In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, the volume of business school applications has increased around the world, making elite schools harder than ever to break into. In this climate, a successful MBA application requires a lot of time, planning and self-reflection. One of the most important elements of this app is the essay, which is where you stand out. The right essay can have a positive transformative effect on your profile and, with it, your admissions decisions.
Given our decades of experience advising top MBA candidates, Stratus strongly recommends that prospective students start preparing NOW if they haven’t already started. Based on our clients’ results and our understanding of the admissions climate, we believe that applicants who begin the application process 8-12 months PRIOR to applying are …
Admitted to more schools
Admitted to more elite programs
More chances of obtaining scholarships
More prepared for business school by the time they arrive on campus
And beginners become the best prepared candidates: they are your competitors!
An old Chinese proverb advises: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second fastest time is now. So this is your first step: START RIGHT.
Below are six steps you can and should take NOW to write successful MBA application essays.
Understanding yourself, your application and your goals is essential when, and even before, you begin writing your MBA application essays. Knowing who you are, what motivates you, and what you want to do in your career affects which MBA programs you will want to explore. Take the time to do this active thought.
At Stratus, we counsel applicants through a process of deep soul-searching and self-reflection to help them focus on specific narrative threads – and these are then used to form the basis of the essay. Remember, you can’t build a skyscraper without a flawless foundation.
Organize the outlines.
During your undergraduate studies, and probably before, you were probably told about the importance of brainstorming and outlining. While you need to keep the narrative alive throughout an essay and make sure you back up each point with evidence, you don’t necessarily need to write each essay chronologically. This is where the contours come in; they give you the opportunity to perfect the flow and structure of your content before writing full sentences and paragraphs. You can experiment until you’re right, which makes writing essays a lot less of a pain.
Plus, your essays shouldn’t just rehash your resume. Resumes are complicated and maintaining order in your pre-writing is essential. Plus, don’t waste time on full versions of drafts created from disorganized outlines. Have someone else review them before you begin.
You don’t just write ONE essay; you write an essay for EVERY SCHOOL you apply to. In fact, you often write more than one! Columbia requires three essays, for example, and INSEAD has seven. Keep in mind that you need to adapt what you write for each school’s essays. You will need to indicate specific courses, specific extracurricular activities and more as proof of why you are applying to this program.
Do not lie ! Of course, it is easy. But the hard part is not writing down what you think the admissions committee WANTS to hear. Admissions officers have read thousands of essays and can detect genuine interest within a mile and a half. If you tell the story that only YOU can tell, your true passion and interests will manifest.
You may need three or four drafts of an essay (after two to four drafts of an outline) before you are ready to have it revised. Don’t skip this step! The more the examiner knows about the school and its particular admissions process, the more valuable the exam will be to you. It is essential to have a second and even a third pair of eyes on your essay. However, be sure to apply the appropriate skepticism to comments made by reviewers who are not professionally qualified, such as family and friends who are neither alumni nor MBAs.
Nothing can drain the power of a sentence faster than a typo. Therefore, you need to review your trials with a fine comb. Evaluate word flow and choice in addition to looking for misspellings and grammatical errors. Also, don’t forget to check things like school names, class names, and teachers’ names!
By following these six steps, you’ll get started on the path to writing solid MBA application essays.
Jennifer jackson is an MBA admissions consultant at Stratus Admission Board. Jennifer’s experience includes 10 years of public relations and human capital consulting, as well as experience in writing, editing, mentoring and coaching.