2016 – 2017 NYUStern MBA Essay Analysis & Deadlines

I Intro & NYU Stern Deadlines
II How have NYU Stern’s MBA essays changed this year?
III 2016 – 2017 NYU Stern MBA Essay Analysis

I Intro & NYU Stern MBA Deadlines

This MBA essay analysis is for the NYU Stern MBA 2015-16 application season. When the 2016-17 application goes live (June of 2016) this page will be updated.

NYU Stern is currently ranked 11th among top US Full-time MBA programs by US News. Over the course of many free evaluation calls with perspective applicants, I’ve noticed that Stern (like Columbia) tends to attract a disproportionate number of applicants who don’t live in the US (understandably because when these candidates imagine living in the US, NYC is a top destination). If you are an international (or living in the NYC metro area) be sure that you’re applying to Stern for the quality of its program and community, first and foremost.

The Stern Adcom is adept and discerning an interest in Stern from an interest in NYC.

NYU Stern Studentsv2

NYU Stern Full-time MBA Application Deadlines 2016-2017

2016-2017Round 1Round 2Round 3Round 4
NYU Stern Full-time MBA Application DeadlineOctober 15, 2016November 15, 2016January 15, 2017March 15, 2017
NYU Stern Full-time MBA Interview Invitations released on or beforeDecember 15, 2016February 15, 2017April 1, 2017June 1, 2017

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II How have NYU Stern’s MBA essays changed this year?

Looking to start writing your 2016-17 essays before Stern’s official essay release date in June? Based on fxMBAConsulting’s analysis there is a VERY HIGH PROBABILITY that Stern’s essays will remain the same from last year to this year. Therefore, it’s a relatively safe bet to begin working on your 2016-17 essays prior to the official release date using the essay questions from the previous application year.

It’s interesting to look at Stern’s MBA essay prompts from past years because I think it gives you a sense of what the Adcom values and what they might be interested in hearing about from candidates. Stern strikes a nice balance by requesting a more traditional Why MBA? Why Stern? Career Goals essay and also allowing students to share their unique perspectives and experiences via a creative, open-format essay. Among MBA programs, Stern has perhaps the longest-running tradition of asking students to describe themselves to their classmates (they’ve been doing it since 2003) and allowing them to do so via whatever medium they choose. Currently that essay can take on any format (audio, video, pdf, physical submission).

Common MBA essay themes that emerge over the years at NYU Stern include:

  • Career Vision & Why an MBA?
  • Why Stern?
  • Discerning an applicant’s knowledge of the Stern community and what about the community and its resources the applicant finds appealing
  • Introducing oneself to fellow classmates in a creative way

Class of 2011-2014: 

1. Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Describe the following (750 words): (a) What choices have you made that led you to your current position? (b) Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life? (c) What is your career goal upon graduation from the NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal?

2. We take great care to shape the Stern community with individuals who possess both intellectual and interpersonal strengths. We seek individuals who are highly intelligent, collaborative, and committed to flourishing as Stern leaders. Please answer the following questions (500 words): (a) What is your personal experience with the Stern community? Tell us what actions you have taken to learn about us. (b) Describe what most excites you about Stern from both an academic and extracurricular perspective. (c) How do you anticipate making your mark on the Stern community? Be specific about the roles you will take on and the impact you hope to achieve.

3. Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

Class of 2015-2017

During the 2012-13 application year (Class of 2015) Stern condensed essays 1 and 2 into essay 1 which covered the Why MBA? and the Why Stern? questions. The Adcom created a new essay 2 focused on getting applicants to elaborate on different career options and how they would leverage Stern to get there. Presumably this was due to the recession (which began in 2009) and its impact on job opportunities for Stern students. This was a move on the part of Stern’s Adcom to ensure that it’s rate of graduating MBAs with jobs 3 months post-graduation remained high (or as high as possible).

1. Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font) (a) Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life? (b) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience? (c) What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

2. Your Two Paths (500 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font) The mission of the Stern School of Business is to develop people and ideas that transform the challenges of the 21st century into opportunities to create value for business and society. Given today’s ever-changing global landscape, Stern seeks and develops leaders who thrive in ambiguity, embrace a broad perspective and think creatively about the range of ways they can have impact. (a) Describe two different and distinct paths you could see your career taking long term. How do you see your two paths unfolding? (b) How do your paths tie to the mission of NYU Stern? (c) What factors will most determine which path you will take?

