Adcoms Seeking Impact in Applications
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
That phrase from President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech has resonated with Americans for generations. It is a call to service, a reminder that your value – and your legacy – is ultimately predicated on creating something new or making something better.
The same principle applies to business school applications. 700 GMAT? Yawn. Matriculated at Princeton? Get in line. Wall Street analyst? Your adcom received 10 of those yesterday – and all 10 read like they came from the same template.
No, adcoms want to be delighted and dazzled. Like any employer, they’re looking to learn how you’ll squeeze more out of their offerings and bring out the best in yourself, your peers, and faculty. In her latest U.S. News & World Report column, Stacy Blackman, a leading business school consultant, addresses the key question on every adcom’s mind: How will an applicant “enhance the student experience once on campus and continue to make a positive impact as an alumnus down the road?”
To answer this question, Blackman suggests three strategies. First, she encourages applicants to show how their skills and experience can benefit their classmates. “Business schools strive to assemble a cohort filled with impressive individuals who will use their unique characteristics to enrich the learning environment,” Blackman writes. As a result, you must bring something unique that differentiates you from applicants with similar profiles. For example, Blackman encourages applicants to look closely at their network. “Maybe you have contacts in your industry that can help other students obtain jobs. Think about whether you can provide connections to interesting speakers.”
Even more, Blackman recommends that you lay out a plan in your application or interview. “Share with the admissions committee how you will contribute to the organizations that already exist, or mention your ideas for creating new ones,” she advises. You can even extend this, Blackman notes, to organizing a trip, citing an interest in a particular professor’s research, or expressing a desire to become a student mentor after you graduate. In doing so, you implicitly convey your understanding of a school’s needs and culture – further distinguishing you from peers with similar backgrounds.
Once you make a case for how you can benefit the program, you can turn to how that program will help you. “The admissions committee wants to know why your particular aspirations will be uniquely satisfied by their program,” Blackman emphasizes, “so use the essays and interview to show you have done your research . . . Know the classes you want to take, the professors you hope to work for, and how any specialized programs will be an asset in your future career.”
Adcoms understand that a happy student is an engaged and generous alum who can boost a program’s reach, renown, and resources. As a result, they are not just sizing up the professional you are, but the alum that you’ll someday become. Whether it is an eclectic background or incomparable desire, the best alumni have that little something special. These intangibles reveal themselves early in the application process. And they set these candidates apart. Wondering what makes you special? Not sure how to articulate that proposition? Blackman has some more advice: “If your answers can be easily replicated by other applicants, they will add little to your candidacy.”
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Source: U.S. News & World Report
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