Posted on July 9, 2014

Developing Engaging Stories for MBA Essays Week #8- Tip #8

Provide Specific Details

One of the most common pitfalls of Admission essays is the writers’ inability to use specific examples or details and share stories that are filled with vague generalities. To be able to make sense of your story and appreciate it as well, the reader needs to know the specifics of your story. Please note that the members of the Admission committee have to read hundreds of essays for evaluating the candidacy of their prospective students, so if you want your stories to ‘stick’ in their minds, your writing needs to be succinct, articulate, and specific. By providing specific examples/details about ‘what’ ‘why ‘where’ and ‘when’ of your experience and by sharing your thought process at that time, you can turn your stories into memorable essays.

Let’s look at some examples to understand how specific details can turn around an essay.

Not So Good Example:

My family is unique because my parents are spiritual leaders to point me the way to victory. My parents were growing in a poor family. They did not have enough resources to chase their dreams. Furthermore, the most important investment is that they made countless sacrifices to foster my growth.

The above para fails to resonate with the reader because it does not provide any specifics about the place ( country, city) where the writer lived with his family and why they lacked resources.

Now compare it with the revised version:

Good Example:

Growing up in Shanghai, China, I have seen my parents working double shifts to provide me a better living. I am the only child of my parents. My parents grew up in poor families, so they did not have enough resources to afford a college education. However, they made countless sacrifices to foster my growth and build a good life for themselves and for me.

Let’s take a look at another example:

Not So Good Example:

My education, experience, and accomplishments to date are in alignment with my vision as I am unique to have a strong academic and professional background. From a young age, I made achievements beyond those of my peers. My consistently best performance in high-school and under-graduation and service in renowned corporations made me stand out from the rest of the crowd. With the perfect combination of strong technical expertise and innovative ideas of an entrepreneur,  I can differentiate myself from other consultants.

Most of the details in the above example lack specifics about the applicant eg.‚ ‘strong academic and professional background', 'achievements beyond peers', 'consistently best performance', 'renowned corporations', etc.  Also, the writer boasts of being ‘unique‘ and being able to differentiate himself from other consultants. I suggest that you follow the principle of ‘show not tell’,  so your actions and stories will showcase you as a ‘unique candidate’, and you will not need to 'tell' about them. That is, your professional career and accomplishments will vouch for you and set you apart from the crowd.

Let‘s look at the revised version now.

Good Example:

My education, experience, and accomplishments to date are in alignment with my vision as I have a strong background academically and professionally.  I was among the top 2% of the students in high school and under-graduation and one of the nine candidates selected by Infosys from 1000+ candidates.  I was also recognized as the “Employee of the Year” and “Best Team Player” during my tenure.

The above example provides specific information about the candidate‘s strong academic and professional background, so he/ she doesn’t need to proclaim it anymore.

To sum up, one for the key components to make your stories compelling is to make sure to be specific about each and every tiny detail of your story.

Stay Tuned for Tip #9 of the story development process next week J

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