Attention to detail, cont. Answering the MBA essay question exactly as posed

Further to my post last week on ‘the business school and the avocado’ — the importance of attention to detail and showing the effort you have put in to achieve it — I can add a coda directly from an MBA Director of Admissions:

Says Rose Martinelli, Assistant Dean of Student Admissions at Chicago Booth on her blog this week, “I thought I’d take a break from reading to share a few pointers about what I’ve learned about this year’s application. After you’ve completed your self-assessment and researched which schools fit your needs, then it is absolutely important that you READ and ANSWER the questions each school is asking. I say this largely because many schools have quite similar essays this year. For example our Essay 2 asks you to answer one of these two choices (500-750 words):

A. Describe a time when you wish you could have retracted something you said or did. When did you realize your mistake and how did you handle the situation? or
B. Describe a time when you were surprised by feedback that you received. What was the feedback and why were you surprised?
HBS asks: What have you learned from a mistake? (400 word limit); and
Wharton asks: Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself? (500 word limit)

While we recognize that you are likely to apply to multiple schools, it’s important that you make sure you answer each schools’ questions carefully. Your attention-to-detail, effort, thoughtfulness, judgment in choosing which essays to answer, etc., help us to learn more about you and your candidacy for Booth. It’s not just the words you use…”

There you have it as clear as you could like it. First, attention to detail and effort does not go unnoticed or unrewarded, and in fact answering the Booth question in such a way as it could equally be an answer to the similar Harvard or Wharton questions will be poorly received. Second, tailoring your answers carefully to each precise question forms part of Adcom’s assessment of your detail-effort contribution.

None of this suggests you should not reuse material across multiple MBA applications; just that it has to be done with great care not to compromise the exactness of your answer to the specific question each time. If not, you’re coasting, and you can’t expect Adcom to reward you for it. There are ways of judging which parts of your essay ‘port’ to the new, similar question, and we’re happy to help you with this.