Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted
When working with our clients, we always point out the importance of using their essay to stand out in a crowded applicant pool. I want to give you some tips to enhance your essay writing and help you find a distinctive voice – so that you can distinguish yourself through your essays.
Here are three key writing strategies that will immediately improve your writing and help you highlight what is distinctive about you:
1.Be strong. Instead of relying on weak, empty verbs, use muscular, impactful language. Don’t say “I like to travel,” but “My passion for exploration landed me in 24 countries on five continents, in the span of four years.” Also, steer clear of “to be” verbs. “Is” often disguises a passive construction (“it is known!”) – and in any case, you can usually find a livelier active verb to use instead.
The same principle applies to adjectives, by the way. You may find a topic “interesting” – but it’s not a word that adds much color to your writing.
2.Be specific. Instead of presenting broad statements about your accomplishments that could apply to anyone’s work, be specific, using numbers to quantify and qualify the impact of your achievements whenever possible. The more detailed you are, the more your writing will stand out. Don’t write, “I led a team of interns last summer,” but, “Last summer, when I was just a Junior Accounts Manager, I led a team of 16 interns in a nationwide marketing competition. The publicity gained from our first-place win brought 24 new accounts to our young company.”
3.Be personable*. At Accepted, when guiding our clients through the MBA application process, we remind them that the adcom readers are people. That’s right – living, breathing human beings. Try and infuse your writing with your personality so that your essay is engaging to the reader. Too often, applicants with wonderful stories obscure that uniqueness in their essays – ultimately to their detriment.
Read your essay aloud. Does it sound like a robot reeling off data, or does it sound like YOU, speaking about those important things, large and small, that make you tick? Obviously the latter will gain the attention of the adcoms and will do a better job of introducing them to the person behind the essay. Strive for a professional, positive, engaging tone. If you’re not sure you’ve hit the mark, ask someone else to review your essay.
*This does not mean “be personal.” Provide enough personality to give a glimpse of the real you, but don’t treat the essay like a therapy appointment or confessional.
For more advice on submitting a compelling MBA application, including strategy, essays, and much more, download Accepted’s free guide – MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips.
Linda Abraham is the founder of Accepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, US News, and Poets & Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise.
When you sit down to write your MBA essay, there are certain things you should aim for: a clear, realistic goal; examples from your experience to show your skills and personal qualities in action; a personable tone that makes the adcom want to get to know you better.
But I really want to discuss common essay writing mistakes that you should stay away from! Here they are:
DON’T use jargon and buzzwords
Loading your sentences with buzzwords is a surefire way to make the adcom’s eyes glaze over. Some applicants use jargon because they think it makes them sound like experts; some resort to it because they just aren’t used to explaining their ideas in plain language. Sometimes you’ll need to use technical language in your essay, but if you read your draft and find that it’s packed with industry jargon, it’s time to do some rewriting. It’ll make your essay more original and unique – and sound more like you.
DON’T make grand, unsupported claims
Don’t just make grandiose statements about your values or personal qualities; illustrate them. “I’m passionate about helping people” doesn’t mean much without supporting details. It’s better to tell a story about the public service project you created in your community and illustrate how it impacted you.
Complaining about your application blemishes only draws attention to them. If you aren’t happy with your GPA, then take responsibility for your grades, and if relevant, provide context that explains why you did poorly…and then move on. If possible, portray your liabilities as assets by discussing the ways in which you’ve grown from your experiences, or point to times when you excelled in similar circumstances. But please, keep the tone mature. Nobody likes a crybaby.
DON’T be sloppy
This is one of the most common essay writing errors – but also one of the easiest to fix! Don’t submit without carefully proofreading your essays and checking for typos, spelling mistakes, and errors in grammar and usage. And don’t just use your computer’s spellcheck. It’s helpful to have someone else proofread your essay, too. A sloppy, error-filled essay sends a message to your readers that you are sloppy, lazy, rushed, or apathetic (or all of the above!), so make sure your essay is polished and represents you well.
Your MBA essay provides you with an opportunity to show off your best qualifications, ideas, and goals to the admissions committee. DON’T blow this chance by making one of these avoidable mistakes! DO be careful to write an essay that truly portrays your best self.
Want to learn more about common application mistakes and how to guard against them? Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your MBA Application Essays – free, today.
Linda Abraham is the founder ofAccepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, US News, and Poets & Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise