What’s in a Game Plan?

The phrase “game plan” gets thrown around a lot in the hallowed offices of Veritas Prep. Our director of research, Scott Shrum, literally co-wrote the book on MBA admissions and named it Your MBA Game Plan. We offer a Personalized Game Plan as part of every admissions consulting package. There are a lot of people in our office that love college football and study the art of game planning for blitz packages. And so on.

So what’s the benefit of having a game plan when it comes to the graduate school admission process? There are a lot of answers to that question, but one that is often overlooked is the necessity of shifting perspective.

An applicant to a top law school or MBA program comes armed with both a set of skills and experiences as well as a cultivated perspective on those issues. The applicant is probably in good shape with regards to the former. The latter? Not so much.

The biggest problem I encounter when working with applicants – at any level – is that they fail to see themselves the way the admissions committee sees them. The skills and experiences that seem outstanding to a college senior may or may not appeal to an admissions officer at a law school. The reverse is also true – attributes that may seem run of the mill in one’s graduating class or circle of friends may be highly unique and appealing to someone evaluating an application.

I often think back to my own law school application experience and note the complete lack of perspective that I possessed at the time. As the associate director of admission at one of the nation’s top 50 universities and someone armed with a better-than-expected academic profile, I should have been able to destroy the law school application. Instead, I focused on all the wrong things. I incorrectly deemed my writing accomplishments to be singularly noteworthy when, in fact, almost every student who enrolled with me at the University of Chicago could boast of similar feats. On the other hand, I downplayed my extensive management experience, believing it to be appropriate only for B-Schools. Wrong. I found out later that it was my work – the title, the recommendations, the responsibility – that suggested an intellectual and emotional maturity. Luckily for me, the Director of Admissions at Chicago took a close enough look to find that information, since I basically hid it from her.

When students sign up for our consulting services and they ask me what “this game plan thing” is all about, I tell them it is about discovering a new perspective and avoiding making the same mistake I made. By working with an expert who has been through the process before, applicants are gaining insight into the way an objective, qualified outsider sees them as a candidate. No longer are you bound by your own limited perspective or suffering from a shortage of information. Now you know who you are in the eyes of the people who count. You’re armed with the best kind of knowledge.

And as they used to say in the old G.I. Joe’s Public Service Announcements: Knowing is half the battle.

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