Admissionado’s Quick Guide to Writing MBA Application Essays

We’re down to the wire. Deadlines are coming at us every day, and we’re getting very close to the end of Round 2. Yet, despite the tight timelines, many of you are just settling in to write your essays and bang out some applications. And it is for you procrastinators of the world that I’m writing this post.

For those of you that are just beginning your essays and need some direction, some guidance, some magic to get your words on paper, take a moment and learn a little something from the mistakes of PE clients past….

We’ve been talking to clients all week, reading more essays than ever, and we have come across an unusual challenge: A client writes about one list of problems in their essay and then, in the conclusion, kinda goes his own way. Loses track of the challenges he had set up.

Here is an example:

I set out to build a building in Shanghai.
– But I didn’t speak the language in China
– And I didn’t have enough start up capital
– And I failed! No building.

The next time I set out to build a building…
-I waited until the market got better.
-I delegated better.

What? What did this conclusion have to do with the mistakes you made last time? What does a down market have to do with not speaking Mandarin? What does delegation have to do with capital requirements? How does this situation have anything to do with the last one? And going a step further, how does this in any way show the adcom that you’ve learned from your mistakes and can adapt and change for better outcomes?

It doesn’t. And that’s a problem.

When you’re writing these essays, you need to think through it all very clearly. Don’t just sit down and start writing. Make a plan. Make an outline. Figure out what you’re going to say before you write, and make sure it makes sense, follows a very clear path and ends along the same lines as it began.

When it comes to writing those essays, we like to tell our clients to think about bowling. Yes, bowling. We tell them to “set ‘em up, and knock ‘em down.” Keep your essays niiiiice and simple. If you set up three problems? Knock ‘em right down. In the same order. Don’t go off the reservation. Don’t overthink it.

Like this:

I set out to build a building in Shanghai.
– But I didn’ t speak the language in China
– And I didn’t have enough start up capital
– And I failed! No building.

The next time I set out to build a building…
– I anticipated cultural challenges, and learned Chinese. BAM, 1st one fixed.
– I raised 20% more money than I needed. BAM. 2nd one fixed.

Set ‘em up, and knock ‘em down. Three up, three down. A, B, C teed up? Same A, B, C retired. Three up, three down. And keep ‘em the same three. That’s how you write a strong and compelling application essay, no matter what program you’re targeting.

Yes, writing those essays is as easy as bowling. Maybe not as fun, but definitely as simple. So come up with a plan, set up those challenges and knock ‘em all down. You do that right, and those essays should write themselves in no time.

Tuesday Q&A: Can I Go To Kellogg for I-Banking?