In this Applicant Question, Susan Berishaj, founder of Sia Admissions, explains how to get ahead in your 2021 MBA essays.
Given the economic landscape as a result of COVID-19, the admission process has become even more competitive—and your MBA essay is a crucial part of the application equation.
Some professionals have moved up their MBA timeline, while others who had not considered applying are now forced to reconsider retooling to ensure they are competitive in whatever comes next. As a result, you have a larger applicant pool to compete with.
Gaining admission to a top MBA program has always been challenging; this new landscape makes it even more competitive. Therefore, to gain admission, capturing what you bring to the table in a nuanced way is essential to making sure you stand out.
While there are several layers to a strong application, the three elements outlined below are critical to delivering a stand-out profile—there is a slim chance of admission to a top MBA program if you do not incorporate these elements in your writing.
Always bring it back to your goals
Regardless of which school you target, each MBA program has its own set of essay questions related to your goals, leadership experiences, and getting to know you.
Irrespective of the question being asked, I recommend you keep your goals in mind. Suppose you seek a role in operations consulting. In that case, the leadership experience you recount in your narrative should relate to or reflect your ability to envision a process that supports an organization's mission and effectively and successfully leads the initiative.
This example shows the admission committee that you have the improvement-oriented mindset required to succeed in an operations role and are persuasive in influencing and leading others.
In this example, these elements showcase transferable skills that the admission committee can reference as evidence supporting a successful job placement immediately post-MBA.
Be careful to answer all parts of the question
While this may seem obvious, I mention it for a reason. Answering the question in its entirety is essential as it serves as evidence of your teachability.
You do not want the admission committee to receive your beautifully written essay, and, after reading it, be left feeling puzzled: "too bad she didn't answer the question!" It is wise then that, when you start writing, you break the sentence down into its multiple parts.
I recommend that you first, in bullet form, write your direct responses to each part of the question before you proceed into crafting a narrative. This approach will save you a lot of time and frustration with the writing process, by helping you structure the essay early on.
Find a reliable proofreader
Whatever you’re applying for, it’s important to have a trusted friend, colleague, or family member proofread your writing.
Ask them to ensure it is coherent, that all the critical points have been addressed, and that there are no ambiguities. When you are very close to the project you are working on, it is easy to miss essential elements that need to be clarified or addressed.
Therefore, I recommend that you ask someone you trust to read your material before you submit. While this may wound the ego, ask the trusted reviewer to be brutally honest with their feedback because that's the only way you can produce a stronger written work.
A generous editor will provide comments that will make you reflect on strengthening your writing so the reader, in this case the admission committee, can understand what you bring to the table. You still reserve the right to reject your reviewer’s recommendations and go your own way, but you do so consciously.
Writing strong essays requires reflection and time, and I recommend placing writing deadlines on your calendar to ensure you continue crafting your written essays until your application captures the leader you are and the experiences you bring to the classroom.
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