Good Questions #2
The second of three good questions I recently received and my answer.
2. Almost all the colleges have essays asking how can i contribute to their college culture and what all i have done to know about the program. Looking at the question, it seems like they are looking for some specific answers. Can you give me some data points on this?
It's true. Many programs want to know what unique things you can offer. For example, Kellogg this year asks:
Some of the best personal essays I've read were about simple things - how swimming served as a metaphor for someone to balance relaxation and tension, or how a book given to a client by his grandfather led to his lifetime commitment to peace and a career in government service, or how living with a mentally handicapped sibling led to incredible personal growth. To me, these kinds of answers draw out truly unique personal qualities that only the writer can contribute. There are many people with outstanding work experience, but far fewer who have thought deeply about their values and interests and who have taken action successfully to pursue them.
Regarding the second part of your question, you do need to demonstrate strong knowledge of the programs you apply to. Schools will be insulted or think you are foolish if they feel you haven't done this basic homework. Your findings can be demonstrated again in the goals essay but also in a personal essay by showing how your values and interests match up with the values and interests of the program. For instance, all programs are interested in team players, so any kind of teamwork experience (especially outside of work) can provide a strong essay topic. Similarly, volunteer experience with an NPO can also be applied to the volunteer programs that most schools offer. Connecting your personal and professional experience with the specific programs offered at various MBA programs is one sure way of demonstrating your knowledge of the program.