About Vince

From Metropolis Magazine

Q&A

Where are you from?

I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, though I feel at home in many places. After graduating from Stanford (History, '92), I went to New Orleans to run an educational non-profit program and teach middle and high school history at Isidore Newman School. After five years, I decided to pursue my own education at New York University, where I earned an MA in Digital Media Design for Learning (formerly Educational Communication and Technology).

What brought you to Japan?

My best friend at NYU was a Japanese-Colombian, who was there on a Fulbright Fellowship. After graduation, he returned to Tokyo to become the production manager for a major Japanese broadband content producer. About a year later, he called me to come over for a consulting project.

Tell us a bit about what you do.

In my admissions consulting work, I provide cross-cultural coaching and interview training to a select handful of clients as they apply to top US, UK and European business and law school programs. I have also helped many clients secure Fulbright Awards.

In my off-season, I have served as a part-time lecturer at the University of Tokyo. I also provided pro bono resume and interview training to graduates of the JET Programme who will return to North America after serving as teachers and cross-cultural advisers to local Japanese municipalities and school systems. Since 2012, I have volunteered with The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), where I served as a board director for six years, including one year as president.

What hurdles do Japanese students face when applying to universities abroad?

Top schools all say they look at academics (the numbers), leadership and teamwork (career and community), personal qualities and communication skills (essays and interviews). But if they all want the same things, why are the results so varied? Schools play games, and I help translate and localize the ever-changing rules for a Japanese audience.

The recommendation process is also a hurdle. MBA admissions officers claim to lack cultural bias, but do they really expect Japanese bosses to write in-depth qualitative evaluations that praise and critique an employee based on American performance standards? I educate my clients on what the questions mean and how to coach their bosses to produce authentic, believable recommendation letters. That is probably the hardest part of my job.

Japanese students also face economic disincentives. For undergraduates, leaving Japan for college often makes it difficult to find work at a large, traditional company.

At the graduate level, many of my clients struggle to implement their MBA and law school lessons after they come back. Organizational behavior and management theories are not universal. Still, I have seen a few former clients use their overseas training to make real changes in Japan. It is inspiring.

Tell us about your favorite place in Tokyo.

Our son was born in Mejiro, so I have a fondness for that neighborhood. We lived near the Tokyo Sakura Tram (Toden Arakawa Line)–Tokyo’s sole remaining streetcar. On sunny afternoons, my son and I would ride the entire line, from Waseda to Minowabashi. Rolling along through hidden parts of old Tokyo always reminded me why I live in Japan.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My great love is music, especially the bass guitar. I enjoy getting to know a culture and its language through music. Whenever we travel around Japan (or anywhere in the world), I always keep my ears open for that one true sound, that truly transcendent story. What’s yours?

Jun 17, 2010 | Issue: 847

Vince Ricci


A graduate of Stanford (BA' 92) and NYU (MA '01), Vince has coached admits to top MBA programs at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, MIT, Berkeley, and LBS. Vince received the Lyons Award for Service from Stanford University. In his first career as a classroom teacher and non-profit director, he won a Distinguished Teaching Award for the State of Louisiana and Non-Profit Program of the Year for New Orleans.


Before moving to Tokyo in 2002, Vince completed his MA in Digital Media Design for Learning at NYU. While living in New York, he served as Founding Technologist at Columbia University's Center for New Media Teaching & Learning.


Vince has been an MBA and graduate school admissions consultant since 2002. Beyond consulting, Vince has taught technical writing and presentation skills at The University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering. Vince served as a Board Director for six years with The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), including one year as president. He is currently the AIGAC Governance Committee Chair.


Hey Vince, tell us a little about yourself.


I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, a native Californian, though I feel at home in many places. After graduating from Stanford, I went to New Orleans for five years to help develop and expand a popular non-profit educational program to prepare low-income teenagers for college entrance. While there, I taught middle and high school history. I stayed to see our first group of inner-city kids go off to college. Many of them were the first in their families to take this step. When it was time to pursue my graduate education, I chose NYU over Harvard and Columbia because I wanted to learn hands-on video and web production skills.


Why did you decide to come to Japan, and what has your experience been like so far?


My best friend at NYU was a Japanese-Colombian (nisei) filmmaker on a Fulbright Fellowship. After graduation, he returned to Tokyo to become Production Manager for Japan's first broadband production company. About a year later, he brought me to Tokyo for an e-learning consulting project for The Monbukagakusho's Millennium Project. I immediately fell in love with Japan's people, language, and culture and decided to make it my home.


And you are an admissions consultant. What do you like best about your work?


Admissions consulting is a dream job. I get to meet inspirational people and help them craft their dreams. Above all, I believe in the power of cross-cultural experiential learning. I love helping our clients study abroad because it helps to build mutual understanding. Working and living in Tokyo since 2002, I am continually motivated by Japan's ability to weave many different influences into a unique social fabric. Now, it seems Japan needs global leaders who can collaborate across cultures. I am honored to help out in some small way.


How would you describe your admissions consulting style?


To quote one of America's top tennis coaches, "I've got your back." During our sessions, I try to maintain the right balance between asking questions and listening to your answers. Ultimately, I want to help you identify the best mix of stories that will maximize your chances of being interviewed and admitted.


I often say, "How can you connect with your admissions office readers on an emotional level?" Many of our clients struggle to tell stories on paper with the same passion they use to tell stories in person. Adding a sense of drama to your essays will help the admissions officers see your personality and imagine your classroom and club-based contributions.


What advice do you have for students who decide they want to work with you? How can they get the most out of your sessions?


First, I encourage my clients to share initial brainstorming ideas before we meet. Before spending hours writing a complete essay draft, please share your bullet points or rough outlines so I can help you select the best story mix. After we confirm each essay's ideal contents, I encourage you to write a complete draft without worrying about the word limit.


Second, I encourage you to think about the turning points in your life and career. What are the most critical decisions you have made, and what did each experience teach you about your strengths and weaknesses?


Finally, revision is critical. In the second and third drafts, please go beyond what you did and what you achieved. Admissions office readers will only care about your story if you include precise details about what you thought, felt, and said. Most of all, what did you learn, and how did the experience change you?


Any final comments?


Besides spending time with my Japanese wife and our teenage son, my great love is music, especially the bass guitar. I enjoy getting to know a culture and its language through music. Whenever we travel, I always keep my ears open for that one pure sound, that truly transcendent story. What's yours?