3. Personal Expression Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative. If you submit a non-written piece for Essay 3 (i.e., artwork or multimedia) or if you submit Essay 3 via mail, please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application.

Class of 2018

During the 2015/16 application year Stern trimmed down its essay set and eliminated the Two Paths essay – presumably because the economy has been improving. 

1. Professional Aspirations (750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font) (a) Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life? (b) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience? (c) What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation?

2. Personal Expression Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative. (500 words for a written essay, 5 minutes for a video or audio file)


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III 2016 – 2017 NYU Stern MBA Essay Analysis

Essay 1) Professional Aspirations: Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life? What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience? What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation? (750 word maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font)

Essay 1 is the most important essay you will submit at NYU Stern. You’ll understand why that is after you read the analysis for Essay 2. Essay 1 is a traditional Why MBA? Why Stern? Career Goals essay – so for the time being let’s focus on how you can nail it.

The NYU Stern Adcom has two goals a) to select the best applicants; and b) to balance the skills, aptitudes,backgrounds, and experience of the incoming MBA class. Any top 20 MBA Adcom can take half of the applications it receives and throw them in the garbage right off the bat because the applicant doesn’t meet the baseline criteria. Some of these include ‘insufficient work experience,’ ‘lackluster recommendations,’ ‘low GMAT/GPA,’ ‘too old,’ and so on. For the Adcom that’s the easy part. The challenge is in what to do with the other half of the applications – the ones that aren’t in the garbage. The Adcom needs to distinguish the super-excellent candidates from the merely excellent ones. The truth is, if the Adcom were to take the academic and file data from all competitive candidates with ‘good numbers’, ‘good jobs’ and proven attributes, and compare them all with each other, they would all be astonishingly similar.

Why am I mentioning this? I’m mentioning this because Stern’s Essay 1 is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to the Adcom that you have a clear understanding of where you’ve been, where you’re going and the internal logic that unifies your story’s point a with point b.  Why MBA? Why School X? Career Goals essays like this one always give the Adcom a filter through which your whole application will be read. The way you connect the dots in your life story, will give the Adcom a framework to make sense of the rest of your application. Adcoms are always worried about their job placement rate post-MBA and Stern is no exception. Don’t approach this essay thinking that an MBA is an opportunity to ‘explore’ career options. People are allowed to do that when they’re 18 or 20 and in undergrad. By the time you’re 26, 28, 30+ the expectation is that you have your act together.

An easy way to structure this essay is to answer the three questions in the following order (as opposed to the order in which Stern poses them). I’ve included some examples of copy from a generic Why MBA/Career Goals essay for your reference.

Part 1) Why pursue an MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life?  What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation? 

Your Past: Think about the main drivers that have influenced your decisions to date. Is there a common theme, interest, preference or passion that underlies any of the following: a) your decision to major in X at university? b) your decision to live in a particular area? c) the thought process behind choosing your first few professional roles or employers? d) personal qualities or interests that have been the driving force behind promotions or achievements at work?

After six years and two promotions at COMPANY A, I was looking for a role with greater responsibility and new opportunities for professional development. I chose to join COMPANY B, as a Market Maker in YEAR. At COMPANY A I had cut my teeth and honed my sales skills by leveraging my group’s pre-existing rolodex of financial service clients. In contrast, at COMPANY B, the heart of the Market Maker’s role was to actually grow the client rolodex by identifying, building relationships with and on boarding C-suite executives from completely new organizations. I wasn’t selling pre-packaged IT solutions to known clients, instead I needed to understand COMPANY B’s technological capabilities, think laterally to identify potential clients and propose a course of action that would positively impact their bottom line.

