"What can you contribute to our school?" What does the question mean and how should you answer it?
How will you contribute to our learning community?
How will you add value to our MBA program?
QUESTION BEHIND THE QUESTION
Why should we admit you?
Five contribution situations
- Classroom discussions
- Study groups
- Industry clubs and conferences
- Social and cultural clubs and student activities
- Alumni activities
First, ask yourself
- What do they have?
- What do they need:
- Why YOU are the best person to provide it?
- Confirm what they have now
RESEARCH INDUSTRY CLUBS and CONFERENCES
- Find two or three clubs that you would like to join.
- If you do not see your target schools listed, search for "SCHOOL NAME mba student clubs and activities"
- Here are a few top schools https://clubs.london.edu/club_signup
- List what you know about each topic
IDENTIFY POSSIBLE CONTRIBUTIONS
- Brainstorm ways that you can add value to each club.
- What are they are ready doing?
- How can you make it better?
- What is something new that they're not doing that you would like to help them start doing?
- Talk to current students to confirm what they are doing now
CONFIRM YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS
- Send brief, targeted emails to the club leaders pitching your idea and asking if they think students would be interested in it.
- Because people are busy, you might not get a response from everyone.
- Those who do write back can be mentioned in your essays.
- Test your hypothesis - pitch your idea to current club leaders
SAMPLE EMAIL MESSAGE
Dear CLUB LEADER: (TRY TO USE A REAL PERSON'S NAME)
Nice to meet you. I'm First Last. I will apply to SCHOOL on DATE.
I received your contact information from First Last ‘XX (add how you found them so they know the context...)
Professionally, I am BRIEF CAREER ANALYSIS / TOP ACHIEVEMENT IN YOUR INDUSTRY
Now, I would like to confirm my contribution to CLUB NAME. For example, I noticed you are already doing "Hollywood meets Silicon Valley launch party" to discuss the convergence of entertainment and IT. Based on my background, I would like to organize a panel discussion to explore emerging distribution business models around the world.
I know you must be very busy now. If you have time, I would like to ask a few questions:
- Do you feel that such a panel discussion would be of interest to current students?
- Is there any one particular you suggest I contact to discuss my idea in more detail?
Please let me know if you need more information. Thank you in advance for your help.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Need more help? Please read
Vince Contribution Essays Tips
AdCom wants to confirm that you understand two points:
- What do they want?
- What can you offer?
Most of you will claim you have "passion" for your target schools, but talk is cheap.
The only way to demonstrate true passion is to do your homework.
Actions speak louder than words.
Have you contacted alumni and current students? Do it today!
Q: WHY SHOULD YOU IDENTIFY YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS?
A: TO CONFIRM YOUR "FIT" WITH THE SCHOOL
Q: WHAT IS FIT?
A: YOUR ABILITY TO BENEFIT FROM AND ADD TO THIS SCHOOL'S UNIQUE STUDENT CULTURE
To quote Lou Gerstner, “Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game - it is the game”.
Read more about "fit" here (found at http://chicagogsb-dsac.blogspot.com/2008/12/school-culture-fit-in-application.html; accessed 11/2010)
- Do you understand this school's student culture?
- Have your done your homework and due diligence?
- Have you identified what the school needs?
- What do your future classmates need that only you can provide?
- What needs can you fill? Be as specific as possible.
AdCom wants you to take an active role in all areas of student life because doing so will increase your love for the school (and perhaps motivate you to donate once you graduate ;-)
How much do you know about student groups at your target programs?
NOTE: I have bookmarked some links here
At many top MBA programs, campus groups are organized in four categories
- Affinity clubs (women and US minority groups)
- Industry / interest clubs (sector and function e.g. finance, consulting, marketing, social business)
- Geographic clubs (Africa, Asia, Europe, India, Latin America, Middle East, etc.)
- Family life clubs (spouse/partners and kids)
Students are active in three to five campus groups, but their level of activity varies.
- You should be the leader of one of them (your industry or culture or social / hobby) expert level
- You should be an active member in a few more (strong knowledge but know an expert or natural leader)
- You should challenge yourself to become a novice in an area outside of your comfort zone - build your network with peers from a different industry or cultural group
CONDUCT A SWOT ANALYSIS
- Dig deeper into this school’s student culture to find a specific area where you make a concrete and lasting impact.
- You can use a SWOT framework to analyze what the school needs and how ONLY YOU can provide it.
Use MECE logic
The MECE principle, pronounced 'meesee', mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, is a grouping principle.
It says that when data from a category is desired to be broken into subcategories, the choice of subcategories should be
- collectively exhaustive -- i.e., the set of all subcategories, taken together, should fully characterize the larger category of which the data are part ("no gaps"),
- mutually exclusive -- i.e., no subcategory should represent any other subcategory ("no overlaps")
The MECE principle is useful in the business mapping process. If information can be arranged exhaustively and without double counting in each level of the hierarchy, the way of arrangement is ideal.
Examples of MECE categorization would include categorizing people by year of birth (assuming all years are known).
A non-MECE example would be categorization by nationality, because nationalities are neither mutually exclusive (some people have dual nationality) nor collectively exhaustive (some people have none).
(found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MECE_principle; accessed 2011/10)
ONE MORE THING
- Before hitting the submit button, re-read your essays aloud to yourself.
- If you have time, you might even record yourself reading them. That is the best way I know to catch careless mistakes.
- As you read, ask yourself, "Could anyone else write this sentence?"
- If the answer is yes, make it better. Or cut it.
- Prove that you have researched your ideas by speaking to current and former students.
- When you mention the real names of people you contacted, be sure to include first names and last names.
- If you just write "Mr. Tanaka told me...." your reader might not recognize the name.
- At most US-based MBA programs, students and AdCom members know everyone on a first-name basis.
- Show love for this school by mentioning your plans to make the school better.
- Tie every potential contribution to an existing club or activity (use proper nouns as written on the school's club list website).
- Show love with details.