Fascinating MBA Talk of the Week: How to practice effectively...for just about anything (Annie Bosler and Don Greene)

How do you get better at something, whether it's the GMAT/GRE or your interviewing skills? Three answers: practice, practice, practice. The key insight is that the benefit of practice is highly dependent upon its quality -- which is comprised of the "form" you use, its intensity, and the intervals. If you're applying Round 1, now is the perfect time to apply the lessons of the video below in practicing for those interviews.


  • Effective practice targets: consistent, intensely focused, and targets content or weaknesses at the edge of one's ability
  • Focus on the task at hand (putting away facebook and smartphones)
  • Start slowly to get the form right, then increase the speed of the quality repetitions
  • Break-up practice into multiple sessions of limited duration
  • Practice by imagining that you are completing a task can be just as effective as actually practicing!

Fascinating MBA Talk of the Week: Act Like the Leader You Want to Be (Richard Cox)

Now that the HBS Round 1 application deadline passed yesterday, the next step for MBA hopefuls is to prepare for the Admissions Committee interview. There are four kinds of interviews that elite MBA programs use: student (Chicago Booth), alumni (Stanford GSB), video (Kellogg), and Adcom (HBS). Adcom is by far the hardest since you'll be talking directly with a gatekeeper who has already reviewed your applications and will be coming after you with tailored questions to poke holes in your application. In these interviews more an others, presence is a major key.

Our recommendation would be to come off as approachable when you arrive to interview and maintain that demeanor up until the interview. Once you get into the interview room, we recommend an authoritative demeanor. In the lecture below out of Stanford GSB, Richard Cox discusses how to accomplish each.

Richard Cox Lecturer in Management Stanford Graduate School of Business


  • 5 S's for Authority: Slowness in speech, Stillness in head, Silent pauses in speech, Symmetry in posture, and Space (taking it up)
  • 5 F's for Approachability: Filling space, Fast movement, Folded body, Fidgeting, Flirting (inviting others to share space with them)
  • Observe yourself and see how you come across. Filming yourself and attending improvisational acting classes can be a huge help.
  • Think about making a pump-up play-list from your favorite super hero movie to get yourself ready to appear on stage the way you want to

How do I know when my MBA application is finished?


One of the most challenging parts of the MBA application is knowing when your application is finished. Your MBA and the school from which you get it can have dramatic impacts on the future trajectory of your life, so it's easy to overthink every detail. Many applicants agonize for hours over every word choice, signing into the online application portals at all hours to change a word or two, only to change them back a day later. Wouldn't it just be easier if you could determine that you were, in fact done?

When we run a Final Check on application packages, we comb through every detail with the lens that we know the admissions committee will use. That's a little hard for individual students to replicate, but here are some things that you can look for yourself:

1. Is your resume in the template of the target MBA program?

This is a super easy way to fit in, and demonstrate your commitment to the school. Plus, it creates sort of a cognitive dissonance for the adcom to read a resume in their school's template and then reject that student -- essentially causing the document they are viewing to disappear.

2. Does your whole application tie to one simple story?

You are not under oath. You do not have to tell the whole truth, so help you god. In fact, explaining every part of your job, explaining every reason for why you pursued every opportunity, or listing the many divergent career options that interest you will not help your application, but hurt it. Your application is telling a story, and the best stories are simple linear ones. The best story characters are have clear motives and take decisive action. Often the key to telling a great story in your application is not to add things in, but rather to cut out all extraneous details.

It is also important for every part of your application to tell the same single story, from your resume to your recommender. If your essay is all about working in renewable energy, but your resume is all about finance, the adcom might not think that you're all that credible. The easiest decision that the Adcom can make is to not admit you.

3. Have you mitigated your weaknesses?

Your application is an argument and the best arguments bring up the opposing case and offers counter points. Do you have a lower GPA? Find space in the application to explain why that is the case and what you have done subsequently to prove that academics are no longer an issue. Is your work experience less impressive? Then point out all the ways in which your employer, position, client, or projects were impressive. Ignoring your weaknesses is not a winning strategy. The adcom will still see them, they just won't have the benefit of your counter argument.

4. Have you had a second set of eyes? 

One of our most popular options this time of year, with the HBS deadline coming up on September 6th, and both Wharton and Stanford GSB on September 19th, is our Final Check service, wherein we comb through the entire application offering feedback on ways to tighten up and improve your answers, aligning your resume with your essays, and correcting any grammar and spelling errors. For the rest of the Round 1 season, we are offering same day / 24-hour turnarounds. Click the button below to check it out!

Fascinating MBA Talk of the Week: The Worst-Designed Thing You've Never Noticed (Roman Mars)

This week's fascinating MBA talk comes to us from the maker of the Podcast 99% Invisible is a bit of an analogy -- both as an analogy for good design in business and specifically good design in crafting a business school application. Watch it and then consider the applications I suggest in the highlights below.


