Before even reading the essay questions and prompts for their MBA applications, most business school candidates have made a checklist (written or mental) of the accomplishments, highlights, and goals that they want to share in their essays. While this is very helpful in mapping out your stories to share and the overall profile you want to present, be very careful of these common mistakes in your essay responses:
Not answering the questions!
As an example, take a look at the prompt below from one of the top MBA programs:
“Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned.”
This prompt may seem simple at first – all applicants are able to identify the achievement they want to play up and can extensively set up the details regarding it (even going so far as to fill in unnecessary details). This results in a having a very limited space to discuss the failure aspect of the question. Surprisingly, even with the great care taken to reflect, review, and revise, more often than not, applicants forget to address the question about how these experiences impacted their relationship with others.
Applicants will often get fixated on one or two parts of a longer prompt and totally miss out on critical aspects of the question. This is a very basic mistake committed during the essay-writing process, and it can happen no matter how much time and effort you have invested. Thus, be mindful of the need to the match each aspect of the given prompts with your responses before clicking the submit button.
Not showing how!
You know that you need to share awards, distinctions and accomplishments to strengthen your application chances, however, just as importantly, you also need to identify how you were able to earn these. Relating the specific actions you took and your outstanding personal qualities to these accolades will help demonstrate your potential to do the same in the future.
So, take your essays as opportunities to showcase the key factors that led to your successes, and choose the ones that would also be applicable to your future endeavors. For example, you may have inherently physical gifts, such as extraordinary hand-eye coordination, that allowed you to excel in multiple sports, but it might be better to highlight qualities such as focus, drive and leadership skills, as these would be more applicable to the endeavors you’re sure to take on during your post-MBA career.
Not explaining why!
Another chance to connect with the Admissions Committee on a deeper level is to explain your motivations, both for what you have done in the past and for your future plans. Whether explicitly prompted to or not, sharing more of yourself by explaining your background, values and interests in a reflective and honest way will help you put forth an engaging application package, and will allow the Admissions Committee to get to know you better.
Sounds easy, right? Avoiding these three simple mistakes will surely raise your chances for a homerun application.
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Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.