MBA Application Essays: Avoid Too Many Cooks

Hold onto your hats, we’re about to drop a knowledge bomb on you.


Let’s set the scene: You’re home for thanksgiving. You’ve just finished draft one of your MBA application essays.

“Sure,” says your Mom, Dad, Uncle Farley, Aunt Monica, Great Uncle Craig and even Mr. Pearson, the creepy next door neighbor you don’t know that well. “What are you doing here, Mr. Pearson?” you ask.

“Borrowing some sugar. I’ll get those essay notes back to you ASAP,” he says, closing the door behind him.

Okay, it’s great your friends and relatives want to help out (and that they can all be together for the Holidays!) But, in the MBA admissions consulting game, this is what we like to call too many cooks. In fact, exactly five too many cooks.

Hold onto your hats, we’re about to drop a knowledge bomb on you, Admissionado MBA Admissions Consulting-style:

Instead of getting shallow feedback on your application from lots of people, it’s best to get deep feedback from just one person whose judgement you trust. Someone who knows your accomplishments, goals, strengths and weaknesses. If it’s a friend, great! Your Aunt Monica? Also great. (And send us her email! We may be hiring.)

But your friend AND Aunt Monica AND that guy at work AND total strangers you’ve met in an MBA Admissions forum… not so great.

And here’s why:

1. Everyone’s got an opinion, and, oftentimes, those opinions contradict one another. So if your goal is to be stopped dead in your tracks, unsure of which way to turn for the next draft of your essays, then asking 100 people for their opinion is the best idea you’ve had all year. But if you want to make progress, and keep your message coherent (and your voice intact!), then you’re going to want to stick with one person’s feedback. And that one person better know you well (more on this in a second). A “crowdsourced” effort will only muddle your arguments and hide your voice. MBA Admissions committees will definitely notice if your essay sounds like a word-collage or, worse, like someone that is very clearly NOT you.

2. It’s more important that you get feedback from someone who knows YOU, not the individual programs. Yeah, we know that goes against everything you may believe is true, but stay with us. Many, many applicants come to us, looking for MBA Admissions Consulting help, and tell us that they want to work with a different MBA consultant for each application. That can be up to 7 (or more!) different people!

The truth is, this is the exact wrong approach. MBA Admissions Consulting should be about getting to know you, so you can get your best stories across in the most powerful, passionate and succinct way. Your job, as the applicant, is to present the best damn version of yourself that you can… no matter the school (or what the school is “known” for). What the adcom doesn’t want is a stack of apps from applicants that all look, sound, and feel the same. Kellogg may be known for marketing, but that doesn’t mean you should pose a a “marketing” guy to get in. And you shouldn’t tell Wharton you’re a finance guy if that’s not really you. Every school wants diversity, so wouldn’t it be smarter to figure out what makes YOU stand out, put that front and center for the adcom, and, you know, stand out? Yup, exactly. So find the guy (or gal) that knows YOU and helps you tell your story in the most compelling way, and just stick with him.

I mean, hell, it’s worked for us in our 8 years working with MBA applicants. Our MBA consultants get to know applicants on a very deep level (and we mean deep; sometimes there are things we wish we didn’t know about the applicants, like their membership status in the Taylor Swift Fan Club) in order to help them identify their story, and then deliver it. And when those applicants trust in their consultant’s direction, resist the urge to crowdsource more feedback, and work hard, everyone wins.

….but mostly the applicant, because he or she just got into his or her dream school.


Tuesday Q&A: Can getting an MBA help your networking opportunities?