Professor of the Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business Chet Borucki gives tips and recomendations to candidates on how to write a strong essay to impress the admissions committee, how to behave in an interview, and what candidates should not to do during application process.
What should be in the resume to impress Admissions?
Admissions staff have to read many files and capturing their attention is essential to make it on the short list to move one’s application forward. How to do so? This pertains to both content and style. You have a personal story to tell to “sell” your “brand” to the “market” or admissions staff, and thus your story needs to be compelling in order to differentiate it from others because there are generally fewer seats in the classroom than the number of applicants. Just as any business selling a product or service, what is your “value proposition”? What are you offering that is attractive such that Admissions staff flag your application as one worthy of further attention compared to someone else’s? Is there a good fit between the applicant’s knowledge skills and abilities, as well as personality, interests and preferences, and the mission of the program and desired profile of the cohort? These are important considerations in Admissions decisions, some of which are identifiable in the applicant’s resume, others through the interview process.
A good resume presents factual verifiable data in a coherent manner that demonstrates the applicant is well-qualified — that he or she has a good academic record, that he or she has a sense of purpose and vision, and that he or she can bring something of value to the classroom that can be shared with others: for example, interesting job-related experience whether international, leadership end team experience whether in the work environment, clubs or sports, professional/personal development, etc., competences or skills, such as earning certifications, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and so forth.
The starting point is all applicants must meet basic application criteria such as an acceptable GPA and perhaps a minimal number of years of work experience and acceptable GMAT/GREor other test scores— but what else stands out about an applicant? What do the letters of recommendations say about the applicant’s experience, competences, potential, and character? Will he or she be a good fit in the classroom, a good team player, and a good ambassador for the program upon graduation? The “science” may be in the objective evaluation of “hard” data such as the GPA and transcripts — the “art” of Admissions decisions is based on the subjective assessment an Admissions Officer has about the potential of the applicant based on a review of all application materials and interview. But to get short-listed for the interview, the resume must leave a good impression with the Admissions Officer — both in terms of content, described above, and in style — there should be no grammatical or spelling errors, and care should be taken as well to manage one’s “image” to ensure that there is no evidence of unethical behavior or unprofessional content on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. It is not uncommon for Admissions staff to conduct “due diligence” to learn more about applicants by reviewing social media websites.
What should candidate do and how he should behave to get noticed?
The screening of one’s resume may provide an indication of a technical fit based on previous academic performance and job-related experience, but there is also the matter of a “cultural” fit with respect to one’s values and those espoused by the school and program, which is equally important. Simply put, professional conduct in all correspondence with Admissions staff is recommended, in both written form and in personal interactions. Applicants should view the admissions process similar to applying for positions in well-regarded companies — for example, would you show up for an interview wearing informal clothing such as jeans with rips in them? As the saying goes, “in life, you only get one chance to leave a good first impression.” If something seems “off” or not right to an Admissions staff member, the poor image left could adversely affect the applicant’s chances for admission, resulting in a decision to eliminate him or her at some stage of the process. Be professional and be courteous in all your interactions with key stakeholders involved — be it those whom you as to write letters of recommendation on your behalf, student representatives who may be asked to contact you as “filtering mechanism” to decide who might be short-listed for subsequent interviews, faculty members and others who may be conducting the interview, and Admissions staff who may have to directly contact you to secure or verify documentation. The behavior you exhibit during the admissions process may be viewed as an indicator of your behavior as a student enrolled in the program, and if the behavior exhibited is such that there may be a sense that you could be a difficult student, that you may not be a good team player, or that your values or conduct are questionable and may cause discomfort in some way, it could adversely affect the admissions decision.
What you defffinitely shouldn’t do during application process?
In addition to what has been mentioned above, do not misrepresent yourself.
Do not fall into the trap of failing to conduct due diligence. Make sure the program to which you are applying fits with your career goals
Do not send “mixed signals” by applying to more than one program within a specific School. In your Statement of Purpose and/or essays, demonstrate that you have a career goal for which the program you are applying is essential for you to realize that goal, how you meet the admissions criteria, and clarify how you can add value in the program to which you are applying.
Do not be careless when applying to many schools by forgetting to change the name of the school in your “template” — it is not unusual for an Admissions staff member to receive an application with an improper identification of the school and program because the applicant did not proof read the application.
Do not exhibit unprofessional conduct, which means you should be courteous and responsive in interactions with Admissions staff and others involved. And if you are invited to an interview, you should be well-groomed and well-dressed, arrive on time, answer questions clearly, and maintain good eye contact with your interviewer.
Do not overlook the possibility that an Admissions Officer may search for you on social medial — which means be careful about the image you wish to portray.
Do not take the application process for granted with a half-hearted effort. Go through several drafts of your Statement of Purpose and/or essays and ask others to comment on the quality of the content as well as grammar and punctuation, especially if English is not your native language.
Have all of the required documentation in order.
Do not ask those who are simply friends and family to serve as your references unless they, too can add value. Be careful in the selection of those whom you ask to write letters on your behalf as these individuals should be able to comment on your past performance, competences, potential, and character as they may be contacted for clarification of what they have written about you.
Do not miss deadlines and ask Admissions staff for extensions!
Of course, following these recommendations is no guarantee for admission to any specific program but doing so just might elevate your chances for successful admission to the program of your choice. Good luck!