This may come off as basic, or even insulting — are we saying that people don’t do this?
Why actually, yes.
When you’re so focused on establishing “school fit” that you’re tossing out names of your target school’s classes and clubs hither and yon, it’s really (really) easy to lose sight of what this technique is about.
Your job is not to prove that you read their website. It’s not to spew an upchuck of info back at your reader. Remember, your reader is the adcom person who possibly even wrote the copy on the website you’re quoting!! Keep your audience in mind at all times.
The other problem which we keep warning BSers about: Just because you heard the admissions team touting a school resource or flagship program when you attended that info session (kudos to you for attending it!!) doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to mention in your essay. Because guess what? Lots of other applicants have also attended lots of other info sessions where the same resource or program was touted! You run the risk of having your essay sound just like everyone else’s. Which is the direct opposite of what you want to have happen.
So here’s an idea:
You’ve got this list of things you heard about — Touchy-Feely from Stanford, MAP from Ross, flexible curriculum from Booth. How do you make use of such flagship programs or hallmark opportunities of a school without coming across like all the other applicants who are doing the same thing?
Actually, it’s easy:
EXAMINE THE THING THAT YOU’RE TOUTING.
You can do this simply from analyzing what it’s called.
“Touchy-Feely”? Well that is a cutesie name that it’s acquired over time. What does it MEAN?
Do some research. Figure out what the class is about. We talked about how important it is for YOUR APP to also reflect smoe type of relevant quality or attribute if you’re going to be highlighting Touchy Feely for Stanford.
How about the Michigan Ross MAP. What’s that about?
Well, let’s look at it.
“MAP” is “Multi-disciplinary Action Project” and OMG there’s a lot to parse in that.
Have you even stopped to understand what that means?
If you’re applying to Ross, we suggest you do exactly that. Right now. Right here. Think it through. What are they capturing by naming it that? The acronym is also important. The school used all sorts of branding techniques on this one. LOOK AT IT. And understand it.
Then write from that understanding.
Now, to be clear: We are NOT suggesting you explain this whatever-it-is school flagship program to your reader. THEY ALREADY KNOW! What you’re doing is demonstrating that YOU KNOW too, by talking about it in the context of WHY YOU CARE or how it’s important to you — and ideally, for a school like Kellogg and their question on “growth”, HOW YOU WILL ACTUALLY LEVERAGE IT TO BECOME SOMEONE DIFFERENT. Or build a skill. Or change and improve in some way.
Because you’re sitting here today, saying, “I NEED AN MBA!!”
And the assignment of writing essays is all about capturing “WHY.”
And the “why” is going to come through when you understand what you will look like coming out the other side.
Or at least, imagining and dreaming it up.
Sitting here now, what’s missing? Why aren’t you capable of going to become the thing you’re saying you want to become post-MBA?
Then use all that research you’ve been doing into what School X offers, and tie it in.
You need to be this-and-that new thing that you’re not today. School X offers blabbedy-blab whatever-it-is that is really exciting.
How will you leverage it, how will you use it, why is it important?
If you UNDERSTAND what the blabbedy-blab thing is — by actually investigating it, parsing it, figuring out what they do with blabbedy-blab and WHY they do it that way — then you’re at least halfway there to talking about it intelligently in the essay.
And the interview.
And actually USING IT once you get on campus and get to do the thing you’re saying you care about now. (Which most people don’t really care about; they’re just going through the motions and checking a box: “Did you talk about School X’s flagship resource in Essay 1?” Which is not the way to impress your adcom reader.)
There’s nothing formulaic that will actually WORK in getting your essays noticed. There are lots of tips and techniques, but the only thing that WORKS is making intelligent statements about YOU and THE SCHOOL and why all of it matters.
Then maybe they’ll want to say yes to you. Because then you’ve proven why they should.