As the questions begin to roll out for 2018-2019 applicants, many of you may be putting pencil to paper on your application essays. Naturally, there are numerous factors to consider as you draft essays, but this week we are going back to the basics with 4 guiding principles to keep top of mind, regardless of the question.
1) Avoid over-the-top praise.
Many candidates are tempted to fill their essays with over the top praise for their target schools. But this is a mistake. Applicants have limited space to convey their unique points of difference and potential to add value on campus. Using words to praise the school does nothing to support your candidacy and could call your authenticity into question. However, your essays should still often articulate why you are interested in each specific school. This is a key component of many essay questions, and if relevant for your school, it can be accomplished by focusing on specific aspects of the program that you plan to take advantage of.
2) Limit flowery prose.
Similarly, I often read flowery complex prose. You are not submitting your essays for a Pulitzer prize or applying to become a professional writer. Instead, you are telling telling your story. While of course you want your essays to be well written and free from grammatical mistakes and typos, you also want them to be relatable and easy to follow. Everyone, from your grandmother to a professor of microfinance, should be able to understand your essays. They should also convey why you are someone others would want to study with, learn from and eventually be inspired by. That type of person is human and down to earth. Your essays should show this.
3) Go with quality over quantity.
Keep in mind that the essays are just one part of the application. In addition to submitting an MBA resume, most schools will have you fill out a detailed application. This means admissions committee members will read about everything you have accomplished, all roles you have held and all awards you have won. There is no need to try to fit this all into your essays. So instead of squeezing in as much as you can, focus on sharing a few key highlights and adding the details as well as your voice. This is your chance to explain your choices, show your accomplishments and share your passions. The fewer things you try to cover in your essays, the more you will be able to achieve this objective.
4) Be authentic.
Do not write what you think admissions committee members want to read. There is no one perfect candidate profile. Instead, your uniqueness will be some of your greatest selling points. Your essays should paint a clear picture of who you are, what motivates you and what you are passionate about. Do not feel compelled to show how you fit in the mold that seemingly makes up the “ideal” candidate. If you have no desire to run a non-profit, that is ok. If you are not motivated by improving the environment, do not pretend you are. Readers will see right through this and you could end up doing more harm than good.
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