You honestly don’t have to go read this highly technical paper that discusses information design and how written communication is processed and understood by the human brain…. But you could. If you were like fully bored with your life and just waiting for Wednesday afternoon to arrive so that you can log off your computer and celebrate the arrival of four full days without Zoom, then you could go read that article right now as a way to pass the time until then.
(For those of you not in the U.S., this is Thanksgiving Week! Most Americans will be moving into holiday mode with force as of Wednesday! Thursday is the official Thanksgiving, and of course Friday is otherwise known as Black Friday, where even EssaySnark will be participating with some deeply discounted offers for essays and stuff!)
Hopefully you’re not traveling anywhere for the holidays just ‘cuz you know coronavirus 🙁 but if you happen to be stuck in an airport with nothing to read — or even better, if the anxieties of 2020 have put you in a sleepless phase, where you are experiencing insomnia at night, well do we have the article for you! It’s from an academic journal called Frontiers in Psychology – the Educational Psychology edition (who knew that such a field existed!!) and it’s called PowerPoint® presentation flaws and failures: a psychological analysis and how could that NOT sound exciting to you?!??
Here’s a key point that actually is very, very relevant to the task of writing MBA admissions essays!
We often warn BSers to remember their audience when they’re putting their stories on the page in support of an argument being made in an assay — and the “remember your audience” thing can be remarkably difficult to do! That’s because your brain has been conditioned to think in the terms you’re using, as a shorthand way of communicating with others on your team, and it becomes so steeped in your everyday world that you forget that there ever was a time when those words were foreign or unusual for you.
Because think back: Wasn’t there a time when you were new to your job, when you attended meetings every day for weeks on end, always feel TOTALLY AND HOPELESS LOST? That everyone around you was speaking a foreign language or something, or they were members of an exclusive club, and nobody had thought to give you a key?
The “remember your audience” point is critical to clear communication — and this academic paper proves it!
Here’s what the authors have said — their paper is in the context of designing a good PowerPoint slide, but it applies equally well to an MBA essay:
(1) Unfamiliar (for that audience) concepts, conventions, formats, terminology, and symbols may not be understood. Moreover, when they are understood, they will likely require effortful processing (which will be accomplished only if the audience is highly motivated).
To say that in even simpler terms:
Don’t make your reader work so hard!
If you’re writing about something even marginally technical, or using jargon, acronyms, or lingo that’s specific to your world, then your admissions reader will have to use “effortful processing” — meaning, they will have to work hard, mentally, in order to figure out what you’re saying.
And, even more important: This “effortful processing” will only be done if the “audience if highly motivated” — and guess what?!!!
THE ADMISSIONS READER AT MANY TOP SCHOOLS IS NOT THAT MOTIVATED.
Yes of course, they claim that they are “reading to admit” which Wharton loves saying (which honestly isn’t actually true because if it were, then they would admit everybody!).
The problem is that reading MBA admissions essays is exhausting, and oftentimes utterly boring, and heck, there’s a PANDEMIC going on, and people are just worn out from 2020.
Your audience is, guaranteed, not “highly motivated” when they are reading your essay.
So what do you do with that information?
Knowing that, you make your essay easier to read!
You take on the burden of communication, and you rework and revise and rework again the words on the page, so that they are simple and concise and clearly stated.
(And, potentially, you may want to seek out help from a qualified admissions consultant who knows about issues like this! Who will help you see how your writing ain’t all that clear as you thought, and point out where changes still need to be made.)
In the ramp-up to Round 1, we hosted a Writing Week here on the blahg, where we gave all sorts of incredibly targeted advice on the nuances and mechanics of good essay-writing. The first post was here if you want to check all of those out. You don’t have to go read academic research on how to construct a good PowerPoint or what criteria are needed to support the brain’s processing of information for your admissions reader. You can read all about it here on the EssaySnark blahg! The advice offered here has been honed from over a decade of providing guidance to applicants who actually make it in. We’d love to help you with your applications too!
You may also be interested in:
- The Stages of Learning: Why getting help on your essays is so useful
- If you really wanna do a good job on those essays, do this.