Two unconnected events catalyzed this blog post:
- I had lunch yesterday with Rahul Choudaha , the Admissions Manager at the Indian School of Business. (That lunch will have its own post in the next few days.) He mentioned that ISB wants applicants with a passion for what they are doing, have done, and want to do. At a different point in our lively discussion, he noted that he likes to see applicants with persistence, applicants who have demonstrated the commitment and energy to handle the high demands of ISB’s intensive one-year program — even when the going gets tough. That applicant to him is a person with passion.
- This morning at the gym, I listened to a recorded interview of Carol Frank, author of Do As I Say, Not As I Did!: Gaining Wisdom In Business Through The Mistakes Of Highly Successful People, she spoke about passion too. She specifically spoke about passion as resilience, caring about something so deeply that your commitment and determination carry you through the tough times and ensure you don’t give up.
Bingo. "Passion" is one of those terms that applicants use over and over again in personal statements and application essays. It also tends to be equated with pure emotion. But med schools, law school, business schools and actually all programs that value passion, don’t really want students and alumni who are passionately flying off the handle and out of control.
Carol Frank supplies a useful understanding of passion and a means of getting away from what my friend and colleague Maxx Duffy, of Maxx Associates and MBA Admissions Advantage, calls "umbrella terms." Umbrella words bear broad definitions and represent desirable qualities in the admissions process. Consequently, applicants tend to use them repeatedly, sometimes ad nauseum, almost like a form of application essay key word optimization. The result: essays that bore and sound like all the other essays using the same terms.
You need to break down those umbrella qualities into sub-parts and facets. Avoid the dime-a-dozen umbrella terms, while providing revealing evidence of those attributes specific to you and part of the broader category of valued personal traits.
Rahul Choudaha and Carol Frank are coming from very different places, but both recognize that commitment is a necessary part of passion. Instead of talking about "passion" or just showing a lot of emotion, if you want to show the passion that programs say they value,show how you persisted in the face of a difficult set of circumstances. Demonstrate the resilience and maturity to complete an intense program, handle demanding projects, respond coolly to tense situations, persevere, and succeed.