Once you have selected your schools, the focal point of your school research is to identify each school's Fit Qualities. Fit qualities are the highest common denominators among the students who are accepted. Because admissions offices don’t publish a definitive list of their school's Fit Qualities, you need to determine what they are through independent research.
In this video, we share insights and examples of Fit Qualities and teach you how to identify and define them for the schools you are applying to.
I'd like to start off by reading you a quote taken from the first line on the first page of the admissions website of one of the leading MBA programs. It reads:
"Admissions is all about the right fit."
Admissions officers will tell you that they're job is to determine if an applicant is a good fit for the school, but what does that mean exactly?
Applicants who "Fit" possess the qualities the school values most. I think you'll agree that it would be very useful to know what those qualities actually are for the schools you are applying to. Unfortunately, the admissions office won't send you a neatly wrapped package containing a list of the school's Fit Qualities. You'll need to do your own detective work, and in this class we are going to show you how it's done.
If you don't remember anything else from this lecture, I want you to remember this: Proving you fit is about knowing what qualities the program values most and using that knowledge to shape and customize every element of your application – especially your essays.
If admission is "all about the right fit" – then the key to earning an acceptance letter to your dream school is to prove you're a better fit than your competition. In this lecture, you'll take the first step in that process, which is to Identify Each School's Fit Qualities.
Let's take a look at our lesson plan.
We'll start with a discussion of what Fit Qualities are and distinguish between valued qualities and Fit Qualities.
Then I will teach you a step-by-step process that you can use to Identify the Fit Qualities for the schools you are applying to. Once you've selected your schools this process will become the focal point of your school research.
There are three steps in this process:
Research the Fit Qualities
Define each Fit Quality, and
Rank the importance of the Fit Qualities
Our starting point, is a thorough understanding of the concept of Fit Qualities.
The general qualities that MBA programs value are generally well understood and intuitive. I've listed nine of those qualities on your screen; they range from leadership to analytical intelligence to self-awareness.
This list is helpful, but it's really just a starting point. Imagine how much more successful you'd be in your applications if you knew what qualities the schools you are applying to valued most of all. We will refer to those qualities as the school's "Fit Qualities."
For example, consider the quality of leadership. All MBA programs value leadership, but are they all looking for exactly the same kind of leader?
The Haas School at UC Berkeley certainly prizes leadership in its students but is looking for a certain kind of leader they refer to as the "innovative leader" – a leader whose leadership qualities are equaled by his or her creative capacity. So if you're building a list of Fit Qualities for Haas -- Innovative Leadership would be on the top of your list of Haas' Fit Qualities.
Similarly, some research on Stanford reveals that Stanford values a quality they call "Intellectual Vitality" which is a combination of collaborative nature, analytical and emotional intelligence.
Columbia prizes the "Entrepreneurial Mindset." MIT Sloan values "Drive." And so on…
The point is that the nine essential qualities we've listed on the left-hand side is a good starting point, but as you'll learn in this class, you need to do your own detective work to identify each school's specific "Fit" qualities.
Let's consider the benefit of knowing what a school's fit qualities are.
Imagine for a second that you could plot the qualities a school is looking for on a matrix based on the evidence that the school values a particular quality. and the evidence you can present to prove that you possess that quality.
If so, the goal of an outstanding application is to ensure that your application features the qualities in the upper-right hand corner of the matrix on your screen. By doing so, you will prove that you fit, and take a major step toward an acceptance letter.
Now that you have a good grasp on the concept of fit qualities and how you'll use them to guide your application preparation, let's proceed to the next step in our lesson plan.
To reiterate, the admissions office won't broadcast their Fit Qualities on their website or in information sessions. Instead, you'll need to do your own detective work to Identify the Fit Qualities for each of the school's you are applying to.
There are three steps to Identifying Fit Qualities for each school on your target list. You'll need to:
– Research the Fit Qualities
– Define each one
– Rank them in importance based on the evidence you collect.
I'm often asked where to find information about Fit Qualities.
Excellent sources include:
– The school's web site
– The Admissions Office web pages
– Presentations by the Admissions Officers, the Dean, and Professors
– And one-on-one meetings with students and alumni.
Schools don't publish a definitive list of their fit qualities – nor should you raise your hand in an information session and ask them for one. Instead, you need to listen carefully and take note whenever admissions officers, professors, alumni, or current students say things like "intellectual vitality is really important at our school" or "we're looking for students who can defend their beliefs." In statements like these, members of the program are sending important signals about the qualities the school values most.
Another way to add to your list of Fit Qualities is to study the essay questions and interview transcript questions. Why? Because those questions were specifically designed so that admissions officers and interviewers could determine if you fit; so you may be able to reverse engineer fit qualities by studying those questions closely.
Online discussion forums and school guides may help as well.
If you listen carefully to admissions committee members, alumni, and students, your research will eventually yield a list of Fit Qualities.
Now that you know where to look, let's talk about what you're looking for. Let's use the Stanford GSB as an example.
