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GMAT Club Essay Review 5: What do you want out of your MBA?

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Thanks for reading and welcome to the fifth post in GMAT Club’s Essay Review Initiative brought to you by Critical Square. Every week or so throughout the summer we’re going to review, comment, and tear apart a real essay from last year. The streets will run red (with ink)! So grab a cup of coffee and read on – this is a great way to see how our admissions consultants, and effectively, an admissions committee looks at your essays. What we like, what we don’t like, and how to avoid mistakes that can sink your application.

If you missed the first reviewed essay on “Career Goals”, you can catch up [here]!
If you missed the second reviewed essay on “A Time You Took a Risk”, you can catch up [here]!
If you missed the third reviewed essay on “Tell Us About Yourself”, you can catch up [here]!
If you missed last week's reviewed essay on “Duke’s 25 Things About You”, you can catch up [here]!

So, without further ado, our fifth essay!

The essay prompt:

Our fifth essay is a fairly straight forward essay prompt – what do you hope to get both professionally and personally from your MBA. Why do you want your MBA, why do you want it now, and what do you want to do with it. No curve balls. No surprises. Yet notoriously difficult to execute well!
(By the way – this essay prompt is being used for numerous schools again this year - FYI!)

Let’s dive into this week’s essay!

Overall, we find this essay to be fairly clichéd and contrived. It very rigidly follows the formula folks think exists for essays. It also liberally uses buzz words and standard reasons to try and convey a very specific response to a very specific school. The majority of our comments are focused on finding and calling out those statements. From an overarching flow perspective, the flow is ok. The applicant starts with what they are interested in and what they want to do, and then move into why Wharton both professionally and personally. But beyond that, the content is merely a litany of either marketing phrases or offerings.

Quote:
I find commercial aerospace highly intriguing because it allows me to solve bigger, more common problems and has a more direct impact on people’s daily lives.


*YAWN* - c’mon, HOOK us with the first sentence. A common mistake is for applicants to be too generic in the first two lines of the essay to set the context or introduce something – while context is important, starting off with a bang should be the priority. If the applicant is going to talk about loving aerospace (their focus is UAVs), they should talk about the experience that made them realize they wanted to go commercial. Maybe it was the Amazon ad or perhaps controversy around using UAVs for sports. Or if they want to talk about how they didn’t want be in the “blowing things up” business anymore, talk about an experience that really resonated. Maybe they were watching UAV airstrikes on CNN and they realized they didn’t want to do that anymore. Whatever it is, they, and you, need to SUCK THE READER IN.

Quote:
With FAA approval imminent in 2015, the future of commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is now; and I want to be a leading innovator driving new business solutions for their use and advancement, thereby facilitating the way the world works.


This is an ok thought but we would urge the applicant to write it less…boringly. By that we mean the applicant uses words that mean nothing and convey less. “Leading innovator”, “driving solutions”, and “facilitating the way the world works” are just not strong phrases. They’re jargon and they waste 8% of the word count available. The note about FAA regulations coming into play in 2015, however, is important and shares a critical industry insight with the reader. It underscores the projected growth of this new sector.

Quote:
I regard the Wharton MBA as the enabler that will allow me to execute my entrepreneurial vision and sustain my passion of firstly, becoming a UAV-focused product manager at an established technology company, such as Google or Amazon and thereafter founding my own UAV company. The powerful license of my Wharton MBA will afford me immediate opportunities of entry and engagement with progressive tech CEOs in my deliberate career transition into the commercial UAV arena.


First of all, we’re not sure the applicant should go the entrepreneurial route here. They have 0 entrepreneurial experience and starting a UAV company is REALLY difficult compared to other types of businesses. Also, getting product management experience at Google or Amazon doesn’t set them up to start their own company. What we would say is go for product management at a big company for a few years and then transition to a smaller business / startup. This is why story is so incredibly important. And that’s why at Critical Square we spend so long with our clients crafting the details, no matter how small. The existing goal is simply fraught with issues.

Also, as the applicant exits this introductory paragraph, they should have a thesis (or two) about what they’ll get out of this experience. Remember – “tell me what you’re going to tell me, tell me, and tell me what you told me” – that’s the ol’ essay adage.

Quote:
The Wharton MBA education will help me develop the strongest possible general management skills through a better understanding of not only business but also people.


Wanting a general management education is fine. But don’t phrase it as “the strongest possible skills” – eye rolls will ensue! This applicant is an engineer by training – s/he has the best possible reason for wanting a general management foundation – they don’t have one at all! But they don’t mention it. Nor do they mention how their engineering background will serve as a useful foundation.

Quote:
Debating ideas in the classroom with a diverse student body will help me improve my biggest weakness, public speaking.


The intended value of a diverse student body and the benefit the applicant anticipates receiving from this are simply not aligned here. Are there no other initiatives at Wharton focused on public speaking? Hint – there are! Everything from a public speaking group (professional) to getting involved in Follies (personal) are options available to the applicant. Also, becoming less shy in a public setting isn’t perhaps the ideal reason for a $130K degree.

Quote:
My engagement with a student body with similar appreciation and understanding of analytics will allow me to improve my delivery…


What does analytics have to do with product delivery? Also, where did analytics come from?

Quote:
…while electives such as “Strategy and Competitive Advantage”, ¬ where renowned Innovation Management Professor Siggelkow does not accept answers involving business or technical jargon, will push me to effectively communicate my technical ideas with the layperson.


THIS is what the applicant wants out of this course? No! In their current role they are very focused on a specific part of the project but they need end to end experience managing iteration and innovation. They lack that skillset currently. They lack the frameworks. They lack the ability to do it efficiently. This applicant comes from an engineering background so there is a far deeper seated reason behind getting an MBA than merely communication skills!

Oh, and the statement about jargon is slightly ironic given how much business jargon is in the applicant’s essay :)!

Lastly, what’s the thesis here? Is it general management? Diversity? Random classes? Analytics? Debate? At the moment, this is a collection of disparate sentences that don’t tie together.

Quote:
My Wharton-acquired finance, marketing and operations management foundations will provide the tools to successfully leverage my current UAV engineering experience into the business world of commercial aerospace.


Yes – we agree – it will. But how? The applicant just used a lot of words to tell us little. If you’re going to make a claim like this in your essay, you need to back it up. You need to show the reader how.

Quote:
Working in Defense necessarily restricts my professional interaction to American engineers. Appealingly, the Global Immersion Program and Wharton Leadership Ventures will expose me to broader global collaboration and in the process augment my cultural enrichment of having lived in Haiti and Belgium. Alumni friends boast that the insanely popular “Negation and Conflict Resolution” with Professor Diamond has revolutionized the way they approach problems; I am excited to be similarly impacted. To combine general life skills improvement courses with electives such as “Enabling Technologies” and “International Industrial Development Strategies”, clarifies how Wharton has managed to embolden and elevate analytical types such as myself.


What do life skill shave to do with enabling technologies? Also, if the applicant’s goal is domestic UAV development, why are they mentioning international industrial development strategies? Also, meeting folks from all around the world is a wonderful experience to be sure but if the applicant writes about it in this essay, it needs to be for a reason that ties to their thesis.

Quote:
I hope to be so counted, gaining in the process the best development in the underappreciated yet crucial soft skills of a successful product manager and aided by the emphasis on an individualized website with feedback on leadership experiences and frequent meetings with a leadership coach.


Ok, we’ll be honest – we’re not 100% sure what the applicant is trying to say in this last blurb for this paragraph. Your guess is as good as ours!

In the end, we’re not sure what the point of this paragraph is. It’s a continuation of the listing from the paragraph above. The applicant goes from touting (again) the general management foundation to going global to a negotiations class to some more professional coursework before wrapping it off with softer skills. All in all, a rather confusing execution of a simple flow outline.

