MBA Essays: Optimizing Content to Make You Stand Out

writing essayBusiness school candidates are often asked to reflect on the most special moments of their lives as they write their application essays. However, prompts that ask for this are so open – they allow applicants to discuss any aspect of their lives, from the very personal to more typical career highlights – it is often difficult to know where to start. Follow these tips to make sure your MBA essays truly stand out:

Use the Space for More Unique Highlights
Reflecting honestly, some candidates may identify the birth of their children (if they have them) as the most special events in their lives. For example, an applicant may feel that overcoming a challenging pregnancy or mentoring his or her child is their most important moment – like most parents, I agree that these can be the most significant, fulfilling, and life-changing events a person can experience.

However, even if it is not explicitly stated, there is also a need in your business school applications to show what sets you apart from other candidates – what unique dimensions you can bring to the program. Thus, while parenthood is a great blessing and a primary aspect of life for many, it is not a great differentiator for one’s MBA applications. With such limited space available to write your essays, your parenthood can be mentioned briefly as a source of motivation and purpose for pursuing your MBA, but should probably not be the main focal point of your essay.

Remember to also keep your answers to essay questions concise. For example, you may share how you saved your family’s business during one part of your application, and play up your sense of responsibility as a major strength during another section of the application, however sharing the former should have already done the job of covering both points. You can then use the second space to display your other impressive strengths.

Being concise in your essays will allow you to cover more ground, share more of your personality, and add more dimensions to your application. You would be better off highlighting another, different strength than writing about a strength that could have been covered in an earlier narrative.

Add Just the Right Level of Detail
Although you should definitely use your MBA essays to touch on your motivations and inspiration for attending business school, and share other exciting activities that you participate in, remember that allocating 200 words to specifics such as a detailed medical procedure or your philosophies about parenting is not ideal. Briefly mentioning these details in passing can tie the theme of your essay together and give it a nice flow, but dwelling too long on them can jumble your message and confuse the reader.

Similarly, playing up only one general strength (such as your physical prowess) through a whole paragraph could come off negatively and make it seem like you do not have much else to offer. Allocating too much space for one strength comes with the opportunity cost of not being able to present your other strengths and aspects of personal development to the Admissions Committee. In contrast, sharing an unexpected range of talents and interests will be more exciting and win over a broader type of audience.

Remember to Be Real
Finally, as you choose your essay content, be sure that you choose meaningful events and real challenges that you have faced. Stay away from token failures and weaknesses – for instance, identifying losing a game at a party would seem silly to mention during your essays, and writing about it could actually make you come off as insincere. Use the space you are allotted to show your ability to honestly evaluate yourself, identify the next steps in your development, and recognize how an MBA will fit into your career plans.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.