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There is a big misconception about storytelling for MBA Essays. In at least one iteration, I edit and remove unnecessary scenery. Any phrases that take the attention away from the main character to "describe the room," always need a rewrite. Great Gatsby, regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century did that. But the narrative only dragged when Fitzgerald tried to infuse more mystery to Gatsby's character. We have come a long way in understanding what storytelling is. The influx of streaming services and movies with parallel & reverse chronology has given us the cognitive capacity to predict ending.

When an essay reviewer is reading essays, she is predicting the structure. To break the predictive nature of the narrative, break the attention of the reviewer through interesting segue that takes the attention of the reviewer away from you, just enough, but not far enough that the reviewer loses their train of thoughts or investment into your story.

How much contextualizing is required to keep the admission team's interest in your story?

This is tricky. An independent eye can help you overcome 'creation biases.' Our baby always looks cuter to us than the rest of the world. The more we have invested in writing an essay, the more unlikely we would allow an independent reviewer to cut our world into pieces. The beloved phrases that looked...

Why Stern MBA essay should encapsulate all the key features without making the essay a summary of the Brochure. You have to offer context and explain how each program has a direct impact on your post-MBA goals.

Stern MBA Core + 25 Specialization + Doing Business in (DBi) + Stern Consulting Corps (SCC) + Stern Signature Projects + Social Impact Internship Fund (SIIF) + Global Programs + Leadership Development -> Post-MBA Goals (Job Function, Job Industry, and Leadership)

Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (498 Words)

What are your short and long-term career goals?

How will the MBA help you achieve them?

(500 Words Maximum)

When my friends struggled with Math in Grade 8, I was looking forward to my next assignment. Numbers fascinated me. The journey towards a solution was filled with turns and missteps, but each step demonstrated my capability. I learned to persist. People exaggerate in conversation and writing, but math is about Integrity. It is when you can’t hide the truth from yourself. My search for truth led me to Goldman Sachs as an Analyst. If I continue in my current role, I would be an associate by next year, but miss...

The first long-form essay requires applicants to write 25 Random things about themselves.

Tip #1: Length of each item

When you are writing random things about yourself, follow the list form with sentences varying in 10 to 20 words. Even though the admission team encourages using only a few words if the reveal is self-explanatory, we would recommend, a format like:

<unique achievement/event> <additional context><what you felt>

25 Random Things Example:
I went to the last Formula 1 race at Indianapolis. It is true - you can only experience sports in its truest form at a Stadium among real fans.

Tip #2: Avoid professional achievements

The resume is a good place to highlight professional achievements. So unless an achievement is not covered in the resume, or you won’t get a chance to mention them in the online application, avoid them in the list.

Tip #3: Include Volunteering

Most applicants highlight their volunteering experience in the resume under additional information, but with the 1-page length limit, only one or two IMPACT can be captured in the resume. The additional context in the random list would help the admission team understand what you went through during volunteering.

Resume: “Helped rebuilt 2,000 homes in Haiti following the 2010 Earthquake.”

Schools measure your preparedness and research by analyzing how you quote the curriculum. The ‘Why MBA’ question needs a few lines dedicated to the specificity of the program. Here are a few pointers worth considering before you include curriculum details:

1) Curriculum Structure

General Management programs – Harvard, Stanford, Darden, and Haas, have continued the tradition of building the foundational knowledge in the core courses with the coverage of traditional management topics – Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Leadership and Strategy, followed by 2nd year specialization either in the form of concentrations, specialization, themes or tracks.

In concentrations, the admission team has divided the electives into broader categories so that the candidates will have a structure in 2nd year when they choose the electives. Most General Management MBA programs will give the option to pick electives without specialization. Stanford has General Management as an Area of interest. If you want a leadership role post-MBA, taking a group of courses with strong General Management focus would be ideal. For career switchers, interested in a job function, choosing specialization is mandatory. 


Categories : MBA Application

Booth's mystery trips are particularly interesting. The destination is not revealed beforehand. Students sign up for the trip and join other Boothies (2nd year and 1st year) whom they have never met, at the Chicago O’Hare Airport. One such trip involved traveling to the former Soviet Union, and getting surprised by a mock kidnap, or taking a cruise ship from Baltic to Tallinn. The permutation and combinations of experiences in the Mystery Trips are many.

