Writing your personal statement is only half the battle. Editing, revising and tweaking your essay will make your essay truly shine.
You’re just one essay away from polishing off your MBA application. If accepted into this business school, your career will change forever. You sit down and bang out the best essay you’ve written since that A+ 5-paragraph essay from freshmen year English. Now you quickly run spell check, and you’re go to go!
Not so fast.
Writing the essay is only part of the battle. To deliver a stand-out application, complete with an irresistible essay that gets you noticed and lands you a coveted spot in your top MBA program, you must also master the art of editing.
Once you get your thoughts on paper and have a draft ready, follow these three tips to fine-tune your writing. Follow this advice, and that acceptance letter should be in the mail in no time.
1. Do the sincerity sniff test
Essay writing can often be so tricky because you can get carried away in trying too hard to meet the expectations of the admissions office. You want to be as relevant as possible to ensure they move your application to the “yes” pile.
Your essay should promptly answer and address these common questions:
- What have you achieved so far?
- What do you hope to achieve in the future?
- What specifically would you do with an MBA?
At the same time, your essay should be personal. It’s important to keep your statement from becoming stiff and lifeless.
“Your No. 1 priority is to communicate just how much your entrance into this business school means to you, and what you bring to the table,” said Francesca Di Meglio in an article for Business Week titled How to Write an MBA Admissions Essay. Di Meglio also suggests you ask a friend read the essay and try to guess the initial prompt to make sure you’ve stayed on topic.
2. Bring in a professional
When you’ve reached the final stages of editing and tweaking your essay, you may feel tempted to rush the process. You’re so close to completing a strenuous application process. With the bulk of the essay written, it’s easy to gloss over the process of identifying and addressing any weaknesses.
Friends and family can be hesitant to critique at this stage, especially if they’ve read earlier drafts and are too familiar with the material.
This is a great stage to bring in a professional, objective set of eyes. Instead of agonizing over putting together a clear and concise final essay, seek out the help of an editor who specializes in coaching MBA applicants. Some programs, for example, help MBA hopefuls polish their essays during any stage of the application process.
3. Curb your perfection
No one is perfect. But the truth is, you may perceive your essay as a reason to puff yourself up and prove to the admissions department you’re better than everyone else. That’s not necessarily the right tactic.
“Revealing your humanity — in the form of quirks, weaknesses and flaws — can often help the admissions committee to like you,” says Stacy Blackman in The Economist in Ten Tips for Perfectly Pitched Essays.
This is often easier to do during the editing process. A common weakness you might observe after a first draft or two is that your writing may be too positive. While you want to get your successes and positive qualities across, you have your resume and transcripts to do that for you. If your essay as it stands now seems too stiff — or even reads as a narrative version of a resume — edit with an eye toward revealing some quirks or your minor imperfections.
By paying attention to these tips, you may find you’re more effective at spotting the weaknesses in your essay — and that will make you a strong writer.
In conclusion, before you send off your application, spend quality time looking for opportunities to bring out your own sincerity and humanity in your personal statement. If you’re still struggling to nail your final draft, call in the help of a professional editor.
While it’s always tempting to hurry through the editing process, taking the time to revise and fine-tune your essay will pay off in the long run. Investing time to edit your writing just might be the ticket to the MBA program of your dreams.
Patti Conner is a freelance writer and business entrepreneur. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband Hank and their two children. When she’s not working or spending time with her family you can find her whipping up a new recipe in the kitchen or kayaking in the Puget Sound.