New York B-schools are odd. They may not be at the top of the rankings (close!), the cost of living is enough to make an I-banker blanch (gross!), but they still receive a disproportionately high number of applicants. So, whether it’s CBS or NYU, in an essay or at an interview, you will, at some point, need to sell someone on “why New York?”.
99% of candidates will spit out the same chewed up lines about how great New York is… these answers are as attractive to the adcom as pre-chewed gum on a subway platform. Don’t be the 99%. Instead, set yourself apart and be that 1%, the fun percent, that even Bernie could get behind. Here’s how to think about applying to school in New York, or any school where location is a major selling point.
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Imagine for a second you’ve received acceptance letters from Wharton, Harvard, or Stanford, three of the greatest business schools on earth according to, well, anyone. But they all share one flaw. You can’t quite get past it: they just ain’t in New York City. What makes you choose CBS or NYU over these hallowed institutions? You could certainly thrive in Philly, Boston (excuse me, Cambridge), or Palo Alto, but the version of you that spends two years in New York…well he or she is just a little bit MORE kickass. New York you is the COOLEST and most SUCCESSFUL version of you—but why? Explain that difference. And believe us, it’s more than just greasy pizza versus cheesesteaks, lobstah rolls, or…whatever they eat in Palo Alto (kale smoothies, probably?).
Keep in mind that answers like “New York’s amazing financial center” or “vibrancy” will not fly—these are subway gum-level answers. To really SELL this idea that you plus NYC equals MAGIC, you need to get specific and show that you really “get” New York. Provide examples and specifics to show that you’ve spent time thinking about, planning, and imagining your life there. Don’t go for the tourist stuff either: If there’s one thing New Yorkers hate, it’s tourists. So it’s not “I’ll spend a lot of time in the Met,” it’s “I’ll go to XYZ real estate lecture series at ABC New York-based real estate think tank.” It’s not “I see myself running in Central Park,” it’s “I see myself jogging in Riverside Park” (near Columbia, ya’know). Show that you KNOW the city will provide what you need to achieve your goals, as well as HOW you will access those resources. Paint a picture of that kickass, successful version of yourself, with New York City as your indispensable sidekick.
Another way to think of it is to treat the city like a “skill” that you need in order to succeed at your goal. The connections, mentality and life skills that come with being in NYC can definitely advance a person’s career, in a way that’s pretty similar to the skills you’ll learn in the actual classroom. The same way you need to learn X thing at business school to fill a gap for your ST goals, you need X experience that only NYC can provide. Oftentimes this is going to come down to contact with specific organizations and individuals who are doing exactly what you hope to do and who live, work or operate only in New York.
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This type of question is just basic chemistry. Remember litmus paper? Well, it works like this: you have clear solution X, and no idea what its properties are, or how it will mix with known substance Y. Dip a piece of litmus paper in, and the color change will tell you whether your mystery solution X is acidic or basic—if it turns red it’s the former, blue it’s the latter. Pretty simple.
To the adcom, YOU are the mystery solution; they have no idea what your properties are, and how you’ll react when mixed with substance Y, the known: NYC. Give them the litmus test—your qualities and aspirations—and show them how GREAT the result is when X and Y end up in the same beaker.