(1) Gave me timely advice based on the actual admissions process.
My new mentor, who subsequently went on to a career as a leading administrator at two top universities, really understood how the admissions game was played and could explain it to me. Remember, this was 1990, so the availability of good advice on graduate admissions was extremely limited.
(2) Provided me with a set of strategies for success beyond the application instructions. He provided me the sort of advice that really helped to differentiate me from other applicants.
(3) Fully committed to supporting me. He put in the time to advise me on strategy and review my materials.
If you have a mentor like my friend, you are indeed very lucky. If not, you may be able to bring together a group of mentors (professors, friends/colleagues who succeeded at the admissions process, experts in your intended field of study, current students of the school(s) you want to attend, and/or alumni) who provide you with all the support you need.

Alternatively, you may find that your mentor(s) can't provide with all the help you need because
(1) they don't have enough time,
(2) they lack sufficient knowledge about the process,
(3) you are finding that they can only advise you based on their past experience,
(4) your mentors are contradicting one another and you are not sure which one is right,
(5) you want extensive assistance putting your applications together.

Depending on the type of graduate program you are applying to, I think you will find it useful to develop a team of mentors and/or advisers who can support you. Highly experienced admissions consultants can usually provide equivalent support, but even if you use an admissions consultant, I would still get opinions from unpaid advisers.

All applicants: Try to find alumni who has recently graduated and/or a current student to give you insight into each program you apply to. Students and recent graduates are really in the best position to tell you what a school is really like. This is especially important and relatively easy for MBA applicants. In other fields it maybe more difficult, but many schools have graduate students available for applicants to talk with. See my recent post on networking.

For all graduate school applicants in general and PhD applicants in particular: It is often extremely valuable to make faculty contact. Check with the admissions office for each program first before doing so. Those applying to MBA are less likely to use this strategy and depending on the school might be told not to contact faculty. If you contact faculty you had better have an academic topic related to your study plans to discuss with them.

For LL.M. applicants applying to Harvard Law School and most other top programs. You will need to discuss one or more of the legal issues you are interested in studying in a great deal of depth and thus you would be well advised to consult with a lawyer or law professor who has sufficient knowledge in the field you plan to study to assess the depth and accuracy of your thinking. One of my strengths as an LL.M. admissions consultant is that I can help my clients articulate an effective version of their legal analysis in the context of an admissions essay. See here for my LL.M. client results for Fall 2009 admissions.

For those applying to programs where a writing sample or other sample(s) of past work is/are required. Make sure that you have someone in your intended field of study who can assess the strength of your writing sample. Professors and/or professionals in your intended field are ideal for this purpose. While I can evaluate such writing samples from the perspective of their connection to the rest of the application, I am always happy to know that my client had previously asked an expert in their field to review it first.

For those applying to research based programs in the arts and sciences. If possible, have your research plan reviewed closely by a professor and/or other professional in you field who can assess it.

If your mentors can't provide you with the assistance you need, you will need to pay for assistance. Admissions consultants (also known as admissions advisers, admissions counselors, and application counselors, and some even call themselves editors) are one such option.

The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) provides the following excellent summary of what admissions consultants do:
I have been a member of AIGAC shortly after its founding in 2007. I support the intent of the organization as well as the above definition of our role.

Admissions consultants are a mixed group. Typical backgrounds for admissions consultants:
1. Former admissions officers
2. Counseling professionals with degrees or certification in career counseling, social work, and/or a related field
3. Professional educators
4. Individuals with a strong academic pedigree who found they are good at helping others with the admissions process
5. Degree holders for the type of program they provide admissions consulting for

The advice they offer reflects this background: It is mixed. One can’t go to school to become an admissions consultant. It is a trade one picks up. A review of my LINKEDIN profile would reveal that my prior experience in higher education, international education, and test prep gave me a good background for the admissions consulting work I began in 2001. In general, I think you would find that most experienced consultants have a prior work history that similarly prepared them. On the other hand, don't be surprised to see a whole bunch of recently graduated MBAs with no experience in test prep, education, or admissions, becoming admissions consultants. Some will believe that an MBA somehow prepares someone to be an admissions consultant, but as far as I can see this is rarely the case.

Just as their background varies, so does their ability. If you decide to use a consultant, I think the criteria below will help you determine who to work with. Here are some of the characteristics of good and bad consultants:

Good consultants:
1. They will listen to you and provide highly individualized advice.
2. They will understand your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate.
3. They will have a solid set of methods for explaining all aspects of the process to you.
4. They will be totally honest. (For example, when discussing school selection they will provide you with an honest assessment of how your GMAT, TOEFL, and/or GRE scores will impact your chances for admission to a specific school.)
5. They will become engaged with you and your life.
6. They will refine their advice to you as your sessions proceed.
7. They are great at brainstorming and helping you tell your story.
8. They will push you to revise your essays and, if applicable, push you to practice your interviews.
9. They will let you know when they think an application is done regardless of either your expectations or their financial benefit. That is to say, sometimes they will advise working on something more than you think and sometimes less than you expected.
10. They either have or know how to obtain any admissions information that you will need.

Bad consultants:
1. Don’t listen to you.
2. Their advice lacks any depth or specificity.
3. They lack integrity.
4. They will not push you to work hard.
5. They are basically indifferent to you as a person because they just consider it to be their job to review your application materials or prepare you for an interview, which they will do only formally.
6. They don’t have high standards.
7. You will notice that they quickly fail to learn more about you after the first couple of sessions.
8. They have rigid preconceived ideas that they will foist upon you.
9. They are more likely to act like editors than counselors.
10. They seem to lack key information about the admissions process.

You will notice that in my list of characteristics for a good consultant, I did not include years of experience. From my perspective, much of what goes into making a great counselor is everything they did and the person they were before they even started consulting. Of course, a highly seasoned professional is more likely to produce a better outcome than a novice. Someone who starts as a good consultant, can in the course of five to ten years become a great one. Bad consultants rarely improve, but if they survive, it is because they just learned how to effectively game the system.

You will quickly find that admissions consultants are either working as independent service providers or part of a service. The biggest potential differences between hiring an independent service provider and services are as follows:

1. Service structure. Independent consultants, for both good and bad, are not part of larger organizations and hence the level of service you can expect will be personal and is likely to reflect the personality of the consultant. If you are someone who loves rules and regulations, a service is more likely to provide that level of bureaucracy. An independent consultant should be able to provide you with services in a more flexible manner.

2. Changing your consultant. If you eventually discover that you don’t like an independent consultant, there is no company to complain to, and depending on the way you are paying for the service, you may find yourself stuck with the consultant. On the other hand, if you use a consulting service, you will likely have the option of switching to a new consultant. Of course, it may very well be that the new consultant at the consulting service is even worse than the last guy.

3. Choosing your consultant. Obviously if you use an independent consultant, you have chosen that person. On the other hand, if you decide to use a consulting service, depending on your contract, they may have the right to switch consultants on you. If you use service and don’t specify the consultant first, you may also find that the consultant you wanted to meet with is too busy to meet with you because they already have too many clients. BEWARE OF SUBSTITUTIONS! Most successful services have at least one well-known consultant, but since such individuals are a finite resource, not everyone gets to work with the star. Some clients get the other consultants. The other consultants can be great. Or the other hand, consultants can be someone the organization needed to fill a seat because of client demand. If you go with service, don't accept substitutions. Furthermore, if the consulting service does not offer a free initial consultation with the consultant that you want to work with, you should really consider other alternatives.

4. Getting multiple perspectives. One advantage some consulting services have over independent consultants is that they offer clients the possibility of getting the viewpoint of more than one counselor. While this can be quite helpful, it also requires managing the perspectives of multiple consultants, which will likely be less efficient, and may prove confusing. It may also be the case that such services will provide you with multiple perspectives, but none of those perspectives will be very deep because each of their consultants does not know you all that well.

While some services will claim that they have an informational advantage over independent consultants or other rivals, I think this is an increasingly difficult argument to make given the accessibility of free or low cost information.

Ultimately the question to ask is ”Does the consultant have expertise?” No matter whether you use an independent consultant or service, you should really consider that it is the consultant who will be impacting you. Regarding expertise, I think it is mistake to assume that you need to see a consultant who has an academic credential in your intended field of study. Just because someone does not have an MBA, LL.M., PhD in Electrical Engineering, a Masters in Art History,etc. is not inherently a problem. Instead you need someone who has expertise in the admissions process, in listening to you, in helping you tell the most effective story you can, and in helping you present yourself at your best.

