The World Cup and the Admissions Process

By - Jul 9, 12:33 PM Comments [0]

World Cup games have captivated much of the world’s attention over the past month, and Sunday’s match-up between Spain and The Netherlands will determine who wears the 2010 crown.

As I followed this first African World Cup, I marveled at how close many of the games were, and how relatively minor plays decided the outcomes. Spain beating Germany on a header off a corner kick was all that mattered. Then there were the refereeing mistakes and questionable judgment calls that seemed to affect whether a team advanced or was eliminated. Did that obvious goal by England against Germany that was missed affect the player’s spirits, thus contributing to their eventual loss? What really was the impact of that clear offside by Argentina against Mexico, or the phantom American foul on a US goal against Slovenia?

As exciting as the games have been, you might be wondering what they have to do with the admissions process. Several parallels strike me.

First, being heavily favored going into the games doesn’t mean making it to the final one. Germany, Brazil and Spain were favored by many at the beginning of play; Spain is the only one that survived. Essentially they had “good stats.” Similarly, a candidate might have outstanding credentials and qualifications for admissions, but the application process seeks people of achievement, leadership, initiative, and impact. Stats are not enough and may not determine the winners.

Second, the ability to take full advantage of opportunities is crucial. Spain’s goal against Germany showed the importance of being fully prepared to use an opportunity to score, just as making it to an interview round in the application process demands that a candidate be fully prepared to beat out other closely qualified candidates in that crucial step of the process.

Finally, each of the 32 initial World Cup teams was talented and well qualified, but each had to prove it had the ability to make it to the final game. Applicants must similarly understand that admission decisions are made by people doing their best to put together a class that is balanced among many different metrics. Using your application, especially your essays, to showcase why you are qualified to “win” can make all the difference.

P.S. Having lived in the U.S., Japan and Mexico – none of whom made it to the final – and having good friends and relatives in both Spain and The Netherlands, I claim neutrality regarding Sunday’s game.

Robbie Walker is a writer, columnist and editor who received her MBA from Chicago Booth. She is happy to assist you in targeting the right schools and identifying the details that best highlight your candidacy.

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