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Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews

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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2013, 06:50
holla8283 wrote:
Hey Essaysnark,

Really enjoyed your essay breakdowns. Quick question though: when you said that Columbia had given a "classic career goals question..reframed" for essay 1, is the "Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time?" really that? To me it sounds like "at this point in your career, why are you taking the time to get an MBA, i.e. what are you missing, why now, how can we help?" Career goals are definitely a part of it, but is it the main part? Not quite following that...
Hey holla8283 - fair question - but Columbia cares first and foremost about goals. They're asking everything that you've said too but they want to know why you want an MBA (which really can only be answered with a discussion of what you want to do with it - thus, goals) and they want to know why you want to go to Columbia. This is literally the same question that they've asked for years and years. They reword it every year, partly to prevent people from copying those "essays that worked!" drafts that get circulated around the internet and published in books. The rewording this year is maintaining the emphasis on the "why are you ready?" angle which they started to highlight last year - that question was "Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career, and how do you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals?"

But if you break this year's question, the essence is "Why do you want an MBA?" which can only be answered with a discussion of your goals.

If anything, you might be able to get away without an extensive discussion of long-term goals this year, since that language has been excised from the question completely. But from the results we're seeing with the ED and J-Term applicants we've been working with - and the very strong evidence we're seeing in the essays of those who were rejected and came to us after the fact (see here and here - check out the posts that follow those in the Columbia thread - we went over the essays of both of those applicants privately and they both bombed the goals) - the same focus as ever is what takes the day at Columbia: Tell them your goals, be clear and specific, and show how you're qualified. To not do so puts your entire application at risk.

Hope that helps, we're happy to entertain follow-ups on this too, it's very important.

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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2013, 09:51
essaysnark wrote:

EssaySnark Essay Review! Stanford Essay 1: What matters most, and why?


Uh oh. The classic Stanford essay.

We're a little surprised it took this long for anyone to send this in! It's traditionally held the spot of “Most Difficult Essay” among all top business schools of the world – that is, until HBS mixed things up with the completely open-ended essay this year.

SIDE NOTE: DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO RE-USE YOUR STANFORD ESSAY 1 FOR HBS.

That's just a little word o' advice from the 'Snark. We're actually going to discuss Stanford today, not Harvard. But we know that many people will try to jigger other schools' essays into that Harvard prompt, and Stanford Essay 1 is a common candidate for this misguided effort. Please resist the urge. Not only are the questions the schools are asking totally unrelated, but the schools themselves are so different that the Stanford content just isn't appropriate for Harvard.

Not to mention the fact that it'll be completely obvious to Harvard if that's what you do.

But back to Stanford.

As you know, Stanford doesn't have actual word limits for each individual essay. They have guidelines for a suggested allocation, and you can't go over 1600 words total. They recommend a 750-word essay for the Matters Most question – which is downright liberal by bschool essay standards these days. Used to be, 750 words was a middle-length essay. Now, this is one of the longest essays around.

Still, 750 words isn't that long when you have a lot to say. After all, this essay is asking you to talk about the thing that's most precious to you – most important – most core-critical over all else in the world. Seems like that should take some space to do a good job, wouldn't it?

Yes and no.

Some people do in fact wander off into la-la-land with the extreme permissiveness that Stanford has allowed of 750 words for Essay 1. Your biggest challenge with this essay is that you must FOCUS. You have to directly answer the question – in fact, both elements of the question.

We're happy to report that the Brave Supplicant who sent in this draft did exactly that. At least, there's a clear and direct answer to the main element right upfront – in the first sentence, in fact. Here's what we got:

Keeping an open mind, from exploring other countries to shedding personal biases, matters most to me. As a first generation Chinese American, I not only grew up speaking two languages, but I also adopted two distinct cultures. My parents, who had lived in Germany before immigrating to the United States, further influenced me to broaden my horizon. Because of them, I have always gravitated towards new ideas and experiences.


So refreshing! So direct! You would not believe how many of these essays we see where there is no specific answer to the question to be found – not in the first sentence, not in the first paragraph, not nowhere.

So your next tip for today (besides the one about not trying to re-use Stanford 1 to HBS) is that you MUST ANSWER THE QUESTION.

This is true for every essay for every school – you're saying, “Like, duh, EssaySnark” right?

Yeah. Well. Not everyone seems to get this part. It's a very very common misstep among BSers' drafts everywhere. And it's super critical for Stanford.

The reason for that is, with 750 words, you can quickly hang yourself if you don't have a specific core around which to build your essay. You must know literally what you're talking about (“duh” again, right?) in order to say something useful and intelligent.

This BSer has done a fairly good job of that. We get a real answer in the first sentence. When we first read it, we had some misgivings that it sounded like an answer written to impress the adcom – that's probably the second most common mistake that people make on this one, behind the “not answer the question” part. The hardest part of Stanford essay 1 is to say something that's authentic, to share a real part of yourself. The answer given in the first sentence made us hesitate straightaway, since we were worried it was gonna be another one of those essays. We were also worried that it sounded like the BSer was answering the “matters most” question with multiple responses.

That's tip #3: Only write one single answer in this essay. This BSer has said that “keeping an open mind” is the most important thing, and that works, but it seems like they are also saying that “exploring other countries” and “shedding personal biases” are also what “matters most” - and obviously you can only have ONE thing that “matters most”. Singular. The way it's written, we can kinda excuse it, but you're heading into dangerous territory there.

EssaySnark has already managed to write 750 words ourselves in this discussion of just a single paragraph of Stanford Essay 1 – so we need to wrap things up here. Obviously there's a lot that can be said about any of these essays, and we're not trying to claim that we've covered all the ground in even this one paragraph. Here's a quick summary, to help this BSer understand what they've done and where they need to be careful:

    1. Besides the “multiple answers” thing you need to look at the focus of the essay. You start off with this decent opening and then you do an excellent job of talking about specific experiences in your life by which this answer is true – (tip #4 for BSers: that's the way to execute on this essay, is by DESCRIBING ACTUAL EVENTS that have shaped you and made the “matters most” thing what it is). **BUT!** This BSer has too much “not-me” content. You describe in great detail some experiences in Germany, which are well-written and generally interesting... but are they about YOU? You need to be careful with this. We're not saying that you should delete all of it, but you need to examine it closely and make sure that it's revealing something specific about you – and that it's truly supporting your answer to the “matters most” thing. Around paragraphs 6 and 7 we started wondering what the point was. And paragraph 8 is really off track. You're totally out in the wilderness there discussing your friends' grandparents... what does that have to do with YOU? This needs attention.

    2. You need to test the argument you're making. This is again true for everyone (tip #5: does the “why” answer fit logically with the “matters most” answer?) This BSer brings everything full circle at the very end but it's a little high-concept; we're not completely convinced that these threads tie up as neatly as you want them to. Maybe it's fine... the essay feels complete, which is definitely important and hard to do... but somehow the “why” statement seems like it could be more directly focused on YOU.


Hopefully these tips and the specific reactions we've offered to the brave BSer who submitted this will also be useful to all of you. This is still one of the hardest essays around. If you're just starting out on your essay-writing adventure, we do not recommend beginning with Stanford. Get your feet wet on essays to another school – Wharton or Kellogg have “easy” essays to learn the ropes with. Then come tackle your Stanford drafts a little later, after you have your chops down. The whole ordeal will be easier that way.

Or relatively so. It's still Stanford. And it's still a killer of a question.

Good luck with it!

EssaySnark is reviewing essays here on GMAT Club every week. If you want to see if yours is up to snuff, please read the instructions here to submit it. Personally identifiable information in your essay needs to be removed and won't be published – don't worry, you'll be able to stay anonymous if you prefer.


I respectfully disagree that what matters most is SINGULAR. It can definitely plural as long as it supports your story and allows the committee to understand who you truly are.
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2013, 09:58
SecretariatTrading wrote:
I respectfully disagree that what matters most is SINGULAR. It can definitely plural as long as it supports your story and allows the committee to understand who you truly are.
Do what you want - they're your essays - but we have never seen a good Stanford essay 1 that presents multiple answers (and we've definitely not seen one that was successful - not that we see all the essays of course! but it's a good sample size). The question is asking for one thing - and it's hard enough to do a good job when answering with just one. Answering with multiple? :o Good luck with that.
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2013, 10:10
essaysnark wrote:
SecretariatTrading wrote:
I respectfully disagree that what matters most is SINGULAR. It can definitely plural as long as it supports your story and allows the committee to understand who you truly are.
Do what you want - they're your essays - but we have never seen a good Stanford essay 1 that presents multiple answers (and we've definitely not seen one that was successful - not that we see all the essays of course! but it's a good sample size). The question is asking for one thing - and it's hard enough to do a good job when answering with just one. Answering with multiple? :o Good luck with that.


One definitive answer is easiest to support and provides for the strongest essay. However, that doesn't mean you can't provide examples to define and/or support that one answer (as I did in the draft that was reviewed here). In response to the feedback I received, I ended up tweaking my answer to make it more tangible (and less "high level concept"), which happened to negate the need for examples.
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2013, 10:37
missxmelon wrote:
One definitive answer is easiest to support and provides for the strongest essay. However, that doesn't mean you can't provide examples to define and/or support that one answer (as I did in the draft that was reviewed here). In response to the feedback I received, I ended up tweaking my answer to make it more tangible (and less "high level concept"), which happened to negate the need for examples.

@missxmelon, as a general rule, a good Stanford essay 1 MUST provide examples to back up the answer given for "what matters most"; we may be suffering from a lack of creative thinking ability, but we honestly can't come up with any case where supporting examples aren't needed. It's the way that the answer is illustrated, that carries the day. Obviously we didn't see where you went with yours so maybe your execution is the exception that proves the rule! :-D

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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2013, 10:47
essaysnark wrote:
@missxmelon, as a general rule, a good Stanford essay 1 MUST provide examples to back up the answer given for "what matters most"; we may be suffering from a lack of creative thinking ability, but we honestly can't come up with any case where supporting examples aren't needed. It's the way that the answer is illustrated, that carries the day. Obviously we didn't see where you went with yours so maybe your execution is the exception that proves the rule! :-D

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When I said examples, I meant that in the context of defining the answer. Ergo, in the sentence "Keeping an open mind, from exploring other countries to shedding personal biases..." the phrases 'exploring other countries' and 'shedding personal biases' are not "multiple answers," but rather examples that help define what it means to keep an open mind. Obviously, in any essay, you need examples to support your thesis (what else would the content of the essay be?); these, however, were not the examples I was talking about. I no longer have any phrases that define my answer, but clearly the rest of my essay is filled with examples that support my thesis.
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2013, 11:13
missxmelon wrote:
Obviously, in any essay, you need examples to support your thesis (what else would the content of the essay be?)


THANK YOU! :P

(you'd be surprised how many people overlook this basic definitional point!)

Sounds like you're on the right track! fingers crossed for you - hope you'll keep us posted!
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 17 Sep 2013, 17:19
Hi EssaySnark!

Sorry for the delayed reply. I wanted to give you a huge thank you for ripping apart my Tuck essay. Your service is tremendous and appreciated. I did a huge overhaul and really tried to incorporate your feedback to be exact in defining my career and goals. I do have a somewhat nontraditional work history so it is vital for me to explain it clearly.
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 20 Sep 2013, 08:47
chouman wrote:
Hi EssaySnark!

Sorry for the delayed reply. I wanted to give you a huge thank you for ripping apart my Tuck essay. Your service is tremendous and appreciated. I did a huge overhaul and really tried to incorporate your feedback to be exact in defining my career and goals. I do have a somewhat nontraditional work history so it is vital for me to explain it clearly.
@chouman - not sure how we missed this comment but - COOL! Glad that the snarky feedback helped you out. Good luck with Tuck and we hope you'll report back on your progress!!!

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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 24 Sep 2013, 10:04

EssaySnark Essay Review! More career goals – another Columbia Essay 1



You guys know the drill – another week, another essay review - though we're happy to do a couple of these in a row if more of you people want to submit yours for the chance – dive in, the water's great!!

Columbia 1. Here's the question that this BSer had listed at the top of the draft:

Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a CBS MBA at this time?

Uh – not quite. The question is asking why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA. This may seem like nitpicky nonsense but we feel strongly that BSers should write out the full name of the school – not abbreviate. We know the whole thing about trying to save words in the essay, but a simple 'Columbia' is fine – particularly when it's in the actual question. To say 'CBS' strikes us as overly familiar and too casual.

Next: BSer sent us a 660-word essay.

We say again... “Uh – not quite.”

This is a 500 word max question. You went 160 words over?? Really?? Back to our previous comment in this thread advising people to submit their best work for review. Obviously this essay is not “done” yet if it's so grossly overlimit. We have low confidence in the work already. :-(

But let's look at what we've got – here's the first two paragraphs:


Pursuing my undergraduate degree from Singapore was a turning point in my life. It forced me to go out of my comfort zone, interact and learn with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Through my commitment and hard work, I utilized every opportunity available to have a holistic experience in university and graduated in 2010 with First Class Honors, a Minor in Business, and Finalists of Business Planning Competition.

My hard work reaped rewards as I was offered a full-time position as a Supply Chain Manager in Procter & Gamble. This role enabled me to hone my inherent analytical and inter-personal skills and I delivered breakthrough results like leading the inventory reduction by 30% (USD 10mn) in FY 11-12 for Gillette. Just 18 months into my first role and I was offered a more leadership oriented role which I gladly accepted. It showed the immense faith, leaders had in my capabilities since such roles are normally offered to peers one level above me. I got the opportunity to lead execution of new launches, cost-savings and portfolio optimization projects in collaboration with the sales and marketing teams. These combined projects helped deliver US$5 million in profit during a 1 year period.


First paragraph: What are we getting here that says anything more than a quick glance at the resume would communicate? Claiming an experience was a “turning point” and got you out of your “comfort zone” - which right there we're wondering if you wrote this essay for MIT and are repurposing it for Columbia, based on using the same language found in Sloan's essay 2 prompt... None of the content in this introduction paragraph does anything to help the adcom to understand anything specific about you. It's all unnecessary. They can see that you graduated in '10 with that specific degree; they have all that info, in multiple places.

How is that in any way answering the question?

Second paragraph: What is UP with those bold statements? Weirdness. You seem to feel that certain phrases are more important than the rest of the essay.

If that's the case, then ditch everything else and just say the important things.

No, really. We mean it. We're not trying to be cute with that suggestion.

The thing is, we get a 660-word essay and we just KNOW it's full of pomp and circumstance. (That's a negative, BTW.) A 660-word essay is, by definition, NOT FOCUSED.

And funnily enough, the writer of say bloated essay monstrosity seems to KNOW that there's too much fluff in there, because he's put in these nifty bold phrases to help us see what he really means to say.

