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Ask Precision Essay

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Ask Precision Essay

Post Tue May 03, 2011 12:30 pm
Forgive us folks--a little late to the party here at Beat the GMAT.

We have been working closely with clients seeking to gain admission to elite MBA programs since 2006. I graduated from Harvard Business School in 2005, and after a career in corporate real estate (buying some deals on my own, and launching Precision Essay) we have become specialists in the game--especially working with folks from international backgrounds. Folks with real estate backgrounds are very comfortable working with us as well, given my personal career experience (Brown University, ING Real Estate, HBS, Trammell Crow Residential.)

I founded the company with Raj Patil, who is a USC Film School graduate. His penchant for storytelling, and mine for business has led to an extremely unique process that works.

At Precision Essay, I work personally with all our MBA mentors--all top-10 guys--and our Deluxe clients actually work with TWO MBAs beyond me. Thats right--we dig...deep.

Anyway, plenty of time for all that.

In the meanwhile, it is good to be here. I am happy to answer any questions that arise--just say the word.

And as always, good luck.

Need free GMAT or MBA advice from an expert? Register for Beat The GMAT now and post your question in these forums!
Post Thu May 05, 2011 4:53 pm
Hey gang. Just got off the phone with a client and I thought it'd be a great chance to share some of the details (anonymously of course) of our chat.

Let's talk about what happens to folks who are juuust a bit older than the schools' median age. Or rather, "what can I do if I am in my thirties, and applying to bschool?"

The answer...is lots of stuff. But let's talk about just three ideas shall we?

1. Make it clear that you're willing to roll up your sleeves. One of the things that adcoms fear is that the older guys out there are "beyond" rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work. You're used to the younger guys doing all the dirty work. The number crunching. The nitty gritty. So PROVE through your essays that you are UP for doing that work. You arent "above" anything--you're eager to dig...and to dig DEEP.

2. Make it clear that you are not at a dead end job. Another adcom fear is that you 're applying late because...your career didnt take off the way you had hoped. And now, you are throwing a "hail mary," if you will. You have no choice but to apply to an MBA, even though it is late in the game. Make it clear that this isnt the case! Explain that your career is going VERY well, and you are VERY pleased. But you still need this extra kick. It's like you're trying to get the girl to like you--flex your muscle. Your...plumage, if you will. Be confident, not pathetic.

3. Apply to appropriate schools. Some schools--especially many great programs in Europe--specialize in older applicants. Some schools even in the US prefer applicants with a couple extra years--Cornell for example, has sent countless emails to young applicants that they reapply after they have been "seasoned" juuuust a bit. Tuck, Cornell, IMD, IESE...do the research gang. Apply to schools that are open to folks who are a couple years older than average.

Hope this helps my friends. And good luck!

Post Sat May 07, 2011 6:00 am
What is up guys. We were recently asked by a magazine in Asia to write a list of tips on "how to get into HBS." : )

I figured what the heck--since Im an HBS grad perhaps I have the credibility to pull it off. So from the top ten list, here are numbers 1-2, again geared towards Asian applicants especially. Hope this is helpful...

1. Be realistic about your profile. GMAT. TOEFL. Age. All these are critical pieces to the puzzle, and there are SO many people from China especially (not to mention India, Taiwan, South America, Canada, etc.) vying for a precious few openings that there is little room for error. The sad fact of the matter is that there can be no weakness. Let’s do the math together. HBS has 900 slots every year. 600 go to US citizens. That leaves 300 slots for the ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD! Holy mackerel, that isn’t many slots is it? Let’s keep crunching numbers (we do crunch some numbers at HBS, thank you!) So 150 to men and 150 to women. 150 men from AROUND THE WORLD will attend HBS. How many are applying, do you think? Well, 11% are accepted. But…if you are in the US, your number is WELL above 11%. If you are a Chinese man, for example, your percentage is well below it.

Your profile needs to be just right. Your GMAT simply has to be above 700. And of course, the higher the better. You NEED to have done well in school. Your TOEFL NEEDS to be 105, and likely 110. You cannot be over 30 years old. There is very, very, very little room for weakness folks. Plain and simple. If your profile doesn’t fit these categories, the HBS app likely isn’t worth your time.

