Anyone who grew up watching Star Wars over and over and over has surely wondered what it would be like to be able to employ Jedi mind tricks. While we don’t know anyone who’s able to dodge Storm Troopers using such tricks, we do admire those applicants who can influence MBA admissions officers’ minds from hundreds of miles away.
Wait, you mean you haven’t yet perfected your advanced “admissions officer mind control” tricks? You don’t know how to put subtle clues in your application that make them say, “This is the applicant we’re looking for,” as soon as they pick it up? You could be putting yourself at a significant disadvantage vs. the competition!
Okay, “mind control” may oversell it a bit, but the fact is that every admissions officer must evaluate hundreds (if not thousands) of applicants in a relatively short period of time, which can help you if you know what you’re doing. While application readers are fully devoted to giving each applicant a fair chance, the fact of the matter is that they’re human, and even a well trained human mind can only take in so much information. So, they tend to take shortcuts and look for markers — sometimes subconsciously — that help them quickly determine how likely it is that they’ll want to recommend you for and interview or for admission.
How can they do this? While no two people are the same, after seeing thousands of applications, very predictable trends start to emerge, and some of these are pretty easy to spot. The result of this somewhat predictable process is that there’s a critical first “moment of truth” — the first 60 seconds or so when an application reader picks up your application and starts to immediately form opinions about your candidacy. While much more time will be spent on your application before a decision is rendered — and admissions officers tell the truth when they say it’s a holistic process, everything is considered, multiple people usually ready your application, etc. — the reality is that your outcome largely depends on how that first moment of truth goes for every admissions officer who picks up your application.
The “Moment of Truth” Is Your Friend
Understanding this dynamic can give you a significant advantage in the business school admissions process. After spending just a minute or two with your application, what key things do you think an admissions officer will take away about your candidacy? Some admissions experts call this your “brand,” and while we like this term, some applicants forget that their brand is not what they present, but rather what admissions officers perceive in their applications. And applicant may think of himself as the “motivated banker who does Habitat for Humanity and wants to get into consulting,” but admissions officers might see a “pushy banker without any community impact with ill-defined career goals.”
Successfully affecting the initial impression that admissions officers form in that first moment of truth really is almost as powerful as doing Jedi mind tricks — and potentially a lot more lucrative if it can get you into a top-ten business school. In a few days we’ll follow up with a few specific tips to help you successfully steer admissions officers’ first impression of your candidacy.