Uh – not quite. :-D

BSer, you need to take a fresh look at this. What are you doing with these odd techniques? Essays don't have boldness in them.

Or, take that back: We would hope that your essays do have boldness in them. But this needs to come through in your ideas and messaging – not by, like, literally placing bold marks on your text.

Let's look at the content itself, shall we? (We're choosing to ignore the writing errors that we're seeing...)

Content content content... what do we have with the content... is this essay strategic? Is it on target? Is it answering the question? Lessee.

Oh. Hm. Oh dear.

This is 199 words into the essay and we have yet to see a career goal. Nary a sign of one, in fact.

This is turning out to be a major missed opportunity.

It's not required to put the goals in the first sentence – but it is in fact what the school is asking for – and, it is in fact WHAT ESSAYSNARK ALREADY ADVISED THAT PEOPLE DO WITH THEIR ESSAYS. Like, in our previous Columbia essay 1 review. Like, right here in this very thread.

People. You're making us send you this.

We were tempted to call this one done at this point, given the number of unforced errors committed by the poor suffering Brave Supplicant. But we can just hear the protests: “EssaySnark! But wait! I talk about goals in the very next paragraph! I didn't completely flub up like you're claiming I did!”

And sure enough, we read paragraph 3 and we discover, lo and behold, career goals! Here they are:

Although I was happy with the opportunities I was getting at P&G, I felt like I wasn’t getting challenged enough. This is when I started researching for various career tracks and got interested in the management consulting career. Thus my immediate goal post-MBA will be to work as an Associate/Consultant in one of the major management consulting firm ideally in the US or UK. A management consulting role will provide me with constant new challenges through working with clients from diverse industries and solving different business challenges. I have already started working towards this goal by making a job shift from P&G to Syngenta in Jan’2013. I took up this challenge as I wanted to develop broader industry experience which will be beneficial as a management consultant.

OK, so at around word 250 of what should be a 500-word essay, you start to answer the question. Glad that we're finally getting there but not so great that it took this long.

And then there's another typo in that sentence.

And the bulk of the paragraph is fluffy stuff that doesn't answer the question.

The BSer redeems himself in the second-to-last sentence of paragraph 3 - “I have already started working towards this goal” - hey! That looks relevant to what they have asked! Cool beans, BSer, you have some content here that's salvageable!

What this BSer should do is, carve out the ANSWER TO THE QUESTION from this whole meandering draft, and start there. That answer comes mostly in this third paragraph – but it's way too wordy. Cut to the chase, give the goals, and then start to explain how you're prepared to achieve them. That second-to-the-last sentence is not so bad but you need more there; we need to know how that is proper prep for this new path, with some details. This is your opportunity to take us beyond what you've got on the resume. The jumble of facts in paragraph 2 might comprise some of that, but it's not really being presented in a way that impresses.

Basically, BSer, from what we can tell in this draft, you might have some raw material that could work for an essay like this, but given that you're coming from a majorly oversubscribed candidate pool, and given that you're pitching the most common career goals of all this year, and given that this is Columbia Business School... we're thinking that there's work to be done before this is going to be a competitive pitch.

Early Decision will be important for you. Go back to the drawing board, take a fresh look at this, target your message and make it happen!

Good luck and keep us posted.


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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 29 Sep 2013, 09:28
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EssaySnark Essay Review! It's Harvard Time!



It's an HBS Essay Review Fest! We got a few of these puppies submitted recently and we're going to crank out our reviews in the coming days (yeah, we know, Round 1 is past, but these came in pretty late – hopefully our snarky commentary is useful to some BSer somewhere!).

Here's what the Harvard Admissions Board asks:

You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

The first HBS draft we're looking at today is almost 1,100 words which is in range for this – provided that the substance is there.

Here's our opening paragraph:

My goal in applying to Harvard is unambiguous: I want to enhance my potential to innovate and become an entrepreneur, and I feel that the unique resources and training available at HBS, along with the people around me, will provide an environment like no other in my pursuit of this objective. I feel that the most relevant information for the admissions committee to know is that this decision is one that I have come to after considerable reflection about how I see myself spending the next thirty to forty years of my career. My record of straying from the beaten path, as evidenced by my transfer during university or leaving my PhD program to teach English in Korea, also demonstrates my fearlessness to take on new, unknown challenges. And I believe my record of achievement, whether in academics, athletics, or in leading a team of my colleagues to win a global competition to devise an innovative course of action for our bank's growth strategy, is a testament to my ability to succeed in a wide variety of venues. Moreover, I feel that now is a fortuitous time to undertake such an endeavor; if living in San Francisco has taught me one thing, it is that innovation and creative thinking will be the drivers of progress in decades to come more so than in any other era.

Hafta say, we're kinda impressed by this. It's one of the few Harvard essays we've seen this season that actually ANSWERS THE QUESTION. That seems to be a major stumbling block for many. This BSer has impressed us by actually starting to write an essay.

What we so often get in these Harvard drafts is just a blob.

This person has grabbed the bull by the horns and set out to tell the adcom something important.

