Tuesday Q&A: How Do I Write the “Why School X” Essay?

Question:

How do I answer the MBA essay question, “Why Wharton?” or “Why Booth? ” or “Why School X?” How do I answer this question differently than everybody else?

Answer:

Ahhhhh! An excellent question. Think of it this way—how do you “prove” to a girl you love her? (Or to a guy you love him?) By saying “I love you”??? Nah. That only works on TV (although it does help!) But when you say it in the right way, it will be believed.

What is the right way? When you REALLY DO love the school, you know the school inside out and are really excited about the possibilities it will open up. (Kind of like real love.)

Real love ain’t surface-y. It’s not all about looks and prestige and reputation. Real love involves a deep understanding and a personal and specific connection to what makes the school special TO YOU.

So if you haven’t already, you gotta do your research. Find out everything you can about that school that is right for YOU and YOUR goals, and will HELP you achieve your goals. Keep your own personal background and pursuits in mind here. Because that school you want, it doesn’t have to be everybody’s soul mate, but in this essay it has to be yours:

  • What are some of the centers on campus that relate to your goals? What initiatives, events, and research happens there that will benefit you?
  • What are some special events the school puts together that relate to your goals? Conferences? Visiting professionals? Talks?
  • Are there clubs that specifically match what you’re working on?
  • Professors whose work you admire, classes you’re dying to take?
  • Something about their study abroad or other travel opportunities that speaks to your specific interests?

And then take it one step further: actually reach out to people in those groups/classes/etc. Visit the school and talk to people, sit in on a class, visit with the AdCom. Get as much specific info as you can so you can put it all in your essay and really make it convincing. If you’re writing a love poem to your sweetheart, do you write about their “brown hair” or their “hair the color of roasted chestnuts”? (Ok, both of those are cheesy and cliche, but you get the idea. One is generic, the other shows you are so into them that you not only noticed their hair was brown, but you noticed the exact shade.)

AdComs need to be wooed a little in that way. So when you get all that specific information that proves why you two are perfect together, you can gush about all of it in your application. Explain to the school how, without a doubt, this is the best school for you and you’re the best guy or gal for that school.

–Jon Frank

P.S. Need somewhere to start? Got it!

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