If you’ve done even two seconds of research into applying to business school, you’ve encountered the assurance from the admissions teams that they do a “holistic review” of your application.
What does that even mean, and what should you do about it?
You’re probably well aware that “holistic” just means “whole,” as in, they look at everything. When an admissions person trots out the “holistic review” phrase, they’re trying to reassure you that you won’t get dinged solely because your GMAT score is a little bit low. They’re trying to communicate that they do indeed look at everything — and they do! They study all elements of your application. They have constructed their app requirements because they find value in each piece that they are asking for, and they make adjustments to those requirements every year because they are always seeking to fine-tune the process and make sure that they give you, the applicant, an opportunity to share who you are with them directly.
As just one example, this year, Kellogg has changed one of the questions they ask in their video essay requirement, where you record answers to certain prompts in real-time on a webcam. This has been a core part of their application for many years now, and this year they switched one of the questions to an open-ended “Introduce yourself” type format, based on feedback from applicants before.
Knowing that (and having read the Kellogg SnarkStrategies Guide for tips on how to maximize that), you can leverage your answer to that prompt within the entirety of your application.
Which is exactly what we mean by the title of today’s post.
When you know that the school is going to look at everything, that means that EVERYTHING is an opportunity for you.
The biggest waste of opportunity that we see BSers make is that they copy and paste the bullets from their resume into the work history section of the app dataset.
Oh wait – no. That’s not the biggest waste.
The biggest waste of opportunity of all is not redoing the resume (shameless plug) for the purpose of this process. But that in itself is not part of the “holistic review” strategy.
The other very important strategy to employ across the entirety of your application is to always remember that they have the entirety of your application.
Frequently we see BSers repeat the same information in multiple essays.
But then they also repeat the same information in the app dataset.
And essentially the same information is also in the resume, for example for Harvard where they ask for most significant achievement on the job.
Now before you get too far ahead of yourself: Yes of course, if you have an important “win” that you are especially proud of based on impact and how it demonstrates leadership, then yes, it will likely appear in multiple places in your application. This is not only unavoidable, it’s desirable.
But doing a cross-asset analysis of everything you’re presenting to the adcom, and what you’re saying where (and how you’re saying it), is absolutely key for maximizing your chances.
That’s how you present as well-rounded.
That’s how you give the reader a robust, multi-dimensional view of you as a candidate.
That’s how you include more of yourself in the limited space available within these app assets.
Our Complete Essay Package is one way to sort through the mess of possibilities, in figuring out what are your strongest topics to be using in all of your apps, and hone and refine the messaging for the strongest of those into actual final drafts of polished essays that are ready (or near-ready) to submit.
You won’t be able to do this at the very beginning, but you definitely should do this in the middle, and at the end, and at regular times as you build out your strategy, for the first app and for every app.
What are you saying, where are you saying it, and how?
Are the repetitions of topics intentional? Are even those repetitions done efficiently, and effectively, with new language, new insights, new angles offered at every turn? Are you provided new color and texture in each element, to build a whole picture of yourself when the reader gets to the end?
That’s how you build an app that stands out.
That’s how you become a candidate that they remember by name.
That’s how, even if your GPA or your GMAT is a little low, you still are so memorable and distinctive that they fight to admit you anyway.
You can do this, BSer!!! We’re here to support with your heavy lifting if we can.
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