Berkeley Haas | Ms. Against All Odds
GMAT 720, GPA 2.9
Wharton | Ms. Finance For Good
GMAT 730, GPA 3.7
Yale | Mr. Army Pilot
GMAT 650, GPA 2.90
Stanford GSB | Mr. Future VC
GMAT 750, GPA 3.6
Wharton | Mr. Investment Associate
GMAT 700, GPA 3.67
Kellogg | Ms. Public School Teacher
GRE 325, GPA 3.93
Darden | Mr. Tech To MBB
GMAT 710, GPA 2.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Education Reform
GRE 331 (Practice), GPA 2.92
Harvard | Mr. Hedge Fund
GMAT 740, GPA 3.8
INSEAD | Mr. Future In FANG
GMAT 650, GPA 3.5
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Army Officer
GRE 325, GPA 3.9
Harvard | Mr. Italian In Tokyo
GMAT (710-740), GPA 4.0
Kellogg | Mr. IDF Commander
GRE Waved, GPA 3.0
Berkeley Haas | Mx. CPG Marketer
GMAT 750, GPA 3.95
Yale | Mr. Healthcare Geek
GMAT 680, GPA 3.5
USC Marshall | Mr. Low GPA High GMAT
GMAT 740, GPA 2.44
Harvard | Mr. MedTech Startup
GMAT 740, GPA 3.80
INSEAD | Mr. INSEAD Hopeful
GMAT -, GPA 2.9
Chicago Booth | Mr. Consulting Hopeful
GMAT 720, GPA 3.6
Kellogg | Mr. Operations Analyst
GMAT Waived, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Google Tech
GMAT 770, GPA 2.2
Wharton | Mr. Senior Analyst
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Ms. Access To Opportunities
GRE 318, GPA 2.9
Tuck | Mr. Product Marketer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.1
UCLA Anderson | Mr. International PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Low GPA To Stanford
GMAT 770, GPA 2.7
London Business School | Mr. Midwest Engineer
GMAT 750, GPA 3.69

Confessions of An MBA Consultant

This could ruin her chances, I think to myself after reading my client, Marina’s business school admissions essays.  We’re weeks away from submitting and her essays just aren’t there yet.

When a client and I decide to work together, one of the first things I like to explain is that my job isn’t to burst their bubble.  “Anyone can tell you all the reasons you won’t get in,” I tell clients. “My job is to show you how you can get in.”

For months Marina and I have worked together, trying to devise the perfect plan to address her specific situation.  While Marina has strong test scores and good grades from Cal Berkeley, her resume leaves much to be desired.

In the past four years, she’s been laid off from four jobs.  The admissions committee could easily see her as the Jennifer Lopez of applicants. Once they get her, no one seems to want to keep her.

Business School is designed to prepare you for the job you’ll have after school. There’s an intrinsic assumption you’ll get a job after school and more importantly, keep it.

But Marina’s resume makes her look like a job flea, hopping from one to the next.  The essay she’s submitted for my review glosses over the details of her employment issues. Yet her lackluster employment history is detailed clearly on her resume.

The reality of her situation stands out like an elephant in the middle of her application; and glossing over the issue doesn’t make it go away.

For her to get in, Marina’s going to have to show that losing four jobs in four years makes her an asset. But Marina can’t wrap her head around the concept. At this point in the process, she sees everything as a weakness. She’s having a hard time assessing herself.

It’s my job to help her think differently, so she can see the forest through the 4 jobs she’s lost.

So I give Marina an assignment.  Using a simple framework she’ll later learn more about in b-school, I ask her to assess herself as if she were a business.  I suggest a SWOT analysis, a grid used to analyze strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat.

Put on a grid, one’s internal weakness and external threats start to become more obvious.  The realities become less personal on paper and merely become data one needs to address.

By seeing herself on paper, it becomes obvious to Marina how she can address her work history and turn her weaknesses into strengths.

Marina had lost her job four times, but only because she had gone to work for start-ups during a volatile economic climate.  She was never fired based on her performance. The companies she worked for had either lost their funding or merged which led to layoffs.

By addressing this instead of ignoring it, Marina then became an applicant with a passion for start-ups who shows resilience and an ability to land on her feet. These are amazingly good qualities for future business leaders.

She was even able to discuss the life lessons these hurdles had taught her and show how they will make her a better leader in the future.

By thinking about herself within the same context she’d think about any business, Marina turned her weaknesses into strengths and ultimately got in.

So what are your weaknesses? And how can you turn them into strengths?

Don’t gloss over the truth; it just might be what sets you apart and helps you get in.

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