Posted on September 17, 2015

Creating Compelling Essays: Day 1- Tip 1- Comprehend the Essay Prompt

The Round 1 deadlines for MBA applications for most B schools in the US  for  2015-16 are only a couple of days/ weeks away. Harvard and Yale applications for Round-1 have already been submitted. Some other  Top schools (Wharton, Stanford, and Haas) will accept applications in the next couple of days, followed by other schools with their application deadlines in the first and second weeks of October.

Starting today, MER will be posting one essay tip every day for the next two weeks to help Round 1 applicants create compelling essays.

Comprehend the Essay Prompt

Understanding the essay prompt is the first step towards tailoring your story to a particular essay question. Read the essay prompt carefully and try to gauge what the school wants to know through this question. Without understanding the intent of the essay prompt, your story will go off track and will fail to convey the intended message.

For example, if the essay question is about the contribution to the XYZ School, do not discuss your reasons for choosing that particular B-school. They are not asking you about their particular resources that interest you; rather they want to know in what ways they would benefit by accepting you. While elaborating on what value you will add to your target school, make sure you connect your skill-set, your professional and personal attributes, and your experiences to the specific resources (clubs, organizations, team groups, etc.) of your target school.

Let’s take a closer look at some specific essay questions. Here is the first job essay question of INSEAD.

Example #1

“Briefly summarize your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of the budget, clients/products and results achieved. (350 words maximum)”

This job essay question does not require you to share your accomplishment story at your current job, the challenges you faced, and the actions you took to achieve the desired results. (one of the applicants I am currently working with made exactly the same mistake in his first draft). Please note that the essay prompt requests a snapshot of your career at present. Keeping in mind that this will be the Ad Com’s introduction to your materials, you might also provide the reader the context necessary to understand your place within the organizational structure and the work that occupies your days. I would encourage you to stay focused on the details of your present job and avoid drifting away to your greatest achievements. You will get an opportunity to do that in Motivation Essay question #2.

Example #2

Another example is the following essay question of Ross B School.

Essay 1: What are you most proud of and why? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)

This question allows you to choose your story from your professional, academic, or personal experiences or accomplishments. Indeed, the 'what' of what you are most proud of is as important as the ‘why’ of it. Create a list of your two proudest professional accomplishments and your two proudest personal or community achievements. Then reflect on how each of these accomplishments helped you demonstrate your values and priorities. Whatever story you choose (personal or professional), don’t forget to explain what makes you proud of your experience and how you have grown from that experience and emerged a better person, or a professional, or a member of the community.

When the school asks you “What are you most proud of and why?” they don’t want to know about your career history and all of your accomplishments throughout your career  (some of my students have actually made this mistake); instead, they want you to share a single accomplishment that makes you feel proud of yourself.  Ross admission director Soojin Kwon explains in her blog: “Don’t write two paragraphs of introduction before stating what you’re most proud of. You can even start with, “I am most proud of….”

Stay tuned to the next step/tip in this process.

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

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