Struggling to Meet Essay Word Counts? Try These 3 Editing Tips

If you’re hurrying to finish your MBA admissions essays before the Round 2 application deadlines, chances are that at least one essay is giving you trouble when it comes to meeting word length requirements. While MBA admissions officers are fairly understanding and are not out to penalize you for going over a word limit by a couple of extra sentences, adhering to word limits as closely as possible is a strong signal that you can communicate clearly and succinctly.

It’s also a matter of consideration for admissions officers: If application readers need to get a few dozen applications in a day, they will appreciate the fact that you didn’t take up any more of their time than absolutely necessary. This sort of positive karma counts in admissions!

With that in mind, here are three things to try if you’re having a hard time getting your word counts down to within 10% of a school’s stated limits:
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Three Critical Steps to Revising an Admissions Essay

It is shocking how often applicants present essays (either to professors, consultants, or even to the admissions committee) that are nothing more than glorified drafts. Crafting an essay is a time intensive process that requires a great deal of revision in order to write with economy, power, and persuasion. You will almost certainly go through multiple revisions with your consultant, but the client who takes the time to execute multiple drafts on their own will be leaps and bounds ahead when it comes time to take the next step.

Whether you are drafting admissions essays for college or for graduate school, proper revision requires at least these three crucial steps:
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UCLA Anderson Application Essays for 2012-2013

UCLA AndersonUCLA’s Anderson School of Management has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2012-2013 admissions season. While Anderson has made fewer dramatic changes than some other prominent business schools have this year, the school did change one of its two required essays, and trimmed the word count for each by 50 words. The essay word count diet continues…

Let’s dig into Anderson’s deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 24, 2012
Round 2: January 9, 2013
Round 3: April 17, 2013
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Duke (Fuqua) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Like most other top-ranked business schools, Fuqua has made some pretty substantial changes to its essays this year, including the introduction of a “25 things” list that we think is pretty exciting. Before you start drafting your Fuqua admissions essays, take a look at this blog post from the Fuqua admissions team to gain some insight into the thinking behind the recent changes.

This quote sums up Fuqua’s point of view pretty well:

This year at Duke, we are stretching the definition of “essay” in an effort to harness the sort of insight that we’re looking for from applicants. The Daytime MBA application now includes three very straightforward short answer questions about the applicant’s goals. Here, we’re just looking for the facts, with minimal embellishment.

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Michigan (Ross) Application Essays for 2012-2013

Michigan Ross MBA Admissions GuideThe University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2015. While Ross hasn’t made changes quite as big as those at some other schools this year, Ross’s essay word count has slimmed down a bit, continuing the trend we have seen among most top-ranked MBA programs. We’ll dig into the Michigan’s essays and deadlines below, followed by our comments, in italics:

Michigan (Ross) Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 10, 2012
Round 2: January 3, 2012
Round 3: March 4, 2012
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Chicago Booth Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

Chicago Booth Admissions GuideThe University of Chicago Booth School of Business recently released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Once again, as we predicted earlier this year, a top MBA program has significantly cut back on its essay load this year: While last year’s essay word count was 1,350 (not counting the presentation and an essay meant only for reapplicants), this year’s total word count is just 900 words. Read on to see what we make of the changes.

Here are the school’s new deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Chicago Booth Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 2, 2012
Round 2: January 8, 2013
Round 3: April 4, 2013
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UC Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions EssaysUC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. As has been the case with nearly every other top-ranked MBA program this year, Haas has trimmed down its essays, going from six to five required essays in this year’s application, and shortening one from 1,000 to 750 words. Outside of that, there haven’t been too many dramatic changes this year, although the school’s new Essay #1 is an eye opener!

Here are Haas’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:
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Dartmouth (Tuck) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

Darmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently published its application deadlines and admissions essay topics for the Class of 2015. Once again, as we predicted a couple of months ago, another top school has slimmed down its essay count this year. In this case, Tuck actually merged two questions into one, reducing the total number of essays you will need to write for your Tuck application.

