Can you believe we’re already in the middle of this whole application adventure?
Way back in May, when you thought you had all the time in the world and you were coming to the EssaySnark blahg casually for amusement, rather than searching through frantically to figure out how to write a last-minute admissions essay, we started a sort-of series we called The Strategy of Authenticity. If you missed it, here are the main posts:
- The Strategy of Authenticity
- What does authenticity mean… for Stanford?
- Authenticity means sharing who you are
- Authenticity and MBA career goals
- How to show your authenticity: Storytelling
- Authenticity Test
The thing with authenticity is — whether in life, or in your MBA apps — most of the time, when you’re not being fully authentic, you may not notice.
Being authentic is being honest with yourself.
It’s being real.
It’s listening to yourself, and how you sound when you talk to your boss (do you suck up with her? maybe even a little? it’s ok, we all do) and how you talk to your mother (are you sharp or short with her sometimes, because she irritates you, and because you know you can get away with it because she’s always going to be there for you?).
In the MBA application process, being authentic requires some real introspection. You have to figure out why you want this and go beyond the very basic and obvious answer.
We know you want to make more money, and do something different with your career. We understand if you’re feeling bored and a little restless, or that your life is at a dead end.
But what is REALLY driving it?
Is it because you have a friend who’s getting his MBA and you feel competitive with him, because he always gloats a tiny bit when he achieves something, and makes you feel bad about it?
Is it because you want to make your parents proud of you?
Is it because you know you didn’t do well in college, that you were somewhat of a slacker and just coasted, and you know that you’ve been coasting a bit ever since, and so part of you wants to prove to the world that you’re not a lazy bum and that you are worth something, and getting an MBA will establish that?
Is it because it’s just the next thing on the to-do list, and you’re running the rat race of college-job-marriage-MBA-buy-a-house-kids and you want to get to that next level so you can do the next thing that’s expected?
There is nothing wrong with any of those reasons. Most people will have some combination of them rattling around in the psyche or the soul. We’re not suggesting that any of that belongs in an MBA application, but it sure can be useful to know for yourself why you’re doing it.
If you don’t know, then it’s an awful lot of effort to put into all of this.
If you’re only interested in the MBA because somebody you know has an MBA, then by definition that’s not authentic. That’s copycat. What are the reasons for YOU? What do you expect to get out of it? Not just a better job and a higher salary. Those things count. But here we’re talking about the optimization of a life. Namely, yours.
Putting some thought to these questions may seem too difficult, or too useless. After all, no matter what you come up with as the answer for what’s driving you towards pursuit of the MBA, it’s not likely to change your push to get in. It’s not like you’ll go to the effort of doing some inquiry on your motivations, and then come out of that exercise and decide not to do it.
However, it just might help you to be more confident in how you articulate your plans. Such as in an interview context.
When your interviewer asks, “So, why do you want an MBA?” you’ll be incredibly convincing when you introduce your career goals by saying, “Actually, I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and the reason for an MBA for me right now is….”
For those of you planning for Round 2 and wondering what on earth any of this has to do with your essays, we will offer the very straightforward observation that the primary reason that most people’s essays to bschool are so sucktastic is because they are completely lacking in authenticity — and the crux of the problem is, the writer of said essay has no clue that they’ve fallen into the trap of fakeness. This is why starting early is important, and planning for many, many rounds of rewrite and revision. You need to plan for the near-inevitable experience that the first drafts you write will simply be awful vacuous fluffbombs of drivel. You will THINK that you answered the question, but anyone who’s got any experience reading MBA essays (which is everyone that matters, namely your adcom reviewers) will instantly see that you have not.
Or, that you’ve answered in a completely roundabout and milquetoast way that does not reveal anything of substance.
Or, you’ve simply said the same exact thing that is so automatic for people to say. Stuff about “the network” and the world-renowned program and oh I’m just falling over myself to tell you how great your school is.
None of that works in an essay.
But that’s almost guaranteed to be what you come up with on your first attempt.
It’s just what humans do.
This is why essays are so difficult to write. This is why the task is so ginormous.
It’s because you need to go beyond the automatic stuff that other people do; beyond the first-blush idea of an answer. You have to actually present meaning, and context, and clarity of thought.
Not a trivial exercise.
You also need to stop, and ask yourself “What are they asking?” The essay questions are across the board challenging. They may SEEM straightforward and simple, but they all are opportunities for you to go deep. Those who stay at the surface with their answers are those who miss out on a massive opportunity. It’s only when you investigate what’s being asked and you ponder it for a significant time that you are likely to come up with the most compelling way to respond.
That’s where the authentic is revealed.
Want to read more? Check out this article called If This Is How You’re Doing Authenticity You’re Doing It Wrong or, semi-related, is this one from Stanford Business, Authenticity’s Paradox: If You Flaunt It, You Lose It which is about the trend for authenticity in business (think craft beer, artisanal cheeses) yet has a nugget or two of useful insights about personal authenticity, too.
And, if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and dive in, the Complete Essay Package can help you to do the digging required on core topics for your first set of essays, to give you a guided tour through the process of finding out what these important answers are for yourself — to the great benefit of you, and the adcom, in your apps.