Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Your fact-file- A preparatory ego massage...

Once you are done with your GMAT, there typically should be some time before the essays are released (if you intend to apply in R1) or before you begin to work on your essays. Irrespective of whether you have the luxury of time before beginning on essays or not, it will really help to create a fact file for yourself. What I mean when I say "fact file" is a bulleted dump of every single thing you have done in your life that is worthy of mention to someone who does not know you at all. I would suggest not to be too concerned with the "worthy of mention" bit, trust me, it could bog you down real bad. So first- just put down every single thing that stands out in your memory.

While jotting down stuff, to maintain a semblance of order I would put them into a matrix of buckets as follows (matrix because there will be unavoidable overlaps):

  • Academics
  • Test Scores
  • Professional Experience (jobs, salaries, promotions)
  • Extracurriculars with dates

These facts will feed into your resume and application forms later :-)

Incidents in:
  • Professional life
  • Extracurriculars
  • Personal life

The above incidents can be further broken down into:
  • leadership experiences
  • teamwork experiences
  • introspective stuff that led to self-realization (hyuk!!!)

  • by nature
  • acquired by experience

  • currently addressed
  • hopeless and potentially damaging (which will go unmentioned in the essays of course:D)

Wow factors, some examples:
  • Supreme Academic/Professional honors, quantifiable achievements
  • Olympic medal(s)
  • Huge family name/business
  • Unique personal circumstances/background that contribute to diversity
  • Entrepreneurship (serial entrepreneurship gets a bigger WOW!)
  • Anything else you can articulate well enough to excite the reader...

This is just a sampling of categories, add whatever you feel makes sense for you. Once the fact file is lengthy enough and your ego has been massaged well enough, it will be time to knock off all the things you have been fooling yourself about until then. Mercilessly remove each thing you would not buy from someone applying to you for a B-School admission. Cut every claim that you cannot support with an example from your life. Scour the file for contradictions, doing this early will ensure that your essays are consistent with each other.

This file can always be a work in progress. You can come back to it and add/delete things as you navigate through your applications. It will be a single reference point for all the information and inspiration you need when you write essays. There will be times when you look at this file and think "Wow! Have I done so much with my life?" and other times when you think "My lack-luster life can be shrunk into just 42Kb (it would be disrespectful to choose any other number!), even without zipping. Sigh..." .

I will end this post with the message that this grunge work is definitely worth it. It really helps you focus your thoughts and consolidate them so that you don't miss the better stories when you do the real work.