HBS isn't fixated on goals so it's not necessary to write about goals in your Harvard essay – but you can. And this person is setting the stage well.

What we especially like is the second sentence: they're actually telling the adcom what the essay will be about and why they're writing it.

Now, please don't get too literal with this. Sometimes we see people write essays where they say “In this essay, I would like to take this opportunity to tell the admissions committee about this stuff.” That's just clumsy. It's not awful if you do it that way, but it's a little awkward. An essay is about telling people stuff; that's what you are doing when you're writing it. To tell them that you're going to tell them stuff is just a little amateurish; it lacks any finesse and polish.

The way this person did it is better – the main reason for why we say so is that they are showing that they have thought about what's important to say, and are saying that. This intro is responding to the actual essay question that has been asked.

That's what you need to do in any essay for any school. It's especially helpful when you do it for Harvard.

Keep in mind that the Harvard essay is not meant as a chance for you to upchuck all of your important autobiographical details. It's pretty clear from the essay question that that's not what it's for, but we see people doing that all the time. They just start writing: “I grew up in Chicago and I went to school here and then I got a job as a this and here I am.” Truly, some drafts we've seen aren't too much better than that.

The reason we like this BSer's Harvard essay is it shows that they have thought about the question – which means they have thought about their own profile, and about their motivations for getting an MBA.

They even have this very unusual focus on Harvard in the opening.

This is refreshing.

So many people apply to Harvard because it's Harvard; they don't do any analysis or evaluation of the opportunity beyond that fact. Most of the Harvard essays we read reflect this. They are borrrrr-rrrrring. They don't show any spark or pizzazz. They don't give any indication that the writer of said essay has an appreciation for the Harvard opportunity.

We're not saying that you should be a suck-up and drool all over the adcom in your writing. That's even worse than the dry lifeless approach.

What we're saying is that you need to pitch them.

That’s what this person is doing.

At least, that's where they started, in that first paragraph. So all you BSers out there, take note! It helps to have a REASON for applying to Harvard and to express why it's an important next step for you, based on what you've done and your own life story.

This is not meant as a template or a prescription for how to write the Harvard essay – please do not take it as such. And PLEASE do not be tempted to copy in any of the sentences from this BSer's opening; remember that the schools use plagiarism detection software. You need to write your own essay, in your own words.

OK, so now that we've given this BSer a puffed-up head about how great they started out... let's mention a few places of concern. This is, again, just reacting to this first paragraph. The big one is that there seems to be a disconnect in the messaging.

While we appreciate the spin-job and how this person is taking control of the messaging by saying that dropping out of the PhD program is evidence of “fearlessness” – well, that's not exactly how everyone would interpret such a move. And with a quick scan of the remaining 850 words of the essay, we're not seeing this BSer come back to this subject to explain it. Dropping out of school is kind of like um sorta well IT'S A BIG DEAL. This is something that the adcom needs to know about. You can spin it by saying you had this great opportunity to pursue, but face it, dropping out of anything says that you're a quitter. (Sorry to be so blunt!) We need to get more insights into what was behind that decision. And – again, sorry to be blunt – dropping out to teach English in Korea hardly qualifies as a smart risk/reward decision. This needs more explanation.

So Big Advice Category #2 for all you BSers: If there's something significant in your past that a stranger would reasonably want to know about when being introduced to your history... that seems like it would be a good topic of explanation for this essay.

We didn't study the rest of the content in this particular essay so we don't have any thumbs-up/thumbs-down assessments except that it appears to be providing some good content around the BSer's past entrepreneurial experience, which is certainly relevant, and advisable as an HBS topic, for someone saying that they want to go to Harvard to be an entrepreneur. So we're on board with that - again, we didn't scrutinize it, so we're not rubber-stamping any of it in specific, just stating that it would be a good strategy for someone to pursue, given that opening.

Also we want to be clear: That opening has some fluffy stuff in it, and we are concerned about the claim that the BSer has had success in academics, which follows hot on the heels of the mention of dropping out of the doctoral program; these things don't quite sync up for us, and we would have expected a more direct treatment of them in the essay itself. There's also a dearth of real information in that first paragraph – it's quite long, and quite wordy, and the only details it communicates about the BSer are that: a) they want to do something entrepreneurial; b) they apparently transferred schools during college (this should be evident on the resume/application); c) they dropped out of the PhD program; d) they taught English in Korea (also should be on the resume/app); e) they live in San Francisco (also on the app).

In that list, the only NEW information is the entrepreneurial thing. That's a lot of words to communicate one tiny tidbit of info. It's better if the signal-to-noise ratio is higher.

So, some good strategies, but some room for improvement. Hope this was helpful! Good luck with your Harvard application, Brave Supplicant!
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 29 Sep 2013, 09:30
We had another Harvard essay come in for a freebie review – yeah we realize that the Round 1 deadline is over but we didn't get it from Souvik until past that time – hopefully this review is still useful to some BSer somewhere!

