It's Not About You

When it comes to impressing the MBA admissions committees, it’s actually not about you…it’s about them.

Making a splash with top tier business schools is not easy. Tens of thousands of applicants each year try to do so and most of them fall into the same trap: talking about themselves in the most favorable way possible. While it’s true that you must toot your own horn in order to get some attention in the process, you must also remember that you can blow your horn so loudly that you forget to consider what’s in it for them.

Business school admissions committees are on a mission every cycle to build the strongest class possible.

They are hand-selecting applicants with the experience and personality which they perceive will synergize with the rest of the class.  Like an artist selecting colors from a palette, the adcoms mix and swirl the applications together until they can see the perfect mix of MBA candidates who will work together, sharpen each other and contribute the most unique and valuable perspectives they can find in the collective classroom experience.

Keep what you bring to the table top of mind throughout each and every question on the application.

Of course bragging is poor form, so a trick you can use to keep from sounding overconfident or cocksure, is to frame your best offerings not around what you have done or can do, but why you feel you are good at it.  When you start with why, it allows you to reveal your inner makeup, how you are wired.  Most of our strengths are a result of our natural abilities and not necessarily what we have worked hard to achieve.  When you present your strengths from a place of humility and why they might be valuable to someone else, it takes the edge off, because you are considering others.  You can also expose an honest view of your shortcomings by offering what you hope to get from the experience of others. 

This kind of seasoned perspective will impress the committee by making you sound mature and self-aware, both traits which are attractive to b-schools.   In the end, remember what C.S. Lewis said about humility:

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

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