Business School Essay Secrets

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Business school students face a
uniquely difficult challenge, because most programs require a series of essays
rather than a single, comprehensive personal statement. This fact alone should
indicate the importance that business schools place on your written responses.
Part of the reason for this extra required writing is that business schools also
place a stronger emphasis on practical experience. Academic ability may still be
the number-one factor, but it's not enough to get you into a school, just as
it's not enough to guarantee your success in the business world. Business
schools pay close attention to personal qualities, including your leadership,
communication skills, initiative, vision, and many more. Grades and scores do
not explain this side of you, and neither does a resume.

Thus your admission will depend
largely on your ability to convey your experiences and goals in written form.
Self-assessment is a significant part of this process, as is a careful review of
both your life and what you have done professionally. Many successful
professionals have simply never had to articulate their accomplishments before
and now for the first time must communicate this information in a very clear,
concise, powerful manner that is accessible to anyone, even without knowledge of
their field. Being able to convey both the substance and significance of one's
work life is crucial for all applicants.

As the founder of, the
Net's largest admissions essay prep company, I have seen firsthand the
difference a well-written application essay can make. Through its free online
admissions essay help course and 300 Harvard-educated editors,
helps tens of thousands of student each year improve their essays and gain
admission to business schools ranging from Harvard to State U.

Having personally edited over 2,000
admissions essays myself for, I have written this article to help
you avoid the most common essay flaws. If you remember nothing else about this
article, remember this: Be Interesting. Be Concise.

Why MBA?

Nearly all applications will feature
a question that asks about your reasons for wanting to obtain an MBA at this
stage of your career. Some will explicitly ask you to tie these reasons into
your background and your goals. Even for schools that don't offer this specific
direction, you should plan on such a discussion of past and future, as it
provides essential context for your application.

"Why MBA?" is often the
first question asked and without a doubt the most important essay you will
write. It includes essential information about whether you're qualified, whether
you're prepared, and where you're headed. The other essays fill in details about
these fundamental points, but a strong answer about, for example, how you
overcame a failure will not revive a candidacy that failed based on a lack of
career focus.

Every answer should contain the
following elements, unless the application has separate questions addressing
them individually:

1. Your long- and short-term
2. Your relevant past experience.
3. An assessment of your strengths and the gaps in your experience/education.
4. How an MBA program will bridge your past and future and fill in those gaps.
5. Why this particular MBA program is a good match for your needs.

There are no groundbreaking reasons
for pursuing an MBA. This is not a place to aim for bold originality. Rather,
you should focus on articulating detailed reasons that are specific to your
situation. Moreover, there is plenty of room to distinguish yourself when
discussing past experience and future goals; the reasons themselves, however,
come from a more limited set. That said, you should not try to drop buzzwords
for their own sake. Make sure you tie your specific objectives to other aspects
of your application.


1. Don't Use Company

As a prospective business student, you have probably spent the past few years in
a corporate environment with its own in-house terminology. Remember that you are
writing for a reader who hasn't attended your company's meetings or contributed
to its products. You should certainly describe various aspects of your
professional life--your leadership skills, your career trajectory, your triumph
in the face of obstacles, and so on--but do so in language that is as accessible
to your reader as it is to you. Imagine that you are composing a document for a
customer who must decide whether to buy a particular product: you. Write clearly
and personably.

2. Don't Bore the Reader.
Do Be Interesting.

Admissions officers have to read hundreds of essays, and they must often skim.
Abstract rumination has no place in an application essay. Admissions officers
aren't looking for a new way to view the world; they're looking for a new way to
view you, the applicant. The best way to grip your reader is to begin the essay
with a captivating snapshot. Notice how the blunt, jarring "after"
sentence creates intrigue and keeps the reader's interest. 

Before: I am a
compilation of many years of experiences gained from overcoming the relentless
struggles of life.

After: I was six
years old, the eldest of six children in the Bronx, when my father was

3. Do Use Personal Detail.
Show, Don't Tell!

Good essays are concrete and grounded in personal detail. They do not merely
assert "I learned my lesson" or that "these lessons are useful
both on and off the field." They show it through personal detail.
"Show, don't tell" means that if you want to relate a personal
quality, do so through your experiences without merely asserting it.

Before: If it
were not for a strong support system which instilled into me strong family
values and morals, I would not be where I am today.

