How NOT to Name-Drop in MBA Essays
October 30, 2018 :: Jacob Allison
One of the most effective tools to use in an MBA admissions essay is the name drop. Whether it’s talking about an interaction you had with a current student, alumni, or professor, the name drop can show adcoms that you’ve really made an effort to get to understand your target school’s resources and how you fit in with its culture.
However, not all name drops are equally effective, and there are definitely some wrong ways to utilize this tool in your essays. When trying to use the name drop in your admissions essays, DON’T be:
One of the worst ways to use the name drop is to be vague in its use. For example:
“Having talked to several students at School X, I know it’s the place for me.”
Oof, you’d be surprised how often we hear this one. First, never assume that the adcoms are going to believe ANYTHING you say without some supporting details. Second, who is it that you talked to? When is their graduation year? What did you talk about with them? All of these details need to be included if you’re going to name drop in your essays. A better approach might look something like this:
“On my visit to School X, I learned about the fascinating speakers at Cultural Event XX from Dave Jones (‘20). Dave also told me how he used connections he made at Recruitment Event YY to secure an internship at Firm ZZ. These conversations further convinced me that School X is the best place for me to grow personally and professionally.”
Another thing to avoid when name dropping in your essays is to use them to show that you wasted your time in your interactions with your target schools students, faculty, and alumni. For Example:
“In my conversation with Professor X, I learned that their ‘Fundamentals of Finance’ course will help me fill in the gaps in my finance skills I’ll need to become a consultant at Firm Y.”
If you do need to strengthen your finance fundamentals it’s definitely a good idea to talk about it in your essays, but don’t use the valuable name drop to talk about filling that basic skills gap. The name drop needs to be saved for communicating the unique resources at your target school that you could only have learned about through conversations with current students, alumni, or faculty members. A better use of the name drop in this example could look like this:
“Through an email correspondence with Professor X, I learned that their unique course ‘Venture Capital in Emerging Economies’ would be a perfect resource to help me devise strategies for the VC fund I want to establish in the Dominican Republic in the long-term.”
Another common mistake we see is when applicants go overboard in their name dropping. For example:
“Through my conversations at Event X with Gigi George (‘19) and Stephanie Smart (‘20), and from my coffee chat with alumni George Best (‘04), I learned that School X’s commitment to diversity and cultural inclusion means I won’t have trouble fitting in on the first day of class.”
Okay, we get it, you talked to a lot of people on your campus visit! In one of the few cases of “less is more” in an MBA app, the name drop needs to be done strategically and sparingly. Overdoing the name drop will just make an adcom roll their eyes. Instead, only use your most compelling and interesting interactions with people at your target school when considering the name drop in your essays. A great way to determine which interaction to use for a name drop is to choose an interaction that involves a personal story. For example:
“While having coffee with alumni George Best (‘04), I learned how School X’s culture of inclusion and events like Cultural Event Y helped him quickly adapt to American culture from France. Hearing George’s story helped me understand why School X isn’t just the best place to prepare me to meet my professional goals, but also a place that will support me as a person.”
No matter who you talk to when visiting and conducting research into your target schools, remember to keep your ears open for personal, compelling stories about your target school’s culture. Also, be sure to ask questions about unique academic and professional resources at your target school that could help you achieve your goals, and don’t forget to take notes to refer back to when crafting your admissions essays.
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