This week NYU Stern published new essay questions for 2013 candidates. Below is Aringo's analysis and some tips for answering Stern's questions.
First of all, Stern has very specific instructions for their application- it is important that you follow them all.
Essay 1. Professional Aspirations
(750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)
Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Answer the following:
(a) Why pursue an MBA (or joint degree) at this point in your life?
(b) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern if the best fit for your MBA experience?
(c) What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduations?
In this essay, the AdCom wants to see that you fully understand what it is that you want to do in the future (c) and why NOW is the right time. This means not two years ago, not two years from now, but NOW. This is a good opportunity to highlight the skills that you have gained thus far and the skills that you are still lacking. They basically want to see that you understand why you can't secure position (c) now. It's not just a matter of a piece of paper (the degree) – you are lacking strategic business and leadership skills. Highlight experiences which have helped you realize that you are lacking such skills. It is also important to exhibit an excellent track record, which will guarantee that you are to secure a good job post-MBA.
In the past, part (b) was its own entire essay and therefore it is very important to relate it to it. You should show that you have undertaken thorough research to learn what the Stern community is like, and that you have an idea as to how you will contribute to it. What appeals to you about the curriculum, career opportunities, clubs, professors and student life? Ideally, this means going beyond the standard web-surfing. Reach out to current students and graduates. If possible, visit the school and highlight that you sat in on a class, walked through the campus, etc. You want to be very clear that you know what Stern has to offer which will help you achieve the goals you stated in (c).
Stern is always compared to Columbia and usually loses. Your chances are significantly higher if you are able to convince Stern that they are your first choice and that you will surely matriculate if you are admitted (yield management.) The NYC advantage, cosmopolitan and diverse, works for Columbia as well, so you should do research to highlight aspects which distinguish Stern from Columbia, such as being a more intimate program, more collaborative atmosphere. NYU is definitely all about teamwork. It's very important to show initiative and that you see yourself actively contributing to the school in group settings. In this way community service is also important. Volunteering (ideally from a young age) shows that you are the kind of person that wants to contribute.
It is valuable to highlight access to top companies and executives in NY, both as contacts and as lecturers. Stern also has good relations with Wall Street financial institutions. Furthermore, there is a lot of flexibility with the curriculum - more than half of the courses are electives and students can take up to 25% of courses at other NYU grad schools.
If relevant to your career plan, it is important to note that Stern is one of the few schools with a strong name in Media & Entertainment. In addition, Stern is openly encouraging of career-switchers and offer programs to pair them with mentors from desired industry. However, if you are a career switcher, it should not come out of the blue, it should make sense and not be far-fetched.
For part (c), it's important to be realistic. We have found it to be effective to present very clear and plausible post-MBA career goal. If you can include a position and company that you see yourself working in, that is impressive. It shows that you clearly see your future path and what the MBA can afford you. Tell us why you want to assume this position and what competitive advantage you will have in recruiting for that position.
Essay 2. Your Two Paths
The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact.
(a) Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding?
(b) How do your two paths tie to the vision on NYU Stern's?
(c) What factors will most determine which path you will take?
This is a new essay to Stern and potentially quite a challenging one. Stern is looking for candidates that will shape their community, who possess both intellectual and interpersonal strengths, are highly intelligent, collaborative and committed to flourishing as Stern leaders.
Creativity and sincerity are key here. Assuming you secure that post-MBA job which you discuss in Essay 1, what are the two paths that your career can take? Describe two paths that start from that post-MBA position. Make it logical. One path will probably speak to you above another, so tell us why. By linking your past experience and values, with your newly acquired MBA skills (which fit into Stern's vision), you should be able to talk about two parallel paths and reveal an understanding that each could develop depending on the choices and opportunities that arise, or you seek out, as you fulfill your post-MBA career goal.
Part (b) relates to Stern's vision of "develop[ing] people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society.” Your career goal should reflect this mission, but beyond that you want to share with the committee how you envision creating value for society, beyond your career. Here is the opportunity to reveal what kind of leader you aspire to be and what kind of impact you hope to have, both on society and on individuals who will follow your example.
Part (c) requires great introspection and understanding of how you thrive. What motivates you? In evaluating your future career trajectory, you can highlight those elements/attributes that have helped you on your career path thus far: do you enjoy exceeding expectations, empowering others? This answer can reveal what values are most important to you, and ideally also show the kind of innate leadership skills you possess, thus indicating what kind of future leader you will be.
Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.
The "Personal Expression" essay gets into who the applicant is outside of work. They want cool, unique, diverse people and want to understand who you are as a person. They have received crossword puzzles, works of art, sculptures etc. There is also an option to submit a written essay (500 words, again clear instructions) and such conventional essays seem to be as effective as other, more 'creative' submissions.
In this essay, you should identify the message you want to convey. Try and reveal something new about yourself. What kind of person are you? What makes you tick? Are you passionate about helping others, playing team sports? How would you spend a free day? Tell us about how you may chose to break the ice in a new setting. The idea here is to bring in hobbies, extra-curricular activities and community service that serve an accurate reflection of who you are and the values that are important to you.
[Note some applicants will choose to use the same content for the Stern 'Personal Expression' and the Chicago "PPP" – just make sure to change the name of the school!]
Essay 4. Additional Information (optional)
Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE and/or TOEFL or any other relevant information.
This essay is an opportunity to present explanations for any part of your application that you feel the need to expand upon. It's not a place to present excuses. If you took time off from university to travel, took care of a sick family member, fulfilled your military duties, this is the place to include it. If you are explaining low grades or testing scores, point to elements in your professional experience that can counter them. For example, if you have a low GPA, but this is due to the fact that you founded your own volunteering organization, or start-up company in your 2nd year, then say so. Or if your quantitative GMAT score is low, but you manage large budgets, then share this with the AdCom.
As per the instructions, if you are unable to submit a recommendation from your current supervisor, you must explain your reason in Essay 4. Maybe you are concerned by the threat of being fired, maybe your current manager has only been supervising your work for 5 weeks and is less qualified to discuss your performance and potential. The key here is transparency.
The Aringo Team
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