MBA Essay Storytelling: 7 Characters you should use

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 resume editing service.

Most applicants have excelled as an individual contributor and reached the peak of their career before pursuing a career in management. The career path should become obvious with the resume. The admission team is trying to gather context on your resume. If you are not going to use the achievements listed on the resume for your essays then perhaps they are not relevant. Remove them.

Contextualize your achievements into personality traits
- extraversion, leadership, maturity (conflict management), communication (colleagues, leadership and team), persuasion (selling ideas to a team), motivating team (after failure), resource management (time, budget and skills) and openness (listening, pivoting after setback and innovation).

Technologists and Finance Professionals are mostly ambiverts and in some cases introverts, but establishing extroversion is a crucial aspect of selling your candidacy.

Community Service and Extra-curricular questions are means to measure your extroversion. If you don't have any legitimate experience in either of the two, citing a work-experience where you have to communicate across department or hierarchy while organizing an event (conferences or social events) or competing on behalf of the company (sports or talent shows) is essential. Unfortunately, organizing events (marathons, competitions, festivals) have been done to death. They seemed cliché now because most narratives don't introduce the challenges or the setbacks are obvious - scheduling conflicts, star not showing up, or logistical challenges. Think beyond the obvious when you are demonstrating your leadership skills and extroversion.

2) Antagonist

Few Applicants had the misfortune to suffer uncertainty like a natural calamity, deadly illness, war or migrating to the US under extreme condition. All of them are a great story for MBA Application Essays, but that doesn't mean that other applicants have no chance to introduce an antagonist. It need not be a person or extreme circumstances. Applicants who introduce a "Villain" are often harsh on other's judgments while overlooking their misjudgment.

Failures are the result of our misjudgment. You can blame it on external circumstances or people, but they read poorly in MBA Admissions.

Maybe the antagonist is you; your lack of awareness, research, or team building skills.

Maybe the antagonist is your client. Even if that was the reality, avoid the temptation to blame the client.

Admission team would rather have someone who is mature enough to handle the extreme pressure that clients put you through in Management Consulting and Investment Banking.

If you demonstrate that you can't take challenging timeline or high expectations, the narrative might be used against you.

Essays with interesting narrative mix personal weakness, and a genuine opposing force into the essays. They have a well-defined story arc on how the applicant overcame the obstacle by realizing a truth, applying a strategy or through the acquisition of skill. Limited word count makes skill acquisition the most clichéd narrative.

It is obvious that you acquired a skill after 2-5 years. Don't use a narrative where there is no aha moment on how you defeated the antagonist. To create a balanced narrative, read Winning MBA Essay Guide.

3) Logic

The ISTJ personality type is the most common in the world (13%). They tend to think in a logical and practical way. We badly need such personalities to work on problems with integrity, persistence, and dedication. However, such personalities have limited creativity. The storytelling is filled with logical narratives.

An event A happened, I reacted with B, and the Result was C.

Maybe, you really did that, but logical storytelling is the most overused form, and perhaps playing around with the sequence of events with pillaring or W-Patterns might change the perspective about your candidacy. The idea to structure an essay is a logical exercise once you know the technique, but structuring each sentence requires creativity and a keen awareness of your audience. Admission teams are reading essays in the hundreds. Don't lose them with predictability. Don't go crazy either and end with obscure themes or open-ended narratives.

Three things happen in memorable movies and novels.

First, there is a breakaway from the routine. Something bad happens. The protagonist is forced to act courageously and use all his positive attributes while fighting against the antagonist (self-doubt, weaknesses, or a villain).

, when the protagonist recovers and go back to the routine, something even worse happens, raising the stake - the death of the loved one or the destruction of the world (superhero movies) if he doesn't act. Notice that every good story requires the protagonist to come out of his comfort zone and act.

How you act is the only measure of your character. Everything else is PR or story you tell to keep your status in the society.

Third - the protagonist fights and rescues the person/world/himself for a final resolution.

The three-structure story format is a logical exercise once you are aware of it. Even if you don't have the flair to create memorable phrases, the structure in itself will improve your storytelling capability and the quality of your Essay. More storytelling ideas in Winning MBA Essay Guide.

4) Emotion

Boring essays stay away from emotions fearing that the admission team might construe the narrative as a work of fiction. The fear is legitimate. I have seen applicants overdoing it and turning their essay into a blog or even a novel. At some deep level, the reviewer is thinking, "What a BS story.” This is because although creativity and vulnerability are expected in an engaging essay, overdoing it is easy.

