This is most frequently an issue with the older MBA applicant though we see it across the board. You’ve been involved in some high-profile projects. You have a sense that the adcoms want to hear about “impact.” You combine those two into an essay that talks about how “we helped millions of people by launching…
It’s a bit of a double-edged sword: If your content is good, then the mechanics of the essay aren’t going to necessarily hold you back from an admit – but if your essay suffers from lots of hiccups and jabs, then it’s going to get in the way of the reader finding that good content.
What are “hiccups” and “jabs” in the context of an essay for business school?
Those are terms we just made up to apply – because that’s very close to what it feels like to be on the receiving end of an essay that’s got messed up mechanics.
It’s like driving down the road in a car that backfires: It puts you on edge, waiting for the next one to happen. Or a car with blown shocks; every bump in the road rattles up through the metal and into your bones. It’s jarring. The opposite of a smooth experience.
What’s one perpetrator of such jarringness, one that you may not expect?
Parenthesis. (You know, these things. The little curvy bits surrounding this part of the post.)
We’re not going to say that parenthesis are illegal or something. But we do discourage you from using them in your application assets.
What happens when your reader encounters parenthesis is the flow of comprehension stops (of course we’re assuming that your essays are written well enough that there’s some comprehension going on that can be stopped; that is not always a fair assumption given the way a lot of applicants write their essays). Parenthesis are an aside — they’re the same as putting a dash into the middle of the sentence. They’re not as bad as inserting a footnote*, or heaven forfend, an endnote (which we won’t bother with ‘cuz honestly there is simply no end to the ‘Snark as anyone who knows us will say, but won’t you commiserate with us on how completely annoying it is to see one of those little superscripted numbers and then have to flip to the BACK OF THE BOOK and hunt around for whatever reference it was referencing – and sometimes all it says is “ibid” and you’re like WTF does that mean??).
Anyway, what were we saying?
(Do you get the point yet?)
This is semi along the lines of our suggestion to avoid ampersands — actually, ampersands are way worse, they are not a correct way to write in standard English grammar. We see the use of ampersands a lot more among certain nationalities; they’re not unheard of among American candidates but they’re somewhat less common. It seems to be a “thing” to write with ampersands chucked around in your sentences instead of writing out “and.” It honestly makes no sense whatsoever to EssaySnark, either, since theoretically the ampersand is meant to be an abbreviation – but when you’re typing, you have to go “space-shift-huntandfindthatsillywhatisitohyeahthe7key-space” instead of “space-a-n-d-space” and you’re claiming that mentally that first process is better for your typing speed based on all the little &s we see scattered around your writing.
Related to this is this: Don’t use cross-references in your essays.
And don’t even get us started on those who write to us in text-speak as if an email is the same as an SMS.
Everything in your written application matters – the essays (obviously) and the resume (ditto) and also the data that you enter into the app itself (the importance of which is often overlooked). And, believe it or not, much of what you write in the Real World as you’re living your life and being a professional in the working world matters, too. These things are one face of yourself to others, and others evaluate who you are and the attention you pay to the details through the way you construct your communications.
Your MBA applications will need to be seriously buttoned-up and professional – you would agree? You are the only one who can control the impression that your reader has of you. Remember, you’re introducing yourself to a complete stranger. You want to make their job easy. While parenthesis do sometimes have their place in good writing, as a general rule you’ll want to avoid them – and if you have more than one set of parenthesis in a paragraph or more than two in the entire essay, or if you’re using them in more than one essay, then we’ll go out on a limb and tell you that that’s too much.
*Did you scroll down to see what we had to say in the middle of reading that paragraph? Or did you wait to naturally progress to the bottom of the post to check out this cute little footnote? Probably you figured that this would be totally useless and unnecessary for you to fully comprehend the sentence up above that has the special mark of an asterisk, since you already figured out that EssaySnark is belaboring the point we’re trying to make today about these writing tics by inserting lots of them into our writing, but actually we decided to reveal the secret of the Universe here in this footnote and here it is Brave Supplicant we’re happy to be able to finally share with you the #$@&%*! S Y S T E M E R R O R
We got a request for a freebie essay review the other day and the sender-inner sent a career goals essay, which is something that many of you are tackling, so we figured, why not? We also appreciate that this came in when we’re not up to our ears in reviewing essays for paying clients. Thank…
We had the pleasure of working with a Brave Supplicant last year who did everything right, and ended up in a very good place. They’ve been so kind as to share their story with all of you so that’s what we’re going to post today.