  • The principles for good flag design - and how they apply to the MBA application
    • Keep it simple (so simple that a child can draw it from memory) - Your application should tell a simple story with a beginning, middle, and end, and you as the hero
    • Use meaningful symbolism, ideally things that play pivotal moments in history - you story should have a theme and cover all the pivotal moments in your life
    • Use no more than 2-3 colors from the major color wheel - choose a few themes, not too many. Sometimes the whole truth can get in the way of a good, truthful story.
    • No lettering or seals, no writing of any kind - here is one departure from the analogy. While good writing will not beat the symbolism and meaning of the prose over your head, we believe that subtly should be minimized in the application.
    • Be distinctive - You want your story to stand out in the mind of the admissions committee. It should easily identify you in some pithy statement (e.g. "That Nigerian education guy")

Fascinating MBA Talk of the Week: What Pixar and Disney know about MBA Storytelling (Steve Jobs)

One question we often get is why Ivy Admissions Group is more efficient at navigating our Complete School Package clients through the admissions application process than other consultants. The answer comes down to our approach to storytelling. Rather than let our clients flail in the wind by having them writing resumes and essays for us to edit and form into a compelling story, we start with a personal narrative and build the entire application around that. In fact, we don't let our clients write a single word of their resume (of course, in the provided template for their dream school) until they complete the Narrative Bootcamp Exercises that comes with all Complete School Packages.

Don't take our word for it. This is the same approach that Steve Jobs took when he made Pixar, a technique that he argues enabled the movie company to have such a long string of smash hits, while other traditional live-action movie companies plod along with their fair share of flops. In this week's fascinating MBA talk, note the approach that he recommends for storytelling and then think about how to apply it in your own application.


  • Traditional movie companies shoot between 10-100x more film than is needed, and then build their movies in the editing room. If they have a flop, they only realize it in the editing room.
  • Because animation is so much more expensive to shoot, it is impossible to produce even 10% more footage than is necessary.
  • To overcome this and ensure a hit, companies like Pixar build minimum-viable products, watching and perfecting their movies at every phase of construction, correcting problems before it comes time to animate.

Last week to purchase Round 1 Packages


Ivy Admissions Group will hit its quota for Round 1 clients this week. The last day to purchase Complete School Packages with the intention of applying Round 1 will be Friday, August 25. After that date we will be happy to work with new clients on their Round 2 and Round 3 applications. We will continue offering Ace the Interview, Final Check, and Conquer the Waitlist services for Round 1, but will reach out capacity for Complete School Packages.

If you are still interested getting expert, low-cost, high-value assistance in crafting that perfect MBA application, please complete the transaction using the link below before Friday.

Fascinating MBA Talk of the Week: How to spot a liar (Pamela Meyer)

The business world requires trust. So how can you tell when someone is lying to you? We seem to be an anti-lying society, but yet we are often complicit in letting lies slide. In this talk Pamela Meyer steps through the sociological underpinnings of deception and ways of identifying it.


  • Lying is a cooperative act, often for the sake of social graces. Lying is an attempt to bridge what we wish we were, with what we are. The key is knowing "what it is you're hungry for".
  • Financial deception eats up to 7% of US company revenues.
  • We lie more to strangers than to coworkers, men lie 8x more about themselves than about others, extraverts lie more than introverts, women lie more to protect other people, married people lit to their spouses in 1 of 10 interactions.
  • Regular people can only tell who's lying 54% of the time. Trained lie-spotters can get to 90% identification.
  • Common hotspots of lying: qualifying language, overly formal responses, too much detail, distancing language
  • Honest people accused of wrongdoing: will be cooperative and enthusiastic in helping you get to the truth, willing to brainstorm and name suspects, will be infuriated throughout the entire course of the interview if they are being falsely accused, and will suggest strict rather than lenient punishment for the real wrongdoers.
  • Deceptive people accused of wrongdoing: will look withdrawn, include way too much irrelevant details, will tell their story in strict chronological order (but will struggle to tell the story in reverse chronological order), and will exhibit "duping delight" (i.e. smiling when they think they are getting away with the deception).

How many people apply to the HBS/HKS Joint Program?


If you majored in political science, are interested in public service, have ever interned for your congressman, or just enjoy reading FiveThirtyEight or Politico, you should consider applying to the joint degree program between Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School -- the three year program that results in both an MBA and a Masters in Public Policy or a Masters in Public Administration in International Development.

It's hard enough getting into one graduation school, let alone two programs at Harvard! Some people may be intimidated by how many people apply to the joint degree program, which routinely comes with prestigious fellowship funding from both PE Juggernaut David Rubenstein and CEO/Philanthropist Bill George.  The schools themselves are pretty tight-lipped about application numbers, but we can back into it with a little math.

If there are about 25-30 Jointees a year, and the yield for the joint program is about 80% then we have 30-38 admitted students per year. (Note: those who don't enroll in the joint degree program almost always enroll in HBS alone. Some choose GSB instead. Everyone else stays in the workforce.)

If HKS admits about half of the prospective Jointees that get into HBS, then there are about 60-75 students admitted to HBS each year expressing interest in the joint program. (Note: a lot of the MBA-minded applicants take the HKS application for granted, which they shouldn't since HKS is more selective than most elite MBA programs.)

If the admissions rate for prospective Jointees is the same as the general HBS applicant pool (11%), then the joint degree program has 545-680 applicants a year.