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How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative?

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Are successful essays more direct or more creative?

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How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative? [#permalink] New post 27 Nov 2012, 16:13
Hello everyone,

As I prepare for applications, was just wondering what the consensus is when it comes to writing essays, should they be more direct or should they be more creative? Here's my understanding of the difference:

Direct
- To the point
- Everything has a topic sentence
- No gimmicks like sudden openings, quotes, jokes, etc.

Reasoning:
- Essay readers just want to get it over with and are skimming for the key points

Example (Wharton's Create A Course Prompt):
I believe a class on government investors where students analyze successful strategies for interacting with the public sector would add tremendous value.

Creative
- More like telling a story
- More unstructured
- More "gimmicky" writing devices

Reasoning:
- You want to draw your essay reader in otherwise they'll just get bored

Example (Wharton's Create A Course Prompt From Admissionado):
A CEO usually pays very little attention when a government tells him that his corporate strategy conflicts with the government’s objectives. But what if the government owns part of his company? A typical MBA graduate dreams of becoming a CEO. When he finally slides into the big chair, his first move might be to cut costs by firing local employees and moving jobs to Vietnam. He presents this strategy which makes perfect business sense for a traditional shareholder, expecting praise for his initiative.

(The course isn't even mentioned until 3/4 of the way down the essay)

I've talked to a few different admissions consultants too and I feel like a lot of them think Direct is better while I don't think I've met a bigger proponent of Creative than Admissionado.
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Re: How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative? [#permalink] New post 27 Nov 2012, 16:25
As with many things in life, I think the true answer lies somewhere in between the two. While you don't want to write bland prose that bores your reader to death, you also don't want to include so much "showing" that your reader rolls his/her eyes and thinks Here we go again...
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Re: How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative? [#permalink] New post 27 Nov 2012, 17:12
kingfalcon wrote:
As with many things in life, I think the true answer lies somewhere in between the two. While you don't want to write bland prose that bores your reader to death, you also don't want to include so much "showing" that your reader rolls his/her eyes and thinks Here we go again...


I agree. You also don't want to create a false dichotomy. Direct writing can be creative. I used topic sentences and theses to indicate my point, which I proved through creative storytelling. I will let you know if it worked...
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Re: How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative? [#permalink] New post 27 Nov 2012, 17:49
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I feel like creativity lends itself better to longer essays, where you have more space to develop a story. Schools like Yale and MIT have tight word limits so a more direct approach might be better/easier -- while you can certainly add creativity into those essays, it will take more effort and time on your part. On the other end of the spectrum, Cornell and Duke want you to be creative based on the nature of their essay topics alone (obviously that goes for the (in)famous topics from Booth and NYU as well).

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Re: How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative? [#permalink] New post 27 Nov 2012, 17:50
aerien wrote:
I feel like creativity lends itself better to longer essays, where you have more space to develop a story. Schools like Yale and MIT have tight word limits so a more direct approach might be better/easier -- while you can certainly add creativity into those essays, it will take more effort and time on your part. On the other end of the spectrum, Cornell and Duke want you to be creative based on the nature of their essay topics alone (obviously that goes for the (in)famous topics from Booth and NYU as well).

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I don't know if I would call the MIT limits tight after suffering through the Haas limits! :lol:
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Re: How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative? [#permalink] New post 27 Nov 2012, 17:53
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kingfalcon wrote:
aerien wrote:
I feel like creativity lends itself better to longer essays, where you have more space to develop a story. Schools like Yale and MIT have tight word limits so a more direct approach might be better/easier -- while you can certainly add creativity into those essays, it will take more effort and time on your part. On the other end of the spectrum, Cornell and Duke want you to be creative based on the nature of their essay topics alone (obviously that goes for the (in)famous topics from Booth and NYU as well).

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I don't know if I would call the MIT limits tight after suffering through the Haas limits! :lol:


I stayed away from that beast ;) There's no way I could cut down my long-winded writing style enough for that one!

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Re: How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative? [#permalink] New post 29 Nov 2012, 19:56
I think it depends on different factors, such as word limit, like aerien mentioned.

One key factor would be the question type. For example, I feel that the direct approach works with the 'Why MBA, Why School X' question, whereas some creativity can be applied in the 'leadership experience, strengths and weaknesses, moments that defined who you are' questions.

Having said that, I have applied some creativity to some 'Why MBA, Why School X' questions since the questions allow for that, e.g. Kellogg's 3rd essay question asking for an applicant to imagine having graduated and think back about the career about to be entered, and how Kellogg's MBA helped the applicant to get there.
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Re: How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative? [#permalink] New post 03 Dec 2012, 08:55
I think the most important thing is that you fully address the prompt. If you can do this as well with a creative essay as with a formal essay, then it's up to you, just don't get distracted.

One strategy that has a certain logic to it is to use a more bold/creative approach for your reach schools, since you might need that little extra to get their attention, and it's relatively low-risk since the school was a long shot to begin with. Then with safety/mid-range schools, use a more formal approach to just bolster your already-strong candidacy.
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Re: How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative? [#permalink] New post 03 Dec 2012, 09:04
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Answer the question above all else. If you are not a creative writer do not try to be one for your essays. It's not something that everyone can do. It is better to tell a very straightforward story and answer the question than to try to create a work of literature that does not answer it.
I honestly think that if you are showing rather than telling (i.e. giving specific examples) there will be an element of storytelling to all of your essays. I know that there was in all of mine.
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Re: How To Write Essays: Direct or Creative?   [#permalink] 03 Dec 2012, 09:04
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