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Your business school essays are one of the most critical components of your application. It influences whether or not you make it to the interview round, and is one of the driving factors for admission to a top university.
Here is a list of common mistakes that should be avoided at all costs:
1. Not answering the question. It sounds counter intuitive, almost, but this is one of the most common mistakes students make. Your essay is doomed for failure once you start responding to hypothetical questions, that is, writing what you think the admissions committee wants to hear, instead of articulating a response to the question that has been asked clearly and directly.
2. Using the wrong tone. If you are negative, brazen, whiny or egotistical in the tone with which you write your essays, they will most likely not work in your favor. Most schools are looking for curious, conscientious and collaborative candidates, who are able to demonstrate leadership potential and articulate a specific way in which they will drive large-scale impact.
3. Thinking the word count is a moving goal post. It is not. Admissions committees have had significant experience and institutional memory to draw on when developing essay questions. So when they set the rules, please follow them and tow the line with the word count.
4. Making an essay about somebody else. The stories need to be focused on you, so copying someone else’s story and talking about how it changed your life is not just ineffective, but is also not likely to be taken well. Business schools are interested in how you engage and interact with the world, which means articulating your role in your personal and professional encounters, and where, how and why you have influenced or been impacted by others.
5. Not picking the right stories. If the question is asking you for a leadership experience, for instance, focus on a recent personal or professional story. Stay away from talking about how you won Model UN in high school. Even though this may have been a highlight on your timeline, it makes the reader think your growth has stymied since this experience, since this is the one you are choosing to highlight. Make sure you are thinking carefully and strategically about the appropriate stories for your essays.
6. Not getting a thorough, ‘fresh eyes’ edit. It’s easy to develop horse blinders when you would likely be scrutinizing your essay as much as you have. This can lead to compromises in structure, language and the essay’s overall impact. Get a family member, mentor or professional to take a look and give you critical, constructive feedback.
7. Not researching your school and program enough. Many schools want you to talk about your fit with the school in the essays. You want to be as specific as possible here, referencing the homework you have done to learn more about the school, as well as the offerings that the school has that are consistent with your strengths and interests.
8. Not reworking the essay when applying to multiple schools. Two schools may ask you to describe an experience you are most proud of, but often enough, the next part of the question is likely to be different. One may ask you about your impact, where as another may ask you about how the experience helped you grow. Make sure you are editing your essays to tackle the nuances so that you are answering the question.
9. Not articulating focused goals. Your goals should be consistent with your background, and should not encompass an industry that you have not had any interaction or experience with. You need to introspect about your desired career path based on your aptitude, and ensure that you articulate this. Admissions committees are consistently considering your ability to get a job after business school, so a lack of focus here is a mighty faux pas.
10.Using quotes incorrectly. Please do not quote clichés or popular luminaries like Gandhi or John F. Kennedy. Use quotes from definitive real life interactions that you have had. It could be a watershed or even an everyday moment where you are quoting to contextualize and stylize the fabric of your story.
Remember to start writing your essays early. You need time to introspect, process, curate the right stories and articulate them, in order to craft a compelling essay. Need help with building your story arc? ReachIvy can help!
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