Sometimes you’ll hear the admissions folks say that essays aren’t as important as applicants think or that you shouldn’t spend that much time on your essays — and EssaySnark says baloney. First of all, if the essays aren’t that important, why do the schools have you write them? Of course they’re important. If they weren’t,…
Given our fraught public dialogue these days, the adcoms are becoming ever more sensitive to hype and propaganda in MBA apps. You don’t want to risk your candidacy by taking liberties with language! We don’t mean our standard exhortation about lying. Instead, we’re talking about hype. We have seen BSers inadvertently step in it when…
Yeah yeah yeah it’s still summer. You have plenty of time before Round 1 hits.
Or do you?
Generally speaking, once the Fourth of July holiday has happened in the States, that’s also when the BSers who end up being the most successful have geared up and gotten busy.
We actually recommended that people get busy several times over the past few months — like this on when do you prefer to freak out? — but do BSers listen to us?
If you did, kudos to you! There’s at least one person taking this stuff seriously! 😉
For everyone else out there: NOW IS THE TIME!
Deadlines still feel like they’re way off on the horizon, and deadlines have this alluring quality about them where they just LOVE to be ignored for as long as humanly possible. It’s how deadlines work for most people, in every aspect of life.
But guess what? Writing those essays is gonna take you way longer than you expect.
If you’re still facing down the prospect of that darned GMAT test, then obviously yes, you should be focusing there. However you also need to be spending some serious time with a calendar and looking at how you intend to fit all of this in.
Each one of your many essays will require AT LEAST three revisions before they’re going to be anywhere near submissible. (Submissable? Submittable? OK yes, submittable.)
Or wait – that’s not actually true. There is nothing in any of the schools’ online applications that will prevent you from actually submitting the essay. So that word is not quite right.
But whether the essay you submit will have a rat’s ass chance in h3ll of getting a happy reaction from your adcom reader is a totally other question.
Rushed writing tends to end up in rejections.
A smart process will allow for multiple cycles of revision.
That revision takes time – because that process requires work. And, uh, thinking. Which some of you seem to be a little unaccustomed to. 😉
So get busy, Brave Supplicant! Dive in now, when you still have the luxury of TIME and SPACE and no fire-breathing monsters of DEADLINES sitting on your shoulder!
PS: The Complete Essay Package is a great way to get full support from the ‘Snark through the process!
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- We tell BSers this every year… (posted last year! 🙂 )
We’re reblahgging this because a fairly recent NY Times article, How to Spot and Overcome Your Hidden Weaknesses , mentioned the Dunning-Kruger effect and reminded us of the importance of this stuff on learning to write essays!
Whenever anybody sends in material for review by EssaySnark, we know that they think that it’s good.
Err well waitaminit… Sometimes people just phone it in. No idea why anyone would do that. After all if you’re paying for our help on your apps, we’d think that you’d put in the most effort possible to do as well as you can on everything before asking for feedback. You send in sloppy illogical typo-ridden crap to us, we’re going to get stuck on critiquing that. (Plus it may prove a little irksome, given all the resources available to you to do a better job the first time out.)
There’s a difference between a sucky first draft that’s sucky because all first drafts are sucky, and the phone-it-in type who just half-@ssed their way through, slapping some words together and calling it a day.
Today we’re talking about the sucky first draft phenomenon.
This is just how it works in any kind of writing.
Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of everything is shit.”
Yup, he said that, he really did. And he would know!!!
The difference when you’re not A Writer is that you may not realize that your first draft is shit. Or maybe you do and you don’t know how else to change things to make it better. Which is of course why you’ve enlisted our help in the process.
There’s also this thing called the Dunning-Kruger Effect which is a cognitive bias whereby absolute beginners – the unskilled – produce some work which they believe is much better than it actually is.
Now, despite the fact that your first draft will suck, and that when you send it in to us for review it will come back fully decimated (which is in fact why we named our review service that) you may still have trouble dealing with the fact that your precious essay-baby was obliterated by the ‘Snark’s critique. When you get your first draft critiques back, then you should take a deep breath, and recognize that everybody goes through this, acknowledge that perhaps you too fell victim to that cognitive bias thing we mentioned that everyone falls victim to, and then turn to this post on how to deal with the feedback you’ll receive. It’s very likely to be overwhelming.
