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# Mistake Essay - Harvard

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Joined: 13 Feb 2007
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05 Aug 2008, 10:11
I have a question. harvard has the question "what mistake have you made and what did you learn from it?"

I write about when i was 13, nearly getting thrown out for disrupting a major league baseball game after hiting a beach ball on the field. (a player's double was taken away as he had to jump over my beachball)

I relate essay to being accountable to actions when consequences may have been unintended and how i will not use excuses or avoid blame.

is this entirely innapropriate? i think essay is well written. I know in context of all the essays this is hard question to answer. but id appreciate your all's input.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 10:32
I think a mistake essay should be work/career related not personal. It looks as if you are trying to avoid the question by talking about a time when you were 13.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 10:35
to be brutally honest... i dont like it. 13 was a long time ago, and i bet most people are writing about things that happened recently, particularly in the workplace. there doesnt seem to be much genuine introspection that can be written about this. i guess you could write 400 words on it, but i cant see how it wouldnt sound like bs. i dont think it gives a good impression of you either... its pretty obvious what could happen if you do something to disrupt a sporting event, even at 13. i think this could work for a college application essay, but for a bschool essay you may want to write about a situation where you were well-meaning and made a mistake.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 10:44
I agree with what the others have said. Even at the age of 13, I think most people realize that you just cannot let something like that happen. Was it an innocent mistake? Probably. We don't think you intended the thing to get onto the playing field. Regardless, it happened, and sure it's a way you can learn from your mistakes, but you have to figure out what it says about you. Does it say "He's careless and he let that ball get out onto the field and interrupted the game! He doesn't belong here." If your response to that was "But I was only 13!" Then you need to figure out why you're telling this story. I think most people are more likely to view that as being careless, even at the age of 13.

Surely you have mistakes other than causing some baseball players to seriously ponder the consequences of child abuse.

Remember the guy that caught that baseball at the Cubs game and it potentially cost them a trip to the Series? This made me think of the essay that guy would write to get into B-school (and he certainly wouldn't be seeking admission to Kellogg or Chicago GSB).
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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 10:57
1
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Hi

The age itself may be ok, but in this case the example is not appropriate. If this were a leadership mistake you made, you could turn that into how the incident shaped you as a person and as a leader. I remember one essay in the 65 successful harvard essays book where the author started the essay with a failure directing his high school play. Remember with Harvard, the emphasis should always be on Leadership (even a mistake).

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 11:07
Great advice. I think for me, I've been thinking of writing about my mistake in associating myself with a certain person in a volunteer task. He and I organized a statewide candidate forum together (him being out of the country the 3 weeks prior to the event). I got calls from a few people that were running for office that know me and asked me "Why is your name on this letter with "Joe"? Are you working with him politically?" I'm not sure this is a great example, but I should have organized my volunteering with the group in a way that emphasized my assistance to the group rather than association with this individual that has had some major problems politically.

hsampath wrote:
Hi

The age itself may be ok, but in this case the example is not appropriate. If this were a leadership mistake you made, you could turn that into how the incident shaped you as a person and as a leader. I remember one essay in the 65 successful harvard essays book where the author started the essay with a failure directing his high school play. Remember with Harvard, the emphasis should always be on Leadership (even a mistake).

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 11:13

i am really torn. on one hand, i was only 13, but mistake was really impactful, and i cant think of something were 40 thousand people are booing you is as impactful.

and i think lesson learned is related to leadership. its fricking risky topic, i know. but this is harvard, and i honestly was really impacted by this mistake, and i think its a damn big one. yeah i could fill up this essay with some material from something more recent and relevant, but i dont think it would stick out or be as genuine.

would i write this essay for a lesser ranked school? probably not, id go more conservative. but this is harvard.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 11:21
You make a good point that you want to stand out. I think it's possible this could turn out well for you, but my advice is to not use the story. If you do choose to use the story, you will have to make sure that it's 110% clear how this relates to leadership. That could be tricky in the small word count allowed to tell the story and apply it to your leadership knowledge/style.

irishspring wrote:

i am really torn. on one hand, i was only 13, but mistake was really impactful, and i cant think of something were 40 thousand people are booing you is as impactful.

and i think lesson learned is related to leadership. its fricking risky topic, i know. but this is harvard, and i honestly was really impacted by this mistake, and i think its a damn big one. yeah i could fill up this essay with some material from something more recent and relevant, but i dont think it would stick out or be as genuine.

would i write this essay for a lesser ranked school? probably not, id go more conservative. but this is harvard.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 11:24
OK. Your test on whether to use the essay should be on whether your essay is mostly about the mistake or mostly about what you have learnt and how this experience has made you act differently in a leadership role recently. As long as it is the latter, you should be fine. The mistake itself should not take more than a few sentences of the essay.

jallen - thanks. Same goes to your example. First glance, Im not sure how your example fits in with the rest of your app. I can see the angle of being conscious about who you align with, but not sure that is a strong example.

