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POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay?

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Essay A or Essay B

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POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2010, 11:01
I'm having a very difficult time trying to understand what type of prose to use in b-school essays. Please look at these two examples (I pulled them off public websites), and tell me which one is more geared towards a business school application.

EXAMPLE A:

Courtesy of http://www.hbs.edu/mba/profiles/Portrai ... Brian.html

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (not an application essay questions as far as I know)

I remember sitting against a tree at summer camp listening intently to a counselor who, with her guitar, taught me a song that I still sing to myself every day. It put a three-line ancient rabbinical teaching to a simple tune:

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" When I was sixteen, I decided to accept myself and to come out of the closet. I recognize that I am one of the most privileged gay people in this country and that, as of today, gay Americans do not have full equal rights. I want to use the education and the many gifts I have been provided to fight for the same rights, privileges, and protections my siblings and peers enjoy. I want to die an equal citizen of this country.

"But if I am only for myself, then what am I?" Nearly three billion people live on less than $2 per day. I want to use the tools and strategies that powerful corporations employ to address global poverty. Our world is far too rich with resources for billions to go hungry.

"And if not now, when?" Two years ago, a falling telecom cable struck my head and nearly took my life. I don't know where I'll be standing when the next cable falls. That cable, and that childhood song, constantly remind me:

Today is the most important day in the world. I will live it with extreme purpose.


EXAMPLE B:

Courtesy of http://hbsguru.com/hbs_samples.html

Not sure what the essay prompt was

In 1990 as a senior associate at Condor Consulting, I headed a four person Condor team for two years at Monitor Software (MS), a mid-size firm which sold data-base management software products. Our mission was to convince 120 key MS programmers and engineers to sell MS consulting services as a new 'product,' in addition to their old engineering and programming tasks. These valued and long-term employees were not sales oriented and were comfortable with the status quo. Also, they were committed to finishing their current projects, not adding to them. I helped plan several company meetings and question-and-answer sessions to share the company's new vision. I explained the need for MS to change in order to remain competitive. But many MS programmers and engineers, at the end of our first orientation 'phase' (6 months), were not committed to the change. After carefully assessing these meetings with my own 'change' team, I told senior management the original plan would take 3 years instead of 15 months. We had to hire new people, deal with winning over more recruits, and craft an exit strategy for those unwilling to join.

Over the next two years 70 percent of the initial target audience signed on, and 30 percent were transferred, quit, or let go. The new consulting 'business' became 25 percent of MS' total revenues.

Executing lay-offs at the same time as making new hires was hard. So was integrating new hires into this roiling environment. My team's success was based on (i) open communication, (ii) a willingness to change the first plan, (iii) hiring outplacement and recruitment experts (after a failure of trying this in-house) and (iv) constantly sharing the new vision and benefits. Although we revised the 'change' plan, we never waivered in our ultimate commitment to it--and it showed.


As I've been thinking about how to write my essays, the style of prose I've been wanting to use is more closely aligned with Essay A. More story, more feeling, creative, however it's very easy to get "too creative" and not answer the question in the most direct way. Essay B is how I'm starting to think about approaching my essays. Problem, Action, Result. To the point. This is what happened, what I learned, etc. No meandering.

What's everyone else's opinion???
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2010, 11:44
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the problem with essays like A is that unless you're really good, you're bound to come off as fake in your essay. since the essay is one of the main ways that the adcom can get to know who you are, coming off as fake is probably not a good idea.
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2010, 11:50
Good point shadow. Is Essay B similar in style to your essays for Yale?
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2010, 12:18
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I propose:
Prolix prose.

Portentous and pretentious
Momentous and sententious
Fustian and florid
Histrionic, horrid
Baroque? Oh no!
Try rococo!
Magniloquent
Grandiloquent
Such windy wild wordses!
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2010, 12:42
A is absolutely absurd if it goes on like that the whole time. Unless you are literally the second coming of Vonnegut, i would not go that route. I think the best essays (per some books i perused before I did mine) use type A as the opening paragraph, but then B for the rest. You do want to make it somewhat intriguing to read, after all.
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2010, 12:46
I think it depends on the essay prompt.

For the goals and careers stuff, def go with essay B. I think it should be a professional tone in the style of business communication but obviously still your own voice.
For the "tell us something surprising" or lighter essays I would totally recommend going with a personal tone - whether that means heavy on the prose or high on the humor...
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2010, 12:57
The point you have to remember -- as I barely, barely refrain from writing this entire post in verse -- is this:

The Example A prompt is from the end of a poem by Mary Oliver.
The Example A response is from some touchy-feely bullpucky conceived as an art project/good marketing on the HBS website.* The guy wrote it long after being admitted to HBS.

