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Three Secrets to Improve your Application Essays

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Why business schools include essays in their application documents list, revising or even completely changing their topics on a regular basis? The reason is pretty clear: admissions committees want to see a person behind a condensed CV, undergraduate transcripts, and standardized test scores. To develop a compelling brand message, each applicant should spend hours on brainstorming, recollecting the most powerful examples or even interviewing friends and colleagues to get insights on his or her remarkable personal traits.

After that, the next step is to put it into written form, and here are some tips and suggestions from MBA Strategy.

  1. Tell your story

While many applicants have a lot in common (at least all of them aspire to get an MBA), each person has something unique to tell about, be it curious formative experiences, inspirational leaders or a childhood dream to build an airplane. Consider this modified prompt from a winning Chicago Booth essay:

“With the collapse of the Soviets my father lost his job in the state transportation system and had to look for new means to feed his 5 kids. Dad’s car became our only source of income: each day he would load it with first-necessity goods to take them to distant villages and sell there. Early in the morning I would help my father to load his car in the garage, saw him tired and weary and realized how hard he was working to raise us all and give us an education. From those days on I felt a need to make my family proud of me, to give them back what they once gave me. It was then that I promised myself that when I grew up I would be a successful man, a man who would be an example for others”.

Again, each of us was influenced by different sets of factors. Even if you are an Investment Bank Associate or a Big Four Consultant, which are rather ordinary pre-MBA backgrounds, remember what made you who you are. This is how you can be distinguished even from a large pool of applicants with similar occupations.

  1. Structure, structure, and structure again

Even the most captivating story can be ruined if structured inappropriately. You do not have to follow a strict chronological order and include every single detail (in fact, word limits will not allow you to do so). Choose the key ideas you want to deliver, doing a favor to those that were not included somewhere else in your package or clarify points that can raise questions. Then you can start building connections between these points and develop a workable structure in this fashion. Of course, while drafting an essay, you may want to change this structure, but it would be much better than having no initial structure at all. Otherwise, it will be not an essay, but a chaotic stream of consciousness.

  1. Mind the holistic approach

Most schools invite you to write more than one essay, and nearly all of them have an optional one, which, in case of MIT, for instance, is not optional. Remember, that sometimes schools call them differently, like INSEAD that confuses their EMCCC applicants with 14 “questions” that actually require twelve 500-words answers and two answers with “only” 300 words. I guess now seven essays for their Full-Time MBA program are not a big deal anymore.

The thing is that you should avoid repetitions. Some points, like your long-term goal or mission, can be stated several times, playing a role of glue for all pieces of your application. However, you should not give the same example of your leadership experience in two separate essays; otherwise, adcoms will think that it is the only thing you can be proud of. Another way to employ the holistic approach is to provide a “teaser” in one essay and elaborate on it in the second one. This can be tricky, so it would be better to ask an admissions consultant or another competent person for a review.

By the way, MBA Strategy is ready to provide with comprehensive feedback to make your essays strong. If you want to learn more, you are welcome to schedule a free consultation with us.

By Polina Artemenko, MBA Strategy Application Consultant