Over the summer we did a two-part series about “compare and contrast” in your MBA essays and it’s worth revisiting, since this comes up a lot in what BSers submit in their apps.
This is another component that seems innocent enough (and it is) but it’s a style of communicating that doesn’t actually help you make your case for why you should be admitted to the school that you’re writing for.
We often see statements like this one in drafts of essays:
No other school has so many international students
[School X] is best for finance
What’s wrong with these?
Besides the fact that you’re telling the adcom what they already know and thus wasting space on a meaningless compliment, the most basic problem when you actually look at what you have written is, on what authority are you basing such claims?
While certainly the schools are not all equivalent, we don’t know of any true expert who would ever proclaim THIS SCHOOL as “the best” in such-and-such and THIS OTHER SCHOOL as tops at some other thing. And yet here you are, claiming exactly that. Yet even the rankings are not set in stone when they state that one school is #1 this year and some other is #1 the next time; cuz like c’mon, those change so quickly that you understand they are artificial devices, correct? Which even the schools dismiss as not truly relevant measures of anything.
And certainly YOU are not that expert to deign this school the best, right? You haven’t done enough research to know incontrovertibly that one program or academic institution is “the best” in any field — just like the schools do not judge candidates as “the best” one against another. They look at the whole package that each one submits and decide which one is right for what they offer, but that’s as far as you can get in an admit decision. The school is selecting against the parameters that matter to them. So the only thing you could possibly do to make this statement true about School X is to tie it to what your own priorities are.
Yet even that is not actually ideal:
[School X] is the best place for me to study finance.
What’s wrong with that last one? After all, you’re tying in your claim about School X to your own needs for an MBA. That’s actually a strong formula, if ever there was one*, for how to write an MBA essay.
The problem there is when we see a sentence like that and no follow-up. Yes, you want to show how School X is the right place for YOU. And if your research has determined that they are in fact going to be the best for you and you’ve decided that they’re your #1 choice, by all means tell them that in the appropriate essay! But that sentence alone is insufficient. That sentence is only your starting point. That sentence is completely “telling” and does literally nothing to “show” them WHY their school is the best for you. And, again, don’t fall into that trap of “No other school has”-isms. Instead, dig into the data that you’ve collected and present to your reader the WHY. Lay out your case. Make an argument for it. If your post-MBA goal is to do ABC and you currently have A and B then how will this school give you C? Be specific. Tailor it to what you’re saying is so awesome about them. From your own perspective, given what you have learned, why is this school going to be the advantage you seek?
That’s how you stand out from the crowd.
Will you get rejected over this “School X is the best” type of construct in your essays? No, of course not. This is a stylistic thing. Many readers won’t even notice it.
But when you step back and examine what you’re saying, does it really make sense?
Taken to an extreme:
If you’re claiming that Feature ABC is so important and you’ve research all the other options out there and you’ve identified this one school that now you’re claiming to be “the best” in whatever-it-is that you say you care about…
Why would you even apply anywhere else?
And yet, here you are, with a set of 10 schools are lined up to submit to…. telling each one of them that they’re “the best” in whatever (hopefully you’ve at least managed to do a proper copy-and-paste to swap out the names of the schools that you’re saying this to).
Again, not a fatal flaw by any means. But when one primary objective of all MBA communications — essays, resume, app dataset — is to be authentic, then by definition, hyping things up, whether it’s intended to be a compliment to the school or an expression of your interest in what they have — well, that turns out to be not authentic, doesn’t it?
*There really is no formula for MBA essays; there are best practices and many don’t-dos and lots of tips and advice to be leveraged. Which is what this whole blahg has been dedicated to. But no formulas. Just like a good beer, good essays are crafted. They have the same ingredients of a crappy essay but the care taken to deliver the end product is what makes the difference.