The Example B prompt is at the top of the page you took it from: "What specifically have you done to help a group or organization change?" It was an actual essay prompt for Harvard. The Example B response is from someone who wrote it long before being admitted to Harvard. He got in.

Based on those specs, you might be safer taking, well, the safer route.


*Don't get me wrong, I find it inspiring too and I like the pretty pictures. This is much more my style of writing as well. But it's probably a little too too, if you know what I mean, for a professional school essay. (Probably what did me in at Stanford, actually.)
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2010, 13:04
VictoryMBA wrote:
Good point shadow. Is Essay B similar in style to your essays for Yale?


yeah, my essays for all 3 schools i applied to were all pretty similar to B. idk, i'm not really in a position to dole out essay advice, but what another poster mentioned in this thread seems pretty sound; it's ok for certain portions of your essay - maybe a few sentences in the intro or conclusion - to have interesting prose. just don't lay it on too thick
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 27 Apr 2010, 13:06
Aenigma...great advice. It's very easy to over think these essays and start to get lost in the clouds. It's good to have the gmatclub reality check :lol:
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 28 Apr 2010, 10:11
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When my grandkids gather around me clamoring to listen to my bschool admission essays, I will not be proud that all my essays were EssayB type. But, Essay B is safe, it will get you admitted to the school of your potential (and luck). But, if you are reaching beyond your stats (eg 450 GMAT, 2.0 GPA, 2 years of missing work experience), then you better have something that sounds like Essay A. I hear Stanford digs it if you have a memorable story to tell so Essay A might help if you are superstar. I didn't have a good story, didn't write it well and got rejected for that and perhaps many other reasons.
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 28 Apr 2010, 13:28
passivation wrote:
But, if you are reaching beyond your stats (eg 450 GMAT, 2.0 GPA, 2 years of missing work experience), then you better have something that sounds like Essay A.


I'm not sure I agree with this. I think you better get to the point and not waste the reader's time. I wrote about my GPA in the same style as essay 2. You can write some crazy stories in a very direct manner. I don't think it's best to write about your shortcomings (or strengths) in a very poetic way.
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 28 Apr 2010, 14:19
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Quote:
I don't think it's best to write about your shortcomings (or strengths) in a very poetic way.


Yeah, that's what my livejournal is for.
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 02 May 2010, 23:32
Cambridge and Oxford business schools had one liberal, different essay question each. Especially one of them, entitled "What inspires you most?" prompted me to write a type A essay. The second one, "which recent book/event changed the way you view the world?" made me compose an essay with both A and B characteristics. I especially enjoyed the freedom of the inspiration essay, which definitely became a nice little piece of prose.

Oh, and I got admitted to both schools.
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay? [#permalink] New post 03 May 2010, 11:06
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"A" as it's written is a little absurd but a good story telling style can definitely work to make your essay stick. I did this for some of my schools or some hybrid of A and B (2 acceptances and 1 waitlist for those apps). I think there are a couple things to consider before going down path "A". If at any point the answer is "No", default to B because you shouldn't impede your chances before the essays are ever read.

1. Do you have some 'game'? If you have written a story and have had people entertained by your style of writing, maybe you do. If you studied writing, maybe you do. If you write as part of your job for end-user consumers, maybe you do. If you're not sure or don't have the confidence to say yes, I would probably avoid it.

2. Do you a large enough word limit? If you have 250 words or less, dressing up a situation with a story could be a waste of words. If you have more than 500, a story could be a great way to get a point across. Stories can paint a picture including emotion, suspense, and/or laughter while engaging your audience more than just listing your stellar accomplishments and career goals. If you think you can fit a story into a smaller limit (not impossible, just really hard), make sure you read #3.

3. You need a REALLY good editor (yourself, friend, contractor)? It's pretty easy to start telling a story on paper the same way that you might tell a story verbally. A great editor can help you make the transition and tell you if your story is just not flying. Depending on how honest you were on #1 and #2 will determine how much an editor can help you and how easy the process might be.

Hope these tips help someone who might be on the fence which way to go. Be honest with yourself about what you can do and put your best foot forward. Don't take a risk to appear 'different' from the pack just to have it backfire.
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Re: POLL: What kind of prose to use in B-school essay?   [#permalink] 03 May 2010, 11:06
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