Have you ever had someone push their phone in your face to show you a picture — and for the life of you, you could not figure out what you were looking at?
Don’t make your essays be like that.
When someone has a photo on their phone, chances are that they’re the one who took it. They’re the one who was at that place at that time, looking at that thing that they decided was important enough to capture forever. (Or at least until Apple decides to push an iPhone update that bricks their phone and makes them lose everything that had not been recently backed up. Because THAT never happens. Effing Apple.)
Sorry, where were we?
Oh yeah. Someone’s all, “Look, isn’t this great?” And they’re waiting for a reaction and you’re just staring at the phone, trying to get oriented.
Or even worse, they pull it away and swipe to another one. “See?”
And you’re all, Nope, nope, nope, can’t see a thing, no idea.
And if it’s a new acquaintance, you smile and nod and say “Cool!” and pick up your drink.
Well guess what? The equivalence of “Cool!” from your adcom reader’s side is, “Whelp, don’t know what THAT is supposed to be about, let’s move on,” and they swipe left — to the next application in the stack.
One of the most fundamental problems with the essays you’ve written is that YOU’VE WRITTEN THEM.
Meaning, YOU know what they’re about.
You were there. You had the experience. You can pull it up instantly in your head as a memory.
(Or at least, we HOPE you can! If you’re fabricating essay topics out of whole cloth then that’s another problem entirely.)
For anything but a career goals or “why MBA?” essay, good essays are stories used in response to the question.
And even for those other essays, stories are often required to do a good job in answering!
But for the majority of schools, you’ll have essays that almost entirely are comprised of a story. Berkeley Haas’ 6-word story essay is a prime example.
How do you make sure that your essay is not an undefined blur of a picture for your adcom reader?
1. Start by answering the question. This may seem soooooo basic but trust us, it’s really going to help you make sure you’re writing on target to what has been asked. There are other ways to do it, including what this Kellogg applicant attempted, but oftentimes those types of approaches are being creative for creativity’s sake. Or trying to be clever or cute. Or some other motivation beyond just being direct. If you are direct in your essays, you cannot lose.
2. Include details. You need to think like a reporter when you’re setting things up. Remember, your adcom reader does not know you. Don’t be like the guy flashing his phone in your face to show you his photo.
All of this may seem overly simplistic and totally obvious when we write it out here — but please don’t discount this advice. Add this post to your favorites (see that little button at the bottom? Active blahg members get access to the Favoriting system which is our on-site bookmarking tool). Come back to it later. Examine your draft – test your writing against what we’re saying. Because apparently this is not so basic.
If all of this were so obvious as you seem to believe, then why do so many of your essays suck worse than black jelly beans?
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