Helping MBA applicants create memorable Essay forces consultants like me to differentiate the cliched from the original. It is not obvious to MBA Applicants. So, here you go:
Top 5 characteristics of a cliched MBA essay:
1. Attribution Error
You can’t write interesting narratives without reflecting and connecting two events. This essential skill can lead to misguided attribution and flawed causal relationship. The success of a project – timeline, exceeding quality guidelines and helping the company acquire a new asset or improving their stock value or reputation, depends on multiple factors.
In a hurry to quantify IMPACT, MBA applicants either overestimate their contribution or doesn’t cover the direct correlation of their contribution to the company’s quarterly/annual results. Both stem from Attribution Error.
The sales-oriented applicant (working in Advertising/Marketing) has a natural inclination to exaggerate while applicants from Finance/Technology underestimate their contribution or pigeonhole themselves to a function without simplifying their function for IMPACT.
The brainstorming as part of creating the IMPACT table in our Essay Review/Editing/Profile Evaluation/Resume Editing filters the non-essential information from key performance influencers.
The most common occurrence of attribution error is in the Failure Essay. Citing a bad boss, a non-cooperative team member or vague external circumstances are all caught by the admission team as indicators of the applicant’s inability to take responsibility.
Whenever you feel tempted to attribute one reason for a result – pause and brainstorm. You can never attribute a result to one underlying cause, especially in a team environment or in a market where multiple forces are in play.
2. Overestimation of Risk
Taking a risk that pushed you out of the expected career path is a great story that should be included in the essay. I have seen clients who were from modest backgrounds taking on academic challenges and rising above the proven path of their community. They took a real risk, thought independently and achieved goals that seemed impossible.
The spark of greatness becomes a caricature when all the narrative is about risk-taking and overachieving. Applicants tend to overestimate risk-taking and spins even traditional projects as risky without realizing that some tasks don’t require you to oversee 100 people or spotting mission critical errors.
To translate mundane projects to a great story, one has to step outside the domain and ask questions.
1. What were you trying to achieve?
2. What were the opposing forces?
3. What were the limitations?
4. What challenges you had to face as an individual?
5. What challenges you had to face as a team?
6. What were the demands of the client?
7. What were the market forces?
8. How was the competitor outshining you?
9. What unique advantages your team had?
10. What unique qualities you had to complete the project?
The 10 questions will help you frame even the most boring projects to an interesting narrative.
3. Essay Templates
Most applicants believe that to create interesting narratives; one has to cling to a sound bite. Many read Sample Essays and try to fit in with the narrative structure. We have also shared Sample Essays in Winning MBA Essay Guide and individual essays guides, but the purpose of sharing them is to improve your writing style.
The #1 rule that you should remember while creating narratives in an essay is that without at least 3-5 values (integrity, creativity, and openness) in the story, you risk confining yourself to a stereotype based on your profession, nationality, gender or age.
It takes some practice but lesser you are influenced by any template, the more likely you will create an essay that is original and persuasive. A shortcut to achieve this goal is by approaching an outcome with a nuanced explanation. Include market factors, team contribution, individual learning skills and economic/competitive/political factors while articulating the results.
Learn how to create persuasive essays
4. Hindsight Bias
History is filled with narratives that painted a rosy picture of the small roadblocks that turned into World War II or the 2008 Financial Meltdown. The ‘experts’ had no clue that we were heading towards a disaster, but if we analyze now with all the information that we have, the connection is obvious. This is a common narrative mistake in essays too. The more complex the project is, the less likely you can connect the dots. Instead of creating brave non-existent connections, you can focus on the function that is easy to explain.
Not all narratives need IMPACT or ‘bigger picture’ analysis. Some projects are just too complex. Applicants in the Finance/Automotive/Energy/Technology industry will be part of projects that cannot be easily translated to essays.
The easy way out is to muddle the essay with Jargons.
Avoid this temptation.
Break Down the Jargons. We help you with that in our Essay Editing/Review Service.
First, create a summary of what you achieved with the daily responsibilities, challenges and the objective of the project.
In the second iteration, simplify the Jargons. It is extremely tough for functional experts as their daily vocabulary is embedded even in the way they think. As I had shared in the March Task – Create a Daily Blog to improve your MBA essay writing, explaining your job to an outsider will improve your storytelling skills.
