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The Growth Mindset and the MBA Leadership Essays

MBA leadershipI am not a very good athlete, so you can imagine everyone’s surprise when I decided to pick up a new sport. I decided to learn to row – not in a traditional rowboat, but in a long skinny shell with two 10-foot oars. It isn’t that hard, except you’ve got to do a few things right or you end up in the water.

But to really enjoy it, at least for me, I had to accept the fact that I was a novice.  And that meant not expecting myself to get it perfect from the very beginning.  As I found myself cursing my inability to square my blades, I realized that my mind was not allowing me to enjoy what should be a serene, zen-like experience.

Mindset
I was guilty of what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls the “fixed” mindset instead of the more constructive “growth” mindset.  Dweck is an authority on things like brain science and learning. In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” she describes the growth mindset as a far superior method for transforming effort into success.  The growth mindset allows you to focus on self-development, self-motivation, and responsibility for results.  A growth mindset keeps you from saying, “I’m a natural-born loser,” and instead saying, “I need to work harder at this.”  In a growth mindset, people are not afraid to make an error, look silly, or show a deficiency.

The growth mindset represents a key leadership characteristic.  It’s no surprise that since 2015, Kellogg’s MBA program has this preface to one of the application questions: Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? 

Dweck’s decades of research are particularly relevant for people aiming for business school.  The growth mindset resonates on a strategic level, considering the personal leadership attributes sought by admissions officers of most business schools. It also resonates on a tactical level, in studying for the GMAT or GRE.

 

The Strategic: Leading
Business schools seek out people with attributes that will make them leaders who will change the world for the better. They are looking for people who don’t give up and see hurdles as a challenge. They want people who can learn from others to improve themselves and their environment.  I worked with one student, now on his way to Wharton, who appeared on the surface to be an all-or-nothing high achiever. At first, he looked like the “typical MBA,” never a good sign. But later, in his application and interview, he mentioned something both disarming and revealing: he never learned to swim. So as an adult, he decided to jump in.  When discussing his recent lessons in swimming, he said “It is never too late for a fervent beginner.” That’s the growth mindset.

The Tactical: Testing
Standardized tests demand a growth mindset. The computer-adapted tests, which give you harder questions if you answer right and easier questions if you score wrong, can send the fixed-mindset student into a failure spiral that will ruin any chances of a decent score.  The growth mindset, however, allows the student to work toward mastery. To put the time and the effort into learning the material and the process.   The growth mindset allows the student to embrace the possibility that skills can be learned (they can), and that sustained effort (and a good coach) leads to accomplishment.  The person with a growth mindset loves to conquer a challenge, while the person with the fixed mindset demands perfection right away.

There may have been a time when business schools were looking only for people with natural-born talent.  But as the world has changed and management science has evolved, MBA  programs want growth-mindset types in their classes. They want people who are willing to try new things, and are prepared to not be perfect the first time out.  They want people who think of themselves as works in progress.

And that’s why learning a new sport (or skill, or technique, or trick) isn’t so bad. I know I was clumsy and got it all wrong with my first attempt at rowing. But no harm done.  I’ll just keep trying until I get it right.

Whenever that may be.

What You Wish You Had Known Before Applying to Business School

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A student I worked with, let’s call her Jennifer, was recently admitted to Wharton (really) and waitlisted at her first-choice school, UC Berkeley. She was also a reapplicant, and has learned While waiting, she agreed to offer advice from the trenches, of one who succeeded in the process. She discusses four issues: staying committed to the goal, receiving feedback, waiting (lists), and financial matters. This is very useful stuff!

 

STAYING COMMITTED
I am so glad that I reapplied. I was rejected from the four top business school programs I applied to three years ago (all without an interview). While it stung to get so little traction in the business school process, I did not take it as a sign that I wasn’t “meant” for business school. Instead I tried to understand the weaknesses in my application and knew that I would try again and do it better. I have learned so much in the application process and am very happy I have even more experience that I can bring to business school when I attend.

RECEIVING FEEDBACK
Get feedback! Make sure the people you are asking have something valuable to add to the process and take the time to listen — better to find two people who will give you great feedback than send your materials to 10 people and listen to no one.

Also, be strategic in your decisions about who you want to use for help in the application process, and seek out those people early on. Make sure you really WANT someone’s feedback before asking for it; I have been on both sides of the equation. Recently, a friend asked for feedback on his essays. I spent a lot of time on his essays and when I returned them it seemed that he hardly looked at my suggestions. He was giving me the essays because he thought that was what you were supposed to do, but had little interest in following up on the suggestions or incorporating feedback.

WAITING FOR DECISIONS AND THE WAITLIST
In terms of my advice for people who have been waitlisted or general feedback for students after they have applied: the most valuable thing I’ve done in my application process is turn every moment I have been frustrated into an opportunity to do something. When I found myself going crazy waiting for one program to get back to me while another waited on my decision, I brainstormed a list of all the things I had accomplished since I applied and wrote a letter to the school where I was waitlisted explaining those accomplishments. I created a campaign fueled by waiting and (sometimes) panic and created something productive. I am so glad I did this, because the time you spend sitting anxiously waiting and checking MBA chat forums is, in the end, not useful (though I did that too).

FINANCIAL ISSUES
Given the calculus course I am taking and other requirements, I have completely neglected to begin financial planning and thinking about the costs and consequences of my decision. I wish I had done this in a systematic way earlier, not only so that I would be better prepared and informed about my choices and responsibilities, but also because finances are an important part of my final decision (for instance, I am trying to make a decision about two programs that cost vastly different amounts of money). Now I am finding myself overwhelmed at the process of tackling everything right now. If I had to do it again, I would start planning and filling out financial aid information earlier and getting the advice of students, faculty, family and others about their tips on going through the process.

