Skip the Industry-Specific Jargon in MBA Essays

MBA Essay Jargon

Picture this: you’re sitting around the dinner table with your family on Thanksgiving when your uncle turns and asks you, “So what do you actually DO for a living?”

Listen carefully to your answer. You probably replied in straightforward, clear language, free of confusing, industry-specific jargon. After all, your family likely has a variety of different professional backgrounds and little experience in what YOU do (not to mention the general chaos of the Thanksgiving table around you).

This ability to communicate clearly is something we ALL possess but RARELY tap into. Why? Because it makes us feel good to use big words. It makes us feel big and badass and we think it’s gonna impress the other guy. And we really want to impress the adcom!

But really, how you answered your uncle at Thanksgiving dinner is EXACTLY how you should answer this question for the adcom. Just like your family, the adcom will possess a variety of backgrounds; some may be familiar with your industry and even your role, others will not be. Think of these guys reading thousands of applications from thousands of applicants, from deep-well oil drillers to insurance underwriters, and everything between. They can hardly be expected to be familiar with all of these professions, and certainly not to such a level that you can throw niche, industry-specific jargon at them and expect them to follow.

Despite acknowledgment by Commercial Operations that some customer technical requirements did not meet our standard products or designs, there was limited consultation with engineering and other stakeholders before engaging.

We have no idea, whatsoever, what this means.

Going from whatever THAT is to a clear, eloquent statement of your background and professional experience is HARD. Trust us, we’ve done it many times. Fighting backward from densely-packed jargon to an effective essay is an uphill battle, and highly inefficient. You are, after all, applying to b-school—you should be all about efficiency! Let’s apply some of that thinking to your essays.


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If you start from clear, simple prose, it’s much, much easier to add more in-depth, specific punchiness to your essay, all while using language that you would use at the dinner table with your family.

One great exercise if your struggling to break out of jargon mode is to start by recording yourself. With no script and minimal prep, simply talk about what you do and the professional experience you have under your belt, as though you were telling a clever high school student about it. Even better, DO tell a kid (not one in your line of work, hopefully) about it, and simply record the conversation. If they are confused about words or phrases you use, that’s a good indication that it’s something familiar to you, but not necessarily to the general public, and you should avoid it in your essay.

Starting with this recording, take note of HOW you describe your work in this casual, straightforward way. It will be MUCH easier to write an essay that reflects this. We can tell you from experience your first draft will be far from perfect, but the result will be far more elegant than the convoluted alternative. From there, we can delve into the most relevant, interesting and impressive aspect of your background and explore them in more depth, all while maintaining that clear, simple articulation and structure.

The result? An essay that will stand out to the adcom for the RIGHT reasons and show that you are not only an impressive candidate, but one that can communicate clearly and effectively. Now that’s a winning application!

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