Given our fraught public dialogue these days, the adcoms are becoming ever more sensitive to hype and propaganda in MBA apps. You don’t want to risk your candidacy by taking liberties with language!
We don’t mean our standard exhortation about lying.
Instead, we’re talking about hype.
We have seen BSers inadvertently step in it when they talk up their achievements in an essay, and then we learn about what the project was and what their contributions actually were, and we’re like, “Hmmm. That don’t sound all that grand.”
If you say that you implemented a vision, then we need to see the vision! We need to know how you implemented it!
If you say that you brought people together, then we need to understand what you did! What people? How did you bring them together? What were the results?
We’ve got a post available to military candidates (must have the Military MBA credential enabled on your essaysnark.com user account) called “Don’t believe your own hype” that was submitted some years back by a (now graduated!!) former BSer.
Today we’re talking about a semi-similar thing, but in the context of how you present yourself on the page.
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance and it can be a slippery slope indeed to get the balance right in how you talk about yourself in your apps.
Sometimes this happens totally innocently, where someone is just not yet well versed in the techniques of “show, don’t tell” that are so critical in presenting substance around the stories you tell as the answer to your MBA questions. (Pro Tip: **ALL THE POSTS** in that ‘snarchive should be studied if you’re still in the steep part of the learning curve on how to write your essays!! And you might consider going for our Essay Ideas App Accelerator for even more guidance and support, if this is your first set of essays for your first school!)
Sometimes though this is a byproduct of a deliberate decision on the part of the BSer: They get the message that the schools want to hear about leadership and impact, and they interpret that as meaning they need to puff up the chest and broadcast their awesomeness and they end up going a bit overboard. Or sometimes a lot! We work with at least one BSer every year who overloads their essays with so many outlandish ideas for what they’re going to contribute on campus when they get to bschool that it would make the adcom reader laugh (and not in a good way) if they submitted it like that. Saying you’re going to get involved on campus and giving examples of what you want to do can be a viable tactic for certain schools, but it needs to be balanced, and the hyperbole should be moderated (not: “I’m going to revolutionize the Tech Club as President” which is literally the type of statement we’ve seen people make with no foundation or basis).
A lot of this comes down to word choice. You can convey the same idea but using different phrasing that won’t make the adcom roll their eyes when they read it.
Fact-based statements will take you where you want to go, both in your descriptions of what you’ve done in the past to show you as a highly motivated achiever, and also tied to any on-campus activities you’re interested in. Keep things concrete, and let the adcom interpret for themselves.
This is related to our advice from a long-ago post in the ‘snarchives: You can’t declare yourself exceptional
The way to make a solid first impression with the adcom reader, so that they want to invite you to interview and meet you as part of their class, is to write using simple, straightfoward language, that doesn’t get too flowery or fancy, that focuses on facts and captures the answer to the essay question in detail, with sufficient backup drawn from actual examples.
This is a description of the technique to “show, don’t tell” which really is what carries you in.
If you’re wondering if you’ve overdone it in how you’ve written your essay, try reading it out loud.
Do you sound like a pompous buffoon?
If so, you’ve got some editing to do!