2. Demonstrate expertise and/or mastery. Let’s start with expertise. Are you a PhD in astrophysics? Are you a successful real estate developer? What are you an expert in? This can be a HUGE benefit to your application. Why? Well think about it from HBS’ perspective; you are already an expert in something. When you graduate from HBS you won’t be starting from scratch. Very important. You are that much further ahead of everyone else.
Don’t have a PhD? Still a bit of…a generalist? No problem, we can fix that too-lets think about mastery. Have you achieved some great things in your life? Ever sing at Carnegie Hall? Ever play pro tennis? Ever achieve something…very unusual? We like mastery. We love expertise. Prove to us that you have what it takes to put your mind something, to work hard at it, and achieve something great. HBS will reward you for it.

Hope this is helpful my friends. Stay tuned next week for numbers 6-10, as we help you gain admission to HBS. Take it from me, I’ve been there both personally, and through countless Chinese clients every year…

Post Mon May 09, 2011 5:38 am
Okay gang, here are two more entries from the article we just wrote for a magazine in China. Ten tips on how to get into HBS. Easy, right? : )

3. Leadership, leadership, leadership. Every school likes different types of people. CBS likes future Wall Street titans. Haas like the creative types. And at Yale, everyone wants to change the world. But eeeeveryone loves a leader.

This is even more true at HBS. HBS is all about leadership-just look at their Mission Statement. “We educate leaders who make a difference in the world.” HBS is all about leadership. If you don’t have an app that reflects this…you will need to write it again. Leadership is critical for an HBS application; prove to us that you have this background already, and at HBS they will see the opportunity to develop a leader who will, well, “make a difference in the world.”

4. HBS accepts people, not profiles. If all you have written about in your application is your work experience, you are in trouble! Schools don’t accept profiles; profiles are boring. Profiles don’t inspire people. People inspire people, or at least they can. For every three stories about your work, there should be one about some kind of personal accomplishment. Show who you really are. Especially for Chinese clients, it is so easy for American adcoms to write Chinese candidates off as “very technical.” Or “well he doesn’t have the soft skills.” So beat them to the punch! PROVE to admissions committees that you are more than just a perfect quant section on the GMAT. Get personal. One thing we tell all our clients, is that if you can show all your applications to your friends without being embarrassed, your writing isn’t personal enough.

There ya have it. One more entry from this article gang, then we're back to answering questions from the peanut gallery. Stay tuned...

Post Wed May 11, 2011 6:36 pm
Okay folks, here is the last piece we had written for the Chinese magazine article. Nothing earth shattering (and we will go back to answering questions next) but thought you'd all appreciate it. Have a look gang.

5. Show your international perspective. Again, put yourself in the shoes of an admissions committee. Americans (wrongly) assume that many international applicants (Chinese applicants especially) have never left China. They don’t have an international perspective. And in fact, nothing could be further from the truth! So many of our Chinese applicants are world travelers (working for US-based companies by the way), and very sophisticated. So don’t let admissions people misjudge you. Again, we want to beat admissions committees to the punch here, and put our most sophisticated, most cosmopolitan, most international foot forward! This is critical.

And this goes beyond just “global” concerns. Adcoms are worried that international students (especially Chinese) may have trouble adapting to the US-to the multicultural scene, the Indian food, the Irish pubs, the different styles, having to talk regularly in class due to the case method, etc. It is critical to show that you have a global (if not US-based) perspective. You are open, you are accepting, you are liberal, you are international, you aren’t shy-you will NOT be stereotyped. You are a modern man, out doing deals in D&G. You are a classy woman, wheeling and dealing with the best guys out there (if not better than them).

Good luck!

Post Fri May 13, 2011 2:33 pm
What is up my friends. Today I want to change gears juuust a bit.

Today I got an email from a former sectionmate at HBS. He says, "Hey Jon, I am looking to buy some multifamily properties in Minnesota just as you have done in Chicago. Would you be interested in helping out, or perhaps investing?"

After you graduate from bschool gang, no matter where you go, you will get emails like this. So why is this worth relaying?

Because of how I responded. And because of how YOU will respond.

"Yeah man, I would LOVE to invest in the deal. Id also love to fly out there (a quick flight) to help you find the right deals." It is truly a PLEASURE to help people.

The point of going to great schools isnt so you can "network," and work with others "to get ahead." It is to HELP people. Beyond Precision Essay, I have bought a number of multifamily deals here in Chicago--and whether or not I choose to invest in my classmates' deals, I would LOVE to help the guy get his feet wet in the business. It will be my absolute pleasure to help him.