This story has been updated since Jennifer graduated – from UC Berkeley Haas, her first-choice school. She turned down Wharton to go to Haas, and has had notable success with the start-up she launched during business school.

This story has been updated since Jennifer graduated – from UC Berkeley Haas, her first-choice school. She turned down Wharton to go to Haas, and has had notable success with the start-up she launched during business school.
Read more at http://www.85broads.com/blogs/betsy-massar/articles/mba-admissions-what-you-wish-you-had-known-before-you-applied-to-business-school#fY1KkXjopQ8d4EK3.99
A student I worked with, let’s call her Jennifer, was admitted to Wharton and waitlisted at her first-choice school, UC Berkeley. While waiting, she agreed to offer advice from the trenches, of one who succeeded in the process. She discusses four issues: staying committed to the goal, receiving feedback, waiting (lists), and financial matters. This is very useful stuff!
Read more at http://www.85broads.com/blogs/betsy-massar/articles/mba-admissions-what-you-wish-you-had-known-before-you-applied-to-business-school#fY1KkXjopQ8d4EK3.99
A student I worked with, let’s call her Jennifer, was admitted to Wharton and waitlisted at her first-choice school, UC Berkeley. While waiting, she agreed to offer advice from the trenches, of one who succeeded in the process. She discusses four issues: staying committed to the goal, receiving feedback, waiting (lists), and financial matters. This is very useful stuff!
Read more at http://www.85broads.com/blogs/betsy-massar/articles/mba-admissions-what-you-wish-you-had-known-before-you-applied-to-business-school#fY1KkXjopQ8d4EK3.99

Am I Too Old to Get Into Business School?

 

If you want to get into a full-time program in at a top business school, then the number of years of work experience WILL be a factor.

Age is one thing — but not the biggest driver.  Still, I get people all the time asking questions like the one I noticed in ClintEastwood_Sept10_1Wharton’s brilliant Student2Student Forum.

I will have 11+ years of work experience this September 2013. My question is, how few are people with more than 10+ years of experience in a Wharton MBA class? I am considering only regular MBA, and executive MBA for the moment is out of consideration for me.

I’m going defer to the noble and diplomatic Victor M. Lee, WG ’11, who has answered as a proxy on behalf of the admissions committee since, well, at least 2011. You’ll take a look at the part I put in bold. Students with over a decade of work experience

really have a lot of explaining to do as to “why now.”

If I had to make a rough estimate, I’d say somewhere around 5% of each class has 10+ years of full-time work experience prior to matriculation.

Personally, I think this may be the wrong way to think about this issue, though. If you are looking for a school that has more people with comparable years of experience for comfort/fit reasons, that is one thing. If you are considering it as a reflection of your likelihood of admission, then I would take issue.

The challenge with more experienced candidates is making sure that they can articulate well why they are now going back to pursue their MBA after some time in at least one career path (presumably). Will they be able to demonstrate that they can effectively recoup their investment both for themselves and for the school? If so, then an application may still be well in order.

Note that that 5% is still a very small number. I discourage students from trying to shoehorn their way into an MBA program that probably isn’t interested in you. Having said that, it can be done, but my betting is that for non-military types, it’s probably worth looking at part-time and executive programs, which, by the way, also offer the same degree: an MBA.

Wharton — One of the Best Business Schools in the World

I had the pleasure of being hosted by the admissions folks at Wharton last week for a full day of education about the MBA program and Wharton bannerexperience. Ankur Kumar, head of admissions, was quite open about the process. The big news is that the team interview is here to stay.  Apparently, feedback from students and from interviewers was extremely positive (although there were teething problems).

Innovation and Learning
As for academics, Wharton has succeeded in showing itself as more than a finance school.  Although indeed 27% of entering students want to go into private equity, and up to 11% of students actually land jobs in that field, the school boasts some specialties that most of us in the room didn’t even know about.

The health care management program is pretty well known (hint: if you are interested in that program, talk to an alumni! That’s their number-one source of students!). But did you know that, of the best business schools in the U.S., they are the only one with a retail marketing program? (the Baker Retailing Center). Interested in data analytics? Especially considering that their top two employers for summer jobs this year were Amazon and Google, the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative is worth digging into.

Great Academics
With the San Francisco campus as an option for second-year students, you’ll probably want to know about the Wharton Entrepreneurship programs. But wait! There’s more! For real estate, Wharton’s the best of the best with the Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center. And now they are just starting up with a Public Policy Initiative, for those interested in the intersection of business and government, focusing on the business side.

It’s an inspiring school, no doubt. I felt like a kid in a candy store.  And if you have any questions, I’m happy to elaborate or introduce you to someone at Wharton who can tell you more about the programs in person.  Just shoot me an email at betsy@masteradmissions.com

 

 

 

Best Way to Learn About MBA Schools: Meet Students

Thank goodness for RSS feeds – saw this note that Wharton has already planned its coffee chats. These events are really useful.

 

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Meet Wharton students in your city this summer!

In the coming months, current Wharton MBA students will be spread across the globe for their summer internships. To take advantage of having so many student ambassadors around the world, Wharton MBA Admissions offers informal ‘coffee chats’ with these students for prospective students to learn firsthand about the Wharton experience and life in Philadelphia.

If you are interested in learning more about the Wharton MBA, register today for a meet-and-greet near you, as space is limited (click on the ‘Coffee Chats’ tab). Additional dates and cities will be added soon.

The students look forward to meeting you

Best Regards,
The Wharton MBA Admissions and Financial Aid Team

Note that sometimes these events are shown as sold out when they are not, so it’s really ok to crash if you cannot sign up. Also, I’ve heard sometimes that some events aren’t well attended at all, so you get some great one-on-one face time with students. These activities are the single best ways to figure out your fit with the school (and vise-versa).