Here are the school’s new deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Deadlines
Early Action round: October 10, 2012
November round: November 7, 2012
January round: January 3, 2013
April round: April 2, 2013
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MIT Sloan Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

MIT Sloan has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Sloan has made some tweaks this year, including dropping an essay, which continues a trend that we have seen among top MBA programs so far this year. However, the school’s famous cover letter returns. This cover letter is still unique among other top MBA programs’ application essays; apparently it still works well enough that the Sloan admissions committee wants to keep it around.

Here are MIT Sloan’s application deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

MIT Sloan Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 24, 2012
Round 2: December 27, 2012
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NYU Stern Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

NYU’s Stern School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2015. Just as we have seen with other top-ranked business schools so far, Stern has made some notable changes to its essays this year. In Stern’s case, we don’t see any trimming of essays or words, but we do see a new push to make sure you’ve researched the school as well as an entirely new career goals essay that we like for its creativity.

Here are NYU Stern’s deadlines and essays for the coming admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:

NYU Stern Application Deadlines
Round 1: November 15, 2012
Round 2: January 15, 2013
Round 3: March 15, 2013
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Yale SOM Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

Yale School of ManagementThe Yale School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2015. Continuing the trend we’ve seen emerge among top business schools over the past month, Yale has changed a lot this year. However, in Yale’s case, once you dig down a bit deeper you realize that Yale is still mostly looking for the same attributes in its applicants this year.

Here are the school’s deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

Yale SOM Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 4, 2012
Round 2: January 8, 2013
Round 3: April 18, 2013
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Wharton Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

Wharton Admissions GuideWharton has released its application deadlines and essays for the 2012-2013 admissions season. Last year Wharton didn’t make too many big changes after really mixing it up the year before. Let’s dig into this year’s application and see how much things have changed this year.

Here are Wharton’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2015, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Admissions Deadlines

Round 1: October 1, 2012
Round 2: January 3, 2013
Round 3: March, 2013 (exact date TBD)
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Stanford MBA Application Essays for 2012-2013

Stanford GSB recently released its MBA admissions essays for the 2012-2013 application season. You may notice some changes to the essays since last year; we’ll dig into those changes below. Perhaps most significantly, just as we predicted last month, Stanford removed one of its required essays this year, although the total recommended word count remains the same.

As it has done for the past several years, Stanford’s admissions committee provides some high-level advice right on its own website. While we think this advice is generally good, we don’t see anything in Stanford’s advice that hasn’t been said many times before. Still, any advice that comes straight from the horse’s mouth deserves your attention!
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Columbia Business School Application Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

Columbia Business SchoolAfter releasing its application deadlines for the 2012-2013 admissions season, Columbia Business School has released its admissions essays, and we’ll dig into those today.

Note that Columbia is somewhat unique among top U.S. business schools because it has a large January intake every year. This program allows you to complete your MBA in less than a year and a half, and is ideally suited for applicants who don’t plan on switching careers or may want to start their own venture after school (i.e., you’ll need less help from Columbia’s career services office than the typical student). The January intake deadlines are also covered below.
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Harvard Business School Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

HBS EssaysTime flies… The last applicants of the 2011-2012 admissions season are still finding out their fates, and Harvard Business School has already released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2012-2013 application season. Big news here: Consistent with what we predicted earlier this month, this year’s HBS application includes fewer essays… Just two required ones this year! (Back pats all around here at Veritas Prep headquarters!)

Here are the new Harvard essays and deadlines, taken from Harvard’s site. As usual, our comments follow in italics:
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Three Predictions About 2012-2013 MBA Admissions Essays

Every January, we make predictions about the coming year in this space. Our 2012 edition includes predictions for weaker international application volume at U.S. business schools and growth in non-traditional graduate management programs. It’s still far too early to see how those predictions will pan out, but today we want to get a little more down in the weeds and make several predictions about what MBA admissions essays might look like in the coming year.

Every spring Harvard normally leads the charge by releasing its application essays first, firing the symbolic starter pistol for the new application season. In fact, last year HBS released its essays in the second week of May, so we may be just days away from the 2012-2013 admissions season getting underway. With that in mind, here are three predictions for what we’ll see in business school application essays in the coming year:
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Admissions 101: What an Essay Word Limit Really Means

One of the most common questions we get from applicants is, “How strict are schools about word limits in their admissions essays and personal statements?” While the answer itself is rather straightforward, we often encourage applicants to stop focusing on the number, take a step back, and consider what admissions officers are really communicating when they put forward a word limit.

