How to Turn Your Accomplishments Into a Powerful Story

Writing a personal statement is hard! Transforming a lifetime of experiences into 500 or 750 meaningful and impactful words can feel stressful and even impossible. In Part 1 of this two part presentation, I walk you through some basic approaches for thinking about and beginning your Personal Statement.

Stay tuned for Part II later this week!

How to Write About Blemishes, Setbacks, and Failures in Your Personal Statements

After collaborating with hundreds of business school applicants over the past 15 years, one thing that I have learned is that there are many paths to an MBA. Often, these paths are bumpy, circuitous, or unconventional. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking to a group of applicants on GMATClub’s YouTube Live broadcast, and I decided to focus that talk on how to overcome blemishes or even big problems in your application.
Midway through, a funny thing happened! My kids escaped from the playroom and decided to investigate what Dada was doing… several times! Like many of you, all of us at have had to adjust our lives to the realities of COVID-19. Our office in Portland closed because of local restrictions, so we’re all working remotely from home. As my kids ran in (repeatedly) to see what was going on, it occurred to me that this was an excellent lesson for the kinds of challenges we face in life: randomness intervenes, complications arise, family situations suddenly require our attention.
I hope you’ll check out this presentation because it gives some handy advice for how you can account for setbacks, blemishes, and disasters in your life within the context of your Personal Statement. We also touch on how to write a powerful “biggest failure” essay that some schools ask for. The TLDR is:
• You shouldn’t run from your mistakes if it’s something that the admissions committee will know. You need to provide the frame for how they view this.
• “If you can’t fix it, feature it.” For big mistakes, think about how you can contextualize the setback within the broader scope of your life and career in a way that depicts it, not as a failure, but as the first act in a story of success.
• Admissions committees understand that people aren’t perfect. Find ways to make them see you holistically.
If you have questions for Brian, send him a line at
For help with your Personal Statement or other admissions writing, check us out at! We have a fantastic group of experienced editors and consultants ready to make your application shine!

Final Business School Boot Camp of the Year!

Welcome GMATClub Members! If you’re here after watching our “Five Big Mistakes and Five Easy Fixes” video, you’ll definitely want to check out our previous video and download the companion workbook.


ALSO: We’re offering our third and final Business School Bootcamp of 2020! If you need help with your Personal Statement or other Business School admissions writing, this weekend bootcamp can take you from blank page to polished final document! Sign up today.

Included in the GMATClub Boot Camp Package:

  • Two days of instruction, activities, and live workshopping of student essays.
  • An hour-long individual essay consultation where you and one of Gurufi’s essay experts will go through your essay (or outline). Collaboratively, we will work to tighten your theme, improve your structure, and otherwise prepare you for the writing process.
  • A professional full revision of your admissions essay once you have a full draft
  • A 20% discount on future admissions essay editing
  • A $1,000 credit toward Comprehensive Admissions Writing service
  • $100 cash for every friend you sign up


November 13th: 11:30AM —> 7pm (Eastern Time, US)

November 14th: 1PM –> 6pm (Eastern Time, US)

Cost: $500 off with Coupon Code GMAT Club special pricing: $949

SIGN UP TODAY!! Limited enrollment.


Welcome GMATClub Global Fair! (download workbook below)

Hello to everyone from GMATClub’s Global Fair. Click the link below if you’re here to download  Personal Statement Workbook PDF. These activities are designed to get you to ask some important questions and to give you a customizable template for you to turn your experiences and strengths into a fantastic business school personal statement!

For folks who aren’t quite sure if they can do this on their own, I’d encourage you to sign up for our Biz School Bootcamp! It’s a two-day weekend bootcamp hosted via Zoom to take you from blank page and polished revised essay!

