Should You Buy An MBA Essay?

So, he is now back in Business and Medical School, to fortify himself with knowledge before heading back to Africa and/or the developing world to make a difference.

Works for him.

SHOULD YOU BUY THIS ESSAY? Well, not as a model. It works for this guy, who comes off as sincere, well meaning, humble and dedicated to helping others via a business and medical degree. You might want to buy it, along with the first one, if you, too, have an extraordinary story to tell, and want permission to just tell it, in some artless way, without over-worrying about the usual things that writing guide books tell you to worry about: showing versus telling (this is all telling) or introducing lively characters or details or quotes, or as Derrick Bolton would say, ‘structured reflection.”

Oddly, the most powerful detail is this essay is about leaving Africa to go to high school in the USA,” . . . this was the beginning of my global perspective. I had been immersed in life overseas; I considered it normal. Contrast this with XXXXX High School, in affluent XXXX, XXXX where my best friend at 16 drove a 3-Series BMW convertible to school every day.”

We don’t meet any Africans, or any other doctors, or any kids at that street clinic he was running in this essay, nor are there any takeaways or insights or reflections about that experience, but we do get the brand and model of the Bimmer.

But so what? It’s not really a well-wrought essay, which is something Stanford does not seem to demand.

It is, like the first one, an identity politics inventory: the first essay was written by an African-American guy with a dad in jail, and this one was written by a white guy with parents who worked for NGOs in Africa. It’s a lovely symmetry of sorts. Those are two very powerful experiences and these essays capture those experiences in some very basic way, but not in any way that would help you tell your story.

The second essay was written by a “vanilla” McKinsey consultant woman with not a whole lot of powerful identity politics issues to lay out, certainly compared to essays one and three, but done with great skill and takeaways. Reading it might help you figure out what Stanford wants in terms of attitude, takeaways, etc. although be warned, as noted in our analysis, the writer of that essay, unlike the writers of essays one and two, is very skilled, both as a writer and as someone who channels Stanford’s values.

Thanks, Sandy, but a lot of our readers may want to know what happened to Ms. Gili, whom we last left drowning in a rampaging river. Should you buy her essay?

Spoiler Alert. She survives. Man, I would not buy that essay because it could actually be damaging. It is basically a brag sheet, which summarizes her life as a story told to her grandchildren (something you could do back then with unlimited space) with the narrative connected by clichés, AND I AM QUOTING:

1. Take a full advantage of your potential.

2. Always look on the bright side of life – explore the world

3. Change something in the world- our time here is not eternal.

4. Never give up your will – do not let anything stand in your way

Here’s a great quote from the part about exploring the world.

“I remember the week when we were sailing with five other people in a tiny canoe in the Ecuadorian jungle – with a Norwegian, a Chinese, an Indian, an American and the Indian tribesman instructor. I had dozens of mosquito bites from head to toe, ignoring another bite in my eye, when the Indian tribesman instructor told us we are going into the river (which we found later was full of piranha and alligators!) to catch an anaconda. Five minutes later I took a picture of your grandpa, holding one edge of a 20-foot anaconda with the American at the other edge. Every one was smiling. The Chinese cooked rice (again) for lunch, that was barely enough, but I didn’t complain, since I knew that the Indian would make us for dinner a gourmet meal of piranhas, that I would later fish with the Norwegian (disappointed of not catching a salmon…).”

As they say in journalism school, “these are facts too good to check.” She was, whatever else, a woman who had served in the Israeli military, and then done, or written about, a good many other things. She had been waitlisted one year and then accepted. Her admission was not based on this essay, although the shtick of telling her life story to her grandchildren may have just gotten a tired smile out of someone on the adcom. That, and similar gimmicks, is not something I would suggest today, unless somehow the gimmick is basic to your story. I would also not include raps like this, either:

“Pursuing my goal to study at Stanford for my MBA turned out to be worthwhile. Although I was admitted to other top schools, I decided to defer my studies for a year and reapply again to Stanford, where I was waitlisted the previous year. My experience at Stanford proved once again that I should always pursue my dreams.

“Remember grandchildren – the one who persists achieves her goals. No matter how talented and skilled you are – you will not achieve your goals unless you persist! Confront the obstacles as challenges and believe in yourself!”


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.