Have a look at the message Dee Leopold, MD of Harvard Business School Admissions, sent last month to HBS R1 applicants. The mail confirms receipt of application (heading off the inevitables who call to ask “did you get my application?”) and gives a brief description of the way forward.
What’s important here is not the content, but the writing style. Check it out:
Dear [ ],
This message confirms that you’re a Round 1 HBS applicant. All of us here on the Admissions team are pleased that you’d like to be a student here.
Let me tell you what will happen next.
Within a day or so of our Round 1 deadline, we begin to review all submitted applications. We have a senior team who reads and makes decisions as to who moves forward and who doesn’t.
“Moving forward” means being invited to interview. We expect that interview invitations will be issued in early October. Interviews will be conducted from mid-October through November. All of the necessary details will be in the invitation.
“Not moving forward” means that we are unable to admit you. We want you to be able to move ahead with other plans so we will send these decisions out in October.
Some Round 1 applicants will be asked to remain under consideration and be reviewed again with Round 2 applicants. We call that “further consideration” and the details will be communicated to this group in mid-October.
Managing Director, MBA Admissions and Financial Aid
Now… if YOU were writing a letter to the thousands of HBS applicants, would you write like this? Or might you have done the following…
The Harvard Business School hereby confirms receipt of your application for admissions in Round 1. We would like to thank you for your application and advise you of the forthcoming process…
Sound familiar? Ouch.
You get the difference. If you don’t believe me, believe Dee: it’s not only fine, it’s good to write simply and unpretentiously, as you would normally talk. Mind that you don’t fall overboard into slang and half-sentences. Just be practical and personal, using words and phrases you would normally use, and you will get it right.