That is the REAL reason we go to bschool guys--to help people. Not to get ahead, not to make money--all these things will click into place naturally, if you go to bschool, meet some good folks, and do all you can to help them succeed.

And that's one to grow on...

Post Wed May 18, 2011 8:17 pm
Spring is in the air gang. How do I know this? Well, I live in Chicago and we are being FLOODED WITH RAIN. But Im not complaining--I am a fan of the Windy City, even on nights like tonight (flooded, and still healing from a nasty Chicago Bulls loss.)

Why are we talking about rain and puddles? Because of REFLECTION gang. (Bear with me). Successful applications are all about the process of reflection.

You have two choices in your apps.

1) Tell the adcoms what they wanna hear. This can work--especially if you're working with someone who has done thousands of apps. We need to connect our past experiences to our future goals, SHOW me dont tell me, blabla. You know the drill--a smart consultant can guide you to tell the adcoms precisely what they wanna hear.

But here's a novel idea:

2) Tell the truth. Wait for it to frickin POUR rain, look into a puddle and see your own reflection. What do you see? Schools want to know the REAL you. They accept PEOPLE, not profiles. They want to see that you are mature enough to admit your faults, smart enough to admit you dont have all the answers, and flawed enough to have made mistakes--and to learn from them.

Tell the truth, gang. If you speak from the heart, and if you tell a compelling, logical story, you wont need a consultant. Your honesty will win the day.

Hope this helps--and good luck to everyone.

Post Fri May 20, 2011 9:16 pm
Hey gang, Jon Frank here--your friendly neighborhood bschool consultant.

Today I wanna talk about an oldie but goodie...REAL ESTATE. As many of you know, before founding Precision Essay I worked at a number of Real Estate firms in both finance and development (ING and Trammell Crow Residential, to name a few.) And the world today looks...a bit different than it did when I applied and got into HBS.

So lets get into the most pressing question of the bunch: why should real estate guys get MBAs, and not other degrees? After all, many folks have argued (on these forums especially) that other, newer programs are best--MSRE programs, etc.

Well, I believe that all Real Estate business professionals should get MBAs, and NOT these other, newer degrees. Let me list three reasons why:

1. Network. Since graduating from bschool, I have done a number of multifamily deals, and I have raised money from my HBS friends. NONE of them are in real estate! After all, all the real estate guys I know are trying to raise money themselves. You should try to meet as many different types of people as possible--THESE will be your investors. If you just meet fellow RE developers...you will be strapped for cash when it comes time to raise money for your deals.

2. Real Estate is easy. You will learn eeeverything you need to know on the job. : ) Finance formulas, how to calculate returns, how to find good sites, etc. You simply DONT need to take RE classes in grad school to learn the stuff. Take it from me--at HBS there was just one RE class total. : ) Instead, focus on marketing, leadership, operations--all things that WILL come in handy, especially as a developer.

3. You may not even do real estate. I mean, right? Who the heck knows what the world will look like in 3 years--and where your passion may lead you. You may even found the next Precision Essay (if you arent careful). Hedge your bets gang, get a degree that will suit you no matter where you find yourself. An MBA is extraordinarily flexible, and for your money, that is the smartest bet.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

Jon Frank

Post Sun May 22, 2011 3:36 pm
What is up guys. Jon Frank here, your friendly neighborhood CEO of Precision Essay.

I just got off the phone with someone who had worked with a "new" consulting company last year, and it was...eye opening. She hadnt been accepted, and one of her buddies recommended her to us. One aspect of the conversation tho was suuuper interesting. And I wanted to share. : )

This girl explained that she'd been taught that the key to bschool apps was "the essays;" that is, how good her writing is. In fact folks, you are of course not being graded on your writing. If you are a foreign candidate especially, you are certainly not being graded on your grammar, or whether or not you can "pass for a native speaker." In fact, some of our friends in adcoms (as I have posted previously) have become VERY wise to the phenomenon of "foreign candidates hiring Americans to write essays for them." Oh no! A recipe for disaster, more and more every day.

So what is the take-home message?

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN A BUSINESS SCHOOL APPLICATION IS YOUR WORK EXPERIENCE. What have you achieved? What skills do you have? Have you been successful? Do you have a good plan for the future, that ties to your past? That is the most important thing. Period.