Since joining COMPANY B, I’ve received a promotion and am currently the youngest Head of Sales within the organization. I’m constantly exposed to how IT has leapfrogged from a secondary consideration for executives to the center of whole business models. I’ve developed professional relationships with Partners at Private Equity and Buy-out firms by helping them streamline operations at their portfolio companies through my knowledge of IT shared-service models. Oftentimes these projects allow PE firms to half their operational costs. Further downstream, those savings are reinvested into innovative projects and product development at their portfolio companies.
– Generic Why MBA/Career Goals Essay Example from past fxMBAConsulting Client

Why an MBA? Have a good think about what might be keeping you from advancing to your short-term goal. You undoubtedly have a strong skill-set in certain areas…and perhaps a less developed skill-set in others.  Or you may have niche knowledge of a particular function/industry, but lack a more global exposure (within your industry/role or possibly across industries/roles).

In YEAR, I stepped in as a moral support and took financial responsibility for the care of an immediate family member. Although that situation prompted me to delay my MBA until now, at present a School X MBA is a logical next step on my journey of personal and professional growth. The MBA experience represents an opportunity to not only bolster my skill-set but also offers a time to slow-down, build authentic relationships with accomplished young professionals and reflect on where I’ve come from and where I’m going.
– Generic Why MBA/Career Goals Essay Example from past fxMBAConsulting Client

Your Short-term Goal: What would you like to be doing professionally post-MBA? What about that role/industry genuinely excites you or appeals to you? What would make you a valuable asset to your future employer compared to other MBAs? (hint: The answer is not ‘having earned an MBA from Stern will make me a valuable asset’ because everyone else vying for that role will also have an MBA). Instead think about how your background or past experience set you apart and how you might bring those to bear on your new role. In other words – given your unique background right now – what will make you an asset to that employer following an MBA? In your short-term role what are some of the areas where you hope to grow your expertise? Note: There’s nothing wrong with sharing a couple of short-term career options. I had a client who wanted to move into M&A at a bulge bracket IB but he was also open to working on the investment team of a large company. This reassured the Adcom and showed his awareness of how difficult it can be to land a M&A role at Goldman.

With the benefit of a School X MBA to address gaps in my skill set, such as financial controls and growth strategies, my short-term professional ambition is to transition to an Operational Consultant role at a US-based Private Equity firm. My candidacy would be bolstered by my experience in market making, revenue generation and my solid understanding of the hardware, software and technology services that underpin business functions like human resources, finance and legal. My professional network in New York and the insight I’ve gleaned from the daily operations of my Private Equity clients would likewise prove essential to my post-MBA job search.
– Essay Example from past fxMBAConsulting Client

Your Long-term Goal: What do you see yourself doing in the long term? It’s best if your able to show an internal logic and continuity between your short and long-term goals in particular. You want to make this statement ambitious but not off-the-wall unrealistic. Stern’s Adcom won’t put much weight in this statement since they realize that no matter what a person predicts he’ll be doing 10+ years down the line – the reality is almost always otherwise.

Long-term I hope to grow in seniority within the Private Equity space before eventually founding my own boutique consulting firm.
– Generic Why MBA/Career Goals Essay Example from past fxMBAConsulting Client

Part 2) What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience?

Basically the NYU Stern Adcom wants to know that you’re familiar with what the NYU Stern program and community can offer you. How will its resources help you achieve your professional goals and how will you contribute to building a more vibrant community or set of resources at the school (now and in the future). Since NYU is located in Manhattan you might want to consider how the school’s location can offer you access to resources, companies and people outside campus.

In my experience speaking with applicants and clients, the school tends to attract a lot of international applicants as well as NYC metro applicants because of its location in Manhattan. You need to demonstrate a genuine interest in Stern and not just ‘want to be in NYC’.

As an MBA Candidate at School X, I would hope to benefit from the school’s strong network of alumni across industries, world-renowned faculty, and course offerings such as Professor Z’s well known Negotiations class. In addition to the Entrepreneurship Club, School X is unique in that it boasts a Founders’ Club. I would like to take on a leadership position in one of these, although my immediate goal is not to start a company, I think that such clubs provide a forum where I could immerse myself in creative approaches to old and new business models.
– Generic Why MBA/Career Goals Essay Example from past fxMBAConsulting Client

Essay 2) Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.

