How To Make Your MBA Application Stand Out With Powerful Storytelling

Dec 08, 2014 -
Figuring out whether or not you want to apply for an MBA program is hard enough. So when you finally go for it, applying can be big step. You want to make sure you approach it in the most unique and authentic way possible. The key to your success? Storytelling. Storytelling, on top of other MBA application best practices, is a secret weapon you can use to set your MBA application apart from the crowd. And if you start practicing now, it’s a skill that can carry you through your MBA application and your MBA interview with flying colors.

Finding a Place for Storytelling

When was the last time you connected with a really good story? You know the one -- where you start off vaguely interested and wondering if it will be a long one. But then, without being aware of what is happening, you’re swept along in the detail and the characters and fascinated by what you’re hearing. You are genuinely curious about how the story will end. And when it ends, you feel incredibly satisfied. Storytelling is the art of building an emotional experience with words. Just imagine the results if you could give that same experience of surprise, interest, and satisfaction to give the person who reads your MBA application. However, keep in mind that no one starts out the best storyteller in the world. You have to put in effort to build and improve your storytelling skills. Take a class. Learn from the professionals. And when you think you’ve reached your potential? That’s when the magic can come out on your MBA application.

Storytelling Script #1: Focus on the Setting

Do you have a unique story with a rare background? Then use it to your advantage! Don’t skip over the details in an effort to be more formal or “put together.” Use vivid and honest language to get creative when you set the stage for your academic and career experience and your MBA application essay will be immediately more interesting. Did you graduate high school against the odds in a dangerous neighborhood? Don’t hide your history. Describe it in detail and explain how that experience motivated you to seek out this education. Did you begin your career in one industry and make a quick switch to another? Set the stage. Weave a story that lets the MBA board feel what it was like to think your life was headed one way only to be surprised by a sudden, passionate switch. As long as you are providing an authentic narrative that emphasizes the passion you feel for your current direction, this back story will only add to your qualifications. (Click here to tweet this thought.)

Storytelling Script #2: Build Tension

The MBA process catches you at an awkward point in your personal narrative: you’ve built a bit of a history and gotten some experience, but the rest of your life is yet to be figured out. The tension, the “will he or won’t he” of your story is only now beginning to rise. Put the pressure on the MBA board by making the MBA the important twist in your story. Communicate to the board that they have the power to help turn your story around in a positive way. Emphasize the role that an MBA will play not just in your life but in the future of your industry. Show how it will help you achieve the results you need to change the world, or develop the skills you know are vitally necessary in a competitive world. Don’t pencil in a dry outline of “Why you deserve to get your MBA.” It won’t get you noticed, and it won’t be fun to write. Instead, apply basic storytelling skills to weave a narrative that has both you and the MBA application board at the edge of your seats asking “What will happen next?!” Sarah Greesonbach is the magic bean behind Greesonbach Creative, a distinctive copywriting and content studio, and is obsessed with writing about all things career. Her words have partied on AOL Jobs, Business Insider, and Simply Hired, and she documents mistakes in freelance living and eating Paleo on her blog, Life [Comma] Etc.