Vince answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) about his service
Thank you for your interested in my service. As a first step, please watch this short video, where I explain my background and counseling style.
- My admissions consultancy incorporates my professional training and 30-year experience in critical thinking, storytelling, and instructional design
- My mission is to provide the best possible advice and support to clients around the world as they apply to top MBA and graduate programs
- Since 2002, I have helped over 700 clients get admitted to the world’s top MBA, LL.M., and other graduate programs
- I focus on school selection strategy, application essays, and interview training
- I work with a limited number of clients each year in order to maintain the high quality of my service
- I am based in Tokyo, Japan (September - May) and San Francisco, California (June - August)
- I believe that an initial consultation is the best way to determine whether there is a good fit between us
- If I agreed to work with you after our initial consultation, I will be committed to assist you until you gain admission
APPLICANT: What are your strengths and weaknesses as an admissions consultant?
VINCE: Passion is my greatest strength. It is also my greatest weakness.
- I am passionate about storytelling. I have taught critical thinking and essay writing for 20 years. I also teach engineers and scientists how to present their ideas more effectively. I love helping people tell their stories.
- Past clients praise my brainstorming. I help them identify and capture stories they might have missed.
- Perhaps my passion for storytelling comes from my Italian side. (My father’s ancestors immigrated to the US from Italy; my mother’s side came from Germany and the UK).
- Now, for the bad news. Sometimes, my passion for my work causes me to be too emotional. It can also cause me to place too much faith in my clients' stories. I am your advocate, but I must remain objective to consider how ad-com readers will interpret your message. Will they think what you want them to think?
- Thankfully, my German side keeps me focused. On the downside, it can also cause me to get lost in details.
- Bottom line: after nearly a decade as an admissions counselor, I have a good handle on my strengths and weaknesses. I can manage my time and manage my emotions to help you get results.
APPLICANT: What is your cancellation policy?
- VINCE: If necessary, requests to reschedule appointments should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the originally scheduled appointment time. Rescheduling requests made less than 24 hours prior to an appointment will be granted at Vince’s discretion.
APPLICANT: Is there a penalty I change a face-to-face counseling session to a Skype, phone or email session at the last minute?
- VINCE: As needed, a client may change a face-to-face session to a “distance” session to be conducted over email, phone or Skype. Please kindly inform Vince ahead of time.
APPLICANT: Can I send Vince materials to read on the day of our counseling session?
VINCE: Yes, but if you do, please give me 10 minutes to review your materials before calling or visiting me.
Here are the details of my "10 minute rule":
- You are free to send me essays and other application materials to read on the day of our counseling session. I have one request, however
- If you send me something to review the day of our meeting, please call me or arrive at my office 10 minutes late so that I can review everything and prepare my feedback before we speak. For example, if you send me something to read at 13:00 for a 17:00 meeting, please call or come to my office at 17:10
- Alternatively, if you send your materials by midnight the day before the session we can start our session at the appointed time. For instance, if you send your essays for me to read at 23:50 on Saturday night for a 13:00 session on Sunday, you can call or visit me promptly at 13:00. Please note all times are JST. Please plan accordingly
How should I share my written application materials with Vince?
- We will use Google Drive
- Please, read below to understand why we will only use MS Word for your resume
FILE MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES
- Please combine all application materials into a single document
- I want to spend our time together reading and reflecting on your ideas, not managing multiple files across various devices (home, work PC, mobile phone, etc.)
- Therefore, I humbly request that you combine ALL CONTENTS into a single Google Drive (preferred) or MS Word file
- For each school, please combine all documents, including your resume/CV, essays (including questions and word counts), application data form short answer questions, letters of recommendation, etc. into a single Google Drive (preferred) or MS Word file
- I prefer Google Drive to Microsoft Word because it is
- Synchronized - Google Drive syncs with your computer and all mobile devices
- Efficient - saves time since we no longer need to download, "save as" a new version, and upload Microsoft Word files across multiple devices
- Always up to date - minimizes the chance that either of us will misplace a file, leave the latest copy on another computer, or review an old version instead of the latest update
- Accessible - all your files become available on the web (but you control who can view them)
- Mobile - using the Google Drive mobile application, you can read, comment upon and edit your files from your smartphone or tablet
- Helpful - Google automatically messages both of us when comments have been replied to and/or open issues have been resolved
- For presentation essays, please send me PowerPoint files
- Only send me PDFs, screen shots, or HTML files if you don’t expect me to make written comments
- Final note - I encourage you to follow Stanford GSB's formatting guidelines:
- Use a 12-point font, double spaced (Vince says, 1.5 spacing OK:)
- Recommended fonts are Arial, Courier, and Times New Roman
- Indicate which essay question you are answering at the beginning of each essay
- Number all pages
Plead this post for more file management tips https://www.vinceprep.com/writing/docs
APPLICANT: How do I track multiple versions of the same MS Word file?
