Here’s a bit of fun for the off-season. I normally steer well clear of Internet self-diagnostics, but this “advanced grammar test” somehow seduced me.
Should I be reviewing clients’ MBA admissions essays for grammar and techniques of expression, as well as content, if I couldn’t knock a quiz like this into the basket from the half-court line?
Well, it’s a tricky test. Try it, see how you do. Happily I got a good score. (On my honor, I went once through from the beginning, no corrections.)
Here’s one from the files, which I wrote a few years back at exactly this point in the admissions season, in responses to Round 1 essays I was seeing then. Given the essays I’m seeing now, I’m reminded of it:
You are not applying to join a holy order. You are not applying to Amnesty International. You are not applying to save the rainforests or unmelt the ice caps or feed the starving or create Middle-East peace.
You are applying to business school.
At business school, yes there will be electives around well-meaning things, but by far the main agenda of an MBA is to present you with and test you on classic curriculum stuff to do with finance and operations and marketing and strategy. They will not teach you to weave sisal or wash Zika babies.
Now of course you are a good human being. And you should certainly communicate to Adcom (with evidence) that you are a good human being, which includes being concerned about major domestic or world problems. And not just concerned: wanting to play your part in fixing them too. You definitely need to apply with a meaningful purpose to your future career, and it’s fine to want to improve social welfare at home or abroad.
But you are applying to business school.
So keep it credible. The pertinent question for MBA admissions is: how will you make a business or take a business in the direction of broader community benefit? How and why do you need business and management and leadership skills to make the difference you plan to make?
Here’s a clue to hitting the right note: one person or a group of well-meaning people can make a little difference somewhere. But a business, or a large organization, professionally managed, properly financed and running at optimum efficiency can make a whopping difference. That’s where you want to go.
If you do this, your MBA application will retain its credibility. If you say you want to run an education business in Ho Chi Minh City, Adcom will believe you. If you say you want to teach long-division to Vietnamese orphans, they won’t.
Here’s a bit of fun with a serious twist. You may have seen this document below as it does the rounds on the Internet.
I believe it is genuine, and in it the then British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was telling his 1940 War Cabinet the equivalent of “hello, did you know there’s a war on? Let’s not confuse ourselves and waste our time on excessive verbiage and writing flourishes. If you’ve got something to say, just say it.”
MBA admissions is not a war zone. But admissions committees are busy, particularly around their application deadlines. So do them and therefore yourself a favor by keeping your writing tight and to-the-point.
This does not mean you should adopt a clipped tone and write like morse code. You get to brevity without losing content or style by carefully selecting your examples, using plain words, avoiding all verbal windups and empty phrases, and deleting repetition.
For a full discussion of practical writing strategies to deliver content in the briefest possible way, with examples, please see Section 4: Writing Tools and Methods, in my book MBA Admissions Strategy: From Profile Building to Essay Writing (McGraw Hill).