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Posted January 2, 2011
Okay, here's the scoop. I recently completed my MBA at the Oxford Said School. Although I only applied to one school and got accepted (my first choice), I studied the admissions "game" of a few other top schools, purchased some half dozen admissions books, went to several b-school promotional seminars, drafted MBA essays, and made numerous visits to MBA school websites. So, for what it's worth to other readers, I'll state my case. I gave a five-star rating to "Secrets to Getting into Business School" because I feel it is the highest quality book in the market. Probably what made the book a genuine pleasure is that it is so distilled. The author avoids the vacuous writing style that shrouds many other books. A good example occurs in Chapter 2, Frequently Asked Questions, when he answers the question: "Is it better to apply early rather than late?" He states that, in general, earlier is better but says that it is not categorically correct to say "early is better than later". This is due to three different theories about the potential advantages and disadvantages of each of the three rounds. The advantage of round #1 is "vacancy" theory (lots of spots); the disadvantage of round #1 is "eager beaver" theory (i.e., strongest candidates may apply early). The advantage of round #2 is "middle-of-the-road is best" (i.e., avoids round 1 and 3); the disadvantage of round #2 is either "vacancy" theory (some spots are gone) or "theory of the diverse candidate". Round #3 may be advantageous due to the "theory of the diverse candidate" (i.e., truly diverse candidates may be favored in round 3 best because ad com members are always looking to tweak diversity), but obviously this round is disadvantageous because of the "vacancy" theory(i.e., most spots are gone). This is only one of many examples of crisp writing. Also, the book contains the best overall sample essays including some truly cool, longer, meaner sample essays written by determined candidates. As stated in the book, shorter rather than longer essays are the current trend in b-school admissions, but the longer essays are better for studying how content and style are used to craft essays. The book's 10th and final chapter on "Packaging Your MBA Essays and Application" is very useful because it contains a slew of information about editing your application essays. Topics include: Tips for Writing Smart, Grammatical Gremlins (diction), Using Readability Tools, American English vs. British English, and Editing Touch-ups. (The "for example" technique works like magic to help you avoid vague writing.) I did not find these topics covered in any other MBA admissions book. The author is a professional writer so he really gets the nuance of language. In terms of other books, I can also recommend Richard Montauk's "How to Get Into the Top MBA Programs". It's a big book that appears to be quite popular as it's on its 5th edition. My overall criticism is that he doesn't have as distinctive a writing style and tends to waffle (he was a consultant in his past life!). "Your MBA Game Plan" is a solid book that does a good job of covering the MBA application components. Paul Bodine's "Perfect Phrases for Business School Acceptance" is a light book that you could take on an airplane and will get you thinking about the writing of your essay; his "Great Application Essays for Bu
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