First, we’ll answer the question directly: Schools are not out to reject you for going over a word limit by a small amount. Okay, okay… “What’s a small amount?” you’re asking. One rule of thumb that is frequently tossed around is 10%, although it’s worth noting that admissions consultants tend to promote this rule more than any admissions officer does. However, if you can stay within 10% of the word limit for an essay, you probably are okay.
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Duke (Fuqua) Application Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

As we round out our coverage of the admissions essays and deadlines at the world’s top business schools, today we dig into the Fuqua School of Business’ application. There are very few changes this year, so our advice remains mostly the same. Let’s dig in:

Duke (Fuqua) Admissions Deadlines
Early Action: September 29, 2011
Round 1: November 1, 2011
Round 2: January 4, 2012
Round 3: March 8, 2012

These deadlines are virtually the same as last year’s. Note that, while most schools use the term “Early Action” to indicate that the decision is non-binding, Fuqua considers it to be binding. So, we only recommend applying in this round if you’re 100% certain that you want to attend Fuqua. If you’re waiting to hear back from some other schools before applying to Fuqua in Round 2, you’ll need to at least get the ball rolling on your Fuqua application before you know your fate at those other schools, since you won’t have a lot of time between mid-December and Duke’s January 4 deadline. Duke’s Round 3 deadline is the same as it was last year.
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Yale SOM Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

Yale School of ManagementThe Yale School of Management has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. Yale has made some tweaks this year, and we’ll dig into each of them below. Here are the school’s deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

Yale SOM Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 6, 2011
Round 2: January 5, 2012
Round 3: April 12, 2012

Yale’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are virtually unchanged, but Yale has pushed back its Round 3 deadline by almost a month this year. Perhaps the school recognizes that very few North American MBA programs have deadlines past late March, and wants to keep its doors open for as long as possible so that strong candidates don’t have to turn to European programs (which tend to have later or different deadline cycles than U.S. programs). We still advise that you aim for Round 1 or Round 2, but this is a subtle signal that Yale truly does consider applications that come in after Round 2.
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NYU Stern Application Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

NYU’s Stern School of Business has released its MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. Here they are, followed by our comments in italics:

NYU Stern Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: November 15, 2011
Round 2: January 15, 2012
Round 3: March 15, 2012

These deadlines are identical to last year’s. Note that, unlike many other top business schools, Stern has kept its Round 1 admissions deadline firmly in the middle of November. The good news for you is that, if you’re applying to Stern along with a few other schools in Round 1, this gives you a chance to get those ones done in October, catch your breath, and then give your Stern application your undivided attention. The downside is that Stern won’t notify Round 1 applicants until as late as February 15, 2011, so you will have to make choices about your Round 2 applications (which mostly have January deadlines) before you receive your final decision from Stern.
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UCLA Anderson Application Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

UCLA Anderson Admissions GuideUCLA’s Anderson School of Management recently released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. At first glance, there are not a lot of changes this, but what’s most interesting with Anderson’s essays this years is something that’s not included. Let’s dig into the school’s deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 26, 2011
Round 2: January 11, 2012
Round 3: April 18, 2012

All three of Anderson’s admissions rounds have been pushed back by close to a week. Keep in mind that, if you apply to Anderson in Round 1, you may not receive your final decision until late January, meaning that you won’t know where you stand with Anderson before most other top business schools’ Round 2 deadlines come and go.
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Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays for 2011-2012

Michigan Ross MBA Admissions GuideThe University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2014. After making big changes to its essays last year, Ross has only made small tweaks this time around. We’ll dig into the school’s essays and deadlines below, followed by our comments, in italics:

Michigan (Ross) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 10, 2011
Round 2: January 4, 2012
Round 3: March 1, 2012
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Dartmouth (Tuck) Admissions Essays for 2011-2012

Darmouth’s Tuck School of Business recently published its application deadlines and admissions essay topics for the Class of 2014. You may notice that Tuck’s questions have changed very little since last year, suggesting that the school’s current batch of essay topics works well for the admissions committee. By “works well,” we mean that the essays help admissions officers get to know applicants better, and helps them separate out the great candidates from the merely good ones.

