By betsy On Saturday, December 05 th, 2009 · no Comments · In

Every time I go to a school’s MBA information session, I learn something.  The other night I attended a session at UC Berkeley’s Haas school, and , despite the amount of time I put in to learning about this school (it’s right in my neighborhood), I still come out with something new.

In discussing the major essay that asks,   “Please tell us about yourself and your background. Include information about your family, where you grew up, your interests, and any other people or experiences that have influenced you,” the admissions officer encouraged the aspiring MBA candidates to tell the committee something that they would not be able to find in the rest of the application.  The rest of the application has plenty of opportunity for you to write about work progression and achievements,  but this part of the application is about <b>you</b> as a person.

Almost every business school application has an essay like this.  Stanford’s classic, “What matters most to you and why?”  NYU Stern’s “personal expression” requirement or UCLA’s multimedia request all demonstrate that the school is looking for something that describes you an individual.

You may be thinking, oh, I am just another cookie-cutter engineer/investment analyst/junior consultant/IT specialist.  But you aren’t. In the last few days, two aspiring students came up to me and told me that once they started mulling over their non-work lives, their brains almost exploded with ideas like popcorn.  One engineer told me he remembered getting interested in engineering because he once got an assembly-required electric piano as a gift.  He recalled the excitement of putting it together and playing.  Another student suddenly started recalling passionate involvement in a political movement, which really spoke to her core beliefs.

So keep exploring, and keep asking.  The more authentic “you” that shows in your application, the better your candidacy.