VINCE: Every time we make a change to an MS Word file, we increase the version number.
- Every time we make a change to an MS Word file, we increase the version number
- For instance, we rename "v1" as "v2"; "v3" becomes "v4", etc.
- I tend to avoid using dates to name files because the date you change something is not always the same date I check it (and vice versa)
- Therefore, I find the "v1, v2, v3" system to be more effective
- I hope you agree
(Please note: If we are using Google Docs files, we not need to change the filename since Google automatically tracks and stores all previous versions under the File menu item called "see revision history")
APPLICANT: I already completed my first application to my first school. How do I start essays for my next school?
VINCE: Make a fresh start with each new MBA application.
Too often, clients begin a new application by copying and pasting their essays from a previous school. They end up wasting time because it takes longer to rewrite an old essay than it does to write a new one that directly answers the question.
AdCom members are sensitive and can recognize when applicants cut corners and recycle old content. Think of an MBA application as a marriage proposal. If your first lover turned you down, why re-use the same tired line?
If you are serious about making a lifelong commitment to this school's alumni association, start by taking the time to approach their essay questions with an open mind a blank page.
Of course, you might save time later by re-purposing some useful phrases from an old application.
Bottom line: make a new outline every time. By starting a new application the way you would start a new relationship, you can avoid old mistakes and increase your chances for success over the long-term.
STEP ONE: RESEARCH AND NETWORK
Find your fit
Before you start the "goals" or "Why MBA?" essay, create a ranked list of reasons why you would attend this MBA program.
The first reason is your #1 "killer" reason why you would attend if admitted. It often has something to do with the people you have met (current students and alumni). Think fit. Think student culture.
If you are clear about your reasons for applying to each school, your essays will be more convincing. If your reasons are not clear, then your essays will not matter.
AdCom needs to see the results of your networking. Therefore, please start each new school's application by sharing the names of alumni and current students you know. Then, I can know whether or not you need me to introduce any of my former clients.
STEP TWO: CREATE NEW OUTLINES
Do not simply copy and paste
Build a new foundation
Create a new frame
Whenever you begin essays for a new school, always make a new outline. Think of tearing down and old house to build a new one; you might reuse a window or part of a wall, but you must build a strong foundation first.
Start from a blank piece of paper
Answer the question directly
Change the keywords
Change the structure of your story
Add sentences and phrases later
STEP THREE: CUSTOMIZE TOPIC SENTENCES
After finishing your outline, it is time to write topic sentences for each paragraph.
When starting your next school, customize the topic sentences of each answer to fit the question. Otherwise, AdCom will know that you are copying and pasting essays from another school. Be careful!
I assume that AdCom members speed read application essays. Whether they do so consciously or unconsciously, AdCom readers probably read every word of each topic sentence, and then skim the details in the rest of the paragraph. They simply do not have time to mull over every word in your essay. Therefore, I encourage you to help them do their jobs more effectively by writing clear and concise topic sentences that capture the logic and flow of your ideas.
After you complete your draft, go back and reverse engineer your essay.
Here is my favorite editing exercise:
Remove everything but the first (topic) sentence of each paragraph.
Read it aloud at full volume, as if you were delivering a speech.
Does your story make sense?
Will a non-expert be able to understand what happened?
Do you appear in your own topic sentences?
Do your verbs convey power?
If not, fix your topic sentences so that you are at the center of the action.
Weak Topic Sentence: "Your school helps me realize my short and long term goals."
Strong Topic Sentence: "Wharton best prepares me to lead a multinational consumer electronics manufacturing firm."
Bottom line: Write clear and concise topic sentences that capture the logic and flow of your ideas.
APPLICANT: How do I ensure that my essays contain the latest and best contents?
VINCE: Please reflect any relevant changes from your latest SCHOOL A essays into their corresponding SCHOOL B versions, if applicable.