Also, note that Tuck does not have hard word limits for its essays, but the school does provide some rough guidance: “Although there is no formal restriction on the length of your response, most applicants use, on average, 500 words for each essay and you should work hard to try to keep your answers around that length.”
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MIT Sloan Application Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

MIT Sloan has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. (You can view the essays once you create an online account to access Sloan’s application.) There are some small changes to the essays this year, although not many, and Sloan’s famous cover letter returns. This cover letter is still unique among other top MBA programs’ application essays; apparently its still works well enough that Sloan wants to keep it around.

Here are MIT Sloan’s deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:
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Chicago Booth Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

Chicago Booth Admissions GuideChicago Booth has released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2011-2012 applications season. Last year the Booth admissions office made a lot of changes to the school’s application. While the change look less dramatic this year, there’s still plenty to dig our teeth into, so let’s begin.

Here are Chicago Booth’s MBA admissions deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:
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UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions EssaysUC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2014. Haas made some big changes to its essays (lots of short ones!) this year’s so let’s dig in. Here are the school’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Berkeley (Haas) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 12, 2011
Round 2: December 1, 2011
Round 3: January 18, 2012
Round 4: March 7, 2012
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Wharton Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

Wharton Admissions GuideWharton has released its MBA application deadlines and admissions essays for the coming year. Last year Wharton really stirred the pot by introducing radically different essays. Let’s dig into this year’s application and see how much things have changed this year.

Here are Wharton’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2014, followed by our comments in italics:
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Columbia Business School Admissions Essays for 2011-2012

Columbia MBA Admissions GuidePreviously we announced that Columbia Business School had released its admissions deadlines for the 2011-2012 application season. The school has also released its admissions essays, and we’ll dig into those today.

Note that the first step to applying to Columbia is to create an “Inside MBA” account on the school’s website. Columbia requires you to create a separate account on the school’s actual application site, too. This can be a little confusing, although Columbia seems to be working toward consolidating the two under the “Inside MBA” system.
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Kellogg MBA Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

Kellogg Admissions GuideNorthwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management recently released its admissions essays and application deadlines for the Class of 2014. We dig into them below.

Note that Kellogg has an unusual two-part application process: Part I includes your data sheets, resume, self-reported GMAT and TOEFL scores, and stated preference for whether you would like an on-campus or off-campus interview. (They also ask for your $250 application fee in Part I!) Part II includes your letters of recommendation, your essays, and your official GMAT and TOEFL scores. For each admissions round, be sure that you hit both deadlines!
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Harvard Business School Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

HBS EssaysIt must be spring, because Harvard Business School has just released its application essays and deadlines for the 2011-2012 admissions season. Note that these are for Harvard’s traditional MBA program; we covered the HBS 2+2 Program application a couple of weeks ago, although the two applications have become very similar to one another.

Here are the new essays and deadlines, taken from Harvard’s site. Our comments follow in italics:
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HBS 2+2 Program Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

HBS 2+2 ProgramThe Harvard Business School admissions committee has just released its admissions essays for the HBS 2+2 Program for the coming year. Today we’ll dig into the program’s application deadlines and those essays.

Regarding deadlines, note that the big change since last year is that there are now four deadlines, vs. one single summer deadline for the program. Even though the window in which you can apply is now more wide open, note that the program is still designed with current college juniors in mind. (HBS phrases it as anyone who will “be graduating from your college or university between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012,” which mostly applies to those who are just wrapping up their junior year in college.)
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MBA Admissions Essays: Where Have All the Teamwork Questions Gone?

Business School AdmissionsWhen business school admissions officers evaluate a candidate, they primarily look for four dimensions that round out a strong applicant: leadership, teamwork, innovation, and maturity. (These applicant dimensions are detailed extensively in Your MBA Game Plan, the industry’s most effective book on MBA admissions strategy.) All four matter, and admissions officers look for signs that you possess all four of these important attributes.

