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How to Avoid Cliched Villains in MBA Essays

Avoid Cliched Villains MBA Application EssaysThe applicant had wonderfully weaved a story of failure and retribution with high points and low points marked carefully in the 500-word essay. It is not every day that you see an MBA aspirant skillfully playing with words, but one glaring problem stood out in the essay. The Boss, who was the opposing force in the essay, was described in just three words. The characterization felt one-dimensional in an otherwise masterful essay.

You can avoid creating clichéd Villain Characters in the essay with these three techniques:

1) Better than the Antagonist

In an MBA Application Essay, everything is relative. Sure the reviewer will use her experience to evaluate a personality but the words that you use to compare two persons: you and the opposing force will decide what images conjures up in the minds of the admission team. Don’t use ‘snarky’ observations about your boss.

“A narcissistic obsessive personality, my Boss turned the team from a caring people oriented group to a group that cares only about deadlines. The weakening of the team spirit happened right in front of me. In just two months, I had turned into a soulless competing professional whose only goal was to meet my deadline. It took a death in the team to question my choices.”

The essay invoked my curiosity about the death in the team, but the plain villain description of the boss “A narcissistic obsessive personality, my Boss” is a cop out against offering a better context about the Boss.

Say what you want but use the “Show Don’t Tell Approach.”

“I was always the mentor, the go-to guy when our team faced technical roadblocks. The team was lagging behind the schedule by three days. When I knew what was stopping them from reaching a milestone, I called a 20-minute brainstorming session. The 4’0 Clock meeting gave us the opportunity to discuss five major issues in our project implementation. On my way back to the desk, the boss took me to the side and said I was behind the schedule by 50 minutes. I thought he was joking and smiled but when he said that ‘my continuance in the project depends on this deadline’; I knew the team was undergoing a serious metamorphosis. I explained how I was helping the team meet a major milestone. He interrupted me and shouted, “First take care of your deadline.”

We were no longer the team that took care of each other. The constant pressure to outdo each other and the advice to ignore other team member’s problems started affecting us. I began to change from the team first person to a soulless competing professional. It took a death in the team to question my choices.”


We had to use 135 words to replace the ‘A narcissistic obsessive personality’ but by following a Show Don’t Tell approach, the applicant characterized the opposing force in detail, gave a context to the work environment, and set the backstory for the triggering event – “The death in the team”. More importantly, he compared the two main characters: the applicant – a ‘team first’ person and the boss – the ‘me first’ person.

2) Reverse Roles

Another exercise that would help applicants write a balanced narrative is to reverse the roles. Assume that you are the opposing force or for the above example – the boss. Why would you give a higher priority to individual performance over team performance? It won’t  be easy. You have to research about his previous projects, his failures, and the life lessons he might have learned. It needs talking to your colleagues who had worked under him.

One of the colleagues shared how the Boss has changed from the happy go lucky team leader to an obsessive taskmaster after the X Project. The client was unforgiving with their remarks when the team missed the deadline, despite implementing two additional features not covered in the initial agreement. The Management didn’t side with him, and the company lost nearly $1, 20,000 in penalties; a clause that was written after the project implementation had started.

Now how will you write the essay?


“I was always the mentor, the go-to guy when our team faced technical roadblocks. The team was lagging behind the schedule by three days. When I knew what was stopping them from reaching a milestone, I called a 20-minute brainstorming session. The 4’0 Clock meeting gave us the opportunity to discuss five major issues in our project implementation. On my way back to the desk, the boss took me to the side and said I was behind the schedule by 50 minutes. I thought he was joking and smiled but when he said that ‘my continuance in the project depends on this deadline’; I knew the team was undergoing a serious metamorphosis. I explained how I was helping the team meet a major milestone. He interrupted me and shouted, “First take care of your deadline.”

The ‘me first’ approach shocked me first but when I researched about the Boss, I learned why. The client had reprimanded him for missing a major deadline in his previous project. It cost the company $1,20,000 in penalties and much more in reputation. Not a single Senior Management sided with him. I assured him that the client deadlines won’t be missed, but he insisted on focusing on individual deadlines.

We were no longer the team that took care of each other. The constant pressure to meet individual deadlines without exchange of ideas started affecting the quality of the output. I began to change from the team first person to a soulless competing professional. It took a death in the team to question my choices.”


By reversing the roles, you peaked into the psyche of the Boss and gave an empathic view about ‘why’ the boss was behaving in a certain way.