Included in the GMATClub Boot Camp Package:

  • Two days of instruction, activities, and live workshopping of student essays.
  • An hour-long individual essay consultation where you and one of Gurufi’s essay experts will go through your essay (or outline). Collaboratively, we will work to tighten your theme, improve your structure, and otherwise prepare you for the writing process.
  • A professional full revision of your admissions essay once you have a full draft
  • A 20% discount on future admissions essay editing
  • A $1,000 credit toward Comprehensive Admissions Writing service
  • $100 cash for every friend you sign up


October 31st: 11:30AM —> 7pm (Eastern Time, US)

November 1st: 1PM –> 6pm (Eastern Time, US)

Cost: $500 off with Coupon Code GMAT Club special pricing: $949

SIGN UP TODAY!! Limited enrollment.


How Will Coronavirus Impact Business School Applications?

No matter how this crisis ends, it’s safe to say that COVID-19 has produced one of the most profound tragedies and transformational events in our lifetimes. As the husband and brother of two physicians, the son of aging parents, and the father of two children, I have certainly felt the angst that this has caused, and I consider myself fortunate that all of my loved ones are so far safe from it. More than anything, this is my deepest and most genuine takeaway from this crisis.

Nonetheless, I’m also a business owner who has, for 15 years, helped MBA applicants take an important step forward in their careers by earning admission into the school of their dreams. Before the crisis hit, we at Gurufi / FourthWrite had scripted out a video series, hired production crews, and were prepared to film a multi-part YouTube series on MBA personal statement writing. Shelter-in-place has made that impossible, but in this hard time, I still wanted to say a few words to people who are at various stages of applying to business schools.

Here are three thoughts:

1. Uncertainty rules. For both students who have been accepted into business schools and people who intend to apply in the coming year, we just don’t know what will happen. I will try to give my best guess as to what I think, but the fact is we don’t know if schools will start on time in the fall, if the timing of the admissions season will be altered, and if schools do open if a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall/winter will again grind the global system to a halt, including universities. The short answer is to “what will happen?” is, unfortunately, “wait and see.” Schools are planning for multiple contingencies, ranging from altered calendars, to exclusive online learning, to cancelation, to back-to-normal.

Things can induce as much anxiety as uncertainty, but the one thing that gives me some comfort is that everyone appreciates the scope of the crisis and most people and institutions will take a proactive, flexible, and humane approach to making sure every applicant and student is treated as best and as fairly as possible.

2. What if I’m applying to business school in the next year? Though there is conflicting opinion on this, but I think that business school applications are about to become more competitive. Business school applications have declined the last several years, meaning that the intense fight for slots at select schools was even tougher. I think that this trend will reverse, in large part because during economic downturns many people will view graduate and professional schools as a good place to wait out the storm and acquire new skills until the economy rebounds. 

 It’s not a perfect analogy, but in 2007 applications to business school and law schools had been declining for several years, but from 2008-2010 they skyrocketed as the economy tanked. Then, as the economy stabilized, the numbers of applicants to business and law schools began a decline that lasted several years.

This economic disruption likely means fewer lucrative job offers for early-stage professionals, fewer promotions and raises, etc. This means that people who want to continue their professional ascent will need to augment their skill set by earning graduate degrees. 

3. If you’re under stay-at-home orders, now is a great time to do some initial work… with an important caveat

There are two schools of thought for how to deal with the stay-at-home isolation that has with the coronavirus outbreak, either of which can be completely acceptable, depending on the person. 

Approach One: You’re forced to be indoors, so you use the time to be productive. If this is something you can do, then do it. Use the time to better yourself, prepare your application materials, investigate schools for fit and likelihood of admission, and study for your GMAT if you need to. This way, you’ll emerge from this crisis prepared to move assertively on your applications.

Approach Two: If you’re finding this period highly stressful or if the realities of your life (kids, job, parents, finances, etc.) make it impossible to do the kind of work that an application requires, then focus on your health and wellness and worry about applications later. These “if you don’t come out of this crisis with X, it’s not because you didn’t have time, it’s because you didn’t have the will” memes are wrong and, frankly, cruel to people for whom this crisis has placed extraordinary burdens.

