My Best Practices
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
While I work with every comprehensive client a bit differently depending on their specific situation, the following are the “best practices” (the steps that yield the richest materials within the shortest time) that form my basic approach with every client.
- For your first application, we will choose a school that offers basic questions with longer word/page limits. Basic questions will allow you to establish a foundation of answers common to many schools (e.g., goals, leadership, failure, personal). Long questions will allow you to develop your ideas fully. Traditionally, Wharton and Columbia have been “good first schools,” while HBS, Stanford, MIT, Berkeley and Kellogg have been “bad first schools.”
- We will work on one document (resume, essay, LOR) at a time, one school at a time, especially in the early stages of the application process. Trying to manage multiple documents simultaneously will almost always delay your progress.
- Before you begin writing, I will provide you with detailed, clearly written PDF files explaining the background of each major application document. We follow that up with a thorough discussion, especially on new essay topics, so we can brainstorm, and I can answer any questions, provide examples and suggestions, and point out common mistakes in advance. I want you to be comfortable and have a clear direction by the time you start writing.
- Before we meet and time permitting, I will provide detailed written feedback on your materials about ambiguities and inconsistencies, as well as potential themes to develop, questions to answer, and ideas to explore.
- As soon as we meet, we will begin discussing your materials. I will offer precise critiques along with suggestions and examples for improvement. I try to keep theoretical discussions to a minimum. If we aren’t discussing a specific document, we probably aren’t making the best use of our time.
- Between sessions, we can exchange e-mails freely so I can answer simple questions and provide early feedback on a draft, allowing us to maximize the benefits of our consultation time.
- I edit quickly and cleanly. My average turnaround time is 24-48 hours, even during the busiest times of the season.
- We review/edit your materials multiple times before they are completed. I enjoy discussing my clients’ goals and accomplishments with them, and I want my clients’ essays to reflect not only the facts, but also their insights, values and personalities. Very rarely does all that happen in the first draft. I believe strongly in the saying that, “The best writing is re-writing.” At the same time, I have some basic rules that I ask of my clients so that we don’t fall into the trap of “endless editing.”
By following these practices, my clients see rapid progress from our very first meeting. This progress is important both psychologically and to be able to apply to more schools in earlier rounds.
Sample Weekly Schedule: (assuming fixed meetings on Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Tuesday: (After reviewing background PDF and discussion) You send me your first draft of an essay via e-mail, I send you my early feedback.
Wednesday: We meet via Skype or in-person to discuss and improve the essay. Before we finish, we confirm our respective “homework.”
Thursday-Friday: You research/re-write if necessary and/or I edit. We exchange documents.
Saturday: We meet again to discuss and refine the essay, and begin discussing the next topic.
Monday-Tuesday: The process begins again.
Sample First School Timeline:
It generally takes between one to two months to finish the first application, according to the following breakdown:
Resume – about 1 week
Goals essay – 1 to 3 weeks
Leadership essay – 1 week
Personal essay – 1 to 2 weeks
Letters of Recommendation (if necessary) – 1 to 2 weeks
Application – 1 day
Because we develop your initial materials so thoroughly, each additional school usually requires only 1 to 2 weeks.
I feel my service is not complete unless I train my clients thoroughly for their interviews. For most of my comprehensive clients, this means anywhere from 5 to 20 training sessions, of course at no extra cost. Through my systematic, personalized and intensive training, you can learn to:
- develop a comprehensive interview strategy
- introduce yourself strategically
- answer the most common interview questions clearly, consistently, and concisely
- condense your essays into powerful “one-sentence stories” that can be used in any interview situation
- convert your resume into a rich stock of potential answers
- ask questions that can “break the interview frame” and create a memorable dialogue
- express confidence and manage nerves through good body language
Each session is 50 minutes, broken down as follows:
30 minutes – mock interview
10 minutes – detailed feedback
10 minutes – follow-up practice
For interview training via Skype, I strongly recommend my clients use a web camera. I will record our video call and send you the file so you can review your training at your convenience. Watching yourself interview is guaranteed to improve your performance.
For more information or to arrange a free consultation, please contact me.