One mistake applicants often make is to misunderstand their audience. When crafting a winning MBA application package there is much to consider, but how much thought have you given to who will actually read your essays? Who is analyzing your resume? Common sense may dictate that an essay about going to a top MBA program should be crafted for an MBA crowd, but did you know that most essay readers at the top schools never attended an MBA program and don’t have an MBA themselves? Remembering this in the application process can help you communicate your story in a much more effective way to the adcom. Read on for tips…
I was working on our Michigan Ross Strategy Memo over the weekend, when it occurred to me just how overlooked a "unique perspective" is when it comes to MBA applications. Even here at Amerasia, where we work hard to push our clients away from thinking in terms of "impress the reader" and towards "connect with the reader," we sometimes lose sight of how just what an easy and effective way that can be to frame introspective writing. Because Michigan Ross has the MAP program and everything funnels towards what perspective you bring to the class, it became a good reminder and something that felt worthy of passing along.
Every so often, we like to put an excerpt out there from one of our school-specific Strategy Memos. Full disclosure, the main reason to do this is to show off how we approach the process and to give potential clients a sense of what they might get (across the board, with all their schools and all the questions) if they become clients. But we also try to coordinate these with moments where we can get some really helpful strategy out there - basic, core ideas that will help people avoid pitfalls, even if they don't have help in executing perfectly. In this instance, Columbia Business School's Essay Question 2 is a nice overlap that allows us to do both. So let's dive in.
We did this last year when breaking down the new Ross essays, so let's run it back. We thought it would be helpful to post the decision tree I am going to be asking my clients to use this year.
Why would I just share this with the public, you might ask? In part because the real value of our services with Ross (unlike with some other schools) is going to be in implementation rather than in the setting of strategy - so I don't feel I am cheating my clients at all. Further, we just don't have that many clients select Ross, to be honest. This is confusing to me, as Ross is an amazing school and a true value pick ... but that's a column for a different time. Today, I want to present a really simple way to work through Ross' seemingly wide open "what are you proud of" essay. I'll be using one part common sense and one part program knowledge, but both are born out of lots of experience just being someone in this world (by "in this world" I mean working in "higher education" and with "people trying to maximize their lives and abilities"). Let's get into it.
Time for a quick blog post that comes from what I'm seeing each day, which is really rigid, hard-to-read Why School X sections. I give the same note to every single client so now I'm giving it to everybody: the simplest and most important thing you can do to improve your Why School X portion of career goals essay is to personalize any and all content.
What do I mean by "personalize?" Simple: make anything you write about the school specific to you, your experience, your desires, or what you require from a program. Never just state absolutes, generalities, or even known truths and facts - always make them personally-held viewpoints. Examples are the best way to understand this (after the jump):
To all MBA Candidates out there, especially those of you racing to hit the HBS deadline on September 9th ... please, for the love, know when to set your essay down, put your hands in the air, and say "time." I borrow from Top Chef and call it "put your knives down!" It's that moment in the show when the buzzer has sounded and they have no choice but to put the chef's knife down, put their hands in the air, and accept that their dish is finished. In our situation, there isn't a buzzer (yet), but we can still use the principle. In fact, one of the great ironies of the Top Chef "quick fire" challenge that gave me this expression is that some of the best dishes on that show come because there IS a buzzer - it keeps the contestants from noodling and tweaking and, basically, ruining a great plate of food. So ... how can we use this for our MBA apps?
Quick post today, because time is short and nobody wants to read the screed I had in mind for MIT's new "essays." Why the quotation marks? Because writing your own letter of recommendation is not an essay. It's a gimmick at best, and, if I'm being honest, a bit of a mockery at worst. Yes, people write their own employee assessment reports, which is a great cheat for supervisors (heck, I had a high school "world studies" teacher who figured out that he could just the class to teach itself - no joke), but that also precedes a discussion that can (and usually does) flesh out the exercise. It's hard to imagine a company making huge promotion or bonus decisions based solely on a self-written employee report, with no discussion to follow. I mean, come on. Yet that is what MIT is basically suggesting when they draw a comparison between what takes place in the office and what they are asking candidates to do on the application. It's such a weird, weird assignment. (Okay, so I went on a bit of a screed.) That said, there are three things to keep in mind that can make it not only doable, but a chance to shine.
It's time to cover Wharton, as it looks like I've locked myself into a pattern of covering every school's set of essays. The common response to Wharton's new essay set (one of which is required, one is optional) is "another case of schools shrinking this essays!" This is technically true, as the total words went from either 1,000 to 900 (if you use the Optional) or from 1,000 to 500 (if you don't). However, the next leap is almost always "as schools continue to try to make things easier for applicants." I'm sorry, I simply don't buy that line of reasoning. Almost everyone who truly knows admissions knows that fewer words makes things harder, not easier. This is because it requires confidence and clarity to approach such a task, it requires concise and structured writing to execute it, and it makes it far less likely that you will "accidentally" come up with something great, just by virtue of spewing out words. Now, it might be a byproduct of the essay shrinking that it's easier on the readers or that a few people might (mistakenly) think it's easier to apply, but I highly doubt that is the intent.
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 Booth Essay 3 when your presentation isn't coming together like you want.
With the 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?