If you’re on this blog, then you should have all the resources to figure out how to put together a good application. You should have a good idea of where your numbers (GMAT/GPA) need to be, how to put essays together (or be working with EssaySnark to figure out how), and generally be on top of the mechanics of the process. So what I’ll offer you are reasons why you need to start working now, and what I think you should be prepared for besides data sufficiency, essays, and interviews.
First is unforeseen circumstances. I was lucky in that I started very early. I decided to get an MBA about a year and a half before I had to apply. I took around five months to study for the GMAT, but in the week I was supposed to take the test my daughter was born (early), a blizzard knocked out our power, and I had to reschedule twice because snow closed the school I was testing at. I ended up getting the minimum score that I wanted, but I was going to take it again because I knew I could do better. However, my wife had to have an unplanned surgery and I ended up playing Mr. Mom for three kids (including the newborn) and waking up every two hours at night to either feed my wife pain pills or give the baby formula. So, I was in no mental state to crush the GMAT and had to cancel the second test. I’m sure many of you don’t have a family, but think about unexpected projects at work, emergencies with your extended family, and life generally getting in the way. Without the early start, I would have had to squeeze the GMAT into my essay writing time, and may have had to push to the second round.
The second thing you need to be prepared for is rejection and the waitlist. I got in to one of my schools, but waitlisted at the other two. I had never thought about the waitlist before. How long was I going to wait? At what point did I have to make a decision based on my needs? It was difficult to deal with these questions in the heat of the moment, so I strongly advise you to have a plan for both rejection and the waitlist. It should be complete with a list of schools for the next round, reasonable deadlines for when you will turn down a waitlist option and commit, or maybe at what point you will abandon this try and strengthen your profile for next year. The time to decide what to do is not when you are in a swirl of emotions after you’ve gotten the bad news and raided your liquor cabinet.
My final piece of advice is specific to potential EssaySnark clients. If you are considering using the services here, I strongly recommend them. They are fantastic and you will have made a wise decision. But, you need to be ready to be told that your perfect treasure of an essay draft is actually garbage. It sounds like no big deal, but you are going to be sad about it. This is necessary. The only way you are going to improve your essays in the amount of time you have before you hit submit is to get clear, unbridled feedback. EssaySnark will not disappoint. That’s what you’re paying for, after all. If you just want to fork over some cash so someone can tell you “Great Job!” and avoid hurting your feelings, please say so in a comment below and I’ll be happy to provide that service. Assuming you’d rather get into business school, be prepared and have a thick skin.
In keeping with the EssaySnark way, I will give you a little hope at the end to top off all of the aggressive advice and foreboding. The process will be filled with many times you will enjoy: meeting current students, complaining with your fellow applicants about the GMAT, and especially that breakthrough moment when you realize how you are going to turn your essays around and crush that application. You will look back after all the hard work, regardless of the result, and be proud of that effort. Personally, I’m starting at a great school in the fall, and I couldn’t be more excited to join my new classmates! Just start early, make a plan, and know that you are more than capable of getting into business school. Good luck!
Thanks for the straight-shooting words of wisdom for the up-and-coming crop of BSers! And congrats again on starting at bschool this fall – you ended up in an amazing program and we wish you the best of luck there!
To everyone who has a date with a blank screen this weekend, we’ll echo the best part of that: “Know that you are more than capable of getting into business school.” Yes there may (will) be some ups and downs before it happens, but you’re doing what you need to be doing to make it happen. Keep focusing on the next task and soon enough, you’ll be on to the finish line!
This post is yet another attempt to demystify the most critical essay-writing advice of “show, don’t tell.”
You may want to go back and read over some of those previous posts before starting in on this one. We think they’ll help.
When we say to “show” the reader stuff in your essays, the strategy is to DEMONSTRATE it. This needs to happen with facts and details.
Here’s what we mean:
“I had a horrible childhood” is telling the reader.
What you want to do is to offer PROOF for your claims.
Remember, you’re pitching the adcom. You’re making a case that you’re going to be an asset to their school. This evidence-based approach is the best (only?) way to make it into a top bschool these days.
If a friend of yours utters the statement “I had a horrible childhood” and you in fact believe that you also had a horrible childhood, then you may be interested to know what they went through that made it so bad.
Thinking back over your own childhood, memories might come to mind of the struggles your parents went through to put food on the table, both of them working two jobs, living in a not-safe neighborhood. Perhaps your family immigrated to a new country when you were a child and your parents were on their own there, no other extended family around to help out. Maybe they arrived with just a little bit of money in their pockets and they had to build a life from scratch. Not easy, right? Most people could understand that this was rough.
Or maybe one of your parents died when you were young. And then you had to move around a lot. It was always really hard for you, changing schools all the time, and you were the one to babysit your younger sister.
Or a divorce.
Et cetera. Lots of challenges that kids go through. Hopefully yours weren’t that bad.
Now, moving back to the buddy who just uttered the sentence, “I had a horrible childhood.”
Without volunteering the reasons why your own childhood was rough, imagine that he went on to say: “My dad wouldn’t get me a car when I turned 16.”
Did your jaw drop?
Obviously, the details are where the claim of “horrible” is illustrated.
And, perspective is important.
Both of these elements are key to writing good essays.
Not only do you need to back up your claims but you also need that backup to be significant. Noteworthy. Somehow impactful or impressive.
Don’t read that and think that you’re screwed. It’s not like you need to have competed in the Olympics in order to make it into bschool. Your achievements can be on a very small scale.
But they need to be visceral. When you tell the adcom about your accomplishments in the essays, they need to be vivid.
The way you get there is by showing your reader what you did.
Don’t just tell them.
Smack dab in the middle of the category of what not to do in your MBA essays is the advice that adcoms often give: Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear. Instead, answer the questions authentically. (“Yeah, yeah, yeah, EssaySnark, that’s easier said than done!”) When, for example, you’re asked to talk…
The main problem for anyone sitting on this side of the bschool application process – in the summer, before the first apps are due – is a lack of understanding for what the schools will really respond to, and which ones might be the best fit for you as an individual. You can make broad-strokes decisions about whether you might get in based on looking at a school’s class profile and seeing the average GMAT and all, but all that does is potentially discourage you from trying for School X because your GMAT is too low, or give false hope about getting in to School Y because your GMAT is in range.
What you need is a crystal ball.
EssaySnark has one.
Or at least, we have this little hunk of slightly jaded and definitely rough around the edges but still pretty useful thing we call our collection of experience that we can deploy to try and help you shed some light on the murky situation you’re in.
When we do the Comprehensive Profile Review for a Brave Supplicant, we take as inputs all the key aspects to your background and profile – GMAT score, academics, work history, extracurricular, overall life experience to the extent it’s conveyed to us on the questionnaire we ask you to fill out – and we give our best-guess assessment of a) which schools we think will respond positively to you, and b) which ones may be a good fit for you (those aren’t always automatically the same, though obviously we strive to identify ones for you that happen to be in both categories).
Are we always right on this?
Of course not. We’re not looking at a completed application (which we do as well, through the Sanity Check, but that’s at the end of your struggles of writing essays, not the beginning, when such predictions can be the most useful). We can only gauge potential – but potential is certainly an important piece of information to have on your side when you’re trying to figure out how to allocate your precious and limited resources of time and energy to shortlist your schools for Round 1.
Anyway, long story short, we worked with a BSer last year who recently popped back up to announce the results of their process of applying – and haftasay, the ‘Snark ended up looking good. Let’s share what this person wrote to us in an (unsolicited) email a few weeks ago (posted with permission, with one detail redacted):
Clearly we’re proud that we were able to predict things so accurately – and definitely we can’t claim to be so on-tap as this for every single Brave Supplicant. But what we have developed through all these years of doing this, with all the interactions we have with the schools about their interests and needs and hopes and dreams for all of you trying for their incoming classes, is a sixth sense of who might get in where.
We actually feel that one of the best services we can provide is in suggesting to a Brave Supplicant that they try for a school they may not otherwise have targeted. It’s pretty awesome when someone comes back to us later, telling us that that’s where they’re going to matriculate, and thanking us for suggesting it in the first place. We have a knack of intuiting where certain BSers may fit well. We can’t always offer such suggestions (and to be clear, that’s not what happened in this case), but often we can, and we will. (Please remember though: Most people accepted to bschool don’t get any, or not significant, scholarship awards. Yes we will tell you if we think you may be in such a position as to hope for one, but most often, we have to dampen those expectations when we write your Review.)
Anyway, we’re actually EVEN MORE PROUD of this BSer, who took the inputs we provided them and went off and running in developing their own applications, and look how it turned out! Good on them. We are always pleased and impressed when someone pulls it off on their own. (We do of course enjoy helping others who want additional support, but the whole founding premise of this blahg was to empower everyone to pursue their MBA dreams, with or without such assistance.)
Sorry for what’s clearly a self-congratulatory post today – but honestly, this email was exciting. We hope you agree – and congrats again to this impressive BSer, who’s headed to [YAY-I-GOT-IN school] with a full ride in the Fall!
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