Stop Trying to Impress

It’s tempting to pull out all the stops when crafting your MBA applications, but you can go too far when the effort to impress backfires.

When telling your story on paper, there is a fine line between language that is too casual and language that is overly formal.  Of course essays are a formal presentation of your reasons for going to school, but most essays can be improved by approaching them more like you would if you were telling your story to a good friend.  Don’t think the adcoms will be impressed by flowery language or obscure vocabulary words.  Most readers of these essays don’t even have more than an undergraduate degree, and if they sense you are merely saying what you think they want to hear, it’s a good excuse for them to reject you.

You must also remember that there’s always someone out there who is applying with more impressive work or life experiences.

Don’t pump up a story to make it dramatic or sensational.  Doing so will make you sound desperate.  It’s far better to focus on why you did something than what you did or how you did it.  If you tamp down the what and how and pump up the why, you will be viewed as more genuine.

You also never want to offend an adcom member with condescending verbiage. 

Often, if you read your essay out loud to someone you will begin to hear what it will “sound” like to the adcom.  This is a good exercise and can reveal areas of your essay that push the limit on readability and flow.  It can also help you find out whether or not your essay is cohesive and organized.  Reading something back to yourself in your head will not reveal nearly as much because your brain fills in the gaps. 

The three c’s of essay writing are to: be clear, be concise, and be careful. 

Being clear means know what you mean to convey and nail it down tightly.  Being concise means using Strunk & White’s rules of brevity—less is always more.  Being careful simply means not making dumb mistakes.  If you stick to these simple rules, your essays will impress for the right reasons.


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