As you review our client stories, you may have the feeling that all of these clients had a better story or more material than you do. Keep in mind that each one of these clients came to us with a significant challenge – and they were completely stumped as to how to present themselves. It was through brainstorming and coaching that together we came up with a seamless, workable story that proved successful!
No. 1Laid off four times in four years+
Undergrad: Psychology Major at Stanford
Activities: Competitive swimmer in high school, volunteer swim coach
Personal: Family originally from Mexico
Overview: Our client was laid off four times in four years after graduating from college. The fourth time occurred just two months before submitting his application. He was terrified of revealing the layoffs and wanted to detail his various jobs without explaining the reason behind his transitions.
Result: Admitted to Wharton with scholarship.
Strategy: We advised our client to detail his layoffs and in doing so he told a story that highlighted several very positive qualities. He was able to demonstrate resilience in his ability to successfully bounce back and grow from each disappointment. He showed maturity and self awareness through reflection upon mistakes he had made, and through his ability to incorporate learnings. He also illustrated resourcefulness and drive, by finally creating his own entrepreneurial opportunity that became a true platform to reaching his future goals. Ultimately, his career roller coaster became a great launching pad to showcase many very positive qualities.
No. 2Indian Engineer needing to differentiate+
Undergrad: University of Delaware
Activities: Tennis, marathons, sporadic involvement with various Indian non-profit organizations
Personal: Originally from India
Overview: Our client was born and raised in India, and came to the US to earn his undergraduate degree in Engineering. He then went to work for a large corporation where he progressed for the next five years. Although he had solid work experience, and numbers, his demographics placed him in a highly competitive pool, where he really needed to find a way to differentiate.
Result: Admitted to Columbia, Tuck and MIT.
Strategy: Many Indian applicants pursue engineering careers and their resumes all begin to look the same. In working with this client we removed the focus from the nitty gritty technical details of his every day job, and emphasized his management and leadership experiences, which set him apart from many of his peers. Specifically, he had spearheaded a non-profit initiative and garnered a great deal of support within his office, ultimately raising significant funds, but also setting the stage for future office initiatives of this kind. He had also taken on a training role, mentoring new hires and helping to develop the blueprint for a training program. Neither of these roles were part of his formal job description but they highlighted his leadership abilities and added color to his resume.
No. 3Suspended from undergrad for plagiarism+
Undergrad: Economics major at mid-tier east coast college
Activities: Involved in student government as an undergrad
Personal: Our client’s entire family moved from Asia a year before he started college
Overview: Our client was suspended from his college for plagiarism and although very ready to go to business school, he had delayed his MBA application for two seasons out of fear that he could never overcome this blemish.
Result: Admitted to Wharton and Kellogg.
Strategy: Our client needed to approach the plagiarism issue head on, explain what happened, make no excuses and concretely demonstrate how he learned and grew from the experience. Initially tempted to ignore the incident or discuss it in an additional information essay, we convinced him to tackle it in a full essay, as it was a pivotal event in his development. He took full responsibility for his actions but did discuss cultural differences and the fact that he did not fully understand American views on plagiarism. He discussed the emotional impact of his suspension, which really humanized him so the adcomm could understand his remorse and embarrassment, the impact on his relationship with his family and his self image. He then discussed how he was elected to the school’s student government under the platform of revamping the school’s honor code, and the actions he then took to ensure that what he experienced would not happen again. Thus his story came full circle, and this very large blemish was leveraged to highlight positives: his personality, self awareness, and a significant accomplishment.
No. 4Early applicant with limited leadership experience+
Undergrad: Ivy League
Activities: Several very strong extra-curricular involvements
Personal: Fairly traditional American upbringing in the Midwest. No significant personal challenges or extraordinary family circumstances.
Overview: Our client had one year of fairly basic experience as an analyst at an investment bank. As an entry level employee in an extremely large organization, she had very little opportunity to differentiate or demonstrate leadership. Although she had significant extracurricular experiences, she needed some professional stories but as she racked her brain for examples that would help her shine, she came up empty.
Result: Admitted to HBS and Stanford.
Strategy: To showcase leadership and innovation, we decided to use a relatively mundane example of overhauling an Excel spreadsheet, but dove into details that demonstrated some terrific qualities that the client possessed, such as initiative, detail orientation, can do attitude, ability to influence others, leadership and more. Although the task was not hi-tech, it did provide a stage to present all of these impressive qualities. She also discussed the layers of impact of her simple contribution and the subsequent lesson, that change is possible at any level of an organization, and even small changes can have substantial impact.
No. 5Sub 3.0 GPA+
Undergrad: Psychology Major at University of Michigan
Activities: Martial arts, side entrepreneurial ventures
Personal: Caucasian male born and raised in US
Overview: Our client was fairly solid in many areas – he had deep extra-curricular interests, average but interesting work experience and some very interesting personal stories. However, he had a below average GPA that could have derailed his entire application.
Result: Admitted to Columbia and Chicago.
Strategy: Ultimately this client’s story was a personal one that chronicled how he developed and pursued an intense interest in martial arts. That interest actually took him away from school for two semesters and became a distraction that contributed to a very low GPA. But it also helped him develop certain characteristics and unique abilities that strengthened his character, and made him a much stronger leader and team player. In his essays he discussed his renewed commitment to academics and specifically explained how he had developed qualities that would enable him to excel in business school and in the business world.