All the top bschools have flagship programs and initiatives that they like to talk about in their info sessions. But just because they talk about it – and just because it sounds cool – does not mean you should talk about it in your essays.
Why not? Let us count the reasons.
1. The first one is the obvious one: If you heard the adcom pump it, then everybody else has heard it too – and everybody else is putting it in their essay. This phenomenon is worst with Columbia essay 2 and those videos you watch. Anything mentioned in those videos is stuff you should probably steer far clear of in what you say in response to the “at the center” question, because that’s what everybody says. Maybe it’s a valid answer to the question (or maybe not) but you’re not differentiating yourself when you talk about what everyone else talks about.
2. Besides the fact that your essay will be same-old/same-old if you repeat what the adcom says, it also is the easy way out. Sure, it’s great that you bothered to read the website or attend the info session; that is important. But that’s bare minimum that you need to do. Reciting the standard programs and initiatives that the adcom is hyping up is only a superficial level of research. These schools all have a GAZILLION courses and clubs and programs and most people only repeat the same standard half-dozen that they hear being talked about over and over. You will stand out from the crowd if you dig deeper than the obvious.
3. The most important reason why parroting the adcom’s marketing pitch back to them is not the smartest strategy is because every program they mention is not going to be relevant to YOU. The stuff you write about in your essays all needs to line up as reinforcement to YOUR message. The stuff that the adcom pitches is their attempt to reinforce THEIR message. Those things are a Vemn diagram; there will be some overlap (we hope!) but it’s not a one-for-one alignment.
This is especially important in Round 2. In Round 1, everyone has a clean slate; the adcom is reading essays for the first time this season. They pick up a handful of apps and at least in the first chunk of them, everything they read is new.
By the time they’ve waded through the never-ending stacks and processed all the eager Round 1 Brave Supplicants, they’ve started to see it all. When you hit with your hopeful Round 2 application, things are going to start getting a little stale in the admissions offices across the land. You should not try to be unique only for the purpose of standing out, but it certainly would be smart to have a well-defined and relevant strategy in hand. Everything you write should have a purpose. It’s the lazy way out to just recite what the adcom has already said.
Besides, they know what their school offers. Your job is to show them that YOU know what it offers – for you.