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Member Spotlight:  Sandbox Member Betsy Massar on How to Get What You Want

If you’ve seen Betsy Massar around Sandbox, you know that her small frame is no indicator of her larger-than-life personality. This admissions guru coaches grad school applicants through the soul searching, reality checking, and writing, writing, and more writing it takes to get in to the country’s top schools. And you don’t have to be a student to find meaning in Betsy’s no nonsense approach to marketing yourself to get what you want out of life.

Betsy’s book, Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program  now on sale, gives us a little insight on how to get “admitted.”

1. As an admissions coach, what do you do?

I help people tell their stories to admissions committees. By this I mean I help them show their best selves to the people making decisions on admits or rejections.  I specialize in the top schools because they are the most competitive to get into – for example, Stanford Business School only admits about 6% of applicants, UC Berkeley Haas and Harvard Business School admit less than 12%. It’s also a very complicated application process, takes a lot of planning, and almost needs a graduate degree to understand the questions behind the questions, and I help there too.

2. What has your own career path been like and how has that informed the advice you give now?

After graduating from Harvard Business School, I spent most of my career in the investments business, working for really big companies. I worked on Wall Street for awhile and later worked in Asia for 10 years. And I’ve learned a tremendous amount!  In my spare time I helped students with their business school applications, and got to know the inside stories of some amazing and talented young professionals. When I moved back to the US in 1998, I shifted my career focus from billion-dollar trading floors to professional writing and marketing, and also began getting involved in teaching and mentoring.  So three years ago I decided to turn pro, and launched Master Admissions.

3. Is graduate school for everyone?  

Not at all! Especially considering the expense and in many cases, lost income. Most of the people I work with have an idea where they want to go, and figure a graduate degree is the best way to get there.

4. What are a few key things that successful graduate school applications do?

The first is to start early.  It’s a huge project.  For example, most schools require a standardized test – either the GRE, the GMAT or the LSAT.  That’s a serious commitment and will make or break a successful application. They also have to take on additional responsibility at their jobs or in their non-profit volunteer work so they can get some leadership experience. Students who are successful:

  • Show authenticity
  • Tell specific stories
  • Present themselves humbly
  • Have clear (enough) goals
  • Admit and learn from mistakes

5. What are a few common mistakes that graduate school applicants make?

The #1 biggest mistake: Writing what they think admissions officers expect.  The result just bores readers to tears.

6. What makes this book so special?

The book is unique for a number of reasons.

1. It’s a workbook: It doesn’t tell the student what to do, but is a guided workbook with exercises to help students do their own work.  It gives the student tools for self-exploration so they can present the stuff that makes them unique.

2. It’s accessible: It breaks down a complicated process into pieces, so students do not feel overwhelmed by an enormous, competitive process.  The book is methodical, but it’s got some fun exercises and offers examples and inspiration from people you know (Oprah, Michael Jordan, Luke Skywalker), and those you don’t but who have gone through the same process and come out smiling.

7. Why should we buy it instead of one of the other graduate school admission guides currently on

 the shelves?

This book complements other books. I didn’t want to write just one more admissions book, because I think there are so many good ones out there.  I wanted to give students a playbook to get them started and to encourage them to dig deep enough so their inner leader shines.

8. What is the best part of your job?

Hearing from students that the method worked! I love hearing from someone, “I got the call!!!!!!”  Usually I am not surprised, because I get to see some super people – many of whom don’t know just how super they are – and that’s the second most fun part: showing a student just how remarkable he or she really is.


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