Why, then, have essay questions that directly hit on teamwork mostly disappeared from business schools’ applications over the past decade? Why have many of them been replaced by diversity questions? Could this mean that teamwork suddenly doesn’t matter like it used to? Are business school going to revert back to the “every man for himself” reputation that has (rightly or wrongly) been assigned to them over the years?
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Admissions 101: Focus on Your Decisions, Not the Outcomes

MBA AdmissionsPerhaps the most typical mistake applicants make on their early drafts is polishing their achievements so that the link between their decisions and the successful results fits like a custom made glove. Dan Ariely wrote a great piece in December 2010’s HBS called “Good Decisions. Bad Outcomes.” The article is worth reading but essentially boils down to this: you should be more concerned with explaining your decision process than with the results — because results may have many contributing causes over which you have no control. This applies equally to success and to failure. You may have had a great idea for a viable restaurant concept — and opened your first few outlets on the Louisiana & Mississippi in spring 2010. The BP spill was bad luck — you still might make a good MBA candidate.

The wisdom in Ariely’s argument is that causality is tricky stuff.
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Admissions 101: What Admissions Essays and Wedding Speeches Have in Common

Business School Admissions
Who's the lucky guy?
Next week yours truly will deliver a speech at a wedding. I have known the groom for nearly two decades, and I consider him to be one of my closest friends, even though distance unfortunately keeps us apart most of the time (I live in California and he lives in Beijing). While I don’t consider myself to be an expert toastmaster, I’m not too worried, since I know that what makes for a great admissions essay or personal statement also makes for a terrific wedding speech.

Think back for a minute and consider the last few weddings you’ve been to. If you’re lucky, you only have witnessed great wedding speeches and toasts, but odds are that you’ve sat through at least one or two bombs. What accounts for the difference?
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Writer’s Block? Try These Three Cures

MBA Essays
"What matters most to me? Why? WHY??"
If you’re applying to graduate school this year, there’s a good chance that right now you’re surfing the Internet while procrastinating on writing your admissions essays or personal statement. The Internet is the ultimate procrastination tool, after all, but hopefully finding this article will be the best thing that could have happened to your essays.

The term “writer’s block” means different things to different people, but here we’ll use it to describe any situation where you know what’s on paper (or on your computer screen) is far from being a finished product that you’ll be happy to submit as part of your finished application. Maybe you just can’t think about what to start writing about (this is what most people think of when they hear “writer’s block”), but an even tougher case can be when you’re staring at a nearly-finished essay and you just know that it’s not working. In either case, try these three things to clear your mind and start fresh
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Try This Exercise When Editing Your MBA Admissions Essays

MBA Essay Editing
Edit ruthlessly! Repeat!
Earlier this week Darren K., one of the most experienced editors on the Veritas Prep MBA admissions team, circulated this short article on a hypothetical college course that the author would one day like to teach. The course would require students to ruthlessly edit their own writing with every assignment they submit. We immediately circulated here, because it hit so close to home for the Veritas Prep team. Every day we work with clients to help them sharpen their ideas, and this exercise helps crystallize it perfectly.

The author, Jason Fried, describes the class he would like to teach:
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INSEAD Application Essays for 2010-2011

Today we take a close look at INSEAD’s admissions essays for the coming application season. You can access these essay topics in INSEAD’s online application.

Note that INSEAD’s essay prompts have not changes for the past several years. When a school doesn’t change its essay topics, that suggests that the admissions committee is pleased with how applicants have been answering the questions. What makes for a good batch of responses? Essays that are clear and revealing, and that help the admissions committee identify who’s a good fit with the school. Pay close attention to what the schools asks in its essay prompts — they ask these things for a reason!

Here are INSEAD’s essays for 2010-2011, followed by our comments in italics:

INSEAD Admissions Essays

Job Essays

  1. Please give a detailed description of your job, including nature of work, major responsibilities; and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, number of clients/products and results achieved. (250 words)
    The goal of this essay is clear: You must succinctly help the admissions office understand exactly what you do on a day-to-day basis. As easy as it is to become consumed with your GMAT score and your extracurricular activities, at the end of the day, the most accurate predictor of your professional potential is what you have done in your career to date. Don’t be spooked by the fact that the school asks for the number of employees under your supervision and the size of the budget you manage — if you haven’t really managed a team or owned a budget yet, that’s okay. The school is just trying to understand exactly what it is you do in your present job. Also, note the emphasis on your PRESENT job. This is not a typical “career progression” essay; stick to what the question asks.
  2. Please give us a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words)
    Here is where you can provide some context around your career progression up until now. Of course, doing this in 250 words is a tough job, do you will really need to stick to the highlights in terms of what you have achieved and the reasons for the moves you have made. You will have to ditch most of the flowery prose in favor of clear, easy-to-follow facts. The second part of this question is interesting in that it pretty directly hits on something that INSEAD and any other top business school wants to know — that you’re interested in pursuing an MBA to turbocharge an already successful career, not to bail out of a stagnant one. Painting the picture of a successful young professional (in not many words, of course!) will be key here.

