With just over a month left before the January MBA application deadline, many applicants are in the process of writing or polishing their essays. So, whether you’re applying for your MBA now or will be in the near future, we wanted to share our top tips for writing a standout essay.
1. Express Yourself Honestly
MBA programs are interested in admitting individuals, not armies of clones. You are unique; the goal in your essays is to share your authentic voice with the admissions committee. Applicants often fall into the trap of only writing about their successes. Rather than express their genuine shortcomings, many might try to use it as an opportunity to pat themselves on the back: “I try too hard,” or “I care too much,” etc. But we often learn more from our failures than successes! Admissions committees want to see the way you’ve responded to challenges, your resolve through failures, and your character growth. They want to know you, so reflect carefully and honestly.
2. Less is More
You’re not writing a sequel to Moby Dick or trying to win a Pulitzer—you are trying to gain admission to an MBA program. Ensure each word serves a purpose. Striking the right balance between sharing your unique voice and being efficient and effective in your communication is an early test of your MBA readiness. You don’t have to use all of the allotted space for your essays simply because it’s there. Unused space is better than fluff and filler.
3. Be Selective, Not Redundant
The top MBA programs are quite picky; you should be too. Since your essays are just one component of your entire application, they should complement the other elements rather than regurgitate the same material. If the same points are repeated in my resume AND essays AND letters of recommendation AND during my interview, then I have either done such incredible things that admissions committees want to hear them multiple times…or maybe I haven’t done enough? Use the essays as an opportunity to share things a reader won’t readily take away from your resume. Don’t leave a reader thinking, “This person repeats the same material. Is this it?” Instead, leave them saying “This applicant has done so much—I want to know more!”
4. Show, Don’t Tell
If I tell you I am an excellent candidate for an MBA, that’s all well and good. But would I honestly be applying if I didn’t feel like I was a great candidate? Instead of merely telling the admissions committee you think you’re excellent, show them you are truly exceptional. Present the actions you’ve taken in your education, your career, and within your community, and share the results of those actions. Be specific with your examples, and remember, quantitative data is your friend.
5. Let’s Get Ethical
If you don’t think MBA programs are interested in ethical behavior and applicants who will represent their programs with dignity, then you’re grossly mistaken. It has become even more important in this era of instant and easily shared information. So be willing to describe the decision-making processes and values that have motivated your behaviors and guided your actions. You add a very important layer to your candidacy if you show you’re not only proactive and a leader, but have a desire to do good, think critically, and reflect on your actions as well.
6. Make an Impression
Do your essays reflect an understanding of the specific programs you’re applying to? Think of your essays and application package like a first date. If you don’t put in the effort to show you’re interested and make your date feel special, he or she may move on and look for someone else who is willing to make a deeper investment. Do not think it is “good enough” to take one essay and use different schools’ names interchangeably. Take the time to get to know each program and demonstrate this in your essays. Show the admissions committee you want to be there!
7. Test Your Material
Having another set of qualified and credible eyes read through your essays is essential. You may know what you’re trying to express, but does the admissions committee? After reviewing your work too many times, sometimes your perspective can become a bit biased and filled with assumptions. Whether friends, colleagues, or admissions consultants, you must have other people read (and scrutinize) your work.
Happy writing and good luck!
by Jason Bodewitz, Founder & CEO of WyseGyde
Started by three Tuck MBAs, WyseGyde aims to make admissions consulting more accessible to all MBA applicants. Charging only $59 per hour and using current students from top MBA programs, WyseGyde provides contemporary and relevant application guidance at one of the lowest prices in the industry.