Quote:
With the endorsement of a Wharton MBA, its sizeable alumni network, especially the Wharton Black MBA Alumni Association, the Wharton Aerospace Community, the Global Alumni Forums in combination with my fluency in English and French, managerial experience and technical knowledge, I will feel empowered and enabled to fulfill my dream of establishing [Client’s Last Name] Aérospatial: my own UAV company, providing affordable yet innovative business assistance to underserved markets in the African Diaspora, including my native Haiti.


This is an emphatic “no” on multiple levels. First off, they have listed everything they could find. Don’t do that. If an applicant wants to highlight the network, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t simply list every group. Secondly, this is a massively long sentence. Thirdly, having a name for a hypothetical future company doesn’t show what the applicant thinks it does. They absolutely should take this out.

On a side note – this is fairly common and we have no idea why. Folks who want to start their own businesses down the road seem to have names picked out and are very enthusiastic about sharing them with others. Don’t.

Additionally, this is the start of the applicant’s conclusion paragraph and they’re introducing new information both from a “why Wharton” perspective but also from a goals perspective. It isn’t really wrapping anything up. It’s actually creating more questions in the mind of the reader!

Quote:
I envisage the enlightenment gained through my Wharton MBA will reinforce my self-assuredness and competence so that I will seize opportunities and take bold initiatives toward my personal and professional advancement.


Don’t use the thesaurus so much – write normally. Would the applicant use “envisage” in real life? It’s not even the best possible usage of that word in this context.
This is the last sentence of the essay and the applicant says…they want a Wharton MBA, a top ranked MBA, to reassure themselves? That’s what s/he is ending on. Not exactly the strongest of conclusions.

PS - Wharton doesn’t want people who take bold initiatives and seize opportunities AFTER their MBA. They want folks who already do that and who will continue to do so. The body of this essay should be filled with evidence that compels the reader that the candidate can do just that!


A FEW PARTING THOUGHTS:



This essay is there to test your research, goals, and maturity. While the applicant demonstrates his/her research of the abundant resources and opportunities available at Wharton, they weren’t exactly well thought out or always applicable in the context in which s/he positioned them. This shouldn’t be a “check the box” activity to list random classes, professors, or groups in your essay. Should this essay include those things? Definitely! Don't get us wrong, we love the specificity as well as the time and effort that went in to this, but there has to be a logical train of thought that connects the dots. Also, the interpretation of some of the value propositions that the Wharton MBA provides was debatable. The value to be taken from a room full of diverse, highly motivated, and accomplished leaders is not to overcome a “weakness of being shy”. Similarly, the value of a Strategy and Competitive Advantage course from a renowned professor is not “effective communication”.

The prompt asks “what” and “why”, but don't forget about the “how”. This demonstrates your thought process around your case for consideration and the AdCom is certainly interested in this. The more specific you are in discussing how the intricacies of the MBA will help you with both your short and long term goals the better off you’ll be.
This essay is a common one for a reason. Not many people can clearly articulate the “what”, “why”, and “how” very well. We get it – it isn’t easy. But that’s exactly the point. It exposes those who haven’t taken the time to truly think through their future. Top programs aren’t looking for people to simply pad their resume with a brand name. They are looking for proven leaders who they believe can make an impact in the world, and this essay is your opportunity to prove to them that you are one of those individuals.
And just a general rule of thumb – read your essays out loud. If they sound ridiculous because of jargon, word choice, or any other reason, that’s a really good reason to edit or rewrite!

If you think your essay or resume could use a review or two, check out our Essay Editing and Resume Review services. Not sure where to start? Sign up for a free consultation instead!
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Re: GMAT Club Essay Review 5: What do you want out of your MBA?  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Oct 2016, 13:57
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Re: GMAT Club Essay Review 5: What do you want out of your MBA?   [#permalink] 24 Oct 2016, 13:57
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