While evaluating Top MBA programs for my book: How to Choose the Best MBA in US - The Ultimate Guide, I noticed a pattern. Every program had some form of travel and global experiential learning integrated into the curriculum. Despite the importance of travel in MBA, most applicants don't include travel experiences in the Essay. Many don't have such experience as part of work, but almost all the applicants have at least one trip under their credit. Although they don't consider the travel as important, any experience that demonstrates that you are comfortable with traveling and experiencing a new culture is worth considering for your Essay. If you had several work trips, don't hesitate to summarize the experiences in the Essay when the question involves showing your ability to get out of the comfort zone....

1 to 2 weeks before the deadline is a nervous time for most applicants. Rightly so. You have crossed numerous hurdles, most notably GMAT & Shortlisting the right MBA program, before starting your essays.

If you have gone through the methodology we have suggested, you might have ruthlessly listed your weaknesses. With strategic storytelling, your story will justify the weaknesses, not hide it beneath Jargons or excuses.

All the hard work on the narrative can be undone with last minute edits. I am not talking about edits on sentence structure but changes in story and motivations. Even unnecessary edits on the carefully chosen phrase can affect the flow of the narrative and eventually the cumulative impact.

In our review service, we go back and forth with the clients to uncover their weakness and then use the most relevant weakness for each school. There are no universal weaknesses that are...

After editing and reviewing over 300 Essays, I noticed a pattern for Winning MBA Essay. I wouldn't recommend that you force yourself to include the 7 Characters for all your essays, but while editing, review for the narrative structure and presences of:

1) Protagonist

Amateur writing doesn't establish the protagonist early on. In Essays, the word count is in the 250-500 range. Starting with you, and then building context necessary for the essay is the first step in your essay unless the question is about failure, setback or weaknesses. In such scenarios, context and narrative for the event should be the starting point.

Remember that your resume is the reference material for the admission team. Editing the resume to include the most prominent and relevant achievements in your life is as important as editing your essay. The resume should include achievements that demonstrate your leadership skills, communication, and expertise as an individual contributor - in that order. If you need help, choose our...

Two assumptions stand in the way of rewriting an essay. One - storytelling is a mash up of flowery phrases. Two - complex sentences and narratives with jargons are required to prove your expertise.

When you combine flowery phrases with jargon-filled complex sentences, the results can be an eyesore for a reviewer.

First Step - Simplify

While recruiting writers for F1GMAT, I ask candidates (Technologists, Consultants, Finance Professionals, Journalists, and Marketing majors) to write an article on a random subject. Specialization limits a candidate's breadth of reading and inevitably, the quality of the writing, but interestingly candidates with Journalism had the worst writing skills.

Engineers and Finance professionals rose above the initial hiccup and understood the requirement. Their first draft was mediocre and in some cases worse than the journalist, but their attitude towards learning a new skill made them easy to work with. Marketing majors were the best at writing. Memorable opening came naturally to them, but they dipped in the middle where the meat of the subject was addressed. For technologists/finance professionals, the opening and the conclusion were poor, but they dug deep into the subject at the middle. I know it is an oversimplification to categorize writing skills by profession, but the trend continued with my clients as well....

The first draft of the essay should be a free flow of your inner thoughts, beliefs, and narrative excesses (blog-like). The real work starts at the Second draft.  One common mistake that I have seen applicants make is taking the shortcut and directly writing with a tone that is similar to a second draft. They all sound the same with no uniquely identifiable attributes.

I hope you are ready with the first draft of essays with words that are double or triple the recommended limit. It doesn’t matter. The idea is to write freely and capture unique phrases that a consultant or a typical applicant might not use. If you are still not ready with the First Draft, subscribe to our Essay Review Service. We will help you shortlist the most impactful stories from your career and personal life. After that, we will guide you with narrative tips on making your essay engaging and unique.

Second Draft

The real work starts in the second draft where you have to structure the essay into:

1) A memorable opening
2) An interesting opening paragraph
3) An engaging middle
4) A concluding paragraph
5) A conclusion that captures the essence of the answer...

