When I began reviewing movies for Fun, I noticed that the ones that hold my attention the most used a narrative technique that I call Pillaring. The threads of the story run parallel, each one adding a sub-plot, providing new information or introducing a character through action. Good movies rarely use a background narration to describe a character or a motive. Maybe, they spell out information that offers context on the motives of the secondary characters. Martin Scorsese does that often when he mentions the quirks of a supporting character. The main character’s motivation and values are never told. Background voice of the protagonist is always a reflection of what the person is going through more than what he will do next.
If you are writing MBA Application Essays, remember you are the main character. Never spell out your motivation through words. Use actions to convey motivation and values.
Instead of writing, “Leading comes naturally to me,” you can write,
“From younger days, whenever there was a request to lead a team, I raised my hand. The fear and excitement of taking a group to a common goal meant that for a small duration of time, we get to share an experience, discover new dynamics, and learn through the uncertainties of the task.”
How does Pillaring work in Essays?
Pillaring works for narratives, more than explicit statements like the example above. Instead of linearly writing one sentence that connects one thought to the next, this technique purposefully leaves gaps in comprehension between one sentence, the next, and maybe even the next, but catches up at the fourth sentence to connect with sentence one. If you leave too much gap between sentence 1 and 4, the Essay reviewer will lose interest.
Sentence 1 -> Sentence 2 -> Sentence 3 -> Sentence 4
Let us say Sentence 1 and Sentence 4 is describing or covering the same sub-topic, but Sentence 2 and Sentence 3 are new information that has nothing to do with Sentence 1 and Sentence 4. If you are a good writer, you will find information that challenges the reader’s belief or opinion, creating cognitive dissonance in the mind of the reader. We don’t recommend writing about events that challenge the common principles of decency, but the admission team is highly influenced by the world view or stereotype of your profession, college (undergraduate degree), state/city (if you are a US applicant), nationality or race.
Sentence 2 and 3 should challenge the prevailing worldview of your profession or the personality traits that the admission team expects from a person of your profile
Trader – Outgoing, high testosterone, risk-taking, borderline unethical, and somebody who always has an eye on the numbers
Engineers – introvert, analytical, process-oriented, high threshold for failure and poor people skills.
Write both positive and negative beliefs that are commonly associated with your profession. Challenge the negative beliefs with new information in Sentence 2 and 3. Repeat the process for each paragraph, and you would have created a few pillars that offer context on your values, beliefs, and motivations.
Sentence 1 -> Sentence 2 -> Sentence 3 -> Sentence 4
Pillar 1 (First Paragraph) = Sentence 2 + Sentence 3
Pillar 2 (Second Paragraph) = Sentence 2 + Sentence 3
Pillar 3 (Third Paragraph) = Sentence 2 + Sentence 3
Pillar 4 (Fourth Paragraph) = Sentence 2 + Sentence 3
Pillar 1 = Challenge the Belief
Pillar 2 = New Information
Pillar 3 = Challenge the Belief
Pillar 4 = New Information
Mix and match the sequence for Pillars 1 to 4.
Not all pillars have to be exclusively made of statements that challenges the reviewer’s impression of you, but by sporadically including information that creates enough gap in comprehension while challenging the reviewer’s stereotypical belief about your profile, you can create an engaging narrative. The sentences are not restricted to four, but you get the idea.
Pillaring works on Leon Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory (1957) where we influence the reviewer by creating a dissonance between action and belief. The admission team might be required to reject applicants who have a below GMAT 680 or GPA 3.0 score. This requirement is based on the belief that applicants with a low score cannot learn complex management concepts.
Let us say you have a GMAT Score of 660 and a GPA of 2.9. Your chance of getting into that dream school is low with a standard narrative. When you introduce academic competency achieved by top 1% in Sentence 2 and Sentence 3, the reviewer’s belief is challenged.
According to the Cognitive Dissonance theory, there are three possible actions that the admission team will take when there is cognitive dissonance – change the belief to support the evidence, change actions to support the belief, or rationalize an action – both positive(shortlisted) and negative (rejected).
Change the belief to support the evidence
If you have used our persuasive essay writing tips (shared in Winning MBA Essay Guide), you will be successful in changing the belief of the reviewer.
Change actions to support the belief
The new belief is that not all applicants should be rejected based on GMAT and GPA score. You will be shortlisted for an interview.
Rationalize an Action
If the words and narratives were not persuasive enough, you would be rejected, and the reviewer will rationalize that your profile is an exception and it would be too time-consuming and risky for the school to consider you for an interview.
If the reviewer changed her belief to support your candidacy, she would again rationalize the reasons. Your resume will be the first place that the reviewer will scavenge for evidence to confirm the new belief. That is why we recommend that you should invest heavily in your resume rewrite process. Start here by filling out the consulting service request form.
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.
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 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)
Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Consulting)(399 words)
Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Tech Entrepreneur) (390 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 Essay 3: Extra-Curricular and How enriched you are
+ Haas 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
Sample LBS MBA Essay (A Career Switcher from Hospitality to Consulting) (499 Words)
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)
5 Examples with Images
7 Professional Gains
Sample Wharton MBA Essay 1: Gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (473 words)
Sample Wharton MBA Essay #2: Math Tutoring and Experimental music’s value (388 Words)
+ 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