ISB Essay Question Analysis

Give 3 reasons as to why you should be selected to the class of 2011. These reasons should ideally differentiate you from the applicant pool and should be backed with some data. (300 words max).

This question is found on an app for a school in India which has a common dilemma for adcoms everywhere—-how to separate the “sound” from the “noise”? [borrowed that expression from a super cool military client]

“Noise” (think white-noise) is the boilerplate, personality-less, fuzzzzz that characterizes most of the applications these adcoms receive. Standard profile, standard goals, standard APPROACH.

The “sound” represents the rare application that a reader can actually “tune into.” Meaningful noise. This is the application that has a recognizable face, a human being behind the words and numbers. Someone whose goals stand out because they feel like they belong to a real-life breathing human being.

The trick then is… how to make your application fall into the SOUND category, and not just be NOISE. Well, the answer lies in (1) being human and (2) communicating that.

Weird thing to write, but if you’re not careful, your writing can easily be robotic to read, and make you therefore come across like a robot. Robots do well when they’re told what to do, but humans are cooler because they DO STUFF. They’re proactive. They dream, they aspire, they tweak, they change.

Easier said than done, Raj–so how do you DO IT???

Well, some folks can pull it off without even lifting a finger. From their early days, they’ve picked career paths that–by themselves–are unusual, intriguing, and inherently “individual.” Defined by conscious choice that has motivated them to pursue fields and disciplines that DEMONSTRATE that they carved out a path that wasn’t carved out FOR them.

Others are less fortunate, and for whatever reasons, have dialed into career paths that are… not uncommon. And that’s okay, because the majority of the folks struggling through the application process fall into THIS group. This article is intended for these folks, who need to find ways to differentiate themselves given a profile that (on paper) resembles that of their typical competitor. So before we begin, let’s assume that your profile matches almost note for note, that of the guy sitting on either side of you in the applicant pool. Fret not.

There are TONS of ways in which you’re different. And it all boils down to the unique way you INTERPRET the world around you. The fact that your genes, and your brain, are inherently different MEANS that everything that follows—-> is PERCEIVED and PROCESSED in a slightly different way. This… is where all your uniqueness comes in. It doesn’t matter that you went to the same schools and took the same classes and wore the same types of clothes and got the same grades and same GMAT and took similar jobs…….. you interpret things differently SOMEHOW. this can manifest itself in many ways:

1. your take on what’s WRONG with any given industry—presumably, your goal in life is to improve something, or fix a problem, or innovate in some area… something where something is lacking or needed. what’s your take? in your words?

2. your idea on how to fix it—your idea is undoubtedly a bit different from the next guy

3. what turns you on? what specific aspect of your work (or some other aspect in life) REALLY drives you? believe it or not, it is hard to find common ground here. on the surface maybe, but if you give it a chance and really dig deep and figure out what EXACTLY gets you up in the morning, you’ll find that sharing that will reveal something essential, personal, and revealing about you. and it’ll be “unique.”

4. what do you hate? so much fun to think about if you’re a curmudgeon like me. but sometimes you can learn a lot about yourself by analyzing your pet peeves, things that boil your blood, things that make you clench your teeth… it may be possible to write about this in a way that reveals something (again) essential about who you are and what you’re all about. and also be fun to read about.

5. take away the need to earn money for a second. forget that you need money to do stuff, and assume that you were set for life and could literally do anything you wanted, just because you decided to pursue it. what would it be, and why would it make you happy? i guaranteeeeee this will not match the kid’s response sitting next to you. why? because this is some secret, deep-down shit. if you literally killed the concept of responsibility… what would you do with your time? i, for instance, would definitely consider some type of high-stakes heist activity. how cool would that be? or, i would want to devise some type of gizmo that could punish disrespectful (read: bad) drivers. i.e., some type of paint-gun that would irrevocably damage the paint of a supremely entitled driver who rubbed me the wrong way. oh, what a sweet life that would be. what’s your darkest or most delicious fantasy? have fun. you can’t HELP but reveal something unique about who you are and what you’re built of…

This is only the beginning, my friends. But generating lists like these, and opening yourself up to think about things you may never have thought about—even if they don’t ever make the page of your actual essay, will at least unlock your mind and get to you start appreciating how UNIQUE you all are, and to tap into those hidden qualities, that will ultimately bring out the HUMAN in you, and make your applications shine as they deserve to.

HBS Essay Analysis – Community/Organization