Your MBA application shows the admission committee who you are. Want to let the real you shine through? Use these tips.
Ah yes, it’s MBA application season. Can you smell it in the air? It’s an aroma of nervous stress, double shots of espresso and late night burritos. Breathe it in.
MBA application essays give you an opportunity to speak. The admissions committee already has your numbers, your resume, your recommendations — so they’ve got an idea of who you are, but it’s just a skeleton.
The essays give your application meat. This is your only chance to show the admissions committees (adcom) what you’re all about — usually in 500 words or less. It’s a tall order, but you’ll be off to a good start with these three tips. (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Get specific with your goals
With every MBA application essay you write, you have to talk about your long-term and short-term goals. It’s a tough task that may bring up repressed memories of tense dinner convos with your parents talking about “the future,” but you’re an adult now. You’ve got this.
To impress a top-ranked university, your goals need clarity and precision. Have a game plan. If you don’t have one, do some research. Be confident; don’t just tell the school what you intend to do. Show what you’ll do, how you’ll do it and why. The adcom needs to know your plan is solid and you’re going to be a huge success with or without them.
Before: “I will strive to become a sharp director of marketing, approving multimedia advertising campaigns through up-to-date techniques and in well collaborative procedures.”
This seems impressive, but it’s a total non-starter. What does he mean by “sharp”? What kind of techniques and procedures is he talking about? It’s obvious this guy doesn’t know what he wants to do and he’s trying to cover it up with some fancy language.
After: “I will transform our company’s marketing by targeting clients not only through up-to-date research algorithms, but also through collaboration and proper judgment. In an era where so much advertising bombards clients with spam, I strongly believe marketing can be both profitable and ethical, helping, rather than hindering, the user experience online.”
Much better, this answers all our questions (what, how and why), and it shows a level of expertise in his field.
2. Quantify your success
You know you’re smart, hard working, successful and a hot prospect. But to make your application stand out, you’ll have to prove it. Your achievements have to be quantifiable — stuff you can prove. Numbers are your friend. Whatever your achievement, use numbers and statistics to back it up.
Before: “I was employee of the month, which earned me a promotion.”
Meh. Moving on.
After: “As employee of the month, I increased sales 300 percent leading to the best quarterly earnings in five years, earning a promotion and becoming the youngest sales manager in company history.”
Now that’s a quantifiable achievement.
3. Stand out with your personal qualities
This should be the heart of every great application. What makes you a unique and interesting person? What will you bring to this school? What separates you from the pack? Or as Rafiki once asked, “The question is, who… are you?”
This is actually much harder than it sounds. This isn’t about listing hobbies and making generalizations about your personality. Think of something only you enjoy, even though your friends think it’s weird or uncool — that’s what makes you unique. Then make sure and connect it to the rest of your essay.
Before: “I like to knit because I can spend hours focusing on a single task.”
OK, great. But again, who are you? We haven’t learned anything that differentiates you from the crowd.
After: “Knitting has taught me patience and discipline. It can take over a year to finish a blanket, so those long nights going over the Greenberg account at Capital Banking was a piece of cake in comparison.”
This girl’s super focused, can handle a huge account at a major bank, and she can knit a cozy blanket? I’m in.
Look, we know torytelling and essay writing isn’t everyone’s jam, but to get into b-school, you gotta be the Smuckers of MBA essay writing. (And also probably not use terrible analogies like that one.)
Jon Frank got his MBA at Harvard Business School and is now the CEO of Admissionado, a consulting and mentoring company, specializing in MBA admissions. Founded in 2007, Admissionado has become a global leader in application consulting, with offices in the US and China.