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Why Stanford, Why Tuck, Why Wharton, etc.

September 04, 2009 :: Admissionado Team

“Why School X” comes in a few different shapes and sizes.

Example 1 — How will School X help you achieve your goals?

Example 2 — What factors influenced your decision to apply to School X?

These are just two examples, and each deserves its own post and breakdown because they are two very different beasts, but I want to make one general point. Way, way, way too frequently, we see the following structure:

• “Wharton’s strength in finance will allow me to XXX.”

• “Stanford’s ‘Blah Blah Blah’ class will help me learn about AAA and BBB.”

• “I will learn XXX from Columbia’s esteemed professors like Jonathan P. Professor.”

This tells us absolutely nothing. Consider the following exchange between two people:

Person A—Hey baby, what do you want to eat for dinner tonight?

Person B—Ooh, I have a craving for PIZZA.

Person A—Pizza! Yum! Great choice. Just out of curiosity, why are you so intent on having pizza tonight?

Person B—Oh. Well, I’m craving pizza over all other foods because pizza will provide nutrients that the cells in my body need.

Congratulations on the worst reasoning ever. Tells us nothing. Why? Because it can apply to TONS of foods besides pizza. Frankly, it’s an insult to the Pizza. I say this because I genuinely love pizza and am offended even by this hypothetical example. Near tears, in fact.

Respect the pizza, people. Tell us something specific about why you CRAVE pizza. The mozzarella (maybe even Fontina if you know what’s up). The chew of the crust. The pepperoni and light onion combination (I just gave away one of life’s most incredible secrets). The oregano and possible hint of thyme in the sauce. The inevitable poker match and cigars that will accompany the pie. I mean, to suggest that pizza’s value comes in the nutrients it provides to cells is to diminish one of life’s great wonders to a pile of rubble.

To make a point about an MBA program that can be applied to another program, is to disrespect the pizza. And that will make me very very sad.

How then do you pay your respects?

Simple. Listen to your cravings.

I need a school with small class sizes. Why? Because while I’m able to succeed in all class sizes, I find that I am more creative when I can feed off the energy of a person who’s face I can see and read. There is a synergy that exists in a classroom of twenty that brings out the best in me. Tuck’s average class size is blah, and blahhhhhh… so you see where that’s headed. It’s specific. You just made Tuck satisfy a craving. Something specific to your bodily NEEDS. This, my friends, is how to crush this section.

While I can earn a fantastic MBA education at a dozen different schools, I don’t just want a fantastic education. I want one that’s gonna help me get from A to B. This requires in-the-field experience in foreign country XXX because that’s precisely where I’m going to end up and precisely where I need the most exposure in the context of an MBA education. School Y’s EXCHANGE TREK THROUGH BLAH REGION IN COUNTRY XXX therefore fits me like a glove. This school is no longer boilerplate fantastic, it is BUILT for me and my needs.

That, is satisfying a CRAVING. A specific NEED of yours that a school can address. Show us how. One nice rule of thumb to train you to think this way is to structure your arguments by illustrating your NEED FIRST… then revealing HOW some aspect of the school satisfies that exact need. This is what we call “earning” your argument.

BAD: School X will help me do Y.

GOOD: I need Y. School’s X has the following thing three amazing features that directly address Y: 1, 2, and 3.

When you make statements that can be applied to other schools, you are disrespecting the pizza.