Getting into B-School: Essays!
Those dreaded essays
For me there’s no doubt that writing fantastic essays is much more difficult than scoring a 700+ at GMAT. The reason is that it takes a lot of effort to formulate ideas that may have been brewing for some time into paragraphs that should create a crystal clear, coherent, picture of oneself.
My Essay Writing Method:
I think that one of the key aspects is to not take each essay separately but to tackle them as a holistic portrait of oneself, tailored for each b-school*. I could divide the essay redaction (for each b-school) into 3 steps:
Create a Holistic Picture
I printed each essay topic on the same page and broke them down into small elements corresponding to ideas/concepts.
Example : "Describe a setback or a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself?” becomes: setback or a failure + role + learn about yourself.
Then, for each essay/idea, I added cases I wanted to mention. Some cases may apply to more than one essay element.
That’s a good thing as they will help you tie applications together. I’m not sure if you’ll need more cases for a 1000 words essay than for a 500 words one but it all depends on the case’s “density.”
Once this exercise is finished, you still need to sort your cases but from there you’ll have a good essay structure. All you need now is to write them.
Effort : 1 day
Once the essay structure is defined, the writing itself becomes straight forward. But there could be times when inspiration is lacking and there’s some frustration from not finding the right word.
For this, I found that lists of active verbs helped a lot- especially for a non-native speaker like me.
But there is still a LOT of sweat…
Effort : 1 hour every 100 words worth of essays (I may be slow…)
Proof Reading by Others
Toward the end of my essays, I was unable to take any distance from my essays or even look at them with critical judgement. Getting them proofread by someone with a professional and critical judgement (so, not your mother) and who’s genuinely focusing on your success is essential.
I had my essays proofread by two friends of mine, including an Ivy League graduate for English. Without their feedback, my essays would be only 80% of what they turned out to become. If possible, it is important to discuss feedbacks in detail.
Effort : 4 hours (discussions + corrections)
*: Essay questions are rarely structured the same way and reflect what’s important for each b-school. So be careful to take these nuances into account and not directly copy/paste.
In the end, for ONE b-school London Business School (LBS), I remember working on it every week end for a month without seeing my friends. As a result, I have no idea how people can apply to 5+ b-schools at the same time… It seems like a horrible amount of work…
Eventually, my hard work on essays allowed me to get accepted to the interview for LBS and HEC Paris despite an average GMAT (660).
LBS and HEC Paris Accepted Essay Samples :
If you use them, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment and let me know what you think of them :)
Paméla Chin Foo is in the first year of the MBA at HEC Paris. Her blog was originally published on June 1st 2009.
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