So THEREFORE, the essays ARE important. Not because you are being graded on "how good a writer you are," but because the essays are the only chance you have to explain your WORK EXPERIENCE. Get it?

Phew. Hope this makes sense folks. Chatting with this girl made me sad. Hopefully, we can spare other folks the same fate...

Good luck to everyone!

Jon Frank
Founder, Precision Essay

Post Tue May 24, 2011 7:43 pm
What is up gang. I was asked a question on a different (Asia-based) forum, and I thought it would be useful for everyone to read. Some details have been changed to protect the innocent...

Hey Jon, I am wondering abt my low gpa. I recieved a big operation in my third year of uni, so my acedemic performance was effected a lot. I am soooooo worried about my GPA. I will definitely write the optional essay when Im applying for MBA, but my frds who are studying in the States told me this wont help that much. That makes me very panic.......

Another questions is which job offers I should take. Im graduating from uni. in about one month. Im currently having 2 job offers. Both companies are international traders. One offers me a position in marketing, the other one offers a position in finance. Which job offer is better for my future application to MBA, marketing or finance? btw, I am a math student in the uni.

I will really appreciate ur help! Thx!

Hey there-yes, the Optional Essay is very tricky to write. If you don’t do it right (if it is too long, too apologetic, making excuses, etc etc.) then it wont help you at all! But if you handle the thing correctly, it is the best (and only) way to make red flags in your application…go away entirely!

Now, in terms of which job to take…either can be just fine. Marketing is a bit “softer,” so if you are sure that you will be applying to bschool you will have to prove a bit more carefully that you have some strong financial, business skills. But it could also work in your favor-fewer marketing folks are applying than finance folks-especially from China.

I would look at it this way-which job would give you more responsibility? Which would give you a greater chance to show your skills, and achievements in your essays? THAT is the one to take, the one where you will take on greater responsibility, and where you will thrive. Good luck my friend!

Post Fri May 27, 2011 6:26 am
What is up folks. I figured, it's time to...STIR THE POT just a bit.

Here is question we were just asked on a different Forum--and I thought everyone might be able to benefit from the response:

Hi, Jon!

I want to move to commodity trading after mba, does there any good program meet this requirement? I cant seem to find any schools with this specialty in my online research...

Thanks in advance !

Hello there. Yes, certain programs are more known for trading than others. And to be sure, since so much commodity trading in the US happens in NYC, and some in Chicago, CBS, Stern, and Booth are logical choices for you. But.

In terms of selecting programs, there are countless considerations. If I had to generalize though, I would say the following: GO TO THE BEST SCHOOL YOU CAN GET INTO. You can drive yourself batty researching who has the best commodities program, who has the best X program, where Professor Y teaches etc--at the end of the day, go to the best school you can get into. If you can get into Harvard, go there. Stanford? Go there. Columbia? Go there. All schools have strong financial presences (especially Columbia and Wharton) but all that doesn't really matter.

Go to the best school you can get into. Period. Niiiice and simple for ya. : ) Make sense? From the best school, you will have the best contacts to go…pretty much wherever you want.

Hope this helps gang, and good luck!

Post Sun May 29, 2011 7:59 am
Okay gang, today we're gonna talk about road trips. We have been working through the weekend for a change, and read a TON of boring MBA apps. J term stuff, European school stuff...and all these folks are soooo focused on work.

Work, work, work. Yaaaawn.

What about something...personal? Something about your personal quest for soul seeking? What about the time that you found yourself, while on a roadtrip harvesting Kiwi Fruits in Guam?

Schools dont accept PROFILES gang, they accept PEOPLE. You need to describe your JOURNEY. You need to describe what you are PASSIONATE about. Stanford is the only school that asks it point blank, but if you arent inserting that piece into ALL of your apps...you're doing it wrong.

So think back to that road trip that you took. Think about the most important moments in your life--even if they took place while bent over rice paddies in your uncle's uncle's farm.

THAT is what makes applicants into PEOPLE, and not just profiles.

Happy Memorial Day my friends.

Post Tue May 31, 2011 7:19 am
Wahoo! Another day, another batch of new MBA consultants posting. : ) Such is the life we have chosen, I suppose.

Today folks, I want to talk about perhaps the SINGLE MOST COMMON APPLICATION MISTAKE THAT WE SEE. Thats right, I dont know that I have EVER seen an app from a first time client who doesnt make the following mistake.

