Sudershan ‘Suds’ Tirumala (Regional Director, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth), sheds some light on the elusive term ‘Fit’ that most Admissions Officers use in their presentations but not many applicants really understand.
Now that you’ve had an opportunity to internalize the message in the earlier post (Differentiating your MBA Application), it’s time to take the next step, and talk about something that’s probably given the least importance by Indian applicants when taking that decision to apply to business school. Fit.
“What does ‘fit’ mean??”
“Does it even matter?”
“It’s a bunch of balderdash!”
“I can fit anywhere – I’m a flexible guy…”
These are not random statements – I’ve been involved in conversations where applicants have posed these rhetorical questions alongside some off-the-cuff remarks. But really, what is fit? What’s all the hoopla about?
Let’s take a sartorial example. Because you’re a very busy person normally, you don’t have too much time to spend in the departmental store. Let’s say you hop into the store, simply pick up clothes that you think might fit you without first trying them on.
Better yet, let’s say you just bought some clothes from an e-commerce site. Until the stuff is shipped home and you try them on, you’d have no idea whether the clothes you ordered pass the “wear-worthy” test.
In the event the clothes are either too tight fitting or too loose fitting, would you be comfortable going out in those clothes to a party?
Or will you do whatever it takes – move your schedule around, figure out other websites, etc. – to ensure you’re ultimately the owner of great fitting clothes and not the ones you had bought earlier in tremendous hurry?
My guess is you’d do the latter.
If you’re willing to do whatever it takes to wear clothes you will look good in, why are you ignoring the same question when it comes to business school – the cloak and the degree you’ll be wearing on you for the rest of your life?
Why aren’t you asking yourself and your near and dear ones, these questions:
“Does this school fit me well?”
“Am I a good fit for this school?”
“If everything seems to be falling in place, how do I demonstrate my fit to the admissions committee?”
The beauty of figuring out fit is, if you get the answers to the first two questions above, the last question automatically gets answered and you don’t even have to struggle to demonstrate fit!
That brings us back to the question: “What’s FIT and what’s the big deal?”
At the risk of gross generalization, Indian applicants tend to think of business school rankings and career outcomes as proxies for fit.
As long as they have a decent GMAT score, they think they’ll be able to fit anywhere, and believe they just have to get through a couple of years of MBA studies, in order to be set up with a rewarding career.
But is it really that simple? Why that extraordinary focus on the destination to the extent that you’re conveniently forgetting the journey?
Isn’t it the journey that makes the destination so much more meaningful?
Shouldn’t you be looking for a business school experience that’s truly transformative for you – in whichever facet of life – something that enables the quantum leap you’re looking for?
Granted you’re looking for an MBA degree no matter which business school you’re targeting.
Granted the career outcomes you want are broadly categorized as
– General management,
If you’re looking at schools in the US, every region has its own uniqueness
– Pacific Northwest,
– West Coast,
– East Coast,
– Mid South,
– Mid Atlantic.
And if you’re looking at international schools, they’re culturally different from each other.
– Europe (and within Europe, the various countries and their schools),
– South East Asia,
And then there are the MBA flavors – accelerated one-year MBA and the two-year residential MBA.
Hark back to the idea of buying clothes online without being able to try them on.
Purely online research of business schools is nothing different. Everything looks great online, and the human brain is such a fantastic machine that it will lull you into thinking that you’re best fit for that school.
If you visited ten different business school sites, odds are you’ve already felt you’ll fit in all or most of them – especially when the only source of your information is pure, unadulterated online research!
Now, it’s your turn to separate the wheat from the ubiquitous chaff – figure out which are those elusive schools that really speak to you and where you really feel like you belong.
And those revelations happen when you talk to people from that school – faculty, staff, administrators, students, alumni – and get a sense of the community.
No amount of online research will throw as much light on a school as will a half hour conversation with someone associated with that school.
More than anything else, you owe it to yourself to do that due diligence to figure out whether it’s a community you’d like to be associated with, for the rest of your life.
Make no mistake, every school is trying to sell its product – the MBA program – and attract the best talent from around the world, just as much as there are applicants trying to showcase themselves as the perfect candidate for that school.
If there’s a confluence of thoughts, then there’s no looking further!
Just one more point to clarify. I mentioned above that if the first two questions regarding fit are answered, the third is automatically answered. You may be wondering how that’s possible.
When you have conversations with real people associated with the school of your choice, your “fit” will either get reinforced or stripped away.
Assuming it gets reinforced, your body language changes without your knowledge. You start speaking like a current student.
You’re already imagining yourself as part of the community. You can’t get enough of that conversation you just had.
You’re suddenly connecting with more people from that school than you ever imagined.
You’ve internalized that school’s culture so much, that the thoughts automatically flow into your essays and demonstrate the genuineness of your research.
Once you’re able to get through to the admissions committee with your compelling essays, the interview will follow in due course.
And what do you do in the interview? You simply channel all the research you’ve done, all those conversations that were so fundamental to your beliefs about the school, and you simply speak your heart during the interview. That’s it. Game. Set. Match.
I was giving a talk recently at one of the MBA Tour events, as were people from 30+ business schools from around the world.
At the end of the talk, one of the prospective applicants came up to me and said, “Suds, I’ve heard admissions officers from every school talk about their school, but this is the first time I’ve heard someone speak from the applicant’s perspective. Now, I understand the meaning of ‘fit,’ which I have chosen to ignore up until now. I was wrong, and I’m going to do a lot more research and figure out which school will make me truly happy.”
That’s absolutely right. Figure out where you will be truly happy, in every sense of that word. That place is the right fit for you.
Read more posts from Suds on MBA admissions and careers.