We had thought we actually blahgged about this very important issue for Wharton essay 2 but apparently not. Apparently the post that we wrote last year on the Wharton “contribution” essay that warned of tone does not cover this other very important point that we thought it covered. So when we kept pointing BSers to…
Today’s post is not about school culture which is a very important aspect for you to learn about and understand in your process of figuring out which bschools to apply to. If you want to learn more about that, then please see the many posts here on essaysnark.com about “school fit.”
Today’s post is about culture in the broader sense of the term, as it’s most usually applied.
This piece published on Medium last year from an American teacher who’d spent time in South Africa goes a long way towards expressing what we mean. It’s written as advice to college freshman who may find themselves with a roommate from a different country, and frankly it’s something that all Americans should read. It explains away many of the stereotypes that Americans hold about people who live on the continent of Africa, and it touches on many details of culture through example. Here’s another article with quick business anecdotes from ex-pats working in Australia .
Most of the European MBA programs that you might be interested in are very international in makeup – much more so than the American schools. Programs like INSEAD and LBS frequently have questions in their applications asking about international experiences that have shaped you, or a time when you dealt with culture shock. Tuck and more recently Stanford have also had questions in their apps asking about international experiences and perspectives. It’s not mandatory for you to have traveled outside of your home country in order to be a successful applicant to these schools – but it certainly helps.
That being said, oftentimes we get BSers who have done a bit of traveling who still stumble with these sorts of questions. Careful reading of the prompt is important (that’s always important, but it seems particularly critical with these types of essays) – people often overlook what’s truly being asked for.
What’s so great about that Medium piece linked above is that the author provides direct examples from her own experience and the experience of others. That’s key to all good essays, and it’s of paramount importance in writing to these prompts especially.
You may have accrued a colorful series of stamps in your passport which shows that you’ve traveled all over the world, but if you don’t have an appreciation for how people are different then it’s going to be difficult to present a compelling answer in this essay.
So, one small brainstorming exercise for you to embark upon today:
What does culture mean to you, and how have you experienced it for yourself firsthand?
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We wrote a book on it!
Since we spent most of last week freaking you out about how hard it is to get in this year, we figured we may as well start digging into some actual essay-writing advice, to help you get on that horse and ride it. We’ll start with Booth. There’s a simple way to answer the Booth…
It’s Saturday, so apparently that means we’re doing an essay review. The essay we’re presenting you today (submitted for consideration for these freebie reviews here) was written for HEC Paris but no matter; the chunk we’re going to talk about is relevant to pretty much any school’s “Why?” essay – “Why MBA?” “Why us?” “Why…
We often see people struggle with essay questions that certain schools ask where you need to talk about culture shock. INSEAD has a question:
Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain?
London Business School has had one like this and will likely have something similar in this year’s application:
London Business School offers a truly global and diverse experience. Describe any significant experiences outside of your home country or culture. What did you gain and how will your experience contribute to London Business School?
When a school asks this type of question, you need to select an actual experience that you had in traveling to a foreign country, whether for a work project or a study abroad in school or just as a tourist, and explain what happened.
You should be focusing in on a moment in time. The essay should go along the lines of “I went to such-and-such a place in 2010 for this reason and this is what happened to me. When that happened, this is how I reacted. This is how other people reacted. This is what I did then. What I learned from that experience is this.”
What we often see in this type of essay is blah. Blah blah blather blah. People often go all philosophic on us and they very quickly tie themselves up into very fancy word knots. We often get breathy essays about the nature of culture (huh?) or what their country means to them (double huh?).
Bschool essays should NEVER be conceptual; these are not academic theses. You are not going for a PhD program; you’re going for a practical business education. The adcom wants to know what you have experienced elsewhere and what you’ll bring to their community. These two schools in particular definitely prefer candidates who’ve traveled abroad, at least a little. If you’ve never ever left your home country, then it’s a slight negative for you in the app process here (you certainly will need to explain to the adcom why an international MBA is so important to you if you’ve literally not left home before).
For these types of questions, you would want to offer up an actual experience that you had. Identify one time you went somewhere. Give the adcom a specific story of when and where and and what happened there.
Think about how you’d tell someone in your family the story. You’d go into the actualities of it. You wouldn’t wander aimless in some monologue about culture. If you did that, your sister would walk out of the room and leave you talking to empty space. Instead, the focus needs to be on what you thought/felt/saw/did, in the context of being a stranger in a strange land, and what you learned from that experience.
Don’t make your adcom reader walk out on you (mentally) when she’s reading your essay.