Monday, June 20, 2011

Pretend to apply to your dream school

There is very little as motivating as reading the sort of questions that MBA applications pose in their essay prompts. Most of us read “what is your greatest accomplishment?” and withdraw into ourselves in apprehension. “Tons!” comes the response of the egotist, “my two children,” from those who play well with others, “graduating high school” or “college” from those who are modest. “Nothing,” however, is the immediate – and very human – response for the rest of us.

Pessimism aside, the thing that makes questions like these motivating, however, is if you’re planning on applying to that program in three years.

Then you have those questions in your back pocket. You’re holding a copy of the final exam a week before it’s being administered – you’re going to study a little differently, right? You know exactly what’s going to be asked, you know what to focus on, and what to skip.

It’s the same with the applications. Those questions very rarely change drastically – as far as I know, the articulation of your Life Plan (and why this degree is so indispensable in achieving The Plan) still ranks pretty high in admissions – so if you want to get into a particular program, and you want to have a killer essay so that they see what you do in you, why not start molding your life into a great answer?

Even if you’re not applying to a graduate program, and never intend to, keeping these questions in mind still makes you think about your life differently, and may encourage you to step outside the box one more time than you would have otherwise, making all the difference in the world. In short, trying to be a better applicant makes you a better person.

Sample questions from real schools:

Tell us about your three greatest accomplishments. (Harvard Business School)

Tell us about an idea or an experience you have had that you find intellectually engaging. (Stanford)

Describe an accomplishment that exhibits your leadership style. (Yale)

Assume you are evaluating your application from the perspective of a student member of the admissions committee. Why would you and your peers select you for admission, and what impact would you make as a member of the school community? (Kellogg, Northwestern)

What if you had to answer these today?
What if, on the other hand, you had a couple more years to improve your answer?

You do.

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