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Karin was an accomplished marketing professional with amazing credentials. She had been promoted three times in four years, assuming additional responsibility and managing projects. Karin had a very good GMAT score (720) and impressive extracurricular activities, including a board position at a non-profit she had been consistently involved with for over two years.
With all of her strengths, Karin had a very embarrassing weakness. Early in her sophomore year at a well-regarded liberal arts college she had a little too much to drink at a party and was arrested for underage drinking and a DUI. This experience was a wakeup call for Karin, who had been enjoying the freedom of living away from home and was primarily focused on hanging out with her friends. She turned her focus to school and improved her GPA from 3.2 to 3.8 over the next five semesters.
When we first started working with Karin she was mortified by the mark on her record. She was unhappy about disclosing such an embarrassing detail of her past in her MBA applications and was concerned that with a criminal record she would be immediately disregarded for admission to the top MBA programs.
We turned this setback into an opportunity, and decided to actively address Karin’s arrest in one of her essays for each school. Because Karin had gone through a period of serious self-reflection and change, her story was ultimately inspiring. We took a youthful mistake and showcased a person who was determined to improve her life.
By addressing the weakness in detail Karin ensured that there were no surprises during the background check. In this case, honesty is the only policy. An additional benefit is that Karin no longer felt ashamed. Instead she recognized that she had made a human mistake and more than made up for it in her subsequent achievements.
In the end Karin was admitted to two of her four target schools and ended up attending Darden.