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




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.”


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.


 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.


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.


 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.


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!


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.


It’s My Stern: The ROI Of Building Relationships

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

The post It’s My Stern: My Take on NYU Stern’s “Pick Six” Essay appeared first on Poets&Quants.



3 Big HSA Mistakes to Avoid in 2022




Whether you’re participating in an HSA for the first time in 2022 or not, here are three big mistakes to avoid.

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This Part of Your MBA Application Makes the Biggest Difference




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This Part of Your MBA Application Makes the Biggest Difference

The MBA application has a variety of components—from GPA and GMAT to essays and recommendation letters. But is there a “most important” aspect of your application?

Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, says that while there isn’t necessarily one component that is more important than another, aspects of your application that can speak to your story tend to make the biggest difference in admissions chances.

“It’s the essays, interviews, and recommendations that ultimately reveal the person beyond the paper,” Blackman writes. “Compelling essays, recommendations, and interviews can provide context for a low GMAT score or GPA. But the reverse is not true. Strong numbers will never make up for weak essays or a disorganized, negative recommendation.”


MBA essays can make a huge impact in your admissions chances because strong essays provide the admissions committee with an opportunity to see who you really are.

“It’s where you write why an MBA makes sense as the next step of your career path,” Blackman writes. “Also, it’s how you differentiate yourself from everyone else who scored in the 700s on their GMAT. The essays are your opportunity to present your strengths and explain your weaknesses. They also go a long way toward convincing the adcomm that you have a lot to offer the program and that you belong in their class.”


Convincing the admissions committee that you belong takes more than simply reiterating the traits of an “ideal applicant.” Experts say giving an authentic view of yourself is what differentiates a compelling essay from an ordinary one.

“I can’t emphasize this enough: do not write what you think admissions committee members want to read,” Erin Wand, a featured contributor at and vice president of marketing and operations for Personal MBA Coach, writes. “The qualities and experiences that make you unique are your greatest selling points. Each essay should paint a clear picture of who you are, what motivates you, and what you’re passionate about.”

At the end of the day, the MBA essay carries significant weight in your admissions chances because—in many ways—it’s one component of the application that levels the playing field for applicants.

“All candidates receive the same set of questions,” Blackman writes. “The same group of admissions members reviews those answers. This creates a level playing field that can simplify the review process.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting,

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Meet Emory Goizueta’s MBA Class of 2023




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Two years is a long time to spend in one spot. As an MBA student, you want more: bigger networks and better opportunities — and always some place to go and some activity to do. That’s why people gravitate to Atlanta. It’s diverse and dynamic, full of possibilities to learn, live, grow, and gain. And there is something for everyone here.

Just look at Atlanta’s nicknames: The Melting Pot of the South, Wakanda, Silicon Peach, Hotlanta, and The Hollywood of the South. They convey a rugged and fun-loving outsider that has emerged as a major player due to its commitment to inclusion, reinvention, and perseverance. You could say the same for Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, an MBA program known for its personal touch as much as five-star leadership and DEI programming. Still, it is Goizueta’s Atlanta digs that take the MBA program to the next level.


“You will never run out of local companies to have coffee chats with, or places in which to do so,” observes Ivan Guerrero, a first-year who studied Chemical Engineering as an undergraduate. “Being in one of the largest metro areas in the country will allow you to find whatever it is that excites you, even if you cannot find it on campus.”

All told, you’ll find 16 Fortune 500 headquarters in Atlanta, including UPS, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and Delta Air Lines. On top of that, 75% of Fortune 500 firm have a presence in the metro. Timothy Lam, another first-year who earned an economics degree as an Emory undergrad, equates Atlanta to an emerging “East Coast tech hub.” Last spring, Google announced plans to lease another 500,000 square feet of office space on West Peachtree. This came on the heels of Airbnb making Atlanta its East Coast office. For Lam, Atlanta has all the resources and expertise he’d need to build his career in the tech space.

“Goizueta’s relationships with the Atlanta startup and technology community really appealed to me,” he writes. “The entrepreneurship and technology scene has gone from strength to strength. In the first half of 2021, Georgia companies have raised almost $2 billion of venture capital, which is more than the total amount raised in 2020.  I am excited to get involved with Atlanta’s entrepreneurship ecosystem collaborators and partners, and love that Goizueta will provide me those opportunities.”

Goizueta MBA students heading to class


Business isn’t the only reason to head to Atlanta. It is one of the greenest cities in the country, with MARTA and Hartsfield making it easy to access any point in the city or around the world. Here, you’ll find landmarks like the Georgia Aquarium and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Beyond corporate royalty, Atlanta is home to organizations ranging from the CDE to Habitat For Humanity — not to mention studios for Marvel and Tyler Perry.

This stems from Atlanta’s legacy of being ambitious, tolerant, and innovative, adds Saif Nazrul, a senior business consultant who moved from Bangladesh to join the Class of 2023. “Atlanta also happens to be a melting pot of cultures, with a proud civil rights history, which makes it a great case study for leaders interested in furthering and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Finally, there is the beautiful southeastern weather — what more could you want?”

And let’s not forget the Southern hospitality you’ll find in Atlanta, writes second-year Kegan Baird. “Some of the greatest examples come from our food. That includes Waffle House, which was founded on the principles of “providing the friendliest service in town while also offering the opportunity for rewarding and quality careers”, and Chick-Fil-A, which is known for its incredible service (albeit only 6 days a week). Here is one more thing to remember about Southern hospitality. When someone says, “Bless your heart”, that is not them appreciating you – it’s a very sweet comment expressing contempt or pity.”


