First step in analysis… never speak when you can listen. Study their words:
“We are interested in learning more about you and how you work, think, and act. For each essay, please provide a brief overview of the situation followed by a detailed description of your response. Please limit the experiences you discuss to those which have occurred in the past three years. In each of the essays please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.”
The three years element is an important and fairly common one. Even if other schools don’t explicitly state their preferences, never a bad idea to show these guys you are on the rise. A story from seven years ago, might not tell that story.
What’s the most effective way to communicate “thought” and “feelings”?
It begins with understanding the power of CHOICE.
Remember that scene in the Matrix, when Morpheus holds the red and blue pill out for Neo to choose? If Neo takes the Blue Pill, he goes back to his old life. If Neo takes the Red Pill, he stays in Wonderland, and discovers just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
“Choice.” Now that we know the options, and where they lead… here’s the cool part. We can now learn something about Neo simply by what he chooses, now that we know about them. If Neo takes the Blue Pill, we’ve learned that he’s conservative, wants to play it safe, is content with living in a potentially counterfeit existence. If he takes the Red pill… we know he wants to chase “truth,” despite the dangers that lie ahead in that uncertain journey.
Imagine if Morpheus had said, you have one choice: take this pill, which is red in color. And then Neo chooses the Red Pill. Erm, not so exciting. We learn nothing, right?
Very often, applicants will walk us through a leadership scenario, or any type of story for that matter, and simply give the A led to B led to C structure. [This can be very helpful in certain essay situations, but not here.]
Here, we wanna get inside your mind to see how and why you CHOOSE certain courses of action. There are a few GREAT ways to do this:
1. What would someone ELSE have done in the same situation? Why did you choose YOUR choice? Lay it all out.
2. More typical—you actually had two or more options: you could either choose A, B, or C. Convey where each one would lead, and WHY you chose what you chose. Lay it all out.
The other crucial component that makes choice even RELEVANT is “destination.” Imagine for a second that all “land” on Earth disappears in a blink. 100% ocean. No land, period. And you’re in a motorboat. Well, if you tell me that you traveled straight, then took a left, and then a right… I’m bored. Who cares which direction you choose, do any of these decisions matter?
If, however, we’re back on our normal planet, and you get into your motorboard off the docks of San Francisco, and set sail for Japan… now I’m VERY interested in why you went left rather than right. Clearly, it was a choice—presumably to improve your chances of achieving “Japan.”
To understand this is to CRUSH half the battle with MIT’s essays (and honestly, all other bschool essays as well).
Establish the destination (the project’s objective, your objectives, team’s objective, etc.), and then walk us through the decisions of choosing “left” versus “right.” I chose left because the water to the right was filled with sharks. Or, I stayed to the right despite the sharks because I had three shark experts on my team who could take care of them; going left would have meant poorer fishing conditions and we were low on rations.
Establish the destination.
Lay out the choices.
Walk us through your “choosing” of your “choices.”