According to the latest data from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), MBA programs are attracting 40 to 70 percent more applicants, depending on the school and program specialty. With more application essays to read through, making yours stand out is critical. Review these tips to display your unique personality, and to avoid some of the simple mistakes made in application essays.
Make Your Point
US News notes that several schools have reduced the word count required for their application essays. Applicants writing twice as many words often fail to follow two key rules:
- Answer the question
- Be genuine
While grades and GMAT scores compare you against others in the pool of applicants, the goal of the essay is to display your uniqueness to the school’s admissions. It tells them from where you came and where you plan to go. The content is your story and the way you tell your story is your personality.
The Stanford Graduate School of Business lists essay questions for its 2016 admissions year and tells you specifically what they hope to get from the answer. Follow this model when answering any of the essay questions:
- Make sure you understand the question – ask the admissions counselor if not
- Research the question – jot down notes from your life that relate to the question
- Outline your answer – pick the most illustrative examples from your life
- Write out the final answer – tell your story in your own unique words
- Evaluate your answer – how strongly does your answer address what admissions wants to get from this question?
The essay is not to be written like a term paper. The essay answers should be a narrative of your life that gives the decision makers a little insight into who you are and who you wish to be.
Some schools post the best of the essays they have received from students admitted to their program. You usually don’t have to be attending that particular school or even living in the state to get example essays. You could be browsing via a mobile device on Verizon FiOS in Baltimore, and you stumble into an essay page for a Southern California school, where you’ll discover examples to help you find the right tone for your essay.
Application Essay Content Tips
- Start with a clear and simple introduction. You don’t need to hook the reader to read the rest of the essay. But you can set the tone of the essay in the introduction to be either serious or lighthearted.
- Keep the essay focused on you. Lavishing flattery on the school is wasted – they already know they are great. Attempts to influence the reader with false praise sounds like you have little to say or are reluctant to say it.
- Write your first draft essay answer quickly, and then spend a lot of time rewriting. Get the important points down first, before moving on to the storytelling part.
- Be your own critical editor. Read your answers over several times. Take out the fluff and make sure the rest is crystal clear.
- People do turn in essays with spelling and grammatical errors. After reading your essay a dozen times, it’s easy to miss the obvious. Ask a friend to proofread it for you to get a second set of eyes involved.
- Show the reader a side of you that isn’t obvious from the rest of the application. Everyone has weaknesses. A strong candidate talks about their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Don’t be afraid to admit that you do just OK with math because you really don’t enjoy it. Your real passion may be motivating other people.
Mistakes to Avoid
- The essay is not a question and answer session, so don’t start each answer by repeating the question.
- Don’t use the essay as a way to express a sob story. “My parents couldn’t afford to send me to school, so I mowed yards to make money” and numerous variations have already been seen by admissions thousands of times.
- Write enough to answer the question up to the word count. Don’t turn in a novel.
- Don’t try to impress the reader with industry jargon or acronyms. Basically, don’t try to impress.
- Turn in a unique essay for each school to which you apply. People do try the “find and replace” approach, using the same essay and changing the school name. Sometimes they forget the “change the school name” part.