The MBA Essay Editing Funnel
One of our favorite essay editing techniques here at Accepted.com
is the Essay Editing Funnel. You’ll want to begin utilizing this technique once you’re done writing the first copy of your essay and are ready to push forward towards the final draft finish line.
Here’s how it works:
1. The Top of the Funnel
This is the widest part of the funnel and it represents the big picture of your essay. To help you get through this first stage of the editing process, answer the following questions: • Does your essay answer the essay question?
This is one of the most important points in this section. You can write an outstanding essay about your virtues as a volunteer veterinarian assistant that voyages out to faraway lands to help clean up after natural disasters, but if the essay question is about MBA goals, and you don’t address that at all, then your essay will have failed.
When the adcom readers are done reading your essay, they should have ZERO trouble connecting your answer to their question. This is the first thing you need to check when editing your essay. • Does your essay complement the other sections of your application?
Your essay should NOT restate your resume in paragraph form, rehash the same stories that your recommender chooses, or document basic information like your name, date of birth, and test scores. An essay comprised of this data will come off as boring and unoriginal. But it’s not just that. Your essays provide valuable space for you to introduce a new dimension of yourself; if you don’t use this space properly, by adding new experiences and additional stories, then the adcom may think that you are one-dimensional and simply have nothing more to say. Or that you are too lazy to say it.
Likewise, if you are submitting multiple essays for a single application, be sure that the material in each essay complements the others. There should be no overlap; you should use each essay as an opportunity to present new and exciting information. • Does your essay help introduce yourself to your reader?
Similar to the previous point, your essays should help the adcom readers get to know you better. As you read over your essay during this stage of the editing process, be sure you’re your essay furthers your cause by highlighting some of your spectacular experiences and qualities – those things that help the adcom figure out who you are.
2. The Middle of the Funnel
As you move down to the middle part of the funnel, you’ll start to pay attention to the structure and style of your essay. Ask yourself the following questions to guide you through this narrowing part of the funnel: • Does your essay have a clear theme?
You may be inclined to cram in as much as possible into your essay, making it read like a list of headlines that never go anywhere or like a verbal maze that takes the reader all over the place but to nowhere specific. These are no-no’s. Instead, structure your essay so that it has a clear focus – this is your theme. Your core idea. Whether you implicitly or explicitly state your theme in a thesis sentence, you should make sure that by the time your reader is done reviewing your essay, he or she knows what your essay was about and can identify its theme. • Did you provide clear examples to support your theme?
Your readers can identify your theme – check! But were you convincing? Did you support your main idea with specific, clear examples? Or did you simply state your thesis and run off, ditching your theme in the first paragraph, never to be seen again the conclusion?
To properly structure your essay, you’ll need to think of examples that will assure your readers that you mean business with your theme. To state that you possess leadership skills, and then provide no proof, doesn’t do much for your claim. Choose a theme, introduce it, and then back it up with examples drawn from your real-life experiences. • Did you infuse your essay with details?
This is where the interest factor comes in. You may have a crystal clear theme and lovely supporting examples, but if your writing lacks color and texture, then you may lose your audience. Your goal should be to use language to breathe life into your essay to make it as readable and enjoyable, and thereby memorable, as possible.
3. The Bottom of the Funnel
Here at the narrow end of the funnel you’ll examine the writing mechanics of your essay. You’re going to need to put your reading glasses on here and pay close attention to the nitty-gritty.
Ask yourself the following: • Have you checked the spelling and grammar of your essay?
While your word processor’s spelling/grammar checker is a good place to start this phase of the Essay Editing Funnel, it’s far from your stopping point. It’ll pick up obvious spelling errors like if you write “hte" instead of “the” or (if you’re lucky) catch a grammar mistake like use of “there” instead of “their.” But it most certainly will not catch everything.
The best way to check your spelling and grammar is to use your eyes and your ears. Read your essay aloud to catch errors that your spell/grammar checker missed. Why read aloud? Your ears will hear mistakes that your eyes glossed over. • Recruit a second set of eyes and ears.
Two heads are better than one, and four eyes and ears are better than two.• Choose the right words.
One thing a spell/grammar checker won’t catch is your choice of words. Make sure you don’t use the same word over and over again and that you vary your sentences so that they’re not all super short or super long. At the same time, don’t use words or stylistic technics just to impress. Priority #1: clear, succinct communication.• Do a style, standardization, and word/character count check.
Each school will have its own requirements when it comes to standardization. Consult the application instructions and then make sure your essay conforms (this includes formatting details like margin width and indentation points). And make sure your word/character count doesn’t exceed the limit!
So there’s your Essay Editing Funnel – a tried-and-true editing technique that forces you to start big, dig deeper, and then finely polish each paragraph, sentence, word, and letter of your essays until they shine. For information on how Accepted.com can help you, please see our MBA admissions consulting and application services.
Co-Author of: MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools
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