How many essays
Actually, if you are an international applicant to an MBA or a Master’s programme you may need to write one essay in your English language exam (TOEFL or IELTS), one essay in the GMAT test, plus several essays as part of your application package for admission.
What is more, if you apply to several B-schools, as most applicants do, keep in mind that each admissions office requires different essays. Even if the essay topics of different schools sound alike, your essays should not, must not, be the same, because the schools and their programmes differ.
Types of essay
All these types of essay have their own purpose:
Essays in the language tests are meant to demonstrate your level of English language – grammar, spelling, punctuation, structure, clarity of expression and vocabulary – as well the relevance of your ideas to the essay question.
The GMAT essay – Analytical Writing Assessment – tests your skills to analyse statements and their supporting arguments and to express your analysis in writing in a clear and logical structure. Of course grammar and vocabulary are evaluated, but the GMAT does not test your language proficiency. Rather it checks your analytical skills.
Admissions essays, which are part of the application package for business schools, aim to reveal your personality and your motivation to pursue post-graduate studies in the chosen universities.
Check out: 2017 Top European MBA Essays
Essay Writing Tips for B-school admission
The focus of this article is to help you craft your admission essays. To immerse yourself more in the topic you can check out the 2016 Top US MBA Admission Essays and try to get into the shoes of prospective applicants who have about two or three months to prepare their full application package, including several essays of about 500 words each.
No matter how much time you have before the application deadline, start thinking over the essay questions and your answers as soon as they are announced and the admissions process is open. There is never enough time for the essays and normally they take much longer to craft than initially anticipated. Typing 500 words can be done in less than 30 minutes, but preparing a well-thought-out 500-word essay can take you 30 hours or 30 days and certainly the night before the application deadline. Don’t fall into the trap of postponing it.
Take your time
An outstanding essay does not appear overnight. Some of the essay topics, as illustrated above, can concern topics on which you have no clarity yourself yet, e.g. what your immediate post-graduation career goal is or which famous person you would like to invite to dinner and what you will discuss. While thinking about the essay topics, make sure you put down all the ideas that flash through your mind. Take notes – you will need them when you start writing.
You can do it on your own, with a friend or with a professional consultant. Stick to the rules of brainstorming – let your ideas flow and write them down. Don’t evaluate them; don’t yet decide which is worthwhile and which is silly or inappropriate. The essence of your essay is the content. And the added value of your content is that it conveys your personality. So, nurture each idea. It will also bring new ideas.
Check out 2016 Top US MBA Admission Essays
Uncover the uniqueness
Your essays should be like no one else’s. When admissions officers read them they should be able to imagine you, and just you. They should be able to give you a tag – the ‘Asian lady banker who raised money for an orphanage’ or the ‘Paris engineer with several successful start-ups'. Stay away from any general talk. Think twice if you feel something in your essays could be true for other applicants. There is certainly a way that sets you apart. Find it!
Essays are not stand-alone. They are an integral part of the application package – CV/resume, recommendations, academic transcripts, etc. All these are pieces of a single puzzle which brands you for the admissions committee. Information should be complementary, logical, self-explanatory and focused on your goal: to gain admission to business school. Don’t lose your focus.
Draft, draft, draft
Your list of brainstorming ideas will go through numerous transformations before the final essay is born. Try different approaches until you find the ideas, style and structure which portray you in the best way. Keep the different drafts – do not just throw them angrily in the rubbish bin. One of them could turn out to be the best.
Edit, edit, edit
Edit on you own or ask a friend or a professional. The aim is to make sure your ideas, language and expression are clearly perceived by readers. You know what you want to say, but maybe your writing doesn’t yet convey it. Editing also aims to limit your essays to the word limit. Do not exceed the word limit because if you have to upload your essays into a text box any extra words may be automatically cut. Besides this purely technical inconvenience, disrespecting the limit will not be appreciated by admissions officers.
Take a fresh look
Plan to have some time left after you complete the full application in order to ‘sleep on it’ and then take a fresh look. Make sure it conveys the image and attitude which you really want the admissions committee to have about you. It is always a great idea to have an outside review of all your work to ensure that everything is clear.
See the big picture
Always try to imagine how your portfolio will stand in the context of what your competitors will present.