Are you going to grind your teeth or grin in anticipation when confronted with an off-beat essay question?
Alison Damast, Businessweek’s B-School Reporter explores the topic thoroughly as it relates to MBA applicants in "Applying Oneself Creatively" and the accompanying slide show, "MBA Hopefuls Get Creative." Although the article focuses on the optional "Creativity Challenge" from University of Colorado at Boulder Leeds School of Business, it also touches on Chicago’s required PowerPoint slides and NYU’s essay 3.
The slide show shows you how Leeds applicants responded to the Creativity Challenge, which is:
"Please send us a sample of your creativity. This could be (but should in no way be limited to) one of the following:
- a physical object (such as a design or a piece of art)
- a business idea
- a marketing campaign
- a creative solution to a problem
- a photo (or series of photos) that depict your creativity
- an essay that describes you at your most creative
"The only restrictions (for now) are that it cannot be larger than 2 cubic feet (1 ft x 1ft x 2ft), no heavier than 50 pounds, and, if you upload (or send) a written document, no longer than 1,500 words."
If you are facing a "creative question," be it for business school or any other program, read this article and view the slide show. Both will help unleash your creative juices. Also follow the advice I provide in the article:
"…look at the question in the context of the entire application, Abraham says. For instance, she will usually ask students a series of directed questions until they home in on an experience or project that can aptly convey their personality. "You have to look at the points you want to get across in the application as a whole and then you fit the puzzle together," she says."
In the article I noted that applicants are rarely neutral about these original questions. They either decide to have fun with them or they struggle with and suffer through them. It struck me as I viewed the slide show last night that many of the applicants with the outstanding slides revealed genuine enthusiasm both for the challenge and the topic they were presenting. Embrace the challenge and your topic.
Finally, read all the way to the end of the article where Isser Gallogly, executive director of NYU’s MBA admissions office, and Rose Martinelli, Chicago’s director of admissions, comment on how they use the essays and why they include them. In a nutshell, the creative essays are means to distinguish applicants from each other. I doubt if they come into play when application readers have doubts about an applicant’s ability or basic competitiveness, but they are critical when admissions committees have more than enough qualified applicants and are trying to create a diverse class.