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It’s My Stern: My Take on NYU Stern’s “Pick Six” Essay

Claudia Baldwin

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A food and travel-themed Pick Six Essay photo collage

NYU Stern’s “Pick Six,” or as I like to call it, Six Pix, was one of the most enjoyable and creative essay prompts I did during my MBA application journey. I felt like it was a great opportunity for the MBA Admissions team to get to know me beyond just my resume, EQ Endorsements, essays, and application. Those four parts essentially paint a picture of the things you’ve done in the past, but without too much depth. You could argue that the essays are a way to do that, but you are limited by a word count.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so with six pictures I could express 6,000. I’m a little embarrassed to share this, as I assumed no one other than the admissions team and my friends who gave me feedback would ever see my Pick Six again. From all of the coffee chats I do with potential applicants, I’ve find the most commonly-asked questions revolve around unraveling this essay, defining EQ, and incorporating them into their application and interviews.

I’m going to talk about my Pick Six and show you some pictures from it (I’ve left some out that feature other people for privacy purposes) and the thought process that went behind it. Please take all of this with a grain of salt. Just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for you. Also, don’t force a narrative that doesn’t exist; it’s much better to be authentic and genuine than try to adapt your essays to what you think the admissions officers or program is looking for.

So without further ado, here are the essay prompts and how I tackled them:

“A brief introduction or overview of your “Pick Six” (no more than 3 sentences)”

I do not have any artistic talent whatsoever. I just used a basic template. Although a missed opportunity to use NYU’s Violet, I figured that might be forcing it too much. Instead, I focused on making it clean and following the instructions.

“Six images that help illustrate who you are. A one-sentence caption for each of the six images that helps explain why they were selected and are significant to you.”

FIRST PICTURE:

A couple of key notes. The first is the restriction to having just one sentence. If you recall all of your grammar rules from studying for the GMAT — specifically sentence correction and the use of punctuation — I leveraged every rule to help me stretch these sentences to tell a story. I think that shows a little bit of creativity on my part. However, if you can tell the story using just one short sentence, then I think that’s creative as well!

In my resume, there’s a bullet point at the bottom in the additional info section that said “world traveler.” There’s so much more story to it than just those two words. I chose the picture above because I know how diverse and international NYC and NYU are. I would naturally fit right in. I love traveling, but who doesn’t? Having traveled to so many countries and doing it by myself has been one of the most illuminating and self-reflective experiences of my life. The person you’re spending the most time with in your life is yourself, so you better make sure that person is fun and interesting to be around. This picture ended up being a major topic of discussion during my interview.

SECOND PICTURE:

 This was a photo of me and some friends while we were in military uniform after we had accomplished a major humanitarian mission. It was the beginning of my teamwork, leadership, and perseverance journey while serving in the United States Air Force. My resume was already heavy with military accomplishments, leadership achievements, and robust international teamwork. I felt that I only needed to include one photo from this major chapter of my life.

THIRD PICTURE:

I can share this one as they are just stock photos. Plus, it’s hard to take photos of myself while dancing! I love dancing. I wanted to talk about this to demonstrate that I like to break out of my comfort zone, but I am also not a very traditional applicant. The looks of surprise I get when I’m in Latin America doing their social dances so well were highlights of my nights. At Stern, I hosted Salsa and Bachata nights and was able to introduce my classmates to these fun and amazing dancing styles.

FOURTH PICTURE:

 This one was a class photo of my students whom I taught in Honduras. Teaching was something I was very passionate about after separating from the military. I wanted to continue giving back to the world and try to make a difference. At the time, Honduras was one of the most dangerous countries in the world and they were in desperate need of teachers. I talked about why I went there and showcased making an impact on my students. I grew up very poor; my parents were immigrants from Vietnam. I know how important education is to get ahead in life and I wanted to try to give back. This has been a major theme in my life and I wanted to touch upon that.

FIFTH PICTURE:

NYU Stern’s brand call to action is built on the principles to dare, dream, drive, empower, and manifest change. I think this picture perfectly encompasses that. I took cooking classes in many of the countries I traveled to, which gave me a good understanding of the culture, history, and social aspects of the locale. These experiences also added to my own personal cookbook, where I was able to create fusions from what I learned. However, in many places, I was the only male in those classes. In this picture, I was the only male in a room with 40 women. People gave me questioning looks, but some of the best chefs in the world are men, so it’s a bit confusing why this stigma even exists. It was even worse when I tried to teach my students how to cook, which I believe is an important life skill. I wore that colorful apron with pride and didn’t care what people thought. I wanted to change this negative stereotype and it starts from de-stigmatizing it early on!

