Here’s some examples of the types of commentary we’ve offered to Brave Supplicants just like you in the past few weeks! (Modified to protect anonymity of course.)
We figured, since we were repeating this so often to so many, that it would be worth publishing here as a caution for everyone.
Here’s what we said to one very accomplished candidate about a career goal that sounds, well, inflated:
The main issue with this statement is how broad it is. We can basically go along with your claim that you’re going to achieve massive success in your future career path because of what you’ve done already – but it’s much harder to buy into the assertion that you’ve stated here, based on how extensive this sounds. Not only are you saying that you are going to make waves in this specific sector, but also that you’re going to do so in the entirety of your country — and all around the world. This would probably be stronger if you pare back some of the grandiosity. You don’t need to make the adcom be impressed by how lofty your goals are – instead, it’s much stronger to show what you have already done, and then demonstrate the actual plan to go to the next level.
And here’s another snippet:
This actually suffers from many common traps that lots of applicants fall into – especially when aiming for the top schools. This process does not reward ambition – it rewards results. The goals themselves are evaluated based on how feasible they are, which often means, how grounded in reality. There are whiffs of “I want to change the world!” here and it’s very easy to fall into that with this school especially. But that rarely adds much value. So, most of this actually can be set aside. One way to test if a statement about future goals is likely to be valuable? Try reading this to a good friend who knows you well, or to your partner. If they kind of snicker and laugh at you because of how flowery you sound – or if you find yourself a wee bit embarrassed to even read it out loud – then that’s a sign that it’s gotten overinflated.
However, if you are already such an amazing overachiever that your best friend looks at you after this and says, “Cool!” then the next test is to ask them to tell you what you just said, in terms of defining what you will actually DO in the world when you’ve accomplished this claimed future goal. If they struggle to articulate that, then you also know there could be a problem. 🙂
What you want to go for in your essays is realistic ambition.
If your background supports a more ambitious goal, then as long as it’s justified through evidence-based statements that you’re the kind of person to pull it off, go for it! However, without that evidence, it can come across as a little flamboyant (look up the definition of that word if you’re unsure how it fits here).
We totally get how this happens. Sometimes BSers get into this headspace where they think that Wharton or whoever wants them to be really super impressive on all the dreams that they have for the future. Coluumbia is unfortunately feeding into this fallacy with their “dream job” phrasing of Essay 1. You need to fight against these tendencies to try to impress your reader, and instead stay focused on achievability. Yes to ambition, but it needs to be presented through a lens of reality. You don’t want to undersell yourself either! If it sounds like you’re not aiming high at all, then the adcom will wonder why you even need an MBA. So don’t err too far on the underperformance side either.
The career goals aren’t the most important part of most schools’ evaluation process. However, an “off” sounding goal can raise an eyebrow, and that’s never a good thing! Showcasing realistic goals that prove how the MBA is the necessary next step can go a long way to convincing the adcom that you’ve done your research, you have a plan, and you know how the MBA will provide benefit. This gives them warm-fuzzies inside and helps them buy into everything else that you’re saying.
Your essays are a pitch, and this is one fundamental element of that.
Want to get feedback like this on YOUR essays? Our Essay Decimator helps you understand where your messaging is solid, where you’re being too vague, or where you might be too extreme in ways that can detract. Being grounded — and specific!! — are keys to success, and it’s easy to fall on the wrong side of that target. Get some help from the ‘Snark on what you’ve put together, to make sure you’re doing it as best as you can! This essay-writing stuff is hard and there’s plenty of ways to go sideways with the things that you’re trying to say.