Thursday, March 15, 2007

Advice on Writing Essays

Hi all - so in response to a few of my commenters (thanks commenters!) I thought I'd write an entry on my approach to MBA Application essays. Obviously I am no expert, but I thought that maybe my process will click and work for someone else out there. So here goes (warning, a bit extensive!)

1) I didn't use Admissions Consultants. I felt like I know my story better than anyone else, and I know my voice more than anyone else. I didn't want to risk sounding like one person in my essays and another in my interviews. I personally do not think consultants are worth the money.

2) I did all my MBA Applications (from start to finish) between the 2nd-3rd week of December and the 2nd week of January. Granted, this was a bit crushed and I had no life outside of work and applications at this time, it just worked for me. I know I am someone (from college and work) that works really well under pressure and that a time crunch works to my advantage. For you, you should know how you work best - do you need friends/parents to pressure you? Do you have to wait until
the last minute? Do you have to have things done 2 weeks before the deadline? I think this is a subtle but important point. You've worked hard your whole life and been successful, so use what you've learned about yourself to your advantage!

3) Before I wrote my essays I reworked my resume. This seems a bit random, but it really helped me to figure out where my strengths are and what my story would be if I was presenting it to an employer. For example, I realized my story is about really strong academics and extracurriculars and that I would have to make sure I relayed a clear story about my recent career change. I think doing this is a good way to really get intimate with and internalize your story - only then can you realize how to best balance these 3 parts of your application. (I personally DO think extracurriculars are really important because they
show who you are more than work and also the schools want ppl who are going to be involved in clubs, etc. as an MBA student)

4) To actually work on the essays was 3 steps. First, I took all the essay questions and dropped them into Word. I did that for all the schools I was applying. Then, for about a week I went through and outlined each essay in the same document. I guess I used a simple "expository essay" format, where I tried to have a "thesis" in each essay getting across the point I wanted to make in response to the question asked. If needed, I included examples from my profile or from the schools websites (for Why XX School questions) in the outline itself so it would be a standalone document. I spent the majority of my time making strong outlines for each of my essays.

5) Second Step: After making the outline I waited a day or two and then sat down and wrote the essay in one go, usually in about 2 hours. I think doing it this way you have thought through the reasoning by outlining, so all the points you want to get across are there. However, by writing quickly and straight through your write more from your gut and heart and therefore the essay comes off as YOUR story instead of just A story. Also, giving the outline a day or two to "rest" lets you come back with fresh eyes to see any holes you may have missed in the outline.

6) Third Step: I would again leave the essay alone for a day or two and come back and read through it. First I would make sure that the major points I wanted to cover came across. Then I would look at grammar such as spelling, homonyms and parallel structure (really important for readability). Then I would do a read through again to make sure it is all good.

7) And then I would be about 90% done with my essays. I then inputted all the data and essays into the online form and before submitting printed out the final verison of my application. I spent a good 2-3 hours reviewing the application, not necessarily for minute errors, but to make sure that I had told a consistent, balanced and convincing story both through the data section and my essays. In every application I had to go back and tweak my essays to make sure they were aligned with the rest of the application and to ensure there were no discrepencies in what I was saying.

8) Click Submit!!


asiangal said...

Four weeks seems like a lot of time to write a few hundred word essays --- until you actually get cracking on them! =) The most important part I think would be what you wrote in #3, which is taking stock of everything you've done in your life so you have a stockpile of stories to pick from once you get started on your writing.

Hmmm now that I'm remembering my essay writing frenzy I actually kind of miss it. =)

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