Describe your favorite hobby, pastime or sport and explain how it reflects your personality
I believe that one’s hobby is a close reflection of one’s passion. I believe that the hobby has to be so involving, enjoyable and enlivening that one may be involved in it for hours together – and not just with the prospect of gain alone. I can thus relate to two such areas I am most passionate about.
As a professional, my passion is to establish new benchmarks of excellence in execution. Much of my action and thought is invested towards re-inventing the way projects are implemented and transitioning them to greater levels of output quality and speed. I gain tremendous satisfaction and self-esteem when I succeed at handling increasing levels of leadership responsibilities and delivering outstanding results. I also ensure that I add to the positive atmosphere at work, at home and in the lives of friends and close associates.
On the personal front, traveling appeals to me the most. It gives me immense pleasure and rejuvenates my energy levels. I ensure that I do find the time to travel to different places. I believe that I am a fortunate citizen of one of the most diverse and multi-cultural countries on the planet. To date, I have visited a range of cities and locations spanning nearly half the length and breadth of India – I am yet to come across one place that is not unique in its cultures, tradition and the very social fabric.
My hobby has always been encouraged by my father wanted me to witness diversity at various levels. Over time, I have come to realize that it is this experience of interacting with a variety of people that has added to my emotional maturity. In retrospect, my key observation has been that people of different countries, cultures and religions may be seem to be very different; however at fundamental level each of these man-made systems have major similarities. Be it the farmer in north India or the extreme south, both of them love their fields and will always look up to the monsoon rains. The businessman in Mumbai city is no different from the entrepreneur in terror-stricken Kashmir: both seek to grow their enterprises no matter how big the challenge.
Traveling also fulfills some other core needs. Firstly, it has a rejuvenating effect since it brings in an element of change. Secondly, it brings in fresh ideas and perspectives since physical distance does create some level of mental disconnect from the challenges or situation in daily life. As I distance myself from the problem, I am in a position to assess the problem in entirety and thus arrive at a creative solution.
Finally, as a rationalist, I always tend to believe more when I can witness it. Traveling has always reinforced my belief that there is always more to see and learn in life.
This question offers a prime opportunity to differentiate yourself by presenting a vivid description of your life outside of work. Business schools are interested in balanced, likable applicants. Your professional life is only part of an interrelated whole. Business schools expect you to demonstrate the same level of dedication and passion in outside activities as you do in business. They are also well aware that many of the best business-related ideas occur when people are not at work, so what you do out of the office has a measurable impact on what you can do on the job. Besides, funny, offbeat, interesting people make work, school, and essays more exciting. Communicate feelings of passion, commitment, and devotion. Wherever possible, demonstrate the leadership abilities you have developed in these activities.
What one nonprofessional activity do you find most inspirational and why? (Wharton)
A little over two years ago I began tutoring high school students in several types of mathematics, including preparation for the S.A.T. Test. While I did this initially to earn money, I have continued to tutor (often pro bono) because I enjoy the material and the contact with the students.
I have always enjoyed math tremendously. I can remember riding in a car for long distances as a child and continuously calculating average speeds and percentages of distances covered as we traveled. In college I took upper division math classes such as Real Analysis and Game Theory (and placed near the top of the curve) though they were not required for my major. All this time spent playing with math has left me with a deep understanding of the way numbers work and the many ways in which problems can be solved.
When I first began tutoring I was stunned to find that most of the kids I worked with, although very bright, not only lacked the ability to solve complex problems, they were very uncomfortable with some of the basic principles of math. This discomfort led to fear and avoidance, and the avoidance led to more discomfort. A vicious cycle began. Instead of seeing math as a beautiful system in which arithmetic, algebra and geometry all worked together to allow one to solve problems, they saw it as a bunch of jumbled rules which made little sense that they were forced to memorize.
As a tutor, I found that it was important when starting with a new student to find out where his/her discomfort with math began. Often, this meant going back several years in their education to explain important basic concepts. For some students, fractions and decimals were the point at which math stopped making sense. For many others, it was the introduction of letters to represent numbers in algebra. Some students found that identifying their weaknesses was an embarrassing process. I explained to them that it was not their fault. Everyone comes to understand new concepts in math in a slightly different way, and the problem was that no teacher had taken the time to explain their “problem area” in a way which would make sense to them. Since math was a system, once they missed out on that one building block, it was not surprising that the rest of it did not make sense. Our mission together would be to find the way in which the system worked for them.
Once we had identified the initial “problem area,” I would spend a lot of time getting the student to play with questions in that area from a lot of different perspectives. For example, if fractions were the problem, then I would create games to get the student to think of fractions in terms of division, ratios, decimals or other equivalent systems. This would often be a fairly unstructured process, as I wanted to see how the student’s mind worked and keep them from feeling any anxiety. Usually it did not take long for the concepts to start becoming clear to the student, as he/she played with the numbers in the absence of the pressure of school. My goal was to not just white wash over a students weaknesses with a few rules which would be quickly forgotten, but to help them develop an understanding and an appreciation for the underlying principles.
I found this process to be very satisfying for both myself and the young men and women that I taught. It was a wonderful feeling to have a student laugh out loud with relief as a principle which had been unclear and causing anxiety for years suddenly made sense. Once these old “problem areas” were cleared up it was usually quite simple to make clear the subjects that they were working on at the time, especially since I already had an understanding of how they were best able to understand new concepts. Again, I found it important to get the student to play with the new material and look at it in several ways so as to develop a true understanding of the material.
I was quite successful as a tutor. One young man increased his Math S.A.T. by 150 points. Another student improved so dramatically in geometry, her test scores jumped from about 55 percent to over 90 percent, that her teacher kept her after class and asked if she was cheating. Although most of my students did not improve this dramatically, I walked away from every lesson that I gave feeling that I had helped someone understand and enjoy math. I hope to be able to continue teaching, if only for a few hours a week, for the rest of my life.
This essay shows that this applicant is dedicated not just to helping people, but to academics, learning, and math. His tutoring does not make us believe his sincerity; the thoughtfulness and detail with which he describes it do. He has put obvious time into developing an effective method of teaching. The writer shows that he is result-oriented by measuring his success in terms of real numbers and percentage increases. Someone who applies such standards of accountability to his extracurricular life is sure to bring the same standards to school and business.
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