Secrets of Writing Effective MBA Essay
MBA Essay Tip 1: Answer the question asked
This simple advice is indeed the most important one. A vast majority of applicant burn midnight’s oil and write an MBA essay that simply doesn’t answer the question.
Example – What is your biggest failure? This common MBA essay question seems very simple but it has a profound implication in the admission process. Admission committee wants to know where you really blew up and what did you learn from that awful experience. This question allows business schools to know subtle aspects of your personality. Instead of admitting failure, applicants write MBA essays that are really success stories with minor bumps in the road. ADCOM concludes that the applicant was not able to comprehend the real intention of the question and that puts a blot in the candidate’s profile.
There is no need to create a mystery around a failure. We all face some failure in our life. The crux of this essay is to write honestly about a failure and then explain what you learnt from it. Moreover, if you can mention any other incident in which you applied your learning, ADCOM definitely will appreciate your integrity and ability to learn from mistakes.
Bottomline - Don’t beat around the bush! Simply answer the question asked.
MBA Essay Tip 2: Be yourself
Admission committee wants to know the real person behind the MBA application. They know your GMAT score, professional accomplishments, and academic records. But those details don’t tell them whether you can be a successful corporate leader. The MBA essays give them glimpse of your personality. Express your opinion, write essays in your own voice, and describe your feeling. Don’t be afraid to express your strong opinion on issues such as global economic meltdown, job loss due to privatization, or global warming. That flavor will definitely add differentiation to your application and ADCOM will take a notice of that.
MBA Essay Tip 3: Know the B-school well
Before you put the pen to the paper, you need to know about the culture of the school. Talk to the alumni, current students, or ADCOM members to know about the specialties of the school and choose the storyline of the MBA essays accordingly. If you are applying to London Business School or INSEAD, talking about your international exposure would be more appropriate than talking about your struggle with poverty in childhood. In case you are applying to Kellogg, talk about your team building skills. Such leadership accomplishments will be far more interesting to admission officers. Hence, align your storyline as per the values and culture of the school.
MBA Essay Tip 4: Avoid overused phrases
Thousands of MBA applicants write every year in their MBA essays about how “they have unique leadership abilities”, “they are a business leader with high ethical values”, “they think out of box”, “ they are different”, “ they are a total team player” …blah blah blah.
Well, action speaks louder than words. Instead of telling ADCOM that “you think out of box”, write about an experience in which you provided an innovative solution. Similarly, talk about circumstances in which you demonstrated high ethical values. Write passionately about various experiences to highlight your key leadership qualities instead of only telling ADCOM that “you have remarkable leadership skills”. An in-depth analysis of leadership accomplishments will automatically demonstrate your leadership abilities to admission officers and they will definitely take a note of that.
Also refer MBA Essay Tip 5 in Fatal mistakes in MBA essay writing.
MBA Essay Tip 5: Don’t oversell yourself
Many applicants desperately attempts to impress ADCOM members. Some of them write how “really, really” they want to attend the program. Others write about their every possible accomplishment in a 300 words leadership essay and as a result the essay reads like a resume. Moreover, many applicants talks about esoteric career goals such as joining politics or opening NGO to remove poverty in Africa. They think that such career goals will serve as “differentiators” as majority of the applicants will talk about entrepreneurship or management consultancy as career goals. Well, unless you have some past exposures to politics or NGOs, mentioning such career goals is quite meaningless to ADCOM. These are signs of desperation which don’t bode well with the admission officers. Write the MBA essays honestly and credibly. But don’t try to over impress admission officers as they know more tricks of the trade than you do.
MBA Essay Tip 6: Use Proper grammar and punctuation
MBA students are expected to create presentation and other written materials during their coursework that require knowledge of basic English grammar and punctuation. That’s one of the reason GMAT tests your English grammar knowledge. Proofread your MBA essay carefully to eliminate any grammatical mistakes as any such errors can diminish your chance.
MBA Essay Tip 7: Maintain readability
Use separate paragraphs to present different thoughts. Use proper transition to show your thought process. Don’t write one big paragraph with too many thoughts in it. Choose one theme for each paragraph and then write concisely. On the other hand, don’t create ten paragraphs for a 300 words MBA essay.
MBA Essay Tip 8: Use proper transition
It is imperative that your MBA essay must be understandable in a single read. So your thought flow must be projected well and best way to do so is to use proper transition between the paragraphs.
Some of the commonly used transition that we can use in MBA essays is given below:
|in the first place
in like manner
in the same fashion / way
to say nothing of
as can be seen
all things considered
given these points
for the most part
on the whole
all in all
sooner or later
to begin with
as soon as
in the first place
| not only ... but also
in the light of
by the same token
as shown above
as has been noted
by and large
in any event
at the present time
at the same time
in due time
in the meantime
all of a sudden
|as a matter of fact
not to mention
in the final analysis
in the long run
in a word
to sum up
in either case
from time to time
up to the present time
in a moment
at this instant
MBA Essay Tip 9: Write interesting introduction
Admission committee have to read thousands of MBA essays. It’s not a very interesting job to read thousands of MBA essays one after the other. ADCOM members generally spend 4-5 minutes on each MBA essays. So an interesting introduction will engage them to
enthusiastically read the rest of the MBA essay.
MBA Essay Tip 10: Don’t summarize in the introduction
Well, if you give the summary of the whole MBA essay in the introduction itself, is there any need for admission officer to read the rest of the essay? No. Right? In the introduction paragraph, try to raise questions in the mind of the reader. Such an approach will motivate him to enthusiastically read the remaining essay.
MBA Essay Tip 11: Definitely write a concluding paragraph
Concluding paragraph in your MBA essays helps to solidify your message. Discuss all the main points in the body portion of the essay. In the concluding paragraph, tie all the ideas with the broader theme of the essay.
MBA Essay Tip 12: Cut out the fat
You have to write too many things within a specified word limit (300 words most of the time). Hence, you must be extremely careful about each and every word in your MBA essays. Read and re-read your essays and delete anything that is not directly related to the points. You need to include as many leadership accomplishments in the essays as possible. Hence cut out the fat and retain only the meat!
MBA Essay Tip 13: Use active voice
Passive voice makes the essay lengthy and uninteresting.
"A team meeting was organized by me.
An effort to fix all defects was undertaken by my team.
Notice that in the above mentioned examples, the agents of the action can be omitted. Even if the agents are mentioned, the focus of the sentences is the fact that a team meeting was organized or an effort to fix defects was undertaken. The persons responsible for these actions are not the focus of these sentences.
Now, the sole purpose of an application essay is to project your action and thought-process to the ADCOM. Hence, passive voice is generally unsuitable for MBA essays.
But keep in mind that effective writing style is not rule driven but context driven. There are occasions when passive voice is appropriate and sometimes it is even needed."
MBA Essay Tip 14: Substantiate your accomplishments with numbers
Numbers speak for themselves. If you write that you won several contracts as a Project Manager in an IT company, then it doesn’t tell much to the admission committee. Was the contracts worth of $20000 or $ 2 million. Winning the latter contract will certainly improve your profile, but winning the former might not. Hence, always try to substantiate your leadership accomplishments with suitable numbers in the MBA essays.
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