How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 10

mba essay
(This is the final installment in a series introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back soon to see what else we have in store!)

Step 10: Revisions
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 essays, but the applicant 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.


Proper revision requires at least three steps:
  1. On Screen. Review your work on your computer screen and make changes as you go. Doing so will clean up the bulk of your original errors and the most obvious misuses of style and structure.
  2. Pen and Paper. Walk away from your work and give it some time before sitting down and reviewing the document carefully in printed form. Doing so not only allows you to read from a fresh perspective, but also to lavish more attention on the finer points, such as transition words, passive voice and indexing.
  3. Read Aloud. While most people take the time to review their own work, few actually read it out loud. Reading aloud forces you to read each word and ensure proper inflection, and it also represents an ideal way to spot excess words, misplaced modifiers and other issues that will trip up a reader.

We hope these ten tips help you in your admissions journey. A finished product is only as good as its starting point, so be sure to take these tips to heart and truly put in the effort to become a great writer. Do that, and you will be far ahead of most other business school applicants.

You haven’t seen the last of our tips. Check back soon and see what we’ve got brewing here at Veritas Prep. In the meantime, if you need help with your MBA admissions essays or personal statements immediately, give us a call at 800-925-7737 and talk to one of our admissions experts. And, as always, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 9

mba essay(This is Part 9 of series on the Veritas Prep Blog, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more admissions essay tips!)

Step 9: Manage the Word Limit
Nothing strikes fear into the heart of an applicant like a word limit. It is an imposing number whether you are trying to reach the limit, or, more likely, trying to stay under that magic threshold. It confines your expression and suggests that whatever needs to be said can be done so in the exact amount of space allotted. Do not let the word limit intimidate you

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 8

mba essay
(This is Part 8 of series on the Veritas Prep Blog, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more admissions essay tips!)

Step 8: Scrub Out Your Indexing
Indexing is when an author uses substitute words to stand in for a thought previously expressed. Rather than restate the concept or, better yet, elaborate on the premise, the author swaps in an index word as a placeholder. Consider the following sentence:

The candidate applied to Harvard Business School. He hoped to learn a great deal about management by doing this.


“This” is an index word that stands in for the previously stated action of applying to Harvard Business School. Index words do not read well and can indicate either lazy writing or a last minute attempt to shave words to fit under the word limit. A better way of framing the second example sentence would be something along the lines of:

He hoped to learn a great deal about management at one of America’s finest institutions.

Index words are often indicated by this, that and these, and come at the beginning or end of a sentence.

Stay tuned for Step 9, in which we’ll give you some strategies for managing word limits in your essays! In the meantime, if you need help with your MBA admissions essays or personal statements immediately, give us a call at 800-925-7737 and talk to one of our admissions experts. And, as always, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 7

mba essay
(This is Part 7 of series on the Veritas Prep Blog, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more admissions essay tips!)

Step 7: Link Everything Together
Given the strict parameters that often accompany essays and other application writing assignments, there is a tendency for applicants to write in stilted, disconnected paragraphs. When you have to express a number of ideas or cite a series of reasons — and do it all within a strict word limit — choppy writing is a common result. Fortunately, there is an easy and graceful solution: link your paragraphs together with transition words.


In addition to elevating the art of your writing, the use of a transition word requires you to bridge two thoughts and lead into a new idea while acknowledging the previous concept. Transition words will make your essays read more smoothly, provide logical structure, and allow your readers to easily navigate from the first point to the last.

While the concept of applying transition words is a simple one, there is still an art to selecting the right word or phrase. Be sure to examine the purpose of the sentence or paragraph and determine what type of connection you are striving to make. Consider the following:

Words and Phrases to Use

Additions

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 5

mba essay
(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

Step 5: Marry Your Thesaurus
Variety is the spice of life, and that goes for food, people, travel, and, yes, words. The easiest way to raise the linguistic bar is through word choice; finding appropriate synonyms to stand in for tired words is one of the most effective things you can do to improve your writing. The trick is in finding descriptive words while avoiding esoteric or “showy” language. Consider the following strategies:

Play it straight while drafting, spice it up while revising. You’ve probably been warned against using fancy words in your writing and that is a worthwhile piece of advice. That said, it doesn’t require that you be bland. The best way to avoid using forced language and ridiculous words is to express your thoughts in the most straightforward way possible on the first pass. Then — and only then — should you go back through the composition with your handy thesaurus and find more reader-friendly and natural replacements. Thanks to Microsoft Word, you don’t need an actual thesaurus

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 4


(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

Step 4: Diversify Your Style
When handing out advice on essay writing, many experts encourage applicants to use short sentences. Others demand essays to be rich in detail, which require a longer sentence. So which is the most effective approach?

The answer, of course, is both. The mark of strong writing

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 3


(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

Step 3: Be Specific!
Most applicants know that they are supposed to be specific in their essays, yet the majority of writing samples are still filled with vague proclamations. Part of the reason for this disconnect is that there is some level of confusion as to what specificity means. It does not mean that you merely provide examples — in fact, if you’ve ever heard the phrase “specific examples,” then you know that the words mean different things (otherwise it would be redundant).

Writing with specificity means eliminating the diluted, vague statements in favor of detailed explanations. While that can often mean providing examples, sometimes being specific is as simple as expanding on an idea.

Consider the following sentence, which is typical essay fare:

“Upon conclusion of the deal, I had the opportunity to hear a diversity of opinions and enjoy the company of a variety of different types of people, from unique backgrounds.”

The example sentence is the opposite of specific as it reads as vague, Inspiration 101 content. Consider a more specific alternative:

“Upon conclusion of the deal, I dined with a most unusual dinner party and bore witness to the sight of a died-in-the-wool Republican and a bleeding heart Democrat arguing their political views and opinions to a Korean businessman armed with just two days of American culture under his belt.”

Granted, the second sentence burns up more precious words and while managing your word count is important, you never want to sacrifice specificity just to trim space. Lending a rich and powerful voice to trite sentiments is the surest way to keep your essay from being passed over and dismissed as standard fare.

The best way to inject specificity into your writing is to search your essay for anything that feels clich

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 2


(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

Step 2: Practice
It may sound strange to practice essay writing in the midst of an application process, but practice is the single most effective strategy to master this art form. While the old adage “practice makes perfect” may not be entirely true, there is no doubt that practice does breed comfort in word counts, themes, and structure, which is paramount to position yourself to get the most out of the process.

Consider that you will be working with your consultant on multiple versions of each essay and will be addressing critical components such as themes, content, structure, and style, as well as focusing on expressing fit with each program in question. This extensive model of evaluation is perfect for improving your writing, crystallizing your story, and polishing up your presentation. That said, your finished product will always be relative to your starting point. The Veritas Prep model of essay composition is designed to ensure that the essay remains “yours” throughout and does not become the work of the consultant. To that end, we specify the number of drafts and outline an exact process, providing guidance to maximize your candidacy without undermining the admissions process as a whole.

Think of the improvement you will make in this process as a guaranteed amount, limited only by your starting point. Put into simple terms, our experts and our methods will improve your essays by two letter grades. If you are starting with “C,” we can take you to an “A” quality essay. However, if your essays are “D” quality to begin with, your likely finish line will be a “B” essay.

What does the above analysis mean for you? Try your very best to start with at least a “C,” of course! The goal of creating an adequate and satisfactory starting point is the reason for this entire guide, but it is also the most compelling reason to practice writing. Before you ever send your first draft of an essay to a consultant, you should spend time examining great sample essays and practice, practice, practice.

After your initial call with your consultant, you will have ample time to develop your skills. Your consultant will be engaging in the most thorough analysis of your candidacy possible and crafting your Personalized MBA Game Plan

How to Write Great Admissions Essays: Step 1


(This is part of a new series that we will roll out over the next several weeks, introducing our readers to our proven 10-step process for writing great admissions essays. Check back often for more MBA admissions essay tips!)

The process of executing a powerful and persuasive application essay is both an art and a science. Fortunately, you are not alone in this endeavor. In addition to being graduate admissions experts, Veritas Prep admissions consultants are also excellent writers who can help you refine your prose and style, each having used Veritas Prep’s best practices and strategies for great writing for years.

We have gathered their collective wisdom over the past several months and boiled it down to ten critical steps, and will share it with you in this space over the next few weeks. By the time you have read all ten tips, you should be that much closer to a fantastic admission essay.

Step 1: Create a Writing Environment
One of the most common and easily avoidable mistakes when it comes to essay writing is one’s setting

How to Write a Personal Statement

Around here, we spend a lot of time talking about applications and the writing samples that comprise those applications. For MBA candidates, the focus is on essays and how to both answer a school’s question while also injecting your key message points into the response. Essay writing requires a specific approach, which is an intuitive concept for most applicants, given the specific nature of the essay questions and the variety of issues that matter to individual schools. But what of the personal statement? How do you take a blank page and vague instructions and maximize the opportunity before you? Personal statements also require a specific approach, one that can best be understood as a three-step process.

