Posted on March 19, 2012

How to Write Compelling Admission Essays?

“Why was I dinged?” is  the question that often confuses and torments some applicants when they do not receive the coveted  acceptance letter from the schools they had applied to . Well, one of the key  reasons of getting a rejection letter  is - poorly-written  essays . Undoubtedly, essays are a critical part of your application package that  gives  the Ad Com a sense of who you are, so you need to invest your time  to reflect on your  life for your unique personal and professional attributes and then illustrate those qualities by real life examples.

My  article titled ” Application Essays : Mistakes  you should avoid  "  discusses some  common mistakes made by  applicants with their admission essays. Here are some suggestions to address those mistakes.


1. Start Early :

Do not procrastinate. Start early, so you have enough time to plan, draft and revise. Essay writing is an acquired skill and you need TIME to attain perfection in this skill. If you are a working professional and are planning to apply to 5-6 schools, you need to start working on your essays at least 3-4 months before the deadline. In order for you to provide the Ad com a complete picture of your unique personality by  answering all the essay questions effectively and precisely , you need to do introspection for the personal and professional qualities that define you and your life experiences that illustrate those qualities and then  think of ways to connect those stories to your essay themes. This planning  takes ample time and sow ill  the  next stages of writing , namely drafting, revising, and editing, so  it is advisable to start working on essays well  ahead of time.

2. Provide real-life examples:

Essays are NOT extended resumes, so do not elaborate and EXPLAIN your resume through your essays. Answer your essay question through real -life examples and let your voice come through your essays. B-Schools want to know you through your essays, so do not hesitate to share your personal experiences/stories that illustrate your personal and professional qualities unique to you. In order to make your essays convincing and persuasive, you must connect your essay themes to your life experiences. Therefore, do not  shy away from providing specific details about their life experiences because you do not want  to be impersonal while writing your Personal Statement or Personal essays. Below is an example of an interesting beginning in response to a question about ‘life outside work environment ‘wherein the applicant begins to narrate about his/her love of cricket.


“It had been a hectic week of planning promotional material for new project launch, and I was looking forward to watch a sensational cricket match between India and Sri Lanka with a bunch of friends over the weekend."

3. Answer all parts of the essay question :

Break down all parts of the essay question and try to give equal footage to all of them. If the question has three sections, answer all of them. Prepare an outline before writing. Rewrite and make sure you have satisfactorily answered all the sections of essay question.


Question no. 4 in the Personal Statement of MiF LBS has 7 parts, and  the applicant is likely to miss 1-2 parts of it. In order to avoid that, I recommend numbering all the parts of the question and then answer them one by one. After making sure you have satisfactorily answered all the questions,  delete the numbers.

4. Be Specific:

Read the essay question carefully and answer it  precisely  The ‘how’ part of your answer is as important as the ‘what’ part. This is what will bring out your personal and professional qualities.

Example #1  if you are  discussing  your accomplishments or failures / setbacks, do not forget to describe how  you navigated through different situations and what you learned from them.

Example # 2 : While answering 'Goals' question, it is not enough to  discuss your academic qualification,  your  career history, your short term goal, and   long term goal  only. The Ad Com also want to know what passion drove you to your chosen field, how you  pursued  your interest/passion  and progressed along your career path, why you believe that  with your current skill set  and potential , an MBA is the next logical step in your career path, and most importantly, how an MBA from  X School  is your best bet at this time to help you achieve your goals.

The following opening sentence about the applicant's passion for finance is bound to draw the reader into his/her story.


"My love and passion for finance dates back the time when I was only 13 years old and would ponder at the stock prices in the newspaper for countless hours."

4. Demonstrate your  impact:

Do not forget to state what impact/ contribution you are going t o make to the school. Whether the essay question requires you to discuss your contribution or not, make sure to briefly state what value you will be adding to the school. For example,  while answering a ‘Goals’ question, it is imperative to add a concluding sentence or  two about the specific contribution you will make to the school even if the essay question doesn’t require you to do so.


"I am confident that with my academic potential, team-working abilities, innovative spirit, and leadership skills , I will  add significant value to UCLA community."

5. Edit for Grammar Errors:

In case you slept through your English class ,get your essays edited for sentence structure,  punctuation,  grammar and spelling errors. These errors are poor reflections  on your candidacy and can jeopardize your chances  of admission despite your great GMAT score , GPA  and work experience.

In order to bring variety to your writing, try to write a mix of simple, compound and complex sentences . Do not  write extremely lengthy sentences stretching 4-5  lines; they are  bound to annoy  the reader.

6. Stick to word limit :

Stay within word- limit) and try to be as precise as you can (5-10% over or below word limit is considered ok). Admission officers have thousands of applications to review, so they don’t like to be frustrated with essays  filled with overly lengthy paragraphs or sentences that they need to read 2-3 times to make sense of. They want to evaluate you for your ability to make your point in a concise manner. Also, exceeding word limit reflects your unwillingness to follow the guidelines.


To sum up, when writing your application essays, make sure to give yourself sufficient time to brainstorm, draft, revise and edit your essays. I strongly recommend giving yourself at least 2-3 months’ time to be able to create compelling essays for one school only . You should think through the essay prompt and provide specific answers substantiating it with relevant real life examples that help to set you apart from other applicants. Do not skip any part of the essay prompt, and  stay within word limit. And lastly and most importantly, make your essays error- free , precise and clearly comprehensible.