After: Although
my grandmother and I didn't have a car or running water, we still lived far
more comfortably than did the other families I knew. I learned an important
lesson: My grandmother made the most of what little she had, and she was known
and respected for her generosity. Even at that age, I recognized the value she
placed on maximizing her resources and helping those around her. 

The first example is vague and could
have been written by anybody. But the second sentence evokes a vivid image of
something that actually happened, placing the reader in the experience of the

4. Do Be Concise. Don't Be

Wordiness not only takes up valuable space, but also confuses the important
ideas you're trying to convey. Short sentences are more forceful because they
are direct and to the point. Certain phrases, such as "the fact that,"
are usually unnecessary. Notice how the revised version focuses on active verbs
rather than forms of "to be" and adverbs and adjectives.

Before: My
recognition of the fact that the project was finally over was a deeply
satisfying moment that will forever linger in my memory.

After: Completing the project at last gave me an enduring sense of

5. Do Address Your
Weaknesses. Don't Dwell on Them.

At some point on your application, you will have an opportunity to explain
deficiencies in your record, and you should take advantage of it. Be sure to
explain them adequately: "I partied too much to do well on tests" will
not help your application. The best tactic is to spin the negatives into
positives by stressing your attempts to improve; for example, mention your poor
first-quarter grades briefly, then describe what you did to bring them up.

Before: My grade
point average provides an incomplete evaluation of my potential and of the
person I am today, since it fails to reveal my passion and determined spirit
which make me unique and an asset to the _______ School of Business.

After: Though my overall grade point average was disappointing, I am
confident that the upward trend in my undergraduate transcript will continue
in business school. Furthermore, my success on the GMAT and in the corporate
world since graduation reinforces my conviction that I have a keen business
sense--one that I hope to develop at the _______ School of Business.

6. Do Vary Your Sentences
and Use Transitions.

The best essays contain a variety of sentence lengths mixed within any given
paragraph. Also, remember that transition is not limited to words like
nevertheless, furthermore or consequently. Good transition flows from the
natural thought progression of your argument.

Before: I started
playing piano when I was eight years old. I worked hard to learn difficult
pieces. I began to love music.

After: I started playing the piano at the age of eight. As I learned to
play more difficult pieces, my appreciation for music deepened.

7. Do Use Active Voice

Passive-voice expressions are verb phrases in which the subject receives the
action expressed in the verb. Passive voice employs a form of the word to be,
such as was or were. Overuse of the passive voice makes prose seem flat and

Before: The lessons
that have prepared me for my career as an executive were taught to me by my

After: My mother taught me lessons that will prove invaluable in my
career as an executive.

8. Do Seek Multiple

Ask your friends and family to keep these questions in mind:

  • Does my essay have one central

  • Does my introduction engage the
    reader? Does my conclusion provide closure?

  • Do my introduction and
    conclusion avoid summary?

  • Do I use concrete experiences as
    supporting details?

  • Have I used active-voice verbs
    wherever possible?

  • Is my sentence structure varied,
    or do I use all long or short sentences?

  • Are there any clich├ęs, such as
    "cutting-edge" or "learned my lesson"?

  • Do I use transitions

  • What about the essay is

  • What's the worst part of the

  • What parts of the essay need
    elaboration or are unclear?

  • What parts of the essay do not
    support my main argument?

  • Is every single sentence crucial
    to the essay? This must be the case.

  • What does the essay reveal about
    my personality?

9. Don't Wander. Do Stay

Many applicants try to turn the application essay into a complete
autobiography. Not surprisingly, they find it difficult to pack so much
information into such a short essay, and their essays end up sounding more like
a list of experiences than a coherent, well-organized thought. Make sure that
every sentence in your essay exists solely to support one central theme.

10. Do Revise, Revise, Revise.

The first step in an improving any essay is to cut, cut, and cut some more.'s free admissions essay help course and Harvard-educated editors
will be invaluable as you polish your essay to perfection. The
free help course guides you through the entire essay-writing process, from
brainstorming worksheets and question-specific strategies for the twelve most
common essay topics to a description of ten introduction types and editing


Please discuss the factors, both
professional and personal, influencing the career decisions you have made that,
in turn, have led you to your current position. What are your career goals for
the future, and why is now the appropriate time to pursue an MBA at NAME? How
will you avail yourself of the resources at NAME to achieve these goals?

