For each of our candidates, whether applying to independent school, college, graduate or professional school, an essential element of the process is explaining who you are. Think of the 70’s hit song by, appropriately enough, the group “The Who.” The admissions representatives for each school “really wanna know” and really want you to “tell” them, “cause [they] really wanna know:” “Who are you? Who, who, who, WHO ARE YOU?”
The schools really need to know who you are because, as everyone is aware, they are looking for what’s known as a “good fit.” And a “good fit” cannot be determined without having solid knowledge and a deep understanding of the prospective student, including aptitude, learning style, skills, character, passions, interests and goals. Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer for a school. For each applicant they must ask a slew of questions to determine “fit.” Does the applicant have the ability to meet our academic requirements? What kind of impact on our community is she likely to have, whether through sports, extracurricular activities, or otherwise? Is he likely to become involved in helping others in the community? Is she the kind of person others could work with easily and would like having around? Additionally, what can we as a school do to shape the student and his future? Is there something about our school’s philosophy, approach, or methods that can move this student forward and help him achieve his goals?
At first glance, it may not seem like that much of a challenge for candidates to describe who they are to the schools they’d like to attend. For college candidates, they might think it’s as simple as saying something like: “Look at my record. I work hard. I’ve earned all As and Bs. I’ve played sports, etc.” For grad and professional students, perhaps it’s “I’ve always wanted to be a (fill in doctor, lawyer, journalist, architect, businesswoman, or whatever else pertains). I worked hard as an undergrad to achieve a 3.4 GPA while also ___ (fill in volunteering at a local hospital, serving in student government, writing for the college newspaper, interning at a real estate development company or high tech company, or whatever else pertains).”
That approach to explaining who you are as a candidate, however, is not likely to lead to admissions success in many schools. It’s too trite and superficial. Think about it. That’s exactly the way countless others applying to that same school are going to present themselves. How are the admissions screeners then going to distinguish you from those others? Further, by only touching upon information that can also be gleaned simply by looking at your transcript, activity list and work experience, how does that enable the school to understand who you are as a person? To really get to know you, and distinguish you from the hordes of other applicants, a school needs you to divulge more about your soul, much more. You need to show the school what motivates, moves and drives you. You also need to get the school to appreciate how you might contribute to its community and how its program might help you grow and meet your goals.
One of the ways McMillan Education is most helpful to candidates is getting them to delve deeply into themselves in order to prepare a proper answer to the “who are you” question. For many, after going through our discussions and exercises, it’s almost like the proverbial light bulb gets turned on. They come to understand who they are, at a level that is often both profound and multilayered. Through that self-understanding or “metacognition,” they are ready to move forward as a strong applicant. It not only gives them confidence when it comes to where to apply, it also enables them to articulate adeptly why they are right for the school and why the school is right for them. If we’ve done our job properly at McMillan Education, we really do get to know, “who are you!”