First, let me say that certain kinds of editing, seem quite ethical to me and I am on public record for stating that certain kinds of editing techniques are ethical. If by editing, one means making very targeted suggestions to a text or suggesting different ways to tell a story, I think that is ethical. The problem is when editing becomes rewriting.

Editing becomes rewriting when the editor is no longer making suggestions about how the writer should rewrite the text, but is actually doing the writing. It is at this point that the ethical line has been crossed and we are beginning to enter the world of the ghostwriter.


Ethical editing is a part of admissions consulting. It can also be a standalone service. Some applicants might find that they don’t need an admissions consultant, but just an editor.

If you can answer “yes” to the following questions, you don’t need an admissions consultant, but an editor:
(1) I am confident about my overall admissions strategy.
(2) I don’t need assistance with brainstorming my essays.
(3) I don’t need assistance preparing for interviews. (If you are applying for an MBA, you better have someone to practice with.)
(4) I don’t need someone to review my recommendations in any great depth.
(5) I don’t have any substantive questions about the application process.
(6) I am certain that the stories in my essays present me as effectively as possible.
(7) I just need someone to proofread my essays and give me their overall impression of my content. I can handle any substantive changes myself.
(8) I am not interested in going through an examination of my goals and life experiences in order to determine whether the stories I intend to tell in my essay(s) and/or interview are the most effective stories for me to tell.
(9) I have sufficient advice already to succeed at the admissions game.

If you answered “No” to one or more of the above questions, I think you should consider using an admissions consultant if you can afford to so.

It should be absolutely clear that I don’t condone ghostwriting and would never advocate anyone using it. That said, it is clearly something that enough applicants do that it is a recognized problem. As originally reported in the April 7, 2007 edition of The Wall Street Journal:
The problem of ghostwriting is just one part of a larger problem of inauthentic applications.

Not just here in Japan, where I live, but elsewhere I know of counseling services that provide ghostwritten essays. Not only those pursuing MBA, but even LL.M., MPA, MPP, and other degree programs, use such services. I certainly will not name these services. Anyone who wants to find them anywhere in the world can find them easily enough.

I will not provide a lecture on why ghostwriting is unethical. If you are so morally challenged that you find it necessary to cheat to get into school, anything I write will not matter.

For those seeking admission to top programs, I strongly suggest reading The Wall Street Journal article referenced above. In particular consider the following:

Turnitin.com, a Web site that high schools and colleges use to check papers for plagiarism.
The nine-year-old site, which screens more than 100,000 student papers a day, added an admissions-essay service in 2004. Over the last three years, Mr. Barrie says, the site has screened more than 27,000 admissions essays, and found 11 percent included at least one-quarter unoriginal material. Mr. Barrie says about two dozen schools now use the site to check admissions essays; none of the institutions would agree to be identified.

Clearly more and more schools will be using the technology for detecting plagiarized applications.

Now imagine how they will use content analysis software to analyze whether the person who wrote the GMAT, GRE, and/or TOEFL essay, is the same person who wrote the essay(s). While at present, admissions can probably only do this on a case by case basis, the detection tools of forensic linguistics are likely to eventually make their way into the application process.

You may get away with it. I would be dishonest if I said otherwise. I hope I have the chance to revisit this issue again and announce that admissions offices are now routinely eliminating ghostwritten applications using a standardized protocol.

As an applicant, only you can decide what kind of advice you need and who to ask for it. This is a very important part of the process that you control. Think before accepting what anyone tells you.
-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス

If you are looking for a highly experienced admissions consultant who is passionate about helping his clients succeed, please feel free to contact me at adammarkus@gmail.com to arrange an initial consultation. To learn more about my services, see here. Initial consultations are conducted by Skype or telephone. For clients in Tokyo, a free face-to-face consultation is possible after an initial Skype or telephone consultation. I only work with a limited number of clients per year and believe that an initial consultation is the best way to determine whether there is a good fit. Whether you use my service or another, I suggest making certain that the fit feels right to you.

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 カウンセリング コンサルティング 大学院 合格対策
Real Time Web Analytics