How Am I Different?

Consider this profile of a business school applicant:
3.7 GPA from Duke
730 GMAT
3 years in investment banking at Goldman Sachs
YMCA Young Adult Board Member
On the surface, most would agree that this sounds like a great applicant. And, she is a great applicant – solid essays, strong recommendations, a polished presentation in her interview. The only problem is that she is competing against all of her fellow all-star Goldman analysts, as well as analysts at other top banks.

Top schools are seeking diversity. No matter how excellent, they will not accept all candidates with similar profiles. If you are in this boat, one question weighing on your mind is probably how to set yourself apart from the rest of the talent in the applicant pool. Fortunately, because the essays play an important role in this process, the resume is just the beginning. In your essays you have a great opportunity to let your unique voice come through and demonstrate how you are different from your competition. It is these details that can really make a difference for you.

You may have the same basic job description as many others, but what did you do with that job? Were you promoted? How did you find better ways to accomplish tasks? Did you act as a mentor? Were you a leader? Did you propose great ideas? How did you gain the respect of others?

Setting yourself apart does not mean learning to play the piano with one hand. Examples that may feel less than extraordinary to you can actually provide the admissions committee with evidence of your excellence. One client, working as a strategy consultant, could not fit traditional volunteer work into his crazy travel schedule. He took it upon himself to reach out to his alma mater’s career center and offer to be a unique resource to those interested in a consulting career. He ended up giving back from a distance, on his own hours, but in a very significant way. He is currently at Wharton.

When thinking about how to differentiate, don’t get frustrated if you do not have a building named after you, or if you have not won an Olympic medal. Excellence can come in smaller packages, and these small examples are the best way to showcase your individuality and unique contributions.

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