Mark Twain and MBA Application Essays

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so i wrote a long one instead” – Mark Twain

 

Enough said.

 

The man is, quite possibly, the most articulate person in history. But, judging by the current B-School trend of reducing the number of words applicants can use to tell their story, he would have sweated as much as the next person, unless that person were Saeed Ajmal. (Non-fans of cricket, please check out Ajmal’s notorious murder of English in these interviews).

 

Less is more

 

Last year, Columbia Business School allowed applicants 200 characters to respond to its short answer question and a total of 1,250 words for its three essays. This year, CBS candidates have a mere 100 characters for the short-answer question and 1,000 words for the three essays. This certainly makes the application writing tougher. However, there are certain exceptions. Look at Harvard’s essay question for this year:

 

You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you.

What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy? There is no word limit for this question. We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.

 

Although no word limits are prescribed, the AdCom is urging candidates to keep it brief and to-the-point.

 

What this means:

You may not have the luxury of eloquence and will need to distill the crux of your message to meet narrow word limits.

An open mind

 

Another important trend is that MBA application essays are moving away from the conventional “Tell us about your accomplishments in 300 words” to a more open structure where the response doesn’t need to stick to a particular format. Quoting from Harvard, again:

 

You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you.What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

 

Whoa. However, the good news is that no matter how B-schools phrase their question, it is likely to fall into one of these categories:

 

mark-twain-blog-image-2

 

What this means:

You now have the opportunity to go beyond expected boundaries and write compelling essays that differentiate you.

Conclusion

 

B-schools are also facing the innovation challenge – breaking away from conventional norms, but retaining their mojo at the same time. With honest self-introspection and persuasive storytelling, you can convince the good folks at the admissions office how you are the right choice for them.

Read how our student, Raviraj Jain, gained admission into Harvard Business School.

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