As deadlines approach, we often need to simultaneously edit similar contents for two or more schools. This can include
- Application data forms (apps)
- Letters of recommendation (LoRs)
Please take responsibility for tracking the latest versions. If I edit something for one school, please apply those changes to all other schools.
Too often, I find myself re-editing the same content. Here is an example.
- Client A sends me an essay that discusses two projects in detail.
- I change all instances of the number two from the numerical form (2) to the word form (two).
- Then, client A sends me a different version of that same story for School B.
- I find the same mistakes have not been updated. All previous examples of "2" are still written in number form, not word form.
Please save time for both of us
In my first year as an admissions counselor (2002), I had a genius client who was admitted to every school he applied. He was a controller at Japan's largest energy company. (I will never forgot the first sentence of his goals essay. He wrote, "I am both a survivor and an architect of the profound changes that have reshaped Japan's oil industry.")
He taught me the best method for tracking contents across multiple schools.
Perhaps because he worked in the back office, he tracked everything. For example, he kept a binder with all of his essays printed out.
Here is Hamada-san's Three-step Method for Tracking Essay Changes Across Multiple Schools:
- He highlighted all edited sentences from his most recent essay
- Then, he went back and found examples of his original unedited sentence in old essays. (I assume he used MS Word "find and replace" feature, since this was before Google Docs was even invented)
- Best of all, without my prompting, he automatically went back and updated all previous versions of the same sentence using my most recent edits
APPLICANT: How should I format my essays?
VINCE: I often read essays on paper and I like to take notes in the margins. (I believe many AdComs do the same.)
To assist my review and editing process, please send me MS Word or Google Doc files.
Please follow these seven document management best practices and formatting tips (AdComs like them, too!):
- SINGLE DOCUMENT: Combine all contents into one document. This saves time tracking and attaching multiple files across multiple iterations
- USE LARGE, STANDARD FONTS: Please use Times New Roman or Arial font type and 12 pt font size (not Century, and never smaller than 10 point font)
- LEAVE WIDE MARGINS: Use US-standard, 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins
- ADD CLEAR PARAGRAPH BREAKS: Add an extra line or insert five spaces before each new paragraph
- INCLUDE THE QUESTION: Write the question at the top of each essay
- UPDATE WORD or CHARACTER COUNTS: Add the current word count and available word or character count, like this
- 666 / 500 words or
- 456 / 300 characters, including spaces
- I want to know if you essay is at, over, or under the limit as I start reading your draft. That way, I know if I need to look for places to cut, or if you have room to add more detail.
- In first drafts, please feel free to exceed word limits. I promise to help you cut words before the deadline. For now, use as many words as you need to explain your ideas with concrete details
- NUMBER ALL PAGES: Please add page numbers in the footer
More details below:
CLEARLY DELINEATED PARAGRAPHS
- Within the text, paragraphs are indented five to seven spaces (which translates into about a half-inch indent on word-processors)
- Paragraphs are identified by an indentation of five spaces (a tab), do not make extra spaces between paragraphs
GENEROUS LINE SPACING
- Single-space your essays unless the school requests otherwise
- You can use 1.5 spacing for schools like Tuck that ask you to, "Please double-space your responses"
- To do this, open Microsoft Word and go to Options (O) and Paragraph (P)
- Next, go to and Line Spacing (N) and set to 1.5, not 2
- Please use a standard font type like Arial or Times New Roman
- 12 pt font size is kind on tired eyes
- 11 or 10.5 if necessary
INCLUDE THE ESSAY QUESTION
- Write the question at the top of each essay (preferably in the header)
ADD PAGE NUMBERS
- Add page numbers at the bottom if the essay is more than one page
ONE INCH MARGINS
- Use the standard margins of 1" (2.5 cm); no less than .8" (2 cm) on top, bottom, right and left
- All typing is flush-left, not right justified nor full justified
- In other words, leave the right margin uneven or "ragged right."
- This allows the reader more space to write comments in the margins
ADD WORD and CHARACTER COUNTS
- During drafting, please always include the current word count plus the maximum number of allowable words (like this: 534/500). Just be sure to remove these numbers before submitting your essay
- Always include character counts when required by the school (e.g.. most application forms except Chicago, some recommendations like Tuck CSQs)
- When counting characters, be sure to include spaces