This comes up from time to time in our Essay Decimator essay reviews and a BSer who is qualified to ask it recently posed this question:
On a less serious note, can humor work in essays like this? I feel like there isn’t much personality coming out. [some specific examples redacted] If it should stay purely professional, then I clearly understand since that’s the route I went with my submitted drafts.
And here’s what we said in response:
Humor can definitely work but sometimes it comes across as either corny, or really forced. It depends on your skill in delivering it. 🙂
You’ve already got the personality showing re: the [example redacted] so it’s not like your essay is devoid of that, but it’s up to you. An essay that comes across as charming can be quite wonderful; an essay that comes across as trying to hard can be super annoying and cloying. It’s also totally individual so it’s not an idea we’d put the kabash on sight-unseen. You seem to be proficient with language so no reason not to do it if you’re feeling confident on your relationship with your reader.
Sometimes BSers are unintentionally funny in their essays — funny not in a ha-ha way but an OMG I think I’m gonna barf. It’s the reason that we first started this blahg. Or, they’re unintentionally funny because they say really quite ridiculous things. That’s not what we’re referring to here.
If you know that you’re a funny guy (or gal) and you know that you can deliver the funny in writing and not just in a witty comeback to your buddy at the bar then sure, flex those funny muscles in your essays.
If you only THINK you’re funny, well…
We’d steer clear of anything overly sarcastic, since that can come across as grating, and obviously skip the snark. You never want to be seen as making fun of someone else or putting another person down. Self-deprecating humor can totally work though!! That’s probably the Safe Zone when it comes to humor in essays.
Also, don’t overdo it. Sprinkling in some funny here and there — like maybe twice over the course of 1,000 words of writing — is probably the max. The essays need to be formal, and they need to be answering the question, and they need to stay on topic. If you can also include a lightheartedness while meeting those goals, then great.
Another place for a light touch is often the very end of your resume, where you have an opportunity to share some personal items with the reader. We frequently see some great evidence of personality come through there at the end. (We’re not going to share any examples of these because personality needs to be your own!!! Come up with your own method of displaying your cuteness or charm or wit — if you have it. If not, then no worries, lots of really boring folks are admitted to MBA programs ever year, too!)