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Monday Morning Essay Tip: How Far Back Is Too Far Back?

Because business school candidates must share examples of a variety of experiences with admissions committees, we encourage applicants to truly reflect on their lives and consider all potential stories, including academic, professional, community, extracurricular, athletic, international, and personal. However, candidates inevitably have questions about which anecdotes are truly appropriate and effective. “Can I use stories from high school and college?” “Can I use a story from four years ago?” “How far in the past is too far in the past?” Although no definitive rule exists, with the exception of questions that specifically ask about personal history or family background, schools generally want to learn about the mature you—the individual you are today. So we ask you, “How long have you been the you that you are today?”

When considering experiences that occurred long ago, ask yourself, “Would this impress an MBA admissions committee today?” If you ran a few successful bake sales six years ago when you were in college, this clearly would not stand the test of time and impress a stranger today. However, if, while you were still a student, you started a small business that grew and was ultimately sold to a local firm when you graduated, you would have a story to tell that would likely impress an admissions reader.

Inevitably, judgment is always involved in these decisions. Nonetheless, we offer this simple example as a starting point to help you decide which stories to share.



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