It's very rare that we blog at the height of the deadline season, but something is coming up a lot that a quick post might help people with - and that is what to do with the Booth essay when your presentation isn't coming together like you want.
With Booth's app deadline bearing down, not everyone is able to make things happen exactly the way they want and the compulsion to use a "great essay" (from another school) rather than create a PowerPoint presentation is quite strong. However, there are many experts on record - including us, in our Booth Strategy Memo that all clients receive - saying that you basically must use a presentation format.
So, what should you do?
I decided to put together a little Decision Tree that I think reflects a few realities.
A presentation is the most desirable outcome.
There are a number of reasons for this.
- First, it measures a "business" skill that is not evident anywhere else.
- Second, it shows effort and interest in the school because other than NYU or MIT, you would not be creating a slideshow like this for any other school.
- Third, and most importantly, it is for the reader.
The poor, overlooked, overworked reader never gets considered by clients when making decisions, which is crazy because that person has the biggest say in whether you get in or not. Look, when you have to read a thousand essays in a single cycle, you don't want to read another essay. A PPT presentation is something cool to look at that gives that person a bit of a break and another way to evaluate without having to read. every. single. word. So that's why you *should* do a presentation.
There is nuance within that general rule.
Analogy: most people feel that fish is better for you than chocolate. But what if the fish is farm-raised and maybe three days past the sell date? What if it's straight up rotten an full of dangerous bacteria? Surely it's not better than. Or what if the chocolate is the finest in all the land, made with organic this and that and full of heart-healthy properties of the raw cocoa bean. Are we still sure the fish is always better than the chocolate? Of course it's not. The same is true for "presentation vs. essay." Yes, like fish, the presentation is usually what we want to be reaching for. But not always.
Here is my Decision Tree for this:
I would say the decision tree looks like this:
- (Best) A great presentation. See above.
- A good presentation. Even if you don't blow it out of the water, just having a theme, something easy to look at, and a baseline level of effort is STILL going to be better than the BEST essay you can write.
- A great essay. Okay, first essay sighting. If you can't get your presentation to at least "I'd serve this fish to my family" quality, break out the chocolate ... as long as it's amazing.
- A mediocre presentation. If you essay is not GREAT, you are still better off with even a C-level presentation.
- A good essay. Please see how far down the list this goes. You are only using a "good" essay if all you have is a legitimately bad presentation. Which means you should never use a good essay, because do you know how hard it is to put together a bad presentation in 2014?
- A bad presentation. Still better than an essay that does not rise to the level of good, although let's hope it doesn't come to that.
- A mediocre essay. Let's hope you don't even have any of these.
- (Worst) A bad essay. Obviously.
Hopefully you find this helpful if you are debating what to do at the 11th hour.
Maybe you have a great essay and a mediocre presentation - boom, use the essay. Or maybe with just one more all-nighter you can get that presentation up to "good" - boom, use the presentation.
Good luck out there.
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