As you know, this is the prompt:

You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

We got a seriously unique essay come through to be critiqued - here's our opening chunk:

Earlier this year, I live-tweeted a closed-door ministerial at the World Bank Board room featuring 50 of the world’s most powerful development leaders. Each representative had less than two minutes to outline their vision to achieve “Learning for All.”
Great insights, brilliant ideas and unbridled passion for human development went unnoticed because of less than perfect delivery. That day reinforced what I have known for a while now – my life’s ambition is to help people tell their stories.
Post MBA, I would like to be a leader in this underutilized area of marketing, forging a career as a story-telling marketing evangelist.
However, I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a story-teller. My love for logic led to believe that I was a lawyer. My high school years were a series of debates, history bees and internships at the local high court. I trained myself to be relentless analytic, scoured long transcripts for loopholes and worked hard on developing my questioning skills until I was accepted into India’s top law schools.
My obsession for analytics was oxymoronically only paralleled by my love for purely creative, the wonderfully bizarre. At 16, I had exhibited and sold my original artwork at several galleries in India. However, born into a conservative South-Indian family, I learnt soon enough that art was not a career – it was a hobby and law was the logical career path.



So what's with people bolding sentences in their Harvard essays this year? The only thing we can think of for why someone would do that is if they feel the reader will miss the point... which implies that they're talking too much without making one, perhaps?

Bold does not belong in essays, people. You're presenting an integrated message. A polished pitch. An argument. A story, even.

Bold is not a member of the party. Maybe this is just an EssaySnark pet peeve (there are surely more than a few of those!) but we don't think that bold belongs.

And then what's up with that bizarre-o word “oxymoronically”? You are making us feel like a moron for reading it. Please people, keep things straightforward and simple. We honestly have no clue what that sentence about oxymoronical parallels is trying to say.

Let's talk about the content.

No wait – first, let's tell a story. :wink:

We had a writing teacher say to us once that you should never use the word “ironically” in your writing. If something is ironic, it will be OBVIOUS to the reader; you won't need to point it out, and to do so is mildly insulting their intelligence. If they don't perceive it as ironic, then that's on you, the writer, for not describing it as such.

So we won't use the word “ironically” here, but... :wink:

Starting an essay with a story about how you observed others telling stories – and not doing a good job – well, we would hope that the story being told in the essay is a good one!

(We're kinda struggling with that part.)

Your job in your essays – all essays, not just a Harvard essay – is to communicate.

You are criticizing these most powerful development leaders for their less than perfect delivery.

But what have you yourself done here?

It's got some potential, sure, but it also leaves all these questions.

1. What is a “ministerial”?
2. Why were you at the World Bank? Why were you live-tweeting this?
3. How can you claim that all of the ideas “went unnoticed”? Wasn't it your job to be noticing it, through your act of live-tweeting?

We are always looking for new information about THE CANDIDATE whenever we read one of these essays. This opening has some potential but it leaves us guessing.

When you go into your main message about how you want to use storytelling for marketing – well cool. That's interesting. It's a new field that's been opening up lately. (Stories, by the way, are the best vehicles for use in bschool essays, bar none – hopefully that truth has already been noticed by all of EssaySnark's readers along the way!)

But there's a few hiccups and choppy spots in this essay that made it a little tough going (typos, awkward sentences, very odd word choice). If your pitch is that you want to use words to communicate, well, uh...

Right.

So this essay is interesting in terms of it's definitely a unique premise. Can't say there's lots of BSers clamoring to get into bschool to be storytellers!

But that also means that some adcoms may want to see why you need an MBA for this. You may want to do more with that in this pitch. Your last paragraph has a gratuitous mention of a few things that we would not have expected, that you're saying are necessary to be a storyteller (big data? Really??). We can buy into this idea but it's up to you to make it happen.

Your personal history is relevant in this case, and you're doing a nice job in the body of the essay in linking together your past experiences and showing the adcom how you came to have this idea and goal – but it seems like you could do more to express why the Harvard MBA would be a necessary next step.

And you really have a lot of typos (another one in the final sentence of the essay). That's awfully distracting. Hopefully those got cleaned up before you submitted this.

The background seems to be relevant in terms of positioning yourself for this unique future path. The creative work you did in the advertising agency shows promise, and you have added a relevant discussion of how you originally thought you wanted to be a lawyer. All of that can be useful. We are getting some personal insights in this essay which are appropriate, given the goal. As a general rule, we like to see some hardcore achievements and reasons-why-I'm-Harvard-material-type content in this essay, which we're getting a tiny bit of, but not really, in this particular draft. So for anyone studying this for guidance on how to write their essay to be, say, a consultant... what we have here is not the best model for others to follow. A personal narrative can possibly be revealing, but this is a unique case. Most people would probably want to go a more traditional route in presenting content to the Harvard Admissions Board that shows how they are achievers, who are ahead of their peers, who have made big contributions that demonstrate their skills.

We don't know anything of this BSer's background except for what's in this essay – we don't have GMAT or academics or a resume – so all we can go on is what's here. It's a little bit of an artificial evaluation, since that's not where the adcom will be coming from when they read through this. But as a standalone piece, given what's in this, we're feeling mildly optimistic for this person.

