Three Ways to Distinguish Yourself in Your MBA Essays

Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted, offers some Stanford GSB application tips

Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted

When working with our clients, we always point out the importance of using their essay to stand out in a crowded applicant pool. I want to give you some tips to enhance your essay writing and help you find a distinctive voice – so that you can distinguish yourself through your essays.

Here are three key writing strategies that will immediately improve your writing and help you highlight what is distinctive about you:

1.Be strong. Instead of relying on weak, empty verbs, use muscular, impactful language. Don’t say “I like to travel,” but “My passion for exploration landed me in 24 countries on five continents, in the span of four years.” Also, steer clear of “to be” verbs. “Is” often disguises a passive construction (“it is known!”) – and in any case, you can usually find a livelier active verb to use instead.

The same principle applies to adjectives, by the way. You may find a topic “interesting” – but it’s not a word that adds much color to your writing.

2.Be specific. Instead of presenting broad statements about your accomplishments that could apply to anyone’s work, be specific, using numbers to quantify and qualify the impact of your achievements whenever possible. The more detailed you are, the more your writing will stand out. Don’t write, “I led a team of interns last summer,” but, “Last summer, when I was just a Junior Accounts Manager, I led a team of 16 interns in a nationwide marketing competition. The publicity gained from our first-place win brought 24 new accounts to our young company.”

3.Be personable*. At Accepted, when guiding our clients through the MBA application process, we remind them that the adcom readers are people. That’s right – living, breathing human beings. Try and infuse your writing with your personality so that your essay is engaging to the reader. Too often, applicants with wonderful stories obscure that uniqueness in their essays – ultimately to their detriment.

Read your essay aloud. Does it sound like a robot reeling off data, or does it sound like YOU, speaking about those important things, large and small, that make you tick? Obviously the latter will gain the attention of the adcoms and will do a better job of introducing them to the person behind the essay. Strive for a professional, positive, engaging tone. If you’re not sure you’ve hit the mark, ask someone else to review your essay.

*This does not mean “be personal.” Provide enough personality to give a glimpse of the real you, but don’t treat the essay like a therapy appointment or confessional.

For more advice on submitting a compelling MBA application, including strategy, essays, and much more, download Accepted’s free guide – MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips.

Linda Abraham is the founder of Accepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, US News, and Poets & Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise.