MBA Essays: 9 pitfalls to avoid while writing bschool essays

It’s a relief to be done with the GMAT preparation and move on to the main MBA application. The most ominous part now is to write the MBA essays. The best written MBA essays can open up the doors to the final round – MBA interviews. But for many, an interview may never happen as the Admission Committee has already made up its mind (based on your essays) that you aren’t good enough for their program for that year.

You may have done your research on what you should do when it comes to MBA essays. However it’s also a good idea to have the knowledge of what to avoid in your MBA essays so that you don’t inadvertently shoot yourself in the foot. So here’s a list of 9 things to watch out for while working on your MBA application.

  1. Avoid repetition
  2. You don’t need to discuss how you managed to pull through with a high GMAT score or other obvious facts already presented on your resume or the main application form. Use the essays to your advantage by presenting fresh content. Build upon the objective data that you’ve presented and don’t just re-package old wine in a new bottle. If you feel you’ve reached saturation point, take a break, start afresh later when the ideas flow more freely.

  3. Do not use fancy words or sentence constructs
  4. Adcoms have to handle loads of applications, and they aren’t hunting for the next Shakespeare in their review process. So don’t try to impress them by forcibly fitting in fancy words or smart-sounding idioms into your essays. Don’t use your creativity in creating complex and awkward statements that would make it difficult for the adcoms to figure out what you’re trying to say.

  5. Do not go off-track
  6. MBA essay questions and topics are very focussed. Which unfortunately means that you may not have a chance to talk about many things that you might have wanted to share with the Admission committee. Don’t think of the MBA word count as a blank canvass where you can fit in irrelevant pieces of information. If it isn’t related to the question asked, keep it out. The reviewer would value relevant answers rather than unrelated impressive excerpts from your past.

    You may be able to provide all that additional interesting data, you’re so eager to share, in your optional essay. But again, don’t use that essay as a general dumping ground.

  7. Don’t abuse word limits
  8. Don’t think of word-counts as something that you can manage at the last minute after you are done pouring your life history in the content. Bear in mind the word count and be precise in answering the question asked so that you don’t have to edit out a big chunk from your writing effort. We have a longer post coming on this topic. So we’ll keep it short here.

  9. Avoid reiteration from college website content
  10. Adcoms know what is there on the website. They also know that you have read the website. In an attempt to prove that you’re a great fit for a particular school, don’t try to over-focus on a particular quality the school holds high regard for. Some candidates assume using the words and phrases used on the website will be an easy way to demonstrate ‘FIT’. Fortunately there is no automated program reviewing your application to count the phrase density match. So don’t copy-paste content from websites. Narrate YOUR story.

  11. Don’t do a rush-job
  12. Before you get called for the MBA interview, your essays are doing the talking for you. They tell the bschool reviewer about your past achievements, future goals, reasons for doing an MBA. They create the initial impression about you. So take the time to think about what goes in those essays. Which means a whole lot of time strategising, structuring and planning for the essays. The writing part will become easier. Don’t be in a hurry to get done with your essays.

  13. Avoid superlatives
  14. Avoid mentioning that you are a super-achiever or a person with exceptional skills or talent. Even if it is true, it’ll sound as if you are bragging. Instead narrate incidents which would actually reflect this quality of yours and give the adcom a chance to make up their mind about how good you are and what qualities set you apart. Give them content and facts. Allow them to use their judgement in deciding whether you are good or fantastic.

  15. Don’t end up with a ‘Loser’ tag
  16. Transparency is good but not when it ends up showing you as a loser. Avoid mentioning repeatedly about the various failures you encountered in life. Failures must be viewed at positively, as a chance to know where to be cautious, learn what could have been better and move one step higher. You are a better person because of the roadblocks you’ve hit in life.

  17. Avoid over-emphasising your ambitious future plans

Unless you’ve been asked about your career goals, try not to keep talking about your great plans for the distant future in every essay. Your credibility lies in how much you’ve achieved and that’s what the adcom is more interested in rather than reading about your ambitions or aspirations which are difficult to evaluate.

The devil lies in the detail and these are just a few aspects to keep in mind when you start working on your MBA essays. If there are other queries you have about what not to do, post them as a comment and we’ll share our views.


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here’s more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

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