Storytelling is certainly an interesting reason to want to get an MBA. (This would be a very difficult pitch at other schools – if you're planning on using this same goal elsewhere, then we hope you realize that it will need to be modified A LOT, in terms of showing the other adcoms what you literally plan to do when you graduate. Just wanted to toss that out there.)

Storytelling. Hm. Maybe it's just because it resonates with all of what we do, but it has a certain appeal. Not sure what the job prospects are in the storytelling industry, but maybe it'll pan out for you, BSer. We do hope you'll write back and let us know how things go!

Good luck with your Harvard application!
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 09 Oct 2013, 10:25
This is awesome, thanks ES! Too bad I didn't find this thread until after I submitted my apps for Yale, Michigan and Stanford... but luckily I think I incorporated all of your suggestions based on feedback from my reviewers. I felt good about my essays so once I finish Duke maybe I can submit for review!
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews [#permalink] New post 09 Oct 2013, 11:00

EssaySnark Essay Review! For UCLA Anderson's single essay



A few months back, after the whole MBA admissions world had absorbed the news that Harvard was going down to a single essay, EssaySnark was frankly a little shocked when we heard that UCLA was following suit. Anderson announced that they would have just one essay for their MBA application as well. This at first seemed either totally brave, since no other schools had followed in Harvard's footsteps, or totally crazy, since we knew how much BSers were struggling with the single HBS essay. We were skeptical that UCLA would be getting good content from its applicants, if there was only one question for them to submit in support of their profile.

And then we saw what UCLA's single essay question was, and we breathed a sigh of relief.

The UCLA essay question is the same one that they've had for something like five years ago – in fact, UCLA originally swooped the wording from Columbia. It's the quintessential, penultimate, absolutely fabulouso career goals prompt that any BSer is sure to do well with:

What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from UCLA Anderson specifically help you achieve these goals?

This truly is our favoritist essay question. It's direct, concise, and clear, with no funny stuff. We got a brave Brave Supplicant sending in an essay for this, and let's see where they took it.

First up: We got 806 words, which is sort of pushing it. There's very few schools left that are so permissive with their word limits – this UCLA prompt allows for 750 words. When you're given that much space to talk about yourself, you really shouldn't need to go overlimit. The schools don't count words so it's not like you're going to get rejected for being a little wordy, but this essay could be pared back. Don't outstay your welcome.

Here's our opening:

10-15 years from now, I’ll provide affordable eco-friendly homes of quality for better living of the middle-class in eastern India. This is my calling, but I didn’t find it overnight.

In my first year at XXX [‘an US IT MNC’] in 2010 as an Analyst, managers trusted my leadership while I motivated and encouraged teammates, successfully leading a million dollar assignment with prior high-level escalations, helping XXX grab further projects from client and recording 200% growth in 6 months. Moving forward, my current 3+ year leadership stint in XXX’s multi-million dollar project for client’s mortgage business enabled me to grow more gritty and determined, navigating uncertain situations like an unplanned successive product release. I met stringent production deadlines, identified the right resources while my direction and coordination among stakeholders helped cut the cycle execution time in half, saving at least 33% cost for clients.



Well that's a rather rocky start. We hate to get so hung up on the technicalities of the essays but we always seem to do that... and that's what can happen when your adcom reader picks up your draft, too.

The first thing out of the gate in this BSer's essay is a number. They have started the first sentence of the essay with “10-15 years from now...”

Sorry dude. That's sloppy.

You're not supposed to start a sentence with a digit (this is like English Grammar 101). You need to either reword it so that the number of “10-15” isn't the first thing that comes, or you need to spell it out: “Ten to fifteen...” We prefer the former solution.

Why do we get so hung up on these little tiny details? Because your essays are about COMMUNICATION – and every tiny detail matters. You are forming an impression in your reader's mind. You are presenting yourself as a certain kind of person – either one who is in command of the English language, who knows the rules of grammar and sweats the details and worries about the little tiny things... or one who is not. These things matter. The adcom is not going to reject a solid candidate over such issues, but it absolutely impacts the perception that they are forming of you in their mind when they are going through your materials.

OK, let's look at the content.

The first paragraph is carving out some high-minded goal in real estate development (we think). We'll give the BSer the benefit of the doubt and go along with this for now, but already in the back of the mind there's a little alarm bell going off. Is this person going to be able to adequately substantiate something so ambitious? We will need to be convinced.

Then the second paragraph is good in terms of intention but not so good in execution. It's pretty tough going, to try and interpret – even without the oddness that's being introduced in trying to anonymize the essay so that it can be posted here publicly. We are ignoring the weirdness in how that was done. Just in trying to read and interpret the meaning of the sentences, we get a little jambolayaed. (That means, confused.) This is not written in a clear, succinct, easy-to-follow manner. We're not really able to follow it.

