Confessions Of An MBA Consultant

Stacy Blackman is the founder and managing director of Stacy Blackman Consulting. She is writing a series of articles called Confessions of an MBA Admissions Consultant

I’m looking down the barrel of, what could be, a client’s colossal error. She’s about to make a life altering, could cost her admission to B-school choice. The only appropriate response I can think of is: F&#k.

You should know that I am pre-disposed to disliking gimmicks in general, but especially when it comes to applying to graduate school. I know, I know. Some gurus think a gimmick is cute, sets one apart from the crowd and even makes a better, more memorable candidate. But since my clients are applying to a professional setting, not a reality show, I always suggest they let their stats and their story stand for themselves. The essence of a client is what makes them stand out, not an essay that reads like a late night comedy routine.

We all loved the scene in “Legally Blonde” where Elle Woods makes a totally inappropriate “video essay” as her application to Harvard Law School and it (surprise, surprise!) gets her in. In real life, a stunt like that would get her a date long before it would get her acceptance to any reputable institution not run by Hugh Hefner.


So here I am, a B-school admissions adviser who firmly believes that you should be the star of your own application. There’s no need to pepper it with a neon sign that says: Look At Me! Yet here I am with a client who wants to begin her essay with language best suited for a sailor, not a banker. Adding insult to bad taste, my client was actually well positioned to get into a top-tier school, maybe ever her fist choice, The Stanford Graduate School of Business. So I wonder why someone with so much going for her would do the essay equivalent of pulling an Elle Woods and mess up her chances of getting in. This is real life, not the movies.

Almost for my own amusement, I continue to read her essay. I finish. Honestly, I’m totally shocked. Her essay is, in a word, brilliant. Her use of an expletive as an opener, genius. Why? Because the word itself was the only accurate description of the situation she goes on to describe in detail, which leads her into a lengthy discussion of freedom and the use of freedom to enable one to take risks, the whole thesis of her essay.


Genius, I think to myself.  What better way to show you’re a risk taker than by taking a risk in your essay?  And since her intention was to really show who she was, a risk taker at heart, not to pull a stunt to get attention, it worked. This was her story, foul-mouthed, and all.

It’s rare that I second-guess my own advice, but in this case I’d be remiss if I dug my heels in just for the sake of being right. So, for the first time in my professional career, I advise my client to begin her essay with the word F%#k.  It’s who she is and isn’t that the point?

An MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Stacy Blackman founded Stacy Blackman Consulting in 2001 and has helped thousands of MBA applicants gain admission to the most selective business schools in the world. The Stacy Blackman team, comprised of MBA graduates, former admissions officers and expert writers, editors and marketers, helps clients develop and implement a winning marketing strategy. Stacy’s previous confessions story.

Our Series On Business Schools’ Most Challenging Essay Questions

Part I: Smartly Handling Harvard’s Setbacks Essay

Part II: Smartly Handling Wharton’s Most Challenging Essays

Part III: Stanford’s Mind-Boggling Essay

Part IV: Kellogg’s Most Challenging Essay Question

Part V: MIT’s Most Challenging Essay Question

Part VI: INSEAD’s Trickiest MBA Essay Question

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