Can somebody give some more feedback on his essays and why they're bad?
First let me say that if anything I write comes off as unfairly harsh, its just my opinion and you should take it with a grain of salt.
There are a number of problems.
Lets start with Essay 1.
"First of all, I want to explain that I failed multiple classes at the end of my second year of college
due to meeting my first girlfriend and subsequently being dumped. I believe I insured myself
against a repeat experience when I married. Now, let’s get to business."
This is a really poor way to address your undergraduate grades. First of all, using terms such as "dumped" makes sense if you are 19 years old and talking to a friend in a bar -- right from the get-go, the essay starts off sounding rather unprofessional (would you tell your boss you were 'dumped?'). More generally, "girlfriend issues" is an awful excuse anyway -- there are people who deal with things like deaths in the family, cancer, etc and succeed.
A much better approach would have been to say that "I experienced some personal difficulties" and leave it at that. Given the other grades he has, it seems clear to me that this was a unique circumstance of some sort. Also, his argument that this wont happen because he is now married is a bit humorous frankly (divorce?) -- but moreover it doesn't actually address the real issue here. The problem isn't being dumped, the problem is that he lacked the maturity to deal with appropriately. Thats OK - everyone learns from mistakes -- and these things happen, so hey, thats OK. The problem however is that he doesnt say he matured in any way since then.
In fact, he's essentially saying 'Ya, the same thing would happen again but I don't think my wife will leave me" -- instead he should say "Although difficult, I've become far more mature and...." something like that.
The essay goes downhill from here.
"I majored in visual arts my first year of college and wanted to become an illustrator. I took the next two years off from school to serve as a full-time missionary in Brazil for the LDS Church."
This doesn't flow - at all. You've got to have sentences that make sense together. This looks like the result of over-editing. You want to be an illustrator so you join the LDS Church? How are these related? WHY did you take two years off and go be a missionary? There's not explanation of anything here, just a list of chronological events.
Although the rest the paragraph tries to explain the shift from art to business, it does an poor job. The reason he changed from art to business was, apparently, due to "a brochure". Essays should explain WHY you want to do X or Y, and you should sound passionate. Saying you changed to business because you stumbled on some marketing materials, but then not explaining what about those marketing materials interested you, just doesnt cut it.
The essay ends like a collapsing flan in a cupboard - sort of a "Meh, my undergraduate experience was pretty good I guess" -- you get to the end and you don't know what, exactly, was the point of that essay? (If you haven't read it, read it). Was it to convey an interest in business? Not really, maybe. Was it to elaborate on his entrepreneurial background? Sort of touches on that, but doesn't go into any detail so I'm not sure about that. Perhaps it was about his grades? I'm not really sure what the central point of that essay is other than a pretty run of the mill narrative. You want to end your essays on a strong and powerful note - a one-two punch to the jaw that demands attention, not with the "oomph" of a moth fart.
Essay 2 goes on an equally diverse tangent.
"I view as my three most substantial accomplishments maintaining my moral standards during my teenage years, starting and running a successful business while in college, and serving two years as a volunteer missionary in Brazil."
First off, this is a pretty bland start to an essay, but we can forgive that -- not everyone has a flair for the creative. Can't fault someone for that (although he could have tried a bit harder to come up with something memorable as an opener).
What immediately grabs my attention (and not in a good way) is that this guy is going to talk about moral standards as a teenager? Without even reading further, I'm immediately concerned - attempting to defend a moral standpoint is dicey -- and why would you pick something as a teenager? I didn't check how old he is (probably 30s?), but I'd argue there's probably something MORE meaningful to talk about than a teenage experience -- how about something relating to one of his rather impressive entrepreneurial businesses?
And then it goes further downhill. "At times I felt like an outsider because I didn’t attend the parties or participate in the “extracurricular” activities my peers did." Ugh
. Keep politics, religion, sex and drugs out of your essays. They are touchy subjects to begin with. Moreover, in general, saying your greatest achievement was not having sex as a teenager (either that or not doing drugs, depending on how you interpret it) is just a really silly achievement. Is that really
the thing you are most proud of? You want to talk about peer pressure? Fine. Pick something other than drugs or sex.
The essay improves a bit from here - his discussion of his business piques my interest, but he misses the mark on making it pop. The truly impressive thing about launching a business, raising funds and hiring employees is NOT the fact that you:
"wake up at 6 a.m., work on a client’s website from home, drive to school for a class, drive to the office and resolve an issue with an employee, attend a sales meeting at a client’s office.... " (that sentence keeps going for another mind crushing number of words)
-- its the fact that you took on a LEADERSHIP role
, clearly have strong teamwork skills, navigated many complex issues, etc. That's what's interesting about it - that's what unique about it. Not the fact that you were busy. He goes on to mention some school competitions. Who gives a crap that you placed third in some competition? You built a business that you successfully sold - probably for a pretty penny. News outlets covered the sale!! Common! This is the part that kills me because this guy has such good experience and a REALLY good story to tell here - but he absolutely wastes that opportunity. It's like someone writing about their experience climbing mount Everest but instead of talking about the climb, they focus on the challenges of sitting in an economy seat on their way to Nepal.
