2013-08-05

Economics of the Admissions Essay

This is a slightly cynical / sociopathic / Machiavellian / business-oriented view.

The admissions officer (or "reader") is your client; they are your potential customer; there is a transaction at stake; you are making the opening offer; you are trying to persuade them to accept with an acceptance letter i.e. "counter-offer."

This is a sales problem; you need to know what your customer really wants; "uniqueness," "self actualization," "analytical approach," "depth of reflection," "honesty" - these are not ultimately what the reader is looking for; the reader is looking to build a team of 400-4000 people who will learn well together; this team, or class, is the short term goal; there is another long-term goal... the team needs to look good to people outside the college for the next 50 years or so. The reader is trying to maximize value for these two short/long term goals; so in your essay (and in all other parts of the application, or pitch), you must show how you are helping your customer, the reader, to achieve those goals.

Key message: (your application is an "opening bid") how are you offering to add value, to the college (short term value), and to the world beyond college (long term value)? SHORT: a team that learns well together: functional is more important than unique; more important than either is the willingness to communicate. LONG: students and alumni that look good to outsiders... must be making a positive difference (or adding value) to some one else's life... single-moms /hedge fund managers / Malaysian farmers / artists and art dealers / etc.

You can write about anything, as long as you tie it back to one of these goals. The form and style of the essay can be any, as long as you succeed in communicating that you are ready, able, and willing to achieve both these goals, for the admissions officer.

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