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What makes for a good story?

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What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 01:56
Hi,

As some of you on this site may know, I applied to only two schools last year and was dinged without interview. I am planning to reapp to a few more schools this year and I am trying to understand the lack of an interview at Chicago GSB (given at least 50% of applicants interviewed) and one thing I wonder about is whether I lacked a "story". Everyone talks about the necessity to have one and I am hoping current students/admits can help me understand what makes a good story. Is is just about tying prior experiences into what you want to do in the future, or is it more than that?

Thank you.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 06:48
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A good story creates a narrative arc.

1. What have you done / where did you start.
2. Where are you now?
3. Where do you want to go (why do you need an MBA)?

The essays are, generally speaking, too short for you to cover the entire arc in one essay, but the sum of the essays creates a mosaic in which the adcom understands that arc. As you go, you need to incorporate elements of your personality and character. How have you responded to adversity? Do you have a sense of humor? Why are these goals important to you? Do all that and top it off with some style / flair and you probably have some strong essays.

I think a lot of people get themselves into trouble by approaching the application as a kind of "fill the blank" process. That approach usually results in a choppy, mechanical application, that reads like, "I did this, and this, and this, and now I want to do this." Yawwwwn. You need to tie it together so that the application is fluid, and interesting, and representative of who you are.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 09:24
I feel contrasts and conflict/hardships during your life really attribute to a great story. That sounds pretty mean/shallow but what I mean is that, if you have had some difficult times in your life during your MBA pursuit, mention them, mention how they affected you and then mention how you became stronger because of it.

A story like this will show progression in the sense that you came across a hard time and were able to get through it. Definitely mention how much it affected you, what you learned, and how you think differently as a result.

Overall, if you are simply talking about your work experience, again, pick a couple of instances where you learned something great, reflect on it and how it affected you, and how it made you a better person or better equipped to handle a similar situation in case it arises again.

Good for practice - type the story up and revisit it every couple of weeks/months. Build on it / reword some stuff you wrote earlier. This way, if you are interviewed and this question comes up, you will be better equipped at giving a great answer. You are basically trying to sum up your experiences and how you reacted proactively to them.

fwiw,
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 14:53
Its my opinion that a good story is one that engages the reader...you want them to route for you. So obviously you want to be memorable in a good way. Keeping someones interest who has to read fifty, 1k word answers to the same question is vital...you dont want it to be the same thing as everyone else's. Its not necessarily having the most amazing material but how you present it.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 17:02
compelling, engaging, informative and tells the adcom about who you are.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 17:02
Thanks everyone. From your responses, I feel like I was on the right track, but might have missed some key points.

River, I have wondered about my material. I mean, the problem may just be I'm just an average candidate trying to apply to the top schools.

sudden, I think my essays did have at least some personality, it wasn;t all facts. However, I probably failed to communicate much adversity, because I did not want to come across a whiny and I know I can sometimes be whiny in real life!

It's been a while since I looked at my essays - I need to start looking into them again now that schools will start releasing questions. I might come back with more questions - but thanks again for your responses.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 18:25
I do think that if you have a common story you need to work the right angles better than most peoples. If you are applying from a background that is very similar to others dont use the same tactic.
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Kellogg Class of 2010...still active and willing to help. However, I do not do profile reviews, don't offer predictions on chances and am far to busy to review essays, so save the energy of writing me a PM seeking help for these. If I don't respond to a PM that is not one of the previously mentioned trash can destined messages, please don't take it personally I get so many messages I have a hard to responding to most. The more interesting, compelling, or humorous you message the more likely I am to respond.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 25 Jun 2008, 05:31
I agree river. That's why I found this a little difficult for me. I personally don't think I went through any major adversities in life and I do know of people who have gone through a lot more - so anything I said may have just sounded complaining about the relatively minor problems I overcame. I do have a couple of things different about me, but I did not know how to weave that into my essays all the time.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 25 Jun 2008, 06:54
hsampath wrote:
I agree river. That's why I found this a little difficult for me. I personally don't think I went through any major adversities in life and I do know of people who have gone through a lot more - so anything I said may have just sounded complaining about the relatively minor problems I overcame. I do have a couple of things different about me, but I did not know how to weave that into my essays all the time.



In my (limited) experince, for the applicant it feels "normal" because they lived it. But to the outside person, there is a wow factor. There is an angle to everything. Also, there is no such thing as "average" candiates. Everyone has done amazing and interesting things, you just need to figure out what and how that ties into the essay in question.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 26 Jun 2008, 12:27
thanks zakk. There are probably a couple of differentiating factors for me, but I need to find out what to bring up in my essays and how. I know one thing, I certainly am going to try and get feedback from 3-4 people on my essays unlike last year.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2008, 06:47
I think that to write a good essay a person needs to talk about something that they know very well. If this is an something that they have done or experienced, then I believe it is important to show insight through reflection.

I believe adcomms are interested not only in people who do lots of things, but more so people who learn a lot form what they do. Two people may have the same experiences, but the person who comes out stronger is the one that shows that he has though about (reflected) on his/her experiences more so than the other.

Anyway, this is just my opinion.
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Re: What makes for a good story? [#permalink] New post 30 Jun 2008, 17:43
Thanks, no danger of me talking abt too many things - I dont have that much to talk about :)
Re: What makes for a good story?   [#permalink] 30 Jun 2008, 17:43
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