Or, if you’re not yet at the point where you’re ready to submit any first drafts – ‘cuz like they haven’t been written yet – then we STRONGLY suggest you look into our Complete Essay Package, which is designed to help you identify and develop the building blocks of your pitch, in a step-by-step process. The Complete Essay Package is the best way to ensure that the essay reviews you receive back on those first drafts are not all full of “Nope, no, not gonna work” but are instead full of “Good to see you opening with this, this is important” and “OK, this has potential, but…” and “Maybe if you switched this around with that…” and even here or there a “Yes!!”
The fact that all first drafts are crap is the other reason why we always harp on BSers to get started early. (Translation: NOW.) Good essays come through revision. Revision takes time. This is not an overnight process – not if you expect things to hold together in a logical progression of thoughts that are targeted and specific, and that answer the question with the appropriate levels of insight and depth.
Sitting here right exactly at this point on the calendar is an IDEAL time to get started on those Round 1 applications.
We’re here to help when you’re ready for it!
We are guilty of sitting on this particular Success Story submission for oh, like two years? Eeek! Did not mean to leave it unloved for so long but sometimes we get so many of these coming in at a certain time of the year that we get overwhelmed and we just…. lame out.
Anyway, this advice offered is timeless and we’re posting today because, well, some of you are thinking about applying to bschool!!
After serving in the Air Force for five years, I’m getting out to attend business school. I’ll be going to a great university (I would say M7, but I know EssaySnark hates that) with a generous scholarship. Although I used many resources, I didn’t use any professional consultants outside of EssaySnark. I want to say thanks to EssaySnark for their (her? his?) help and hopefully pass along some useful advice to any other military vets in search of perspective.
I was lucky enough to have an attractive background for business schools: I went to a top 10 undergraduate program, had a 3.5+ GPA, and earned a 750+ GMAT score. I also had multiple #1 or top 10% stratifications on my resume from performance reports. At this point, GMAT is probably the only of these you have control over, so I’ll be brief. Having a great GMAT score put me in the in the conversation for applying to top schools. Use GMATclub.com, take online practice tests (I used Veritas Prep, who also has great videos in the app store), and study your butt off. I studied for about five months like it was my second job. It won’t get you in, especially if you don’t execute on the rest of your application or interviews, but can tell you which ballpark you’re in.
EssaySnark’s Comprehensive Profile Review will also tell you which ballpark you’re in – it was so great that I ended up purchasing their military strategy guide and one of their school strategy guides. The benefit of having someone like EssaySnark review your background is that they 1. know business schools very well, 2. know what kind of applicants each adcom prefers, and 3. see many different applicants and can therefore provide a good perspective of where you’re likely to get in. They helped me narrow my search from six schools to four and gave excellent, personalized advice. As for the strategy guides, they were a steal – it’s difficult to find that much useful information compiled in one convenient package for you.
I’ll assume that you’re on this site because you want to improve your essays. Remember, I can only speak for myself and what worked for me;
you could take a different approach and be entirely successful!
- I laid a good groundwork before starting. Two books I highly recommend: On Writing Well by William Zissner and The Elements of Style by Strunk and White . These will teach you to write better and will help the people editing your essays focus on important stuff (themes, clarity, school approach) instead of stupid stuff (basics of good writing).
- The essays I wrote had personal details. I wrote about what was going through my head, good or bad. I wasn’t afraid to write that I was scared, or disappointed, or confused (only momentarily, obviously…), or that I had botched something. I think these sorts of moments actually make the best stories. And, if you’ve read the whole EssaySnark blahg, as you should, you’ll know that stories make the best essays.
- I wrote very casually. I used contractions, like I’m doing now. I read a current HBS student’s essay that wrote very formally, so it can absolutely work… but that’s not really my voice. My goal was for the adcom to read my essay and say, “That was easy to read.” I didn’t try to use two words if one would do the job.
- I read the writing of authors that I admire. Find your favorite newspaper or magazine columnist and figure out why you like their writing. I read a lot of Bill Simmons and Dave Barry columns. They inspired me to throw a little humor into my essays, which one of the adcoms mentioned when calling me for my admission!