Turkish news nowadays carry vivid images which have become terrifyingly
commonplace: the surface of the sea littered with dead sheep; a landfill
explosion leading to a number of deaths; vendors offering radiation-contaminated
tea for half-price; a little girl's death resulting from her fall through an
open sewage manhole in her schoolyard; radioactive waste sold to unsuspecting
scrap dealers; a twenty-year-old tanker breaking into pieces, spilling hundreds
of tons of crude oil into the ocean and killing sea life all around.

The frequency with which these environmental disasters fill Turkish news
broadcasts -- along with the obvious insensitivity of the authorities towards
both environment and health issues -- prompted me to learn about ways to prevent
these types of disasters. At the age of fifteen, I decided to focus my studies
on environmental sciences in order to equip myself with the technical tools I
would need to make a real contribution.

After earning a master's degree in environmental sciences, I completed a
professional international management certificate program in order to gain a
management perspective of the field. I then realized that, in order to
effectively combine my technical knowledge and management skills, I needed to
accumulate real-world experience. Specifically, working at a large company would
allow me to develop insight into various industries, as well as an overarching
vision of the international business arena.

I have now worked for nearly two years in the energy and environment group of
Koc Holding, Turkey's first and biggest diversified conglomerate. As a project
engineer, I am mainly responsible for our holding companies' environment and
energy sector investments. This position has given me the opportunity to
interact with businessmen from all over the world, thereby expanding my
international perspective. Because of my outstanding work performance, I was
chosen to attend various meetings with local and international governmental
bodies such as OPIC, IFC, and the World Bank. It is highly unusual for a young
associate to represent the company at such events, and my self-confidence -- as
well as my management skills -- was further enhanced by that successful

While working in various business lines, including the automotive industry,
consumer durables, and the energy sector, I have realized that the root cause of
many environmental problems is financial. I believe that many people in the
environmental sector are so ignorant or insensitive that they will cheat
customers to increase profits. Furthermore, businesses do not prioritize
environmental investments; as a result, insufficient funds are allocated to
adequately prevent problems. For instance, despite a population over eight
million people, Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, still lacks a properly
operating sewage system. In most of the areas of the city, waste water is
discharged directly into the Bosphorus.

In the long term, I hope to help solve my country's problems by starting my own
environmental-services business in Turkey. The company will serve both local and
international customers by providing cost-effective, adaptable solutions ranging
from waste management to safety management. In order to accomplish this goal,
however, I must deepen my knowledge of the field. Despite my experience, I still
lack some important knowledge and management skills, especially in finance,
marketing, and entrepreneurship. I am also aware that my knowledge of American
environmental issues is insufficient. Since dealing with aspects of
international business will be an integral part of my job as an entrepreneur, it
is essential that I fill in these gaps.

The NAME School's MBA program is the perfect bridge from where I am to where I
want to be. I am attracted by the inventiveness and uniqueness of its
entrepreneurial and finance programs, and believe that I will increase my
practical knowledge of entrepreneurship by interacting with my classmates. I
value the fact that at NAME entrepreneurial education does not stop at the
classroom, but rather continues through internships and extracurricular
activities. I feel that a business school for entrepreneurs should balance a
dose of theory with real-world application, and NAME's curriculum and hands-on
experiences through associations, internships, and the management field study
provide such balance.

I am also drawn to NAME because of the school's emphasis on teamwork and
technology, reflected by such exciting courses and programs as High Technology
Entrepreneurship, International Finance, 12-week field application projects, and
the global immersion program directed to teach global thinking and global
action. Additionally, the school's profusion of student groups and its flexible
entrepreneurial program -- with electives from 200 courses -- will allow me to
tailor my course of study directly to my career interests. It is precisely this
flexibility that I plan to draw on while at NAME and beyond, by taking advantage
of (and contributing to) the school's strong international alumni network.

Above all, a NAME MBA will help me strengthen both the finance knowledge and the
entrepreneurial skills necessary to secure a position as an environmental
specialist in a multinational American-based firm. Such a position, in turn,
will prepare me to accomplish my long-term ambition of building my own company.
By developing and maximizing the technical knowledge and managerial skills I
have already accumulated, NAME will allow me to ultimately make a concrete and
substantial contribution to Turkey's environment. 


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Unknown said...

I am currently enrolled at an American Business School and I will definitely use these secrets to improve my writing skills. I appreciate you posting this. Very informative!

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