The best example I have read recently is from Preethi Kasireddy who wrote Bitcoin, Ethereum, Blockchain, Tokens, ICOs: Why should anyone care?
She explains a complex topic with heart and an understanding that only a practitioner can offer.
5. Volunteer’s Folly
Volunteering is an indirect sales tactic that MBA applicants use to demonstrate that they are not worker bees but real humans who care about fellow beings. Potential MBA applicants just out of college reach out to me and brainstorm on how to position their personal brand. Their undergraduate degree, interests, and skills determine the ideal volunteering work.
I always ask them to avoid the Volunteer’s folly (dedicating time for activities that can be easily compensated with financial contribution). If you are not naturally inclined to hands-on activities, allocating your time for building houses will not help. Many of you volunteer for projects out of sheer passion. I wouldn’t discourage you. The only thing that you have to do while writing about your volunteering experience is to capture unique details (location, history, challenges and the purpose of the project)
Complementing skills should be strategic and should find direct application in one of the student clubs.
Example: Finance/Technology applicants applying their marketing skills and creative applicants learning to code.
Too often, the volunteering happens a couple of years before the application or the involvement is sporadic. To compensate the lack of volunteering experience, applicants exaggerate their contribution or spin the story to balance their quant skills with extraversion.
If you truly don’t have the volunteering experience, focus on your extra-curricular or unique talent.
If you are a creative person with skills in music, improv, writing or performing, this is the time to capture all your artifacts into one platform – preferably a personal website. With the privacy settings, social media pages are not easily accessible in Google search.
Googling your name is not a vanity search anymore.
Admission team uses the resume and google search to form the first impression. You should be aware of how you are perceived in the search results.
Set a Google Alert on your name or the brands you are associated with.
Cleaning the social media profiles and changing the privacy settings is the first step. If you need help in positioning your personal brand, start a conversation here.
Applicants who worry about the word limit, censor their thoughts, even before the first draft, leading to essays that are dull and doesn’t capture their true personality.
With our help, you can edit the essays, but the originality of your thoughts can’t be replicated by anyone.
You have to write – the good lines and the terrible ones.
Flex your writing muscle, don’t censor yourself and write freely
For any help, you can always reach out to me or read Winning MBA Essay Guide.
80+ Sample Essays + Essay Writing, Review & Editing Tips + 15 School-Specific Tips = Winning MBA Essay Guide
Only 1 in 900 gains admission to Harvard MBA program. If you write your essay focused only on your achievements, post-MBA goals, and your pre-MBA experience, you will be among the 899 rejected applicants.
ATTENTION is the secret ingredient. How will you get the attention of the essay reviewer?
You know why parables shared 1000 years ago are still shared among us?
Yes, the art of storytelling has won presidency for Obama, transformed Apple from an unknown start-up to a brand synonymous with Quality, and gained admission for the average MBA Applicant.
F1GMAT's Winning MBA Essay guide will teach you how to transform your essay to an epic life journey with trials and tribulations that will move the admission team.
Who Should Buy The Winning MBA Essay Guide?
If your essay looks too bland, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will show you, with examples, on how to use the elements of Storytelling like Incorporating "The Struggle", Using Emotional connectors, narrating the Journey and the use of Chronology, Vividness and Active Verbs to transform your essays.
If you are stuck in the Writing process, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will show you how to silence the Analytic Mind and overcome mental blocks.
If you feel that the essays are not persuasive, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will teach you how to use the W-Pattern narrative, Contexts, Turning Points and "The Show Don't Tell Approach" to write a Winning MBA Essay.
If you don't have enough leadership experience, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will show you how to highlight non-obvious qualities like Trust, Focus, Listening Skills, Personal Responsibility, Humility, Self-Knowledge, and other secondary traits to prove your leadership.
If you don't know how to review your essays, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will demonstrate how to improve readability with the power of iteration, and maintain your original voice by removing review biases.