Remember that you are still applying to a program where your Quant skills are valued the most.

Writing is a tool to capture your personality. That is why we have emphasized on storytelling, contexts, and leadership narratives. They are structures to capture your personality. Video Essays are tools to measure your communication skills and the ability to think on the feet. Schools use them mostly to evaluate international applicants. If you are a native, a 1-3 minute video is not going to mess up your candidacy unless you freeze or mumble incoherently. For international applicants, addressing the question directly even if the answer sounds clichéd should be the strategy.

Demonstrate Movement

Essays that look routine lacks movement. Active verbs capturing the setback, how you overcame it and the actions you took to build the team and persuaded the management is a much more interesting read than a mundane, "How I managed a setback" in plain vanilla form.

Not all negative and positive emotions are worth mentioning, but Winning MBA Essay regularly use these emotional states

Negative Emotions

• Anger
• Anxiety
• Doubt
• Embarrassment
• Fear
• Frustration

Positive Emotions

• Courage
• Hope
• Pride
• Politeness
• Satisfaction
• Trust

AdCom will connect with the negative and positive emotions, and understand what you went through. They don’t want sociopaths, who are only worried about profits, to fill the MBA classes, but need leaders who can create an environment where the team garner confidence and thrive, taking the team forward to worthwhile goals and greater innovation.

5) Support

Nothing in our life happens without a support network.

"I was able to build F1GMAT because, at the age of 27, my parents allowed me to work from their home for 3 years. Yes, I was that guy staying with my parents in my late 20s and into 30. I also had the good fortune to partner with some of the best GMAT Prep and Admissions Consulting companies. Business Schools gave interviews and helped my readers gain a better perspective on each school. But nothing would have happened if you didn't read what I wrote and purchased my books. I continue to help MBA applicants with my services because I had support from my readers, partners, Business Schools, and a loving family."

In my 20s, I could never have given statements of gratitude like that. Now, in my 30s, I understand why.

Most applicants have yet to form a sense of accomplishment. Not that you didn't accomplish anything worthwhile, but the possibility seems endless. In your 30s, you will have a realistic sense of what is possible and what is not. Also, the competitive nature of MBA application builds the fear in applicants that any statements that give credit to others might jeopardize their admission chances.

95% of the essay should be about you - the protagonist, but don't shy away from giving credit to the team, or a partner that helped you create a solution. Few applicants have the confidence to do it.  I show how it is done here.

6) Skeptic

Interesting narratives always build skepticism about the applicant until the story resolves. Edge of the seat thriller is worth watching because at a sub-conscious level we know that we will not be hurt sitting in a dark room with hundreds of fellow movie buffs. But we would like to feel what the protagonist is going through, and learn how he handled the setbacks - not at a functional but an emotional level.

We are emotional beings creating tribes for the battle in a fake battlefield (sports), watching fake story (movies), and snooping on other's manicured life stories (Facebook and Instagram).

The admission team is like us. They want stories.

After reading rave reviews, I recently watched Robert Redford's, All is Lost - a story of an elderly man stuck in the sea, finding every means to survive. I wondered how such an interesting premise never connected with me as much as Tom Hank's Cast Away did.

The reason - dialogues.

Redford's movie had no dialogues, nothing at stake, and no backstory while Cast Away had everything. Even in moments of extreme loneliness, Hanks talked to Wilson - the volleyball.

Words capture emotions. Here is how you capture emotion without turning melodramatic

Even though I am a big proponent of "Show Don't Tell Approach,” explicit statements about your doubts and fears, build the interest in your story. Another strategy that we use in our Essay Review service is an introduction of a skeptic - a client or a manager (not your direct supervisor) or a backstory of previous failures to convey what is at stake.

7) Mentor

The story is incomplete without a supervisor guiding you through setbacks. Your mentors should be your recommenders. Without mentors - either in the form of direct supervisors or thinkers or innovators in your field, our learning trajectory would be limited.

Schools love applicants who acknowledge the role of mentors in their career progression.

A large part of top MBA program's popularity is the role Alumni plays in sharing opportunities with current students and mentoring them through a new skill during industry visits and internships. Not all your essay might need a mentor, but the narrative for a failure essay will be realistic when you introduce a mentor into the story.

Use the role of the mentor strategically to connect the story with the essay and recommendation letter. If you want to learn the secrets of great essays, Download Winning MBA Essay Guide

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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?


