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Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear?

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Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 11:36
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Let me preface this by saying that this could just be another paranoid reapplicant posting. :-)

A few things got me thinking about this topic. 1) Ryhme's very informative post regarding the LEAD program at GSB. 2) The Ross MBA pamphlet, in particular, the discussion on MAP 3) You can plug in any other "school specific" item here, such as KWEST, Value Investing Program at CBS, Team Fuqua, Case Method at Darden, and on and on.

After having gone through the application process once already, albeit rather unsuccessfully, there are a couple of things that I realize are SUPER important. 1) Standing out in a positive manner (i.e., be memorable) and 2) Showing some serious love towards the school.

The first is really dependent on your life experiences, but can be improved and enhanced based on how you spin your work/life stories to make them memorable and important. The second is something that will be “relatively” the same for a huge chunk of applicants. For instance, you could say things such as:

“I am interested in GSB because of the LEAD program. It will teach me X, Y, and Z and will make me a more effective leader. The opportunity to be involved in this…”

“Chicago's flexible curriculum will also benefit me because...”

“Darden’s case method provides a great environment for learning and will allow me to really cultivate my critical thinking and analytical skills. This type of student interaction and the preparation required will be important for my role as a Management Consultant…”

I think a main reason that these topics are discussed at nauseam is because they are such a big part of why these schools are great and why they are unique. Also, even going through school websites and pamphlets, the schools post these very reasons as to why they think their programs are great. I guess what I'm trying to say here is, A LOT of people are going to discuss these things. From the adcom's perspective, are these types of topics a requirement to show that you have general knowledge of the program or is the word count better left to more “obscure” or intimate topics that won't be repeated by 5,000 other applications?

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ryguy
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Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 11:49
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In my opinion, you need to find a middle ground between knowing the school's strengths generally and explaining why they're a particularly great fit for you personally.

“Darden’s case method provides a great environment for learning and will allow me to really cultivate my critical thinking and analytical skills. This type of student interaction and the preparation required will be important for my role as a Management Consultant…” - sure, but how is that different from taking a case-based class at any other school? What is it about Darden specifically that appeals to you?

Was the intellectual intensity of the discussions there stronger than at other schools you had visited? Did the professor guide case discussion in a way that stood out? This is your opportunity to really showcase how well you know the school, and quite honestly set your application apart from the hundreds of other applicants who are just recycling their essays from other applications.

“Chicago's flexible curriculum will also benefit me because...” - because, what? Every school will allow you to take several electives. How is Chicago's flexibility and lack of a specified "core" an advantage? Perhaps because you already have strong knowledge of Corporate Finance and Managerial Statistics and Chicago allows you to get down to "business" straightaway and prepare you for internship recruiting that begins a few months after you start?

The essays need to be as personal as possible, and you need to introduce that individual element to complement school strengths that anybody with access to a web browser is familiar with.
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Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 12:06
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In agreement with Solaris1.

I think applicants like to name-drop the school's specific programs because they think it will make their essay sound less generic.

Unfortunately, that accomplishes little... unless the reasons you give as to why they suit you AREN'T generic.

The sample sentences you gave kind of follow the cause-effect structure: Take class A --> Learn B. You're absolutely right that a lot of other applicants are going to be writing the same things if they all take that approach.

I think a more effective way to mention these programs in your essay is not to use as them the central idea behind a paragraph, but to use them as one-sentence transitions into a more elaborate story about your experiences, personality, or values.

Here's an example of how I approached it, using the school's alumni base as an example.

"School X stood out by strength of its alumni. What set them apart was that they were people first, MBAs subsequent, and I personally view the former quality as one that underscores excellent leadership. [Transition into writing about leadership and individuality.]"

Notice how it's not necessary to explicitly state "strong alumni base will be integral to expanding my network" or somesuch reason that most other candidates will write. Nonetheless, you have effectively acknowledged that you value the school's alumni network, all while talking about your unique qualities.
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Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 12:27
This may be obvious, but I think one thing that AdComs really ask themselves when reading essays is "Did the applicant write this essay especially for our school?"