Winning MBA Essay Guide Includes
Sample Harvard MBA Essay – Gratitude & Giving Back (318 Words)
Sample Harvard MBA Essay – Entrepreneurship (Influence of Childhood) (667 Words)
Sample Harvard MBA Essay - Volunteering (Mental Health Awareness) (776 Words)
Sample Goals Essay 1: Enterprise Technology to Consumer Marketing (496 Words)
Sample Goals Essay 2: Healthcare (Finance to Consulting) (499 Words)
Sample Goals Essay 3: FinTech (Product Manager to Strategy) (482 Words)
Sample Columbia Good Fit Essay 1: Value from NYC (237 Words)
Sample Columbia Good Fit Essay 2: Entrepreneur Mindset (237 Words)
Sample Columbia Good Fit Essay 3: Teamwork and Learning (242 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #1 (Elon Musk) (250 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #2 (Father) (244 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #3 (Mother) (243 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #4 (Math Teacher) (242 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #5 (Co-Founder) (250 Words)
Sample Wharton MBA Essay:Gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (482 Words) (VC to Consulting (Healthcare))
Sample Wharton MBA Essay:Gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (497 Words) (Business Development to Finance (Non-Profit in Energy))
Sample Essay #2: Math Tutoring and Experimental music’s (388 Words)
Sample Essay #2: Non-Profit – Obesity Epidemic and Healthy Lifestyle (399 Words)
Sample Essay #2: Non-Profit – Energy Efficient Offices (395 Words)
Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Consulting)(400 words)
Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Tech Entrepreneur) (390 words)
Sample Why Stanford MBA: Finance to Green Energy Consulting (389 Words)
Sample Why Stanford MBA: Private Equity to Operations(399 Words)
Sample Essay A: What matters most and why? (740 Words)(Balance in Life)
Sample Essay A: What matters most and why? (750 Words)(Vulnerability and Learning)
Sample Essay A: What matters most and why? (748 Words)(Freedom and Commitment)
Sample Goals Essay #1: Oil & Gas to Consulting (475 Words)
Sample Goals Essay #2: Social IMPACT to Marketing (Non-Profit) (472 Words)
Sample Goals Essay #3: Accounting to Entrepreneurship (Fashion)(495 Words)
Sample Goals Essay #4: Technology (Programming to Product Development) (493 Words)
Sample Leadership Experience & Choices Essay #1 (492 Words)(Father’s Restaurant Business and Leadership)
Sample Leadership Experience & Choices Essay #2 (639 Words) (Teach for America and Leadership)
Sample Leadership Experience & Choices Essay #3 (496 Words)(Opioid Crisis and Healthcare Innovation)
Sample Leadership Experience & Choices Essay #4 (500 Words) (Disrupting the Food Supply Chain)
Sample Essay: Candid Description, Strengths & Weaknesses (Marketing Lead) (499 Words)
Sample Essay: Candid Description, Strengths & Weaknesses (Consulting to Product Development) (492 Words)
Sample Essay: Achievements and Failures (398 Words) (Technology Consultant)
Sample Essay: Achievements and Failures (395 Words) (International Relations) (Negotiations)
Sample Essay: Extra-Curricular and How enriched you are (272 Words) (Hiking and Vlogging)
Sample Essay: Extra-Curricular and How enriched you are (298 Words) (Improv Acting)
Sample Haas What Makes you feel Alive (Design as a tool for Change) (294 Words)
Sample Haas What Makes you feel Alive (Flying and AI in Healthcare)(299 Words)
Sample Haas MBA Enhance Leadership Profile (Trust-Based Leadership)(Team Building – Technology) (292 Words)
Sample Haas MBA Enhance Leadership Profile (Need-based Leadership) (Non-Profit for working Mothers) (300 Words)
Sample Yale Committment Essay: Business Development (Mobile Phone Start-Up)(485 Words)
Sample Yale Committment Essay: Investment Banking (IB)(404 Words)
Sample Yale Committment Essay: Consulting (447 Words)
Sample Yale Committment Essay: Technology (448 Words)
Sample Yale Committment Essay: Marketing (491 Words)
Sample Yale Committment Essay: Entrepreneurship (496 Words)
Sample Yale Committment Essay: IMPACT Investing (495 Words)
Sample Yale Committment Essay: Oil & Gas to Clean Energy (Consulting) (464 Words)
+ Ross MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class)(NEW)
