We had an HBS essay come in as a request for a free blahg review recently and we settled down with the
scotch — errr, chocolate — no sorry none of that, with the virtual red pen, ready to rip the draft a new one… and lo and behold, this puppy was actually kinda good.
When we had this experience, we tweeted about it, to give the BSer a heads-up that we may not be literally writing a review of it:
To BSer who sent essay for free review abt being a fraud: LIKE IT! Not sure we'll post it on the blahg 'cuz it's kinda good! Considering…
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) November 13, 2014
And we did consider it… and now we’ve decided, nope, we’re not gonna post it.
Sure, we could do our ‘Snark thang and talk about the sentences that are a little bit screwy or how this paragraph goes somewhat sideways from the theme and what in heck are you trying to SAY here and all of that… But in this case, this person wrote a GOOD ESSAY.
And we don’t get to say that much.
And there’s no way in h3ll that we’re going to tempt all of you well-meaning BSers by posting such a strong draft on the blahg.
We covered this a long time ago with the Why we don’t post sample essays post and it’s not like we think all of you are unethical and would just blatantly steal this person’s ideas. Of course you wouldn’t do that.
The thing is, you might try to adapt his style or his approach – and that’s the part that’s so distinctive about what this person did.
This was a Harvard Business School essay, which is a tough one to do well, no matter how bright and shiny your resume is or how amazing your background. This person made his essay engaging; he was unafraid to show some personality. And he covered some key material along the way. It wasn’t just personality – though personality did come through. Refreshing. You can see that a real person wrote it. How novel!
So instead of us posting the actual draft that was submitted, what we’re doing today is to encourage you to possibly take some risks in how you present yourself on the page.
Of course, this advice will completely backfire for so many, so we also urge you to be cautious.
The reason this person was successful in how they approached the assignment is because they are a DECENT WRITER – who (critically important!!) shows evidence of being a CLEAR THINKER.
The “clear thinker” part is The. Most. Important.
And, this person has also managed to cover some relevant and significant points about their background with the draft that they put together. We go into some strategies and strong recommendations on proper use of your HBS essay in our Harvard MBA essay guide and one of the key points that we always suggest is to focus in on some stuff that you’ve done and show HBS how you are a leader. someone who’s done stuff. That can be interpreted in many different ones, there’s not just one way to do it (which is again why we’re loath to post samples since that would imply that we’re sanctioning the way the one BSer did it, which has potential to do all of you a disservice).
What you need to do as your first step on the way to a Harvard essay is to figure out what you want to say.
The how you say it is not your primary decision. That should come later.
If you have a beautifully-written and intelligently-sounding essay, it’s not going to get you very far if it’s not offering something helpful and new to the reader. Your job is to share something about yourself with them. This is NOT a creative writing exercise.
We encourage you to get the ideas down on paper, and figure out a structure for your thoughts, and understand for yourself THE POINT of it all – and plan it out, before you start writing.
Then, if you have a particular style or a voice or a particular flourish that you want to incorporate in the way that you present these ideas, go to town. Don’t be afraid to show some skin. (Not literally.) Get in the game. Give the reader a sense of the ‘real you’, if you’re brave.
Once those ideas are solid and you have done the hard work of the THINKING part of the assignment, then you have much better chance of impressing your reader with your presentation of them.
If you do it the opposite then you’re likely to end up once again with all fluff and no substance. Don’t confuse the two.
This Brave Supplicant who sent us their Harvard draft had some good stuff to talk about. They connected the ideas through use of a well-defined theme, and they used a could-be-gimmicky-but-they-pulled-it-off opening line to communicate that theme. The essay feels polished, and whole, and there’s some interesting stuff being conveyed. All in all, an impressive draft compared to what we often see.
There’s LOTS of ways to execute on this – as many ways as there are Brave Supplicants applying! Our HBS app guide offers some strong suggestions and guidelines and those can often result in a “safe” essay – which is often enough to make it in, when you’re bringing the goods to back it.
And, you should also not be afraid to riff a little bit.
BSer, we hope this works out for you – please stay in touch and let us know how things go in Round 2!