Think for a moment about the audience for your business school application: you will be spending hour upon hour writing a magnum opus that may be read by just one person – or a select few at most. These people have dozens of applications they need to get through each day and even the most diligent may at times miss some points in your essays. That’s why you need to make things as easy as possible for the admissions committee members by making sure they can’t miss who you are and what you can add to the class. The best applications feature four or five aspects of the applicant’s character and experiences that anyone reading the essays can’t help but identify. These traits combine to form “Brand You.”
We all know the power of brands. Companies spend tons of cash to make sure you know how they deliver value and what they stand for. While there are many more subtle facets to their full corporate identities, firms need to make sure that customers have a complete and unambiguous understanding of a limited list of characteristics. We recognize companies based on a few traits the company presents to us (for instance: “fun,” “family,” and “fantasy” are indicative traits of Disney). These messages have been pounded into your head through repetition, multiple interactions with the firm, or exposure to marketing messages.
Similarly, candidates need to make sure the people who read their applications make no mistake about the core of their character and experiences. While all applications end up covering more than three or four points, giving equal weight to 20 traits waters down the main features that the admissions committee needs to understand about us. Applicants successfully “branding” themselves make real choices on what they want to emphasize, for example:
“A behind-the-scenes leader, creative problem-solver, and passionate about international development.”
“A great motivator, cutting-edge thinker on financial markets, and committed to education.”
“Dedicated to environmental causes, a skilled negotiator, a committed mentor, and family-oriented.”
Reinforce the main three to four traits through repetition; other aspects of your character and experience will come out naturally.