Well that should be obvious.
But apparently it’s not!
And, we actually mean it in two ways:
1. There is only one YOU – so if you share who you are with the adcoms, they will see your individuality.
This is the essence of the Strategy of Authenticity — which really shouldn’t be called a “strategy” since by definition, “strategy” involves planning and thinking, which can unfortunately often degrade into scheming and overthinking… which takes you further away from authenticity. But we needed a catch title to this series that we started here: The Strategy of Authenticity. Well worth a read if you haven’t done so before.
2. There is only one YOU – so why would you try to pitch different schools in totally different ways?
We covered one way this comes up many years back — you can go check out this post on different goals for different schools = bad idea to read up on the reasons. We also went into this in that Strategy of Authenticity series in 2017, per this Authenticity and Career Goals post.
It goes beyond the goals, though. For example, you’ve heard that Yale is the non-profit school. This (unfortunately) prompts many applicants to scratch their heads and try to figure out how they’re going to emphasize how much of a do-gooder they are in their apps. We often see candidates who’ve not got hardly any volunteer work at all in their background suddenly looking for ways to characterize the food drive that one Christmas at work where they brought in an old can of soup that was almost expired and dusty from the back of their cupboard as “volunteering.” Um, no. Saying you volunteer with the Red Cross because you donated blood once is really missing the point (plus it’s misrepresenting, to put it mildly, and you know what we say about that).
It’s a fine line to show “fit” to a school where you’re highlighting those parts of your profile that demonstrate that you’re a) going to fit in because you appreciate their values and like their community and b) will be able to take advantage of the opportunities they offer, AND to not be pandering. Pandering is when you overemphasize stuff that isn’t actually a natural part of your profile. Showing “fit” is where you emphasize the things that are.
So yes, being selective can be useful, and such strategies do indeed come into play with certain schools like LBS or INSEAD where you’ll want to show how the international community is valuable to you and also how you’ll contribute. And, obviously with Tuck this year and their emphasis on being “nice” and all….. you don’t necessarily need to look for ways to show yourself as “nice” but it’ll be important for you not to come across as an a$$hole! (Which unfortunately some applicants unwittingly do! But that of course makes the Tuck adcom’s job all the easier.)
All of this really comes down to a reiteration of the fact that this process takes work and many applicants focus on the wrong things and the process of self-reflection is your avenue to success (which is really just another way of saying it’ll take work — hard work, in fact! the hardest of all! because it’s work thinking about YOU!).
When we go through the Comprehensive Profile Review on a new BSer, sometimes we end up having to tell them how they’re looking a lot like everyone else based on the facts they’ve presented. (Which just means that they’re not yet showing themselves as an individual.) And often, we get a follow-up comment back from them, saying, “Oh shoot, I should’ve told you about X! I didn’t mention ABC. And there’s this other such-and-such thing….” The instructions on the Comprehensive Profile Review tell you to be thorough (yet brief! and concise! there’s an art to it, in how much to include and how lengthy you write).
So if you’re looking at the daunting prospect of what to say in your apps and where do you begin, you may want to consider our App Accelerators, or the Complete Essay Package, that walks you through everything start to finish. Or just keep reading here on the blahg, and understand and appreciate what’s valued in this process and what the adcoms are looking for:
They want to meet YOU.