MBA Essay Writing Tip # 10: Avoiding Narrative Clichés

Don't waste your time using cliché storylines in attempt to differentiate yourself from other MBA applicants.

MBA Essay Writing Guide

Everyone has their own unique life story, but we’d be lying if we didn’t say that MBA applicants tend to have had similar experiences.

While you can’t reinvent your past, you CAN avoid emphasizing life experiences that will make you blend in and you CAN emphasize those in a way that will make you stand out.

The following are two cliché storylines to avoid foregrounding while writing your essays, and 2 ways around them.

1. I come from a destitute village.
This rag-to-riches narrative plays on the reader’s sympathy by emphasizing the writer’s impoverished background and suggesting that the candidate wants to “make a difference” once he hits it big.

Unfortunately, this ploy is utterly TRANSPARENT, since the applicant’s career goals have little to do with charity or development.

What to write instead:
If your career goal truly is to get involved in an NGO or charity organization, by all means emphasize this. But if your goal is to succeed in business and make loads of money, don’t lie to the school. It’s not going to help. If anything, the adcom will see right through that story and it will only hurt your essay. The key here is to only emphasize your background if it RELATES TO YOUR GOALS.

Since a sizeable number of applicants will write something similar, it won’t help you stand out unless it works in the greater context of your application.

2. I’m an engineer; get me out of here! This applicant majored in computer science, and with hard work, rose in the ranks at a tech company. Now he’s bored, underpaid and wants to, “move to the business side,” but his essays belie his technical background and lack of leadership skills.

What to write instead:
Downplay your technical experience by avoiding “engineering stories.” No mention of how you fixed a major bug in 24 hours, no stories about suggesting server improvements, and absolutely NO programming descriptions. Even if these stories highlight leadership, they first and foremost scream, “I’m an engineer.” Instead, focus on stories where you led individuals and where you suggest ideas that change the overall direction of a company. You want to show the school that you are the man who will think of a game-changing concept, not the man who will implement it.

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