What is “Passion” from the Standpoint of MBA Admissions?
“Passion” sounds sexy. It inspires an emotional, arousing, and intense response. It evokes images of desire or romance. Literature, media, and advertising, have so shaped, even skewed, our understanding of passion that many associate the word with a general’s stirring the troops (Mel Gibson in Braveheart), or a football player in a pre-game huddle delivering that speech about the blood, sweat and tears that it takes the reach the pedestal of greatness and the pantheon of champions.
Forget the pregnant glances across crowded cafes in Paris. Forget the general stirring the troops. Forget the quarterback in a huddle rousing his players at 3rd and goal in the last seconds of a game-winning drive.
But that’s not how admissions committees define or view passion!
“Passion” in admissions means disciplined dedication. It evokes commitment. It requires patient, steady action over time. Passion in admissions means that an applicant so loves an activity or so wants to achieve a goal that s/he sacrifices and forsakes comfort, time, and family. In fact, the pursuit and achievement of a passion can be very unglamorous – rather, very calculated and goal oriented.
A ballerina’s bandaged feet
Passion is not the moment of scoring a goal to win a gold medal, it is the million moments of practicing that kick until your body is numb from pain and fatigue!
- Braving 120 degree heat and sandstorms for months in order to drill a clean water well for a village in Africa.
- Practicing violin for hours on end day after day, year after year.
- Chairing a committee, for your favorite cause, even though you already work 80+ hours per week.
- Canceling your vacation in order to manage a critical community event or work activity.
- Training and training and training so that you beat your personal best in a 5K, 10K, Marathon, or Triathlon.
All of the above should evoke a new, different, and unconventional understanding of passion.
In an admissions context, passion is dedication coupled with action. [Tweet this]
Finally, one last word on passion: remember that the people who have succeeded as business leaders have one main thing in common. They enjoy the struggle, they like pushing themselves (passion is dedication coupled with action!). Business school admissions committees seek applicants that demonstrate those traits.
For example, former professional athletes and former elite military members (such as special forces operators) often gain admission to the best business schools. The admissions committee members know that such applicants possess copious amounts of “push and struggle” traits. For this reason, individuals who have gained excellence, or even a measure of success, in difficult activities such as mountaineering or marathoning often write very successful admissions essays about those pursuits.
Joe received his MBA in Finance from Wharton and B.A. from Stanford University. He previously worked on Wall Street at Houlihan Lokey where he worked on financial restructurings, and private placements of debt and equity securities. He also helps lead a private investment fund and serves on the board of women’s violence prevention center foundation.
Additionally, Joe has experience teaching the GMAT, GRE, and LSAT and taught finance at a UCLA extension. He is a frequent writer, blogger, and speaker on financial and economic issues. He speaks fluent Spanish, Arabic, and Armenian.
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