While at the beach this past week-end, I enjoyed watching the surfers tackle the waves. The stiff swells and the nearby rocks meant the dozen or so surfers had to be experts at navigating their boards to shore without wiping out. From my vantage point, it was tough to distinguish one surfer from the next because they were all dressed in seemingly identical black wetsuits and they appeared to be equally competent at their sport. One surfer, however, did catch my attention. The distinctive blue of his surfboard allowed me to easily track his movements as he paddled out and then rode the waves in. I found myself silently applauding his beautiful runs, grimacing when he made an error, and cheering him on when he got back up and rode a wave to the beach.
Is your application to business school in danger of being indistinguishable from others with a similar background? It is, if there are others with similar professional experiences, high GMAT scores and stellar undergraduate degrees. If that is your situation, emulate the surfer with the blue surfboard to get admissions committee members to not only notice your application but also to root for your acceptance. Identify and then highlight one aspect of your candidacy that sets you apart from the pack.
Where do you find your blue surfboard? It often hides in plain sight.
I was talking with a new client last year. Her GMAT scores were quite good, her career goals well thought out, and she had solid leadership experience. However, as good as her credentials were, nothing really distinguished her.
I probed about her volunteer activities and whether she volunteered with a community service organization. Oh, yes, came the reply. She had been mentoring children with Type 1, insulin-dependent diabetes for the past eight years. She explained that, being a diabetic herself, she knew how difficult it was for kids and their parents to navigate the restrictions required to successfully manage this disease. We had discovered her blue surfboard.
Look through your volunteer activities and hobbies, and think about what they reveal about your particular strengths. Examine your skills. Can you ace an interview? Are you an effective public speaker? Are you an advocate to upper management for the needs of your division or your product? Find what sets you apart, and your application will be immeasurably strengthened.
My client, by the way, was subsequently accepted into two of the three schools to which she applied.