They don't want to see recycled essays with the program names changed. So you have to be careful, even if you aren't doing that, to make sure that you don't appear to be doing that. You need to be sure to link these things that you are saying as good to you and to your goals. For example:

This could be said of every school:

“I am interested in GSB because of the LEAD program. It will teach me X, Y, and Z and will make me a more effective leader. The opportunity to be involved in the..."


This could not:

“I am interested in GSB because its LEAD program will help me prepare for a career in A, by developing my skills in X, Y, and Z." or "Professor XXX's article on YYY was fascinating to me because it illuminated some things, like Z, that I have already applied in my work. The opportunity to take classes with teachers of this caliber will certainly help me achieve my goal of..." "the GGG program at XYZ GSB will help me achieve my goal of becoming an investment banker by developing X, Y, and Z through courses like [insert unique course name here]."



I think you pay the major aspects of the school lip service while talking about the more obscure things, and relating it to yourself.


HTH
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Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 12:46
You are all hitting on the right issues... its not just about showing that you've done research, but that the research is clearly tied into your goals. It should support your overall position, strategy, needs, etc. Simply 'laundry listing' facts is going to get you nowhere. In other words, the research has to be meaningful. `

As to my comments on LEAD... I wasn't suggesting you write something as dry and marketing esque as my very tongue in cheek "official essay" answer... I imagine that was clear, or I hope it was anyway.
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Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 13:20
Great topic! This is something I have struggled with in my essays as well. I have really tried to avoid boring platitudes, but this topic has made me go back and check my essays again.

Thanks for the reminder.
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Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 22 Jul 2008, 13:40
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Hmmm, I've got mixed feelings here. Yes you should show why school X, Y or Z will help you in your goals. But I certainly didn't over-think it. I used the same structure for every goal essay and adapted it to each school. When you think about it, it's pretty ridiculous: you have to tell 5 different schools why each one would be the perfect match for you. It's like in an interview: you have to show to the interviewer why company X is the ONLY company you would like to work for. My view is a bit cynical and extreme, but not too far from the truth I think.

IMHO, bottom line is that:

1. you should definitively make a lasting impression (positive one obviously :-D ) on the adcom with your background and experiences

2. show to the adcom that you did your homework by investigating the school and writing about what their strengths are: great teachers, particular programs (LEAD is one example) and by giving a personal spin to them if possible.

I personally think that adcoms are perfectly aware that you're applying for more than 1 school (unless you have particular circumstances, you'd be a fool not to), so personal experience and background are more important than showing love; some schools like love-showing more than others (Stern comes to mind) but it shouldn't be the main focus of your essay (there are obviously exceptions to this), it's more something that has to be there, that probably won't make a lasting positive impression, but if it's not there it will make a negative impression (I hope I'm clear here).

Personal stuff is what people will remember the most, so focus on that.
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Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 22 Jul 2008, 19:04
I think a lot of what's been said makes sense. I know in my outlines, I found myself doing the "laundry list" of what I like about each school. It's taken me a bit more research and thought to really tie in why I like that specific trait about the school and how it fits in with the essay question being asked. :lol:
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Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 25 Jul 2008, 01:26
a bit late to the discussion, but pretty much write about WHY the school's specific program (the one discussed ad nauseum) fits with YOUR GOALS. The key word is PERSONALIZATION. Personalize why you love the school, its programs, and how they will help you. Everyone could love KWEST from Kellogg, but why is it that YOU love KWEST and how does it help you (and help Kellogg) to attend KWEST?

If you can convey that in your essays, then you are golden.
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Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear? [#permalink] New post 25 Jul 2008, 06:58
High value added comment from an Italian:

it's ad nauseam not at nauseam or ad nauseum.

:)
Re: Should we NOT tell them what they expect to hear?   [#permalink] 25 Jul 2008, 06:58
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