You won’t hear that phrase around Goizueta much. After all, the Class of 2023 represents the eclectic and proactive spirit of Atlanta. Siva Prasad Kalimuthu, for one, developed a low cost Mobile Septage Treatment Unit (MTU). Able to treat waste on site, the MTU made water and sanitation easier to access for the poor, earning an award from the Government of India along the way.  In contrast, Saif Nazrul commercialized a telel-health solution, Shurokkha, that connects veterinarians to rural cattle farmers.

Shurokkha was in its trial phase when I joined its parent company, but after following two rounds of project funding applications from various international financiers, which I led, Shurokkha is now an AI-enabled product with a scaled-up reach of 25,000 farmers across Bangladesh. I am particularly proud of this achievement as it was a prime example of my desire to achieve technological progress and social impact through a business model.”

This class is also accustomed to leading at the highest levels. Stephon Harris, a software engineer by trade, spent three years building an insight and discovery platform for the firm that sends Rovers to Mars. As a clinical researcher, Stephanie Andrews helped gain FDA approval for a drug that fights a rare form of leukemia. Sophie Maus championed a social impact program for HBCUs to her CEO. Today, the program supports investing advice and finance courses. At the same time, Ivan Guerrero produced a risk management model for what he calls the “largest copper mine in North America.” The result: he earned his firm’s Innovation Award.

Goizueta MBAs volunteering as part of a Keystone project in Piedmont Park


Not surprisingly, you’ll also find a Coca-Cola veteran at Goizueta — a school named after legendary Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta. At Coca-Cola FEMSA Colombia, the world’s largest franchise bottler of Coca-Cola products, Carlos Martinez helped shepherd an agreement that aligned the strategy and incentives between the two companies.

The agreement evolved in 2021 to be not just for Colombia, but for all of countries in FEMSA and outstretched to 2025,” Martinez notes. “My job in this process was to evaluate and align the financials with KO that resulted from the plans and the strategies designed by the commercial and the marketing teams, guaranteeing FEMSA met the economic targets. My responsibility as well was to implement the agreement and assure the income was being distributed correctly between the two companies. These types of agreements are a significant competitive advantage for the Coca-Cola system and are going to be the future of the bottler business model.”

Martinez isn’t alone in producing results. As a production manager, Jake Sullivan was busy setting his company’s sales and profit records. Timothy Lam led a 30 member consulting team, replete with six streams, to “transform compliance culture” at a U.S. Bank with $2 trillion dollars in assets. Speaking of large scale projects, Myles T. Henry managed a team that rolled out training to 55,000 employees. And few people have enjoyed as quick of a career climb as Ose Ujadughele at E&J Gallo Winery.

“I came into Gallo as part of their operations management development program, which allowed me to rotate into a different role every year for 3 years,” she writes. “A few months into my last rotation, my coworker transitioned into a new role which left the newest member of the team (ME!) leading a large operation with 65 front-line team members. Before I knew it, the rest of the year went by, and I had become the subject matter expert for the department. This was a pivotal moment in my journey where I realized just how much I could do if I stretched myself.”

Away from their careers, the Class of 2023 is equally unique. Jack Sullivan is a former head brewer, while Sophie Maus played beatbox on her college a cappella group. Cade Ricker is a cyclist who completes in 100-mile ‘century’ races. If you visit Washington DC, you may want to check out the National Museum of African American History & Culture: Myles T. Henry is featured there. And you may even think that Siva Prasad Kalimuthu stepped out of a Marvel movie. Just look at his origin story…

“After schooling, I decided to pursue a degree in Physics because I believed that I would one day invent the time machine,” he jokes.

Emory University Goizueta Business School has released its class profile for the one-year MBA showing 51% women


During the 2020-2021 cycle, Emory Goizueta received 915 applications. Ultimately, the program accepted 53% of candidates, enrolling 165 students in the Class of 2023 (up 20 students from the previous year). This year’s class brings a 692 average GPA and 3.36 undergraduate GPA to Goizueta. They hail from 18 countries, with 35% arriving from overseas and 27% being women.

Academically, the largest segment of the class majored in Business and Commerce as undergraduates. Their 27% share edged out Engineering (25%) and Economics (16%), with the remaining class also including students who studied Social Sciences (12%), Sciences (9%), Computer Science (5%), and the Humanities (4%). When it comes to professional backgrounds, 15% of the class last worked in Financial Services, followed by Consulting Services (14%) and Technology (10%). The class also includes students with backgrounds in Consumer Products, Manufacturing, Nonprofits, Healthcare, Energy, Media and Entertainment, and Real Estate.

Looking ahead, the arrow is definitely pointing up for the Class of 2023. Take starting base pay, which came in at $134,700. That’s a $4,588 increase over the previous year (and a $14,000 bump over the past four years). By the same token, signing bonuses climbed by over $1K to $29,151 for spring graduates. Like past classes, consulting was a prime employment target. This year, 37% of the class entered consulting, making Goizueta one of the bigger feeder schools to the industry. Just don’t call Goizueta a school for southerners. Just 53% of Goizueta grads stayed in the region — and those who remained had good reason.

“The biggest myth about Goizueta is that you should only come here if you’re from the South,” explains ’21 grad Thomas Egge. “People probably get this misconception from seeing that most of our graduates take jobs in the southeast after graduation. As I northerner I fully expected to move back to Boston after school, and while many of my classmates did that, I realized that Atlanta is actually a much more livable city than anywhere I had been before. When you couple that with the city’s rapid growth it’s clear why most graduates choose to stay.”

Next Page: Interview with Brian Mitchell

Page 3: Profiles of Goizueta First-Year MBAs

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