Finding the Right Fit in a Business School
There’s a lot of talk about finding the “right fit” when it comes to selecting a business school. But as is the case with many words du jour, “fit” is often thrown around without much explanation of what it means. What exactly is a “right fit,” and how is this relevant to applying to b-school?
Self-knowledge is the secret
Fit is so popular that I’ve written about it myself , but more importantly so have some of the top business schools. Some schools are more specific than others, but the general message is more or less the same: Know yourself. Understand the cultures of the schools to which you are applying. Be able to explain exactly how you would strengthen these cultures.
Before you can even think about what schools fit you best, you have to really look at yourself. You need to know yourself very, very well. Your level of self-reflection will absolutely show through in your application, and helps admissions officers understand you and how you could fit into the life of their school. Soojin Kwon Koh, Director of Admissions at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, writes in her blog, “Our ability to evaluate your fit with Ross depends on how well you know and tell us about yourself.” So know thyself!
Common culture with the school
Rose Martinelli, then Associate Dean of Admissions at Chicago Booth, stressed the importance of fit in an admissions chat, “… it all boils down to fit. The ability of the applicant to communicate path and plan, and why Chicago is a good match for them professionally and personally.” It’s not just about who you are at work. It’s also about who you are as a son or daughter, friend, and community member.
Berkeley-Haas, in the “Essays” section of its admissions page, goes so far as to say that it seeks applicants “who demonstrate a strong cultural fit with our program and defining principles.” This does not mean that everyone at Berkeley shares the same opinions and experiences—quite the opposite. It does mean, however, that students at Haas share a common culture, as outlined in the school’s Defining Principles; students question the status quo, have confidence without attitude, are lifelong learners, and think beyond themselves.
While Stanford’s Graduate School of Business doesn’t explicitly mention “fit” or “match” on its website, it does outline its “Core Values”: intellectual engagement, respect, integrity, striving for “something great,” and owning your actions. To be a good fit for Stanford, you need to be able to demonstrate your alignment with these values.
Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management touches on fit in its third essay question, “What legacy would you hope to leave as a Johnson graduate?” The question explains that “the adcom wants you to really evaluate what ‘fit’ means to you for Johnson. ‘Fit’ is different for everyone, so we want to see how authentic and purposeful you are about applying.”
— Researched and written with help from the great Alice Woodman-Russell