After a 3-minute monologue, I invited the dog to a boxing match. Hamish wagged his fake tail and barked onto the stage. My boxing gloves were filled with flour. The punches connected and covered the stage with a smog-like aftermath. I heard a clap or two from the audience. My elder brother was in the crowd and later told me that the mic was off, I talked too fast, and no one could understand the plot. Brothers are brutally honest. Being a shy kid, I didn't emote for the audience. Hamish, my friend and the dog in the rabbit vs. dog fable, would have been a better fit for the role, but my English Teacher thought it was time for me take the stage.

Any form of public performance needs courage, concentration and the resilience to accept failure. I didn't take corrective actions. I quit. I never acted again, not in a lead role.

I saw the Harvard MBA Admissions Director asking applicants to be genuine and the INSEAD MBA Managing Director recommending not to polish the Essay too much; hints that the edited version of the essays tends to be devoid of any personality or genuineness.

Polished vs. Genuine Essay

If I share my first attempt at acting and the subsequent realization that I was not good at it, would my narrative sound genuine?


So what is the polished version of the narrative?

As you might have experienced by now, switching styles is not easy in MBA Application Essays. We tend to overdo the blog part with self-references, slangs, or try our hand at humor. Essays have no place for any. But with recent edits in our review service, one part that has helped my clients is the Art of Pillaring. I have included a chapter on it in Winning MBA Essay Guide. The idea is to break the expected series of events. Do parallel storytelling or jumble the sequence to such a degree that you find the perfect balance in narrative and a standard essay.

Example: Project Manager Assigns a task --> I find the task challenging --> Spot talent --> Assembles a team --> Communicates the Goal --> Setbacks --> Eventually a Winning Team

Anyone who is reading a narrative about team building is expecting this sequence. Don't go crazy and do a Nolan, starting with the end or go deep into a sequence that is tough to interpret. Processing fluency impacts the first impression. The tougher it is to read your sentence or interpret the event, the harder it is to influence the admission team. The attention allocated for each candidate is limited (10 minutes). So don't force the reviewer to abandon your essay. Instead, start with an acknowledgment of your weakness.

I have found this to be the most difficult part of my job as an Editor and a Reviewer -...

Prompt 2: I turned an idea into action when I

Ross MBA Essay Tips:
The admission team wants to know whether you are a sensing or an intuitive candidate. The personality traits were popularized by the Myers-Briggs Personality tests.

A sensing personality
uses their five senses to gather information and looks at the facts before making any decisions. They are logically driven. Experience with a similar problem in the past often acts as a roadmap for future decisions. Managing resources and people require a sensing personality.

An intuitive personality is pattern and meaning driven. They look at the possibilities instead of spending too much time on past events or problems. Instead of details, the candidate is interested in abstract ideas. Innovation is often led by intuitive personality.

Another trait that is measured is your teamwork skills.

Remember that there are no right or wrong answers to the question. The admission team wants to know whether you are a sensing or an intuitive applicant. Also, do you depend on the team or do you take the initiative before approaching the team? Both create value in Management Consulting (most popular post-MBA job function at Ross).

Sample MBA Essay: Technologist (Idea to Action)

I turned an...

Ross MBA Essay Prompt 1 (Group 1): I want people to know that I

Tips: This revelation question should surprise the admission team. Ideally, include an aspect of your personality that is an antithesis to your profession traits or nationality or gender. For Finance and Technology professionals, include creativity as the theme of the questions. For humanities, including analytical skills while for Consulting and Marketing professionals – a logical or creative mind both works.

Sample MBA Essay: Finance Professional who was a former member of a rock band (100 Words)

I want people to know that I had a four-year stint as the guitarist for the Canadian rock band – “Brutus” before pursuing my full-time career as a Finance professional. There is an amazing similarity between the two professions. Salesmanship and stage presence are the obvious qualities. You can’t make the audience rock to your tunes with a fake attitude. Your act has to grab their attention. While selling financial products and services, many cut corners for a higher commission, but eventually your brand will be tarnished. I learned to play for the interest of the client– a life-lesson I picked from the lead singer of the band.

More ...

Writing about Leadership, the challenges you faced and the lessons learned can be tricky. You might not know where to start.

