Miles came to work with SBC after having been denied admissions two times. When I reviewed his prior applications I understood why he was denied, but I also truly wondered if we could help him get into the schools he had his heart set on. His applications were an absolute mess. But in truth, his background was an unruly mess, and we had a lot of tidying up to do. We had a heart to heart about his “chances” and he came close to firing us because he felt that we were too negative. Ultimately, we came up with a plan that we all felt comfortable with and we proceeded…
Miles was an entrepreneur. But because his business was not bringing in steady revenues, he had all sorts of odd jobs on his resume. His prior applications had completely left out his entrepreneurial venture because he did not feel comfortable describing a business that brought in just a couple thousand dollars a month. So he focused on what he felt were the “real jobs” on his resume. As a result, his applications were unfocused, all over the map, a dizzying mess of unrelated names, themes and interests.
We basically shelved his prior applications and started from scratch.
We focused in on two themes:
1) his company
2) his interest in guitar
While his company had not grown significantly, and did not even generate enough revenue to support him, it was a legitimate company with employees, partners, customers, a website and more. In fact, in launching and developing his business, Miles showed a lot of initiative, focus, creativity, vision and drive. He told a great story about how his interest in the business (an online business selling electrical parts) developed, and he discussed many of the challenges he had encountered, stumbled upon and overcome along the way. While the business was growing slowly, it was growing, and he was learning a ton. He worked through challenges with distribution, technology, employees, payroll, taxes, processes, multi-tasking – all of this could be important to a business school, even if the business had not yet reached the level of success that he had envisioned. Ultimately, the fact that he still needed business training was clear through his story and tied very nicely with why he needed an MBA. The story did exist; Miles just had to find an effective way to tell it.
Miles did not just play guitar. He had played since the age of five and the guitar had become a very important symbol and tool for him. He had formed a band that performed for fun. They made a small amount of money and also performed pro bono at events for various causes. He also taught guitar, and really enjoyed guiding others and sharing his love of music.
Can you believe that neither of these topics made it into his original applications? The new application presented a very focused picture of someone who was somewhat unconventional, very ready for business school, and had a lot to learn as well as contribute to an MBA program. Ultimately, Miles did not get into all of the schools that he applied to. But he was admitted to the Anderson School at UCLA, as well as Tepper at Carnegie Mellon, and that was all he needed.
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