Before we talk through a few examples, however, an important disclaimer: I won't be creating a comprehensive or definitive list of Stanford's Fit Qualities –nor do I warrant that the qualities we'll use in this example are actually Stanford's Fit Qualities -- we'll just examine a handful of possible qualities so that I can show you how it's done.
Okay, disclaimers aside, imagine for a moment that I've decided to apply to Stanford and I'm doing research to identify Stanford's Fit Qualities. In my school research journal, I have three quotes that I found on Stanford's admissions website.
I'll read them to you:
"One of the ideas or themes that is central in our minds as we evaluate an application is your intellectual vitality."
"I think Stanford's MBA program truly is an 'other-oriented' place, where people are not just focused on themselves but really do care about their classmates."
"We look for evidence of your desire to leave a legacy in the organizations you serve throughout your career, inspiring and motivating your colleagues."
Three quotes are far from definitive but now I have some important signals about three possible Fit Qualities: Intellectual Vitality, Other-Oriented, and what I'll call Legacy Leadership.
In the next slide, we'll talk about the importance of defining each Fit Quality clearly.
Compiling a list of possible Fit Qualities is a big step forward, but you'll want to do some more detective work to define each quality.
The best sources for your definitions of the valued qualities are again: admissions officers, current students, professors, and alumni.
Let's look at some additional evidence I gathered to define the three fit qualities I've identified so far.
You can see that I found a definition of intellectual vitality in another part of the admission website.
A quote from an admission officer gave me some additional insight on the term "other- oriented"
For "Legacy Leadership" I found a number of references to leadership that makes and impact and leaves a legacy.
Pause the video for a moment and read these carefully.
I want to remind you that you are only seeing a small sample of my investigative work. I will have collected other qualities, other quotes, and definitions along the way. It's important to generate plenty of evidence so that you can weigh that evidence to create a definitive list of Fit Qualities and so that you can rank those Fit qualities in order of importance, which is what we'll do next using our trusty Fit Matrix.
What you want to do once you've gathered sufficient evidence, is to take a step back from your research about Fit Qualities and weigh the evidence to ensure that each quality on your list is important and then rank them from highest importance to least importance, based on the quantity and quality of your evidence.
Quantity of evidence matters – If you've heard one admissions officer mention intellectual vitality in her speech, it doesn't mean that it's a Fit Quality. But if you've heard intellectual vitality or a synonymous phrase mentioned two or three times by a few different sources then you're almost certainly on the right track and the quality should make it on your list.
Quality of evidence will also influence your ranking and that includes considering the sources. If six friends of yours who go to Stanford have told you that Global Work Experience is important, it should certainly be on your Fit List. But if Derek Bolton, the Director of Admissions, stressed "Legacy Leadership" in the information session you attended then you'd want to rank it more highly than Global Work Experience on your Fit Matrix.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your judgment, but at least your judgment will be backed up by plenty of evidence.
For the purposes of our Stanford example, I've placed some qualities on the matrix and ranked them. Again, these rankings are an example only; you'll need to do your own research if you happen to be applying to Stanford.
I've just taken an important step forward in my application preparation -- I now know what qualities constitute Fit with Stanford and I've ranked them from most important to least important using the quantity and quality of the evidence I've gathered.
So now it's time for you to begin your detective work and create a list of Fit Qualities for the schools you're applying to. Before you do, let's review the key takeaways from this course.
We started off by distinguishing between generally valued qualities and Fit Qualities – Fit Qualities are the attributes the school values most.
You learned how Fit Qualities can guide your application design and told you that knowledge of the school's fit qualities will offer you a competitive advantage because you can use this knowledge to design an application that proves you are a great fit
We made it clear that Fit Qualities aren't going to be sent to you in a nice tidy package – Understanding what the school is looking for should be the central focus of your school research. We helped you to understand what you are looking for and told you the best places to look.
And we've saved two of the most important takeaways for last. Knowing the school's Fit Qualities is a powerful weapon in your application process but this power can backfire if not used correctly.
In closing, there are two important caveats when it comes to Fit Qualities:
First of all, peppering your essays with buzz words from your list of Fit Qualities is a bad strategy. These aren't magic words that will win points with admissions officers and cause the doors to the school to fling open for you like Aladdin. In fact, it's the opposite. It's a big mistake to fill your essays with terms like "intellectual vitality" or "legacy leadership" thinking that you are somehow giving admission officers a secret password. Don't do it!
Instead, use your Fit Qualities to guide your decisions about the content of your essays, resume, reference letters, and interviews. In fact, in our Essay Professor Course, we will show you how to use Fit Qualities to choose the best stories for your essays and interviews.
Proving you fit is about knowing what qualities the program values most and using that knowledge to shape and customize every element of your application – especially your essays.
If you do this detective work and use the Fit Qualities appropriately, you'll leave a substantial portion of the competition in the dust!
Good luck with your Fit Qualities research!
Reference: Lecture Slides and Speaker Notes
Tool: Fit Qualities Worksheet (Microsoft Word)