Instructions on the submission of Essay 2 from NYU Stern | Please note the following guidelines and restrictions:

  • Your submission becomes the property of NYU Stern and cannot be returned for any reason.
  • Written Submission: The essay should be 500 words maximum, double-spaced, 12-point font.
  • Video/Audio Submission: If you submit a video or audio file, it should be five minutes maximum, and the file should be uploaded to a video/audio hosting website. You must include the URL, along with a brief description of the video/audio piece, in a Word or PDF document. Do not mail a USB or DVD to our office. The Admissions Committee reserves the right to request an alternate essay if we are unable to view your submission.
  • Physical Submission: If you submit a physical piece for this essay (i.e., artwork), please upload a brief description of your submission with your online application and note the following:
    • Do not submit anything perishable (e.g. food), or any item that has been worn (e.g. clothing).
    • Mailed materials must be postmarked by the application deadline date. Please follow our mail and labeling instructions.
    • Mailed packages are subject to the size restrictions below. Submissions that exceed the stated size restrictions will not be accepted for review by the Admissions Committee.

There’s no right or wrong way to approach this essay. Most people’s initial idea is to create a video.  I do think that subconsciously there’s a bias towards well-edited videos, in part because over the last few years we’ve grown accustomed to seeing better video through social media. I also think that video scripting (planning shots and dialogue), shooting and editing are all actually really hard work.

Observation 1: The technical quality of your video does not matter. Stern maintains that the technical quality of the video is not an issue.

It was put in place originally to get greater insight into who people are. It gives people a blank slate to communicate who they are and what makes them unique. There are a lot of people who enjoy that. It gives them a chance to be creative so it tends to be a well-received essay. It’s pretty easy these days for people to make videos. We have always gotten questions about it and the production values we expect. But everyone isn’t going on to become an entertainment person so it really doesn’t matter if the product values are lower.
Isser Gallogly, NYU Stern Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions

Stern hosts a playlist of video submissions from 2012 and 2014 on YouTube which you can view. Stern’s playlist consists of both full and part-time applicants (all of whom attended Stern). In the spreadsheet below I’ve added in some others who didn’t attend Stern.

NameApp YearStern MBA?NotesNYU Stern YouTube PlaylistVideo URLLinkedIn URL
Becky Bridges2012-13Class of 2015(Full-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/NZ_Ggfyuk3Uhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/beckybridges
Spencer Case2012-13Class of 2015 (Full-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/T6rFPmVi4zUhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/spencer-case-72823024
Stella Zhang2012-13Class of 2016 (Part-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/_cY3BK3sKQohttps://www.linkedin.com/in/qinyistellazhang
Stanley Pradel2011-12Class of 2015(Part-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/gKmSXCYe0gUhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/stanley-pradel-78652996
Richard Salinaro2012-13Class of 2016 (Part-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/kSPncyNem6khttps://www.linkedin.com/in/rich-salinaro-8341912b
Richard Fulop2011-12Class of 2014(Full-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/NuksVPLh6I8https://www.linkedin.com/in/richard-fulop-035a314
Michael Johnson2011-12Class of 2014(Full-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/l4H7yYT6Q3shttps://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeljohnson164
Julie Raskin2011-12Class of 2014(Full-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/Pfw7VTNYAYQhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/julieraskin
Juan (Last Name Removed)2013-14Class of 2015(Full-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/Zq9Ra0GltuQ-
Lauren Donath2013-14Class of ?(Part-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/MrFs4JzhXsM-
Michael Vara2013-14Class of 2016 (Part-time MBA)Yeshttps://youtu.be/cQs7eRis8AYhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/varamich
Victoria De Armas2014-15NoDid not attend any MBA programNohttps://youtu.be/VQGL_OcQpgkhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/victoriadearmas
Brett A. Jordan2011-12NoDid MBA at Pace UniversityNohttps://youtu.be/t4KqeecTJkchttps://www.linkedin.com/in/jordanbrett
Eugenio Garza de la Puene2012-13NoDid MBA at KelloggNohttps://youtu.be/4gUSn4tpP4ghttps://www.linkedin.com/in/eugeniogarza
Qinglan Yin2014-15NoDid not attend any MBA programNohttps://youtu.be/KD5ddlcsFJ0https://au.linkedin.com/in/qinglan-yin-42abb3a2
Deniz Zorlu2011-12NoDid not attend any MBA programNohttps://youtu.be/irAr2C-3ZuMhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/dzorlu