His third essay has potential, but his central theme falls short -- "I still find myself being tempted to be the nice guy, but I’ve learned that doing the right thing is more important than being popular." -- this is such a weak thing to talk about -- its what I expect to see in an undergraduate application, not a graduate level one. Moreover, isn't this basically the same thing as what he was arguing when he was talking about his 'morals'?
Essay four just sinks him completely. The boat was smoking already by this point, but this essay pours gasoline on it and sets it ablaze.
Right off the bat he says :
"Owning and running a business has presented me with ample temptations to be less than completely truthful. Complying with tax codes and accounting regulations is a complicated affair, even for a small business."
I literally did a double take on that one.... DO NOT admit to being even REMOTELY tempted to commit tax fraud in your essays! I don't care how great the follow up explanation is, I don't care what you have to say, I don't care how you qualify it, you've just landed in the reject pile. Period.
If that wasn't enough, its clear he doesn't understand the question (its about ethical challenges). He says: "For me, I believe the area of greatest danger will be accounting, and to avoid mistakes I will need to develop...."
Lets be clear. Accounting does NOT present ANY kind of ethical challenges.
Accounting is math and rules and regulations. There's no ethical issues here. There's complexity and obscure rules and counter-intuitive stuff, but thats it. "Gray areas" aren't really gray - there's an obvious choice every time: be conservative. He's confusing ethics with, well, I don't know what, competence perhaps.
Before I continue take note that this is now the third time he's talking about things related to ethics / morals / "doing the right thing" -- the first time was about drugs/sex, the second in the prior essays and now this one again. Look at how each of those ends:
".... myself as a leader and person of integrity."
".... doing the right thing is more important than being popular"
"... no matter the challenges I face I will find my way and make the right decisions."
If this sounds repetitive to you by now, its because it is.
Lets continue. We've established that he was tempted by fraud and considers accounting an 'ethical' discipline. He then proceeds to explain this challenge as somehow related to an example from junior high involving lying about trumpet practice. If you are in your thirties and have run more than one company, there MUST be a better example in your history. Even assuming there isn't, the story has NO RELEVANCE at all to anything in the rest of the essay -- and, its not even really a story about ethics in the first place! There's no "gray area" here either - lying isn't an ethical challenge.... and this isn't even a 'white lie' where he's saving someone's feelings or something ("Sure, you look great in that dress") -- he's just telling a story about how he flat out lied. Thats it. He basically says "I didnt want to do it, so I lied about it and I got caught". More importantly, what does the story have to do with his future ethical challenges? What does it have to do with how he plans to develop the competencies to battle them? Absolutely nothing.
He then shifts gears and somehow relates lying about a trumpet lesson to sarbanes oxley. I still cant get my head around that one. He then shifts again, suggesting that the ethical challenges are not about accounting per se, but rather about hiring the right people? You tell me, I honestly can't even tell anymore.
"Those I do not personally oversee must be entrusted to competent individuals of complete integrity. To improve my abilities to personally oversee certain matters and hire the right people to oversee the others, I will become more expert in corporate finance and accounting regulations."
Put it all together and you have a disjointed story about a trumpet from twenty years ago, an example (or two) of poor ethics, demonstration of no comprehension of the term.... Ok enough on that one - lets move on.
Question 5 is THE pivotal essay in every application. With trepidation, lets take a look. Lets see what his goals are.
"I believe working in the CEO role at multiple companies in different types of industries and in locations around the world will give me the necessary preparation so that I can make that difference."
Bang-head-on-wall. So his goals are to be the CEO of many companies, everywhere in the world, doing anything? Could we possibly be more vague?
Fortunately he does narrow that down a bit: "This experience and others have led me to be particularly interested in working towards being a turnaround CEO at a large corporation."
which is a good start towards actually writing something cohesive. He then lists a mish-mash of random industries that would be a 'good fit', but I'll forgive him that error (but you shouldn't do that). Just as it looks like he might be on the right path, his goals go schizophrenic immediately thereafter.
"I will use what I gain from my experiences to serve others. I am particularly interested in
microloan and microenterprise programs that are lifting hundreds of thousands out of poverty. I
hope to write a number of books and I may pursue political office someday."
Okay, so thus far his goals are:
* To be a the CEO of many companies in many industries in many countries
* Perhaps Brazil, Japan, China, and Russia
* These MIGHT include technology. retail, news and entertainment, real estate or manufacturing.
* He MIGHT be a turnaround management focused CEO
* Or he's also interestead in microlending
* Alternatively, become a writer and publish books
* Or pursue political office
In all the essays I've ever read, this is by the far the most incredibly incomprehensible melting pot of ideas I've ever seen. I understand (and respect) that this person is an entrepreneur at heart and probably would want to get his hands into 10 different things, but the list is so fabulously divergent, I can't make heads or tails of any of it.
Should I bother pointing out that in the first FIVE essays he has yet to say ANYTHING about HBS
or how it relates to ANYTHING he's written? It's not that he isn't being specific -- its truly that he hasn't said a single solitary thing about the school and how it fits.
If essay four sank his boat, essay five killed the crew and took the captain with it.
I can't bring myself read essay six.
So you asked what was wrong? Basically everything. The sad thing is that he's got some pretty strong experience (I suspect) but its just so jumbled none of it pops off the page.