A very astute Brave Supplicant made that observation to us recently when moving through the steps of the Complete Essay Package.
This is a great insight.
In order for your essays to be accurate representations of YOU to the adcom, then they need to contain information that comes natural to you. In other words, the stories that you present, and the way you connect the dots – bridging the experiences from your background to the skills needed for your post-MBA goals – all that should come together in a way that feels, well, authentic.
Sometimes people get off track when they receive feedback from us, where they twist themselves into knots trying to accommodate the feedback, but simultaneously overlooking the entire point of the exercise, which is to be presenting who they are in a genuine manner.
The point of getting feedback from EssaySnark is not to make your essays conform to the feedback. In other words, if we tell you that a story doesn’t fit the question you’re answering, you cannot change the story to make it fit. If the question is, “Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult person at work” and you write this story about how you had a boss who wouldn’t approve your idea for a new project based on budget constraints – and we tell you, “That story is not showing how your boss was being difficult. It is only showing how your boss said ‘no’ to you because there wasn’t funding available.” And you come back with a new version of the story that has your boss being a jerk-o in how he said ‘no’ to you – well, that’s kind of not what we had in mind. When that happens, we can only assume that the story is being changed to fit the feedback. Which is another way of saying, you’re making stuff up. And that don’t fly with EssaySnark. Developing your essays for your MBA applications is NOT a creative writing process. Your essays need to be fact, not fiction. If you are looking for ways to embellish the story and make it sound better to your reader, then you’re in trouble territory where ethics are concerned.
Now, none of that is what this particular BSer was doing. We got off on a little tangent there. What this BSer was commenting on was a very valid observation of their own internal process. They were observing what was going on inside of them as they worked through some brainstorming exercises on accomplishments and sifted through their ideas. They recognized, quite astutely, that if an example they thought of was not a great fit to the question they were looking at, then they experienced a form of cognitive dissonance on the inside, when they tried to make it fit. And they used that internal feedback to question whether they were headed in the right direction with it or not.
This is not to be confused with the very common and to-be-expected experience of frustration and difficulty in sorting your ideas out in a way that they’ll be powerful for your adcom reader to digest. The actual process of distilling an idea for an essay – maybe it’s the project you implemented that was so awesome, that you want to present to the adcom as proof of your leadership in your career to date – carving that down to its essence and laying out the bits that matter on the page of your essay can be difficult indeed. That process also may create some emotions in you, which may feel somewhat like “cognitive dissonance” since it’s about learning a new skill of expressing yourself through words. Writing essays is not something you’ve likely done much of before (or at least, not in the way that we’re advocating in Snarkville). There is a learning curve involved. Expect it to be difficult. Appreciate that you’re breaking down walls in your brain and figuring out a new way of doing things. It’s OK to feel frustrated, or even grumpy at times. Most people have to hit that wall a bunch of times before it starts to give and make way for the brilliance to shine through.
But if you get the sense on the inside that maybe you’re stretching things a tad too much, or maybe the idea you are trying to fit into Darden’s question about “professional feedback” really isn’t a story about feedback at all, then it’s time to step back and make sure you’re clear-headed in what you’re attempting. This isn’t about saying the right thing that will get you in. It’s about presenting WHO YOU ARE in a way that communicates something of substance.
It may feel slippery, when you’re in the throes of trying to figure out what to say, to hear this advice about being “authentic”. But you certainly know when you’re NOT being so.
Listen to yourself. That’s the best guidance of all.