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For international experience to be significant it has to be something that you can write about at length and appropriately in a b-school essay.

  1. Can you articulate how you lead a team in a multi-national or cross border environment?  This is what the adcom would want to see if you were writing an essay.  A lot of applicants have worked occasionally overseas.  More important is what you learned, how it changed your perspective, how you overcame an obstacle and how you produced a positive team outcome.
  2. That is, what you got out of it and what you can put down on paper is what will set your experience apart from other applicants.  That is where I consider the line drawn with respect to whether or not an experience is significant.
  3. With respect to any extracurricular international experience (start-up, professional volunteerism, etc.), if you can write about it effectively as part of your positioning then it’s significant and should be considered for an essay topic.  So yes, this could fall under international experience as you interacted with others with perhaps different operating norms and value sets.
  4. Remember, I always tell my clients “WWACD” or “What Would the Adcom Do?”  Keeping that perspective help put a reality check on a lot of questions that pop up during the admissions process.

One of my admissions consulting clients wrote me recently about his essays.  He wanted to know what was the right way to Grab the reader’s attention in the first few sentences with engaging content.”

My high-level advice was one of caution:

“I agree to a certain point.  It has to grab the reader but I always remind everyone to look at things through the eyes of the adcom.  They see so much cheesy BS that what most applicants think is a good intro is really cliche.
Here are some good examples for your viewing pleasure (that I just made up):

  • In the Fall of 2005 I was tasked with leading a project team that was attempting to solve an issue that had never been addressed before……..
  • As the youngest engineer leading a team of 55 employees within an industrial plant I was used to coming up the curve quickly, however in the Summer of 2006, I found my organization confronted with an engineering obstacle we had never faced before…….
  • In the traditional industry of management consulting there are often not many examples to deviate from established procedures and project plans.  However in the Winter of 2003, my IT management firm was contacted by a large institutional bank under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission…..

You see how it grabs the attention of the reader by creating a sense of urgency by establishing what the “situation” is?  Some writers go overboard and use cliches.

  • Avoid sports references like “My coach always told me that a man’s innate worth is how……..”
  • Avoid references to other tired family references “My daddy used to tell my mom that….”
  • Don’t try to be funny like “Four score and 17 minutes ago……”
  • Don’t be weird like “As I looked into my bosses eyes and watched the veins pop out of his forehead I could tell that it was time to turn up the heat and roll up the sleeves………”

Get the point?  Let me know.”