It sounds like this BSer has been involved in some important projects, and it sounds like maybe those projects are in a relevant field or industry that could provide backup to the goal. But we're just not sure. We're guessing. We do not actually know what all of that is about. The size of project doesn't matter; we need to know WHAT YOU DID.

Note to all you BSers out there: the word “stint” makes the thing you're describing sound trivial. (Go Google it if you don't believe us.) We're seeing this word in essays all over this year and it's officially become a new EssaySnark Pet Peeve. (There's quite a collection of those Pet Peeves rattling around at this point.) If you say that you had a “stint” then it's odd to then learn that it was three years long, and even odder to discover that you say it was a “leadership” one. These ideas just undermine and contradict each other.

If you were in a leadership capacity, then we would expect that it was one where you added value – not a “stint” which is usually just a short-term little gig or something.

And, if you were in such a leadership capacity, then we would need to KNOW ABOUT IT.

That second paragraph is all over the map, it's not providing enough of anything – it's not a useful summary (summaries are actually hardly ever useful in essays, actually) and it's not providing specific-enough detail that we can follow along and interpret much from it. It's sort of a jumble of wasted space. You would need to do more to show us how you're actually QUALIFIED for anything.

Which brings us to our biggest suggestion:

When the adcom has so clearly asked you to describe your “short-term and long-term goals” then we STRONGLY recommend that you actually do so.

Like, in the first paragraph.

Or even, in the first sentence.

It's not wrong to talk about the long-term goal first, but if you do that, then you may be cheating yourself – or more precisely, your reader – by not giving them the proper context and understanding within which to evaluate them.

The UCLA adcom cares a LOT about the goals – lots of schools do, and UCLA is broadcasting that priority loud and clear by only asking you to discuss the goals, and nothing else, in this year's application.

You should honor that request that they've made of you, by actually discussing the goals.

Doing so right upfront can often help you stay focused and on track, and best communicate to them why you need an MBA.

That's the whole point of this essay.

Let's look at one more paragraph, to see if this BSer redeemed himself:

During these four years of success at XXX I was concurrently involved in my family’s real estate development business in Kolkata, overseeing the budget and growing the bottom line from $120K to $500K. When I delivered the keys of new homes to our delighted customers, their smile of satisfaction invoked my passion for RE.I plan to use my strengths – reliability under pressure, strategic sense and risk taking attitude – to expand our family business and start my own RE venture in India 10-15 years post-MBA. The $74B+ Indian RE market is estimated to grow to $180B by 2020, as per Economic Times and IBEF. It has witnessed around 20% of average appreciation in last few decades and quadrupled in last decade as per Economic Times. My firm will leverage the opportunity and make the living better for 100M middle-class community going forward.


Not so bad. Here you've triggered our pet peeve about no acronyms; this one is more than a pet peeve though since this actually affects how the reader perceives you and how easy it is for them to understand you. While you may feel that the abbreviation of “RE” is super obvious – and maybe it is – it still puts barriers between you and the reader's brain. The reader must stop and puzzle over that – even if only for a nanosecond – before figuring out what you mean. That's just not ideal, and it's so avoidable. You can afford to write the whole thing out - “real estate” - see how easy that is? It makes the essay come across as much more polished and professional. It's a more formal presentation, which is always what you want.

In terms of the content, this has some good elements and it's doing more to explain/expand on the first paragraph where there is a lofty goal of working in real estate development – this helps fit the pieces in place. However there is basically nothing here that discusses WHAT YOU DID. You say you worked in the family business... OK great, but doing what? That seems like it would be helpful information to, like, include.

The latter half of the paragraph should just be deleted. Nobody cares about the growing real estate market; it's inconsequential for the purpose of an admissions essay. By devoting all that space to the industry sector and laying out all this stuff that's “not you” you are cheating yourself of the opportunity to go more in depth and personal on things that ARE you. This is non-strategic and not helpful. Ditch that and keep the focus on literally what you want to do and why you want to do it.

We see from this BSer's fourth paragraph that they finally start to go into a discussion of the short-term goal – but that's pretty darn late in the essay. That sentence doesn't hit until we're at 300 words in. That just seems like missed opportunity, given the fact that it's the very first thing that the adcom actually asked you for in the question. It's not illegal to do it as you have done it, but it doesn't seem like the clearest, most straightforward presentation that one could make.

We are seeing some goals that may be viable for UCLA, and UCLA is a good school for real estate. The “why I'm qualified” content needs to be done more thoroughly and more focusedly (yes we know that that's not a word). We don't know if the rest of the profile is in line with what UCLA needs to see but the rough strokes of this essay appear like they might be suitable – if cleaned up and tightened into a more communicative pitch that helps us see what you've done that shows how you're ready for this big next step.

Thanks for submitting the UCLA essay, BSer! Good luck with it!


EssaySnark reviews essays here and on the EssaySnark blahg – for free!Personally identifiable information in your essay needs to be removed and won't be published – don't worry, you'll be able to stay anonymous if you prefer.
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Re: Free Essay Evals by EssaySnark -Official GMAT Club Reviews   [#permalink] 09 Oct 2013, 11:00
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