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

April 22, 2011

Graduate School Selection: Start with Fit

In this post, I will provide an overall perspective on fit and to its role in graduate school selection.  This post applies to MBA, Masters of Law, public policy, and all other types of graduate programs.

In a world of choices, it is all about fit, that is finding where you belong. For most people in most times and places, their options for living were extremely circumscribed, but for an increasingly large part percentage of the world's population, the options continue to expand. The views of this expansion in choice vary from the celebratory to the tragic:

Choice is easy.
Choice is fun.
Choice is exciting.
Choice is liberating.

Too much choice is hard.
Too much choice is confusing.
Too much choice is frustrating.
Too much choice is disempowering.

All the above assertions about choice are true. That is what makes finding fit in ones life so difficult.

I am principally concerned with two types of fit: (1) The identification by applicant of schools that they think they fit with (school selection) and (2)The fit of an applicant and their application for a specific school. The vast majority of my clients for MBA, Masters of Law, and other graduate programs have been focused on admission to top US and European graduate programs.  Without both kinds of fit present, there is no point in making an application. If you can't both find and demonstrate fit, don't apply. My objective is always to help my clients find both kinds of fit, but sometimes in the very process of counseling, a client realizes a particular school is not for them.  I think that is a fine outcome because it allows the client to focus on schools where they can find fit with.  Fit thus functions not only as a core rhetorical structure in an essay or interview, but as way for clients to best utilize their own resources.

Start with assumption that you have to prove fit.

My method for helping clients formulate goals is very much based on the assumption that they have no reason to obtain a graduate degree unless they can demonstrate fit.  Assuming they have demonstrated why they want a graduate degree in a particular field, I next assume that they have no specific reason to attend a particular school unless they can show that they can. Thus helping my clients find fit is at the core of what I do. I work to help my clients articulate goals to find fit so that when they actually submit an application or do an interview, the admissions reader or interview can easily see the fit.  

Fit is at the core of my strategy because it is at the core of any selective applicant admissions process: Admissions officers are looking for applicants whose needs, capabilities, and potential are consistent with the graduate program's academic, professional, interpersonal, and skills requirements as well as the culture of the program.

Fit is also at the core of my strategy because I want applicants to make good decisions about school selection. Sometimes applicants make the wrong choices because they don't actually focus on fit. Instead applicants focus on brand name or ranking without a real sense of what their needs are and/or their own relative chances for admission. Fit also means defining a minimally acceptable anticipated ROI.  Unless an applicant must simply get into school, say because of company sponsorship,  I see no point in going to a school which does not fit an applicant's minimal ROI.  The cost in both time and money of graduate education is usually so high that if an applicant cannot clearly identify why they will benefit from attending a particular school, that is a good indicator not to apply there.


A school where an applicant can see the fit for their future is always worth considering.  A school where they can't see the fit is not.  Sometimes I work with applicants who were previously admitted to a "safety school," but actually the school is below their own sense of fit, so it is not really an effective solution.  I have noticed that when such applicants apply to a new group of schools, they are far more selective. Sometimes I initiate such a change in strategy, but just as often it is the client who initially comes to me with a better thought out list of options.  I think of a safety or backup as one's bottom line acceptable choice.  For some applicants that might mean only applying to one school, while for others, it might mean applying to ten or more.  Whatever the number of schools applied to, the applicant's objective should be to find fit with all of them.

-Adam Markus
 アダム マーカス

If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form, which is publicly available on google docs hereand then send your completed form to adammarkus@gmail.com.  You can also send me your resume if it is convenient for you.  Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to.  See here for why.

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