It’s January 7, 2010. Most college application deadlines have passed, so today’s post will focus on issues relevant to those applying to advanced degree programs, particularly business schools.
If you are applying to an undergraduate institution with a later deadline (check out http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-admissions/841691-official-list-schools-later-deadlines-8.html for a fairly comprehensive list of programs with deadlines that have not yet passed – you may need to scroll to the final page of the thread to get the most up-to-date list), you can review our December 29 post for some last-minute tips.
For those applying to an MBA program, time is running short. Many schools have January deadlines, so you’ve only got days or weeks left to finish and polish your applications. Never fear, though; today I’ll provide three important suggestions that will help your essays stand out (in a good way, of course) and give you the best possible chance of admission.
1. Your essays should work together to paint a picture of your entire candidacy. There is a reason that MBA applications require many more essays than college, medical, law, or other graduate applications. In addition, unlike the essays on those applications, MBA essay prompts are usually extremely focused and often come with fairly short length limits. To succeed with such prompts, you must figure out what each one is asking and then craft a focused answer to that particular question. Even if each individual response only tells a bit about you, the sum total of all those responses will paint a much more complete picture. Avoiding repetition is vital in this regard. It’s also important to step back and consider all your responses together rather than only focusing on each one individually.
2. Don’t talk solely about your strengths. This doesn’t mean that you should describe your weaknesses. Rather, it is a reminder that essays give you the opportunity to showcase abilities not highlighted in other sections of your application. For example, say you’ve excelled in qualitative courses, tests, and duties but occasionally struggled with more quantitative tasks (or had limited experience with them). If an MBA essay prompt asks about a leadership experience or accomplishment, instead of writing about what your application already shows you to be good at, you can use that opportunity to highlight a quantitative success.
3. Be specific. I make this point a lot, both on this blog and in critiques. You may be tired of reading it or consider it obvious, but surprising numbers of applicants struggle with this concept. With MBA essays, it can be particularly easy to slip into a mode of writing focused on vague, generalized, and long-term ideas that sound good but ultimately have no substance. As you write your essays, keep them grounded in specifics and reality. Write about what you have done and how those experiences have affected/benefited you. Write about what you need to do in order to achieve your career goals, and how an MBA from this particular school will enable you to do so. Write about what you plan to accomplish and your road map toward those accomplishments. Overall, leave the reader with a clear sense of your past (what you’ve done), present (why you’re pursing an MBA, and why you’re doing so now), and future (your concrete plans and goals).
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