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: 707

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 (Persistence/Creativity/Opportunity Seeking) (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: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (473 words)  (Consulting to Finance)
   Sample Wharton MBA Essay: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (482 Words) (VC to Consulting   
   Sample Wharton MBA Essay: What do you hope to 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 value for the Wharton Community (388 Words)   
   Sample Essay #2: Non-Profit – Obesity Epidemic and Healthy Lifestyle at Wharton (399 Words)   

   Sample Essay #2: Non-Profit – Energy Efficient Offices for Start-ups and value of Design Thinking in the Wharton Community (395

+ Stanford MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)

    Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Consulting)(399 words)  
    Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Tech Entrepreneur) (390 words)  

    Sample Why Stanford MBA: Career Switch(Finance to Green Energy Consulting)(394 Words)
    Sample Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? (740 Words)
+ Chicago Booth MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Sample Booth MBA Essay #1: Oil & Gas to Consulting (475 Words)
     Sample Booth MBA Essay #1: Social IMPACT to Marketing (478 Words)   
     Sample Booth MBA Essay #2: Leadership experience (Father’s Restaurant Business)(493 Words)   
     Sample Booth MBA Essay #2: Leadership experience (Teach for America)(640 Words)

+ MIT Sloan MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
     Personality Type (Accepted MIT Sloan Students)   
     Cover Letter Checklist   

     Sample Cover Letter – Technology Consulting (286 Words)
     Sample Cover Letter – Healthcare Entrepreneurship (296 Words)
+ Kellogg MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Sample Essay 1: Demonstrated Leadership (Marketing) (449 Words)
     Sample Essay 2: Demonstrated Leadership (Technology) (449 Words)   
     Sample Essay 3: MBA as a Catalyst for Growth (Technology) (438 Words)
     Sample Essay 4: MBA as a Catalyst for Growth (Non-Profit to Consulting) (442 Words)
+ INSEAD MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
   Sample Essay 1: Candid Description, Strengths & Weaknesses
    Sample Essay 2: Achievements and Failures

    Sample Essay 3: Extra-Curricular and How enriched you are
MBA Essay Tips (2018 Entering Class)
     Sample MBA Essay: Non-Profit   
     Sample MBA Essay: Technology   
     Sample MBA Essay: Marketing   
     Sample MBA Essay: Getting Fired   
     Sample MBA Essay: Diverse and Inclusive Culture   
     Sample MBA Essay: Leadership   
     Sample MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goal & How Pre-MBA Experience will help  
+ Yale SOM MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Business Development (Mobile Start-Up)(486 Words)
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Investment Banking (IB)(404 Words)
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Consulting (442 Words)   
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Technology (452 Words)   
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Marketing (492 Words)
     Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Entrepreneurship (497 Words)
+ Ross MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Sample MBA Essay: Finance Professional who was a former member of a rock band (96 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Marketing Professional with a hidden talent to do Impression (100 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: Life Philosophy through the prism of 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 for Manufacturing (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 and Last-minute change) (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 find it Challenging when People (Laziness)(100 Words)   
   Sample MBA Essay: I find it Challenging when People (Pessimism) (96 Words)   
   Sample Essay – Short-term Goals and why the goal is the right choice for you (Technology to Marketing)(299 Words)   
+ London Business School MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    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 (A Career Switcher from Technology to Consulting for FinTech) (489 Words)
    Sample LBS MBA Essay (A Career Switcher from Hospitality to Consulting) (499 Words)
+ Duke Fuqua MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Framework for Answering the Duke Fuqua Short-Answer Essay Questions   
    Sample Short-term Goals Essay – Technology to Consulting (100 Words)   
    Sample Long-term Goals Essay – Consulting for Government (100 Words)   
    Sample Long-term Goals Essay – Plan B (89 Words)   
    Framework for Answering the Duke Fuqua 25 Random Things   
    Sample Duke Fuqua Essay: The Fuqua community and you (Max 2 Pages)  
+ NYU Stern MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
     Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (498 Words) (Finance)
     Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (494 Words) (Consulting)
     Essay 3:  Personal Expression (a.k.a. "Pick Six")    
     5 Examples with Images

+ Darden MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
    Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself (100 Words) (Near Death Experience)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself (100 Words) (Networking and Job Offer at an Unlikely place)   
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – About yourself (100 Words) (Mountaineering)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – Where you want to go with Darden (47 Words)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – Evolving Leadership Style (198 Words)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay – Meaningful IMPACT (200 Words)
     Sample Darden MBA Essay: Short-term Post-MBA career goal (149 words)

+ 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

Download Winning MBA Essay Guide (2020 Entering Class)

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