"I worked closely with my supervisors and team, and four weeks later we had worked together to beat our previous sales record by 64%."

Seems innocent enough, right? I mean golly, homeboy has even included some nice SPECIFICS here--how much he has increased his company's sales by.

But here's what he didnt do: he didnt explain HOW he did it. What, specifically, did you actually DO? If you dont explain the steps that you took, the actual phone calls you made, HOW you managed up, how you managed down, etc., the adcom will have NO idea what skills you have. No idea what you will bring to the school. Worse, yet, they may have no idea that you're even...telling the truth. : ( Oh no!

Here's the better version of the same sentence:
I picked up the phone and called my boss--I knew I would need his help, if I was going to get this change approved company-wide. After I walked him through my figures, he agreed to call the Regional VP to join us in a meeting the next day. That meeting was also a success; I walked these two superiors through a PPT presentation I had done, which ended in my asking for a company-wide memo to be sent. One week later, it was sent out, my changes were incorporated, etc etc."

You get the idea. SHOW us what you actually DID gang. Thats the key. Show us HOW you did it. If you can do that--and practically NONE of our first time clients do--you are way ahead of the game.

As always, good luck.

Post Thu Jun 02, 2011 8:54 pm
Wow gang--anyone else watch that basketball game this evening? Any NBA fans out there? If not, that's okay. I'll make it suuuuper easy for anyone to understand. And as always trust me, the game's relevance will make sense shortly. : )

So for those of you who missed it, Lebron James and the Miami Heat were kicking some MAJOR butt, and they were up by 16 points in the final period of the game. I for one assumed that theyd win for sure! But what happened? Dallas came back, and won the game in the last 24 seconds. Down from a 16 point lead in the 4th, under the leadership of their star Dirk Nowitzki.

Now, what can we learn from all this? PLENTY. Here are three lessons from tonight's NBA game worth applying to, well, our applications.

1) Play to your strengths. Dallas called the same play not once, not twice, but THREE times in a row. Sure different players got the shot, but it was the pick and roll, time and time again. And of course, Dirk hit some HUGE buckets as always down the stretch. So play to your strengths folks. If you have an accounting background, dont pretend that you have the chops to be a management consultant. Talk about your technical prowess, your financial skills--play to your strengths.

2) Dont give up. What were the chances that Dallas would come back? SLIM folks. But they took their chances, they left it all on the court, and they GAVE IT A SHOT. You wont get into HBS if you dont try--if you arent scrappy and fighting for EVERY INCH of this thing, fighting for your interviews, visiting campuses, sending updates every few weeks, you wont pull the game out at the last minute. Never give up.

3) Dont let mistakes get you down. Did anyone else notice that shot that Jason Terry gave up to the Heat in the last minute? It was, well, gross. A MAJOR lapse in judgment on his part. But what did he do? He went back to the other side of the court, and did his part. You WILL make mistakes in your apps folks, and you will have red flags and challenges in your apps. Schools expect this--but you need to learn from them, admit them, and move on. By admitting your weaknesses, you show schools your maturity. So dont be afraid, be...honest.

Hope this helps guys, go Dallas, and good night.

Post Sat Jun 04, 2011 7:47 am
Hey gang--a neat question from one of our friends in Asia. Thought I'd share it for the benefit of the team...

Hi Jon, thanks for your continue support for all of us in China! I got an admit to Wharton, Columbia and LBS and struggling among three. All are great programs but as an international student, which one would you suggest me to enrol? I 'd want to have career switch to Finance upon graduation am wanna to work in Wall Street/UK Finance hub for few years before heading to Hong Kong. Thanks a lot fr your kind advice.

Hey there! I love questions like this…mostly because they are eeeeasy to answer. So conventional wisdom of course is that youre gonna wanna go to Wharton--it has the best reputation of the bunch. Some might argue that LBS has as good a rep...but most wouldnt. Now, there is ONE exception here, which might actually pertain to you dude. If you are 100% positive that you wanna stay in London when you graduate, go to LBS. Their network is second to none (even Wharton's) if you wanna be in the UK. And in today's economy especially, the network is more important than ever before. However, if you 100% wanna stay in the US--or even China, or any country outside Europe for that matter, go to Wharton. An amazing program, for sure.

Easy. That’s it my friend. CBS is a great school, but the others are better given your goals… GOOD LUCK AND CONGRATS!

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