The business school application requires you to walk a very fine line, a knife’s edge, between two competing ideas. If it was just one line to walk, we’d all be fine. However, business school applications require multiple precipices to be navigated simultaneously. There is no clear answer to each of these dichotomies, but I’ve noticed trends in the interviews.
- Humility vs. pride : lean towards humility. Show pride in the accomplishment of work or projects. Show humility in all dealings with people.
- Reflective vs. active: lean towards reflective. Bulls in china shops who don’t think about their own motivations and emotions rarely can write genuine and insightful essays.
- Time on essays vs. rest of the application: lean towards the essays. You have to check all boxes, but the essays are the one and only chance to show your personality outside of the interview. I screwed this up royally in my application.
- Directed vs. open to possibilities for your career: leans towards directed. Most people choose to show a strong and clear direction for their career after business school. It’s expected, even though it’s not true for 80% of the people who show up.
I will say one thing about all of these knife’s edges – somewhere close to the middle is correct. Very, very few people chose extremes in their application. The few who did were excellent, excellent writers who could keep the essays sounding real despite the hyperbolic direction. At a forge in New Zealand last year, I made a couple of knives, one for me and one for my dad.