Schools do not publish a definitive list of their Fit Qualities – nor should you raise your hand in an information session and ask admissions officers for one!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.
Excellent sources for your Fit Qualities research include:
- The school’s web site
- The Admissions Office web pages
- Presentations by Admissions Officers, the Dean, and Professors
- Meetings with students and alumni
- Interview transcripts
- Essay questions
- Online discussion forums
- School guides
For example, Haas’ 2010 strategic plan that we talked about a moment ago is a publicly available document; so you don’t need to be a Haas alumni or a member of the admissions committee to read it. You just need to have done your research to know that it exists.
The essay questions and interview transcript questions also offer signals about the school’s Fit Qualities. After all, those questions were specifically designed so that admissions officers and interviewers could determine if you fit; therefore, you may be able to reverse engineer Fit Qualities by studying those questions closely. Online discussion forums, school guides, and student blogs may provide good leads as well.
If you listen very carefully to admissions committee members, alumni, professors, and students, your research will eventually yield a list of Fit Qualities. You will definitely have your work cut out for you, but the good news is that your Fit Qualities list will offer you an incredible edge over your competition.
Now that you know where to look, let’s talk about what you are looking for. We’ll use Stanford GSB as an example.
Case Study: Research the Fit Qualities – Stanford
We chose Stanford as the case study because the school provides some fairly strong signals about what they are looking for in their applicants.
Before we walk through some examples, however, an important disclaimer: we won’t be creating a comprehensive or definitive list of Stanford’s Fit Qualities in this case study – nor do we warrant that the qualities we use in this example are actually Stanford’s Fit Qualities. Focus more on the process in this example than on the results we present.
Disclaimers aside, imagine for a moment that “Mary,” a Stanford GSB applicant, is doing research to identify Stanford’s Fit Qualities. In her school research journal, Mary has recorded three quotes that she found on Stanford’s admissions website.
“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 she has some important signals about three possible Fit Qualities: “Intellectual Vitality,” “Other-Oriented,” and what she decides to call “Legacy Leadership.”
In the next unit, we will see how Mary clearly defined each Fit Quality.
Unit Review: Research the Fit Qualities
- Listen carefully to admissions officers, professors, alumni, or current students for signals about the qualities the school values most.
- There are a number of excellent sources for your Fit Qualities research including the school’s website, information sessions, essay and interview questions, and online forums.
- You will need to do your research, but the good news is that your Fit Qualities list will offer you an incredible edge over competitors who are not aware of which qualities each individual school values most.