Wanna know the longest route to a solid first draft?
Open MS Word and start typing.
That’s guaranteed to end up making this process rocky and difficult.
When you begin the task of answering the question that a particular school is asking, there is NO WAY you will know what you want to say.
Sure, you can start typing, and see what comes out. If you keep typing — and keep referring back to the question, as a reminder of what you’re supposed to be talking about — you may, eventually, come around to something worth saying.
But there will be a lot of useless words spit out onto your screen before you get there.
It’s just how things go.
Any good writer in the world will tell you, first drafts suck. That’s what they’re designed for. You don’t know what you’re saying or how you want to say it. The task of a first draft is to get the ideas captured on the page, and then you can start the real work of figuring out what it means and what actually belongs.
Most good writers don’t even harbor any fantasies that their first drafts will be usable. They KNOW that they’ll need to come back for revision. They EXPECT to do massive rewriting, and then are ready to throw writing away. Whole chunks of it. Sentences. Paragraphs. Sometimes the full draft.
You can do your MBA essays that way if you want.
Or, you can just write out a draft, and run spellcheck, and submit it.
Both methods are pretty much guaranteed to be doomed. If you submit a first draft, then we have a confidence level approaching the value of 0 that the essay will invite an adcom reviewer to look twice at you. That’ll put you on a fast path to rejection. If you start your first draft by just writing-writing-writing, then we also guarantee that that draft will be near-useless as a final document that appropriately answers the question and demonstrates who you are as an applicant. That first draft will need to be rewritten. Probably from scratch. As in, a start-over File->New clean-slate rewrite.
So what other options are there? How else would you do it, if you’re not writing a first draft of your essay?
The other method of building your MBA apps is to construct your essays.
You take the first question you’re answering.
You parse it out to its separate components.
You tackle each one of them individually — through a process of research and discovery and self-reflection.
Take Columbia’s Essay 1 on career goals:This special nugget of advice is offered to our blahg members. If you’re seeing this message and you have an active blahg membership then please log in to view the Columbia essay question breakdown. Otherwise consider becoming a member! (end special nugget o’ Columbia essay 1 dissection)
Really what we’re saying here, Brave Supplicant, is break down the question, examine each piece individually, and then go off and think about it for awhile.
Taking each prompt apart and answering each element separately is super important. If you don’t do that, then you’re nearly guaranteed to be writing an essay that is half-baked and unfinished.
Each part that you answer needs significant attention, and brainstorming, and planning. It’s not a matter of dividing the page into sections and blah-blah-blahhing for each part of the question for a couple hundreds words, and you’re done.
Crafting out the nuggets from your background, and polishing up each individual item you will be presenting, will let you have these bite-sized chunks of material that you can then ASSEMBLE into a meaningful whole for your reader.
If you do the groundwork and lay the foundation in this manner, you will have significantly more ammunition at your disposal to apply to all the different essay questions that will be thrown at you this season.
(And oh yeah, shameless plug: The Complete Essay Package guides you through this whole process! Start to finish! We help you with the exercises for brainstorming and the techniques for examining your ideas in separate contexts, so that you have the building blocks you need to tackle all of the essays you’re trying to
write assemble this season.)
When you have your first drafts assembled, then they will still need some revision. They are not going to be “done” just because you built them up from those nuggets. But they’re much more likely to be much closer to your target than if you’d just freewheeled it with randomness. Then, you’ll have a shot at making that multidimensional presentation to the adcom we’ve been advocating.
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