We had an excellent conversation about admissions, student life, and MBA curriculum last week with USC Marshall‘s Kellee Scott, Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions, and Ashley Dyer and Michael Fowler, Associate Directors at USC. To review, you can read the whole Marshall Q&A transcript, listen to the full audio clip online, or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes and catch as many of the MBA Admissions Q&As as you want.
Here is a particularly good section from the USC Marshall School of Business Q&A about writing the application essays:
Linda Abraham: Steve asks, “I know that it is very important for a prospective applicant to tell a good personal story about why they want to pursue an MBA, why they want to go to USC, and what they want to accomplish post-grad school. I want to know how important these types of questions are for you and how we can tell a better story.” I’m going to paraphrase that. If you can think of some of the application essays that you’ve read, without revealing particulars which might violate confidentiality, what made them memorable or forgettable?
Ashley Dyer: People who knew their story and it came together as a whole story. I think sometimes people forget that they’ve lived it, and there are large gaps when they tell their story. Have somebody read your essays to make sure your story is fluid and makes sense to somebody who hasn’t lived it. Be honest, be candid. Let us get to know you. A lot of people will try to tell us what they think we want to hear. We really want to know who you are and you only have so many essays to do that, so let us know who you are.
Kellee Scott: And I’ll add, as far as telling your story, realize that most stories are: I went to school, I got a degree, I worked a little bit, and now I’ve decided to go for my MBA. So there is a traditional story that everybody tells, but I think what really stands out is a candidate who can tell us something a little different and something that makes them pretty unique. For example, I had a particular story that still resonates with me from somebody that was pretty much coming from the typical engineering background. But in one of his essays he talked about fly fishing, which as far as I’m concerned has got to be one of the most boring things I’ve ever heard. But he told the story of why he took that up and how it helped him get close to his father which was very interesting. He even used the process of fly fishing as an analogy to the different levels of emotion he was feeling learning his father. Not everyone has to get deep like that, but again, it was an interesting story that resonated and still sticks with me. This happened about four-five years ago, and I still remember the story.
Michael Fowler: I would like to say that it is important to connect everything in your whole story. Not just coming out with: this is what I want to do. We are not looking for things to be detailed in the sense that we want to hear that in three years you’re going to be doing this, and in two years, you’re going to be doing this. But we really want to get to know you as an individual a little bit more; what your goals are and what it is that you want to do. One story in particular that I actually remember very vividly is one individual who talked about his experience going shark diving. Going shark diving is fascinating in itself, but he was really able to wrap that into what it was that he wanted to be able to do in the future. He talked about how he was really able to connect with people there who helped foster his business growth and his business acumen, and also helped him decide that business school is the right thing for him to pursue.
Kellee Scott: I would just ask yourself what you are passionate about and how that leads you to getting this MBA to follow your passion and your dreams. Everything is a business. Even when you are doing your hobbies it’s a business, so there is a way to tie it all together.
Linda Abraham: I would like to point out that “passion” is a word that is frequently used in admissions, and I’m not sure it means the same thing to admissions officers as it means to applicants. My definition of passion in admissions is “action + commitment”; it’s not just a feeling. It requires both action and commitment. So if you feel passionately about something but have done nothing, that is an emotion and it is not going to get you too far in an admissions context.
View the full Marshall Q&A transcript or listen to the mp3 recording of the event now or subscribe to the Apple iTunes MBA Admissions Podcast. If you like the podcast, please leave a 5-star review.
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