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Profile Evaluation/Advice: The Bleeding Heart [#permalink]
26 Jun 2012, 00:38
I started college at 14, and graduated at 18. The first two years were spent at a community college where I got my Associate in Business and had a 3.33 GPA. Somehow that qualified as Honors. I then transferred to an offshoot and unknown campus of a good university where I led two business clubs, was a business student ambassador, and increased my GPA to 3.64.
I spent a while after graduation doing full time volunteering, then I got a really low paying job doing really cool work for a non-profit. I basically redesigned an entire program and created a second. After a year of that I took the GMAT and got a 740 (77%ile Q, 98%ile V). I did some consulting work, creating a database for an investment firm for a few months, then I flew off to Africa to do business development with the Peace Corps. I will have 49 months of full-time work experience by the time I am done here, if the time I spent volunteering full-time counts. What?! It was a very professional office setting.
With all of my do-goodery, cash is rather tight (read none at all) so I will only be applying to INSEAD and Harvard my first round. Does this sound like a good idea for me?
Also: should I draw attention to my age during college? If so, how should I frame it?
And how does one deal with a question about a failure!??!!?
HBS loves young achievers and your story is unique enough to get their attention, especially with your big GMAT score and Peace Corps. Make sure you come across as mature with specific reasons for why MBA. A mature and compelling vision will be essential to convincing them you are "ready" for b-school. As for your age in college, there are myriad ways to frame it, not the least of which is to leverage off this need I mentioned to come off as mature. Matriculating so early to college undoubtedly required you to "grow up early," so you could speak to just as many social learnings and cultural learnings as you can of academic learnings. As for failure, HBS likes to refer to them as setbacks. A setback is something you experience and overcome, vs. a failure, which implies it was DOA. Couching your "failure" as a setback can get you thinking correctly about how to postition such challenges as opportunities instead and how to demonstrate your thinking methodology and crisis management skills.
Re: Profile Evaluation/Advice: The Bleeding Heart [#permalink]
26 Jun 2012, 15:16
This year Harvard has changed the question into "Tell us about something you wish you had done better. (400 words)", so it seems to fit a bit more into a failure type category, but not exactly.
I have been toying with several options, but each of them seems to leave a major area of concern open or else not really address the question.
Then the direct INSEAD question "Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. (400 words maximum)" throws me for a loop as well. I think in a way the hardest part of that question is discussing what I learned.
400 words is honestly not enough to address these questions.
The current subject I am toying with is a college team project I had thought was successful at the time, but I realized later that I had not optimized my performance. I assumed my teammates were lazy/dumb (not including it in the essay, but one once said to me that she was just trying to keep a 1.7 so that she would not lose financial aide) so I took on all of the work myself. Now I realize that I missed an opportunity to learn ways to provide motivation.
The thing I like about this idea is that my success essay focuses on a time when I found a cost free motivation that more than doubled positive results. In this way I am able to circumvent the word limit in showing my improvement, and the two essays fit together nicely (perhaps too nicely?)
My concern is that it is not the classic take on a failure essay in that it is a missed opportunity. I don't know if it would be considered acceptable since nothing actually went wrong as the result of my actions (we got a good grade, I just did not learn). I also worry that I might not be portrayed as a good team player. This is not much of a concern with Harvard, since there is no personal statement, but I am going to town portraying myself as a self-confident strategist who lets nothing get in her way in the INSEAD personal statement. I wonder if that failure essay might push that image overboard.
EDIT: or perhaps the worst part is that I am portrayed as someone who did not take a chance. I imagine they prefer failure by doing to failure by not doing. There again, everyone else is most likely trying so hard to prove how much they try new things that it might break me out of the formula. Goodness, I am over-thinking this, I am going to get an ulcer.
My initial take is that you may be over thinking it. The truth is, you can approach this in 1000 ways and probably have myriad experiences that could be shaped into a good essay. The most important part is to speak to the why and not just the what. In other words, the adcoms are trying to get to know you, who you are, what makes you tick. By digging into why you did things a certain way will reveal to them the kkind of personal insight that they are looking for. Generally with failure or setback essays, you want to give extra attention to what you learned. if this is problematic for any of your examples as you indicate, you may not have the right example. It's generally good to have some insight into your experiences that has been additive to your leadership style or your approach to problem solving. This kind of building block approach will help you appear mature and ready for b-school. It sounds like some of your examples involve a team experience which is a great way to approach this question since it would demonstrate development of your leadership style as well as your ability to work in team situations. But the most important thing is to get to the why: why the experience was impactful for you and why you think it makes a good case for b-school admission. Hope this helps.