F1GMAT’s Kellogg MBA Essay Guide shares four leadership examples that you can use in your Essay #1 and a Sample Essay that you should read for inspiration.

For Essay 2, we demonstrate how to cite Kellogg MBA Curriculum as a growth tool. For creating an essay on how you have grown till now, use the 3-step structure and the Sample Essay as a template.

Download Kellogg MBA Essay Guide

Answering an open-ended Harvard MBA Essay question can be tricky. The Admission team has recommended that you as an applicant should not overthink or overcraft the essay. It is easier said than done. Without any outline or strategy, the free-flowing essay might not capture all the traits of your personality that would demonstrate that you are a good fit for the program.

To make it easier for you to write the essay, F1GMAT has created the 2017-18 Harvard MBA Essay Guide.

Through the Essay Guide, we demonstrate:

1) How to highlight your extroversion and passion
2) Your capability as a decision maker
3) Your active learning skills
4) Your communication skills

Explicitly demonstrating your four traits would be ineffective. You should know how to use positioning in your essays. We have included:

1) Six Positioning examples
2) Two Sample Essays
3) A detailed analysis of Harvard MBA Curriculum

Download Harvard MBA Essay Guide (2018 Entering Class)

Top 31 MBA Programs + Analysis of 24 Industries (United States)

We analyze the MBA Curriculum, Class Profile, Total Cost and Post-MBA Salary of Top 31 MBA programs in the US.

+ Industry Trends

+ Future of Aerospace, Agriculture, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Automobile, Clean Tech, Education, Energy, Fashion, Financial Services, Insurance, FinTech, Government, Healthcare, Life Sciences, Military, Manufacturing, Maritime, Media/Advertising, Technology, Tourism, Trade, Transportation and Logistics, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR).

Pages: 327


"I have not reviewed many books for MBA Admission consulting companies but doing it now to give all applicants a brief idea on what the book covers. The book includes 31 top MBA programs - almost all the top schools you have heard or considering for your MBA application. Each chapter is categorized by US States where there is at least one top MBA program. So you have California and Massachusetts with the most number of MBA programs and several states with one top program (Washington, Minnesota, Washington D.C., Connecticut, Virginia, and Maryland) and other states with two to three MBA programs. The book focuses on four aspects of an MBA program - curriculum, cost, class profile and post-MBA salary. For me, the breakdown of the cost and post-MBA industry was useful to make my decision on selecting the top 5 programs for 2017-18. It is a fascinating read in an industry where consultants overprice for their expertise. I recently bought a 30-page guide for $49. Compared to the obvious observation in that book, the 300+ page, MBA in US - the Ultimate guide is a goldmine of information and analysis." - Verified Purchase (21st June 2017)

"I bought the ultimate guide after a friend recommended it for me. The guide covers a lot of ground on the history of each prominent US states and goes into the reasons why a certain industry emerged from each state. In addition to the analysis of the economy, trends and expected changes in the next 5 years, the book features top MBA programs in each state with an extensive study of its curriculum. Ultimate guide is an essential reference book for MBA Applicants if they want to shortlist MBA programs based on value and cost, and not just ranking. " - Verified Purchase (14th June 2017)

"Should be a required reading before applying for an MBA. School events and MBA Tours are PR events disguised as a Q&A. On the contrary, the book is an unbiased analysis of each Top MBA program in the US supported by a large dataset and historical context on each industry. The guide builds a case for indstries that are likely to emerge as favourite for MBA graduates. Thorough and a valuable book." - Verified Purchase (15th June 2017)

"What I liked: The breadth of the information. Some of my favorite nonfiction books have taken the same approach as the ultimate guide have - cover background information in-depth. In the book, the author uses parallel threads to demonstrate the history of the state and the rise of industries. Will make you think how schools thrive based on the policy set by the state. California's obsession with Technology has revolutionized how we do Business and changed post-MBA trends. Many MBA applicants will be consulting or doing marketing for a Technology company. That is one key finding from the book. The latest development in AI, FinTech, and Automation is an additional context that I found valuable in the book.

Very informative. I would recommend that you read the book at least once in chronological order before using Table of Contents." - Verified Purchase (2nd July 2017)

Download How to Choose the Best MBA in US: The Ultimate Guide
(2018 Entering Class)

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