Show, don’t tell. Show, don’t tell. If you’ve gotten your essays decimated, you’ve likely heard that by now. Here is literally what we mean: From article Lessons Learned Scaling Airbnb 100X by former Airbnb product manager Jonathan Golden. His advice statement: When competition appears, move faster than you think you possibly can. That’s pretty descriptive…
This comes up from time to time in our Essay Decimator essay reviews and a BSer who is qualified to ask it recently posed this question: On a less serious note, can humor work in essays like this? I feel like there isn’t much personality coming out. [some specific examples redacted] If it should stay…
This is in the category of ‘unforced error.’ There are plenty of ways to muff up an essay but it’s always a shame to see a BSer muff things up in content that they aren’t even being asked to write about. Take Wharton essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton…
“After all these years, I have come to realise that I must go through a period of agony and torture before I have a breakthrough.”
Writing essays may be akin to navel-gazing. You need to understand who you are and where you’ve come from. One of the most difficult parts of writing many essays is coming up with the “lessons learned” out of a story. Schools like Tuck and Kellogg specifically ask you what you learned from an experience. It’s…
Go read this:
You’d think that an article with the word “scandal” in the title would be interesting.
Did you find that interesting?
Did you even get past like the third paragraph?
Surely there is a story somewhere in there. There seems to be all manner of intrigue and deception and drama. Heck, the very first paragraph had all kinds of salacious words. But the way it was written was OMG boring.
There was all sorts of data presented. But it wasn’t information. And it surely wasn’t interesting.
You don’t want your adcom reader to be either a) overwhelmed with all the facts that you’re tossing out, or b) to be so completely nonplussed by all of it that they yawn and walk away.
For those of you who’ve been paying attention, you might recall than not three weeks ago we were exhorting you to be specific.
It is definitely possible to go too far in the opposite direction.
Here’s the first chunk of that article (we’re skipping the first paragraph which was even more meaningless than this):
The ongoing saga on the third floor of West Hollywood City Hall reached a climatic ending last week, after the melodrama moved to a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. There, a jury had to decide whether Michelle Rex, the former assistant to Councilmember John D’Amico, was fired from her job as an act of retaliation.
Lawyers for both sides had spent two weeks catching jurors up on the backstory.
“Michelle Rex was never the problem,” city manager Paul Arevalo testified. “The [council deputy] program was the problem.”
When you’re writing your essays, the first objective is always clear communication.
That means including the information that the reader needs, at the time they need it.
With the very limited space that the adcoms are giving you for your essays, that also means being concise.
In that paragraph above, why is the writer bothering with details like “the third floor” of the courthouse?
Why do we even need to know that the case was transferred from West Hollywood to a downtown location?
How does any of that even matter in the context of the story about why some local politician was fired?
DID YOU EVEN KNOW THAT THAT’S WHAT THE ARTICLE WAS ABOUT?
We frequently get essays that are so convoluted and complicated that we just can’t figure them out.
What you start with at the beginning needs to flow all the way to the end.
There are some exceptions to that, such as with Kellogg essay 2 where they’re asking for two separate things: First, a story about how you changed, and then a story about how you want to change at Kellogg. In that case, the place you begin in the essay is almost definitely not going to be the place you end up. That type of essay has its own set of challenges, since it seems like you need to fit both chunks of content together, when they’re asking for them in one essay. In practice, it may not be workable to connect them explicitly.
But that’s the exception, and that’s not the point of our post today.
Today we want you to use your powers of analysis and discrimination. When you write your draft, set it aside, then come back to it again later. Take a holistic view of it. Starting at the beginning, go through and examine the facts that you’re including. What details are you mentioning? Are they needed for the story?
It’s much more common that a BSer writes an essay with no facts at all. The most frequent issue we see with MBA essays is that they are massive fluffbombs that threaten to float off into the distance and disappear over the horizon. An insubstantial nothingness is at least as bad a problem as an essay that’s been pelted with BBs and buckshot of randonmness, and it’s so weighted down with shrapnel of meaningless offshoot datapoints that it’s barely able to pull its crippled self across the roadway and out of the lane of travel.
(Please don’t write like that either. We’re allowed the indulgence of useless metaphors on the blahg because we’re trying to make a point. Don’t try to do that in your essays. Straightforward writing, that answers the question – that’s always the way to go with your drafts. We’re allowed some indulgence because hey, that’s one way we blow off the steam of frustration from all the hours of reading REALLY BAD ESSAYS.)
Too little detail is certainly a problem.
Too much and you risk turning a good idea into an #essayfail.
This seems unfair but we’re going to use a post from the Michigan Ross Dean to illustrate how NOT to write your essays. This came out on the Friday after the events in Charlottesville. The title is: Michigan Ross Makes a Positive Difference and Stands United Against Hate We clicked on the title. We were…