Now that everyone is solidly in essay-writing mode around here, let’s look at another actual essay! This came in a few weeks ago through our Try your hand! Spin the wheel! See if you win a prize! feature where you can submit an essay for consideration of review here on the blahg.
This is what this Brave Supplicant said:
This is my response for Columbia’s essay #1 prompt. I had submitted my profile to EssaySnark for review, and one of the comments made was that my goals were not clear. Does this essay adequately provide clear insight to my goals? Is it enough for the adcom to know how I will utilize a Columbia MBA? It was mentioned that edtech is a trendy industry at the moment, but I hope I have enough in my profile to positively differentiate me from other candidates. Thank you!
Thank you for submitting this essay, Brave Supplicant! Our recent “I want to work in edtech” post was in the works before we did your Comprehensive Profile Review recently and we hope that it was helpful to you. Today though we figured we’d actually go through the essay itself that you sent in, since it’s always
Here’s Columbia’s Essay 1:
Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next 3-5 years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job?
And here’s how this essay opens:
Working in education for four years, both inside and outside the classroom, has given me invaluable experience in identifying and addressing systemic problems within education. Based on my experience, I am ready to go to business school to sharpen my leadership skills and partner with corporations and businesses to target issues of educational inequity. As a public elementary school teacher, I have seamlessly integrated technology in the classroom and have witnessed the positive impact that education technology can have in low-socioeconomic schools. In my community, I campaigned and raised funds to purchase iPad minis for my students; applied for and successfully completed training to become an Apple certified teacher; and was selected to teach at the only digital campus in my district. My drive to bring innovation and technology to classrooms transfers to my work in teacher training. As an operations team leader at my school and during my tenure as a member of the Teach For America Regional Leadership Council, I designed and led professional developments on classroom management and project-based learning.
Hmmm. Well, there’s some stuff there, but it’s mostly just stuff, at least the first three sentences. The fourth sentence is where things start to get specific, at least in terms of potentially useful references to things that they did (aka ‘accomplishments’ — which are the key building blocks you need to be using to showcase your readiness and qualifications). The last sentence too — “As an ops team leader…” — that seems to have potential, but it’s awfully non-specific. What exactly are “professional developments” that you led? What is this “project based learning” that you did? It’s got a lot of concepts and plenty of buzzwords but it’s really not terribly full of content. (The phrase ‘seamlessly integrated technology’ is particularly non-specific — that phrase is probably in the pitch deck of every startup that every sought funding in the history of Silicon Valley — which tells you that it does not belong in your essay).
Let’s keep going. Here’s the first sentence of the second paragraph:
Upon graduation from Columbia, I plan to utilize my skills as an educator and my entrepreneurial mindset to provide valuable insight to education technology companies that seek to improve the learning experience for students and teachers.
Oh HEY! Look at that! It looks like a career goal!
At least, it’s the start of one.
This essay came in before this BSer had the benefit of that prior post we did on edtech as a goal, so we’ll certainly cut this BSer some slack if things are not lining up as they could be. What we’d suggest happen with this draft is THAT SECOND-PARAGRAPH SENTENCE GET MOVED TO THE BEGINNING. That first paragraph? Yeah, it has some IDEAS – but it doesn’t really have much substance. There’s something worth exploring there but it’s really not that strong, and when it’s lacking the actual career goal, then that’s definitely a negative.
The ‘ed tech co’ sentence — the one that actually names Columbia Business School — that one has more value. It’s still really long and full of non-specifics (what “skills”? where is this “entrepreneurial mindset” being demonstrated?) but it’s got potential.
Use that as your lead-in to the whole essay.
Then, continue with the strategy that you were employing in the first sentence where you identify actual specific experiences as proof of your readiness. This is REALLY important for any type of non-traditional applicant and it can be super helpful for someone coming from TFA or the Peace Corps or the military. Those examples show how bschool is the right next step and how you’ll survive in the challenging core.
The other really important thing is to more specifically define the career goal. This BSer did have a more clear goal in the next sentence (that we’re not including here) but we’ll just let that person know that the goal they stated a) can work, but it’s not really something you need an MBA for — it seemed more on the ‘tech’ side of things than is common for a post-MBA role, and b) is coming quite late in the essay. Better to have it closer to the top. Is it viable as a goal? Yeah, probably, if all the positioning is handled, but it’s not a job that typically would require an MBA. So it could make the adcom wonder if this person has researched the industry (and bschool itself) sufficiently or if more homework perhaps would be needed. The risk when you go that specific on a goal is, if the goal you’ve devised for yourself does not need an MBA, and you’re SOOO specific with it that it sounds like you’re gung-ho and committed, that disconnect makes the adcom question things. So it can almost work against you.
Specific is good…. unless it’s not.
Hopefully this was helpful, and good luck to the BSer — and oh yeah, hey, didja know that HBS had a deadline today? 😉
GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU APPLYING!!!
We hope it works out for you! We’ve been impressed by a number of BSers who came through Snarkville for Harvard this year. Fingers are crossed for you!!
There’s still plenty of time to have your Columbia essays reviewed to make sure your goals are lining up and you’re pitching the adcom effectively!
Tell us what you think.