I was working on our Michigan Ross Strategy Memo over the weekend, when it occurred to me just how overlooked a "unique perspective" is when it comes to MBA applications. Even here at Amerasia, where we work hard to push our clients away from thinking in terms of "impress the reader" and towards "connect with the reader," we sometimes lose sight of how just what an easy and effective way that can be to frame introspective writing. Because Michigan Ross has the MAP program and everything funnels towards what perspective you bring to the class, it became a good reminder and something that felt worthy of passing along.
Every so often, we like to put an excerpt out there from one of our school-specific Strategy Memos. Full disclosure, the main reason to do this is to show off how we approach the process and to give potential clients a sense of what they might get (across the board, with all their schools and all the questions) if they become clients. But we also try to coordinate these with moments where we can get some really helpful strategy out there - basic, core ideas that will help people avoid pitfalls, even if they don't have help in executing perfectly. In this instance, Columbia Business School's Essay Question 2 is a nice overlap that allows us to do both. So let's dive in.
With the trend towards shorter essays, There has been a phenomenon in the applications which can only be described as “redundancy.” Shortening the essays has resulted in more questions and even mini-essays or micro-essays within the application itself, where often applicants end up repeating information about themselves that is found elsewhere in the application.
Today we want to talk about arguably the biggest and most common mistake we see on MBA applications, which is failing to market transferable skills. More importantly, we want to talk about how to fix that problem.
In working with clients of all age, gender, nationality, and industry, one thing we're always trying to do is identify things that connect everyone - common elements that become and remain true, regardless of differences. To be honest, there aren't many such elements. Almost everything about the MBA admissions process is a contextual exercise. You can almost never divorce a unique applicant or a specific school from your analysis. It's part of the reason this is such a difficult endeavor for people, part of the reason why so many admissions consultants do a horribly incomplete job of advising candidates, and a huge part of the reason why admissions consulting even exists. You have to do a lot of things right and you have to do them with great contextual specificity. If you confront "one size fits all" advice, typically you can sprint away from that as fast as possible.
That said, there is one universal truth that we have uncovered that seems largely overlooked by the rest of the MBA admissions landscape and that is how enormously important it is to abide by what we call the Art of Transferability.
Time for a quick blog post that comes from what I'm seeing each day, which is really rigid, hard-to-read Why School X sections. I give the same note to every single client so now I'm giving it to everybody: the simplest and most important thing you can do to improve your Why School X portion of career goals essay is to personalize any and all content.
What do I mean by "personalize?" Simple: make anything you write about the school specific to you, your experience, your desires, or what you require from a program. Never just state absolutes, generalities, or even known truths and facts - always make them personally-held viewpoints. Examples are the best way to understand this (after the jump):
I wanted to try something a bit different today when breaking down the new Ross essays, which is to post the decision tree I am going to be asking my clients to use this year.
Why would I just share this with the public, you might ask? In part because the real value of our services with Ross (unlike with some other schools) is going to be in implementation rather than in the setting of strategy - so I don't feel I am cheating my clients at all. Further, we just don't have that many clients select Ross, to be honest. This is confusing to me, as Ross is an amazing school and a true value pick ... but that's a column for a different time. Today, I want to present a really simple way to work through Ross' seemingly wide open essays. I'll be using one part common sense and one part program knowledge, but both are born out of lots of experience just being someone in this world (by "in this world" I mean working in "higher education" and with "people trying to maximize their lives and abilities"). Let's get into it.
MIT Sloan is one of "those" schools - the ones that seem to slip into the nooks and crannies of the admissions process. People don't talk about Sloan as much as its elite counterparts. Nobody immediately thinks about it in terms of being a top 5 program until you start digging and realize, wow, this program is insanely good.
Most importantly, because of its unique end-of-October deadline and equally unique two-round admissions process, we would wager that application quality on Sloan apps is far lower than on other top programs (which is a massive problem if you want to be admitted there). Candidates often don't even start on their Sloan apps until after the October 3-12 gauntlet of deadlines and then they race to finish because they fear waiting until the "last" round.
With those things in mind, we are breaking out another of our 5 Tips posts, with an eye toward improving the quality of Sloan applications.