My Story

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Applying to business school meant telling my story, and getting into business school meant telling my story right.

  • Start early.

When I applied for business school, I had to look back on an established record of achievements. All of the schools I researched wanted to see future leaders, and the best way to predict future success, they say, is to judge an applicant by its track record. Thus, I had worked on my leadership muscle many years before I actually applied. (I had done this anyway, without thinking much about business school, for the good of whatever I was involved in. I'd believe this holds true for most who eventually end up getting an MBA.)

  • Show breadth of experience and show depth of experience.

In my application, I tried to show both breadth and depth of experience, with some emphasis on depth of experience. (At this stage of my career, I reckoned, they would be more interested in hearing about something at which I excelled rather than seeing that I had tried many different things.) I found a balance by emphasizing certain key experiences as well as providing an overview of what I had done. By and large, the essays were for the former, and the resume was for the latter.

Most U.S. citizens interested in business school know about this gulf between depth and breadth. The default answer is to get engaged in community service and extracurricular activities early on. This way you can show leadership outside work and demonstrate that you are not a one-trick-pony. Add to this demonstrated excellence and leadership in the workplace, and voila, you've got it covered. Also, part of the idea is to distinguish yourself from the other applicants and show that you can contribute a unique perspective to the classroom that will enhance the overall learning experience.

  • Fit in, stand out.

This one is taken from Montauk's book. It means that you need to be aligned with the general type of persona that does well in business school and thereafter, and that you need to distinguish yourself from the average applicant, whatever that might be. Quite a challenge!

To show that I would fit in I emphasized strengths like leadership, goal-orientation, and conceptual thinking. To distinguish myself, I talked about my international experience, exposure to different studies and life circumstances, and my curiosity for new things. Fitting in also meant showing that my career progress pointed towards a direction of increased responsibility and seniority.

Also, for me as a "German" and a "Techie" it meant overcoming the stereotypes hold for this category of people. Apparently, Germans are considered to be one of the less humorous people on the face of this planet, and according to Montauk's book, we all work in the heavy industries.

Copyright (©) 2007 Dirk Riehle. Some rights reserved. (Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA.) Original Web Location: