Bear with me as I describe the beginning of a typical day.
I open an email from a new client from, say, a country in Southeast Asia. I scan his essays for a top US business school: Engineer. Graduated from a top-3 engineering schools. Strong extra-curriculars, high GMAT. Project manager for an international software firm. Impressive, fast-track, 3-5 year career that has confirmed to him how technology can make or break a company of any size. Now, he wants to do a top-shelf MBA so that he can transition into a more strategic role by joining a Venture Capital firm where he will specialize in identifying small but innovative companies and shepherd them into the international spotlight. But first, he will gain strategy experience as a Big-3 consultant immediately after graduation. He has chosen School X for its outstanding reputation and strong alumni network.
Oh dear. He’s the 7th client I have this round with virtually the same profile…and we aren’t even close to the deadline. Our interactions have definitely convinced me that this lead deserves to join a top b-school, and I am certain that he will be a valuable member of his class… Problem is, I can say the same for the other 6 clients, all targeting the same schools!
If I, a single consultant in Paris, France, see this pattern so markedly, imagine the Admissions Committee at the top business schools who read through dozens, if not hundreds, of applications describing a very similar profile, every round. Aside from the fact that this profile is (truly) a testament to the engineering education of the lead’s homeland, my concern is: How can I help my client stand out in an –extraordinarily crowded— applicant pool?
Two words: dig deep. Doing this will unearth the Holy Grail of business school applications: Fit.
Fit is an elusive quality, but if you cannot show it, you simply will not get in. Convincing a school that you belong there because you went to a good school, or because their reputation matches your standards, won’t work. You must illustrate how your target school(s) will be an active partner in your career development. A good fit will also show the school what you will bring to them and how you are likely to behave down the road in an increasingly complex and specialized business environment. Hence, digging deeper could uncover the treasure that, well, fits you to a “T” and elevates your profile from standard to special.
Every top business school is bursting with programs, tracks, centers and/or institutes that offer an additional resource for a top-notch business education and a deeper understanding of the very areas that each applicant wishes to pursue. Many (many!) applicants have no idea that they exist, yet they can be an extraordinarily invaluable resource that offer a tailored b-school experience. In an ongoing series of posts over the next weeks, I will be presenting some of these under-the-radar resources. Unearthing them and concretely showing how you will use this “extra” knowledge to become a better professional will show the schools that you have thought deeply about several things that are so important to them: your level of clarity on your goals, awareness of your developmental needs, how you will leverage this knowledge that they go through so much trouble to make available to you, and how you will contribute to enhancing those resources once you are there.
Stay tuned to this space as I present a weekly post highlighting these under-the-radar tracks.