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Journey to my MBA

Friday, December 09, 2005

Will I be proud to call you a fellow alum?

I field tons of questions these days and some of my own in the area of MBA Application essays. It's difficult to judge another persons life. Especially if you only give them a couple of minutes or paragraphs to have them tell you about who they are.

Last year, when I applied to Tuck and Johnson, I thought that my essays were rather compeling and crafty enough to show who I was and why I needed an MBA. In truth, they were crap. Not because I say so, but because my lens of hindsight says so.

What I found was that I was merely putting some why's and examples to my Resume. I WAS NOT describing me. I wrote work related stories about how I struggled with this or that or attained some successes in this or that. This makes for a "C" level set of essays at best.

If you're reading this and are saying, "Oh Oh, that sounds like me." Then perhaps this Blog entry comes at a good time for you.

The big question then is, "how do I write essays that clearly help the reader get to know me?"

Well, who are you? Are you the sum of your work efforts? The answer is, "of course not". "Who" I am is defined by the parts of me that inform who I am or influence the decisions I make and the ways in which I approach nearly every situation. If I can write what those things are, then I've written a compeling essay.

So here's what to write in an "A" essay.

The two questions that have to be answered in the essays are:
1) Will the staff or student reading the essay be proud to call you a fellow alum based on the content of your essays? I'm not talking about titles per se. I'm talking about the kind of person that you are and the results that you achieve because of who you are.

2) Do I have enough background info about this person to know how this person would react in high pressure business situations without knowing everything this person has ever done that they consider significant?

Last year essays contained my nonprofit and work experience illustrations. But nothing more. This makes for a rather narrow view of who I am. I'm Korean and there are certain ways in which that changes how I react and interact with the world around me. I worked at my parents stores since I was 9 about 12-20 hours per week till I was 18. I handled the cashier, resolved customer service issues and made promises at a business to client level before I was even a teenager. I did this everyday. Through it all, my parents started over a dozen successful retail businesses and I was part of the management team.

Why didn't my essays include my cultural experiences? Why didn't I include a brief description about my youth and my first hand experience of building multiple retail businesses? I should have created a dotted line that allowed the reader to see how this background continued to exhibit itself in how I instrumentally built two Churches, started four collegiate clubs, became editor of the newspaper, started my own business for a while before selling it off, and am building a branch of an education business where I have zero experience but have already created revenue with zero marketing budget.

What a fool I was. That's why essays last year were crap. I didn't write about what informs my actions. I didn't help the reader to see how I would react given any business or personal circumstance. A dotted line from my youth experiences, cultural influences to my ongoing collegiate experiences and then to my post-college non-profit work and for profit successes is how I should have drawn it out. This is what my "Why an MBA" essay should have shown.

In case you're wondering how one does that, you do it by examples that connect. Sometimes a description works, but stories or short examples (and I mean short examples) tell more than listing the facts ever could. In other words, you have to write your "story". In the religious world, one would call it a "testimony".

Had I done this last year, I'm confident that I would have had a better chance at making it
easier for the staff or Alum reading my essays and app package to say that they would be proud to call me a peer in the Alum network.

Hindsight truly helped me this year. It's a good thing I can make those changes this year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an a-ha!! moment. Many wonder how others without ivy get into the top schools. Well, they are able to give out great "testimonials".

Keep it up and you will get somewhere

12:23 PM  
Blogger Vman said...

Very very useful blog Dave. I have made the exact same mistakes that you have outlined this time and am hoping to be able rectify them the next time.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Stacy Blackman Consulting said...

Developing “Brand You”: The Way to Drive Home Your Main Points

To view some applicants’ essay related ponderings, check out these blogs.

10:38 PM  
Blogger beme said...

Total contrast to botching - thought provoking. Cheers

8:58 AM  

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