In a post on July 5, 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek associate editor, Louis Lavelle, published an op-ed piece entitled Scrap the B-School Admissions Essay.
This post briefly explores the limitations and risks of business school application essays, including ghost writing and plagiarism, and ends by advocating doing away with business school essays in the written application.
I don’t agree that scrapping the business school essays is the solution to the problems raised in this post. I have been an MBA admissions consultant for over five years, and while ghost writing admissions consultants and plagiarizing applicants do exist, I believe the vast majority of consultants and the applicants we serve are ethical people.
While Mr. Lavelle makes a number of valid points regarding inherent flaws in business school essays, I believe that the positives of including them in the MBA application outweigh their shortcomings.
The essay writing assignment requires busy, young professionals to answer challenging questions about their life experiences and about their future plans. Many would-be applicants decide that they are not up to the challenge; therefore, the essays ensure that the ones who accept the challenge are serious about attending graduate business school.
The essays are the best way for applicants to differentiate themselves from the competition, share important life experiences that hide in the “white spaces” of the resume, and describe not only “what” they have achieved but also “why” those achievements are meaningful to them.
Are transcripts, test scores, and a resume really sufficient, as Mr. Lavelle suggests, for making a first cut? I don’t believe so. Those are historical documents whereas the essays permit the applicant to share his or her plans for the future and to build a case for pursuing an MBA from that particular school.
Mr. Lavelle raises a valid concern that some applicants enlist the help of admissions consultants while others must go it alone, often for financial reasons. To address this issue, our company, MBA Prep School, has deployed online learning technology to emulate the experience of working with a private coach for a fraction of the cost. By giving more applicants access to guidance and essay writing tools we are helping to level the playing field, not just for the essays but also across the other components of the application: resume, reference letters, application forms, and interviews.
I believe that admission essays are here to stay, and I feel that’s a good thing for both applicants and admissions officers. For applicants, the business school essays are an opportunity for self-examination and self-expression; for admissions committees, they are a rich source to aid their decision making process.
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