10 toughest career dilemmas - solved

From whether it's time to change jobs, to secrets for getting into business school, to advice on surviving an office romance, here are excerpts from some of the top Ask Annie columns of the year.

5 secrets for getting into a top B-school
5 secrets for getting into a top B-school
Getting accepted into a top MBA program is an arduous, time-consuming process, with plenty of potential pitfalls along the way. The most prestigious and selective schools - Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, and their ilk - say they accept only 10% of all those who apply.

Stacy Blackman has built a thriving Los-Angeles-based business, called Stacy Blackman Consulting (www.stacyblackman.com), on helping MBA aspirants avoid ending up among the 90% who don't make the cut. Here are five of her secrets for making a great impression.

1. Be yourself. "Often, people have an image in their minds of what kind of person a given school wants," says Blackman. But "admissions committees aim to enroll a broad mix of different personalities and backgrounds, so they want to know who you really are - even going beyond your professional life to include any significant experiences you may have had, like a serious illness or an eye-opening trip abroad."

2. It's better to have a great application than an early one. Schedules differ, but in general, B-schools accept one round of applications in October and another in early January. "There is no particular advantage in being in the first round," says Blackman.

3. Be ready to discuss any weak spots in your resume or college transcript. Say you had a glaringly low grade or two freshman year. It's best to address why that happened, and what you learned from it, in your application. "Often people think, 'Well, they know I'm smart, and that was a long time ago, so it's no big deal,' " says Blackman. "But you need to explain it, because it will be noticed."

4. Select the right references. "Prestige is less important than how well they know you," Blackman says. "Sometimes people will ask the CEO for a recommendation because that CEO attended the school the person is applying to. But admissions committees want specific examples of how you work, especially in the areas of teamwork, leadership, ethics, and respect for others. The CEO is unlikely to know those details."

5. Ask one or two people you trust to review your application. But don't overdo it. "If you follow too many suggestions, your essay will end up reading as if it were written by a committee," says Blackman.

Last updated December 19 2007: 7:58 AM ET
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