3) Demonstrate your Emotional Weakness

Not all essays require a person as an opposing force. It can be your emotional weaknesses. Don’t include overworking or perfection as your weakness.

Fear is a weakness that even the best professionals face. They need not be rational. Fear of success, Fear of Failure, Fear of making the wrong decision, Fear of being unpopular and the Fear that ‘no one respect’ you are some of the authentic fears that we have read as weaknesses. What those fears forced you to do should explain some of the mistakes that you made.

How do you include one sentence that explains your fear?

“The ‘me first’ approach shocked me first but when I researched about the Boss, I learned why. The client had reprimanded him for missing a major deadline in his previous project. It cost the company $1,20,000 in penalties and much more in reputation. Not a single Senior Management sided with him. I assured him that the client deadlines won’t be missed, but he insisted on focusing on individual deadlines. I should have taken a stand when I noticed the team spirit eroding, but I was too worried about my reputation in the job market if I got fired. I had client appreciation letters in 85% of my projects, and getting a new offer would not have been that tough but the ‘fear of failure’ gripped me. The deadlines were nearing, and if I had quit at that moment, I knew the team would have failed. I tolerated the new strategy but for the team, the morale was at an all-time low. It started affecting the output. A death in the team forced me to question the Boss.”

By explaining the fear under which the applicant was forced to compromise his value (teamwork), and the moment the applicant overcomes the fear (fear of failure), the essay transforms from a one-dimensional ready to consume MBA Essay to a more believable narrative. The applicant cleverly explains why he compromised on the value – for the team (The deadlines were nearing, and if I had quit at that moment, I knew the team would have failed). In a strange way, the applicant compromised for the team.


80+ Sample Essays + Essay Writing, Review & Editing Tips + 15 School-Specific Tips = Winning MBA Essay Guide

"Pressed against the deadline, I ordered F1GMAT's Winning MBA Essay Guide as their blogs always had something interesting to say. It was by far one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Going through the Essay Guide, I learned the art of storytelling, using various ploys mentioned in the book. Most important one being the “W pattern,” a strategy of information sharing that creates a sense of excitement in the mind of the reader." - MIT Sloan MBA Candidate


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?

Storytelling!

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.

Pages: 787

Winning MBA Essay Guide Includes

+Harvard MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)

   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)

+ Columbia MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)

   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)    

+ Wharton MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)
   Sample Wharton MBA Essay:Gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (473 words)  (Consulting to Finance)
   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)   
+ Stanford MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)

    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)

+ Chicago Booth MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class)(NEW)   

   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)

+ INSEAD MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class)(NEW)

    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)

+ Haas MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class)(NEW)
     Sample Haas What Makes you feel Alive (Start-up in Cryptocurrency) (294 Words)
     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 Haas MBA Enhance Leadership Profile (Perspective-based Leadership) (Leadership by Trial and Error) (299 Words)       
+ Yale SOM MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class)(NEW)      

     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 Essay – Short-term Goals and why the goal is the right choice for you (Software Development to Sales to Marketing) (293 Words)
+ Duke Fuqua MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class)(NEW)
    Sample Why MBA Right Next Step for you (100 Words) (Gap in Knowledge in Strategy and Finance)   
    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)  
+ NYU Stern MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)
     Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (500 Words) (Finance)
     Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (495 Words)(Consulting)
     Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (500 Words)(Product Management)
     Essay 3:  Personal Expression (a.k.a. "Pick Six")    
     5 Examples with Images

+ Darden MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class)(NEW)   

     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)

+ MIT Sloan MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class)(NEW)   
    Personality Type (Accepted MIT Sloan Students)   

    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)   

+ Kellogg MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class)(NEW)  
   Sample Essay: Demonstrated Leadership, the challenges you faced and what you learned (Marketing) (449 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 Business School MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)   
    London as the Financial Hub   
    London as the Technology Hub   
    London as the Consulting Hub   
    How to Cite the Curriculum (Example)   
    Sample LBS MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goals  (489 Words)(Technology to Consulting)
    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)

+ Sample Essays

+ The Art of Storytelling 
+ Leadership Narratives
+ Review Tips
+ Persuasion Strategies
+ The Secret to "unleashing" your unique voice
+ How to write about your Strengths

+ How to write about your Weaknesses

Pages: 787
Sample Essays: 80+
Version: 2020 Entering Class


Download Winning MBA Essay Guide (2020 Entering Class)




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