If you have access privileges on your account to view our Military MBA content then you’ll see a few more special tips below!
[end nifty military-only tips]
The most valuable asset I had throughout the whole process was my best friend, who had applied to schools the year before; I constantly
picked his brain for advice. I hope you have a similar resource, but even if you don’t, I’m convinced that you can out-prepare the majority
of applicants if you put in the time. In the end, you’ll be satisfied knowing you got into the best school for you. It feels really good
when the acceptance calls start rolling in.
This was not a sponsored post! We did not request this former BSer to talk up our products as they did and we’re also leaving in their rec of test prep provider. The links to the recommended books go to Amazon under their affiliate program so if you click those prior to purchase then we’ll get a small commission. Beyond that, this is just what a successful Brave Supplicant wrote up for us after sharing news of admits a few years back! Thank you again to them and good luck to all of you with your efforts for bschool this year!
Like our recent posts on tone in essays, today’s may be another one of those you want to mark with that little Favorites button at the bottom, so you can find it again in a week or so, when you’re panicking and beating your head against the desk and trying to figure out how to…
In spite of all our implicit and explicit HBS bashing lately, we should probably do a specific post on “What to do if you’re completely lost on the HBS essay” — since we know lots of you BSers are aiming to try for Harvard anywayz! 🙂
It’s not like some silly ol’ ‘Snark is gonna deter you wide-eyed whippersnappers from the school o’ your dreams!!!
How do you deal with that essay that they’ve got?
We heard from a BSer recently that he stumbled upon the ‘Snark through a google search that was phrased somehow like that, so let’s see if we can offer some starting points and ways to break into the analysis process for dealing with the Harvard MBA question this year.
Just in case you’re in the 0.0001% of BSer who’s never peeked at it before, the Harvard Business School MBA essay asks:
Shameless plug: We do a much better job of laying out strategies and considerations in our Harvard essay guide!!!
But in an effort to be helpful, beyond what we’ve already covered on our dedicated Harvard MBA application info page, we’ll offer this snapshot of snarky advice to help you get a handle on your approach:
1. Start by doing another school’s essays.
Please don’t cut your teeth on your MBA application process with Harvard Business School. It’s one of the hardest essays of all. You will not be making your job easy if you do it that way. Get through at least the third full draft of some other school first. Then turn your attention to Harvard.
2. Start Harvard’s essay by filling out the actual HBS application.
You don’t know what else you need to convey to the adcom if you don’t know what else you’ve conveyed. Go through that puppy and study it. Fill out what you can, and make a list of the items you know you need to spend more time on. Those are typically in the Employment, Intended Post-MBA, Extracurriculars and Awards sections.
3. Start making lists.
You will likely cycle through dozens of ideas on what to write about before you come up with a solid plan — and that’s OK! That’s to be expected!! Start a running list, and keep adding to it. You’ll think of a new idea at random as you go through your day. Don’t judge or critique the ideas; just write them down. Once you have assembled a selection of possibilities, then you can start to examine them.
As you can see, the main message is GET STARTED!! Hopefully that helps you to do so!! The HBS essay is about thinking through who you are, and what makes you unique, and shows you are accomplished, and lets you demonstrate that you will bring a unique perspective to the case method experience of your fellow students at Harvard Business School.
Simple? Sure. Easy? Not at all!!!
Pick up the SnarkStrategies MBA guide for HBS!
We’re also still accepting new clients for Round 2 – get that all-important Harvard essay decimated to make sure you are impressing the Admissions Board and not coming across the same way that dozens and dozens of other applicants will do!
About a month ago, this essay was submitted for consideration for a freebie blahg review by an Indian BSer who’s applying to Tuck (or possibly he already submitted in their November round? Not sure; if so, we got it much too late to turn it around that quickly 🙁 ). This BSer is in investment…
Continuing our Round 2 Writing Ramp-Up today, we’re going to tell you about another very important aspect to your essays that goes beyond just the content on the page. Obviously you need to give your reader an answer to the question that they have asked, and you need to offer details in support of that…
As you can see from some of the posts this week, we’re moving into Round 2 mode! We’ll be talking more and more about essay execution in the coming days — and pricing is going up soon! We’re starting to get busy, which means that if you want to use us to the greatest advantage,…