You are now just a week away from your MBA application deadline. As you pore over your essays for the umpteenth time, your eyes glazed over, your hair standing on end… you are worried. You have spent months writing and rewriting your MBA essays – they seem pretty good to you.
But are they good enough for the admissions committee?
Or, you may feel vaguely that ‘something’s missing’, but you are unable to put a finger on just what is wrong.
What do you do now?
Should you go ahead and hit ‘Submit’?
Wait! Here are 5 things to check for before you submit your MBA application. If your essays tick all these boxes, well done! If not, you know what to do.
1. Well-begun is half done:
Does your essay have a striking opening? Does the first paragraph hook a reader and make him want to read on? If not, you are in trouble. Remember that your application is going to be read by people who have to wade through hundreds of applications each admission season – so you don’t want to put them to sleep.
Avoid a mundane opening (for example, the question says “I am most proud of…” and your essay starts off this way: “I am most proud of the fact that I come from…”). Instead, use a relevant quote or a humorous quip or an anecdote or illustrative example to start your essay. This will tickle a reader’s curiosity or make him/her smile and want to read ahead.
2. Drama, drama, drama!
Who doesn’t like a bit of drama in life? 🙂
By ‘drama’, I don’t mean theatrics and histrionics. After all, this is not your personal blog entry but your MBA application. However, a strong and memorable MBA essay must have the right mix of emotion, action & character. The application essay is the tool that the admissions committee uses to understand you and get a glimpse of your personality before actually meeting you (or deciding they want to meet you.)
So, don’t shy away from doing this – be brave enough to expose your vulnerability, your conflict & struggles, and your mistakes in your essays. Don’t paint an overly ‘golden’ picture of yourself – if you have made no mistakes and no weaknesses, then what’s your story? 🙂
3. Replace X with Y:
A question that you inevitably see on your MBA application is “Why do you want to join B-school X?” Your answer to this question must be specific, insightful and a testament to the research you have done on the school.
A common mistake I have seen applicants make over and over again is writing a generic response to this question. For example:
The small class size at SBS, coupled with the incredible diversity of student profiles attracts me very much. In this environment, I can interact with students from a variety of backgrounds and learn from them, in addition to from the classes and professors.
What’s the problem with these lines? They are supposedly about Said Business School, Oxford University – but you could replace SBS with Judge School at Cambridge or HEC Paris or IE Spain – and these lines would read the same!
In a nutshell, you are not being specific enough about your interest in the particular school or program.
Do this X/Y replacement test for all your “Why B-school X?” questions before you submit your application – it’s a simple and easy way to know whether your answers are too generic.
4. Razor-sharp clarity of goals
“I envisage a career in the field of marketing because my key qualities: creativity, research aptitude & communication, can be best put to use in this field.”
See anything wrong with this goal statement? You should!
No school wants to admit someone who is not employable or whom they cannot help achieve his/her goal because the goal itself is unrealistic. Most admission committees will have one or members from the school’s career services team.
When a school asks you what your goals are, they pretty much want to know 3 things:
(i) Are you someone who has a clear vision in your mind?
(ii) What sort of roles/companies will you try to approach during/after your MBA?
(iii) Are you equipped to achieve these roles in any way?
You need to answer these 3 questions in your Goals essay. Try to be as specific as possible – state the industry, role and even your dream companies. (Of course, make sure these companies actually recruit alumni of the school you are applying to!) Spell out why this role or company interests you. If you have some knowledge or experience or skills from your pre-MBA days that will help you do well in this role, describe them.
In this way, you signal to the admissions committee that you are someone who has clarity and a plan of action.
5. Be a giver, not just a taker
While almost all schools will ask you what you want from the program, very few ask you explicitly how you will give back. (London Business School is an example of a school that does ask you this.) However, this question is definitely on the mind of every admissions committee – every school wants to know what you can do for them.
So, even if this question is not explicitly asked, try to answer it. Explain why you are a good fit for the program – do your values and those of the school match? How will you enrich your classmates’ experience during your time at the school? What will you do for the bigger community? Is there anything you want to do as an alumnus?
A lot of people who answer this question make the mistake of stating the obvious. For example, “I will share my knowledge of technology” or “I will be a great team player”. The thing is, all such points are hygiene factors – they are expected of you. Think beyond the obvious – what more can you do?
Do all of your essays need to have all of these factors? Perhaps not. For instance, a straightforward essay question that gives you just 150 words is probably not a great place for you to build up drama. Perhaps you are better off with just answering the questions.
So, use your noodle when you evaluate your essays based on this checklist. And at any point, if you feel you would benefit from expert opinion, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Click the button below and we will get back to you!
All the best with those applications! 🙂
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