Personal Essays

  1. Give a candid description of yourself, stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors, which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (400 words)
    While the Job Essays above required you to really stick to the facts and simply summarize your resume, here is where you can start to provide more narrative. Many applicants see the word “weaknesses” and tense up, thinking, “Oh no! I need to come up with an innocuous weakness that won’t kill my candidacy!” But the admissions committee knows that no one is perfect. INSEAD truly wants to understand what you’re good at and where you need some work. The school wants to see evidence of strong self-awareness and a desire to build on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. The seemingly natural place to go from here is to explain how INSEAD can help you with these areas, although note that this is not a “Why INSEAD?” essay prompt. Keep the focus mostly on you and what you have accomplished to date.
  2. Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date, explaining why you view them as such. (400 words)
    This is not very different from Harvard’s “three most substantial accomplishments” essay. Accordingly, our advice is pretty much the same: This gives you a great opportunity for you to spell out at least two main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. Remember, the “why” in your story is even more important than the “what,” so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. Also, don’t feel that both accomplishment need to come from your job. If you have a great achievement from outside of work — such as from your community service efforts or even from a hobby that you’re passionate about — that can also provide great material for this essay.
  3. Describe a situation taken from school, business, civil or military life, where you did not meet your personal objectives, and discuss briefly the effect. (250 words)
    Ack, a failure question! Time to run for the hills! Don’t worry — as stated above, INSEAD knows you’re not perfect. The question is how you are able to overcome your failures and grow as a result of them. INSEAD’s word choice in asking for the “effect” of your failure is odd; what the school really wants to hear is what you learned and how you improved (both as a professional and as a person) as a result. And, ideally, you can even work in an example of how you put what you learned to use when faced with another challenge. Of course, the word count is tight, but being able to work in this example shows that you’re not just talk.
  4. Discuss your career goals. What skills do you expect to gain from studying at INSEAD and how will they contribute to your professional career. (500 words)
    Now we’re really getting into the “Why an MBA?” and “Why this school?” questions. Note that, as important is it is to make a convincing case about your career goals and your reasons for wanting an MBA, you also really need to spell out why specifically INSEAD can help you achieve your goals. This is where you need to show that you’ve done your homework, and convince the school that you’re not only applying because INSEAD is a highly ranked program.
  5. Please choose one of the following two essay topics:
    a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What did it mean to you? (250 words)
    b) What would you say to a foreigner moving to your home country? (250 words)
    Both of these essay prompts try to help the admissions committee understand you a little bit better. While it’s easy to lump these questions into the “diversity” bucket, really what the school is trying to gauge is your emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity. More than perhaps any other MBA program INSEAD truly is a melting pot of management education. You may be in study teams with people from four other continents — how well will you work with them at 3:00 AM when you have a tough final project due in six hours? A little bit of humor a humility can go a long way in answering these questions. Help the admissions committee be able to envision you sitting in a study group on INSEAD’s campuses in Fountainebleu and Singapore.

Applying to INSEAD this year? Download our INSEAD Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

UCLA Anderson Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

UCLA Anderson Admissions GuideToday we dig into UCLA Anderson’s MBA admissions essays for the coming year. You will notice that Anderson has changed its essays pretty extensively this year. And, the school’s famous “video essay,” which is optional, returns for 2010-2011. Pay special attention to our advice regarding the video response, below.