Sample MBA Essay: Finance Professional & a former member of a rock band (96 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Marketing Professional with a talent to do Impression (100 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Life Philosophy through an Entrepreneurial failure (94 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Consulting for a Pharma Giant (Made a Difference) (91 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Three-Level Sanitation Campaign (100 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Water Conservation Kit (99 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Losing client (100 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Misreading Market Conditions (93 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Strategic Planning vs. Tactical Dominance in Chess (97 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Out of my comfort zone(extra-curricular) (93 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Out of my comfort zone (Daily Science Show) (99 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Simplifying Operations (extra-curricular) (90 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I am aware that I am different (Leadership and Culture) (98 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I am aware that I am different (Technology Project) (98 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I am aware that I am different (Making Business metrics relevant to a Creative team) (91 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I find it Challenging when People (Timidity)(98 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I was challenged when (Change in Scope) (99 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I was challenged when (Team Failed) (100 Words)
Sample Essay – Short-term Goals and why the goal is the right choice for you (Private Investment as a Tool for Change) (294 Words)
Sample Essay – Short-term Goals and why the goal is the right choice for you (Education to Consulting) (299 Words)
Sample Post-MBA Career Goals (99 Words)(Marketing for FinTech)
Sample Why MBA Right Next Step for you (98 Words)(Engineering to Marketing)
Sample Post-MBA Career Goals (94 Words)(Marketing Consulting firm and Product Marketing)
Sample Why MBA Right Next Step for you (100 Words) (Hobby to Business)
Sample Post-MBA Career Goals (99 Words) (Interior Design Business with AR)
Framework and Examples for Answering Duke Fuqua 25 Random Things with 5 Samples
Sample Duke Fuqua Essay: The Fuqua community and you (784 Words)
Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (495 Words)(Consulting)
Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (500 Words)(Product Management)
5 Examples with Images
Sample Darden MBA Essay – Meaningful IMPACT (Fear-based to team-based culture) (199 Words)
Sample Darden MBA Essay – Different Perspective and IMPACT on worldview (Life Experience) (191 Words)
Sample Darden MBA Essay – Different Perspective and IMPACT on worldview (Courage)(199 Words)
Sample Darden MBA Essay – Different Perspective and IMPACT on worldview (Team Diversity) (193 Words)
Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself Personal, Professional or Both (100 Words) (Near Death Experience)
Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself Personal, Professional or Both (99 Words) (Networking)
Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself Personal, Professional or Both (100 Words) (Mountaineering)
Sample Darden MBA Essay: Short-term Post-MBA career goal (150 words) (Technology to Consulting)
Sample Darden MBA Essay: Short-term Post-MBA career goal (150 words) (Product Management)
Sample Darden MBA Essay: Short-term Post-MBA career goal (149 words) (Investment Banking to Private Equity)
Sample Essay – Where you want to go with Darden (47 Words) (Uganda)
Sample Essay – Where you want to go with Darden (49 Words) (Sweden)
Sample Essay – Where you want to go with Darden (48 Words) (China)
Cover Letter Checklist
Sample Cover Letter – Technology to Consulting (284 Words)
Sample Cover Letter – Healthcare Entrepreneurship (297 Words)
Sample Cover Letter – Consulting to Technology (298 Words)
Sample Cover Letter – Wealth Management to FinTech (299 Words)
Sample Cover Letter – Manufacturing to Consulting (Retail) (299 Words)
Sample Cover Letter – Strategy to Consulting (297 Words)
Sample Essay: Demonstrated Leadership, the challenges you faced and what you learned (Technology) (447 Words)
Sample Essay: Demonstrated Leadership, the challenges you faced and what you learned (Non-Profit) (441 Words)
Sample Essay: Values important to you and how have they influenced you? (Changing the Traditional Recruitment Formula)(443 Words)
Sample Essay: Values important to you and how have they influenced you?(Seniority-Based to Performance-based Culture)(444 Words)
Sample Essay: Values important to you and how have they influenced you?(From machine-centric to Human-centric customer support)(446 Words)
London as the Financial Hub
London as the Technology Hub
London as the Consulting Hub
Sample LBS MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goals (493 Words)(Hospitality to Consulting)
Sample LBS MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goals (500 Words)(Government/Non-Profit to Technology)
Sample LBS MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goals (495 Words)(Medical Doctor to Investment Banking)
+ The Art of Storytelling
+ Leadership Narratives
+ Review Tips
+ Persuasion Strategies
+ The Secret to "unleashing" your unique voice
+ How to write about your Strengths