Pay It Forward

Having recently completed another phase in the b-school admissions process I’ve had small blocks of time to sit back and think about all the people who helped me get there. Included are the usual suspects: family, friends, close mentors, co-workers, my girlfriend and who can forget the youth I have the honor of working with. But what about those people that aren’t thought of as regularly and aren’t mentioned as often. Those that fade away into the background after you’re clutching your acceptance packet? I call these people ‘the intangibles’.

Who is an intangible?

For me, they came (and still come) in many forms. Admissions counselors I pestered, whom I tried to build e-relationships during recruiting season. How about students that set aside 20 to 30 minutes to talk to me on the phone giving me all the inside tips on how to hit the right chord on the application. And what about alums that spent the time chatting over coffee or offering to send a note to the adcom giving you the thumbs up, lubricating the door hinges to admission just a bit for you. And finally what about the random applicant you meet at an interview session or at recruiting events that you still keep in touch with offering moral support in times of need. These, my friends, are the intangibles.

For no real reason, other than for seemingly altruistic purposes; especially in the case of students and alums, these people open up their schedules, leverage their good standing and extend a helping hand of support to help you achieve your dream. Rarely along my journey have I been turned down or ignored by an intangible – and quite frankly I’m surprised this has been the case.

This past weekend over dinner with a Yalie who I was meeting for the first time, (no affiliation with Yale SOM) I prodded, “Why are you doing this? You don’t have to be so nice to me.” He explained, “You know, when I was looking at schools someone was always there to be a lighthouse of sorts – and I ended up following that lighthouse to Yale for college.” He continued, “You’re right, I don’t have to do anything to help you, but I want to. This is my chance to be the lighthouse and pay it forward.” He obviously left a lasting impression.

Paying It Forward

I’m not going to sit here on my perch and lecture you on what to do… you know what you can offer as you move through the process of applying to schools. I believe that everyone has something to contribute. Incidentally, a co-worker of mine who follows my blog asked me, “Why I blog?” I told her initially it was for personal therapy, but as my blog following has grown it’s really much more for the audience who is experience the same basket case of emotions I am.

She asked if I “ever got worried an admissions person would read my blog and it would ruin my chances of getting into school”. I told her I’d be honored if any adcom was actually reading my blog, and if they felt like anything I’d written disqualifies me from being a student at their school, then I probably shouldn’t be there anyways. This blog is about shared experiences and reassuring others just like me, they’re not alone on this roller coaster. If my blog in anyway can be a lighthouse, make someone smile or even provide five minutes of daily entertainment, I consider it a success in the spirit of paying it forward.


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