Monday, March 08, 2004

There are a couple of threads on the S2S that express some anger about Wharton’s selection process. There are some pretty bitter folks out there. And while I don’t agree with throwing the equivalent of a virtual tantrum over an admissions decision, these threads (which I have chosen not to link to – it will only perpetuate negativity) have got me thinking about the whole admissions process.

As applicants, I believe it is our job to use the application to provide a reflection of who we are. We need to express passionately the career choices we’ve made, what we want to be when we grow up, and how earning an MBA from ABC Business School will help us achieve our aspirations. We need to let the admissions committee know that if admitted a) we can do the coursework b) we will contribute to the school community, and c) we will be employable when we finish our two-year stint at business school.

On top of these messages, we need to express them in a way that will make the admission committee want to admit us. In other words, we need to be interesting. We need to paint a picture of ourselves that makes the adcoms say, “You know what, I think this person is pretty cool. I don’t think I would mind sitting next to them at 3 AM working on a group project.”

How do you do all this in a business school application? I wish I knew definitively. I believe you do it by creating themes in your essays so that a reader can walk away with a quick two-sentence blurb that sums up who you are. I think it’s about showing passion, commitment, continuous improvement and development, drive, and ultimately that elusive thing called fit.

So we applicants pour our heart and soul into the application. We write incredibly personal essays. We reveal our motivations and aspirations. We reveal things that even our closest friends may not know. We reveal a reflection of ourselves. And then we click the submit button.

And then it’s out of our hands.

Hopefully we’ll get to interview, which will help reiterate the package we presented in our application. But once you’ve done that – everything else is out of your control.

So we submit. And we wait.

But it’s out of our hands. Once you’ve created the package, it’s up to the admissions committee to determine that you fit in the class they’ve trying to create. They evaluate the strength of our applications relative to the rest of the applicant pool. They try to put together a class that will embody the school’s culture and mission.

When rejection comes, if it comes, it hurts. Because those packages and what we reveal in them make us feel vulnerable. After all these applications are reflections of who we are and who we want to be.

But it is not the person that is rejected. It is the package, the paper image, that is rejected. It’s not you – it’s the paper you that is rejected.

But it still hurts. It still stings. It definitely blows. But it just means it wasn’t meant to be. At least not this year. So you learn from it. You improve. You become better. You move on.

And that’s just about all you can do.

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