We’ve offered before that your MBA essays are a pitch. Each individual essay is presenting an argument in response to the question that the school has asked, and the collection of essays and your other application assets must combine together into a meaningful whole that convinces your reader to issue an interview invite and eventually say “yes” to an offer of admission.
Sounds good in theory at least, right?
Yeah, it’s all about execution.
One real problem that comes up is, you have an idea, and you start writing, and you finish writing, and you assume that the idea you had is thereby transferred from your head to the essay.
But that often does not happen.
It’s a similar reason for how you can have a fairly obvious typo in an essay, and yet even after reading the essay multiple times, you fail to spot it. It’s because your brain knows the idea, and it thinks what’s on the page is saying that idea, because after all, it came from your brain. Same thing with the typo. Your brain reads it as “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow” even though what it literally says is “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as show.”
So, you need to stress-test your own writing. The ideas on the page, written in all of those sentences, must be validated as actually capturing what you have intended.
Here’s a helpful exercise you can go through, to make sure that this happens appropriately.
Open up a draft you have written. Read the first paragraph. Write down the main message of that paragraph.
Now, look at the essay question that this essay is supposedly written in response to.
Does that main message answer the question?
If not, there’s almost definitely a problem.
Now go to the next paragraph. Read the second sentence. Does that sentence in some way connect to, elaborate upon, further explain, or otherwise support the first sentence in that paragraph?
If not, there’s likely also a problem.
Now go to the second-to-last paragraph on the page.
Read the first sentence of that paragraph.
Now read the last sentence of that paragraph.
Are they talking about the same thing? Do they relate? Is the last sentence still working in the same domain as the first sentence of that same paragraph? We’re still focusing on one paragraph. Not the whole essay.
Each paragraph must have internal consistency. If you introduce multiple ideas in one paragraph, they all still need to be somehow related.
Here’s a rule:
You should be able to read every single sentence in a paragraph and see how it relates to the first sentence in that paragraph.
Now read the introduction to your essay.
Then, read the conclusion.
Are those two elements also connected? Is the theme you started in the opening somehow reflected in the end?
Here’s another rule:
Every sentence in the essay needs to be there for a reason. Each must serve a purpose in constructing the whole.
One way you can ensure that your writing is logical and your argument is sound is by doing this type of very detailed stress-test of the ideas you’re presenting.
In order to be a clear writer, you must be a clear thinker.
(It’s one of the many reasons we suggest starting with outlines!!)
The schools aren’t really that focused on what you are saying in your essays. They’re interested in how you present your argument as a solution to the problem of writing an essay. They’re able to actually evaluate the quality of your thought process that way.
Essays are a lousy way to evaluate candidates for admission to an academic program, but they’re the best way that’s been invented so far.
Make sure your essays are representing YOU in the most powerful way. Use your abilities as a smart thinker to validate what’s on the page.
Before you submit that app to the adcom.