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Unleash Your Uniqueness: How to Tackle the Rotman MBA Application’s “Spike Factor” Question

When it comes to pursuing an MBA, standing out from the crowd is a crucial. As business schools seek diverse and dynamic cohorts, candidates are asked to showcase their distinctive qualities and potential contributions to the community. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto takes this a step further by introducing the “Spike Factor” question. In this article, we explain how to tackle this unique essay question and align your spike with Rotman’s values to set yourself up for success as an MBA student and beyond.

Understanding the ‘Spike Factor:’

The Spike Factor is a term coined by the Rotman School of Management to describe something extraordinary or unique about an applicant. It’s the aspect of your background, upbringing, experience, or personality that sets you apart from other applicants and makes you a valuable addition to the Rotman community. So, how do you identify your own spike factor?

  1. Self-Reflection:

Start by looking inward. Reflect on your upbringing, life experiences, personal journey, and professional accomplishments. What sets you apart? It could be an exceptional skill, a transformative experience or a passionate hobby that defines you. Don’t limit yourself to traditional notions of success. Your spike doesn’t have to be a world-changing invention; it can be a personal story that demonstrates resilience, adaptability, or creativity.

  1. Alignment with Rotman Values:

Rotman values qualities such as diversity, leadership, innovation, and a commitment to making a positive impact. Consider how your spike factor aligns with these values. For instance, if your unique experience involves leading a diverse team through a challenging project, you can emphasize your leadership and commitment to fostering diversity.

  1. Show, Don’t Tell:

Don’t just describe your spike factor; show how it has influenced your actions and decisions. Use specific examples that highlight the impact of your uniqueness. Instead of stating, “I have a passion for sustainability,” share a story of how you initiated a successful sustainability project in your previous role and its impact or outcomes.

  1. Community Contribution:

Demonstrate how your spike factor will contribute to the Rotman community. Will it enrich classroom discussions, inspire your peers, contribute to a student club or enhance the learning environment? Highlight the potential ripple effects of your uniqueness within the school.

  1. Beyond the MBA:

While the question focuses on your MBA experience, remember that Rotman is interested in your long-term potential. Explain how your spike factor will continue to be an asset in your post-MBA career and/or community involvement. Will it open doors, drive innovation or help you make a lasting impact in your profession or volunteer work?

Sample Approach:

Let’s illustrate these principles with a hypothetical example. Suppose your spike factor is a background in competitive ballroom dancing. Here’s how you might tackle the question:

“My spike factor is my background in competitive ballroom dancing (then you can give some background on your dancing to make it more illustrative, for example, how long you’ve been dancing, the cities around the world where you’ve competed and any competitions you may have won). This pursuit may seem unrelated to business at first glance. However, I believe it aligns perfectly with Rotman’s values of diversity, leadership, and innovation.

In ballroom dancing, I learned the art of leading and following, a skill that is invaluable in collaborative work environments. My experience performing in front of large audiences all around the world has honed my communication and presentation skills, as well as my confidence, which I believe will contribute to vibrant classroom discussions at Rotman. Teaching ballroom from year-to-year to various age groups, as well as at old age homes, has not only given me joy and the tremendous feeling you get when you give back and see people’s smiling faces, but has also honed my leadership skills. I will use this skillset at Rotman in my working groups, leading the <X club – perhaps related to your post MBA goal>, and during my non-profit boards and charities fellowship through the Rotman Onboard Fellowship Program.

Beyond the classroom, my spike factor has the potential to make a lasting impact. As someone who grew up in an underprivileged family, it’s been important for me to give back to those in similar situations. From my five years of volunteering with Save the Children as <x>, I envision organizing (and performing in!) an annual ‘Rotman Dance for Diversity’ event in collaboration with Rotman’s Performing Arts Club. I envision this as an event that celebrates Rotman’s multicultural community and raises funds for underprivileged students within the city of Toronto. This event will not only promote diversity but also showcase Rotman’s commitment to innovative and inclusive initiatives.

In my future career as a business leader in <x>, I see my ballroom dancing background as a unique asset. Rehearsing about 15 hours per week, enduring several injuries and training a new substitute dance partner at the last minute before a performance has taught me discipline, perseverance and the ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances — qualities essential in today’s dynamic business world. I plan to leverage this background to foster creativity, teamwork and adaptability within my future organizations.

My spike factor is not just about dancing; it’s about a mindset of diversity, leadership and innovation that I am eager to bring to the Rotman community and carry forward into a successful career.”

Rotman also asks that you upload one to three of your ‘spikiest’ pictures. Although it’s optional, I strongly suggest you include some, as images will help create a more personal, memorable and longer-lasting impression with the admissions committee. So, in this case, as an example, you could upload a photo of you dancing, one of you competing somewhere around the world, as well as one while you are volunteering at Save the Children.

Final Thoughts:

Think of an idea that would stand out from the crowd and make you memorable. If you are stumped, speak to friends and family members, who might mention something you hadn’t thought of or didn’t think was unique.

Approach this essay with authenticity, clarity and a forward-thinking perspective. By effectively addressing this question, you’ll not only enhance your chances of gaining admission but also set the stage for a transformative MBA experience and a successful career that resonates with the values of Rotman School of Management.



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