How To Make the "Why This School" Argument... and Win
Saying “I love you” is a delicate matter. You don’t want to be too cavalier about it, or else your sig-o may not believe you. But you also don’t want to hire Air Force One to skywrite your love for them over the grocery store where they buy their mangoes. That just makes you seem crazy and needy.
Finding a way to say “I love you” to the MBA program you’re applying to is a similarly delicate thing. It’s about finding a comfortable balance between “I love your school, I’m so excited, you guys are the best!” and “Your program has mad connections and will make me rich, so let’s do this.”
Adcoms read an insane amount of applications, and they have finely tuned radar for the insincere stuff. They can tell if you’re truly passionate about their school or if you’re just looking to ride on their coattails for brand notoriety. Trust us—no one wants to have stretched out coattails. Coattails are a pain to iron.
So, that’s insincere love. What really kills us, though, are those folks who sincerely love the school, but don’t put in the effort to make their love seem specific and well thought out in their application. That’s lazy love. Adcoms don’t like that either.
So what’s an MBA applicant to do in order to avoid lazy and insincere love and demonstrate two big draws on your application:
1) Fit and
Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning said it best:
“Oh MBA program of my dreams, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
(Well, she didn’t say EXACTLY that, but you get the picture.)
Show them HOW you love them (professionally AND personally,) in a number of SPECIFIC ways.
Professionally speaking, take your hard-earned knowledge about school offerings (classes, career center services, special events, hiring statistics, special projects, etc.) and demonstrate how you will fit in and succeed because of them. RELATE them to your goals, and how they will help you achieve your goals.
We here at Admissionado
fundamentally believe that prestige is way more important than fit and that you can fit in anywhere, at any school you choose. But in your application it’s your task to craft an essay that shows how you fit in with THAT school specifically. The adcom needs to know why THEY are the one for you… more than anyone else. So give ‘em concrete facts, but not just a laundry list of stuff they already know. Personalize them with your own specific history and future goals, and how THEIR offerings are exactly what YOU need to move forward in your career.
And while you’re doing that, don’t leave any dots unconnected. If lots of people from Business School X go on to be Project Managers in Lockheed Martin, and that just happens to be EXACTLY your goal, make that connection clear. Don’t assume that ANYTHING seems obvious. It isn’t. And Adcoms’ brains get tired just like everybody else’s, so don’t make them do Da Vinci Code level work to figure out what you’re trying to say. [Because…erm… they won’t. They’ve got 5-7 minutes to read that app, and that’s not a lot of time to start decoding.]
But what if you’re applying to a school that isn’t so strong in your intended industry? No problem. You can earn mega points by showing them how the school is perfect for you in terms of OTHER stuff: the community, the extracurriculars and study abroad programs you want, the conferences and research initiatives, and professors you hope to study with. Those reasons for fit are just as compelling as the other stuff, if you play your cards right.
Pushing it even further into the personal, if you can visit the school before you apply
, even better. Then you can write with glittering, gorgeous detail about how you felt as you walked the stacks of the library, listened to a professor give a lecture on a topic you’re interested in, sat in on a meeting of the Finance Club and got excited about hearing them plan for the next big Case Competition and how that inspired you to start thinking about what you might contribute…
So in short: make a school feel loved by showing them that you KNOW them, by connecting what you know to your past experience and future goals, and reflecting on what about this school feeds your drive to be DOING this stuff that all.
And if you HAVEN’T done the research yet, get your overwhelmed self a big ol’ iced coffee and get your butt online and start checking out the school website. Trust us—we’ve got MBA fact sheets galore—there is a treasure trove of information out there waiting to be woven into your essays.
Big takeaway here folks: get accepted to the best schools you possibly can, and decide later which one is best for you for what you need right now. That name brand and network are going to take you further than anything else in your career.
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