Before examining the three steps to writing a great personal statement, note that there will always be subtle differences in strategy, depending on the program type. For the personal statement on a law school application, the goal is always to maximize the space in whatever way that circumstances dictate. On a medical school AMCAS personal statement, there is always going to be a “stand out from the crowd” element to consider. For many grad school programs, candidates need to make sure they understand the program in question. You can go right down the list and find a caveat for every type of graduate school. That said, once you account for those nuances, you will always come back to the following three steps:

1. Determine Your Position. Positioning focuses on the major thrust of the personal statement. What is the strength you most want to advertise? The weakness you most need to mitigate? Is there a unique factor you can showcase? What is the one hole in your application that the admissions committee is dying for you to resolve in this space? This can be different for each applicant, but the one thing that is certain is that the personal statement exists for you to tell the reader what he or she needs to know. Forget what you think you should write about or what makes for the best traditional essay

Law School Admissions: Tackling the Personal Statement (Part II)

Last week we initiated a two-part series on the law school personal statement. Part I focused on the art of positioning and answering the reader’s biggest question, Part II will describe the five law school themes as well as some thoughts on creating entertainment value in the personal statement.

The Law School Themes. In addition to your primary positioning, you also want to try to round out the key law school themes. They are:

1. Intellect (both intellectual curiosity and intellectual horsepower).
2. Motivation.
3. Discipline.
4. Collegiality.
5. Leadership.

For most applicants, two or three of these themes are readily apparent from the academic profile and resume. Most commonly, things like leadership, collegiality, and discipline jump off the page

Law School Admissions: Tackling the Personal Statement (Part I)

For law school applicants, this time of year tends to be all about personal statements. It is often the last remaining piece holding up submission of an application. Candidates struggle with the blank canvas nature of the assignment as they try to figure out what to write about and how to fit it all into two pages.

Many of our clients seem to be making one of two common mistakes: 1) trying to cram everything into the personal statement, to the point it sounds like an annotated resume, or 2) writing at great length about their strengths. It is tempting to throw it all at the wall and see what sticks, or to lean on what you know works. Neither of these methods will get the job done.

Below are some suggestions for your personal statement that will help candidates avoid these problems and craft a meaningful, persuasive writing sample. The Veritas Prep approach to creating a great personal statement always centers on three elements: 1) positioning, 2) the law school themes, and 3) entertainment value.

Positioning. Positioning focuses on the major thrust of the personal statement. What is the strength you most want to advertise? The weakness you most need to mitigate? Is there a unique factor you can showcase? What is the one hole in your application that the admissions committee is dying for you to resolve in this space? This can be different for each applicant, but the one thing I know for sure is that the personal statement exists for you to tell the reader what he needs to know. Forget what you think you should write about or what makes for the best traditional essay

Law School Personal Statement Advice: U Chicago

The University of Chicago is considered by some to be the most “old fashioned” of the elite law schools – quick to ban Internet use in classrooms, slow to add cutting edge cirriculum additions (although it is clear that Justice Scalia would prefer they move even more slowly).

So it might come as a surprise to many in the law school community that Chicago actually features one of the most student-friendly and transparent admissions blogs out there.

A recent post was particularly helpful for law school applicants, as it provided some insight into the law school’s perspective on the increasingly tricky personal statement component of the application.

The advice contained within is not exactly groundbreaking, but still offers some nice commentary on the difficulty of the assignment (hopefully providing some peace of mind to applicants) and seems to invite worthwhile and honest feedback, which is a departure from a recent post on the Yale Law School blog.

Among other tips, the blog’s author – Sarah Arimoto-Mercer, Director of Financial Aid – stresses that applicants do not have to describe post-graduation legal practice goals, details some major “don’t” items (grammar errors, unconventional personal statements, naive statements, and “big words”), and hammers home the point that a personal statement is about the applicant.

The best news for client’s of Veritas Prep’s Law School Admissions Consulting services is that we see eye-to-eye with the University of Chicago. Consider the following phrases:

From Veritas Prep’s “Personal Statement” page:

One of the most difficult things facing an applicant during the law school admission process is the lack of control. Many application components are set in stone or out of a student’s hands entirely. This makes the personal statement of paramount importance. Students can control their own story in this critical writing sample.

And from the U Chicago blog post on the subject:

The personal statement is your chance to go above and beyond the numbers. Your LSAT and GPA are pretty concrete by the time you apply to law school. The personal statement is an element of the application where you can still make a difference. Since you cannot request an interview with the admissions committee, you can think of the personal statement as your chance to say what you would have wanted to highlight in an interview.

For students who would like to receive more insight into the personal statement component of the application, consider reading the following application tips on the subject.