If you do have the bandwidth to work on your application, here are my suggestions

  • Work on tasks that don’t necessarily require a lot of mental engagement. Everyone is distracted and drained, so do things like read about various programs, make lists prioritizing what you want in a business school, or make detailed timelines for yourself so that you spread the work out over time. 
  • Brainstorming is a fantastic way to generate content for your eventual personal statement AND to de-stress. There are lots of ways to brainstorm, but my favorite is the 12-minute timed write. It works like this: 1) clear a comfortable place for yourself to write. Ideally, it should be quiet and distraction-free. If you like writing with snacks or music, then, by all means, have those things. 2) Get a notebook if you can. There are some good studies talking about how handwriting -as opposed to typing- is better for spurring creativity. 3) Set a timer for 12 minutes. 4) The rules are: no matter what, you keep writing. If you feel a pause coming, have a phrase or mantra that you write over and over so that your hands don’t stop. Some people like affirmations like “I have an interesting story to tell!” and others like “A quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” because it uses every letter in the alphabet. But whatever your fallback phrase is, try to get back to writing relevant content quickly. Importantly, do NOT JUDGE what you’re writing, erase or scribble anything out. The purpose of brainstorming isn’t to generate refined elegant prose that is tightly organized and ready to present; it’s to start generating ideas and content, and to explore your thinking on a topic. 5) Commit to doing 3 days of brainstorming. Each day, select a different one of these topics:
  • Why am I a great candidate?
  • What will my life be life after business school?
  • What moments am I most proud of?

By committing just 12 minutes per day for 3 days, you will create many pages of content that you can use as the “bricks” for the building you intend to create.

In future posts, I’ll have some additional steps that you can take to maximize your time in social isolation. The most important “tip,” though is obviously to take care of yourself, focus on your health and wellness, and find ways to demonstrate appreciation to loved ones, particularly people who may be physically isolated or alone.

Brian Fobi is the CEO of FourthWrite / Gurufi. Gurufi and FourthWrite offer admissions writing consulting. If you have a draft that you’re not sure about, have our experts revise and advise by going to If you don’t have a draft or if you need more comprehensive services, check us out at

If you have questions, contact Brian at

Part 1 of Our “Interview With a Doctor” Series.

In our “Interview With a Doctor” series, we talk to doctors about their journey to medicine, medical school admissions, what they wished they had known when they started this process, and what they see as the rewards and challenges of being a doctor. Today is Part 1 of our interview with Dr. Aloysius Fobi, who is a board-certified emergency medicine physician, professor of medicine at Oregon Health Science University, and attending physician at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

If you have questions about medical school admissions, please check us out at or email us directly at The editors and consultants at Gurufi have helped hundreds of motivated aspiring physicians get into their dream medical schools. We hope that you can be the next one!

Advice from Doctors on Medical School Admissions & Life As a Doctor

As part of our ongoing series on medical school admissions, life as a doctor, and the challenges of life in medicine, today we interview Dr. Aloysius Fobi, MD and Dr. Rachel Pilliod, MD. Dr. Fobi is a board-certified Emergency Medicine physician and professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University. Dr. Pilliod is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist and ObGyn who trained at Massachusetts General Hospital / Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, and currently is an attending physician at Oregon Health Sciences University.
Today, they talk about persistence in the medical school process, how to differentiate yourself from other qualified doctors, and what committing to medicine means on a practical level.

If you need help with your medical school applications, please check us out at or email us at

Tips for Medical School Secondary Essays

For med school applicants, writing your AMCAS Personal Statement can be hell. You spend weeks perfecting every sentence. Then… secondaries come. Maybe even dozens of them. It can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips for how to think about this process.

Tips for Getting a STRONG Letter of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a vital part of your application, but people often don’t treat the process like it! Even though your recommender is doing the writer, you still have real work to do in order to make sure that it is a strong letter that advances your candidacy. Here are some hints and insights on letters of rec.