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