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May 1, 2020

The Checklist Manifesto and Getting into Stanford

Adapted from New York Time’s Bestselling book by Atul Gawande entitled, “the Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Imagine a commercial airplane about to disembark from the gateway. On this winter day, the snow forecast is for 8 inches of snow and high winds. The pilots are skilled and experienced, yet the weather forecast creates numerous challenges and uncertainty compared to warm temperatures and clear skies. Now imagine the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building at 2,716 feet and 163 stories high. Special care must be taken during its planning and construction, otherwise it may collapse. Finally, lets imagine applying to college. There are so many steps to complete and perform that it’s impossible to remember everything. The last thing you would want to forget is a critical homework assignment, SAT test day or application deadline. This is where checklist come into play.

There are countless examples of planes crashing, trains derailing and patients injured despite intelligent and experienced individuals at the helm. Dr. Gawande, Harvard public researcher and heart surgeon determined that human errors can be minimized and human performance improved due to checklists. If you’ll be applying to college, especially an elite college such as Stanford or MIT, you’ll not want to miss sending your transcripts, letters of recommendation, secondary essays and countless other data points in the college application process. This is the impetus where checklists can improve your likeliness of success in reaching your goals.

Benefits of Checklists

Improves Discipline

  • At our core, humans are poor at discipline. It requires effort and concentration. Checklists allow you to focus on your priorities whether it is a plane taking off, a patient undergoing heart surgery or planning to score 760 on the SAT.
  • Stanford’s regular decision acceptance rate is approximately 2%. There is little margin for error. Even nearly perfect applicants usually do not get in. Therefore, minimizing errors is a prudent maneuver. Checklists can help.

Enhance Communication and Teamwork

  • Within a program such as Naviance or another such as Excel, keeping track of critical events can make or break your candidacy.
  • The Big Idea is to stay organized and practice or exceed the standard of practice.

Success in Normal, Complicated and Complex situations

  • The wonderful think about checklists is that since we are human, fallible and make mistakes, the framework of checklists allows you to abide by a reliable system that reliably produces excellent outcomes.
  • Checklists are a simple, yet powerful tool to avoid mistakes, failures, injuries and death, all toward improving performance and outcomes.

Avoid Mistakes

  • The field of Medicine has evolved to the point that physicians have increased their level of education and training becoming specialists and sub-specialists. However, despite the additional training and experience, specialists still make avoidable mistakes, like operating on the wrong leg during surgery.
  • Checklists allow individuals to work together as teams in concert and to the benefit of passengers, patients and students.
  • As humans, we forget details, lose focus when we are distracted. You don’t want to forget an important interview or deadline. Even if we remember, we are often tempted to cut corners and skip steps. This is where checklists can help.

The Technique of Creating the Best Checklist

  • Focus on including only the essentials
  • Be concise and clear
  • Keep it simple
  • Follow the checklist every time
  • Routinely review and improve the checklist

If you need help planning and organizing your journey toward college, please give Ivy Bound a call.