And here is my disclaimer - I was denied without interview last year. So, this advice is second hand - based on feedback from my essay reviewer (HBS alum), and from what I have seen in the 65 successful essays book.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 11:48
ill be honest. i think people get too caught up in the formulaic approach and guessing game of what it should be you answer. fact is. 12 percent get in. everyone who applies is ridiculously qualified likely. i think what it comes down to is just purely how you convey your story and goals. and i think how you come across in the essays is really really important, and there is no formula. there are ridiculously smart people who apply and only so many can get in. i just think if you have somethign that is risky perhaps, but really is part and parcel with your app and is genuine. go for it.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 11:50
That's a hard decision to make. Do you have other schools lined up that you're applyign to in case this risk proves too risky?

irishspring wrote:
ill be honest. i think people get too caught up in the formulaic approach and guessing game of what it should be you answer. fact is. 12 percent get in. everyone who applies is ridiculously qualified likely. i think what it comes down to is just purely how you convey your story and goals. and i think how you come across in the essays is really really important, and there is no formula. there are ridiculously smart people who apply and only so many can get in. i just think if you have somethign that is risky perhaps, but really is part and parcel with your app and is genuine. go for it.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 11:53
yeah im applying to 4 other schools. though id say none are 'backups' by any stretch.

ill have no regrets if i dont get interview and send in beachball essay. but if change it, dont get interview, i may have regrets. sometimes you just gotta go with heart. it may be my only chance.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 12:06
Why even bother asking peoples opinions then?

irishspring wrote:
yeah im applying to 4 other schools. though id say none are 'backups' by any stretch.

ill have no regrets if i dont get interview and send in beachball essay. but if change it, dont get interview, i may have regrets. sometimes you just gotta go with heart. it may be my only chance.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 12:09
your right. that makes it sound like i dont value the opinions. i do. i think i ask people i wanted to hear that it would be great. and when i didnt. i got frustrated. then i reacted.

hmmm. that sounds like a mistake. Eureka!

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 12:11
I'll reiterate:

When I was seeking advice on my essays I found a friend of a friend who was on the student adcom at wharton. She said make sure when discussing the failure essay make it work related.

So take that as you may. HBS may be different.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 12:14
K. i think i will scrap beachball essay. it may be me trying to put a square peg in round hole. i take 'mistake' as different meaning then 'setback' or 'failure' which i would describe as work related connotations. mistake seems to open up to personal mistakes. maybe i am wrong.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 12:16
terp26 wrote:
I'll reiterate:

When I was seeking advice on my essays I found a friend of a friend who was on the student adcom at wharton. She said make sure when discussing the failure essay make it work related.

So take that as you may. HBS may be different.

i dont think it needs to be work related, but as hsampath indicated, it should be related to leadership. if you can write about a mistake you made while leading some community effort, that would work as well as a job related essay.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 13:49
If you were to extend your thoughts (unintended consequences) about the beachball incident to OTHER incidents say in the last 5-10 years that occurred, you'd probably be better off.

Just a thought.

RF
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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 19:19
terp26 wrote:
I think a mistake essay should be work/career related not personal. It looks as if you are trying to avoid the question by talking about a time when you were 13.

I agree with this observation. At a recent MBA Panel event that featured all the top schools (H/S/W, etc), this issue was discussed in good detail. Harvard's Elieen Chang agreed with the Wharton Admissions staff when she opined that it is good to avoid such references to incidents that happened when you are young, with a special emphasis on avoiding anything that happened before your highschool years. That said, it will be wise for you to write about something that is more recent and has a profound impact on the way you live your life.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard [#permalink]

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05 Aug 2008, 19:27
I agree with everyone else...I think adcoms expect you to fess up to mistakes you made recently.

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Re: Mistake Essay - Harvard   [#permalink] 05 Aug 2008, 19:27

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