SIXTH PICTURE:

The final photo was essentially funny, goofy, and creative pictures I took with my students before summer break but in a different part of the world. I wanted to demonstrate my entertaining side. The MBA program is intense, especially during finals and recruiting. It’s important that I can let loose and enjoy my short time here. It has been completely true for the 1.5 years that I’ve been in this program thus far. It also showed that I can help others break out of their own shells and let loose as the country I was teaching in was very traditional and conservative.

Overall, I had a story to tell, and through these pictures I was able to add more depth and breadth about myself and demonstrate why Stern would be the right fit for me. It was a pleasant project as I was able to finally share different aspects of my life outside of just my resume, GPA, and test scores. We all have a story to tell. Make sure you tell yours!

Bio: Phan Hoang, a first-generation Bostonian, is a second-year MBA candidate at NYU Stern School of Business. Prior to business school, he was an enlisted in the United States Air Force serving in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions worldwide. He has also taught internationally in countries such as Honduras and China. He worked in Product Management during the summer.

DON’T MISS: 

It’s My Stern: The ROI Of Building Relationships

It’s My Stern: New York Isn’t A City, It’s A World

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MBA Handicapping: Can You Punch Above Your Weight (GPA/GMAT) at Harvard/Stanford?

Claudia Baldwin

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https://youtu.be/IeQoyI-MlrI.

Shriya is a 27-year-old consultant working in London for a boutique firm. She applied to Stanford in round 2 last year and re-applied in round 2 this year, but had not gained an interview.

Her question: Has anyone ever gotten into Stanford on the third try?

Our answer: Not with a 690 GMAT score.

But Shriya does plan to retake the test, aimed for a 700-plus score and wants to apply again. She also plans to wider her options by applying to the first time to UC-Berkeley, UCLA, Wharton, Harvard, Stern and Kellogg.

Besides working as a consultant for two and one-half years, she also worked for Equiniti Group Plc, a London-based fintech firm for four and one-half years, during which she gained three promotions. She has a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from the University of London.

In this episode of Fridays With Sandy, HBSGuru.com founder Sandy Kreisberg candidly tells Shriya to give up on a third try at Stanford and assesses her chances at her other target business schools.

If you would like to participate in a future Fridays With Sandy webinar, you can contact Sandy and John here.

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Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Ricardo Aaron Carrillo, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Claudia Baldwin

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Ricardo Aaron Carrillo

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

“Hopeful dreamer.”

Hometown: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Fun Fact About Yourself: In the last eight years, I have lived in seven cities on three different continents.

Undergraduate School and Major: ITESM—Tecnológico de Monterrey, Architecture

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Woods Bagot Architects, Senior Designer

What word best describes the Tuck MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Encouraging. From my application process to being admitted, I have seen this value in all Tuck students and alumni. Every Tuckie I have met has been so invested in helping me achieve my goals. People like Michael Barbe (T’22), Kristin Ng (T’22), and Sanjana Tikkoo (T’22) exhibited selfless support to me even before I was part of this family. Compared to other top schools, Tuckies truly surprise you with an unparalleled level of encouragement. It is simply unique; I’ve never seen anything like this.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? It would be the general management program, challenging core curriculum, student collaboration, and career outcomes. The general management program at Tuck allows you to gain skills to be successful in any industry you want. A combination of cases and traditional classes are used to gain the hard skills that complement case discussion. For me, being part of a school that took a structured core curriculum and had a collegial student body was crucial in my MBA school selection.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Dartmouth Tuck? It is really hard to mention only one, but I will mention where I will be more involved. I am really excited to engage with Tuck Pride, the Finance Club, the Rugby Club, and the Center for Business, Government & Society. I am interested in Tuck Pride as I would love to attract even more LGBTQ+ individuals to our community and push forward LGBTQ+ representation in the business world. I also chose the Finance Club because I am fascinated by the power finance has to change the lives of many people. I chose the Rugby Club because I love to play rugby, and the Center for Business, Government & Society as I want to be more effective in creating social change.

What excites you the most about coming to live in Hanover? What is the one activity you can’t wait to do? The aspects that excite me the most about living in Hanover involve being in contact with nature, to have spaces to reflect on the big issues I want to solve and engage with my classmates 24/7. Hanover is a safe, friendly, and utterly charming place. One activity that I can’t wait to do is to play rugby. I love the comradery, collaboration, and open communication rugby brings out of each player.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I consider my biggest accomplishment to be the mentorship I offered kids, teenagers, and younger staff in my previous industry. Mentoring low-income kids and LGBTQ+ teenagers, while helping them to take positive changes in their lives, has been the best thing I’ve ever done.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? COVID-19 taught me a lot of lessons. It taught me to keep dreaming and be industrious while making positive change for a better society. The COVID-19 pandemic caused me to re-evaluate my life, goals, and relationships with others. In my career, I realized that I wanted to be a more effective agent of change for minorities—women, LGBTQ+, and racial minorities—around the world.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I am pursuing an MBA because of the impact it allows you to have in the world. I want to have a positive imprint on our planet. An MBA will help me develop the skills and credibility to bring more diversity to the workplace, to help others get better jobs, improve society, and work on nonprofit endeavors. After graduation, I hope to continue working in a company that allows me to advocate for more diversity and opportunities for minority groups while creating wealth for everybody.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard, Wharton, Oxford, LBS, Stanford, and Yale.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA program? I love this question! First, I would like to say there is no formula. Tuck is transparent in how applications are evaluated and what the school is looking for. Tuck looks for smart, accomplished, aware, and encouraging individuals.

