Admissions Tip: Labels and Groups

You all know who they are: The group with the dread label. The ones who are over-represented in a particular applicant pool. Indian IT males applying to business school. Poli sci and English majors applying to law school. Bio majors applying to med school. All these types worry about their label, their blandness, their sheer numbers. As common and distinctive as grains of sand in a process that values diversity. Right?

Actually, that depends on you. I recently replied to a post on the GMAT Club where the MBA applicant author was obsessing about his Indian male IT label and whether he could possibly escape it through sleight of hand or geography. My reply to him is germane to many of you with similar anxieties, and I am posting it here:

Many schools will “group” applicants for administrative purposes, but ultimately the admissions process is about getting to know you as an individual. It’s your job to create a group of 1: You. Not Indian, not American, not IT, not Indian American or American Indian, but You. Don’t get hung up on the label or group. Use the energy you are spending worrying about a label or group and focus on bringing out your individuality in your essays and interviews.

Yes, I know that I have frequently said Indian males in IT are a-dime-a-dozen in the [MBA] applicant pool. Frankly, US males in IT aren’t much less common, whether they are of Indian origin or their ancestors came over on the Mayflower. The task of individuating is probably more difficult for those in a common group, but it is possible. And again, I urge you to focus on you and not your group.

So don’t stress about how you are like others; think about how you differ. Trumpet in your essays how your unique qualities and attributes– not someone else’s and not your group’s — will add to the program you are applying to and ultimately contribute to your chosen profession.

For more tips on this point, please see Being Yourself.