Here are the school’s essay topics (for new applicants) for the coming season, followed by our comments in italics:

UCLA Anderson Application Essays

Required Essays

  1. What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why? (750 words)
    This question is new, although it’s not radically different from last year’s first essay prompt. Really, the admissions committee is trying to dig deep into who you are and what makes you tick. We actually prefer last year’s wording, since this year’s version seems to put extra emphasis on a single event, which may create some pressure in applicants’ minds to come up with a dramatic single incident. In reality, the “or life experience” part of this year’s question still leaves it open-ended enough that you shouldn’t feel the need to focus on one single point in time. Try to answer this question with your personal development in mind. Your tendency will be to tie it right back to your career and why you’re pursuing an MBA, but consider this input from the admissions office: “Please be introspective and authentic in your responses. Content is more important than style of delivery. We value the opportunity to learn about your life experiences, aspirations, and goals.”
  2. Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing an MBA now and how will UCLA Anderson help you to achieve your goals? (750 words)
    This question carries over unchanged from last year, and should be approached the same as most other “Career Goals” / “Why an MBA?” essays. Note that the “Why an MBA?” component is very important, but you absolutely MUST demonstrate in this essay a knowledge of and a passion for UCLA Anderson. One way any school protects its admissions yield is by ferreting out those who don’t demonstrate enough enthusiasm for the program. Failing to answer the “how will UCLA Anderson help you achieve your goals” part of the question is a sure way to get ferreted out by the admissions committee.

Optional Essays

  1. You may respond to the following question via written essay, audio or video clip: What is something people will find surprising about you?
    It’s back! But, this year the school only gives you one answer option, rather than giving you a choice between a question about entrepreneurship and the one presented here. It’s easy to get too worked up over this video response. But, in short, we do recommend that our clients take advantage of it, despite the point that Anderson makes about not giving preference to those who submit one. Why? It’s simply easier for an admissions officer to envision you at the school if he or she can see your face and feel at least some connection with the real you. It’s simply human nature, despite their best efforts to remain objective. We think you should prepare well and make sure you deliver your answer smoothly, but a more impromptu-sounding response will sound warmer and more authentic than an overly scripted response. Lastly, have fun with this! Your response doesn’t need to be funny or wacky, but brightening the admissions committee’s day always helps.
  2. Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words)
    Our advice for this type of question is always the same: Only use this question as necessary. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our UCLA Anderson Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

NYU Stern Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

NYU Stern Admissions GuideRecently we wrote about NYU Stern’s MBA application deadlines for 2010-2011. Today, we take a close look at Stern’s admissions essays for the year.

You will see that Stern’s essays are virtually unchanged since last year. Still, our advice has evolved slightly, so read closely. Stern looks extra hard for applicants who can prove that they really are passionate about the program.

Our comments follow each question in italics:

NYU Stern Application Essays

  1. Think about the decisions you have made in your life. Describe the following (750 words):

    (a) What choices have you made that led you to your current position?
    (b) Why pursue an MBA at this point in your life?
    (c) What is your career goal upon graduation from the NYU Stern? What is your long-term career goal?
    This question carries over unchanged from last year. What we think makes this question unique vs. other school’s “Why an MBA?” questions is Stern’s emphasis on the choices you’ve made up until now. Be sure to answer that part of the question — don’t simply write about what you’ve done up until now, but also explain why you did those things and made those choices. Stern provides some useful admissions tips on its essay page, including podcasts to help you clarify your story. These are great resources for any Stern applicant.

  2. We take great care to shape the Stern community with individuals who possess both intellectual and interpersonal strengths. We seek individuals who are highly intelligent, collaborative, and committed to flourishing as Stern leaders. Please answer the following questions (500 words):

    (a) What is your personal experience with the Stern community? Tell us what actions you have taken to learn about us.
    (b) Describe what most excites you about Stern from both an academic and extracurricular perspective.
    (c) How do you anticipate making your mark on the Stern community? Be specific about the roles you will take on and the impact you hope to achieve.
    This question is also unchanged. Stern has removed the part of last year’s question that asked about the toughest piece of feedback you’ve ever received, and as a result this question has evolved to hit the question of “Convince us that you’re passionate about Stern” more directly. Note the emphasis on specifics — don’t speak in generalities or just copy language from the school’s web site. What do you know about NYU Stern that convinces you that it’s right right school for you, and that you’re the ideal Stern student? And how will you convince the admissions committee? Looking at this kind of essay question early in the process will hopefully provide the impetus you need to really do your homework.