Oservation 2: The quality of your video’s content does not matter. Having viewed a number of videos, I don’t see any real correlation between the quality of the content in the videos and admit/ding decisions.  Some people who got in had bad videos. Other people who didn’t get in had great ones. For example, Juan (Last Name Removed) was admitted to the full-time program at Stern notwithstanding the fact that there is very little actual content in his video. It’s also worth noting that Stern actually selected this video for it’s official YouTube playlist. The video can be summed up as follows:

  • I like to paint.
  • I am married.
  • I like math.
  • I’ve taught calculus, finance and investment management.
  • I have a dog called Nana that does tricks but when Nana was a puppy she nearly destroyed all my belongings.
  • Philosophical Moment: Nana is an example of a challenge turned into an opportunity.
  • Bob Marley and Black Eyed Peas fan.

The truth really is stranger than fiction.

If Juan and I had crossed paths before he submitted his application I definitely would have put the kibosh on his video (i.e. kibosh = worked with him to overhaul the narrative). But would that have been necessary? Apparently not. In fact when you put my two observations together (1: Technical quality doesn’t matter) + (2: Content quality doesn’t matter) you get = this essay doesn’t matter or this essay will not influence your chances of being accepted or not accepted at NYU Stern. If we can agree that Juan’s video was weak on content, then my guess is that what Juan did having going for him was a solid profile: A good undergrad from the premiere university in Colombia and a background in IB. He likely had a 730 GMAT as well and a solid why MBA argument and short-term career plan in his first essay.

So if Essay 2 doesn’t influence the admissions decision why does NYU ask students to submit the personal expression essay? Maybe it’s cynical but it’s probably Stern’s way of making applicants feel the Adcom is genuinely interested in who they are as a person. Why? Because a lot of other schools do the same thing (Sloan has a similar optional essay and then there’s Stanford with its Essay A). Just imagine the alternative: an application consisting solely in what the Stern Adcom is more likely interested in (essay 1 and your recommendations). That’s just not as warm and fuzzy.

If you want to put your best foot forward at Stern the consultant in me suggests a well-crafted video or PDF presentation but the analyst in me sees things differently: it honestly doesn’t matter what you submit for Stern’s Personal Expression essay as long as you don’t incriminate yourself in the process. What I mean by that is that so long as you don’t reveal a glaring lapse in judgement or an obvious shortcoming in your interpersonal skills you’ll be fine. This video is what I would term ‘incriminating’ in that it paints the applicant as having a rather narrow set of interests and not so great spoken English.

3) Additional Information (optional) Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee.

Please provide any additional information that you would like to bring to the attention of the Admissions Committee. This may include current or past gaps in employment, further explanation of your undergraduate record or self-reported academic transcript(s), plans to retake the GMAT, GRE, IELTS or TOEFL or any other relevant information. If you are a re-applicant from last year, please explain how your candidacy has improved since your last application.

Don’t go overboard here and use this space to write a book or include an additional essay! The Adcom allots a certain amount of time to reading each application (I’ll make up a number: 20 minutes). You don’t want to detract time from your essays, resume and recommendations by submitting unnecessary additional information, right? An unexplained gap in work experience is usually defined as 3 months or more. You don’t need to explain away a month or two gap between jobs – people assume that not every transition can be timed down to the minute because of organizational issues from your or the employer’s end. If one of your recommenders is not your current supervisor, you need to explain why.

Unfortunately if you didn’t get the GMAT or GPA you had hoped for at university, the best thing to do is accept it and put your best foot forward in every other way (with great essays, recommendations and short answers). If, and only if, there was an extenuating circumstance that impacted your undergrad GPA or if you simply want to point out that there was an upward trend in GPA from your Freshman to Senior year – you can do that. Example: ‘While my overall GPA was a 3.4, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that my GPA consistently increased over the course of my undergraduate years: from a 3.2 my Freshman year to a 3.9 my Senior year’. What constitutes an extenuating circumstance would be something out of the ordinary and serious (like being hospitalized or suffering a prolonged illness) – Grandpa or Grandma passing away, while sad, does not count.

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