What is “Passion” in Admissions?

RunnerYears ago, when I first heard b-school representatives talking about wanting to see passion in applications, I thought to myself, “You’re looking for passion from a bunch of investment bankers and engineers???? That’s a pretty calculating bunch.”

“Passion” has a sexy ring to it. An emotional, visceral appeal. It evokes images of glamorous actors and actresses in hot and heavy romances. The good guy in a Frank Capra film changing history. Generals exhorting the troops before sending them into battle.

Forget the steamy romances. Forget the hero delivering a stirring speech. Forget the generals addressing their troops.

That’s not what we’re talking about in admissions.

“Passion” in admissions — be it college, MBA, law school, medical school, or grad school — means dedication. It means commitment. It requires action over time. It can be very calculated and goal oriented, and not at all glamorous. It may lead to a feverish culmination, an earth-shattering moment, and it may not. It can be any one of the following and an infinite number of other activities:

  • Spending hours practicing the cello day-in and day out, year after year.
  • Assuming responsibility for an annual silent auction that raises thousands of dollars for your favorite cause during the five years that you have chaired it.
  • Training and training and training so that you beat your personal best in the race of your choice.
  • Volunteering at a medical or legal clinic twice a week since your sophomore year in college.

Next time you see the word “passion” in an admissions context, look between the lines. Read “dedication.” And those calculating, number-crunching, spreadsheet addicts among you, remember this equation: Passion = Action + Dedication.


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