Category Archives: MBA Essay Resources

Using Covid19 in your MBA application

The Covid19 question is of course front and center in this MBA admissions cycle. There will be applicants who have been cut or furloughed, and some who have not, and it’s better if not, but not the end of the world if you are.

This is because a lot of things have been beyond the control of a lot of people this year. You won’t be penalized for this. But the question becomes, so what did you do?

How have you developed–if not something out there–then in yourself? What impact have you made, somehow,  even when you have been in lockdown at home, even if it’s only an impact on yourself?

Often MBA applicants  think their accomplishments get them in. Or their lack of accomplishments gets them dinged. That’s part of it for sure. But it’s not the whole story.

Another huge part of what gets you in is character. How do you show character? Certainly not by merely awarding it to yourself in empty sentences. You establish your character via evidence, where the evidence is challenges and transitions you have faced, the hard choices you have made (and what you chose), leading to a pattern of personal responsibility and reflective growth.

This is also another way of saying: you don’t need to be some kind of superstar. You do need to stand out, that is be unique in some way, and stories of character can be that way.

Also, character development is often the most interesting thing about someone. What path they’ve chosen and why, how they navigate choices, and what stimulates and inspires a person in making them is much more interesting to Adcom than the bald facts of their career progress.

Furthermore, if you talk about these things, and other things about you that matter to you, you also raise the passion and authenticity in your application which creates a bridge with your reader.

That’s a bridge you can walk across to… you know where.

7 Ways to a Better MBA Admissions Essay

If you look back through the 10-year archive of posts here on this site, and see my book, you’ll know I’ve written many times on how to write a winning MBA admissions essay.

There’s no formula. But as we look ahead to a new admissions season,  some particular issues come to mind when I look at the current crop of essays I’m reviewing and advising on for clients.

What is a good essay?

One may think, there are many kinds of good. Who’s to say? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc. Actually, not so. For MBA admissions, a good essay is one that gets the applicant admitted. Period.

(On the other hand, being dinged doesn’t mean you wrote a bad essay. It’s ultra-competitive out there.) But getting in does mean you wrote a winning essay.

How to win?

1. Be authentic. This doesn’t mean you are not also strategic in your communications choices. But if strategic is all you are, if there is not a real voice speaking, your essay will not have enough natural vitality, personality and drive. Be you, and only you, not what you imagine some ideal MBA applicant should be.

2.  Don’t talk business-speak. As a sidebar to the authentic imperative, don’t wrap your distinct self in jargon. If your text talks about how you achieved ‘synergies’ based on ‘actionable’ ‘imperatives’ that ‘drove’ a  ‘frictionless’ process ‘taking it to the next level’… that’s not the real you speaking. For authenticity, just use standard English words in the normal way.

3. Show don’t tell. Any claim you make about yourself is hot air unless you can prove it with a verified achievement, or clear example, or believable story. This is where the evidence for your positive self-assessment lies, and this is where Adcom will look.

4. Write brightly. It’s dull to read dull or generic text. One essay, fine; two, bleugh; three, sigh; four, pass the vodka. You will stand out if you make your points crisply and move the reader forward at a good pace.

5. Lead the reader. You are guiding your reader not trying to set her a  comprehension test. So don’t stint on structure. Use signposting and paragraphing to signal where you are going, which should be along a path that already naturally makes sense. (Then go where you said you would.)

6. Delete redundant staging. Signposting is good, but after that, don’t launch your points with extra padding like: “In this essay I aim to create an understanding for the admission committee with regard to a greater knowledge of my professional aspirations.” Delete all that, and just say what your aspirations are. Make space for real content.

7. It’s about you. Avoid telling the school how great it is, or how great the opportunities it will give you are. They are aware of their status. The question is, are you great? Will you use the opportunities to do great things. If so, how so?