We’re resuscitating a post from 2017 today because it’s illustrative of something tangible that you can DO RIGHT NOW to begin working on your Round 1 MBA applications. The references are to some events in the culture that seemed to have occurred a lifetime ago, but only happened in the past two or three years. If you’re not American, you may not be familiar with these references, but hopefully the use of this example shows you the value that we’re trying to articulate in taking this app-strategy advice nonetheless.
One of the hardest things about developing a strong application to business school is figuring out what to write in your essays. Good essays take time to develop, not just in deciding on a topic but in executing a full argument around that topic once you have it. Hardest of all is Stanford’s essay on “what matters most.” One of the best ways to facilitate the entire creative process is journaling.
Keeping a journal as part of your bschool application process helps in more ways than one. If the term “journal” is a turn-off to you and feels too intimate (too much like “diary”) then you can switch this suggestion to just “keeping notes.”
You’ll want to capture the facts and details that you pick up on each one of the schools that you’re learning about. The risk of course is that they start to blur together, and you forget which detail is from which. What school has the GIX1 thing again? Which one does MAP2? Keeping notes on the different programs will help you keep them apart. A journal (or just a notebook where you’re jotting down what you learn) will let you do that.
The harder part about essays, though, is presenting stuff about YOU. Most applicants stay at a surface level in what they write on their topics, even on essay questions that invite you to go deep. Brainstorming and recollecting significant events from your past is one of the best ways to identify meaningful topics for certain essays. Getting in the habit of writing about the events of your day-to-day life — even the mundane and the routine — is a smart thing to do since it’s so effective in helping you to generate ideas without having to try so hard to do it.
Want to know the real secret about keeping a journal, though?
Finally, writing a daily journal (or just keeping notes on your bschool research activities) is an excellent way to counteract the tendencies of BSers towards procrastination. If you commit to something simple like writing a little every day in a journal, then you’ll be setting a stake in the ground in this daunting MBA application project. You’ll be actually GETTING STARTED. One of the biggest risks to your apps this year is putting off the essays. Procrastination is your worst enemy. By beginning a journal then you’re starting with baby steps; painless ones. You’ll be sneaking up on yourself, doing something productive and tangible in the overall process of applying, yet without hardly noticing it. Keeping notes and maintaining a journal – or just capturing ideas that come up for you in an informal way – will let you sneak up on yourself and get started with something that is often intimidating. Many people don’t start their work on their essays until really late because they just don’t know where to start. They put it off and they put it off, until finally it’s August and they’re up against a wall and they panic and start to scramble. Talk about stressful.
It’s still early in the cycle – but not so early that you shouldn’t be thinking of ways to begin. Keeping a journal – or if you don’t like that term, then just starting a systematic process of note-taking, where you capture info on schools and your thoughts and experiences on a regular basis in one place – can be an excellent entry point into the overall project of starting your essays. It’s a great way to sneak up on yourself and make yourself begin something that’s otherwise daunting and tough to tackle, and it will let your subconscious start to ruminate and marinate on ideas about what you’re going to write in those essays.
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