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Which Stories Are Your Best Stories?

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Joined: 30 Nov 2009
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Location: Chicago, IL
Schools: Brown University, Harvard Business School
Which Stories Are Your Best Stories? [#permalink]

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New post 04 Sep 2013, 05:56
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Hey y’all,

Soooo the other day I wrote you my tips on getting the most out your application. Helpful? Good, cuz we're gonna dig into one of those a bit more. And that is: STRATEGIZE YOUR APPLICATION.

So, probably a lot of you are scratching your heads “Okay, okay. I need to strategize my application. But HOW do I do that.”

Let's get right to it:

You can (and should) strategize your application at every word of every sentence of every item in your application (essays, resume, application form…) but the place to start FIRST is your essay selection.

This is a stage that way, way too many people gloss over, thinking they know themselves sooooooo well that they already have their stories. But before you settle in with one story for the long haul, you better make sure it's one of your Greatest Hits (i.e. one of the best gat damn stories you've got to share).

Yes, you have to answer the question, and yes, you have to write with heart, but you ALSO have to get something out of every essay! And if you're choosing stories to fit the questions, you're doing it wrong. What you need to do is pick your stories... and make them work, no matter what's being asked.

And here are a few things to consider as you select your stories:

1. Results - this one is BY FAR the most important consideration, because most of the other considerations are either subservient to this one, or can be written around. The BEST results make the BEST stories. End of story! (Bahaha) I mean, you set up the largest deal in company history? Wow! Amazing result! There’s no way to mess up that story! You doubled production? Brought five new products to market? Got promoted while doing so? AMAZING!

That’s why I always tell folks: When thinking about which stories to fit into which questions work BACKWARDS. Meaning, forget about the question for a second when selecting stories. FIRST find the stories you have with the BEST RESULTS and THEN see where you can fit 'em.

2. Actions - All right, now I’ll contradict myself a bit. In reality, results aren’t everything. You can have some stories with fantastic results, but where you don’t have all that much to say because you didn’t do all that much. You helped release your company’s most important and most profitable product. GREAT! But what did you do to make it happen? You coded!... well, that’s a little bit less exciting (although as I wrote before, this can be written around). So those results are only as impressive as your role in achieving them.

Let's flip it for a second. Say a dude founds a start-up that ultimately fails, but while he tried, he led a team of fifty programmers, convinced angel investors to give him money, collaborated with important tech CEOs, etc. That guy sounds awesome. And look at those results! Sure, he didn't succeed in the end, but he did some daaaamn cool stuff along the way.... and his story is probably better than the best of most people’s success stories because he was central in all of it.

So when you're choosing your stories, results are huge... but your actions are integral.
Things to look for: leadership, teamwork, negotiation, presentations, innovation, daring.

3. Diversity - Okay, so your three biggest achievements are that you helped your firm establish three new factories in China. Great! But can you write THREE stories about it? In all reality it’ll probably be a bit boring. So, once you have decided on your top stories for each question SEPARATELY, now it’s time to start to think how it all fits TOGETHER. When you take all the stories and read them as a whole, what picture does it present of you? What is there? What is missing from that overall picture? Do you have three fantastic leadership stories, but ZERO teamwork stories? You may want to shift things around so that you balance out your profile.

But only choosing from your Greatest Hits, of course.

So remember, folks… before you “put pen to paper” on those essays (meh, who uses pens these days?) sit down and start brainstorming your best stories. Make a list. Then rank 'em. And THEN start writing those essays.

Jon Frank
Founder, Admissionado

Admissionado | Packages | Success Stories | Team

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