My son Joshua recently turned 18 and is now formally applying to colleges and universities. He used the Common App to make that happen.
If you’re not familiar with the Common App, it’s a little miracle for applying to college.
Instead of filling out separate applications to all the places in which you want to apply, you only complete the Common App, and then the App sends all your information to ANY college you apply to. It’s majestic.
But you’re not done yet. You’re only mostly done. Most colleges send you one or two more questions to complete. So after Joshua finished the Common App and hit send, he had to fill out all these questions separately.
Of the seven colleges and universities, each one asked pretty much the same question. Something about “What can you bring to XYZ school and why should we care and how can you take our culture to the next level…blah blah blah.”
But there was one who was different. A diamond in the rough. Elon University in North Carolina.
Oh, Elon, how wonderful you are.
Elon asked three questions that were very different.
The first was, “It’s a day in the year 2040. What’s the news headline?”
At this, Joshua was intrigued.
The second question was a stumper for Josh…”What are the three essential songs that MUST be on your playlist?”
He agonized over this question. Of course, Beatles, but which one? And what about the other two songs?
The third question was about starting a food truck. What would you name it and what kind of food would you sell?
Again, Joshua rose to the occasion…loving every minute of it…answering each question with care.
Before this process, Elon was number eight of seven schools. Not really a consideration. Just a good computer science school in a warmer climate. Now, Elon is in the top three, and we are planning a visit. All because of three silly (but amazing) questions.
Now how hard was that? Not very hard. But it did take someone to think a little different…and someone else to execute that idea to actually be different.
The lesson? If you want to be different, market differently. If you want people to act differently toward you, create content that isn’t the same as every other competitor in your industry.
It’s not hard, but nobody does it. Except Elon.
The following was an excerpt from Joe’s newsletter. Only subscribers receive the full version.