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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

August 02, 2007

Rule #1 Play the Admissions Game On Your Terms

In my previous post on test preparation, I suggested the importance of knowing enough about your own learning needs to determine how best to prepare for the TOEFL, GMAT, or GRE. This points to what I consider to be the heart of the admissions game: Play the game on your own terms.

To get accepted to the school(s) you are applying to you will have to follow formal application rules, but the manner in which you follow them is your choice. Let's be honest, the application process can be annoying:

Who likes to take expensive, time consuming standardized tests?

Who likes to
spend time and money preparing for those tests?

Who likes to complete endless applications?

Who likes to ask other people, especially their supervisors and professors, for recommendations?

Who likes to devote much of their time for six to twelve months or more to apply?

Who likes waiting for an admissions committee to make a decision?

I am sure there is someone who does, but I have never met such a person. All of the above and more are part of the admissions process that you can't control. Now here is what you control:

While some applicants will have to apply during a certain year because of sponsorship, many applicants have control over the timing of their applications. If you control timing, apply when you are ready to apply to the schools you want to attend. Some people need two to three years to prepare, while others can do it in a matter of a few months. The important thing is that you work at the right pace for you. Professor Tara Kuther's Timetable for Applying to Graduate School is one good attempt to map out a schedule, but is clearly intended for US applicants. International applicants would be well advised to start earlier than she suggests, especially if TOEFL is a consideration. Make a schedule that is realistic and keep yourself to it. If you can't keep yourself on your schedule, consider either altering the schedule or getting an admissions consultant (also known as an application counselor, admissions counselor, or admissions adviser) who will provide you with sufficient coaching to keep you on your schedule.

School Selection
Unless you are specifically limited to choosing particular schools because of sponsorship or scholarship criteria or because of geographic limitations, look carefully at a variety of schools to decide which to apply to. Think about such things as the school's reputation, what impact you expect your graduate education to have on your career, the time and cost involved in studying, and the impact that a particular school's location will have on you personally. If you can't work through these issues yourself, seek advice from mentors, peers, family and/or an admissions counselor. While you should be realistic about your chances for admission, don't compromise on selection. Apply only to schools you want to attend.

Your Story
You control your story in your application. Your story is what you write about yourself in your essays, resume, and even in your answers to some of the little questions on the application. It is also what you say in an interview or in any interactions with admissions people. Controlling and developing your story is absolutely critical. If you can't do it alone, seek the advice of a professional counselor if you can afford to do so.

Enjoy it!
If you are going to spend the next six months or more focused on getting into school, make it as pleasant for yourself as possible. See it as a learning opportunity and above all treat it like a game that you will be committed to win.

Your motivation, your desire for study, for your future, and for a particular school is something admissions committees care about. I like Linda Abraham's formulation of this: Passion = Action + Dedication. Passion is not just for MBA essays, but even for those pursuing a PhD in particle physics, an LLM, or any other degree. Passion or the lack of it is detectable by other people. Sometimes it can be found in the application, sometimes in an interview, and sometimes not until school starts. If passion is connected to reason, it simply acts as a powerful force for application success, not to mention success in the rest of your life.

Bottom Line:
Take what you control, use it to your advantage, and play the game to win.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com
-Adam Markus
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