Why I was dinged at Harvard Business School

Someone asked me why I was telling people about my being dinged at Harvard and probably you are also wondering why I am. My ultimate intention with this blog is to inspire other Africans like myself, not with what I can achieve but rather, with what is basically achievable. And empower them to dare to dream! After all , you do not pay to dream.

How many of us had that pre-conception that you had to be the son of a president or a very influential person or have an Albert Einstein IQ to get into a school like Harvard, Stanford, LBS, INSEAD, Kellog, MIT etc, not only because of the cost implication but also because of the caliber of alumni you find from these schools? Well, I want to dispel that notion and say unequivocally that people without any pedigree have found themselves also in these places. While I will argue that they never stumbled into it, I will yet still emphasize that it was well within their reach – maybe they pushed a bit harder than others though! One of these days, I will interview some other MBA grads from top schools to share their stories with us.

So back to the topic of why I think I was dinged at HBS! As you will find out later, applying for your MBA could be one of the most ridiculously draining experiences you can have. And one of the things you will have to do is write loads of essays on different topics. Having ticked other application steps, the essays stood as one of the most important element of the process as this is the only way by which you can communicate your person and your achievements to the admission committee.

As the case was, this was my first application and remember, I was applying to the ‘almighty HBS’ so I took some extra caution which I presume was why I was dinged. After writing my essays, I sent out a couple of them to a number of people to proof-read for me and make corrections. Now, before I go on, let me emphasize that this is an extremely important thing you can do when applying for your MBA program. An extra pair of eyes will definitely do you a lot of good. But I think I used it in the wrong way.

Ultimately, after revising my essays so many times with nothing less than about 5 different inputs, I had my set of essays completed. But….they no longer sounded like me. I read them over and over again and while they sounded like a good HBS application, I could not connect to it. I asked myself, “If I cannot relate to this, will the admissions committee be able to know my person with the essays?”. I decided to submit it anyway. The rest is history.

I however got some valuable feedback on how a winning essay should be from the people I consulted and I used them differently for my other two applications – LBS and INSEAD. I wrote all the essays without sharing with a single person but incorporated all the feedback I received from my HBS application. They sounded very much like me. I felt good about the essays and the rest is also history.

My point is this, during the application process, get as many valuable input about the process, the logic, the flow, etc but write the essay and let it sound like you. If you read your essay and you feel if you are not you, you will really not understand the person writing the essay, then trust me, nobody else will. Rule of thumb!

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