Lesson #2 of a five-part series for drafting exemplary essays.
All effective essays have a distinctive voice and theme. Referring back to the essays we looked at in “Identifying the Ingredients of a Winning Essay,” we might say that our MPH candidate’s theme was his passion for finding answers to significant public health issues. Our law school applicant’s theme was her yearning for greater intellectual challenge while remaining in the health care field.
It takes time and introspection to find your voice and your theme. The questions below are designed to stimulate your thought process and help you define your essay’s main message. Your answers will also help you express your goals, values as they relate to your career choice, motivations for pursuing a graduate degree, and your professional dreams. While introspection isn’t as popular an activity as, say, tennis or watching a favorite TV show, it’s an important part of this process. Give it some time; your essay will be much better for it.
- Why are you passionate about — or at least committed to — your career choice?
- What experiences in your life (personal, educational, professional) have influenced your career goals and passions the most?
- Has any individual played a major role in helping you discover these goals or values?
- What do you hope to achieve in your career?
- What would career success look like in ten years?
- What strengths do you bring to this career?
- What experiences can you write about that will highlight these strengths?
- After the admissions committee has read your essays, what three words would you hope they would use to describe you? Would you like them to consider you “driven,” “intelligent,” and “creative?” How about “dedicated,” “a leader,” and “focused?” No matter what image you want to create, think about experiences that will illustrate those qualities.
Some answers may spring to mind immediately, while others may require more thought. Some of these experiences might have enough drama or color to make a compelling essay introduction.
Remember that if you are writing multiple essays, such as for MBA programs, each one must have its own theme. The admissions committee members want to see you as a multi-faceted individual. Do not hammer home the same theme repeatedly when you have the opportunity to display different aspects of yourself, your values, and your personality.
Our next lesson will focus on developing the career goal essay.
1. Carve out some time for introspection about your career goals, values, and motivation.
2. Develop distinct themes for each essay required for an MBA program, or for any program requiring more than one essay.
By Judy Gruen, Accepted.com editor and co-author of the ebook, MBA Letters of Recommendation That Rock.