Second, take the GMAT or GRE and score at or above the school mean. However, if you have taken it a few times and are still below the mean score, do not let it deter you from applying. Schools recognize that you are more than a score. On this subject, I personally recommend test prep services like GregMat, who was a game changer in my preparation.

Third, get to know Tuck. Go to the school’s Diversity Conference (DivCo) and Women in Business Conference. Attend admissions events, meet ambassadors, engage with clubs, and talk to alumni. I view Tuck as a family, not just classmates or a “network.” I really mean family, where you develop trust with classmates and alumni, and people will have your back. For this reason, I encourage you to get to know the family and demonstrate how you can contribute to the community here.

Fourth, do a lot of self-reflection on your essays, show your true self, be vulnerable, and leave your ego at the door.

DON’T MISS: MEET DARTMOUTH TUCK’S MBA CLASS OF 2023

 

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Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Francisca Carpentier, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Claudia Baldwin

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Francisca Carpentier

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

“A curious learner who firmly believes that we change the world with our day-to-day actions.”

Hometown: Santiago, Chile

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am probably among very few women arriving at their MBA experience pregnant! My husband is a fellow Tuckie, and the school was very supportive with planning how to approach this academic year. We couldn’t be more excited. Many classmates have already volunteered to babysit!

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Business Administration, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile and Master of Science in Economics from Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Associate at SummaPartners, a boutique firm founded by experienced consultants to join the worlds of management consulting and private equity.

What word best describes the Tuck MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Seekers. Tuck students are open to change and learning; students come here to question themselves and be questioned, to have an authentic transformational experience. I am also impressed by how humble successful Tuck alumni are, transmitting that same will to keep learning and challenging themselves.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I wanted a small school, a place where I would get to know my classmates and professors and truly connect. Before enrolling, every Tuckie I spoke with would always reflect on how transformative their two years at Tuck were and how Hanover was a special place to make human connections and life decisions. That’s what I was looking for in my MBA experience.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Dartmouth Tuck? Everything is exciting, but I don’t think TuckGO can be topped. The idea of traveling the world with a group of classmates and a professor to learn about the most relevant topics in our global economy is an experience I am sure no one could forget.

What excites you the most about coming to live in Hanover? What is the one activity you can’t wait to do? It is living in a place far from the noise and rhythm of the city. I’ve always lived in big cities, and I love it, but doing my MBA in a small place where I could focus on the experience resonated with me.

The one activity I can’t wait to do is skiing. I need to go to the Dartmouth Skiway at least once to say I did it!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My first project as an associate was to reduce a company’s size, given the risk profile of some of its operations. It was the biggest company in its industry in the region, so the project’s impact was huge. It was a multi-variable problem, where we had to work on several scenarios and consider multiple effects in a short time. We built a cohesive team with the client and finally came up with a well-thought-out solution. We accompanied the company through implementation and managed to reduce over 40% of accidents in a year, positively impacting the company’s results. In the beginning, we truly believed it wasn’t possible, and I will never forget an experienced partner telling me this was the most fun and challenging project he had worked on.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? I think working on challenging projects without having day-to-day team interactions had an impact on me. I realized a huge part of why I enjoyed my job so much was the great team I was surrounded by and how those small breaks and jokes throughout the day truly made a difference. It changed my career because I now know how important it is for me to work with a cohesive team with whom I can have fun and learn from. It’s more about the people than the role, and that was a great life lesson.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? After four years working alongside great leaders and mentors, I was more aware than ever of the dreams I had as a future leader and the gaps I needed to close to become that leader. After my MBA, I hope to join the strategic team of a large tech firm. I enjoyed consulting in tech and would like to keep growing on strategic roles in that industry because I genuinely believe those companies are changing the world.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Darden

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA program? Talk with Tuckies! They are the most open community I’ve known, and you will never meet anybody more willing to talk about Tuck, Dartmouth, and Hanover than alumni: they jump at the opportunity and truly enjoy it. So go through Linkedin. Find a Tuckie you can relate to because of your experience, what you want to do after your MBA, place of birth, or whatever reason and write; I always got an answer!

DON’T MISS: MEET DARTMOUTH TUCK’S MBA CLASS OF 2023

 

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