  3. Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.
    This question is also unchanged. Like Booth and Anderson, Stern seeks new ways to learn about what makes you unique. The admissions office really does want to get to know the real you. Stern’s admissions officers are almost begging you to stand out here, which is a reminder about how you can make their job easier by helping them remember the real you. One other note: Just because this question allows you to use any medium, that doesn’t mean that you need to submit something other than the written word. If that’s your best medium, use it. “Being memorable” means more than just sending them something outrageous; the most effective submissions really are the ones that leave admissions officers feeling like they know you better.

Applying to NYU Stern this year? Download our NYU Stern Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

UC Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays for 2010-2011

UC Berkeley (Haas)Recently we wrote about the Haas application deadlines for the coming admissions season. Today we’ll dig into the school’s admissions essays for 2010-2011.

You may notice that Haas has barely changed its essays since last year. When we school make few or no changes, that tells us that its current essay prompts are doing the job. By “doing the job,” we mean that they help the admissions committee get to know each applicant better, and they help the committee separate the great applicants from the rest of the pool. As long as the school gets what it needs, there’s no need to tinker with the formula too much.

Here are Haas’s MBA admissions essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:

Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays

Short Answers:

  1. What are you most passionate about? Why? (250 words)

    Whoa! Did Stanford’s Derrick Bolton slip into the Haas admissions office? Actually, this question carries over from last year. The key here is to write about something that you really, really care about. A good litmus test is this: How knowledgeable are you about the subject? Many applicants will be tempted to go bold and say something like “Fighting income inequality is what I’m most passionate about,” because they feel like that’s just what one is supposed to say here, but then can’t back it up with facts… and passion. Admissions officers will see right through this, so try any stunts here!

  2. Tell us about your most significant accomplishment. (250 words)

    This question also carries over from last year. Ideally the story you choose will demonstrate at least one or two of the key themes in your application. All things being equal, a story from your professional life will serve you best, but don’t feel that your significant accomplishment MUST be from the workplace.

  3. At Haas, our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles -— question the status quo; confidence without attitude; students always; and beyond yourself. Give an example of when you have demonstrated one of these principles. (250 words, Review Berkeley-Haas’ Defining Principles)

    This question is new this year, replacing a question that put emphasis on innovation and creativity. The fact that the admissions office directs you to the school’s defining principles sends a very clear message that those ideas/traits matter to Haas A LOT, and that the admissions office will be looking closely for evidence of those throughout your application, not just in this essay. Any of the four should make for a good starting point for a compelling essay, although we have noticed the admissions office frequently bring up the the “confidence without attitude” one in our discussions with them. If you’re unsure of which one to choose, we’d say go with that one.

  4. There are many ways to learn about our program, what steps have you taken to learn about the Berkeley MBA? (250 words)

    Haas slightly reworded this essay since last year, although it essentially remains the same. One subtle but importance difference: The addition of “There are many ways to learn about our program,” almost says to us, “Please skip past the obvious ones like our web site and brochures… Show us some real effort, please.” Our stance on essays like this is always the same: You’d better have better reasons for applying than “Because it’s a top-ten program!” The Haas admissions team seeks evidence that you’ve really done your homework on the school.

Required Essays:

  1. Give us an example of a situation in which you displayed leadership. (500 words)

    This question has remained the same for the past several years. Haas hits on it directly: The admissions office wants you to show how you are a leader. This should give you a clear idea of how important this trait is to the Haas admissions office when evaluating applicants. You don’t need to have a big job title or have a team of ten people reporting to you. Think about any time when you showed leadership — maybe by overcoming an obstacle, or by helping a colleague or was struggling — regardless of your role or the circumstances.

  2. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? How will an MBA from Berkeley help you achieve these specific career goals? (1000 words)

    This question also carries over from last year. Note that last year Haas added the “post-MBA” part to the question, suggesting that some applicant had perhaps been speaking in terms that were too “big picture.” Pretty standard question here: Where do you see yourself in a few years (and beyond that), and why do you need an MBA to get there? Specifically, why do you need a Haas MBA to get there? Even though you will answer another “Why Haas”-type question, clearly it’s very important to the school that you answer this question.

Plan on applying to Haas or another top MBA program this year? Veritas Prep now offers the ability to start working with an admissions consultant today and pay over time. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!